THE Supreme Court (SC) affirmed the disqualification of a mayoral candidate who used his US passport after he renounced his American citizenship, in what could be a foreshadowing of the action it might take in a similar case involving Sen. Grace Poe.
The High Court upheld the ruling of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualifying Manolito S. de Leon from joining the mayoral race in Basista, Pangasinan, for being an American citizen.
In a full court decision, the tribunal dismissed the petition of de Leon, saying he failed “to show that the Comelec en banc committed grave abuse of discretion in [rendering its
Impleaded in the petition filed by de Leon were his rival Jocelyn O. Perez and the Comelec. The two contested the mayoral post in 2013.
“After a judicious review of the records, the court resolves to dismiss the instant petition and affirm the resolution dated October 9, 2015 of the [Comelec en banc,]” the SC said.
The poll body held that de Leon is deemed to have repudiated his renunciation of his American citizenship when he used his American passport on September 10, 2011 and June 26, 2012.
This was echoed by the High Court, which said de Leon was ineligible to run for public office in the 2013 elections.
The SC cited the case of Maquiling v. Comelec wherein the court ruled that “by using his American passport after renouncing his American citizenship, the candidate is deemed to have recanted the oath of renunciation that he took.”
Accordingly, the High Tribunal opined, “Section 40 [d]of Republic Act 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code, applies to petitioner’s situation, thus disqualifying him from holding the subject local elective office as he could not have been even considered as a candidate for the local elections at all.”
De Leon’s case is somewhat similar to Poe’s who is facing several disqualification cases on claims that she is not a natural-born Filipino.
The camp of Rizalito David, who filed one of the disqualification cases against Poe, claimed that the senator used her American passport even after she renounced her American citizenship in October 2010.
David’s lawyer Manuelito Luna submitted to the Senate Electoral Tribunal records from the US State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs showing that Poe used her US passport in September 2011.
The electoral tribunal dismissed the disqualification case against Poe but its decision was elevated to the High Court.
Poe became a US citizen on October 18, 2001. She reacquired her Filipino citizenship in July 2006.
In another earlier decision, the SC affirmed the disqualification of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte Mayor Rommel Arnado for using his American passport after renouncing 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 tribunal said through a ruling penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo.
It held that the use of a foreign passport after renouncing one’s foreign citizenship “is a positive and voluntary act of representation as to one’s nationality and citizenship” and “does not divest one of the reacquired Filipino citizenship but recants the oath of renunciation required to qualify one to run for an elective position.”
“By using his US passport, Arnado positively and voluntarily represented himself as an American, in effect, declaring before immigration authorities of both countries that he is an American citizen, with all attendant rights and privileges granted by the United States of America,” the high court said.