POSTSCRIPT / September 2, 1999 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Dual citizenship is legal, SC rules

GOOD news for some Filipino Americans who want to legally remain Filipinos, validly hold on to their Philippine passports, freely go to the homeland not as aliens but as returning residents, and buy real estate.

The Supreme Court has handed down a landmark decision that dual citizenship for certain Filipinos is legal – provided they have not performed any act amounting to renouncing their Philippine citizenship or paying allegiance to a foreign power.

The tribunal’s ruling was made some three months ago as it threw out a petition to stop the Commission on Elections from proclaiming the poll victory of actor Edu Manzano as Makati vice mayor.

The petitioner, defeated vice mayoral candidate Ernesto Mercado, said Manzano was not a Filipino as required of candidates because he was an American. As an alien, Manzano should not have run and should not be proclaimed winner, his rival said.

Manzano admitted that he held an American passport, a prima facie evidence of citizenship, but pointed out that he also carried a Philippine passport and was also a Filipino – in short, a dual citizen.

To dramatize his being a true-blue Filipino, the actor tore his US passport in a press conference at the height of the last election campaign.

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IN a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court said that a Filipino, under certain circumstances, can legally be also a citizen of another country and carry a foreign passport without necessarily losing his Filipino citizenship.

But he should not have performed overt acts of paying allegiance to a foreign power or willfully renouncing his Filipino citizenship, the court said.

Renunciation and loss of citizenship can result from one’s serving in the military force of another power, or applying for and gaining naturalization in another country.

But if a Filipino just happens to hold a foreign (US) passport by accident of his birth, as in the case of Manzano, and has not renounced his Filipino citizenship, he is still a Filipino despite his also being an American.

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THE Filipino traveler in the example above can carry both Filipino and American passports without violating Philippine law.

In fact, he is considered a natural-born citizen under our Constitution and may even run for president later in life if he has all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications for the presidency.

The Constitution says in part in Section 2 of Article IV: “Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship.”

A person born in the United States with at least one parent being a Filipino is an American and a Filipino at birth and need not do anything to perfect either of his two citizenships.

It is not his fault that the two countries both recognize him to be their citizen. He did not apply for citizenship. Things just happened without his active intervention. It was the state (the Philippines or the US) that claimed him as its citizen.

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CITIZENSHIP at birth is not decided by the person, but by the state that claims him as its citizen. (Of course it could also be predetermined by the mother by making sure she delivers her baby in the country of her choice, but we’re not referring to that scheme.)

The Philippines is a signatory to an international convention that recognizes possible dual citizenship. It must respect the special circumstances of birth of its citizens.

In the case of the Philippines, the Constitution (Section 1 of Article IV) says that “The following are citizens of the Philippines: xxx 2. Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines.”

Note that the charter says “fathers or mothers,” not “fathers and mothers,” which makes it more liberal. This is the principle of jus sanguinis in operation, where blood or parentage determines the offspring’s citizenship.

In the US, the principle of jus soli is followed, saying in effect that the soil where one is born determines one’s citizenship.

With the US embassy in Manila being an extension of American sovereign territory, we can imagine theoretically an overzealous woman in labor rushing into the embassy lobby to deliver her baby as an American by operation of jus soli.

* * *

WITH the Supreme Court having recognized the legality of dual citizenship, there is no more bar to uniquely situated Filipinos holding not only dual but even triple or multiple citizenship.

To illustrate, supposing a Filipina married to a citizen of a third country gives birth in the US. If her husband comes from a country that also follows the jus sanguinis rule of the Philippines, her child is born a Filipino (because the mother is a Filipino), an American (because he was born in the US), and also a citizen of the country of his alien father.

The mother remains a Filipino despite her marriage to the foreigner, and her Philippine citizenship is acquired by her child.

The mother’s citizenship is protected by the Constitution, which provides under Section 4 of the same Article IV being cited: “Citizens of the Philippines who marry aliens shall retain their citizenship, unless by their act or omission they are deemed, under the law, to have renounced it.”

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WE’VE heard some parties say that the Constitution bans dual citizenship. We checked and found Section 5 of the same article IV on citizenship saying: “Dual allegiance of citizens is inimical to the national interest and shall be dealt with by law.”

Note that this section speaks of dual allegiance, not dual citizenship. This section is not an explicit prohibition against a Filipino’s possibly holding dual citizenship.

A Filipino born in the US, for instance, also happens to be an American, but he does not necessarily owe allegiance to the United States of America.

The US passport issued to a Filipino American baby before he is flown out of the US by his parents is normally given (most likely on application of the parents) without the baby’s allegiance entering the picture. Besides, he is not of legal or mental age to make such an important decision as owing allegiance to the state.

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A MOVE is gaining ground for the enactment of a law recognizing dual citizenship for Filipinos. This idea is popular among overseas Filipinos who want to return and resume life in their homeland.

At the moment, the Supreme Court ruling is sufficient law on the subject. By judicial legislation, the tribunal clarified the issue of dual citizenship long debated by politicians and plain folk alike.

But Congress may still pass laws pertaining to citizenship to spell out details and procedures governing an individual’s acquisition and loss, as well as his enjoyment and exercise of his citizenship in relation to others.

Congress can tackle the related question, for instance, of Filipinos who applied for naturalization or were petitioned by relatives and who, at the point of naturalization, renounced their Filipino citizenship and/or pledged allegiance to the another state.

Those who had renounced their citizenship are obviously a different case, because they had given up their Philippine citizenship. They are technically aliens.

* * *

SOME travelers holding both Philippine and American passports sometimes pass through an elaborate and costly procedure. They first fly to Hong Kong using Philippine passports, then proceed to the US using their US passports.

There might develop a legal complication, however, if it turns out that a Filipino was able to get two passports through misrepresentation or fraud.

Dual citizenship as upheld by the Supreme Court does not mean that any FilAm holding a US passport may now secure a new Philippine passport citing the SC ruling.

Note that a Filipino who had renounced his Philippine citizenship then hid the fact of his naturalization in another country and glibly claimed having lost his old passport when he applied for a new Philippine passport, is opening himself to prosecution.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 2, 1999)

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