MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe met for the first time on Tuesday, November 10, the first person to seek her disqualification from the presidential election in 2016.
There were no eye contacts nor exchanges between her and lawyer-complainant Estrella Elamparo, even as they were seated only a few feet apart at the Commission of Elections (Comelec) office.
Elamparo hardly minced her words when she said Poe is a stateless person and not a natural-born Filipino citizen.
“She is at best presumed Filipino, but definitely not natural-born. Legally, she is stateless,” Elamparo, who was her own lawyer, told the Comelec's 2nd division.
Poe admitted getting hurt, saying even refugees, such as the Rohingyas of Myanmar, have origins.
“Sa lahat ng sinabi niya, ang pinakamasakit siguro ay ang sinasabi niya na wala akong estado, stateless. Ibig kong sabihin, kahit naman ang mga refugee meron talagang pinanggalingan. Ang dahilan ng ito ay para depensahan ang mga karapatan natin,” Poe said in a chance interview.
(Of all the things she said, the most hurtful maybe is when she said I am stateles. I mean, even refugess have a place of origin. All this is to defend our rights.)
While Elamparo said she “commiserates” with the neophyte senator, the rule of law should be followed.
She added it is the present Constitution that treats Poe as such, not her. She then questioned what Poe did to change the system that appears to be discriminatory to foundlings.
“Hangga't di nababago ang Konstitusyon at ang mga batas, ang kailangan sundin ang kasalukuyang Saligang Batas na ang katulad po ni Senator Grace Poe na hindi nalalaman ang kanyang tatay at nanay ay di maaaring makapagsabi na sya'y isang natural-born Filipino citizen,” Elamparo said.
(Until the Constitution and other laws are changed, we need to follow the present fundamental law that says someone like Senator Grace Poe, who does not know her real father and mother, cannot say she is a natural-born Filipino citizen.)
No use for int’l treaties
To further push for her case, Elamparo said international laws and doctrines do not apply to the neophyte senator, as she said all treaties Poe cited were not ratified by the Philippines. (READ: Timeline: Grace Poe citizenship, residency)
During the hearing, it was discussed that the 1961 Convention on Reduction of Statelessness was only ratified by 64 out of the 194 member countries of the United Nations then, excluding the Philippines.
This, Elamparo said, means the treaty is not a “generally accepted principle,” thus, cannot become part of Philippine law.
But Poe and her camp believe otherwise. They said no Philippine law has explicitly stated the protection and citizenship rights of foundlings, so they had to resort to international laws.
"As for object evidence, none. Since the client is a foundling, we cannot find her mother and father, we resorted to interpretation of the law and international laws," said George Garcia, Poe's counsel, when asked by Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim.
“Sa kanya (Elamparo) lang nakabase 'yun. Ilang mga court rulings ng Korte Suprema ang nagsasaad na ang mga international laws, na kahit hindi pinirmahan ng ating bansa, ay ginagamit pa ring batas,” Poe said.
(It's just based on her own [statements]. Many rulings of the Supreme Court have stated that international laws, even not ratified by the country, are still being used as laws here.)
While the Comelec Second Division has yet to rule on Poe’s request to consolidate all disqualification cases against her, they asked the two camps to submit their final memorandum or arguments on November 23.
Elamparo said the decision on the case is expected “shortly” after that, as the poll body earlier said they want to finish all election cases before the printing of ballots in December.
Poe is facing a total of 4 disqualification cases before the poll body on the basis of her alleged questionable citizenship and residency. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org