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December 8, 2015

Former chief justice says Poe must be considered natural-born

September 28, 2015   

MANILA — Senator Grace Poe must be considered a natural-born Filipino citizen under the “generally accepted principles of international law, which form part of the law of the land,” former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said yesterday in a statement disagreeing with his former colleague at the Supreme Court, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, chairman of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET).

Justice Carpio the other day expressed his opinion that since Senator Poe was a foundling found in the Philippines, she is considered a natural-born citizen of the Philippines. But in the absence of evidence that she was born of Filipino citizens, she must be considered a naturalized Filipino.

If, in the future, a DNA test shows she was born of Filipino citizens, she may then be considered a natural-born Filipino.

Panganiban cited Article 2 of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which says: “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 in the territory of parents possessing the nationality of that State.”

“Why is Grace Poe a natural-born citizen?” Panganiban asked. “Because under Article 2 of the 1961 Convention quoted above, she—a foundling who was found in Iloilo, Philippines—is deemed to have Filipino parents. Perforce, she is natural-born since her presumed parents, specifically her father, are accorded Philippine citizenship.”

Although the Philippines is not a signatory to the 1961 Convention, Panganiban said, it is still bound by its provisions because they have become “generally accepted principles of international law which… are as binding as statutes passed by Congress.”

He said the 1935 Constitution, which was the Philippines’ basic law in 1968 when Poe was born, provides that the “Philippines… adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the Nation.”

“Thus, by this ‘doctrine of incorporation,’ customary international laws are given the same force and effect as statutes passed by Congress,” Panganiban added.

Apart from the 1961 Convention, he said, foundlings are protected by the 1930 Hague Convention on the Conflict of Nationality Laws and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that the right to a nationality is one of the most fundamental human rights. Nationality is synonymous to citizenship in international law, he said.

Poe, the topnotcher in the 2013 senatorial race and a frontrunner in various presidential preference surveys, recently declared her intention to run for president in next year’s elections.

Under the 1987 Constitution, only natural-born Filipino citizens are qualified to run for president, vice-president, senator, and congressman.

Former Senator Rene Saguisag joined the call for the inhibition of Carpio, who chairs the SET.
By saying that Poe is a naturalized Filipino citizen, Carpio prejudged the disqualification case against her, Saguisag said.

“I don’t think Justice Antonio Carpio should continue on the [SET], having sadly and openly prejudged the case. I think he should have waited until all arguments are in before concluding that Grace is naturalized, not natural-born, which Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion defined as ‘one born a citizen,’” Saguisag said.

1-Bap Rep. Silvestre Bello III had also recently urged Carpio to inhibit himself from the case to avoid being a “suspect of partiality.” Bello, who is a former justice secretary, said Carpio should inhibit “out of decency” because, whatever his decision, it would be “suspect of partiality.”

Meanwhile, House Deputy Minority Leader and LPG-MA Rep. Arnel Ty asked Poe yesterday to give a “straightforward answer” as to why she decided to apply for and obtain US citizenship without giving up her Filipino citizenship.

The House leader made the call following reports that Poe continued to use her US passport in her travels abroad, even after she had renounced her US citizenship. “Since Senator Poe is now running for president no less, she has to deal with the reality that she has put herself and her family under a microscope,” Ty said.

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