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On Poe’s DQ case, what law is there to interpret?

01:43 AM February 15, 2016

TWO VIEWS are polarizing the justices of the Supreme Court in the disqualification cases against presidential candidate Grace Poe. The first seems to advocate a very rigid interpretation of the law governing Poe’s citizenship; the other, a more liberal and charitable approach.

By the “letter of the law” is the way to go for Justices Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion (who have adamantly refused to inhibit themselves despite ethical constraints as dissenters to the majority decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal deeming Poe a natural-born Filipino citizen); and by the “spirit of the law” for Justice Marvic Leonen (“Poe finds a champion in the Supreme Court, News, 1/21/16). Which interpretation should prevail in resolving that issue that arose from the Commission on Elections’ decision barring Poe from her presidential run for not being a natural-born Filipino?

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With due respect, we fail to see how “interpretation” should be a matter of choice in those cases. The truth is, there is NO LAW that can be made subject of any statutory construction! The Constitution says nothing—and Congress has not enacted any law—on the citizenship of a foundling found in the Philippines! While the Constitution considers infants born of Filipino parents as natural-born citizens (jus sanguinis), it is totally silent about infants found in the Philippines who are of unknown parents.

Yet, most intriguingly, all those who voted against Poe being deemed a natural-born Filipino nevertheless agree that she is still a Filipino despite her being of no known parents. And on what is this mindset based? What else, but on the constitutional provision “adopting generally accepted principles of international laws as part of the law of the land,” one of which being that foundlings are deemed citizens of the country they are found (jus soli)!

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Be that as it may, the citizenship issue now before the Supreme Court is whether or not Poe “deliberately lied” when she said in her certificate of candidacy that she is a “natural-born” Filipino. That is really a no-brainer! It is axiomatic that where difficult questions of law are involved, honest mistakes in one’s understanding of it are excusable. In light then of the fact that even the Supreme Court justices are themselves in disagreement about the correct citizenship status of a foundling—and there is in fact no jurisprudence relating precisely to that issue—how could the Comelec be so sure—nay, cocksure—that Poe was not a natural-born citizen and that she lied when she said she was? Evidently, the election commissioners had acted more popish than the Pope! And if that wasn’t blatant “grave abuse” of discretion or plain stupidity on their part, we don’t know what is!

—ROGELIO S. CANDELARIO, [email protected]

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TAGS: case, Citizenship, disqualification, disqualified, DQ, Grace Poe, letter, opinion, Poe, Supreme Court
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