POSTSCRIPT / August 31, 2003 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why a senator chose hell instead of heaven

BARGAINING TIME: A Political Summit? Those of us reeling from political overdose object to that Grand Cabal. The convention will just bring together partisans hurting from the political combat that has been drawing blood from both sides.

Both the administration and the opposition camps want a truce before they destroy each other and lose their business. You think it’s for love of country?

High on the hidden agenda, of course, is a ceasefire, a lull while everybody licks his wounds. In other words, what’s up is a Political Summit for disengagement, bargaining, mutual accommodation, compromises, and you know what else….

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SENATORIAL CHOICE: Having said that, we pass on to you for Sunday reading this story we’ve picked up from the Web and changed a bit:

A powerful Senator dies before realizing his dream to become President. He knocks at the pearly gates of Heaven and is met by St. Peter.

“Welcome,” says St. Peter. “But if the gentleman would just wait for a while… there’s a little problem. You see, we seldom see a high official around these parts, so we’re not so sure what to do with you.”

“No problem, just let me in,” says the perfumed Senator dusting off his Italian suit while glancing at his diamond-studded wristwatch.

“Well, I’d like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in Hell and one in Heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.”

“Really, I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in Heaven,” grins the Senator.

“I’m sorry, but we have our rules.” And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and the perplexed Senator goes down, down, down to Hell.

The massive door opens and he finds himself in the middle of a verdant, sunlit golf course. In the distance is the club and gathered in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is in a festive mood and looking elegant in evening attire. They rush to greet him, hug him. They reminisce about the good times they’ve had while consolidating power and getting richer at the expense of the people. They play a friendly round of golf and then dine on lobster and caviar. The works.

Also present is the Devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes.

They are having such a good time that, before the Senator realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a big hug and waves as the elevator takes him up to Heaven.

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on Heaven. St. Peter greets him, “Now it’s time to visit Heaven.”

So another 24 hours pass with the Senator joining a group of contented souls drifting from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by.

St. Peter returns for him. “Well then, you’ve spent a day in Hell and another in Heaven. Now choose your eternity.”

The Senator reflects for a minute, then answers. “Well, I would never have said it, I mean Heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in Hell.”

Without much ado, St. Peter escorts the Senator to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to Hell.

The door of the elevator opens and he finds himself in the middle of barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags.

The Devil comes over to him and lays his arm on his neck.

“I don’t understand,” stammers the Senator. “Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and club, and we ate lobster and caviar, and danced and had a great time. Now there is a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable.”

The Devil looks him in the eye, beams the familiar smile of a seasoned politician and hisses, “Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted for us!”

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OPPOSING VIEW: After we said that United States policy appears to have eased in recent years as regards dual citizenship, we received an email from former Ambassador Rodolfo A. Arizala (now residing in Santiago, Chile) saying that there may be some problems.

(The law on Dual Citizenship, titled Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003, was signed last Friday by President Arroyo.)

We said in our last Postscript (28Aug2003) that when a naturalized Filipino American regains his lost Filipino citizenship by, among other actions, taking a Philippine oath of allegiance, he does not automatically lose his US citizenship because US law and policy presume that he intends to keep it.

There is a process provided in the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) for an American abroad (outside the US) to lose or give up his citizenship. We said that if the process is not followed or if all the elements of that process are not present, his renunciation is legally ineffective.

We said that taking an oath of allegiance before a Philippine authority under the new Dual Citizenship law is not part of that process, so it cannot be the renunciation envisioned in the US law.

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PROVISIONS CITED: But Ambassador Arizala said that under the US Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, “it appears that by swearing an oath of allegiance to a foreign government or even accepting public position in foreign country and swearing an oath, one loses his US citizenship.”

Arizala cited these provisions in Section 349 of the INA concerning loss of nationality by native-born or naturalized citizen of the US:

“Sec. 349. (a) from and after the effective date of this Act a person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by-

“(2) taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or political subdivision thereof; or

“(4) (A) accepting, serving in, or performing the duties of any office, post, or employment under the government of a foreign state or political subdivision thereof, if he has or acquires the nationality of such foreign state; or (B) accepting, serving in, or performing the duties of any office, post or employment under the government of a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof, for which office, post, or employment an oath, affirmation, or declaration of allegiance is required; or

“(5) voting in a political election in a foreign state or participating in an election or plebiscite to determine the sovereignty over foreign territory; x x x”

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I.N.A. AMENDMENTS: We thank the ambassador for contributing to the discussion. Unfortunately, there is no time or space here for a lengthy comment on his rejoinder. We therefore defer discussions on them.

To summarize our would-be comments, these are some of the laws that have amended INA provisions having to do with US citizenship and naturalization: Public Law 95-432 signed in 1978 by President Carter; PL 99-653 signed 1986 by President Reagan; PL 103-416 signed 1994 by President Clinton; and PL 106-395 signed 2000 by Clinton.

We hope Arizala did not miss those amendments. The first two merely made the INA conform with pertinent decisions of the US Supreme Court making the law less restrictive (as we pointed out last Thursday).

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AVOIDABLE TYPOS: As errata and apologia, we beg the indulgence of readers who had noticed the many typographical errors in our previous Postscript on Dual Citizenship.

A grizzled newsman, we normally do not bother anymore with typos. But those in our last column twisted the essence of some of our statements and made us look stupid.

In this age of technical sophistication, such typos are not supposed to occur. Emailed text is simply copied and pasted on the waiting page with virtually no chance of a technical error making a mess of the text, if in the hands of competent people.

We have received email from readers asking for clarification. In one case, we advised a publisher in Arizona who wanted to reprint that Postscript to go to our website to get the correct copy.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 31, 2003)

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