FEDERICO PASCUAL: GMA-LACSON WAR GOOD FOR ROCO AND COJUANGCO

MANILA, September 23, 2003 (STAR) POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual, Jr.  - DUEL TO DEATH: Neither President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo nor Sen. Panfilo Lacson would win in their war of mutual destruction.

At the rate the Lacson and the Arroyo camps are dropping deadly bombs, they will end up destroying each other. None of the principals will come out unscathed.

There is a rising probability that both Arroyo and Lacson would be so severely damaged that they would be unable to wage a credible campaign for the presidency in the May 2004 election.

The beneficiaries of the political carnage are the smart presidential aspirants quietly watching in the sidelines, including former Sen. Raul Roco and businessman Eduardo Cojuangco.

After the smoke of battle clears, we expect to see Roco and Cojuangco consolidating the political forces left in disarray by the early outbreak of the Arroyo-Lacson hostilities. Neat.

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PROVING A POINT: While "Arroyo" here refers to First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, it could very well refer to his wife the President since she is presumed to be fully aware of what the husband has been doing (such as fund-raising) ostensibly for her.

Until Election Day in May next year, neither Arroyo nor Lacson would be able to prove anything in our slow-mo justice system. There would be no final conviction for any misdeed. It has always been like that.

So badly battered as they may be, Arroyo and Lacson can be expected to insist on running to prove their respective point and show campaign contributors that they really spent the money.

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FUND-RAISING?: Speaking of contributions, we have noted from e-mail going back and forth between Manila and the United States that Roco and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel have been actively campaigning among FilAms.

Part of this campaign appears to be fund-raising by their political committees, who also arrange their itineraries with Filipino gatherings for maximum results.

Now and then the question arises as to the legality of aliens giving and Filipino politicians accepting campaign contributions.

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ROCO SIDE: We once posed the question to Roco. He explained that with dual citizenship now accepted, the FilAms who may have contributed to his campaign kitty are also Filipinos and so it is all right.

We pointed out that dual citizenship does not just come about. FilAm who wants to be repatriated (or restored to his former Philippine citizenship) will have to apply for naturalization and then take a Philippine oath of allegiance.

At the time these FilAms contributed to Roco’s campaign chest, they were still aliens (Americans) since they had not applied for repatriation and had not taken the required oath of allegiance.

We cannot remember what Roco said by way of explanation.

That is not an idle question. It has to be settled since a Filipino politician’s acceptance of monetary contributions from aliens could be criminal and result in his disqualification.

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UNCONSTITUTIONAL?: The law on dual citizenship (Rep. Act No. 9225, also known as the Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003) itself is likely to be questioned before the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds.

A last-minute insertion into the text requires Filipinos who had been naturalized in another country to also a Philippine oath of allegiance for them to regain their lost Philippine citizenship.

This appears to run counter to the letter and spirit of Section 5, Article IV, of the Constitution that says: "Dual allegiance of citizens is inimical to the national interest and shall be dealt with by law."

Not that the charter even mandates that Congress pass a law dealing with this act that is denounced as inimical to the national interest.

What do we do with, for instance, FilAms who had taken solemn oaths of allegiance to the United States who are now also taking a similar oath of allegiance as returning Filipinos?

Isn’t this a case of the dual allegiance mentioned in Section 5, Article IV, of the Constitution?

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FIRST BATCH IN: It seems this issue was ignored by the first batch of around 300 FilAms who made history last Wednesday when they took a mass oath of allegiance upon their repatriation in San Francisco.

The oath was administered by Consul General Delia Mendez Rosal at the consulate on Sutter St. Our colleague Ben S. Simpao told us in an e-mail from the golden city by the bay.

"The swearing-in was supposed to start at 7 p.m. at the social hall on the 5th floor, but as more applicants trudged in, additional processing tables were put up on the 6th floor library. The ceremony commenced about 7:45 p.m.

"The program was ushered in with the singing of Bayang Magiliw, followed by Ako’y Pilipino and shouts of ‘Mabuhay ang Bagong Pilipino!’ The short talk of Consul Rosal followed.

"Rosal asked the returning Filipinos to raise their right hands and recite the oath of allegiance: ‘I, , solemnly swear 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.’

"Oath of Allegiance forms were distributed individually by Rosal (with a hand shake) like when one is receiving his school diploma. The yellowish form bore the golden seal of the Philippines with notary entries.

"We were made to pay $25 each as filing fee. Two ID photos costing $8 were required attachments to the application form. We were not made to produce or file an affidavit of intention to return and live in the Philippines.

"The crowd consisted mainly of Pinoys above-40 in age. Three applicants were out-of-towners: one traveled to SF out of Florida; one was from Michigan; and another was from Las Vegas. The rest were from SF, Vallejo, Oakland, Union City, San Jose, Stockton and the surrounding areas of the East Bay.

"Among those who took their oaths were Alex Esclamado, former publisher of Philippine News, Greg Macabenta, columnist Business World (Makati), lawyer Rene Pascual, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines California Chapter, lawyer Ted Laguatan, and Prof. Mellie Lopez of the University of California in Berkeley.

"The consular staff worked their butts off to make the affair a success. Hats off to them and the consul general. There were snacks for the visitors and California champagne to boot.

"Another mass oath-taking is scheduled Sept. 26 in Jersey City, with President Arroyo expected to preside over a mass oath-taking serving as the focal point of her meeting with Filipinos in the New York-New Jersey area. Other oath-taking are being planned in Sacramento (capital of California) this week and again in San Francisco before the end of the month."

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Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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