Exclusive by Raïssa Robles
And the best way to clear the air is to show his complete US tax records for 2009 and 2012.
UPDATE: as of 5:27 PM, Dec. 9
Pacquiao’s lawyer for his tax case, Tranquil Salvador, told ABS-CBN:
“No, he is not a green card holder.”
I had hoped he would say – he never ever had a green card. That would settle the case once and for all.
It was Yvonne, one of the frequent commenters on Cyber Plaza Miranda, the growing community of people who congregate on this site, who tipped me off about this angle. She sent me a bunch of documents and links to look over.
One link immediately jumped out: that of www.wilneroreilly.com, a California law firm specializing in immigration. The company announced in March 2005 that Manny Pacquiao had hired the firm as its “immigration counsel.” See the announcement by clicking on this link.
Its corporate website called boxing icon Manny Pacquiao one of the “successful immigrants” to the United States. Below is the pertinent excerpt posted on the wilneroreilly.com website. It is dated 2009 – or four years after the firm was hired as Pacquiao’s immigration counsel :
Please note that a US immigrant, also known as a green card holder, is not an American citizen. Rather, he or she is a step short of becoming an American but has the privilege of going in and out of the US without need of a visa.
Wilner O’Reilly seems to be the immigration law firm of choice for Filipino celebrities. It has managed to obtain a green card for singer Lani Misalucha and US citizenship for Allan Pineda aka Apl de Aps of the Black Eyed Peas.
The Philippine Omnibus Election Code specifically bans green card holders from running for office unless they irrevocably give up their green card.
Yvonne told me she was concerned about Manny Pacquiao’s status in connection with the champ’s P2.2 billion tax liability case with the Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
Implications of Pacquiao’s US status on his tax case and political ambition
Pacquiao’s status in the US would have a direct bearing on his Philippine tax case. Pacquiao insists he already paid his 2008 and 2009 taxes in the US. Under a tax treaty between Washington and Manila, tax payments in the US can be deducted from tax payments in Manila.
Green card holders have to pay tax to the US government on all earnings in the US and elsewhere, Yvonne who resides in California explained to me. But non-resident aliens only pay tax on earnings in the US.
Personally, I’m neutral about Manny Pacquiao being an immigrant to the US. He has the lawful right to reside anywhere he pleases.
However, if Manny Pacquiao did get a green card in 2009 ( which is what wilneroreilly.com seems to proclaim), he would have disqualified himself from running for congressman in 2010 and for reelection this year – unless he had first waived his permanent residency or immigrant status to the US.
Pacquiao supporters are even now eyeing Manny for the presidency when he’s old enough. They even hope a timely constitutional amendment would enable him to run at least for vice-president in 2016. He will be 38 years old by then – two years short of 40, the required age for that position and the presidency.
It is in this context that Pacquiao’s possession or non-possession of a green card becomes a matter of public interest.
The same goes for his wife, Jinkee, who ran and won as Saranggani vice governor this year.
Manny Pacquiao has long denied he is a green card holder. He recently showed on GMA News the first page of his US tax returns for 2008 and 2009. He pointed out that the documents showed he was a “non-resident alien”, which implied he did not have a green card.
California law firm founding partner tells me the story on Manny Pacquiao on their website is “inaccurate”
I tried but was unable to reach Congressman Manny Pacquiao through his office in Congress or in Saranggani for comment.
But I did manage to reach Richard Wilner, the founding partner of Wilmer & O’Reilly immigration law firm.
Last Monday, I talked to Wilner by phone and asked why his law firm’s website calls Manny Pacquiao a successful immigrant.
Wilner reacted by saying what I was asking him was “privileged information.”
But I pointed out to him that it was his own corporate website that publicly refers to Manny Pacquiao as a successful immigrant.
He then gave this reply, a masterpiece of legal phrasing saying exactly nothing.
“This article which is incorrect in my opinion suggests that he has immigrated to the US. If he has done that, I don’t know.”
I asked him how he could not know when the article was posted on the website of his own law firm and Manny Pacquiao was their most famous client.
Wilner then expressed doubts it was on his company website and asked me where exactly it was. I told him and after looking at it, he replied that the article was “inaccurate” and he would have it removed from the website immediately.
When I asked him how it was inaccurate, he said he could not discuss that due to lawyer-client privilege. Besides, he said, the lawyer who had written the article was no longer connected with his law firm.
Wilner asked for my e-mail address and later, he e-mailed me the following message:
Thank you for your call and for bringing the 2009 article by Attorney Robert Dupont to my attention.
As discussed, any work that my firm did on behalf of Manny Pacquaio is strictly confidential and cannot be discussed with anyone besides Mr. Pacquaio.
What I can tell you, as mentioned, is that the article is inaccurate. And, you should not rely on it. Because of the inaccuracy in the article, I immediately took steps necessary to see to it that it is permanently removed from our website.
Thanks again for your call. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future.
Being a lawyer’s daughter, I noticed that Wilner referred to the article itself – and not to Manny Pacquiao’s immigration status – as “inaccurate.”
It’s a world of difference.
Wilner would not tell me what in the article was inaccurate.
Also, he had used the word “inaccurate” and not the word “wrong”. The word “inaccurate” covers a vast range of possibilities like “inexact, imprecise, incorrect, wrong, erroneous, careless, faulty, imperfect, flawed, defective, unsound, unreliable.” The word “wrong” simply means that.
A few days after my interview with Wilner, the article on wilneroreilly.com stating Pacquiao is a “successful” immigrant – which Yvonne found on the Internet and which had stayed on its website for the last four years – was erased.
Good thing I made a copy before that happened.
You can read for yourself below a PDF version of the original article which Wilner said was “inaccurate” and which he ordered to be removed from the corporate website after my interview with him.
Yvonne also found this link which will take you to a cache version of the original article describing Manny Pacquiao as a successful immigrant. Please click on this link to read it.
Curiously, however, Wilner told me that Manny Pacquiao’s “testimonial” that is also posted on his law firm’s website is “correct”. Here it is below:
It has not been removed from the website and can be viewed by clicking on the URL below:
Manny Pacquiao’s testimonial is recommending the law firm to all those who “are trying to make a life here in the US.” This seems to suggest migration, not vacation or temporary visit to the US.
Why would Manny Pacquiao, who became a Philippine congressman in 2010 and was reelected this year, publicly endorse immigration to the US? Shouldn’t he be saying instead – come to Mindanao? That testimonial is so weird coming from a Philippine government official.
And even more curiously, another article on the wilneroreilly.com website – which Yvonne also e-mailed me – stated that Manny Pacquiao had hired Wilner & O’Reilly only for the purpose of pursuing “lawful permanent residence in the United States.” Not US citizenship.
While the article above is undated, we can surmise that it was posted just before Manny Pacquiao’s unsuccessful bout with Erik Morales on March 19, 2005.
Here is the law firm’s announcement. The bold face is mine:
Team Pacquiao, Wilner & Reilly Extraordinary Fighter Hires Extraordinary Immigration Firm
Filipino Ring Icon Manny Pacquiao is in very good condition; he is more than ready for the “Fight of the Year” on March 19 at the MGM Las Vegas with “El Terible” Erik Morales. Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Gym plays host to many and the rest of his formidable team including trainer and confidant Buboy (Philippines Trainer of the Year) too many other famous people to mention and most recently, Wilner & O’Reilly.
Manny Pacquiao is one of the greatest and most exciting featherweight boxers of all time. Coupled with a love of his craft, he trains around the clock. His training is not only a product of his own discipline, but by being surrounded by the best of the best, namely Buboy and Freddie Roach.
It is Manny’s insight and acumen that lead him to Wilner & O’Reilly. As the world now knows, Manny is pursuing lawful permanent residence in the United States so that he may, among other things, continue to train and fight in the States. The process is a long and complicated one, and Manny is incredibly thankful to his family, friends and coaching staff for their assistance in pursuit of his personal and professional goals. He is also proud to be working with Richard M. Wilner of Wilner & O’Reilly.
While unwilling to comment on the specifics of his client’s case, Mr. Wilner did reveal the following: “I have been a fan of Manny’s for years. It is an honor to say that the Pacman is a client of mine. Perhaps more importantly, he’s a friend.”
As of this posting, this announcement is still up on the wilneroreilly.com website and can be viewed by clicking on the link below:
If this posting is removed, you can still read a copy of the announcement below:
Manny Pacquiao settled his defamation lawsuit against boxer Floyd Mayweather after Nevada court ruled Mayweather could obtain Manny’s tax records some other way
In 2009, Manny Pacquiao sued Mayweather after the latter accused him of using “performance-enhancing drugs.” Pacquiao said the accusation had hurt him financially.
In turn, Mayweather demanded that among others things, Pacquiao should produce his US tax records to show how much he had been hurt financially.
On Sept 21, 2012, a judge denied this particular demand of Mayweather but said he could “obtain the information through other means.”
On September 26, 2012 – five days after the Nevada court issued that ruling – news came out that Manny Pacquiao had dropped his lawsuit for an out-of-court settlement.
The same thing recently happened with Manny Pacquiao’s own Court of Appeals tax case against the Philippine BIR. Early last week, Pacquiao’s promoter Top Rank announced it had mailed Manny Pacquiao’s tax returns to his Philippine lawyers.
When I read that news report, I thought my angle no longer held water. Pacquiao was going to submit his US tax records to court.
However, to my surprise, instead of filing his US tax records in the Court of Appeals as many were anticipating, news came out that Manny Pacquiao had opted to settle his tax case out of court.
Why won’t Manny Pacquiao go public with his tax returns?
But he did, his camp insists. He recently showed his 2008 and 2009 tax returns to GMA News and there’s even this video:
However, if you look at the video closely, you will notice that the “tax returns” he showed for 2008 and 2009 consisted only of one page each. The rest of the pages are missing.
Manny Pacquiao only showed page 1 of his 2008 and 2009 tax returns on TV.
The other pages would be quite interesting.
Page 5 would be the most interesting and relevant page.
Here, Manny Pacquiao was required to disclose if he was ever a green card holder or if he ever applied for one; what his visa type was on the last day of the tax year; and if he has ever changed his visa type.
It also asks if he was claiming benefits under a tax treaty between the US and another country.
Below is a copy of the complete tax form that Manny Pacquiao was supposed to fill up for 2009.
It appears that even if Manny Pacquiao was a green card holder in the early part of 2009 (as what Richard Wilner’s law firm website claimed) he could still have filed using Form 1040NR (for non-residents) provided he was “a non-resident on the last day of the tax year.”
This is what is stated on page 5 of the guide on how to fill up Tax Form 1040NR. You can download the entire guide by clicking on the URL below:
I believe Manny Pacquiao is one of the greatest boxers of all time.
As a politician, though, he seems to lack transparency
I guess the best way to dispel all doubts about his US residency status is to release to the public the completed US tax forms he filed for 2009 and 2012, and not just the first page of each. Anyway, everyone knows he is a dollar multimillionaire.
Why being a green card holder violates Philippine election law
Under Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code, a green card holder is automatically disqualified from running for any elective office unless he drops his green card.
The pertinent sentence is highlighted below:
Sec. 68. Disqualifications. – Any candidate who, in an action or protest in which he is a party is declared by final decision of a competent court guilty of, or found by the Commission of having (a) given money or other material consideration to influence, induce or corrupt the voters or public officials performing electoral functions; (b) committed acts of terrorism to enhance his candidacy; (c) spent in his election campaign an amount in excess of that allowed by this Code; (d) solicited, received or made any contribution prohibited under Sections 89, 95, 96, 97 and 104; or (e) violated any of Sections 80, 83, 85, 86 and 261, paragraphs d, e, k, v, and cc, subparagraph 6, shall be disqualified from continuing as a candidate, or if he has been elected, from holding the office. 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 said 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.
And here is the link to the entire law.
As early as 1990, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that a US green card holder first has to meet three conditions before he can run for office:
First, he has to surrender his green card to the “appropriate US authorities”.
Second, he has to make an “irrevocable waiver of that status”.
And third, there has to be “clear evidence” of either the waiver or the surrender of the green card.
The court explained why – a green card holder cannot have “the best of both worlds.”
Here below is the 1990 landmark case:
Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 88831 November 8, 1990
MATEO CAASI, petitioner,
THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS and MERITO C. MIGUEL, respondents.
G.R. No. 84508 November 13, 1990
ANECITO CASCANTE petitioner,
THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and MERITO C. MIGUEL, respondents.
Ireneo B. Orlino for petitioner in G.R. Nos. 88831 & 84508.
Montemayor & Montemayor Law Office for private respondent.
These two cases were consolidated because they have the same objective; the disqualification under Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code of the private respondent, Merito Miguel for the position of municipal mayor of Bolinao, Pangasinan, to which he was elected in the local elections of January 18, 1988, on the ground that he is a green card holder, hence, a permanent resident of the United States of America, not of Bolinao.
G.R. No. 84508 is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision dated January 13, 1988 of the COMELEC First Division, dismissing the three (3) petitions of Anecito Cascante (SPC No. 87-551), Cederico Catabay (SPC No. 87-595) and Josefino C. Celeste (SPC No. 87-604), for the disqualification of Merito C. Miguel filed prior to the local elections on January 18, 1988.
G.R. No. 88831, Mateo Caasi vs. Court of Appeals, et al., is a petition for review of the decision dated June 21, 1989, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 14531 dismissing the petition for quo warranto filed by Mateo Caasi, a rival candidate for the position of municipal mayor of Bolinao, Pangasinan, also to disqualify Merito Miguel on account of his being a green card holder.
In his answer to both petitions, 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, including the plebiscite on February 2,1987 for the ratification of the 1987 Constitution, and the congressional elections on May 18,1987.
After hearing the consolidated petitions before it, the COMELEC with the exception of Commissioner Anacleto Badoy, Jr., dismissed the petitions 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 (sic) 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 (sic) as provided for in Section 42 of the Local Government Code, there is no legal obstacle to his candidacy for mayor of Bolinao, Pangasinan. (p. 12, Rollo, G.R. No. 84508).
In his dissenting opinion, Commissioner Badoy, Jr. opined that:
A green card holder being a permanent resident of or an immigrant of a foreign country and respondent having admitted that he is a green card holder, it is incumbent upon him, under Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code, to prove that he “has waived his status as a permanent resident or immigrant” to be qualified to run for elected office. This respondent has not done. (p. 13, Rollo, G.R. No. 84508.)
In G.R. No. 88831, “Mateo Caasi, petitioner vs. Court of Appeals and Merito Miguel, respondents,” the petitioner prays for a review of the decision dated June 21, 1989 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 14531 “Merito C. Miguel, petitioner vs. Hon. Artemio R. Corpus, etc., respondents,” reversing the decision of the Regional Trial Court which denied Miguel’s motion to dismiss the petition for quo warranto filed by Caasi. The Court of Appeals ordered the regional trial court to dismiss and desist from further proceeding in the quo warranto case. The Court of Appeals held:
… 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. (p. 22, Rollo, G.R. No. 88831.)
These two cases pose the twin issues of: (1) whether or not a green card is proof that the holder is a permanent resident of the United States, and (2) whether respondent Miguel had waived his status as a permanent resident of or immigrant to the U.S.A. prior to the local elections on January 18, 1988.
Section 18, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution provides:
Sec. 18. Public officers and employees owe the State and this Constitution allegiance at all times, and 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.
In the same vein, but not quite, Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines (B.P. Blg. 881) provides:
SEC. 68. Disqualifications … 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 said 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. (Sec. 25, 1971, EC).
In view of current rumor that a good number of elective and appointive public officials in the present administration of President Corazon C. Aquino are holders of green cards in foreign countries, their effect on the holders’ right to hold elective public office in the Philippines is a question that excites much interest in the outcome of this case.
In the case of Merito Miguel, the Court deems it significant that in the “Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration” (Optional Form No. 230, Department of State) 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. On the back of the card, the upper portion, the following information is printed:
Alien Registration Receipt Card.
Person identified by this card is entitled to reside permanently and work in the United States.” (Annex A pp. 189-190, Rollo of G.R. No. 84508.)
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.
Immigration is the removing into one place from another; the act of immigrating the entering into a country with the intention of residing in it.
An immigrant is a person who removes into a country for the purpose of permanent residence. As shown infra 84, however, statutes sometimes give a broader meaning to the term “immigrant.” (3 CJS 674.)
As a resident alien in the U.S., Miguel owes temporary and local allegiance to the U.S., the country in which he resides (3 CJS 527). This is in return for the protection given to him during the period of his residence therein.
Aliens reading in the limited States, while they are permitted to remain, are in general entitled to the protection of the laws with regard to their rights of person and property and to their civil and criminal responsibility.
In general, aliens residing in the United States, while they are permitted to remain are entitled to the safeguards of the constitution with regard to their rights of person and property and to their civil and criminal responsibility. Thus resident alien friends are entitled to the benefit of the provision of the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal constitution that no state shall deprive “any person” of life liberty, or property without due process of law, or deny to any person the equal protection of the law, and the protection of this amendment extends to the right to earn a livelihood by following the ordinary occupations of life. So an alien is entitled to the protection of the provision of the Fifth Amendment to the federal constitution that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. (3 CJS 529-530.)
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 (B.P. Blg. 881), which provides:
xxx xxx xxx
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.’
Did Miguel, by returning to the Philippines in November 1987 and presenting himself as a candidate for mayor of Bolinao in the January 18,1988 local elections, waive his status as a permanent resident or immigrant of the United States?
To be “qualified to run for elective office” in the Philippines, the law requires that the candidate who is a green card holder must have “waived his status as a permanent resident or immigrant of a foreign country.” Therefore, his act of filing a certificate of candidacy for elective office in the Philippines, did not of itself constitute a waiver of his status as a permanent resident or immigrant of the United States. The waiver of his green card should be manifested by some act or acts independent of and done prior to filing his candidacy for elective office in this country. Without such prior waiver, he was “disqualified to run for any elective office” (Sec. 68, Omnibus Election Code).
Respondent Merito Miguel admits that he holds a green card, which proves that he is a permanent resident or immigrant it of the United States, but the records of this case are starkly bare of proof that he had waived his status as such before he ran for election as municipal mayor of Bolinao on January 18, 1988. We, therefore, hold that he was disqualified to become a candidate for that office.
The reason for Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code is not hard to find. Residence in the municipality where he intends to run for elective office for at least one (1) year at the time of filing his certificate of candidacy, is one of the qualifications that a candidate for elective public office must possess (Sec. 42, Chap. 1, Title 2, Local Government Code). Miguel did not possess that qualification because he was a permanent resident of the United States and he resided in Bolinao for a period of only three (3) months (not one year) after his return to the Philippines in November 1987 and before he ran for mayor of that municipality on January 18, 1988.
In banning from elective public office Philippine citizens who are permanent residents or immigrants of a foreign country, the Omnibus Election Code has laid down a clear policy of excluding from the right to hold elective public office those Philippine citizens who possess dual loyalties and allegiance. The law has reserved that privilege for its citizens who have cast their lot with our country “without mental reservations or purpose of evasion.” The assumption is that those who are resident aliens of a foreign country are incapable of such entire devotion to the interest and welfare of their homeland for with one eye on their public duties here, they must keep another eye on their duties under the laws of the foreign country of their choice in order to preserve their status as permanent residents thereof.
Miguel insists that even though he applied for immigration and permanent residence in the United States, he never really intended to live there permanently, for all that he wanted was a green card to enable him to come and go to the U.S. with ease. In other words, he would have this Court believe that he applied for immigration to the U.S. under false pretenses; that all this time he only had one foot in the United States but kept his other foot in the Philippines. Even if that were true, this Court will not allow itself to be a party to his duplicity by permitting him to benefit from it, and giving him the best of both worlds so to speak.
Miguel’s application for immigrant status and permanent residence in the U.S. and his possession of a green card attesting to such status are conclusive proof that he is a permanent resident of the U.S. despite his occasional visits to the Philippines. The waiver of such immigrant status should be as indubitable as his application for it. Absent clear evidence that he made an irrevocable waiver of that status or that he surrendered his green card to the appropriate U.S. authorities before he ran for mayor of Bolinao in the local elections on January 18, 1988, our conclusion is that he was disqualified to run for said public office, hence, his election thereto was null and void.
WHEREFORE, the appealed orders of the COMELEC and the Court of Appeals in SPC Nos. 87-551, 87-595 and 87-604, and CA-G.R. SP No. 14531 respectively, are hereby set aside. The election of respondent Merito C. Miguel as municipal mayor of Bolinao, Pangasinan is hereby annulled. Costs against the said respondent.
Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Medialdea and Regalado, JJ., concur.
Feliciano, J., is on leave.