MANILA, Philippines – One of the lawyers of neophyte Senator Grace Poe sees a silver lining in the citizenship issue being hurled at the lawmaker: More people are now talking about the state of foundlings in the Philippines.
"Ang laban ni Senator Grace Poe ay nagbukas sa ating isip ng isang malaking problema (The fight of Senator Grace Poe opened our minds to a big problem)," George Garcia said at a news conference on Thursday, October 1.
He added: "Kung 'di po nangyari ito sa kanya, 'di po natin malalaman sa kasalukuyan, ano nga ba ang kalagayang tunay ng isang napulot lang? Walang nagdi-discuss nito; wala nga pong batas tungkol dito e. Kaya nga case of first impression."
(If this did not happen to her, we wouldn't know what the real and current state of foundlings is. No one discusses this; we don't even have a law on this. This is why this is a case of first impression.)
The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) has yet to decide on the disqualification case filed against Poe by defeated senatorial candidate Rizalito David, but Garcia's tone reflects the Poe camp's "over, over" confidence that they have explained their case well before the tribunal.
"Halimbawa na ngayon sa mga mamamayan mo na 'yung mga napulot, mayroon din palang saysay sa bansang ito, na kino-consider din pala silang mamamayan ng bansang ito (It sets an example to your citizens that foundlings also have a purpose in this country, that they are also considered citizens of this country)," he said.
The lawyer added: "Isipin niyo na lang po kung ang korte magsasabing lahat ng napulot ay hindi citizen ng bansang ito...wala po pala kayong state – you are a stateless person. Wala pong tao sa mundong ito ang stateless. Lahat ng tao ay may state."
(Just imagine if the court says all foundlings are not citizens of this county...it turns out you don't have a state – you are a stateless person. But there is no stateless person in this world. Every person has a state.)
David's camp has repeatedly insisted that Poe, as a foundling, is stateless with no citizenship – not even naturalized, as what Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, chair of the SET, said during the oral arguments on September 21.
Garcia slammed this "dangerous statement" of David, saying all civilized nations grant children found on their shores citizenship – a basic human right.
"Napaka-importante po yung meron kang citizenship dahil dun nagsisimula 'yung...anong pwede mong maging propesyon, anong puwede mong mapag-aralan. Kasi kung hindi maliwanag 'yun, [it's] as if you're nothing; you have no personality; as if you don't exist in this world."
(It's important that one has a citizenship because it starts there: what profession you can take, what course you can take. Because if that's not clear, it's as if you're nothing; you have no personality; as if you don't exist in the world.)
'Ready to face Comelec cases'
If the test result shows a DNA match, the lawyer said there could be two scenarios: The SET will use the result as evidence, or the tribunal will conduct its own examination. (READ: TIMELINE: Grace Poe's citizenship, residency)
"[We will] not rise and fall with [the] DNA test – we're so confident we were able to prove our point [to] win this case," he sai.d
They are also bracing themselves for more disqualification cases that will be filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) after the filing of Certificates of Candidacy this October.
"And surely, maasahan niyo rin 'yan. Kung sakaling may ganun, what we're going to file is a motion to suspend proceedings. Sa amin na po manggagaling 'yan, in order to prevent any possibility or scenario that there will be two conflicting decisions," Garcia said, referring to the possibility of the SET case reaching the Supreme Court.
(Surely, you can count on it. If that happens, we're going to file a motion to suspend proceedings. That will come from us, in order to prevent any possibility or scenario that there will be two conflicting decisions.) – Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.