IN a decision seen as a foreshadowing of how the case of Senator Grace Poe may be resolved, the Supreme Court (SC) disqualified a town mayor because he is not a natural-born Filipino.
Court observers said that the case of Mayor Rommel Arnado of Kauswagan, Lanao Del Norte is similar with Poe’s because he reacquired his Filipino citizenship before running for public office. They said the only difference was that Poe was adopted.
The High Court, voting 8-4, upheld the decision of the Commission on Elections disqualifying Arnado from running in the 2013 local elections and accordingly set aside his proclamation as mayor.
The decision penned by Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo said Arnado used his US passport even if he had renounced his US citizenship.
“Only natural-born Filipinos who owe total and undivided allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines could run for and hold elective public office,” the SC stressed.
Arnado ran for mayor twice – in 2010 and 2013. He was disqualified in his first run in a decision penned by Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno.
The SC pointed out that “since then and up to the time he filed his COC for the 2013 elections, Arnado had not cured the defect in his qualification.”
“In other words, when Arnado filed his COC on Oct. 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,” it 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 Oct. 1, 2012 or even before that,” the tribunal added.
The ruling was concurred in by Sereno, Justices Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
The four dissenters are Justices Arturo Brion, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza and Marvic Leonen. Justices Martin Villarama and Bienvenido Reyes were on leave during the voting while Justice Francis Jardeleza took no part in the deliberations since he handled the case when he was the Solicitor General.
Arnado was a natural-born Filipino citizen who became a US citizen. He reacquired his Filipino citizenship on July 10, 2008 and executed an affidavit of renunciation of his foreign citizenship on April 3, 2009.
However, Arnado used his US passport when he left the country on April 14, 2009 and when he returned on June 25, 2009 and again on July 29, 2009 and on November 24, 2009.
The Bureau of Immigration also issued a certification that as of April 21, 2010, Arnado was listed as an American citizen.
According to well-placed sources, the justices of the high court said Arnado is “almost similarly situated” with Poe.
One senior justice told fellow magistrates that the case is a “precedent” to the disqualification case filed against Poe, although the case against the senator has not reached the SC.
Rizalito David filed a disqualification case against Poe at the Comelec and the Senate Electoral Tribunal claiming that she is not a natural-born Filipino citizen.