THE ORAL ARGUMENTS at the Supreme Court on the quo warranto (“by what warrant?”) suit against Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares before the Senate Electoral Tribunal proved to be an absolute disaster for the respondent, even though she was not present at the proceedings, and the final ruling on the case has yet to be formally pronounced and promulgated at a later date. The suit questions the right of Mrs. Llamanzares to sit in the Senate, in light of the fact that she is not a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, contrary to her false claim.
Upon interpellation of Atty. Manuelito Luna, counsel for petitioner Lito David, on Monday, SET chairman Senior SC Associate Justice Antonio Carpio categorically declared Mrs. Llamanzares is not a natural-born Filipino, which is an absolute requirement not only for becoming a senator, but also for running for the presidency, which she has announced to seek. A natural-born citizen is one who is a citizen from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect his/her citizenship. One who is not a citizen from birth can never be a natural-born citizen at any stage in his/her life. This is the unchangeable situation of Mrs. Llamanzares.
Luna premised his presentation on the respondent’s original status as a foundling, who was found within the premises of the parish church of Jaro, Iloilo City on Sept. 3, 1968. This is stated in her heavily intercalated certificate of live birth dated Nov. 27, 1968, which identifies her as Mary Grace Natividad Contreras Militar, found by one Edgardo Militar who later put her in the care of Mr. and Mrs. Emiliano Militar. In 1974, she was adopted by the spouses Ronald Allan Poe and Jesusa Sonora Poe, known to moviegoers as the actor Fernando Poe Jr. and his actress wife Susan Roces.
During the preliminary conference at the SC on Sept. 11, counsels for the respondent and the petitioner agreed that Mrs. Llamanzares was a foundling and had no known parentage. On Monday, the defense counsel wanted the petitioner to prove that Mrs. Llamanzares was a foundling; Justice Teresita de Castro pointed out this was no longer in issue, the parties had already agreed on her original stateless status, and the petitioner no longer had to prove it. The burden of the evidence to prove that she is natural-born has shifted to the respondent.
Under the 1935 Constitution, which was in force when Mrs. Llamanzares was born, only five groups are considered citizens, Luna told the SET. These are: 1) Those who are citizens of the Philippine islands at the time of its adoption; 2) Those born on the Philippine Islands of foreign parents who, before adoption of the 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; and 5) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law. Grace Poe Llamanzares did not/does not belong to any of the five categories. Thus, she cannot claim to have been born a Filipino.
How she finally became a Filipino in order to acquire a Philippine passport to join her American husband in the United States, raise three American children and become an American citizen herself, remains an unanswered question; a yawning gap in the official documentation of her political life before the SET. Her adoption by the Poe couple in 1974 did not invest her with citizenship, the law did not provide for it. Moreover, Luna argued that the adoption proceeding purportedly presided by Judge Alfredo Gorgonio in the Municipal Court of San Juan, Rizal on May 13, 1974 was patently null and void because the court had no jurisdiction over adoption cases. Neither the defense counsel nor any of the three SC justices and six senator-judges disagreed with this.
Her presumed Philippine citizenship was totally extinguished when she became an American citizen and renounced and abjured entirely and absolutely any loyalty and allegiance to any foreign power, state or prince. This happened in 2001, two years before the passage of RA 9225, otherwise known as the Dual Citizenship Law, which allows natural-born Filipinos who became citizens of another country after 2003 to reacquire their Philippine citizenship by taking the prescribed oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines.
On July 7, 2006, she took an oath of allegiance to the Republic, after declaring falsely under oath in her petition for “reacquisition” of citizenship that she was a natural-born Filipino, born to the spouses Ronald Allan Poe and Jesusa Sonora Poe on Sept. 3, 1968 in Jaro, Iloilo. The couple was married three months after the foundling was found, and until FPJ died in December 2004, the couple’s marriage remained childless. Mrs. Llamanzares’s lie was reincarnated in her certificate of candidacy when she ran for the Senate.
The reacquisition is clearly void on legal grounds. Mrs. Llamanzares was never a former natural-born citizen who had become a foreign national after 2003; therefore, she fell outside the coverage of the Dual Citizenship Law. And the “approval” of her defective petition was void on further grounds—- it was never signed by Immigration Commissioner Alipio Fernandez, Jr. himself. Rather, it was signed by an unknown hand “for” Commissioner Fernandez. It’s one lie on top of another.
Further, she continued to use her US passport in her travels abroad from 2006 to 2011, after she had taken her oath of allegiance to the Philippine government, and her oath of renunciation of her US citizenship in 2010. In a recent case, the High Court construed this act to mean a “recantation” of the oath of allegiance of a natural-born who had applied to reacquire his citizenship. Mrs. Llamanzares lost her US citizenship on February 3, 2012, as reported in the Federal Register, the Daily Journal of the US government, for the second quarter of 2012 ending June 30. But in 2010, she assumed the chairmanship of the Movie Television Review and Classification Board, a post reserved for Filipinos only.
At the SET proceedings, Justice Carpio said Mrs. Llamanzares is, at best, a naturalized Filipino. I find this a most benevolent view. I believe the more accurate view is that she is at the moment stateless, but that she could easily become a naturalized Filipino, if she so desires. Her last known nationality is as an American citizen, which she has lost completely. But as Manny Luna told the orals, she could either reapply for US citizenship, since her husband is American and her three children are also American; then they would be one big American family living in the US. Or she could apply for naturalization as a Filipino under Commonwealth Act 473, as amended. If she wants to pursue a political career later, she could, at the proper time, run for Mayor of Quezon City or Iloilo City, or any other position that does not require a natural-born citizen status. In that position, her constituents would probably not mind very much having an American family attached to their mayor.
Unable to overcome the constitutional issues, the defense tried to politicize the discussion by talking about Mrs. Llamanzares’ votes in the last election. Justice Art Brion quickly blunted this maneuver by saying that her votes (assuming they were real) had nothing to do with the purely constitutional issue; the voters, he pointed out, had no inkling as to whether or nor she was natural-born. At the same time, Mrs. Llamanzares’ financiers and promoters have now embarked on a highly intensified campaign to project her as “the most popular” presidential wannabe for 2016, using the fraudulent surveys which have been used to fool the Filipino electorate for so long.
Their apparent hope is to delay the SET proceedings so that despite her constitutional ineligibility, Mrs. Llamanzares could run for President and let the political circus overwhelm the resolution of the question about her constitutional eligibility. They froth with confidence that after she is hocus-PCOSed into the presidency despite her clear constitutional ineligibility, they would simply swamp the opposition with perverse cries of “vox populi, vox Dei!”
But they have to reckon with Justice Carpio and the two other justices at the SET. Carpio has promised to resolve Mrs. Llamanzares’s eligibility to remain in the Senate—-and to seek the presidency—-before the start of the filing of certificates of presidential candidacy next month. Despite the rather inane questions put by my friends Sen. Loren Legarda and Sen. Tito Sotto during the orals to the petitioner’s counsel, I cannot see the senator-judges voting to contradict the position voiced by Justice Carpio. I can only see the dismal end of Mrs. Llamanzares.
But she need not lose her face completely, even if she should lose her Senate seat and a chance to vie for the 2016 presidency. She could preempt Lito David, all her political enemies, critics and everybody else by giving up her Senate seat and calling off her announced presidential run before the SET rules on David’s quo warranto suit.