POSTSCRIPT / September 19, 1999 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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FilAms, dual citizens need not get ACRs

THIS is official. Filipinos who carry foreign passports or who have a foreign citizenship aside from their Philippine citizenship may formalize their dual status by applying for a Certificate of Recognition with the Bureau of Immigration.

Applicants may go to the Intramuros office of Immigration Commissioner Rufus B. Rodriguez, who told Postscript the other day the details of securing the not-so-well-known certificate.

The certificate says in writing that the government recognizes the person as a Filipino under the citizenship provisions of Article IV of the Constitution. These persons include those born abroad with at least one Filipino parent at the time of birth (Section 1, Paragraph 2,of Article IV).

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OUR favorite example of the above case is a child born in the United States with either his mother or his father being a Filipino at the time. The child is at birth an American by birth place (jus soli) and a Filipino by parentage (jus sanguinis).

When this US-born child is brought to the Philippines, he normally would be carrying a US passport (probably secured for him by his parents) as a brand-new American.

After arrival, however, instead of being registered as an alien and getting an Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR), the parents may secure for their child a Certificate of Recognition (as a Filipino) from the office of Commissioner Rodriguez.

Those who are unaware of the Certificate of Recognition either get an ACR or neglect to get one and live in constant fear of being caught for what they think is a violation of immigration rules.

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THE Certificate of Recognition will exempt the child from having to secure an ACR or, as in the case of temporary visitors, to secure an extension of his Philippine visa or stay.

The child need not do anything to perfect his Filipino citizenship. He is, since birth, legally and totally a Filipino, covered by the full panoply of rights and privileges enjoyed by Filipinos.

In fact, the child in the example is a natural-born Filipino, and may even run for president of this country if he has all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications when the time comes.

When he goes abroad using his US passport (after all, he is still an American), he can present his Certificate of Recognition as a Filipino to airport immigration officers to avoid being asked for exit papers normally required of departing alien residents.

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RODRIGUEZ told Postscript that the bureau agrees fully with the decision of the Supreme Court in the leading case (GR 135083) titled Ernesto Mercado vs. Eduardo (Edu) B. Manzano and the Commission on Elections.

That decision, promulgated last May, upholds the legality of dual citizenship as implicitly recognized under Article IV on citizenship, despite a clause in the same Article saying that “dual allegiance is inimical to national interest.”

With the ruling, Filipinos with dual citizenship can now come out in the open and banish all fears that they may be violating the law or are traitors hiding under the flag of another state.

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BUT dual citizenship is not a perpetual status. In the same Supreme Court decision, the tribunal ruled that when actor Edu Manzano, a dual citizen, filed his certificate of candidacy for Makati vice mayor, he renounced his other (US) citizenship.

By his candidacy and his assuming the post of vice mayor upon his election, Manzano ceased to be an American. From the point of view of US law, Manzano also has renounced his US citizenship.

In fact, the actor may have exposed himself to possible prosecution when, in a dramatic press conference, he reportedly tore his US passport to emphasize his having renounced his US citizenship. That passport was US government property.

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WE knew all these years about the Immigration-issued Certificate of Recognition. But we thought that the bureau was not publicizing the certificate because it did not want to be swamped with applications.

Rodriguez said this was not the case, adding that they did not advertise it because they did not have the funds for that. But it’s there and we issue it in meritorious cases, he said.

To streamline processing and to discourage any attempt to extract unauthorized payments from applicants, Rodriguez has drawn up a checklist of requirements and fixed the payment to P2,360, broken down into a P2,110 ID certificate fee and a P250 expedite fee. Payments are covered by official receipts.

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AS of last Friday, the checklist of requirements is: (1) Letter request from applicant or any of his parents or his legal guardian; (2) Birth certificate of applicant/child; (3) Birth certificate of petitioner/parent; (4) Marriage contract of parents; (5) Passport of applicant/child; (6) Passport of petitioners/parents; (7) Affidavit of citizenship by applicant’s parents; and (8) Proof of Filipino citizenship of petitioner or applicant’s parent at applicant’s birth.

We said “as of last Friday,” because Rodriguez has asked the bureau’s chief lawyer Ronaldo Ledesma to review the list having in mind pruning and simplifying it. It is likely that some of the items on the checklist would be removed for being redundant or unnecessary.

The Certificate of Recognition has no expiry date. The holder is recognized as a Filipino for life, unless he commits an act amounting to a renunciation of his citizenship.

* * *

ONE such act of renunciation is committed when a Filipino is naturalized as a citizens of another country, such as the US (our favorite example), that requires a renunciation of the person’s first citizenship.

The US oath of allegiance taken by naturalized citizens opens with: “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen…”

A Filipino who is thus naturalized in another country is not a dual citizen since he has lost his native citizenship. He is not qualified for a Certificate of Recognition.

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BUT it can happen that the naturalized American was able to keep his Philippine passport. Theoretically, if his passport is still valid or unexpired, the new American can still use it since nobody in the immigration service knows he is no longer a Filipino.

If the Filipino-turned-American comes to the Philippines and renews his Philippine passport upon its expiration, he may just be able to misrepresent himself and secure a new passport despite his being no longer a Filipino.

There is no coordination between the US and the Philippine governments on who among the citizens of the other country have changed citizenship.

The securing and the use of a Philippine passport by a Filipino who has lost or renounced his citizenship is a crime.

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IN another move to streamline procedures and curb graft in the immigration service, Rodriguez issued last Aug. 31 orders simplifying requirements for Filipino travelers.

Departing Filipinos will no longer be required at the airport Immigration desk to produce “show money” to prove that they can afford to travel. They will no longer have to show affidavits of support to assure the government that they would not become a public burden.

Also, immigration officers were ordered to stop the practice of sizing up the travelers and, using discretion alone, deciding if they should be allowed to board.

There had been cases of immigration officers holding the departure of a Filipino just because he looked to them as “cannot afford to travel” or that he was going abroad to go TNT (tago ng tago) and look for work.

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RODRIGUEZ also asked Postscript to announce that any agency or person collecting P10,000 as an alleged “immigration escort fee” will be prosecuted. Erring agencies will be blacklisted, he said.

He asked victims of such exaction to report to his office. He assured us that those reporting illegal collection of alleged fees would be protected against harassment of those behind the racket.

Some agencies or recruiters claim that they pay P10,000 to immigration officers at the airport to ensure the unhampered departure of the travelers, usually those who are going to work abroad. There is no such fee and its collection is unauthorized, he said.

* * *

UNDER the new guidelines of Rodriguez, Filipino travelers are classified into two groups: Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) and Filipino tourists (FT).

An OFW is one who holds a passport or a visa stating that he is an overseas worker. All other Filipino travelers fall under the tourist (FT) category.

These are the only departure requirements for OFW: Genuine passport and visa, Overseas Employment Certificate as required by the POEA and the Migrant Workers Act. Nothing else.

For the rest (presumed as tourists), the traveler needs only a valid passport and a visa (if required by the destination country), a valid return ticket, and his non-listing in the bureau’s hold departure order or watchlist.

Any other requirement outside this list is unauthorized. Officers who harass travelers must be reported so action could be taken against them.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 19, 1999)

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