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Brion’s dissent on Poe’s qualifications

02:02 AM December 25, 2015

“Brion’s view: Poe an illegal alien, must be deported” (Letters, 12/7/15) struck me at first glance as unfair to Supreme Court Justice Arturo Brion, a bar topnotcher. I thought that as a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) who saw with three others that Sen. Grace Poe is qualified to sit as a senator for not being a “natural-born” citizen, Brion was just quoted out of context.

But after Googling his kilometric dissent, I was shocked myself that Brion actually wrote the “brutal” and outlandish things that the letter said he did! And then came retired Court of Appeals justice Mario Guariña III’s short commentary, “Foundlings’ right to be deemed natural-born” (Opinion, 12/10/15), ripping to shreds the “nonsense” Brion pontificated about the unconstitutionality of foundlings being deemed “natural-born” citizens of this country.

And worse: Consider Brion’s further meanderings on Republic Act No. 9225 (“The Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003”) as just a “specie (sic) of naturalization” which, according to him, could have granted Poe only a “naturalized” citizenship (if at all) because as a foundling she was on the same level as a foreigner. If Poe was to be treated as a foreigner, how could Brion even talk about any benefit of citizenship to her arising from that law which explicitly applies only to “natural-born” citizens?

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And even if Poe were presumed to have enjoyed the full benefit of being a “natural-born” citizen at birth, Brion still thinks RA 9225 could only make her a “naturalized” citizen at best. He argues that in Bengzon vs HRET, the Supreme Court misunderstood that law when it ruled that a natural-born Filipino who lost his Philippine citizenship after being naturalized as a citizen of another country reacquires his natural-born Filipino status upon complying with the procedure set forth therein.

So let’s read the law: “Section 3. Any provision of the law to the contrary notwithstanding, natural-born citizens of the Philippines who lost their Philippine citizenship (meaning “natural-born”) by reason of their naturalization as citizens of a foreign country are hereby deemed to have reacquired Philippine citizenship (meaning ‘natural-born’) upon taking the oath of allegiance to the Republic.”

The Bengzon ruling obviously took the ordinary acceptation of the word “reacquire,” which means getting back exactly the same thing that one once had and lost! Was there any other way? One doesn’t have to be a lawyer to understand the simple English used in that law! No amount of legal gobbledygook can change its plain import.

But Brion insists that natural-born Filipinos who became citizens of another country should not be deemed to reacquire their “natural-born” status under that law. They should be treated only as “naturalized” citizens, if at all. He is urging his colleagues in the Supreme Court to overturn the Bengzon doctrine when the SET decision in favor of Poe’s natural-born Filipino status is elevated to it for review.

So then, by that posturing, was Brion finally admitting that Poe could be deemed a natural-born citizen at birth but, because of her naturalization as a citizen of another country, she “reacquired” only a “naturalized” status (and still disqualified from running for president)? Otherwise, why would he target that Bengzon doctrine for an overhaul if his main proposition was to consider Poe an alien at birth? In fine, the radical view of this unelected magistrate would nullify the liberal intentions of elected congressmen and senators who passed that piece of legislation. I am flummoxed why he is going overboard on this one.

—ROGELIO S. CANDELARIO, rodscan888@gmail.com

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TAGS: Arturo Brion, Elections 2016, Grace Poe, Supreme Court
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