SET ruling: Tougher road ahead for Poe

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The 5-4 vote by the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) is not the resounding victory that many supporters of Grace Poe had hoped for. In fact, the close vote means that Poe might have an even harder time when the issue of her citizenship is finally brought up to the Supreme Court (SC).

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Complainant Rizalito David has promised to appeal the decision before the High Court will accept David’s appeal remains to be seen, especially if the SET senator-members invoke Article VI, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution, which provides that the tribunal “shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications” of its members.

Poe is expectedly elated by the tribunal’s decision. But Poe’s celebration may be short-lived.

The SET ruling only means that Poe will remain as a senator for now. Our sources say that the general sentiment among the five senators who voted to dismiss David’s petition was to uphold the “will of the people” who voted Poe as the number one senator in the 2013 polls.

The SET ruling, however, is not binding on the Comelec or the SC. Just because the SET dismissed the case doesn’t mean the poll body or the High Court will do the same. Nevertheless, it certainly provides a much needed boost to what some political pundits say is a faltering campaign.

Much like her father’s presidential run in 2004, Poe has been saddled with disqualification cases. Whether instigated by her political opponents or not, the legal challenges Poe currently faces appear to have negatively impacted her campaign, causing her survey numbers to slide.

But even if the SET case is finally dismissed, there are four other cases still pending against Poe before the Commission on Elections (Comelec), all seeking to disqualify Poe over her supposed failure to satisfy the citizenship (and residency) requirements for a presidential candidate under the constitution.

To be fair, it is not only the Philippines that imposes the requirement that any person aspiring for the presidency or vice-presidency must be a “natural born citizen.” Being a natural-born citizen is also one of the eligibility requirements established in the United States constitution for election to the office of President or Vice President. But the similarity ends there.

Unlike the Philippines, the US constitution does not define the phrase “natural-born citizen.” This is the reason why there is still an on-going debate in America on the real meaning of “natural born citizen.”

For instance, most American legal scholars agree that the term “natural born citizen” applies not only to those people born to US citizen parents in foreign countries but also those born on United States soil, meaning, in any one of the 50 states (yes, there is no 51st state). The latter is known as the “jus soli” (or ‘right of the soil’) principle of nationality law, or right of anyone born in the territory of a country to nationality or citizenship of that country. Today, there are only 30 countries that grant citizenship based on jus soli.

American lawyers point out, however, that a “natural born citizen” is not to be confused with someone who is “citizen at birth” because it is possible under US law for a person to be a citizen at birth but not natural born. For example, people born in Puerto Rico are citizens at birth but not natural born because the people born in protectorates (i.e. outside US soil) like Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, are granted American citizenship only because of a law passed by Congress.

This jus soli principle is the reason why foundlings born or found in the US are automatically considered natural born citizens.

But this is not the case in the Philippines, where Article IV, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution specifically defines natural born citizens as “those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship.”

Since we follow the “jus sanguinis” (or right of blood) principle of nationality law, meaning, a person’s citizenship is based on the citizenship of one or both parents, some lawyers say Poe has to prove that one of her biological parents is Filipino. But that puts foundlings like Poe at a disadvantage precisely because their parentage is unknown. This is why there are international laws that treat foundlings as citizens, as Poe’s lawyer argues.

Some legal scholars suggest that the best way to reconcile our constitutional provisions on citizenship with international customary law on foundlings is to recognize Poe as a Filipino citizen at birth but not a natural born citizen since her citizenship is vested only by law and not by the constitution. Well, at least until she is able to prove the Filipino citizenship of one of her biological parents.

Anyway, the final answer rests with the SC. But with the three distinguished SC justices in the SET voting against Poe, it will definitely be an uphill battle when the case reaches the High Court.

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15 Comments

  1. this is another incompetence by the government especially COMELEC. why did they not disqualify her when she was running for senate office? or investigate her citizenship back then? this is what makes it funny and obvious that the system is a joke. So if it is decided and proven that she is not a citizen then she should be booted out of the senate. otherwise its a joke. its also a waste of resources by the government to do all this investigations and then let her at the same time campaign for president. then finally disqualify her if the truth comes out. that’s a waste of taxpayers monies. Comelec should now stop her from campaigning pending investigation or just simply disqualify her. Lastly how hard is her citizenship to uncover? don’t they have records etc. unbelievable. only in the Philippines. this is too much political drama which we are fond of doing.

  2. She may retain her senate seat, for now or until her term ends, but she can never be president.

  3. It is unfortunate that the SET voting result exposed that the legislative branch in our poor mismanaged government are a bunch of ignoramuses who disregard the laws of the land for political considerations. The senate and house of representatives continue to showcase that they are the “old boys club” who protects their own even if they are protecting the illegal. These bunch of cowards in the senate does not realize that they are not giving Grace Llamanzares a favor by extending her crucifixion. The 5 ignorant senators are trying to politicize and issue which is entirely about the law. They are actually exposing Mrs. Llamanzares to more stress and anxiety for any issue which she will surely lose. Poor Grace.

  4. Ha ha ha. Poe is merely playing all of us for fools. She continues to play the natural born issue to gain continuous and free publicity but knowing all along that when the question has run its course, she can easily prove she is a natural born Filipino thru DNA testing of Rosemary Sonora. Those who are 60 years old or so know what this means. Without doubt, Poe will be the next president of the Philippines.

  5. apolonio reyes on

    Why don’t Grace Poe Llamanzares accept the offer of BongBong Marcos to prove not only if she is the biological sister of BongBong as she will finally put an end to what she has always been seeking and end to rumors that she is the daughter of President Ferdinand E. Marcos and politics run in her blood.
    And no one, even David or Duterte nor the Constitution can prevent her from running to the highest office of our land. If she wins, she can amend the definition of NBC to jus soli in our Constitution to help all foundlings in the Philippines which she said she is fighting for and I will vote for her.

    • I believe that it’s Susan who would rather risk her disqualification than suffer the embarrassment of facing the music. Having the DNA with Rosemarie will also prove her being NB without having to disclose who the father is. But they want the telenovela to continue on their versioon.

  6. Leodegardo Pruna on

    Poe’s attorney GG now says that the final decision on the disgraced GRACE issue is that of the SET. As if he is not a lawyer. The reason for the Supreme Court is to finally arbitrate and justifiably interpret the law and therefore be the court of last resort. For whatever reason, GRACE and her attorney, should stick to the TRUTH and not their own which by all indication is directed to their own satisfaction. God bless the Philippines.

  7. Justaskingseriously on

    Sol is Latin for Sun. Sanguis is Latin for blood. “Of the” is expressed in the genitive case in Latin. The genitive case for “sol” is “solis” (not soli); for “sanguis”, “sanguinis”.

    Jus (pronounced yus) is Latin for Law. Law of the sun and law of the blood.

  8. The ambitious lllamanzres will surely be disqualified by the SC. Gone will be the ambitions of the Llamanzarres to be nationally and internationally famous. The whole family will surely be back in the U.S. Mga sigurista. Anybody but Binay (the corrupt) and Llamanzres (the fake).

  9. Among all the writers who have been writing about the SET 5-4 decision on the disqualification case of Sen (?) Grace Poe, , it is only Mr. Dulay who wrote the most signifcant and substantial aspect of the case and that is – that a SET or a House Electoral Tribunal decision is UNAPPEALABLE. Precisely because of the constititutional proviso in Article VI, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution, which provides that the tribunal “shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications” of its members.

    So complainant David’s intended appeal to the High Court to reverse the SET decision is expected to be ruled out. This does not mean however that Poe will win in the cases brought against her. With Senior SC Justice Carpio issuing an obiter dictum earlier, regarding the legal standing of Poe, it is clear that we have a Supreme Court which will uphold an unambiguous provision of the Phil. Constitution. Only natural born citizens are qualified to vie for the office of president. A Constitution that admits only the principle of “jus sanguinis” in the consideration of “natural-bornness” demands that Poe prove that her immediate sanguine (blood) relations like her parents must be Filipinos as defined under Article IV, Secs. 1 & 2 of the Phil. Constitution. Absent this proof, then she may not AT ALL presume herself to be qualified to seek the high office she covets.

    The political decision rendered by her colleagues in the senate does not bind the High Court which is a co-equal branch of government to the legislative. Fortunately, we have a Supreme Court which will uphold the Constitution. The political decision of the SET is of no moment to them. In the High Court, Grace Poe’s ambition will die a natural death.

    • Sorry, you are wrong. Atty. Dulay did not mention it (perhaps inadvertently), but the decision of SET can be appealed to the Supreme Court on various grounds, especially, on the ground that the decision or resolution of the SET majority was or is a “grave abuse of discretion”. Under Section 1, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, the Supreme Court can exercise its so-called “extra-ordinary jurisdiction” and review the decision of SET.

      An example of a Supreme Court case in which the decision of an election tribunal was reversed and set aside is Lerias v. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), G.R. No. 97105. The case involved election anomalies and fraud, and just like the current case of David vs. Poe before SET, the decision of the HRET ended up in a 5-4 vote, with 5 representative-members voting to dismiss the petition, and all the three justices and a representative-member voting to allow it. .

      There was a dissenting opinion in the above case by Justice Padilla who opined that the Court should only intervene judicially in “exceptional” cases. One exceptional instance he mentioned is the qualification of a candidate, such as a candidate’s “citizenship”. Thus, In view of the fact that Mr. R. David seeks to disqualify Mrs. Grace Poe Llamanzares on grounds that she is not a natural born Filipino citizen, I anticipate that the Supreme Court will find there had been a grave abuse of discretion by the Gang of Five SET senators, and it will then review the case, and I predict, disqualify Mrs. Llamanzares on Constitutional grounds.

  10. Bad weather ahead for Mrs. Grace Poe Llamanzares and her camp. They now have to face a gathering “legal” storm. I don’t think they’ll survive this one.

    The Gang of Five senators should not be returned to the senate in the next senatorial elections. They have just shredded the Philippine Constitution which they had sworn to uphold. These trapos are so shameless and ignorant. The Philippines deserves better legislators.

    • Manny De Guzman on

      Tama ka kaibigan. Itong limang itlog na ito ay wala namang alam yan. Pera lang ang nakikita nila sa senado. Anong batas ang nagawa nila. TAE. Para sa akin ang senado na ginagalang noon ay MAI ILANG GUN-GONG. Nadala lang tao na iboto dahil mga kilala sa pelikula at bulok na panunungkulan.

  11. It should be mentioned also that the international laws (1930 Hague Convention and 1961 UN Convention on the Reductions of Statelessness) referred to by Poe’s lawyers are not self executing. Those conventions also recognize the need for legislation for the contracting states to comply with the conventions. The generally accepted principle of those conventions is that foundlings have the right to a nationality but it doesn’t define what kind of nationality precisely because the convention was not tailored for a specific country. It is the sovereign right of each contracting state to define who are their citizens. Only the Constitution of the Philippines define Filipino citizenship.