POSTSCRIPT / September 5, 1999 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Go after smugglers? Depende sa smuggler!

SOME time back, President Estrada asked his intelligence boys to submit a consolidated list of big-time operators engaged in technical smuggling, presumably in preparation for a no-nonsense crackdown on economic saboteurs.

The President was given a list with these names: Jimmy de Chavez, Johnny Tan, Johnny Sy, Francing, Larry Santiago, all allegedly active in South Harbor and MICP; Luz (forex), South Harbor; Lucio Co, Jenny Chua and Lina Flores, all at the NAIA Arrival, IBR, PSI, Postal, South Harbor and MICP.

Malacañang later went after the alleged big fish on the intelligence list – except for a certain Jimmy de Chavez. Why was he exempted?

Lately, the Palace has been coming out with more names of alleged smugglers, many of them reportedly small fry compared to those on the first list. Still there is no Chavez. Why?

* * *

EVERYTIME there is a proposal to look into the contracts and operations of some foreign investors, a voice reverberates from the Palace telling us to keep quiet otherwise, it says, foreign investors will go away.

Are we in the pocket of foreigners? Investors, local and foreign, have nothing to worry about if they obey the law, stick to the rules, and do not abuse the hospitality of their hosts.

Now if they bribe their way around, buy privilege in violation of law, or bleed this country in cahoots with their local partners in crime, that’s another story.

Our leaders should not hide their corruption, should not cover up dirty deals, by asking everybody, including media and concerned citizens, to spare their foreign investor friends from scrutiny.

* * *

MANY readers have been asking a variety of questions on dual citizenship, a hot topic in Postscript. Instead of replying to them individually, we would just make general remarks that we hope would give some enlightenment.

This early, we also want to nip any misinterpretation or expectation that the latest Supreme Court decision cited in the last Postscript has flung open the door to dual citizenship to all Filipinos who had become citizens of other countries.

First point is that under the Constitution, anybody is a Filipino at birth if any of his parents is a Filipino at the time. The child has nothing to do with his automatic acquisition of Philippine citizenship.

It is the law, the Constitution no less, operating to confer on him that national identity under the jus sanguinis principle of blood or parentage determining one’s citizenship at birth.

* * *

IT so happens that under the laws of other countries, for example the United States, the place of birth is the controlling element under the other principle of jus soli. In the US, anybody born on US soil is automatically an American.

So it can happen that a child born in the US, one of whose parents, is a Filipino is both an American and a Filipino. This is the classic example of a Filipino holding dual citizenship.

It should be noted that he gained that status without having to do anything. Additionally, he does not have to do or undo anything later to perfect his being a Philippine citizen and his being a US citizen. He remains both a Filipino and an American until he does something to change that status.

From the point of view of Philippine laws, the dual citizen may legally hold two different passports, one from the Philippines and another from the other country claiming him to be its citizen.

* * *

A FILIPINO clothed with dual citizenship, as in the Filipino American example, may depart from the country using a valid Philippine passport and enter the US using his American passport without having to carry a US visa. The same is true when he comes back to the Philippines.

The example will apply in the case of other Filipinos in other countries caught in a similar situation of birth and parentage.

It can even happen that a Filipino could have triple or multiple citizenship. An illustration given in Postscript is that of a child born of a Filipino mother whose non-Filipino father is a citizen of a country that applies the same jus sanguinis principle used in the Philippines.

At birth, the child is a citizen of the Philippines and of the country of his father. If he was born in a third country, say in the US, that uses the jus soli principle, then he is also a citizen of that third country (US) where he was born. He has three nationalities at birth.

* * *

IN the examples above, the children are natural-born Filipinos. As such, they can run for president despite their having one parent who is a foreigner or the fact that they were born in a foreign land.

(This is on condition that at the time they run for office they have all the qualifications and non of the disqualifications for that office. Mostly likely they also will have to renounce their other citizenship, if any, before they are allowed to run.)

There is a move to pass a law recognizing dual citizenship and spelling out the details of how it is acquired and lost, what rights and responsibilities it confers on the individual, and what its legal implications are.

* * *

IN the absence of that proposed legislation, the law on the subject is the latest Supreme Court ruling on GR No. 135083 (Ernesto S. Mercado vs. Eduardo Barrios Manzano and the Commission on Elections) promulgated May 26, 1999.

The private respondent is actor Edu Manzano who ran for and won as vice mayor of Makati. Mercado, a defeated candidate, asked the Supreme Court to bar Manzano’s assuming office on the ground that Manzano is an American. The tribunal threw out Mercado’s petition for lack of merit.

In the decision, rendered without any dissenting opinion, the high court recognized the legality of dual citizenship. It said that Manzano’s holding a US passport, which the actor admitted, did not erase the fact that he was also a Filipino and therefore qualified to run for public office.

Manzano was born in San Francisco, California, in 1955 of Filipino parents. At age six, his parents brought him to the Philippines using a US passport and later registered him with the immigration bureau as an alien.

* * *

THE high court said that Manzano’s use of a US passport and his parents’ registering him as an alien did not divest him of his Philippine citizenship as he did not renounce his being a Filipino or take an oath of allegiance to the US.

The court agreed with a ruling of the Comelec banc that when Manzano attained age of majority, registered as a voter and voted in the elections of 1992, 1995 and 1998, he in effect renounced his US citizenship.

When Manzano ran for vice mayor in the 1998 elections, he filed a certificate of candidacy part of which is a formal oath of allegiance to the Philippine government.

The court also pointed out that what the Constitution frowns upon as “inimical to the national interest” under Section 5, Article IV, is not dual citizenship but dual allegiance.

Such an interpretation is borne out by the minutes of the 1987 Constitutional Convention showing the intent of the framers of the charter.

* * *

FROM the foregoing, we conclude that dual citizenship is recognized only for Filipinos who have not acted or actively participated in any process that amounts to his renouncing his Philippine citizenship or his paying allegiance to a foreign power.

If Manzano did not register and vote, if he did not run for public office or did anything else that struck down his US citizenship, he would still be holding dual citizenship. His legal status now is that of a Filipino. He is no longer an American, in the eyes of the Philippine government.

In the same manner, Filipinos who emigrated to the US or some other country and applied for and acquired the citizenship of their country of legal residence have lost (actually given up) their Philippine citizenship. They are no longer dual citizens.

* * *

PART of the process of naturalization, particularly in the US, is the applicant’s renouncing his citizenship and pledging allegiance to the US and to no other power.

Other acts considered as renunciation of one’s citizenship include his serving under the flag of another state. Military service is one such case, although under a previous treaty arrangement, Filipinos could serve in the US armed forces without automatic loss of their Philippine citizenship.

Filipinos who by their acts have renounced their citizenship can no longer be considered Filipinos under the Supreme Court ruling cited.

* * *

NOW if Congress passes a law recognizing such national turncoats as still Filipinos, that is an entirely different matter. That is, from the point of view of Philippine law, regardless of how US law will regard the extending or conferring of another citizenship on US citizens.

Filipinos who had taken another citizenship (through naturalization) and who now want to come back and enjoy again the rights and privileges of Filipinos must be told that they may be disappointed since they are technically aliens.

Only those who have not renounced their Filipino citizenship can benefit, at this point, from the favorable ruling of the Supreme Court. The rest will have to wait till a more liberal law is adopted.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 5, 1999)

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