Poe disqualification case up for resolution

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Grace Poe’s petition questioning the Commission on Elections (Comelec)’s decision to disqualify her from the presidential race is now up for resolution by the Supreme Court (SC).

Parties submitted yesterday their respective memorandum summarizing their arguments heard over the past five Tuesdays.

The petitioners in the disqualification cases against Poe before the Comelec insist that she is not eligible for the presidency because she is not a natural-born citizen and lacks the 10-year residency as required by law.

Former senator Francisco Tatad, De La Salle University professor Antonio Contreras, former Government Service Insurance System lawyer Estrella Elamparo and former University of the East College of Law dean Amado Valdez asked the high court to dismiss Poe’s petition and uphold the Comelec rulings disqualifying the senator over material misrepresentations in her certificate of candidacy.

They stressed that Poe’s camp failed to prove before the SC that she is a natural-born citizen based on law and jurisprudence and likewise failed to debunk Comelec’s finding that her residency would only be nine years and six months by Election Day.

Tatad rebutted Poe’s arguments invoking international treaties or agreements to claim that foundlings like her are guaranteed natural-born citizenship in the country they are found.

“(She) insisted that under the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC), a foundling is considered a natural-born citizen. (She) relies on these international conventions to convince this commission that she, as a foundling, is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines. But the Comelec First Division already addressed these issues,” read Tatad’s memorandum filed through lawyer Manuelito Luna.

“The First Division was correct when it held that the ICCPR, the UDHR and the UNCRC do not provide that every child, including a foundling, shall ipso facto be granted by the state-party with a nationality. These conventions are likewise silent and do not particularly commit natural-born citizenship to the child,” it added.

Contreras, for his part, debunked the statistics submitted by Solicitor General Florin Hilbay showing the ratio of non-Filipinos to Filipino born children from 1865 to 1975 at 1:661, saying the conclusion drawn was speculative as it does not really address the factual issue on Poe’s bloodline.

“The figures of NSO can only refer to the probability of any child to have Filipino parents. It is not correct to include foundlings into the inference since such has not been factored in as a variable in the statistics,” he said.

Contreras believes that giving Poe a natural-born citizen status would be tantamount to according her “special treatment.”

On the residency issue, he stressed that the Comelec’s decision against Poe was “firmly anchored” on solid jurisprudence.

“She failed to perform a necessary act (such as acquiring the necessary immigration status) that would have perfect her reacquisition of domicile in the Philippines and would have been substantial proof that she has abandoned her domicile in the US prior to her repatriation in July 2006,” he added.

He argued that Poe’s physical presence in the country, transfer of children’s schooling from the US, moving of household and personal belongings to the country, procuring of a taxpayer’s identification number to acquiring a condominium unit do not amount to abandonment of her legal domicile in the US.

Elamparo agreed with this position, saying “the only way Poe could legally actualize those intentions were to apply for re-acquisition of citizenship or at the very least secure a permanent resident’s visa.  She did not do either of these in May 2005 or shortly thereafter.”

Valdez also rebutted the position espoused by some sympathizing justices of the high court that denying Poe the status of natural-born would be tantamount to injustice to all foundlings.

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