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Foundlings are Natural-Born Filipino Citizens (Grace

Poe vs COMELEC, 2016)

Grace Poe vs COMELEC

(Case Digest: GR 221697, GR 221698-700 March 8, 2016)

In her COC for presidency for the May 2016 elections, Grace Poe 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 10 years and 11 months counted from 24 May 2005.

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. She was born in 1968, found as newborn infant in Iloilo, and was legally
adopted. She immigrated to the US in 1991 and was naturalized as American citizen in 2001.
On July 18, 2006, the BI granted her petition declaring that she had reacquired her Filipino
citizenship under RA 9225. She registered as a voter and obtained a new Philippine passport.
In 2010, before assuming her post as an appointed chairperson of the MTRCB, she
renounced her American citizenship to satisfy the RA 9225 requirement . From then on, she
stopped using her American passport.

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 cancelledher 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 (9-6 votes) that Poe is qualified as a
candidate for Presidency. Three justices, however, abstained to vote on the natural-born
citizenship issue.

Issue 1: W/N the COMELEC has jurisdiction to rule on the issue of qualifications of
candidates (Read Dissent)
No. 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

In contrast, the Constitution provides that only the SET and HRET tribunals have sole
jurisdiction over the election contests, returns, and qualifications of their respective members,
whereas over the President and Vice President, only the SC en banc has sole jurisdiction. As
for the qualifications of candidates for such positions, the Constitution is silent. 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
qualifica;tion issue of Grace as a candidate in the same case for cancellation of her COC.

COMELECs Broad Quasi-Judicial Power Includes the Determination of a Candidates Eligibility
(Grace Poe vs COMELEC, 2016 Brion DISSENT)
Grace Poe vs COMELEC
Brion Dissent: GR 221697 March 8, 2016
On COMELECs Jurisdiction
COMELECs quasi-judicial power in resolving a Section 78 proceeding includes the
determination of whether a candidate has made a false material representation in his CoC, and
the determination of whether the eligibility he represented in his CoC is true.
1. In Tecson v. COMELEC, the Court has recognized the COMELECs jurisdiction in a Section
78 proceeding over a presidential candidate.
2. The Courts conclusion in this case would wreak havoc on existing jurisprudence recognizing
the COMELECs jurisdiction to determine a candidates eligibility in the course of deciding a
Section 78 proceeding before it. The ponencia disregarded the cases involving Section 78 since
the year 2012 (when 2012 COMELEC Rules was published) where it recognized the
COMELECs jurisdiction to determine eligibility as part of determining false material
representation in a candidates CoC.
In Ongsiako-Reyes v. COMELEC, the Court armed the COMELECs cancellation of
Ongsiako-Reyes CoC and armed its determination that Ongsiako-Reyes is neither a
Philippine citizen nor a resident of Marinduque.
The Court even armed the COMELECs capability to liberally construe its own rules of
procedure in response to Ongsiako-Reyes allegation that the COMELEC gravely abused its
discretion in admitting newly-discovered evidence that had not been testified on, oered and
admitted in evidence.
In Cerafica, the Court held that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in holding that
Kimberly Cerafica (a candidate for councilor) did not file a valid CoC and subsequently cannot
be substituted by Olivia Cerafica. Kimberlys CoC is considered valid unless the contents
therein (including her eligibility) is impugned through a Section 78 proceeding.
2. The ponencias reliance on Fermins is out of context.
Fermin clarified that Section 78 of the OEC is to be read in relation to the constitutional and
statutory provisions on qualifications or eligibility for public oce. If the candidate
subsequently states a material representation in the CoC that is false, the COMELEC, following
the law, is empowered to deny due course to or cancel such certificate.
A proceeding under Section 78 is likened to a quo warranto proceeding under Section 253 of
the OEC since they both deal with the eligibility or qualification of a candidate, with the
distinction mainly in the fact that a Section 78 petition is filed before proclamation, while a
petition for quo warranto is filed after proclamation of the winning candidate.
3. Rules 23 of the 2012 COMELEC Rules of Procedure does not limit the COMELECs
jurisdiction in determining the eligibility of a candidate in the course of ruling on a Section 78
The second paragraph in Rule 23 delineates the distinction between a Section 78 cancellation
proceeding and a Section 68 disqualification proceeding; to avoid the muddling or mixing of the
grounds for each remedy, the COMELEC opted to provide that petitions that combine or
substitute one remedy for the other shall be dismissed summarily. Naturally, the text of this
second paragraph also appears in Rule 25, which provides for the grounds for a petition for
The only dierence between the two proceedings is that, under section 78, the qualifications
for elective oce are misrepresented in the certificate of candidacy and the proceedings must
be initiated before the elections, whereas a petition for quo warranto under section 253 may be
brought on the basis of two grounds (1) ineligibility or (2) disloyalty to the Republic of the
Philippines, and must be initiated within 10 days after the proclamation of the election results.
Under section 253, a candidate is ineligible if he is disqualified to be elected to oce, and he
is disqualified if he lacks any of the qualifications for elective oce.
4. If we were to follow the ponencias limitation on the COMELECs function to determine Poes
eligibility to become President in a Section 78 proceeding, the logical result would be that even
this Court itself cannot rule on Poes citizenship and residence eligibilities in the course of
reviewing a Section 78 COMELEC ruling; any declaration regarding these issues would be
obiter dictum.
The eect would be thatany pronouncements outside the COMELECs limited jurisdiction in
Section 78 would only be expressions of the COMELECs opinion and would have no eect in
the determination of the merits of the Section 78 case before it. Findings of ineligibility outside
of the limits do not need to be resolved or even be touched by this Court. Thus, in the present
case, Poe can simply be a candidate for the presidency, with her eligibilities open to post-
election questions, if still necessary at that point.
On the Citizenship of Foundlings
It was never the intent of the framers of 1935 Constitution to presume that foundlings are
natural born citizens.
1. Ironically, the ponencia s citation of Jose M. Aruegos recounting of the deliberations even
reinforces the position that the framers never intended to include foundlings within the terms of
the 1935 Constitutions parentage provisions.
Aruego said that the Rafols amendment was defeated primarily because the Convention
believed that the cases, being too few to warrant the inclusion of a provision in the Constitution
to apply to them, should be governed by statutory legislation.
2. The ponencias ruling thus does not only disregard the distinction of citizenship based on the
father or the mother under the 1935 Constitution; it also misreads what the records signify and
thereby unfairly treats the children of Filipino mothers under the 1935 Constitution who,
although able to trace their Filipino parentage, must yield to the higher categorization accorded
to foundlings who .do not enjoy similar roots.
On Burden of Proof
Procedural Aspect of the Burden of Proof
1. The original petitioners before the COMELEC (the respondents in the present petitions)
from the perspective of procedure carried the burden under its Section 78 cancellation of
CoC petition, to prove that Poe made false material representations.
2. Since Poe could not factually show that either of her parents is a Philippine citizen, the
COMELEC concluded that the original petitioners are correct in their position that they have
discharged their original burden to prove that Poe is not a natural-born citizen of the
Philippines. To arrive at its conclusion, the COMELEC considered and relied on the terms of the
1935 Constitution.
3. With this original burden discharged, the burden of evidence then shifted to Poe to prove
that despite her admission that she is a foundling, she is in fact a natural-born Filipino, either by
evidence (not necessarily or solely DNA in character) and by legal arguments supporting the
view that a foundling found in the Philippines is a natural-born citizen.
Substantive Aspect: Citizenship Cannot be Presumed
4. From the substantive perspective, too, a sovereign State has the right to determine who its
citizens are.
5. The list of Filipino citizens under the Constitution must be read as exclusive and exhaustive.
In Paa v. Chan, this Court categorically ruled that it is incumbent upon the person who claims
Philippine citizenship, to prove to the satisfaction of the court that he is really a Filipino. This
should be true particularly after proof that the claimant has not proven (and even admits the
lack of proven) Filipino parentage.
6. No presumption can be indulged in favor of the claimant of Philippine citizenship, and any
doubt regarding citizenship must be resolved in favor of the State.
7. The exercise by a person of the rights and/or privileges that are granted to Philippine citizens
is not conclusive proof that he or she is a Philippine citizen.
8. Based on these considerations, the Court majoritys ruling on burden of proof at the
COMELEC level appears to be misplaced. On both counts, procedural and substantive (based
on settled jurisprudence), the COMELEC closely hewed to the legal requirements. Thus, the
Court majoritys positions on where and how the COMELEC committed grave abuse of
discretion are truly puzzling. With no grave abuse at the COMELEC level, the present
petitioners own burden of proof in the present certiorari proceedings before this Court must
necessarily fail. ##

Issue 2: W/N Grace Poe-Llamanzares is a natural-born Filipino citizen (Read Dissent)

Yes, Grace Poe might be and is considerably a natural-born Filipino. For that, she satisfies 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

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.

Foundlings are Deemed Naturalized Filipino Citizens (Grace Poe vs Comelec, 2016 Carpio

Grace Poe vs COMELEC (Summary)

Carpio Dissent: GR 221697 March 8, 2016
Emotional pleas invoking the sad plight of foundlings conveniently forgets the express language
of the Constitution reserving those high positions, particularly the Presidency, exclusively to
natural-born Filipino citizens. Even naturalized Filipino citizens, whose numbers are far more
than foundlings, are not qualified to run for President. The natural-born citizenship requirement
under the Constitution to qualify as a candidate for President must be complied with strictly. To
rule otherwise amounts to a patent violation of the Constitution.
A Mockery of National Election Process
There is no majority of the Supreme Court that holds Grace Poe is a natural-born Filipino citizen
since 7 5 justices voted that Grace Poe is a natural-born, while the three others withheld
their opinion.
1 Allowing a presidential candidate with uncertain citizenship status to be
potentially elected to the Oce of the President, an oce expressly reserved by the
Constitution exclusively for natural-born Filipino citizens, will lead to absurd results.
2 This ruling implies that the majority of this Court wants to resolve the citizenship
status of petitioner after the elections, and only if petitioner wins the elections, despite
petitioner having already presented before the COMELEC all the evidence she wanted to
present to prove her citizenship status.
3 If petitioner wins the elections but is later disqualified by this Court (acting as
PET) for not possessing a basic qualification for the Oce of the President that of being a
natural-born Filipino citizen those who voted for petitioner would have utterly wasted their
On Comelecs All-Encompassing Jurisdiction
The initial determination of who are qualified to file COC with the Comelec clearly falls within
the all-encompassing constitutional mandate of the Comelec to enforce and administer all laws
and regulations relative to the conduct of an election.
1 The Constitution also empower the Comelec to decide, except those involving
the right to vote, all questions aecting elections. The power to decide all questions aecting
elections necessarily includes the power to decide whether a candidate possesses the
qualifications required by law for election to public oce. This broad constitutional power and
function vested in the Comelec is designed precisely to avoid any situation where a dispute
aecting elections is left without any legal remedy.
If one who is obviously not a natural-born Philippine citizen, like Arnold Schwarzenneger,
runs for President, the Comelec is certainly not powerless to cancel the certificate of candidacy
of such candidate. There is no need to wait until after the elections before such candidate may
be disqualified.
2 In fact, the COMELEC is empowered to motu proprio cancel COCs of nuisance
It cannot be disputed that a person, not a natural-born Filipino citizen, who files a certificate
of candidacy for President puts the election process in mockery and is therefore a nuisance
candidate. Such persons certificate of candidacy can motu proprio be cancelled by the
COMELEC under Section 69 of the OEC, which empowers the COMELEC to cancel motu
proprio the COC if it has been filed to put the election process in mockery. (Timbol vs Comelec,
Who are Natural-Born Filipino Citizens
The following are deemed natural-born Filipino citizens: (1) those whose fathers or mothers are
Filipino citizens, and (2) those whose mothers are Filipino citizens and were born before 17
January 1973 and who elected Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority.
1 The 1987 constitutional provision treating as natural-born Filipino citizens those
born before 17 January 1973 of Filipino mothers and alien fathers, and who elected Philippine
citizenship upon reaching the age of majority, has a retroactive eect. (Co vs HRET, 1991)
The Court declared that this constitutional provision was enacted to correct the anomalous
situation where one born of a Filipino father and an alien mother was automatically granted the
status of a natural-born citizen while one born of a Filipino mother and an alien father would still
have to elect Philippine citizenship. Under earlier laws, if one so elected, he was not conferred
the status of a natural-born.
2 Those whose fathers or mothers are neither Filipino citizens are not natural-born
Filipino citizens. If they are not natural-born Filipino citizens, they can acquire Philippine
citizenship only under Article IV, Sec 1 (5) of the 1935 Constitution which refers to Filipino
citizens who are naturalized in accordance with law.
Intent of the Framers of 1935 Constitution
There is no silence of the Constitution on foundlings because the majority of the delegates to
the 1934 Constitutional Convention expressly rejected the proposed amendment of Delegate
Rafols to classify children of unknown parentage as Filipino citizens.
1. Three delegates voiced their objections to Rafolss amendment, namely Delegates Buslon,
Montinola, and Roxas. Delegate Teofilo Buslon suggested that the subject matter be left in the
hands of the legislature, which meant that Congress would decide whether to categorize as
Filipinos ( 1) natural or illegitimate children of Filipino mothers and alien fathers who do not
recognize them; and (2) children of unknown parentage / foundlings.
If that were the case, foundlings were not and could not validly be considered as natural-born
Filipino citizens as defined in the Constitution since Congress would then provide the enabling
law for them to be regarded as Filipino citizens.
Foundlings would be naturalized citizens since they acquire Filipino citizenship in
accordance with law under paragraph (5), Section 1 of Article IV of the 193 5 Constitution.
Significantly, petitioner and the Solicitor General, conveniently left out Delegate Buslons
2. None of the framers of the 1935 Constitution mentioned the term natural-born in relation
to the citizenship of foundlings. Again, under the 1935 Constitution, only those whose fathers
were Filipino citizens were considered natural-born Filipino citizens. Those who were born of
Filipino mothers and alien fathers were still required to elect Philippine citizenship, preventing
them from being natural-born Filipino citizens.
If the framers intended that foundlings be considered natural-born Filipino citizens, this
would have created an absurd situation where a child with unknown parentage would be placed
in a better position than a child whose mother is actually known to be a Filipino citizen. The
framers of the 1935 Constitution could not have intended to create such an absurdity.
3. Delegate Rafolss amendment, when put to a vote, was clearly rejected by the majority of the
delegates to the 1934 Constitutional Convention.
The rejection of the Rafols amendment not only meant the non-inclusion in the text of the
Constitution of a provision that children with unknown parentage are Filipino citizens, but also
signified the rejection by the delegates of the idea or proposition that foundlings are Filipino
citizens at birth just like natural-born citizens. While the framers discussed the matter of
foundlings because of Delegate Rafolss amendment, they not only rejected the Rafols proposal
but also clearly manifested that foundlings could not be citizens of the Philippines at birth like
children of Filipino fathers.
4. Only the 1930 Hague Convention on Certain Questions Relating to the Conflict of Nationality
Laws, which articulated the presumption on the place of birth of foundlings, existed during the
deliberations on the 1935 Constitution. The 1930 Hague Convention does not guarantee a
nationality to a foundling at birth. Therefore, there was no prevailing customary international law
at that time, as there is still none today, conferring automatically a nationality to foundlings at
International Laws Applicable to Foundlings
1 There is no conventional or customary international law automatically conferring
nationality to foundlings at birth
2 There are only two general principles of international law applicable to
First is that a foundling is deemed domiciled in the country where the foundling is found. A
foundling is merely considered to have a domicile at birth, not a nationality at birth. Stated
otherwise, a foundling receives at birth a domicile of origin which is the country in which the
foundling is found.
Second, in the absence of proof to the contrary, a foundling is deemed born in the country
where the foundling is found. These two general principles of international law have nothing to
do with conferment of nationality.
3 There is a dierence between citizenship at birth because of jus soli, and
citizenship at birth because of jus sanguinis. The former may be granted to foundlings under
Philippine statutory law pursuant to Art IV, Sec 1 (5) of the 1935 Constitution but the Philippine
citizenship thus granted is not that of a natural-born citizen but that of a naturalized citizen.
Only those citizens at birth because of jus sanguinis, which requires blood relation to a parent,
are natural-born Filipino citizens under the 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions.
4 Any treaty, customary international law, or generally accepted international law
principle has the status of municipal statutory law. As such, it must conform to our Constitution
in order to be valid in the Philippines.
Foundlings are Deemed Naturalized Filipino Citizens
If a childs parents are neither Filipino citizens, the only way that the child may be considered a
Filipino citizen is through the process of naturalization in accordance with statutory law under
Art IV, Sec 1 (5) of the 193 5 Constitution.
If a childs parents are unknown, as in the case of a foundling, there is no basis to consider
the child as a natural-born Filipino citizen since there is no proof that either the childs father or
mother is a Filipino citizen. Thus, the only way that a foundling can be considered a Filipino
citizen under the 1935 Constitution, as well as under the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions, is for the
foundling to be naturalized in accordance with law.
On the Ruling that Grace Poe Might be a Filipino Citizen
There is no law or jurisprudence which supports the contention that natural-born citizenship
can be conferred on a foundling based alone on statistical probability.
On Adoption Laws
Philippine laws and jurisprudence on adoption is simply not determinative of natural-born
On Burden of Proof
Since the Constitution requires that the President of the Philippines shall be a natural-born
citizen of the Philippines, it is imperative that petitioner prove that she is a natural-born Filipino
citizen, despite the fact that she is a foundling. The burden of evidence shifted to her when she
admitted her status as a foundling with no known biological parents. At that moment, it
became her duty to prove that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen.
Grace Poe is NOT a Natural-born Filipino Citizen
1. There is no Philippine law automatically conferring Philippine citizenship to a foundling at
birth. Even if there were, such a law would only result in the foundling being a naturalized
Filipino citizen, not a natural-born Filipino citizen.
2. Second, there is no legal presumption in favor of Philippine citizenship, whether natural-born
or naturalized. Citizenship must be established as a matter of fact and any doubt is resolved
against the person claiming Philippine citizenship.
3. Third, the letter and intent of the 1935 Constitution clearly excluded foundlings from being
considered natural-born Filipino citizens. The Constitution adopts the jus sanguinis principle,
and identifies natural-born Filipino citizens as only those whose fathers or mothers are Filipino
citizens. Petitioner failed to prove that either her father or mother is a Filipino citizen.
4. Fourth, there is no treaty, customary international law or a general principle of international
law granting automatically Philippine citizenship to a foundling at birth. Petitioner failed to prove
that there is such a customary international law. At best, there exists a presumption that a
foundling is domiciled, and born, in the country where the foundling is found.
5. Fifth, even assuming that there is a customary international law presuming that a foundling is
a citizen of the country where the foundling is found, or is born to parents possessing the
nationality of that country, such presumption cannot prevail over our Constitution since
customary international law has the status merely of municipal statutory law. This means that
customary international law is inferior to the Constitution, and must yield to the Constitution in
case of conflict. Since the Constitution adopts the jus sanguinis principle, and identifies natural-
born Filipino citizens as only those whose fathers or mothers are Filipino citizens, then
petitioner must prove that either her father or mother is a Filipino citizen for her to be
considered a natural-born Filipino citizen. Any international law which contravenes the jus
sanguinis principle in the Constitution must of course be rejected.
6. Sixth, petitioner failed to discharge her burden to prove that she is a natural-born Filipino
citizen. Being a foundling, she admitted that she does not know her biological parents, and
therefore she cannot trace blood relation to a Filipino father or mother. Without credible and
convincing evidence that petitioners biological father or mother is a Filipino citizen, petitioner
cannot be considered a natural-born Filipino citizen.
7. Seventh, a foundling has to perform an act, that is, prove his or her status as a foundling, to
acquire Philippine citizenship. This being so, a foundling can only be deemed a naturalized
Filipino citizen because the foundling has to perform an act to acquire Philippine citizenship.
Since there is no Philippine law specifically governing the citizenship of foundlings, their
citizenship is addressed by customary international law, namely: the right of every human being
to a nationality, and the States obligations to avoid statelessness and to facilitate the
naturalization of foundlings.

Issue 3: W/N Grace Poe satisfies the 10-year residency requirement

Yes. Grace Poe satisfied the requirements of animus manendi coupled with 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. Such cases are
dierent from the circumstances in this case, in which 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, it was for good.

Issue 4: W/N the Grace Poes candidacy should be denied or cancelled for committing
material misrepresentations in her COC
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 suering 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, by authority of the Supreme Court Grace Poe is now pronounced qualified as a
candidate for the presidency. Hence, there cannot be any false representations in her COC
regarding her citizenship and residency. ##