Binay versus Poe

It's Jejomar Binay vs. Grace Poe. Or Poe vs. Binay. The vice president got 29 percent of the vote in the BusinessWorld-SWS February 2016 Pre-Election Survey: Binay upstaged the senator's 24 percent and Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte's similar 24 percent rating.

In Pulse Asia's Jan. 24 to 28 survey, Poe had led with 30 percent of the vote, seven percentage points ahead of Binay's 23 percent.

Thus, on May 9, this year, the presidential election could be a toss-up between Binay and Poe. As of this writing, the vice president has the edge, but once the Supreme Court allows Poe to run for president, the senator most likely will make mincemeat of her rivals.

Poe is clearly an underdog right now largely because the Commission on Elections does not think she is a natural-born Filipino and that she has not met the 10-year residency required of presidential candidates immediately preceding the election.

The senator went to the Supreme Court to overturn the Comelec rulings. So far, based on coverage of the nearly one month of hearings, many of the high court justices seem warm to her, particularly Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and freshly minted Justice Francis Jardeleza, along with pro-Benigno Aquino Justice Marvic Leonen.

The three justices carry a lot of weight. They are all appointees of President Aquino.

Meanwhile, in the vice presidential race, graduating Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero are suddenly tied for first place, with 26 percent choosing each of them in the SWS February survey.

Eating dust are Rep. Leni Robredo and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, with 19 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

In the senatorial race, the leaders are Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto, 52 percent, returning Senator Panfilo Lacson at 49 percent, reelectionist Senator Ralph Recto at 46 percent, returning Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan at 42 percent, and reelectionist Senator Frank Drilon, the incumbent Senate President, at 40 percent.

Implications on foundlings

On Feb. 2, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno fretted about the implications on foundlings like Senator Grace Poe if she were not allowed to run for president for not being a natural-born Filipino citizen.

Addressing Arthur Lim, the Comelec commissioner defending the poll body's stand disqualifying Poe for not being natural born, Sereno asked point blank: "If you're saying that foundlings are not natural-born citizens, have you thought about the impact on the rights of all foundlings?"

"The court now has to categorically answer the question about her [Poe's] status, because the pronouncements we will make will affect so many others," mused Sereno.

Earlier for his part, Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen pursued a voice of the people [vox populi, vox dei] argument in supporting Poe's bid.

"If I am going to say that a foundling is not a natural-born Filipino citizen, that they cannot hold thousands of offices that require natural-born citizens, [does it mean that] any of those persons holding any of those positions who is alleged to be a foundling, must be removed?" Sereno wondered.

"The moment any of them does not know their parents, they forfeit their right to office," she argued.

"If your relative is a foundling, a petition for quo warranto may be brought against them to remove them from office, so the Office of the Solicitor General must set up a special division."

Sereno seems to believe that foundlings should be declared natural born, pointing out that many countries recognize foundlings are citizens. It's a question of fairness and equal protection of the law.

Whatever ruling is adopted by the court should not be based on "absurd and extreme interpretation that may be perceived as cruel and unjust," the youngest post-war chief justice said.

"My advocacy is for the rule of law," Sereno also pointed out.

Article VII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution provides: "No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least 40 years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding such election."

Comelec's Lim had contended that Poe never presented documentary or testimony to at least provide "substantial basis" that she is a natural-born Filipino.

Sereno recalled that in the past, the Supreme Court decided cases regarding "filiation based on presumptions," wherein the Philippine citizenship of foundlings was presumed by the tribunal.

In the 1976 case of Duncan and Christensen v. Court of First Instance of Rizal, the court held that a child who was given for adoption to a couple by a lawyer who knew the mother but was made to promise that she would not disclose her identity was presumed by the Supreme Court to be a Filipino citizen.

In the 1963 case of Ellis v. Republic, the Supreme Court barred a non-resident American couple from adopting a baby left in a hospital by an unidentified mother.

The court presumed the child to be a Filipino and subject to a Philippine law that prohibits nonresident aliens from adopting abandoned children in the country.

Sereno also noted that in 2004, the Supreme Court assumed that Poe's great-grandfather Lorenzo was a Filipino even based only on the evidence that he died in Pangasinan province and was residing there when all Spanish subjects when the American came and later passed a law deeming all former Spanish subjects as Philippine citizens.

Consequently, Lorenzo was also able to transfer Philippine citizenship to his son Fernando Poe Sr. and to his grandson, Ronald Allan Poe, known popularly as Fernando Poe Jr.. FPJ, in turn, is Grace Poe's adoptive father.

Sourcee: The Standard

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