MANILA, January 29, 2004 (STAR) ROSES AND THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces - Poes citizenship is a constitutional question?

There are two things that should be made clear about the question of Fernando Poe Jr.s citizenship. First, the issue is not whether he is a Filipino citizen or not. It is whether he is a natural-born citizen or not. The second is that his citizenship is not an election issue. It is a Constitutional question. If he is not a natural-born Filipino, he does not qualify even as a candidate for president. An election issue is one that the voters will decide on the polls.

Here, it is what the Constitution says that will determine the outcome of the issue. The burden of proof rests with those that maintain that Poe is not a natural-born citizen. They will have to prove two things. First that both his parents were aliens or that he was an illegitimate child who therefore automatically took the citizenship of the mother. The proof here will not depend on witnesses. It will all the documentary.

To the best of our knowledge, the main person concerned in this issue Fernando Poe Jr. has not categorically come out to say whether he is indeed a natural-born Filipino or not. Even his spokesmen only say that he is a Filipino citizen which no one denies. It cannot be denied that in the Philippines, box office appeal translates into political votes, meaning that our voters cannot differentiate between fact and fiction.

Radical groups see this as a justification to launch coups or so-called people-power revolutions.

Erap Estrada, for instance, has warned the Supreme Court that if it disqualifies Fernando Poe Jr. from the presidential race, it would plunge the country into a civil war.

We can be sure that will not be the basis of whatever decision the Supreme Court makes. Its basis will be the Constitution.

Box office kings are not above the law. Erap should know that. It was a peoples power revolution that confirmed his impeachment. That is why he is in jail now.

We hope that FPJs qualification to run for president is settled by the Supreme Court once and for all. It is a pre-election issue that has to be decided before the elections. If people do not like the constitutional provision that says that only naturalized-born Filipinos are qualified to run for the presidency, they should move to change the provision in this coming constitutional convention.

We say the same thing to those who are against capital punishment. They should work for the repeal of the law on capital punishment rather than trying to stop the execution of those who have been given the death sentence. There will be people who will get the death penalty as long as the law exists. So what they are doing is stopping the implementation of the law. If they dont agree with the law, they should work for its repeal.

I dont see why a Filipino who is not a natural-born Filipino cannot run for the presidency. But that law should be observed until it is repealed.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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