Cardinal Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila may have taken a bold step when he met the other day with Vice President Jejomar Binay, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, and Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares to confer his episcopal blessings upon the wannabes. It is easy enough to assume that all three politicians had wanted to see the Cardinal separately in private, but the Cardinal decided to see them all together instead. He thus bestowed upon them the same blessing; no one got more, no one got less. But by receiving them together, the Cardinal might have unwittingly lent the impression that he considered all three of them potential presidential candidates for 2016. This may have been a mistake.
Why so? Because, first of all, the three are not yet candidates.
They will become candidates when they formally file their certificates of candidacy in October. Only then will we know if all three are indeed running, and if any more would be running at that point. That may be the best time for His Eminence to give them his blessings in episcopal audience.
Although all three are interested in the same thing, not all have the same constitutional standing to qualify as potential candidates. One may be more popular than the other two, but she is, in my book, constitutionally ineligible from running for the office. I refer to Mrs. Llamanzares.
She is a former American citizen, with an American husband and three American children, whose qualification to remain in the Senate is being questioned by petitioner Rizalito David through counsel Manuelito Luna before the Senate Electoral Tribunal on her lack of citizenship and residence. It is not fair therefore for anyone to suggest that the Cardinal-Archbishop of Manila has given Mrs. Llamanzares his moral seal of approval to seek the presidency while this issue pends before the SET.
According to the best evidence available, supplied by Mrs. Llamanzares herself, she is not a natural-born Filipino citizen, and is apparently stateless at this point; not qualified to run for President, Vice President, Senator or member of the House of Representatives. If stateless, she would not even be qualified to vote.
But just because we saw her being “blessed” by our cardinal, some of us might think that her constitutional defect is a non-issue, which the Church could blithely overlook. PNoy and Roxas and their filthy rich cronies might have all the arrogance and conceit to believe the Constitution and the remaining few willing to die for it could be easily trodden underfoot without creating holes in the soles of one’s shoes. But never the Church.
The Church must be the first one to insist that even if no two voters could agree on the personal qualifications and worth of any candidate for high office, no voter should complain that any candidate has failed to meet any of the constitutional and legal qualifications for seeking the office. This means, as provided in Section 2, Article VII of the Constitution, that “no person may be elected President or Vice-President unless he is a natural-born citizen, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least forty years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election.”
The law is so clear that no two individuals who understand every word used in the sentence could have two different interpretations and understanding of it. The only word or phrase that makes one pause is, “natural-born citizen.” What does it mean? Does it refer to the way babies are born? The Constitution answers in Section 2, Article IV: “Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their citizenship.” This definition is so clear that no two qualified individuals can have two different understanding of it.
The Constitution provides minimum qualifications to encourage as many individuals as possible to qualify. This is to make sure that before one becomes the candidate of a group, a political party or coalition, or even one’s own pure illusions, he is first of all a candidate of the Constitution. This is what our predatory elite would like to stamp out by insisting on running Mrs. Llamanzares for president or vice president, despite her ineligibility under the Constitution. Some of them have the gall to suggest that their money and power will resolve everything in their favor, simply by corrupting everyone who could be corrupted anywhere.
Knowing the colonial mentality of our people, and the fact that no American official would dignify the propaganda rubbish in the grapevine, some of them even have the temerity to claim that Mrs. Llamanzares is the “American candidate” in the next election. The apparent purpose is to stampede the ignorant and the gullible into boarding their fraudulently confected bandwagon.
But at the Supreme Court this morning, Justices Antonio Carpio, Arturo Brion and Teresita de Castro will lead the nine-man Senate Electoral Tribunal in a preliminary conference on David’s petition to unseat Mrs. Llamanzares. Petitioner David through counsel Manny Luna will try to present his case, using the documents supplied by Mrs. Llamanzares herself. This promises to be fun.
The documents show that Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares was born a foundling in Jaro, Iloilo, sometime on Sept. 3, 1968 in Jaro. Her biological parents were unknown; their citizenship similarly unknown. She was found on a parish church property by one Edgardo Militar, who turned her over to another native of Jaro named Emiliano Militar. Under the 1935 Constitution, which was in force at the time, the following are citizens of the Philippines: 1) those who are citizens of the Philippine Islands at the time of its adoption; 2) those born on the Philippine islands of foreign parents who, before the adoption of the Constitution, had been elected to public office in the Philippine islands; 3) those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines; and 4) those who are naturalized in accordance with law.
Mary Grace did not fall under any of these categories. She was therefore stateless at birth.
Among the documents are two purported certificates of live birth. One is dated Nov. 27, 1968 and refers to the birth of one Mary Grace Natividad Contreras Militar, found in the parish church of Jaro on Sept. 3, 1968, by Edgardo Militar. The main body of the document is typewritten, but it contains handwritten inserts, which make the authenticity of the document highly questionable. The name “Natividad” is handwritten, while the typewritten name “Contreras Natividad,” is bracketed by hand, and above it “Sonora Poe” is handwritten. On the right hand side is a handwritten note of seven short lines saying, “the child was adopted by spouses Ronald Allan Poe and Jesusa Sonora Poe, as per decision of the Municipal Court of San Juan, Rizal under Judge Alfredo Gorgonio dated May 13, 1974.”
The certificate is dated Nov. 27, 1968, yet it mentions the child’s adoption which was supposed to have taken place six years later, in 1974.
The second certificate of live birth was received by the Office of the Civil Registrar of Iloilo City on May 4, 2006—38 years after Grace Poe’s date of birth—from Mrs. Jesusa Sonora Poe, her surrogate mother, who supplied all the “information” contained therein. In this document, the informant said Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe was born on Sept. 3, 1968 in Jaro to herself (Jesusa) and her husband Ronald Allan Poe, who were married on Dec. 25, 1968, three months after Mary Grace was born. There is no evidence, however, not even a rumor, that Mrs. Poe ever delivered a child.
The couple was shown to have adopted Mary Grace Natividad at court proceedings in the San Juan municipal court in 1974. If the information is correct, the proceeding is questionable because at the time, adoption cases fell under the jurisdiction of the regional trial court, not any municipal court.
How did Mary Grace Natividad Poe, who was stateless upon birth, acquire her Philippine citizenship? She was adopted by a Filipino couple, but under the law then in force adoption conferred surname, succession, and support to the adopted child, but not citizenship. Presumably she obtained a Philippine citizenship by some means, fair or foul, legal or illegal, but the very means employed to acquire such citizenship deprived her of any possible claim to a “natural-born status.”
In any case, she permanently lost her Philippine “citizenship” when she became an American citizen in 2001. On Oct. 20, 2010, she executed an affidavit of renunciation of allegiance to the United States of America and renunciation of her American citizenship. On July 12, 2011, she formalized her renunciation of her American citizenship in the presence of a US vice consul (signature illegible) at the US Embassy in Manila. The Federal Register, the Daily Journal of the US Government, recorded this renunciation in the second quarter of 2012 ending June 30.
Previous to that, on July 10, 2006, Mrs. Llamanzares filed a petition for the “reacquisition” of Philippine citizenship under RA 9225, or the Dual Citizenship Law of 2003. This law allows “former natural-born citizens” who had become citizens of another country after 2003 to reacquire their Philippine citizenship by taking a prescribed oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines. But Mrs. Llamanzares was not/is not qualified to “reacquire Philippine citizenship” under this law on two counts. First, she was never a natural-born Filipino, and second, she became an American citizen in 2001, before the Dual Citizenship Law took effect. The law has no retroactive effect.
And yet in her petition she said she was a natural-born Filipino, born to Ronald Allan Kelley Poe and Jesusa Sonora Poe, both Filipinos. Thus her application was given due course and approved by the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation without doing any due diligence and demanding proof of her claim of natural-born status. Immigration Commissioner Alipio Fernandez Jr. did not sign the document himself, somebody else signed on his behalf. She repeated her false claim about her citizenship, birth and parentage in 2013 when she filed her certificate of candidacy for the Senate.
From the documents before the SET, the facts seem clear. Having renounced her American citizenship in 2011/2012, Mrs. Llamanzares has ceased to be an American citizen. But not being qualified to reacquire Philippine citizenship under RA 9225, her Philippine citizenship is null and void ab initio. She is not legally a Filipino, much less a natural-born Filipino. Thus as she was stateless upon birth 47 years ago, so is she stateless now.
We sympathize with Mrs. Llamanzares, but one who wants to preserve and defend the Constitution from everyone else must first preserve and defend it from oneself. PNoy and Roxas and their friends can help if instead of saying they have not given up on her as a possible vice presidential candidate, they would help her face reality and manage her crisis.