POSTSCRIPT / September 13, 2015 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Politics to influence Poe case before SET

SEN. GRACE Poe Llamanzares has won the first round in the disqualification case against her before the Senate Electoral Tribunal, but a bigger battle looms in the follow up case(s) likely to pop up once she files her certificate of candidacy for president in October.The instant petition before the SET filed by losing senatorial candidate Rizalito David is just to unseat Poe as senator. It is not yet the challenge to her qualifying as a presidential candidate — because she is not yet a candidate.

The nine-member tribunal was correct in throwing out the disqualification bid because it was filed too late. David should have filed it not later than 10 days after Poe’s proclamation in 2013, but he protested only last Aug. 6, or two years too late.

Whatever will be the SET’s ruling on the second issue raised – that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino as required of senatorial candidates – is likely to answer in advance a similar question that may be raised once Poe runs for president.

But it seems that the citizenship issue, although a legal question, may take on political hues considering that the SET is dominated by six senators of various partisan colors who are out and out politicians.

They are senators Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aguirre Aquino IV, Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Pia S. Cayetano, Cynthia Aguilar Villar, Gregorio B. Honasan II, and Maria Lourdes “Nancy” Sombillo Binay.

The senators outnumber the three other SET members: Supreme Court associate justices Antonio T. Carpio, the senior among them, Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro and Arturo D. Brion.

Political ties may color Poe case

WITHOUT meaning to imply that some SET members will not be just and fair, let us share some observations being made about them in media forums, coffee shops and board rooms.

Carpio is a former partner of “The Firm” who has close ties with former Arroyo administration defense secretary Avelino “Nonong” Cruz and former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo. The two are lawyers of Mar Roxas, the anointed presidential candidate of President Noynoy Aquino and the Liberal Party.

To this day, the alleged involvement of “The Firm” in the citizenship case against the late Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) who ran for president in 2004, remains a big question. The actor ran under the opposition flag of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino.

Also being watched is Senator Aquino. The only LP senator who won in the 2013 polls, Bam is the son of Paul Aquino, former president Arroyo’s campaign manager in 2004 against FPJ. Sources claim Paul is an adviser in Roxas’ team.

Meanwhile, Senator Binay — daughter of presidential aspirant and sitting Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay — has declared her intention to participate fully in the SET hearings despite possible conflict of interest owing to her father’s presidential plans.

Senator Pia Cayetano is the sister of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano who is reportedly among those being wooed to be Roxas’ running mate.

Will any of the senators inhibit him/herself? I doubt it, but let us watch.

Barring Poe to benefit Roxas or Binay?

THE EARLY elimination of Poe as a presidential candidate will make it easier for the LP to ensure Roxas’ victory in the May 2016 elections, according to one theory being kicked around.

There is fear, both in the Roxas and the Binay camps, that Poe — who has been topping voters’ preference surveys — is almost certain to win if allowed to run. The theory says that both the LP and the United Nationalists Alliance (of Binay) will do everything to prevent Poe’s running.

There is a growing confidence in LP ranks that with their money and machinery Roxas will beat Binay in their return bout next May, if Poe is disqualified this early.

Poe is expected to draw votes away mostly from Roxas and not so much from Binay whose bedrock of supporters can no longer be eroded further after the massive demolition by the Yellow Ribbon subcommittee in the Senate.

If there is logic and factual basis in these presumptions, however, the Binay camp might not mind Poe running as she would take votes away from Roxas and weaken his advantage as the administration candidate.

One joke going around is that Nancy Binay might even decide to vote in the SET against Poe’s disqualification.

Foundlings citizens of host country?

ON THE QUESTION of whether a foundling is a natural-born citizen or not, Poe pointed out that in the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention that wrote the 1935 Constitution:

“The framers intended to include foundlings in the term ‘citizens’ of the Philippines and they adopted the international principle that children or people born in a country of unknown parents are citizens of the country where they were found.

“During the debates, delegate (Nicolas) Rafols presented an amendment to include foundlings as Filipino citizens, but this was defeated because the Convention believed that the cases were too few to warrant the inclusion of such a provision.

“Moreover, it was believed that international law was already clear that foundlings followed the nationality of the place where they were found, thereby making unnecessary the inclusion in the Constitution of the proposed amendment.”

Poe also cited a Department of Justice opinion issued in 1951 which ruled in favor of a boy who survived an air raid in the Philippines during World War II, but whose parents were killed — rendering ascertaining their identity impossible.

The justice department granted his application for a Philippine passport as it declared that foundlings are citizens of the country in which they are found.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 13, 2015)

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