Leni Robredo: Case vs Grace Poe moral issue
It’s more of a moral issue than a legal one, Camarines Sur representative and vice presidential contender Leni Robredo said of the citizenship controversy hounding Sen. Grace Poe’s presidential run.
She also described questions about Poe’s citizenship as a “major issue,” and one that should not be compared to the situation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other migrants who have decided to settle in foreign lands.
“Filipinos working abroad are not running for President,” Robredo said bluntly during a round-table discussion with Inquirer reporters, editors and columnists on Thursday night.
“For me, it’s a major issue that you’re running for President and yet at one point in your life, you renounced your Filipino citizenship,” Robredo, who is a lawyer, said.
The Camarines Sur representative however downplayed the issue of Poe being a foundling, another issue that several quarters had raised in a bid to disqualify the senator from public office.
Not knowing her true parentage—a decisive factor in determining whether Poe was a natural-born Filipino citizen or not—should not take precedence over the senator’s decision to swear allegiance to the United States as a citizen, Robredo said.
“The issue of renunciation (of her Filipino citizenship) is a bigger issue for me because … at one point in (Poe’s) life, (she) turned (her) back on us,” she added.
That also makes the citizenship controversy “a moral issue more than a legal issue,” Robredo said. “Of course there’s a legal issue, but that has to be settled in court,” she added.
Her home and domicile
Reacting to Robredo’s statement, Poe’s spokesperson Rex Gatchalian said the Camarines Sur representative was entitled to her opinion, but that the senator’s camp does not subscribe to it.
“Never in her entire life did Poe turn her back on our country. She has always considered the Philippines her home, her domicile and her country,” Gatchalian said.
Her actions show this, he added, citing Poe’s decision to return to the Philippines to give birth to her children though, he said, it would have been very convenient for her to do so in the United States.
“She did this because she considers the Philippines as her country and wanted the most important event in her life, like childbearing, to take place here,” he said.
“Nobody can say that the Filipinos abroad ‘turned their backs on us,’” Gatchalian said, adding that millions of Filipinos are forced to leave the country and work abroad for economic reasons.
These Filipinos continually send remittances that power our economy, Poe’s spokesperson said.
Robredo said it was important to determine the actual date of Poe’s renunciation of her American citizenship, noting that it wasn’t clear if it should be on the day of application, or on the date of registration in the records of the US State Department.
The widow of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and running mate of Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas said the principle of animus revertendi may be used against Poe in blocking her presidential bid.
A legal concept, animus revertendi refers to a candidate’s intent to return to his or her residence during a period of time.
Robredo said Poe’s case may be similar to former Mayor Rommel Arnado of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte province, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court after he was found to have used his American passport even after he had renounced his US citizenship.
“You cannot invoke animus revertendi when you still use your US passport because you had a choice,” Robredo said.
Gatchalian said Robredo’s statements might lead one to wonder if she was questioning as well the allegiance of Filipino war veterans who bled for the country but took on American citizenship because of better opportunities abroad.
“Is she saying (these) veterans who took on American citizenship also ‘turned their backs on us?’” he asked.
Gatchalian added: “What if, in the near future, an OFW or a war veteran who took on American citizenship comes home and runs for the presidency? Will (Robredo) also question their allegiance?”
Poe, the adopted daughter of the late popular movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., returned to the Philippines to help in her father’s presidential campaign in the May 2004 elections. The “action king” lost to then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo amid allegations of massive fraud and died in December 2004.
The senator is facing four disqualification cases questioning her citizenship and her alleged failure to meet the 10-year residency requirement for those eyeing the presidency.
Poe countered that she had renounced her American citizenship and that her husband has also started the process of renouncing his. The standard-bearer of the Partido Galing at Puso also lambasted moves to derail her candidacy, describing them as the handiwork of those who wanted to “subvert the will of the people.”
News reports quoted Poe’s detractors as saying that the senator had entered and left the US several times using her US passport even after she had expatriated her American citizenship when she swore her oath of office as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board in 2010.
It was also reported that Poe swore the US oath of renunciation before the US vice consul in Manila on July 12, 2011, and that her US certificate of loss of nationality was stamped approved on Feb. 3, 2012.
But Robredo said she was not making any judgment on Poe’s character and that she was not out to malign her.
“I don’t know her well enough. I’ve seen her a few times, but not well enough for me to judge her,” the Camarines Sur representative said of the senator. Leila B. Salaverria
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