The pitfall in a Poe presidential run | Inquirer Opinion

The pitfall in a Poe presidential run

02:13 AM August 27, 2015

Article VII of the Constitution requires, inter alia, that a candidate for president or vice-president must have resided in the Philippines for at least 10 years preceding the day of the election. The case of Marcos vs. Comelec (G.R. No. 119976, Sept. 18, 1995) is instructive. In that case, the Supreme Court restated certain principles or doctrines relevant to a candidate’s residence. Among these are:

(1) the mischief that the residence requirement seeks to prevent is the possibility of a “stranger or newcomer unacquainted with the conditions and needs of a community and not identified with the latter,” getting into an elective office to serve that community;

(2) the residence requirement does not necessarily mean physical presence. (The requirement refers to domicile or legal residence. Domicile is simply defined as that place where an individual might be temporarily absent but has the animus revertendi or intent to return. It is the place where a citizen seeks to exercise his political rights—e.g., the right of suffrage.)

(3) A person can only have one domicile at a time. To successfully effect a change of domicile, one must demonstrate: (a) actual removal or change of domicile; (b) a bona fide intention of abandoning the former place of residence and establishing a new one; and (c) definite acts which correspond with the purpose.


Abandoning one’s Filipino citizenship for an American citizenship is an eloquent proof of voluntary change of domicile. The United States becomes the former Filipino’s new domicile of choice. It will be absurd for an American citizen to have his domicile in the Philippines and not in the United States because he can no longer exercise his political rights in his former country.

The residence requirement of the Constitution is one that is not intermittent. The continuity is manifest in legal residence or domicile because the individual’s animus revertendi does not remove him from such place. In other words, the referent place of the animus revertendi of a person is his country of citizenship.

When Sen. Grace Poe discarded her Filipino citizenship in favor of a US citizenship, she effectively changed or lost her Philippine domicile and in lieu of it she acquired a domicile in the United States. When she returned to the Philippines in the latter part of 2004, regardless of the intent of her return, she could not have had regained her Philippine domicile because she did not reacquire Philippine citizenship until 2010. Her animus revertendi, if anything, from 2004 up to 2010, would have the United States as the referent country, the place of her legal residence as an American citizen.

When she repatriated to the Philippines in 2010 and abandoned her American legal residence, that was the only time she would have had regained her Philippine domicile. While under the Repatriation Law Poe would regain her status as a Filipino citizen, including that of being presumed a natural-born citizen, she could not have had Philippine domicile from the time she acquired an American citizenship and until she repatriated in 2010. Thus, for purposes of the 2016 presidential election, her Philippine domicile would only begin to run again in 2010; still a long way to the 10-year residence requirement of the Constitution. Certainly, she is qualified to be elected and serve as a senator having had more than two years of Philippine domicile preceding the 2013 elections.


Poe’s situation vis-à-vis her qualification to run for president or vice president in 2016 will be a potential case of “first impression.” If she pushes through with the run, a potential disqualification suit will not be afar. Her qualification might not only be just the “first impression” case given the lack of report on whether or not her husband repatriated also. The Constitution deplores dual allegiance consequent to dual citizenship.

Nevertheless, the framers of the Constitution did not anticipate a situation that the people might elect a president married to a foreigner. The country might just have in 2016 the first woman Philippine president with an American first gentleman.


Frank E. Lobrigo practiced law for 20 years. He was the regional legal coordinator for Bicol of the FPJ-Loren campaign in 2004, and is now enrolled in a postgraduate program of the Graduate School of Law of San Beda College, Manila.

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TAGS: 2016 Elections, Citizenship, domicile, Grace Poe, presidential candidates, residency

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