‘Adoption laws presume foundlings Filipino citizens’ – Sereno

MANILA, Philippines – Laws on adoption—both domestic and inter-country adoption—require the presumption that the children to be adopted are Filipinos. 

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno raised this view at the second round of the oral arguments on the eligibility cases versus presidential candidate Grace Poe January 26.

It was the first time Sereno spoke: “If the Court concludes against adoption of foundlings…if we rule against foundling rights…what will happen to foundlings? It will discourage their adoption… Foundlings will be discriminated against…The implication of such ruling is profound.”

“Let’s put a blinder on who your client is,” she said, referring to Poe, and “focus on foundling rights.”

“More parents want to adopt. What the Court will decide will speak to them,” she continued, taking the cudgels for foundlings. She argued that if the justices go by a “strict” interpretation of the Constitution, the “language is silent” on foundlings as natural-born citizens, therefore it is also “silent” on their rights.

“We have to be careful,” she said because a “rigid” reading of the Constitution, which “failed” to include foundlings in its enumeration of natural-born citizens, will “create unintended consequences.”

She said that Alex Poblador, Poe’s counsel, missed the  “richness” of domestic law in his arguments.

This, together with Justice Antonio Carpio’s probing on when principles of international law are generally accepted and his wringing of proof of Poe’s intent to stay in the country, Justice Marvic Leonen’s search for a “middle ground” between a “harsh law” (Dura lex, sed lex) and the “voice of the people” (Vox populi, vox dei) highlighted the 3-and-a-half hour hearing.

Poblador answered questions from the Court a second time to argue that Poe complies with the requirements of natural-born citizenship and 10-year residency Supreme Court justices raise doubts on Poe’s residency in her bid for the top post in the country.

International law

When do principles of international law become generally accepted?

Carpio cited facts and figures to debunk Poblador’s claim that the international convention cited as pillar of Poe’s defense that she is a natural-born citizen is not among those “generally accepted.”

Only 7 countries had ratified the 1930 Hague Convention (on certain questions relating to the question of conflict in nationality laws) in 1934 during the deliberations on the 1935 Constitution, a key argument of the Poe camp in saying that the intention of the framers of the Constitution was to include foundlings among the natural-born citizens.

When the 1930 Hague Convention took effect in 1937, only 10 countries out of 74 member-states of the League of Nations had ratified it or 13.5%.

When Poe was born in 1968, only 22 out of 193 member-states had ratified the Hague Convention, or just 11.4%.

“If a large number of states adopt provisions [of an international law] as part of internal law, then it becomes customary international law,” Carpio said.

But Poblador insisted that majority practice was not necessary in making an international law “generally accepted,” adding that even “regional principles” of international law can bind the Philippines.

Income tax

Carpio also asked what Poe did during the first year of her return to the country to which Poblador said she was a resident at the time. 

Was she a resident-alien?

Poblador said yes.

Carpio then asked Poblador to submit to the Court a redacted copy of Poe’s income tax return for 2005-2006 since resident-aliens were required to file taxes. Poblador said that privacy issues were involved. Carpio did not insist.

‘Middle ground’

For almost 2 hours, Leonen asked Poe’s counsel questions on various issues but one thought surfaced throughout all these: a “middle ground” between a “harsh law” and the school of thought that advocates leaving the decision to the people.

“Must we apply the law even if it is unreasonable,” he asked. He answered himself by saying that justices should look at the rationale behind the text of a law “to give it life.”

On the first day of the oral arguments, Leonen took the side of Poe and appeared to favor that the Court defer to the elections before deciding the candidate’s eligibility cases.

Poblador also proposed that the Court wait for the election results before ruling on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualification cases versus Poe.

On this point, Mariano del Castillo, the justice in charge of these consolidated cases, said: “We cannot shirk from our solemn duty to interpret the Constitution.”

Responding to the argument that the people should decide, he pointed out that the “Constitution is the voice of the people,” ratified by the majority in a referendum. This, he said, should be the Court’s basis for arriving at a decision.

In the third round of the oral arguments on February 2, the Comelec will argue its position. – Rappler.com