MANILA, Philippines – “The framers of the Constitution, and the Filipino people who ratified the Constitution, could not have intended such an anomalous situation.”
This is what Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a known critic of Poe, said in his 55-page dissent on the Supreme Court ruling allowing presidential bet Grace Poe to run for president. Carpio was among the 6 justices who voted to disqualify Poe from the race.
Carpio focused on the issue of Poe’s citizenship, reiterating she is not a natural-born Filipino – both as a foundling and a former American citizen. (READ: TIMELINE: Grace Poe's citizenship, residency)
Carpio also sided with the Commission on Elections when it cancelled Poe’s certificate of candidacy, saying the poll body has jurisdiction to decide on candidates’ qualifications ahead of the elections.
“To allow a person, who is found by the Comelec not to be a natural-born Filipino citizen, to run for President of the Philippines constitutes a mockery of the election process. Any person, who is not a natural-born Filipino citizen, running for President is obviously a nuisance candidate under Section 69 of the Omnibus Election Code,” Carpio said.
He added that allowing a so-called nuisance candidate to run for the highest post “renders meaningless” the constitutional power of the Comelec to “enforce and administer all laws…relative to the conduct of an election.”
“The election process becomes a complete mockery since the electorate is mercilessly offered choices which include patently ineligible candidates. The electorate is also needlessly misled to cast their votes, and thus waste their votes, for an ineligible candidate,” he said.
Burden of proof on Poe
Contrary to the majority decision, Carpio maintained the burden of proof rests on Poe, as a candidate seeking to run for the highest post in the country. (READ: Leonen: Shouldn't Grace Poe carry burden of proving citizenship?)
“Any person who claims to be qualified to run for the position of President of the Philippines because he or she is, among others, a natural-born Filipino citizen, has the burden of proving he or she is a natural-born Filipino citizen. Any doubt whether or not he or she is natural-born Filipino citizen is resolved against him or her. The constitutional requirement of a natural-born citizen, being an express qualification for election as President, must be complied with strictly,” Carpio said.
Since Poe is claiming she has Philippine citizenship, Carpio said no presumption should be entertained in her favor.
Poe’s citizenship issue is two-pronged. Aside from being a foundling, the matter became more complicated by her renunciation of Philippine citizenship in 2001.
For Carpio, the mere fact that Poe reacquired Philippine citizenship after pledging allegiance to a foreign country made her an “alien” and her reacquisition through Republic Act 9225 or the Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act is already an act of naturalization.
“In short, natural-born Filipino citizens who have renounced Philippine citizenship and pledged allegiance to a foreign country have become aliens, and can reacquire Philippine citizenship, just like other aliens, only if 'naturalized in accordance with law,'” he said.
Allowing a naturalized citizen to run for president and possibly lead the country’s military is an “anomalous act”, said Carpio.
“Otherwise, a natural-born Filipino citizen who has absolutely renounced and abjured allegiance to the Philippines and pledged sole allegiance to the United States, undertaking to bear arms against any foreign country, including the Philippines, when required by U.S. law, could still become the Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines by performing a simple act – taking an oath of allegiance before a Philippine public official – to reacquire natural-born Philippine citizenship. The framers of the Constitution, and the Filipino people who ratified the Constitution, could not have intended such an anomalous situation,” he said.
A day before she took oath as chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, Poe – a citizen of both the US and the Philippines from 2006 to 2010 – renounced her American citizenship before a local notary public. This is something that critics – justices, poll commissioners, and ordinary citizens – claim to be "self-serving."
Carpio was so intent on the citizenship aspect that he “deemed it irrelevant” to discuss the residency requirement of “naturalized” Poe in his dissent.
Nevertheless he said: “[A]ssuming petitioner [Poe] is a natural-born Filipino citizen, which she is not, I concur with Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo's Dissenting Opinion on the residency issue,” he said.
The justice reiterated foundling Poe is not a natural-born Filipino as her birth does not fall in any of the conditions set by the 1935 Constitution, the law applicable to her birth in 1968.
While the camp of Poe said that the intent of the framers of the 1935 Constitution and international laws and treaties grant foundlings natural-born status, Carpio debunked their arguments.
As what Carpio pointed out in his dissenting opinion in the Senate Electoral Tribunal ruling, he reiterated that delegates to the 1934 Constitutional Convention eventually rejected the amendment seeking to include foundlings in the list of natural-born Filipino citizens at birth.
Carpio added the Philippines is not bound by international laws and treaties cited by Poe – the 1930 Hague Convention and the 1961 United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness – as the Philippines is not a signatory to them.
While the Philippines signed the 1989 Convention of the Rights of the Child, Carpio said this could not apply to Poe’s birth in 1968 because the Philippine government signed it only in 1990, or more than 20 years after.
Further, the senior justice said the treaty grants only the right to acquire nationality, not natural-born citizenship.
“In sum, there is no international treaty to which the Philippines is a contracting party, which provides expressly or impliedly that a foundling is deemed a natural-born citizen of the country in which the foundling is found. There is also obviously no international treaty, to which the Philippines is not a party, obligating the Philippines to confer automatically Philippine citizenship to a foundling at birth,” Carpio said.
The justice again hit Poe and her camp for supposedly using emotions to steer the issue. For Carpio, only DNA evidence could prove that Poe is indeed a natural-born Filipino.
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 email@example.com