THE STATUS of being a natural-born citizen attaches at birth by virtue of parentage. Verily, it is an attribute by accident of birth. It does not require the performance of a personal act or an exercise of will, except for those “born before January 17, 1973, of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority,” a situation which has long lapsed.
Section 2 of Article IV of the 1987 Constitution provides: “Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship. Those who elect Philippine citizenship in accordance with paragraph (3), Section 1 hereof shall be deemed natural-born citizens.”
The import of being natural-born is not the thesis of this commentary. It is only used as a basis for contrast with losing citizenship by foreign naturalization.
Renunciation of citizenship as a condition for becoming a citizen of another country is a categorical and willful act, unlike the automatic vesting of a natural-born status.
Thus, when Grace Poe swore allegiance to the United States of America on Oct. 18, 2001, and became an American citizen, she deliberately severed loyalty to the Republic of the Philippines.
This is the full text of the oath she took:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance
under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Such act of absolute abandonment and repudiation of loyalty and allegiance to her native country is indelible. Loyalty cannot be discarded and retrieved like apparel in one’s wardrobe. Severance of loyalty is almost irredeemable. No legal fiction can restore fractured loyalty to its original whole.
Loyalty must never be trivialized. It must endure the most compelling vicissitudes. But once loyalty is forfeited for reasons not insuperable, its retrieval is peripheral, its restoration incomplete.
In the Japanese Bushido, loyalty is the most important and often emphasized virtue, ahead of righteousness, courage, benevolence, respect, sincerity and honor.
Josiah Royce, in his “The Philosophy of Loyalty,” maintains that loyalty is “the heart of all the virtues, the central duty amongst all the duties.”
Utmost premium is accorded to loyalty. On the other hand, appropriate sanctions are imposed on acts of disloyalty: Traitors now suffer life imprisonment while previously, capital punishment was imposed on them; philandering husbands and adulterous wives are penalized; disloyal members are expelled; deserters are condemned; and there was a time turncoatism was proscribed, and the revival of this sanction may be warranted to stop partisan adventurism.
Although loyalty to the republic is not one of the enumerated minimum legal qualifications for the position of president, it permeates and is ascendant to all qualifications. It is said that loyalty is “an essential ingredient in any civilized and humane system of morals.”
Although prior citizenship may be reacquired, repatriation is invariably dictated by convenience, not motivated by conviction.
Any subsequent repatriation cannot obliterate the prior act of renunciation, but only erases the effects of such renunciation as when Grace Poe on July 7, 2006, reassumed her status as a Filipino citizen by repatriation, although it was only on Oct. 20, 2010, more than four years later, when she executed an affidavit renouncing her allegiance to the United States of America and forfeiting her American citizenship to pave the way the following day,
Oct. 21, 2010, for her oath-taking as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.
The fact that as an adult, Grace Poe, at 33 years of age, abdicated fidelity to the Philippines and disavowed loyalty to the republic, does not make her deserving of the presidency. No one in Philippine history has vied for the presidency who was previously an alien, a citizen of a foreign country by naturalization.
While by no means did she commit treason as an enemy of the state when she abandoned Philippine citizenship, it would be difficult, if not foolhardy, for Filipinos to reward her and entrust to her the premier position that the nation can bestow.
It is a prerequisite in juridical proceedings that a litigant must come to court with clean hands. With more reason, in running for the presidency, a candidate must seek the people’s mandate with unsullied loyalty to the republic.
If ever Grace Poe is elected president, is there any assurance that she will honor her solemn oath of office given her shifting loyalties and ephemeral patriotism?
Are Filipinos ready and willing to suffer this alarming contingency? Or should Grace Poe give herself more time to prove fealty to her restored loyalty and manifest more clearly her untested potentials?
Edcel C. Lagman is a former representative of the first district of Albay.
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