Can a Filipino American who was born and raised in San Francisco, who served four years in the U.S. military, and who travelled to the Philippines on a U.S. passport, ever be elected president of the Philippines? It almost happened. In the May 2010 Philippine presidential elections, the official vice presidential candidate of the administration party was Filipino American Edu Manzano. If he had been elected vice president, instead of Makati Mayor Jojo Binay, Manzano would have been just one heartbeat away from becoming president of the Philippines.
Eduardo Manzano was born in San Francisco on September 14, 1955. Because both his parents were Philippine citizens, Manzano was considered a Philippine citizen under the principle of jus sanguinis (blood). But because he was born in the U.S., he was also considered an American citizen (jus soli).
When Manzano was 6, his parents brought him to the Philippines on his U.S. passport and enrolled him at La Salle Greenhills where he graduated from elementary school in 1969 and from high school in 1972. At the age of 17, at the height of the Vietnam War, Manzano returned to the U.S. and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force where he served in the Missile Engineering Group of the Strategic Air Command.
After completing 4-years in the U.S. Air Force, Manzano returned to the Philippines using his U.S. passport and tried his luck in showbiz. With his mestizo features, he succeeded in landing starring roles in movies and TV shows. He later became a box-office star with his second movie, Captain Barbell. He also hosted his own TV show, Late Night with Edu.
Manzano married film stars Vilma Santos in 1980 and Maricel Soriano in 1989.
Manzano’s political career began when he was elected president of the Actors’ Guild of the Philippines, the Kapisanan ng mga Artista sa Pelikulang Pilipino, in 1995. A few short years later, Manzano ran for vice mayor of Makati in the May 11, 1998 elections. Two weeks before the elections, however, a private citizen named Ernesto Mamaril filed a petition with the Comelec to disqualify Manzano on the grounds that he was a dual citizen and thus barred by Section 40(d) of the Local Government Code from running for public office.
On May 7, the Comelec ruled in Mamaril’s favor and ordered the cancelation of Manzano’s certificate of candidacy. The following day, on May 8, Manzano filed a motion for reconsideration which remained pending at the time of the May 11 elections which Manzano won by less than 3,000 votes over his nearest rival, Ernesto Mercado. Manzano’s proclamation as vice mayor was suspended pending the Comelec’s decision on Manzano’s motion for reconsideration.
On August 31, 1998, the COMELEC en banc reversed its prior ruling and declared, by a 4-1 decision, that Manzano was qualified to run for vice mayor of the City of Makati in the May 11, 1998 elections. The Comelec ruled that “It is an undisputed fact that when respondent attained the age of majority, he registered himself as a voter, and voted in the elections of 1992, 1995 and 1998, which effectively renounced his US citizenship under American law. Under Philippine law, he no longer had U.S. citizenship.” The Comelec then ordered the Makati Board of Canvassers to proclaim Manzano as the duly elected vice mayor of Makati.
The losing candidate, Ernesto Mercado, immediately filed a petition for certiorari with the Philippine Supreme Court to reverse the Comelec’s decision. On May 26, 1999, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled en banc in favor of Manzano. The Court took note of the difference between dual allegiance and dual citizenship.
A Philippine citizen who actively chooses to swear allegiance to another country cannot run for office in the Philippines but a Philippine citizen who is a dual citizen of another country because of birth can run for office in the Philippines if he renounces his citizenship in the other country.
As the Supreme Court noted, “by declaring in his certificate of candidacy that he is a Filipino citizen; that he is not a permanent resident or immigrant of another country; that he will defend and support the Constitution of the Philippines and bear true faith and allegiance thereto and that he does so without mental reservation, private respondent has, as far as the laws of this country are concerned, effectively repudiated his American citizenship and anything which he may have said before as a dual citizen…private respondent’s oath of allegiance to the Philippines, when considered with the fact that he has spent his youth and adulthood, received his education, practiced his profession as an artist, and taken part in past elections in this country, leaves no doubt of his election of Philippine citizenship.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Manzano dismissing Mercado’s petition for certiorari.
In 2001, Manzano ran for Makati mayor and lost to the incumbent, Jojo Binay. In 2004, he was appointed chair of the Optical Media Board, serving until 2009 when he was selected as the running mate of the administration party’s presidential candidate, Gilbert Teodoro.
Had Manzano been elected vice president in the May 2010 elections, he would have been the frontrunner in the May 2016 presidential elections. In 2016, he could have been the first San Francisco born Filipino American president of the Philippines.
(Send comments to Rodel50@gmail.com or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francico, CA 94127, USA or call 415.334.7800.)