WE understand that it takes a supreme amount of self-confidence – maybe even hubris, such as presumptuously asserting that one’s ambition has the grace of God – to seek election to the nation’s highest office. Those who campaign for the presidency cannot typically be described as shrinking violets.
Confidence bordering on arrogance is probably acceptable; however, an arrogant disregard for the unambiguous law of the land is absolutely not. Yet that certainly appears to be the perspective on which Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares is building her campaign for the presidency, on the assumption that widespread popularity trumps the Constitution.
By her own admission, which is supported by documentary evidence that she herself supplied to the Senate Electoral Tribunal, Senator Poe-Llamanzares relinquished and later reacquired her Philippine citizenship – which by definition makes her a naturalized citizen – and was a resident of the Philippines for six years and six months prior to her being elected to the Senate in May 2013 – which means she will have been a resident of the Philippines for nine years and six months as of Election Day 2016, should she be elected President.
According to the Constitution, one must be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines – that is, one who has not had to take legal steps to establish citizenship, such as through naturalization – and a resident of the Philippines for 10 years to be eligible to hold the office of President.
It is plainly apparent that on those bases, Senator Poe-Llamanzares is not eligible to run for President, and is violating the law by persisting in doing so. The overwhelming, virtually unanimous opinion of legal and political experts is that this is indeed the case. Yet curiously, and we must admit that even we have been guilty of this. The Philippine media continues to discuss the day-to-day progress of the senator’s campaign as though the strong probability that campaign is completely invalid and a waste of everyone’s time does not exist.
That cannot be allowed to continue. This issue of Senator Poe-Llamanzares’ must be resolved immediately and with finality by the Supreme Court for the good of the nation, and for her and her family’s benefit as well. If, despite appearances, she is actually legally eligible for the presidency but the question remains unresolved, it will continue to hound her throughout her campaign, which is a disservice not only to her but the voters as well, who will be denied the discussion of real policy issues. If Poe-Llamanzares is in fact ineligible, on the other hand, then we are instead faced with the highly disturbing possibility that the presidency will be seized by a usurper.
Neither of those outcomes are acceptable, but both can be absolutely prevented if the eligibility question is resolved now. The Supreme Court must act immediately to do so.