POSTSCRIPT / July 12, 2007 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Ong better drop his SC bid before GMA does it

REJOINDER: Lawyer Rene Saguisag disputed my observation that his client Sandiganbayan Justice Gregory S. Ong is not qualified to serve as Supreme Court justice because he is not a natural-born citizen as required by the Constitution and several laws.

Rene said in an email (edited to fit space) to Postscript: “Justice Ong is the apo sa talampakan of indios del Barrio Santiago, Malolos, Bulacan, so no question Filipino blood is in his veins.

“It used to be more important to have it passed through a Filipino father who remained a Pinoy despite marrying an alien while a Pinay marrying an alien lost her citizenship and became an alien herself. Seeing that blood passing through the mother is not inferior to that passing through the father, the 1987 Constitution rectified the injustice.

“The petitioners had asked for Justice Ong’s appointment (to the SC) to be annulled. They did not get it from the Supreme Court. Thus, the appointment subsists to this date.

“The edifying decision ended on a high note for us with the observation from Justice Azcuna: ‘Those born before Jan. 17, 1973, of Filipino mothers who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority shall be deemed natural-born citizens. (Art. IV, Sec. 2, in rel. to Sec. 1, par. [3]).’

“Gregory S. Ong claims to fall under this provision of the Constitution. He has to prove that his mother, Dy Guiok Santos, was a Filipino citizen prior to her marriage to Eugenio Ong Han Seng. We have filed the necessary petition.

“In the adversarial proceeding we have initiated as advised, I cannot see how the Office of the Solicitor General can reverse its well-studied position now on file in the Supreme Court. We hope to win the petition to ‘correct,’ with no opposition sana from iconic Uncle Jovy Salonga.

“Justice Greg’s Filipina mother became an alien on marriage to a Chinese. It was understandable for him to be listed also as Chinese when born, but like I said, her blood is the same if she were the hypothetical Filipino father. By electing to be a Pinoy, Greg became a natural-born citizen by operation of the fundamental law of the land.

“Meantime, I submit that there is no vacancy to fill as in the case of Justice Minita Chico-Nazario, whose deserved appointment was held back for months, well beyond 90 days in 2004.”

* * *

ONG’S RECORDS: Although a non-lawyer, I dare say that Saguisag is mistaken. The Supreme Court clearly ruled that Ong is not a natural-born citizen on the basis of the records, especially his birth certificate that he himself submitted to the Court when he showed his citizenship to be able to take the 1979 bar examination.

(Ong, the would-be SC justice, reportedly scored a fantastic grade of 76.45 percent in the bar exams!)

He also submitted the decision of the then Court of First Instance granting the naturalization petition of his father. He submitted proof that this decision has become final and cannot be amended by an order of the Bureau of Immigration (which Ong relied on to buttress his present claim of natural-born citizenship).

* * *

NO TRO: Rene claims that the Court did not prevent Ong from sitting in the tribunal and that his appointment to the SC subsists.

With due respect, I believe Rene is again wrong.

First, the Solicitor General — while arguing wrongly that Ong was a natural-born citizen — said in her comment to the Court that Ong’s appointment was “not released, but instead, referred to the (Judicial and Bar Council)” for validation of Ong’s citizenship.

If it was not released, then there was no complete appointment to speak of. This was one of the SolGen’s arguments to show that the SC should not issue a Temporary Restraining Order against the Executive Secretary to prevent him from releasing the appointment.

No TRO (as prayed for by petitioner Jovito R. Salonga) was issued, because there was nothing to enjoin.

* * *

ONG ENJOINED: Second and more important, in the SC decision “Ong (was) ENJOINED from accepting an appointment to the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court or assuming the position and discharging the functions of that office.”

If he cannot accept the appointment, assuming it was released, how can he sit in the Court? If he accepted it, assuming again it was released, then he was enjoined from assuming the position.

Note the language in the decision’s dispositive portion, “This Decision is FINAL and IMMEDIATELY EXECUTORY.” (capitals in the original copy.)

Obviously, the Court made its decision final and immediately executory to obviate a situation in which Ong can accept the appointment and take his oath within the normal 15-day waiting period for the finality of a decision.

* * *

DON’T INSIST: All the fuss about Ong’s mother being a citizen (with her blood surging in her son’s veins daw) but was mistakenly entered in his birth certificate as Chinese is a mere allegation that he must still prove (if he can) in the Regional Trial Court.

Any RTC decision is still subject to appeal to the Court of Appeals and then the SC. But, as the records now stand, he is not natural-born and therefore does not qualify to sit in the Supreme Court — or even in the Sandiganbayan or the RTC.

Ong should be lawyer enough, if not justice enough, to understand this. No amount of hocus pocus or legal double-talk can alter that fact.

Ong is holding up the line. He should consider withdrawing on his own — before the appointing power, the President, names somebody else.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 12, 2007)

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