|SENATOR GRACE POE LLAMANZARES
|THE COLUMNIST- Joseph G. Lariosa
By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
Sen. Grace Poe should not be disheartened if her detractors want the Senate Electoral Tribunal and the Commission on Elections to scrutinize her citizenship and residency after all she welcomed the filing of the cases by defeated senatorial candidate Rizalito David against her because in her own words, “I can answer the questions on my citizenship and residency. It is an opportunity for the truth to come out and for this issue to be resolved once and for all.”
If she can really make a case before the SET and the Comelec that the cases filed against her by Mr. David will not stick, why even accuse Sec. Mar Roxas of stabbing her in the back? Why be defensive?
Vetting the background of a presidential or vice presidential candidate is a given before any election where a candidate should be ready to shed most of his or her privacy. Kung ikaw ay pipili ng mapapangasawa, kailangan kaliskisan mo nang maigi ang lumiligaw sa’yo dahil ang pagaasawa ay di tulad ng kanin na isusubo at iluluwa kung mapaso. (If you are going to get married, you should be able to study up close your suitor because getting married is not like chewing rice that you spit out if it were too hot.)
Candidates will be courting again next year the votes of the Filipino people who deserve nothing but the best candidates, who stick to the truth, who have no skeleton in their closets and have visionary programs of government that would make the people’s lives a little better.
Senator Poe should even be thankful to United Nationalist Alliance interim president and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco for questioning her 10-year residency in case she decides to run for president or vice president on the May 9, 2016 general elections because Mr. Tiangco only wants to send a message that all candidates running for office must meet the proper requirements.
When Mr. Tiangco waved Sen. Poe’s certificate of candidacy (COC) during a press conference, indicating she declared the “period of residence in the Philippines before May 13, 2013” elections at “6 (six) years” and “six (6) months,” Mr. Tiangco immediately concluded that she would be short of the constitutional requirements of ten-(10)-year residency in the May 9, 2016 presidential elections. Maybe.
But when this columnist added the “6 years and 6 months” to May 9, 2016 presidential elections, it appears that Ms. Poe would technically meet the residency requirement because she would have been a resident of the Philippines for 9 (nine) years, 6 (six) months and 17 days or 9 55/100 or 9.6 years during the presidential elections in 2016, which if converted into a whole number is 10 years, not 9 years.
OMNIBUS & SUPREME COURT ON POE’S SIDE
As the Omnibus Election Code’s Section 72 of Art. IX provides “if for any reason, a candidate is not declared by final judgment before an election to be disqualified and he is voted for and receives the winning number of votes in such election, his violation (or disqualification) of the provisions of the preceding sections shall not prevent his proclamation and assumption to office.”
Even the Philippine Supreme Court had been magnanimous in finding for winning candidates when it comes to numbers, like questions of age limits. In the case of the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., when he was elected Mayor of Concepcion, Tarlac, Ninoy was 22, which was one year shy of the 23 local government age-limit requirement. When he became senator at the age of 34, Sen. Aquino was short of the one-year constitutional minimum requirement of 35 but the Supreme Court allowed Ninoy to keep his Senate seat just the same.
Senator Poe should even be thankful to Mr. David or whoever bankrolled David’s filing fee (P50K/US$1K) because if she could prove that she was “’single and eligible,’ then her marriage to the Filipino people” would certainly make the relationship sweeter and more lasting.
Imagine if nobody questions her citizenship and residency before the elections and she wins the presidency or vice presidency and the candidate she defeated would mount to challenge her citizenship and residency afterwards and succeeds in unseating her, isn’t it adding insult to injury?
I believe Ms. Poe is going to escape her cases at the SET and Comelec unscathed.
All she has to do is to use the playbook used by my kababayan (provincemate in Sorsogon in the Philippines), Juan Gallanosa Frivaldo, petitioner, against the Commission on Elections and the League of Municipalities, Sorsogon Chapter, represented by its President Salvador N. Estuye when Frivaldo won as Sorsogon governor.
Mr. Frivaldo convinced the Philippine Supreme Court in his certiorari that although Frivaldo became a U.S. naturalized citizen in 1983, his naturalization was “not impressed with voluntariness” because it was “merely forced upon himself as a means of survival against the unrelenting persecution by the Martial Law Dictator’s agents abroad.”
In support of his naturalization as an American citizen, Frivaldo cited the Nottebohm Case, [(1955 I.C.J. 4; 49 A.J.I.L. 396)] where a German’s naturalization in Liechtenstein was not recognized because it had been obtained for reasons of convenience only.
Frivaldo said his oath in his certificate of candidacy that he was a natural-born should be sufficient act of repatriation. Additionally, his active participation in the 1987 congressional elections had divested him of American citizenship under the laws of the United States, thus restoring his Philippine citizenship.
Frivaldo added that he returned to the Philippines after the EDSA revolution to help the restoration of democracy. He also argued that the challenge to his title as Sorsogon governor should be dismissed, being in reality a quo warranto petition that should have been filed within ten days from his proclamation in accordance with Section 253 of the Omnibus Election Code. The League, moreover, was not a proper party because it was not a voter and so could not sue under this section.
When the League said that if it was not party to the suit, Estuye, himself argued, that he was also suing not only for the League but also in his personal capacity, the Supreme Court said Estuye could not have instituted “the suit by himself alone.”
SEN. GORDON, A CANDIDATE AND A GENTLEMAN
If there is someone, who should really file a case to dislodge Ms. Poe as a senator if he wants to nail her down for possible perjury for not being truthful in her COC, it is not Mr. David, who placed 29th with 820,984 votes, but former Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon, who at 13thplace garnered 10,159,561 votes, and could easily take over if the disqualification against first placer Poe, who polled 16,339,187 votes, for perjury, holds.
But Mr. Gordon, ever a gentleman, might have passed up the opportunity of dislodging Ms. Poe ten days after her proclamation because Mr. Gordon did not have any basis to do so at that point.
But ever since Messrs. Tiangco and David publicly questioned the residency and citizenship of Ms. Poe, Mr. Gordon never responded to this columnist for comment and had largely distanced himself from joining the mix, perhaps recognizing the futility of filing a quo warranto.
But Senator Poe would have to disprove that she was still using her U.S. passport even after she effectively renounced her U.S. naturalization even after employing with the Philippine government service as Chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board from 2010 up to 2013.
If she passes the “U.S. passport” test, for me, the only issue left to be resolved by Ms. Poe is to accept the challenge that she is willing to undergo a DNA test to prove that she is not the daughter of the late President Marcos by providing her specimen for the test. Of course, she will not be disqualified if she fails the test.
But if she accepts my challenge that she takes a DNA Marcos test, her mere acceptance alone, as I told her big supporter, Los Angeles, California and Sorsogon community organizer and activist Bobby M. Reyes of mabuhayradio.com, will make me root for her in the 2016 presidential campaign because it is a testament that she has the guts to face and handle the truth.
Otherwise, she will be hounded by this question throughout the campaign.
And she would miss the chance to be my “TransPoemational” candidate!