MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has cancelled the certificate of candidacy (COC) of a congressional candidate in Marinduque for making false claims about her citizenship and residency.
In a 12-page resolution dated March 27, the Comelec First Division, led by Presiding Commissioner Lucenito Tagle, cancelled the COC of Regina Ongsiako Reyes, daughter of Marinduque Governor Carmencita Reyes.
The poll body’s decision was in response to the petition filed by Joseph Socorro Tan, a registered voter of Torrijos, Marinduque, who asked the Comelec to deny due course or cancel the COC filed by Reyes, saying Reyes’ candidacy for Marinduque’s lone seat in the House of Representatives was a violation of the Constitution and the Omnibus Election Code.
Tan alleged that Reyes gave false information in her COC, particularly her age, civil status, residence and citizenship.
But in ruling the petition, the Comelec focused on the issues hounding Reyes’ citizenship and residency.
In her answer to the Comelec, Reyes defended herself from Tan’s allegation that she could not have been a resident of Lupac, Boac, Marinduque, but was actually a resident of Barangay (village) Maligaya, Quezon City or Bauan, Batangas, based on her marriage to Representative Herminaldo Mandanas.
She said that even if she has been publicly known to be the wife of Mandanas, she has not had a valid and binding marriage with him.
Reyes insisted on her residency in Boac, her domicile of origin, which she said she has never abandoned.
She added that Tan did not present evidence to boost his claim that she has obtained permanent residency status in the US and that she acquired US citizenship sometime in 2005 and was issued a US passport.
But Tan presented newly discovered evidence and amended list of exhibits, consisting of among others, a copy of an article published on the Internet on January 8 entitled “Seeking and finding the truth about Regina Reyes,” with an affidavit and identification and authenticity of document executed by the author, Eliseo Obligacion.
Pertinently, the article provided a database record of the Bureau of Immigration listing the respondent as an American citizen and holder of a US passport, which she has been using since 2005.
Tan also presented a certification of Reyes’ travel records issued by Simeon Sanchez, acting chief of the BI’s verification and certification unit.
The Comelec resolution stated that for Reyes to reacquire her Filipino citizenship and become eligible for public office, she must take the oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines before the Consul General of the Philippine Consulate in the US as required by law. She also had to make a personal and sworn renunciation of her American citizenship before a public officer authorized to administer an oath.
“In the case at bar, there is no showing that the respondent (Reyes) complied with the aforesaid requirements,” the resolution said, adding that the petitioner, with the submission of newly established evidence, was able to substantiate his allegation.
“The burden now shifts to the respondent to present substantial evidence to prove otherwise…This the respondent utterly failed to do so, leading to the conclusion inevitable that respondent falsely misrepresented in her COC that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen,” the resolution said.
“Unless and until she can establish that she had availed of the privileges of Republic Act 9225 (Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003) by becoming a dual Filipino-American citizen, and thereafter, made a valid sworn renunciation of her American citizenship, she remains to be an American citizen and is therefore ineligible to run for and hold any public office in the Philippines,” it added.
Since Reyes did not prove that she had renounced her American citizenship, her domicile in the US stood, said the Comelec.
Reyes had claimed being a resident of Boac for 36 years and two months before the May elections.
“Accordingly, the more appropriate issue is whether the respondent had regained her domicile of origin in the municipality of Boac after she lost the same when she became a naturalized American citizen,” the Comelec said. “A Filipino citizen who becomes naturalized elsewhere effectively abandons his domicile of origin.”
The only proof presented by Reyes for her compliance with the one-year residency requirement was her claim that she served as provincial administrator of the province from January 18, 2011 to July 13, 2011.
“But such fact alone is not sufficient to prove her one-year residency. For respondent has never regained her domicile in Marinduque as she remains to be an American citizen. No amount of her stay in the said locality can substitute the fact that she has not abandoned her domicile of choice in the USA,” the Comelec resolution read.
Comelec considers Philippine citizenship as an “indispensable” requirement on people for seeiking an elective office.
“It is a requisite which should be dealt with more scrutiny, if only to ensure that no person owing allegiance to other nation is actually permitted to govern our people,” it explained.