“The Constitution is an experiment as all life is an experiment. Every year, if not every day,we have to wager our salvation on some prophesy based on imperfect.”
– Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
Since I have no interest in elections, it is almost an exercise in pain and inutility when I write something about the presidential candidates of 2016. I think we have reached a point in our nation’s history where all of us must take a stand – elections or no elections. For the rational in this country, the choice is not difficult to make. For the irrational, who believe that they are Napoleon Bonaparte or Jose Rizal, the objectors to elections, at this point in time, are the ones who are irrational.
An intelligent analysis of our current condition suggests that the irrational who pursue elections with all the cells of their body at their command are the ones really irrational. Why? It is like a situation where one has to choose between good or evil. Without dispute, he who chooses evil is irrational and the current electoral practice is evil because only the rich, the powerful and those who wantonly violate indiscriminately our Constitution and our electoral laws can participate in the elections—national or local. The brilliant and the gifted but poor and penniless must be content to serving as slaves and running dogs of the rich and the powerful.
It is a calamity of tsunamic proportions.
Battle over the issue of being natural born
The issue against Senator Poe that she is not a natural-born Filipino should be clear to everybody by now but it is not. People who have axes to grind because they are supporting Poe’s opponents and she threatens the chances of their candidates in the coming elections are in a state of rage against anyone who believes that Poe is a natural born Filipino. A good number are just plain anti-American and they hate the idea that anyone who once upon a time sported American citizenship could become President of this country. Still others are against Poe because if she becomes President she is likely to take a strong position in the favor of the Philippines against China in the nagging issue of the West Philippine Sea.
All these people proclaim that they are objecting to Senator Poe because they love the Philippine Constitution and this country. This claim is a lot of nonsense! Where were they, when the Supreme Court decided that Senator Juan Ponce Enrile be set free on bail for humanitarian reasons? The Supreme Court rationale does not exist in the Constitution since there is only one reason to grant bail in capital offenses, and Enrile is charged with the capital offense of plunder – when the evidence of guilt is strong under section 13, Article III of the Philippine Constitution. Where were they when the Supreme Court failed to rule on the constitutionality of the Corona impeachment before Corona was impeached by the Senate? Why did they serve as public officials for discredited administrations that made the Constitution a mere crop of paper?
Enough of pretense and nonsense!
Why Poe is natural born
As I have said over and over again, I am not for elections at this point. I have consistently maintained that all the presidential candidates are disqualified to be President of this county except Congressman Roy Seneres. But if there is anything I hate all my life it is injustice. And the way they call Senator Poe names is what I cannot accept. To borrow how Fox News puts it in this situation: What most, not all, of Poe’s detractors’ are saying does not appear fair, balanced and honest.
Why? First, most of them are non-lawyers, so they are going beyond their field of competence. Second, not being lawyers, they cannot pretend to be authorities on constitutional law in this country or anywhere else. Third, they may have occupied positions in government, but these positions have nothing to do with constitutional interpretation or constitutional implementation. Fourth, they are partisans and their position on this issue is biased or partial and as such they are disqualified to render judgment, if it were in a court of law.
This in law practice is known as qualifying a witness. Based on this test, they are disqualified to be expert witnesses hence their opinions on the issue have no persuasive authority.
Let me qualify myself as a witness. I am not for Poe as I have no interest, for now, in presidential elections. I think I am one of the best that the University of the Philippines College of Law ever produced—my resume and my record as a public servant and as a lawyer prove it. I held positions in government—provincial governor, Member of Parliament and Commissioner of Immigration —that at one time or another was involved in constitutional interpretation and implementation. As a law practitioner for several decades in this jurisdiction, I have filed cases before the Supreme Court and the Ombudsman questioning the constitutionality of actions of government officials, including Presidents of the Philippines. I was the head of the Opposition representation in the Regular Parliament in the Committee on Revision of Laws and Constitutional Amendments. I was the lead complainant in the impeachment moves against President Marcos and President Cory Aquino. I taught Constitutional and Political Law at Xavier University for quite sometime.
These qualifications, I humbly suggest, are enough to qualify as me as expert on this subject. Anyone who questions my qualifications better prepare to present valid and credible counter-arguments.
The arguments in favor of Poe
They have nothing to do with sympathy for Poe or foundlings. They have something to do with what is the proper interpretation of the controversial provisions of the Constitution.
In this case, the controversial provisions of the Constitution are section 2 of Article VII which states that “No personal shall be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines…and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such elections” which refer to section 2, Article IV of the same Constitution which states that “Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship…”
Corollary to these provisions is section 1 (2), Article IV of the Constitution which states that, among others, “that the following are citizens of the Philippines: …(2) Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines.”
There is no provision in our Constitution or any statute in this jurisdiction that defines the citizenship of a foundling in the Philippines. In its absence, the Supreme Court must resolve the issue of the status of foundlings in this country. Why? Because law abhors a vacuum! This is a fundamental postulate of law in our jurisdiction. It is the duty of the Supreme Court to a finally define what is the citizenship of a foundling in the Philippines, especially because some persons dispute the candidacy of a presidential candidate who is an admitted foundling.
This is our considered opinion whether a foundling is a natural-born Filipino citizen. He or she is a natural-born Filipino citizen. Why? We resort for answers to the question in Philippine law or rules of law. Section 3, Rule 131 of the Rules of Court on burden of proof and disputable presumption states that “The following presumptions are satisfactory if uncontradicted, but may be contradicted and overcome by other evidence: . . .(y)That things have happened according to the ordinary course of nature and the ordinary habits of life.” Question: What is the ordinary course of nature and the ordinary habits of life of foundling in the Philippines? The answer cannot be otherwise – that a foundling is a son or daughter of a Filipino father and mother. That is plain and simple common sense that a foundling in the Philippines is a natural-born Filipino citizen. It is absurd to imagine that a foreigner father or mother will go to Iloilo City just to make his or her daughter a foundling by leaving her in a churchyard in Iloilo City. That is not in the natural course of things or the ordinary habits of life. Even more absurd, is to presume that a foundling is a stateless person. That claim is not only a serious injustice; it is an irrational approach to a very humane question.
Under Section 1 of Rule 131 of the Rules of Court, “Burden of proof is the duty of a party to present evidence on the facts in issue to establish his claim…” This is sanctified by the Latin maxim, “alegata et probata.” He who alleges must prove what he alleges.” It is not the duty of Poe to prove that she is natural-born. There is a disputable presumption that she. The ones who claim that Poe is not natural-born must prove their claim. That is the rule in this jurisdiction. From what is told in media, the complainants have not presented any evidence to overthrow that disputable presumption.
Poe is natural-born Filipino
A lot of issues are raised about Poe having become an American citizen thus she should not be treated as a natural-born citizen. This conclusion is absolutely wrong. Section 3 of Republic Act No. 9225 states – “Retention of Philippine Citizenship – Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, natural-born citizens of the Philippines who have lost their Philippine citizenship by reason of their naturalization as citizen of a foreign country are hereby deemed to have re-acquired Philippine citizenship upon taking the following oath of allegiance to the Republic:
* * *
“Natural-born citizens of the Philippines who, after the effectivity of this Act, become citizens of a foreign country shall retain their Philippine citizenship by taking the aforesaid oath.”
There are three key words in the afore-quoted provision—natural-born citizen, re-acquire and retain. What is re-acquired?—The natural-born citizenship! What is retained? —The natural-born citizenship! It is that simple. Why don’t these people who hate Poe go to Congress to amend the law? That is the name of the game! Whatever they say, in my legal dictionary, Senator Poe is a natural-born Filipino citizen.
Question of residence and use of American passport
Some question her period of residence in the Philippines. That period is uninterrupted from birth even if one lives in a foreign country. When she retained or re-acquired her natural-born status, she has resided here all her life. But even assuming that her having lived in the States, there was interruption on her physical residence, she has categorically stated that her declaration was an honest mistake in computation. Worse than Poe’s mistake is Dino’s mistake that he filed his certificate of candidacy as mayor of Pasay City.
Comelec says this is considered an honest mistake, thus Rodrigo Duterte could substitute him as candidate for President. Duterte substituted a candidate for mayor of Pasay City, not candidate for President. You have to give it to Comelec for its exercise of scandalous inconsistency.
What is good for the goose is good for the gander. The ruling of the Comelec on the Duterte disqualification cases is in violation of the section 1, Article III on the due process and equal protection clause of the Constitution. The Comelec is as notorious as ever in the Duterte ruling.
On the question of the use of Poe of an American passport: This is piccata minuta as an old Justice used to tell me. The use of a passport is not an indication of loyalty to country it is a matter of convenience. Any fool knows that. To make a mountain out of a mole hill is just too much.
These issues against Poe should be laid to rest. Whether you agree with me or not, let me express my views based on what Voltaire once said: “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Let’s just argue rationally, let the fools resort to name-calling that will result to violence. (Comments are welcome by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 09062661133.