‘Poe citizenship hangs’
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - March 13, 2016 - 11:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The issue of Sen. Grace Poe’s citizenship and how it affects her eligibility for the presidency is apparently not yet over despite the Supreme Court (SC)’s ruling last week favoring her presidential bid.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said in his 55-page dissenting opinion that there was no majority ruling on Poe’s qualification as a natural-born citizen because the SC’s voting on the issue of citizenship was 7-5-3.

“What is clear and undeniable is that there is no majority of this Court that holds that petitioner Mary Grace Natividad Poe Llamanzares is a natural-born Filipino citizen,” Carpio declared.

Rule 12, Section 1 of the SC Internal Rules requires that all decisions and actions in court cases “shall be made up upon the concurrence of the majority of the Members of the Court who actually took part in the deliberation on the issues involved and voted on them.”

For a case where all 15 justices voted, at least eight votes are needed to achieve a majority ruling.

Manuelito Luna, lawyer of former senator Francisco Tatad, one of four petitioners seeking Poe’s disqualification, has taken Carpio’s dissent as cue in their plan to appeal the SC ruling.

“Only seven justices or less than the majority of the SC voted to declare Poe presumptively natural-born. It binds no one; it cannot become part of the law of the land or jurisprudence,” Luna said in a statement.

The justices voted 9-6 last Tuesday to grant the petitions of Poe seeking to overturn the Commission on Elections (Comelec) rulings disqualifying her from the presidential race for material misrepresentation on both her citizenship and residency eligibilities.

But Carpio said only seven of the nine justices in the majority ruling were of the opinion that foundlings like Poe are considered natural-born citizens.

They were Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Marvic Leonen and Francis Jardeleza.

Bersamin and Mendoza concurred with the majority ruling, but did not qualify their concurrence as to whether they also agree with the findings on Poe’s citizenship and residency eligibilities.

Two other magistrates, Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Benjamin Caguioa, joined the separate dissenting opinion of Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo that the SC should not rule on the citizenship issue on this case.

They held that the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion since Poe did not make deliberate misrepresentation on her 10-year residency status, but there is no need for the SC to determine the eligibility of Poe on the citizenship requirement under the Constitution.

Carpio was joined by four other magistrates – Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Bienvenido Reyes – in his dissenting opinion that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino and also lacks the residency requirement.

‘Basis should be 15’

Luna questioned the explanation of Sereno in her concurring opinion that the basis in counting the majority should only be 12 and not 15 since the three who voted not to rule on the citizenship issue should not be counted.

“In the TRO, the voting was 12-3. The voting to grant or not to grant petition was 9-6. Hence, the basis for computation for the number of majority should be 15 and the majority should be 8,” Luna pointed out.

Luna said they would appeal the majority ruling, which he alleged “is diametrically opposed to the Constitution, the rules, and the rulings in Reyes v. Comelec and Cerafica v. Comelec, among others.”

“The seven justices practically rewrote the Constitution through a judicial opinion resulting in the impermissible discrimination of half-bloods, those whose mothers are Filipinos and covered by the 1935 Constitution,” he argued.

In his dissent, Carpio said the majority ruling provided an “anomalous situation” beyond the intent of the framers of the Constitution.

“The election process becomes a complete mockery since the electorate is mercilessly offered choices which include patently ineligible candidates. The electorate is also needlessly misled to cast their votes, and thus waste their votes, for an ineligible candidate,” he added.

He centered his dissent on the issue of Poe’s citizenship, reiterating she is not a natural-born Filipino, both as a foundling and a former American citizen.

“To allow a person, who is found by the Comelec not to be a natural-born Filipino citizen, to run for president of the Philippines constitutes a mockery of the election process. Any person, who is not a natural-born Filipino citizen, running for president is obviously a nuisance candidate under Section 69 of the Omnibus Election Code,” Carpio said.

He also rebutted the majority opinion that Poe does not have the burden to prove her being natural-born by establishing Filipino blood lineage since citizenship accorded to foundling is presumed.

“Any person who claims to be qualified to run for the position of president of the Philippines because he or she is, among others, a natural-born Filipino citizen, has the burden of proving he or she is a natural-born Filipino citizen. Any doubt whether or not he or she is natural-born Filipino citizen is resolved against him or her. The constitutional requirement of a natural-born citizen, being an expressed qualification for election as president, must be complied with strictly,” he explained.

He also noted that the country is not bound by international laws on foundlings.

“There is no international treaty to which the Philippines is a contracting party, which provides expressly or impliedly that a foundling is deemed a natural-born citizen of the country in which the foundling is found. There is also obviously no international treaty, to which the Philippines is not a party, obligating the Philippines to confer automatically Philippine citizenship to a foundling at birth,” Carpio said.

Carpio also expressed the belief that allowing a naturalized citizen to run for president and possibly lead the country’s military sets a dangerous precedent.

“Otherwise, a natural-born Filipino citizen who has absolutely renounced and abjured allegiance to the Philippines and pledged sole allegiance to the United States, undertaking to bear arms against any foreign country, including the Philippines, when required by US law, could still become the Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines by performing a simple act – taking an oath of allegiance before a Philippine public official – to reacquire natural-born Philippine citizenship. The framers of the Constitution, and the Filipino people who ratified the Constitution, could not have intended such an anomalous situation,” he said.

Carpio joined Del Castillo’s position that Poe would not meet the 10-year residency requirement before the May polls.

De Castro, in her separate dissenting opinion, said the majority ruling would amend the 1935 Constitution, which was in effect when Poe was born in 1968, as it effectively adds “foundlings found in the Philippines whose parents are unknown” in the enumeration of natural-born citizens.

“This amendment of the Constitution by the judicial opinion... is based mainly on extralegal grounds and a misreading of existing laws, which will have unimaginable grave and far-reaching dire consequences in our constitutional and legal system and national interest,” she said.

Del Castillo, for his part, warned that non-Filipinos may misuse a favorable ruling on foundlings to the detriment of national interest and security. He pointed out that these individuals might use the ruling to obtain Filipino citizenship or natural-born status and wreak havoc on the nation.

“Our country must not only be defended and protected against outside invasion, it must also be secured and safeguarded from any internal threat against its sovereignty and security,” he stressed.

2,000 lawyers support Poe, Chiz

Meanwhile, at least 2,000 lawyers came together to form the Grace Poe Chiz (GPC) Legal Team Philippines to protect the votes of Poe and her running mate Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero in the May polls.

Lawyers George Erwin Garcia, Jorge Sarmiento and Roberto Rafael Lucila convened the GPC Legal Team yesterday at the National People’s Coalition (NPC) clubhouse in New Manila, Quezon City.

More than 500 lawyers and volunteer professionals from the information technology, management and accounting sectors from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao as well as representatives from election watchdog Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) attended the confab.

Former executive secretary and Pangasinan ex-governor Oscar Orbos, campaign adviser to team Poe-Escudero, formally welcomed the GPC Legal Team and Deputy House Speaker and NPC president Giorgidi Aggabao.

Orbos urged the GPC Legal Team to perform well in protecting the votes of Poe and Escudero, the frontrunners in surveys, as this is the important step to ensure the tandem’s landslide victory.

“At no point in our nation’s history that we are writing a new narrative for our country led by Senators Grace and Chiz, two young leaders who will lead us with fresh ideas, new solutions to old problems as well as new energy, vigor and dedication to meet the challenges of the millennial times,” Orbos said.

Sarmiento also reminded the GPC lawyers to prevent the repeat of the loss of Poe’s late father, Fernando Poe Jr., in the 2004 presidential race allegedly due to cheating. – With Non Alquitran

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