SC unseats Lanao del Norte mayor

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By Mikha FloresVERA Files

The Supreme Court has unseated a mayor in Lanao del Norte and barred him from seeking re-election in Monday’s polls because of his continued use of a U.S. passport.

Voting 10-5, the high court upheld a Commission on Elections decision disqualifying mayor Rommel Arnado of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte from running for public office after he was found to have used an American passport four times in entering and leaving the Philippines.

The decision penned by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno ruled that using a foreign passport is “a positive and voluntary act of representation as to one’s nationality and citizenship”. A foreign passport may not remove a reacquired Filipino citizenship but it recants an oath of renunciation which is required to qualify for an elective position, it said.

It said that while Arnado followed the steps required to qualify as candidate for public office, his use of an American passport puts the issue of his citizenship to question.

“The renunciation of foreign citizenship is not a hollow oath that can be simply professed at any time only to violated the next day. It requires an absolute and perpetual renunciation of the foreign citizenship and a full divestment of all civil and political rights…” Sereno wrote.

The decision said Arnado was an exclusive Filipino citizen for only eleven days, from April 3, 2009 when he took an oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines to April 14, 2009 when he left the country and used a US passport.

“Citizenship is not a matter of convenience. It is a badge of identity that comes with attendant civil and political rights accorded by the state to its citizens,” Sereno wrote. “Holding public office demands full and undivided allegiance to the Republic and no other,” she added.

Arnado first filed his certificate of candidacy for mayor in November 2009. In April 2010, a rival candidate filed a petition to disqualify him on the basis of is residency.

The ousted mayor will be replaced by Casan Maquiling, who obtained the second highest number of votes after Arnado. He will assume office just a few days before the May 13 elections and has only until June 30 to serve his term as Kauswagan mayor.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true".)

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