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SC upholds HRET’s dismissal of quo warranto case vs Nueva Ecija lawmaker


The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the dismissal of the quo warranto petition which questioned the victory of Nueva Ecija Representative Rosanna Vergara in the 2016 elections.

According to the high court, Philip Hernandez Piccio filed a quo warranto case against Vergara, claiming she was ineligible to occupy a House seat as she allegedly remained an American citizen.

The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) in May 2019 dismissed the petition against Vergara and denied Piccio’s motion for reconsideration in June 2019.

Vergara, who represents Nueva Ecija's third district in Congress, was born to Filipino parents in November 1963. In 1998, she moved to the United States where she obtained a Certificate of Naturalization as an American citizen and was issued an American passport.

In 2006, she filed a petition for the issuance of an identification certificate (IC) with the Philippine Bureau of Immigration. She was later issued IC No. 06-12955 after re-acquiring her Philippine citizenship.

Vergara also executed an affidavit of renunciation of foreign citizenship in September 2015.

The petition filed with the SC challenged the finding of the HRET on Vergara’s compliance with the requirements of Republic Act 9225, alleging that the HRET gravely abused its discretion when it declared that Vergara had duly re-acquired her Philippine citizenship, despite the fact that both Vergara and the Bureau of Immigration only had photocopies of her documents.

In junking Piccio's petition on October 5, the SC said the photocopies of Vergara’s RA 9225 documents were validly introduced as evidence as she had sufficiently explained the loss of the original documents.

“That the original documents do not appear to exist in the BI’s records at the time when they were sought does not mean that they never existed,” the Court said through Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.

“It does not — as it logically cannot — lead to a conclusion that Vergara’s RA 9225 documents were never filed, duly processed, and granted,” it added.

The high court said the BI had also admitted that the original documents had existed, were processed, and approved by the agency.

“Records clearly show that, in reaching their conclusions that suggest Vergara’s valid re-acquisition of her Philippine citizenship, the BI officials did not rely on the presumption of regularity alone. The BI’s position is supported by the available records, the BI electronic database, the Dual Citizenship Office database, several meetings, formal hearings and investigations, as well as certifications, reports and comments from relevant BI offices,” the SC said.

“In sum, there is overwhelming competent evidence proving Vergara’s compliance with RA 9225 for the re-acquisition of her Philippine citizenship."

The Court also stressed that the official custodian of public records must be held accountable for their loss.

Six magistrates concurred in the decision, including Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo. Five justices dissented, while Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen took no part.

In a statement, Vergara welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court.

“I am grateful to the Supreme Court for upholding the decision of the HRET and more importantly, the will of the people in the Third District of Nueva Eicja who elected me to be their Representative in the 17th  and 18th Congress," Vergara said.

"Despite all the talk in my district by my detractors that the Supreme Court would strike down the HRET decision, I never lost hope because I always have faith in the integrity and fairness of our magistrates and in the rule of law. God bless the Supreme Court,” she added.   —VBL/NB, GMA News