SET asks SC to junk appeal in Poe case

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday to dismiss a petition that seeks a reversal of its ruling upholding the natural-born citizen status of presidential aspirant and Senator Grace Poe.

In a 28-page comment on the petition of Rizalito David who had filed the quo warranto case against Poe, the SET, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), stressed that it did not commit grave abuse of discretion in ruling that Poe is a natural-born Filipino.

The SET said it anchored its ruling on the deliberations of the 1935 Constitution which establish that "[f]oundlings are citizens of the Philippines." While the text of the Constitution is silent on the matter, its intent was clear in the deliberations, the SET stressed.

"[A]s between two interpretations of the Constitution, one discriminatory and the other inclusive, it is reasonable to take that interpretation that is consistent with the grander principles of the Constitution.

"The 1935 Constitution's silence cannot simply be interpreted as indicative of an intent to intrench a disadvantaged class in their tragedy," the SET comment read.

The SET said there is a preponderance of evidence in Poe's favor, noting her physical features (5 ft. 2 inches tall, has brown eyes, has dark brown/black hair, has a low nasal bridge, and oval-shaped face). The SET argued that David was unable to present contrary evidence.

The SET further argued that "[t]o reject available evidence in favor of [Poe] is to impose an undue burden on the exercise of a fundamental right of a member of a discrete and insular minority."

"[T]he disadvantage suffered by foundlings is precisely their inability to establish Filipino filliation through the normal route of producing an ordinary birth certificate... [t]he honorable court need not convert this inability into a legal disability," the comment read.

The SET also stressed that it did not commit grave abuse of discretion in ruling that Poe validly reacquired her natural-born citizenship under Republic Act (RA) No. 9225, also known as the Citizenship and Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003, on October 18, 2001 based on the following "undisputed facts," (1) execution of an Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines on July 7, 2006; (2) filing of a petition for reacquisition of Philippine citizenship with the Bureau of Immigration (BI) on July 10, 2006; and (3) in an order dated July 18, 2006 the (BI) granted her petition.

The tribunal also stood pat on its ruling that Poe validly renounced her US citizenship, and complied with all conditions set forth under Section 5 (3) of RA No. 9225.

As to Poe's use of her US passport even after she took her Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, the SET said this may not be considered a repudiation of her oath of renunciation of her US citizenship since the usage of the passport between November 1, 2006 up to March 27, 2010 took place before she formally renounced her US citizenship.

The SET stressed that Poe renounced her US citizenship only on October 20, 2010.

"The last time [Poe] used her US passport... was on March 27, 2010. On said date, [Poe's] status was that of a dual-citizen as she had already by then reacquired her natural-born citizenship while also retaining her US citizenship. Notably, on this date, [Poe] had not yet executed her Affidavit of Renunciation. As such, on said date, she had no renunciation to repudiate.