The battle between retention and reacquisition
In 1974, Nato migrated to Canada where he became a Canadian citizen by naturalization.
Upon his retirement, Nato and his wife returned to the Philippines. In 2000, they purchased from Dith’s family a beach lot from Oriental Mindoro, where they constructed a residential house. In 2004, however, Nato discovered that the portion where they built their house is public land and part of the salvage zone.
Nato was then constrained to file a Miscellaneous Lease Application (MLA) over the subject land with DENR at the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO). In the said application, Nato indicated that he is a Filipino citizen.
Dith opposed the application on the ground that Nato, a Canadian citizen, is disqualified to own land. Angered by such representation, Dith also filed a criminal complaint for falsification of public documents under Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) against Nato.
Meanwhile, Nato re-acquired his Filipino citizenship under the provisions of Republic Act No. 9225 in 2007.
Nato, in his defense, claimed that at the time he filed his application, he had intended to re-acquire Philippine citizenship and that he had been assured by a CENRO officer that he could declare himself as a Filipino.
He further alleged that he bought the property from Dith’s family who misrepresented to him that the subject property was a titled land and that they have the right and authority to convey the same. The dispute had in fact led to the institution of civil and criminal suits between him and Dith’s family.
Q: What is R.A. 9225?
A: RA 9225 is also known as the “Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003.”
Q: What are some of the salient provisions of RA 9225?
A: Sec. 2. Declaration of Policy. It is hereby declared the policy of the State that all Philippine citizens who become citizens of another country shall be deemed not to have lost their Philippine citizenship under the conditions of this Act.
Sec. 3. Retention of Philippine Citizenship. Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, natural-born citizens of the Philippines who have lost their Philippine citizenship by reason of their naturalization as citizens of a foreign country are hereby deemed to have reacquired Philippine citizenship upon taking the following oath of allegiance to the Republic: xxx xxx xxx
Xxx xxx xxx
Natural-born citizens of the Philippines who, after the effectivity of this Act, become citizens of a foreign country shall retain their Philippine citizenship upon taking the aforesaid oath.
Q: What is the significance of the quoted provisions?
A: While Section 2 declares the general policy that Filipinos who have become citizens of another country shall be deemed “not to have lost their Philippine citizenship,” such is qualified by the phrase “under the conditions of this Act.”
Section 3 lays down such conditions for two categories of natural-born Filipinos referred to in the first and second paragraphs.
Q: What is the difference between reacquisition and retention?
A: Under the first paragraph are those natural-born Filipinos who have lost their citizenship by naturalization in a foreign country who shall re-acquire their Philippine citizenship upon taking the oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines.
The second paragraph covers those natural-born Filipinos who became foreign citizens after R.A. 9225 took effect, who shall retain their Philippine citizenship upon taking the same oath.
The taking of oath of allegiance is required for both categories of natural-born Filipino citizens who became citizens of a foreign country, but the terminology used is different, “re-acquired” for the first group, and “retain” for the second group.
The law thus makes a distinction between those natural-born Filipinos who became foreign citizens before and after the effectivity of RA 9225.
In fine, for those who were naturalized in a foreign country, they shall be deemed to have re-acquired their Philippine citizenship which was lost pursuant to CA 63, under which naturalization in a foreign country is one of the ways by which Philippine citizenship may be lost.
Q: Did Nato retain or reacquire his Philippine citizenship?
A: Nato reacquired his Philippine citizenship.
Since Nato became a Canadian citizen in 1974, before RA 9225 took effect, he reacquired his Philippine citizenship.
As its title declares, RA 9225 (which took effect in 2003) amends CA 63 by doing away with the provision in the old law which takes away Philippine citizenship from natural-born Filipinos who become naturalized citizens of other countries and allowing dual citizenship, and also provides for the procedure for reacquiring and retaining Philippine citizenship.
In the case of those who became foreign citizens after RA 9225 took effect, they shall retain Philippine citizenship despite having acquired foreign citizenship provided they took the oath of allegiance under the new law.
Q: May Nato be indicted for falsification for representing himself as a Filipino in his Public Land Application despite his subsequent reacquisition of Philippine citizenship under the provisions of RA 9225?
A: Yes. Nato made the untruthful statement in the MLA, a public document, that he is a Filipino citizen at the time of the filing of said application, when in fact he was then still a Canadian citizen. Under CA 63, the governing law at the time he was naturalized as Canadian citizen, naturalization in a foreign country was among those ways by which a natural-born citizen loses his Philippine citizenship.
While he reacquired Philippine citizenship under RA 9225 six months later, the falsification was already a consummated act, the said law having no retroactive effect insofar as his dual citizenship status is concerned.
(Source: David vs. Agbay, G.R. No. 199113, March 18, 2015)
Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis is Dean, College of Law at the Lyceum of the Philippines University; Chairperson, Philippine Association of Law Schools; and founder of Mawis Law Office
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