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Mayor who used US passport ousted

THE SUPREME Court (SC) has decided with finality for a landmark case which affirmed the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) disqualification of a town mayor who won election in 2013 but was later found to have used his US passport even after he had renounced his American citizenship.

In a two-page resolution promulgated on Feb. 9, the high tribunal issued an entry of judgment in the case of Rommel Arnado v. Comelec, which was decided on Aug. 18, 2015. Arnado’s motion for reconsideration was denied on Dec. 1, 2015.

The court sent a copy of its resolution to Florante Capitan, Arnado’s opponent whom the Comelec has recognized as the new mayor of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.

The court voided Arnado’s victory, saying the Comelec was right in disqualifying him for using his US passport several times after he had renounced his American citizenship in 2009.

The court also voided Arnado’s victory in the 2010 elections upon the petition of another opponent, Casan Maquiling.

“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 was an American citizen, with all the attendant rights and privileges granted by the USA,” the high court said in the Maquiling case.

The Arnado and Maquiling cases were cited by the individuals who filed disqualification cases against presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe for not being a natural-born Filipino and failing to comply with the 10-year residency requirement for candidates.

Poe was able to secure a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court, which has conducted oral arguments and is expected to issue a ruling soon.

Poe, the complainants charged, continued to use her US passport until March 2010 after she had returned to the Philippines in 2005 to settle for good. She renounced her US citizenship on Oct. 20, 2010, the day before she took her oath as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

Lawyer Manuelito Luna, representing former Sen. Francisco Tatad, one of the four complainants against Poe, had cited US consular records that purportedly showed that Poe may have used her US passport in 2011.

In its ruling in the instant case, the Supreme Court said: “This act of using a foreign passport after renouncing his foreign citizenship is fatal to Arnado’s bid for public office, as it effectively imposed on him a disqualification to run for an elective local position”

The oath of renunciation is required of former Filipinos who reacquire Philippine citizenship.

The court said renunciation of foreign citizenship was “not a hollow oath that can simply be professed at any time, only to be violated the next day,” and required “an absolute and perpetual renunciation of the foreign citizenship and a full divestment of all civil and political rights granted by the foreign country which granted the citizenship.”

In its ruling on the Arnado case, the court said: “[T]he decision of this court in [the Maquiling case] holding that Arnado’s use of his US passport effectively recanted his affidavit of renunciation has become final and immutable. We can no longer resurrect in this case the issues that have already been resolved there with finality.”

Justice Mariano del Castillo penned the ruling in the Arnado case. He is also the designated writer of the main opinion in the Poe case.

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