Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno backed the arguments presented by Senator Grace Poe regarding the claim that she cannot be considered a natural-born Filipino given that she is a foundling or a person with no known biological parents.
During the second round of oral arguments held January 26, Sereno told Poe’s lawyer Alexander Poblador that if the Supreme Court rules that Poe must be disqualified because foundlings like her are not natural-born citizens, then it can have grave implications for children in the same circumstance.
“We have to be careful that we are not—By a rigid reading of what we consider as failure to enumerate foundlings—we are going to create unintended consequences, the difficulty of which are not perhaps just to be visited on your client, but on so many foundlings in the country,” Sereno said.
“The implication of this case is very profound not only for your client. Actually, we can put a blinder on who your client is and just focus on the implication on foundling rights,” she said. In one interesting exchange, Sereno openly wondered about the discriminatory effect of an adverse SC ruling on foundlings’ chances of being adopted.
Sereno: “If the court makes a conclusion against foundlings who are being adopted, what do you think will be the possible policy implications that will result in the desirability of adopting foundlings vis-a-vis adopting those with known parents?”
Poblador: “No one will adopt foundlings because of the possibility that the decree of adoption can be challenged on the ground of lack of jurisdiction in the court.”
Sereno also implied that foundlings are considered Filipinos from the start, citing Article XV of the Civil Code, and Republic Act 8552 or the Domestic Adoption Act of 1998. Her comments must be read in the context of Article IV, Section II of the 1987 Constitution which describes natural-born Filipinos as “citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship.”
The Chief Justice then went on to note the tough burden imposed on Poe by the Commission on Elections and other parties challenging her candidacy on this aspect.
Sereno: “Assuming there is a burden to prove qualification and the burden equates to who your parents are, if the candidate herself does not even know who her parents are or cannot prove it, what is the implication on the rule on impossible condition?”
Poblador: “The burden is reversed and should now shift to the petitioners [pushing for Poe’s disqualification.”
Poe’s candidacy is also being challenged on the grounds that she has not yet met the ten-year residency requirement set by the 1987 Constitution for presidential candidates, but settling the question about her citizenship once and for all carries more weight.
As noted previously by The Filipino Scribe, a negative ruling on this issue can mean the end of Poe’s political career. Apart from being declared ineligible to run for president this 2016, she also cannot seek any executive and legislative position as long as the 1987 Constitution is in effect.
Although filed as a separate case before the SC, the disqualification case that defeated 2013 senatorial candidate Rizalito David filed against Poe at the Senate Electoral Tribunal also hinges on her not being a natural-born Filipino. In other words, it is possible for her to eventually lose her Senate seat as well.