Naturalized, not natural-born

Senator Grace Poe may have topped the latest Social Weather Stations survey on presidential candidates but the shadow over her citizenship loomed larger when Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio expressed the opinion Poe is a naturalized Filipino but not natural-born. Justice Carpio  heads the Senate Electoral Tribunal currently hearing the citizenship case against Poe. Justice Carpio’s initial opinion carries a lot of weight since he’s senior to the two other SET members—Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Teresita Leonardo Castro. The other members of the SET—Senators Tito Sotto, Paolo Aquino, Nancy Binay, Loren Legarda, Cynthia Villar are non-lawyers. Senator Pia Cayetano is the only lawyer in the group. Aside from the documentary evidence, the non-lawyers will have to be guided by the justices’ interpretation of the law. 

Poe is tracing the closest relatives of her parents who are still unknown for possible DNA testing to prove she is natural-born. A foundling adopted by movie stars Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces, she immigrated to the United States, married a Filipino-American and acquired US citizenship. Grace returned to the Philippines, renounced her US citizenship and took her oath as a Filipino to run for the Senate.

Since she has not proven her citizenship, Poe, by Carpio’s opinion, is a naturalized citizen and not natural-born which the Constitution requires of anyone seeking the presidency.  

Meanwhile, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said a Leni Robredo versus Francis  Escudero contest for vice president would split the Bicol vote with  the Camarines Sur congresswoman winning over the Sorsogon senator.  Robredo’s tandem with Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas is almost a done deal  and must be giving Escudero sleepless nights. Throw in the women’s votes which will go the way of their “kabaro“ and Chiz could be left holding the shorter end of the stick.

Senator Grace Poe is leading in the latest Social Weather Stations polls with 47 percent while Mar Roxas surged  to second place from a low 21 percent to 39 percent, dislodging Vice President Jojo Binay who slipped to third at 35 percent. 

The VP race is not just about Leni and Chiz. Binay hinted that Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will be his running mate during the 43rd anniversary of the 365 Club at the Hotel Intercontinental last Saturday where he was guest.

“Solid North, the Visayan votes plus Mindanao and you have a formidable combination,” hinted  Binay whose United Nationalist Alliance party has had a head start in campaigning and organizing at the grassroots level as early as five years ago. 

The divided Bicol bloc votes can only favor Bongbong Marcos whose father Ferdinand Edralin Marcos of Ilocos Norte and mother Imelda Romualdez of Leyte have a large following in the northern provinces and Visayas region including Cebu and Mindanao where many of the voters are Ilocano and Visayan-speaking settlers.

Senator Marcos on his own has established credentials as Ilocos Norte congressman, governor and more recently as a level-headed chairman of the Senate’s local government committee reviewing the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law. By including all the stakeholders in the proposed BBL and cleaning up its constitutional infirmities, Marcos gained many supporters in Mindanao and Luzon.

Bongbong Marcos is only 58 and becoming vice president would put him in a vantage position for the presidency in 2022.He does not need any preparation, having learned the art of politics and governance at an early age from his father. Being married to lawyer Lisa Araneta has also given him a well-rounded grasp of the law even if he’s not a barrister. He has three sons which makes him complete as a well-grounded family man.

It looks like the Senate Electoral Tribunal, according to SET member Senator Tito Sotto, won’t be able to decide on the case until November. The deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy is on Oct. 12. Why can’t the SET decide before then? The documentary evidence from petitioner Rizalito David and Senator Poe have already been submitted and oral arguments started last Monday.

This crucial constitutional issue on Grace Poe’s citizenship should be resolved and not left to the voters in the May 2016 elections. Grace Poe it seems is seeking refuge in the legal maxim “vox populi vox dei (the voice of the people is the voice of god) which is why she announced her candidacy for president to take her case to the voters before the ruling on her citizenship.  Vox populi  in this country, where the masa choose their candidates based on popularity, is not really the right way as shown when  they elected an Erap and a Noynoy.

There are talks Grace Poe and Chiz Escudero are President Aquino’s “secret candidates” even if he had already anointed Mar Roxas. Fueling the rumors is Grace Poe saying she won’t criticize Aquino during the campaign and that they exchanged text messages shortly before Grace announced her run as an independent candidate. How can she not criticize Aquino when her rival Mar Roxas represents President Aquino’s bankrupt “daang matuwid?” This drew a reaction from Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda that he finds Grace Poe’s statement “confusing.”

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