Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sammy retorts on nationality issue

Reelected Mayor Samuel “Sammy” Co has dispelled reports passed around that he is facing disqualification proceedings for the reason that he is not a Filipino citizen.

In a conversation inside his office last Monday, Co said that he has complete records of his birth and residency which shows his status as a natural born Filipino and not Chinese as supposed.

He added that the citizenship issue first cropped up during the election campaign, further saying he believed this was raised by disgruntled people who may either have an axe to grind or just toying with the question of citizenship against him to discredit the efforts he has done for the city for the last nine years.

The report about the mayor’s citizenship being questioned was contained in email messages circulating in the internet, a copy of which was sent to this paper last week, which alleged that Co’s parents, namely Chun Tec Co and Suat Kim Sy, neither filed their petitions for naturalization because the Office of the Solicitor General does not bear such names in its records.

The unnamed sender even claimed that such information was researched based on the findings and certification from the Office of the Solicitor General under the Special Committee on Naturalization.

The document added that such a failure of Co’s parents in filing their petitions for naturalization resulted to them not having conferred Philippine citizenship by administrative naturalization by virtue of the country’s naturalization law.

“The petition partly alleges that the respondent, not being a Filipino citizen does not possess the qualifications to run and to be voted upon for the Office of the City Mayor; hence respondent is not eligible to have him self elected. He is a Chinese national,” the document asserted.

“As alleged, the birth certificate of Mayor Co, which is considered a prima facie evidence under the above issue, does not satisfy the provision of Article 172, entitled Proof of Filiation,” it added.

Written below the article are these words: “We tried to reach the Mayor to make his rejoinder, but the Mayor was out of town and his camp appears to be silent all about the issue at the moment.”

In retort, Co called the article as false, malicious and “a product of wicked minds” as he said that his both his parents and elder brother Alexander Co Sr. were naturalized in 1960.

Article IV, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution defined Philippine citizens as “Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines; Those born before January 17, 1973, of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority; and Those who are naturalized in accordance of law.”

This, he added, made himself and all his other brothers and sisters Filipino, born and raised in this country.

Commonwealth Act No. 473, approved June 17, 1939, likewise provided that persons having certain specified qualifications may become a citizen of the Philippines by naturalization.

Another law, Republic Act 9139, provides that “aliens under the age of 18 who were born in the Philippines, who have resided in the Philippines and have resided therein since birth, and who possess other specified qualifications may be granted Filipino citizenship by administrative proceeding subject to certain requirements.”

Meanwhile, an international publication called The Dragon Asia Magazine, which highlight successful and influential Filipino-Chinese leaders, featured Co in 2009 and described his humble beginnings.

“[His] parents were originally from Lucena, and were on a tour to Mindanao when they saw the opportunity to build a rice mill in a tiny town that had none,” the magazine said.

“His grandparents, who owned a 99-room in China, had migrated to the Philippines to escape Communism. From his parents’ rice mill, business flourished and to avoid fighting, his father diversified. The rest is history,” the article continued.

Co was born on March 10, 1966 in Pagadian City. He spent his elementary days at the Pagadian City Chamber School and his secondary schooling at the Misamis Union High School in Ozamiz City.

He pursued college at the Cebu Institute of Technology taking Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. He then went back to Pagadian and married a daughter of a famous politician family.

In 1998, at the age of 32, he ran and won as city councilor, assumed as vice mayor in 2003 by virtue of succession and became city mayor the following year.

The Co family in Pagadian, wrote The Dragon Asia Magazine, is “into practically every possible business there is in the city,” including industrial machines, ice plants, rice and corn mills, saw mills and coconut mills, soap, lumber, trucking, hotel and restaurants, constructions and auto supply.