Grace undergoes DNA tests to prove Filipino lineage
Grace Poe is a Filipino–a naturalized citizen, not natural-born–under international customary laws, the chairman of the Senate Electoral Tribunal said on Monday.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio made the statement during oral arguments on a disqualification case filed against the senator.
The tribunal was convened to hear a case filed by radio commentator Rizalito David, who questioned Poe’s qualifications to sit as a member of the Philippine Senate after she topped the 2013 senatorial elections.
David–who also vied for a Senate seat in the same elections but lost–filed a quo warranto petition before the electoral tribunal and argued that Poe should be kicked out from the Senate for failing to meet the constitutional requirement that requires a senatorial candidate to be a natural-born citizen.
Poe, now 46, was a foundling or an infant who had been abandoned by her parents and was discovered and cared for by others. She was purportedly found inside the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral in Iloilo in 1968 and was eventually adopted by celebrity couple Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces
Poe recently declared her intention to run for President in next year’s elections, banking primarily on the popularity of her parents who were known as the “King and Queen of Philippine Movies.”
Under the 1987 Constitution, only a natural-born Filipino citizen is qualified to run for President.
Poe migrated to the United States where she pursued a college degree and raised a family.
She renounced her American citizenship in 2010 and purportedly reacquired her Filipino citizenship, paving the way for her appointment as chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.
David’s counsel Manuelito Luna told the Senate Electoral Tribunal: “She is not natural-born so she cannot re-acquire something she did not possess.”
The petitioner, David, argued that as a foundling whose parents were not known, she could not be considered a natural-born Filipino.
“[A] [f]oundling has no parentage,” Luna said.
He further claimed that Poe’s counter-argument that she was voted into office by over 20 million people is not a valid point to illustrate the “will of the people.”
“We have to uphold the Constitution,” Luna said.
Carpio, who heads the electoral tribunal, said the provisions of the 1935 Constitution pertaining to citizenship apply to Poe, who was presumably born in 1968.
He added that Poe can be considered a Filipino under international customary law, but only as a naturalized citizen, not as a natural-born citizen.
Carpio cited Article 4, Section 1 of the 1935 Constitution that he said should apply to Poe.
The fifth paragraph of the constitutional provision considers as citizens of the Philippines “those who are naturalized in accordance with law.”
During interpellation, Carpio said customary international law can be followed so long as it does not violate provisions of the Constitution.
“We do not follow international customary law because our Constitution has primacy. Although under international law, we have a commitment to conform to customary international law by amending the Constitution,” he explained.
In the absence of a law, Carpio said, an international customary law can be applied.
“If right now, there is no law promulgated by Congress that foundlings can be deemed citizens of the Philippines, [can]customary international law supply that gap?,” he asked Luna, who answered in the affirmative.
“If there is a customary international law saying foundlings can be deemed citizens of the country where they were found, we apply that under the principle of incorporation. It is deemed as municipal law,” Carpio said.
“But you are still a naturalized citizen, not natural-born. Because if customary international law says a foundling is natural-born, it will violate our Constitution and we cannot apply it here.”
“So have we solved the problem, counsel? You will agree with me that Senator Poe … at least [is]a citizen of the Philippines,” Carpio again asked Luna, who also answered in the affirmative.
He said while the international conventions signed by the Philippines allowed foundlings in the country to be Filipino citizens, such process should be considered as a naturalization of citizenship, not as recognition that one is natural-born.
“That’s when you grant passport to [a]foundling. That gives a foundling citizenship, which is naturalized citizenship–not natural-born… Senator Poe is at least a citizen of the Philippines,” Carpio pointed out.
The tribunal chairman said the principle of jus sanguinis (right of blood) will be the sole basis for one to be considered a natural-born Filipino citizen.
He added that the Philippine Constitution requires either of the parents of Poe to be a Filipino citizen for her to be a natural-born citizen
“To be natural-born, you must show blood relation,” Carpio pointed out.
He said if there are questions that Poe is not a natural-born citizen, she should now prove that her biological parents are Filipinos.
With this, the burden of proof now shifts to Poe to prove that she is natural-born Filipino citizen.
Carpio said foundlings like Poe could still prove their citizenship through DNA matching.
“If tomorrow you happen to find out by DNA matching that your parent is Filipino, you can still prove that you are natural-born,” he added.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Arturo Brion said it is now up to Poe to prove that she is a natural -born citizen of the Philippines.
“Because Poe’s parents are unknown, she must now prove that [they are Filipinos],” he added.
Poe’s lawyer, Alex Poblador, said the senator already underwent DNA testing “with a probable biological match” to prove her Filipino lineage.
The results, he said, would be available in two to three weeks and would be immediately presented to the electoral tribunal.
Poe later told reporters that her DNA would be matched with samples taken from her “siblings.” She gave no further details.
She claimed she was approached by individuals who offered to undergo DNA testing.
“Pero syempre hindi pa rin tayo nakakasiguro. Hihintayin natin dahil hindi mismo sa mga magulang, kundi sa mga siblings o mga kapatid [But of course, we’re still not sure about this. We’ll still wait for the results because the samples were not taken from my biological parents but from my supposed siblings],” the senator told reporters.
David’s counsel Luna, meanwhile, accused Poe of committing a “pattern of fraudulent acts” to reacquire Philippine citizenship to pursue her political career.
Luna cited evident discrepancies in the 1968 birth certificate of the Poe as well as the questioned validity of her 1974 adoption approved by San Juan municipal trial court.
San Juan is now a city that is part of Metro Manila.
Luna assailed the purpose of Poe in getting another birth certificate in 2006.
This was after her adoptive father, Fernando Poe Jr. passed away.
Luna said that it was proof of her intention to reacquire Philippine citizenship for convenience and part of her political ambitions.
WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA