October 2015

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Sen. Bongbong Marcos with mother Imelda Marcos and Marcos loyalists, former president Erap Estrada and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. (Credit: Reuters)

Sen. Bongbong Marcos with mother Imelda Marcos and Marcos loyalists, former president Erap Estrada and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. (Credit: Reuters)

Everyone knows that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. That is also true in politics; however, some — if not most – of the times, a straight line is fraught with danger that prevents someone from reaching the destination. And to some people, taking a circuitous – and longer distance – might avoid a lot of distractions, and have a better chance of reaching the goal.

At 58 years of age, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. could be one of those who feel the need – or urge — to take the fast track, that is, a straight line to the presidency. Indeed, he could have taken that route if he heeded his mom’s, Congresswoman Imelda Marcos, fervent desire for Bongbong to run for president as early as 2010. Instead, he ran for a six-year Senate term and won.

His experience in the Senate gave him national recognition and provided him a stepping-stone to higher office — the presidency – thus fulfilling his mom’s dream that her only son would follow the footsteps of her late husband, the strongman President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Halfway through his Senate term, when Bongbong was asked what his future plans were, he said that he was considering running for a higher office in 2016. And “higher office” could only mean the presidency or vice presidency. And since Imelda really wanted him to run for president, one would be convinced that he would definitely do so. All indications pointed to a presidential run; however, he continued to sidestep the question while his ardent – mostly young — followers unceasingly promoted in the social media his “presidential” qualities and those of his father whom they credited for the improvements to the country’s economy and infrastructure.

Bongbong’s dilemma

Bongbong-Marcos-pa-rinIndeed, the “Bongbong for President” campaign in the social media heightened a great deal of anticipation from his supporters – who revived the old cliché, “Marcos pa rin kami!” However, it also awakened his father’s old enemies and detractors, who dread the return of the “Dictator” in the person of his son. While Bongbong’s supporters are growing in numbers, the revival of the anti-Marcos movement — which had been dormant in the past three decades – is gaining momentum, albeit disorganized. Or could it be that they are just waiting for the son to enter the presidential race and then organize to stop him? This is a question that can’t be answered today only because nobody knows how strong he is. Surveys could give some inkling of Bongbong’s real electoral strength; however, that would only be manifested when he enters the race, which begs the question: Is Bongbong taking a longer – but surer –path to the presidency, by way of the vice presidency?

In my article, “Who doesn’t want to be vice president?” (August 28, 2015), I wrote: “Whoever wins the vice presidency would be in a good position to run for president in 2022. Statistics show that out of the 10 presidential elections since 1946 (excluding the presidential elections during the martial law), five incumbent vice presidents ran for president in the next presidential election and won. They were: Elpidio Quirino in 1948, Carlos P. Garcia in 1953, Diosdado Macapagal in 1961, Joseph Estrada in 1998, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2004. But three other incumbent vice presidents had opted not to run for president, to wit: Emmanuel Pelaez in 1965, Salvador Laurel in 1992, and Noli de Castro in 2010.”

Historical data

Vice-presidential-candidates-2016-ThaiyoGiven these historical data, the elected president in 2022 would come from the 2016 crop of vice presidential candidates: Rep. Leni Robredo, Sen. Chiz Escudero, Sen. Gregorio Honasan, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, and Sen. Bongbong Marcos. The question is: Who among them would be elected vice president in 2016? With the 2016 campaign season already in full swing, each of them have a good chance of winning the race; however, the candidate with a large bloc of voters identified with the candidate either by region or language would have an edge over the others.

Two blocs with the largest number of voters are the Solid North and Ilocano Vote. Then there are the Bicolano Vote, Cebuano Vote, Mindanao Vote, Visayan Vote, Tagalog Vote, Central Luzon Vote, and Metro Manila Vote. Surmise it to say, an Ilocano candidate could capture the combined Solid North and Ilocano Vote, while a Cebuano candidate could capture the combined Visayan Vote, Cebuano Vote, and a good chunk of the Mindanao Vote.

If the regional bloc and language bloc are taken into consideration on who’d win the vice presidency, the following shows where their electoral bases are:

1. Marcos – Solid North and Ilocano Vote.
2. Escudero – Bicolano Vote.
3. Robredo – Bicolano Vote.
4. Honasan – Bicolano Vote and Central Luzon Vote.
5. Trillanes – Bicolano Vote and Visayan Vote.
6. Cayetano – Tagalog Vote and Metro Manila Vote.

While voters weigh the qualifications – character, honesty, experience, achievement — of the candidates, the candidates’ regional and language provenance would play an important aspect in their final decision of whom they’ll vote for. And this is why the candidates would do their utmost to protect their electoral bases.

Ilocano Vote

Bongbong: In his father's footsteps.

Bongbong: In his father’s footsteps.

It is apparent that Bongbong – from a regional/language standpoint – has a built-in advantage over his rivals. And his chances are further enhanced because four of the candidates – Robredo, Escudero, Honasan, and Trillanes – have roots in the Bicol region, which could divide the Bicolano Vote among them. Cayetano is in a position to capture the Tagalog Vote and the huge Metro Manila Vote; however, Metro Manila is not as clannish as the Ilocano Vote and Bicolano Vote.

Bongbong enjoys the clannishness of the Ilocanos and by extension the Solid North, which was the bailiwick of his father. The question is: Would Bongbong be able to get the support his father got from Ilocanos? And would Bongbong be able to communicate with Ilocanos in their native language just like how Marcos Sr. did with his mastery and eloquence of the Ilocano language?

Bongbong must have spent a great deal of time in deciding whether to run for president or not. He must have decided against it because he was not sure if his electoral base was large enough to clinch the presidency. And he must have been convinced that the anti-Marcos forces would trounce him in the polls.

Sins of the father

Would time heal?

Would time heal?

Ultimately, Bongbong demurred and decided against running for president in 2016. He sacrificed his life-long ambition of following the footsteps of his father. He must have told himself, “The presidency can wait.” In six years, he’d be 64 years old. And it would have been 36 years after the People Power Revolution that deposed his father.

If he seeks the presidency in 2022, he would have to win the vice presidency in 2016. Then he has to do a great job of serving the people to atone for the sins of his father, which would be a challenge by itself.

During an interview with the media two days after he announced his candidacy for vice president, Bongbong said, “I am looking towards the future. The past is the past.” But the question is: Would time heal? Bongbong took a gambit hoping that it will.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Iran's Hassan Rouhani, China's Xi Jinping, and Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, China’s Xi Jinping, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

With the conclusion of a much-ballyhooed summit meeting between the leaders of the two largest economic superpowers in the 21st century, one would expect that peace would reign in the vast Asia-Pacific region. But this is farthest from the truth because the summit didn’t really accomplish anything but allow U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to pretend that all is sweet and sassy between them. But it soon became apparent that America and China are oceans apart in geopolitical terms just like the way they’re oceans apart in geological terms.

But pretension or not, the fact of the matter is that the South China Sea, which is one of the busiest – if not the busiest – maritime routes in the world, has a sprinkling of hundreds of tiny islands, reefs, and shoals that are claimed by six littoral countries in the region. Mostly concentrated in the Spratly Archipelago, these tiny specks of outcroppings are claimed wholly or partly by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines.

The biggest and most aggressive claimant is China who pegs her claim on the “nine-dash line,” a tongue-shaped arbitrary line that runs from east of Taiwan through the Luzon Strait and along the littoral coasts of the Philippines, Borneo, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The area that the nine-dash line encroached represents roughly 85% of the entire South China Sea (SCS), through which $5 trillion in maritime trade pass every year by way of the Strait of Malacca.

Economic powerhouse

EIA-major-crude-oil-trade-flows-SCS-2011A large number of the goods – including oil — that passes through are bound for China and Japan, respectively the second and third largest economies of the world. And together with the United States, whose westernmost territories – Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) – are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Asia-Pacific region is undoubtedly the world’s “economic powerhouse.”

Ideally, if the U.S., China, and Japan could co-exist economically, politically, and militarily, a pacific Asia-Pacific region would serve the best interest of every nation on Earth. Peace can then be achieved. But because of the disputed tiny islands, reef, and shoals in the SCS, the world has never been closer to World War III than it is today. Indeed, what is happening now in the SCS, Middle East, and East Europe has all the recipes of a nuclear war among the great powers: the U.S. against Russia, China, and Iran.

Artificial islands

Chinese reclamation of Fiery Cross Reef.

Chinese reclamation of Fiery Cross Reef.

It all began two years ago when China began building artificial islands by dredging sand and rocks from the bottom of the sea and dumping them on reefs and shoals in the Spratly Archipelago, seven of which have been reclaimed to date. And on these artificial islands, China is erecting infrastructure and buildings including runways for military aircraft, deep-water harbors to accommodate large warships, garrisons for troops, and defensive fortifications.

The U.S. did not do anything to stop or warn China about the risks of militarizing the SCS. And the Obama administration’s silence on the matter was interpreted by Beijing that the U.S. was sticking to her position of neutrality on the territorial disputes in the SCS. The Chinese also interpreted Uncle Sam’s silence as a “go signal” to China’s land reclamation projects in the Spratlys.

Recently, America’s military top brass managed to convinced the White House to send American warships to within 12 miles of the artificial islands. Although the White House agreed to notify the Chinese that American warships will be sent to the Spratlys, actual deployment has yet to occur, an indication that Obama might still be trying one more time to convince China to abandon the reclamation projects, diplomatically. China’s response was direct to the point: China has “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea and warned the U.S. that she would not allow any foreign intrusion into Chinese waters.

Who's bluffing? (Credit: The Economist)

Who’s bluffing? (Credit: The Economist)

Evidently, Xi called Obama’s bluff, which raises the question: Would Obama stay in the game or fold? As any Poker player can tell: A strong hand could lose to a weak hand if the player doesn’t have what it takes – guts — to win. As they say, “No guts, no glory.” Surmise it to say, Obama would be relieved if the game ended in a draw. But with all the reclaimed islands almost complete, it cannot end in a draw. Obama knows that Xi’s hand is weaker than his and Xi knows it, too. Instead, Xi declared that China would go to war to protect her “indisputable sovereignty” over the SCS.

Freedom of navigation

Carrier-battle-group.7

 

 

Recently, the Obama administration came out with a strategy. It’s called “freedom of navigation” (FON), which is not really a novel idea because it has been around for more than century when the U.S. became the only maritime superpower on Earth. Since then, there was no country that could match America’s naval power. Not China. Not Russia. America became the “policeman” of the high seas.

The U.S. has formidable fleet of 11 aircraft carriers – more than all the other countries put together. In addition, she has nine helicopter carriers that could also carry a limited number of aircraft. She has 14 nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), each carrying 24 Trident ballistic missiles. Each missile has 3-12 nuclear warheads, which can be aimed to hit several targets. That’s a total of more than 4,000 nuclear warheads that SSBNs can carry. They are the vanguard of America’s second-strike attack in the event China or Russia launches a first-strike attack against the U.S. With that kind of nuclear punch, the U.S. can and should be able to enforce “freedom of navigation” and stop the militarization of the SCS.

But the problem is that Obama is perceived as a “peacenik” who vowed never to send “boots on the ground” to trouble spots in Eastern Europe and the Middle East; thus, emboldening U.S.’s enemies to grab territories, knowing that he wouldn’t stop them. We’ve seen it happen in Georgia, Libya, Crimea, Ukraine, South China Sea, Iraq, and, recently, Syria. Who are next? The Baltic States?

FONOPs

At the annual AUSMIN meeting between American and Australian foreign and defense ministers, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said during a press conference: “Make no mistake, the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do around the world, and the South China Sea will not be an exception.” His warning was directed at China over her building of militarized artificial islands in the Spratlys. When asked about reports that the U.S. had already decided to conduct freedom-of-navigation operations (FONOPs) inside the 12 nautical mile limits, which China claims around the artificial islands, Carter responded: “We will do that in the time and places of our choosing.”

FONOPs are conducted to test China’s reaction by sailing into or flying over territories that China believes she owns without seeking China’s permission. The question is: Would the U.S. conduct FONOPs during Obama’s soon-to-be lame duck presidency? Or would Obama comfort himself by shelving it and let his successor decide whether to conduct FONOPs or not?

Exercise-Malabar-2015Meanwhile, Exercise Malabar 2015 kicked off last October 14 in the Bay of Bengal. It involves naval forces from the U.S., India, and Japan. Part of this year’s Exercise Malabar, which ends on October 19, is to conduct FONOP exercises. In these exercises, carriers, warships, submarines, and aircraft are rehearsing for possible action in the South China Sea that includes challenging China’s sovereignty over the SCS.

While it is presumed that Exercise Malabar takes into account a worst-case scenario; that is, China attacks the intruding forces, one wonders what is the battle plan of the joint U.S.-India-Japan forces against the Chinese?

In the real world, would a FONOP in the South China Sea lead to war? Or would China sue for peace? And this is what’s probably causing Obama sleepless nights as manifested by those circles around his eyes.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Vice presidentiables

Vice presidentiables

No, it’s not a misprint. What we’re talking about here is the presidential race in 2022. But while the winner of the 2016 presidential election is still anybody’s guess, whoever will be elected vice president in 2016 would be the next president in 2022. And here is the reason why?

In my article, “Who doesn’t want to be vice president?” (August 28, 2015), I said: “Whoever wins the vice presidency would be in a good position to run for president in 2022. Statistics show that out of the 10 presidential elections since 1946 (excluding the presidential elections during the martial law), five incumbent vice presidents ran for president in the next presidential election and won. They were: Elpidio Quirino in 1948, Carlos P. Garcia in 1953, Diosdado Macapagal in 1961, Joseph Estrada in 1998, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2004. But three other incumbent vice presidents had opted not to run for president, to wit: Emmanuel Pelaez in 1965, Salvador Laurel in 1992, and Noli de Castro in 2010.” I postulated that based on these historical data, whoever is elected vice president in 2016 would win the presidency in 2022.

To date, there are six candidates for vice president in 2016. However, there are only four presidential candidates: Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, Sen. Mary Grace Sonora Poe-Llamanzares (more commonly known as Grace Poe), and  Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Popularity ratings

Presidential frontrunners: Roxas, Poe, and Binay.

Presidential frontrunners: Roxas, Poe, and Binay.

The latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) polls show that three of the four presidential candidates are in statistical tie: Poe at 26%, Binay at 24%, and Roxas at 20%. The Pulse Asia shows Poe at 26%, Roxas at 20%, and Binay at 19%.  Santiago — considered the “dark horse” in the race — has Pulse Asia rating of 4%.

But Grace Poe’s citizenship is being challenged before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET). If the SET rules that Poe is not a “natural-born” Filipino — as constitutionally required for presidential candidates – then the citizenship case could go to the Supreme Court for final resolution. But regardless of whether Grace is deemed a natural-born Filipino or not, the controversy surrounding her birth would haunt her during the campaign, which could become a major distraction in convincing the electorate that she is fully and unquestionably qualified to be president of the country. But regardless whether the citizenship issue is laid to rest satisfactorily, Poe’s opponents would use it to destroy her credibility and character.

Indeed, Grace’s citizenship problem smells like a rose to Binay, who was the frontrunner in the presidential derby until Grace entered the race. With his popularity ratings plummeting amidst a tsunami of corruption and plunder charges filed against him, Binay is losing a lot of the points he earned during his vice presidency in the past five years. If Poe were disqualified, Binay could bounce back in the race.

But it won’t be that easy because Roxas would also benefit from a Poe withdrawal. With Poe expected to lose points – or disqualified — because of her citizenship problem, Roxas would presumably take most of the points Poe would lose; thus, outpacing Binay in the race. With no corruption scandals involving Roxas and with Poe out of the race, Roxas would be in a good position to be elected president in 2016.

Vice presidential race

Independent Vice Presidential candidates Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV.

Independent Vice Presidential candidates Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV.

And this brings to fore the question: Who would be elected vice president? As of today, there are six vice presidential candidates, four of who are in tandem with a presidential candidate. The pairings are: The Liberal Party’s (LP) standard bearer Roxas and vice presidential running mate Congresswoman Leni Robredo; the United Nationalist Alliance’s (UNA) standard bearer Binay and running mate Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan; Independent Grace Poe and running mate Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero; and Santiago and running mate Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos.

The other two vice presidential candidates who aren’t paired with a presidential candidate are Senators Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano.  Although they’re both members of the Nacionalista Party (NP), they will be running as independents. However, they are expected to “attach” themselves to a presidential candidate by way of a personal endorsement. Trillanes has already endorsed Poe, whose popularity could benefit Trillanes by such association. But what if Poe were disqualified? Then Trillanes will have to find another one to endorse or he might just remain unattached, which would make him like a “ronin,” a samurai with no master. The same is true with Cayetano who was supportive of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte running for president.  Duterte was also supportive of Cayetano ‘s vice presidential candidacy and had indicated that he’d like him to be his running mate if he decides to run for president.

Not too long ago, Marcos said that he didn’t mind being Binay’s running mate. But when Binay offered Marcos to be his running mate, Marcos declined. He probably realized that it would be difficult for him be in tandem with Binay, who had figured prominently in fighting Bongbong’s father, the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos in the 1980s. It would also be awkward for Bongbong to be Duterte’s running mate because Duterte was associated with Cory Aquino’s revolutionary government in the aftermath of the People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos regime. Cory appointed Duterte as officer in charge (OIC) of Davao City during her presidency.

Who would it be?

Bongbong Marcos and Miriam Defensor Santiago.

Bongbong Marcos and Miriam Defensor Santiago.

With four vice presidential candidates each in tandem with a presidential candidate, and two ronins, that would make an interesting mix of relatively young, strong-minded, and ambitious individuals, each having a distinct leadership style and an agenda on how to rule an overpopulated country that has yet to come of age.

The winner will be taking over a vice presidency that is more than just glorified go-fer for the president. He or she can use the office of vice president as training ground for the presidency.

As I have postulated earlier, whoever wins the vice presidency in 2016 would be the next president in 2022, which begs the question: Of the six vice presidential candidates in 2016 – Robredo, Escudero, Trillanes, Cayetano, Marcos, and Honasan — who wouldn’t want to run for president in 2022 if he or she were elected vice president in 2016? What I am seeing in my crystal ball is that all of them, with the exception of Honasan, will run for president in 2022. But Honasan, who might not have any inclination to seek the presidency at this time, might have a change of heart midway through his term in 2019 and decide to run for president in 2022. Once he tastes power, he can get used to it. Indeed, power is aphrodisiac: you taste it once; you’d want more… and more.

With all six vice presidential harboring a desire to seek the presidency in 2022, you’d expect each and every one of them to use all resources they have at their disposal to win – by all means — the vice presidency in 2016. It would be shooting two birds with one stone; whomever we elect vice president in 2016, we’re also electing president in 2022.

Yes, the 2022 presidential derby is on!

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Grace-Poe-and-FPJ-Susan-RocesAbandoned by her biological mother at birth, Grace Poe was adopted by movie stars Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces. And soon after, speculations began to circulate and baby Grace took center stage in the nasty gossip circuit. Rumor has it that her father was the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, and her mother was the former actress Rosemarie Sonora – Susan Roces’ sister. Manila’s high society was agog. But just like any other rumor, it eventually died down and Grace Poe grew up quietly.

Grace studied at the University of the Philippines where she majored in Development Studies. Then she went to study at the Boston College in the U.S. where she graduated with a political science degree, got married to a Filipino-American, was naturalized as an American citizen, taught at a Montessori day care center, raised her kids just like all moms, settled down, and led a quiet life in an American city, oblivious of what was going on in her country of birth.

FPJ-campaigningThen her adoptive father Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) decided to run for President and Grace came home to help in his father’s campaign. But her dad lost the election amid rumors of massive election cheating. She went back home to the quietude of life in good old U.S.A.

But fate might have changed all that. On December 11, 2004, just a few months after he lost the election, FPJ suffered from a stroke and slipped into coma. He died on December 14 at the age of 65.

Grace decided to return to the Philippines where she became involved in politics. In 2010, she renounced her U.S. citizenship. That same year, President Benigno Aquino III appointed her Chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).

Grace-Poe-campaignIn 2013, she decided to run for a Senate seat under President Aquino’s Team PNoy coalition. Then the unexpected happened. Not only did she win a seat, she received more votes than any of the other candidates.

No sooner had she taken her Senate seat than people started pushing her to run for president. She started topping the popularity surveys, overtaking Jejomar Binay who had been in “campaign mode” ever since he was elected Vice President in 2010. Knowing Grace’s potential, President Aquino tried so hard to convince her to run as Mar Roxas’ vice presidential running mate. She resisted the offer.

Destiny

Chiz and Heart with rich padrinos

Chiz and Heart with rich padrinos

But she must have felt destiny’s mysterious presence around her, prodding her to run. On September 16, 2015, she declared her candidacy for the 2016 presidential election. And as expected, she picked Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero to be her running mate.

But as soon as she had teamed up with Chiz, fireworks started to flare. A lot of people question – and disdain – Chiz’s personal, moral, ethical, and political predilections. His choice of mega-rich business moguls as “padrinos” to his marriage to actress Heart Evangelista was perceived as an opportunistic attempt to line up potential contributors to his future run for higher political office; which many believe could pressure him to practice corruption to pay back his donors. And since he is Grace’s mentor and advisor, he’d be in a position to influence her decision-making as well. And because of her lack of experience, some people wonder – and fear – that Chiz might have a Rasputin-like hold on her.

Natural-born Filipino

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

However, notwithstanding Grace’s perceived reliance on Chiz, a lot of people question her lack of experience. And this is where questions about her biological provenance come to play, which begs the question: Is Grace a “natural-born Filipino” as required by the Constitution for a person running for President? And this was the gist of Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s opinion that there was no proof that one of Grace’s biological parents was Filipino.

Justice Carpio gave his opinion during the oral arguments on a petition filed with the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) by Rizalito David, whom Grace defeated in the 2013 senatorial elections, claiming that Grace should be disqualified from the Senate for “failing to meet the requirement under Section 3, Article VI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution that requires a candidate to be a natural-born citizen.” At issue was Grace’s status as a “foundling” and as such was not a natural-born Filipino unless she could produce evidence to the contrary. During interpellation, Carpio said that customary international law [on foundlings] could be followed so long as it does not violate provisions of the Constitution. However, he said, ““We do not follow international customary law because our Constitution has primacy. Although under international law, we have a commitment to conform to customary international law by amending the Constitution.”

Carpio explained that if there is a customary international law saying foundlings can be deemed citizens of the country where they were found, we apply that under the principle of incorporation. It is deemed as municipal law. However, he added: “But you are still a naturalized citizen, not natural born. Because if customary international law says a foundling is natural born, it will violate our Constitution and we cannot apply it here.” Carpio was pertaining to the “Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” which states that all human beings, including foundlings, have a right to nationality, and the UN Convention relating to the status of Stateless Persons. But he gave Grace some leeway when he said, “If tomorrow you [Grace] happen to find out by DNA matching that your parent is Filipino, you can still prove that you are natural-born.” Grace’s lawyer, Manuelito Luna, told the SET that Grace is undergoing DNA tests to prove her Filipino lineage.

Grace, Sheryl, and mom Rosemarie

Grace, Sheryl, and mom Rosemarie

But it is not clear whose DNA would Grace match hers with. One possibility is actress Sheryl Cruz who is a biological daughter of former actress Rosemarie Sonora. But Cruz didn’t want to take DNA testing, saying that people can have all these rumors of what they think happened between her mother and Marcos but she knew it wasn’t true. “I am not willing to undergo a DNA test. Please spare my family from this; they are so affected by it,” Cruz said during a media interview. “I don’t want it to appear that my mom had an affair with another man not my dad [former actor Ricky Belmonte].” Then she added, “It’s a bit abrupt for her to run in 2016, and popularity cannot be translated into capability. She’ll make a fine president come 2022.”

Unanswered questions

At this point in time, there are many questions left unanswered due the complexity of the case, including the legality of Grace’s adoption papers. David’s camp claims that her adoption papers are null and void because it was granted by the Municipal Court of San Juan and not by a Regional Trial Court as required by law. David’s lawyer also claims that Grace’s Certificate of Live Birth dated May 4, 2006 bears “glaringly false entries,” such as: Jesusa Sonora Poe [Susan Roces] is Grace’s biological mother and Ronald Allan Kelley Poe [Fernando Poe Jr.] is her biological father.

With the filing of candidacies coming up soon – October 12 to 16, 2015 – could the Commission on Elections (Comelec) declare Grace’s candidacy as “provisional” pending SET’s ruling? And what if the case were elevated to the Supreme Court and the high court failed to rule in favor of Grace prior to Election Day on May 9, 2016? Would an adverse high court decision nullify the votes for Grace if her name remained on the ballot?

With Grace’s questionable birth stirring controversy, one wonders if it would be prudent for Grace to withdraw her candidacy and finish her senatorial term while she mends all the legal issues on her citizenship? And as her stepsister had said, “She’ll make a fine president come 2022.” Is it worth the wait?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)