Lanao del Norte mayor ousted, barred from seeking second term

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MANILA, Philippines—For using his US passport four times despite having renounced his American citizenship, a Lanao del Norte mayor has been ousted from his post and barred by the Supreme Court from running for public office.

Voting 10-5, the high tribunal disqualified Kauswagan Mayor Rommel Arnado from seeking a second term under the administration’s Liberal Party.

In a ruling dated April 16 and penned by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, the Supreme Court declared Casan Macode Maquiling the duly elected mayor of Kauswagan as the winner of the May 2010 elections. Maquiling had come in second.

The nine justices who concurred in the ruling were Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Perez, Bienvenido Reyes and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

Dissenting were Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Mariano Del Castillo, Jose Mendoza and Marvic Leonen.

The high court granted Maquiling’s petition for certiorari of the Feb.2, 2011 en banc resolution of the Commission on Elections, which had declared Arnado as qualified to run for public office despite his continued use of a US passport. The high tribunal annulled and set aside the Comelec en banc resolution that favored Arnado.

According to a summary of the case prepared by the SC public information office, the high court ruled that “the use of a foreign passport after renouncing one’s foreign citizenship is a positive and voluntary act of representation as to one’s nationality and citizenship, it does not divest one of the reacquired Filipino citizenship but recants the Oath of Renunciation required to qualify one to run for an elective position.”

Arnado became eligible to run for office when he took the Oath of Allegiance and renounced his foreign citizenship in 2009.

But between April 3, 2009 (when he renounced his US citizenship) and Nov.30, 2009 (when he filed his certificate for candidacy), Arnado was found to have used his US passport four times, “actions that run counter to his Affidavit of Renunciation,” according to the high court.

“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 is an American citizen, with all attendant rights and privileges granted by the United States of American,” the high court ruling said.

The high court said that Arnado was “effectively, solely and exclusively Filipino” for a period of 11 days from April 3, 2009 until April 14, 2009 when he first used his US passport after renouncing his American citizenship.

“The citizenship requirement for elective public office is a continuing one. It must be possessed not only just at the time of the renunciation of the foreign citizenship but continuously. Any act which violates the oath of renunciation opens the citizenship issue to attack,” it said.

The high court also said Arnado obtained his Philippine passport in Sept.2009 but he still used his US passport on Nov. 24, 2009.

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