SC voting in Poe’s case questioned
MANILA — The issue on the citizenship eligibility of Sen. Grace Poe for the presidency is apparently not yet over despite the Supreme Court’s ruling last week favoring her candidacy for the highest office in the land by affirming her claim to being a natural-born citizen.
The controversy over the voting has been raised by the losing parties in the case as well as by other legal experts who have pointed out that Rule 12, Section 1 of the high court’s internal rules requires that all decisions and actions in court cases “shall be made up upon the concurrence of the majority of the Members of the Court who actually took part in the deliberation on the issues or issues involved and voted on them.”
For a case where all 15 justices deliberated upon and voted, at least eight votes are needed to achieve a majority ruling.
In his 55-page dissenting opinion, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio stated that there was no majority ruling on Poe’s qualification as a natural-born citizen.
Carpio said the the high tribunal’s voting on the issue of citizenship was 7-5-3.
Carpio’s argument was earlier countered by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who, in her separate concurring opinion, said that by her own count, out of the nine who voted to grant Poe’s petition against her disqualification, seven agreed to hold that Poe was natural-born.
Only 12 of the full court of 15 justices participated in the voting on that particular question, she said, making it a clear majority of seven.
Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court voted 9-6 to grant the Poe’s petitions seeking to overturn rulings of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that cancelled her certificate of candidacy for president for material misrepresentation on both her citizenship and residency eligibilities.
Carpio, however, pointed out that only seven of the nine justices in the majority ruling were of the opinion that foundlings like the Poe should be considered natural-born citizens. They were Sereno and Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Marvic Leonen and Francis Jardeleza.
The two other magistrates—Justices Diosdado Peralta and Benjamin Caguioa—joined the separate dissenting opinion of Justice Mariano del Castillo stating that the court should not rule on the citizenship issue on this case.
Del Castillo, Peralta and Caguioa held that the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion since Poe did not make deliberate misrepresentation on her 10-year residency status. The three saw no need for the court to determine the eligibility of Poe on the citizenship requirement under the Constitution.
Carpio was joined by four other magistrates—Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Bienvenido Reyes—in his dissenting opinion that Poe was not a natural-born Filipino and that she lacked the residency requirement.
“What is clear and undeniable is that there is no majority of this court that holds that petitioner [Poe] is a natural-born Filipino citizen,” Carpio stressed.
Political science professor Antonio Contreras, one of the four petitioners before Comelec who contested Poe’s qualifications, also countered Sereno’s statement in her separate opinion and before media that only seven justices voted that Poe was natural-born.
“All 15 Justices took part in the proceedings. No one inhibited. All 15 affixed their signatures in the ponencia (majority opinion) written by Justice Perez. Ten justices wrote their opinions. Two justices joined the opinion of their colleague, while another two concurred by simply affixing their signatures. All 15 voted on the result. Seven is not a majority of 15. So how can the ponencia say that Poe is qualified? The only safe legal conclusion they should have made is that her petition was granted since Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion,” Contreras said on his Facebook acount.
Contreras also posted a note titled “Dear CJ Sereno” countering Sereno’s claim that Caguioa, Peralta and Del Castillo “took no part” in the deliberations and did not vote on the .
In her separate opinion, Sereno stated: “Out of the 12 members who voted on the substantive question on citizenship, a clear majority of seven voted in favor of petitioner. As to residency, seven out of 13 voted that petitioner complied with the 10-year residency requirement.”
Contreras, however, said Sereno was wrong.
He said Caguioa participated in the deliberations and even issued a separate concurring opinion where he expressed his view that the court should not rule on the issue of citizenship, and where he did not have a definite stand on residence. In both cases however, Caguioa joined the majority on the issue of grave abuse of discretion committed by Comelec . He was joined on that aspect by Justice Peralta.
Contreras added Del Castillo participated in the deliberations and wrote a dissenting opinion where he opined that the Court should not rule on citizenship. He, however, found that Comelec did not commit grave abuse of discretion.
“Writing an opinion is a vote. Joining one is also a vote,” Contreras said.
In his dissent, Carpio said the majority ruling provided an “anomalous situation” beyond the intent of the framers of the Constitution.
“The election process becomes a complete mockery since the electorate is mercilessly offered choices, which include patently ineligible candidates. The electorate is also needlessly misled to cast their votes, and thus waste their votes, for an ineligible candidate,” the senior magistrate stressed.
He centered his dissent on the issue of Poe’s citizenship, reiterating she is not a natural-born Filipino – both as a foundling and a former American citizen.
“To allow a person, who is found by the Comelec not to be a natural-born Filipino citizen, to run for President of the Philippines constitutes a mockery of the election process. Any person, who is not a natural-born Filipino citizen, running for President is obviously a nuisance candidate under Section 69 of the Omnibus Election Code,” Carpio said.
Carpio also rebutted the majority opinion that Poe did not have the burden to prove her being natural-born by establishing Filipino blood lineage since citizenship accorded to a foundling was presumed.
“Any person who claims to be qualified to run for the position of President of the Philippines because he or she is, among others, a natural-born Filipino citizen, has the burden of proving he or she is a natural-born Filipino citizen. Any doubt whether or not he or she is natural-born Filipino citizen is resolved against him or her. The constitutional requirement of a natural-born citizen, being an express qualification for election as President, must be complied with strictly,” he stressed.
The senior justice has also argued that the country is not bound by international laws on foundlings.
“In sum, there is no international treaty to which the Philippines is a contracting party, which provides expressly or impliedly that a foundling is deemed a natural-born citizen of the country in which the foundling is found. There is also obviously no international treaty, to which the Philippines is not a party, obligating the Philippines to confer automatically Philippine citizenship to a foundling at birth,” Carpio said.
Lastly, Carpio expressed his belief that allowing a naturalized citizen to run for president and possibly lead the country’s military set a dangerous precedent.
“A natural-born Filipino citizen who has absolutely renounced and abjured allegiance to the Philippines and pledged sole allegiance to the United States, undertaking to bear arms against any foreign country, including the Philippines, when required by US law, could still become the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines by performing a simple act – taking an oath of allegiance before a Philippine public official – to reacquire natural-born Philippine citizenship. The framers of the Constitution, and the Filipino people who ratified the Constitution, could not have intended such an anomalous situation,” he said. SFM
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.