POSTSCRIPT / September 7, 2003 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

Share on facebook
Share This
Share on twitter

Some senators need review on basic facts

TEKA MUNA: Before our senators troop back to the chamber tomorrow to resume their inquiry into private lives and private bank accounts, let us review a few basic facts.

So far, the witnesses attending Senate hearings have done so in response to official invitations, not summons. As guests, they are entitled to a little more courtesy.

The witnesses appear and testify not as accused or respondents in a court-like setting. They are in the category of resource persons invited to help the senators formulate laws, or, as they say, “in aid of legislation.”

It is the height of discourtesy, it is sheer arrogance, for any senator to scold, insult and humiliate any invited guest testifying on the witness stand.

If any witness appears to be making false or misleading testimony, the witness can be censured or punished if found by the body — not by a single or several senators — to have lied or misled the body. A senator may not arrogate unto himself that collegial function of the entire body to discipline errant witnesses.

* * *

NOT A COURT: Another important notion to remember is that whatever the members think of themselves, legislative committees cannot decide the guilt or innocence of private individuals linked to any alleged crime.

Not even the entire Senate can perform that judicial function. Such a delicate task is reserved by the Constitution for the courts.

Senate leaders may want to discuss these basic points with selected members whose conduct during the hearings suggests that they may not be sufficiently familiar with the concept and procedures of legislative hearings.

We cringe at the sight of these hyper senators bawling out witnesses testifying in response to the invitation of the Senate.

* * *

LACSON ABROAD: Sen. Joker Arroyo, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee (one of several panels jointly looking into money-laundering), said that Sen. Panfilo Lacson must produce evidence in tomorrow’s hearing to support his charges against First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

But Lacson went abroad before the weekend and is not likely to return by tomorrow.

His spokesman said Lacson went to Australia to gather evidence of Arroyo’s money laundering. This is strange behavior. Didn’t the senator say in his accusatory privilege speech last Aug. 18 that he already had evidence to pin down Arroyo?

Did the senator make himself scarce because he is not ready with his evidence and wants to avoid an embarrassing konfrontasi tomorrow?

Lacson is lucky his fellow politicians hurting from the savage exchange of accusations are rushing a ceasefire leading to a Political Summit that is likely to scale down the level of combat.

* * *

OVER-REACHING: With President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo having rejected the pathetic attempt of a US district judge to stop our Supreme Court from ordering the seizure of $683 million in Marcos wealth, there is no more need for other officials to denounce the US magistrate.

There is also absolutely no reason to file a diplomatic protest as some senators have suggested. The best course of action, we think, is to just ignore the judge presiding over the pineapple plantations of Hawaii.

Anyway, the US judge cannot enforce his order freezing and reserving for torture victims the Marcos millions held in escrow by the Philippine National Bank.

The Hawaii judge is clearly over-reaching. Our Supreme Court is not under him or any court in or out of the Philippines.

* * *

OUTSIDE U.S. JURISDICTION: The Marcos wealth about which the Hawaii judge presumes to rule is physically outside the US. Last we heard, the assets are mostly in shares of stock invested in Singapore.

If the US judge wants a legal toehold on Marcos assets with which to compensate some 9,500 Marcos victims who sued in his sala, he has to locate other Marcos assets in the US.

Disposition of the disputed Marcos assets is actually something between Swiss authorities and the Philippine government to discuss and decide. While the Hawaii judge could be involved in some financial side issue, he is not part of the legal equation.

* * *

DUAL CITTZENSHIP: We have to go back to the Dual Citizenship issue, because our last discussion (Postscript, 02Sept2003) was cut for lack of space just as we were about to elaborate on the laws, policy and court decisions relaxing the old rules.

We were saying that loss of US citizenship can result only when the American (such as a FilAm reacquiring Philippine citizenship) clearly intends to give up his citizenship. The element of intent is crucial.

In its Afroyim v. Rusk (1967) and Vance v. Terrazas (1980) decisions, the US Supreme Court overturned the old strict interpretation on loss of citizenship. It added in effect the requirement that the American must be shown to have intended to give up his citizenship.

Following the SC decisions, the US Congress amended the law in 1986 to require that loss of citizenship would result only when a potentially “expatriating” (citizenship-losing) action was performed voluntarily and “with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality.”

The State Department then adopted in April 1990 a new policy that US citizens who perform one of the potentially expatriating acts listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) are normally presumed not to have committed them with intent to give up US citizenship.

“In order to lose US citizenship,” the State department said, “the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up US citizenship.”

* * *

AMENDMENTS CITED: To complete the discussion, we elaborate on some amendments to the INA that had relaxed the interpretation of the law as regards citizenship and naturalization.

Following Supreme Court decisions easing the rules, President Carter signed Public Law 95-432 on Oct. 10, 1978, repealing several provisions of the INA that had previously allowed revocation of US citizenship.

The bill repealed, for example, provisions revoking citizenship for voting in foreign elections, moving abroad after naturalization, and desertion from the US armed forces in wartime.

On Nov. 14, 1986, President Reagan signed Public Law 99-653 amending the INA also to conform to the requirements of various SC decisions on loss of US citizenship. It revised the preamble of Section 349 to make it clear that an action, to result in loss of citizenship, needed to be performed voluntarily and with the intention of giving up US citizenship.

PL 99-653 also revised the conditions under which foreign military service could result in loss of citizenship. It provided that such military service would result in loss of citizenship only if performed voluntarily and with intent to relinquish US ties, and only if the person served as an officer, and/or if the foreign army were engaged in hostilities against the US.

Public Law 103-416 signed Oct. 25, 1994, by President Clinton amended the law pertaining to naturalization. Among other things, it repealed the old requirement that candidates for US citizenship state that they intended to reside permanently in the US after naturalization.

It also repealed an old requirement that a newly naturalized US citizen who, within one year after naturalization, abandoned his US residence and set up a permanent residence anywhere outside the US was presumed to have misrepresented his intentions regarding permanent residence, and could have his US citizenship cancelled retroactively on this basis.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 7, 2003)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.