POSTSCRIPT / May 22, 2007 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Can a priest resign from the priesthood?

PRIEST FOREVER: Some people seem to be still confused about some basic facts surrounding Fr. Ed Panlilio’s candidacy and proclamation as duly elected governor of Pampanga.

No less than Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan (not the priest’s superior) said that Panlilio should resign from the priesthood so he could devote himself full-time to being governor.

With due respect to the monsignor, I think Panlilio cannot resign from the priesthood. The Church has taught us that “once a priest, always a priest.” The sacerdotal sacrament, instituted by Christ himself, leaves an indelible mark that cannot be erased.

Even if a priest commits a heinous crime that sends him straight to hell, he will still be a priest as he burns. He is a priest forever.

Before Panlilio ran, Archbishop Paciano B. Aniceto (his direct superior in San Fernando) already did what he had to do. He admonished him that a priest violates Canon law by holding a government office.

Aniceto suspended Panlilio’s priestly functions (saying Mass, administering the sacraments, etc.) — which is different from stripping him of his priesthood.

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SEPARATION: It is also said that Panlilio’s holding public office violates the principle of separation of the Church and the State.

It does not. Panlilio may be a priest, but he is not the Church. His election as governor does not result in the merging of the Church and the State. The two remain separate.

In fact, the conference of Catholic bishops has said that the Church has nothing to do with the solitary mission of the priest. Individually, such as Monsignor Cruz, some of them even frown on it.

But the sense I get is that everything is clear between Panlilio and his archbishop in San Fernando, regardless of what somebody else in Dagupan says.

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SNEAK-IN: In an earlier Postscript, I warned that while the nation was engrossed with the elections, Malacanang might sneak in a new, if controversial, justice of the Supreme Court.

To make this possible, I noted, the Judicial and Bar Council submitted a list that was longer (eight nominees) than usual (five) to include Sandiganbayan Justice Gregory Ong whom the President wanted to appoint but who could not get a single endorsement from the SC justices.

The President appointed Ong last week in the dead of night so to speak, so now the JBC and Malacanang have to explain while putting on hold his swearing in.

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INELIGIBLE: In the 106-year history of the tribunal and in the 19 years of the JBC, this is the first time that the Council nominated and the President appointed someone who, as shown by his birth certificate, is not a natural-born citizen and is therefore ineligible.

A natural-born citizen is one who was a Filipino AT BIRTH, without having to do anything to acquire or perfect his citizenship.

Documents show that when Ong was born, both his father and his mother were Chinese. In fact, his father had to apply for and be granted Filipino citizenship. Ong even used his father’s naturalization to convince the Supreme Court in 1980 to allow him to take the bar examinations that year.

Since Ong acquired his citizenship many years after his birth, i.e. after his father was naturalized, he is not a natural-born citizen.

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NEGROS FEUD: Citizenship is also the bone of contention in the disqualification case filed with the Commission on Elections against Joselyn D. Sy-Limkaichong, congressman-elect of the first district of Negros Oriental.

In the May 14 elections, Sy- Limkaichong (mayor of La Libertad in Negros Oriental) defeated incumbent Rep. Jacinto Paras’ wife, Olive, and former Rep. Jerome Paras, by a margin of more than 7,000 votes.

Last April 4, 2007, a petition was filed to disqualify Sy-Limkaichong (Josy for brevity). On April 11, 2007, another disqualification case was filed. Both petitions alleged that Josy is not qualified since she is not a natural-born citizen.

Both petitions alleged that the naturalization of Josy’s father, Julio O. Sy, way back in 1957 did not attain finality because the Solicitor General was not given copies of the court orders, thereby depriving them of the chance to appeal.

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COLLATERAL: In her defense, Josy said that an attack on one’s citizenship may be made only through a direct, not a collateral proceeding.

She added that the Comelec, a quasi-judicial body, cannot strip her father of his citizenship that was granted by a competent court.

As to the allegation that the Solicitor General was not given copies of the court orders, Josy submitted evidence that it was, except that the documents were erroneously entered as having been received July 8, 1957, when in fact they were received July 9.

Josy also asked how come the Solicitor General’s office was properly represented in the rehearing of the case, if it was not duly notified as claimed by the complainants.

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TIME OF BIRTH: In such cases, one key element is the parents’ citizenship at the time of birth of their offspring.

Josy said that she was born 19 days after her father took his Oath of Allegiance as a Filipino on Oct. 21, 1959. That should be easy to check.

But the Comelec’s Second Division declared on May 17, 2007, that Josy is a Chinese and disqualified from running. It directed the Comelec provincial supervisor to hold her proclamation.

Did the division overstep its turf when it nullified the naturalization of Josy’s father, in effect stripping him of the citizenship conferred on him by the court?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 22, 2007)

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