SolGen defends Grace at SC
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - February 16, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Solicitor General Florin Hilbay yesterday insisted that Sen. Grace Poe is a natural-born citizen eligible for election to national posts. And for the first time, the top government lawyer also defended Poe on her alleged lack of 10-year residency requirement for the presidency.

In the fifth round of oral arguments on the disqualification cases against Poe at the Supreme Court (SC), Hilbay stood pat on his position that foundlings are natural-born citizens because “they are impliedly so recognized” based on texts of deliberations on drafting of the 1935 Constitution, which applies to Poe.

“Foundlings are natural-born under all our Constitutions. The silence of the Constitution on citizenship of foundlings means that framers saw no need to say explicitly so. Foundlings are natural-born citizens as a matter of right because it is safe to assume that their parents are Filipinos,” he told the high court.

“To exclude foundlings from exercising fundamental political rights and make them legally invisible would be baseless, unjust, discriminatory, contrary to common sense, and a wrong way to interpret the Constitution,” Hilbay argued.

Hilbay stressed that the Constitution considers foundlings as a discreet minority, who are entitled to special protections and should be accorded rights to equal protection and to equal access to opportunities for public service.

As for the residency issue, Hilbay said Poe has met the 10-year residency requirement since she returned to the country with her children in 2005.

“She had her children with her who had just been removed from US schools, transferred to Manila. For most Filipinos, where your children are is where your home is,” he pointed out.

“Poe’s life is a coherent narrative return to one’s roots and permanent return to one’s home… We embrace returning Filipinos with open arms – they are our friends, relatives and neighbors. We do not see them as traitors,” he argued.

But the Commission on Elections remained firm in its ruling that Poe is not natural-born and did not meet the residency requisite.

“She cannot be natural-born because as a foundling, she has unknown parents and parentage is indemonstrable,” Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim told the justices.

On the issue of residency, the poll official argued that Poe failed to reestablish her domicile in the country that she had lost when she became a naturalized American citizen.

Lim stressed that Poe’s intention to stay in the country for good was absent since she decided to keep her US citizenship, continued to use her US passport until 2010 after returning here in 2005 and was ambivalent on residing in the country.

The Comelec insisted that Poe reacquired her domicile in the country only on Aug. 31, 2006, which means her residency eligibility would fall short by about three months.

The SC is expected to issue a decision on Poe’s disqualification before the elections on May 9.

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