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Case Digest of Llamzares v.

COMELEC (Main Decision)


Vena V. Verga

Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares vs COMELEC et al


G.R. NO. 221697 221698-700
J. Perez
FACTS:
Grace Poe (Poe) was found abandoned in a church in Jaro Iloilo sometime 1968. Parental care was
passed to the relatives of Edgardo Militar, the person who found the child. The relatives then
reported and registered the child as a founding with the Civil Registrar of Iloilo. The child was then
named Mary Grace Militar. The child was subsequently adopted by Fernando Poe, Jr and Susan
Roces sometime in 1974. Necessary annotations were placed in the childs foundling certificate
but it was only in 2005 that Susan Roces discovered that their lawyer failed to secure a new
Certificate of Live Birth indicating Poes new name as well as the name of the adoptive parents.
Roces then submitted an affidavit and in 2006, a Certificate of Live Birth in the name of Mary Grace
Poe was released by the Civil Registry of Iloilo.
At the age of 18, Poe was registered as a voter of San Juan. In 1988, she was issued a Philippine
passport. In 1991, Poe married Teodoro Llamanzares and flew to the US right after the wedding.
She then gave birth to her eldest child in the US. In 2001, Poe became a naturalized American
Citizen and she obtained a US Passport that same year.
In April 2004, Poe came back to the Philippines in order to support her fathers candidacy. It was
at this time that she gave birth to her youngest daughter. She then returned to the US in July 2004
with her two daughters. Poe returned in December 2004 after learning of her fathers
deteriorating condition. The latter died and Poe stayed until February 2005 to take care of the
funeral arrangements.
Poe stated that she wanted to be with her grieving mother hence, she and her husband decided
to move and reside permanently in the Philippines sometime first quarter of 2005. They prepared
for resettlement including notification of their childrens schools, coordination with property
movers and inquiry with Philippine authorities as to how they can bring their pet dog. According
to Poe, as early as 2004, she already quit her job in the US.
Poe came home on May 24, 2005 and immediately secured a TIN while her husband stayed in the
US. She and her family stayed with her mother until she and husband was able to purchase a
condominium in San Juan sometime February 2006. On February 14, 2006, Poe returned to the
US to dispose the other family belongings. She travelled back in March 2006. In early 2006, Poe
and husband acquired a property in Corinthian Hills in Quezon City where they built their family
home.
On July 7, 2006, Poe took her Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines pursuant to R.A.
9225. On July 10, 2006, she filed a sworn petition to reacquire Philippine citizenship together with
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Case Digest of Llamzares v. COMELEC (Main Decision)


Vena V. Verga

petitions for derivative citizenship on behalf of her three children. The Bureau of Immigration
acted in favor of the petition on July 18, 2006. She and her children were then considered dual
citizens. Poe then registered as voter in August 2006 and secured a Philippine passport thereafter.
On October 6, 2010, she was appointed as Chairperson of the MTRCB. Before assuming her post,
she executed an Affidavit of Renunciation of Allegiance to the US before a notary public in Pasig
City on October 20, 2010. The following day, she submitted the Affidavit to the Bureau of
Immigration and took her oath as MTRCB Chairperson. According to Poe, she stopped using her
American passport from then on.
On July 12, 2011, Poe executed an Oath/Affirmation of Renunciation of Nationality of the US
before the Vice Consul of the US Embassy in Manila. On December 9, 2011, the US Vice Consul
issued a Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the US effective October 21, 2010.
On October 2, 2012, Poe filed with COMELEC her Certificate of Candidacy for Senator stating that
she was a resident of the Philippines for a period of 6 years and 6 months before May 13, 2013.
She was then proclaimed a Senator on May 16, 2013.
On October 15, 2015, Poe filed her COC for the Presidency for the May 2016 elections. She
declared that she is a natural born and her residence in the Philippine up to the day before election
would be 10 years and 11 months counted from May 24, 2005.
Several
petitions were filed against Poe alleging that (1) she committed material
misrepresentation in her COC when she stated that she is a resident of the Philippines for at least
10 years 11 months up to the day before May 9, 2016 Elections, (2) she is not natural born
considering that Poe is a foundling. It was argued that international law does not confer natural
born status and Filipino citizenship to foundlings hence, she is not qualified to apply for
reacquisition of Filipino citizenship under R.A.9225 as she is not a natural citizen to begin with.
Assuming that Poe was a natural born citizen, she lost it when she became a US Citizen.
In addition, one of the petitioners, Francisco Tatad, theorized that:
1. Philippines adhere to the principle of jus sanguinis and hence persons of unknown
parentage, particularly foundlings, are not natural born Filipino citizens.
2. Using statutory construction, considering that foundlings were not expressly included in
the categories of citizens in the 1935 Constitution, the framers are said to have the
intention to exclude them
3. International conventions are not self-executory hence, local legislations are necessary to
give effect to obligations assumed by the Philippines.
4. There is no standard practice that automatically confers natural born status to foundlings.

Case Digest of Llamzares v. COMELEC (Main Decision)


Vena V. Verga

Petitioner Valdez alleged that Poes repatriation under R.A 9225 did not bestow upon her the
status of a natural born citizen as those who repatriates only acquires Philippine citizenship and
not their original status as natural born citizens.
Poe countered these petitions by alleging that:
1. The grounds invoked by the petitioners were not proper grounds for a disqualification case
as enumerated under Section 12 and 68 of the Omnibus Election Code.
2. What the petitioners filed focus on establishing her ineligibility, hence, they fall within the
exclusive jurisdiction of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, not the COMELEC.
3. The July 18, 2006 Order of the Bureau of Immigration declaring her as natural born, her
appointment as MTRCB Chair and the issuance of the decree of adoption reinforced her
position as a natural born citizen
4. As early as first quarter of 2005, she started to reestablish her domicile in the Philippines
and that she can reestablish her domicile of choice even before she renounced her
American citizenship.
5. The period of residency as stated in her COC for senator was a mistake in good faith.
COMELEC ruled against the petitioner resolving that she is not a natural born citizen and that she
failed to complete the 10 year residency requirement. Hence, the present petition for certiorari
before the Supreme Court.
ISSUES AND RATIO:
1) Whether the COMELEC has jurisdiction to disqualify POE
The procedure and the conclusions from which the Resolutions of the COMELEC emanated are
tainted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.
The issue before the COMELEC is whether the COC should be denied due course on the exclusive
ground that she made in the certificate a false material representation. COMELEC should restrain
itself from going into the issue of qualifications of the candidate. It cannot, in the same
cancellation case, decide the qualification or lack thereof of a candidate. Not one of the
enumerated powers of the COMELEC as stated in Article IX C, Sec. 2 of the Constitution grants the
commission the power to determine the qualifications of a candidate. Such powers are granted
to the Electoral Tribunal as stated in Article VI Section 17 and the Supreme Court under Article VII,
Section 4 of the Constitution.
Insofar as the qualification of a candidate is concerned, Rule 25 and Rule 23 of the COMELEC rules
do not allow, are not authorization and are not vestment of jurisdiction for the COMELEC to
determine the qualification of a candidate. The facts of qualification must first be established in a
prior proceeding before an authority vested with jurisdiction. Prior determination of qualification
may be by statute, by an executive order or by a judgment of a competent court or tribunal.
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Lacking this prior determination, the certificate of candidacy cannot be cancelled or denied due
course on ground of false representations regarding a candidates qualifications except if there
exists self-evident facts of unquestioned or unquestionable veracity and judicial confessions. In
this light the COMELEC cannot cancel Poes certificate of candidacy lacking prior determination of
her qualifications by a competent body.
2) Whether it can be concluded that Poes parents are Filipinos.
Presumption regarding paternity is neither unknown nor unacceptable in Philippine Law. There is
more than sufficient evidence that Poe has Filipino parents and is therefore a natural-born Filipino.
Hence, the burden of proof was on private respondents to show that petitioner is not a Filipino
citizen.
Private respondents should show that Poes parents were aliens. Her admission that she is a
foundling did not shift the burden to her because such status did not exclude the possibility that
her parents were Filipinos. In fact, there is a high probability that her parents are Filipinos. The
Solicitor General offered official Statistics from the Philippine Statistics office that from 1965 to
1975, the total number of foreigners born in the Philippines was 15,985. While the Filipinos born
in the country were more than 10 Million. On this basis, there is a 99% chance that the child born
in the Philippines would be a Filipino which in turn, would indicate more than ample probability
that Poes parents are Filipinos.
Other circumstantial evidence of the nationality of Poes parents are the fact that:
1. She was abandoned in a Roman Catholic Church in Iloilo
2. She has typical Filipino features
There are disputable presumptions that things have happened according to the ordinary course
of nature. On this basis, it is safer to assume that Poes parents are Filipinos. To assume otherwise
is to accept the absurd.
3) Whether as a foundling, Poe is a natural born Citizen
Foundlings are as a class, natural born citizens. While the 1935 Constitution is silent as to
foundlings, there is no restrictive language that would exclude them either. Because of silence
and ambiguity in the enumeration, there is a need to examine the intent of the framers.
The amendment to the Constitution proposed by constitutionalist Rafols to include foundlings as
natural born citizens was not carried out, not because there was any objection to the notion that
persons of unknown parentage are not citizens, but only because their number was not enough
to merit specific mention. There was no intent or language that would permit discrimination
against foundlings. On the contrary, all three Constitutions guarantee the basic right to equal
protection of the laws. Likewise, domestic laws on adoption support the principle that foundlings
are Filipinos. These laws do not provide that adoption confers citizenship upon the adoptee,
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rather, the adoptee must be Filipino in the first place to be adopted. Recent legislation all expressly
refer to Filipino children and include foundlings as among Filipino children who may be adopted.
The argument that the process to determine that the child is a foundling leading to the issuance
of a foundling certificate are acts to acquire or perfect Philippine citizenship is without merit.
Hence, the argument that as a foundling, Poe underwent a process in order to acquire or perfect
her Philippine citizenship, is untenable.
Having to perform an act means that the act must be personally done by the citizen. In this case,
the determination of foundling status was done by authorities, not by Poe. Second, the object of
the process is to determine the whereabouts of the parents, not the citizenship of the child and
lastly, the process is not analogous to naturalization proceedings.
Under international law, foundlings are citizens. Generally accepted principles of international law
which include international customs form part of the laws of the land. The common thread of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the
International Convent on Civil and Political Rights obligates the Philippines to grant nationality
from birth and to ensure that no child is stateless. The principles stated in the:
1. Hague Convention on Certain Questions Relation to the Conflict of Nationality laws (that a
foundling is presumed to have the nationality of the country of birth)
2. Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (foundling is presumed born of citizens of
the country where he is found)
bind the Philippines although we are not signatory to these conventions.
Although we are not a signatory to the Hague Convention, we are a signatory to the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which affirms Article 14 of the Hague Convention. Likewise,
the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness affirms Article 15 of the UDHR. By analogy,
although the Philippines has not signed the International Convention for the Protection of Persons
from Enforced Disappearance, we (the Supreme Court) ruled that the proscription against
enforced disappearance was nonetheless binding as a generally accepted principle of international
law.
Poes evidence shows that at least 60 countries in Asia, North and South America and Europe have
passed legislation recognizing foundlings as its citizens. 166 out of 189 countries accept that
foundlings are recognized as citizens. Hence, there is a generally accepted principle of
international law to presume foundlings as having been born and a national of the country in which
it is found.
Hence, as a foundling, Poe is a natural born Filipino citizen.

Case Digest of Llamzares v. COMELEC (Main Decision)


Vena V. Verga

4) Whether Poes repatriation resulted to reacquisition of natural born citizenship.


The COMELEC arrogantly disregarded jurisprudence on the matter of repatriation which states
that repatriation results in the recovery of the original nationality. A natural born citizen before
he lost his Philippine nationality will be restored to his former status as natural born Filipino after
repatriation (Benson v. HRET, Pareno v. Commission on Audit etc). In passing R.A. 9225, Congress
saw it fit to decree that natural born citizenship may be reacquired even if it has been lost. It is
not for the COMELEC to disagree with the Congress determination.
Neither is repatriation an act to acquire or perfect ones citizenship. In the case of Bengson, the
Court pointed out that there are only two types of citizens under the 1987 constitution: natural
born and naturalized. There is no third category for repatriated citizens. The COMELEC cannot
reverse a judicial precedent. Hence, COMELECs decision is wrapped with grave abuse of
discretion.
5) Whether Poe is a resident of the Philippine for 10 years
Poe alleged that her residency should be counted from May 24, 2005 when she returned for good
from the US. There are three requisites to acquire a new domicile 1. Residence or bodily presence
in a new locality 2. Intention to remain (animus manendi) and 3. Intention to abandon the old
domicile (animus non-revertendi). The purpose to remain in or at the domicile of choice must be
for an indefinite period of time, the change of residence must be voluntary and the residence at
the place chosen for the new domicile must be actual.
Poe presented voluminous evidence showing that she and her family abandoned their US domicile
and relocated to the Philippines for good. These evidence include former US passport showing
her arrival on May 24, 2005 and her return to the Philippines every time she travelled abroad,
email correspondences with freight company to arrange for the shipment of household items as
well as with the pet Bureau; school records of her children showing enrolment in the Philippine to
the Philippine schools starting on June 2005 etc.
COMELEC refused to consider the petitioners domicile has been timely changed as of May 24,
2005 and maintained that although there is physical presence and animus manendi, there is no
animus revertendi. Respondents contend that the stay of an alien former Filipino cannot be
counted until he/she obtains a permanent resident visa or reacquired Philippine citizenship since
she is still an American until July 7, 2006 on the basis of previous cases ruled upon by the Supreme
Court.
SC held that the other cases previously decided by the court wherein residence was counted only
from the acquisition of permanent residence were decided as such because there is sparse
evidence on establishment of residence. These cases cannot be applied in the present case. In the
case at bar, there is overwhelming evidence that leads to no to other conclusion that Poe decided
to permanently abandon her US residence and reside in the Philippines as early as May 24, 2005.
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Case Digest of Llamzares v. COMELEC (Main Decision)


Vena V. Verga

These evidence, coupled with her eventual application to reacquire Philippine citizenship is clear
that when she returned in May 2005, it was for good.
The stamp in her passport as a balikbayan does not make Poe an ordinary transient.
Poe was able to prove that her statement in her 2012 COC was only a mistake in good faith. Such
a mistake could be given in evidence against her but it was by no means conclusive considering
the overwhelming evidence submitted by Poe. Considering that the COMELEC failed to take into
consideration these overwhelming evidence, its decision is tainted with grave abuse of discretion.
The decision of the COMELEC is hereby annulled and set aside. Poe is thus declared qualified to
be a candidate for President in the National and Local Election on May 9, 2016.