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Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship by Government Officials of the Philippines

As an immigration attorney, I have been privileged to assist individuals from all over the world become U.S. citizens. For some, it is a dream come true – as in the case of those who grew up in the U.S. and are every bit as American as apple pie. For others, it is a necessary step towards a better life, providing more opportunities like government jobs and the right to participate in a great democracy. For this second group, it is can be bittersweet – a conscious and voluntary decision to abandon the country of their birth. But no matter the reason: once acquired, U.S. citizenship is not easily surrendered.

The laws of the United States are clear. Renunciation of U.S. citizenship must be express. One must voluntarily appear, and with intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship, in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer, in a foreign country (normally at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate), and sign an oath of renunciation. Renunciations that do not meet the conditions described above have no legal effect. There is no such thing as an implied renunciation. In fact, the administrative policy of the U.S. Department of State is to presume that it is always the intent of a person to retain U.S. citizenship – even when he is naturalized in a foreign country; or takes a routine oath of allegiance to a foreign state; or serves in the armed forces of a foreign state not engaged in hostilities with the United States; or accepts non-policy level employment with a foreign government. While there is no such presumption when the person accepts policy-level employment, it is still merely considered highly persuasive evidence of intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship. It is not conclusive of such intent. To establish the intent to lose U.S. citizenship, a person must affirm in writing to a U.S. consular officer that the acceptance of such a politically important position was voluntarily performed with the intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship. The U.S. consular officer will then proceed to prepare a Certificate of Loss of Nationality and forward it to the State department for consideration, and if appropriate, approval. Of course, a person always has the option of formally renouncing U.S. citizenship abroad before a U.S. consular official in accordance with law. This is the clearest way to renounce U.S. citizenship as it leaves no doubt as to intent.

Records show that there is at least one high-profile Philippine Senator, very visible because of current politics in the Philippines, who naturalized as a U.S. citizen. But I would not be surprised if there are other Philippine government officials who also naturalized as U.S. citizens. While they may have reacquired Philippine citizenship, if they did not expressly renounce their U.S. citizenship they remain U.S. citizens under applicable laws. These can be people serving in important political positions such as cabinet secretaries or other high-level officials of the executive department; Senators or Congressmen; members of the judiciary; mayors or chief executive officers of city, as well as members of provincial or municipal boards. If this is the case, it is the duty of the Philippine government to take action and determine who and how many of these officials had once naturalized as U.S. citizens. There is something quite not right if such government officials are also U.S. citizens (or citizens of any other foreign country, for that matter).

It is not enough for such Philippine government officials to simply claim that U.S. citizenship was renounced. In the interests of transparency, as well as honesty, it should not be too much to ask, and in fact it should be required, that these government officials produce a “Certificate of Loss of Nationality” from the U.S. State department. It is a simple form (see sample page 1 below), but it leaves no doubt that U.S. citizenship has been renounced. This would address any question of undivided loyalty as it proves that the public official who holds such a certificate is indeed no longer a U.S. citizen and is now a citizen of the Philippines – and only the Philippines. Any and all government officials of the Philippines who once naturalized as U.S. citizens owe it to the people to provide a certificate of loss of nationality from the United States. They should be required to produce said certificate before any appointment to a government office, or the filing of any certificate of candidacy. It is their obligation and responsibility as they certainly owe the people they serve, or wish to serve, undivided allegiance and utmost candor. Otherwise, they betray the Filipino’s trust and confidence.

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