POSTSCRIPT / March 16, 2004 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Born before July 1946? You could be American!

BORN AMERICAN: You might just be an American without your even being aware of it — if you were born between the US ratification of the Treaty of Paris on April 11, 1898, and the American withdrawal of sovereignty over the Philippines on July 4, 1946.

That is, if this interesting legal theory of a group of Filipinos claiming American citizenship can pass judicial test.

The group said in a recent letter to the US Consul General David T. Donahue that Filipinos born in this country between the dates given were born in an American territory and probably of American parents, and must therefore be Americans.

The signatories — Domingo T. Arong, Joseph M. Baduel, Augustus L. Momongan, Dennis B. Cuizon, Jose M. Caminade, Fermin T. Rotea and Vicente F, Gambito — said they could not have been arbitrarily stripped of their US citizenship without their knowledge and consent.

They have formally requested the US consulate to issue them each an American passport. Their letter was received at the US embassy last Jan. 22, but they have not received any response.

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CHARTER AMENDMENTS: Let the petitioners explain their case with excerpts from their letter (which we have freely edited):

“We acquired this status (US citizens) on the basis of circumstances surrounding our birth dates, common place of birth, and the nationality of our parents in relation to the citizenship clause in Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

“The 14th Amendment was ratified on July 28, 1868, after the end of the US civil war. Just three years earlier on Dec. 18, 1865, the 13th amendment was ratified, proclaiming that ‘Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude xxx shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to its jurisdiction.’

“The 13th Amendment was intended to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude: (1) “within the United States”; or (2) “any place subject to its jurisdiction.”

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CRUCIAL COMMAS: “As events unfurled during the early reconstruction period, another amendment –the 14th Amendment — soon became necessary to guarantee what the earlier 13th Amendment primarily had intended to abolish slavery ‘within the United States, or any place subject to its jurisdiction.’

“Rep. John A. Bingham sponsored Section 1 of the 14th Amendment` and US Sen. Jacob M. Howard authored the first sentence (referred to as the ‘prefix’) in Rep. Bingham’s Section 1 of this Amendment. The sentence reads:

“ ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.’ The commas before and after the conjunction ‘and’ in the sentence created two coordinate clauses.

“Based on this punctuation mark analysis alone, it is obvious that Senator Howard’s sentence was framed to define US citizens as:

  1. All persons born in the United States.
  2. All persons naturalized in the United States.
  3. All persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

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THIRD CATEGORY: “In other words, there is a third category of US citizens — and not just those born or those naturalized there. In the third group are all persons “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”

“This interpretation is consistent with, and applies with the same force as, the language used in the earlier 13th Amendment prohibiting slavery in “any place subject to its jurisdiction.”

“At the time of our birth, we (petitioners) and our parents, including the territory where we were all born — then known as the Philippine Islands — were still ‘subject to the jurisdiction of the United States,’ owing to the following historical and legal circumstances —

“Under the Treaty of Peace, concluded on Dec. 10, 1898, the Spanish Crown ceded the Philippine Islands to the United States of America for US$20 million. The US Senate ratified this treaty on April 11, 1899.

“Subsequent laws enacted by the US Congress and duly approved by the US President reiterated ‘the exercise of sovereignty by the people of the United States’ in and over the Philippine Islands and the declaration of collective naturalization as US nationals of the natives residing in the ceded territory, subject to disqualifications and disabilities.

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PERTINENT LAWS:“These laws included the Philippine Bill (or Cooper Act) authored by Rep. Henry Allan Cooper and approved by US President Theodore Roosevelt on July 02, 1902, and the Philippine Autonomy Act (or Jones Law) sponsored by Rep. William Atkins Jones and approved by US President Woodrow Wilson on Aug. 29, 1916.

“On March 24, 1934, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law Public Act 127, or the Philippine Independence Act. This Act — often referred to as theTydings-McDuffie Law since this was sponsored by US Sen. Millard Tydings and Rep. John McDuffie — provided for a 10-year transition period prior to the withdrawal of sovereignty of the US over the Philippine Islands.

“It also authorized the election of delegates to a constitutional convention to draft the Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.

“Public Act 127 further required an Ordinance to be appended to the Constitution, which was to be automatically abrogated upon the establishment of the Republic of the Philippines. Section 1 of the Ordinance that was appended to the constitution mandated that:

“ ‘Notwithstanding the provisions of the foregoing Constitution pending the final and complete withdrawal of the sovereignty of the United States over the Philippines: ‘1. All citizens of the Philippines shall owe allegiance to the United States.’

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PROCLAMATION: “On Feb. 8, 1935, the framers adopted the draft Constitution and forwarded it to US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for his approval on March 23. A plebiscite held on May 14 ratified what is now known as the 1935 Philippine Constitution.

“On July 04, 1946, less than a year after the devastating World War II ended and following the 10-year transition period and 48 years of the American regime under US President William Mckinley’s policy of ‘Benevolent Assimilation,’ US President Harry S. Truman issued the Proclamation of Philippine Independence under and by virtue of the authority vested in the Executive by paragraph (a), Section 10, of Public Act 127.

“The Proclamation announced that: “xxx the United States of America withdraws and surrenders all right of possession, supervision, jurisdiction, control or sovereignty now existing and exercised by the United States of America in and over the territory and people of the Philippine Islands xxx.”

“The wording of the proclamation confirms that ‘the territory and people of the Philippine Islands’ were ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ of the US from the time the Treaty of Paris was ratified on April 11, 1898, until the day the US withdrew sovereignty on July 4, 1946.

“Hence, under Section 1 of the 14th Article of Amendment to the United States Constitution, we the Petitioners and our parents, having been born in the Philippine Islands prior to July 4, 1946, were all US citizens at the time of our births.”

The petitioners had other arguments, but we have no more space for them.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 16, 2004)

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