IN defeat and disappointment, every party to a dispute grabs any straw, no matter how limp, in order to keep alive its hopes of victory.
Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares is in such a position now with respect to her fading candidacy.
Her straws are:
1. The “let the people decide” argument or “Vox populi vox dei” nostrum;
2. Her presidential rivals have conspired to disqualify her from the presidential race, by
filing multiple DQ cases against her; and
3. The 2004 disqualification case against her adoptive father, Fernando Poe Jr, wherein the Supreme Court ruled that he was eligible to run for president in the 2004 election because he was a natural born citizen of the Philippines.
Alas, everyone of these straws is too limp to sustain her candidacy. They cannot stand up either in a court of law or in the court of public opinion.
In understanding these issues, I have been greatly helped by the opinion of others. I will turn to them here.
Let the people decide
Reader Jose Oliveros, who is most likely a lawyer, has sent me several reactions to my columns that shed much light on the “let the people decide” argument.
He informs me that the principal proponent of this argument is former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, who has been everywhere and has used his column in the Inquirer, to plead the case for Ms. Poe.
“Former Chief Justice Panganiban has the penchant for citing his ponencia in the 1996 Frivaldo case that on questions of qualification of a candidate, let the people decide. But in 2008, the Supreme Court, in an en banc decision, debunked that position in the following words:
“Petitioner also makes much of the fact that he received the highest number of votes for the position of Vice Mayor of Catarman during the 2007 local elections. The fact that a candidate, who must comply with the election requirements applicable to dual citizens and failed to do so, received the highest number of votes for an elective position does not dispense with, or amount to a waiver of, such requirement. The will of the people as expressed through the ballot cannot cure the vice of ineligibility, especially if they mistakenly believed that the candidate was qualified. The rules on citizenship qualifications of a candidate must be strictly applied. If a person seeks to serve the Republic of the Philippines, he must owe his loyalty to this country only, abjuring and renouncing all fealty and fidelity to any other state. The application of the constitutional and statutory provisions on disqualification is not a matter of popularity….
“In his dissenting opinion in the 2004 FPJ citizenship case, then Associate Justice Tinga characterized the “let the people decide” mentality as a “malaise, whether caused by academic sloth, intellectual cowardice or judicial amnesia which has unfortunately plagued this Court. (Here, Tinga cited the 1996 case of Frivaldo v Comelec). Continuing, Tinga said: “It is an easy cop-out that overlooks the fact that the Constitution is itself an expression of the sovereign will. The Filipino people, by ratifying the Constitution, elected to be bound by it, to be ruled by a fundamental law and not by a hooting throng.”
Oliveros buries here the entire “let the people decide” argument.
The conspiracy of rivals
Ms. Poe has charged that her rivals for the presidency have conspired, individually or together, to effect her disqualification by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
She has named LP standard bearer Mar Roxas and UNA standard bearer Jejomar Binay as the principal conspirators.
This brands everyone who filed a DQ case against her a co-conspirators.
She offers no proof about this conspiracy, just as she has no proof that she is a natural-born citizen.
The FPJ disqualification case
This is a tenuous extension of what my wife calls Ms. Poe’s “awa” strategy. She is so kawawa, the people should rally to her side.
This straw will only impel people to read closely the Supreme Court decision on FPJ’s case.
People will discover, as I did, that (1) the high court ruled for FPJ because in fact, he was a natural-born Filipino citizen, which Ms. Poe is not; and (2) that there are dissenting opinions in that decision which are highly instructive on the surpassing importance of citizenship to this nation.
I was impressed especially by the dissenting opinion of then associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, who is now Ombudsman of the republic.
In one passage of her dissent from the majority ruling, Morales wrote:
“Citizenship is a political status denoting membership, more or less permanent in character, in a political society and implying the duty of allegiance on the part of the member and a duty of protection on the part of society.
“Thus, a citizen is one who, by birth, naturalization, or otherwise, is a member of a political community, and as such is subject to its laws and entitled to its protection in all his rights incident to that relation. Derived from the Latin word cives, the term citizen conveys the idea of connection or identification with the state or government and participation in its function. It denotes possession within that particular political community of full civil and political rights subject to special disqualifications such as minority.
“It is a recognized rule that each state, in the exercise of its sovereign power, is free to determine who its citizens are, but not who the citizens of other states are:
“Citizenship is essential not only for the exercise of political rights and the right to hold public office, but for the exercise of a number of important economic privileges which the Constitution reserves exclusively to Philippine citizens as well….
“These nationalist provisions make the question of citizenship of even greater importance and deserving of the most serious consideration. Thus, it has been said that [to]those who are citizens by birth it is a precious heritage, while to those who acquire it thru naturalization it is a priceless acquisition.”
Bravo, Ombudsman and Justice Morales.
Your words remind me of a line from the philosopher-critic Susan Sontag: “The only interesting answer is that which destroys the question.”