From immersion in the case of Grace Poe, I have gained not only invaluable information on the workings of our legal system, I also got a few insights into the work of lawyers and their arsenal of defenses and strategies in defending clients when they lie.
Grace Poe’s lawyers (as well as her defenders in the Supreme Court) cannot be faulted for lacking rrsourcefulness and imagination in explaining her “succession of falsities” (Justice Brion ‘s phrase) to convince the nation that she is constitutionally eligible to run for president.
The fact is, they have employed every weapon in the legal profession’s arsenal of defenses for a client who is on the dock for lying and dishonesty.
To defend Poe’s serial falsehoods on her citizenship and residency credentials, her lawyers have invoked in chronological order, honest mistake, good faith, no intent to deceive, presumption, probabilities, and accusing the Commission on Elections of grave abuse of discretion.
The only weapon they failed to tap is Winston Churchill’s witty and novel defense of lying: “terminological inexactitude.”
Churchill’s circumlocution and euphemism
The great British Prime Minister and politician introduced “terminological inexactitude” in 1906 as a circumlocution in order to avoid being caught in a lie or untruth.
Following the1906 election, while speaking in the House of Commons on February 22, 1906 as Under-Secretary of the Colonial Office, Churchill repeated what he had said during the campaign:
“The conditions of the Transvaal ordinance … cannot in the opinion of His Majesty’s Government be classified as slavery; at least, that word in its full sense could not be applied without a risk of terminological inexactitude.”
It appears that this first usage was strictly a roundabout way of referring to inexact or inaccurate terminology. But the phrase was soon interpreted or taken up as a euphemism for an outright lie. Since to accuse another member in the House of lying is unparliamentary, the phrase proved useful for imputing falsehood to someone without saying it.
“Terminological inexactitude” could have been useful for Grace Poe’s defense by discombobulating her critics, the petitioners for her disqualification as a candidate, and the commissioners of the Commission on Elections.
But this would at best be a temporary distraction. Those women and guys fighting her are a pretty clever bunch. They know every trick in the book. And they look pretty well educated in the ways of the world and the law.
The most that can be said is this: where honest mistake is openly deceitful, terminological inexactitude is delightfully witty and pretentious.
“Terminological inexactitude” will fail against the cold facts of Grace Poe’s deceptions.
Where the lying started
As meticulously traced and reconstructed by Justice Arturo Brion’s dissenting opinion, Grace Poe’s false material representation of her citizenship started in her application for re-acquisition of citizenship under RA No. 9225. This became the foundation for her exercise of critical citizenship rights such as,
(1) her appointment to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board [MTRCB];
(2) her candidacy and election to the Senate; and
(3) her present candidacy for the presidency.
Had Ms. Poe identified herself as a foundling (i.e., one who cannot claim descent from a Filipino parent) in her application, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) would have inquired further because this undisclosed aspect of her personal circumstances touches on her former natural-born citizenship status–the basic irreplaceable requirement for the application of RA No. 9225.
Significantly, the BI approval of her reacquisition of citizenship led to her appointment to the MTRCB and her subsequent election to the Senate.
Both these positions require natural-born citizenship status; the BI recognized her as a natural-born citizen based on her misrepresentation; but it did not and could not confer on her natural-born status.
Since that initial lie, Grace Poe has been a public personality who has had to always stay one lie ahead of the truth. She had to lie in her 2012 certificate of candidacy (COC) to run for senator in the 2013 midterm elections. She had to invent a fresh lie for her 2015 COC to run for President in the May elections.
She also had to misrepresent and doctor her period of legal residency in the country, multiple times.
When she made the claim that her biological parents were Fernando Poe, Jr. and Jesusa Sonora (Susan Roces), she doubled down on her deceitful concealment of her being a foundling.
The initial lie launched, we might well say, her public life and political career.
Because she knows at heart that her claim of natural-born citizenship is a lie, she has been forced to embellish her claim with all kinds of subterfuges and deceptions.
Lying to no avail
All the falsehoods have availed her nothing, however, except illusory popularity.
The supposed High Court finding that she is a natural-born citizen with 10-year residency has been unmasked as fiction.
She remains right now a person who still must prove that she fulfills the constitutional requirements to lawfully run for President.
She still must contend with a Commission on Elections that evidently has full jurisdiction over her case, and has the authority to disqualify her as a candidate.
As things stand now, there are no arguments left that she can raise to prop up her wobbly status as a candidate for President.
Maybe it’s really time for her to admit and accept the truth.