SC bars mayor from public office for continued use of US passport

For continuously using his US passport even after he renounced his US citizenship, the mayor of Kauswagan town in Lanao del Norte was not only removed from his post, he was also prevented from running in any local elective post by the Supreme Court. Voting 10-5, the Supreme Court has barred Mayor Rommel Arnado, a former professional pilot, from holding any public office after he kept on using his American passport. "The SC held that Arnado's continued use of his US passport even after he renounced his US citizenship amounts to a recantation of his Oath of Renunciation thus disqualifying him as a candidate for the post of Mayor," Public Information Chief Theodore Te said Tuesday. The high court said the second placer in the May 2010 automated polls in Kauswagan, Cassan Maquiling, will have to take over from Arnado and sit as the new mayor. With 5,209 votes, Maquiling trailed behind Arnado by more than 700 votes during the May 2010 elections. Arnado of the Nacionalista Party got 5,952 votes in that elections. Arnado is a natural born Filipino but was later on naturalized as an American citizen. He applied for repatriation before the Consulate General of the Philippines in San Francisco, USA, and took the oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines on 10 July 2008. On November 30, 2009, Arnado filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for mayor of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. After winning, he was disqualified by the Commission on Elections after it found out that he had continued using his US passport at least six times. "The Court agrees with the COMELEC En Banc that Arnado’s act of using a foreign passport does not divest Arnado of his Filipino citizenship; however, by representing himself as an American citizen, Arnado voluntarily and effectively reverted to his earlier status as a dual citizen. Such reversion was not retroactive, it took place the instant Arnado represented himself as an American citizen by using his US passport," the Supreme Court said. "This act of using a foreign passport after renouncing his foreign citizenship is fatal to Arnado’s bid for public office, as it effectively imposed on him a disqualification to run for an elective local position," it added. The court said Arnado's dual citizenship at the time he filed his COC only qualified him to vote and not to run for a local elective position. "Arnado’s category of dual citizenship is that by which foreign citizenship is acquired through a positive act of naturalization; this is distinct from those considered dual citizens by birth, who are not required to take the oath of renunciation as the mere filing of the COC already carries with it an implied renunciation of foreign citizenship," the court said. "Dual citizens by naturalization are required to take not only the Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines but also to personally renounce foreign citizenship in order to qualify as a candidate for public office," it added. By using his passport even after his renouncement, Arnado was technically "effectively solely and exclusively Filipino only for a period of eleven days, from April 3, 2009 until Aprl 14, 2009." "The citizenship requirement for elective public office is a continuing one. It must be possessed not only just at the time of the renunciation of the foreign citizenship but continuously. Any act which violates the oath of renunciation opens the citizenship issue to attack," the Supreme Court said. "The Court agrees with the COMELEC First Division that the consistent use of the US passport effectively negated the Affidavit of Renunciation. This does not mean that he failed to comply with the twin requirements under RA 9225, for in fact he did. It was after complying with the requirements that he performed positive acts which effectively disqualified him from running for an elective public office," it added. — KBK, GMA News