Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio’s (in photo) remark that Senator Grace Poe is a “naturalized” citizen, not a natural-born Filipino, has stirred up a storm which might continue to rage in the coming weeks and months.
While Carpio is a senior member of the Supreme Court and nearly became chief justice had President Benigno Aquino not exercised his discretion to appoint the current SC head, his pronouncement that Poe is a “naturalized” citizen has opened himself to a barrage of criticism and even fueled speculations about a “grand conspiracy” against the lady senator.
Poe’s lawyers and scores of political analysts and lawyers said Poe never underwent any naturalization process to acquire her Filipino citizenship. She wasn’t a foreigner who applied to become a Filipino citizen through a naturalization process. So, how can Carpio describe Poe as a “naturalized” citizen?
Disclosures that Carpio has close ties with Avelino Cruz, a legal counsel of Mar Roxas, has fueled loose talk the SC justice may be in cahoots with Liberal Party supporters of Roxas to try and stop Poe from contesting the presidency, especially because Poe continues to lead presidential opinion polls. For instance, Liberal Party political affairs adviser and Caloocan city congressman Edgar Arice keeps on attacking Poe whenever he finds any excuse or reason to do so. Understandably, calls had been issued for Carpio to step down as chairman of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) which is now hearing a complaint against Poe’s presidential bid. [Please see this web link — http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/724465/carpios-ties-to-roxas-through-the-firm-hit]
Carpio may or may not step down as SET chairman. If Carpio continues as SET chairman, this raises fears that Poe might not get a favorable ruling and possibly causing uncertainties in her run for the presidency.
If SET decides by November that Poe is not qualified to run for president if she fails to establish that she is a “natural born” citizen, Poe’s presidential bid might suffer a setback. The first major blow is if certain political parties and businessmen decide to change their mind and shift their support to another presidential candidate without the legal baggage of Poe.
But it’s not all negative for Poe if the nine-member SET declares that Poe is not qualified to run for president. She can lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court, the highest court in the country. In Poe’s favor, the Supreme Court once ruled in the past that it should be the Filipino people, not the unelected members of the SC, that should decide if a candidate will hold public office or not.
Also in Poe’s apparent favor was President Aquino’s remark that the people should ultimately decide if Poe will contest the presidency or not. While Aquino failed to convince Poe to run as the vice presidential partner of Roxas, the president’s latest remark reflects his apparent belief that the lady senator can help continue his reform agenda.
The continuing bid to derail Poe’s run for the presidency can also backfire big time and even provide a strong boost to her candidacy. Most Filipinos root for the underdog, and this is clearly reflected in telenovelas (TV drama series) in which the oppressed and the downtrodden often win the sympathy and even support of televiewers.
To a significant extent, sympathy votes are an inexplicable but potent phenomenon in Philippine politics. President Aquino swept into power largely because of outpouring of sympathy after heroine and former President Cory Aquino. Before her death, her son PNoy was largely ignored as a virtual non-entity at the Senate and before that, the House of Representatives.
And had she not used Poe in her senatorial bid in 2013 and her father Fernando Poe not been cheated of the presidency by Gloria Arroyo, Senator Grace Poe would not have topped the last senatorial election. Again, sympathy votes played a big part in her roaring success during the 2013 senatorial elections which she topped even if it was her first time.
Yes, it looks likely that current and fresh attempts to remove Grace Poe from the presidential race will continue in the coming months and well into the campaign period.
But will these attempts pay off? Not necessarily . . . given most Filipinos’ psyche and almost natural inclination to sympathize with and support an underdog who may even be portrayed in the end as a sort of heroine. And with her apparent strength of character and mind, Poe may well turn a great adversity and challenge into a golden opportunity to win the next presidential election.