Grace’s questionable birth stirs controversy

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.


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?


8 Responses. Have your say.

  1. Let’s see if Grace Poe has the gracefulness to defer her 2016 presidential candidacy until any doubt of her being a natural born Filipino is resolved.
    This way, she will prove her patriotism that to her national interest is ahead of personal ambition as well as put to rest she’s accepted to be made a “catapult” for Chiz Escudero to jump up to be presidential candidate and Grace’s votes be counted in his favor (Escudero) case midway in the campaign she’s finally found not natural born Filipino, hence disqualified to run for president.
    Grace and her true and faithful supporters shouldn’t be Chiz’s tool to collect campaign funds that should go to deserving presidential and VP candidates which Escudero must be salivating ever since his con game brought Grace to his side.

  2. Bobby Bagos says:

    Even if Grace popped out of a mango seed she should still be consider a natural born Filipino citizen as long as the mango tree is rooted in the Philippines. I guess the best way to really settle this controversy is a DNA test, but why Cheryl Cruz refusing to participate in the process is kind of strange. Escudero will just be another puppet in the government by those big contributors, that’s just the way it is in Philippine politics, I’ll scratch your back and you scratch my back, my ass, my balls and the tube attach to it.

  3. pat talens says:

    Of course Philippine politics, even here in USA, is and will always be abound with controversies. Paramaount among these is now this Senator Poe-Llamanzares being a ‘foundling’ and not a natural born citizen that make her unqualified in election to become President of the Philippines. But, for me, what is perhaps very surprising is her much popularity as always being ahead in all polls when matched with more political veterans the like of Binay and Roxas.

    Having held no previous political position but elected in national election to become 1st time inexperienced Filipino Senator, do Senator Poe’s election and now her resurgence in Filipino political landscape the final awakening of the Filipino people for commitment to change for better government, much so for better Philippines? By my vetting and hunch, it is not so.

    It seems the Filipinos are once again being drawn to a popular candidate out of emotions and emphaty, and not based from proven wealth of political experience, patriotism and integrity, and leadership credentials.

    I not only question Senator Poe-Llamanzares, but I also have doubt on the qualificaitons and fitness for national leadership of Rep Leni Robredo—whose sudden popularity stems from being the widow of a very popular pubic servant husband. I am amazed to such choice coming from Mar Roxas—himself I am not fond of myself. As Interior Secretary, the Philippines has experienced the worse in violence and criminalities, and with much of the crimes perpetrated by cops under the leadership of Roxas.
    Of course, if I am not fond of Roxas, the more I dislike Binay (the now very famous Binayaran politician) for his astuteness as a hypocrite and bandit political leader who must never become a President of the Philippines, but be someday be put behind bars.

    I am disappointed just the same that Senator Sonny Trillanes opted not to run for President, but for Vice President instead. He is my choice. He is my ideal Presidential candidate. Trillanes is a true military hero of the land—and a patriot. His bravery and love of country is unquestioned and impeccable. He is the one—the real transformative political Leader of the country.

    And not Roxas, Binay, Duterte, and Senator Poe-Llamanzares.

  4. pat talens says:

    Under current political realities in the Philippines, granted Senator Trillanes does not change mind and not run for President, the country is poised to more of the same if not worse comes another presidential term. Of all the Presidential figures, Roxas could be my last resort. But if he wins and (hope it does not happen) he dies in office, the inexperienced Leni Robredo will take the mantle of very important, very demanding Presidential leadership roles. As Vice President, she will be a heartbit to become
    President. And as Vice President, is she equal as well to the Presidency—in the event she succeeds under unforseen circumstances.

  5. Rex Q. Garcia ME/ CPE / PE says:

    Grace Poe first cousin Sheryl Cruz was right in her opinion saying that ” She will be more effective as president comes 2022 ” She was appointed and groom by Pres. Aquino in politics and left and disproved his request to stay and be Ma Roxas VP candidate and she disregard P-Noy request and she followed and believes and influence by Chis Esquadero to be his tandem presidential candidate. Her head went overboard because of her high poll ratings. My advice to the lady senator Grace Poe is to slow down and its worth waiting till 2022 and if you rush or makes any drastic and untimely moves, might lead you to disqualifications as presidential candidate and even a disqualification being elected as number one Senator.

  6. Rex Q. Garcia ME/ CPE / PE says:

    I agree with Pat Talens that Senator Trillanes is the best bet to run as President and not to run as a VP. He is a good presidential material, a hero and a PMA graduate. He was jailed by Pres. Gloria Arroyo and campaign while he was in prison and still won as a senator. He would be a incorruptible President like P-Noy because he do not have any rich pardino supporters not like senator Chis Esquadero willingly and ready to scratch their back as a payback when he become a VP. As usual Pinoy voters vote who is the popular entertainer like actors and actress and in fact watching the Comelec registration of candidates today, there are several TV and Movies personalities applying for their candidacy for local and national positions. I hope that Binay will be disqualified or be dismissed by the Ombudsman before the 2016 elections as a results of the Ombudsman investigations that there is a provable cause to the allegations of corruptions when he was a mayor in Makati. His son Junjun the mayor is already dismissed by the Ombudsman yesterday and also will loss all his retirements benefits and can no longer hold any government office. I bet you Jesusmariosep Binay will be next.

  7. Badbeat17 says:

    Filipino or not what Philippine needs is a PRESIDENT that that can make all Filipinos proud of thre country in every field. At present Philippine has nothing to be proud of but a lot of things to be ashamed of.

  8. Badbeat17 says:

    Why is it that anyone wants to be President of a country riddled with poverty,inefficiancy,imbalance,crime infested,crooked and corrupt law enforcers and politicians.I doubt if thre is anyone that can change the Philippines into a Country that Filipinos can really be proud of.

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