The last debate
The third and final presidential debate came through at the Phinma University in Dagupan, Pangasinan last Sunday, with no major hits or misses on the part of any of the candidates. There were no wild missiles as in the second debate in Cebu on March 20. The only sharp exchanges were those between LP standard bearer Mar Roxas and UNA’s Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, and between PDP’s Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Roxas. They were pointed but far from bloody.
Grace Poe Llamanzares stayed away from the exchange of fire. She delivered long stanzas to say what could be said in just a few words, and sounded more like her running mate, Sen. Francis Escudero, declaiming. All this was otherwise harmless, but she uttered one blatant lie, which unfortunately neither the ABS-CBN program hosts Karen Davila and Tony Velasquez nor any of her rivals tried to question, obviously for lack of relevant information.
A sordid lie
In answer to a question from Tony Velasquez, candidate Llamanzares said her American husband, Teodoro Daniel Misael “Neil” Vera Llamanzares, had renounced his US citizenship about a month ago, but without any details. This was all of a piece with her well-known lie, to which nine of the 15 justices of the Supreme Court have turned a blind eye, that she is a natural-born Filipino, born to her adoptive parents, Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces, the famous actors couple. To this, I shall return later.
Miriam Defensor Santiago, who spoke more about her fight against cancer than about her fight against the Aquino administration, proved to be much gentler than her usual self. She spoke of the fundamental qualities needed for the presidency, and found herself more qualified than others. Who among them had been a consistent “valedictorian” in school, and had won a Ramon Magsaysay award for reforming a “corrupt” government institution?
Roxas was confident that regardless of his low rating in the paid propaganda surveys, he would ultimately prevail in the election. His oft-repeated banter was that what his rivals were promising to do, “if elected,” the nondescript PNoy administration in which he had been Secretary of the DOTC and the DILG has already done. At one point, Mar said he had put his life on the line when he came down to Tacloban in the aftermath of the Yolanda/Haiyan super typhoon in 2013. CNN and other observers criticized the absence of government in that operation.
Both Duterte and Binay tried to puncture Mar’s balloon by asking how many people believed his claim, and where the “achievements” he spoke of could be seen or found. On Roxas’ statement about the benefits delivered by PhilHealth to the local population, Duterte said none had reached Davao, which he has run as mayor for the past 23 years. For his part, Binay, who used to handle housing, urban development and OFW concerns for PNoy, said the administration has been long on talk and short on implementation.
The debate raced through the China-Philippines maritime dispute, Metro Manila’s horrendous traffic nightmare, continuing unemployment and job contractualization in the malls, factories, and everywhere else, the plight of the Overseas Filipino Workers, health care, war and peace in Mindanao, and education. No great ideas surprised the audience, the candidates tended to repeat one another’s prosaic prescriptions, and the level of the discussion tended to be superficial.
It took a poor fisherman to raise the most important question about foreign policy and national security, namely, the China Sea question. What can the next President do to make sure that fishermen like him, said the questioner, could continue to fish in the “West Philippine sea” without their boats or their catch being seized by the Chinese coast guard patrolling the disputed waters?
Consensus on China
All five candidates were unanimous in saying that diplomacy must play a key role in approaching the problem with China, but in the meantime, the government must attend to the economic plight of our fisherfolk. We must talk to China, where Aquino and his minions have refused to do so at all.
None of the candidate talked of waging war on China to the last Filipino or the last American. Miriam wondered how we could ever feed the 1.3 billion Chinese, were we to go to war and ultimately prevail. Duterte was even more dramatic: Should the Philippines win its arbitration case before the UN, he would be ready to sail to one of the Chinese-occupied islands in the Spratlys, and personally plant the Philippine flag there by his lonesome.
They could have gone deeper. The Aquino administration appears to have convinced itself that just by calling the disputed waters “West Philippine sea,” it has already advanced its legal position in this dispute. This is certainly self-indulgent, but ultimately meaningless. As former Ambassadors Alberto Encomienda and Jaime Yambao point out in two recent articles, the change of name should be internationally recognized by the appropriate bodies such as the International Hydrographic Organization, the International Maritime Organization, and the United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographic Names, etc.
Southeast Asia sea?
And since we want all of Southeast Asia to line up behind our position, we should perhaps support the Vietnamese proposal to rename the South China Sea as Southeast Asia Sea, instead of calling it West Philippine sea? This, I believe, is worth putting to the candidates.
There were no strong disagreements on any of the issues. They all had strong words about “contractualization” which allows companies to limit employment contracts to five months, at the end of which they lay off all employes regardless of performance. All the candidates would like to end contractualization once they are in office, but not one said anything about reviving the labor unions, which have since died.
And the hosts did not dare ask who among the candidates have received financial support from the companies that are making their pile from contractualization. This would have tested the candor and integrity of the candidates.
In discussing the need to expand the country’s infrastructure, in order to solve the monstrous traffic problem, Mrs. Llamanzares led her rivals in naming specific large infrastructure projects that should be prioritized. This gave the impression that she did her homework well. But many of these are projects favored by her financiers.
The latest lie
But her biggest blooper—-unnoticed though by her presidential rivals, the media, the Phinma university audience and the nationwide TV crowd—was her casual announcement that her American husband Neil Llamanzares had already given up his US citizenship, in preparation for his potential charmed life as First Gentleman. This was just the latest falsehood in a long series of lies.
The subsequent report, already aired on television, says that Neil Llamanzares “renounced” his natural-born US citizenship on April 17, 2016, before a barangay captain in Greenhills, San Juan, the place where Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe was formally adopted by the Fernando Poe Jr-Susan Roces couple in 1974. But if this report is true, it is all a joke—-the so-called renunciation is void ab initio, and does not change Neil Llamanzares’s citizenship status one bit.
Neil now stateless?
Were his alleged renunciation valid, meaning he had already lost his US citizenship, then Neil Llamanzares would now be stateless, since his claim to be a dual citizen is false, and has no legal basis. He is a natural-born American citizen of Filipino parents. Born in the US, he has been an American from birth; since his parents are Filipinos, he has an inchoate right to become a Filipino, even after embracing his US citizenship.
But this is subject to “recognition” under Philippine laws. He has to apply for this recognition, and the Philippine government, after due hearing, must formally grant it. He has never applied for recognition, and has been an American citizen all his life. He is not covered by Republic Act 9225, popularly known as the Dual Citizenship Law, which allows former natural-born Filipino citizens who had been naturalized as citizens of a foreign country to reacquire their citizenship.
US law on citizenship
Under the US Immigration and Naturalization Act, an American citizen may lose his citizenship by:
1) Applying for and obtaining naturalization in a foreign country, provided he is at least 18 years of age;
2) Making an oath of allegiance to a foreign country, provided he is at least 18 years of age;
3) Serving in the military of a foreign country as a commissioned or noncommissioned officer or when the foreign state is engaged in hostilities with the United States;
4) Serving in a foreign government position that requires an oath of allegiance to, or the nationality of, that foreign country, provided he is at least 18 years of age;
5) Making formal renunciation of US citizenship to a consular officer outside of the US;
6) Making a formal renunciation of citizenship while in the US and during time that the US is involved in a war;
7) Conviction for treason or attempting by force to overthrow the US government, including conspiracy convictions.
If Neil Llamanzares had intended to renounce his US citizenship, as claimed, he could have gone to the US Consulate General in Manila for this purpose. There a consular officer would attend to him, and if the officer is satisfied that he understands the ramifications of his decision, he would be asked to take an oath and a certificate evidencing his loss of nationality would be executed. Going to a barangay captain in Greenhills is certainly not even in the list of bad jokes.
It is not Neil Llamanzares’ US citizenship alone that presents a serious problem for the Philippine State.
It is unthinkable enough that a foreign national should be sleeping with the President of the Philippines, if enough crazy people should vote for Mrs. Llamanzares, or if the cheating operation succeeds in installing her in office. But Neil Llamanzares is not just an ordinary foreigner; according to all the information available on the Web, he used to be a member of the US Air Force and part of one of the biggest contractors of the US Defense and Security establishment. Since 2006, he has been working as an IT consultant in one of the country’s largest conglomerates, without a worker’s visa or an Alien Employment Permit.
Accompanied by my lawyer Manuelito Luna, I went to the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation on Monday to formally ask the Bureau to look into this potential breach of our highest national security protocols. I was gratified to see that under Commissioner Ronaldo Geron, the bureau has developed such an excellent rapport with the public and that everyone of its employee seemed to be in top form. But for a couple of hours we could not get the BID information system process my complaint, for the simple reason that we had no access to Neil Llamanzares’ date of birth in any of the numerous documents. Without that data, the system would not take in the complaint.
It took us more diligent research to find out that Neil Llamanzares was born on March 6, 1970, two years after his future wife was born as a foundling, of no known parentage, and found inside the parish church in Jaro, Iloilo on Sept. 3, 1968. This was but part of the scary world of shadows which appears to be inhabited by this potential First Gentleman of the Philippines.