MORE THAN 10% OF PHILIPPINE POPULATION WORK OUTSIDE OF THEIR HOMELAND
By CESAR TORRES
April 13, 2007
probably a first in the history of mankind.
More than 10%
of Philippine population of 89.5 million are in Diaspora. We are
working in various capacities all over the world. We have remitted
US$15 billion to the homeland in 2005, according to the London-based
Economist, an amount which is equivalent to 15.2% of
Philippine Domestic Product for that year. Two-thirds of our people
rely on us. Obviously, under normal circumstances, we should be
given a little importance.
people in the Philippines cannot just consign us to a position as a
lucrative and dependable source of Philippine foreign exchange to
help stabilize our economy.
As a matter of
fairness and in the national interest, we have to be represented in
the affairs of government. When there is massive and legitimate
dissatisfaction with the quality of national leadership and system
of governance, our people can no longer continue to mass by the
millions on a major street in Metro Manila like what happened in
1986 and 2001, in EDSA I and EDSA II, to demand that presidents
depart from Malacañang. Resorting to “direct democracy” through
mass actions can no longer guarantee a peaceful change in power.
The potential risks have become deadly.
less dramatic and less potentially dangerous was the enactment of
two legislations by the Philippine Congress affecting overseas
Filipinos. In 2003 a law allowing “Dual Citizenship”, Republic Act
9225, was passed. It allowed natural-born Filipino citizens who may
have lost their Philippine citizenship due to naturalization as
citizens of a foreign country to re-acquire their Philippine
citizenship. As of January 2007, the Bureau of Immigration had
approved the application for dual citizenship of more than 24,000
the same year, the Overseas Absentee
Voting Law (OAVL) was also enacted. This law allows qualified
Filipinos outside of the homeland to exercise their right of
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The latest figure from the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec)
and the Department of Foreign Affairs indicate that some 504,000
Filipinos have registered as Overseas Absentee Voters.
noteworthy that based on the available data, in North and South
America as of January 19, 2007, the Consulate General in San
Francisco tops the list of the number of registered absentee voters
at 4,800 out of a total of 13,083. For the same period, Los Angeles
recorded 154 and Honolulu 20. Needless to say, the figures in these
two cities are dismal, considering the great number of Filipinos in
Francisco Consulate General also accounts for some 6,500 Dual
Citizens out of the 24,000 or so all over the world. This is more
than 27% of the total world wide. In fact, about 50
Filipino-Americans are sworn in as Filipino citizens every week.
in Philippine governance by exercising the right of suffrage is one
way of being involved more closely in the affairs of the homeland.
The Overseas Absentee Voters and the Dual Citizens who have
registered to vote can help in the selection of the more qualified
and competent legislators. It is unfortunate, however, that the
right of suffrage is confined to voting for President, Vice
President, Senators, and Party List representatives. Overseas
Absentee Voters would prefer to vote for their congressmen and
governors because they have a direct impact on their hometowns and
communities more than senators and Party List representatives.
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participating in the election of their Senators, Party List
Congressmen, Presidents and Vice Presidents, there is now an
intensifying clamor among the 10 million Filipinos all over the
world that they should have the right to be voted on as candidates
for political offices without renouncing their other
citizenship. It is argued that the right to vote implies the
corresponding right to be voted on. If one is a dual citizen of,
say, the United States and the Philippines, and US laws do not
prohibit Philippine citizenship while retaining American
citizenship, Global Filipino Nation advocates such as Dr. Jose V.
Abueva, Victor Barrios, Lito Gutierrez, Carmen Colet, Evelio Flores,
Aida Barrios, Morgan Benedicto, University of San Francisco
Professor Jun Jun Villegas of the Global Filipinos Coalition, UP
lawyers Johannes Ignacio and May Ann Teodoro, journalists such as
Greg Makabenta and Perry Diaz in the United States, and other
concerned civic Filipino leaders all over the world such as Bong
Amora, Sultan Rudy Dianalan, Bong Karno, Gerry Cuares in the Middle
East, and Jun Aguilar and Leo Santiago whose network extend to
sailors and Filipino workers all over the world, passionately argue
that dual citizens should have the right to be candidates for
political office or to be appointed to public offices in the
is now being hotly contested in the Philippines. Theodore Makabulos
Aquino or Kuya Ted, a nephew of the assassinated martyr Ninoy Aquino,
who is both a Filipino and an American citizen has filed his
certificate of candidacy as an independent candidate for Senator
this May 14, 2007 election. A graduate of the University of the
Philippines, president of the UP Alumni Association of America, a
volunteer in the Transfer of Knowledge and Technology program to the
Philippines of the United Nations Development Program, an
engineering and environmental consultant in America, the Comelec has
disqualified his candidacy because he has not renounced his American
citizenship. A request for reconsideration has been submitted. As
we go to press, a decision is now being awaited. If the decision is
adverse, then off to the Philippine Supreme Court it will be. It is
imperative that the highest court in the land should rule on this
critical times when mankind is faced with the deadly challenges of
terrorism, global warming, globalization, intensifying poverty,
environmental degradation, revolutionary movements, and hunger in
the Philippines, our leaders cannot continue to lean on traditional
and hackneyed ideas of citizenship and political participation. In
California, the eight largest economy in the world, Governor Arnold
Schwarzenneger is not only a dual citizen. He is a Triple Citizen.
He is American, Austrian, and European Union Citizen. New Mexico
Governor Bill Richardson is a dual citizen. He is American and
Mexican. The Philippines needs to take this “New Reality”, in the
words of Mr. Robert Ceralvo, an outstanding Filipino and IT
engineer, into consideration.
In addition to
the foregoing types of representation, the Philippines can learn
from the system in Italy. Italians who are outside of Italy, those
in what are known as “Foreign Constituencies”, are represented in
the Italian legislature. Six senators and twelve deputies represent
these “Foreign Constituencies” in the Italian legislature.
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election on May 14, it is more or less certain that the issue of
Charter Change will be addressed again. We are not familiar with
all the details of the draft Philippine Constitution that the House
of Representatives wanted to impose on the Filipino people.
Whatever it is, the 10 million Filipinos can no longer be regarded
as just brutalized and maligned domestic helpers and exploited
Filipinos. They have every right to participate in shaping the kind
of society that their fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, relatives,
and fellow Filipinos are hoping for – the dream of a progressive,
peaceful, respectable, and just Philippine society. They are paying
with their lives, with their misery, with their pain for this dream.
[Published in the April 2007 issue of
The Filipino Insider, a monthly supplement
of the San Francisco Chronicle. The author was a former faculty
member of the University of the Philippines Department of Political
Science. He can be reached at