Poe-Llamanzares vs. Commission on Elections

G.R. No. 221697 / G.R. Nos. 221698-700  March 8, 2016

MAIN TOPIC – Freedom of Speech and To Peacefully Assemble and Petition Government for Redress of Grievance

FACTS

Mary Grace Natividad S. Poe-Llamanzares (petitioner) was found abandoned as a newborn infant in the Parish Church of Jaro, Iloilo by a certain Edgardo Militar (Edgardo) on 3 September 1968. When petitioner was five (5) years old, she was legally adopted by celebrity spouses Ronald Allan Kelley Poe (a.k.a. Fernando Poe, Jr.) and Jesusa Sonora Poe (a.k.a. Susan Roces). Initially, the petitioner enrolled and pursued a degree in Development Studies at the University of the Philippines but she opted to continue her studies abroad and left for the United States of America (U.S.) in 1988. She immigrated to the US in 1991 after her marriage to Theodore Llamanzares who was then based at the US. In 2001, petitioner became a naturalized American citizen and obtained U.S. Passport.

In 2004, petitioner came back to the Philippines to support her father’s candidacy for President in the May 2004 elections. However, after few months, her father slipped into a coma and eventually expired. In her earnest desire to be with her grieving mother, the petitioner and her husband decided to move and reside permanently in the Philippines. On 7 July 2006, petitioner took her Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines pursuant to Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9225 or the Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003. The Bureau of Immigration (BI) acted favorably on petitioner’s petitions and declared that she is deemed to have reacquired her Philippine citizenship while her children are considered as citizens of the Philippines. Consequently, the BI issued Identification Certificates (ICs) in petitioner’s name and in the names of her three (3) children.

On 6 October 2010, President Benigno S. Aquino III appointed petitioner as Chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). Before assuming her post, petitioner executed an “Affidavit of Renunciation of Allegiance to the United States of America and Renunciation of American Citizenship” before a notary public in Pasig City on 20 October 2010, in satisfaction of the legal requisites stated in Section 5 of R.A. No. 9225. On 2 October 2012, the petitioner filed with the COMELEC her Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) for Senator for the 2013 Elections wherein she answered “6 years and 6 months” to the question “Period of residence in the Philippines before May 13, 2013.” Petitioner obtained the highest number of votes and was proclaimed Senator on 16 May 2013.

On 15 October 2015, petitioner filed her CoC for the Presidency for the May 2016 Elections. In her CoC, the petitioner declared that she is a natural-born citizen and that her residence in the Philippines up to the day before 9 May 2016 would be ten (10) years and eleven (11) months counted from 24 May 2005. 

Petitioner’s filing of her CoC for President in the upcoming elections triggered the filing of several COMELEC cases against her which were the subject of these consolidated cases. They argued that petitioner cannot be considered as a natural-born Filipino on account of the fact that she was a foundling and claimed that international law does not confer natural born status and Filipino citizenship on foundlings. On the matter of petitioner’s residency, petitioner allegedly fell short of the ten-year residency requirement of the Constitution as her residence could only be counted at the earliest from July 2006, when she reacquired Philippine citizenship under the said Act. 

The COMELEC promulgated a Resolution finding that petitioner’s CoC, filed for the purpose of running for the President of the Republic of the Philippines in the 9 May 2016 National and Local Elections, contained material representations which are false.

ISSUE

(1) Whether or not Grace Poe- Llamanzares is a natural- born Filipino citizen since foundlings are not mentioned in the enumeration of citizens under the 1935 Constitution,109 they then cannot be citizens.

(2) Whether or not petitioner’s repatriation in July 2006 under the provisions of R.A. No. 9225 did not result in the reacquisition of natural-born citizenship?

HELD

(1) YES. To deny full Filipino citizenship to all foundlings and render them stateless just because there may be a theoretical chance that one among the thousands of these foundlings might be the child of not just one, but two, foreigners is downright discriminatory, irrational, and unjust. It just doesn’t make any sense. That a person with typical Filipino features is abandoned in Catholic Church in a municipality where the population of the Philippines is overwhelmingly Filipinos such that there would be more than a ninety-nine percent (99%) chance that a child born in the province would be a Filipino, would indicate more than ample probability if not statistical certainty, that petitioner’s parents are Filipinos.

a) From 1965 to 1975, the total number of foreigners born in the Philippines is 15,986 while the total number of Filipinos born in the Philippines is 15,558,278. For this period, the ratio of non-Filipino children is 1:661. This means that the statistical probability that any child born in the Philippines on that decade would be a natural-born Filipino is 99.83%.

b) She also has typical Filipino features: height, flat nasal bridge, straight black hair, almond shaped eyes and an oval face.

As a matter of law, foundlings are as a class, natural-born citizens. While the 1935 Constitution’s enumeration is silent as to foundlings, there is no restrictive language which would definitely exclude foundlings either. The burden is on those who wish to use the constitution to discriminate against foundlings to show that the constitution really intended to take this path to the dark side and inflict this across the board marginalization.

(2) NO. In the seminal case of Bengson III v. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, repatriation results in the recovery of the original nationality. This means that a naturalized Filipino who lost his citizenship will be restored to his prior status as a naturalized Filipino citizen. On the other hand, if he was originally a natural-born citizen before he lost his Philippine citizenship, he will be restored to his former status as a natural­born Filipino. The COMELEC construed the phrase “from birth” in the definition of natural citizens as implying “that natural-born citizenship must begin at birth and remain uninterrupted and continuous from birth.” R.A. No. 9225 was obviously passed in line with Congress’ sole prerogative to determine how citizenship may be lost or reacquired. Congress saw it fit to decree that natural-born citizenship may be reacquired even if it had been once lost. It is not for the COMELEC to disagree with the Congress’ determination.

DISPOSITIVE PORTION 

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Resolutions, to wit:

1. dated 1 December 2015 rendered through the COMELEC Second Division, in SPA No. 15-001 (DC), entitled Estrella C. Elamparo, petitioner, vs. Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe-Llamanzares, respondent, stating that:

The Certificate of Candidacy for President of the Republic of the Philippines in the May 9, 2016 National and Local Elections filed by respondent Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe-Llamanzares is hereby GRANTED.

2. dated 11 December 2015, rendered through the COMELEC First Division, in the consolidated cases SPA No. 15-002 (DC) entitled Francisco S. Tatad, petitioner, vs. Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe-Llamanzares, respondent; SPA No. 15-007 (DC) entitled Antonio P. Contreras, petitioner, vs. Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe-Llamanzares, respondent; and SPA No. 15-139 (DC) entitled Amado D. Valdez, petitioner, vs. Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe-Llamanzares, respondent; stating that:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, to GRANT the petitions and cancel the Certificate of Candidacy of MARY GRACE NATIVIDAD SONORA POE-LLAMANZARES for the elective position of President of the Republic of the Philippines in connection with the 9 May 2016 Synchronized Local and National Elections.

3. dated 23 December 2015 of the COMELEC En Banc, upholding the 1 December 2015 Resolution of the Second Division stating that:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, to DENY the Verified Motion for Reconsideration of SENATOR MARY GRACE NATIVIDAD SONORA POE-LLAMANZARES. The Resolution dated 11 December 2015 of the Commission First Division is AFFIRMED

4. dated 23 December 2015 of the COMELEC En Banc, upholding the 11 December 2015 Resolution of the First Division.

are hereby ANNULED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner MARY GRACE NATIVIDAD SONORA POE-LLAMANZARES is DECLARED QUALIFIED to be a candidate for President in the National and Local Elections of 9 May 2016.

SO ORDERED.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, to GRANT the petitions and

DOCTRINE

It is a generally accepted principle of international law to presume foundlings as having been born of nationals of the country in which the foundling is found.

Under R.A. No. 8552, One of the effects of adoption is “to sever all legal ties between the biological parents and the adoptee, except when the biological parent is the spouse of the adopter.”

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