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12/15/2016 ApplicationforadmissiontothePhilbarChing:BM914:October1,1999:J.

Kapunan:EnBanc

Synopsis/Syllabi

ENBANC

[B.M.No.914.October1,1999]

RE:APPLICATIONFORADMISSIONTOTHEPHILIPPINEBAR
VICENTED.CHING,applicant.

RESOLUTION
KAPUNAN,J.:

Can a legitimate child born under the 1935 Constitution of a Filipino mother and an alien father validly
elect Philippine citizenship fourteen (14) years after he has reached the age of majority? This is the question
soughttoberesolvedinthepresentcaseinvolvingtheapplicationforadmissiontothePhilippineBarofVicente
D.Ching.
Thefactsofthiscaseareasfollows:
VicenteD.Ching,thelegitimatesonofthespousesTatChing,aChinesecitizen,andPrescilaA.Dulay,a
Filipino,wasborninFranciaWest,Tubao,LaUnionon11April1964.Sincehisbirth,Chinghasresidedinthe
Philippines.
On17July1998,Ching,afterhavingcompletedaBachelorofLawscourseattheSt.LouisUniversityin
Baguio City, filed an application to take the 1998 Bar Examinations. In a Resolution of this Court, dated
September1998,hewasallowedtotaketheBarExaminations,subjecttotheconditionthathemustsubmitto
theCourtproofofhisPhilippinecitizenship.
Incompliancewiththeaboveresolution,Chingsubmittedon18November1998,thefollowingdocuments:

1.Certification,dated9June1986,issuedbytheBoardofAccountancyoftheProfessionalRegulations
CommissionshowingthatChingisacertifiedpublicaccountant

2.VoterCertification,dated14June1997,issuedbyElizabethB.Cerezo,ElectionOfficeroftheCommission
onElections(COMELEC)inTubao,LaUnionshowingthatChingisaregisteredvoterofthesaidplaceand

3.Certification,dated12October1998,alsoissuedbyElizabethE.Cerezo,showingthatChingwaselectedasa
memberoftheSangguniangBayanofTubao,LaUnionduringthe12May1992synchronizedelections.

On 5 April 1999, the results of the 1998 Bar Examinations were released and Ching was one of the
successful Bar examinees. The oathtaking of the successful Bar examinees was scheduled on 5 May 1999.
However,becauseofthequestionablestatusofChing'scitizenship,hewasnotallowedtotakehisoath.Pursuant
totheresolutionofthisCourt,dated20April1999,hewasrequiredtosubmitfurtherproofofhiscitizenship.In
the same resolution, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) was required to file a comment on Ching's
petitionforadmissiontothebarandonthedocumentsevidencinghisPhilippinecitizenship.
The OSG filed its comment on 8 July 1999, stating that Ching, being the "legitimate child of a Chinese
father and a Filipino mother born under the 1935 Constitution was a Chinese citizen and continued to be so,
unless upon reaching the age of majority he elected Philippine citizenship[1] in strict compliance with the
provisionsofCommonwealthActNo.625entitled"AnActProvidingfortheMannerinwhichtheOptionto
ElectPhilippineCitizenshipshallbeDeclaredbyaPersonWhoseMotherisaFilipinoCitizen."TheOSGadds
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that(w)hatheacquiredatbestwasonlyaninchoatePhilippinecitizenshipwhichhecouldperfectbyelection
uponreachingtheageofmajority."[2]Inthisregard,theOSGclarifiesthat"two(2)conditionsmustconcurin
orderthattheelectionofPhilippinecitizenshipmaybeeffective,namely:(a)themotherofthepersonmaking
theelectionmustbeacitizenofthePhilippinesand(b)saidelectionmustbemade'uponreachingtheageof
majority.[3]TheOSGthenexplainsthemeaningofthephrase"uponreachingtheageofmajority:"

Theclause"uponreachingtheageofmajority"hasbeenconstruedtomeanareasonabletimeafterreachingthe
ageofmajoritywhichhadbeeninterpretedbytheSecretaryofJusticetobethree(3)years(VELAYO,supraat
p.51citingOp.,Sec.ofJusticeNo.70,s.1940,Feb.27,1940).Saidperiodmaybeextendedundercertain
circumstances,aswhena(sic)personconcernedhasalwaysconsideredhimselfaFilipino(ibid.,citingOp.Nos.
355and422,s.19553,12,46,86and97,s.1953).ButinCuenco,itwasheldthatanelectiondoneafterover
seven(7)yearswasnotmadewithinareasonabletime.

Inconclusion,theOSGpointsoutthatChinghasnotformallyelectedPhilippinecitizenshipand,ifeverhe
does,itwouldalreadybebeyondthe"reasonabletime"allowedbypresentjurisprudence.However,duetothe
peculiarcircumstancessurroundingChing'scase,theOSGrecommendstherelaxationofthestandingruleon
theconstructionofthephrasereasonableperiod"andtheallowanceofChingtoelectPhilippinecitizenshipin
accordancewithC.A.No.625priortotakinghisoathasamemberofthePhilippineBar.
On 27 July 1999, Ching filed a Manifestation, attaching therewith his Affidavit of Election of Philippine
CitizenshipandhisOathofAllegiance,bothdated15July1999.InhisManifestation,Chingstates:

1.IhavealwaysconsideredmyselfasaFilipino

2.IwasregisteredasaFilipinoandconsistentlydeclaredmyselfasoneinmyschoolrecordsandotherofficial
document

3.Iampracticingaprofession(CertifiedPublicAccountant)reservedforFilipinocitizens

4.Iparticipatedinelectoralprocess[es]sincethetimeIwaseligibletovote

5.IhadservedthepeopleofTubao,LaUnionasamemberoftheSangguniangBayanfrom1992to1995

6.IelectedPhilippinecitizenshiponJuly15,1999inaccordancewithCommonwealthActNo.625

7.Myelectionwasexpressedinastatementsignedandsworntobymebeforeanotarypublic

8.IaccompaniedmyelectionofPhilippinecitizenshipwiththeoathofallegiancetotheConstitutionandthe
GovernmentofthePhilippines

9.IfiledmyelectionofPhilippinecitizenshipandmyoathofallegianceto(sic)theCivilRegistrarofTubaoLa
Union,and

10.IpaidtheamountofTENPESOS(Ps10.00)asfilingfees.

SinceChinghasalreadyelectedPhilippinecitizenshipon15July1999,thequestionraisediswhetherhe
has elected Philippine citizenship within a "reasonable time." In the affirmative, whether his citizenship by
electionretroactedtothetimehetookthebarexamination.
WhenChingwasbornin1964,thegoverningcharterwasthe1935Constitution.UnderArticleIV,Section
1(3)ofthe1935Constitution,thecitizenshipofalegitimatechildbornofaFilipinomotherandanalienfather
followed the citizenship of the father, unless, upon reaching the age of majority, the child elected Philippine
citizenship.[4] This right to elect Philippine citizenship was recognized in the 1973 Constitution when it
providedthat"(t)hosewhoelectPhilippinecitizenshippursuanttotheprovisionsoftheConstitutionofnineteen
hundredandthirtyfive"arecitizensofthePhilippines.[5]Likewise,thisrecognitionbythe1973Constitution
was carried over to the 1987 Constitution which states that "(t)hose born before January 17, 1973 of Filipino
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mothers,whoelectPhilippinecitizenshipuponreachingtheageofmajority"arePhilippinecitizens.[6]Itshould
be noted, however, that the 1973 and 1987 Constitutional provisions on the election of Philippine citizenship
shouldnotbeunderstoodashavingacurativeeffectonanyirregularityintheacquisitionofcitizenshipforthose
coveredbythe1935Constitution.[7]Ifthecitizenshipofapersonwassubjecttochallengeundertheoldcharter,
it remains subject to challenge under the new charter even if the judicial challenge had not been commenced
beforetheeffectivityofthenewConstitution.[8]
C.A.No.625whichwasenactedpursuanttoSection1(3),ArticleIVofthe1935Constitution,prescribes
theprocedurethatshouldbefollowedinordertomadeavalidelectionofPhilippinecitizenship.UnderSection
1 thereof, legitimate children born of Filipino mothers may elect Philippine citizenship by expressing such
intention "in a statement to be signed and sworn to by the party concerned before any officer authorized to
administeroaths,andshallbefiledwiththenearestcivilregistry.Thesaidpartyshallaccompanytheaforesaid
statementwiththeoathofallegiancetotheConstitutionandtheGovernmentofthePhilippines."
However,the1935ConstitutionandC.A.No.625didnotprescribeatimeperiodwithinwhichtheelection
of Philippine citizenship should be made. The 1935 Charter only provides that the election should be made
"uponreachingtheageofmajority."Theageofmajoritythencommenceduponreachingtwentyone(21)years.
[9]IntheopinionsoftheSecretaryofJusticeoncasesinvolvingthevalidityofelectionofPhilippinecitizenship,
thisdilemmawasresolvedbybasingthetimeperiodonthedecisionsofthisCourtpriortotheeffectivityofthe
1935Constitution.Inthesedecisions,theproperperiodforelectingPhilippinecitizenshipwas,inturn,basedon
thepronouncementsoftheDepartmentofStateoftheUnitedStatesGovernmenttotheeffectthattheelection
shouldbemadewithina"reasonabletime"afterattainingtheageofmajority.[10]Thephrasereasonabletime"
hasbeeninterpretedtomeanthattheelectionshouldbemadewithinthree(3)yearsfromreachingtheageof
majority.[11] However, we held in Cuenco vs. Secretary of Justice,[12] that the three (3) year period is not an
inflexiblerule.Wesaid:

Itistruethatthisclausehasbeenconstruedtomeanareasonableperiodafterreachingtheageofmajority,and
thattheSecretaryofJusticehasruledthatthree(3)yearsisthereasonabletimetoelectPhilippinecitizenship
undertheconstitutionalprovisionadvertedtoabove,whichperiodmaybeextendedundercertain
circumstances,aswhenthepersonconcernedhasalwaysconsideredhimselfaFilipino.[13]

However, we cautioned in Cuenco that the extension of the option to elect Philippine citizenship is not
indefinite:

Regardlessoftheforegoing,petitionerwasbornonFebruary16,1923.HebecameofageonFebruary16,1944.
HiselectionofcitizenshipwasmadeonMay15,1951,whenhewasovertwentyeight(28)yearsofage,orover
seven(7)yearsafterhehadreachedtheageofmajority.Itisclearthatsaidelectionhasnotbeenmade"upon
reachingtheageofmajority.[14]

Inthepresentcase,Ching,havingbeenbornon11April1964,wasalreadythirtyfive(35)yearsoldwhen
hecompliedwiththerequirementsofC.A.No.625on15June1999,oroverfourteen(14)yearsafterhehad
reached the age of majority. Based on the interpretation of the phrase upon reaching the age of majority,"
Ching'selectionwasclearlybeyond,byanyreasonableyardstick,theallowableperiodwithinwhichtoexercise
theprivilege.Itshouldbestated,inthisconnection,thatthespecialcircumstancesinvokedbyChing,i.e.,his
continuous and uninterrupted stay in the Philippines and his being a certified public accountant, a registered
voterandaformerelectedpublicofficial,cannotvestinhimPhilippinecitizenshipasthelawspecificallylays
downtherequirementsforacquisitionofPhilippinecitizenshipbyelection.
Definitely,thesocalledspecialcircumstancescannotconstitutewhatChingerroneouslylabelsasinformal
election of citizenship. Ching cannot find a refuge in the case of In re: Florencio Mallare,[15] the pertinent
portionofwhichreads:

AndevenassumingarguendothatAnaMallarewere(sic)legallymarriedtoanalien,Esteban'sexerciseofthe
rightofsuffragewhenhecaneofage,constitutesapositiveactofelectionofPhilippinecitizenship.Ithasbeen
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establishedthatEstebanMallarewasaregisteredvoterasofApril14,1928,andthatasearlyas1925(whenhe
wasabout22yearsold),Estebanwasalreadyparticipatingintheelectionsandcampaigningforcertain
candidate[s].TheseactsaresufficienttoshowhispreferenceforPhilippinecitizenship.[16]

Ching'srelianceonMallareismisplaced.Thefactsandcircumstancesobtainingthereinareverydifferent
from those in the present case, thus, negating its applicability. First, Esteban Mallare was born before the
effectivityofthe1935ConstitutionandtheenactmentofC.A.No.625.Hence,therequirementsandprocedures
prescribed under the 1935 Constitution and C.A. No. 625 for electing Philippine citizenship would not be
applicabletohim.Second,therulinginMallarewasanobitersince,ascorrectlypointedoutbytheOSG,itwas
notnecessaryforEstebanMallaretoelectPhilippinecitizenshipbecausehewasalreadyaFilipino,hebeinga
naturalchildofaFilipinomother.Inthisregard,theCourtstated:

EstebanMallare,naturalchildofAnaMallare,aFilipina,isthereforehimselfaFilipino,andnootheractwould
benecessarytoconferonhimalltherightsandprivilegesattachedtoPhilippinecitizenship(U.S.vs.Ong
Tianse,29Phil.332SantosCovs.GovernmentofthePhilippineIslands,42Phil.543,Serravs.Republic,L
4223,May12,1952,SyQuimsuanvs.Republic,L4693,Feb.16,1953Pitallanovs.Republic,L5111,June
28,1954).NeithercouldanyactbetakenontheerroneousbeliefthatheisanonFilipinodivesthimofthe
citizenshipprivilegestowhichheisrightfullyentitled.[17]

The ruling in Mallare was reiterated and further elaborated in Co vs. Electoral Tribunal of the House of
Representatives,[18]whereweheld:

Wehavejurisprudencethatdefines'election'asbothaformalandaninformalprocess.

InthecaseofInre:FlorencioMallare(59SCRA45[1974])theCourtheldthattheexerciseoftherightof
suffrageandtheparticipationinelectionexercisesconstituteapositiveactofelectionofPhilippinecitizenship.
IntheexactpronouncementoftheCourtweheld:

EstebansexerciseoftherightofsuffragewhenhecameofageconstitutesapositiveactofPhilippine
citizenship(p.52:emphasissupplied)

Theprivaterespondentdidmorethanmerelyexercisehisrightofsuffrage.Hehasestablishedhislifehereinthe
Philippines.

ForthoseinthepeculiarsituationoftherespondentwhocannotbeexpectedtohaveelectedPhilippine
citizenshipastheywerealreadycitizens,weapplytheInReMallarerule.

xxx

Thefilingofswornstatementorformaldeclarationisarequirementforthosewhostillhavetoelectcitizenship.
ForthosealreadyFilipinoswhenthetimetoelectcameup,thereareactsofdeliberatechoicewhichcannotbe
lessbinding.EnteringaprofessionopenonlytoFilipinos,servinginpublicofficewherecitizenshipisa
qualification,votingduringelectiontime,runningforpublicoffice,andothercategoricalactsofsimilarnature
arethemselvesformalmanifestationsforthesepersons.

AnelectionofPhilippinecitizenshippresupposesthatthepersonelectingisanalien.Orhisstatusisdoubtful
becauseheisanationaloftwocountries.ThereisnodoubtinthiscaseaboutMr.Ong'sbeingaFilipinowhen
heturnedtwentyone(21).

WerepeatthatanyelectionofPhilippinecitizenshiponthepartoftheprivaterespondentwouldnotonlyhave
beansuperfluousbutwouldalsohaveresultedinanabsurdity.HowcanaFilipinocitizenelectPhilippine
citizenship?[19]

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TheCourt,liketheOSG,issympatheticwiththeplightofChing.However,evenifweconsiderthespecial
circumstancesinthelifeofChinglikehishavinglivedinthePhilippines,allhislifeandhisconsistentbelief
thatheisaFilipino,controllingstatutesandjurisprudenceconstrainustodisagreewiththerecommendationof
theOSG.Consequently,weholdthatChingfailedtovalidlyelectPhilippinecitizenship.ThespanOffourteen
(14) years that lapsed from the time he reached the age of majority until he finally expressed his intention to
elect Philippine citizenship is clearly way beyond the contemplation of the requirement of electing "upon
reachingtheageofmajority."Moreover,ChinghasofferednoreasonwhyhedelayedhiselectionofPhilippine
citizenship.TheprescribedprocedureinelectingPhilippinecitizenshipiscertainlynotatediousandpainstaking
process. All that is required of the elector is to execute an affidavit of election of Philippine citizenship and
thereafter,filethesamewiththenearestcivilregistry.Ching'sunreasonableandunexplaineddelayinmaking
hiselectioncannotbesimplyglossedover.
Philippine citizenship can never be treated like a commodity that can be claimed when needed and
suppressedwhenconvenient.[20]OnewhoisprivilegedtoelectPhilippinecitizenshiphasonlyaninchoateright
tosuchcitizenship.Assuch,heshouldavailoftherightwithfervor,enthusiasmandpromptitude.Sadly,inthis
case,ChingsleptonhisopportunitytoelectPhilippinecitizenshipand,asaresult,thisgoldenprivilegeslipped
awayfromhisgrasp.
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court Resolves to DENY Vicente D. Ching's application for
admissiontothePhilippineBar.
SOORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo,
Buena,GonzagaReyes,andYnaresSantiago,JJ.,concur.

[1]CitingCuvs.RepublicofthePhilippines,89Phil.473,476(1951).

[2]CitingCRUZ,ConstitutionalLaw,1991Ed.p359.

[3]CitingCuencovs.SecretaryofJustice,5SCRA108,110(1962).

[4]Sec.1.ArtIVofthe1935Constitutionreads:

Section1.ThefollowingarecitizensofthePhilippines:
(1)ThosewhoarecitizensofthePhilippineIslandsatthetimeoftheadoptionoftheConstitution
(2)ThoseborninthePhilippineIslandsofforeignparentswho,beforetheadoptionofthisConstitution,hadbeenelectedtopublic
office
(3)ThosewhosefathersarecitizensofthePhilippine
(4)ThosewhosemothersarecitizensofthePhilippines,and,uponreachingtheageofmajority,electPhilippinecitizenship
(5)Thosewhoarenaturalizedinaccordancewithlaw
[5]Sec.1(1),ArticleIII,1973Constitution.

[6]Sec1(3),ArticleIV,1987Constitution.

[7]BERNASTheconstitutionoftheRepublicofthePhilippines,FirstEd.(1987),p.502.

[8]Ibid.,citingConventionSessionofNovember27,1972andnotingthatitisalsoapplicabletothe1987constitution.

[9]Art.402.CivilCode

[10]LimTecovs.CollectorofCustoms,24SCRA84,88(1912).

[11]Muozvs.CollectorofCustoms,20SCRA494,498(1911)Lorenzovs.CollectorofCustoms,15SCRA559592(1910).

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[12]5SCRA108(1962).

[13]Id.,at110.

[14]Id.

[15]59SCRA45(1974).

[16]Id.,at52.

[17]Id.

[18]199SCRA692(1991).

[19]Idat707709(UnderscoringSupplied).

[20]Yuvs.DefensorSantiago,169SCRA364,379(1989).

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