ADMINISTRATION candidate Manuel Roxas II took a swipe Tuesday at presidential survey frontrunner Senator Grace Poe by insinuating that she was not a natural-born citizen, just a few months after he failed to convince her to be his running mate.
“Without any specificity, none of us would want a foreigner as president, right?” Roxas said Tuesday. “The issue here is being a natural-born Filipino, which is stated in the Constitution.”
“And in the end, the rule of law should prevail because if there is no law, then it will already be might is right—those who have the money, those who have the guns and those who have the loudest voice would prevail in our country,” he added.
Roxas spoke up on Poe’s citizenship status after Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte joined the presidential race to protest the Senate Electoral Tribunal’s dismissal of a petition to unseat her as a senator because she was a foundling and could not prove she was a natural-born citizen, a requirement for being senator or president.
“If you want an American president, choose Grace [Poe],” Duterte said.
Previously, Roxas had refrained from commenting on the challenges against Poe and denied allegations that he was behind the petitions filed against her before the Commission on Elections and the Senate tribunal.
A spokesman for Poe, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, reacted sharply to Roxas’ statement.
“How can they say she is a foreign national when they even tried to draft her as their vice presidential bet?” Gatchalian said.
He also noted that Poe ran for the Senate in 2013 under the administration coalition.
“Surely, these actions were grounded in research,” Gatchalian said.
Roxas on Tuesday said he was unfazed by Duterte’s entry into the presidential race.
“Do I look worried? Welcome to the campaign. It would be great if those who seek to serve or present their platforms become part of this contest,” Roxas said.
Duterte on Monday night took a dig at his rivals, suggesting that Poe was an American, that Roxas lacked competence and that Vice President Jejomar Binay lacked integrity.
Duterte had earlier accused Roxas of spreading a rumor that he had cancer, which he said had hurt his family.
He exempted Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago from his attacks, however.
“If you want a brilliant president, integrity and all, competence, vote for Miriam,” he said, but suggested that the senator, who has battled cancer, might not be able to finish the campaign.
“Think of me during the last week of the elections,” he said.
Senator Cynthia Villar on Tuesday said she doubted if the SET would reverse its decision to junk the disqualification case against Poe, but said the “true fight” would be before the Supreme Court.
Villar, along with the other four senator-members of the SET, voted against the quo warranto petition to unseat Poe from the Senate filed by losing senatorial bet Rizalito David.
David had argued that Poe was not a natural-born Filipino citizen when she ran for the Senate in 2013.
In an interview, Villar said she thinks the SET would come out with the same ruling on the motion for reconsideration filed by David last Monday.
She said it would be difficult to explain if a member who voted against the case would suddenly change his or her decision.
Except for Senator Nancy Binay, whose father is running against Poe in 2016, the five other senators in the tribunal—Villar, Vicente Sotto III, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Loren Legarda and Pia Cayetano—voted to junk the case.
She also dismissed the likelihood that Cayetano would change her vote, now that her brother, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, is Duterte’s running mate.
Villar said she believed Cayetano would not change her vote because children’s rights are among her advocacies, that the decision favored foundlings.
Villar said she believed that being a foundling does not automatically mean a person is not a natural-born citizen. She added that David failed to present any evidence to show that Poe was not a natural-born citizen.
She also dismissed suggestions that the vote in the SET was based on political consideration.
“Why would that be political? I can’t understand that,” she said, noting that the decision was based on the rights of foundlings.
Senator Francis Escudero, Poe’s running mate, urged Duterte not to belittle those who disagreed with his views.
Duterte had accused Escudero of using Poe, after Escudero asked the mayor not to use Poe as an excuse to run for president.
Poe and Escudero are leading the voters’ preference surveys for president and vice president, respectively.
Escudero said the fact that Poe had been given a birth certificate and passport, was legally adopted, and later allowed to run for and serve as a senator, meant only one thing: she is a Filipino and qualified to be a public servant.
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