MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno reiterated on Tuesday, February 2, that the implication of Grace Poe’s disqualification case is profound not only on the presidential candidate, but on all foundlings in the country.
This time, she enumerated some of the implications herself. According to the Chief Justice, foundlings, if declared not natural-born citizens:
- will not be allowed to hold thousands of offices
- will be removed from their present offices
- may be made to return all the emoluments and benefits granted by their occupation of their offices
- may be denied pension benefits that are being presently enjoyed by them
- will be denied the right to own private land except through intestate succession
- cannot be adopted
- cannot enjoy scholarships as well as health and social services except those granted to them in orphanages and similar institutions
- will have no national law to determine the legal requirements applicable to them (for example, for marriage)
- will be rendered stateless, without any protection, and without privileges and rights such as:
- right to suffrage
- right to run for public office and hold certain positions in government
- right to practice a profession
- right to quality education at all levels
“Why should the court not let things be the way they are, and not deprive foundlings of their rights? The moment the court says foundlings are not natural-born citizens, or are stateless, this will be a degradation of rights they are already enjoying,” Sereno told Commissioner Arthur Lim, lead counsel of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
She added: “It will be so upsetting, known to the entire world, that the court which is supposed to be a court of justice, is going to degrade an entire class of people of rights, presumptions, lives they are already enjoying right now.”
But Lim pointed out all 7 Comelec commissioners found that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino.
“Based on that finding of 7 commissioners and 3 justices of the court in dissent, petitioner is clearly not natural-born, [and] not qualified to be president of the Philippines,” he said, citing the votes of Supreme Court justices Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo De Castro, and Arturo Brion at the Senate Electoral Tribunal.
The commissioner repeated what he said in his opening statement, that there might be “another EDSA uprising” in the event the Comelec allows an ineligible candidate to get elected and assume the highest position in the country.
But Sereno countered: “You are talking about something that is speculative, while what I’m saying something that will affect lives of…foundlings. Is it right for the court to pull the rug from under the feet of these people and say, ‘Look, this is the bill of prohibition against you, nail it on a door, and say these are the denials of your benefits.’ Is that a correct position?”
“The Commission did not see it that way, unfortunately,” Lim answered.
Later in her interpellation, Sereno noted only 8 out of 189 countries use blood relationship as the sole basis for determining citizenship, while the rest use either a jus soli (by birthplace) approach, both jus soli and jus sanguinis (by blood), or a combination of jus soli, jus sanguinis, and residence.
She also shared that she met with international lawyers to talk about the citizenship of foundlings.
“International lawyers said if we say foundlings are stateless, then we are going to be in a very surprising situation considering civilized nations already practiced recognition of foundling rights,” she added.
In a statement on Wednesday, February 3, Poe said she takes refuge in the statement of Sereno who, according to the senator, is “fighting hard for the rights of foundlings like me.”
“It rings loud and clear that the right of foundlings to a nationality will just be an empty rhetoric unless the government accords it due respect and implements this right. I hope that the public and those who will make a final judgment on my case will see things in this light,” Poe said.
The SC is hearing oral arguments on the consolidated petitions filed by Poe seeking for a reversal of the Comelec’s decision to cancel her certificate of candidacy for president in the 2016 elections. – with reports from Camille Elemia/Rappler.com