This question has to be asked in light of Mrs. Llamanzares’s completely crass effort to promote herself as a possible presidential candidate, despite the clear language of the Constitution that renders her ineligible to seek the presidency or the vice presidency or even to remain in the Senate, where she was “elected” in 2013 after making false claims about her citizenship and residency.
She is now facing a disqualification suit before the Senate Electoral Tribunal for making those false claims, and the case is set for oral arguments at the Supreme Court on September 21. She has submitted to the SET some documents in her defense, including two certificates of live birth, in an effort to show that she is a natural-born Filipino, who has resided in the country for six years and six months immediately preceding the election—-longer than the two years required of senatorial candidates.
Both certificates are spurious, and tend to support the position of the petitioner rather than that of the defense. Thus, during the preliminary conference at the Supreme Court last Friday (Sept. 11), petitioner Rizalito David, through counsel Manuelito Luna, adopted the same certificates as part of his evidence, to the visible chagrin and consternation of the defense.
Justice Antonio Carpio, who chairs the SET, suggested that petitioner drop the residency issue and concentrate on the citizenship issue instead. And David agreed. The conscript media saw this as Round One for Mrs. Llamanzares, but this is rather naive. She has not won any round at all; to the contrary, Carpio’s suggestion may have brought the play closer to “sudden death.”
In a sense, the residency issue is already subsumed in the citizenship issue. Unless the Court declares Mrs. Llamanzares a natural-born citizen, in spite of the Constitution and the circumstances of her birth, which show her to have been stateless at birth, there would be no need to raise the residency or any other issue to oust her from office. Once the Court declares she is not a natural-born citizen—-or even a legally naturalized Filipino—-it would not matter anymore how long she has been in the country.
The first certificate of live birth, dated Nov. 27, 1968, shows that Mary Grace was born a foundling, and found in the parish church of Jaro, Iloilo on Sept. 3, 1968 at 9:30 am by Edgardo Militar who later put her in the custody of Emiliano Militar of Sta Isabel Street, Jaro. But the typewritten document contains so many handwritten alterations, which render it void and worthless. It identifies the child as Mary Grace Natividad Contreras Militar, without indicating how she got her surname “Contreras Militar,” but this name is bracketed (as if for deletion) and on top of it is written “Sonora Poe.”
Its most fatal flaw is a handwritten note of seven short lines on its upper right hand saying the child was “adopted by the spouses Ronald Allan Poe and Jesusa Sonora Poe as per Court Order, Municipal Court, San Juan, Rizal, by Judge Alfredo Gorgonio dated May 13, 1974, under Special Proclamation No. 138.” The order itself is legally questionable because adoption cases normally belong to the jurisdiction of the regional trial court, rather than to the municipal court. But the more important issue is, how did a legal document dated Nov. 27, 1968 manage to take cognizance of an adoption decision, which purportedly took place six years later? This appears to be conclusive proof that the certificate was manufactured on or after May 13, 1974, and is therefore null and void ab initio. It has no legal value; it cannot be the source or proof of any claim that Mrs. Llamanzares was born a Filipino or became a natural-born Filipino after her birth. One is either a natural-born Filipino or not upon birth; nobody becomes a natural-born Filipino after birth.
The second certificate of live birth is no less invalid than the first. Dated May 4, 2006, or 38 years after Mrs. Llamanzares was born, it was executed by Mrs. Jesusa Sonora Poe, her adoptive mother, who identifies the child no longer as Mary Grace Natividad Militar but rather as Mary Grace Sonora Poe, allegedly born to herself (Jesusa) and to her husband Ronald Allan Poe in Jaro, Iloilo City on Sept. 3, 1968, several months before they were married on Dec. 25, 1968 in Valenzuela, Bulacan. No medical or legal evidence exists to show that Mrs. Poe ever conceived and delivered a child during her marriage to the famous actor Fernando Poe, Jr. who died on Dec. 13, 2004. All the known facts about Mrs. Llamanzares’ birth, including public statements made by Mrs. Poe and Mrs. Llamanzares herself, contradict this false claim.
And yet in her 2006 petition for “reacquisition” of her non-existent Philippine citizenship, and her certificate of candidacy for the Senate in 2013, Mrs. Llamanzares repeats her false claim that she is a natural-born citizen, born to the spouses Ronald and Jesusa Poe in Jaro, Iloilo on Sept. 3, 1968. And so far she has gotten away wth it! How many times must someone tell a brazen lie before he or she is stopped repeating it and profiting from it? Or does Mrs. Llamanzares believe in the Nazi propaganda dictum that a lie repeated consistently ultimately becomes a truth?
If she has not read the Constitution, Mrs. Llamanzares has enough lawyer friends, beginning with her apparent gray eminence Sen. Francis Escudero, to tell her what the Constitution says. It says no person may be elected President, Vice President, Senator or Congressman unless he is, among other things, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines—-meaning, “a citizen of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect his citizenship.”
The Constitution means exactly what it says, and there is only one way of understanding it—-the way the people, who are the real authors of the document, understand it. It is pure conceit for Mrs. Llamanzares’ swaggering financiers and legal supporters to boast that the Constitution could be interpreted any which way they would like to interpret it, and that with their power and money they could make the Court dance to their wicked tune.
This is an obscenity and there is no basis for it. On Aug. 18, 2015, the Supreme Court unseated a popularly elected town mayor in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte for having failed to comply with the requirements of his reacquisition of citizenship, after having been a citizen of the United States. This is the case of Rommel Arnado, a former natural-born citizen, who became an American because of naturalization, relinquished his US citizenship, and on July 10, 2008 took an oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, pursuant to RA 9225, or the Dual Citizenship Law of 2003. However he used his US passport to travel at least twice to the US after taking his oath of allegiance. The Court interpreted this use of the US passport as an act of recanting his renunciation of his US citizenship.
Except for the fact that Mrs. Llamanzares was never a natural-born Filipino who became a US citizen after 2003, and therefore not qualified to benefit from the Dual Citizenship Law, the Arnado case is virtually on all fours with that of Mrs. Llamanzares; she continued to use her US passport until 2009 after she took her oath of allegiance to the Philippine government in 2006. But even without going into this, her not being a former natural-born Filipino disqualifies her from being covered by RA 9225, and her false claim that she is natural-born renders her “reacquired citizenship” null and void.
The dire implications of this must have dawned on Mrs. Llamanzares and her defense counsel during the preliminary conference that they decided to appeal to popular passion rather than to the law. She has therefore decided to launch her candidacy, based on her alleged (but unverified) popularity. On Monday, the first full page ad on the Philippine Daily Inquirer, costing at least P400,000, launched the so-called “ALL4GP MOVEMENT” (All for Grace Poe Movement) with the image of Mrs. Llamanzares standing beside FPJ and the following text:
“Kami ay nagbuklod upang ipaglaban ang katuparan ng ating mga pangarap.
Salamat FPJ, sa iyong anak nanatiling buhay ang aming pag-asa para sa bagong umaga!
Ikaw at Ako, anuman ang Lahi, sama-sama para sa Ganap na Pagbabago!”
(We have banded together to fight for the fulfillment of our dreams. Thank you FPJ, in your offspring lives our hope for a new tomorrow. You and I, whatever our race, all together for real change!”)
The Llamanzares camp is expected to make some announcements today. But the central message is out—-you and I, whatever our race, and whatever the Constitution says, should stand together for Grace Poe. All the fortune tellers, fengshui dabblers and soothsayers have been mobilized to predict Mrs. Llamanzares’ unstoppable “victory,” just as about a year ago they started predicting the presidency of Alan Peter Cayetano. Assuming pigs will finally fly, and the whole Court is bought to pronounce Mrs. Llamanzares as a natural-born citizen, this could be the first time the country will have a president with no clear nationality, but with an American husband and American children—-an American family.
There was a time within memory when even the most shameless politicians would have hesitated and said, “nakahihiya!” (So shameful!) to attempt anything like this. But all that is gone. In this time of Grace Poe Llamanzares, honor is something you feed to the dogs.