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Citizenship by convenience

What kind of country have we become, when we have to debate the fine legal issues of whether Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares remains a US citizen or how long she has lived in the country to be qualified to run for President or Vice President?

For chrissakes, she renounced being Filipino when she became a US citizen, and she doesn’t even care to tell us when.

To become one, she declared under oath, to use the words of the US Oath of Allegiance, that she “absolutely and entirely renounces and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to the’ Philippines.” In that oath, she even vowed to “bear arms” on behalf of the US.

And you want somebody who solemnly renounced — the meaning of “abjure” — the Philippines to be our leader?


We are not talking here of a case like that of her adoptive father, Fernando Poe, who had no choice but to be American, as he could not have chosen his parents.

We are not talking here of a case like that of her adoptive father, Fernando Poe, who had no choice but to be American, as he could not have chosen his parents.

We are talking here of somebody who had a Filipino citizenship but who decided in her adult life to be an American citizen, who even probably, I dare speculate, risked being an illegal alien – “TNT” is how they are called by Filipinos in the US – for a time.

 Background: Poe’s US passport. She denounced her country to be an American. Now she wants to be our leader?
Background: Poe’s US passport. She denounced her country to be an American. Now she wants to be our leader?

Was she poor that she just wanted her family to escape poverty from her unwanted country? No. Was she escaping political persecution? No.

She comes from a family that was among the Philippines’ rich elite. She studied in the most expensive schools here (high school, Assumption College San Lorenzo) and abroad (Boston College). She had famous and very rich step-parents. Her father was even rumored to be the most powerful Filipino ever, Ferdinand Marcos.

Yet, she decided to renounce her being Filipino, and swore allegiance to the US.

For what? For the convenience of shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue or Tiffany’s or maybe even Walmart, and touring Disneyland and Hollywood anytime she wanted? What does that tell us of her character and deepest values?

C’mon guys. Do you think somebody in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, or the Republic of Timbuktu would dare to run for any public office there after having renounced his or her citizenship in those countries? Then reassumed the citizenship in order to win a high office?

By becoming senator and now lusting after the highest office of the land, Mrs. Llamanzares is insulting our notions of country and nationalism.

I was expecting her to say that she renounced her US citizenship when she realized that she wanted to serve the country of her birth and of her parents, whoever they were.

But instead, she matter-of-factly said she had to do that since her appointment as head of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board “required it.”

Her husband still a US citizen?
Has her husband renounced his US citizenship? Or are they keeping their options open, one foot on each of their two countries, and decide where they’ll stay when doing so becomes convenient and profitable for them?

If she lost in the senatorial election, would she have applied for citizenship — since renouncing one’s US citizenship is irrevocable — in Canada instead, or like that noisy over-the-hump singer, in Australia?

I’m afraid I may have gotten old without realizing it, but I cannot understand that the next generation of Filipinos, that of Llamanzares, has taken citizenship as a trivial matter, and one of convenience.

There are probably 5 million Filipinos who have immigrated to the US, Canada, and Australia to become citizens of those countries. Half of my high school class at the Ateneo and probably half of my relatives, including in-laws, are in North America.

That is their choice which I respect, especially since most of them had children whom they thought would have a better life in the most developed countries in the world.

But I cannot respect people who take advantage of our depraved celebrity-politics, and who, like Llamanzares, think – just because her name-recall commands stupid votes – she can lead the country and change citizenships like a jacket one has gone tired of wearing.

Citizenship for Llamanzares is obviously one of convenience. Did she ever show any interest in social issues even in the US, and more so in the huge problems of our country, to think she can lead us as President? Did she study political science or public administration that led her to want to contribute her expertise to the development of her country?

Nations are really fraternities, an organization of which you are a member, and to which you have allegiance. Imagine if a member of Alpha Sigma denounces it for some vague reason and joins Sigma Rho. Years later he decides to leave Sigma Rho, to rejoin Alpha Sigma. Would that fraternity accept him back and allow him to be Grand Chancellor or whatever?

I am sure this is the only country in Asia, and even in the world, where somebody who has renounced her or his citizenship still gets to be elected senator (or Parliament member) and even arrogantly intends to seek the highest post of the land. I don’t think such really foolish issues arise in other civilized societies.

The US could be an exception, with one president and several would-be presidents having been accused of being born not in the US, and therefore not natural-born, as alleged in the recent cases of George Romney, who was born in Mexico and John McCain, in Panama.

Of course, there were questions over US President Obama’s citizenship, but these obviously were merely raised by bigoted American whites who rejected the idea of having an African-American as president.

Seriously, do you think Obama would have even become Illinois State senator if at any time of his life, he had renounced his US citizenship, as Llamanzares did of her Filipino citizenship?

Mamasapano report
I admired Llamanzares for her courage in leading the Senate committee’s investigation that concluded it was a case of command responsibility over the Mamasapano massacre of 44 of our elite troops by Muslim rebels. But she stopped there, a one or two days’ moment of independence. She has done nothing to make Aquino, his bosom friend Gen. Allan Purisima and army generals who refused to rescue our commandos accountable for the crime.

Or was it all simply her way to catapult herself to the name-recall level for the presidency, or even to nudge Aquino, “make me your candidate, or else.” The kindest assessment of Llamanzares is to revise that adage to read: “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed lady is Queen.” In this Senate crop of mediocre-minded senators and Aquino lackeys, anybody who can just demonstrate a modicum of integrity and courage gets front-page praises, to be queen of the blind.

But she demonstrated a lack of delicadeza when she signed the resolutions of the committees of Aquino lackeys Antonio Trillanes 4th and Aquilino Pimentel 3rd recommending plunder charges against somebody who obviously was her biggest obstacle to the presidency.

There is a pragmatic reason why we are worried over Llamanzares’ past. It is well known that not a few Filipinos of adult age, in their desperation to become US citizens, had risked being illegal aliens for a time and stay in the US even after their tourist visas expired, until they could get expensive lawyers to win for them a court decision allowing them citizenship.

Unless, Llamanzares provides us with all the details and documents of how she became a US citizen — such as how and when she entered the US — we can’t be sure that some CIA operative (or even an investigative reporter) would unearth that she was using fake documents for a time or worked without a work permit until she became a citizen.

Do we want to risk a scenario in which the US blackmails the Philippine President to force her to comply with all its interests, even provide any information it requires? Do we risk a scenario where the nation is humiliated, with an American investigative journalist writing a banner article headlined: “Philippine President once an illegal alien in the US?”

What kind of a country have we become when a senator carrying the name of one of our great nationalists, Claro M. Recto, trivializes the citizenship of our Republic?

I am referring to Ralph Recto, who took the effort to issue a press statement he thought was cute: “If they pursue that line of inquisition against Grace, she might end up being adopted by the whole nation. Baka ampunin pa siya ng bayan.”

It’s not a line of inquisition, but a serious, valid concern that the masses, which the elite have deprived of access to accurate information, elect a US citizen. Recto’s is inane thinking. Llamanzares had been adopted by rich and famous Filipinos, Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces. But she chose to be adopted by the US. Now Recto thinks Filipinos would not only adopt her, but make her their leader?