Pathway to Filipino citizenship

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The invention of the jet engine has made the world smaller. The various modes of transportation with all their technologically enhanced features facilitated unprecedented migration. People in droves instantly travel for business, employment or even for leisure. The means of travel, most particularly by air, enabled foreigners to flock to the Philippines in large numbers.

Recently, the county noticed the influx of many Koreans into the country, whether as students learning English in schools or businessmen playing a round of golf or two. At present, we experience a phenomenon of Chinese “invasion.” Several Chinese are coming to the Philippines either as workers in the thriving online gaming industry, or as investors buying condominium units or establishing various businesses. This is not to discount other nationalities arriving to the Philippines.

Foreigners, however, under certain provisions of Article XII of the 1987 Constitution on National Economy and Patrimony cannot own land or invest in stock equity of corporations engaged in certain nationalized economic activities. As foreigners, they do not enjoy the political and civil rights of a Filipino citizen.

But, can foreigners become citizens of the Philippines? The answer is in the affirmative. Foreign nationals can be naturalized and eventually become Filipino citizens.

Section 1, Article 4 of the 1987 Constitution enumerates who are the citizens of the Philippines as follows:

1. Those who are citizens of the Philippines at the adoption of this Constitution.
2. Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines.
3. Those born before 17 January 1973, of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority,
4. Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.

From the above enumeration, our Filipino citizenship is based on jus sanguinis principle which is founded on blood relationships with one’s parents. This is different from the jus soli principle where citizenship is grounded on one’s place of birth. Foreigners, who do not have Filipino blood, nevertheless, can obtain Philippine citizenship under number 4 of the enumeration through naturalization.

Naturalization signifies the act of formally adopting a foreigner into the political body of a nation by clothing him or her with the privileges of a citizen. Under current and existing laws, there are three ways by which an alien may become a citizen by naturalization: (a) administrative naturalization pursuant to Republic Act (RA) 9139; (b) judicial naturalization pursuant to C.A. 473, as amended and (c) legislative naturalization in the form of a law enacted by Congress bestowing Philippine citizenship on an alien (Edison So v. Republic of the Philippines, GR. 170603, 29 January 2007).

Administrative naturalization is provided for under RA 9139, otherwise known as “The Administrative Naturalization Law of 2000.” The applicant must be a foreigner who was born, who studied and has resided in the Philippines since birth and must be at least 18 years old at the time of filing the petition.

The application process is commenced by filing a verified petition with the Office of the Special Committee on Naturalization (SCN) at the Office of the Solicitor General. The petition is then published once a week for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation. The petition will be furnished to pertinent government agencies like the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Bureau of Immigration, the National Bureau of Investigation for clearance and lack of derogatory record on the petitioner. The SCN, which has the power to approve or deny the petition is composed of the (1) Solicitor General as chairman, (2) the Secretary of Foreign Affairs or his duly authorized representative and (3) the National Security Adviser as members.

The next column will tackle the procedure for judicial and legislative naturalization.

Email: nilo.divina@divinalaw.com

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