03 March 2004
A Philippine court has declared popular Philippine movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. a natural born citizen - clearing a major hurdle in his bid to become the country's next president.
The Supreme Court, which has been holding lengthy deliberations on a petition contesting Fernando Poe Jr.'s citizenship, ruled 8-5 in his favor.
Lawyers who brought the petition had argued that Mr. Poe, who was born out of wedlock to an American mother and a father born during the U.S. occupation of the Philippines was not a citizen.
But the court dismissed the petition, ruling that Mr. Poe qualified as a citizen under the 1935 constitution. The petitioning lawyers have 15 days to appeal the ruling, and are expected to do so.
Attorney Ed Araullo, a spokesman for the "Filipinos for FPJ movement," said the decision comes as no surprise and should give the actor's campaign efforts a lift.
"It will energize our campaigners, because with the disqualification out of the picture, then we can concentrate on the election," he said. Mr. Poe is in a close race for the presidency with incumbent President Gloria Arroyo, but recent opinion polls have shown his support slipping as the disqualification case dragged on.
He is wildly popular among the poor, largely because of his screen image as a hero to the oppressed. But the business community fears his lack of experience and policies will have a harmful effect on the economy, if he is elected in May.