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Decide for the national good

/ 12:34 AM October 15, 2015

I’d like to thank the many who appreciated and supported my decision to become a Filipino. And the few that didn’t, well, I’d be failing if I pleased everyone. Some asked: Will I be as outspoken as before? Don’t worry, I may even be more so now that I can’t be deported. Naming people is now even an option.

So, as a start, let me discuss the Supreme Court, where the majority seems to have forgotten that it is, or rather should be, the bastion of underpinning social good. Take the recent decision to release Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile on bail.

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The eight justices who granted Enrile bail based it on a reason he didn’t even ask for, a reason that isn’t even in the laws of the land, let alone in the Constitution. This speaks volumes of the quality of today’s Supreme Court. I exclude four highly respected justices who deserve their position: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Estela Perlas Bernabe and Marvic Leonen. They are what Supreme Court justices should be. The humanitarian reasons cited by the eight other justices in releasing him were belied by his immediate bouncing back into the Senate, as active as ever. The man is accused of a heinous crime, of stealing massive amounts of our money. It’s a nonbailable crime, yet he’s been granted bail.

As Justice Leonen said: “Bail for humanitarian considerations is neither presently provided in our Rules of Court nor found in any statute or provision of the Constitution. Liberty is indeed a cherished value.  It is an intrinsic part of our humanity to fight for it and ensure that it allows all of us to lead the kind of lives that we will consider meaningful. This applies to petitioner as accused.” But he added: “Special privileges may be granted only under clear, transparent and reasoned circumstances. Otherwise, we concede that there are those among us who are powerful and networked enough to enjoy privileges not shared by all… Compassion as an excuse for injustice not only fails us as justices of this court.  It also fails us in our own humanity.”

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I hope the eight will have the humility to admit their mistake (we all make them) and change their decision on reconsideration.

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If the Senate Electoral Tribunal decides that Grace Poe is indeed a natural-born Filipino, it will inevitably be taken to the Supreme Court. So the justices will soon have before them the case of Poe’s nationality.

I would like to hope that they will take into account what is best for society and not some obscure detail in law. As the well-respected former chief justice Art Panganiban said in his column “Grace Poe’s citizenship” (With Due Respect, 6/14/15):

“Under Art. 2 of the 1961 International Convention on Statelessness, ‘[a] foundling found in the territory of a Contracting State shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be considered to have been born within the territory of parents possessing the nationality of that State.’

“Applying that article to Senator Poe, a foundling found in the Philippines is presumed, in the absence of contrary proof, to have Filipino biological parents. Since she was found near a church in Jaro, Iloilo, when she was only a few days old, her parents are presumed to be Filipinos.

“Therefore, she is a natural-born citizen.

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“True, the Philippines is not a signatory or a ‘Contracting State’ in this treaty. However, the treaty possesses the two elements of a generally accepted principle of international law because the grant of nationality to a foundling is an ‘established, widespread and consistent practice’ of many states since 1961 to the present. Hence, it is deemed a ‘part of the law of the Nation.’”

I rather wonder why you have to be natural-born anyway to run this country. Let me hasten to assure you I have absolutely no wish to do so. So this is not a self-serving comment. But I’d venture to suggest I’m far more worthy than those that plunder the nation, steal from the people—and get elected into so-called “public service.” They have dishonored their birthright.

If you are Filipino, you are Filipino no matter how you came to be so. What matters far, far more is your life record in serving the nation, in exemplifying patriotism, in leading a decent, honest, caring life. Not how you were born. This needs to be struck from the Constitution.

If the court disagrees and decides otherwise, I will only respect that decision if it is unanimous. If it’s split, then there is justification to allow Poe to run, to let the people decide, and that, then, should be the majority decision.

And they must act fast—not within two years, but two months. We are talking about the leadership of the nation for the next six years. Nothing can be more important.

May I remind the Supreme Court that the Constitution says: “All cases or matters filed after the effectivity of this Constitution (referring to the 1987 Constitution) must be decided or resolved within 24 months from date of submission for the Supreme Court, and unless reduced by the Supreme Court, 12 months for all lower collegiate courts, and 3 months for all other lower courts.”

This is not recommendatory, it’s mandatory. It’s the wish of the people in their Constitution. A Constitution does not make recommendations; it mandates how a society will be formed and exist.

Regarding Poe, the case is of extreme importance. The leadership of the country is to be decided. More than 20 million people wanted her as a senator. Surely they have a right to say if they want her as their leader, and not a handful of people in a courtroom.

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E-mail: [email protected] Read my previous columns: www.wallacebusinessforum.com.

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TAGS: Antonio Carpio, Citizenship, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Grace Poe, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Marvic Leonen, Peter Wallace, Supreme Court
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