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Republic vs. Sagun Case Digest


Facts: Nora Fe Sagun is the legitimate child of Albert S. Chan, a Chinese national, and Marta Borromeo, a Filipino citizen. She was born on August 8, 1959 in Baguio City and did not elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority. In 1992, at the age of 33 and after getting married to Alex Sagun, she executed an Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines. Said document was notarized but was not recorded and registered with the Local Civil Registrar of Baguio City.

In 2005, Sagun applied for a Philippine passport. Her application was denied due to the citizenship of her father and there being no annotation on her birth certificate that she has elected Philippine citizenship. Consequently, she sought a judicial declaration of her election of Philippine citizenship averring that she was raised as a Filipino and she is a registered voter in Baguio City and had voted in local and national elections as shown in the Voter Certification. She asserted that by virtue of her positive acts, she has effectively elected Philippine citizenship and such fact should be annotated on her record of birth so as to entitle her to the issuance of a Philippine passport.

After hearing, the trial court granted the petition and declaring Sagun a Filipino citizen.

Petitioner, through the OSG, directly filed a petition for review on certiorari, pointing out that while Sagun executed an oath of allegiance before a notary public, there was no affidavit of her election of Philippine citizenship. Additionally, her oath of allegiance which was not registered with the nearest local civil registry was executed when she was already 33 years old or 12 years after she reached the age of majority.


Issues: 

1. Is an action or proceeding for judicial declaration of Philippine citizenship procedurally and jurisdictionally permissible?

2. Has Norma complied with the procedural requirements in the election of Philippine citizenship?


Held: 

1. No. There is no proceeding established by law, or the Rules for the judicial declaration of the citizenship of an individual. There is no specific legislation authorizing the institution of a judicial proceeding to declare that a given person is part of our citizenry. Clearly, it was erroneous for the trial court to make a specific declaration of respondents Filipino citizenship as such pronouncement was not within the courts competence.

2. When respondent was born on August 8, 1959, the governing charter was the 1935 Constitution, which declares as citizens of the Philippines those whose mothers are citizens of the Philippines and elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority. Sec. 1, Art. IV of the 1935 Constitution reads:

Section 1. The following are citizens of the Philippines:
x x x x
(4) Those whose mothers are citizens of the Philippines and, upon reaching the age of majority, elect Philippine citizenship.

Under Article IV, Section 1(4) of the 1935 Constitution, the citizenship of a legitimate child born of a Filipino mother and an alien father followed the citizenship of the father, unless, upon reaching the age of majority, the child elected Philippine citizenship. Being a legitimate child, respondents citizenship followed that of her father who is Chinese, unless upon reaching the age of majority, she elects Philippine citizenship. For respondent to be considered a Filipino citizen, she must have validly elected Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority.

Commonwealth Act (C.A.) No. 625, enacted pursuant to Section 1(4), Article IV of the 1935 Constitution, prescribes the procedure that should be followed in order to make a valid election of Philippine citizenship, to wit:

Section 1. The option to elect Philippine citizenship in accordance with subsection (4), [S]ection 1, Article IV, of the Constitution shall be expressed in a statement to be signed and sworn to by the party concerned before any officer authorized to administer oaths, and shall be filed with the nearest civil registry. The said party shall accompany the aforesaid statement with the oath of allegiance to the Constitution and the Government of the Philippines.

Based on the foregoing, the statutory formalities of electing Philippine citizenship are: (1) a statement of election under oath; (2) an oath of allegiance to the Constitution and Government of the Philippines; and (3) registration of the statement of election and of the oath with the nearest civil registry.

Furthermore, no election of Philippine citizenship shall be accepted for registration under C.A. No. 625 unless the party exercising the right of election has complied with the requirements of the Alien Registration Act of 1950. In other words, he should first be required to register as an alien. Pertinently, the person electing Philippine citizenship is required to file a petition with the Commission of Immigration and Deportation (now Bureau of Immigration) for the cancellation of his alien certificate of registration based on his aforesaid election of Philippine citizenship and said Office will initially decide, based on the evidence presented the validity or invalidity of said election. Afterwards, the same is elevated to the Ministry (now Department) of Justice for final determination and review.

It should be stressed that there is no specific statutory or procedural rule which authorizes the direct filing of a petition for declaration of election of Philippine citizenship before the courts. The special proceeding provided under Section 2, Rule 108 of the Rules of Court on Cancellation or Correction of Entries in the Civil Registry, merely allows any interested party to file an action for cancellation or correction of entry in the civil registry, i.e., election, loss and recovery of citizenship, which is not the relief prayed for by the respondent.

Be that as it may, even if we set aside this procedural infirmity, still the trial courts conclusion that respondent duly elected Philippine citizenship is erroneous since the records undisputably show that respondent failed to comply with the legal requirements for a valid election. Specifically, respondent had not executed a sworn statement of her election of Philippine citizenship. The only documentary evidence submitted by respondent in support of her claim of alleged election was her oath of allegiance, executed 12 years after she reached the age of majority, which was unregistered. As aptly pointed out by the petitioner, even assuming arguendo that respondents oath of allegiance suffices, its execution was not within a reasonable time after respondent attained the age of majority and was not registered with the nearest civil registry as required under Section 1 of C.A. No. 625. The phrase reasonable time has been interpreted to mean that the election should be made generally within three (3) years from reaching the age of majority. Moreover, there was no satisfactory explanation proffered by respondent for the delay and the failure to register with the nearest local civil registry.

Based on the foregoing circumstances, respondent clearly failed to comply with the procedural requirements for a valid and effective election of Philippine citizenship. Respondent cannot assert that the exercise of suffrage and the participation in election exercises constitutes a positive act of election of Philippine citizenship since the law specifically lays down the requirements for acquisition of citizenship by election. The mere exercise of suffrage, continuous and uninterrupted stay in the Philippines, and other similar acts showing exercise of Philippine citizenship cannot take the place of election of Philippine citizenship. Hence, respondent cannot now be allowed to seek the intervention of the court to confer upon her Philippine citizenship when clearly she has failed to validly elect Philippine citizenship. As we held in Ching, the prescribed procedure in electing Philippine citizenship is certainly not a tedious and painstaking process. All that is required of the elector is to execute an affidavit of election of Philippine citizenship and, thereafter, file the same with the nearest civil registry. Having failed to comply with the foregoing requirements, respondents petition before the trial court must be denied. (Republic vs. Sagun, G.R. No. 187567, February 15, 2012)

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