Residency, US passport issue vs Poe illogical | Inquirer Opinion
Sisyphus’ Lament

Residency, US passport issue vs Poe illogical

SINGAPORE—The residency issue against Sen. Grace Poe is an insult to returning overseas Filipino workers. Yet it has become an afterthought, perceived as a technical debate with no compelling human rights context.

This is ironic since OFWs are protected by our Constitution’s strongest antidiscrimination doctrines under the 2009 Serrano case. This is even more ironic, given rumors in media that the Supreme Court will decide Poe’s case tomorrow, and will avoid the emotional foundling issue by focusing on another issue.

The attacks on Poe in OFW contexts are illogical. Critics claim—and Poe denies—she continued using a US passport in 2011, after she renounced US citizenship.

I previously wrote that the use of a US passport in itself cannot disqualify a candidate. Rather, it undermines his oath renouncing foreign citizenship and, under the 2015 Arnado case, misstates citizenship in his certificate of candidacy (COC). Before renunciation, a dual citizen is obviously free to use either passport.


In Poe’s case, the US government issued an official “certificate of loss of nationality” (CLN) in 2012. This was submitted to the Senate Electoral Tribunal and is available online. So how could Poe be a US citizen when she filed her COC in 2015 (even if she used a US passport in 2011, which she denies)?

Poe’s critics really argue that she is American under Philippine law and Filipino under US law. This clearly impossible argument has been repeated in media for months.

Last September, I explained how US government regulations require a renouncing citizen to continue using a US passport until it issues a CLN, which takes several months. Because this is legally required by the United States (not voluntary), our courts cannot say the dual citizen intended to continue being a US citizen, especially not after a CLN is issued. But this is not even relevant for Poe’s COC filed in 2015, three years after the issuance of the CLN.

The Arnado case itself has illogic which Justice Arturo Brion has dissented against with increasing exasperation.


Rommel Arnado reacquired Philippine citizenship in 2008 under our dual citizenship law. He renounced US citizenship in April 2009 and won as mayor of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, in 2010 and 2013.

However, he continued to use his US passport in 2009. He argued he did this without intent to retain US citizenship, as he was waiting for his Philippine passport. The Supreme Court emphasized the requirements for public office are strict and ruled that his 2009 and 2012 COCs misstated his citizenship.


Brion emphasized, however, that what is logical in the abstract can be ridiculous in application. Arnado actually renounced his US citizenship four times and won two elections. To his great misfortune, the Supreme Court decision on his 2009 COC was issued after he filed his 2012 COC, with no chance to remedy it.

How did the Court address Brion’s simple objection? “There is no law prohibiting him from executing an Affidavit of Renunciation every election period if only to avert possible questions about his qualifications.”

We must stop and think how absurd it is for a citizen to be required to file an affidavit each time he exercises a right, simply because he was a dual citizen as allowed by our Constitution. Brion retorted: “There is equally no law that requires him to constantly and consistently assert his renunciation of any and all foreign citizenship.”

Brion added: “Neither is there any law that expressly or impliedly imposes on natural-born Filipino citizens the obligation to constantly assert their allegiance to the Republic… .”

This is not the first strange legal doctrine for dual citizens. The 2003 Macalintal case caused dual citizens to be excluded from overseas voting for 2004, even though a 2006 Supreme Court decision belatedly stressed they are equally citizens who may vote overseas.

Such illogic spills over to all OFWs. Macalintal’s case sought to invalidate all overseas voting, arguing the Constitution requires voters to be residents, even though it explicitly provides for overseas voting.

The illogic in the US passport issue may carry over to Poe’s residency. The general rule is that one is a resident where one lives and permanently intends to return. Poe stressed that when she returned in 2005, she quit her US job, moved her children to Manila schools, had her containers of belongings shipped to Manila, and bought a house in Manila.

Critics argue all her acts are irrelevant because she returned using a balikbayan visa waiver with a one-year renewable period, instead of formally reacquiring citizenship or an alien certificate of registration. However, the 2015 Caballero case looks for proof of intent to permanently return, not necessarily these specific documents. This attack dangerously applies to all OFWs, not just dual citizens.

Is the nitpicking over when Poe legally came home another variation of the indifference Brion raised in Arnado? Indeed, when a candidate moves to a different city or province to run for mayor or congressman elsewhere, is he subject to the same legal audit proposed for returning OFWs? If the residency requirement is intended to ensure that a candidate is familiar with the country, how can legal documents be paramount over acts? And note, it is different to reject a former dual citizen in one’s ballot and use law to refuse to even list her.

Only those who have felt the emotional roller-coaster of working abroad, and the incomparable gravity of finally coming home at the end of the ride, truly understand how vulgar these questions are.

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TAGS: Citizenship, disqualification case, DQ, Elections, Grace Poe, opinion, residency

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