OFW party-list in quandary over who will take second House seat
MANILA, Philippines—An organization that claims to provide assistance to distressed overseas Filipino workers won two seats the House of Representatives in the May 13 elections.
But who should occupy the second one is now the problem confronting the OFW Family Club (OFWFC), whose long-time member, Eduardo Morales, has filed a petition seeking to invalidate the proclamation of second nominee, actor Juan “Johnny” Revilla.
In his July 8 petition, Morales said Revilla was “ineligible for the position” because “he is not a natural-born Filipino citizen as required by the Constitution.” He also asked the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) to declare his group’s second seat “vacant” and allow the third nominee to take Revilla’s place.
The move would have benefited the son of former Ambassador Roy Señeres Sr., the OFWFC founder and president who was earlier proclaimed congressman being the group’s first nominee.
But Señeres’ son and namesake “declined to replace Johnny Revilla to avoid any criticism about political dynasticism,” according to the group’s May 27 resolution that expelled Revilla from the party.
This was “so there won’t be any criticism on political dynasty,” the older Señeres told the Inquirer on Saturday. “It won’t look good if he would have a junior and senior prom in Congress.”
Tapped to replace the younger Señeres as third nominee was Jo Christine Napoles, the group’s president for Metro Manila. She is reportedly the daughter of Janet Lim Napoles, who is being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation in connection with an alleged scam involving pork barrel funds of members of Congress.
Reached by phone on Saturday, Revilla said he was a victim of “trial by publicity” and was still “weighing my options.”
“I renounced my American citizenship prior to [the filing of] our certificate of candidacy,” he later said in a text message, noting that he was born at the UST Hospital to parents Jose Revilla (aka Armando Goyena) and Paquita Roces.
In the 16-page petition, Morales argued that Revilla remains an American citizen, alleging that he “never took an oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, much less executed a personal and sworn renunciation thereof, which makes him ineligible for the position.”
“Respondent continuously professes the status of being an American citizen since in the first place, he never expressly renounced his foreign citizenship,” Morales said.
Attached to the petition was a copy of Revilla’s United States passport. Morales said it was “an ostensible proof that respondent never relinquished his foreign citizenship.” Also “manifestly indicated” in Revilla’s travel information was that he “remains to be a US citizen,” he added.
In the OFWFC resolution, Señeres’ group said it had “obtained a document from the Bureau of Immigration which shows that starting 2002 up to 2009, Johnny Revilla was using a US passport in his travel overseas.”
The group said it “cannot be a party to a culpable violation of the Constitution which prohibits a foreigner to run for public office in the Philippines.”
The OFWFC had other issues against Revilla besides citizenship. It alleged that he “did not actively participate in the campaign and was absent during [the] majority of the important meetings of the national executive committee.”
Señeres said he had been informed about Revilla’s dual citizenship in the middle of the campaign and had since told him to sort it out. But he said Revilla did not get back to him and allegedly showed up only after the group had won two House seats.
“In all honesty, I really didn’t know that he was a dual citizen,” he said.
In a radio interview on DZMM late Friday afternoon, Señeres said that when he learned of Revilla’s US citizenship he asked the actor to renounce it. Revilla replied he could not because he had enticed his own children to take up US citizenship and it would not look good if he did. Besides, according to Señeres, Revilla told him that even if his election were to be formally questioned, by the time the HRET reached a decision his term would be about over and he would have had a chance to serve their constituents.
Not having heard from Revilla again, Señeres said he decided to write Comelec so as to preclude any suspicion of connivance with Revilla.
With a report from Miguel C. Suarez, Philippine Daily Inquirer)