MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court decision letting Grace Poe run may plunge the presidency into a crisis if the senator turns out to be American after all, said presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte.
"Baka two years after, kung may magsabi, may makitang ebidensiya at sabihin Americano talaga iyan, naloko na," he said during a public gathering in Valenzuela City on Wednesday, March 9.
(If two years after, someone says there is evidence to say she is really American, we'll be in a mess.)
He added, "Mabuti pa kay Trump na lang kayo bumoto o kay Hillary, pareho lang rin." (We might as well vote for Trump or Hillary, it's the same thing)
Duterte: If 2 years later, proof surfaces that Poe is American, naloko na. Might as well vote for Trump. #PHVote pic.twitter.com/DkwGUTiAQk — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) March 9, 2016
For Duterte, the SC ruling set aside the requirement of the Constitution that candidates for president must be natural-born Filipino citizens.
Poe’s critics say that because she is a foundling, the citizenship of her parents remain a mystery, thus there are doubts about her being a “natural-born” Filipino.
A lawyer who served as prosecutor before becoming Davao City mayor, Duterte said earlier that day that the SC decision goes against law school lessons.
“I respect it, but I don’t agree with it kasi maski magtanong ka sa kahit sinong abugado, isang semestro 'yan, political law, kabaliktaran sa lahat ng sinasabi ng mga professor,” he told reporters.
(Even if you ask any lawyer, we took political law for one semester, and the decision is the opposite of what the professors taught us.)
Duterte said that, in law school, he and his colleagues were taught that a natural-born Filipino is one who is a Filipino the moment they are out of their mother's body.
"Lahat kami ng abogado diyan tutol sa Supreme Court. 'Natural-born,' paglabas mo sa tiyan ng nanay mo Pilipino ka na. That is natural-born, natural ang pagka-Pilipino," he explained.
(All lawyers will disagree with the Supreme Court. Natural-born means the moment you leave your mother's body, you are a Filipino. You're being a Filipino is natural.)
Patriotism still an issue
Duterte’s running mate, Alan Peter Cayetano also weighed in.
Though the Supreme Court decision takes away the legal issues hounding Poe’s candidacy, she cannot escape the political issues.
“So malinaw na sinabi ng Supreme Court na qualified siya. Ang tanong, dapat ba siya? So 'yung political issue, 'yung issue ng patriotism, 'yung isa na tinalikuran ba niya ang Pilipino sa pamamagitan ng panunumpa sa watawat ng America? 'Yan ay nananatiling political issue,” he said.
(It’s clear the Supreme Court says she’s qualified. But the question is, should she be president? The political issue of patriotism, did she turn her back on being Filipino by swearing in front of the American flag, those remain political issues.)
“What if there is a conflict between the US and the Philippines? What if the interests of the two countries are different?” asked Cayetano.
Despite their thoughts on the SC ruling, the tandem congratulated Poe and her team.
Duterte said he believes Poe is a "decent lady."
"She's very bright and courteous. It's only her citizenship I question as a lawyer," he said.
The Mindanaoan presidential bet once attributed his decision to gun for the presidency to the possibility of Poe winning and thus becoming an “American president.”
He has since said other factors pushed him to run for president. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.