POSTSCRIPT / May 14, 2002 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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The Constitution itself allows dual citizenship

UNFORTUNATE MISCONCEPTION: A front-page story came out yesterday saying that “the country’s laws do not allow dual citizenship….” This unfortunate statement, deceptive in its simplicity, is not true.

Before this misconception spreads any further and people start believing it, we hasten to say that the Constitution no less allows and recognizes dual citizenship.

In fact, we know of so many Filipinos who are concurrently citizens of another state. Some of these dual citizens travel using two passports. A few have managed to get elected to public office (but lost their other citizenship in the process).

Some Filipinos enjoy dual citizenship under Section 1(2) of Article IV (Citizenship) of the Constitution that says: “Section 1. The following are citizens of the Philippines: x x x (2) Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines.”

We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating since the debate over the dual citizenship bill is generating so much misinformation.

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CLASSIC FILAM EXAMPLE: The classic illustration is an individual born in the United States of Filipino parents, or at least one of whose parents is a Filipino.

The child is a natural-born American (under jus soli principle) and at the same time a natural-born Filipino (under jus sanguinis, under Section 1[2] cited) and there is nothing in the law at the moment to deny him dual citizenship.

Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship. The child in our illustration did not have to do anything to be an American and to be a Filipino at the same time.

Our sample American born in the US of Filipino parents can even run for Philippine President when he turns 40, provided he has not lost his Philippine citizenship along the way and has all the other qualifications and none of the disqualifications for the office.

Section 5 of the same Article IV says: “Dual allegiance of citizens is inimical to the national interest and shall be dealt with by law.” What the Constitution frowns upon is dual allegiance, not dual citizenship. The two terms are not the same and interchangeable.

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MULTIPLE CITIZENSHIP: This is not meant to push it to absurd limits, but under the laws of several countries, including ours, we can even have not only dual but multiple citizenship.

A child who is born in the US of an Italian father and a Filipino mother may not realize it early enough but he is actually an American (jus soli), an Italian (jus sunguinis) and a Filipino (jus sanguinis) baked into one wonderful pizza with everything on it.

The Philippine government itself recognizes dual citizenship. Every month, the Department of Justice affirms and approves an average of 100 Orders of Recognition processed and recommended by the immigration bureau.

The document says that So and So (who happens to be a citizens of another country) is recognized as a Filipino citizen under certain laws cited. The person is issued an ID and goes around normally doing business, or going to school, and exercising political rights like the rest of us Filipinos.

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HOW TO SECURE ORDER: Aliens who believe that they are also Filipinos under Section 1(2) of Article IV cited can go to the office of Immigration Commissioner Andrea Domingo in Intramuros.

If we remember right, the filing fee for an Order of Recognition is P1,500, with other fees running to P8,100 payable upon issuance of the order. All payments are covered by official receipts.

Those who can afford it will have no problem parting with P10,000 to enjoy dual citizenship. The usual problem is in gathering and authenticating the numerous documents needed to support an applicant’s claim.

This recognition process is not well known — in the same way that the fact of dual citizenship being allowed by law is not known to most people, including to some of us in the older (not oldest) professions of lawyering and newspapering.

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REPATRIATION ROUTE: There is another route, also not well-known, via what’s called repatriation under a law sponsored by Commissioner Domingo when she was still a congresswoman. This process is for Filipinos deemed to have lost their citizenship while residing abroad and who want to get it back.

Sample beneficiaries are some of those who had lingered abroad and ended up being naturalized in their adopted country of residence. With naturalization, they are deemed to have lost or given up their Philippine citizenship.

Under a Commonwealth Act and subsequent laws, a Filipino automatically loses his citizenship the moment he is naturalized in another country, serves in the armed forces of a foreign power or is elected to public office in another country.

This Filipino-turned-alien now comes around and applies with the Special Committee on Naturalization of the Office of the Solicitor General. He files an oath of allegiance with a declaration of his desire to be a Filipino again. We don’t now the rest of the story, but we were told that some of these applications work out.

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ONLY CITIZENS CAN VOTE: We suppose that the dual citizenship bill, whose final final form is yet to be, would gather and reconcile these scattered laws and administrative procedures into one neat package in time for the 2004 elections.

Lawmakers keep telling us that the dual citizenship bill and the other measure allowing absentee voting for Filipinos abroad are separate pieces of legislation that will be considered independently of each other. They try distancing the two bills from each other and making them look apolitical and harmless.

We get their point, since every bill must embrace only one subject. But since suffrage (the subject of absentee voting) is granted only to citizens, there has to be a prior determination of who are citizens before we can say who are to cast an absentee vote.

Suffrage springs from citizenship. Even if the absentee voting bill is enacted into law, Filipinos abroad who are otherwise qualified to vote but whose concurrent Filipino citizenship has not been formally restored or recognized will be barred from casting an absentee vote.

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RENUNCIATION IS KEY: We think the toughest nut to crack is the status of Filipinos who had formally renounced their Philippine citizenship when they applied for and were granted citizenship in another country.

Citizenship being sacred, it should not be taken lightly. Renouncing it is a serious political statement.

Some of us feel very strongly that our legislators, as they cast around for votes from everywhere, must distinguish between (1) Filipinos who had formally renounced their citizenship and (2) those who did not have to — when they were inducted as citizens of another country.

On the other side of the fence, when a Filipino returnee takes a new oath of allegiance to the home country, is he putting at risk his other citizenship granted by another country? Will he lose his other citizenship?

That will depend on the laws of the other country. That is not the concern of the Philippine government nor of politicians looking for votes, but the problem of the confused Filipino trying to sort out his political identity.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 14, 2002)

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