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CAASI vs CA
G.R. No. 88831
Mateo Caasi, a rival candidate of Merito Miguel filed a petition to disqualify the latter from being a candidate for the position of municipal mayor of Pangasinan on the ground that Miguel is a green card holder. On his defense: Miguel admitted that he holds a green card issued to him by the US Immigration Service, but he denied that he is a permanent resident of the United States. He allegedly obtained the green card for convenience in order that he may freely enter the United States for his periodic medical examination and to visit his children there. He alleged that he is a permanent resident of Bolinao, Pangasinan, that he voted in all previous elections. COMELEC dismissed the petition on the ground that the possession of a green card by the respondent (Miguel) does not sufficiently establish that he has abandoned his residence in the Philippines. On the contrary, inspite of his green card, Respondent has sufficiently indicated his intention to continuously reside in Bolinao as shown by his having voted in successive elections in said municipality. As the respondent meets the basic requirements of citizenship and residence for candidates to elective local officials Petitioner then appealed to CA and prays for a review of the decision, "Merito C. Miguel, petitioner vs. Hon. Artemio R. Corpus, etc., respondents," reversing the decision of the RTC which denied. The Court of Appeals ordered the RTC to dismiss and desist from further proceeding in the quo warranto case. It is pointless for the Regional Trial Court to hear the case questioning the qualification of the petitioner as resident of the Philippines, after the COMELEC has ruled that the petitioner meets the very basic requirements of citizenship and residence for candidates to elective local officials (sic) and that there is no legal obstacles (sic) for the candidacy of the petitioner, considering that decisions of the Regional Trial Courts on quo warranto cases under the Election Code are appealable to the COMELEC.
Whether or not a green card is proof that the holder is a permanent resident of the United States.
Yes. Court deems it significant that in the "Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration” which Miguel filled up in his own handwriting and submitted to the US Embassy in Manila before his departure for the United States in 1984, Miguel's answer to Question No. 21 therein regarding his "Length of intended stay (if permanently, so state)," Miguel's answer was,” Permanently.". On its face, the green card that was subsequently issued by the United States Department of Justice and Immigration and Registration Service to the respondent Merito C. Miguel identifies him in clear bold letters as a RESIDENT ALIEN. Despite his vigorous disclaimer, Miguel's immigration to the United States in 1984 constituted an abandonment of his domicile and residence in the Philippines. For he did not go to the United States merely to visit his children or his doctor there; he entered the limited States with the intention to have there permanently as evidenced by his application for an immigrant's (not a visitor's or tourist's) visa. Based on that application of his, he was issued by the U.S. Government the requisite green card or authority to reside there permanently. Section 18, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution which provides that "any public officer or employee who seeks to change his citizenship or acquire the status of an immigrant of another country during his tenure shall be dealt with by law" is not applicable to Merito Miguel for he acquired the status of an immigrant of the United States before he was elected to public office, not "during his tenure" as mayor of Bolinao, Pangasinan.
The law applicable to him is Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code that states that, “Any person who is a permanent resident of or an immigrant to a foreign country shall not be qualified to run for any elective office under this Code, unless such person has waived his status as permanent resident or immigrant of a foreign country in accordance with the residence requirement provided for in the election laws.”.