Bengzon doctrine affirms Poe a natural-born Filipino
SO MUCH argumentation has taken place about the present status of Sen. Grace Poe’s citizenship. While conceding that she might have been deemed a “natural-born Filipino” at birth, a myriad commentaries insist she could only be a “naturalized Filipino” when she “reacquired” Filipino citizenship under Republic Act No. 9225 (“The Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act”), after losing it earlier.
The case of Bengzon vs. HRET has categorically settled that: “It is apparent … that there are only two classes of citizens: (1) those who are natural-born and (2) those who are naturalized in accordance with law. A citizen who is not a naturalized Filipino, i.e., did not have to undergo the process of naturalization to obtain Philippine citizenship, necessarily is a natural-born Filipino. Noteworthy is the absence … of a separate category of person who, after losing Philippine citizenship, subsequently ‘reacquire’ it. The reason is clear: as to such persons, they are either natural-born or naturalized …. As Cruz was not required by law to go through naturalization proceedings in order to reacquire his citizenship, he is perforce a natural-born Filipino.”
Nothing can be more explicit. By interpreting the word “reacquire” in the Bengzon case (albeit involving RA 2630, “An Act Providing for Reacquisition of Philippine Citizenship by Person who lost Philippine Citizenship by Rendering… Services to the Armed Forces of the United States”) as meaning “recover, or return to, (one’s) original status before he lost his Philippine citizenship,” the Supreme Court (en banc no less) has already spoken not only for the party in that case, but for all others similarly situated—i.e., that Poe (1) not having undergone any naturalization process to obtain Philippine citizenship, must necessarily be deemed a natural-born Filipino, and (2) despite having lost her Philippine citizenship, has recovered, returned to, her original status as natural-born Filipino upon reacquiring Philippine citizenship under RA 9225.
That is the prevailing doctrine. Any modification or abandonment of the principles laid down by that doctrine can take effect only prospectively and not retroactively—just as the abandonment of the “condonation by reelection” doctrine is deemed not applicable to Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay, but only to future shenaniganizers. Poe cannot be disqualified on the basis of any new ruling by the Supreme Court reversing the Bengzon ruling. If Binay is still allowed to enjoy the benefit of that “Aguinaldo doctrine” before its formal trashing, why can’t Poe avail herself of the same benefit under the Bengzon doctrine?
—MARCELO “JR” GARCIS, [email protected]
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