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Ex-CJ: Let people decide on Poe

DESPITE the questions on her citizenship, Senator Grace Poe should be allowed to run in next year’s elections and the people should be allowed to decide who they want to be the country’s next President, retired Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said Sunday.

“Is Grace Poe a natural-born or naturalized Filipino citizen? Let the people decide,” Panganiban said.

He made his statement even as Poe said Sunday many Filipinos were being deprived of the benefits of economic progress despite the economy’s strong growth in the last five years.

Poe

She said the high unemployment rate, the lack of access to health care and education, the poverty in the rural areas, and the plight of Filipino workers abroad all pointed to the need for a government that would allow all sectors of society to benefit from economic development.

Poe was endorsed on Saturday the Magdalo group led by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. A day before the endorsement, she was the only presidential candidate invited by the Makabayan Bloc to the launching of the senatorial bid of Rep. Neri Colmenares.

The Nationalist People’s Coalition is also inclined to support the tandem of Poe and his running mate Senator Francis Escudero.

Panganiban said the election issues, which do not involve crimes or obvious violations of the law, “should be settled by the voters, not by judges and lawyers.”

“I have always believed that doubts on legal issues involving elections and popular sovereignty should be resolved in favor of letting our people decide them freely through the ballot,” Panganiban said in his latest newspaper column.

He cited the high court decision in Frivaldo vs Comelec that he wrote in 1996, a year after he was appointed associate justice of the Supreme Court.

In that decision, the high court upheld the election of Juan Frivaldo as governor of Sorsogon province in 1995 after he reacquired that year his Filipino citizenship, which he lost when he was naturalized as an American in 1983.

The Court ruled that “decisions declaring the acquisition or denial of citizenship cannot govern a person’s future status with finality… because a person may subsequently reacquire, or for that matter lose, his citizenship under any of the modes recognized by law.”

Frivaldo was overwhelmingly voted governor of Sorsogon by a wide margin of 27,000 votes in 1988, and again by 57,000 in 1992.

But in both instances he was ousted by the high court for having lost his Philippine citizenship in 1983 when he was naturalized as an American.

Undaunted, Frivaldo ran and again won as governor, and also by a wide margin, in 1995. His victory was again challenged by the same candidate he defeated.

This time, Frivaldo claimed to have reacquired his Philippine citizenship under Republic Act 7160 by taking his oath of allegiance as a Filipino at 2 pm on June 30, 1995, the day he assumed office as governor. 

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