Public officials with questioned citizenship

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

The case of Bamban Mayor Alice Guo is nothing new to Philippine jurisprudence. There had been many instances in the past when the citizenships of prominent candidates were questioned. Those included Fernando Poe and Grace Poe when they respectively ran for president. The citizenship of the late Alfredo Lim was also challenged. There are many others. Winning even if by landslide does not cure the inherent defect of lack of citizenship.

In the case of Rommel C. Arnado vs Comelec, GR no. 210164, decided by the Supreme Court En Banc, through the pen of Justice Mariano del Castillo, on August 18, 2015, it was postulated that "Only natural-born Filipinos who owe total and undivided allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines could run for and hold elective public office" in the Philippines. In this case, Arnado ran and won by landslide as mayor of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. His proclamation as duly elected mayor was annulled by the Comelec and his opponent was declared winner. His candidacy being void, all the votes credited in his favor were declared stray votes and nullified. That Comelec decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court.

In the disqualification case against Fernando Poe Jr, entitled Ma. Jeanette C. Tecson et al vs Comelec et al, GR No 161434, dated March 3, 2004, the Supreme Court, En Banc, opened the decision written by Justice Jose Vitug with the following declaration: "Citizenship is a treasured right conferred on those whom the State believes are deserving of the privilege. It is a "precious heritage, as well as an inestimable acquisition" that cannot be taken lightly by anyone -either by those who enjoy it or by those who dispute it." In relation to the pending case, the Court noted that " our people are waiting for the judgment with bated breath. Is Fernando Poe Jr.  x x x a natural born Filipino or is he not? The majority of the Justices voted to uphold the citizenship of Poe. He ran and allegedly lost to GMA. I believe that he won over GMA.

In the case involving the supposed deportation of William Gatchalian, father of Senator Sherwin, DSWD Secretary Rex and and Valenzuela Mayor Wes, the Supreme Court, en banc, upheld the Filipino citizenship of William and stopped the Board of Commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration from proceeding to deport William Gatchalian. It was in GR nos 95122-23 dated May 31, 1991 penned by Justice Bidin. In the case of Ramon Labo vs Comelec, GR no 105384, dated July 3, 1992, Labo's candidacy for mayor of Baguio City was opposed by Roberto Ortega who also ran for the same office. Labo also questioned the qualification of Ortega. The decision was likewise written by Justice Bidin.

Labo was disqualified for lack of Philippine citizenship." Whether or not the candidate whom the majority voted for can or cannot be installed, under no circumstances can a minority or defeated candidate be deemed elected to the office. Surely, the 12,602 votes cast for petitioner Ortega is not a larger number than the 27,471 votes cast for petitioner Labo." The Court also ruled that:" the ineligibility of a candidate receiving majority votes does not entitle the candidate receiving the next highest number of votes to be declared elected. Ortega failed to satisfy the necessary requisite of winning the election either by a majority or mere plurality of votes sufficient to elevate him in public office as mayor of Baguio City. Having lost in the election for mayor, petitioner Ortega was obviously not the choice of the people of Baguio City." The duly elected vice mayor thus was elevated to the mayorship.

There are many others that can be discussed but we neither have enough space nor time. Suffice it to say that the mayor of Bamban is presumed to be a Filipino citizen, having been issued a certificate of registration as such by the PSA. Those who avers that she is not a Filipino should file the appropriate petition and prove this allegation. Personally, I feel that she is a Chinese national but I have to prove it in court. Until I do that, Alice Guo remains a citizen and a mayor.

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