After my article (“Is Sen. Alan Cayetano a PH Citizen?”) appeared last week, my Facebook page was immediately besieged by the social media trolls of Sen. Cayetano who labeled my article “FAKE NEWS” and who went to great pains to disparage and discredit Wikipedia, which for today’s online users is what the Encyclopedia Britannica was to researchers in the pre-Internet past.
In his response, Sen. Cayetano personally declared my opinion article to be a“hatchet job, defamation and fake news” which he claimed “got so many things in the article wrong.”
What exactly did my article get “wrong”?
Sen. Cayetano’s first correction was: “To answer your headline: No I am not an American Citizen; I never chose to be an American Citizen.”
Wrong. The “headline” asked if he was a Philippine citizen, not if he was an American citizen.
It is also a lie that he “never chose to be an American citizen.” In his Comelec protest action against Cayetano, former Pateros Mayor Jose Capco, Jr, produced documentation from official government records showing that on January 23, 1985, Alan Peter Cayetano personally applied for and obtained an Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) asserting that he was an American citizen. As Atty. Capco pointed out, the law required Cayetano to personally apply for this ACR and he dutifully complied. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQo0V_n9agA
What I quoted in my article was Wikipedia’s report that Alan Peter Cayetano “renounced his US citizenship to stand for election to the Philippine House of Representatives in the 1998 elections, and to gain admission to the Philippine Bar that same month.” Https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_former_United_States_citizens_who_relinquished_their_nationality
In his response, Sen. Cayetano confirmed the essential facts provided by Wikipedia: “But even without any legal obligation nor necessity, I gave up my American Citizenship because even before I took the Philippine Bar or ran for Congress, I knew I wanted to serve the Filipino People and knew I could only best do that by having no questions to my allegiance”.
Sen. Cayetano was elected to the Philippine Congress in May of 1998 and became a member of the Philippine bar that same year. So he claims he gave up his US citizenship before May 1998.
But according to the Federal Register of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-1999-04-22/html/99-10022.htm), Sen. Cayetano’s name appears on the list of individuals “losing United States citizenship (within the meaning of section 877(a)) with respect to whom the Secretary received information during the quarter ending March 31, 1999.”
Was Sen. Cayetano still officially a US citizen when he ran for the Philippine Congress in 1998 and when he was admitted to the Philippine bar that same year?
While Sen. Cayetano openly acknowledges that he gave up his US citizenship only in either 1998 or 1999, the fact remains that when he ran for and won a seat as a Taguig City Councilor in 1991 and as Taguig City Vice Mayor in 1995, he was still a US citizen, by his own admission.
This is a significant issue for former Mayor Rommel Arnado who reacquired his status as a Philippine citizen in July 2008 and then renounced his American citizenship in April 2009 before running for mayor of his hometown of Kauswagan, Lanao in 2010. After winning the 2010 election, Arnado won reelection by a landslide in 2013.
After evidence was presented that Mayor Arnado used his US passport after he had renounced his US citizenship, the Comelec disqualified him, which Arnado appealed. In an 8-4 vote on August 18, 2015, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the Comelec’s disqualification of Arnado “in a decision that has now become part of the body of jurisprudence on the question of the qualification of candidates who once held foreign citizenship” (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/723478/sc-ousts-american-mayor-of-lanao-town).
“Only natural-born Filipinos who owe total and undivided allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines could run for and hold elective public office,” read the Supreme Court decision.
In his defense, Sen. Cayetano cited the Comelec’s decision in Capco’s disqualification case against him. On April 19, 2007, Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos told reporters that the Comelec had “junked” Capco’s disqualification case against Cayetano, finding that Cayetano is “natural-born Filipino citizen” because he was born in the Philippines with a Filipino father and an American mother.
Is Sen. Cayetano a “natural born Filipino citizen”?
The provision on Philippine citizenship is found in Article IV of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Section 1 states the following are citizens of the Philippines including:
“ Those born before January 17, 1973, of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority.”
If we accept a sexist interpretation of the law that this provision applies only to those with Filipino mothers and not those with Filipino fathers like Sen. Cayetano, then that would be his defense.
But if the law is gender-neutral and does not discriminate between Filipino mothers and fathers, then this section would apply to Sen. Cayetano who was born in 1970 and who elected US citizenship in 1985 when he applied for and obtained his Alien Certificate of Registration as a US citizen.
Article IV Section 2 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that: “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.”
Sen. Cayetano did not elect Philippine citizenship in 1985 when he obtained his ACR as a US citizen. The Comelec’s 2007 decision is useless because Chairman Abalos was satisfied to just examine Cayetano’s birth certificate to rule “with finality” that Cayetano is a “natural born Filipino citizen.”
There are dozens of Filipino Americans in San Francisco who have applied for a Philippine passport based on the fact that they were born in the Philippines of an American father and a Filipino mother but who left the Philippines with a US passport before they reached 21. Their applications for dual citizenship were denied by the Philippine Consulate because they were deemed not to have “elected Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority
In his response to my opinion piece, Sen. Cayetano presents himself as a poor victim who has been unfairly picked on even though, he declares, “I have dedicated my life, risked my life and sacrificed much for the Philippines. It is my duty and honor to do so.”
Sometimes, when someone is so full of himself, it is tempting to ask exactly how he risked his life and how much he sacrificed for his country.
In one TV interview shown on The Filipino Channel (TFC) a few years ago, I recall watching Sen. Cayetano proudly show off his prized collection of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant collectibles. If someone offered him $200,000 for them, he would likely reject the offer as way below their fair market value. After all, he sacrificed so much time collecting them that it just would be too much to ask him to part with them.
Perhaps Sen. Cayetano can also explain how much he risked his life to contribute P71.3 million pesos ($1.42 M) to the 2016 presidential campaign of Rodrigo Duterte, which is three times higher than his P23.6 million declared net worth in 2015. (Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report 12/08/2016).
Sen. Cayetano also pointed out that “the basic principle of both journalism and due process is to give the accused a chance to answer.” I am certain that the 8,000+ victims of the extrajudicial killings of the Duterte government he supports would have welcomed due process and the chance to answer the charge of being drug addicts before being sentenced to death.
Sen. Cayetano attacked the INQUIRER for presenting “One sided news with malicious views.” But this is not fair to the INQUIRER because the day after my article appeared, another INQUIRER columnist, Oscar Franklin Tan, wrote his opinion on the matter (“Yasay and Cayetano citizenship different”) stating that the law I cited did not exist.
Let us be clear that the basic facts I presented in my commentary are not in dispute. By his own admission, Sen. Cayetano was a US citizen from birth until he relinquished his US citizenship in either 1998 or 1999. Except for the precise date when Cayetano officially relinquished his US citizenship, the essential facts are not disputed. It is the legal interpretation of the law that Oscar Franklin Tan questions.
This deserves a serious discussion. If I am wrong, then dozens of Filipino Americans in San Francisco, and perhaps thousands all over the world, deserve to have their applications for dual citizenship approved because there is no legal requirement that dual citizens must “elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority” to be considered “natural born Filipinos” as Article IV of the Philippine Constitution requires.
If I am right, then Sen. Cayetano should immediately resign his post.
Below is Sen. Cayetano’s unedited response to my article as published in his Facebook page:
Balanced News, Fearless Views or One-Sided News, Malicious Views!
Thank You, Inquirer.net, for a well disguised malicious article.
First of all, the basic principle of both journalism and due process is to give the accused a chance to answer.
Because you neither called me nor asked anyone in my office – or just because this was simply a hatchet job -you got so many things in the article wrong.
To answer your headline:
No I am not an American Citizen; I never chose to be an American Citizen.
I am a Filipino and my only nationality is Filipino.
It is NOT true that it is not known what happened with the case filed by former Mayor Capco. A simple check with the Comelec would show that Comelec decided, with finality, that I am a Natural Born Filipino and qualified to run for and hold public office.
The ruling stated that – consistent with the Constitution and jurisprudence from the Supreme Court – 1) Unlike the other cases you mentioned in the malicious article, my case is different (basic law states that different facts lead to a different conclusion) – that I was born a dual Citizen having an American mother and a Filipino father; and (2) that one may be a Natural Born citizen of both countries.
But even without any legal obligation nor necessity, I gave up my American Citizenship because even before I took the Philippine Bar or ran for Congress, I knew I wanted to serve the Filipino People and knew I could only best do that by having no questions to my allegiance – the Philippine Constitution allows dual citizenship but detests dual allegiance; that is why we also passed a dual citizenship law for Filipinos living abroad.
I am not stateless because unlike others who were Filipino then gave up Filipino citizenship for foreign citizenship therefore losing their Filipino citizenship, I always had both, BUT gave up the foreign citizenship. Again, I never chose to be a U.S. Citizen; the reverse is true – I renounced it.
Your research dug up an old case and even a video but you couldn’t send me a text or an email, or give me a call to refute your allegations, or you couldn’t even get the result of the Comelec case.
Like many Filipinos, I love the Philippines and love America and its people, but my allegiance and loyalty is and will always be with the Philippines and the Filipino people.
I have dedicated my life, risked my life and sacrificed much for the Philippines. It is my duty and honor to do so.
In the process, I have argued and have gone head on against some of the most powerful people in the country.
At this stage of my public service, I have fully supported President Duterte’s quadruple war on poverty, crime, drugs and corruption. I have also fully supported his independent foreign policy, thus getting the ire of some in the U.S., ABS CBN, some in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and some in Rappler, some human rights advocates, and of course, the anti-Duterte forces.
That is a small price for me to pay for supporting the President and building a nation.
How about you, Inquirer? Your slogan is balanced news, fearless views?
At what price did you give that up? “One sided news with malicious views”
Let me challenge you. If I’m not Filipino, if I’m still a U.S. citizen or stateless, I’ll resign, not run for or accept appointment to public office. But if I am Filipino, you close down your newspaper. Or at least learn to get the other side before you publish!
May GOD Bless you despite our differences.
May GOD Bless The Philippines!
(Send comments to Rodislawyer@gmail.com or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127.)