The four petitioners who filed the cases to disqualify Senator Grace Poe from running in the May 2016 presidential election are determined to seek the reversal of the recent decision of the Supreme Court which seemingly favored Poe. They filed a joint motion seeking a reconsideration of the said decision, on the ground that the basis upon which the ruling in favor of Poe was arrived at has no support in the text of the Constitution, and has in fact illegally amended the fundamental law of the land by creating "new rules" governing Philippine citizenship.
There is also the issue about whether or not the ruling in favor of Poe has the concurrence of a majority of the justices of the Supreme Court. Only seven justices categorically stated that Poe is presumed to be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines. Seven out of 15 justices is not a majority.
The four petitioners also assailed the supposed majority opinion for setting a dangerous precedent. One of its consequences is that an alien can now simply arrange for his or her offspring to be "discovered" as a foundling, and thus, on account of this recent development in the Supreme Court, the alien's offspring is presumed to be a natural-born citizen of the country.
Surprisingly, the premise of the supposed majority opinion is that those who assail Poe's eligibility have the burden of proving her ineligibility, and failing in that regard, it must be presumed that Poe is eligible for her presidential run. That is an untenable assumption because if one is presumed to be qualified to run for public office, then nuisance candidates should be entitled to that presumption as well. Why then, were they disqualified even when nobody opposed their eligibility? For that matter, why does a candidate have to file his supporting papers if he or she already enjoys a presumption that he or she is qualified to run for public office?
Under the rules on evidence, one who alleges a material fact has the burden of proving it. Since Poe alleges that she is qualified to run for president because she is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, then she has the burden of proving this. There is no presumption under the Constitution, or in any law, or in any international covenant duly signed by the Philippines, that a foundling is a natural-born citizen of the country where the founding is discovered.
The supposed majority opinion also relied on a statistical inference submitted by the Solicitor General to the effect that the probability that a child born in the Philippines between 1965 and 1975 is a natural-born citizen is 99.83 per cent. That figure is impressive, but it is not a certainty. It is just a statistical inference, a mere probability. As stated in this column in the past, the Constitution requires a fact-that the candidate for president must be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines-and not a mere statistical probability.
Just how reliable are those statistics in the first place? The period from 1965 to 1975 includes 1969, the year reelectionist President Ferdinand Marcos of the Nacionalista Party clobbered Liberal Party challenger Sergio OsmeAa Jr. in what the LP considers to be the dirtiest pre-martial law era election. That period also includes 1972, the year when citizens assemblies overwhelmingly ratified the new constitution. The political opposition of that period denounced the statistics in both events.
While the supposed majority opinion relied heavily on the statistical inference made by the Solicitor General, it appears that the petitioners were not given the chance to contest the authenticity and reliability of the figures submitted. In this light, the statistical report submitted can be considered hearsay evidence.
Even assuming that those statistics are correct, the fact that remains is that Poe was unable to locate even a single distant relative so as to prove, once and for all, through DNA testing, that her biological parent is a Filipino.
The supposed majority opinion also put considerable weight on the physical features of Poe, and considered her features as representative of what it called a "Filipino look." Good grief! Since when were one's physical features conclusive evidence of one's citizenship? The last time physical features were used to determine one's citizenship was when Adolf Hitler's Nazis dominated Germany and much of Europe during World War II. Millions were killed by the Nazis on the basis of physical features!
Just what constitutes as a "Filipino look" anyway? The Aetas of Zambales are undoubtedly Filipino, but since they do not look like Poe, then they face the risk of getting disenfranchised because, as the supposed majority opinion would have it, they do not have the physical features of Poe. Many Filipinos do not share the same physical features of Poe, and they are natural-born Filipinos!
The petitioners who filed the disqualification cases have good reason to say that this judicially authorized use of physical features as an indicator of one's citizenship "inserts in Philippine jurisprudence a kind of profiling that could be considered racist in character." The supposed majority opinion puts a premium on one's looks, rather than on uncontroverted evidence, in determining if one is a natural-born Filipino. That's not only racism plain and simple; that's a return to the hated days of the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines when Filipinos were considered inferior and indolent mainly because they did not have the physical features of a typical Spaniard.
Unless revoked by the Supreme Court, the Filipino people are stuck with these "new rules" governing citizenship in the Philippines. These "new rules" consist of two phases, thus, one who is originally disqualified to run for president may still do so by-first, alleging that he or she is a foundling discovered in the Philippines between 1965 and 1975, and second, by sporting the judicially-mandated "Filipino look."