Renounce foreign citizenship before running for office

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Candidates with dual citizenship under the Citizenship Retention and Re-Acquisition Act of 2003 or R.A. 9225 must make a personal and sworn renunciation of their foreign citizenship before they can run for public office.

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A candidate for vice-mayor of Guimba, Nueva Ecija, for the May 2007 elections was being disqualified on the ground that he was not a Philippine citizen, but an immigrant and resident of the United States. In his answer, he admitted that he was a naturalized American. However, he obtained dual citizenship upon taking his oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines under R.A. 9225. Having re-acquired Philippine citizenship under said law, he argued that he was entitled to exercise his full civil and political rights, which includes the right to run for public office.

The First Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualified him. It is true that he had re-acquired Philippine citizenship under Sec. 3, R.A. No. 9225, which states:

Retention of Philippine Citizenship. – Natural-born citizens of the Philippines who have lost their Philippine citizenship by reason of their naturalization as citizens of a foreign country are hereby deemed to have reacquired Philippine citizenship upon taking the following oath of allegiance to the Republic x x x x

However, Sec. 5 (2) of the same law provides additional conditions for the exercise of civil and political rights:

(2) Those seeking elective public office in the Philippines shall meet the qualifications for holding such public office as required by the Constitution and existing laws and, at the time of the filing of the certificate of candidacy, make a personal and sworn renunciation of any and all foreign citizenship before any public officer authorized to administer an oath.

He should have renounced his American citizenship before running for any public office. The Oath of Allegiance he took was for the purpose of re-acquiring Philippine citizenship. This, however, did not mean that he had renounced his foreign citizenship.

Before the Supreme Court (SC), he invoked the earlier ruling in Mercado v. Manzano (reported in this column on 21 April 2013) wherein the SC ruled that the filing of a certificate of candidacy by a dual citizen constituted an effective renunciation of his foreign citizenship.

The SC upheld the Comelec resolution disqualifying the candidate. Contrary to his claims, the filing of a certificate of candidacy does not ipso facto amount to a renunciation of his foreign citizenship under R.A. 9225. The SC ruling in the Mercado case is inapplicable in his situation since R.A. 9225 expressly provides for more requirements. In the case of Mercado, the candidate was a dual citizen by birth and therefore, did not fall within the ambit of R.A. 9225.

The SC emphasized that a candidate’s oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines and his certificate of candidacy do not substantially comply with the requirement of a personal and sworn renunciation of foreign citizenship (De Guzman v. Comelec, G.R. No. 180048, 19 June 2009, J. Ynares-Santiago).

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