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Victorino X. Fornier V. Commission on Elections and Ronald Allan Kelley Poe, Also Known as Fernando Poe, Jr. G.R. No. 161824, 04 March 2004, En Banc (Vitug, J.)
The 1935 Constitution during which regime, respondent FPJ has first seen light confers citizenship to all persons whose fathers are Filipino citizens, regardless of whether such children are legitimate or illegitimate. Providing neither conditions nor distinctions, the 1935 Charter includes as citizens of the Philippines those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines. There is utterly no cogent justification to provide conditions or distinctions where there are clearly none provided. Ronald Allan Kelley Poe (a.k.a Fernando Poe, Jr. or FPJ) filed his certificate of candidacy (CoC) for the post of President of the republic of the Philippines in the May 2004 elections. In his CoC, FPJ represented himself to be a natural born citizen of the Philippines and stated his name to Fernando Jr. or Ronald Allan Poe, his date of birth to be 20 August 1939. Victorino Fornier initiated on January 9, 2004 before the COMELEC a petition to disqualify FPJ and to deny due course or to cancel his certificate of candidacy on the thesis that FPJ made a material misrepresentation in his CoC by claiming to be natural born Filipino when in truth, according to Fornier, his parents were foreigners. FPJs mother Bessie Kelley was an American while his father Allan F. Poe, was a Spanish national, being the son of Lorenzo Pou, a Spanish subject. Granting, Fornier argued, that Allan F. Poe was a Filipino citizen, he could not have transmitted his Filipino citizenship to FPJ, since the latter is an illegitimate child of an alien mother. Fornier based his allegation on two points: First, Fornier contended that Allan F. Poe contracted a prior marriage with certain Paulita Gomez before his marriage to Bessie Kelley; second, even if no such prior marriage existed, Alan Poe married Kelley only a year after the birth of FPJ. The Comelec dismissed this petition for lack of merit. Fornier sought reconsideration but the same was denied, hence, this petition before the SC docketed GR No. 161824. ISSUES: 1. Whether or not the Supreme Court can directly take cognizance of FPJs disqualification case 2. Whether or not a persons legitimacy or illegitimacy is a basis for the determination of his/her citizenship HELD: First Issue: Supreme Court has No Primary Jurisdiction over Disqualification Cases against the President or Vice-President before the Elections In urging the Supreme Court to directly take cognizance of the disqualification case against FPJ, petitioners in GR Nos. 161434 and 161634 invoke Article Vii Section 4 paragraph 7 of the 1987 Constitution. The cited provision refers to the SCs role as Presidential Electoral Tribunal. It reads:

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The Supreme Court sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of the President or Vice-President and may promulgate its rules for the purpose. The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court defined by the above provision of the Charter, however, does not include cases directly brought before it, questioning the qualifications of a presidential or vicepresidential candidate before the elections are held. Hence, GR Nos. 161434 and 161634 are dismissed for want of jurisdiction. Ordinary usage would characterize a "contest" in reference to a post-election scenario. Election contests consist of either an election protest or a quo warranto case which, although two distinct remedies, would have one objective in view, i.e., to dislodge the winning candidate from office. The Rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (specifically Rules 12, 13 and 14) categorically speak of the jurisdiction of the tribunal over contests relating to elections, returns and qualifications of the President or Vice-President of the Philippines and not of candidates for President or Vice-Presidnet: Rule 12. Jurisdiction. - The Tribunal shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice-President of the Philippines. Rule 13. How Initiated. - An election contest is initiated by the filing of an election protest or a petition for quo warranto against the President or Vice-President. An election protest shall not include a petition for quo warranto. A petition for quo warranto shall not include an election protest. Rule 14. Election Protest. - Only the registered candidate for President or for Vice-President of the Philippines who received the second or third highest number of votes may contest the election of the President or the Vice-President, as the case may be, by filing a verified petition with the Clerk of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal within thirty (30) days after the proclamation of the winner. A quo warranto proceeding is generally defined as an action against a person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office. In such context, the election contest can only contemplate a post-election scenario. In Rule 14, only a registered candidate who would have received either the second or third highest number of votes could file an election protest. This rule again presupposes a post-election scenario. Thus, the COMELEC properly took cognizance of the disqualification case against FPJ. Second Issue: Legitimacy/Illegitimacy not Material to the Determination of a Persons Citizenship under 1935 Charter The 1935 Constitution the fundamental law prevailing at FPJs time of birth did not consider a childs legitimacy or illegitimacy relevant to the determination of his or her citizenship. In ascertaining, in GR 161824 whether grave abuse of discretion has been committed by the COMELEC in favoring FPJ, it is necessary to take on the matter of whether or not respondent FPJ is a natural-born citizen, which, in turn, depended on whether or not FPJs father Allan F. Poe would have himself been a Filipino citizen and, in the affirmative, whether or not the alleged illegitimacy of FPJ prevented him from taking after the Filipino citizenship of his putative father. Any conclusion on the Filipino citizenship of FPJs paternal grandfather Lorenzo Pou could only be drawn from the presumption that, having died in 1954 at 84 years of age, Lorenzo would have been born sometime in the year 1870, when the Philippines was under Spanish rule, and that San Carlos, Pangasinan,

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his place of residence upon his death in 1954, in the absence of any other evidence could have well been his place of residence such that Spanish subject Lorenzo Pou would have benefited from the en masse Filipinization that the Philippine Bill had effected in 1902. That Philippine citizenship of Lorenzo Pou, if acquired, would thereby extend to his son, Allan F. Poe, FPJs father. The 1935 Constitution during which regime respondent FPJ has seen first light confers citizenship to all persons whose fathers are Filipino citizens regardless of whether such children are legitimate or illegitimate. Providing neither conditions nor distinctions, the 1935 Charter includes as citizens of the Philippinesthose whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines. There utterly is no cogent justification to prescribe conditions or distinctions where there clearly are none provided. Fornier argued that even if FPJs father Allan F. Poe were a Filipino citizen, he could not have transmitted his citizenship to respondent FPJ, the latter being an illegitimate child since he was born a year before his parents married. Fornier contended that as an illegitimate child, FPJ followed the citizenship of his mother Bessie Kelley, an American citizen. Fornier based his position on the Courts ruling Morano vs. Vivo [20 SCRA 562], citing Chiongbian vs. de Leon [82 Phil 771] and Serra vs. Republic [91 Phil 914 unreported]. The Court however, noted as pointed out by amicus curiae Fr. Joaquin Bernas that petitioners thesis relied solely on pure obiter dicta in the cited cases. This being so, Forniers position must indeed fail. A pronouncement of the Court irrelevant to the lis mota of a case would be mere obiter dictum which does not establish doctrine. None of the cited cases dealt with the illegitimate son of a Filipino father. Morano vs. Vivo was about a stepson of a Filipino, a stepson who was the child of a Chinesse mother and Chinese father. Chiongbian vs. de Leon, meanwhile, involved the legitimate son of a father who had become Filipino by election to public office before the 1935 Constitution. Lastly, Serra vs. Republic spoke of an illegitimate child of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. While the totality of the evidence may not establish conclusively that FPJ is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, the evidence on hand still would preponderate in his favor enough to hold that he cannot be held guilty of having made a material misrepresentation in his CoC in violation of Section 78 in relation to Section 74 of the Omnibus Election Code.