In a decision that may have implications on pending disqualification cases filed against Sen. Grace Poe, the Supreme Court (SC) has denied with finality an appeal of a former American who reacquired his Filipino citizenship but whose continued use of his US passport led to his disqualification as a mayoral candidate.
The High Court ended with finality the disqualification case against Rommel Arnado, who was ousted as mayor of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, in what observers read as a signal sent to Poe.
With 10-4 vote, the tribunal junked Arnado’s motion for reconsideration by ruling that he is not a natural-born Filipino citizen.
Arnado’s case was the first that involved a public official who was disqualified to run for an elective post because he was an American citizen.
In a two-page resolution dated December 1, 2015, but was released only recently, the 15-man tribunal said basic issues were already passed upon by the court and there was reason to disturb its earlier ruling.
The tribunal said it will no longer entertain any appeal or pleading from the petitioner.
Arnado was disqualified by the SC on April 16, 2013.
He ran for mayor of Kauswagan in the May 10, 2010 elections.
Arnado’s candidacy, however, was questioned by his opponent, who claimed that the former still used his American passport even after he had renounced his US citizenship.
The resolution and the decision in the Arnado case was penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, who happens to be the same ponente in the disqualification cases filed against Poe.
According to well-placed sources of The Manila Times in the SC en banc, the justices of the High Court consider Arnado as “almost similarly situated” with Poe.
One senior justice even discussed the case with fellow magistrates as a “precedent” to disqualify Poe.
The only difference in the cases is that Poe is a foundling, thus some groups insist that she is not a natural-born Filipino.
In his decision, del Castillo upheld a ruling of the Commission on Elections disqualifying Arnado from running in the May 13, 2013 polls.
The decision also set aside his proclamation as elected mayor of Kauswagan.
Arnado was twice disqualified by the Comelec–first in the May 10, 2010 elections and again 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 election,” the SC ruled.
“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,” the court said.
“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 he had executed the Affidavit of Renunciation might have an impact on his qualification and candidacy,” it 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.
Justices Arturo Brion, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza and Marvic Leonen dissented.
Justice Francis Jardeleza took no part because he handled the case when he was the Solicitor General.
The SC, in its ruling, said “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 court ruled 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.”
“It 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,” it said.
Arnado, a natural-born Filipino, became a naturalized US citizen.
He reacquired his Filipino citizenship on July 10, 2008 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.
Arnado filed his COC for mayor of Kauswagan in November 2009 but a disqualification case was filed against him months before the May 2010 polls.
On Tuesday, the court continued to hear oral arguments in the cases filed against Poe.
The senator’s legal counsel, Alex Poblador, said those seeking the senator’s disqualification failed to show any proof to back their allegations, thus Poe is presumed to be a natural-born Filipino.
Poblador, who was grilled by Leonen, said that as a natural-born citizen, Poe does not have to do anything to perfect her citizenship.
“She is presumed to be a Filipino at birth, and the circumstantial [pieces of]evidence include her being found in Jaro, Iloilo, presumably to a Filipino father and mother,” he added.
Poblador said Poe has lived in the Philippines since birth, except for 14 years when she was in the US.