• Should Humpty Dumpty now interpret our Constitution?


    Are we wrong, after all?

    IT took the oral arguments of Mrs. Grace Poe Llamanzares’ counsel and his answers to questions from several  Supreme Court justices  on her disqualification  and the cancellation of her Certificate of Candidacy as a presidential candidate, by the Commission on Elections, for me to begin to wonder whether I had not, in fact, erred grievously as a citizen, former lawmaker, and petitioner,  in believing that we must strictly construe the Constitution in deciding whether or not she could run for president.

    Article VII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution provides:

    “No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least forty years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election.”

    Article IV, Sec. 1 of the same Constitution provides:

    “The following are citizens of the Philippines:

    “(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this Constitution;

    “(2) Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines;

    “(3)Those born before January 17, 1973, of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority; and

    “(4) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.”

    Sec. 2 of the same Article provides:

    “Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their citizenship. Those who elect Philippine citizenship in accordance with paragraph (3), Section I hereof shall be deemed natural-born citizens.”

    On the other hand, Article IV, Sec. 1 of the 1935 Constitution, which was in effect when the foundling Mary Grace Natividad was found in the premises of the Jaro Catholic Church in Iloilo on Sept. 3, 1968, provides:

    “The following are citizens of the Philippines:

    “(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippine Islands at the time of the adoption of the Constitution;

    “(2) Those born in the Philippine Islands of foreign parents who, before the adoption of this Constitution, had been elected to public office in the Philippine Islands;

    “(3) Those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines;

    “(4) Those whose mothers are citizens of the Philippines, and, upon reaching the age of majority, elect Philippine citizenship;

    “(5) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.”

    The price of a meal

    The meaning of these provisions seemed so clear and incontrovertible that I was willing to wager the price of a decent meal that no two rational individuals with the same understanding of the words used therein could have two different understanding of the same. But this feeling of absolute certainty was mercilessly undone last Tuesday at the Oral Arguments on Mrs. Llamanzares’ petition for Certiorari against the Comelec rulings on the four petitions filed by Estrella Elamparo, Antonio Contreras, Amado Valdez and myself.

    As Mrs. Llamanzares’ counsel Alexander Poblador assailed my petition and the Comelec’s ruling, I began to wonder whether I had not been transported to a world where words–and words of the Constitution and the law at that–had lost all their meaning, and an epigone of Humpty Dumpty in black barrister’s robe was telling us that the Constitution and the law meant just what he wanted them to mean.

    Or had I failed to understand that certain words and ideas have to be deconstructed to fit certain exigencies? In this particular instance, certain forces appear to have decided that Mrs. Llamanzares should become the next president, and her lack of citizenship and residency should not be allowed to interfere with their decision.

    Instructive interpellations

    Not having Poblador’s legal credentials, I was inclined to assume I was the one who had misread the Constitution, the laws and jurisprudence. But as I listened intently to the interpellations by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Justices Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Jose Perez, Diosdado M. Peralta, and Marvic Leonen, I began to see even more clearly what made sense and what did not.

    I felt violated by the counsel’s assertion that the Comelec–which had, motu proprio, already declared over a hundred presidential candidates as “nuisance candidates,” just because they did not have Mrs. Llamanzares’ apparently bottomless war chest, even though they were fully compliant with the requirements of Article VII, Sec. 2 of the Constitution–did not have the authority to act upon my petition and declare that someone who is not a natural-born Filipino and lacks the 10-year residency requirement is not eligible to run for President.

    The proper course of action, according to the learned counsel, was for me to allow Mrs. Llamanzares to run undisturbed, despite her inherent and indisputable constitutional ineligibility, and ask the Presidential Electoral Tribunal later to oust her on a quo warranto petition, should she ever get elected. It would be like telling the board of a company to hire a CEO who does not meet the published requirements for the job, on the condition that they could fire him as soon as he is hired.

    Material misrepresentation

    The only complaint the Comelec could act upon, the counsel suggested, would be an allegation of serious material misrepresentation. But could any misrepresentation be more serious than claiming to be a natural-born citizen and therefore qualified to run for President when one is not?

    It’s a con game, pure and simple. Already, they have raised the bogus flag of “vox populi, vox Dei,” by suggesting that “the people,” not the Comelec, nor the High Court, should decide whether she has the legal right to run or not. On my way to court on Tuesday afternoon my car was blocked by the rented crowd on Padre Faura, talking about “vox populi” on cue, while some poor marchers were heard to complain about marching on empty stomachs.

    The vox populi fraud

    Can you imagine how much stronger this “vox populi, vox Dei” cry would be, if she was allowed to run despite her known ineligibility, and the automated voting machine performed the same service it did for her when she ran, under false claims of being a natural-born citizen, and PNoy’s sponsorship, as a senator in 2013? Do you think the PET would have the courage to declare an “elected” president not eligible for the office just because she was from the very start not eligible for the office?

    Without anyone knowing who Mrs. Llamanzares’ parents are or were, Poblador argued that they must be presumed to be Filipino for she was “born” (‘found’ is the more accurate term) in the Philippines. He quoted an international convention to which the Philippines is not a party, and which has no application here. That’s not the only problem. The Philippines follows the jus sanguinis (right of blood) doctrine–in which citizenship is determined by the nationality of the parents rather than by the place (under the jus soli principle) where the person is born.

    Citizen by presumption

    Poblador insisted that her client was born a Filipino “by presumption.” Justice De Castro pointed out that a legal presumption must be based on fact, otherwise it cannot stand. She hit it right on the head when she said we might as well let all the nuisance candidates run, if Mrs. Llamanzares were allowed to run. But there is no real parity between the “nuisance candidates” and Mrs. Llamanzares. The only crime of the “nuisance candidates,” if that be a crime, is that they do not have the hundreds of millions of pesos that the non-candidate is able to burn on her premature campaigning ads. But they have not violated the Constitution and the truth, in the same way that she has, by claiming to be natural-born when she is clearly not. In that sense, they are less of a nuisance than the non-candidate.

    Through her counsel Mrs. Llamanzares tried to persuade the Court that, contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, which excludes foundlings from its enumeration of citizens, they are in fact natural-born and did not have to be mentioned as citizens anymore because the fact was evident enough. Presented were excerpts from the proceedings of the 1934 Constitutional Convention in which Manuel Roxas, the future president and grandfather to the present LP presidential candidate Mar Roxas, Nicolas Rafols, and Ruperto Montinola exchanged their views on foundlings being natural-born according to international law, which was factually erroneous.

    If there was any international law declaring foundlings as natural-born at the time–there is none until now–it could not have had any effect on the Philippines, a colony of the US which regained its independence only in 1946, and was in no position to accede or be a contracting party to any international treaty before then. Were there such a treaty, it would have been quickly overridden by the 1935 Constitution, which excludes foundlings from its enumeration of citizens. In any conflict between the Constitution and a treaty, the Constitution prevails.

    A rejected thesis

    In any case, in trying to impress upon the Court that the 1934 Convention had “intended” foundlings to be treated as natural-born, Poblador walked into a deadend. With an economy of words, Justice Carpio exposed the legerdemain by telling Poblador that “you missed the most important part” of the transcript. “Here,” said Carpio, pointing to Poblador’s power-point presentation, “the president of the Convention says, ‘Does the gentleman from Cebu (Rafols) insist on his amendment?’ ( Rafols says yes.) “Let’s submit it to a vote… the amendment is rejected.”

    Clinging tenaciously to his discredited theory, Poblador said what was important was “the intention,” not the vote. The last time we checked, the road to hell was still paved with good intentions.

    Reductio ad absurdum

    To Poblador’s insistence that foundlings are natural-born citizens, and that the Comelec has no authority to prevent any such candidates from running, Justice Perez confronted Poblador with a formidable reductio ad absurdum. What happens if a rich Chinese, claiming to be natural-born, decides to run for President, would the Comelec have the power to stop him?

    This would be obvious enough, said Poblador. But as the cook at the nearest Chinese restaurant in Ermita knows, what’s sauce for the gander is also sauce for the goose. There cannot be one rule for the rich Chinese and another rule for Mrs. Llamanzares, both of them claiming to be natural-born but not really. The Comelec has the right and the duty to rule and has ruled, and if the Supreme Court does not find any “grave abuse of discretion” on the part of the Comelec, its ruling must be made permanent and executory on Mrs. Llamanzares.

    Why not go to Ilocos?

    But this need not be the end. As Justice Peralta helpfully suggested, Mrs. Llamanzares could expand her search for her unknown parents by expanding the coverage of her search for a DNA match, knowing that DNA is 99.99 percent accurate. Instead of limiting her grave-digging to certain places in Guimaras, Peralta, who is an Ilocano, suggested she should cover all of Iloilo and even Ilocos.

    (Erratum: In my Wednesday column, written before I went to court on Tuesday, I wrote that Commissioner Arthur Lim spoke for the Comelec at the hearing, and Atty. Manuelito Luna spoke on my behalf. That was a complete miscalculation. Atty. Poblador took the entire session and Justice Marvic Leonen was not quite done with him when the session was suspended until next Tuesday. We hope to hear Commissioners Lim and Rowena Guanzon and Atty. Luna together with petitioners Estrella Elamparo, Antonio Contreras and Amado Valdez argue on Tuesday.)



    Please follow our commenting guidelines.



      During the first oral arguments at the Supreme Court on the disqualification case against Grace Poe, her counsel Atty. Poblador hammered down on what was supposedly her reacquisition of Philippine domicile in 2005. What he carefully avoided to mention was that Grace Poe cannot acquire a new domicile in the Philippines unless she first abandoned her U.S. domicile.

      It is a fundamental principle in international law that a person cannot acquire a new domicile somewhere else without his abandoning first his existing domicile.

      There are several evidences that Grace Poe did not abandon her U.S. domicile and, having failed to do that, she could not have acquired a Philippine domicile before her renunciation of her U.S. citizenship. This is a critical legal argument that the counsel of Mr. Tatad should hammer on at the resumption of the oral arguments.

      Please consider the following facts:

      1. By law, U.S. citizens are considered legally domiciled in the U.S.; under U.S. law they can lost their domicile only if they stayed outside of the U.S. continuously and uninterrupted for at least one calendar year. Grace Poe’s travel records show that she had travelled to and from the U.S. at least once every year while she was still a U.S. citizen. She did not stay in the Philippines continuously and uninterrupted for at least one calendar year prior to her renunciation of her U. S. citizenship in 2010. By law she did not abandon, and did not lose, her U.S. domicile legally prior to 2010.

      2. Grace Poe apparently used her U.S. passport for travels to non-U.S. destinations. It should be noted that, among other dates, she used her U.S. passports for travels on July 20, 2007, July 23, 2007, July 31, 2009 and August 3, 2009. The period ‘July 20, 2007 to July 23, 2007’ and the period ‘July 31, 2009 to August 3, 2009’ were both for spans of 3 days only. Those days were clearly not for travels to the U.S. because a round-trip to the U.S. takes two days already. These were clearly travels to nearby non-U.S. destinations. Her use of U.S. passport for travels to non-U.S. destinations is another proof that she did not abandon her U.S. domicile.

      3. In spite of staying in the Philippines, Grace Poe and her husband continue to file both Federal and State taxes in the U.S. This is another proof that she did not abandon her U.S. domicile.

      4. According to Atty. George Garcia, one of her lawyers, Grace Poe and her husband, Neil Lllamanzares, still own at least two properties in the U.S. This is another proof that she did not abandon her U.S. domicile.

      5. Grace Poe has listed in her name, as her sole and separate property, the residential property at 112 Los Cerros Avenue, Walnut Creek, California. This is another proof that she did not abandon her U.S. domicile.

      For failing to abandon her U.S. domicile, Grace Poe could not have acquired her Philippine domicile in 2005; she acquired it only in 2010 after she renounced her U.S. citizenship. Thus, she is not qualified to run for President.

    2. Of course, you did not misread the Constitution., Mr. Tatad. The provisions at issue are so clear and unambiguous that they are easy to understand and certainly require no interpretation.

      I agree with your comments mentioned above in respect of the Supreme Court (SC) proceedings which I watched and listened to via You Tube. Further:

      1. Justice Carpio’s questions with respect to the residency issue were short and to the point. He established the fact that Mrs. Llamanzares did not arrive as an immigrant, nor filed an alien registration card when she returned to the Philippines in 2005 to supposedly establish permanent residency. She returned as a “balikbayan” which required no visa.

      2. Justice T. del Castro also brought up the point that just because Mrs. Llamanzares was adopted, and as a baby or child did not perform “acts” or do anything to acquire Filipino citizenship, this does not mean a priori (as contended by Atty. Poblador), that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen (NBFC). In an adoption process, the Department of Social Welfare acts for the child, and certain procedures have to be carried out (such as a Court hearing) before adoption is approved or takes place. These “acts” preclude NBFC status.

      3. Atty. Poblador wants the count for the permanent residency of Grace Poe to start in 2005 when she returned to the Philippines as a “balikbayan”, rather than in July 2006 when she allegedly became a dual citizen. In my view, both dates are incorrect because she was a US citizen from 2005 to October 20, 2010 – the date she appeared before a notary public to renounce her US citizenship. It was not possible for her to become a dual citizen because RA 9225 (the dual citizenship Act) only applies to natural-born Filipinos, and as a foundling, Poe does not meet this requirement. Her stint as the Chairman of the MTRCB was illegal precisely for this reason. There is a Constitutional requirement that the MTRCB chairman should be a NBFC.

      4. The justice to watch out for is Associate Justice M. Leonen. He has injected his own personal experience (he was a “fatherless child”) into the proceedings, and appears inclined to interpret the Constitution liberally with a view to promoting what he calls “justness” (e.g., justice to foundlings?) “fairness” and “morality”. He did not define these terms, but made comments such as “if you leave a child, isn’t that unfair”? He comes across as an “activist judge” and a “social justice warrior” rather than a strict Constitutionalist like Justice Carpio. At this point, I place him in the camp of those advocating “vox populi, vox Dei”.

      5. Today,I read a report that Mrs. Llamanzares now says that her team would not submit any DNA results to the Court as they expect to win their case by “legal means”. I suspect that the latest DNA tests came out “negative”. Would her team now resort to more grave digging and tomb raiding? “Abangan”.

    3. If the Supreme Court disagree with the Comelec to disqualified Poe, we will be the laughing stock around the world.
      Or does our law does not apply to everyone or our lawmakers and the interpreter of the law which is the Supreme Court interpret in a different ways. We must avoid constitutional crisis to avoid deadlock in decision making.

    4. Justice Leonen’s jest is to be compassionate with foundlings. Is that justice? There is justice if you follow the law without partiality. There is the supreme law which is the Constitution that specifically disqualifies disregard the law?As an example the whole nation was angry with how Dr. Hayden Kho and his friends uploaded his sexcapade with Katrina Halili. What has the government done to punish Kho. People wants him to be imprisoned. But there is no existing law that specifically at that time to punish this kind of crime. So Dr. Kho was never imprisoned. Here in America there was acase of a peeping Tom caught red-handed recording her neighbors while in the privacy of their bedroom. He was let gobecause there is no existing law that punishes peeping Toms. So I believe that Leonen is wrong when he said that justices should not be legalist. There is a constitution that mandates the people whether a justice or any person to follow the lletter of the law. Leonen is playing politics knowing that Poe is still very popular. Shame on him.

    5. “(3) Those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines;

      “(4) Those whose mothers are citizens of the Philippines, and, upon reaching the age of majority, elect Philippine citizenship;

      there is a clear discrimination here against women. why does the child of the filipina mother (a woman) has to do something upon reaching the age of majority to elect Philippine citizenship and why not the child of the filipino father (a man). for me as long as a half pinoy adult can present a birth certificate showing that the person’s mother is a filipina or several close relatives of the filipina mother can attest under oath that their relative has a filipina mother, then he/she is a natural born filipino.

      what do you all think. that child of the filipina mother may one day want to become a dual citz filipino upon knowing his/her heritage. is the present repatriation law cover the child (of a filipina mother and a foreigner father) born overseas.

    6. Danny Cascolan on

      To be born as natural born citizen by presumption only would be like being born from fictional circumstances. Good for the movies.

      – Danny Cascolan

    7. Carlos de Castro on

      If we will base some important decision to the people who will vote to the people of interest, why not let them all run and just let them pay for the expenses of the extyra ballot, and in this way too we avoid paying people meeting wherein they don’t know the answere.

    8. Rodan Guerrero on

      The GAME is now over! Why don`t Grace Pwe pack-up her things and go back to US with her family? She has made so many irregularities that should lead for her deportation.

    9. You hit it right at the bud! damn! It was so clear and its kinda liberating. Ive been reasearching on this over a month now and i found the same interpretation. Well, i am not a lawyer but, yeah, a trying hard or a second class citizen perhaps, but i was able to comprehend what is acceptable and not. If the sc rule not to dq poe, it gonna be a huge disappointment. Sc is expected to serve justice in accordance with the law not by someones presumption and the will of few. We are suffering everyday and we keep on moving on believing that justice and democracy is at work. I hope sc can see that.

    10. I thought the SC Justices are the Guardians of the Constitution . They must not allow themselves to be involved with the emotional defense of Ms. LLamanzares lawyers. It is very clear in what is been written by our founding fathers. The justices should not allow the Constitution be interpreted at the convenience of Ms. Llamanzarez and her political backers. What will happen to this country then ?

    11. You can not reason with anybody who is twisting the law Mr. Tatad. Your cause and a lot of people who believe in the Constitution is lost to the very powerful people of the land and no one can do anything about it short of a miracle. I am 100 % sure Mrs. Llamanzares will win in the Supreme Court period despite all the drama played there.

      • Of course, for billions of reasons, she will get her way. That is what some parties want – for a mass movement against the SC decision as an alibi for martial law.

    12. Mariano Patalinjug on

      Yonkers, New York
      21 January 2016

      There is no quarrel, legal or not, that the COMELEC, the constitutional body charged primarily if not exclusively with vetting candidates for public office, DISQUALIFED Grace Poe Llamanzares three times: first by its 2d division, then by its 1st division,and 3d by the COMELEC sitting en banc.

      The two reasons: 1st, she is not a natural-born Filipino citizen, and 2nd, she is not in compliance with the 10-year residency requirement.

      Grace Poe Llamanzares, as expected, ran to the Supreme Court on a petition for Certiorari asking the Court , in effect, to vacate the ruling of the COMELEC or to overrule it.

      This the Supreme Court may not do if, as assumed, it knows the Constitution and the Law, and is true to its duty to interpret and apply these correctly.

      The Supreme Court may not disturb the ruling of the COMELEC as to its findings of FACT. It may only overrule it if there is clear and compelling showing that it acted with grave abuse of discretion, or ULTRA VIRES.


      • For if we follows the Constitution and the Grace Doctrine, I can run to the SC on March for a TRO re the printing of ballots. The Comelec can never use the reason that 135 candidates on the ballot is very long and cumbersome to print. The Constitution is very clear on who can run for President and never is there in the Constitution that bars anyone from running for president for the capricious reason that one has no billions to burn for advertising. Likewise, with all the printing technologies available, printing that number of ballots equivalent to the number of registered voters with even a variance of 2% for spoiled ballots does not require printing to begin on February. Suppose, someone can hack all the networks and run his ads for free during primetime, he can have free advertising for his campaign and that will not cost millions. Will that candidate still be called a “nuisance candidate” even if he has no millions but can run a nationwide ad campaign?

    13. WTF is going on? Anyare? Bakit nangyayari ang mga ganito sa ating mahal na bansa at mamamayang Filipinos? Gusto ba ni Justice Marvic Leonen na balewalain muna ang ating Constitution bago sila mag-decision? What’s the use of the Supreme Court? What is the use of the Constitution ratified, ordained and promulgated by the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God? It is useless anyway, why don’t we just abolish the Supreme Court and throw away the Constitution and just let the people decide on everything?

      What is so special with Grace Poe anyway that other Filipinos doesn’t have? Siya na ba ang batas ngayon na dapat masunod? Why is she given a special treatment like a VIP even though she lied under oath and misrepresented herself? Why is she being rewarded instead of being penalized? What a shame? Ano ba naman ito. Palakasan, pakapalan ng mukha at palakasan ng apog na lang ba ang paiiralin natin sa bansa? Huwag naman po sana.

    14. Bakit si Grace Poe na ba ang batas ngayon? Nakalusot na nga si Grace Poe na maging senador ng bansa kahit hindi naman pala siya qualified dahil hindi naman pala natural born Filipino citizen pagkatapos ay palulusotin niyo pang maging pangulo ng bansa? What’s wrong with you guys? Napakaliwanag na nga ang sinasabi ng ating Saligang Batas na natural born Filipino citizen lamang ang puwedeng maging senador at pangulo ng bansa, di po ba? What part of it can you not understand? Where are our leaders and protectors of the Constitution when we need them? Calling all our honest and trustworthy leaders and protectors of the Constitution. Please HELP!!!! SOS!!!!

    15. The only strength on the “commentaries” of Leonen is the fact that his name seems to remind me of the lion. But this one forgot that. He reasons like he is a platypus.

    16. I wonder why you failed to mention Justice Marivic Leonen arguments regarding the rights of foundlings.Justice Leonen is the most respected magistrate in the supreme court and always gave a dissenting vote to the majority if he sees injustice. The duty of the Supreme court is to give justice,he said so or do you also consider them foundlings a con game? You cannot even tolerate her political ads that proclaims like her father’s movies, justice will prevail in the end. Look at yourself in the mirror Mr.Tatad, as one reader commented your still a Marcos lapdog!

    17. the fact that the justices are split about this means there’s really an issue to begin with. COmelec can only cancel a COC when they believe there was misrepresentation. But that cannot be used against senator poe because in the first place, what she wroter was what she believed was true.

      As a foundling, they were considered as natural-born, so that’s what they know. Nowhere in our constitution stated that foundlings are excluded in that status. And so, they cannot claim she misled the electorate.

    18. HungryForTruth on

      I am impressed. You put your Humpty Dumpty in his place — an inventor of the meaning of words but not quite like the character in ” Alice in Wonderland.” But even in his invention of the meaning of words, Poblador is a poor poor imitation of Humpty Dumpty.

    19. All the members of the Comelc have decided that Mrs. Lumenares Poe is not qualified to run for president . But why is it that the Comelec included her name is the list in the Presidential race? Double Standard.

      • HungryForTruth on

        It is a constraint on time. Comelec is forced. Any way the printing has not started. But even on the printing date the likelihood is that the SC decision will be past that. In the case of a COC cancellation decision before election, Comelec will announce that Poe is out; and voters putting her name in the ballot will result in her name not being counted.

    20. Grace is a true foundling and Mr Tatad’s parallelism with a known “Rich Chinese” holds no water. With all available resources, she’s unable to find DNA relatives. Even Mr Tatad, in his heart like everyone , knows she’s of Filipino parentage. Intuition is encompassing.

      But foundlings don’t have the onus to find their Filipino parents, That puts an extraordinary burden for this group to prove citizenship. To say that foundlings in this country can’t be Senators or even President was not the intent of the Framers.

      • If Grace in her earlier career as senator filled a bill in the Senate to consider “foundlings” as “natural-born”, maybe, that bill have become a law already by now. But that simple act was not even began so this ranting about empathy for foundlings is just a crude way to play on emotions and elicit support for her candidacy. Similarly, if there was real intention to reside in the country after the death of her adoptive father, she could have accomplish the forms to comply with all documentary requirements to prove conclusively of such intent. But even her answers to US authorities regarding her use of her US passport betrays the duplicity of an opportunist who wants to have her cake and eat it too.

      • Do You know why the framers did not include foundlings in the 1935 constitution? Do you know why the constitution provided a definition of a natural born citizen? Do you also know why as per requirement presidential aspirant must be a natural born citizen? To make sure that only confirmed 100percent natural born citizen of the land would become president. To avoid presumption or doubt. It is a very obvious guideline to eradicate confusion. Law will not carry the burden to prove someones nationality that is why it was pointed out specifically. Do you think andres bonifacio died in vain? My gosh, if he is alive today? May klalagyan ka day!