The camp of radio commentator Rizalito David is asking the Senate Electoral Tribunal to reconsider its decision to dismiss a disqualification case he filed against Sen. Grace Poe, as he questioned the soundness of the majority vote of five senators.
The tribunal earlier voted 5-4 to dismiss David’s quo warranto petition wherein he asked that Poe’s victory in the 2013 elections be nullified for her failure to meet the citizenship requirement for those running for senator.
The 1987 Constitution requires candidates for senator to be natural-born citizens.
David argued that being a foundling with no known biological parents, Poe could not prove she was natural-born.
The senators who voted to dismiss the complaint said they made the decision in consideration of the rights of abandoned children or foundlings in accordance with international laws.
In a 16-page motion for reconsideration filed on Monday, David said, among others, that the electoral tribunal “gravely abused its discretion when it held that respondent enjoys the disputable presumption that she was born of Filipinos.”
He also argued that since the Constitution itself requires that a senator be natural-born, the respondent is duty-bound to establish that she fulfills the qualification by showing competent proof such as positive DNA results.
“Thus, respondent’s reliance upon a legal presumption is baseless,” David said.
Under Section 1, Article IV of the 1935 Constitution, a person is a Filipino citizen if he meets the following: Citizens of the country at the time of the 1935 Constitution’s adoption, those born in the country of foreign parents who before the Constitution’s adoption had been elected to public office in the Philippines, those whose fathers are Filipino citizens, those whose mothers are Filipino citizens and elected Philippine citizenship and those who are naturalized.
“The above-enumeration is exclusive as to preclude the consideration of other categories, i.e., foundlings as citizens of the Philippines. And this is consistent with the principle ‘Inclusio unius est exclusion alterius [The inclusion of one is the exclusion of another].’ It was, therefore, reversible error for the tribunal to declare respondent a natural-born Filipino citizen on the basis of presumption/s,” David said.
He told reporters that the senators gave more weight to presumption over facts and put primacy on international law over the Constitution.
His camp wrote in the motion for reconsideration, “Shockingly, the majority impermissibly subordinated the 1935 Charter to non-binding, international declarations or conventions on statelessness and foundlings and inapplicable general principles of law as well, in order to accommodate respondent.”
“This posturing, coupled with their public declarations, evinced that the votes cast by Senators [Loren] Legarda, [Vicente] Sotto [3rd], [Pia] Cayetano, [Cynthia] Villar and [Paolo Benigno] Aquino 4th were based on personal or political considerations, thereby violating the caveat annunciated in the Lerias case that the members of electoral tribunals should uphold judicial, not political, integrity. It is not difficult to see that the five sacrificed the rule of law and the Constitution as well in the altar of political expediency, rendering their decision patently null and void,” David said.
Moreover, his camp argued that Poe could not have reacquired Philippine citizenship under Republic Act 9225 or the Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003.
“Only natural-born citizens who had lost their citizenship through naturalization in foreign countries can reacquire the same under Republic Act 9225,” David said, maintaining that Poe is not a natural-born citizen “and not even a Philippine citizen.”
“If a former naturalized Filipino citizen cannot reacquire Philippine citizenship, what more a foundling, like respondent, who cannot establish blood relation to a Filipino biological father?” he pointed out.
David’s camp then argued that the execution of her affidavit of renunciation did not qualify her for appointive position and elective office, saying she was stateless when she renounced her US citizenship because she is a foundling, not a citizen at birth.
Poe also recanted her oath of renunciation when she allegedly used her passport in travels to and from the US in 2006 to 2010 after renouncing US citizenship, it added.
David’s camp then asked the Senate Electoral Tribunal to reconsider its decision and grant their petition for quo warranto.
2 tribunal members might reconsider
David said he believes that Cayetano and Aquino will change their position on the case.
As a lawyer, Cayetano fully understands the Constitution as well as the international customary laws they used as basis in coming up with a decision, according to the radioman.
“The fact that she did not submit her written opinion simply means that she still has some reservations,” David said.
Aquino may also reconsider his position on the case since the issue is not about principles and conscience but a legal and constitutional question that needs a legal answer, he added.
Sen. Francis Escudero, Poe’s running mate, also expressed his concern over the possibility that some members of the tribunal, who earlier voted in favor of Poe, may change their mind.
But he said if those members are really for justice, they will uphold their earlier decision on the case.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform (IPER) disagreed with David position about Poe’s case as a purely legal question.
The reason why the tribunal is composed of three Supreme Court justices and six senators is that the issues they are handling also involves politics.
“They may not admit it but the sentiments of the people play a big factor in the issue because there is a immediate impact on public opinion, but I’m not saying that it is just a question of partisan politics,” Casiple said.
He added that David and those criticizing the ruling of the Senate Electoral Tribunal could insist that the case of Poe only involves legal question because the fact that it has something to do with next year’s elections makes it also a political issue.
“Why is he [David] only bringing up this issue [now]? The [disqualification]case is suspect precisely because it was only filed after Senator Poe declared her intention to run [for President]in 2016,” Casiple said.
David, he added, was also a senatorial candidate during the 2013 mid-term elections and he has all the rights then to question Poe’s citizenship and yet he did not.