Thursday, September 24, 2015

"Without undivided allegiance'

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

The somewhat abstruse wording—“without undivided allegiance”—that the Supreme Court used in its ruling against a town mayor discovered to have dual citizenship made me do a double-take. I computed it thus: Two negatives cancel out each other to produce a non-negative. Therefore, “without undivided allegiance” simply means “with divided allegiance.” A lesson for the mayor who, in two rulings, was stripped of his landslide victory.

The opposite of “without undivided allegiance” is without divided allegiance, which is the same as with undivided allegiance. Gets mo?

Tossing these words around in one’s head can be discombobulating. The devil is not in the grammar but in the syntax. But that is how it is with legalese.

An Inquirer news report said the high court, voting 8-4, upheld the Commission on Elections’ 2013 resolution disqualifying Mayor Rommel Arnado of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. Arnado had won reelection by a landslide despite questions about his citizenship dating to 2010, when he first ran for mayor. He was found to be “a candidate without an undivided allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines.”

“Undivided” is the operative word, with emphasis on the “un”. The mayor did not have that. Despite having renounced his acquired US citizenship and sworn to again become Filipino in order to run for an elective office, he still used his US passport. He was found out, and got the boot.

So dual citizens with two passports, be warned. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. The Comelec’s certificate of candidacy (COC) form now asks if the candidate has dual citizenship and has renounced the foreign one. Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the requirement had always been there. Now, by asking questions about citizenship in the COC, a candidate would at least be reminded to first put his/her status in order, or not to lie. The candidate cannot feign ignorance.

If you want to remain citizens of two countries in order to enjoy the benefits and the convenience, it is best that you do not run for an elective office, not even for mayor or for barangay chair. This is not discrimination, or saying that you do not love the Philippines, the land of your birth. This is saying that because you have dual citizenship, you are loyal to two countries. In fact, you are expected to be so because you swore to be so.

So enough with the sentimentality. Dual citizens are not totally undivided no matter their pronouncements, else why have both? But that’s all right. Nothing wrong with that. You alone can feel where your heart really lies, which could be in the Philippines. But you also know where the convenience and benefits are—in the other country.

In last week’s column, I wrote that I still have to find out what oath one takes—the wording of it, and it should better ring bloody poetic, with a sting to it (may kurot)—to regain Philippine citizenship. Several readers supplied me with the oath that blandly states:

“I ____________, solemnly swear (or affirm) that, I will support and defend the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines and obey the laws and legal orders promulgated by the duly constituted authorities of the Philippines; and I hereby declare that I recognize and accept the supreme authority of the Philippines and will maintain true faith and allegiance thereto; and that I impose this obligation upon myself voluntarily without mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”

Methinks it needs a rewrite. So many wordsmiths out there in both Filipino and English who can make that oath sound more profound and bloody poetic.

Quite a contrast to the oath of allegiance to the United States of America that presidential aspirant Sen. Grace Poe had made and later renounced when she reacquired Philippine citizenship. The nature of her citizenship is still being decided by the Senate Electoral Tribunal—whether she, a foundling with still unknown biological parents, is natural-born or naturalized.

Here now is the complete wording of that oath that, I said, makes me shudder when I think of Filipinos who utter it against the beating of their hearts: “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

One reader wrote to say that his mother wept (not with joy, he was sure) when she took her oath of allegiance to another country.

I’d like to think that foundlings found in the Philippines are natural-born citizens and should be allowed to run for elective office. But my issue with those who had renounced their Philippine citizenship and later reacquired it in order to run in the elections is allegiance or loyalty.

Is Poe, with her American brood, with or without undivided allegiance to the Philippines? Is she, with her American brood, with or without divided allegiance to this country?

Oaths signed on paper, oaths read and uttered, are not mere words. “So help me God” is how they usually end.#