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Mary Grace Natividad S.

Poe - Llamanzares vs COMELEC and Estrella Elamparo


(GR 221697, GR 221698-700 March 8, 2016)

Facts:
Grace Poe declared in her Certificate of Candidacy (COC) for the May 2016 Presidential
Election that she is a natural-born citizen and she had been residing in the Philippines since 24
May 2005 which may be counted for more than 10 years preceding the election.
Poe was born and was abandoned in a church in Jaro, Iloilo sometime in 1968. She was found
and given care by Edgardo Militar and his relatives who then reported and registered Poe as a
fondling with the Civil Registrar of Iloilo under the name of "Mary Grace Natividad Contreras
Militar." Later when she was five years old, she was adopted by celebrity spouses Ronald Allan
Kelley Poe (a.k.a. Fenando Poe, Jr.) and Jesusa Sonora Poe (a.k.a. Susan Roces) which was
granted on May 13 1974. She immigrated to the US in 1991 to study and was naturalized as
American citizen in 2001 through her marriage.
According to Poe, May 24, 2005 was the day she came to the Philippines after deciding to stay in
the PH for good. Before that however, and even afterwards, she has been going to and fro
between US and Philippines.
Petitions were filed before the COMELEC to deny or cancel her candidacy on the ground
particularly, among others, that she cannot be considered a natural-born Filipino citizen since she
cannot prove that her biological parents or either of them were Filipinos. The COMELEC en
banc cancelled her candidacy on the ground that she is in want of citizenship and residence
requirements, and that she committed material misrepresentations in her COC.
On certiorari, the SC reversed the ruling and held that Poe is qualified as a candidate for
Presidency. Three justices, however, abstained to vote on the natural-born citizenship issue.

Issue:
1. Whether or not the COMELEC has jurisdiction to rule over issues concerning
qualifications of candidates.

2. Whether or not Poe satisfies the 10-year residency requirement.

3. Whether or not Poe is a natural-born Filipino citizen.

4. Whether or not Poes candidacy should be cancelled or denied for committing material
misrepresentations in her COC

Held:
1. No. COMELEC was not granted the authority to decide on disqualifications cases against
candidates. Article IX-C, Sec 2 of the Constitution provides for the powers and functions of the
COMELEC, and deciding on the qualifications or lack thereof of a candidate is not one among
them.
In contrast, the Constitution provides that only the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) and House
of Representatives Elecoral Tribunal (HRET) have sole jurisdiction over the election contests,
returns, and qualifications of their respective members, whereas over the President and Vice
President, only the Supreme Court en banc has sole jurisdiction. But the Constitution is silent on
the issue of qualification. There is simply no authorized proceeding in determining the
ineligibility of candidates before elections. Such lack of provision cannot be supplied by a mere
rule, and for the COMELEC to assimilate grounds for ineligibility into grounds for
disqualification in Rule 25 in its rules of procedures would be contrary to the intent of the
Constitution.
Hence, the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion when it decided on the qualification
issue of Grace as a candidate in the same case for cancellation of her COC.

2. Yes. Grace Poe had satisfied the requirements under animus manendi together with the
requirements under animus revertendi in acquiring a new domicile.
Grace Poes domicile had been timely changed as of May 24, 2005, and not on July 18, 2006
when her application under RA 9225 was approved by the BI. COMELECs reliance on cases
which decree that an aliens stay in the country cannot be counted unless she acquires a
permanent resident visa or reacquires her Filipino citizenship is without merit because such cases
are different from the circumstances in this case. In this case, Grace Poe presented an
overwhelming evidence of her actual stay and intent to abandon permanently her domicile in the
US. Coupled with her eventual application to reacquire Philippine citizenship and her familys
actual continuous stay in the Philippines over the years, it is clear that when Grace Poe returned
on May 24, 2005, there is intent to stay.

3. Yes, Grace Poe is considerably a natural-born Filipino. She had satisfied one of the
constitutional requirements that only natural-born Filipinos may run for presidency.
First, there is a high probability that Grace Poes parents are Filipinos. Her physical features are
typical of Filipinos. The fact that she was abandoned as an infant in a municipality where the
population of the Philippines is overwhelmingly Filipinos such that there would be more than
99% chance that a child born in such province is a Filipino is also a circumstantial evidence of
her parents nationality. That probability and the evidence on which it is based are admissible
under Rule 128, Section 4 of the Revised Rules on Evidence. To assume otherwise is to accept
the absurd, if not the virtually impossible, as the norm.
Second, by votes of 7-5, the SC pronounced that foundlings are as a class, natural-born citizens.
This is based on the finding that the deliberations of the 1934 Constitutional Convention show
that the framers intended foundlings to be covered by the enumeration. While the 1935
Constitutions enumeration is silent as to foundlings, there is no restrictive language which
would definitely exclude foundlings either. Because of silence and ambiguity in the enumeration
with respect to foundlings, the SC felt the need to examine the intent of the framers.
Third, that foundlings are automatically conferred with natural-born citizenship is supported by
treaties and the general principles of international law. Although the Philippines is not a
signatory to some of these treaties, it adheres to the customary rule to presume foundlings as
having born of the country in which the foundling is found.

4. No. The COMELEC cannot cancel her COC on the ground that she misrepresented facts as to
her citizenship and residency because such facts refer to grounds for ineligibility in which the
COMELEC has no jurisdiction to decide upon. Only when there is a prior authority finding that
a candidate is suffering from a disqualification provided by law or the Constitution that the
COMELEC may deny due course or cancel her candidacy on ground of false representations
regarding her qualifications.
In this case, the Supreme Court had already pronounced that Poe is qualified as a candidate for
the presidency. Hence, there cannot be any false representations in her COC regarding her
citizenship and residency.