POSTSCRIPT / June 4, 2002 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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To sic or not to sic US forces on Abus

POLITICAL, NOT LEGAL: Everybody’s watching as the Arroyo administration wrestles with the resurgent idea that US forces be allowed to hunt down Abu Sayyaf terrorists on Basilan who are holding hostage an American missionary couple and a Filipino nurse.

Restricted to the Abu Sayyaf issue, the question of allowing foreign troops to engage in combat operations in the country has become more political than legal.

accepted interpretation of the constitutional ban (Section 25, Article XVI) on foreign troops pertains to their stationing or permanent basing in the country without benefit of an appropriate treaty. It is settled that the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement, under which US forces are currently deployed in the country, does not violate the constitutional ban.

if US forces with orders to hunt down Abu Sayyaf terrorists come under the VFA umbrella, their legal rear would be more or less covered. There will be the usual questions from the usual directions, but these can be put to rest with the usual responses.

problem, then, of sending US forces side by side with Filipino soldiers on search and destroy operations against Abu Sayyaf is mainly political. We assume that the Arroyo administration has commissioned periodic opinion polls on this issue for its guidance.

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POLITICAL, NOT LEGAL, ISSUE: If asked if we favor having American forces hunt down Abu Sayyaf terrorists, our answer would be “It depends.” It depends on how they are to be brought in:

  • If the route is for the Philippine government to ask for their deployment here with a combat mission, we will oppose it.
  • But if the US government will take the initiative of asking for permission to go after the Abu Sayyaf terrorists holding two American hostages, we will favor granting it.

It should be that full combat duty was an American idea and that we considered and approved it only after due consideration.

US military action can be rationalized as part of a global anti-terrorism campaign which the Philippines supports. In the context of hot pursuit, global terrorism is not protected by national boundaries. The sovereign status of participating countries is not compromised.

After verifying majority support of the population, we think the Arroyo administration can open the gate for US forces finally being unleashed — on request of their own government — against Abu Sayyaf terrorists holding hostage an American couple.

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GERMAN BOMBSHELL: At the bicameral Commission on Appointment yesterday, a German dropped a bombshell of an expose on alleged illicit multimillion-peso deals involving the construction of Passenger Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The revelations were made by Dr. Norbert Loesch, former consultant of Fraport AG, builder of the giant Frankfurt international airport and foreign partner of Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (PIATCO) that holds the contract to manage Terminal 3.

Loesch testified that he has expressed concern over the hiring of a certain Alfonso Liongson and had reason to suspect that part of the money paid to Liongson (about $200,000 a month for liaison work) would be used to pay off some officials.

Investigators are looking into an angle that Liongson may just be fronting for an influential person. There are also reports that Liongson is not the real name of the man, often seen in PIATCO circles, who has been extracting substantial “goodwill” money from contractors and concessionaires of Terminal 3.

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LESSON FOR GMA: In his affidavit, Loesch said that he was told by presidential adviser Gloria Tan Climaco about a meeting among Johannes Endler, Fraport’s chief financial officer, Secretary Alberto Romulo, Secretary Avelino Cruz and Tan Climaco wherein Endler allegedly confirmed that Transportation Secretary Pantaleon Alvarez was paid substantial amounts by PIATCO.

He said he was voluntarily disclosing the facts he knew “in compliance with the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany requiring that knowledge of circumstances involving graft and corrupt practices must be reported immediately to government authorities, lest I be accused of conspiring in the commission of a crime.”

As of deadline time, it could not be determined if Loesch’s revelation, which is hearsay, will affect the confirmation of Alvarez by the CA.

But if she is to learn any lesson from former President Fidel V. Ramos in his handling of contracts involving independent power producers (IPPs), President Arroyo may do well to hold the Terminal 3 contracts and look deeper into the deal and avoid being held to account for it later.

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WHY ONLY THE WOMEN?: We don’t mean to agitate the womenfolk on the issue of dual citizenship, but unknown to most of us, Philippine citizenship can be lost by a Filipino woman if “upon her marriage, to a foreigner, by virtue of the laws in force in her husband’s country, she acquires his nationality.”

One question is “Why only the women?” The law stripping women of their citizenship on that pretext does not look fair. What about Filipino men who marry foreign ladies and adopt their wives’ nationality?

Marrying a foreigner is just one of the ways for a Filipino to lose her citizenship under Commonwealth Act. No. 63, as cited by Rep. Marcelino C. Libanan, chairman of the House committee on justice in his sponsorship speech on House Bill No. 4720 titled “Philippine Citizenship Retention Act of 2002.”

Libanan cited Section 3, Article IV, of the Constitution that provides: “Philippine citizenship may be lost or reacquired in the manner provided by law.”

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HOW TO LOSE CITIZENSHIP: The law referred to is CA 63 that lists the seven ways for a Filipino to lose his citizenship:

  1. By naturalization in a foreign country.
  2. By express renunciation of citizenship.
  3. By subscribing to an oath of allegiance to support the Constitution or laws of a foreign country upon attaining 18 years or more.
  4. By rendering service to or accepting commission in the armed forces of a foreign country.
  5. By cancellation of the certificate of naturalization.
  6. By having been declared by competent authority, a deserter or the Philippine armed forces in time of war, unless subsequently, a plenary pardon or amnesty has been granted.
  7. In case of a woman, upon her marriage, to a foreigner if, by virtue of the laws in force in her husband’s country, she acquires his nationality.

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RATIONALE FOR BILL: While we asked earlier “Why only the women?”, Section 4 of the same Article IV cited by Libanan says: “Citizens of the Philippines who marry aliens shall retain their citizenship, unless by their act or omission they are deemed, under the law, to have renounced it.”

We hope that that section will assure the women that Filipino men who marry foreigners are also liable to lose their citizenship if the laws in their wives’ countries grant them the citizenship of their spouses in a process that requires their renouncing their Philippine citizenship.

The citizenship bill being pushed by Libanan seeks to nullify this effect of a Filipino’s marriage to an alien. The proposed amendment to CA 63 will grant dual citizenship to certain Filipinos deemed to have renounced or lost their Philippine citizenship.

He said that the “exodus of Filipinos in search of greener pasture has resulted in many Filipinos stripped of their citizenship when they opted for naturalization in their adopted country to avail themselves of the full benefits that the opportunities of migration has to offer.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 4, 2002)

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