Last June 2012, journalist and blogger Raissa Robles posted an article entitled “US gov’t records: Sen. Grace Poe dropped her American citizenship in 2012”. Based on a document from the U.S. Treasury, Ms. Robles claimed that Senator Grace Poe only dropped her U.S. citizenship in 2012. Ms. Robles’ articles implies one thing: Sen. Poe’s appointment as MTRCB chair was null and void.
Ms. Robles’ article immediately made waves in social media. Pundits attacked Senator Grace Poe. For instance, environmental advocate Dr. Antonio Contreras posted this:
“No. It is not enough that one executes an affidavit of renunciation of US Citizenship and submits it to the Philippine government…What is required will be a formal acknowledgement and approval of such renunciation by the U.S. government, duly published by its appropriate agency in an official medium. Grace Poe’s renunciation only became final when it was published by the US government in 2012.”
Earlier, Dr. Contreras also said: “We impeached Renato Corona for failing to file a correct SALN. But now we drum beat Grace Poe as if she descended from Mt. Olympus even if she descended from Mr. Olympus even if she accepted the MTRCB’s Chair’s position…while she was still a U.S. Citizen in violation of law..”
Another respected intellectual, Dr. Isagani Cruz (currently affiliated with the respected Manila Times College) has also stated in another post: “What I don’t like about Poe is her continued refusal to answer questions about her citizenship. The documentary evidence is pretty strong that she was still an American citizen until 2012.”
First of all, the “official document” which Ms. Robles refers to is published by the Internal Renvenue Service of the U.S. Treasury Department. Unfortunately, neither the IRS nor the Treasury Department have authority to grant or remove U.S. Citizenship.
The authority to grant U.S. Citizenship (through naturalization) belongs to the U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services (UPCIS) of the U.S. Homeland Department. However, U.S. Citizenship may be renounced by application with the U.S. Department of State (or Consular/Diplomatic Offices). In fact, it is the U.S. Department of State which issues the Certificate of Loss of Nationality.
I won’t go into the details of the renunciation process (known as expatriation in the United States. However, the pertinent requirements for an effective renunciation are laid out under 8 U.S.C 1481 (a). The pertinent section reads:
“loss of nationality shall result from the performance within the United States or any of its outlying possessions of any of the acts or the fulfillment of any of the conditions specified in this Part if and when the national thereafter takes up a residence outside the United States and its outlying possessions.”
The requirements under 8 U.S.C. 1481 are clear. The potential expatriate must perform an act. An expatriating act. These “acts” are provided” in Section 349 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act:
“A person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voluntarily performing any of the following acts with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality:
1. Obtaining naturalization in a foreign state upon his own application or upon an application filed by a duly authorized agent.
2. Taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state.
3. –Entering, or serving in, the armed forces of a foreign state if (A) such armed forces are engaged in hostilities against the United States, or (B) such persons serves as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer.
4. 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 after attaining the age of eighteen years, if he has or acquires the nationality of such foreign state; or 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 after attaining the age of eighteen years, for which office, post, or employment an oath, affirmation, or declaration of allegiance is required.
5. Making a formal renunciation of nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States in a foreign state
6. Making in the United States a formal written renunciation of nationality in such form as may be prescribed by, and before such officer as may be designated by, the Attorney General, whenever the United States shall be in a state of war and the Attorney General shall approve such renunciation as not contrary to the interests of national defense.
7. Committing any act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow, or bearing arms against, the United States, violating or conspiring to violate any of the provisions of section 2383 of Title 18, or willfully performing any act in violation of section 2385 of Title 18, or violating section 2384 of Title 18 by engaging in a conspiracy to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, if and when he is convicted thereof by a court martial or by a court of competent jurisdiction
The requirements are clear. U.S. citizenship can be lost by voluntarily performing any of the abovementioned acts with the intent to renounce U.S. Citizenship. The act must be voluntary and intentional.
Now, the U.S. State department has adopted an administrative presumption (in the U.S. Foreign Manual) on loss of citizenship cases. Under this presumption, the following acts will not cause a U.S. citizen to lose his citizenship unless he willfully shows intent:
1. Naturalization in a foreign state
2. Taking an oath of allegiance to a foreign state.
3. Serving in the armed forces of a foreign state not engaged in hostilities with the United States.
4. Accepting non-policy level employment in a foreign government or taking an oath with the position.
On the other hand, the administrative presumption is not applicable if the person:
1. Formally renounces U.S. Citizenship before a consular office.
2. Has served or is serving in the armed forces of a foreign state in hostilities against the United States.
3. Takes a policy level position in a foreign state and either a dual national or has taken an oath or affirmation of allegiance in connection with the position.
All that Sen. Grace would have to do is prove that she voluntarily and intentionally performed any of the acts above. In fact, even her mere appointment as MTRCB Chair would serve to nullify her U.S. Citizenship. The MTRCB is, without a doubt, a policy making agency. This is clear under the law which created the MTRCB- Presidential Decree 1968. The MTRCB has the power to promulgate rules and regulations– in other words, make policy.
On to the more pressing question: When does the loss of U.S. Citizenship take place?
If we follow Dr. Contreras’ position, it should be when the U.S. State Department issues “a formal acknowledgement and approval of such renunciation by the U.S. government, duly published by its appropriate agency in an official medium.” But what does the U.S. State Department say?
It is crystal clear in Chapter 7, Paragraph 12208.3 (a) of the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual: “The effective date of loss of nationality is the date of the expatriating act, not the date the CLN is approved.”
Read that again: “The effective date of loss of nationality is the date of the expatriating act, not the date the CLN is approved.”
That is such a clear statement. You can’t interpret it otherwise. “The effective date of loss of nationality is the date of the expatriating act.” Contrary to Dr. Contreras’ position, loss of U.S. Citizenship does not need to be “completed” by a document which has to be published yada yada yada. Loss of citizenship takes effect on the date of the expatriating act.
And contrary to Ms. Robles’ position, Senator Grace Poe did not “drop her citizenship” in 2012. If we follow Sen. Grace’s date of appointment as MTRCB chair, it would be sometime around 2010. In fact, Sen. Grace appears to know the law:
“Hindi ako maglalakas-loob na tumanggap ng posisyon sa gobyerno, sa MTRCB (Movie Television Review and Classification Board) pa lang, kung hindi ako kwalipikado at hindi ako Pilipino”
In fact, the narrative would fit Sen. Grace’s story: she returned to the Philippines as U.S. Citizen in 2005. She was a dual citizen until before her appointment in 2010. In fact, the Manila Times OWN REPORT- the one which made an issue out of Sen. Grace’s passport in the first place- verifies this: “Immigration records showed that Poe last used her US passport on December 27, 2009.” Because only U.S. Citizens (and dual citizens) can use U.S. passports.
Grace Poe is a Filipino. All of the accusations hurled against her appear to be based on misinformation, which should be promptly corrected. In the end, I would not be surprised if Sen. Grace faces a suit- our nation is a litigious one, and often has a surplus of lawyers and a shortage of justice. But I would not be surprised if history repeats itself and Sen. Grace wins the case, just like her father.
Cepeda, M. and Fonbuena, C. “Grace Poe on Residency: I have been in Ph since 2005” Rappler (June 03, 2015).
United States Department of State. Chapter 7, Sec. 1220 of the Foreign Affairs Manual (“Developing a Loss of Nationality Case) and other applicable laws.
Depasupil, W.B. and Antiporda, J.A. “U.S. Citizenship Hounds Grace Poe” The Manila Times (May 17, 2015).
Legaspi, A. “Sen. Grace Poe: I renounced US citizenship before becoming MTRCB chief” GMA News (May 18, 2015).
Robles, R. “U.S. Gov’t Records: Sen. Grace Poe dropped American citizenship in 2012” ABS-CBN News (06/10/15).