Dual citizenship from birth of FilAms | Inquirer Opinion
With Due Respect

Dual citizenship from birth of FilAms

The Constitution (Article IV, Section 1) provides, among others, that children whose fathers and/or mothers are Filipino citizens automatically inherit the Filipino citizenship of their parent/s. In fact, they are “natural-born citizens” or “citizens from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship.” In addition, David v. SET (Sept. 20, 2016) ruled that foundlings are also natural-born citizens.

CITIZENS FROM BIRTH ARE CONSTITUTIONALLY GRANTED EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS that are not enjoyed by those who merely acquired Philippine citizenship after their birth through naturalization. The latter are regarded as “naturalized citizens.” Example: Under our Charter, only natural-born citizens can run for and be elected president, vice president, senator or representative, or appointed Supreme Court (and lower collegiate court) justice.

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Republic Act No. 9225 was enacted to govern the reacquisition and retention of Philippine citizenship by natural-born citizens who have lost their Philippine citizenship by reason of their naturalization as citizens of a foreign country. To reacquire their Philippine citizenship, they need to (1) renounce under oath their foreign citizenship/s, and (2) take an oath of allegiance to the Philippines. Unless these two requirements are complied with, they cannot reacquire their lost Philippine nationality. To stress, these two requirements apply only to dual citizens who acquired their foreign citizenship by naturalization, not to dual citizens at birth.

A SIMPLE QUESTION: May those born in the United States (and are, thus, Americans under US laws) but whose fathers and/or mothers are Filipinos run for senator (or own land or exploit natural resources) in the Philippines? Yes, because they are natural-born Filipinos, regardless of whether they are also Americans. They are “dual citizens”: Americans by reason of their birth in the US and Filipinos by reason of their parentage.

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A person can have multiple citizenships — though under our laws — he or she is a citizen only of the Philippines. Our laws determine merely the question of who are Filipinos, not the nationality of aliens. Persons — who qualify as locals under our laws — are considered Filipino citizens regardless of whether they are also citizens of other state/s.

A MORE COMPLICATED QUESTION: In 1991, Maria was born in the Philippines to a Filipino father and an American mother. Later, she “applied” for American citizenship, was issued an American passport, and was listed by the US Embassy in Manila in the “Consular Report of Birth Abroad of Citizens of the United States” or CRBA. To run for and win a public office, does she need to (1) renounce her American citizenship and (2) take an oath of allegiance to the Philippines as required by RA 9225?

Answer: No, because according to a recent Supreme Court decision (Gana-Carait v. Comelec, Aug. 12, 2022, penned by J Ricardo R. Rosario), RA 9225 applies only to “natural-born Filipinos who lost [their] citizenship through the process of naturalization.” Specifically, the law imposes the two requirements only on “dual citizens by naturalization and not to dual citizens at birth.”

Follow-up question, Maria, under the given facts, “acquired” American citizenship and was issued an American passport which she used extensively during several trips to and from the US. That being the case, can she not be considered a dual citizen by naturalization and not a citizen at birth of the US given that she had to do some positive acts like applying for listing in the CRBA?

No, the Supreme Court explained that her documentary evidence in her CRBA application showing her mother to be an American citizen “was presented merely to establish” that she was an American at birth. Verily, her birth certificate showing the citizenship of her mother merely confirmed she was already an American at birth. The CRBA process to recognize her US citizenship was not an application for naturalization but one to prove she was already an American from her birth.

In an earlier case, Cordora v. Comelec (Feb. 19, 2009, penned by J Antonio T. Carpio), although the American parent was found to have “performed the positive act of petitioning” the child for US citizenship under American laws, the Court nevertheless held that the son did not acquire his foreign citizenship through naturalization because the petition was regarded as a superfluity, the child being already a dual Filipino-American at birth.

In short, dual citizens—Filipinos and Americans—at their birth need not fulfill the two requirements to retain their Philippine citizenship. This clarification should provide comfort to many FilAms and their families. Stats show that about one of every 10 Filipinos lives and works abroad (especially in the US), most of whom are recognized by our country (not necessarily by the US) as dual citizens without the need to go through the rather tedious process under RA 9225.

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