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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In first three-hours of grueling five-hour SC session CJ Sereno grilled Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim on 'sad plight' of foundlings like Grace Poe, alternately cajoling and charming the lawyer, who stood his ground politely but firmly about amending Constitution, so Poe could run for highest office. Sereno's and Leonen's pronouncements reinforce perception that P-Noy may have shifted support to Poe instead of to Mar. NaughtyToby Tiangco raised her foundling status in media, making it "justiciable."




Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim before the SC for over five hours last Tuesday

Senator Grace Poe has aired her sentiment to media repeatedly: that should the Supreme Court sustain her disqualification (DQ) by the Comelec en banc from running for the presidency, she would be "very sad." Fortunately for Grace Poe, she has found an ally in the SC who appears to be bent on not making her sad at all. 

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno consumed about three and a half hours of the total five hour-session last Tuesday, Feb. 2, devoted to the third oral session at the SC. That portion with CJ Sereno was most punishing to Comelec's appointed lawyer, Commissioner Arthur Lim, who had to be on his feet as well as be mentally agile for all of those hours, as Sereno resorted to various arguments to win public sympathy for foundlings in general, and candidate Poe in particular. 

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The lady Chief Justice criticized public policies heretofore that she termed unjust and unkind to foundlings---presenting a string of countries that do not use the bloodline argument for determining citizenship or a combined employment of the jus soli and jus sanguinis arguments; she also cited that only 23 countries do not grant automatic citizenship in the world (PH included here). CJ Sereno alternately bullied the Comelec lawyer into tendering yes or no replies to what Lim termed "simple but actually very complex issues" or congratulating him when she got him to agree on a point; at other times she'd resort to gentle nagging.  

To Commissioner Lim's credit, he remained deferential and respectful all through the grueling session, acknowledging the supremacy of the Court in interpretations of law---but firmly holding his ground and unyielding on crucial points. 

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Then Sereno pulled out from her well-stuffed bag of tricks a long list of public offices and public support and benefits that are closed to foundlings. "They cannot even operate a jeepney or tricycle, nor have the right to practice their profession or acquire a higher education," she perorated---before cajoling Lim "to look beyond the presidency" and ponder on the possible impact of the DQ of Poe on the entire foundling world.

The CJ also cited various laws and decrees over decades that she claims have given some kind of life to the common understanding that foundlings are not Filipino citizens. She cited provisions in the various Philippine constitutions as well as laws from the turn of the century to recent ones such as RA 9225, the Citizen Recantation and Re-Acquisition Act and Senate Bill 2130, the Dual Citizenship Act, that have gone beyond the iron-clad provisions of the 1987 Constitution on qualifications for the highest offices of the land. 

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But to me as well as to many other citizens, just as worrisome as the impact of a perhaps forthcoming DQ of foundling Poe and her ilk is the grave disservice to the Constitution that the Chief Justice and whoever else in the SC would follow her, would be doing as interpreters of the law. This pertains to the possibility that perhaps due to political pressure, candidate Poe may be allowed to run for President even if the DQ grounds are clear. 

To my mind even though I am not a lawyer---and I assume, judging from reactions from media and citizens out there, various folks share my sentiment---the Constitution has stated in no uncertain terms--- understandable even to high school students---the provision of Sec. 2, Article VII on the "Executive Department" on qualifications of presidential candidates. Beclouding it would be to sow terrible confusion about the rule of law. 

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This provision, stated in the negative for stronger emphasis, states in no uncertain terms the qualifications now being deliberated in continuing sessions of the SC. It reads in part: "No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines...and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election." There's also the sections in the basic charter that spell out conditions and characteristics of "Citizenship"---most relevant of which pertain to the definition of "Natural-born citizens: "those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship." 

That the term "citizens... from birth" and not "at birth" was raised in the third SC hearing day was quite significant as it showed the framers of the Constitution's preoccupation with continuity of citizenship---not having stops and resumptions, i.e., loss and naturalization, etc. Any effort to twist the definition of "natural-born" could sow tremendous confusion and affect the credibility of the SC as the ultimate interpreter of the law. 

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This early, some media observers already are opining about how they see the way the SC would rule on Sen. Poe's DQ case by the Comelec. Media have noted the seeming partiality of CJ Sereno and Justice Marvic Leonen who also took 90 minutes of interpellation of the opposing lawyer in the second round. The three other Aquino appointees, namely, Justices Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Francis Jardeleza have not actively participated as yet, while the sixth appointee of P-Noy, the latest, Justice Benjamin Caguioa, still has to make an appearance in the court. 

From what media can glean, the rest of the justices, led by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, appear to lean toward sustaining the DQ by Comelec. Special mention must be made of Justice Carpio, who virtually rebutted much of CJ Sereno's points raised in her over three-hour interpellation. Carpio stressed after questioning Lim that it's not only foundlings who are being discriminated upon with regard to certain offices that are open only to natural-born citizens. He stressed that this prohibition applies to all naturalized citizens, and---this is most significant---that if there is any unfairness about it, this can be remedied by MERE LEGISLATION OF CONGRESS

Indeed it's time too, while this hullabaloo about Poe is going on, for Congress to look at some relief for naturalized citizens who may be suffering from the various forms of discrimination as noted by Carpiom who are far more in number than the foundlings.  

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In the meantime, it does look to me that Elections 2016 is not for Grace Poe. What she and her horde of followers and fans could do after the 2016 elections is to work for constitutional amendment of Sec. 2, Article VII, the "Executive Department," to allow foundlings like her who are subsequently naturalized, to be able to run for President. 

In fact, Grace Poe should already be grateful that the Comelec wasn't even in a scrutinizing mood when she ran for senator in 2013, as otherwise she would have been DQ-ed even for that post. Without that Senate post, she would be just another foundling adopted by a prominent movie couple and living a comfortable life in the US as well as here. On the other hand, Sen. Poe should blame Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, Secretary-General of the opposition UNA party, for being so naughty as to raise in public not too long ago the issue of her being a foundling---in violation of Sec. 2, Art. VII---causing this issue to become "justiciable.".

Without Toby's naughtiness, who knows, baka nakalusot si Grace.  But then, what happens to the Constitution?

5 comments:

  1. #PoeOrals
    Pov.
    A lying Chief Justice appointee of Aquino and Leonen is a Security Disaster in the Philippines. Both Sereno and Leonen know they have to implement the Law not to circumvent the Constitution by half truths, the foundling issue is an issue of pros and cons, but security to the nation is paramount. There is good sense in a must priority of Perfect Citizenship as birthright of highest Leaders for the rule preserves and attempts to guard our nation from being usurped by other nationalities.

    - Danny Cascolan

    ReplyDelete
  2. #PoeOrals
    Pov.
    A lying Chief Justice appointee of Aquino and Leonen is a Security Disaster in the Philippines. Both Sereno and Leonen know they have to implement the Law not to circumvent the Constitution by half truths, the foundling issue is an issue of pros and cons, but security to the nation is paramount. There is good sense in a must priority of Perfect Citizenship as birthright of highest Leaders for the rule preserves and attempts to guard our nation from being usurped by other nationalities.

    - Danny Cascolan

    ReplyDelete
  3. It is so obvious that Pnoy has a hand on these 2 Supreme Court justices! WTH!!! I don't know why Pnoy is very supportive of Grace Llamanzares, can anybody tell me why? First, he appointed Grace to become the Chairperson of MTRCB even if she was still then an American Citizen, which of course was unconstitutional!!! Second, he was the one who offered Grace to become the Vice-Presidential running mate of Mar Roxas!!! What is between Pnoy and Grace Llamanzares that even the CJ and Leonen's integrity are put to a test???

    ReplyDelete
  4. baka si Ninoy ang may anak dyan, hindi si macoy

    ReplyDelete