The problem with GP

This writer will not comment on the current Senate Electoral Tribunal debate on whether or not a foundling is a natural-born or a naturalized citizen, or “stateless” or whatever.  Not being a lawyer, I shall not delve into a legal or constitutional issue that is not within my competence.

Those who follow the articles in this space will note that I have not taken any position on the issue that now bedevils the leading candidate, per the surveys, for the highest post in the land.

In an earlier article (Snapshots, MST, 09 Sept. 2015) I have cautioned the readers about surveys being mere readings of a certain point in time.  It can change, as indeed it will change in the course of a yet eight-month period leading to the final voter verdict come May 9, 2016.  I do question the SWS methodology that asks 1,200 respondents to name three of the “best leaders” to succeed the present occupant of Malacañang.  Many opinion writers, statisticians as well as political analysts have already questioned this methodology employed by SWS.  What is lamentable is how propagandists and media persons so easily influenced by propagandists keep printing or repeating on air the SWS “best three” results as if it were the same as the proper question which is:  “If elections were held today, who among the following names would you vote as president (or other posts)?”

Having given that “survey” my short shrift, for whatever it is worth, let me segue into what disturbs me about the Grace Poe candidacy for the presidency of the Republic.

As I said in the first paragraph, it is not the issue of whether she is a natural-born citizen or what not.  I will accept whatever the highest tribunal will eventually state as the law of the land on this unprecedented matter.

What bothers me is how someone who, at one point in her life, threw away her Filipino citizenship to embrace that of a foreign country, can in proper conscience now seek the voter’s approval of her presidential ambition.

I have wrestled with this issue for a long time.  I did not know about this matter of taking alien citizenship when she ran for senator.  I was doing pre-campaign for a seat in Congress in late November 2012, when Senator Chiz Escudero called me that she and Grace would go to my hometown, Butuan City on December 5, and could I please play the host?  Being a close friend of the senator and an admirer of Grace Poe, I said, “ako na ang bahala sa lahat.”  But Typhoon Pablo intervened and the trip was cancelled.  A week later, I underwent a medical procedure at the Philippine Heart Center to unclog two major coronary arteries.  Two weeks after, at the insistence of my worried family, I withdrew my candidacy, not in the first district of Agusan del Norte, but at the Comelec head office, with the permission of then-Chair Sixto Brillantes.

The admiration for now-Senator Poe remains.  I would be one to defend her status as a natural-born citizen even if she admits to being a foundling.  Not from a legal standpoint, but from a communications point of view.  That should be easy, and her supporters are now milking every ounce of sympathy, especially from the target market—the “masa” very, very well.

But sometime after she married an American citizen, Senator Poe renounced her Filipino citizenship, never mind what kind it was, to become a citizen of a foreign land, no matter if it was the United States of America.

She could have easily been granted a permanent residence status, the so-called “green card” because she was the wife of an American who resided with her in Virginia, and she had children who by virtue of America’s “jus soli” definition, were Americans.  But she opted to be an American.  Now read the oath she took:

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

Read that oath and weep.  One of my daughters wept when she uttered those words, when she was 21, as her mother is an American citizen.  She opted for it because she thought, like many of us, that the land of milk and honey would provide her the proverbial greener pastures.  She knew full well that she was turning her back from the land of her birth, that she did it as a matter of choice, for economic reasons, or at least the perception of a better life therein.  No one blames any Filipino for doing that.  And my daughter has absolutely no plans to seek any elective post in the Philippines.  Both by temperament and personality, she knows she will not be one.

Ninoy Aquino’s sister, Ditas, as recounted by her other sister, Sen. Tessie Aquino Oreta, cried when she took that oath, and felt like getting out of the room, precisely because the words “entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity…” rankled deep into her being.

Still—fine. Grace made a personal choice.  Some may say you didn’t have “economic” reasons, living with the King and Queen of Philippine movies in a Greenhills mansion, schooled in the schools of the elite, and as a solo daughter, living the good life that others did not have.  Still, we respect that.

Our good friend, Atty. Katrina Legarda explained that you had to follow the citizenship of your husband because that is how a wife should be.  Again, fine.  That too is a personal choice we voters cannot question.

Now you want to be, in your own words, “our next president.”

Is this country of a hundred million souls so bereft of anyone else that you want us now to consider you to be our supreme leader, simply because you are the “most” popular? 

This article is being written but it pains me to do this, Senator Grace.

You renounced us once.  We accepted you back with open arms.  We admire you for your thus far good performance as MTRCB head and then as senator of the realm.  But in the same way that our past will always hound us, and puts a limit to whatever we desire to be at another point in our life, I submit, most respectfully, that you should not be our “next president.” 

So sorry, Senator.

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