POSTSCRIPT / September 14, 1999 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Send only Asean police to keep peace on Timor

IN the spirit of bayanihan, of neighbors helping one another, we strongly suggest that instead of sending United Nations peace-keeping troops to East Timor, only ASEAN members be asked to contribute police forces to help restore order on that bloodied island.

Indonesian President B.J. Habibie has announced willingness to welcome a UN peace-keeping force. Instead of using UN troops with a core from the Big Powers, the Association of Southeast Nations should muster a police force from its members and demonstrate its capacity to solve its own problems.

The stage has been set in East Timor for ASEAN to prove itself. We are confident that, with Indonesia cooperating in good faith, the regional association can restore order in East Timor and thus open it to badly needed humanitarian assistance from the rest of the world.

Let bayanihan in!

* * *

THE popular thing to do in the East Timor case is to lambaste Indonesia for the violent turn of events in that former Portuguese colony teetering on self-rule at the eastern fringe of Indonesia.

The general perception is that the roving bands of militia who attack, sometimes kill, people suspected of favoring an independent Timorese state are nothing but civilian agents of the Indonesian military taking orders from Jakarta.

The East Timor civil strife is of highest concern to Filipinos because Indonesia is our immediate neighbor and any instability in that part of the region is sure to affect us in many ways. Besides, the eruption of violence has threatened the safety of Filipinos on the island.

* * *

A SIMPLISTIC approach suggests that we denounce the violence, ask the Jakarta government to rein in the paramilitary gangs slaughtering innocent civilians, and insist on the recognition of the recent referendum held under UN auspices where the natives voted for independence.

Malacañang itself appeared poised to take this line of least resistance, until Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon Jr. made a mellow, conciliatory statement that seemed to give Indonesia the benefit of the doubt.

Siazon may have prevailed over the hawks in convincing President Estrada to take a more moderate position in relation to Jakarta. Postscript welcomes this voice of moderation now coming from the Estrada administration.

* * *

ONE reason for this attitude is that we face a problem similar to that of Indonesia. Former Ambassador to Indonesia Ramon J. Farolan mentioned this in his Star column yesterday, referring to the Muslim separatist movement in Mindanao-Sulu.

What if a potent group such as the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Arab bloc which regards with fraternal concern our brother Muslims, agitates for a East Timor-like referendum in the South?

If such a poll were to be held tomorrow, it would register sure defeat for a separatist vote for the simple reason that the Muslims are a minority even in their supposed bailiwick.

* * *

BUT winning the first referendum is not the point. Once a political referendum is held, there will be no stopping similar polls in the future.

The recurring referendums may mean repeated defeat for separatists, but the polls will keep the separatist idea smoldering in the hearts of minorities harboring grievances against the central government and the ruling majority.

While we support the general principle of self-determination, we cannot maintain double standards for the people of East Timor longing for independence and our own Muslim minority yearning for their separate political identity.

This is not to say that our position on Muslim separatist moves stands on shaky legs. We’re only saying that it requires pragmatism and an astute handling of the geopolitics involved.

* * *

THRE is another reason why Manila should not go overboard in joining the global chorus chastising Jakarta for the violence in East Timor.

We have been not only a good neighbor to Indonesia, but also a racial twin brother, a fellow ASEAN founding member, and a beneficiary of Indonesian mediation in calming the occasionally explosive drift of Muslim affairs in the South and other problems.

If we keep our cool and play our diplomatic cards well, we could be the perfect party to play a key role in straightening out the suddenly bloody twist that the Timorese vote of independence has taken.

* * *

IN ASEAN—which could provide a more effective mechanism for settling regional conflicts than the distant, lumbering United Nations—we are all committed to giving priority to pacific resolution of disputes.

One such peaceful avenue still open is the use of the good offices of third parties. If Manila maintains an outwardly objective position, the parties involved in the East Timor dispute may just seek the use of its good offices.

Such a development would bring invaluable dividends for President Estrada who, even now, is engaged in high-level politics in the APEC summit in Auckland, New Zealand, where the East Timor issue has cropped up.

* * *

THE issue of dual citizenship continues to heat up as readers write to consult us on their immigration problems. The most common queries are on the status of Filipinos who are also Americans by the fact of their having been born in the United States.

One reader confessed that she has been “in hiding,” meaning she has been hiding her dual citizenship on the mistaken belief that she was a legal leper and might just be clamped into jail if discovered to be carrying two passports.

Unfortunately, we are not an immigration lawyer. Our impulse is to advise them to consult the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, but many of them express outright their “fear” of immigration officers, not to mention what they call the “expense” of having to deal with them.

* * *

A FREQUENT correspondent who goes by the email name of Mcdiaz using an aol (AmericaOnLine) address contributes this relevant detail regarding Filipino Americans’ possibly losing their US citizenship.

We said last time that under certain circumstances, a US citizen may lose his citizenship by performing any of the following acts: (1) being naturalized in a foreign state; (2) taking an oath or making a declaration to a foreign state; (3) serving in the armed forces of a foreign state; (4) accepting employment with a foreign government; (5) or formally renouncing his US citizenship before a US consular officer overseas.

Mcdiaz points out that: “All of the expatriation laws in the US were rendered unconstitutional by the Afroyen case. This case simply stated that the power of naturalization is the power of the US Congress to confer citizenship.

“Congress has no power to revoke US citizenship. The only time a US citizen can terminate his US citizenship is by voluntarily renouncing his or her US citizenship before a US consular official.

“I don’t see any reason why a Filipino US citizen can lose his citizenship if he reacquires his Filipino citizenship as long as he will not voluntarily renounce his US citizenship before a US consular official.”

* * *

THE situation of a publisher who has three children by her American husband shows how complicated dual citizenship could be. She says in her email:

“(My sons are aged) 25, 21 and 20, all born in the Philippines. I’m Filipino, their father is American. They’ve never opted for American citizenship but simply availed of it through their father. When they were born, we registered them with the US embassy as Americans (so they carry US passports).

“Born and raised here, they’re like all other Filipino Americans who speak the language, and are more Filipino than American in their ways so they manage to assimilate themselves in the community. Except for the American surname they carry, nobody thinks of them as American.

“I applied for Philippine passports for them which they haven’t used in any of their travels — because we weren’t sure how to use two passports and didn’t want to violate any RP laws. When you say to use the Philippine passport to leave/enter NAIA, then use the American passport to enter/leave US, does that mean they will not be questioned in RP ports of entry/exit? Those who have done this, is it a matter of boldness or a right to do so?

“Since my husband is American/permanent resident of RP, he’s had to constantly keep his papers (ACR/re-entry permit) as required by RP. Without thinking that our three sons qualified as dual citizens, he applied for the same for all three of them. Does this complicate their status?

“We’ve faced eenie-mynee-moe situations constantly, like registering as Americans in RP schools to keep them from taking CMT/Pilipino subjects; yet when they work here, they claim Filipino citizenship to avoid the constant updating of ACR papers. Plus, they will inherit family properties.

“My oldest son joined the US navy in 1996. Does he automatically lose his dual citizenship by virtue of serving in the US military? Your column says so, but I just want to be absolutely sure. What if no one here knows he serves in the US navy?

“My youngest son came home last summer (from schooling in US) and since his re-entry permit had expired, he was given a balikbayan status. He’s now wanting to come home to study here, so he’s wondering what to do again.”

We’ll look for answers to her questions and those of others.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 14, 1999)

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