It is the sort of molehill that Rex Gatchalian, spokesman of Sen. Grace Poe, has the unusual ability to turn into a mountain.
I refer to the primetime news in the US that, Sen. Ted Cruz, the second leading contender for the US republican presidential nomination, is suddenly under questioning about his eligibility to run for President of the US.
Like Grace Poe, Cruz faces a major constitutional hurdle. And like Grace, he needs a declaratory judgment from a competent court that he is a natural-born American citizen.
Just as he tried to turn the Bautista vs. Guanzon misunderstanding into a full-blown Comelec crisis, Gatchalian could grab this straw and turn it into a press release saying that Senator Cruz’s questioned citizenship will strengthen Senator Poe’s contention that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen.
Where the similarities end
The similarities between the two presidential candidates are only superficial, however. The moment you scratch it, it puffs up in smoke.
Both Grace Poe and Ted Cruz are senators of their respective countries. Both are bidding to be elected President.
Both the US and the Philippines reserve the presidency for natural-born citizens of the republic. The 1987 Philippine Constitution defined what a natural-born citizen is. The
American founding fathers left the issue undefined.
But that is as far as serious facts will allow.
Cruz was born of an American mother in Canada.
Grace Poe was born of parents who are unknown. Her birth is completely shrouded in mystery.
Cruz is a Harvard-trained lawyer, who surged to prominence as a conservative politician from Texas. He is a formidable foe on the debating stage.
Cruz is now favored by the polls to win the Iowa caucus which will be held this February. If he wins as projected by the polls, Trump could have a top-flight rival in the Republican race.
Cruz is totally confident that he is a natural-born American, and therefore qualified to be US President. He sounds all set and confident to argue his way before any court where his opponents will take him.
Grace Poe, by contrast, does not know where citizenship law begins or ends for her. She can cite no law, Filipino or international, to back her claim to being a natural-born Filipino.
In addition, her ten-year residency in the country is under question, as her comings and goings between the US and the Philippines keep tripping her up.
Her only argument is of dubious legality; Philippine courts should classify her as a natural-born Filipino because she is/was a foundling. Out of compassion for all foundlings in the country, they should all be declared Filipino citizens.
No one agrees with her reasoning, however, except the traditional politicians (trapos) who have a vested interest in her candidacy, like Francis Escudero and the nameless senatorial candidates in her ticket.
Instructive for our own ordeal
The eligibility question confronting Senator Cruz is instructive for our own ordeal regarding Grace Poe’s persistence to run for President.
Consider the exchange between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on the citizenship of Senator Cruz.
Republican frontunner Donald J. Trump sharply escalated his rhetoric about Senator Ted Cruz’s eligibility to be President last Saturday, by suggesting that because he was born in Canada there were unanswered questions about whether he met the constitutional requirement to be a “natural-born citizen.’’
“You can’t have a person who’s running for office, even though Ted is very glib and he goes
out and says ‘Well, I’m a natural-born citizen,’ but the point is you’re not,” Mr. Trump said while campaigning in Clear Lake, Iowa.
Mr. Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada, to an American mother, which automatically conferred American citizenship. Most legal experts agree that this satisfies the requirement to be a “natural-born citizen,’’ a term that was not defined by the founding fathers of America.
Mr. Trump, who began raising questions about Mr. Cruz’s ability to be President earlier in the week, said on Saturday that Mr. Cruz would have to go to court to get a “declaratory judgment” about his eligibility “or you have a candidate who just cannot run.’’ (Mr. Cruz could need a judgment if someone filed a lawsuit to challenge his candidacy and a court agreed to take up the question.)
Mr. Cruz’s response to Trump’s jabbing is crisp: He says: “Under longstanding federal law, the child of a US citizen born abroad is a natural-born citizen.”
“You’re seeing candidates trying to throw whatever rocks they can,” he said. “That’s fine, that’s their prerogative. I like Donald Trump, I respect Donald Trump. He’s welcome to toss whatever attacks he wants.”
But Trump has a serious point to make, If Cruz runs and wins the US presidency, he would be the first President who was not born in the United States or in US territory.
We citizens have rights too
If Senator Cruz’s predicament reaches the courts, he has a better than even chance that he and his lawyers can win the argument in court.
Not being born in the US is an issue that will be used by opponents like Trump to advantage on the campaign trail.
Senator Grace Poe’s predicament, by contrast, appears to have no leg to stand on. Every legal argument put up in her defense, by characters as varied as former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban and her lawyers, has been battered senseless by the chorus of legal arguments rained on it – in the public square and in social media.
At the Supreme Court, it is more than likely that she will lose all three disqualification cases against her in the High Court.
She could lose the appeal of the decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal. And she could also lose the two Comelec disqualification cases she appealed to the SC.
In the first, she could be stripped of her position as a senator of the republic. In the two other cases, the court could order the invalidation of her candidacy for President.
I must confess that my writing on Grace Poe is now impelled by sheer annoyance over her insistence in running for the presidency. As a citizen who is descended from an authentic veteran and officer of the Philippine revolution and the Spanish-American War (fully documented in books), I do not understand how a person of such unknown identity and origins can succeed in discombobulating our preparations for the May 2016 elections.
People with real credentials as Filipino citizens also have rights that must be respected by those who covet our prerogatives and privileges.