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.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Filipino citizenship “must be treasured like a pearl of great price”----according to late SC Justice Isagani Cruz in1989. But why is it that a candidate who failed to treasure that pearl since 2001 is being rewarded by this same SC with right to run for highest office, in violation of constitutional provisions? The IBP, composed of 56,000- strong lawyers all around the country, goes against SC in Poe case---only the second time since martial law days that IBP has done so---historic and monumental vote. Philippine Bar Association, country’s oldest organization of lawyers, dating from April 8, 1891, also votes vs. Poe.

Former UE Law Amado articulated in today’s “Daily Tribune” the sentiment that many Filipinos are feeling now about presidential candidate Grace Poe---how she has been living in the US since 1991, gave up her Filipino citizenship to become an American in 2001, then reacquired her Filipino citizenship in 2006 under R.A. 9225, informally known as the “Dual Citizenship Act,” even as she remained an American citizen until 2012---when she was already working as MTRCB chief,  per records of US Consulate in Manila.

The citizenship of Grace Poe, in fact, has in fact become the butt of jokes around---e.g., PH might beat America in having its first American woman President---Poe to beat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to that distinction?


Actually, because Pinoys will be Pinoys, jokes about Poe’s being an americanita abound,  but this is no laughing matter. It’s a painful thing for a Filipino to accept how constitutional requirements on citizenship and residency of candidates for the highest offices of the land are being twisted, it appears, to suit a political agenda.  

Former Dean Valdez rightly points out in his motion for reconsideration (MR) to the SC that it will be up to the voters this May to decide whether Poe is qualified to run for the highest post in the land, “despite gaping doubts on her qualification as a natural-born Filipino, as the Constitution very clearly provides.”  

Valdez stressed that “The next move belongs to the Filipino people---for them to decide whether they agree with the SC’s ‘interpretation’ as emphasized in its ‘final’ ruling, informally issued in Baguio last April 05, and formally on Saturday, April 09.


Already, the formal decision of the SC to throw out the five MRs from private respondents---as well as the similar position of the Board of Governors of the 56,000-strong Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and the Philippine Bar Association---and allowing Poe to run despite constitutional prohibitions and  citizens’ objections, is already being called the “Fall of the Supreme Court,” in remembrance of the “Fall of Bataan” to be commemorated---how aptly---this Saturday, April 09.

It must be pointed out that so serious is the constitutional issue vs. Poe that in the whole history of the Philippines, this is ONLY THE SECOND TIME THAT THE IBP CRITICIZED AND WENT AGAINST THE SC RULING that Poe is qualified and eligible to run for President.  The first time the IBP dissented from the SC was during Martial Law in 1973, when the legal community criticized the SC ruling that the 1973 Constitution was validly ratified by the so-called “people’s assemblies.” Thus, the IBP’s stand vs. Poe is truly MONUMENTAL AND  HISTORIC.   


In his MR for the SC, Amado Valdez cited two landmark opinions of the High Court that undergird Filipino citizenship, which I’d like to highlight here because they are so significant and even poetic and beautiful.

In the first case, Frivaldo v. Comelec (June 23, 1989), the SC, speaking through the late Justice Isagani Cruz, said:  “… the status of the natural-born citizen is favored by the Constitution and our laws, which is all the more reason WHY IT SHOULD BE TREASURED LIKE A PEARL OF GREAT PRICE. BUT ONCE IT IS SURRENDERED AND RENOUNCED, THE GIFT IS GONE AND CANNOT BE LIGHTLY RESTORED.  THIS COUNTRY OF OURS, FOR ALL ITS DIFFICULTIES AND LIMITATIONS, IS LIKE A JEALOUS AND POSSESSIVE MOTHER.  ONCE IT IS REJECTED, IT IS NOT QUICK TO WELCOME BACK WITH EAGER ARMS ITS PRODIGAL IF REPENTANT CHILDREN.” (emphasis BOC’s).


In the second case cited by former UE Dean Valdez, Labo, Jr. v. Comelec (Aug. 01, 1989) , the SC stressed that “A CITIZEN OF THE PHILIPPINES MUST TAKE PRIDE IN HIS STATUS AS SUCH AND CHERISH THIS PRICELESS GIFT THAT,  OUT OF A HUNDRED OTHER NATIONALITIES, GOD HAS SEEN FIT TO GRANT HIM.” The Court warned that “(H)aving been so endowed, he must not lightly yield this precious advantage, rejecting it for another land that may offer him material and other attractions that he may not find in his own country. To be sure, he has the right to renounce the Philippines if he sees fit and transfer his allegiance to a state with more allurements for him. But having done so, he cannot expect to be welcomed back with open arms.”  (emphasis BOC’s).

These two passages above put Filipino citizenship on such a high plane---INDEED LIKE A PEARL OF GREAT PRICE that one can only reject at tremendous risk to oneself.  The question is, why do many countrymen of ours seem to beat the path to the door of a candidate whose only merit was to live more years of her life as an American citizen, who has hardly ever worked here, and whose family remains American till now?

There is something wrong in this situation.


As has been noted before by this blogger and other commentators, the unjust dispersal of 6,000 starving farmers in Kidapawan was a tragedy that didn't have to happen---if only the powers that be believe in SINCERE DIALOGUE to solve problems. The farmers, severely affected by the drought that has already ruined some 18 provinces around the country according to Pag-Asa, were asking only for 15,000 sacks of rice for their hungry families. To heighten their demand they blocked both sides of the highway from Cotabato to Davao---a move which is not right, as it further ruins the economy there.

What should have been done was for the local leaders led by the North Cotabato governor and backed up by national government, to first persuade the starving farmers to open one side of the highway even as the national government began trucking or helicoptering in sacks of rice for distribution to the farmer families.

Instead, what happened was that the local officials insisted that the distribution of the rice first conform to the bureaucratic rigmarole---e.g., a food for work program DAW. Tell that to farmers and families that cannot work anymore because they are starving. Inevitably, the obstinacy of the farmers was met with arms by the police, resulting in three people dead and scores wounded after the farmers fought back with stones.  It was only in its aftermath of violence that the bodegas of the NFA were opened.

The shoot-out in Kidapawan was a horrible mishandling of a powder-keg situation, and only one indication of the crying need to elect local and national officials with enough maturity and experience, and A LOT OF COMPASSION FOR THE POOR---not inexperienced leaders whose only knowledge stems from briefings by aides and who have little or no feeling for the misery of our people.


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