Leonen: Shouldn't Grace Poe carry burden of proving citizenship?

MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen on Tuesday, January 26, asked the private counsel of Senator Grace Poe on who carries the burden of proving that the presidential bet is a natural-born Filipino.

During the 2nd day of oral arguments on Poe's case against the Commission on Elections, Leonen said that those who seek Poe’s disqualification presented “strong” argument that it is the senator and not her accusers who should do it.

It is a "reasonable" expectation, the justice said, because the position that Poe is seeking -- that of as a Philippine president -- has great powers.

“You know the power of the president. The president can make this entire court. The next president, 10 retiring justices within the next term. The next president will appoint the ombudsman in 2017. The next president will probably appoint Comelec, I'm not sure, or the Civil Service Commission. The next president determines the chief of staff,” Leonen told Poe’s counsel Alex Poblador.

“What awesome powers that president has. Therefore, for you to put your name to the public in order for the public to choose, then you have the burden of evidence, correct?” Leonen added.

Poblador refused to accept this. He maintained the burden of proof rests on those who accuse Poe.

“That’s false. Anyone who accuses a candidate he is disqualifying has the burden of proof to establish the disqualification,” Poblador said.

He added: “The importance of the position has nothing to do with rules of presumption and burden of proof. I believe that petitioner, even if she is running for a higher position, even if she is a foundling, is entitled to the application of burden of proof and presumptions.”

2nd class citizens?

Poblador maintained that Poe, a foundling, is a natural-born Filipino on the basis of generally accepted principles of international law - something that other justices questioned.

Further asked by Leonen, Poblador said there had been no proof showing that Poe is a foreigner.

“No evidence at all that she or her parents are foreigners. No proof…sole basis is that she’s a foundling,” the counsel said.

Leonen cited the country's colonial history and how Spanish and American colonizers used different levels of citizenship – something that the youngest justice said leads to oppression of the marginalized.

"Should we also not take into account our colonial past where we have to prevent a situation where there are second- and third-class citizens in the country, more than what the Constitution requires?" he said. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, 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 camille.elemia@rappler.com

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