Law Bending

On March 8, 2016, Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe Llamanzares, or simply known as Grace Poe, became an official presidential candidate after the Supreme Court of the Philippines gave its legal blessing to reverse the ruling of the Commission on Elections to cancel her certificate of candidacy in the 2016 Philippine elections.

As a foundling who renounced her citizenship prior to her first government stint as a chairperson in 2010, Poe has been on the forefront of different constitutional issues ever since the onset of her presidential bid. It was then when the issue of whether or not the adopted daughter of the late Fernando Poe Jr. should be allowed to run for office, specifically, the seat of the Philippine president. In a nutshell, the case faced by Poe featured four distinct legal issues, which are the following: when the 10-year residency requirement started for Poe; whether or not the Supreme Court will engage in judicial legislation; adoption laws as a defense against the decision of the Comelec; and the standards of where Poe’s residency and citizenship should be founded upon.


Moving past the different arguments that took place before March 8, Poe’s very fight for presidential candidacy was not directed against the multiple parties who petitioned for her disqualification such as the SET, Comelec, SC, or even DLSU professor, Dr. Antonio Contreras. But rather, it was a fight against the very foundation of a sovereign Philippine Republic. It was Poe’s personal aspiration besting the Philippine Constitution in a legal battle where usually it is the latter that wins.


I personally have nothing against Grace Poe as a human or even as a potential Philippine president. Although that also doesn’t mean that I am endorsing her to the readers of this column as your next head of state. My issue here is simply with the legal ramifications of Poe’s victory over the Philippine Constitution for it raises a lot of flags being a landmark case, which means that its historical and legal significance will have a lasting effect on the application of particular laws, especially the individual rights and liberties of any person subjected into a similar scenario.


For one, the residency requirement for Philippine presidential aspirants, despite being expressly stated and established in the Philippine Constitution, could be argued and bent to allow those who are short of residency years to run for the highest seat in the country.


Now I do get that this is the Philippines. This is a country where the law is bent on a daily basis due to corruption, apathetic citizens, and rampant poverty, which is basically why we are going backward always and forward never – hopefully, this will change soon enough. But once that the very constitutional foundation of a country is bent in favor of someone who has failed to discharge the burden to prove his/her nationality, we are no better than a lawless state for no one is above the law, especially the state constitution.


Again, I reiterate the fact that I know this is the Philippines and I do understand that full implementation and compliance to the law is nothing but a fictional dream in this country. However, I believe that we have the capacity to at least follow the foundation of our laws. I believe that the Supreme Court will uphold its duty in upholding the constitution even if their decision on the Poe case is considered as one of the fastest ruling in the annals of the court. I still believe that a judicial institution, which is supposedly untouched by the drama and influence of politics, will remain independent and firm on its beliefs. But I have to admit, due to the SC being a major player in this year’s presidential elections; my beliefs are starting to waver.


Here’s to the Philippine Constitution.


Miguel Luis Gayares

By Miguel Luis Gayares

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