Colombian Elizabeth Eder Zobel de Ayala, wife of Ayala Corp. Chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, hurdled the first big step in becoming a Filipino citizen with the House of Representatives approving her application on Tuesday, Sept. 21.
With 167 affirmative and zero negative votes, the Lower Chamber approved on third and final reading House Bill 9376 that provides the grant of Philippine citizenship to Elizabeth through legislative action.
Eight congressmen abstained from the voting.
Approval of HB 9376 was strongly endorsed by the House Committee on Justice chaired by Leyte Rep. Vicente “Ching” Veloso.
HB 9376 seeks to declare Mrs. Zobel de Ayala Elizabeth a Filipino through legislative naturalization. The bill gives her all the “rights and privileges as well as duties and obligations” provided under the Constitution.
Elizabeth, a family relations and children’s education advocate, was born in Cali, Colombia but took residence in the Philippines since she married Ayala in June, 1987. She has been granted a permanent resident status by the Bureau of Immigration.
HB 9376 was filed by Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez. Co-authors included 33 members from the majority and minority bloc, most of them members of the Lakas-CMD party.
Representatives from the Department of Justice, Office of Solicitor General, Bureau of Immigration and the Department of Foreign Affairs interposed no objection to the bill, noting that there are no derogatory records on the citizenship applicant.
In a hearing conducted last month by the justice panel, DOJ Asst. Secretary Nicholas Felix Ty said Congress has every right to grant Elizabeth’s application for citizenship, noting that legislative naturalization is one of the modes of acquiring citizenship as provided by the 1987 Constitution.
In his sponsorship speech of the bill, Romualdez stressed that Elizabeth had made Philippines her home. Her four children: Mariana, Jaime Alfonso Eugenia and Mercedez, and two grandchildren, Vidal Augusto and Luisa are all Fillipino citizens.
Romualdez cited many advocacies and programs initiated by Elizabeth during her 34 years in the country, that included literacy programs for children, family planning and philanthropy.
“As a result of her work in the Philippines, LIzzie was named to the board of the Population Council, based in New York City, which delivers evidence-based solutions to overcome obstacles to health and development, with offices in over 50 countries,” the House official said.
She was founding board member of the Museo ng Pambata and the sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation, a literacy program that addressed funcitoinal literacy rates in public school students in the PHilippines.
“More recently, Lizzie co-founded and is chairman of the board of trustees of Teach for the PHilippines, a country partner of Teach for All,” disclosed Romualdez.
She also helped establish the Center for Asian Philanthropy and Society.
“After living in the Philippines for 34 years with my husband Jaime, my four children and two Filipino grandchildren, I have come to love the Philippines in a special way,” said Elizabeth in addressing lawmakers.
“In working together with the Filipino and for the filipino, I have fallen in love with the Philippines. I would like to formally become a citizen of the Philippines that I already feel in my heart,” she stated.
She added: “In all my endeavors, I have always have the love, support and encouragement of the people of the Philippines and I hope in my small way, I’ve been able to give back to this wonderful nation.” “It is this distinct love and commitment to the Philippines that has driven my desire to formalize my becoming to be part of this country,” stated Elizabeth.