CA defers Tulfo’s DSWD confirmation over citizenship, libel issues

Ryan Macasero

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CA defers Tulfo’s DSWD confirmation over citizenship, libel issues

DSWD SECRETARY. Secretary Erwin Tulfo attends the 2023 proposed budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, at the senate on October 12, 2022. Angie de Silva/Rappler


DSWD Secretary Erwin Tulfo admits to acquiring US citizenship, but says he renounced it earlier in 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Appointments (CA) on Tuesday, November 22, deferred the confirmation of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Erwin Tulfo over issues regarding his American citizenship and a libel conviction.  

“You were an enlisted personnel in the United States Army from 1988 until 1992. My question is, did you renounce your Philippine citizenship?” Caloocan Representative Oscar Malapitan asked Tulfo during the confirmation hearing. 

Tulfo did not respond to the question, and instead requested to speak to the CA in an executive session. 

While the DSWD secretary did not expound on all of the questions asked during the live-streamed hearing, he explained that, while in the United States, he worked for grocery stores before “working with the US Department of Defense.”

In a chance interview after the hearing, Tulfo told reporters that he asked for an executive session to answer in private the CA members’ concerns over his citizenship and his libel case in private. 

Tulfo admitted to acquiring US citizen in the late 1980s, but said he renounced it only in early 2022.

In 2017, issues over US citizenship also hounded then-foreign affairs secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr.

Yasay, who died in January 2020, denied having US citizenship when he was grilled by the commission then. It was later found that he only renounced his citizenship in 2016.

Libel conviction

SAGIP Representative Rodante Marcoleta asked about Tulfo’s 2000 conviction on libel, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008. 

Tulfo explained that the conviction was related to his job as a journalist about a “story” (column) he had written about alleged government corruption.

According to a 2008 article published by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, former Bureau of Customs official and lawyer Carlos So sued Tulfo for libel over columns he wrote in 1999 in the tabloid Remate, where he accused So of corruption and extortion. 

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Marcoleta, who is most known for rallying Congress to vote against ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, called the conviction a crime involving “moral turpitude.” 

Senator Chiz Escudero, however, said that if the CA would consider the libel conviction against Tulfo, that it could be “prejudicial,” considering pending legislation that would decriminalize it.

“There are many pending bills in the House [of Representatives] and the Senate. This (decriminalizing libel) was even suggested by the Canadian representative to the Universal Periodic Review in the United Nations. I myself am an author seeking to decriminalize libel. So if this will be taken against the nominee, and later the bill would be approved by Congress, I believe it would be prejudicial,” Escudero said. – Rappler.com

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Nobuhiko Matsunaka


Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at ryan.macasero@rappler.com