• The ‘right’ of foundlings or the ‘right’ of one moneyed foundling?


    I had to leave the highly enriching 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu on Tuesday to be at the less enriching resumption of the Oral Arguments before the Supreme Court on the disqualification of Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares as presidential candidate, and did not have to sit all of three hours to realize I should have stayed in Cebu.

    The Commission on Elections has disqualified Mrs. Llamanzares and cancelled her Certificate of Candidacy as a presidential candidate, on the basis of four petitions filed by Estrella Elamparo, Antonio Contreras, Amado Valdez, and myself. But the Court temporarily restrained the implementation of the Comelec rulings, and decided to hear her petition for certiorari, alleging grave abuse of discretion, amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction, on the part of the Comelec.

    In these proceedings, the Comelec and the four petitioners are the respondents. Last Tuesday, the court concluded its interpellations of the petitioner’s counsel Alexander Poblador, and adjourned till next Tuesday to listen to the respondents.

    Sereno’s discourse
    In Tuesday’s hearing, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno had the benefit of proposing the final questions. But instead of simply asking questions, she ended giving a lecture, to the obvious delight of the petitioner’s counsel, and to the obvious unease of everybody else. The lecture was not on what the Constitution says on the citizenship and residency requirements for the presidency, but what she believes the Constitution should say on the status of foundlings.

    The Constitution does not mention foundlings at all in its enumeration of citizens, so it is an ambitious pole vault into the world of theory to suggest that a foundling of no known parents is not only a citizen but above all a natural-born citizen. It is understandable for the foundling’s counsel to clutch at this straw, but quite surprising to hear it from one of the court’s worthies.

    For a while, I was completely distracted and thought I was listening to a lower court proceeding in an adoption case.

    The issue before the High Court is simple enough. It is accessible to the merest layman. Four petitioners have questioned before the Comelec Mrs. Llamanzares’ eligibility to run for president on the ground of her not being a natural-born citizen and her not having the 10-year residency (immediately preceding the day of the election) required by the Constitution. This is pursuant to Section 2, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, which 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 at the time of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election.”

    Bill of disqualifications
    Because it is written in the negative, the provision may in fact be read as a statement of disqualifications rather than of qualifications. It enumerates those who are excluded from those who may be elected President. This means that everybody else is eligible to run for President, except those who are not natural-born citizens, not registered voters, unable to read and write, less than forty years of age on election day, and have not resided in the Philippines for at least ten years prior to the election.

    The First and Second Divisions of the Comelec both granted the petitions, and the Comelec en banc affirmed the rulings of the two Divisions. Mrs. Llamanzares asked the High Court to temporarily restrain the implementation of the Comelec rulings–which was granted–and filed a petition for certiorari, alleging grave abuse of discretion, amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction.

    Although the Comelec is the sole constitutional body in charge of electoral questions, its decisions are subject to judicial review, in case there is an allegation of grave abuse of discretion. She made such an allegation. This must be proved by evidence. Has she offered anything to prove her allegation? This is what we are waiting for in the hearings.

    “Right” to run
    Counsel Poblador insists that despite the clear provisions of the 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions, which exclude foundlings from the enumeration of citizens, she is supposed to be a natural-born citizen, allegedly on the basis of international law, which either does not exist or has no binding effect on the Philippines. Poblador’s plea is on behalf of all foundlings, who must not be deprived of their “right” to run for president, as though running for president were a “right” even among non-foundlings.

    Even if the Court were allowed to amend the Constitution to permit individuals with no known parentage to run for president, not every foundling could still run for president. The foundling has to be backed by big money and powerful individuals, like Mrs. Llamanzares. This has become very clear in the course of the interpellations. Indeed, even if one meets all the requirements under Section 2, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, and nobody objects to his running for President, if he does not have the money to burn or the political organization to support his bid, he is likely to be barred summarily as a “nuisance candidate.”

    This is what happened to most of the 135 individuals who filed their respective COCs for President.

    To the best of our knowledge, none of them were declared “nuisance candidates” because they are not natural-born Filipinos; or because they are not registered voters; or because they cannot read nor write; or because they are not quite forty years of age; or because they have not lived in the country for at least ten years. They were declared “nuisance candidates” because, like Rizalito David, the broadcaster and former senatorial candidate who filed the quo warranto suit against Mrs. Llamanzares before the Senate Electoral Tribunal, they did not have the money or political organization to sustain a presidential campaign.

    That is not a constitutional requirement, but it has been allowed to effectively amend and override the Constitution. Strangely enough, Mrs. Llamanzares insists through Poblador that the Comelec has no authority to act upon our petition questioning her constitutional eligibility; she argues that this should be left to the presidential Electoral Tribunal, where we should file our petition for her disqualification only after the election, should she win the election. But she grants the Comelec the right to summarily dismiss as “nuisance candidates” those who meet all the constitutional requirements, but fail to show proof that they have the money or political organization.

    Absurd situation
    The law abhors absurdity, and this is as absurd as anything. But Mrs. Llamanzares seems prepared to die for it. This is because, as counsel Poblador says, the intention of the “nuisance candidates” is simply to “confuse the voters” while his client’s intention is noble and pure– “to continue what her late adoptive father had begun,” which nobody though is able to identify, since his first and last crack at public office was his failed 2004 presidential run, which also cost me my senatorial bid.

    Between Rizalito David and Mrs. Llamanzares, the penurious and quixotic broadcaster is definitely more constitutionally compliant, just as Augusto Syjuco Jr., the former TESDA head, Camilo Sabio, the former PCGG chief, and others like them, are definitely more constitutionally compliant than the self-confessed foundling. Justice Marvic Leonen raised this issue in his interpellation on Tuesday, and Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro raised it the previous Tuesday.

    But no one has found it necessary to suggest that instead of quoting non-existent or inapplicable international law, Poblador should probably be more forthright, and argue that this particular foundling should be declared natural-born, and be allowed to run, regardless of the undisputed facts of the case and what the Constitution commands, because she has what the constitutionally eligible “nuisance candidates” do not have— money and political organization. It is about time.

    This is a case of paramount importance to the sovereignty of this nation. As we prepare for what could be the final hearing next Tuesday, we have the duty to see without any blinders that what Mrs. Llamanzares is fighting for in this case is not the “right” of foundlings to run for President, but rather the “right” of one particularly moneyed foundling to rise above the constitutional status of non-foundlings who have neither her money nor political organization. Her real enemy is the Constitution.



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    1. The performances of Chief Justice M. L. Sereno and Associate Justice M. Leonen at the hearing strongly suggest that rather than following the Constitution, they will decide the case before them based on their personal experiences, beliefs regarding the needs of foundlings, and even political considerations. It is a good thing that the other Justices came across as “Constitutionalists”, and that they are in the majority.

      It is obvious that CJ Sereno and Justice Leonen have already taken the side of the Llamanzares’ camp. Apart from her lecture on “Adoption Law” which, in my view, does not apply to Mrs. Llamanzares as she had been adopted long before the effective date of the law (1998 or 2002), CJ Sereno also defined what “a good judge” is. To her, this is someone who will look at all the evidence and then decide or make a ruling based on the totality of the evidence. Since, according to Mrs. Llamanzares and her legal team, the Comelec Commissioners did not take into account or look at all the evidence they had submitted, it follows, therefore, that in the eyes of CJ Sereno – who is biased in favor of the Llamanzares team -, the Commissioners had not been “good judges”.

      Through her interpellations, CJ Sereno has paved the way to decide later on that the Commissioners had committed “a grave abuse of discretion”. This is a neat lawyer’s trick. I expect the two Comelec respondents to defend Comelec’s own earlier decisions vigorously.

      As for Justice Leonen who grew up poor in a fatherless household and identifies with the now-moneyed foundling Mrs. Llamanzares, he seems to be unaware that there’s a humongous difference between his childhood situation and that of Mrs. Llamanzares who had been adopted by a wealthy couple. Justice Leonen’s father-deprived childhood continues to haunt him, and it will trump or override his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution. Pity!


    2. No pity for this American foundling!. She is the most privileged foundling I have ever known. She has no right to impose her will on the sovereign Filipino people. Shame on her!

    3. So if I also file a petition with the SC on April 2016 barring the COMELEC from proclaiming such “nuisance candidates” on the basis of lack of resources to mount a nationwide campaign, then, the SC must also entertain my petition? Since there is no prohibition on the Constitution on the eligibility of Presidential candidates on the basis of lack of resources to mount a nationwide campaign, the law dictates that the COMELEC should allow those people that they declared as “nuisance” candidates to run as president. The COMELEC can never use the alibi that it is cumbersome to print ballots with 100 or 500 names because the Constitution is very clear on who can run for President. Since they want an electronic election, couldn’t they have made a program where choices are made on-screen so it can even allow 2,000 candidates? If such is what the Constitution declares, blame it on quo rhee and her factotums glamorized as “constitutional delegates”.

    4. pakialamero na pinoy on

      I have the feeling that Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares will be DQ’d by the majority vote of the SC Justices. As most people have already seen, two of the justices (Leonen and Sereno) already expressed their twisted interpretation of the Constitution, naawa sila sa mga foundling kunu. In my opinion, there is only one explanation if the two justices will vote for Sen Poe. I will say again, that in the Philippines, MONEY is a very powerful element that can turn impossible into favorable, that to include a twisted interpretation of the Philippine Constitution by the Supreme Court Justices.

    5. marcos rs corpuz on

      the supreme court case is a special civil action for certiorari wherein the petitioner is challenging the comelec decision as having been issued in grave abuse of discretion; that is the issue: is the comelec decision issued in grave abuse of discretion? petitioner has the burden of proof of establishing commission of grave abuse; all other issues are irrelevant…

    6. if GRACE POE LLAMANZARES wants to serve the country, she should first UPHOLD the constitution. She should be the first to show obedience to it and not resort to emotional tactics of FOUNDLING issue.. And the JUSTICES are expected to do their JOB as the final JUDGE according to the constitution and not according to emotion as the very emotional justice Leonen has done.. As layman, i understand that OUR PHILIPPINE CONSTITUTION should be followed and NOT the foreign laws..

    7. Whatever the Constitution speaks ,everybody must yield obedient. IF GRACE POE is disqualified in the eyes of the law then let it be.NO MATTER HOW NOBLEST HER INTENTION IS, IF IT VIOLATES THE RULE OF LAW, THAT CANNOT BE AND IT WILL NEVER BE.

    8. let us not discriminate the abandoned ones…let Grace Poe run….let the p
      Filipino people decide on this…

      • Kaya siguro nakapasa sa SC yung Defense agreement between US and Phil. inihahanda narin para makalusot si Grace sa pagtakbo. At kung sakaling manalo eh di may American girl na tayong presidente. Wala na tayong problema sa mga Intsik. wawa naman ang mga pinoy. Mas gusto kona yung sunog na pinoy kaysa mestisa na laking America.

    9. As this sickening case drags on its parallelism with the crisis (schism ?) the Catholic Church is engulfed in increases. The Catholic Church is being wracked with a crisis between the “moderns” (who want to amend the real meaning of the Church as being Christ’s and not the product of human effort) vs the so-called “traditionals” who stick to preserving true essence of the Church as instituted by Jesus Christ. In Poe’s case, she is trying to amend our Constitution single-handedly to suit her desires. History has already been won by the Catholic Church and the gates of hell will never prevail against it. Similarly, Poe can never prevail upon our Constitution even if the CJ, an associate justice Aquino conscript plus the other 13 justices of the Supreme Court favor her whims for it is ONLY the sovereign people (by majority vote through a charter change plebiscite) who can amend the Constitution. She should instead be charged with 1) election sabotage for actually sabotaging the 2016 election and 2) falsification of public documents. As in the case of the Catholic Church a brazenly ambitious non-natural-born Filipino citizen can never, never prevail against the Philippine Constitution.

    10. Sereno should run for senator or congressman so that she can best do some amendments on citizenship of foundlings!…

      • A question for rabid critics of Aquino: CJ Sereno is an Aquino appointee (some use the term conscript, for derogatory purposes) . The malicious-minded, which means most of us, have always ascribed to appointees the automatic defense, in whatever matter, of their sponsor. Especially so in the SC. If the senior writers are MT are to be believed, the present administration is the most corrupt ever. Pinoy’s employment of KKK to fill important government posts is one of his heaviest sins.

        So what the hell is Sereno doing?

        Isn’t she supposed to lead the way to the disqualification of Llamanzares and thus pave the road for Aquino’s chosen for the presidency? Why is she doing the opposite and is, in fact, championing the foundling’s cause?

        The question is not meant to be entirely rhetorical. For those who think they have a logical reply, state so. But please, no conspiracy theories – everyone has heard the theory that Llamanzares is the REAL administration candidate, or at least one of two. Social media did not respond virally to this suggestion, so lets just leave it at that.

        The rhetorical aspect of this question is meant to stir settled mud in the minds of people – when will we ever trust that presidents do not always have ulterior motives in matters of governance?

    11. Paano kung ang batang natagpuan ay isang batang “intsik” na halatang halatang intsik , ito ba ay ituturing ding isang “natural-born Citizens ” of the Philippines, kung ito ay natagpuan sa simbahan nang isang bayan sa Pinas?

      • O kay isang batang purong puti ang mga magulang. Sa kulay, sa buhok, sa mga mata ay puti, ituturing din ba itong natural-born Filipino citizens.

    12. renato s. irlanda on

      you hit the nail squarely on the head
      wish that the hammer you used will also hit Sereno, Leonen, Poblador, and most specially Poe on the head and knock some sense into their utterly useless pleadings.what a waste of precious time!!!

    13. Leodegardo Pruna on

      Disgraced GRACE continues to disgrace herself with her insistence, through representative lawyers and vested interests, to run despite her untenable position of not being a natural born citizen and a resident of the Philippines required to qualify as candidate. If we are going to have one president like her, it would be placing the nation in peril, and it would be positioning our country from very bad to worse. Very bad under the term of P-Noy and in all probability much worse should she be allowed to run and although statistically improbable with her continued misrepresentation the hocus-PCOS machine might do it for her as P-Noy is still believed to be behind her. God please bless the Philippines and protect it from evil schemes.

    14. Jose A. Oliveros on

      Senior Associate Justice Carpio, Justice Brion, Chief Justice Sereno and Justice Leonen are all alumni of he UP College of Law. But judging from their questions to the lawyer of Grace Poe-Llamanzares, they were taught and learned different concepts and doctrines in constitutional law and statutory construction. While Carpio and Brion are for upholding the Philippine Constitution over supposed generally-accepted principles of international law that foundlings are natural-born citizens of the countries where they are found- a principle which, in the first place is non-existent – Sereno wants to give retroactive effect to the Domestic Adoption Law and the Inter-Country Adoption Law; while Leonen would like the Poe-Llamanzares case to be decided based on his own experience of growing up without a father.

    15. Malaki ang karapatan ng mga foundlings dito bilang tayo may mga pangarap din sila gaya ni Sen Grace Poe pangarap niya ang makatulong at mapabago ang bansa natin na dumadami ang mahihirap, Sana lang hayaan na siya makatakbo para mainspired sa kanya ang mga kagaya niyang foundlings.

    16. It’s the right of all foundlings, Mr. Tatad. Not just Grace Poe. Think about the consequences that will happen if she is declared as not natural-born? This will be a bad precedent for foundlings in the future. They will not be able to run for public office.

      Again, THIS IS JUST NOT ABOUT GRACE POE. It’s about human rights!

      • I dont care if she is foundling or not. She is an ex american who can a future american if she cannot have her way

    17. A foundling is essentially an illegitimate child because not one parent acknowledged him/her as their child but still they are entitled to the protection by the Constitution. To discriminate foundlings by disallowing them to run for POTP violates the due process and equal protection clause of the Constitution because it has no rational basis.
      Illegitimacy-based discrimination put the burden on the proponents (here the Respondents in S.C. and formerly Petitioners in Comelec) or the Government (here Comelec) to prove that disallowing illegitimate children from running for POTP is substantially related to a government substantial interest and they failed in this respect. A sweeping or general characterization that it violates the Constitution is not enough because the Constitution has no express provision that foundlings are NBC or NOT NBC.

    18. My wife is a foundling fathered alleggedly by a certain atty enteng from the a city down south , the sad part is we are poor and unfamous ??

    19. Sereni and Leonen should both be reminded that their job is that of Justice which is to INTERPRET and APPLY the law. They are not in the SC to propose, make or try to amend a law. … Simply put their job is to make sure that the Constitution is followed and not to make or amend the Constitution. If they do not understand their primaru duty, they better resign now before people file for impeachment. They swore to uphold and protect the Contitution, if not, that in itself is a geound for impeachment.

    20. adonis b. rocha on

      Hi Kit,

      On what grounds can those SC justices be impeached for being magicians, in interpreting the highest law of the land the constitution……to suit the whims and fancies of this over-ambitious novato named Grace P. Llamanzares, backed by well moneyed vested interest donors? It is a fact that only Congress can make amendments or through a conventions, and not any “hoodlums in robes”.

      Those judges are real pests in society to create disorder and not order. Has the blind lady “got tired in holding the balance that it tilted the other way”?

    21. Lets not loose Hope from the other Chief Justices. This will separate the Justices that defends the Constitution with all their Strength and Wisdom from those who interprets the law influenced by personal emotion and weak sense of Justice. This is actually a defining moment and for some , could be obvious reasons other than the Constitution .

    22. Carlos de Castro on

      The issue here is not a fondling found in the church, but a foundling sitting in a senate chair and probably wants to sip a Budweiser beer with her American husband laughing at the people who voted for her and perhaps the two justices who do not know the law that they are supposed to interpret. A foundling who wants to become President of the land that full of showbiz people like SEreno and the assc, And salitang nakakaawa ay para doon sa nakakaawang talaga. Hindi kay. Grace the Poe Lately sabi niya OFW siya sa state. Wala po kami ditto niya. Mayroon po kaming tago ng tago. US citizen ho siya. Talagang kahit magbulaan to the teeth gagawain niya kasi alam niya kayaniyang LOkohin ang CHIEF JUSTICE AND THE ASSC.FILIPINOS LET HER RUN BUT WE SEE TO IT THAT SHE LOST BADLY.

    23. naomi robinson on

      Those of us who follow this teleserye of Grace Poe, always wonder who scripted the plot that strums our heartstings, keep us all in suspense for the next sequel of the drama. The script is written to whet our appetites and tear glands on the “lucky breaks” of this abandoned child and at the same time keep alive the popularity level of the movie stars (who adopted her), we are about to forget. There is no doubt, Grace Poe outdid her adoptive parents’ capabilities in acting. The only difference is, she proves to be more phony today than yesderday, every single day.