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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

As The Debate Continues, An Alien Remains Seated In Congress

The extent of the arguments and counter-arguments relating to the disqualification case filed in the Supreme Court against Negros Oriental Representative Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong is voluminous. According to her foes led by public interest advocate Louis "Barok"Biraogo, Limkaichong is a Chinese national who is disallowed by the Constitution from assuming a seat in the House of Representatives. Limkaichong supporters respond by insisting that Limkaichong is a Filipino citizen.

Because of the extremely adversarial exchange of views so far characterizing the Limkaichong case, the dispute has reached the Supreme Court. Biraogo filed a petition seeking the ouster of Limkaichong on the ground that no public money should be paid to an alien sitting in Congress. Allies of the beleaguered solon argue that even if Limkaichong is an alien, the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) and not the Supreme Court or the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has the power to unseat her.

An examination of the Limkaichong case record reveals that Limkaichong is an alien indeed. Documentary evidence submitted to the Comelec show that Julio Sy, the father of Limkaichong, was born in China, and that Julio Sy later on tried his fortune in the Philippines after World War II. Julio Sy eventually married a Filipina and after that he applied for naturalization as a Filipino citizen in proceedings instituted with the then Court of First Instance (CFI) in Dumaguete City. After the passage of time, the CFI declared Julio Sy qualified for naturalization.

Unfortunately for him, Julio Sy did not comply with the pertinent laws governing the acquisition of Filipino citizenship. Under the law, a copy of the decision of the CFI allowing him to assume Philippine citizenship must be served on the Office of the Solicitor General, as the lawyer of the State. This is to enable the government to appeal the decision of the trial court if it finds the grant to be legally infirm. Julio Sy never served a copy of the CFI decision on the Solicitor General.

That is not the only infraction of the law committed by Julio Sy. The law governing naturalization also mandates that Julio Sy can take his oath as a Filipino citizen only after 30 days from notice of the CFI decision. For reasons undisclosed, Julio Sy was unable to wait for the full period and took his oath one day short of the period prescribed by law. Can you imagine that? Why was Julio Sy in such a hurry that he was not willing to wait for just one more day as required by the law? He was not yet a Filipino citizen and he was already violating the law. Good grief!

Inasmuch as Julio Sy did not comply with the law governing naturalization, the CFI decision and his premature oath of citizenship are both void. Julio Sy never became a Filipino. He remains an alien as of this writing.

His daughter Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong was born in 1959 and the charter in force then was the 1935 Constitution. According to that Constitution, a person is a Filipino citizen only if his or her father is a Filipino citizen. Under that charter, the citizenship of the mother is immaterial. Precisely because Julio Sy did not comply with the law governing naturalization, the Comelec ruled that he is an alien, and he remains an alien to this time. Since Julio Sy is an alien, his daughter Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong is also an alien. That is all there is to that.

It is difficult to understand why the Supreme Court is taking a long time to decide the Limkaichong case. The Comelec has already ruled that she is an alien and the documentary evidence is very clear. Even retired Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban recently said that a decision in the Limkaichong case should not be too difficult to arrive at in view of the evidence. Being so, why does the Puno Court continue to sit on the case? Why does the case have to be referred to the HRET? According to Biraogo, the Court has already come out with a decision ousting Limkaichong from Congress and that decision was already signed by all 14 Associate Justices. If that is so, then why is Chief Justice Puno is still sitting on it? The term of office of a member of the House of Representatives is for three (3) years. Is it possible that the Limkaichong case shall have remained pending when her term is just about over? Why?

Why indeed? At the moment, nobody knows the reasons. What is undeniable, though, is that as the debate continues, an alien continues to sit in the House of Representatives and her salary is paid from taxpayer money.

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