by Bruce Rivera

It seems to me that several gifted thinkers have shifted the debate of the Grace Poe qualification to run for President to a debate on the mettle of being Filipino if one decides to be a citizen of another state and thereby renouncing Philippine citizenship.

I whole-heartedly agree that citizenship is just a piece of paper while being Filipino is something deeper. In fact, we follow the doctrine of JUS SAGUINIS, citizenship is determined not by place of birth but by blood. You can never take away the Filipino in a Filipino despite a foreign passport. The nose knows.

However, it is wrong to assume that just because I am against Poe running for President does not mean I am against Filipinos who return to the Motherland and be part of nation building. In fact, we need Filipinos (repatriates or returning OFW) to infuse new information and wisdom. Nation building does include every member of the Filipino race, citizen or not.

That is the reason why I even campaigned for Grace Poe when she ran for the Senate despite questions on her residency because I welcome her back to the bosoms of our Inang Bayan. It did not matter if she had a foreign husband who was of Filipino blood because Jamby Madrigal had a European husband and we did not care because Judy Ann endorsed her. And even if the Constitution required a Senator to be also a natural born Filipino, nobody dared question. Because you had 24 Senators who decided things by plurality.

But when you are gunning for the Presidency, everything is an issue. Everything becomes microscopic and with good reason. If you are President, you will be the sole representation of the Philippine state NOT the Filipino race. You will represent all the Filipino citizens in the Philippines and Filipino citizens abroad. You will exercise powers singly in your capacity to serve the Philippine state and its interests. That is why the issue of being natural born is vital. And please note that all OFW who worked abroad for the longest time and still remain Filipino citizens are qualified to run.

And there is a reason why that is a qualification. There is a reason why to be President, you only need to know how to read and write and not require even a high school diploma (even with a free HS education) but you must be a NATURAL BORN CITIZEN.

And as far as I know, the framers of the 1987 Constitution wanted to make sure that the President is highest representative of the Philippine state (represented by its people) and not the Filipino race because some Filipinos by blood are no longer part of the Philippine state.

In the past, a natural born Filipino is considered a such if he or she becomes a Filipino without doing anything to get such citizenship. So if you are born to Filipino parents, you are Filipino. And those who renounce Philippine citizenship in the past and decide to return are considered naturalized until the Supreme Court started adding exceptions like repatriation where there was no express renunciation of Filipino citizenship.

This was a qualification that left nothing for interpretation because the Constitution also prescribed DUAL ALLEGIANCE but allows DUAL CITIZENSHIP because in the latter case, there was no double oaths of allegiance being taken. Hence, people like Frivaldo were not allowed to sit as elected officials because their naturalization was incomplete (he renounced his citizenship in the past).

Many paid the price for this rule because the Constitution places premium on loyalty to be President because you are representing the STATE and its citizens, majority of whom have not denounced their citizenship. It was a hard rule but it was a sacred rule.

Until now. Apparently, it does not matter if you have renounced Philippine citizenship, took two oaths of allegiance for as long as you want to be Filipino, you are natural born because our present Supreme Court interpreted it that way.

I just hope that one day, there will be a genius Filipino whose both hands are cut because he was caught stealing in Saudi Arabia and he decides to run for the President. Will he be qualified because he is not able to write? Maybe the Supreme Court will also say that for as long as his heart can write but cannot do so because he has no hands, he is qualified.

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