Chief Justice Sereno’s ‘filibuster’ A contrast in style

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Commissioner Arthur Lim was urbane, delightful and pleasantly instructive as he defended the Commission on Elections en banc decision disqualifying Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares, and cancelling her Certificate of Candidacy as a presidential candidate, in last Tuesday’s Oral Arguments before the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on the other hand came a bit too strong as she pleaded for a “rereading” of the Constitution to grant foundlings of unknown parentage the status of “natural-born citizens” for the benefit of Mrs. Llamanzares. It was a high moment for Lim, but regrettably a low moment for the lady chief justice.

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In his seven-minute opening statement, Lim said that over and above its political undertones, the Llamanzares case is firstly, and ultimately, constitutional and legal, and should be resolved as such.

He warned against the danger of allowing a constitutionally ineligible presidential candidate to run and get elected first, before her constitutional eligibility is passed upon by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, as argued by Mrs. Llamanzares. Although the PET, which is made up of the entire Supreme Court, has the constitutional authority to unseat an “elected” president, it is doubtful, said Lim, that a newly elected President would allow himself to be subjected to a quo warranto proceeding at the PET. Would another EDSA be the result? he asked.

Sereno failed to rise to the same level. Her only concern was: What would happen to all the foundlings–officially reported at 4,000 or so, to date–if Mrs. Llamanzares, who came into the world as one, is not allowed to run for President, just because she is not a natural-born citizen, as required by the Constitution? Quoting some unnamed friends in some unknown circle, she said that not allowing Mrs. Llamanzares to run because of her constitutional ineligibility would “reverberate around the world.” Lim’s fear, which many share, is the exact opposite: allowing her to run despite her constitutional ineligibility would completely destroy the constitutional order and the rule of law, and possibly justify, and demand, a revolution.

A ‘filibuster’

Sereno spent nearly all of two hours trying to make her audience’s hearts bleed for the poor foundling who could not run for President. It began to look like a “filibuster,” except that it had nothing similar to the famous 1963 Senate filibuster of Sen. Roseller Lim, or Khrisna Menon’s even more famous performance at the UN Security Council in defense of India’s position on Kashmir. She went through a long list of countries which have recognized foundlings as citizens, and an equally long list of government positions to which non natural-born Filipino citizens (not just foundlings) may not be named. The only thing lacking was a large receptacle to collect all the tears that Sereno may have expected to come flooding down the courtroom in response to her argumentum ad misericordiam.

She even went to the extent of repeating a citation from the proceedings of the 1934 Constitution Convention, which had already been shown to be irrelevant and false in a previous session. This refers to an exchange among delegates Manuel Roxas, Nicolas Raffols and Ruperto Montinola on Raffols’s idea that foundlings should be considered citizens. Llamanzares’s counsel Alexander Poblador had earlier tried to milk this in support of his claim that foundlings are natural-born citizens, only to be shown by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Cardio that the idea was actually voted down by the Convention.

Then and now

This was the second time I have seen Sereno in court struggling to dodge the obvious truth related to the Constitution. In the 2013 Oral Arguments on the Reproductive Health Law, where I gave the opening statement on behalf of the petitioners, Sereno’s concern was how could the Supreme Court, a non-elected branch of government, invalidate an act of the two elected branches, the Legislative and the Executive?

The issue there was simple enough: the Constitution designates the State as the primary protector of the life of the unborn, and therefore of conception; it cannot therefore be source of contraception and the preventer of conception. We lost that case when the Justices declared that the law was “not unconstitutional” while violating its fundamental provision declaring the State as the primary protector of the unborn.

In the case at bar, Sereno’s concern seems to be how to transform a foundling with no known parentage into a natural-born citizen, by rewriting the letter and spirit of the Constitution. In the first instance, she seemed full of doubt that the Constitution empowered the Court to declare an act of the Executive and Congress unconstitutional; in the present instance, she seems more than eager to rewrite the Constitution on behalf of one foundling.

Sympathetic, but—

She tried to persuade Lim to agree, but all Lim could say was that while he shared her feelings for the foundlings, the Constitution must be followed as the highest law of the land, and that any need to amend the law should be done by remedial legislation. She went back to him several times. For a while, I thought I was listening to some gender feminists pleading for the “right of women” to become priests, and calling upon the Vatican to allow their ordination; and the Vatican saying that not even the Pope can authorize such innovation.

As chief guardian of the Constitution, Sereno should be the first one to know that the Constitution cannot allow even the highest Court to interpret any of its provisions against its letter and spirit. Judicial activism occurs, but even that has its limits; otherwise despotism runs riot. Unhappily, the Chief Justice appears to have fallen into a fallacy concerning foundlings. She appears to believe she is fighting for all foundlings when she is simply expending all her energies on only one foundling, Mrs. Llamanzares.

So many others barred

What is clear to all though is that so many others who are not even foundlings are barred from running for President. These include all naturalized Filipinos; all natural-born citizens who are not registered voters; who are unable to read and write; who are less than 40 years of age; who have not been living in the country for at least ten years prior to this May 9 election; and all who, while complying with the constitutional qualifications for the office, do not have the money and political organization of Mrs. Llamanzares and have been declared “nuisance candidates” motu proprio by the Comelec.
Yet there is not a single soul or heart bleeding for them.

Carpio and Brion

It took but a short intervention on the part of Justices Carpio and Arturo Brion to brush aside the veil of sophistry and confusion that temporarily shrouded the Court during the “filibuster.” Through Carpio, it became very clear that all the countries that have accorded citizenship to foundlings have done so through legislation; and that aside from those who are required under the Constitution to be natural-born citizens in order to qualify for official positions, all the rest which Sereno had read into the record are merely required by statute to be natural-born. This requirement can be undone by legislation.

In Mrs. Llamanzares’s case, only a DNA match showing her having been born of a Filipino father can undo her situation, although even that may be too late to have any immediate effect on her disqualification. She is not a Filipino citizen under the 1935 Constitution, which was in force in 1968 when she was born. And she cannot, by the wildest stretch of the imagination, qualify as a “natural-born citizen” under the 1987 Constitution, which defines the term as “a citizen of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect (her) citizenship.”

From birth onward

Carpio made it abundantly clear that to be “natural-born” one must be a citizen not only “at birth” but rather “from birth” and continuously thereafter, without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect one’s citizenship. In Mrs. Llamanzares’s case, her citizenship at birth and from birth is unknown. Her first known and uncontested citizenship was as a naturalized American in 2001, when she was already 33 years old; it was also her last known and uncontested citizenship, when she renounced it very much later.

But even her supposedly reacquired Philippine citizenship remains clouded by questions of regularity. How could she possibly reacquire a citizenship she never had? Did she not get her Bureau of Immigration papers because she misrepresented herself as a “former natural-born citizen”?

Abuse of discretion?

Through Brion, it became emphatically clear, on the third SC hearing, that the Comelec ruling disqualifying Mrs. Llamanzares and cancelling her COC as a presidential candidate is otherwise final and non-reviewable, but for the fact that the High Court has temporarily restrained its implementation on an allegation of grave abuse of discretion, amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction. So did the Comelec commit a grave abuse of discretion? Did it act outside of its jurisdiction? Did it commit errors because of hostility to the affected party or a whimsical exercise of judgment?

Unless these questions can be answered in the affirmative, it would be an empty and foolish pursuit to try to read the Constitution in any way other than the spirit and letter of the law intended it to be read. It appears the Chief Justice was temporarily distracted by what happened in court earlier such that when she adjourned the session she failed to mention the date and time it would resume. It is safe to assume it would resume next week, to allow the Court to decide soon. In the end, the Constitution must stand, and all efforts to obfuscate, befuddle or rewrite it must fall.

fstatad@gmail.com

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28 Comments

  1. Anyare? Bakit nangyayari ang mga ganito sa ating mahal na bansa? How can we allow somebody to break our Constitution and the laws of the land with impunity? Papayag na lang ba tayo kabayan na paglalaruan nila palagi ang ating Saligang Batas at mga batas ng bansa? Papapayag na lang ba tayo kabayan na palagi nalang paglalaruan ang kapalaran, kinabukasan at kapakanan ng ating mahal na bansa at mamamayang Filipinos? Huwag naman po sana.

    If the disqualification rulings of the Comelec and the Constitution can be ignored by the Supreme Court for the sake of Grace Llamanzares and let the people decide by putting the laws in their hands, why not give the same rights and privileges to everybody who wants to run in the presidential elections including the so-called nuisance candidates? Selective justice ba ang gobierno natin? Para sa mayayaman, popular at influential lang ba ang Constitution at mga batas natin? Sila lang ba ang pinapakinggan at nasusunod? Anyare?

    Bakit nangyayari ang ganito sa ating mahal na bansa? Palusotan at palakasan pa more!!!! Nakalusot na nga si Grace Poe na maging senator kahit hindi naman pala natural born citizen pagkatapos ngayon ay palulusotin niyo pang maging pangulo ng bansa kahit hindi pa qualified? In fact, disqualified pa nga. What is so special about Grace Poe anyway? Why is she given a preferential and very special VIP treatment even if she lied under oath and misrepresented herself? Nobody must be allowed to run unless he or she is qualified first, di po ba? In fact, Grace Llamanzares was already disqualified and her Certificate of Candidacy cancelled but still can possibly run and become the president? That’s bullshit. Puwede ba nilang lutohing makaw at gawing inutil ang Constitution at mga batas ng bansa? Huwag naman po sana. Huwag naman po sanang papayag ang mga Filipinos na lapastanganin nila ang Saligang Batas at mga batas ng bansa natin.

  2. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? We really don’t know, is it not? But we sure know that a presidential candidate must be qualified first before he or she will be allowed to run. Nobody must be allowed to run unless he or she is qualified first, di po ba? It is not the other way around. Why is it then that Grace Poe will be allowed to run even though she was not qualified? In fact, she was even disqualified by the Comelec First Division, Second Division and then by the Comelec en banc. Her Certificate of Candidacy was even cancelled.

    In fairness to the other disqualified candidates, she also must not be allowed to run. She must not be given a preferential and very special VIP treatment. Napakaliwanag ang sinabi ng ating Constitution. No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election. Grace Poe is not a natural-born Filipino citizen and she lied under oath and misrepresented herself.

    Nakalusot na nga si Grace Poe na maging senator kahit hindi naman pala natural-born Filipino citizen pagkatapos ngayon ay palulusotin niyo pang maging pangulo ng bansa kahit hindi pa qualified? In fact, disqualified pa nga. Napakaliwanag ang sinabi ng ating Constitution. No person shall be a Senator unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and a resident of the Philippines for not less than two years immediately preceding the day of the election. Pagkatapos ay pinayagan niyong maging senator ng bansa hindi naman pala siya qualified? Where are the protectors of our Constitution when you need them?

    Ito pang isa. Napakaliwanag ang sinabi ng ating Saligang Batas. Public office is a public trust. How can we trust somebody like Grace Poe who lied under oath? Allegedly, there was a strong evidence that she misrepresented herself. Allegedly, there was a signed and sworn statement filed by Sen. Grace Poe in the Bureau of Immigration where she lied that she was not an adopted daughter but a natural born daughter of Susan and Fernando Poe. Alam naman nating lahat na ito ay hindi totoo, na ito ay malaking kasinungalingan, di po ba?

    Ano ba ang gusto niyong mangyari? Magbulagbulagan na lamang at maging mandhid sa katotohanan? Papayag na lang ba tayo kabayan na lutohing macaw at lapastanganin nila ang ating Saligang Batas o Constitution at mga batas ng bansa? Huwag naman po sana.

  3. Sa lahat na mga 4,00 foundlings, si Grace LLamanzares lang naman ang naligaw na tumakbo pagka presidente. Yung iba hindi nila ini-isip yun mag ambisyon na maging presidente. Nasulsolan lang si Grace Llamanzres dail naging number one siyang senador noong 2013 eleksyon.. CJ Sereno umalis ka na dyan.

    • Eugene Belisario on

      Sa isang naligaw na foundling umabot ng dalawang oras ang interpellation ni CJ Sereno, samantala yung ibang Justices ay wala pang isang oras.

  4. If Sereno’s view is carried through, you can just imagine how many Chinese, Arabs, African family who will make special arrangement for their child to be found “abandoned” and :

    VIOLA! their baby is a foundling and therefore a “natural-born” Filipino.

  5. Sereno’s argument for poe only shows her ignorance of the constitution-the basic law of the land she has sworn to uphold. Bares also the incompetence of the appointing power for appointing to the SC top post somebody who lacks the qualifications to be one and bypassing the more qualified and more learned ones.

  6. Naku, mga irog, naghahanap buhay lang naman si Lulu. She needs to find a public justification for the billion reasons she needs. Anyway, that may be their game plan: allow Grace to run and disqualify her when they make a decision on the Motion for Reconsideration, which decision will come when Bonget is proclaimed as VP. That would be giving the Presidency to Bonget on a silver platter.

  7. The CJ’s character and behavior speaks so much of her appointing authority. If she is showing her “shallowness” now, it’s because the one who appointed her was also even more shallow than her. There are lots of Supreme Court Justices who are more qualified than her to become CJ. We are spending great amount of people’s money on this issue, when we could have spent those money on more important matters that directly impact the daily lives of the Filipino people.

  8. Judith Marasigan on

    I believe Mrs. Llamanzares is a good candidate, however, please, not for presidency.

  9. I don’t understand why prolong the arguments regarding Mrs Grace Poe’s citizenship? Did a giant bird drop her in the Philippines? What these de campanella kuno Lawyer trying to prove? Yes, we have lots of Governments officials that we call a natural born citizen. But what they are doing? They are just enriching themselves. Shame our government officials cannot even think simple logic. Mabuhay to all of you

  10. It is quite obvious that CJ Sereno is now showing her true ‘yellow’ color. What a shame – and a misfortune for the Philippines to have so many incompetent, shameless people in government – from the President, to members of Congress and even the sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. CJ Sereno is acting as if she is the actual counsel of Poe instead of being a member of the Supreme Court.

  11. According to Mr. Tatad, the 1987 Constitution defines “natural born citizen” as citizen of the Philippines from birth without having to perform an act to acquire or perfect one’s citizenship. My question to Mr. Tatad is what act did Grace perform to perfect her citizenship? Obviously, adoption is not “that” act because it happened after her birth?

  12. Nag walang hiya si Sereno maipag tangol lang si G. Poequino. Bakit kaya? Ang laki siguro ang binayad sa kanya. Sereno, walang ka honor honor na CJ.

  13. “Her first known and uncontested citizenship was as a naturalized American in 2001, when she was already 33 years old; it was also her last known and uncontested citizenship, when she renounced it very much later.”

    What was her citizenship before that and what did she presented to the US authorities when she applied for naturalization?

    If it is her Philippine passport, what was the act she did to get that previous citizenship?

    Carpio pointed out that the provision of expressly mentioning foundlings as natural born citizens were voted out but he did not mentioned the reason for such.

    If I remember it right, the reason is not because they (the framers) believe that foundlings should not be natural born but because it is no longer necessary to explicitly express it because it is already guided by international laws.

  14. Concerned-Fellow on

    Go Senator Tatad. If SC go in favor of Grace Poe then our Constitution should be thrown to the dogs and there is no use to have or maintain SC as an Institution, because they (Justices) cannot act relative to what our Constitution says. It’s a waste of Govt. resources to pay this Justices who can’t render a wise decision based on the law of the land. What the Law says, it should stand – nothing else.

  15. It’s high time that this case be done and over with. It has gone far too long wasting the people’s resources. It is unfortunate that we also have a Chief Justice who is incompetent ready to rewrite the Constitution which is an act outside her authority. Shame on her for favoring and giving a special treatment to one American foundling at the expense of others. It is a reflection of the leader who installed her in that position she does not deserve or worthy to be in. I will give Llamanzares some credit though. She had the guts to try to fool the Filipinos the second time but this time this fraud, cheat and liar will not prevail.

    Now we all can sing the song: “And now the end is near and so I face the final curtain…”

    Also the commercial: “Hello Raid katol, bye, bye sa lamok…”

  16. Leodegardo Pruna on

    The Philippine Constitution is the basic law of the land. And, all of us must and should respect and protect it from the nuisances of vested interests. The Supreme Court is duty bound to interpret it to the letter and substance. God bless the Philippines.

  17. Mariano Patalinjug on

    Yonkers, New York
    04 Feb. 2016

    In her more lucid moments, Supreme Court Chief Justice MARIA LOURDES SERENO will rue the day she engaged in a “filibuster” in oral hearings in the disqualification case against presidential candidate GRACE POE LLAMANZARES, because she did violence to the Constitution which she, not only as Justice but the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, is sworn to defend and protect.

    If she truly realized the implications of her shocking defense of foundlings in general and of Grace Poe Llamanzares, a foundling in particular, as fully entitled to the presumption of being “natural born,” she does not deserve to wear the robe of even just a Justice of the Supreme Court; she ought to disrobe herself and, in shame, resign her position which obviously she does not deserve.

    MARIANO PATALINJUG
    patalinjugmar@gmail.com

  18. It appears the Chief Justice was temporarily distracted by what happened in court earlier such that when she adjourned the session she failed to mention the date and time it would resume. It is safe to assume it would resume next week,
    —————————————-

    Given how weak the case for Llamanzares is the Chief Justice who is a Aquino Appointee might delay the case until after Comelec prints the ballots.

    Kind of funny watching the Aquino appointees bend over backwards to rule in Liamanzares favor and here i thought she was running as a independent.

  19. Jose A. Oliveros on

    From newspaper reports of that oral argument, I gathered that to CJ Sereno the citizenship principle of jus sanguis means “blood line” and she interpreted this phrase literally, that is to establish that one is a natural-born Filipino citizen, one must show that his/her parents are pure-blooded Filipinos. The fault and flaw of this argument is if a person is born of an American father and a Chinese mother who before the birth of their child had themselves naturalized as Filipino citizens, the child born after they have become naturalized Filipino citizens is a “natural-born Filipino citizen” although his/her blood line is half-American – half Chinese. A natural-born Filipino citizen despite the American and Chinese blood running in his veins because that child does not have to do or perform an act to acquire or perfect his/her Filipino citizenship.

    CJ Sereno also cited the case of Ellis versus Republic to drive her point that a foundling is a natural-born Filipino citizen. The only issue in that case, as clearly stated by then Associate Justice (later a highly-respected Chief Justice) Roberto Concepcion was whether non-resident aliens like the Ellis spouses could adopt Baby Rose. The answer was not despite the noble motives of the Ellises because under the adoption law then in force, non-resident aliens could not adopt. And there was no doubt that Baby Rose was a Filipino because her mother was known having delivered the infant Baby Rose at a Caloocan Hospital but later abandoned her because she did not want to bring shame to her family for bearing a child without the benefit of wedlock. Unlike Grace Poe-Llamanzares whose parents are both unknown. Baby Rose’s citizenship was not an issue in that case.

  20. I thought that when Justice Sereno enumerated one by one the countries that foundlings are considered natural born and offices of the Philippine government that prohibit foundlings was just a diversion to prolonged her interpellation until quitting time and give no chance or less time to other justices to interpellate.

  21. CJSereno has shown her weakness.
    That is the reason why Chief Justices goes thru a long process of experience and study & acquired wisdom and understanding of the Constitution .
    How did she get there?

    • Aquino put her there.

      Keep a eye on Aquino’s other 5 supreme court appointees, guessing they will all disregard the constitution to rule in Llamanzares favor.

  22. Isang karapat-dapat na Chief Justice si Sereno. Paanong magiging misplaced ang kanyang posisyon sa kaso ni Poe, lahat ng sinabi nya may jurisprudence,may batas syang tinalakay at sa totoo lang nagbigay pa sya ng lecture noong nag-interpellate sya? May mga abogado bang bumanggit ng mga previous cases na sinabi nya? Iyong batas na tinalakay nya,puro may kaugnayan sa katayuan ni Poe.Nasa tao na siguro kung nasaang panig sya para sabihing sympathy ang nasa loob ni Sereno. Maaring sympathy pero bilang isang justice dapat ang sympathy nya ay nakasandal sa batas.