Sept. 21, 1972, ho-hum; “natural-born” defined!


I SADLY bid goodbye to Panyero Dindo de los Angeles. I also wish I could say goodbye to September 21; much of the nation marks that date as the day the dictatorship allegedly began. False. It was September 23, 1972, not September 21, when Marcos inflicted martial law and, willy-nilly, made me famous/infamous. In 1987, a grateful people elected me as Senator, without my having to spend a single centavo of my own, for my resistance to martial law.

Last Monday, the Inquirer carried this vignette from “The torture of my father and other stories” by Kris Lanot Lacaba: “What my father [Pete] suffered at the hands of his jailers was something I learned about how much later, the details of which I first discovered when I came across a report published in 1976 by Amnesty International. He wrote his own account years later on the urging of former senator Rene Saguisag and Thelma Arceo (who were at the time gathering depositions for a class-action suit to be filed in a Hawaii court against the Marcoses).

“What needed to be done, Saguisag pointed out, `was not primarily to get financial reparation for the harm that had been done to us, but to prove to the world that the Marcos regime had indeed been guilty of widespread and systematic torture and extrajudicial executions’.” [The amalgam of reasons was broader, including denying haven for gross human rights violators anywhere.]

Kris’s Uncle Eman bade goodbye to me in 1974 in my rinky-dink Quiapo office saying he would go “abroad” (underground). I first saw him sprawled on the ground, bloodied, in 1971, in sympathy with strikers. He was killed in Davao.

On March 18, 1976, Eman was cut down in the flower of his youth by hostile army fire (he wasn’t the only one). He was first buried in Davao, without a coffin, and had to be exhumed to be buried in Pateros, on April 9. Great names in Philippine literature and journalism were there for Eman. Brod Pete (Brad Pitt on Good Hair Days), who had just been released after two years as a guest of the State, recited a poem of Eman’s “Kung Ako’y Mamamatay.” The masses for whom he toiled, lived, fought and died were also represented there. We wept softly and sang poignantly of the glory of shedding blood for the motherland (ang magbuhos ng dugo para sa bayan). There was a slogan attached as a makeshift epitaph, that sacrifice has meaning for men who do not compromise their convictions and principles. (In May 1982, I saw on salvaged Dr. Bobby de la Paz’s coffin in the Malate Church, that “this world was never meant for someone as beautiful as you.” Lyrics from Vincent.)

Eman was a scholar at the Pasig Convento and at the Ateneo. He taught at UP. At 27 he could have been on his way, so to speak (as with the detained Tiamzon couple, honor alums of my alma mater, Rizal Hi). Instead Eman went to the hills and made, instead of a lot of money, the ultimate sacrifice.

But, death has no sting for his kind. For Eman & Co., I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. last Monday to go to TV5, to talk on martial law. DWIZ (Rey Langit) called. ABS-CBN’s RGCruz came to interview me at home. CNN Philippines came early afternoon. Lynn Resurrecion also came to inspect our den if apt for me to be interviewed by a team coming from abroad. Our humble den, K naman po daw, for Harvard alumnus Lauren Greenfield of Evergreen Studios. Yesterday, not 9/21, I was interviewed.

I was a nobody in 1971 but martial law made me a somebody. The biggies in the legal profession did not want to touch national security cases with a hundred-foot pole, save Ka Tanny, et al. So uhugins like Jojobama, JunFac, Rene Sarmiento, Ding Tanjuatco, Ed Araullo, Boyet Fernandez, et al. and I had to fill in the breach. Nature abhors a vacuum. We found a leader in tactful Bobbit Sanchez, the first MABINI Chair to lead and handle those whose heads had not been properly and tightly screwed on. He had patriotic Chempil’s (the Garcias’) expense account, the only one who could pick up the tab, along with Dasma resident Joker P. Arroyo.

To me, September 21, 1972 was just another day in the office. Late afternoon, I was in San Beda law school (which I virtually ran as my boss, in the bufete and law school, Dean Ledesma, was busy as a Con-Con Delegate). I monitored by radio a rally in Plaza Miranda, where Ka Pepe Diokno, Charito Planas, Bal Pinguel, et al. were to speak. As head of the San Beda Free Legal Aid Clinic, I monitored it.

September 22, 1972, again, ho-hum; however, on my way home from San Beda, on top of Ayala Bridge, the radio in the VW I was driving, reported an alleged ambuscade with JPE as target (which he said, poignantly, on national radio-TV on February 22, 1986 was faked, but inexplicably recanted, in his Memoirs. What he said in 1986 had the ring of a deathbed confession as Malacañang could have had him barbecued then. But, the People rescued him, and his fellow trapped putschists, hence, People Power).

Then home, in Sandejas, Pasay – from Ayala Bridge – where my Dulce and I rented a place. A month earlier, my Dulce, Raul and Sonia Roco, and I were in Camp Aguinaldo, to assist students arrested by the military. Supportive uncomplaining Dulce was eight months preggy and panganay Rebo was born on October 20, 1972. Born a slave, he got my solemn vow he would not remain so, even were I to die in the effort. Hang the costs and consequences. Liberation came in 1986.

Macoy picked September 21, a multiple of fave 7 and many of us fall for another Macoy myth or fable. In the early 80’s, pre-Ninoy’s salvaging, a remark attributed to a high American official, characterized us as “a nation of 40,000,000 cowards and one son of a bitch.” I would add, “and one bitch,” who caused many workers to be buried alive in the Film Palace on November 17, 1981, in rushing a construction to please George Hamilton, Brooke Shields, Virginia Mayo, et al.. Archimedes Trajano upset Imee in Mapua with a question. Taken away by her sikyus, he was found hours later, very, very dead.

Mark the start of martial law on September 21 to satisfy Macoy’s fetish for numerology? NEVER AGAIN! It should be September 23. When martial law was not invalidated by the Supreme Court, among the dissenters was Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion, my teacher who taught us that a natural born Filipino was “one born a Filipino.” I think it is Rizalino David’s burden that the infant came from abroad or even Mars.

No one is stateless under the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and special care and assistance must be given helpless children, kahit putok sa buho, anak sa labas, pulot, o ampon (Arts. 15 and 25). It seems to be his burden to prove that Grace is not one of us (but she does not have one eye only as a Martian or ET). There are two UN Conventions on Statelessness (1954 and 1961). And there is the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, which echoes that “childhood is entitled to special care and assistance.” Courts “must be vigilant for {the] protection” of the handicapped (Civil Code, Art. 24). A pulot comes to this world with two strikes; the system should not throw the third. Maybe a fourth ball, for a free pass. Let the people decide?

We have many Pinoys who have become American citizens. Like Loida Nicolas Lewis. To me it would not be legally tenable, intellectually respectable and psychologically satisfying to declare that she is not a natural-born Pinoy, even if she married Reggie Lewis, a member of my Harvard Law batch of ‘68. Grace did not marry an alien, looks like many of us, speaks our language, and by osmosis, have the Designer Genes of principled and generous FPJ and Susan.

Am I voting for Grace? I don’t even know if I’d be around then. Let us see who will remain standing by May 9, 2016.


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  1. Senator GP is a Filipino, no doubt about that. But wether she is a natural born Filipino or not is another story. I tend to agree with the opinion of Justice Carpio that Senator GP falls under the category of a naturalized Filipino.

  2. Rene, let us grant that Grace is a Filipino by birth. Did she not renounce her Filipino citizenship to become a US citizen? She has since given her American citizenship to become a Filipino again. Doesn’t those acts make her now a naturalized Filipino citizen and therefore ineligible to run for an elective post at the national level?

  3. My problem with Grace Poe to be the a President is same of everybody else, her husband and kids are all American citizen, living in the Philippines for some long years never tried to become a Pilipino citizen. How can she explain that to Filipino people. Patriotism is the real issue here

  4. Martial Law Regime………….Edsa Revolution………present state of our beloved country
    still the same…..just look around us …lets open our eyes,,,change must be for the better not for the worst….

  5. Indeed, it was from Eman in our PI100 Class in the 70s in Diliman that I heard that a tear flowed from the eyes of Emilio Aguinaldo when he with a group of historians asked the old man in his bed whether he was responsible for the death of Andres Bonifacio. Eman told us in class that the man just kept quiet and never answered their question.

  6. Brilliant as always Sir. Looking forward to take up Human Rights or maybe Consti 2 in San Beda Alabang School of Law with you next semester. Don’t stop teaching just yet, please please…

  7. I suggest you demonstrate your conviction to your pro-Grace arguments by appearing as her counsel in the SET hearings and see how they will fare against the unknown lawyer whose legal gravitas you surely exceed by an untold magnitude. With the same skills you guys have applied to the making of a lucrative cottage industry out of this victimization syndrome you have created for yourselves including making endless political capital from being anti-somebody instead of being pro-something, I am sure you will easily make another Cory Aquino of this have-mercy-on-this-foundling Grace Llamanzares, nee Poe.

    • Supporting Poe’s candidacy and believing that she is a natural-born Filipino are two different matters. Atty. Saguisag commented on the citizenship issue but evaded saying whether he supported her presidential ambition or not.

      I, too, believe that the burden of proof is upon Poe’s detractors. It is more logical to assume that she was born in this country with either or both parents as Filipinos. It is a harder reach to assume that she was brought to the Philippines by non-Filipinos.

      But I surely do not want Poe to be our next president.

  8. Jose A. Oliveros on

    The UN documents cited simply guarantee the right of a foundling or a child who would have been stateless to acquire citizenship through a proceeding that is expeditious and inexpensive and direct or urge the state parties to those documents to pass laws or promulgate regulations to that end.
    As for the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the Philippines has not acceded to that Convention up to now – a span of 54 years, despite strong recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. And even if the Philippines were to accede to that Convention now, its Art. 2 which provides 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” shall apply only to such foundlings after the entry into force of the Convention for the Philippines. Consequently, accession by the Philippines to that Convention will not favor Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares.
    Let the people decide. That will make the prescribed qualifications for an elective position dependent upon “the vagaries of election results,” in the words of the late eminent jurist Justice JBL Reyes in his ponencia in “Feliciano versus Aquino, Jr.” – a position he maintained in his dissent in the SET case of “Espinosa versus Aquino, Jr.”

    • Francisco Sevilla on

      What will take precedence? The provisions of the UN Convention or the provisions of the Philippine Constitution?

    • I agree with your comment. I also have a question on whether the “1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness” can be applied retroactively in case the Philippines acceded to it and enforce it. I believe that unless the Philippines has acceded to that convention, our counrty cannot be considered as a “contracting state”.

  9. Rene Saguisag is my idol. I came to know him while clandestinely distributing the tabloid We Forum in my college days and old enough to remember that he was sent to jail for defending the alternative newspaper. I campaigned and pasted his “Honest laki sa Hirap” posters in our Marcos country town.I even made a wager which was readily called by Marcos loyalists that he will receive a higher vote than my perceived cousin Erap Estrada in the 1987 senatorial election which I won. I believe him when he makes a report card on his achievements and told us that he is returning his savings in the senate.I grieved the passing of his wife but rejoiced in the resumption of his writings. I followed closely his columns and found redemption
    on my beliefs specially Grace Poe’s citizenship. But Rene I keep on searching your opinion on Jojo Binay, your fellow human rights and anti Marcos crusader, i.e his corruption charges, possible team up with Bongbong Marcos, family affair politics,etc to no avail. Please tell me so, that you believe he will not make a great president unworthy of your integrity and principles .

    • Yes, please Atty. Saguisag. Do tell us your thoughts on Binay and The current Marcos. Many of us would understand the delicate circumstances under which you would make such revelations. Much has been said by others, but , for me, your thinking carries great weight.

  10. Very well said about the law and UN declarations on ‘foundling’. You really know the law and the heart behind it. Thank you.

  11. During the UN convention of 1961 there were less than a hundred nation members then but now it more than 300 nation members now, I think it should be rectified again. There is also UN resolution on the beheading of criminals but Saudi Arabia have beheaded several of our countrymen but we can not invoke it because they have their own laws that governs it. Same is true in regards to the definitions of natural born citizen as stated in our constitution and Grace Poe does qualify to be one. Huwag na sanang ipilit pa ito. Isa pa pakisagot mo nga Atty. Sagisag kung Makabayan bang gawain ang ginawa ni Grace Poe nang manumpa siya para maging naturalized American? Sa America payag siyang maging naturalized pero dito ayaw niya. Pag nasagot mo Atty. Saguisag na Makabayan ba ginawa ni Grace Poe sasama Ako crusada mo.

    • Jose A. Oliveros on

      The lawyers of Grace Poe-Llamanzares and her partisans insist that although the Philippines has not acceded to the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, its Article 2 on the presumed citizenship of foundlings can be considered a “generally-accepted principle of international law” and the Philippines, by virtue of the incorporation clause in Art. II, Sec.3 of the 1987 Constitution, should follow it.
      If “generally-accepted principles of international law” means they are accepted and practiced by majority of the civilized states of the world, then jus sanguinis – citizenship by bloodline – is the “generally-accepted principle of international law” on citizenship. The reason – as of August 2010, according to a study made by the Center for Immigration Studies, out of 197 countries, 145 adhere to jus sangunis; only 30 to jus soli; no data or information on the remaining 15. The US and Canada are among the 30 countries still observing the jus soli principle but policy-makers in the US are proposing to exclude from the right to citizenship by virtue of place of birth, children born in the US of aliens who entered and have been staying illegally in the US.

    • Truly significant fact that natural born Filipinos have Filipino parentage. Grace Poe was a foundling, the mother just abandoned her in a church no wonder why she is called a foundling. The fact that she lied under oath pretending and presumpting to be a natural born, she fooled those recorders in her birth certificate!