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Impact of the citizenship issue

A friend who is about as old as I am complained to me that when he reads the front pages of newspapers he feels like reading editorials, opinion columns and analyses instead of news.

I explained to him that journalism has evolved through the years from what we deemed objective reporting of the five Ws- who, what, where, when and why. Now, it’s all about interpretative journalism where the biases of journalists and their newspapers come in.

When I got my feet wet as a journalist in the 50s, I dutifully observed what was called objective reporting, like in the killing of Mister X. I reported who was murdered, what happened, when he was killed, when it happened, and why if possible. It was factual reporting.

With the evolution of journalism, newspapers readers want to go beyond reading facts. They want to know what the motive is, how it happened, why, and what the ramifications are.

That’s the reason issues of the day are found in the front pages of newspapers. It depends on what newspapers they are found in, who write the stories, and what their prejudices are.

Negativism sells; good news doesn’t. That’s the reason why opinion pages of newspapers are often read more than the front pages of national broadsheets. In my over 65 years as a journalist, having gone full circle in print, radio and television, I know full well that people want to know what’s behind the news.

* * *

The issue of citizenship of presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe Llamanzares continues to be the topic in board rooms, coffee shops and cocktail parties. Is she or is she not natural-born Filipino?

Santa Banana, even justices have come out with their own interpretations of the Constitution, just as legal luminaries and opinion columnists are divided on the issue.

My gulay, can you imagine if Poe were to be found by the Senate Electoral Tribunal as not a natural-born Filipino? She could be unseated as a senator and banned from becoming a president. On the other hand, grating without assuming that she becomes president, and found not qualified for the presidency, what would be the repercussions?

The citizenship of Senator Poe should be resolved the soonest possible time by the Senate Electoral tribunal. Whatever the result, the case will certainly be elevated to the  Supreme Court. And will the High Court be able to decide before the May 2016 elections?

And if Poe gets elected, and the Supreme Court hands down a decision adverse to her, what will happen?

* * *

Let’s rewind a bit and look at which way the SET will go in deciding the citizenship issue. The tribunal is composed of nine members —three incumbent justices of the Supreme Court and six sitting senators of different political persuasions. The three Supreme Court justices are Antonio Carpio, chairman, Teresita Bernabe Castro and Arturo Brion.

We now know the opinion of the SET chairman, but we still don’t know how the other justices will rule considering all the documents presented by the petitioner—Lito David told SET that Poe is not natural born and that she lied before the notary public when he reacquired her Filipino citizenship under Republic Act no. 9225, called the Dual Citizenship law. In a document, she said she was born of the marriage of Ronald Allan Kelly Poe, a Filipino, and Jesusa Sonora Poe, a Filipino citizen, when we all know that Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces were childless. Grace herself claimed she was a foundling left at the baptismal font of an Iloilo City church and adopted later on by FPJ and Susan Roces.

This blatant lie was made worse by documents showing she travelled twice to the US using her American passport despite the fact that she had already reacquired her Philippine citizenship under the Dual Citizenship law and had become the chairperson of the Movie & Television Ratings and Classification Board.

* * *

I cannot predict the stand of the six senator-members of the SET, but as I said earlier, it could go either way. Loren Legarda for sure will go where the law takes her; Nancy Binay is predictable; Bam Aquino may go where the Constitution takes him; Cynthia Villar may go where the Nacionalista Party goes; Pia Cayetano may go against Poe if her brother Alan Peter is chosen as Mar Roxas’ running mate; and Tito Sotto will certainly go for the “senadora” being a member of the entertainment industry. It could be a split decision either way.

All these are speculative. But, considering the impact of Poe’s citizenship on public and natural interests, it should not be taken with a shrug .

* * *

In my over 65 years as a journalist, I have never seen a situation like now where we seem to be scrounging for leaders to lead us for the next six year from 2016.

My wife and I will certainly vote for a President who will unify the country and head the political wounds of the past.

The reason we have not moved forward is that almost every elected president tries to undo what has been done by his predecessor and blames him for the challenges he or she is facing. All these were made worse by a vindictive president like President Aquino who went to the extent of filing plunder cases against his predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and bribed Congress to impeach and convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona.  This, so that Mr. Aquino would have a  poster girl and a poster boy in his “Daang Matuwid” mantra.

We need a unifying President to save us from this pattern.

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