POSTSCRIPT / August 4, 2015 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Citizenship issue can trip Poe in 2016 race

THE GENERAL presumption is that there will be three main presidential candidates in the national elections in May 2016: Mar Roxas (Liberal), Jojo Binay (United Nationalist Alliance), and Grace Poe Llamanzares (Independent).

The order in which I mentioned them reflects what I guess would be the sequence they would cross the finish line, if they all survive the bruising race. I see Roxas the administration candidate eventually overcoming the survey edge of corruption-crippled Binay.

What about Poe (Llamanzares)? Somewhere along the way to Election Day, she could just drop out on the weight of the citizenship issues hounding her.

Roxas came out at the Club Filipino starting gate last Friday looking weak despite his handler, no less than President Noynoy Aquino, feverishly massaging his legs and ego. Right off, a non-yellow observer would rule him out as a foregone loser.

But one cannot ignore the miracles wrought by money and machine. “Machine” here includes not only the party behemoth but also the automated voting-counting equipment being assembled by election commissioners.

Watch Roxas the anointed slowly looking like a winner as the President and his LP acolytes minister to his weak constitution.

This is the same phenomenon in such contests as the Miss Universe pageant. All the girls look the same at the start, but when one of them is proclaimed winner, by some miracle she suddenly shines as the most beautiful female in the human race.

Properly handled, Roxas, despite himself, could soon start looking like a winner.

To make the transformation convincing, the big-time survey outfits can work on the numbers. As sure as day follows night, Roxas will soon be reported in their surveys as gaining ground.

The supposed surveys are needed to effect the transformation and to prepare the public mind to accept Roxas’ growing popularity leading to a victory.

This will be helped by the perception that Binay’s following has been eroded by the demolition job done by the three musketeers of the Yellow Ribbon committee in the Senate. But the erosion has reached rock bottom, so it cannot go down any lower.

Binay can overcome his LP rival’s contrived survey upsurge by building on this bottom bedrock solidified by his investing considerable time and resources over the years he was Makati mayor and later vice president.

Citizenship, residency questions raised

HAVING spurned the overture of no less than President Aquino for her to run as Roxas’ vice presidential partner, Poe will now have to pay very dearly.

Roxas needed her so desperately to boost his sagging standing, but she refused to play along on her assumption that she could make it herself to the presidency and need not be the stepping stone of anybody.

Having topped the senatorial elections in 2013 as a first-time and independent candidate, her impressive victory may have given Poe and her supporters grandiose ideas about aiming fast for Malacañang.

She better weigh her options carefully and consult family members who are not yet infected by politics. The danger of listening to fellow politicos is that they are liable to advise a course that is beneficial to them.

The Constitution says, “No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least 40 years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding such election.” (Emphasis supplied)

Related to this, these issues are being raised by her critics:

• Poe was apparently still an American when on Oct. 10, 2010, she took her solemn oath as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board and swore allegiance to the Philippine Constitution.

Except for a claim that she gave up her US citizenship before a notary public in Pasay City, she has not presented documentary proof that she had properly done so before the appropriate American consular officer at the US embassy.

• When Poe migrated to the United States and renounced her Philippine citizenship to become an American of convenience, and later changed her mind and gave up her US citizenship, she may have reverted to being a Philippine citizen, but did not regain her status as a natural-born Filipino.

A natural-born citizen is one who does not need to do anything to become a Filipino. But Poe had to do something (i.e., renounce her US citizenship and apply to regain her being Filipino). There is an essential difference between being a natural-born citizen and simply being a citizen.

• Poe lacks the 10-year residence requirement for election to the presidency. When she ran for senator in 2013, she declared in her Certificate of Candidacy under oath that she would be a resident for six years and six months by the time of the May 2013 election.

That means that by May 2016, or three years after 2013, she would be a Philippine resident for only nine years and six months – or half-year short of the 10-year residence requirement for presidential candidates.

Any of the three points above could disqualify Poe in her presidential run.

Since it is only August, well before the October deadline for the filing of Certificates of Candidacy, it would be premature to file suit against a no-candidate Poe. But it is just a matter of time.

Poe can still weigh her options and the probability that she might be disqualified on citizenship and related grounds. She may just face criminal charges, too.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 4, 2015)

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