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INSIDER’S NOTES ON ELECTION LAWS : Can’t Just DQ Another

Incumbent Mayor Bitong Bigote (Mayor Bigote) of the municipality of Budol, Batik Province, Philippines, is once again plagued by so many issues in his life.  Since the elections are fast approaching, everyone is busy with meetings and discussions whether they will run for public office or not.  Mayor Bigote, although looking composed, is in reality, hounded by a secret.  All throughout his political life, he kept this hidden from his office staff, his friends, the media, his constituents.  He was in fact a foundling.

Around 55 years ago, a pudgy, slightly jaundiced, infant was found in this municipality, wrapped in smuggled used clothing.  Said infant was described as newborn, male, with short legs, fleshy, heavy and a bit smelly.  Possessing spiky, thick, jet-black hair, he seemed to rub his head often to whoever would carry him, asking for food, love and comfort.  Once milk would be given to him, he would exhibit a somewhat strange smile resembling a sarcastic evil smirk.  Little would people know, that he was going to be the mayor of this municipality 55 years later.  He was found crying in front of an old church in Barangay Bitok, municipality of Budol, in the early morning of September, 1969, by the church’s gardener.  Since nobody was in the vicinity, the gardener brought the infant home. Finding the infant unattractive and somewhat wicked, he reported and registered the infant as a foundling in the Office of the Civil Registrar.  His foundling certificate would reveal, that the infant was given the name: “Bitong Bergante”.  When Mayor Bigote was four years old, he was adopted by spouses Bitoy and Bitara Bigote, a barren, God-forsaken couple, who, for years, yearned for a child of their own, until this not so precious bundle of future trouble, just landed on their laps.  Thus, the infant was named “Bitong Bigote” and when Mayor Bigote reached 18 years of age, he registered as a voter of the municipality of Budol.

Two years later, Mayor Bigote applied for a Philippine passport, he went to the US where he earned a degree in Political Ballistics and Tactics.  Mayor Bigote married Mrs. Bigote, a dual citizen (US and Filipino).  Sometime in 2001, Mayor Bigote became a naturalized US citizen.  But because of the illusion that there are unending calls for him to serve the municipality of Budol, that he is destined to become a faithful public servant therein, Mayor Bigote and his family decided to relocate to the Philippines for good. In 2002, Mrs. Bigote officially informed the US authorities of their family’s change of residence, the sale of their real properties and the abandonment of their home in the US.  Mayor Bigote, in preparation for his candidacy for mayor and aware of the requirements under the Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003 (RA 9225), took the oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines as well as Executed a Sworn Renunciation of any or all Foreign Allegiance. Thus, he was deemed to have reacquired his Filipino citizenship.  True enough, the constituents loved his campaign propaganda.  That election year, Mayor Bigote won by landslide as Mayor.

Presently, Mayor Bigote is deeply troubled by the fact that his staunchest opponent for the position of Mayor, Pepong Malutong, an almost malnourished guy, who never wears a smile, will be filing a disqualification (DQ) case.  It is almost certain that said DQ case will allege that since Mayor Bigote is a foundling, then he is not a natural born citizen of the Philippines, which is a qualification for running for public office in this country. The DQ case might also include that foundlings, even those with repulsive appearance, cannot be considered natural born citizens, consequently, these ‘despicable’ people, cannot avail of the provisions of RA 9225.  Even assuming that Mayor Bigote is a natural born disgusting citizen, he already lost said status when he had himself naturalized as a US citizen, therefore he must be disqualified (DQued).  Is this contention correct?

Answer:  No.  “As a matter of law, foundlings are as a class, natural-born citizens.” (Poe-Llamanzares vs. Comelec, March 8, 2016). Mayor Bigote could not have been born of foreign parents who would end up abandoning him.  There is no effect on the citizenship of a foundling, whether it is foreign or a Filipino if the foundling is born in the Philippines.  “To deny full Filipino citizenship to all foundlings and render them stateless just because there may be a theoretical chance that one among the thousands of these foundlings might be the child of not just one, but two foreigners is downright discriminatory, irrational, and unjust.  It just doesn’t make any sense.  Given the statistical certainty- 99.9% – that any child born in the Philippines would be a natural born citizen, a decision denying foundlings such status is effectively a denial of their birthright.” (Poe-Llamanzares vs. Comelec, March 8, 2016).

What if Mayor Bigote decides to run for President and his period of residence is going to be questioned, that even if he should finish his term as mayor, he would not complete the residency requirement of 10 years for President?

Answer:  Mayor Bigote can run for President of the Philippines.  The records would show that Mayor Bigote and his family have officially and effectively changed their residence when they decided to relocate to the Philippines for good.  “There are three requisites to acquire a new domicile:  1.  Residence or bodily presence in a new locality; 2. an intention to remain there; and 3. an intention to abandon the old domicile.  To successfully effect a change of domicile, one must demonstrate an actual removal or an actual change of domicile; a bona fide intention of abandoning the former place of residence and establishing a new one and definite acts which correspond with the purpose.” (Poe-Llamanzares vs. Comelec, March 8, 2016).

What if Mayor Bigote committed a mistake, instead of indicating that he is a resident of the Philippines for 22 years, he wrote 9 years and 11 months in his cOc?

Answer:  This is not a fatal error because proof of actual residence may be presented and can prevail over the entries stated in the cOc. “It is the fact of residence, not a statement in a certificate of candidacy which ought to be decisive in determining whether or not an[d] individual has satisfied the constitution’s residency qualification requirement.” (Romualdez -Marcos vs. Comelec, September 18, 1995)

***Characters depicted herein are purely fictional.  Comments in this article are made by me in my  personal capacity as a lawyer and not as an employee of the Comelec.

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