MANILA - Senator Grace Poe is asking the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) to junk the case seeking to unseat her as senator, saying the petition lacks substance and was filed beyond the period that the body allows.
Poe's 107-page reply to the petition against her also asked the SET to cite Rizalito David, the person who filed the case, in contempt for alleged "willful and deliberate forum-shopping."
"It's one of relief na maibigay na rin 'yan sapagkat 'yong mga kuwestyon kung ako ba ay natural-born Filipino o hindi ay nasagot naman namin diyan (because there we were able to answer the question on whether I am a natural-born Filipino or not)," Poe told reporters.
The quo warranto case filed by David, a losing candidate in the 2013 senatorial elections, seeks to unseat Poe from the Senate because she is allegedly not a natural-born Filipino citizen, a key requirement for holding public office.
David also said Poe lacks the two-year residency requirement when she ran for senator in 2013, because she was supposedly an American citizen until 2012.
Poe's answer, however, said the burden of proving she is not born of Filipino parents falls on David, who argued that Poe's status as a foundling makes it doubtful if she is a natural-born Filipino.
Poe was found abandoned as an infant at a church in Jaro, Iloilo City in 1968, and she does not know her biological parents until now.
"The Petition must allege, as its basis, and Petitioner must then prove, that Respondent was born to a foreign father and mother, and hence, it not a natural-born Filipino," the reply stated.
"Nowhere does the Petitioner allege, however, the identity of Respondent's birth parents, much less their status as citizens of a foreign country."
Poe's reply to David's petition argued that the senator is presumed to be a natural-born Filipino, citing several actions of the Philippine government.
These include her reacquisition of Filipino citizenship in 2006 through the Bureau of Immigration, her appointment as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) in 2010, and her proclamation as senator in 2013—"all acts which require not only presumptive possession of Philippine citizenship, but official recognition that Respondent is a natural-born Filipino," the reply stated.
To prove her natural-born citizenship further, Poe reiterated that foundlings like herself are not stateless, and that they have a right to a nationality.
Aside from international law such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, she cited the intent of the framers 1935 Constitution, which was in effect when she was born.
"It was always the intention of the framers to consider foundlings found in the Philippines as Filipino citizens. This intention was undisturbed and repeatedly carried over in succeeding Philippine Constitutions," the reply stated.
Poe, who became a US citizen in 2001, said she got back her natural-born Filipino citizenship when she took her oath of allegiance to the Philippines in 2006 under Republic Act 9225.
She said she reaffirmed and reiterated that oath when she became MTRCB chairperson in 2010 and in her certificate of candidacy for senator.
"Logic and reason dictate that a person who 're-acquires' Philippine citizenship under said law necessarily re-acquires natural-born Filipino citizenship," Poe's answer to the petition stated. "The reason is plain: one can only re-acquire what was lost in the first place."
On questions over Poe's residency in the Philippines, her answer said she has been living in the country since May 2005. She said the intention to stay is proven by her children leaving their schools in the US, the sale of their house in the state of Virginia, and her husband's resignation from his job there.
Poe's reply to the disqualification case also said it is too late for David to ask that she be unseated, citing the SET rule that a candidate's qualification may only be questioned within 10 days after his or her proclamation.
It said Poe never hid the circumstances of her birth, because the public knows she was a foundling adopted by prominent personalities Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces.
Poe's answer to the petition also argued that since 20 million Filipinos elected her senator in 2013, there was an assumption they found her with the necessary qualifications for the post—including being a natural-born Filipino.