Citizenship and public office

As we approach the last bend before the 2016 national elections, voting preferences are being shaped and framed according to the issues that are favorable to the contending political parties. One of the issues being raised, presumably against Senator Grace Poe, a strong contender in the upcoming presidential elections, is that of citizenship.

Under our 1987 Constitution, no person may be elected to the presidency unless he or she is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines. According to one broadsheet, immigration records showed that the senator last used her US passport on December 27, 2009 and accordingly, she renounced her American citizenship when she ran for the Senate. The Senator’s current Philippine passport (issued in Manila on May 16, 2014) shows Iloilo City as her place of birth.

As I am not a lawyer, my opinion on the matter is drawn from common sense and experience. I would like to believe that this would not be far from legal reasoning because law is based on experience or precedence, and just not mere logic.

Nations vary in their attitudes toward dual citizenship. Some reject the concept outright; others allow their citizens to take out a second citizenship only in selected countries, and some have drawn a distinction between citizenship and nationality. I do not intend to argue for or against dual citizenship. I do subscribe to the position however, that citizenship is one of the greatest attributes of the people in a state. It shows that a person is a full member of that state, and by being its citizen an individual is given the right to decide on how the country is governed. Citizenship similarly offers many other benefits and equally important responsibilities. To be worthy of citizenship, therefore, an individual must perform the duties attached to it, as well as enjoy the privileges which it brings.

I would imagine that the issue of changing citizenship and domicile would be one of the most challenging decisions that a family would have to make. One of the bigger factors a family would consider is if their new target country would give his/ her family better opportunities in lifestyle, education, and medical help among others.

Before becoming a U.S. citizen, immigrants must take an oath that says, in part, “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.” I suppose the same principles are contained in official declarations in other countries under the same circumstances.

The decision to apply for another citizenship is therefore a significant one. By applying for citizenship in another country, you are demonstrating your commitment to that country and to its form of government. Consequently, leaving one’s nationality for another is a big statement on one’s loyalty to your original country. It is not a decision that one can casually change. Definitely, one cannot be considered patriotic to a country that one is not a legal citizen of. And patriotism for me involves loving your particular country of citizenship exclusively, which is manifested through unconditional loyalty, care and sacrifice, and should be based upon expected comforts and privileges, much less foreseen economic and political opportunities. Hence, the dilly dallying on one’s citizenship should be a big factor in the voting for the leader of this country.

At the end of the day, citizenship in this country should be an expression of allegiance to it, enforced not by a pledge but rather by a desire to be part of this country.

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