MANY could not understand why Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares had her own proclamation rally (at Plaza Miranda) while her disqualification as a presidential candidate and the cancellation of her Certificate of Candidacy by the Commission on Elections remained standing, despite the Temporary Restraining Order issued by the Supreme Court. So much confusion could have been avoided had the Court restrained her campaign activities as well, along with its TRO on the Comelec. That might have been the fairer and less misleading arrangement.
Deceiving the people
The Llamanzares camp has fully exploited her false claim that she is a bona fide candidate without any constitutional or legal impediment. Her media ads subtly project it, the propaganda fraudsters claim she is leading in the “surveys,” the careless media brazenly describe her as “the front runner in the presidential race,” and last Tuesday’s rally put her on the same footing as the constitutionally eligible candidates. The truth is that the Comelec rulings have simply been “frozen,” but not reversed or voided by the Supreme Court; her petition for certiorari against the Comelec has been the subject of ongoing Oral Arguments.
So far, these have taken four Tuesday afternoon sessions of the High Court. But such has been the effect of Mrs. Llamanzares’ propaganda that even some learned Justices may have been misled. In the last Orals, one Justice unwittingly referred to published reports about Mrs. Llamanzares leading an alleged survey. This referred to a reported survey, commissioned by nobody knows who, and supposedly commenced on September 15, 2015, when there were only presidential aspirants but no bona fide presidential candidates yet, and continuing until January 15, 2016, after she had been disqualified by the Comelec and merely given an artificial reprieve by the Court. Such reported survey lacks credibility for obvious reasons.
In September of last year, it would have been all right for a pollster to ascertain Mrs. Llamanzares’ performance rating as a sitting senator, but not as a “presidential candidate,” just as it would have been completely legitimate to ascertain Jejomar C. Binay’s trust rating as Vice President and Mar Roxas’s rating as a former DILG secretary, but not as presidential candidates. Since no one had yet filed a COC for president at that time, it would have been completely presumptuous and deceitful for a pollster to list down names of non-candidates and put out the question, “If elections were held today, whom would you vote for president?”
On Jan 15, after the Comelec had disqualified Mrs. Llamanzares and cancelled her CoC, no honest pollster could have included her in a survey of bonafide presidential candidates, without first identifying her as someone who could end up as a bona fide candidate only if the High Court should ultimately reverse the otherwise final and executory rulings of the Comelec. Then and only then could the polling firm ask its survey “samples” whether, if elections were held on that day, they would vote for such a “candidate.” There is no evidence that the pollster had clarified her precise legal status.
Misusing the Church
At her rally in front of the Quiapo Catholic Church, the self-admitted foundling, whose first and last known and uncontested citizenship was that of a naturalized American citizen, said she was ready to defend her claim to Filipino citizenship “here and now.” But she offered nothing to enlighten her audience about her claim to the office. Using the church as a prop, she said “the story of my life started inside a church. It is fitting that I should launch the next chapter in front of a church.” She was referring to her having been found a foundling of no known parentage at the doorstep of the parish church in Jaro, Iloilo on Sept. 3, 1968.
At the Supreme Court orals, she found a new champion in Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, who raised a novel theory about her right to due process and equal protection of the law. He said he did not buy the submission that because Mrs. Llamanzares is a foundling with no known parentage she is a natural-born Filipino. But he said the Comelec may have “crossed the line” and violated Mrs. Llamanzares’s “right to due process,” when it relied merely on its own reading of the Constitution, without ascertaining her real parentage, to show that she is not natural-born. He said her unknown parents could have fallen into any of four distinct possibilities, but that the Comelec failed to establish which one.
Justice Jardeleza’s four possibilities include: 1) that her mother and father are both Filipinos; 2) that father is Filipino and her mother a foreigner; 3) that her mother is Filipino and her father a foreigner; and 4) that her father and mother are both foreigners.
He pressed Lim to offer a fifth possibility, and the Comelec counsel failed to do so.
There is, however, a fifth possibility, and this is, that both father and mother are foundlings, like Mary Grace. Of course, this cannot be a strong probability, but it is not an inherent impossibility. But this has nothing to do with main issue. As Lim pointed out, there was no need for the Comelec to ascertain Mrs. Llamanzares’ s real parents because she had already admitted she was a foundling of no known parentage. And both parties had stipulated upon it.
Burden of proof
Thus, although the burden of proof initially lay with the original petitioners, this promptly shifted to Mrs. Llamanzares when she declared she is a foundling of no known parentage. No line was crossed, and no right to due process was violated when the Comelec declared that Mrs. Llamanzares is not a natural-born Filipino and does not have the 10-year residency requirement to qualify as a presidential candidate.
Jardeleza said he had “agonized” over this case, (and he used the word several times), because “it is a case of first impression;” there are no previous rulings to guide the Justices. Indeed, it is not just a case of “first impression;” it is also suis generis. This is because we have not had a situation before where someone who was absolutely ineligible for the office of the President insisted on being allowed to run for the office, on the basis of her lack of qualification for it.
I found it a little disturbing when Jardeleza told Lim, “You have to convince (the majority of the Justices) that your reading of the Constitution is correct.”
This means that when the Constitution says, “No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines,” or when it enumerates those who are citizens of the Philippines, or defines “natural-born citizens” as “those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship,” we cannot be assured that the Justices understand these provisions in the same way we, the People, as authors of the Constitution, do.
This, I believe, is the point where we can say, the line has been crossed.