Neither Comelec Nor Congress CanTake Away Inalienable Civil Rights Of Filipino Citizens

by Joseph G. Lariosa

“An alien who applies for citizenship but does not complete the 
naturalization process is not a national of the United States.”

— United States Supreme Court (Kamal Patel, et al. v. Jeh Johnson, et al., Jan. 2014)

CHICAGO (JGL) – The inadequacy and failure of the Philippine government to provide job opportunities in the Philippines have forced millions of Filipinos to leave the country to look for greener pastures.

Against their will, their diaspora leaves Overseas Filipino Workers no other choice but to treat the Philippines their permanent home (domicile) while they struggle to eke out a decent living abroad. Someday, if they are able to succeed, these OFW’s had plans to go back home to their native land.

But in their efforts to bring back their know-how they gained from their travels, some of them even have nurtured plans of putting their experience to work by running for local elective positions in their hometowns.

But apparently, Philippine Congress does not appreciate the billions of dollars that OFW’s remit to the Philippines monthly when it passed a couple of laws, which are anti-immigrant.

Congress’s message is this: “Send us your money but we do not trust you spending the money you remitted to us.”

And this attitude by Congress fuels many Filipino immigrants to stay for good in their adopted homeland and make it their permanent domicile. These immigrants would simply take a sentimental journey to the Philippines from time to time and turn their homeland into their temporary residence.

These are the so-called permanent residents in the United States and other countries, who could have waited for as long as 20 or more years just to obtain their Green Cards. But these Green Card holders would have to wait for another five years before they become naturalized U.S. citizens.

This means that permanent residents are not yet U.S. citizens but are still very much Filipino citizens! In some Christian beliefs, permanent residents are likened to those being placed in limbo, the supposed place of the souls of unbaptized infants, and of the just, who died before Christ’s coming and are waiting a decision or resolution of their cases.

And should these immigrant changed their minds or abandon their U.S. citizenship applications, they can no longer return to the Philippines to exercise their right to vote in the Philippines nor be voted upon in the Philippine elections. Thanks, to Philippine Congress, which stripped these permanent residents of their Filipino citizenship without their consent under the Local Government Code also known as Republic Act No. 7160, which prohibits them from running for elective positions in the Philippines and Republic Act No. 9225, An Act Making The Citizenship of Philippine Citizens, Who Acquire Foreign Citizenship Permanent, which prohibits them from voting in Philippine elections.

By taking away their inalienable civil rights without their consent as permanent residents from running for office or from voting in the Philippine elections, Congress violated their Sec. 1 of the Bill of Rights, which says, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”

CANNOT VOTE NOR RUN IN THE PHILIPPINES, U.S.

Thus, Congress turned permanent residents into second-class citizen not only because they cannot vote and run for office in Philippine elections but also into stateless citizens because they cannot even vote and run for office in U.S. elections either!

These will be among the provisions that several U.S. permanent residents want the Philippine Supreme Court addressed and repealed.

Former Philippine government public prosecutor Carlos A. Cortes, Jr., who is also a U.S. immigrant in Chicago, Illinois also wants a provision of the Local Government Code disqualifying those having “dual citizenship” from running for office be amended into “dual allegiance.”

In the Mercado v. Manzano case, 307 SCRA 630, the Supreme Court said, “[T]he concern of the Constitutional Commission was not on dual citizens per se, but with naturalized citizens, who maintain their allegiance to their countries of origin even after their naturalization. By filing a certificate of candidacy when he ran for his present post, (Edu) Manzano elected Philippine citizenship and in effect renounced his American citizenship. What the law prohibits is dual allegiance, not dual citizenship.”

When Manzano was born in California, he became a natural-born American citizen by operation of America’s jus soli (right by birth place). But because his parents were Filipinos, Manzano is also a natural-born Filipino citizen based on jus sanguinis (right by blood).

So, Manzano was dual natural-born Filipino citizen and natural-born American citizen!

AMICUS CURIAE/INTERVENOR

If Cortes’ amicus curiae (friend of court) and/or intervenor is accepted by the Supreme Court as a side issue in the Comelec v. Poe case, which is up for oral argument on Jan. 19, 2016, the U.S. Filipino immigrants want to change “dual citizenship” into “dual allegiance” in the provision of the Local Government Code that prohibits permanent residents from running for elective positions in the Philippines. After all, Art. IV, Sec. 5 of the Constitution, provides, “Dual allegiance of citizens is inimical to national interest … .”

These immigrants are also baffled by the strict interpretations of Senator Grace Poe’s disqualification cases by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in her U.S. citizenship, which she had since renounced, and her ten-year residency, which was short by more than five months.

In the Caram v. Comelec, GR No. 1052 14, Aug. 30, 1993, the Supreme Court noted that Sec. 2 of RA 9189 “empowers Congress to provide a system for absentee voting by Filipinos abroad. It is clear from the discussions of the members of the Constitutional Commission that they intended to enfranchise as much as possible all Filipino citizens abroad, who have not abandoned their domicile of origin.

“The Commission even intended to extend to young Filipinos who reach voting age abroad whose parents’ domicile of origin is in the Philippines, and consider them qualified as voters for the first time.

“It is in pursuance of that intention that the Commission provided for Sec. 2 immediately after the residency requirement of Sec. 1. By the doctrine of necessary implication in statutory construction, the strategic location of Sec. 1 indicates that the Constitutional Commission provided for an exception to the actual residency requirement of Sec. 1 with respect to qualified Filipinos abroad. The same commission has in effect declared that qualified Filipinos, who are not in the Philippines, may be allowed to vote even though they do not satisfy the residency requirement in Sec. 1, Article V of the Constitution.”

If Congress is liberal with the residency requirement for absentee voters, who are allowed to vote in the Philippines without residency requirement, why would Comelec not be liberal with the residency requirement of Senator Poe, who was only absent for five months and 13 days in the Philippines, in her quest for the presidency?

In the Pungutan vs. Abubakar, GR No. L-33541, Jan. 20, 1972, the Supreme Court on the question of residency requirement in the place where one wants or intends to vote, said, “The right to vote has reference to a constitutional guarantee of the utmost significance. It is a right without which the principle of sovereignty residing in the people becomes nugatory. It is a political right enabling every citizen to participate in the process of government to assure that it derives its power from the consent of the governed. The COMELEC (Commission on Elections) is not empowered to decide questions “involving the right to vote.” The power to determine whether or not a person can exercise or (be) precluded from exercising the right of suffrage is a judicial question, and the power to resolve such question has been excluded from the Commission’s power to be the judge of election contests.”

I believe, voting and being voted upon are both inalienable civil rights that cannot be taken away from Filipino citizens against their will. Not by the COMELEC! And not even by the plenary powers of Congress! (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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