Many disturbing questions have arisen concerning Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares. None of them were ever raised with such intensity before, but you will notice the ferocity with which they are being asked now.
This began after she started dropping hints that she might run for higher office, and after she signed the highly questionable Senate blue ribbon subcommittee report recommending plunder charges against Vice President Jejomar Binay and his son Makati mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. The report, according to the latest bulletin, has been signed by a total of ten senators.
Binay, who campaigned vigorously for Grace’s late adopted father Fernando Poe’s presidential bid in 2004, is a declared presidential aspirant for 2016. The filing of plunder charges against him could completely derail his plans. Poe knew this only too well. As an upright senator, she could have regretted the fact that a purported “inquiry in aid of legislation” had turned into an “inquisitorial action” against Binay, and begged off from signing the report. But she chose to be part of the public stoning of Binay.
Playing to the gallery
Ordinary Filipinos will tend to look at Poe’s act as decidedly “un-Filipino.” But she tried to play to the gallery by declaring that her loyalty belonged to the people rather than to her friends. That demagogic sound bite is as old as the hills. E. M. Forster’s well-remembered contrary quote says that “if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I had the guts to betray my country.” PNoy has carried this practice to perfection, not out of guts but out of character or lack of character. By her statement, Grace has set herself apart from PNoy. But people are asking questions not because they are pro-Binay, but because they have suddenly become nervous about, if not afraid of, the previously harmless-looking little girl.
It would be good if Ms. Poe could devote an hour or so of her official time to address this fear. Under the Rules of the Senate, she could rise on a Question of Privilege and talk about it anytime. Or she could arrange a news conference on national television for the same purpose. ABS-CBN, which seems to be positioning itself to support her bid for high office with a show featuring nostalgic stuff about her legendary adopted father should be happy to facilitate it. But even before any or all of that happens, we should be able to peek deeper into these issues.
For obvious reasons, I approach this with extreme caution. I do not want to be drawn into any controversy about promoting Grace Poe’s higher ambitions or trying to spoil them. But we all have a duty to be forthright and fair. I do not know Grace Poe at all. And I do not know enough people who know enough of her either. But I ran with FPJ in 2004, and the mere mention of her name evokes in me some sense of affinity with her. We suffered the same heartbreak in that famous debacle. I never doubted that FPJ, as our presidential candidate, won the vote but lost the count, just as I never doubted that I won the vote, but lost the count in the senatorial.
Let me step back a little. In 2002, I wrote “A Nation on Fire,” a 658-page book on how GMA ejected Erap Estrada out of Malacañang. This was read at home and abroad. Now, at the hustings, where the mood was rabidly oppositionist, I asked the voters not to reward the sitting president with another six years, after occupying the office against our will for the last four years.
This was widely cheered by the crowds, who danced in front of my float, just as they did in front of FPJ’s. But every time I spoke, the live radio-TV coverage simply died. So my line, which was about the only line against the incumbent from any candidate, was never heard outside our political rallies. I thought something unholy was going on, so I asked FPJ, who never lost his radio-tv coverage, if he could use that line in his standard speech. FPJ’s laconic reply was, “hindi pa naman puno ang salup, pare.” (The ‘ganta’ is not yet full, my friend.)
But when FPJ died a few months after the election, his brave widow casually rebuked the victor. “You stole the presidency not once, but twice!” she said, and a great applause was heard across the nation. With that, I believe I have shown my good intentions, and I can now pose my questions for Sen. Grace Poe.
Madam Senator, was there really a legitimate and valid election in 2013? Did you honestly win as No. 1 senator in that election?
The next question has to be asked, and there is no other way of asking it. Where and when were you born born? It is well-known that you were adopted by FPJ and his wife Susan Roces, but where and when and under what circumstances did this adoption take place?
The Constitution requires that a candidate for President, Vice President and Congress should be a natural-born Filipino. Were you natural-born? It is admitted that sometime in your life you became a citizen of the United States. When did this happen, and what effect did it have on your natural-born status? When did you renounce your US citizenship and become a Filipino citizen all over again?
To help her answer these questions, let us discuss the issues, one by one.
The 2013 senatorial elections. As in the 2010 presidential elections, the 2013 election was conducted by the Venezuelan marketing firm Smartmatic for the Commission on Elections, which has the sole constitutional authority to conduct elections. It used the precinct count optical scan machines, after they had been divested of all security and safety features and accuracy mechanisms, in violation of law. Smartmatic’s control of the elections rendered the process constitutionally infirm, while the destruction of all the safety features and accuracy mechanisms of the PCOS machine rendered the results unacceptable.
The magic of the PCOS machine enabled PNoy to dictate the results of the elections. These followed a 60-30-10 pattern, which Ateneo Math Professor Alex Muga and kindred analysts denounced as statistically improbable. Here, 60 percent of the votes went to PNoy’s lackluster and anemic senatorial candidates; 30 percent went to the candidates of UNA; and 10 percent to the “independents.” The pattern held without any deviation all over the country, down to precinct level.
Out of nowhere Grace Poe took No. 1 position, even in places where she was hardly known and nobody talked about her. The first time she ran for the same position, she came out among the tailenders. Now, without any logical explanation, she was leading the pack under the aegis of 60-30-10.
But there was something fishy about her votes. On May 18, 2013, according to the Comelec Website, out of 129 certificates of canvass (COCs), she got 20,147,423 votes. On June 7, this rose to 20,337,327 votes. But on July 11-13, this fell to 16,340,333 votes–a drop of nearly 4 million votes. It finally went back to 20,337,327 votes.
As for the total number of votes counted, the Comelec Website reported 39.8 million votes as of May 18, 2013. On May 29, the figure fell to 31.5 million. Finally on Oct. 30, the website reported 40.1 million, leaving a total of 8 million to 9 million uncounted votes. What exactly is the honest truth?
Personal circumstances. According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Grace was born in Iloilo City on Sept. 3, 1968 of unknown parents but was abandoned upon birth by her biological mother at the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral where she was found by a woman named Chayong, who passed her on to another woman named Tessie Valencia of Bacolod, a close friend of the FPJ-Susan Roces couple.
The couple adopted her with the encouragement of then Archbishop (later Cardinal) Jaime Sin, when Valencia decided to migrate to the US. She received a good education that included college studies at the University of the Philippines and Boston College.
She became an American citizen during her stay in the US. It is not quite clear when this happened, but this could have happened only before the passage of RA 922 in 2003, which provides that “natural born citizens of he Philippines who, after the effectively of this Act, become citizens of a foreign country, shall retain their Philippine citizenship upon taking the (appropriate) oath.”
This means that when she became an American citizen, she did not automatically retain her Filipino citizenship. In applying for US citizenship, she took the oath of allegiance to the US government, which says:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all its enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombat service in the Armed Forces of the United States; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Having lost her Philippine citizenship and become a naturalized American citizen, she had to apply to to be naturalized as a Filipino citizen in order to become a Filipino citizen again. So from being an American citizen, she is now a naturalized Filipino citizen. Unquestionably, she is a Filipino citizen, but certainly no longer a natural-born Filipino citizen.
And since, by this legal demonstration, she is not a natural-born citizen, the question does not arise whether or not she is qualified to run for President or Vice President in 2016. What is material and relevant to the nation at this point is that she is not qualified to sit even as senator.