Lawyers’ group: Sereno gives hope to Poe
For the two groups of lawyers present at the Supreme Court (SC) during the oral argument over the disqualification case of Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Chief Justice Sereno’s line of clarificatory questions gave hope to the lady senator that eventually she will be declared a natural born citizen.
“Ergo, the pre-emptive attack with the purpose of putting at bay her would-be financial donors obviously is backfiring. For the hype being generated by this ridiculous onslaught solidifies more her supporters, earns her sympathy votes, gives her free media mileage and thus, puts more traction on her candidacy,” Atty. Pearlito Campanilla, lead convenor of Lawyers for an Election Advancing the People’s will or LEAP.
He added that there remains however an equally controversial issue which is her alleged lack of residency requirement.
It may be recalled that Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, the first ever individual to raise the issue, lashed out on the lady senator based on the certificate of candidacy she filed in 2013 containing a declaration that her residence in the country was six (6) years and (6) months prior to the 2013 senatorial election. By May 2016, according to Tiangco, Poe would have stayed in the country for nine (9) years and six (6) months or six (6) months short of the Constitutional requirement.
Senator Poe however was quick to debunk this allegation saying that although she has returned in the Philippines in January 2005, she thought that the resumption of her residence in the Philippines started only when she sold her house in the U.S. in April 2006. Senator Poe maintains that being a non-lawyer that it was an honest mistake and not a question of dearth on her uprightness.
“To simplify this issue is to answer the question: Who is a resident of the Philippines? Can it be determined by what one writes in his certificate of candidacy or when one sells her real property abroad?” Campanilla questions.
“Further,” Campanilla said, “that in election cases, the Supreme Court, more than once, has treated residence to actually mean domicile. Residence, in its ordinary conception, is the physical presence of a person in a given area, community or country. Domicile, on the other hand denotes a fixed permanent residence to which one intends to return although he may be absent there for a given time.”
According to Campanilla, in the Imelda Romualdez-Marcos case, the SC enunciated Article 50 of the Civil Code decrees that “for the exercise of civil rights and the fulfillment of civil obligations, the domicile of natural persons is their place of habitual residence.”
He also cited that in Ong vs. Republic, the SC took the concept of domicile to mean an individual’s “permanent home,” “a place to which, whenever absent for business or for pleasure, one intends to return, and depends on facts and circumstances in the sense that they disclose intent.”
He noted that based on the SC definition, domicile includes the twin elements of “the fact of residing or physical presence in a fixed place” and the intention of returning there permanently.
“Altogether,” Campanilla opined, “a Chinese merchant living in the country all his adult life cannot be considered a resident of the Philippines contrast an overseas Filipino worker who for a decade or so is toiling in the desert of Saudi Arabia.”
Campanilla explained that both residence or domicile nonetheless, in essence assumingly approximate the degree of patriotism or love of country that a candidate for the highest position of the land possess on election day.
“The instant controversy primarily revolves on the issue of whether or not Senator Grace Poe, who sojourned in the United States to follow her husband who is an American citizen, have lost her right to become the president of the Philippines. It is to be conceded that for quite sometime now, economic crises have forced millions of Filipinos to leave their homes to work and live in foreign shores. To most, it has not been a decision to uproot themselves, let alone completely sever their ties, from the country of birth,” Campanilla added.
“For Senator Grace, her decision may not be based on economics but essentially owing her realization of the crucial role that a mother plays in the well-being of her family and children.
Scripturally, wives does have to be submissive to their husbands and Article 68 and 69 of the New Family Code do compel husband and wife to live together and together fix the family domicile. Yet, there exists no empirical evidence to prove that her temporary residence in the United States of America dampened her patriotism and love for the Philippines,” Campanilla stressed.
“Senator Grace was guaranteed of a life of ease and plenty as a citizen of a first world country. But she opted on returning to and serving once more her struggling country of birth. And let it not be overlooked, she demonstrated tenacity and determination to re-assume her Filipina nationality by renouncing her US citizenship out of that consuming intention and burning desire to serve/save her mother land. She was attacked by her foe and friends alike yet she held on and continued her fight to be an inspiration to the sector of the society who are downtrodden and marginalized. Such loyalty to and love of her countrymen, as well as nobility of purpose should not be bypassed upon by the Supreme Court,” said Campanilla.
He added that “robbing a country that is wallowing in poverty should be a ground for disqualification. Not respecting human rights in a society where that kind of right appears to be the only right that the people have should be a ground for disqualification. Unscrupulously manipulating the electoral process should be a ground for disqualification. But the real essence of democracy should not emanate from quibblings over patchwork legal technicality. Anachronistic it may seem, in the instant situation obtaining, best it be that the people themselves decide: ‘Salus populi est suprema lex’.”
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