Grace Poe’s newest publicity stunt

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Apparently aware that her four-year stint at the Senate has been pointless and lackluster, Senator Grace Poe has decided to ride on the current issues of the day by making motherhood statements disguised as calls for a congressional investigation of anomalies. 

Several days ago, Poe called for an investigation of the proliferation of fake news in the media.  Poe’s call came in the wake of a recent revelation that Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II had less-than-accurate basis for accusing several solons of involvement in the unrest and turmoil going on in Marawi City in Mindanao.

Of course, nobody in his right mind will approve of fake news in the media.  Fake news misleads and deceives readers, listeners, and viewers, and it has no place in the legitimate media industry.  Thus, while Poe’s call against fake news is welcome, she is not a credible crusader against fake news.  On past occasions, Poe herself had not been straightforward in her dealings with the media.

Recall that when Poe was running for president in the May 2016 elections, the issue that stalked her was her citizenshp.  Under the Constitution, a president or a senator must be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines.

The records disclosed that Poe is a foundling abandoned in a church, and she was later adopted by Philippine cinema’s box office king Fernando Poe Jr. and his actress-spouse Susan Roces.  Arguing that it is legally impossible for a foundling to be considered a natural-born citizen, Poe’s opponents filed two cases —one to unseat her as an incumbent senator, and another to prohibit her from running for president.  Poe’s critics also revealed that in at least one public document, Poe made it appear that her actual parents were Poe and Roces.

It was also established that on one occasion, Poe renounced her Philippine citizenship to attain American citizenship.  That renunciation, local opinion leaders posited, was enough reason for voters to reject Poe’s quest for the presidency.  One who turns one’s back on one’s native country, they said, has no moral right to seek the presidency. 

As expected, Poe’s camp insisted that their candidate was a natural-born citizen because it wasn’t Poe’s fault that she was a foundling.  Although Poe tried to contact somebody who was believed to be able to shed light on the identities of Poe’s biological parents, her efforts proved futile.  Meanwhile, the Poe camp played down allegations that she made it appear that her adopting parents are her biological parents as well. 

Poe camp’s complemented their denials with an aggressive public relations campaign which suggested she is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines.       

Eventually, a majority of the justices of the Supreme Court allowed Poe to run, albeit on grounds not sustained by the text of the Constitution.  It wasn’t a convincing court victory for Poe because the dissenting opinions were too substantial to be ignored.   

During the campaign, Poe was asked about her American husband.  That was an important query, because if Poe got elected president, the first gentleman would be an alien.  Poe’s critics were unsettled by the idea of an alien living in Malacañang Palace at public expense.  In the course of her campaign, Poe told the news media that her husband was already applying for Philippine citizenship.

However, after Poe lost the election to rival Rodrigo Duterte, Poe’s camp remained silent on the status of Poe’s husband’s application for Philippine citizenship.

The public has a right to know about the status of that application because Philippine citizenship is priceless and invaluable, and a promise to acquire it, made by a candidate’s spouse during an election campaign, should not be relegated to oblivion like other unfulfilled campaign promises, simply because the candidate lost.           

There was also the issue about Poe’s son’s remarks about a certain brand of imported sneakers.  Poe’s handlers merely avoided a public discussion about it.  

Poe may not be aware of it but, surely, a deliberate omission to disclose the truth to the public is just as objectionable as fake news. 

Instead of projecting herself as an advocate against fake news, Senator Poe should focus her time and attention on another matter that has attracted the attention of several senators, namely, government officials who tag along on overseas junkets at government expense.  At one time or another, Poe also expressed her displeasure at this nefarious, bad habit of many politicians.   

One example is the case which the Philippines filed against Communist China in the United Nations Arbitration Tribunal regarding Beijing’s patently illegal island-grabbing excursions in the West Philippine Sea.  At the hearing held by the arbitration court at The Hague in the Netherlands, then-President Benigno Aquino III sent a legal panel led by Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and then-Solicitor General Florin Hilbay.  Their presence at The Hague was justified because Carpio is the leading Philippine expert on the issues regarding the West Philippine Sea, and Hilbay, as solicitor general, was the lawyer of the Republic of the Philippines.  Although the Philippine case was argued by American legal experts in International Law hired by the Aquino government, Carpio and Hilbay needed to hear for themselves if the hired lawyers were doing their job.

What was alarming was that Aquino allowed the legal panel to be accompanied by an entourage of dozens of political allies led by then-House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and then-Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.  Belmonte and De Lima are not known to be experts in International Law, much less specialists in the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea. Why were they there at government expense?  Would they have gone there if they were to pay for their travel, food and lodging?

It’s time this unconscionable wastage of public funds on needless overseas junkets of government officials be ended once and for all.  If Senator Poe wants to redeem herself, this is one area she ought to pay attention to.

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