The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has disqualified from running for a House seat an heiress of a powerful political clan in Marinduque, an administration candidate, for false statements about her citizenship and residency in her certificate of candidacy (COC).
In a 12-page resolution dated March 27, the Comelec First Division, led by Presiding Commissioner Lucenito Tagle, canceled the COC of Regina Ongsiako Reyes, daughter of Marinduque Gov. Carmencita Reyes.
The division ruled on a petition filed by Joseph Socorro Tan, a registered voter of Torrijos, Marinduque, who asked the Comelec to disqualify Regina, saying her candidacy is a violation of the Constitution and the Omnibus Election Code.
Tan alleged that Reyes lied in her COC about her age, civil status, residence and citizenship.
The division ruling, however, focused only on two aspects of the case—Regina’s citizenship and her residency.
In her reply to Comelec, Regina said Tan simply based his allegation about her residency on a theory that she is married to Rep. Herminaldo Mandanas, who lives in Batangas.
Regina said while she is publicly known as Mandanas’ wife, she is not married to the congressman.
Regina also said there is no evidence showing that she is a permanent resident or citizen of the United States.
In the petition, Tan said Reyes acquired US citizenship in 2005 and was issued a US passport.
Tan submitted pieces of evidence, including an article in the Internet that came out on Jan. 8 providing a record from the US immigration bureau showing that Regina is a US citizen.
Tan also submitted Regina’s travel records that showed her using a US passport.
The Comelec division said, however, that there is no evidence that Regina had renounced her US citizenship and taken an oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines.
“There is no showing that the respondent complied with the … requirements (of reacquiring Philippine citizenship),” said the Comelec resolution.
Burden of proof
It said the burden of proof has shifted to Regina. “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,” said the resolution.
“She remains to be an American citizen and is therefore ineligible to run for and hold any public office in the Philippines,” it said.
The Comelec division added that since there is no proof that Reyes had renounced her American citizenship, it follows that she has not abandoned her domicile of choice in States.
The division said the only proof that Regina presented to show that she has met the one-year residency requirement and that she never abandoned her residency in Boac is her claim that she served as provincial administrator of the province from Jan. 18 to July 13, 2011.
“But such fact alone is not sufficient to prove her one-year residency,” said the resolution.
It said citizenship is an indispensable requirement for anyone seeking public office in the Philippines.
“It is a requisite which should be dealt with more scrutiny, if only to ensure that no person owing allegiance to another nation is actually permitted to govern our people,” it said.