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MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court, 12-0, today barred Sandiganbayan justice Gregory Ong from assuming the lone vacant position in the Tribunal following issues about his citizenship.
In a 12-page decision penned by associate senior justice Adolfo Azcuna, the High Court sustained the argument of Kilosbayan Foundation and Bantay Katarungan Foundation that Ong cannot be named to the SC because he is a naturalized Filipino citizen, as shown by his birth certificate.
Under the Constitution, only natural-born Filipino citizens can be named to collegial bodies in the judiciary, such as the Sandiganbayan and the SC.
Ong has argued that he is natural-born citizen, citing his ancestral lineage. He claimed that his great-grandmother Maria Santos and mother, Dy Guiok Santos, were Filipino citizens and only acquired Chinese citizenship due to marriages. His Filipino citizenship was also recognized by the Bureau of Immigration and the Department of Justice, he added.
But the Court gave heavier weight to the records appearing in Ong’s birth certificate stating that both his parents were Chinese.
The SC said Ong should have sought a court proceeding to correct his nationality in the birth certificate since “a summary administrative proceeding to correct clerical or typographical errors in a birth certificate cannot apply to a change in nationality.”
The Court also downplayed Ong’s ancestral lineage, saying he has still the “burden of proving in court his alleged ancestral tree as well as his citizenship under the time-line of three Constitutions.”
“Until this is done, respondent Ong cannot accept an appointment to this Court as that would be a violation of the Constitution,” the decision said.
The decision effectively quashes Ong’s chances of being appointed to the Tribunal. The President has only until July 27 to appoint the 15th member of the bench. A potential appointee is Sandiganbayan justice Teresita de Castro, who is handling the case of deposed president Joseph Estrada.
President Arroyo appointed Ong to the Supreme Court despite the zero votes he got from the justices and the low number of votes from the Judicial and Bar Council. Ong is said to be a close friend of the President’s brother, Diosdado Macapagal Jr. – Newsbreak