Electoral tribunal accepts petition questioning Poe’s citizenship
Sen. Grace Poe’s calm, calculating voice masked her steely resolve to fend off an attempt to keep her out of next year’s elections.
“I believe that I am not alone in this fight. I have my countrymen as my inspiration especially the more than 20 million Filipinos who elected me in the Senate. They are the reason why am here and it is only proper to fight for their decision,” she said on Thursday in reaction to the filing of a petition asking the Senate Electoral Tribunal to unseat her for being a non-Filipino.
“I am actually relieved that a petition has been filed so that I can answer the questions on my citizenship and residency. It is an opportunity for the truth to come out and for this issue to be resolved once and for all,” Poe added.
“I assure the 20 million plus fellow Filipinos who voted for me, as well as the rest of the country, that their confidence in me is not misplaced. I remain truthful to our countrymen. I am a Filipino by birth, abode and choice,” she said.
Poe, who topped the senatorial race in 2016, had repeatedly explained the citizenship issues that hounded her since it was initially brought up by Navotas City (Metro Manila) Rep. Tobias Tiangco and lawyer JV Bautista, interim president and secretary-general, respectively, of the United Nationalist Alliance.
The Senate Electoral Tribunal on Thursday accepted the petition of radio commentator Rizalito David against Poe after he managed to come up with P50,000 to pay for the filing fee.
David, a former legislative officer of Sen. Francisco Tatad, said many people contributed to raise the amount after his petition was not accepted by the SET on Wednesday.
He paid the filing fee in crisp P1,000 bills.
In his quo warranto petition, David argued that Poe is ineligible to hold a Senate seat because she is a foundling and, therefore, not a “natural-born citizen.”
The 1987 Constitution requires senators to be natural-born Filipinos.
The infant Poe was reportedly found abandoned in a holy water font at the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral in Iloilo.
An ABS-CBN report which traced Poe’s birth history when her citizenship was initially questioned early this year said it was a priest who named her “Grace” in the belief that her finding was through the grace of God.
The Militar family took care of the infant and was later passed on to Tessie Ledesma Valencia, an unmarried, childless heiress of a wealthy sugar baron from Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.
It was while under Valencia’s care that film stars Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces legally adopted her.
“Being a foundling, her parents are not known and cannot be presumed as Filipino citizens, hence she cannot claim or acquire the status of a natural-born citizen,” David’s petition read.
Rizalito Yap David labels himself as a socio-political analyst who ran for a Senate seat in 2013 under the Ang Kapatiran.
His advocacy includes anti-political dynasties, freedom of information, and principles-based politics.
Data available online said David was chief of the research staff of the Liberal Party-PDP-Laban in 1992.
From 1993 to 1998 he was executive assistant and later political affairs director of Sen. Francisco Tatad.
David then worked for Batangas Rep. Hernando Perez as head of political operations for Mindanao.
From 1998 to 2004, he was head executive assistant and director for political affairs of Sen. Robert Jaworski.
David is currently hosting a radio program at Radio Veritas.
After successfully filing his petition, he admitted his political links, but denied that politicians were behind his move.
“Marami po akong mga kaibigan na nagpaabot kaagad ng suporta at ngayon po ay nakalikom na tayo ng sapat na halaga [I have many friends who immediately lent me support and I have been able to raise enough money for the filing filing],” he said.
“Lahat po ng nagbigay ng financial assistance ay mga kaibigan ko na private individuals and mga kaibigan from the private sector [All those who gave financial assistance were private individuals who are my friends],” he added.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the case will have no effect on Poe’s chances in 2016.
“Losers only complain,” Belmonte added.
“How can we accuse a foundling, an abandoned baby in Iloilo, for that matter, as an American citizen? She can expect more cases against her similar to that, but those moves will only emphasize Senator Grace’s humble beginnings. It will then strike a personal chord on Senator Poe, and the more personal pain is inflicted on her, the more her political stock will grow,” Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list said.
With LLANESCA T. PANTI