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EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full news commentary)

FROM THE INQUIRER

EDITORIAL: TWISTED RULING
[The argument is that the imposition of a steep enough cash bond would compel the accused to appear at his own trial (so as not to forfeit the money). Correct as far as it goes—but the Bersamin decision stretches this principle beyond the breaking point.]


AUGUST 24 -THE STUNNING Supreme Court decision in Enrile vs Sandiganbayan is in truth, and in the trenchant phrasing of the dissenting opinion, a “special accommodation”—an extraordinary privilege for a politician who remains one of the country’s most powerful men despite a year in detention on plunder charges. To engineer this privileged arrangement, the eight-person majority who voted in favor of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile had to twist this way and that, to rationalize its decision. That the honorable justices seemed to have found constitutional bases for their ruling only confirms the perception that lawyers can rationalize virtually anything. Where there is political will, there is a legal way. Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin wrote the ponencia effectively granting bail to Enrile in a nonbailable case; he was joined by Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo, Jose Perez and Jose Mendoza. It is of no small moment that seven of these justices (all except Velasco) also joined in yet another controversial decision, again written by Bersamin; they formed the bulk of the nine-person majority that upheld in 2010 President Gloria Arroyo’s so-called midnight appointment of Renato Corona as chief justice. That ruling also squinted determinedly at the Constitution until the meaning of the provisions began to appear as the justices saw fit. In De Castro vs Judicial and Bar Council, the high court reasoned that the express limitation on the power of the president of the Philippines to make appointments two months before the presidential elections does not apply to the Supreme Court. Why? Among other credibility-straining reasons: Because the framers of the Constitution placed the pertinent provision under Article VII, which is “devoted to the Executive Department,” rather than under Article VIII, which is “dedicated to the Judicial Department.”  READ MORE...

ALSO by Mahar Mangahas: The new SWS survey on corruption


AUGUST 29 -Since 2000, Social Weather Stations has surveyed top executives of Filipino enterprises, on matters of public and private corruption, 12 times. This survey series is far superior to that of Transparency International, producer of the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which is based on surveys of expat executives by private foreign consulting firms that do not open the underlying data for specific questionnaire items in any country. The CPI is adequate for comparing countries’ corruption for the benefit of multi-country investors and international agencies, but not for assessing movements in a single country’s corruption over time. The new SWS Survey of Enterprises on Corruption did interviews of Filipino executives at 966 companies over Nov. 14, 2014 to May 12, 2015, in the National Capital Region and six other major business areas. It used a random sample, two-thirds from lists of small and medium companies, and one-third from lists of large companies. The new survey of 2014/15 is the third during the P-Noy administration so far, after one in President Estrada’s time, and eight in President Arroyo’s time. It was supported by the Integrity for Investments Initiative with funding from the US Agency for International Development. The findings were presented to a multisectoral audience at Hotel JEN Manila last Thursday, in cooperation with the National Competitiveness Council. Experiences of corruption have declined. On the whole, the 2014/15 survey shows continued progress against corruption since 2013, after the quantum leap in 2012. This is based on corruption as experienced, and not merely as perceived, by the responding business executives. READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: Act II for the Met


AUGUST 30 -THE MANILA METROPOLITAN THEATER
The curtain rises on a new era of possibilities for the Manila Metropolitan Theater, also known as the Met. After decades of neglect, the “Grand Dame” of Manila’s theaters steps closer to a revival—with the release by the Department of Budget and Management last week of P9.48 million for its rehabilitation. This new money follows the previous release of P270 million that allowed the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) last May to purchase the Met outright from its previous owners, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). The funds were sourced from the NCCA’s National Endowment Fund for Culture and the Arts. NCCA chair Felipe de Leon called the purchase of the Met “a very touching, historical occasion and milestone.” These last two infusions of funding for the Met are the latest and perhaps the most positive developments, after a long time, in the long and eventful history of the building. From the past to the present, the Met is quite a dramatic tale. Known for its grand art deco design by architect Juan Arellano, the Met opened in 1931, during the term of Mayor Tomas Earnshaw. The 7,533 square-meter Met could hold over 1,000 guests; murals by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo hang in its lobby. It has since seen great performances by great performers. Its events were the highlights of many a Manila high-society night. But the Met ran into trouble, starting with its almost complete destruction during World War II and spent its next decades as a boxing arena, hotel, warehouse and squatter colony. In the 1970s, former first lady Imelda Marcos led restoration efforts dedicated “to surface the true, the good and the beautiful in the Filipino in Metropolitan Manila.” READ MORE...

ALSO by Rina Jimenez-David: Impunity


AUGUST 30 -Among the reasons cited by the protesters still (as of this writing) gathered in front of the Department of Justice building is the need to uphold the “separation of church and state.”
The protesters, members of the Iglesia ni Cristo, were referring to what they deemed the “extraordinary” interest and involvement of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in the filing of a case of illegal detention, threats and coercion by expelled INC minister Isaias Samson and his family. In interviews, Samson accused members of the council or sanggunian, the governing body of the church, of dispatching security people to keep watch over their residence, confiscating their passports, and monitoring their movements. He also denied knowing De Lima personally or meeting with her. Apparently, the INC leadership believes that any show of interest in the case, which revolves around accusations of corruption against some leaders of the church, constitutes “meddling” in their affairs. They even condemned some journalists for consistently following up the story, even after the church leaders had issued a bulletin saying they were conducting an internal investigation into the matter. But how could the investigation produce credible results when the leaders who ordered it are themselves among those implicated? “Separation of church and state” is contained in the 1987 Constitution which declares that the “separation of church and state shall be inviolable.” This is further explained in another section which states that “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.”  READ MORE...

ALSO by Artemio Panganiban: Focus on foundlings and orphans


AUGUST 30 -By: Artemio V. Panganiban
The rise to fame of Sen. Grace Poe and the stratospheric viewership ratings of primetime telenovelas on abandoned children (like “Niño,” “Nathaniel,” “Dream Dad” and “Munting Heredera”) have riveted public attention on foundlings and orphans, to the delight of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Discrimination vs orphans. These children have been discriminated against because they have no known biological parents. Consequently, they suffer from lack of lineage, parental care, family support, inheritance and succession. Even those who have been legally adopted, cared for and unconditionally loved by foster parents—while assured of the civil rights of legitimate children—are many times restricted in terms of their political rights to citizenship and residency which are prerequisites to exercise the right to vote and to be voted to public office. Indeed, our constitutions (whether current or past) and our statutes do not expressly grant them these political rights. For example, I had to research on the “generally-accepted principles of international law” to conclude that Senator Poe possesses natural-born citizenship. (Please see my columns on “Grace Poe’s citizenship,” Opinion, 6/14/15 and 6/21/15.) Natural-born citizenship is a required qualification for the top officials of our country—president, vice president, senators, congressmen and justices of the Supreme Court. UN battles discrimination. Fortunately, the United Nations—since its founding more than half a century ago—has been fighting for equal treatment of all the peoples of the world, regardless of race, color, religion, language, sex, political opinions, ethnic origin, age and accidents of birth. As early as Dec. 10, 1948, the UN approved the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) which proclaims, “Everyone has the right to a nationality.” (Nationality is another word for citizenship.) Later, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) seconded this declaration in these ringing words, “Every child has the right to acquire a nationality.”  READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

EDITORIAL: Twisted ruling

MANILA, AUGUST 31, 2015 (INQUIRER) @inquirerdotnet 01:05 AM August 24th, 2015 -THE STUNNING Supreme Court decision in Enrile vs Sandiganbayan is in truth, and in the trenchant phrasing of the dissenting opinion, a “special accommodation”—an extraordinary privilege for a politician who remains one of the country’s most powerful men despite a year in detention on plunder charges.

To engineer this privileged arrangement, the eight-person majority who voted in favor of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile had to twist this way and that, to rationalize its decision.

That the honorable justices seemed to have found constitutional bases for their ruling only confirms the perception that lawyers can rationalize virtually anything. Where there is political will, there is a legal way.

Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin wrote the ponencia effectively granting bail to Enrile in a nonbailable case; he was joined by Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo, Jose Perez and Jose Mendoza.

It is of no small moment that seven of these justices (all except Velasco) also joined in yet another controversial decision, again written by Bersamin; they formed the bulk of the nine-person majority that upheld in 2010 President Gloria Arroyo’s so-called midnight appointment of Renato Corona as chief justice.

That ruling also squinted determinedly at the Constitution until the meaning of the provisions began to appear as the justices saw fit.

In De Castro vs Judicial and Bar Council, the high court reasoned that the express limitation on the power of the president of the Philippines to make appointments two months before the presidential elections does not apply to the Supreme Court.

Why? Among other credibility-straining reasons: Because the framers of the Constitution placed the pertinent provision under Article VII, which is “devoted to the Executive Department,” rather than under Article VIII, which is “dedicated to the Judicial Department.”

READ MORE...

Here is the argument that would shame a first-year law student:

“Had the framers intended to extend the prohibition contained in Section 15, Article VII to the appointment of Members of the Supreme Court, they could have explicitly done so. They could not have ignored the meticulous ordering of the provisions.”

This is an astonishing view of the fundamental principle of the separation of powers. Many limitations on the scope of the executive’s duties and responsibilities can be found under other articles; those limiting the scope of the work of Congress can be found not only under Article VI, which defines the legislative department, but in other articles as well. And so on and so forth.

The dissenting opinion of Justice Conchita Carpio Morales made short work of such twisted thinking. “Section sequencing alone … does not suffice to signify functional structuring. That the power of judicial appointment was lodged in the President is a recognized measure of limitation on the power of the judiciary, which measure, however, is counterbalanced by the election ban due to the need to insulate the judiciary from the political climate of presidential elections.”

The Enrile decision is rich with similar embarrassments. Aside from the damning fact that the high court granted Enrile’s petition by creating a new, ill-defined argument on humanitarian grounds, an argument that the petitioner himself did not raise, there is also the tortuous thinking that sought to anchor the ruling on basic principles.

Perhaps the most absurd is the one the majority of the Court referred to again and again. “Nonetheless, in now granting Enrile’s petition for certiorari, the Court is guided by the earlier mentioned principal purpose of bail, which is to guarantee the appearance of the accused at the trial, or whenever so required by the court.”

The argument is that the imposition of a steep enough cash bond would compel the accused to appear at his own trial (so as not to forfeit the money). Correct as far as it goes—but the Bersamin decision stretches this principle beyond the breaking point.

If in fact the main consideration of the high court was Enrile’s appearance at his own plunder trial, what better guarantee could there have been than continuing detention at the headquarters of the national police?

In bending over backwards to extend a humanitarian courtesy to Enrile, the majority ended up twisting justice.


The new SWS survey on corruption By: Mahar Mangahas @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 02:53 AM August 29th, 2015



Since 2000, Social Weather Stations has surveyed top executives of Filipino enterprises, on matters of public and private corruption, 12 times.

This survey series is far superior to that of Transparency International, producer of the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which is based on surveys of expat executives by private foreign consulting firms that do not open the underlying data for specific questionnaire items in any country.

The CPI is adequate for comparing countries’ corruption for the benefit of multi-country investors and international agencies, but not for assessing movements in a single country’s corruption over time.

The new SWS Survey of Enterprises on Corruption did interviews of Filipino executives at 966 companies over Nov. 14, 2014 to May 12, 2015, in the National Capital Region and six other major business areas. It used a random sample, two-thirds from lists of small and medium companies, and one-third from lists of large companies.

The new survey of 2014/15 is the third during the P-Noy administration so far, after one in President Estrada’s time, and eight in President Arroyo’s time. It was supported by the Integrity for Investments Initiative with funding from the US Agency for International Development.

The findings were presented to a multisectoral audience at Hotel JEN Manila last Thursday, in cooperation with the National Competitiveness Council.

Experiences of corruption have declined. On the whole, the 2014/15 survey shows continued progress against corruption since 2013, after the quantum leap in 2012. This is based on corruption as experienced, and not merely as perceived, by the responding business executives.

READ MORE...

A new record-low 32 percent of respondents said they had personal knowledge of a corrupt transaction with government, in their own line of business, that happened in the last three months.

A new record-low 39 percent of respondents said that most companies in their own line of business give bribes to win public sector contracts.

A repeated record-low 44 percent said that they had been solicited for a bribe, in the past year, in at least one of seven itemized transactions with the government.

This equaled the 44 percent in 2013, which was down from 50 percent in 2012 and 60 percent in 2009.

However, only 13 percent of those who were solicited for a bribe reported it.
Sincerity in fighting corruption, based on businessmen’s judgment calls, has generally improved. The respondents gave mostly favorable ratings of the sincerity of institutions—all government agencies, except for “Filipino business associations” and the Philippine Stock Exchange—in fighting corruption.

Out of 36 ratings, 21 are favorable, 9 are neutral, and 6 are unfavorable.

Top-rated is the Securities and Exchange Commission; bottom-rated is the Bureau of Customs (BOC). (In 2013, there were 24 institution-ratings; of these, 14 were favorable, 8 were neutral, and 6 were unfavorable. Top-rated was the Office of the President; bottom-rated was the BOC.)

Compared to their last ratings, 8 institutions are upgraded, 7 are downgraded, and 19 have stayed the same; 2 are rated for the first time. (In 2013, 5 were upgraded, 10 were downgraded, and 9 stayed the same; 2 were rated for the first time.)

The most notable upgrade is that of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, up from a Poor -38 in 2009 to a Moderate +15 in 2014/15. The Bureau of Internal Revenue has climbed steadily to a Neutral -4 in 2014/15, after having been mired in Very Bad grades below -50 in 2008 and 2009.

The Office of the President got a Very Good +54 in 2014/15, after an Excellent +77 in 2013; this is like becoming silver medalist after being the sole gold medalist. None of the new downgrades went to an unfavorable category.

Attitudes about the prospect of defeating corruption are strong:

A new high 62 percent of respondents agree that “the government can be run without corruption.”

78 percent disagree that “to prosper in business in the Philippines today, one has to be corrupt.”

68 percent say that cheating the government for the benefit of the company is always wrong.

A new high 51 percent disagree that “present laws to fight corruption are already adequate.” In particular, 90 percent agree that “corruption will be reduced by the passage of a strong law on the right of the people to information from the government.”

However, those who say that corrupt government officials are often/always punished are a record low 11 percent.

But honesty in business practices still leaves much to be desired. Referring to companies in their own line of business—

Only 48 percent of the respondents say that almost all of them demand receipts for all their payments.

Only 32 percent say that almost all of them issue receipts for all their revenues.

Only 20 percent say that almost all of them keep only one set of accounts.

Only 17 percent say that almost all of them pay their taxes honestly.

Conditions are right for businesses to do more to help fight corruption.

64 percent are satisfied (after a record 70 percent in 2013) with the national government, and a new high 68 percent are satisfied with their city government, with respect to promoting a good business climate.

72 percent (after a record 76 percent in 2013) expect business to be good or else excellent in the next two years.

Yet, a new high 84 percent did not contribute any money in the last two years to any private anticorruption program. When will the private sector put its money where its mouth is?


Act II for the Met @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 01:07 AM August 30th, 2015

The curtain rises on a new era of possibilities for the Manila Metropolitan Theater, also known as the Met. After decades of neglect, the “Grand Dame” of Manila’s theaters steps closer to a revival—with the release by the Department of Budget and Management last week of P9.48 million for its rehabilitation.

This new money follows the previous release of P270 million that allowed the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) last May to purchase the Met outright from its previous owners, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). The funds were sourced from the NCCA’s National Endowment Fund for Culture and the Arts. NCCA chair Felipe de Leon called the purchase of the Met “a very touching, historical occasion and milestone.”

These last two infusions of funding for the Met are the latest and perhaps the most positive developments, after a long time, in the long and eventful history of the building. From the past to the present, the Met is quite a dramatic tale.

Known for its grand art deco design by architect Juan Arellano, the Met opened in 1931, during the term of Mayor Tomas Earnshaw. The 7,533 square-meter Met could hold over 1,000 guests; murals by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo hang in its lobby. It has since seen great performances by great performers. Its events were the highlights of many a Manila high-society night.

But the Met ran into trouble, starting with its almost complete destruction during World War II and spent its next decades as a boxing arena, hotel, warehouse and squatter colony. In the 1970s, former first lady Imelda Marcos led restoration efforts dedicated “to surface the true, the good and the beautiful in the Filipino in Metropolitan Manila.”

READ MORE...

It soon became a source of conflict as the GSIS and the City of Manila quarreled over it; it was shut down in 1996. There would be pronouncements of reviving the Met through the years by different people: Former mayor Alfredo Lim said it would reopen in 2008 (it didn’t). In 2010, the National Museum of the Philippines declared the Met a national treasure, but the Met continued to decay into the pitiful husk it is today.

The biggest showdown came between unlikely adversaries. Last year, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada pledged to buy the Met from the GSIS for P267 million, saying he wanted to turn the Met into an institute for performing arts for the Universidad de Manila and the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.

Ultimately, it was the NCCA that would buy the Met, with big goals in mind. “Right now, the CCP hosts many high-end performances. The Met, meanwhile, will be the people’s theater, a theater for the masses,” NCCA chair De Leon said then. “We’ll try to have as many free shows as possible. The plays, musicales, exhibits and other events the Met will host will definitely be attuned to the needs and tastes of the general public.” Also, an Institute of Performing Arts will be opened at the theater; it will offer courses in theater, drama, film and music, among others, De Leon added.

Ironic as it may seem, it is only proper that a theater known in its heyday as a glitzy theater for the elite will now become an accessible venue for the masses. This is a populist second act for the Met that everyone can get behind. To be sure, the private sector can lend a big hand in this undertaking, and with such support the Met can only push further its new thrust to more, greater, possibilities. And this could set the stage for, perhaps, the first ever real public-private partnership that can make a direct and lasting impact on Filipino culture.

“Now the NCCA can begin the worthy task of restoring the Met to its former glory. . . . [F]unding the Met’s rehabilitation is also a cultural investment for future generations of Filipinos,” Budget Secretary Butch Abad said in a statement on the latest funding release, noting that the Met’s restoration will also “preserve a piece of history from our country’s storied past.”

Indeed, when finally the floodlights at the Met go back on, watch a part of Manila’s heritage come alive again.


Impunity By: Rina Jimenez-David @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer
01:06 AM August 30th, 2015



Among the reasons cited by the protesters still (as of this writing) gathered in front of the Department of Justice building is the need to uphold the “separation of church and state.”

The protesters, members of the Iglesia ni Cristo, were referring to what they deemed the “extraordinary” interest and involvement of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in the filing of a case of illegal detention, threats and coercion by expelled INC minister Isaias Samson and his family. In interviews, Samson accused members of the council or sanggunian, the governing body of the church, of dispatching security people to keep watch over their residence, confiscating their passports, and monitoring their movements. He also denied knowing De Lima personally or meeting with her.

Apparently, the INC leadership believes that any show of interest in the case, which revolves around accusations of corruption against some leaders of the church, constitutes “meddling” in their affairs. They even condemned some journalists for consistently following up the story, even after the church leaders had issued a bulletin saying they were conducting an internal investigation into the matter. But how could the investigation produce credible results when the leaders who ordered it are themselves among those implicated?

“Separation of church and state” is contained in the 1987 Constitution which declares that the “separation of church and state shall be inviolable.” This is further explained in another section which states that “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.”

READ MORE...

Clearly, the constitutional provisions refer specifically to the state, to prevent it from favoring or persecuting a religion or religious body. But the question we must answer is: Does allowing the filing of criminal (or even civil) charges against church leaders constitute religious persecution? If Secretary

De Lima, if she is so inclined, decides to dismiss the case outright, would that not constitute an extraordinary accommodation for the INC leaders?

* * *

The INC has gained considerable political clout mainly because of the practice of “block voting,” dictating the choice of candidates that their members would vote for, an order that the majority of their claimed membership of

2 million apparently follows.

In exchange for this crucial support, especially at the local level, the INC leverages its influence to have favored members appointed to key positions in government, particularly in revenue-generating bodies. There has even been some speculation that pressure may have been exerted on certain officials to fire or demote their underlings who dared to cross the influential body.

This may explain why law enforcers seemed to drag their feet in pursuing the case when the initial accusations surfaced. It had been alleged that the INC council had illegally detained or dismissed several ministers, including the brother and mother of the current INC head, whom they suspected of publicly revealing the alleged anomalies. Police did visit the INC headquarters to inquire after the allegedly detained ministers, but left after receiving assurances that the ministers were safe. Indeed, some ministers surfaced days later to deny the story. The INC leadership obviously hoped to sweep the controversy under the rug by issuing a virtual gag order on its members and assuring that it was investigating the mess.

But by calling on its members to fill the streets around the DOJ and even, as they threatened, bring their numbers to Edsa, is not the INC itself breaching the “wall” between church and state, using its influence to subvert legal processes and acting with impunity? Who’s interfering with whom now?

* * *

Another case of impunity is that of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who was detained on charges of plunder (which is nonbailable) but was released from “hospital arrest” on orders of a majority of the Supreme Court justices.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Marvic Leonen described the majority decision as one of “accommodation,” allegedly on humanitarian grounds. Leonen even accused the ponente, Justice Lucas Bersamin, of deception, saying he sprung the final form of the decision without warning his fellow justices.

In a later interview, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who joined Leonen and two other justices in the dissent, said she agreed with Leonen’s position and said the case had not yet been decided with finality as a motion for reconsideration could still be filed, meaning, the majority could yet change their minds.

* * *

To my mind, the release of Enrile is clearly a show of impunity, sending the message that despite facing charges of plunder, considered a heinous crime, one could still wiggle one’s way out of responsibility for the crime. And far from his claims of being so sick he deserved hospital detention rather than a jail, Enrile showed up, apparently hale and hearty, at the Senate chambers.

And what of Bersamin, who took such offense at being called out for the legal sleight-of-hand he undertook, demanding even that Leonen be censured?

I am glad the Chief Justice spoke her mind about the Enrile case, since the majority decision could conceivably be used by other detained officials, especially former president Gloria Arroyo, to seek their own liberty.

We all clamor for an end to corruption in government, but do we stand silent in the face of such impunity in the treatment of “big fish” already caught in the net?


Focus on foundlings and orphans By: Artemio V. Panganiban
@inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 01:02 AM August 30th, 2015


By: Artemio V. Panganiban

The rise to fame of Sen. Grace Poe and the stratospheric viewership ratings of primetime telenovelas on abandoned children (like “Niño,” “Nathaniel,” “Dream Dad” and “Munting Heredera”) have riveted public attention on foundlings and orphans, to the delight of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Discrimination vs orphans. These children have been discriminated against because they have no known biological parents. Consequently, they suffer from lack of lineage, parental care, family support, inheritance and succession.

Even those who have been legally adopted, cared for and unconditionally loved by foster parents—while assured of the civil rights of legitimate children—are many times restricted in terms of their political rights to citizenship and residency which are prerequisites to exercise the right to vote and to be voted to public office.

Indeed, our constitutions (whether current or past) and our statutes do not expressly grant them these political rights. For example, I had to research on the “generally-accepted principles of international law” to conclude that Senator Poe possesses natural-born citizenship. (Please see my columns on “Grace Poe’s citizenship,” Opinion, 6/14/15 and 6/21/15.)

Natural-born citizenship is a required qualification for the top officials of our country—president, vice president, senators, congressmen and justices of the Supreme Court.

UN battles discrimination. Fortunately, the United Nations—since its founding more than half a century ago—has been fighting for equal treatment of all the peoples of the world, regardless of race, color, religion, language, sex, political opinions, ethnic origin, age and accidents of birth.

As early as Dec. 10, 1948, the UN approved the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) which proclaims, “Everyone has the right to a nationality.” (Nationality is another word for citizenship.) Later, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) seconded this declaration in these ringing words,

“Every child has the right to acquire a nationality.”

READ MORE...

To alleviate the suffering of persons devoid of citizenship, the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons mandated the “Contracting Parties… to facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of stateless persons.”

More precisely, the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1961 Convention), in its Article 2, addressed directly the plight of orphans: “A foundling found in the territory of a Contracting State shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be considered to have been born within that territory of parents possessing the nationality of that State.”

Thus, a foundling found in the Philippines is deemed to have Filipino parents. It follows that, under our Constitution, that foundling is presumed to be a “natural-born” citizen since its parents are Filipinos, and thus qualified to run for president or vice president.

My thesis is simple: In our democracy, our 50 million voters should choose our highest officials, not our unelected and politically unaccountable though learned and wise Supreme Court justices.

UNHCR’s work in PH. For more than 50 years, the UNHCR—currently represented in the Philippines by Bernard Kerblat—has been urging our country to accede to the 1961 Convention.

True, express accession is not necessary to recognize the citizenship of foundlings because the Philippines has already adopted, acceded and ratified the UDHR, ICCPR and CRC. Nonetheless, such accession would benefit other disadvantagedindividuals like internally-displaced persons.

In an aide-mémoire, the Philippine office of the UNHCR said that in February this year, various agencies convened to develop a national action plan to end statelessness, with accession to the 1961 Convention as a goal by the end of 2016.

The Philippines is a country that has about10 million citizens working abroad. Thus, it has a keen interest in protecting non-Filipinos living in its shores, in reciprocity for its hope that its nationals living and working abroad would in equal measure be treated fairly and justly.

It is therefore fitting and proper that it cooperates, as it actually does, with the UNHCR in accommodating and hosting, within all possible means, persons of concern to the UNHCR, including:

Internally-displaced individuals—those who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of or to avoid the effects of armed conflicts, or of the violations of their human rights, or of natural or man-made disasters; included in this category are the Rohingyas, “the new boat people” who fled Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladesh.

Refugees—those who left or are unable to return to their country on well-grounded fears of persecution for reasons of race, religion or political belief; and
Stateless persons—those who are not considered nationals of any state; stateless persons suffer travel discrimination because they have no passports.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has issued Circular No. 58 outlining the procedure for accepting these maltreated persons into the Philippines. Specifically, she announced the willingness of our country to host the Rohingyas.

Senator Poe has made it her mission to take care of abandoned children. Thus, she filed Senate Bill No. 2892 to strengthen the system for the birth registration of children needing special protection, including foundlings like her.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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