I am a Filipino by birth, abode and choice, Sen. Grace Poe declared on Thursday following the filing of the first challenge to her citizenship aimed at ousting her from the Senate and eliminating her from next year’s presidential race.
Poe welcomed the disqualification case filed in the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) by Rizalito David of Ang Kapatiran (The Brotherhood) party, who lost a bid for a seat in the Senate in the 2013 elections.
It is an opportunity for the truth to come out and for this issue to be resolved once and for all, Poe said in a text message.
The front-runner in the presidential polls said the filing of the case gave her a chance to put the questions about her citizenship and residency to rest.
I am a Filipino by birth, abode and choice, she said.
Ang Kapatiran, however, distanced itself from the disqualification case against Poe, saying David brought it on his own.
The case is not a party position, Norman Cabrera, Ang Kapatiran president, told the Inquirer.
Asked if Ang Kapatiran would eventually support David’s suit, Cabrera said the party had no legal experts who handled citizenship cases.
He said the Philippines’ top lawyers had differing opinions on the controversy involving Poe’s citizenship.
It’s better the citizenship issue be raised by the nemeses of [Senator] Poe after she files her candidacy, Cabrera said.
David confirmed that his party was not involved in the case he had filed against Poe.
He said he acted alone and was driven by noble intentions in bringing the case, as questions about who had the motive and the means to bankroll the petition persisted.
I want to emphasize that my party has nothing to do with my petition, said David, who was accompanied by a handful of supporters in filing the case.
I feel they have an orchestrated response against my petition while I am alone, with no lawyer, in this fight for truth, he said.
Help from friends
David first tried to file the petition on Wednesday but backed off because he did not have P50,000 to pay the filing fee required by the SET.
On Thursday, he said a lot of friends came to his support and he finally got enough funds to proceed with the filing.
David said he paid the P50,000 filing fee and a P10,000 cash deposit and the SET received his case.
But he refused to name his financial contributors.
All of those who helped me are private individuals. I have plenty of friends in the private sector, David said.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, whose camp raised the same questions about Poe’s citizenship and residency earlier, denied having a hand in the case.
In his petition, David said: This petition . . . is seeking to unseat respondent Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares from the Senate . . . [because her] noncitizenship and nonresidence are grounds of ineligibility for a member of the Senate, thus, a member can be disqualified to continue as senator on these grounds.
David said Poe should not have been allowed to head the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) in 2010 because she was not a Filipino citizen at the time.
Comelec case coming
He said he would file another case for election offense against Poe in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) next week.
I appeal to [her] to just focus on the process instead of throwing charges against me that I am paid or a politician or politicians are behind me. I have a deep self-respect and I will not allow myself to be used by anyone, he said.
Poe topped the 2013 senatorial election, polling 20,337,327 votes, or 50.66 percent of the total votes.
David finished the race in 30th place, with 1,035,971 votes, or 2.58 percent of the total votes.
Under SET rules, any registered voter who seeks to disqualify a senator for ineligibility or disloyalty to the republic must file a petition for quo warranto within 10 days from proclamation. But if the basis is citizenship, the petitions may be filed any time during the senator’s tenure.
If the ground is loss of the required qualifications, the petition may also be filed at any time during the respondent’s tenure, as soon as the required qualification is lost.
‘I never lied’
Poe said she never lied about her circumstances, adding she would not fool the people who had voted for her and the rest of the Filipinos.
I assure the 20 million-plus fellow Filipinos who voted for me, as well as the rest of the country, that their confidence in me is not misplaced. I remain truthful to our countrymen, she said.
Poe, left in a Catholic church in Jaro, Iloilo province, after birth and adopted by movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. and his wife, actress Susan Roces, maintains that she is a natural-born Filipino.
The parents of a foundling found in the Philippines are presumed Filipino, according to a primer from her office. Hence, she is a natural-born Filipino by presumption and those who claim otherwise should prove their assertion.
Poe later acquired American citizenship, but she said she renounced it before a public officer in 2010, before she took on the job as head of the MTRCB. Since then, she had not used her US passport, she said.
The primer from her office also stated that when she repatriated, she was deemed not to have lost her Filipino citizenship, which was natural-born Filipino.
As to questions about her residency, Poe said she decided to live in the Philippines in 2005 following the death of her father in December 2004.
Deciding whether to run
The disqualification case against Poe comes as she studies whether to seek the presidency in next year’s national elections.
She has surged past Binay in the presidential polls to become the front-runner despite not being a declared candidate.
The ruling Liberal Party is wooing her to come aboard as the vice presidential running mate of its standard-bearer, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
Poe, however, appears not inclined to run for Vice President, saying if she is running, she will run only with Sen. Francis Escudero, a close friend.
On Thursday, Escudero said the attack against Poe only showed that she was ahead in the presidential race.
It should not weaken Poe’s resolve, he said.
This shows that if someone is kicking you from behind, it is proof that you are ahead. Maybe that should be the mind-set of anyone who wants to be a candidate or is thinking of becoming one, Escudero said over Radyo Inquirer.
He also questioned the timing of the case, coming as it is two years after Poe was elected senator. This shows that the case came about because of the possibility that she might run in 2016, he added.
Another colleague, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., also advised Poe to brace herself for more attacks against her, as that was how things go in Philippine politics.
Marcos joked that this was brotherly advice, referring to the rumor that he and Poe are actually siblings as she was supposedly his father’s illegitimate daughter.
I will advise her, ‘Oh, get used to it.’ That’s how things go. Brotherly advice, he told reporters.
Now that she’s [a potential presidential candidate], the attacks will intensify,’ he added.
Marcos said, however, that Poe could actually take care of herself. But he will help her if she asks, he said.
She’s much tougher than she looks, and she can handle all of these. I think she will come out at the other end with her dignity intact, he added.