Grace Poe is 99.93 pct natural-born Filipino: OSG

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 16 2016 10:09 PM | Updated as of Feb 17 2016 08:47 AM

Just like any other foundling found in the Philippines, the probability that Sen. Grace Poe is a natural-born Filipino is 99.93 percent.

This is the position taken by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), acting as tribune of the people, during its presentation of oral arguments at the Supreme Court in connection with Poe's twin petitions that seek a reversal of the cancellation of her certificate of candidacy for the presidential polls. 

Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, who refused to represent the Comelec in the case, said the figure that covers statistical data from 2010 to 2014 is official and certified by the Philippine Statistics Authority. 

"According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, from 2010 to 2014, on a yearly average, there were 1,766,046 children born in the Philippines to Filipino parents, as opposed to 1,301 children born in the Philippines of foreign parents. Thus, for that sample period, the ratio of non-Filipino children to natural-born Filipino children is 1:1,357. This means that the statistical probability that any child born in the Philippines would be a natural-born Filipino is 99.93%," he said.

The OSG said that under the 1935, 1973, and 1987 Philippine Constitutions, all foundlings are considered natural-born citizens of the Philippines despite the fact that this is not explicitly provided for.

The OSG said it was clear from the deliberations of the 1934 Constitutional Convention that foundlings in the Philippines are to be considered natural-born.

The OSG said this intent is consistent with the social justice principle of the Constitution.

"To exclude foundlings from exercising fundamental political rights and make them legally invisible, would be baseless, unjust, discriminatory, contrary to common sense, and the wrong way to interpret the Constitution," Hilbay said.

Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, one of three Supreme Court magistrates who voted with the minority in the separate quo warranto case before the Senate electoral tribunal that upheld Poe's natural-born status, disagreed with the OSG and openly criticized its use of statistics to defend its position.

"Mr. Solicitor General, do you know what you're talking about? I'm asking you for legal basis, I'm not asking you to state statistics. What's your legal basis in saying that foundlings are natural-born citizens? Because citizenship is a question of law. As Solgen, you do not argue that way before the Supreme Court. You provide us with solid legal basis," she said. 

On the issue of residency, the OSG said Poe satisfies the 10-year minimum residency requirement under the Constitution, since based on decisions of the Supreme Court, to comply with the rules on residence, a candidate needs only two things: an intention to reside and evidence to prove it. 

"The tipping point seems to have been 2005, when she returned to the Philippines along with her three children who, in the meantime, were uprooted from their schools in the United States and transferred to schools in Manila. They lived with her mother for a while, then transferred to a condominium while her new family home was being built. The narrative of her private and public life has since then been centered on the Philippines, save for a few visits to the United States. Based on these facts, the claim that she has been a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years is a valid claim," Hilbay said. 

Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, the justice-in-charge of the consolidated cases, raised the issue on a property purchased by Poe and her family in the United States in 2008 -- even after Poe returned to the Philippines.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, however, pointed out that any natural-born Filipino citizen is not prevented from making acquisitions abroad. 

The oral arguments ended at 7:28 p.m., with all parties given until Monday to simultaneously file their memoranda, after which the case shall be deemed submitted for resolution.