News & Events

December 8, 2015

Former SC chief takes Poe’s side against Carpio

By Rey E. Requejo | Sep. 28, 2015 at 12:01am

RETIRED Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban on Sunday contested the conclusion of his former colleague in the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who said Senator Grace Poe, who is running for President in 2016, is not a natural-born Filipino.

Contrary to Carpio’s assertion that Poe, as a foundling, is a naturalized Filipino, Panganiban said Poe is considered a natural-born citizen under “generally accepted principles of international law, which form part of the law of the land.”

An opposition lawmaker, meanwhile, said Poe should explain to Filipinos why she previously decided to apply for and obtain US citizenship, when she could have easily lived, worked and raised a family in the United States without giving up her Filipino citizenship.

“Since Senator Poe is now running for President… she has to deal with the reality that she has put herself and her family under a microscope,” said LPG-MA Rep. Arnel Ty, a House deputy minority leader.

“Voters deserve a straightforward answer from the Senator, on the question as to the specific circumstances that compelled her to seek and acquire US citizenship, and surrender her Filipino citizenship. This is a perfectly legitimate question that is of great public interest,” Ty said.

Ty made the statement shortly after published reports alleged that Poe continued to use her American passport in her travels abroad, even after she had renounced her US citizenship.

By her own account, Poe spent much of her adult life in the US and became an American citizen in 2001. She gave up her US citizenship in 2010, shortly before she was named chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

While Poe has relinquished her US citizenship, her husband remains an American citizen. Their three children are natural-born American citizens, Ty added.

Only natural-born citizens are qualified to be president, vice president, senator, congressman or Supreme Court justice. If Poe is found not to be a natural-born citizen, she would be removed from her office as senator and barred from running for the presidency. If elected, she would be prohibited from serving her mandate, Panganiban said.

But Panganiban said the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness declared that a foundling found in the territory of a contracting state will, 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.

Poe, as a foundling found in Iloilo, is deemed to have Filipino parents, and therefore is natural-born, Panganiban added in his latest newspaper column.

Although the Philippines is not a signatory to the 1961 convention, 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,” Panganiban said.

He said the 1935 Constitution, which was the country’s 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 said.

Apart from the 1961 Convention, he said foundlings are also 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.

The present Constitution defines natural-born citizens as “those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship.”

Panganiban said Poe derived her citizenship from her presumed Filipino father and thus is a citizen from birth without having to do anything to acquire or perfect her Philippine citizenship.

Panganiban added that Poe’s biological father may be proven to be a foreigner, “but the burden of proof belongs to those who challenge her natural-born status.”

“Unless such proof is presented, her parents continue to be presumed Filipinos. Thus, she retains her natural-born citizenship,” he added.

Carpio, a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal hearing a petition to disqualify Poe as a senator on the basis of her citizenship, had put the burden of proof on Poe.

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