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Macalintal: Declaring Poe a naturalized citizen deprives other foundlings their rights

/ 08:10 PM September 22, 2015

Declaring Senator Grace Poe a naturalized citizen in effect deprived similarly situated children of their right to serve the government, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said.

Macalintal was reacting to Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s opinion that Poe is just a naturalized citizen, but not a natural born under the international customary law.

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Petitioner Rizalito David said since Poe is a foundling, a child whose parents are not known, cannot be considered a Filipino citizen.

David, through counsel Manuelito Luna, in response to a question by Senator Pia Cayetano, said a foundling cannot enjoy the basic rights of a child in the absence of an enabling law in the Philippines.

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Luna said it may be discriminatory, but the law or the absence of it on foundlings created the discrimination.

But Carpio, chairman of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET)  during Monday’s oral argument, said Poe can be considered Filipino under the 1935 Constitution because Customary International Law prohibits statelessness.

Carpio added that Customary International Law also provides that every human being has the right to acquire citizenship.

But he said Poe cannot be considered natural born because there has to be blood relations.

“Ang mangyayari niyan, kawawa yung mga nasa lansangan nating mga bata. Kasi halimbawa, hindi mo alam kung sino ang mga magulang mo ngayon, nasa DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), ilang libo yan, inalisan na natin ng karapatang mangarap na balang araw, pwede ka palang maging justice ng Supreme Court, kasi ang justice ng Supreme Court, natural-born,” Macalintal explained.

(What will happen is that the children on the streets will be doomed. For example, if you don’t know your parents and you’re in the DSWD, which shelters thousands, you’ll be stripped of your right to dream of being a justice of the Supreme Court one day, because a Supreme Court justice needs to be natural-born.)

“Inaalisan natin sila ng karapatan maging congressman, senador, pangulo, pangalawang pangulo. Siguro yun ang dapat isipin ng mga tao na nagkukwestyon ng mga karapatan ng isang napulot na bata,” Macalintal explained.

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(We take away their right to become a congressman, senator, president, vice president. Maybe that’s what people need to think about when they question the rights of a foundling.)

Macalintal maintained his position that Poe, who was abandoned in Jaro Cathedral in Iloilo City, is a natural-born Filipino.

“The Philippines adopts the generally accepted principles of international law and forms part of the law of the land. Ibig sabihin tinatanggap natin ang pandaigdigang batas bilang bahagi ng sarili nating batas. Ano ba ang sinasabi ng pandaigdigang batas? Kapag napulot ka, ang iyong mga magulang ay presumed to be Filipinos (So what does the international law say? Even though you’re a foundling, your parents are presumed to be Filipinos),” he said.

International law, according to Macalintal, dictates that a foundling shall assume the nationality of the country where he or she was found.

The doctrine of parens patriae also dictates that in the case of abandoned children, “the country or state shall take care of the children,” he said.

He added that contrary to Carpio’s position, he said the senator never underwent a naturalization process.

“In the Philippines, there are only two kinds of Filipinos: naturalized and natural-born Filipino citizen. To be naturalized, you must have passed the naturalization law processes. Kailangan nag-aapply ka ng naturalization and so on and so forth (You need to apply for naturalization). My question: did Sen. Poe undergo this process of naturalization? Wala (No). Therefore, she is a natural-born Filipino citizen,” he said.

The social justice principle of the Constitution also favors the plight of the less privileged in the society like abandoned children, according to Macalintal.

“The social justice principle of the Constitution [states that] those who have less in life should have more in law. So in other words, any presumption should be in favor of the child,” he said.

A ‘naturalized citizen would always mean to be a former foreigner’

Meanwhile, Atty. George Garcia, one of Poe’s counsel said the camp of Senator Grace Poe maintained that the lawmaker, being a foundling, is a Filipino citizen from birth and does not have to go through a naturalization process to become a citizen.

Lawyer George Garcia, one of Poe’s legal counsels in the disqualification case, echoes the stand of Macalintal.

Garcia said the legal presumption that foundlings are natural-born Filipino citizens is the reason why Senator Poe need not have to go through the process of naturalization, which is a legal procedure through which a foreign citizen or national can become a Filipino citizen.

He argued that under the Philippine law a “naturalized citizen would always mean to be a former foreigner.”

“You must be a former foreigner. You acquired your Philippine citizenship because you wanted to become a Filipino and for you to become naturalized,” Garcia pointed out.

In the case of Poe, Garcia said the senator “did not apply for Philippine citizenship and it is the presumption of law, the Constitution, and international convention and treaties that made her a natural-born citizen of the country.”

Garcia expressed hopes Carpio’s statement does not reflect the sentiment of the entire SET, whose majority of members are Poe’s colleagues in the Senate, and that the panel will come up with a decision after the parties have filed their respective memoranda.

“Perhaps, this is just an initial reaction based on an initial interpretation of law. We are hoping to fully convince him (Carpio) to change his interpretation of the law by showing to him that at least Senator Grace Poe is not really a naturalized but a natural-born citizen,” Garcia said.

The counsel said that Poe’s legal team remains confident in the integrity and independence of the SET chair despite his “erroneous interpretation of the law.”

“With all due respect, without preempting and at the same time we will not be accused of being sub judicial, we honestly believe that it is an erroneous interpretation because naturalized citizen would always mean to be a former foreigner,” Garcia said. JE

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TAGS: case, citizenship, Grace Poe, hearing, natural born, naturalized, Romulo Macalintal, SET
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