POSTSCRIPT / September 17, 2015 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Grace takes her case directly to the people

BY ANNOUNCING yesterday her intention to run for president in 2016, Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares appeared to be attempting to open a bypass to Malacañang after seeing the regular route defined by the Constitution cluttered with citizenship issues.

But even if Poe is able to whip up popular support, that will not negate the clear provision of the Constitution that the presidency is available only to natural-born Filipinos – which is the core issue in the disqualification case filed against her before the Senate Electoral Tribunal.

The case looks cut and dried for a speedy resolution with Poe and the petitioner Rizalito David having laid their cards (evidence) on the table. But, already, the documents submitted by the senator have raised curious questions.

For instance, if indeed Poe is a true Filipino, how come she was still using a United States passport in her travels as late as 2012, or six years after she took her oath in 2006 as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board?

The answer: She actually lost her American citizenship only on Feb. 3, 2012, when her Certificate of Loss of US Nationalitywas approved after US Vice Consul Jason Gallian of the US embassy signed the document on Dec. 9, 2011.

Her affidavit of renunciation of allegiance to the US and of her American citizenship that was sworn to on Oct. 20, 2010, before a Pasig notary public did not, by itself, strip Poe of her American citizenship under the US Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 as amended.

The Pasig affidavit was submitted to the Bureau of Immigration to support Poe’s petition in 2006 under the Dual Citizenship Law (RA 9225) to reacquire Philippine citizenship that she had renounced upon her naturalization as an American in 2001.

The approval by BI associate commissioner Roy M. Almoro (not by Commissioner Alipio F. Fernandez Jr.) of her petition did not cancel automatically her US citizenship – as that could be validly done only by an American consul in Manila.

The BI’s favorable action only made Poe a dual citizen, meaning she became both a Filipino and still an American until her renunciation at the embassy in 2012.

RA 9225 only for natural-born Pinoys

THE REACQUIRING of Philippine citizenship under RA 9225 is available only to former natural-born Filipinos. Persons who are not natural-born citizens do not qualify for reversion of their citizenship.

So if Poe is declared by final judgment to be not a natural-born citizen, that would not only mean her losing her Senate seat, but also her possibly giving up her re-acquired citizenship under RA 9225.

That would render her stateless, because she had already formally renounced her being a national of the US, the only other nation she could run to.

In dealing with the US embassy until 2012, Poe was using her US passport No. 017037793. Although already in government, she was also using her American passport in traveling to and from the US.

A bigger storm is expected over her birth and adoption papers as handwritten revisions and obviously wrong entries had been noticed on them.

These details may dilute the papers’ value as evidence in support of Poe’s claim to being a natural-born citizen, or being a Filipino since birth without having to do anything to complete or perfect her citizenship.

The SET may not be the proper venue — but the Regional Trial Court of the province where the civil registry with the birth records are located — for the cancellation or correction of the allegedly wrong entries in the documents.

Errors in birth papers can delay row

THESE SIDE issues and corollary action could delay the resolution of the central citizenship question. The dispute could be dribbled or kicked around until rendered moot if overtaken by the conclusion of the 2016 elections.

If Poe emerges winner in the presidential elections without the question over her being a natural-born citizen being resolved, what happens?

This is one angle in Poe’s advancing the announcement of her presidential bid and her going directly to the electorate, in effect asking the people to make their choice regardless of whether the law as applied says she is a natural-born citizen or not.

Is the requirement for a president to be a natural-born citizen a legal or a political issue? If it is both legal and political, which carries more weight in resolving a petition to disqualify the winner?

That is going ahead of the David petition before the SET which is only to disqualify Poe as senator. The question of her citizenship will crop up again, however, when she files her certificate of candidacy next month for president.

One document she submitted to the SET is an intercalated Certificate of Live Birth with handwritten insertions indicating she was found in the parish church of Jaro, Iloilo, on Sept. 3, 1968, by one Edgardo Militar. Written on the paper was the date Nov. 27, 1968.

Scribbled on the upper right hand part of the paper are notes saying the child was “adopted by the spouses Ronald Allan Poe and Jesusa Sonora Poe as per Court Order, Municipal Court, San Juan, Rizal, by Judge Alfredo Gorgonio dated May 13, 1974, under Special Proclamation No. 138.”

Normally adoption cases fall under the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court, rather than the Municipal Court. And how come a document dated Nov. 27, 1968, was able to recognize an adoption decision that took place May 13, 1974?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 17, 2015)

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