After writing in succession on Grace Poe, Justice Lourdes Sereno, and Eliza Bettina Antonino, I have been scolded by some readers (my wife included) for overlooking another woman in the Grace Poe disqualification cases.
They refer to none other than Atty. Estrella Elamparo, the first citizen to petition the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the disqualification of Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares as a candidate for president in the May elections.
They said: “Attorney Elamparo is prettier than Grace Poe. She talks more sense than Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno. Do your research; you will learn a lot more from her. And don’t waste your time on Eliza Bettina Antonino, the six-million-a year crony.”
Chastised, I have dug deep into news archives and my notes on the Poe cases. By Googling the name ‘Elamparo,” I was rewarded in a flash with a flood of stories. I have emerged from my immersion with evidence that Ms. Elamparo is indeed better-looking, more sensible, more articulate, and more convincing than all these other women who have taken center stage in the cases before the SC.
I write the words above with the qualifier that I exclude Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro from this sweeping judgment. She was awesome last Tuesday in confronting and questioning solicitor general Florin Hilbay on his foolish statistics that purportedly argue for a declarative ruling by the Supreme Court that all foundlings are natural born citizens of this country.
But to return to Ms. Elamparo, I am now persuaded by a mountain of news stories and statements that she as petitioner has voiced the most telling arguments against Ms. Poe’s persistence in running for president. She has displayed in her argumentation a happy combination of legal knowledge and common sense. As the case now heads for final review and individual decision by the members of the high court, it is fitting to remember what she has said and sensibly propounded.
Her line of argument consists of these:
1. Grace Poe is more interested in her political ambition than in recognition as a Filipino citizen
On January 8, in her formal comment on Sen. Grace Poe’s petition to the high court against her disqualification, Atty Elamparo asked the SC to dismiss the petition, saying that the lawmaker does not seem interested in being recognized as a Filipino but is only interestred in her ambition to become president.
Elamparo noted how Poe has repeatedly rejected the notion that she is a naturalized Filipino.
“Some legal scholars and jurists have opined that petitioner is a Filipino national by virtue of an abbreviated form of naturalization — considering that she has been de facto considered by the government a Filipino, and has in fact been issued a Philippine passport,” Elamparo wrote.
“But petitioner is simply not interested in citizenship… Obviously, petitioner is not after being a Filipino national only, because mere citizenship or nationality is not enough to give her the Presidency. What she wants is to be considered natural-born,” the lawyer added.
Elamparo said Poe had repeatedly stated that she is not a naturalized Filipino in the verified answer and memorandun she filed with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in response to Elamparo’s plea to have her certificate of candidacy for the 2016 presidential polls cancelled.
“Viewed in this light, one can easily see the hypocrisy behind her quest for the Presidency.
Enough with the sentimental pleas. This Petition is not about being recognized as a Filipino; it is about her misguided ambition which unfortunately runs roughshod against the fundamental law,” said Elamparo.
Elamparo maintained that Poe’s declaration in her 2012 COC for senator of having a residency of six years and six months was not an honest mistake but an admission against interest.
2. Grace Poe knew she’s not a natural-born Filipino, and she did not have ten-year residency.
Last Tuesday, February 16, when she finally got her chance to speak during the oral arguments, Atty Elamparo told the SC that Senator Poe was aware that she was not a natural-born Filipino and that she fell short of the ten-year residency required of candidates for the presidency.
“The intent to mislead is glaring in this case. She knew that she did not meet the natural-born requirement when she accomplished her COC because she was faced with the same exact requirement as early as 2006,” Elamparo told the court.
“In 2006, when she applied for dual citizenship under RA 9225, which also required her to be natural born, she was already informed that she had to be born to Filipino parents through the form provided by the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation,” she added.
“When she received the BID order, she was informed that her petition was granted precisely because of her misrepresentation that she was born to her adoptive parents [the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. and actress Susan Roces],” Elamparo said.
“When she accomplished her 2012 and 2015 COCs, she already knew that she was misrepresenting because she was faced with the exact same requirement way back in 2006,” she added.
Elamparo said that Poe also knew that she did not have the adequate years of residency before May 2016 to qualify for the presidential elections.
“It was her own deliberate and considered choice not to get a permanent residence visa in 2005. That was her conscious decision. Instead, she opted to come back here as a temporary visitor under the balikbayan program with a limited duration of stay,” Elamparo said.
The lawyer opened her argument with an appeal to the magistrates not to “unnecessarily drag” foundlings into the Poe cases.
“This case is only about one person and the unique facts about her,” said Elamparo
Then, in a personal note, Elamparo declared that she only wanted “certainty” on the qualifications of Poe when she filed her complaint against the lawmaker. “[But] to this very day all petitioner can offer are most likely’s and most probably’s.”
She said Poe has “no one to blame but herself for anchoring her claim of being natural born solely on a non-existent presumption under international law.”
Compelling and persuasive argumentation
This is compelling and persuasive argumentation in my considered judgment, but I must disclose that my formal training was in literature and rhetoric, and not in the law.
I have only a columnist’s vote to cast in this affair.
Nevertheless, I will stand by the title of this piece. Atty Estrella Elamporo, the lady whom many forgot in this celebrated case, is arguably prettier than Sen. Grace Poe. And her reasoning is arguably more thoughtful and persuasive than that of Chief Justice Sereno.