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SC Justice: Why did Poe give up PH citizenship?

MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo opened the firing salvo during the oral arguments on the disqualification case of presidential bet Senator Grace Poe on Tuesday, January 19.

Castillo asked Poe’s private counsel, Alex Poblador, why the senator had to renounce her Philippine citizenship when she had a good and “affluent” life in the country.

“She had a good life here. She is famous, with an affluent mother and father. She lived in a very affluent neighborhood, studied in best schools here and abroad. I mean, I couldn’t see the reason why she has to give up Philippine citizenship and go to the States and become an American citizen,” Del Castillo said.

Del Castillo is the ponente in the consolidated Comelec cases on Poe. (READ: It's a close Supreme Court vote on Poe cases)

Poe, who got married to husband Neil Llamanzares in 1991, became a naturalized US citizen in 2001. She was a dual citizen of both the US and the Philippine from 2006 to 2010.

Poblador said Poe chose to become a US citizen in 2001 at the height of terrorism scare in the US after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when permanent residents had difficulty getting a job.

“This was the time of 9/11 because of the attacks, there was a general suspicion on residents who refuse to become citizens. Because of that situation, it is difficult for permanent residents to find job. To finance the family, she decided she had to take a job of her own. The only way to become that is to become a naturalized US citizen,” Poblador explained.

The lawyer defended all Filipinos abroad, asserting their continued loyalty and allegiance to their mother country, its culture, and their countrymen  even after living overseas.

What took her 4 years to renounce US citizenship?

In 2006, Poe availed of Republic Act 9225 or the Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act to become a dual citizen of both countries. She only renounced her US citizenship in 2010, when President Benigno Aquino III appointed her as chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

This prompted Del Castillo to question why it took Poe 4 years before renouncing her foreign citizenship.

“Is there any particular reason? If she were not appointed, would she not have renounced her US citizenship?” Del Castillo said

“We could not really determine. Maybe if things didn’t happen as she wants them, she would have gone back [to the US]. She waited until she got an appointment,” he added.

But Poblador maintained that Poe had already shown her intent to permanently reside in the country as early as May 24, 2005, when she and her 3 children flew back to the Philippines.

“Before she could run for office she had to renounce her US citizenship so in so far as the requirements of law are required, she followed the law completely. There is no doubt about that. Maybe we can make judgements on why she did not renounce earlier but there are no legal arguments against her eligibility today,” Poblador said.

Why use US passport even after getting PH passport?

Poe, as a dual citizen, acquired her new Philippine passport on October 13, 2009. She, however, still used her US passport even after that – something that is allowed, according to her camp.

While Poe’s camp maintained the senator is entitled to that as a dual citizen via RA 9225, Del Castillo asked,“If she already had a Philippines passport on October 13, 2009, why did she continue to use her US passport at least 4 more times?”

In defense, Pobaldor said: “Until she renounced under oath her US citizen on October 20, 2010, she was a dual citizen. She had a right to use either passport. It is common knowledge that it is easier to use a US passport to enter the US and to travel abroad. [Her use of it was] more practical and pragmatic, nothing to do with allegiance or loyalty.”

Del Castillo then asked Poblador why Poe kept returning to the US.

Poblador said Poe had to return every now and then, as they were still in the process of selling their house and disposing their assets. Their house in the US was eventually sold in April 2006.

Del Castillo also pressed Poblador on the other properties and bank accounts of Poe and her family in the US – things, he said, which would prove Poe’s determination to stay in the Philippines. 

“They lived there for 10 years so I assume they have amassed tremendous amount of property. Their bank accounts? Did she vote for any official running for public office (in the US)? Did she buy a burial lot there? I’m trying to determine how determined she is to stay here. If all their bank accts are in the US, these are just possibilities,” he said. – Rappler.com 

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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