QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES— “Drilon is wrong.”
Professor Harry Roque Jr. said this regarding Senate President Franklin Drilon’s statement that the issue of Grace Poe’s citizenship which the Senate President said will be finally decided by the Supreme Court .
“Under our Constitution, it is the Senate Electoral Tribunal which is the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of their Members,” Roque stated, citing Article VI, Section 17 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
Roque is a professor of Constitutional Law at the UP College of Law and the Director of the Institute of International Legal Studies.
“The Supreme Court can only look into decisions of the SET when there is evidence of collusion or fraud among the members of the SET,” he added. “Absent any showing of that, the Supreme Court cannot overturn the decision of the SET.”
Roque cited the case of Lerias vs. Mercado where the Supreme Court ruled: “Politicians who are members of electoral tribunals, must think and act like judges, accordingly, they must resolve election controversies with judicial, not political, integrity”.
In effect, he said, the SC has no “final say” in the Poe case, as opposed to Drilon’s statement.
Professor Roque also criticized the supporters of Poe when they questioned Justice Antonio Carpio’s recent statement that Poe is a naturalized citizen. Justice Carpio, current chair of the SET, stated that Poe must prove blood relations to Filipino parents in order to show that she is a natural-born Filipino.
“There is a principle of international law that every state must avoid statelessness, and there is also a principle that every person has the right to acquire citizenship,” Carpio said. “We avoid statelessness, give the foundling citizenship. But it is under 5 [Section 5, Article 4 of the 1935 Constitution]: that a foundling is a citizen, but naturalized.”
Poe supporters criticized the ruling, and some have ventured that Carpio’s decision was a conflict of interest, being a former law partner of Atty. Avelino Cruz, currently the lawyer of Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas.
Prof. Roque bristled at the thought.
“Justice Carpio is an upright and acknowledged individual who has never hidden his ties with ‘The Firm’,” Prof. Roque said. “They should have moved to inhibit him at the onset, and not now, after he has issued his statement.”
“Now that the tides are not in their favour, they start questioning him,” Roque said. “In truth nothing will satisfy Poe unless the SET decides in her favour.”