Supreme Court Decision on Grace Poe’s Citizenship and Residence

In an article published online by Rappler Authored by an election lawyer, he justified the ruling of the Supreme Court stating that Grace Poe has all the laws and jurisprudence on her back. He claimed that under the 1935 constitution Grace Poe is a natural born citizen and that she poses the required residency period.

It is quite intimidating to question a lawyer on matters of law, but I could not stop my self but attempt and refute his position based on how I am learning it in the law school. It might sound to early for me to question a lawyer but that’s how they orient us, to question and refute when there is a good reason to do so, thus my refutation.

xxx first, reading back to the Constitutional Commission’s deliberation, foundlings are not included in the list of who would be considered as natural born, in fact they explicitly stated, “lets leave it to the legislative to decide and clarify” but to this day there was never a law passed to clarify or execute it, thus this provision is not self executing, not even Grace Poe herself bothered to draft a bill for that purpose while in the senate.

second, on the re-acquisition of nationality, what is there to recover if she does not poses it at all? thus, the answer to the second argument rest on the outcome of the first point which unfortunately SC ruled that indeed she was a natural born citizen relying on statistics and probability alone instead of DNA or more reliable basis.
Third, preparation to move to Philippines alone does not prove residence. In fact CJ Sereno in the case of Jalosjos vs. Comelec stated that “The mere purchase of a parcel of land does not make it one’s residence.” Be it remembered that the primary reason why Grace Poe returned to the Philippines was to attend to the wake and funeral of his father and not to transfer her residence. In the case of Ugdoracion vs. Comelec, the SC also explained that the fact that Ugdoracion still poses his green card proves that his residence is still in the United States. If green cardholder is disqualified how much more for a person who has refused or procrastinated the renunciation of her foreign citizenship? It is unlikely also for Grace Poe to have validly established her residence in the Philippines while her husband and children are residing in another place. Article 68 of the Family Code states that Husband and wife are obliged to live together… and Art 69 states that Husband and Wife shall fix the family domicile…, which in the case of Grace Poe is indisputably established in the US. In the case of Limbona vs. Comelec, SC disqualified Limbona citing this two Family Code Provisions stating that there is no valid reason for Limbona to establish a residence separate from her husband, and that the presumption is that which that they have established which to that day her husband resides and where she constantly returns. In the case of Grace Poe, the fact that her family was still in US in 2005, one cannot conclusively presume that Grace had animus manendi (intent to stay) in the Philippines, rather the clear presumption under the family code would be that what she has is animus revertendi (intent to return) to the US where her family still resides at that time.
As to the case of Romualdez vs. Comelec, I fully agree with the other justices that it cannot be applied in this case, Imelda never renounced her residence compared to Grace Poe. SC in that case clearly applied Art. 68 and 69 of the Family Code wherein her stay in Manila was by implication of her marriage to Marcos and that Manila was simply her residence by operation of law, while she has never abandoned her domicile by nature which is Tacloban. SC reasoned that Imelda has that animus revertendi as exemplified by her constant vacation and stay in Tacloban, and animus manendi when after the death of Marcos stayed for good in Tacloban. Contrary, Grace Poe abandoned her residence in the Philippines and renounced her citizenship, and while she returned in 2005, she only took her oath for acquisition of citizenship in 2006 and renounced her foreign citizenship in 2010, all of which clearly points to the fact that she was not totally committed on staying much more letting go of her foreign status.
Lastly, false declaration in a public document is perjury. Now with the decision that one can simply dismiss a false declaration as honest mistake, what then will be the measure and extent of honest mistake? In the case of Ugdoracion vs. Comelec, the discrepancy in the duration of his residence was ruled by SC as material misrepresentation. In the case of Imelda Romualdez, she committed mistake but was otherwise qualified, thus the correction was made to reflect the truth, as opposed to Grace Poe who stated a fact which is in fact not true.

Supreme Court on Grace Poe’s Disqualification Case

SC seems to be having a hard time deciding on the disqualification case of Presidential candidate Grace Poe. Aside from the factual and legal considerations, SC has to weigh two opposing forces, the public which is throwing its support to Grace Poe (who is leading the surveys) or to uphold the rule of law and the existing doctrines laid down by the Supreme Court itself.

If SC decides to rule in-favor of Poe’s disqualification, I could only imagine the possible public actions by her loyal supporters. There will be chaos on the streets, and expect horrendous traffic. On the other hand, ruling in favour of Poe will have serious legal implications, this will ultimately mean SC has reversed or over turned the existing jurisprudence that is renunciation of a foreign citizenship is not a mere lip service, and that public documents enjoy presumption of regularity and a person’s declarations in a public document are binding upon the declarant and is stopped from questioning the same.

The requirement that the renunciation must be made through an oath emphasizes the solemn duty of the one making the oath of renunciation to remain true to what he has sworn to. Allowing the subsequent use of a foreign passport because it is convenient for the person to do so is rendering the oath a hollow act. It devalues the act of taking of an oath, reducing it to a mere ceremonial formality (Maquiling vs. Comelec)

If the SC would rule that the subsequent use of US Passport by Grace Poe is compatible with her renunciation made previously would lead to the door of bastardization of our laws. Not only by those politicians wishing to run for public office but by everyone-renunciation will be reduced to merely a non-sense ceremonial act without any material meaning at all.

As to the issue of declaration in a public document, to agree that the claim with regard to her residency period made on her certificate of candidacy when she ran for senator, is a matter of honest mistake, then everybody can now easy make an excuse that an erroneous declaration, or wilful misdeclaration was made in honest mistake- this simply means perjury is almost inapplicable. The question would be what would be the measure of an honest mistake?

But while the Supreme Court may be caught between two strong forces-they are no less than the Supreme Court who has the last say on what the law is. SC can always get a good excuse/exit by making an exception.

Now for those who would say let the election decide if she is qualified or not, leave the decision to the people. My simple answer is, what then is the use of our laws, then let’s leave everything to the people’s decision…

Who should prevail, the millions of Filipinos supporting Grace Poe or the rule of law? The Supreme Court in the case of Miranda vs. Abaya has answered this question eloquently; “The Court cannot accede to the reasoning that this Court should now acquiesce and submit to the sovereign will of the electorate, as expressed by their votes. We should always be reminded that ours is a government of laws not of men. If this Court should fold its arms and refuse to apply the law at every clamor of the majority of the supposed constituency, where shall order and justice lie? Without the least intention to degrade, where shall people power end, and where shall law and justice begin? Would the apparent results of the canvassing of votes justify this Court in refusing to apply the law instead? The answers to the foregoing are obvious. The Court cannot choose otherwise but to exercise its sacred duty to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the Republic for and under which it exists.”