Foreign donors cited in case vs Robredo
NAGA CITY—Defeated congressional candidate Nelly Villafuerte in the third district of Camarines Sur used the Internet in tracing the alleged foreign donors to the campaign of elected Rep. Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo that she used as basis for the disqualification complaint she filed against Robredo in the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Villafuerte claimed Robredo violated the Omnibus Election Code’s prohibition on receiving campaign donations from foreign sources when she accepted contributions, notably from Filipino-American entrepreneur Loida Nicolas-Lewis.
Robredo, who won by a landslide, or a margin of over 70,000 against Villafuerte, said she did not accept any donation from non-Filipino citizens.
Robredo, in a statement on Monday, said the “claim is a desperate attempt” by Villafuerte “to keep her family in power” and is a reflection of the latter’s unwillingness to heed the people’s voice.
Robredo, however, admitted she received support from Lewis, whom she described as a “a natural-born Filipino citizen recognized by the government, as shown in her Philippine passport.”
In her sworn affidavit, Lewis attached a copy of her passport as proof she is not a naturalized American citizen, Robredo cited in her statement.
Further quoting Lewis, Robredo said the former has “neither solicited nor accepted donations from non-Filipino citizens.”
“Donations coursed through her were from Filipinos living abroad, who, like attorney Lewis, are dual citizens,” said Robredo.
She said she and Lewis were “aware of all Comelec provisions and have diligently complied with all its demands.”
Villafuerte is the wife of last-term Rep. Luis R. Villafuerte of the third district while Robredo is the widow of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, who died in a plane crash last August.
Villafuerte, in her complaint filed on May 23 through counsel Maria Cecilia I. Olivas, however, insisted that Robredo violated Section 96 of the Omnibus Election Code when she received financial support from foreign donors for her campaign, arguing that Lewis, even if she is a Filipino citizen, is also an American citizen and is thus covered by the prohibition on foreign campaign donations.
Villafuerte’s complaint said the “unlawful” solicitation of campaign funds started with an open letter from Robredo written at the behest of Lewis, which was published in a Facebook account.
“In the open letter… it is stated below the name of Ma. Leonor ‘Leni’ Gerona Robredo that solicitations from foreign sources are to be made effective in the following manner: To support attorney Leni Robredo’s campaign, please make/send checks payable to Loida Lewis ITF Leni Robredo, P.O. Box 1080, Gracie Station, NY NY 10028. For more information, visit https:www.facebook.com/
Among the foreign nationals whom Villafuerte identified to have contributed to the campaign kitty of Robredo was Lewis, who hails from Sorsogon, was married to the late Reginald F. Lewis and became an American citizen on Aug. 16, 1969.
Lewis passed the New York bar exam, practiced law in New York, worked as general attorney in the United States government, i.e. INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) from 1979-90. She actively participated in the 2008 and 2012 campaign of US President Barack Obama by being a financial contributor, which, according to the complaint, Lewis could not do unless she is an American citizen.
“If she (Lewis) claims to have elected Filipino citizenship under RA (Republic Act) No. 9225, that election did not mean that she renounced under RA 9225 her American citizenship. She still remains an American citizen and is therefore barred from making contributions to Leni Robredo’s campaign or from soliciting contributions in her behalf,” according to Villafuerte.
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