SC: Senator Grace Poe a natural-born Filipino

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, September 20, ruled that Grace Poe is qualified to hold office as a Philippine senator since she is a natural-born Filipino.

The Court voted 9-3 to dismiss the petition for certiorari filed by Rizalito David, who wanted the SC to review the final decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) upholding Poe's natural-born status.

"Public respondent Senate Electoral Tribunal did not act without or in excess of its jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in rendering its assailed November 17, 2015 Decision and December 3, 2015 Resolution," the SC said in its decision.

"Private respondent Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares is a natural-born Filipino citizen qualified to hold office as Senator of the Republic."

Poe was the first presidential candidate to concede to then Davao City mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a statement, Poe said she welcomed the SC decision that dismissed what she called a "baseless" petition.

"I laud the Court in affirming my status, and in effect all other foundlings in the country, as natural-born Filipinos, with full rights to serve the nation. I sincerely hope that this will put the issue to rest, and that all foundlings be given due recognition each of us deserves," she said.

On foundlings' citizenship

In a press briefer on Tuesday, the SC said it sustained the SET majority's decision that Poe is natural-born by "upholding the use of circumstantial evidence and presumptions."

One such presumption is that all foundlings found in the Philippines are born to at least either a Filipino father or a Filipino mother, thus making them natural-born unless it can be proved otherwise.

"Concluding that foundlings are not natural-born Filipino citizens is tantamount to telling our foundling citizens that they can never be of service to the country in the highest possible capacities. It is also tantamount to excluding them from certain means, such as professions and state scholarships, which will enable the actualization of their aspirations," the Court said.

Moreover, the SC noted that declaring foundlings as not natural-born will create "an inferior class of citizens who are made to suffer that inferiority through no fault of their own."

"If that is not discrimination, we do not know what is," it added.

The Court also noted that David's insistence of Poe's "supposed burden to prove the circumstance of her birth" only places upon her "an impossible condition."

"It borders on the absurd to require proof from private respondent [Poe] when there is no dispute that the crux of the controversy – the identity of her biological parents – is simply not known."

There are other "uncontroverted circumstances," the SC said, that constitute substantive evidence of Poe's parentage:

The SC also ruled on Tuesday that Poe "re-acquired natural-born Filipino citizenship when, following her naturalization as a citizen of the United States of America, she complied with the requisites of Republic Act No. 9225" or the Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003.

Following the SC ruling, Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe filed a separate dissenting opinion and argued that the burden of showing blood relationship to a parent fell on Poe as soon as David had proved that she was a foundling.

She insisted that Poe could not be considered a natural-born citizen since she had not presented "competent and sufficient" evidence of any blood relation to a Filipino parent. – 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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