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Poe: “A candidacy that will never fly?”

In my search for jurisprudence on whether a foundling adopted by Filipinos has the status of a natural-born Filipino, I found a 2003 commentary written by renowned constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas precisely on the issue:  “We follow the principle of jus  sanguinis, that is, a person follows the citizenship of either Filipino blood parent. Our Constitution says that anybody who wishes to be president, vice president, senator or district representative must be a natural-born Filipino citizen. The Constitution defines natural-born Filipino citizens as those “who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship.” For the purpose of determining citizenship, therefore, the identity of the blood parents is important.”

Fr Bernas also explored the issue of what happens to a Filipino who has re-acquired Filipino citizen but uses a foreign passport. Citing the case  of a Mayoralty candidate in Lanao del Norte, Fr Bernas paraphrased the Supreme Court:” even if one has renounced foreign citizenship, if he continues to use a foreign passport, he equivalently withdraws his renunciation.”

Fr Bernas was citing the case of Maquiling vs. Comelec where a candidate used a US Passport after he re-acquired his Filipino citizen and renounced his foreign citizenship, the twin requirements under the dual citizen law for candidates for elective office. In this case, the Court ruled that while a person does not lose his Filipino citizenship with the use of a foreign passport; that use, however, negates his renunciation of his foreign citizenship. He thus reverts to the status of a dual citizen: “In effect, Arnado was solely and exclusively a Filipino citizen only for a period of eleven days, or from 3 April 2009 until 14 April 2009, on which date he first used his American passport after renouncing his American Citizenship . . .The citizenship requirement for elective public office is a continuing one. It must be possessed not just at the time of the renunciation of the foreign citizenship but continuously. Any act which violates the oath of renunciation opens the citizenship issue to attack.

Applying Maquiling to the case of Sen Poe, for her to run as President in 2016, she must have renounced and resided in the Philippines exclusively as a Filipino for at least 10 years. Since by her own admission, she only renounced her US citizenship on 2010, she will be short by four years of the residency requirement for the post of president. This is because  the dual citizenship law reckons compliance for candidates for elective posts only from the time they became  exclusively Filipino citizen.

Additionally, I found a very interesting exchange between Former Reps. “Teddy Boy” Locsin and “Digs” Dilangalen, which indicates the legislative intent behind the law. The issue was whether   a natural-born Filipino who lost his citizenship through naturalization, and re-acquires dual citizenship under the law is considered a natural born Filipino. According to Locsin, “your guess is as good as mine”.

While defenders of Poe are quick to argue the jurisprudence under the old Repatriation Act that a natural born Filipino who lost it and re-acquires an exclusive Filipino citizenship re-acquires his status as a natural born Filipino, the same issue appears unsettled where the person merely acquired Filipino citizenship under the dual citizen law. In the words of Locsin, which may very well apply to Sen. Poe: “They may be preparing for a candidacy that in fact will never fly  . . .”

What is pivotal in Poe’s case is whether the acts of taking an oath of allegiance to the Philippines and renunciation of her US citizenship are ”positive acts” given the definition of a natural-born Filipino as one who is such “without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect Philippine citizenship”. Here, Rep. Dilangalen was emphatic: the oath and renunciation are positive acts. Locsin appeared to have agreed in that he said that the word “deemed” in Sec. 3 of the law, which provides: “those who have lost their Filipino citizenship by reason of naturalization are deemed to have reacquired Philippine citizenship”, requires a “positive act”.

But as Locsin also pointed out, this will have to be ruled upon by our Courts.

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