Image Source: newsinfo.inquirer.net
Image Source: newsinfo.inquirer.net

CHICAGO – Philippine Senator Grace Poe should not be disheartened if her detractors want the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to scrutinize her citizenship and residency.

She had earlier welcomed the filing of 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 the issue to be resolved once and for all.”

If she can probe before SET and Comelec that the cases filed against her by David are baseless, why does she have to accuse Secretary Mar Roxas of stabbing her in the back? Why should she be defensive?

Questions about the background of a presidential or vice presidential candidate are given at any election, and a candidate should be ready to lose his/her privacy.

Senator Poe should even be thankful to United Nationalist Alliance interim president, Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, for questioning her 10-year residency in case she decides to run for president or vice president in the May 9, 2016 elections because Tiangco wants to send a message that all candidates running for office must meet all requirements.

When Tiangco, during a press conference, waved Poe’s certificate of candidacy (COC) which indicated she had declared a “period of residence in the Philippines before the May 13, 2013” elections at six years and six months, Tiangco immediately concluded that she would be short of the constitutional requirement of 10-year residency for the May 9, 2016 presidential elections.

This columnist looked into the Poe’s residency of “6 years and 6 months,” and it  appears to me that she would technically meet the residency requirement because she would be resident of the Philippines for nine years, six months and 17 days.

The Omnibus Election Code (Section 72 of Article 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 its findings 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, he was only 22 years old, which was one year shy of the 23-year age-limit requirement for such local positions. When he became senator at the age of 34, Aquino was short of the one-year constitutional minimum requirement of 35, but the Supreme Court allowed him nevertheless to keep his Senate seat.

Senator Poe should even be thankful to David or whoever bankrolled David’s filing fee of P50,000 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.

I believe Poe will emerge unscathed from the cases filed against her at SET and Comelec.

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 Comelec and League of Municipalities, Sorsogon chapter, when Frivaldo won as Sorsogon governor.

Frivaldo had convinced the Supreme Court in his certiorari that although he 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.”

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.

In the case of Poe, she has to disprove that she was still using her U.S. passport even after she effectively renounced her U.S. naturalization and after she was employed by the Philippine government as chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board from 2010 to 2013.

If she passes the “U.S. passport” test, the only issue left to be resolved is about the question of who is her father. She should undergo a DNA test to prove that she is not a daughter of the late President Marcos.

Otherwise, the nasty issue would hound her throughout the campaign.

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Joseph is a former reporter of the Manila Bulletin, former president of the Rizal-Metro Manila Reporters Association and former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Press Club of the Philippines. A prolific reporter, Lariosa writes a column and news stories for the Filipino Star News and other Filipino community newspapers in the US as well as for GMA News and the Manila Bulletin.

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