The disqualification cases against Senator Grace Poe’s candidacy for the Presidency in the upcoming election due to her questionable citizenship status has caused quite a stir in Philippine society. It has divided the sentiments of the Filipino people. While she has many supporters, there are people who call her a traitor supposedly because she abandoned her Philippine citizenship after taking up American citizenship in the past. Even after she renounced her American citizenship and regained her Philippine citizenship status, her critics still do not want to cut her some slack. They still refer to her as an American and they are not sure where her allegiance lies. They doubt that it is with the Philippine flag. It doesn’t help that her husband and children still have American citizenship.
It would be hard for Poe to convince some Filipinos that her loyalty now lies with the Philippines because a lot of them have a misguided sense of patriotism. For one, they think that anyone who migrated to another country is unpatriotic. It doesn’t matter to them what the circumstances are. To some, a person who decided to abandon his or her Philippine citizenship is a person unwilling to “sacrifice” or “suffer” along with the rest who stayed behind. In Poe’s case, for example, she said she was compelled to take up American citizenship because of love. After marrying an American citizen, she said it was her duty to support her husband and family in the US. Whatever her reason, she is now back in the Philippines.
The notion that Filipinos need to stay in the Philippines to be considered patriotic only makes sense if the person actively participates in nation building and is not apathetic to the issues plaguing the nation. The truth is, a lot of Filipinos who live abroad care more about what is going on in the Philippines compared to the millions of Filipinos who live in the Philippines but ruin it and don’t even care about how public servants are mismanaging the country. A lot of Filipinos only care about keeping track of their favorite celebrities from their favorite noontime shows.
Besides, some people seem to forget the fact that the Philippine government itself encourages Filipinos to seek jobs abroad due to the country’s reliance on remittances from overseas Filipino workers to keep the economy afloat. In other words, the Philippine government’s economic policy itself contributed to the growth of the Filipino diaspora – the migration or flight of millions of Filipinos from the Philippines. The deteriorating public infrastructure in the country and appalling services from both government agencies or privately own companies have also forced some Filipinos to seek better living conditions overseas. It’s not just those from the poor or middle class who do that, even those from the elite members of Philippine society have been doing it for decades.
While I still think that it is too premature of Poe to seek the Presidency after only three years in the Senate, it is actually unfair of her critics to keep questioning her allegiance. After all, she has already acquired her Filipino citizenship. In fairness to her, she already “sacrificed” a lot by abandoning the US — a country that offers a superior standard of living and a system that works for the majority of its citizens — just to “serve” the Filipino people. Millions of Filipinos would do anything to live in the US but she chose to come back to the Philippines. That should say a lot about her eagerness to work in the Philippine government. What her critics should be questioning is her loyalty to President Benigno Simeon Aquino. She seems soft on him despite knowing he is incompetent. But I digress…
Some also say, aside from being the daughter of a former celebrity, Poe’s popularity has to do with Filipino colonial mentality, that her having lived in the US gives her an edge over some of her rivals. Her critics think that just because she lived abroad doesn’t mean she can act like a Miss-Know-It-All. I find those who say that a bit petty. It is quite natural for anyone who has lived in a country like the US to acquire First World knowledge and attitudes and would want to apply it to the Philippines. There should be nothing wrong with that.
The problem with a lot of Filipinos is they are averse to new ideas particularly if the ideas are coming from Westerners. They think that Filipinos who have left the country and foreigners alike do not have any business giving “advice” about the Philippines. Never mind that Filipinos who live abroad can think outside the box or may have better, tried and tested ideas for the country. Likewise, Filipinos who live abroad still have relatives and friends in the Philippines they want to help live better lives. Like Filipino migrants, foreigners do have the right to give advice to Filipinos because, more than likely, they come from countries that provide assistance when the Philippines experience natural disasters. In other words, Filipino migrants and foreigners do get affected indirectly when the Philippines is in crisis.
If some Filipinos do not want Filipino migrants overseas or any foreigner to meddle in local affairs, then they should also stop asking for assistance from other countries when the country is in crisis. They can’t just accept help when it is convenient and reject advice when it involves hard work. Filipinos will not grow as a society if they are not open to sound ideas coming from outside. Filipinos should quit being too proud to accept good advice just because the advice is coming from non-Filipino citizens.
In summary, some people’s idea of patriotism is outdated. They should accept the fact that Filipinos who live abroad still have a stake in the country because a lot of their loved ones are still living in the Philippines. I mean, who doesn’t have relatives living abroad nowadays? Filipinos who live abroad contribute a lot to the economy through tourism and remittances sent to their families in the Philippines. That is enough reason for them to enjoy a right to “meddle” in Philippine affairs.
So those who want to criticize Poe should stick to questioning whether she is qualified or not for the Presidency. I personally think she is not. But saying she is a traitor just because she acquired an American citizenship in the past would mean those who left the country with the encouragement of the Philippine government to ‘help the economy’ are also traitors. Now that doesn’t make sense at all.