The Tribune report
A “big businessman,” the Daily Tribune reported last Friday, has been “dangling incentives” to persuade non-Aquino Supreme Court appointees to declare that, contrary to what the Constitution says and what the Commission on Elections has established, Sen. Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe Llamanzares, a foundling of no known parentage, is a natural-born citizen, qualified to run for the presidency in the May 9 election. At the same time, President B. S. Aquino 3rd has been working on his own six Court appointees to do the same, the report said.
Mrs. Llamanzares wants to face off with Manuel Roxas 2nd, Aquino’s publicly anointed LP presidential candidate; Vice President Jejomar C.
Binay, the current front-running favorite; and Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who was reported to have suffered a minor illness after hurdling the first round of several disqualification cases.
But she has been disqualified as a candidate and her Certificate of Candidacy cancelled by the Comelec —first by the First and Second Divisions, and then by the en banc— for falsely representing herself as a natural-born citizen and for lacking the 10-year residency requirement.
All three rulings arise from four petitions filed by this writer, through legal counsel Manuelito Luna, lawyer Estrella Elamparo, political science professor Antonio Contreras, and Dean of Law Amado Valdez. She has filed a petition for certioriari, alleging grave abuse of discretion, amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction on the part of the Comelec, and asked the Supreme Court to temporarily restrain implementation of the otherwise “final and non-reviewable” Comelec verdict. The request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) was granted, and after five weekly sessions the Oral Arguments on her petition for certiorari are due to wind up this week.
Is the earth flat?
A majority decision by the 15-member High Court, finding a grave abuse of discretion, could overturn the Comelec ruling. Not many are predicting or expect it. So long as the Constitution stands, many believe it would be easier for the Geophysical Society of the World (if such an organization exists) to declare that the earth is flat. But this is precisely what, according to the Tribune, both the unnamed “big businessman” and B.S. 3rd would like to accomplish.
At least two SC members—Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, both Aquino appointees—in their interpellation of Commissioner Arthur Lim, public counsel for the Comelec, have telegraphed their clear support for Mrs. Llamanzares. They tend to support the foundling’s view that, absent any knowledge of her citizenship at birth, her being a Filipino must be presumed. Yet the law does not need a presumption but a fact. Sereno went overboard by doing what some observers described as a ‘filibuster’ to propose a rereading of the Constitution in favor of the foundling, Llamanzares.
As the Philippine Constitution, from 1935 through 1973 and 1987, adopts the “jus sanguinis” (right of blood) principle as the basis of Filipino citizenship, it does not consider “foundlings” of no known parentage as citizens. Under the 1935 Constitution, Mrs. Llamanzares needed to have had a Filipino father for her to have been born a Filipino; were she born under the 1987 Constitution, her mother or father should have been a Filipino. As it is, not even she knows that.
The present Constitution provides that, “no person may be elected president unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines;” and that, “natural-born citizens are those who are citizens from birth, without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their citizenship.”
These are but some of the clear provisions of the Constitution, which Sereno would apparently like to replace with a text and spirit that would discard the jus sanguinis doctrine and recognize foundlings of no known parentage as natural-born citizens. In that respect, Jardeleza was more benign in interceding for Mrs. Llamanzares. He did not express support for her counsel’s theory that foundlings are natural-born citizens. But he said the Comelec may have “crossed the line” and “violated Mrs. Llamanzares’s right to due process” when it failed to prove that her unknown parents were not Filipinos.
No need to prove
Lim calmly refuted this by reminding the Justice that the burden of proof had shifted from the original petitioners to Mrs. Llamanzares when she admitted being a foundling of no known parentage (found abandoned inside the parish church in Jaro, Iloilo, on Sept. 3, 1968.) Lim pointed out that the petitioners and the respondent had stipulated on it.
A third member—Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the Benjamin of the Court—had earlier elicited some sharp comments, after he asked Alex Poblador, Mrs. Llamanzares’ counsel, what crime the foundling had committed against her unknown parents, which caused them to abandon her after birth, and referred to some of his own personal circumstances, which made him emphatize with foundlings.
I found Leonen’s insight refreshing, worthy of discussion during this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and I thought I would like to see it enter the debates when Congress decides to enact an appropriate law on foundlings. Regrettably, we must read the Constitution exactly as it is written, not as the more creative among us would like to have it written, or to have had it written. The world must construe according to its wits, and our court must construe according to the law, says Thomas More on the eve of his martyrdom.
Congress leaders have expressed concern about the unhurried pace of the case. I have been sitting through the last four sessions, but Sereno has declared that after tomorrow’s session, when we, the private petitioners (now respondents) are expected to be finally heard, the parties would have a non-extendible five days to submit their final memoranda so that thereafter the Court could rule.
Now at the hustings
Meanwhile, Mrs. Llamanzares has hit the campaign trail, and is now asking voters to vote for her, as though she were a bona fide candidate, with no constitutional or legal impediment. This tends to support reports, separate from the Tribune’s, that some “operatives” have assured Mrs. Llamanzares that she could now rest easy.
The Tribune story, written by senior reporter Charlie V. Manalo, does not say how the Justices are reacting to the alleged “pressure” from outside. No member of the Court is reported to have succumbed, but in this Lenten season, it is well to remember that even our Lord Jesus Christ was not spared from temptation by the devil during his desert fast of 40 days and 40 nights. As Matthew (4:8-10) tells us, “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me’.”
Neither can we forget in his holy season that one of the Twelve sold the Master for 30 pieces of silver.
According to the story, an “influential politician, known to the Justices as a ‘fixer,’ was the one allegedly talking to the magistrates for the businessman, who had allegedly provided the bulk of P674 million Mrs. Llamanzares had spent on TV ads prior to the start of the campaign.
If this allegation is correct, then a serious crime has been committed. The Securities and Exchange Commission has banned all corporate contributions to political parties and politicians. And funds donated to politicians during the pre-campaign period cannot be considered “political donations” for the simple reason that the law prohibits any official from receiving any financial contribution from anyone outside of the campaign period.
Crashing PNoy’s bday
The Tribune story said Mrs. Llamanzares is also the candidate of “Aquino and his Samar Group, led by Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa, and the presidential sisters Ballsy Cruz, Pinky Abellada, Viel Dee and Kris Aquino.” Some columnists have earlier referred to her as PNoy’s “Trojan horse” or “Manchurian candidate.” But it was not until she appeared at PNoy’s 56th birthday party on February 8 under the most unseemly circumstances that the cat was let out of the bag. The Roxas camp says she “gatecrashed” the private party.
She has tried to refute this by releasing PNoy’s text message inviting her to his party. But from her own narrative, it appears she invited herself to the party. She texted him a birthday message, and asked, “magpapakain ka ba?” (are you hosting any dinner party?), and, for once, he was not boorish enough to say no. So he texted her back, asking her to come to his party. But anyone with any sense of propriety would have begged off, even if she had earlier asked to be invited.
Who’s whose card?
Going to that party was pure political harlotry on her part. She obviously wanted to stoke the rumor that she was really his secret card, or better yet, that he was her secret card. And that was how everyone else read it, that is, everyone except Roxas, who did not have the nerve to confront PNoy, like a cuckolded husband who was too afraid to face the consequences of catching his adulterous wife in the act.
When did this traitorous act begin? Certainly not yesterday. In 2010, he named her Chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, while she was still an American citizen. The position requires not only a Filipino citizenship, but above all, by operation of law, a natural-born citizenship, as Sereno revealed in her recent ‘filibuster’.
In 2013, she became the principal beneficiary of PNoy’s infamous 60-30-10 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine operation. She took 60 percent of the votes, while the opposition took only 30 percent, and the “independents” 10 percent, in nearly every precinct, including those places where she was hardly known. She was credited with 20 million votes soon after the voting, but this had to be trimmed down to 16 million after a few days. It was restored to 20 million only in the end. This is what she likes to call her “mandate.”
At that time, the propaganda surveys had put two other senatorial candidates as competing head-to-head for the top slot. But she bolted from out of the blue like lightning to grab it. To this day, my friends in Mindanao continue to wonder how she topped the elections in areas where nobody knew her or ever talked about her.
During the search for a running mate for former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, Aquino openly courted her, mindless of the fact that under the Constitution a non-natural-born citizen cannot run for President or Vice President. It was only when the foundling said, “the presidency or nothing,” that PNoy and company decided she was not eligible to run for President.
But now that the campaign to destroy Vice President Jejomar C. Binay has failed, and the effort to project Roxas as a possible leader has not taken off, Ochoa and company apparently believe the only way to prevent a Binay win would be to activate the Manchurian candidate. For even if the elections were rigged, Malacanang, Smartmatic and the Comelec operatives would still need an apparently popular candidate to make the results of their “hocus PCOS” acceptable to the public.
Roxas is a totally lost cause, given his unimprovable personality and his poor rapport with the living. There is no refloating his sunken ship from the Philippine Deep. But instead of injecting some intelligence and vigor into the Roxas campaign, Ochoa and company and the big businessman’s operatives seem to have convinced themselves that they stand a better chance trying to persuade some Justices that the Ten Commandments and the Constitution should be read and lived exactly as they want to, and not as they are written.
Everything we hold dear is now under threat, the honor of the Court and the nation demands that the Justices resist it.