Before Grace Poe’s case, how did SC justices vote in the past?

Reynaldo Santos Jr

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Before Grace Poe’s case, how did SC justices vote in the past?
To decide on Poe's case are the 9 members of the SET, which includes 3 Supreme Court justices

MANILA, Philippines – While Senator Grace Poe already announced her bid for the presidency in next year’s polls, she has yet to win another fight – win the disqualification case filed against her before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET).

The SET is expected to decide by November the case filed last August by 2013 senatorial candidate Rizalito David, who questioned the validity of Poe’s senatorial candidacy and victory. The case refers to the issue of whether Poe is a natural-born Filipino citizen, and whether she was able to fulfil the constitutional two-year residency requirement for seeking a Senate seat.

To decide on Poe’s case are the 9 members of SET, which includes 3 Supreme Court (SC) justices and 6 senators. (READ: Do you know the SET that will decide Grace Poe’s fate?)

The 3 SC justices who are also members of SET are:

  • Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, chairman
  • Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, member
  • Associate Justice Arturo Brion, member

Just how will these 3 justices decide on the case? Do their votes in past disqualification cases brought to the High Court show any pattern that could provide a clue on how they would decide on Poe’s case?

Rappler looked at recent cases filed before the SC that deal with the disqualification of a candidate due to citizenship. See how the justices decided in these cases.

1. Reyes vs Comelec, et al.
G.R. 207264
June 25, 2013

The SC affirmed the Comelec decision which disqualified Marinduque Representative Regina Reyes, who won in the May 2013 elections, for allegedly being a naturalized American. 

Reyes claimed she had acquired dual citizenship due to her marriage to an American citizen, and was able to renounce her foreign citizenship in 2012.

Reyes claimed being a Filipino-American citizen and insisted that Republic Act 9225 (or the Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act) applies to her. It states that natural-born citizens of the Philippines who become citizens of another country shall be deemed not to have lost their Philippine citizenship.

The SC disagreed with Reyes and ruled that aside from her bare allegation that she is a natural-born citizen, she submitted no proof to support or showed any proof as to the inapplicability of RA 9225 to her.

The SC added that Reyes also made several claims in her petition in the High Court which she didn’t point out when the case was still pending with the Comelec.

“All in all, considering that the petition for denial and cancellation of the COC is summary in nature, the Comelec is given a wide discretion in the evaluation and admission of evidence pursuant to its principal objective of determining whether or not the COC should be cancelled,” the Court said.

VERDICT: Justice Leonardo-de Castro concurred with the decision, but Justices Brion and Carpio dissented. In his dissent, Justice Brion was of the opinion that the Court “hastily” judged the case without hearing both parties. “The Court should at least hear and consider both sides before making a ruling that would favor the son of a Member of the Court,” Brion said.

Reyes claimed that Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr, whose son Lord Allan Jay Velasco she challenged in the elections, used “his unelected position” to influence the High Court into dismissing her petition. (READ: Disqualified Marinduque bet: SC favored justice’s son)

2. Japzon vs Comelec, et al.
G.R. 180088
January 19, 2009

SC dismissed the petition of Manuel Japzon, who sought the disqualification of Jaime Ty. Both ran for mayor in General MacArthur, Eastern Samar in the May 2007 elections, with Ty winning the race.

Japzon claimed that Ty failed to renounce his American citizenship, which he acquired due to his migration to the US. However, the Comelec found that Ty was able to do so before filing his candidacy.

Japzon then argued before the SC that Ty lost his “domicile of origin” when he became a naturalized American citizen, and that he did not reacquire Philippine citizenship by merely taking an oath, as required under RA 9225.

The SC said in its decision: “He could still retain his domicile in the USA, and he did not necessarily regain his domicile in the Municipality of General MacArthur, Eastern Samar. Ty merely had the option to  reestablish his domicile in the Municipality of General Macarthur, said place becoming his new “domicile of choice” (or residence of choice). The length of his residence therein shall be determined from the time he made it his domicile of choice, and it shall not retroact to the time of his birth.”

The SC noted that for election purposes, the terms “domicile” and “residence” are synonymous and interchangeable.

The SC added that Ty was able to prove that he stayed in the municipality one year before the elections, making him eligible to run for public office.

VERDICT: All 3 justices concurred with the decision.

3. Maquiling vs Comelec, et al.
G.R. 195649
April 16, 2013

The SC reversed a Comelec en banc decision and decided to disqualify Mayor Rommel Arnado of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.

Arnado was earlier disqualified by the Comelec’s first division after it was discovered that he still used his US passport months before the 2010 elections despite renouncing his American citizenship in 2009. The Comelec en banc, however, sided with Arnado, saying that the use of a foreign passport is not one of the grounds for losing Philippine citizenship.

Rival candidate Casan Maquiling elevated the case to the SC, which voted against Arnado.

“Between 03 April 2009, the date he renounced his foreign citizenship, and 30 November 2009, the date he filed his COC, he used his US passport four times, actions that run counter to the affidavit of renunciation he had earlier executed. By using his foreign passport, Arnado positively and voluntarily represented himself as an American, in effect declaring before immigration authorities of both countries that he is an American citizen, with all attendant rights and privileges granted by the United States of America,” according to the SC decision.

VERDICT: Justice Carpio concurred with the decision, while Justices Leonardo-De Castro and Brion dissented. In his dissenting opinion, Brion said that Arnado’s use of his US passport “did not amount to an express renunciation of his Philippine citizenship.”

Brion explained that an express renunciation is “manifested by direct and appropriate language, as distinguished from that which is inferred from conduct.” He added that Arnado merely used his US passport without any indication of his intent to re-acquire US citizenship.

4. Jacot vs Dal, et al
G.R. 179848
November 27, 2008

The SC dismissed the Petition for Review filed by Nestor Jacot, the winning vice mayoral candidate of Catarman, Camiguin in the 2007 elections, after Comelec disqualified him for not renouncing his United States (US) citizenship.

In his petition, Jacot claimed that his Oath of Allegiance to the Philippines was done in Los Angeles, and that the oath contained in his Certificate of Candidacy operated as an effective renunciation of his foreign citizenship.

In its decision, the SC held that the oath of allegiance in Jacot’s COC “does not constitute the personal and sworn renunciation sought under Republic Act 9225.”

VERDICT: Justice Carpio concurred with the decision. Justices Leonardo-de Castro and Brion were on leave.

5. Lopez vs Comelec, et al
G.R. 182701
July 23, 2008

The SC affirmed the Comelec decision to disqualify Eusebio Eugenio K. Lopez as barangay chairman in Iloilo City after he won in the 2007 barangay elections.

Lopez was born a Filipino but he sought American citizenship and renounced his Filipino citizenship. He claimed becoming a dual citizen by re-acquiring Filipino citizenship prior to the elections.

He added that he possessed all the qualifications to run by returning to the Philippines and residing in the barangay.

But the Comelec found that he was not able to reacquire his Filipino citizenship in the manner provided by law. The SC sided with the Comelec, saying that RA 9225 “explicitly provides that should one seek elective public office, he should first make a personal and sworn renunciation of any and all foreign citizenship before any public officer authorized to administer an oath.”

“While it is true that petitioner won the elections, took his oath and began to discharge the functions of Barangay Chairman, his victory cannot cure the defect of his candidacy.”

VERDICT: All 3 justices concurred with the decision. –

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