As a foundling, the social justice principle that those who have less in life should have more in law should be applied to Sen. Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares. The state is even mandated to care for abandoned children under the principle of parens patriae.
The provisions of the 1935 Constitution on citizenship must be interpreted in conjunction with its Social Justice provisions, which expressly provide that “the promotion of social justice to insure the well-being and economic security of all the people should be the concern of the State.”
Social justice means that the State shall look after the best interest of those who have less in life, such as abandoned children, should have more in law.
Thus, an interpretation of the 1935 Constitution, which applies to Poe’s citizenship issue, that would characterize an abandoned child as “stateless” certainly runs counter against the State’s policy on social justice, and would even be violative of the equal protection rights of said child.
Also, at the time that the 1935 Constitution was enacted, the notion of “statelessness” was not yet a recognized international concept. Thus, if we were to look closely at the provisions of the 1935 Constitution (and in the deliberations), nowhere did the framers mention the term “stateless”. Under the 1935 Constitution, a person is either a Filipino or an alien.
Back then, there was no such situation as being “stateless.” In a word, the framers of the 1935 Constitution could not have contemplated an interpretation of the Constitution that would result in a person being “stateless” since the said concept was unheard of, at the time.
Furthermore, the trend under international law has been for the implementation of measures and legislation toward the reduction of statelessness.
Pioneering this trend would be Article 15 of the 1949 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UN Declaration”) which provides that “everyone has the right to a nationality,” and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.” The rights contained under said UN Declaration, including the right to a nationality, are highly considered as peremptory norms or universally accepted principles.
Thus, local legislation on citizenship should always be interpreted in such a way as to promote a person’s right to a nationality, and should be interpreted against the existence of statelessness.
International legislation that particularly addresses the issue of statelessness can also be seen in the 1954 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (to which the Philippines is a signatory). Also, the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness comprehensively established measures in order to protect children from acquiring “stateless status.” It provides, among others, that “a foundling found in the territory of a Contracting State shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be considered to have been born within that territory of parents possessing the nationality of that State.”
While the Philippines is not a party or signatory to the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, we can apply the principles enshrined therein in resolving citizenship issues pertaining to statelessness. Especially, since the Philippines is a party to other international conventions which promote the rights of individuals to a nationality, such as the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of a Child.
Using said instruments, the subject legal issue on the citizenship of Senator Poe must be resolved to favor her having a nationality–being a natural born Filipino citizen–rather than having a “stateless” status. More so if we consider the fact that the principle or policy that the state shall act as parents of its citizens in need of guardians under the principle of parens patriae enshrined in the Constitution.
Finally, in the same case of Tecson, the Supreme Court put to rest any question as to whether Par. 3, Section 1, Art. IV of the 1935 Constitution indeed made distinction as to the kind of children who may acquire the Filipino citizenship of their father by ruling:
The fact of the matter–perhaps the most significant consideration–is that the 1935 Constitution, the fundamental law prevailing on the day, month and year of birth of respondent FPJ (Fernando Poe Jr., Senator Poe’s father), can never be more explicit than it is. Providing neither conditions nor distinctions, the Constitution states that among the citizens of the Philippines are “those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines.” There utterly is no cogent justification to prescribe conditions or distinctions where there clearly are none provided.
Thus, I dare say that the phrase “fathers are citizens of the Philippines,” should be interpreted to include “adoptive fathers” there being “no cogent justification to prescribe conditions or distinctions” that it did not refer to adoptive fathers or mothers.
Even on this score alone, Senator Poe is a natural-born Filipino being the adopted daughter of Filipino parents and, therefore, cannot be treated as a “stateless” individual.
Mr. Macalintal is a noted election lawyer and also an advocate of the rights of senior citizens