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Sereno's sympathy for Poe 'misplaced'.

Byline: Tarra Quismundo

Even before he takes his turn to face the magistrates, one of the lawyers calling on the Supreme Court to uphold the disqualification of Sen. Grace Poe from the May presidential election has dismissed as misplaced Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's position that the central issue in the case concerned the rights of foundlings.

Poe, found abandoned in an Iloilo church as an infant and later adopted by movie stars Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces, said Wednesday she found refuge in Sereno's words during Tuesday's oral arguments in the Supreme Court on the senator's petition to overturn the Commission on Election's (Comelec) nullification of her candidacy.

It rings loud and clear that the right of foundlings to a nationality will just be empty rhetoric unless the government accords it due respect, she said in a statement Wednesday.

Manuelito Luna, counsel for former Sen. Francisco Kit Tatad in Poe's plea against her disqualification from the presidential bid in the high court, Wednesday slammed Sereno's position on Poe.

The Chief Justice's misplaced sympathy for foundlings and the untested theory are not doing petitioner any good, Luna said in a statement Wednesday.

There are more naturalized Filipinos than foundlings in our country, and they too are barred by the Constitution from running for national positions, said Luna. So where's the discrimination?

Asked how he would counter Sereno's view when he faced the high court at the continuation of oral arguments on the case, Luna said he would assert the clarity of the 1934 Constitution on the matter.

The citizenship clause of the old Charter, which covers Poe, having been born in 1968, clearly does not confer the natural-born status on foundlings, the lawyer said.

The Constitution and the deliberation of the 1934 Constitutional Convention do not support her theory that foundlings are natural-born Filipinos. And unless the Charter is amended and remedial measures are adopted by Congress, that situation remains, Luna said.

In her interpellation of Comelec Commissioner Arturo Lim on Tuesday, Sereno emphasized the profound impact that a ruling against Poe would have on the natural-born status of foundlings, a point she likewise stressed in oral arguments last week.

The high court will continue to hear oral arguments on Feb. 9.


Poe petitioned the Supreme Court to set aside the Comelec disqualification order on Dec. 28, on grounds of its alleged grave abuse of discretion. The Comelec said Poe did not meet the explicit constitutional mandate that no person should be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and that she committed misrepresentation in saying she had the required 10-year residency. Critics of Poe said a decision that sustains the senator's presidential bid would debase the Constitution, reducing it to a mere scrap of paper.

Poe has so far failed to present evidence of her biological parents. She had renounced her Philippine citizenship and had sworn allegiance to the United States, where she had lived with her American husband.

The Comelec ordered Poe's disqualification in resolving separate petitions filed by Tatad, De La Salle University professor Antonio Contreras, former University of the East law dean Amado Valdez, and a former Government Service Insurance System chief legal counsel.

At least three magistrates have ruled in a separate case that Poe was not a natural-born citizen. Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion voted against Poe in a separate case in the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), which sought her expulsion from the Senate for lacking qualifications.

The petitioner in the SET case, disqualified presidential candidate Rizalito David, elevated the case to the high court after the tribunal voted to uphold Poe's qualification, ruling that she is natural-born. David contends that Poe, as a foundling, is stateless.

MalacaNang stayed away from the controversy. Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Wednesday that the Palace respected the independence of the judiciary.

Nuisance candidates

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court announced it had dismissed petitions by various individuals and party-list groups appealing their disqualification by the Comelec from the May balloting.

The court dismissed the petitions filed by presidential candidates Ranulfo Feliciano, Ma. Aurora Marcos, Simeon de Castro Jr., Dante Valencia, Rodel Mancilla and Pedrito Diaz Tagle; vice presidential candidate Teodulo Malangen; and senatorial candidates Efren Bernabe, Mary Lou Estrada, Amay Bisaya, Roger Alim Rodriguez and Sixto Lagare.

Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te said the justices ruled the Comelec did not act with grave abuse of discretion in disqualifying the petitioners for being nuisance candidates.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Feb 4, 2016
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