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15. POE-LLAMANZARES VS.

COMELEC
(Citizenship; Foundlings)

Petitioner is Mary Grace Natividad Poe-Llamanzares, who, as a baby, was a foundling. She was
eventually adopted by the celebrity couple Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces.

She was a naturalized US citizen. But she filed petition to re-acquire Philippine citizenship and took her
Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, pursuant to RA 9225 (Citizenship Retention and Re-
acquisition Act of 2003). The Bureau of Immigration granted her petition.

She filed her Certificate of Candidacy for Presidency for the May 2016 Elections. Cases GR 221697 & GR
221698-700 were filed before COMELEC to cancel her COC due to her lack of qualifications with respect
to both her citizenship and residency requirements. [Note: We will only discuss the citizenship aspect]

GR 221697: Estrella Elamparo filed petition to cancel Poe’s COC due to material misrepresentation made
by Poe when she stated that she was a natural-born Filipino citizen and that she was domiciled in the
Philippines.

GR 221698-700: Francicso Tatad, et al. filed for certiorari before COMELEC, seeking to disqualify Poe on
the ground that she lacked requisite residency and citizenship to qualify for Presidency. Tatad theorized
that since the Philippines adheres to jus sanguinis and that foundlings have unknown parentage,
foundlings cannot be considered natural-born Filipino citizens.

The cases relied on the fact that Petitioner was a foundling; that as a foundling, Petitioner could not re-
acquire Philippine citizenship under RA 9225 because it applies only to natural-born Filipino citizens.

Petitioner sought to annul the decisions made by COMELEC granting the cases.

ISSUE: Whether a foundling can be a natural-born Filipino citizen

HELD: YES. Petition was granted, annulling the resolutions of COMELEC cancelling her COC. She was
declared qualified to a candidate for President in the 2016 Elections.

High probability of Poe being a natural-born Filipino

There is more than sufficient evidence that petitioner has Filipino parents and is therefore a natural-
born Filipino. Parenthetically, the burden of proof was on private respondents to show that petitioner is
not a Filipino citizen… Her admission that she is a foundling did not shift the burden to her because such
status did not exclude the possibility that her parents were Filipinos, especially as in this case where
there is a high probability, if not certainty, that her parents are Filipinos.

SG offered official statistics from the PSA that from 1965 to 1975, the total number of foreigners born in
the Philippines was 15,986 while the total number of Filipinos born in the country was 10,558,278. The
statistical probability that any child born in the Philippines in that decade is natural-born Filipino was
99.83%. This is paired with other circumstantial evidence, such as the fact that she was abandoned as an
infant in a RC Church in Iloilo City, and that she also has typical Filipino features: height, flat nasal bridge,
straight black hair, almond shaped eyes and an oval face.
All of the foregoing evidence would indicate more than ample probability, if not statistical certainty, that
petitioner's parents are Filipinos.

To assume otherwise is to accept the absurd, if not the virtually impossible, as the norm.

Natural-born Filipino under Domestic laws

As a matter of law, foundlings are as a class, natural-born citizens.

Although the laws were silent as to the inclusion of foundlings, there is no restrictive language which
would definitely exclude foundlings either. Court held that the framers of the constitution always had to
intention to include them but just did not include them; not because they were not citizens, but rather
their numbers were not enough to merit specific mention.

Domestic laws on adoption also support the principle that foundlings are Filipinos. These laws do not
provide that adoption confers citizenship upon the adoptee. Recent legislation is more direct. RA 8043
("Inter-Country Adoption Act of 1995"), RA 8552 (Domestic Adoption Act of 1998), and this Court's AM
02-6-02-SC ("Rule on Adoption") all expressly refer to "Filipino children" and include foundlings as
among Filipino children who may be adopted.

It has been argued that the process to determine that the child is a foundling leading to the issuance of a
foundling certificate under these laws and the issuance of said certificate are acts to acquire or perfect
Philippine citizenship which make the foundling a naturalized Filipino at best. This is erroneous. Under
Article IV, Section 2 "Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth
without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship." In the first place,
"having to perform an act" means that the act must be personally done by the citizen. In this instance,
the determination of foundling status is done not by the child but by the authorities. Secondly, the
object of the process is the determination of the whereabouts of the parents, not the citizenship of the
child. Lastly, the process is certainly not analogous to naturalization proceedings to acquire Philippine
citizenship, or the election of such citizenship by one born of an alien father and a Filipino mother under
the 1935 Constitution, which is an act to perfect it.

Natural-born Filipino under GAAP’s and Conventions in International law

Foundlings are likewise citizens under international laws, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights.

The common thread of the UDHR, UNCRC and ICCPR is to obligate the Philippines to grant nationality
from birth and ensure that no child is stateless. This grant of nationality must be at the time of birth, and
it cannot be accomplished by the application of our present naturalization laws, CA 473, as amended,
and RA 9139, both of which require the applicant to be at least eighteen (18) years old.

The 1930 Hague Convention and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness support the
same notion although the Philippines is not a signatory to either, it does not mean that their principles
are not binding.
Adopting these legal principles from the 1930 Hague Convention and the 1961 Convention on
Statelessness is rational and reasonable and consistent with the jus sanguinis regime in our Constitution.
The presumption of natural-born citizenship of foundlings stems from the presumption that their
parents are nationals of the Philippines. As the empirical data provided by the PSA show, that
presumption is at more than 99% and is a virtual certainty.

In sum, all of the international law conventions and instruments on the matter of nationality of
foundlings were designed to address the plight of a defenseless class which suffers from a misfortune
not of their own making. We cannot be restrictive as to their application if we are a country which calls
itself civilized and a member of the community of nations.