Tuesday, December 12, 2017
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Analysis

Spread of fake law on Cayetano citizenship

Are we unwittingly publicizing the nonexistent law that allegedly caused Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano to lose his Philippine citizenship?

Sen. Cayetano vehemently denied this accusation last March 16 in a Facebook video. ABS-CBN News, GMA News Online and the Philippine Star (as well as Inquirer.net) reported this denial.

However, unlike Inquirer.netthese reports omitted my simple question: Does the law cited against Sen. Cayetano exist? (“Yasay and Cayetano citizenship different”, 6:57 PM, 2017/3/16)

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Law, News and Opinion

This is not a question about interpreting a law. Again, I am simply asking if the law even exists.

Not every opinion on a law is newsworthy, but should we not fact check whether the law that created the issue (such as losing citizenship) even exists? Or at least report that the law’s existence was prominently questioned?

We must rethink what we consider fact and opinion in reporting legal issues. Too often, we prefer to see a lawyer quoted in news reports, even when he is merely reading word for word a basic point written in a law.

In this case, the very existence of the law that created the issue is still implicitly treated as opinion. It must be reported as fact.

Nonexistent Law

This began when Atty. Rodel Rodis wrote an Inquirer.net column that claimed Sen. Cayetano was born Filipino but lost it when he turned 21 (“Is Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano a PH citizen?”, 2017/3/16).

Sen. Cayetano had a Filipino father and American mother. Atty. Rodis claims a law made him choose one when he turned 21, and Sen. Cayetano chose to be American.

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But there is no such law.

Rodis Cites Website

Atty. Rodis e-mailed me, citing the website of the Philippine Consulate of San Francisco. This states that a Filipino born before 1973 to a Filipino mother and a non-Filipino father must choose citizenship upon reaching the age of majority.

Obviously, this does not apply to Sen. Cayetano because his father, the late Sen. Rene Cayetano, was Filipino (as Atty. Rodis himself stated).

For those who want to read the actual law instead of the website, it is the 1935 Constitution, in effect when Sen. Cayetano was born in 1970.

We teach this provision to freshman law students because it was later removed, because it discriminated beteween mothers and fathers. Today, you are not required to choose a citizenship if your mother but not your father is Filipino.

So again, there is no such law that removed Sen. Cayetano’s citizenship.

I hope the public understands that Atty. Rodis wrote an opinion column, which does not represent the Inquirer’s views and where Atty. Rodis is responsible for his own facts. The Inquirer is a public forum, which is why it publishes both Atty. Rodis’ theories and my reactions.

Rodis E-mail

I reproduce Atty. Rodis’ explanation for the benefit of my readers and former students:

Dear Mr. Tan:

At least six Filipino Americans have consulted my law office about their efforts to obtain a Philippine passport. They were all born in the Philippines of US citizen fathers and Philippine citizen mothers. They all came to the US with their US passports. When they filled out their applications to obtain Philippine passports at the Philippine Consulate here, they were denied.

According to the Philippine Consulate website on dual citizenship, “those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship” are dual citizens.  “These are persons:

  • Born after January 17, 1973 , whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines at the time of their birth;
  • Born before January 17, 1973 to a:
  1. Filipino Father; or
  2. Filipino Mother and that person elects Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority.”

If you check with San Francisco Consul-General Henry Bensurto, Jr. or Vice Consul Jaime Ascalon, you will learn that dozens of applicants similarly situated have also been denied Philippine passports because it was assumed that they did not elect Philippine citizenship “upon reaching the age of majority” and did not qualify for dual citizenship.

Where did the Department of Foreign Affairs get their law that a qualified person is one who “elects Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority”?

If you are right, then dozens of Filipino American applicants for dual citizenship in San Francisco should be able to obtain their Philippine passports at last.

Rodel Rodis

LAW OFFICES OF RODEL RODIS

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React: oscarfranklin.tan@yahoo.com.ph,Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, Analysis, Cayetano, Citizenship, law, opinion
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