POSTSCRIPT / November 4, 2001 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Yes, the Constitution allows dual citizenship

MANY people have the mistaken notion that dual citizenship for Filipinos is illegal, that it is not allowed by the Constitution.

It’s not so. What the Constitution prohibits is dual allegiance, not dual citizenship. Section 5 of Article IV (on Citizenship) says: “Dual allegiance of citizens is inimical to the national interest and shall be dealt with by law.”

In fact, Section 4 of the same Article says: “Citizens of the Philippines who marry aliens shall retain their citizenship, unless by their acts or omission they are deemed, under the law, to have renounced it.”

The key word is “renounce.” Philippine citizenship is lost or reacquired only in a manner provided by law. One way of losing one’s citizenship is to renounce it or, by some act or omission, be deemed to have renounced it.

In the naturalization process of some countries, the applicant is required not only to swear allegiance to the adoptive country but also to renounce his allegiance to his country of origin. Some countries, however, do not bother about renunciation.

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IF a Filipino marrying an alien is not required to renounce his/her citizenship and is automatically conferred the citizenship of the spouse, the Filipino should be able to retain his/her Philippine citizenship — thereby acquiring dual/multiple citizenship.

Or take the case of a child born in the United States with one or both of his parents being Filipinos at the time. This is the classic example of a dual citizen. The child is legally both Filipino and American.

By the principle of jus soli, which is followed in the US, the child is a natural-born American by the simple expedience of his/her being born on American soil. He does not have to do or undo anything to perfect his American citizenship.

At the same time, however, the child is also a Filipino in the eyes of Philippine law using the principle of jus sanguinis, which confers citizenship based on blood ties to the parents.

Section 1 (paragraph 2) under the same Article IV we cited earlier says: “The following are citizens of the Philippines: xxx (2) Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines.”

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WHEN the child born abroad is to be brought back to the Philippines by his Filipino parents, he will need a passport or some equivalent travel document. The parents can apply (for the child) a passport either from the nearest consular office of the US State Department or from the Philippine consulate in the area.

If they go to the State Department office, carrying the child’s birth certificate showing he was born in the US, their offspring is recognized as an American and is issued a US passport.

The child then travels to and stays in the Philippines as an American. Despite his carrying a US passport, however, he is also a Filipino by virtue of Section 1(2) cited above since his parents are Filipino at the time of his birth.

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DO the Filipino parents have to get their American child an alien certificate of registration (ACR) from the Bureau of Immigration? If they want to go through that process and spend some money, they can. We presume that the bureau will not turn away a legally staying alien applying for an ACR.

But since the child is also a Filipino, a dual citizen actually, the parents could dispense with the ACR and just let the child lead a normal life as a Filipino in his native country.

However, some minor administrative problems — more of inconveniences, actually — may arise later. But they are not that difficult to solve.

Remember, it’s not the child’s fault that he was born an American under the principle of jus soli and that his parents were Filipinos at the time of his birth, making him also a Filipino under the principle of jus sanguinis.

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THE phrase “at the time of his birth” is crucial. If later on the parents emigrate and become naturalized citizens of another country, their child will not necessarily follow the parents’ new citizenship. He has his own personality, his own citizenship(s) acquired at birth, and his own rights as a citizen and a human being.

Another situation is if, upon his birth in the Philippines, a child’s parents were still aliens. The child may have difficulty claiming later (such as when running for public office) that he is a natural-born Filipino even if his parents had managed to get themselves naturalized as Filipinos.

Under the same Article IV, by the way, there is another category of persons considered Filipino citizens: “Those born before Jan. 17, 1973, of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority (Section 1 [paragraph 3]).

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WHEN the child’s US passport expires (or is about the expire) and he is still residing in the Philippines, what happens?

The parents or a guardian takes him to the US consulate to apply for a new passport. The principal document needed is the original US passport issued in the States, although there’s no harm in having the original birth certificate ready.

The consul knows he is dealing with a true-blue American and will not show any hint of prejudice or discrimination. But of course he has to be convinced that the child being presented is really the child whose picture appears on the old US passport and that that passport is genuine. They can easily check that.

If the baby picture on the original passport does not seem to match the face of child brought in for the first passport renewal, the consul sometimes asks for a photo album with various pictures of the child at different ages, angles and activities.

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WE said earlier that there could be some minor problems. In school, for instance, the enrollment form asks for the citizenship of the student. If he says he is an alien, he is asked for an ACR and usually has to pay higher tuition.

As an alien, he cannot just get a job or reside here indefinitely. When he travels using his US passport, there will be certain exit requirements that are not imposed on similarly departing Filipinos. In business, an alien has to contend with extra requirements from which Filipinos are exempted.

Of if he runs for public office, as movie actor Edu Manzano once did in Makati, his opponents can be expected to raise questions about his citizenship.

Cannot a dual citizen just go to the rooftop and shout to the world that he is also a Filipino? Yes he can. He can also tear his old foreign passport as Manzano did for media effect. But that drama is all sound and fury. Since he has been previously registered as an alien, he has to produce acceptable documents showing that he is indeed a Filipino.

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THE Bureau of Immigration happens to have exactly the document that dual citizens need for such trying moments. The bureau issues to qualified dual citizens a formal written order recognizing the person as also a Filipino under such and such section of the Constitution.

At this point, we turn you over to the bureau. If you believe, based on our discussion, that you may be a dual/multiple citizen without having been fully aware or convinced of it, inquire at the office of Immigration Commissioner Andrea Domingo in Intramuros. Just be careful with the watch-you-car boys infesting the area.

But you might be interested to know that a legal basis often used by some aliens claiming Filipino citizenship is that one of their parents was a Filipino at the time the child was born. That’s invoking Section 1(2) of Article IV mentioned earlier.

This was the same paragraph used by Manzano to be recognized as a Filipino and be able to run for vice mayor. It has been used successfully also by some “imported” basketball stars who were able to prove the Filipino citizenship of their mother.

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DRILON BILL: Back to Filipinos who had renounced and given up their Philippine citizenship upon their naturalization elsewhere. Technically, they have become aliens.

Senate President Franklin Drilon has filed Senate Bill No. 1354, meantime, that would allow these “aliens” — with some exceptions — to reacquire their Filipino citizenship. The bill seeks to amend a 65-year-old law providing that natural-born Filipinos who become naturalized citizens of another country automatically lose their Philippine citizenship.

Drilon said that 89 countries allow some form of dual/multiple citizenship, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, Russia, Cambodia, Taiwan, Vietnam and 14 out of 17 Latin American nations. He added that even such staunchly nationalistic countries as Israel and Cuba allow their citizens to retain their citizenship after being naturalized in another country.

He said that the law should recognize that majority of Filipinos who had emigrated did so mainly for economic reasons. Despite their foreign citizenship, he noted, these Filipinos maintain their allegiance to the Philippines and continue to nurture their links to their homeland.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 4, 2001)

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