Poe’s response to disqualification case

After Senator Grace Poe submitted her answer to the complaint filed against her by Rizalino David before the Senate Electoral Tribunal, it is now clear as day. Grace Poe is a natural-born citizen. She renounced her Philippine citizenship and took it back as required by law, restoring her natural-born status. She has been a resident of the Philippines since 2005, more than 10 years ago. Her husband and children are Filipino citizens, he by birth and his children by the dual citizenship law. They are not government officials so they are not required to renounce their dual status.

It’s now time to stop the bigotry and cruelty. People should stop attacking her family especially those who have families, sons and daughters and parents, too. Those who attack families know that this will come back to them because whatever you do to your fellow human beings will be done to you. People should stop being anti-life, anti-adoption, and anti-child. And stop being anti-migrant Filipino and anti-OFW that have to make hard choices of their residence and citizenship statuses. Instead, let’s now focus on the real issues for the elections.

On being an OFW or a migrant, choosing your status as permanent resident or naturalization in your host country has nothing to do with patriotism. One does not love your country more or less whether you get a green card or not. Every migrant individual and family has their reasons when they make these difficult decisions.

I can admit publicly that if my wife and I decided to stay in the US in 2006, we would have gotten a green card. In fact we had already applied and it was already in the pipeline. That’s because I could no longer at that time stay any longer in the US as I have used up six years of the H1B visa. And if we had stayed on, and if I had continued to work as an international lawyer, I would probably have applied for US citizenship at some point just so I do not have to get visas to all the places I travel to. Of course, I would reacquire my Filipino citizenship right away.

I did not have to do all of these because Ateneo de Manila offered me my dream job—to build a school of government —and gave me in that sense a golden (not financial but professional/spiritual) parachute back home. And I am always grateful to my wife and sons for agreeing to return, including one son Rafael La Viña, then only 12 years old, voting to return on this argument: “Pa, if we stayed here in the US, we will all end up Americans but that would not be our choice but yours. I would like to make that choice—being a Filipino or American”.

In my view, if we want to support our migrants, we should not question motivations and instead allow them to fully assimilate back to our society without penalizing them for their choices. The Grace Poe case is not the first nor the last case where migration is twisted to deny someone full status. While the Jesse Robredo case was completely different, the motivation was the same—exclude this threat, defeat him not by winning but via disqualification, using ethnicity as the reason for it, alleging in that case that Jesse was not a citizen, a complete lie, a distortion of the truth but believe me, under today’s atmosphere and the make-up of the Supreme Court, one cannot rule out that the lie would win.

It does not matter what Poe’s citizenship status was in 2005 —the fact is she was a resident since then as many foreigners or retiring Filipinos who are already citizens of another country become residents when they move here for good. Citizenship and residence qualifications are completely distinct and should be subject to unrelated and completely different tests.

In my constitutional law classes, I have always taught the liberal approach to citizenship. Many Filipinos live abroad—we want them to get them the most favorable treatment as residents and citizens in their host country. How could we do that if we mistreat them when they come back here? In other words, we should bend backwards to accommodate the various ethnic and migration contexts of Filipinos.

This advocacy should not be understood as an endorsement of Grace Poe for the presidency. This is because I believe passionately and absolutely in the rights of children and migrants.

For the record, the Ateneo School of Government and I are helping out any candidate for any position that comes to us for our help so long as they know where we are coming from on our advocacy for good, ethical and effective governance. We do not make prejudgments against those who come to us for help. We even help dynasties so long as they are comfortable with our anti-dynasty stand, policy wise, and they understand that we are helping them because we believe a good—ethical and effective—dynasty politician is the best way to defeat dynasties in the long term. Good governance creates opportunities for new politicians and rivals to emerge.

Personally, I am waiting until March to decide whom I will publicly support, if I would go public at all. I am certainly looking with interest at Rudy Duterte, the first viable candidate from Mindanao. I want to see how Vice-President Jejomar Binay would survive and in fact grow, even convert and change to a better person, from all the attacks against him. There is something there—in the resilience of this 70-year-old man—that attracts me. And I am also watching if Secretary Roxas would be able to transcend class origins and if he could be decisive about the Bangsamoro Basic Law, Metro Rail Transit, Yolanda, etc. and how he differentiates himself from the Aquino administration.

So yes my vote and support are still up for grabs.


Facebook Page: Dean Tony La Vina Twitter: tonylavs

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