Fil-Am bid to reacquire citizenship decked

The Supreme Court Second Division ordered the Public Attorney’s Office and the office of Solicitor General a 20-day non-extendible period to submit their respective memoranda to justify their position on whether to grant the petition of a 73-year-old Filipino-American to reacquire his Filipino citizenship.

This, according to Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, chair of the SC Second Division, during three-hour oral arguments Monday to hear the respective argumentation of both parties on the petition of Walter Manuel F. Prescott to grant him Filipino citizenship.

The order came as PAO chief, Atty. Persida Rueda-Acosta argued that Prescott should be granted Filipino citizenship on the ground that he is born to a Filipino mother thus, he is qualified to reacquire his Filipino citizenship under the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions which effectively amended the provision of the 1935 constitution.

Acosta told the court that Prescott has shown his intent to be a Filipino, though his father is an American national, by his getting his elementary, high school, and college education in the country plus the fact that his birth certificate was of that a Filipino.

SolGen Menardo Guevarra anchored his argument on the provision of the 1935 Constitution that stated a child born of a Filipino mother does not automatically qualify to be a citizen of the country since his father is an American national.

Guevarra said Prescott was an American citizen by virtue of the immigrant status granted him by the United States when he was petitioned by his American wife to go to the US.

He also worked in the US for the World Health Organization and did not elect to be a Filipino, which is the requirement in the 1935 constitution, when he reached the age of majority.

He said Prescott has illegally acquired his dual citizenship that was the subject of deportation proceedings, being an overstaying alien in the country.

The 1973 and 1987 constitutions, he added, have no curative effect on his citizenship since he was born in 1935 which provides that he should elect to be a Filipino upon reaching the age of majority which he did not do.

Acosta maintained that Prescott should be granted Filipino citizenship by virtue of the current constitution since under its provision the election of Filipino citizenship is no longer needed.

She also questioned the SolGen and the Bureau of Immigration for holding Prescott closed to 3 years in detention and did not deport him.

She expressed her discontent with holding her client in detention until the PAO eventually got his “custody” by way of a ruling of a judge of a Manila court, when in fact if he is an illegal alien he should be deported.

His (Prescott) deportation was halted due to alleged pending cases in Philippine court but was eventually cleared by the NBI.

Before the end of the oral arguments, Leonen asked Prescott what his motive is in marrying his wife, who later filed a deportation case against him.

Prescott said he has no motive and “she was the one who came here to marry me, not me,” to which the court somewhat went silent for a while.

Leonen added that there is a provision in the current constitution that gave both the mother of the child equal rights for his/her citizenship.

He told both parties to reflect in their respective memoranda, which will be filed in person to prevent delay, their clear position on the matter that they raised in the argumentation.

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