Grace rejects poll boycott

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Embattled presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe has rejected the idea of boycotting the elections, saying she would follow the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) when her disqualification case reaches the high tribunal.

“I respect the law. I abide by it. However, the rights of the people to choose (their leader) should also be respected,” she told The STAR during her visit to Cauayan City in Isabela.

Poe made the statement after the First Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualified her from the presidential race and cancelled her certificate of candidacy (COC) on Friday due to residency and citizenship issues, just a few days after the Second Division similarly disqualified her.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, who is included in Poe’s senatorial slate, is optimistic that the SC will rule in favor of Poe, a strong presidential candidate based on the result of pre-election surveys.

“It is impossible for the highest court of the land to affirm the decision of the Comelec that is highly discriminatory,” he said.

“The voice of the people is the voice of God. The Supreme Court will not discount the voice of more than 20 million Filipinos who voted for her in the last elections,” he added.

The Comelec’s First Division said Poe “committed material misrepresentation in her COC when she declared therein that she has been a resident of the Philippines for a period of 10 months and 1 months as of the day of the elections on May 9, 2016.”

The First Division also said that Poe, a foundling adopted by the late actor Fernando Poe, Jr. and his wife actress Susan Roces, failed to prove that she is a natural-born Filipino.

“The probability that she might be born of a Filipino parent is not sufficient to prove her case…The Constitution is unequivocal:  unless one is born of a Filipino parent, he or she cannot be considered a natural-born Filipino,” the first division’s resolution said.

“There is nothing in international law which would support the respondent’s claim of natural-born citizenship,” it added.

The First Division further ruled that since Poe is not a natural-born Filipino, she could not avail of the benefit of repatriation under Republic Act 9225, or the Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003, under which she supposedly re-acquired her natural-born status after renouncing her American citizenship.

‘Burden of proof lies on Poe’s detractors’

But for human rights lawyer Katrina Legarda, Poe is a natural-born Filipino and the burden of proof that she is otherwise must lie on her detractors.

“Whoever says that a person is not a natural-born has to prove it because now, the presumption is Sen. Poe is a natural-born citizen born to a mother who is a Filipino,” she told a media forum.

Legarda noted that the circumstances surrounding Poe, who was abandoned and found in a church in Jaro, Iloilo in the 60s, “defies imagination that a foreign woman, pregnant, will go to Iloilo to give birth” because during that time, having foreigners in Iloilo was uncommon.

Legarda said she believes that Poe is a natural-born citizen “unless you can show me a foreign mother who gave birth to her.”

The lawyer also expressed concern over the possible impact of the decision on Poe’s disqualification case on other foundlings, who are not only dreaming of seeking an elective post but also of becoming doctors, lawyers and other professions.

Legarda said that based on the Comelec ruling, it is not enough for foundlings to be registered as Filipinos but they also have to prove their Filipino roots to become Filipino citizens.

“If you want to disqualify Grace Poe, do not disqualify her on the basis of the fact that she is a foundling because that will go against the grain of the human rights of the child, it will go against the grain of the context that a Filipino is presumed a Filipino if found in this country,” she added.

CHR: uphold the rights of foundlings

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Chiro Gascon underscored the need to resolve the issue on Poe “in the best interest of the rights of the child and the international principles on the rights of the child.”

He said if a country does not have a national law that governs foundlings, international laws must apply. There are international human rights laws, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, that were designed to protect the rights of children and these must be upheld. 

“On the issue of what is the status of the nationality of a foundling, the international human rights laws bounds upon statelessness. This means that all individuals must have nationality,” he said.

“There are provisions in our Constitution that we adopt the generally accepted principles of international laws…If there is no clear (policies) on foundlings in national law, the international law is adopted,” he added.

‘Poe’s DQ will backfire on Roxas’

Sens. Antonio Trillanes IV and Sergio Osmeña III warned the allies of administration who are allegedly behind the disqualification cases filed against Poe that their actions would backfire on their candidate, Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II, who has been lagging in pre-election surveys for president.

Trillanes said the ruling LP should not be confident that the votes for Poe, if she is disqualified, would go to Roxas.

Osmeña said it is likely that the votes for Poe would go to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, not to Roxas.

He further warned the administration that if Duterte is also disqualified, then a significant number of votes would go to Vice President Jejomar Binay, the opposition’s presidential candidate.

Trillanes said the decision of the first and second divisions of the Comelec disqualifying Poe smacks of politics.

“We were hoping that the Comelec had already changed its image. They were used as an instrument for politics before and apparently, this is happening again,” he added.

Like Poe’s camp, Trillanes said that he does not expect that the Comelec en banc would come out with a ruling favoring Poe after its first and second divisions ruled against her. But he said the poll body could still redeem itself by doing the right thing in reviewing the decisions of the two divisions. – With Marvin Sy


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