Mar’s grandpa: foundlings are natural-born citizens

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

As 1934 Constitutional Convention delegate, he said their protection by international law supersedes any need for a special provision.

Tomorrow the Senate Electoral Tribunal is to rule on Grace Poe’s citizenship. Specifically to be decided is if, as a foundling, she is a:

• natural-born Filipino, therefore qualified to become senator of the Republic (or congressman, President, Vice President, or Supreme Court Justice), or

• initially stateless and later naturalized, thus unqualified to become a national official.

On the ruling will depend if an untold number of other foundlings are to be considered Filipino by birth – or second-class status through no fault of theirs who must perfect their citizenship by applying, like aliens, for naturalization.

(The petition to unseat Poe alleged as well inadequate two-year domestic residency prior to her election in 2013. The SET dismissed the case for having prescribed, under the Election Code, a month after such election. Five separate cases also have been filed at the Comelec for Poe’s disqualification as presidential candidate. Again cited are her supposed unnatural-born classification, and inadequate ten years’ residency. This piece is not about the gang-up on Poe, but the disenfranchising of hapless foundlings by those who say they are stateless and so must perform acts to become naturalized Filipinos.)

The 1987, 1973, and 1935 Constitutions (Article IV) recognize only two types of citizenships: natural or by birth to Filipino parents, and naturalized or by option, like marriage. All three basic laws deem international conventions to be part of the laws of the land. Those include declarations on the human right to a citizenship, and against discriminatory statelessness. Some of the dozen or so treaties draw as far back as the League of Nations, 1919-1945.

The anti-Poe petitioner stated that she as a foundling was at first stateless. SET chairman SC Justice Antonio Carpio opined in a hearing that Poe became naturalized when she perfected her citizenship in acquiring a passport. They have legal bases for their claims, presumably.

Still, the 1935 Constitution appears to trump them. For, the 1934 Constitutional Convention directly tackled the issue of foundlings. On prodding of Manuel Acuña Roxas, later to become President, the delegates acknowledged that international laws already treat foundlings as natural-born citizens of states where found. Thus, they needed not include a special provision on them in the fundamental law in the making.

Following is the English translation of the Spanish transcript of deliberations on the matter:

Sr. Rafols: “For an amendment, I propose that after subsection 2, the following is inserted: ‘The natural children of a foreign father and a Filipino mother not recognized by the father.’”

El Presidente: “We would like to request a clarification from the proponent of the amendment. The gentleman refers to natural children or to any kind of illegitimate children?”

Sr. Rafols: “To all kinds of illegitimate children. It also includes natural children of unknown parentage, natural or illegitimate children of unknown parents.”

Sr. Montinola: “For clarification. The gentleman said ‘of unknown parents.’ Current codes consider them Filipino, that is, I refer to the Spanish Code wherein all children of unknown parentage born in Spanish territory are considered Spaniards, because the presumption is that a child of unknown parentage is the son of a Spaniard. This may be applied in the Philippines in that a child of unknown parentage born in the Philippines is deemed to be Filipino, and there is no need…”

Sr. Rafols: “There is a need, because we are relating the conditions that are (required) to be Filipino.”

Sr. Montinola: “But that is the interpretation of the law, therefore, there is no (more) need for the amendment.”

Sr. Rafols: “The amendment should read thus: ‘Natural or illegitimate of a foreign father and a Filipino mother recognized by one, or the children of unknown parentage.’”

Sr. Briones: “The amendment (should) mean children born in the Philippines of unknown parentage.”

Sr. Rafols: “The son of a Filipina to a foreigner, although this (person) does not recognize the child, is not unknown.”

El Presidente: “Does the gentleman accept the amendment or not?”

Sr. Rafols: “I do not accept the amendment because the amendment would exclude the children of a Filipina with a foreigner who does not recognize the child. Their parentage is not unknown and I think those children of overseas Filipino mother and father (whom the latter) does not recognize, should also be considered as Filipinos.”

El Presidente: “The question in order is the amendment to the amendment from the gentleman from Cebu, Mr. Briones.”

Mr. Bulson: “Mr. President, don’t you think it would be better to leave this matter in the hands of the Legislature?”

Sr. Roxas: “Mr. President, my humble opinion is that these cases are few and far between, that the constitution need (not) refer to them. By international law the principle that children or people born in a country of unknown parents are citizens in this nation is recognized, and it is not necessary to include a provision on the subject exhaustively.”

Poe’s camp suspects that the Liberal Party of 2016 Election standard-bearer Mar Roxas is behind the disqualification case. Whatever, it’s on historical record that Mar’s grandpa, after whom he is named, has defended foundlings from prejudice.

It’s unclear if Mar’s principal, Noynoy Aquino, is in on the anti-Poe plot. For sure, his father Ninoy Aquino is also on record, in a case against Ponce Enrile, as having elicited an SC ruling that in cases of “ambiguity or doubtful meaning, the courts may consider the debates in the constitutional convention as throwing light on the intent of the framers of the Constitution.”

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).

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