Rommel Arnado vs. COMELEC
G.R. No. 210164. August 18, 2015.
Petitioner Arnado is a natural-born Filipino citizen who lost his Philippine citizenship after he was naturalized as a citizen of the United States of America (USA). Subsequently, and in preparation for his plans to run for public office in the Philippines, Arnado applied for repatriation under Republic Act No. 9225. He took an Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines and on April 3, 2009, he executed an Affidavit of Renunciation of his foreign citizenship. On November 30, 2009, Arnado filed his Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) for the mayoralty post of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.
Balua, another mayoralty candidate, however, filed a petition to disqualify Arnado and/or to cancel his CoC on the ground, among others, that Arnado remained a US citizen because he continued to use his US passport for entry to and exit from the Philippines after executing aforesaid Affidavit of Renunciation.
Arnado won the election, however, COMELEC declared that Arnado’s act of consistently using his US passport effectively negated his Affidavit of Renunciation.
While G.R. No. 195649 was pending, on October 1, 2012, Arnado filed his CoC for the same position.
COMELEC rendered its decision in the first case which disqualifies Arnado from running for mayor of Kauswagan, Lanao Del Norte in the May 10, 2010 elections. They opined that in his subsequent use of his US passport, Arnado effectively disavowed or recalled his April 3, 2009 Affidavit of Renunciation.
Capitan, Arnado’s lone rival for the mayoralty post, filed a Petition seeking to disqualify him from running for municipal mayor of Kauswagan and/or to cancel his CoC based on the ruling of this Court in Maquiling.
COMELEC noted that Arnado failed to execute another Affidavit of Renunciation for purposes of the May 13, 2013 elections.
Whether Arnado still failed to comply with the requirement of RA 9225 of making a personal and sworn renunciation of any and all foreign citizenship.
YES. The ruling in Maquiling was the first case dealing with the effect of the use of a foreign passport on the qualification to run for public office of a natural-born Filipino citizen who was naturalized abroad and subsequently availed of the privileges under RA 9225. It was settled in that case that the use of a foreign passport amounts to repudiation or recantation of the oath of renunciation. The Court in Maquiling did not consider the novelty of the issue as to excuse Arnado from strictly complying with the eligibility requirements to run for public office or to simply allow him to correct the deficiency in his qualification by submitting another oath of renunciation. Thus, it is with more reason that in this case, we should similarly require strict compliance with the qualifications to run for local elective office.
Arnado ran for public office during the May 10, 2010 and May 13, 2013 elections, to reiterate for emphasis, are the same. Arnado’s use of his US passport in 2009 invalidated his oath of renunciation resulting in his disqualification to run for mayor of Kauswagan in the 2010 elections. Since then and up to the time he filed his CoC for the 2013 elections, Arnado had not cured the defect in his qualification. Maquiling, therefore, is binding on and applicable to this case following the salutary doctrine of stare decisis et non quieta movere, which means to adhere to precedents, and not to unsettle things which are established. Arnado should be made to face the consequences of his inaction since he could have remedied it at the time he filed his CoC on October 1, 2012 or even before that. There is no law prohibiting him from executing an Affidavit of Renunciation every election period if only to avert possible questions about his qualifications.
In Maquiling v. Commission on Elections, the Supreme Court (SC) reiterated that natural-born citizens of the Philippines who have lost their citizenship by reason of their naturalization as citizens of a foreign country may qualify to run for public office upon taking the Oath of Allegiance and making a sworn renunciation of their foreign citizenship. Arnado subjected his citizenship to attack when he continued to use his United States (US) passport to travel in and out of the country despite previously renouncing his US citizenship. The simple act of taking the oath anew would have been enough compliance with the requirement of the law.
It did not matter that Maquiling was promulgated months after Arnado had filed for candidacy. Since he was not totally unaware that the use of his US passport might have adverse consequences on his candidacy for the 2013 elections, the Decision concludes that he should have been prudent enough to remedy whatever defect there might have been in his citizenship.
Congress enacted RA 9225 allowing natural-born citizens of the Philippines who have lost their Philippine citizenship by reason of their naturalization abroad to reacquire Philippine citizenship and to enjoy full civil and political rights upon compliance with the requirements of the law. They may now run for public office in the Philippines provided that they: (1) meet the qualifications for holding such public office as required by the Constitution and existing laws; and (2) make a personal and sworn renunciation of any and all foreign citizenships before any public officer authorized to administer an oath prior to or at the time of filing of their CoC.
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