If Poe’s unqualified, why did UNA ask her to run?
The very dark side of Vice President Jejomar Binay and his attack dogs swiftly became evident when Sen. Grace Poe rejected the idea of being his running mate in the 2016 election and signed the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee report urging the Ombudsman to file plunder charges against him. They quickly started attacking her, questioning her citizenship and residency status, claiming she is unqualified to run for public office. They even claimed that she can be unseated as senator, a position she won with the highest number of votes. Which clearly shows that they are afraid of her running against Binay—an admission that she would beat Binay soundly if she decides to run.
And if she is unqualified to seek higher office, why did they float the idea of her being Binay’s running mate? When she turned it down, they suddenly found out that she is unqualified.
The fact that they are attacking her when she has not yet decided to run shows what kind of characters inhabit the Binay camp.
Binay’s No. 1 attack dog, Rep. Toby Tiangco, said Poe does not meet the 10-year residency requirement for a presidential or vice presidential candidate. No. 2 attack dog JV Bautista quickly followed with a claim that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino, as required of candidates for higher office. When she was an infant, Poe was abandoned by her mother in a church in Jaro, Iloilo. She was adopted by movie stars Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces.
“A foundling by definition is stateless,” Bautista declared.
To which Poe gave a very moving answer in Filipino: “Bakit, ngayon ba’t ako ay pulot, wala na akong karapatang mangarap (Why, just because I am an adopted child, don’t I have the right to dream)?”
She also said that she preferred to be questioned on her citizenship than be accused of corruption—a dig at Binay who is up to his neck in charges of corruption. “If that is the kind of people we will elect to office, I think this country will run backward,” she added.
It turns out that Tiangco and Bautista are not very good lawyers. Sixto Brillantes, an election lawyer and former chair of the Commission on Elections, said: “As far as residency is concerned, I believe Grace Poe is qualified, based on the issue of domicile. The constitutional requirement referred not to the actual period of residence but to legal residence or domicile.
“The Philippines as her domicile is well-established since she was born here. The Philippines is her domicile of origin, she is a resident of the country from the day she was born up to now.
“The residency referred to in the certificate of candidacy is actually on the domicile, and not the actual physical presence. Domicile means you may not be physically present but there remains your intent to return.”
Poe lived in the United States for 13 years while she was studying; it was where she got married. She returned to the Philippines in December 2004 when her father, FPJ, died.
Tiangco said Poe wrote in her certificate of candidacy (COC) for the 2013 senatorial polls that she had been living in the Philippines for six years and six months, which means that in May 2016 she would have been a resident of the Philippines for only nine years and six months, short by six months of the 10-year residence requirement for candidates for higher office.
Aside from the issue of domicile explained by Brillantes, Poe said she wrote in her 2012 COC “six years and six months” because it was only in April 2006 that her US home was sold. But she had been living here since February 2005 and she had proof of that: Her children began to go to school in the Philippines in June of that year. “As of today,” she said, “I [already] exceed the residency requirement.”
As for her citizenship, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said Poe is considered a Filipino and a natural-born citizen under the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Furthermore, House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said being a foundling is not an issue against Poe. “It’s easy to say, how do we know [her citizenship]? But one rule of thumb is that you cannot be a person who does not have a citizenship. You cannot be stateless.”
He said Poe was found within hours of being born, still with her mother’s blood. “How can you say she was a citizen of another country? How can a foundling be stateless? What specific country [did she come from]? Clearly, the Philippines. If she was not born here, how could she have arrived here?”
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said one question that could be raised was whether Poe could be considered a natural-born Filipino because there is no way to ascertain the citizenship of her parents. But the burden of proof should be on the accuser, not on Poe, he said.
Zamora added: “It’s not for Senator Poe to establish that, but for the one impugning her citizenship.”
The happy result of all the unsavory attacks on Poe is that people love her more now and are angry at Binay and his spokesmen.
“I don’t have to hide behind a spokesperson,” Poe said, clearly referring to Binay who refuses to answer questions and makes his spokesmen do the talking. Unlike Binay, she said, “I have nothing to hide.”
As for Tiangco, she said: “Perhaps he understands, because he represents Navotas but lives somewhere else.”
And in an ironic twist, the attacks on Poe have boomeranged on the Binay camp. Already, Tiangco’s angry constituents in Navotas have said that if he continues to be Binay’s attack dog against Poe—whom they love more and more because of her being a foundling—they are going to dump him in the next elections.
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