SC justice to Poe's camp: Prove that Grace is natural born

MANILA, Philippines – Two Supreme Court (SC) justices on Monday, September 21, conceded that Senator Grace Poe is a citizen of the Philippines, but whether she is a natural born Filipino remains a question.

Associate Justice Arturo Brion, a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) that is tackling the disqualification case against the senator, said Poe's camp has yet to prove that she is a natural born Filipino.

"When it comes to adoption, when it comes to voting, the issuance of TIN, and other submissions that you made, I have to see a requirement there that [these] could only be filed by a natural born citizen of the Philippines," he told Poe's counsel, Alex Poblador.

Brion added: "The only one perhaps that would require that there be a statement of natural born status would be the certificate of candidacy, but, other than that, all the submissions made, I would be willing to concede that Senator Grace Poe is a citizen of the Philippines. But the issue is natural born – that's what your objective would be when you file your memorandum."

Poblador argued that they have the presumption of law in their favor, which means foundlings like Poe, under applicable international treaties, is a natural born Filipino. (READ: TIMELINE: Grace Poe's citizenship, residency)

"That's what the Convention [on the Reduction] of Statelessness says: the foundling shall be considered born of parents who are citizens of the place of the country where the foundling is found, so natural born," he told reporters after the oral arguments.

Article 2 of the United Nations convention states that a "foundling found in the territory of a Contracting State shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be considered to have been born within that territory of parents possessing the nationality of that State."

Poblador said while the Philippines is not signatory to the convention, it is stated in its introductory note that the convention itself gives effect to Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (DHR), to which the Philippines is a signatory. 

The DHR recognizes that everyone has a right to a nationality.

According to Poblador, the camp of Rizalito David – petitioner in the disqualification case against Poe – did not allege that Poe's parents are foreigners and did not present evidence to support this argument.

Since the complainant failed to present evidence, Poblador said the case should be dismissed by SET because the presumption stands that Poe is a natural born Filipino.

'At least' a naturalized citizen

For his part, Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, the chair of the SET, recognized that Poe is "at least" a naturalized citizen under Article IV, Section 1 of the 1935 Constitution.

Article IV Section 1
The following are citizens of the Philippines:

(5) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.

The 1935 Constitution applies to Poe, who was born in 1968 based on official documents. 

While interpellating David's counsel Manuelito Luna, Carpio said that the DHR, as a general customary law, has a status of an "Act of Congress" because of the doctrine of incorporation.

This means obligations under DHR must be enforced, including the right of a person to a nationality.

"There is a principle of customary international law that every state must avoid statelessness and there is also a principle that gives persons a right to acquire nationality. If you add this together, that becomes part of our law because it does not contravene the Constitution…. We can apply them here."

Carpio added: "So when a foundling applies for a passport and we grant a passport to a foundling, we are applying these two principles of customary international law, that it is under 5 [of Article IV]. So that foundling becomes a citizen, but under 5."

But Poblador refused to acknowledge that Poe is a naturalized citizen. 

"We're not placing Grace Poe under that category [naturalized]. We're placing her under that category of children, we're placing her under the category of children of father or mother as Filipino," he told reporters on Monday. 

Both the camps of Poe and David are required to submit to the SET their memorandum within 15 days, after which the case will be submitted for resolution by the tribunal. – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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