Poe makes final plea to SC | Inquirer News

Poe makes final plea to SC

This foundling left us, says detractor
By: - Reporter / @JeromeAningINQ
/ 11:59 PM February 23, 2016

LAST STAND Sen. Grace Poemakes a final plea in the Supreme Court to stop her disqualification from the presidential elections by the Commission on Elections,which claims she is not a natural-born Filipino and has not met the residency requirement for a presidential candidate. RICHARD A. REYES

LAST STAND Sen. Grace Poe makes a final plea in the Supreme Court to stop her disqualification from the presidential elections by the Commission on Elections,which claims she is not a natural-born Filipino and has not met the residency requirement for a presidential candidate. RICHARD A. REYES

With the Supreme Court poised to issue a decision soon, Sen. Grace Poe has made a final plea to nullify a bid to disqualify her from the presidential race, while her opponents urged the high tribunal “to assert to one foundling who abandoned us that she can only return to our embrace on our own terms, in the clear language of our Constitution.”

In a 349-page memorandum, Poe’s legal team led by Alex Poblador maintained that the front-runner in voter preference polls had met the citizenship and residency requirements to run for President in the May 9 general elections, contrary to two decisions of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that had canceled her certificate of candidacy (COC).


The lawyers disputed the Comelec’s assertion that the senator committed material misrepresentation when she indicated in her COC that she was a natural-born Filipino and that she would be a resident of the Philippines for “10 years and 11 months” by May 9, 2016, which is way beyond the 10-year residency requirement for presidential candidates in the 1987 Constitution.


Antonio Contreras, a political science professor and one of the four petitioners seeking Poe’s disqualification, said the right to vote and to be voted upon “must and should bow to the parameters set by the Constitution.”

Rule of law

“This is the time when we are called not only to uphold the rule of law but to assert to one foundling who abandoned us that she can only return to our embrace on our own terms, in the clear language of the Constitution,” Contreras said.

“It will only make us more sovereign, for we will merely insist that we have laws that apply to aliens who visit us, even if they are former citizens of our republic,” he said in his 60-page memorandum.

A foundling, Poe has not established the identity of her biological parents. She was adopted by movie stars Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces, later moved to the United States, renounced her Filipino nationality and became a US citizen.

The Philippine Constitution explicitly states that “no person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines … and a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding such election.” It goes on to say that “natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their citizenship.”


Ruling out soon

Despite demands that it speed up resolution of the case with the approaching elections, the Supreme Court held five weekly sessions to hear oral arguments, which ended last week. The parties were then told to submit their respective memoranda by last Monday before issuing a decision.

Court sources indicated a ruling may be forthcoming any time soon.

In their position paper, Poe’s lawyers told the high court that the Comelec’s decision to cancel Poe’s COC was “somewhat premeditated, and that bias and impartiality tainted the Comelec’s acts.”

They lamented how the Comelec “changed and manipulated at every turn” the rules of the game in deciding Poe’s case “to achieve the singular objective of denying due course to her COC, and ultimately, removing her name from the official ballot.”

The Comelec, Poe’s lawyers said, denied the senator of her right to due process when it disregarded the overwhelming evidence proving that although a foundling, she is a natural-born citizen and that she has been a resident of the Philippines since May 24, 2005.

“Fueled, as they were, by arbitrariness and, at times, by apparent hostility, the Comelec’s acts constitute grave abuse of discretion,” the lawyers said.

A foundling, Poe’s legal counsels said, is a natural-born Filipino citizen based on the generally acceptable principle of international law, which presumes foundlings to be natural-born citizens of the country where they were found.

“As importantly, the burden to prove that petitioner is not a natural-born Filipino citizen rested on the private respondents, because petitioner is presumed by law to be qualified for the office for which she now seeks to run,” they explained.

“A person who does not know who her parents are may in fact and in law be a natural-born Filipino. ‘Unknown’ parents may in fact be Filipino parents. If it is entirely possible that Senator Poe was telling the truth … then the Comelec cannot conclude that what she said was false,” they said.

Common sense

The lawyers said all doubts should be resolved in favor of foundlings like Poe, consistent with the present constitutional guarantees of full protection of human rights, special protection to the children, social justice, and equal protection and nondiscrimination against disadvantaged and vulnerable classes.

“A contrary interpretation will be baseless, unjust, discriminatory, contrary to common sense—in violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution,” they added.

The lawyers said the Comelec “acted whimsically and capriciously, ignored settled jurisprudence and disregarded the evidence on record” when it ruled that Poe made a false material representation as to the period of her residence.

Based on records, Poe began to settle permanently in the Philippines on May 24, 2005, they said. After that, she enrolled her children to local schools in June 2005, purchased  property in the late 2005, constructed her family home in Quezon City in early 2006, and sold their US property in 2006.

Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, in his paper, reiterated the “statistical certainty” that Poe is a natural-born Filipino, echoing the positions of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Justices Marvic Leonen and Francis Jardeleza reflected in their questioning of antagonists during the oral arguments.

In its memorandum, the Comelec held its ground, asserting that Poe had lied.

“Nothing can be a clearer case of a material misrepresentation,” the Comelec said. “A foundling is not among those enumerated in the Constitution as to who are citizens of the Philippines,” it said.

Sense of duty

The initiators of the disqualification case reiterated that the Comelec did not err.

A law dean, Amado Valdez, said in his 39-page paper that the “Comelec acted with fairness, justice and sense of duty, according to the urgency of circumstances when it issued a resolution canceling [Poe’s] COC because of false entries about her citizenship and residency.”

Lawyer Estrella Elamparo underscored the importance of ascertaining Poe’s natural-born status.

“[T]he stringent requirements for the presidency do not just ensure that the person elected will have the capacity to carry the weight of the office’s responsibility; such requirements are also to ensure that the Filipino people will stay united behind their leader—confident in the fact that when the most crucial decisions are made, his/her heart and mind will be subservient to the interests of none other but our country,” she said.

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Former Sen. Francisco Tatad said: “One seeking the presidency should be constitutionally qualified, and there are no ifs and buts in this. Being not a natural-born Filipino citizen and for failing to meet the minimum residency qualification, respondent should be disqualified from running for President, lest the commission will countenance a grievous violation of the fundamental law.” With a report from Tarra Quismundo

TAGS: Foundlings, Grace Poe, Nation, News, Supreme Court

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