Senator Grace Poe has always insisted she has documents to prove she is a Filipino citizen qualified for the Presidency and, of course, the position she now occupies. However, she says those documents will be unveiled only in the proper forum, presumably, a court or quasi-judicial body, when she is asked to respond to a legal challenge.

Susan Roces and Grace Poe -- a screen grab from a 2013 campaign video on the senator's Facebook page
Susan Roces and Grace Poe — a screen grab from a 2013 campaign video on the senator’s Facebook page

Lito David, filed the first attempt to disqualify Poe, as a senator. The senatorial candidate of the Kapatiran party in 2013 was turned away, however, by The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) because he did not pay the P50,000 filing fee.

Whatever one may think of Poe’s readiness to lead the nation, hammering on her foundling status could just fan sympathy for the daughter of the late action superstar Fernando Poe Jr. and actress Susan Roces.

A Father's Day post by the senator, from her Facebook page
A Father’s Day post by the senator, from her Facebook page

The senator frames her replies to include all other foundlings in this country.

“Gusto nilang apihin ang aking estado, pero kung ako’y bumigay, sino’ng mawawalan ng karapatan dito? Hindi ba ang ibang mga bata na hindi rin matukoy ang mga magulang? At sino ang mamamayagpag dito, ang mga taong luma ang estilo ng pulitika? Sila ba ang papayagan nating mamuno pagkatapos ng administrasyon na ito?” 

(They want to disparage my status, but if I give up, who will lose rights here? Won’t it be other children who also don’t know who their parents are? And who will win, people with old styles in politics? Will we allow them to lead the country after this administration?)

President Manuel Roxas
President Manuel Roxas

And now, in a Q&A (in Tagalog) emailed to journalists, she quotes no less than Mar Roxas’ lolo to bolster her claim as a natural-born Filipino.

Nasa International Law ang pagpapalagay na ito. Maging si Pangulong Manuel Roxas, ang lolo ni Mar Roxas, ay kumilala sa pagpapalagay na ito sa 1935 Constitutional Convention. Delegado si Pangulong Roxas sa nasabing Constitutional Convention. Pinanindigan niya ang pagpapalagay na ito nang ipinahayag niya sa deliberasyon ng kumbensyon ang sumusunod tungkol sa Philippine Citizenship:

“Kinikilala sa international law ang prinsipyong ang mga bata o taong hindi kilala ang mga magulang na ipinanganak sa isang bansa ay mamamayan ng nasabing bansa, at hindi kinakailangan pang magsama ng isang probisyon sa nasabing usapin.”

(The basis can be found in international law. Former President Manuel Roxas, grandfather of (Liberal Party 2016 standard-bearer) Mar Roxas, recognized this during the 1935 Constitutional Convention, where he was a delegate. This is what he said: International law upholds the principle that children or persons who do not know their parents are citizens of the country where they were born and there is no need for a specific provision to recognize this.)

She also cites another 1935 Con-con delegate who brought up Spain’s ruling conferring citizenship on children born in Spanish territories with unknown parentage. The delegate then said this also applies to the Philippines.

The child, Grace Poe, with mother Susan Roces
The child, Grace Poe, with mother Susan Roces

Poe, of course, posits all these on her being born in Philippine soil. Critics say this cannot be proven. They note that the original tale that she was found, still covered with birth matter, on the steps of a church in Iloilo, has been debunked. (READ Gigi Grande’s series on Poe the foundling.)

But even if the drama is stripped off that tale, it is highly unlikely that in those times, a mother would have given birth abroad and then flown back to the country to leave her baby in a church. Travel then was more difficult that what we take for granted now; even an alta sociedad woman, especially one who’d just given birth, would have been hard-pressed to make the proper arrangements.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares also told abs-cbn reporter RG Cruz that the foundling issue is bad strategy for critics.

“Sinasabi mo foundlings have the burden to prove citizenship. ‘Di dapat ganun ang treatment. Anyone who questions citizenship, siya dapat ang mag-prove. Parang dini-discriminate ang foundlings, ‘di magandang political issue [laban] kay Senator Poe.”

More dangerous for the senator is the charge that she had renounced her citizenship and reclaimed it too late for residency requirements.

There is no doubt that Filipinos who become citizens of other states can re-acquire their citizenship. Some countries allow for dual citizenship. Some will force a choice.

11800304_1004869546210926_5108868291687819720_nPoe (or her legal counsels) obviously thinks repatriation conferred back her status as a natural-born Filipino. The senator claims taking the citizenship oath is not necessary to establishing natural-born status – because she never lost it in the first place.

“Mismong ang batas ang nagsasaad na ang nasabing panunumpa ay hindi isang aksiyong katumbas ng pagbubuo ng pagkamamamayang Filipino. Walang pagkamamamayang Filipino na kailangang makamit o mabuo dahil hindi naman nawala kailanman ang kanyang pagiging natural born na mamamayang Filipino.

Nagpasya na ang Korte Suprema na mayroon lamang dalawang uri ng mga mamamayang Filipino: iyong mga natural-born, at iyong mga naturalisado. Kung ang isang tao ay Filipino subalit hindi naturalisado, siya ay natural-born.

      Hindi kailanman naging naturalisadong Filipino si Grace Poe. Kung gayon, natural-born siya. Ang akto ng repatriasyon ay hindi naturalisasyon. Hindi siya sumailalim ng anumang naturalisasyon dahil sa bisa ng mga probisyon ng batas, ipinagpapalagay na hindi kailanman nawala ang pagiging natural-born niyang mamamayan.

Those last statements will definitely attract lightning bolts. Though it is true that the citizenship issue is for the court to decide.

There is another twist to this general topic, however, and one more likely to cause social media flare-ups between opposing sides even without dragging in 2016 preferences.

As socio-political analyst Antonio Contreras writes on the issue of Filipinos becoming citizens of other lands: “I AM A FILIPINO. YOU ARE NOT.”

That’s what we’ll discuss next time.

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