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Is Senator Alan Peter Cayetano a Philippine Citizen?

On the campaign trail in 2016: Candidates Alan Peter Cayetano (left) and Rodrigo Duterte give the audience their campaign’s fisted salute.

he names of singer Tina Turner, actor Jet Li and Philippine Senator Alan Peter Cayetano are all included in a Wikipedia list of distinguished former United States citizens who relinquished their nationality and whose relinquishment is memorialized in the official “Federal Register” of distinguished former US citizens (LINK).

The Wikipedia list informs that Tina Turner, born in Nutbush, Tennessee, gave up her U.S. citizenship in 2013, the year her Swiss citizenship was approved. Jet Li relinquished his naturalized US citizenship in 2009 when he was granted Singaporean citizenship.

Cayetano is identified in the List as a “politician” who was born in the Philippines in 1970 to Philippine Senator Renato Cayetano and his American wife, Sandra Schramm, a native of Michigan. According to the List, Cayetano "renounced his U.S. citizenship to stand for election to the Philippine House of Representatives in the 1998 elections, and to gain admission to the Philippine Bar that same month.” His name appears on the Federal Register in 1999 as the year he formally relinquished his US citizenship.

As a child of a Philippine citizen father and a US citizen mother, Alan Peter was born as a citizen of both countries. The website of the Philippine embassies throughout the world explains that dual citizenship is available to persons "born before January 17, 1973 to a: 1. Filipino Father; or 2. Filipino Mother and that person elects Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority.” This is the official position of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. 

Did Sen. Cayetano elect Philippine citizenship when he reached the age of majority?

According to the official records obtained by former Pateros Mayor Jose Capco, Jr, Cayetano’s parents obtained an Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) for him on March 18, 1976, asserting that he is an American citizen.

The official records obtained by Capco also revealed that on January 23, 1985, Cayetano personally applied for and was granted a new ACR, where Cayetano affirmed his intention to be a citizen of the United States of America (LINK).

According to Capco, when Cayetano campaigned for municipal councilor of Taguig in the 1992 elections, he produced an Identification Certificate, BC-1295, from the Philippine Bureau of Immigration that he is a Philippine citizen. But Capco said this identification certificate was apparently bogus and “has never been affirmed by the secretary of justice” as required by the law.

Capco complained that Cayetano’s subsequent election to the Philippine Senate violates the Philippine Constitution as Section 3, Article VI of the Constitution provides that “no person shall be a senator unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines.”

While it is unclear on what legal grounds the Comelec denied Capco's challenge to Cayetano's qualifications to run for public office, the fact remains that Cayetano never challenged his inclusion in the 1999 U.S. Federal Register as having only formally relinquished his US citizenship in 1998.

What this means is that Cayetano was still a US citizen when he first ran and won as Taguig councilor in 1992, as vice mayor in 1995, and as congressman in 1998 before he formally relinquished his US citizenship in 1999.

Interestingly, the other former notable US citizen mentioned in the Wikipedia list is Grace Poe Llamanzares, who was reported to have renounced her U.S. citizenship prior to becoming chairwoman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board in 2010. She was later elected to the Senate of the Philippines in 2013.

But when Poe renounced her US citizenship in 2010, the Philippine Dual Citizenship Act had already been in effect since September 17, 2003 when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed it into law. The Act declared that "former natural-born Filipinos who lost their Philippine citizenships when they became naturalized citizens of other countries are deemed not to have lost their citizenship under the conditions provided by the act".

But regaining their Philippine citizenship is not automatic; the former Philippine citizens have to formally apply to reacquire their citizenship as Sen. Grace Poe did in 2005. Sen. Cayetano did not do so in 1999 as the law that would have allowed him the right to do so had not yet been enacted.

After Cayetano formally gave up his US citizenship in 1998, what citizenship did he acquire? Did he become stateless?

On March 11, 2017, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs announced that it had put on hold the application of former Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. for renewal of his Philippine passport pending resolution of questions surrounding his citizenship by "competent authorities."

Yasay was terminated from his post as Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs when the Commission on Appointments of the Philippine Congress voted 15-0 to reject his confirmation because he had lied about his U.S. citizenship.

It was learned at the hearing that Yasay formally swore an oath of allegiance to the U.S. in November of 1986 when he became a naturalized US citizen. He then officially renounced his American citizenship at the U.S. Embassy in Manila on June 26, 2016 before he was officially appointed by Duterte as Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Yasay had insisted that he was never a US citizen because he had a "preconceived intent" of abandoning his US residency when he became American, a highly disputable contention.

Since Yasay has never formally applied to reacquire his Philippine citizenship, the issue of his citizenship is now left for “competent authorities” to decide, the DFA announced.

The same rule should also apply to Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano who has been all but formally appointed by Pres. Duterte to serve as his next Secretary of Foreign Affairs on May 10, 2017 when the one-year election ban on candidates being appointed to executive positions expires.

It appears that Duterte is set to appoint as his secretary of foreign affairs another former U.S. citizen who may or may not be a Philippine citizen. 

[Pres. Duterte just announced that he will not appoint Cayetano to the DFA post now because he "is more needed in the senate.] 

The supreme irony here is that Pres. Rodrigo Duterte announced his intention to finally run for president on November 21, 2015 after the Philippine Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) voted 6-5 to allow Sen. Grace Poe to run for president.

Duterte said at the time that Poe, being a foundling, is not a natural-born citizen and is therefore not qualified to seek the highest post in the land.

The decision of the tribunal, Duterte said, "cheapens the Constitution, the only thing that holds the country together." That SET decision, he said, was the final straw that pushed him to run for president.

The irony within this irony is that the deciding vote for Poe was cast by Sen. Pia Schramm Cayetano, Alan Peter’s sister, who voted on the issue of whether a foundling is a Philippine citizen because she herself adopted a foundling, Lucas, in 2011.

After the SET vote, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano blasted Sen. Poe for “willing to bend the laws” in her desire to become president. “Definitely, she has a desire to become a president. But for me, my friendly advice is balance your desire to be president on what might be its effect on the Constitution and the law,” he said. Prophetic words.

So, Mr. President, what does the Philippine Constitution and the law say about you appointing another non-Philippine citizen as your next Secretary of Foreign Affairs?

(The author is a natural-born Filipino who became a US citizen in 1981 and who then reacquired his Philippine citizenship in 2003 to become a Dual Citizen. Send comments to Rodislawyer@gmail.com or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call 415.334.7800).

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