|EMBATTLED Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte Mayor Rommel Arnaldo
MANILA – In a decision that could have a bearing on Sen. Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares, the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the disqualification of a mayor in Lanao del Norte for reportedly being an American citizen.
In its 21-page ruling penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, the high court affirmed the December 2013 ruling of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc and in a division disqualifying Kauswagan town Mayor Rommel Arnado in the 2013 elections.
Arnado is a natural-born Filipino citizen but lost his Philippine citizenship when he was naturalized as a US citizen. He later applied for repatriation before the Philippine consul general in San Francisco, California in preparation for his plans to run for public office in the Philippines.
Arnaldo took an oath of allegiance to the Philippines on July 10, Almost a year later, on April 3, 2009, he executed an affidavit of renunciation of his US citizenship.
His electoral bid, however, was contested because his continued use of his US passport after his renunciation meant he remained a US citizen. Despite the pending disqualification case against him, Arnado ended up winning the 2010 mayoral race in Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte.
The high court said Arnado continued using his American passport even after renouncing his US citizenship in 2009 to run for mayor in 2010.
It dismissed Arnado’s petition and lifted the status quo ante order it earlier issued to stop the Comelec order.
In its ruling, the SC said “only natural-born Filipinos who owe total and undivided allegiance to the country could run for and hold elective posts.”
The SC allowed Arnado’s rival, Florante Capitan, to assume the post, although there are only nine months left in the term.
The high court also disqualified Arnado in the 2013 elections for the same circumstance. The decision came out in April 2013.
“The circumstances surrounding the qualification of Arnado to run for public office during the 2010 and 2013 elections were the same,” the ruling stated.
Arnado’s use of his US passport in 2009 invalidated his oath of renunciation, resulting in his disqualification in the 2010 election.
“When Arnado used his US passport just 11 days after he renounced his US citizenship, he recanted his oath of renunciation,” the ruling said.
Records showed that Arnado used his US passport four times since April 2009, when he renounced his American citizenship, to November 2009 when he filed his certificate of candidacy for the 2010 mayoralty race.