By PERRY DIAZ
Just as Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares had secured the Supreme Court’s 9-6 ruling allowing her to run for president of the Philippines, she is facing another obstacle. This time it has nothing to do with her qualifications to run for president but something more personal: Why does she have two U.S. Social Security numbers, one of which belonged to a long dead person? This was the gist of Ninez Cacho- Olivares’ column in The Daily Tribune on March 2, 2016. Grace’s new “case” is now before the court of public opinion.
In her column, titled “Poe’s US SSN stolen from dead person,” Cacho-Olivares wrote: “Sen. Grace Poe has been found to have committed a US federal felony as documents show that the lady senator who is running for the presidency in May 2016 has committed identity theft in the United States, which she had obtained and used, evidently illegally, a US Social Security SS number (SSN) from a dead person, but using her name, Grace Poe-Llamanzares.
“In the US, a person can only have one SSN, otherwise having more than one SSN becomes a crime of identity fraud and identity theft. This is a federal crime in the United States and Canada. Grace Poe Llamanzares has been listed as having two SSNs, one in her name, with SSN 005-03-1988, first issued as stated in the document, in 1934-1951 in ME [State of Maine]. This SSN has been recorded as belonging to a deceased person, according to the documents obtained by The Tribune.”
According to Cacho-Olivares, Grace was married in 1991 and shortly thereafter she was issued her second SSN in 1992. Cacho-Olivares surmised that this was probably Grace’s real SSN. So what’s the story about her first SSN, which she allegedly stole from a dead person?
As soon as the news report came out, Grace Poe’s spokesperson denied Cacho-Olivares’ claim that Grace had obtained two SSNs in the U.S. Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchialian branded the report as “baseless” and “absurd.” He said that it’s “another mutation of the ongoing black propaganda attacks” against Grace. “There is no reason for Sen. Poe to secure a fake social security number because she has always been of legal status when she stayed in the US. Underhanded tactics such as this has no place in our democracy. The people deserve better, our people deserve to hear advocacies rather than barefaced lies,” he stressed.
Poe might not have any reason to secure a fake SSN, but all U.S. citizens and legal residents have every reason to acquire it. The SSN is everything. A person needs it to live a normal life in the U.S. It’s needed to get a driver’s license, apply for a credit card, open a bank account, buy or lease a car, buy or rent a house, borrow money from the bank, get an ID card from the Department of Motor Vehicles, and more. It is therefore in anyone’s best interest to apply for a Social Security number, which is the only U.S. government-issued number that uniquely identifies an American citizen or a permanent resident (green card holder). And without it, a person is presumed to be an undocumented alien unless he or she can provide a valid driver’s license or foreign passport that is stamped with a visa allowing the holder to stay in the U.S. until the visa’s expiration date, at which time the holder has to leave the U.S. But here’s the rub: To get a driver’s license or government-issued ID card, a person needs a Social Security number.
“Tago ng tago”
It is therefore imperative that all foreigners — except tourists – who hold a permanent resident visa, student visa or work visa should apply for an SSN. It makes their lives easier and keeps them out of trouble. And “trouble” is what all undocumented aliens, including overstaying tourists, should worry about. With an estimated 11 million undocumented aliens living in the U.S. today, a large number of them have illegal SSNs, which they need to evade detection by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. With an SSN and a driver’s license or state-issued ID card, an undocumented alien can live a normal life and find employment, which makes one wonder: In the three years that Grace attended Boston College, could she have obtained the illegal SSN from underground peddlers who prey on undocumented aliens? And these include the estimated 500,000 undocumented Filipinos staying in the U.S. who are referred to as TNT or “tago ng tago,” which translates to “hide and hide.” The question is: Was Grace a TNT?
In 1988, Grace moved to the U.S. after two years as a student at the University of the Philippines. She enrolled at the Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts and graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1991. One wonders what visa did she use to enter the U.S.? Since Grace was not a U.S. citizen at that time or had a degree that would have qualified her to apply for a permanent resident visa or work visa, it is very likely that she had entered the U.S. on a student visa… or perhaps, a tourist visa.
Upon her graduation in 1991, Grace’s student visa would expire unless she enrolled to take further graduate studies and thus be granted an extension of her student visa. But then she met Teodoro Misael Daniel Llamanzares, a U.S. citizen. They fell in love and got married that same year. She did not go back to school but by getting a “marriage degree,” entitled her to apply for U.S. citizenship by virtue of her marriage to an American citizen. The following year she got her second SSN… legally.
What happened then to Grace’s first questionable SSN? She insisted that the SSN in question (005-03-1988) was not her SSN but the Student Identification Number (SIN) issued by the Boston College upon her enrollment. She claims that the SIN corresponds to her enrollment date, which would have been May 3, 1988. But here’s the problem with her claim. How many students were enrolled that same month, day and year? If there were more than one, were they all assigned the same SIN? That punches a big hole in Grace’s claim.
With all the other “big holes” on the façade she had built to qualify to run for president, which is now looking more like Swiss cheese, the people are beginning to doubt her honesty and sincerity.
One of my readers, Don Azarias from Chicago, Illinois, sent me his comments, saying: “This lady senator deserves it. I used to hold her in the highest esteem but her ‘greed’ turned me and a lot of people off. Had she only accepted the Aquino administration’s offer to run as Mar Roxas’ VP running mate, I don’t believe her political rivals and the Filipino people will conduct a thorough scrutiny on her true identity and citizenship. She doesn’t have enough experience to be president to begin with. I hope the Philippine government [Supreme Court] disqualifies her as a presidential candidate and the U.S. authorities charges her with a felony.”
With her back against the wall, Grace doesn’t have any defense other than to challenge her critics to produce evidence that would prove that she had committed a felony in the U.S. But shouldn’t she be the one to prove her claim? One of the rules of debate is: “He or she who asserts must prove.”
In an attempt to clarify her situation, Grace said that she already sent a formal letter to Boston College requesting for a copy of her Student ID Number. But doesn’t she possess any record – anything – of her student days at Boston College that would show her Student ID Number?
With all this brouhaha over Grace’s SSN, all the problems she’s having now wouldn’t have happened had she prepared herself fittingly before she jumped into the political arena hoping to beat all her opponents for the presidency. It took guts for a novice senator to fight seasoned political “gladiators” and slay them all. It’s either she’s a modern-day Joan of Arc or a cheap imitation of Don Quixote. The former might lead her to political martyrdom and the latter could make her the laughing stock in the country’s political circles.