Thursday, January 22, 2004

Is Manapat smarter than others?
After wondering for days if the Ricardo Manapat of recent controversy is the same Manapat who digged the dirt on the Marcoses with the book Some are Smarter Than Others, I finally found out that they are, in fact, one and the same. And more: Manapat, it turned out, has been doing work for Ramos and Almonte digging up dirt on their political enemies. Manapat was also behind the questioning of Alfredo Lim's citizenship some years ago. (COMELEC then held that Lim is a natural-born Filipino.) For a background on the recent job positions of Manapat, read this Manila Times story.

Manapat has three documents from the National Archives: the birth certificate of FPJ, the marriage certificate of FPJ's parents and another certificate of a prior marriage of FPJ's father to another woman.

The birth certificate is supposed to show us that FPJ's father was a Spanish citizen and his mother an American. Do such protestations in a birth certificate constitute conclusive proof of one's and one's parents' citizenships? No. So there goes down the drain the much-ballyhooed birth certificate.

The presumption is that FPJ's father was a Filipino by virtue of Philippine Bill of 1902 which granted automatic Filipino citizenship for the Spanish citizens living in the Philippines when Spain ceded control of the islands in the Treaty of Paris. Unless Manapat can show that FPJ's old man actively renounced his Filipino citizenship and vowed allegiance to Spain, the presumption is that he was a Filipino. He served the Philippines during World War II. He even was supposedly the model for the UP Oblation.

With regard to the marriage certificate: Let us suppose that indeed FPJ is an illegitimate son, but his father was Filipino as argued above. There is, as father Bernas recognizes, case law that says illegitimate children follow the citizenship of their mothers. Following case law therefore, FPJ would follow the citizenship of the mother, which was American. However, the 1935 Constitution was clear that children born of Filipino fathers are Filipinos themselves.

Father Bernas therefore holds that FPJ is a natural-born Filipino--but may be a dual citizen of the Philippines and the United States. The legal question for Father Bernas now is: Can a dual citizen be president of the Philippines?

My personal opinion though is that FPJ is a Filipino pure and simple. The case law holding that illegitimate children follow the citizenship of the mothers must give way to the constitutional provision in the 1935 Constitution that children of Filipino fathers are Filipinos. We simply cannot afford to disqualify a front-runner on flimsy legal nitpicking. It is undemocratic. FPJ is not qualified to be president, but he CAN run and win if people want him.

The COMELEC is expected to render its decision this week. If it finds FPJ unqualified to run for president, FPJ is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court. Well and good. FPJ's citizenship must be decided NOW before he becomes president. Imagine the chaos if the Supreme Court were to pronounce a sitting president constitutionally unqualified to be president. The Davide impeachment brouhaha would pale in comparison by at least a thousand degrees.

So is Ricardo Manapat smarter than others? Well, not in this case. He wrote an interesting book though. Read Some are Smarter Than Others and know the dirt on Danding Cojuanco, Lucio Tan, the Tantocos of Rustans and other people.

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