I intend to discuss this exhaustively in a separate article considering its complexity. However, let me give you a preliminary discussion. Both the Senate Electoral Tribunal ruling and the rulings of the Comelec's 2nd division and 1st division are founded on one very important preliminary issue: who has the burden of proof in a case involving the issue of citizenship?
This is crucial. If Grace Poe is presumed Filipino, then it will be the petitioners’ burden to prove that her parents are not Filipino, which at this point is an impossibility since they are unknown.
Going back to the case, the First Division placed the burden on Grace Poe to prove that she is Filipino by blood. It ruled that since she cannot prove that her parents are Filipino, she cannot be considered “natural born” Filipino, just a “Filipino citizen,” thus ineligible to run.
As its basis, the division cited this paragraph, purportedly a “ruling” of the Supreme Court in Tecson vs. COMELEC (GR Number 161434/ GR Number 161634/ GR Number 161824, March 3, 2004), to wit:
“Any person who claims to be a citizen of the Philippines has the burden of proving his Philippine citizenship. Any person who claims to be qualified to run for President because he is, among others, a natural-born Philippine citizen, has the burden of proving he is a natural-born citizen. Any doubt whether or not he is natural-born citizen is resolved against him. The constitutional requirement of a natural-born citizen, being an express qualification for election as President, must be complied with strictly as defined in the Constitution.”
Examination of the above case, however, would readily show that the Supreme Court actually never said that. It appeared that what the First Division lifted was a portion of Justice Antonio Carpio’s dissenting opinion, but erroneously represented the same in the ponencia as the binding ruling of the majority.
This is crucial as dissenting opinions, while maybe important for academic reasons, has no jurisprudential weight. While this error could be accidental and committed in good faith, it however fuels accusations of haste and puts into question the scholarship behind the decision. This debases not only its eventual conclusion on Grace Poe’s citizenship, but unavoidably invites doubt on the impartiality of the division. – Rappler. com
Emil Marañon is an election lawyer who served as chief of staff of recently retired Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. He is currently studying Human Rights, Conflict and Justice at SOAS, University of London, as a Chevening scholar.