POSTSCRIPT / March 28, 2004 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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US embassy rejects Pinoys’ passport bid

PETITION REJECTED: As expected, the US embassy has rejected the passport applications of seven Filipinos who claimed they were Americans born before July 4, 1946, in the Philippines that was then a US territory.

The petitioners cited the 14th amendment to the US Constitution that says: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

They said they fell under the “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” category and must therefore be Americans.

Vicente F. Gambito, one of the petitioners, said they would go up the administrative ladder and elevate the matter to the US Department of State. He said that around six million Filipinos born before July 1946 are affected.

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LOST NATIONALITY: In a reply last March 12, vice consul Laura Biedebach of the US embassy told Gambito et al. that “only US citizens and nationals who have satisfactorily established their identity are entitled to US passports.”

She added: “The Philippines was an outlying possession of the United States from April 11, 1899, until its independence on July 4, 1946. Persons born in the Philippines during that time did not become United States citizens, but became non-citizen nationals of the United States. (underscoring supplied)

“They became citizens of the Republic of the Philippines on July 4, 1946, when the United States recognized the Philippines as an independent nation.

“On July 4, 1946, all Philippine citizens who had not acquired US citizenship lost their US nationality regardless if they resided in the Philippines or in the United States. US citizenship was never conferred on Filipinos as a group by special legislation.”

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NON-CITIZEN NATIONAL: In normal usage, a citizen is “one owing allegiance to, and entitled to protection from, a government.”

In the US, citizenship is acquired by birth within the US or through judicial proceedings known as “naturalization.” A person born outside the US is also an American if both of his parents were citizens and one of them had a residence in the US before his birth.

The American embassy’s letter used the term “non-citizen national” apparently to refer to inhabitants of the Philippines upon the transfer of jurisdiction over the islands from Spain to the US.

That is another way of saying that they were American nationals but not American citizens.

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CITIZEN VS NATIONAL: What is the difference between citizenship and nationality? Several decisions of US courts can help answer the question:

All citizens of the United States are also nationals. However, some nationals are not citizens. Traditionally, only persons born in US territories were non-citizen nationals.

Nationality and citizenship are not entirely synonymous. One can be a US national and yet not be a citizen. The distinction has little practical impact today, however, for the only remaining non-citizen nationals are residents of American Samoa and Swains Island.

A person also may become a US national (or lose his or her status as a national) under terms outlined by Congress on those rare occasions when the US acquires or relinquishes an outlying territory.

Inhabitants of the Philippine Islands under the Commonwealth became US nationals when the islands were ceded to the US by Spain, but they became aliens (non-Americans) upon the proclamation of Philippine independence in July 1946.

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FAKE CD WARNING: Meanwhile, balikbayans and Ampoys carrying fake CDs (compact discs) may want to take a cue from this advisory reportedly sent to all employees of the US mission in Manila and their family members:

“As US government employees you are reminded of your obligation to abide by US laws, including Intellectual Property Rights (anti-piracy) laws. xxx the Consular Section recently received a report that the Department of Homeland Security searched the bag of a Filipino entering the US on NW 72 in Detroit.

“During the search, 70-80 compact discs, 30-40 empty DVD jackets and 10-20 DVDs were found.

“Since the travelers were not American citizens, their visas were canceled and they returned to the Philippines. If they had been Americans, they could have been subject to arrest and criminal prosecution in addition to civil fines and penalties.”

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RACIAL DISCRIMINATION: In California, 11 Filipino youths will receive $456,000 from Sega and $144, 000 from Spherion in settlement of charges of National Origin Discrimination against Sega America Inc., the San Francisco branch of the giant computer game-maker from Japan.

National origin discrimination” means treating someone less favorably because he comes from a particular place, because of his ethnicity or accent, or because it is believed that he has a particular ethnic background.

The settlement was announced days ago by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in San Francisco. An EEOC attorney said a worldwide boycott against Sega went into effect after the filing of the complaint.

It was also reported that SEGA lost 51 percent of its stock value in the past eight months that preceded the filing and the worldwide boycott.

In the settlement, Sega and its personnel agreed to provide a work environment free from discrimination on the basis of national origin.

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SEXUAL CONTEXT: In Manila, the makers of Napoleon brandy can make clearer their intention if they recast the ad copy “Nakatikim ka na ba ng kinse anyos?” to read “Nakatikim ka na ba ng kinse anyos na brandy?” (“Have you tasted 15-year-old brandy?”)

If the latter version (“… na brandy?”) is indeed what they mean to ask in their ad, as a good member of the community they should lose no time switching to it.

But if they insist on using the first version (without “na brandy?”), we have to conclude that they had wanted from the very start to exploit the sexual double-entendre about tasting a 15-year-old girl.

Using a parallel, do you think the proud makers of Tanduay five-year-old rum will ask in their ads “Nakatikim ka na ba ng sinko anyos”? We doubt it, because the sexual context of such a line is so gross.

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FALSE MACHISMO: In fairness to the Napoleon brandy people, their billboards with only a bottle showing “15” on the label could be defended as objective enough.

But they got into trouble partly because of some radio commentators reeking with false machismo who seem to find great pleasure giving the “kinse anyos” line a sexual pitch.

It is obvious from the vulgar manner they manipulate the suggestive line in their ad-libs that they want to titillate their listeners’ imagination on having sex with a 15-year-old.

Having gotten their Napoleon benefactors into trouble, these radio commentators now try mightily to defend the alleged purity of the intention of their alcohol advertisers.

The few thousand pesos that broadcasters earn from the brandy maker are not worth the damage wrought. Even school kids have caught on and now talk mischievously about tasting a 15-year-old.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 28, 2004)

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