Sereno misses the point

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

When Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio came out with a statement explaining why senator Grace Poe is not a natural born citizen and, therefore, is barred by the Constitution from running for president, he was swiftly criticized for having prejudged the case that was now before the High Court and whose resolution is being eagerly awaited by everyone.

Well, here comes no less than the chief justice herself, Maria Lourdes Sereno, warning of profound implications for foundlings like Poe if the Supreme Court rules to bar her from running. As this was written, I have yet to hear of anyone claiming that Sereno has similarly prejudged the case, with the notable exception of course of the lawyer of one of the petitioners against Poe.

I do not think either justice has prejudged the case, considering that their statements were mere reiterations of their known positions as already articulated in oral arguments made so far in the case. At any rate, that should place all speculations as to the outcome of the case about even, given the positions of the two leading lights in the Supreme Court.

But if a distinction has to be made, more weight should be given to the position of Carpio, who argued clearly what is already very clear to most Filipinos, other than those who refuse to see what is in front of their noses, among whom sadly is no less than Sereno herself. Carpio did not have to go far into the space of possibilities, preferring to stick to the question at hand and what the Constitution provides in answer to the question.

The question is whether Poe, as a foundling, could run for president. The Constitution's answer is very clear -- she could not because only natural born Filipinos can run for president. And why is Poe not a natural born Filipino? Because, as a foundling, Poe's parents are unknown and therefore their nationalities could not be determined.

The case is very simple. It is very clear. Poe is not being disqualified because she IS A FOUNDLING. She is being disqualified because AS A FOUNDLING her parents are not known. And because they are not known, it follows that there is no way of knowing if they are Filipino. And because there is no way of knowing if they are Filipino, it is entirely possible that they could be any of the roughly 200 nationalities on Earth. They could be Syrians, for God's sake.

But Poe, without regard for the Constitution, without regard for the country and its institutions, and thinking only of herself and her consuming lust for the presidency and whatever comes with it, would not accept what is clear to most people. Instead, she has chosen to complicate matters by turning a legal question into an emotional one -- claiming that her disqualification is an assault on all foundlings.

Yet, nowhere in the wording of the Constitution, and in the understanding of most people of such wording, is there ever anything prejudicial or discriminatory, whether explicit or implied, against foundlings. In fact, the word foundling is found neither in the Constitutional prohibition or in the understanding by people of such prohibition. The word foundling only surfaced when it became necessary to prove that she is not a natural born Filipino.

To everyone's surprise, however, the emotional approach employed by Poe to a legal question has won an adherent in Sereno. What a sad say this has become for Philippine jurisprudence. And what perilous prospects this development holds for the future -- to have a Supreme Court whose chief justice cannot see the question at hand for what it is but is given to conjuring scenarios outside the case at hand and embarking on flights of emotional fancy of which the law has neither ken nor say.


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