The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that a case involving Sen. Grace Poe’s American citizenship is much different from that of a mayor who was disqualified on the same issue.
The difference in the cases of Poe and Kauswagan (Lanao del Norte) Mayor Rommel Arnado was clarified by the SC in an en banc resolution.
In the three-page resolution, dated April 5, 2016, the court stated that Arnado’s manifestation and motion to set aside an entry of judgment in view of the SC ruling in favor of Poe was without merit.
Arnado sought to reverse the ruling of the SC en banc disqualifying him for the mayoralty seat after the tribunal’s 9-6 ruling in favor of Poe that junked the disqualification cases against her and paved the way for her presidential candidacy.
The SC noted that Arnado ran for mayor while Poe is running for the presidency.
Only the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has the authority to rule on the mayor’s case and in Poe’s case, only the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), can hear her case if she wins in the May 9 elections.
“It should be recalled that petitioner ran for mayor of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, in the 2010 and 2013 elections. And unlike in the cited case [Poe] , there is no tribunal other than the Comelec that is vested with jurisdiction to determine the effects of his continued use of his US passport on the Affidavit of Renunciation of US citizenship which he previously executed for the purposes of running for mayor of Kauswagan,” the SC said.
It noted, “It must be stressed that in case of mayors, there is no tribunal similar to the [PET], the Senate Electoral Tribunal or the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, which serves as the sole judge of all contests related to the election, returns and qualifications of President, Vice President, senator or congressmen, as the case may be.”
The 15-man tribunal said the case of Arnado has long been buried in the case of Maquiling v. Comelec since this case, which also involved the disqualification of Arnado, had already become final.
“In addition, this case, as well as the case of Maquiling v. Commission on Elections had long been terminated. In fact, the decision in this case and in Maquiling had already become final and immutable even before the promulgation of the decision in the case cited by petitioner. It is settled that judicial decisions enunciating new doctrines only have prospective effect,” the ruling read.
As such, the SC en banc merely Notes without Action the motion and manifestation filed by Arnado to set aside the ruling of the High Court on his disqualification and follow the judgment in Poe’s case.
Arnado’s case already attained the Entry of Judgement after he became an American who reacquired Filipino citizenship but who, thereafter, had continuously used his US passport.
On December 1, 2015, with a vote of 10 against 4, the SC rejected the motion for reconsideration filed by Arnado ousting him as mayor of Kauswagan by ruling that he is not a natural-born citizen of the Philippines.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was the original ponente who disqualified Arnado in the SC’s April 16, 2013 decision after he ran in the May 10, 2010 elections against Casan Maquiling as mayor of Kauswagan.
Sereno voted in favor of Poe, declaring her as a natural-born Filipino citizen.
The SC ruled that the petition of Arnado must be junked and declared him not a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and must be disqualified to run for mayor and allowed his opponent Florante Capitan to sit as mayor.
It stood pat on its ruling in disqualifying Arnado twice, first in the May 10, 2010 elections, and second, in the May 13, 2013 elections.
“Arnado’s use of his US passport in 2009 invalidated his oath of renunciation resulting in his disqualification to run for mayor of Kauswagan in the 2010 elections,” the SC ruled.
Hence, after Arnado was disqualified from the May 2010 polls, “since then and up to the time he filed his COC [certificate of candidacy]for the 2013 elections, Arnado had not cured the defect in his qualification.”
“In other words, when Arnado filed his COC on October 1, 2012, he was not totally unaware that the use of his US passport after had executed the Affidavit of Renunciation might have an impact on his qualification and candidacy,” the court said.
“Consistent with our April 16, 2013 ruling, Arnado should be made to face the consequences of his inaction since he could have remedied it at the time he filed his COC on October 1, 2012 or even before that,” it added.
In the current case, the SC reiterated its ruling as it disqualified Arnado as mayor of Kauswagan despite his landslide victory against Capitan during the May 13, 2013 polls.
In antecedents of the case, Arnado was a natural-born Filipino citizen who became an US citizen in view of his naturalization.
On July 10, 2008, however, he reacquired Filipino citizenship and took his oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines and executed an affidavit of renunciation of his foreign citizenship on April 3, 2009.
It was later discovered that Arnado used his US passport when he left the Philippines on April 14, 2009 and returned on June 25, 2009.
Aside from this, he went abroad again on July 29, 2009 , returning to the country on November 24, 2009, also using his US passport.
The Bureau of Immigration issued a certification bearing the date of April 23, 2010 and showing that Rommel Cagoco Arnado “appeared on the database listing as of April 21, 2010 and, based on the entries thereon, was listed as an American citizen.”