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Facts:

In her COC for presidency for the May 2016 elections, Grace Poe declared that she is
a natural-born citizen and that her residence in the Philippines up to the day before 9
May 2016 would be 10 years and 11 months counted from 24 May 2005.
May 24, 2005 was the day she came to the Philippines after deciding to stay in the
PH for good. Before that however, and even afterwards, she has been going to and
fro between US and Philippines. She was born in 1968, found as newborn infant in
Iloilo, and was legally adopted. She immigrated to the US in 1991 and was
naturalized as American citizen in 2001. On July 18, 2006, the BI granted her petition
declaring that she had reacquired her Filipino citizenship under RA 9225. She
registered as a voter and obtained a new Philippine passport. In 2010, before
assuming her post as an appointed chairperson of the MTRCB, she renounced her
American citizenship to satisfy the RA 9225 requirement . From then on, she
stopped using her American passport.
Petitions were filed before the COMELEC to deny or cancel her candidacy on the
ground particularly, among others, that she cannot be considered a natural-born
Filipino citizen since she cannot prove that her biological parents or either of them
were Filipinos. The COMELEC en banc cancelled her candidacy on the ground that
she is in want of citizenship and residence requirements, and that she committed
material misrepresentations in her COC.
On certiorari, the SC reversed the ruling and held (9-6 votes) that Poe is qualified as
a candidate for Presidency. Three justices, however, abstained to vote on the natural-
born citizenship issue.
Issue 1: W/N the COMELEC has jurisdiction to rule on the issue of qualifications of
candidates (Read Dissent)
Held:
No. Article IX-C, Sec 2 of the Constitution provides for the powers and functions of
the COMELEC, and deciding on the qualifications or lack thereof of a candidate is
not one among them.
In contrast, the Constitution provides that only the SET and HRET tribunals have
sole jurisdiction over the election contests, returns, and qualifications of their
respective members, whereas over the President and Vice President, only the SC en
banc has sole jurisdiction. As for the qualifications of candidates for such positions, the
Constitution is silent. There is simply no authorized proceeding in determining
the ineligibility of candidates before elections. Such lack of provision cannot be
supplied by a mere rule, and for the COMELEC to assimilate grounds
for ineligibility into grounds for disqualification in Rule 25 in its rules of procedures
would be contrary to the intent of the Constitution.
Hence, the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion when it decided on the
qualification issue of Grace as a candidate in the same case for cancellation of her
COC.
Issue 2: W/N Grace Poe-Llamanzares is a natural-born Filipino citizen (Read
Dissent)
Held:
Yes, Grace Poe might be and is considerably a natural-born Filipino. For that, she
satisfies one of the constitutional requirements that only natural-born Filipinos may
run for presidency.
First, there is a high probability that Grace Poes parents are Filipinos. Her physical
features are typical of Filipinos. The fact that she was abandoned as an infant in a
municipality where the population of the Philippines is overwhelmingly Filipinos
such that there would be more than 99% chance that a child born in such province is
a Filipino is also a circumstantial evidence of her parents nationality. That
probability and the evidence on which it is based are admissible under Rule 128,
Section 4 of the Revised Rules on Evidence. To assume otherwise is to accept the
absurd, if not the virtually impossible, as the norm.
Second, by votes of 7-5, the SC pronounced that foundlings are as a class, natural-
born citizens. This is based on the finding that the deliberations of the 1934
Constitutional Convention show that the framers intended foundlings to be
covered by the enumeration. While the 1935 Constitutions enumeration is silent
as to foundlings, there is no restrictive language which would definitely exclude
foundlings either. Because of silence and ambiguity in the enumeration with
respect to foundlings, the SC felt the need to examine the intent of the framers.
Third, that foundlings are automatically conferred with natural-born citizenship is
supported by treaties and the general principles of international law. Although the
Philippines is not a signatory to some of these treaties, it adheres to the customary
rule to presume foundlings as having born of the country in which the foundling is
found.
Issue 3: W/N Grace Poe satisfies the 10-year residency requirement
Held:
Yes. Grace Poe satisfied the requirements of animus manendi coupled with animus
revertendi in acquiring a new domicile.
Grace Poes domicile had been timely changed as of May 24, 2005, and not on July
18, 2006 when her application under RA 9225 was approved by the BI. COMELECs
reliance on cases which decree that an aliens stay in the country cannot be counted
unless she acquires a permanent resident visa or reacquires her Filipino citizenship
is without merit. Such cases are different from the circumstances in this case, in
which Grace Poe presented an overwhelming evidence of her actual stay and intent
to abandon permanently her domicile in the US. Coupled with her eventual
application to reacquire Philippine citizenship and her familys actual continuous
stay in the Philippines over the years, it is clear that when Grace Poe returned on
May 24, 2005, it was for good.
Issue 4: W/N the Grace Poes candidacy should be denied or cancelled for
committing material misrepresentations in her COC
Held:
No. The COMELEC cannot cancel her COC on the ground that she misrepresented
facts as to her citizenship and residency because such facts refer to grounds for
ineligibility in which the COMELEC has no jurisdiction to decide upon. Only when
there is a prior authority finding that a candidate is suffering from a disqualification
provided by law or the Constitution that the COMELEC may deny due course or
cancel her candidacy on ground of false representations regarding her qualifications.
In this case, by authority of the Supreme Court Grace Poe is now pronounced
qualified as a candidate for the presidency. Hence, there cannot be any false
representations in her COC regarding her citizenship and residency. ##
G.R. No. 221538, September 20, 2016
RIZALITO Y. DAVID, Petitioner, v. SENATE ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL AND
MARY GRACE POE-LLAMANZARES, Respondents.
DECISION
LEONEN, J.:
The words of our most fundamental law cannot be read so as to callously exclude all
foundlings from public service.

When the names of the parents of a foundling cannot be discovered despite a


diligent search, but sufficient evidence is presented to sustain a reasonable inference
that satisfies the quantum of proof required to conclude that at least one or both of
his or her parents is Filipino, then this should be sufficient to establish that he or she
is a natural-born citizen. When these inferences are made by the Senate Electoral
Tribunal in the exercise of its sole and exclusive prerogative to decide the
qualifications of the members of the Senate, then there is no grave abuse of
discretion remediable by either Rule 65 of the Rules of Court or Article VIII, Section I
of the Constitution.

This case certainly does not decide with finality the citizenship of every single
foundling as natural-born. The circumstances of each case are unique, and
substantial proof may exist to show that a foundling is not natural-born. The nature
of the Senate Electoral Tribunal and its place in the scheme of political powers, as
devised by the Constitution, are likewise different from the other ways to raise
questions of citizenship.

Before this Court is a Petition for Certiorari1 filed by petitioner Rizalito Y. David
(David). He prays for the nullification of the assailed November 17, 2015 Decision
and December 3, 2015 Resolution of public respondent Senate Electoral Tribunal in
SET Case No. 001-15.2 The assailed November 17, 2015 Decision3dismissed the
Petition for Quo Warranto filed by David, which sought to unseat private
respondent Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares as a Senator for allegedly not being a
natural-born citizen of the Philippines and, therefore, not being qualified to hold
such office under Article VI, Section 34 of the 1987 Constitution. The assailed
December 3, 2015 Resolution5 denied David's Motion for Reconsideration.

Senator Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares (Senator Poe) is a foundling whose biological


parents are unknown. As an infant, she was abandoned at the Parish Church of Jaro,
Iloilo.6 Edgardo Militar found her outside the church on September 3, 1968 at about
9:30 a.m.7 He later turned her over to Mr. and Mrs. Emiliano Militar.8 Emiliano
Militar reported to the Office of the Local Civil Registrar that the infant was found
on September 6, 1968.9 She was given the name Mary Grace Natividad Contreras
Militar.10 Local Civil Registrar issued a Certificate of Live Birth/Foundling
Certificate stating:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Circumstances: THE SUBJECT CHILD WAS FOUND IN THE PARISH CHURCHD
[sic] OF JARO, ON SEPTEMBER 3, 1968 AT ABOUT 9:30 A.M. BY EDGARDO
MILITAR AND THE SAID CHILD IS PRESENTLY IN THE CUSTODY OF MR.
AND MRS. EMILIANO MILITAR AT STA. ISABEL STREET, JARO . .
.11chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
On May 13, 1974, the Municipal Court of San Juan, Rizal promulgated the Decision
granting the Petition for Adoption of Senator Poe by Spouses Ronald Allan Poe
(more popularly known as Fernando Poe, Jr.) and Jesusa Sonora Poe (more
popularly known as Susan Roces).12 The Decision also ordered the change in Senator
Poe's name from Mary Grace Natividad Contreras Militar to Mary Grace Natividad
Sonora Poe.13 October 27, 2005, Clerk of Court III Eleanor A. Sorio certified that the
Decision had become final in a Certificate of Finality.14chanrobleslaw

On April 11, 1980, the Office of Civil Registrar-Iloilo received the Decision of the San
Juan Court Municipal Court and noted on Senator Poe's foundling certificate that
she was adopted by Spouses Ronald Allan and Jesusa Poe.15 This hand-written
notation appears on Senator Poe's foundling certificate:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
NOTE: Adopted child by the Spouses Ronald Allan Poe and Jesusa Sonora Poe as
per Court Order, Mun. Court, San Juan, Rizal, by Hon. Judge Alfredo M. Gorgonio
dated May 13, 1974, under Sp. Proc. No. 138.16chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Senator Poe became a registered voter in Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila when
she turned 18 years old.17 The Commission on Elections issued her a Voter's
Identification Card for Precinct No. 196, Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila on
December 13, 1986.18chanrobleslaw

On April 4, 1988, the Department of Foreign Affairs issued her a Philippine


passport.19 Her passport was renewed on April 5, 1993, May 19, 1998, October 13,
2009, December 19, 2013, and March 18, 2014.20Having become Senator, she was also
issued a Philippine diplomatic passport on December 19, 2013.21chanrobleslaw

Senator Poe took Development Studies at the University of the Philippines, Manila,
but eventually went to the United States in 1988 to obtain her college degree.22 In
1991, she earned a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Boston College,
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.23chanrobleslaw

On July 27, 1991, Senator Poe married Teodoro Misael Daniel V. Llamanzares, both
an American and Filipino national since birth.24 The marriage took place in
Sanctuario de San Jose Parish, San Juan, Manila.25cralawred On July 29, 1991, Senator
Poe returned to the United States with her husband.26 For some time, she lived with
her husband and children in the United States.27chanrobleslaw

Senator Poe and her husband had three (3) children: Brian Daniel (Brian), Hanna
MacKenzie (Hanna), and Jesusa Anika (Anika).28 Brian was born in the United States
on April 16, 1992. Hanna was born on July 10, 1998, and Anika on June 5, 2004. Both
Hanna and Anika were born in the Philippines.29chanrobleslaw
Senator Poe was naturalized and granted American citizenship on October 18,
2001.30 She was subsequently given a United States passport.31chanrobleslaw

Senator Poe's adoptive father, Fernando Poe, Jr., ran for President of the Republic of
the Philippines in the 2004 National Elections.32 To support her father's candidacy,
Senator Poe and her daughter Hanna returned to the Philippines on April 8,
2004.33 After the Elections, she returned to the United States on July 8, 2004.34 It was
during her stay in the Philippines that she gave birth to her youngest daughter,
Anika.35chanrobleslaw

Fernando Poe, Jr. was hospitalized on December 11, 2004 and eventually "slipped
into a coma."36 Senator Poe returned to the Philippines on December 13, 2004.37 On
December 14, 2004, her father died.38 She stayed in the country until February 3, 2005
to attend her father's funeral and to attend to the settling of his
estate.39chanrobleslaw

In 2004, Senator Poe resigned from work in the United States. She never looked for
work again in the United States.40chanrobleslaw

Senator Poe decided to return home in 2005.41 After consulting her children, they all
agreed to return to the Philippines to support the grieving Susan Roces.42 In early
2005, they notified Brian and Hanna's schools Virginia, United States that they
would be transferring to the Philippines the following semester.43She came back on
May 24, 2005.44 Her children also arrived in the first half of 2005.45 However, her
husband stayed in the United States to "finish pending projects, and to arrange for
the sale of the family home there."46chanrobleslaw

Following her return, Senator Poe was issued by the Bureau of Internal Revenue a
Tax Identification Number (TIN) on July 22, 2005.47chanrobleslaw

On July 7, 2006, Senator Poe took the Oath of Allegiance to Republic of the
Philippines:48
I, Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares, solemnly swear that I will support and defend the
Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines and obey the laws and legal orders
promulgated by the duly constituted authorities of the Philippines; and I hereby
declare that I recognize and accept the supreme authority of the Philippines and will
maintain true faith and allegiance thereto; and that I impose this obligation upon
myself voluntarily without mental reservation or purpose of
evasion.49chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
On July 10, 2006, Senator Poe filed a Petition for Retention and or Re-acquisition of
Philippine Citizenship through Republic Act No. 9225.50 She also "filed applications
for derivative citizenship on behalf of her three children who were all below
eighteen (18) years of age at that time."51chanrobleslaw

The Petition was granted by the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation on July 18,
2006 through an Order signed by Associate Commissioner Roy M. Almoro for
Commissioner Alipio F. Fernandez, Jr:52
A careful review of the documents submitted in support of the instant petition
indicate that David was a former citizen of the Republic of the Philippines being
born to Filipino parents and is presumed to be a natural born Philippine citizen;
thereafter, became an American citizen and is now a holder of an American
passport; was issued an ACT and ICR and has taken her oath of allegiance to the
Republic of the Philippines on July 7, 2006 and so is thereby deemed to have re-
acquired her Philippine Citizenship.53 (Emphasis in the original)
In the same Order, Senator Poe's children were "deemed Citizens of the Philippines
in accordance with Section 4 of R[epublic] A[ct] No. 9225."54 Until now, the Order
"has not been set aside by the Department of Justice or any other agency of
Government."55chanrobleslaw

On July 31, 2006, the Bureau of Immigration issued Identification Certificates in the
name of Senator Poe and her children.56 It stated that Senator Poe is a "citizen of the
Philippines pursuant to the Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003 . . .
in relation to Administrative Order No. 91, Series of 2004 and Memorandum
Circular No. AFF-2-005 per Office Order No. AFF-06-9133 signed Associate
Commissioner Roy M. Almoro dated July 18, 2006."57chanrobleslaw

Senator Poe became a registered voter of Barangay Santa Lucia, San Juan City on
August 31, 2006.58chanrobleslaw

Senator Poe made several trips to the United States of America between 2006 and
2009 using her United States Passport No. 170377935.59 She used her passport "after
having taken her Oath of Allegiance to the Republic on 07 July 2006, but not after she
has formally renounced her American citizenship on 20 October 2010."60 The
following are the flight records given by the Bureau of
Immigration:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Departures Flight No.

November 1, 2006 SQ071

July 20, 2007 PR730

October 31, 2007 PR300

October 2, 2008 PR358

April 20, 2009 PR104

July 31, 2009 PR730

October 19, 2009 PR102

November 15, 2009 PR103


December 27, 2009 PR112

March 27, 2010 PR102

Arrivals Flight No.

November 4, 2006 SQ076

July 23, 2007 PR731

November 5, 2007 PR337

May 8, 2008 PR103

October 5, 2008 PR359

May 21, 2009 PR105

August 3, 2009 PR733

November 15, 2009 PR10361


On October 6, 2010, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III appointed Senator Poe as
Chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board
(MTRCB).62 On October 20, 2010, Senator Poe executed an Affidavit of Renunciation
of Allegiance to the United States of America and Renunciation of American
Citizenship,63 stating:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryI, MARY GRACE POE-LLAMANZARES, Filipino, of


legal age, and presently residing at No. 107 Rodeo Drive, Corinthian Hills, Quezon
City, Philippines, after having been duly sworn to in accordance with the law, do
hereby depose and state that with this affidavit, I hereby expressly and voluntarily
renounce my United States nationality/American citizenship, together with all
rights and privileges and all duties and allegiance and fidelity thereunto pertaining.
I make this renunciation intentionally, voluntarily, and of my own free will, free of
any duress or undue influence.64 (Emphasis in the original)

The affidavit was submitted to the Bureau of Immigration on October 21, 2010.65 On
October 21, 2010, she took her Oath of Office as MTRCB Chairperson and assumed
office on October 26, 2010.66 Her oath of office stated:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
PANUNUMPA SA KATUNGKULAN

Ako, si MARY GRACE POE LLAMANZARES, na itinalaga sa katungkulan


bilang Chairperson, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, ay taimtim na
nanunumpa na tutuparin ko nang buong husay at katapatan, sa abot ng aking
kakayahan, ang mga tungkulin ng aking kasalukuyang katungkulan at ng mga iba
pang pagkaraan nito'y gagampanan ko sa ilalim ng Republika ng Pilipinas; na aking
itataguyod at ipagtatanggol ang Saligan Batas ng Pilipinas; na tunay na mananalig at
tatalima ako rito; na susundin ko ang mga batas, mga kautusang lega, at mga
dekretong pinaiiral ng mga sadyang itinakdang may kapangyarihan ng Republika
ng Pilipinas; at kusa kong babalikatin ang pananagutang ito, nang walang ano mang
pasubali o hangaring umiwas.

Kasihan nawa ako ng Diyos.

NILAGDAAN AT PINANUMPAAN sa harap ko ngayong ika-21 ng Oktubre 2010,


Lungsod ng Maynila, Pilipinas.67 (Emphasis in the original)
Senator Poe executed an Oath/Affirmation of Renunciation of Nationality of the
United States68 in the presence of Vice-Consul Somer E. Bessire-Briers on July 12,
2011.69 On this occasion, she also filled out the Questionnaire Information for
Determining Possible Loss of U.S. Citizenship.70 On December 9, 2011, Vice Consul
Jason Galian executed a Certificate of Loss of Nationality for Senator Poe.71 The
certificate was approved by the Overseas Citizen Service, Department of State, on
February 3, 2012.72chanrobleslaw

Senator Poe decided to run as Senator in the 2013 Elections.73 On September 27, 2012,
she executed a Certificate of Candidacy, which was submitted to the Commission on
Elections on October 2, 2012.74 She won and was declared as Senator-elect on May
16, 2013.75chanrobleslaw

David, a losing candidate in the 2013 Senatorial Elections, filed before the Senate
Electoral Tribunal a Petition for Quo Warranto on August 6, 2015.76 He contested the
election of Senator Poe for failing to "comply with the citizenship and residency
requirements mandated by the 1987 Constitution."77chanrobleslaw

Thereafter, the Senate Electoral Tribunal issued Resolution No. 15-01 requiring
David "to correct the formal defects of his petition."78 David filed his amended
Petition on August 17, 2015.79chanrobleslaw

On August 18, 2015, Resolution No. 15-02 was issued by the Senate Electoral
Tribunal, through its Executive Committee, ordering the Secretary of the Senate
Electoral Tribunal to summon Senator Poe to file an answer to the amended
Petition.80chanrobleslaw

Pending the filing of Senator Poe's answer, David filed a Motion Subpoena the
Record of Application of Citizenship Re-acquisition and related documents from the
Bureau of Immigration on August 25, 2015.81The documents requested included
Senator Poe's record of travels and NSO kept Birth Certificate.82 On August 26, 2015,
the Senate Electoral Tribunal issued Resolution No. 15-04 granting the Motion.83 The
same Resolution directed the Secretary of the Tribunal to issue a subpoena to the
concerned officials of the Bureau of Immigration and the National Statistics
Office.84 The subpoenas ordered the officials to appear on September 1, 2015 at 10:00
a.m. before the Office of the Secretary of the Senate bearing three (3) sets of the
requested documents.85 The subpoenas were complied with by both the Bureau of
Immigration and the National Statistics Office on September 1, 2015.86chanrobleslaw

On September 1, 2015, Senator Poe submitted her Verified Answer with (1) Prayer
for Summary Dismissal; (2) Motion for Preliminary Hearing on Grounds for
Immediate Dismissal/Affirmative Defenses; (3) Motion to Cite David for Direct
Contempt of Court; and (4) Counterclaim for Indirect Contempt of
Court.87chanrobleslaw

On September 2, 2015, the Senate Electoral Tribunal issued Resolution No. 15-05
requiring the parties to file a preliminary conference brief on or before September 9,
2015.88 The Resolution also set the Preliminary Conference on September 11,
2015.89 During the Preliminary Conference, the parties "agreed to drop the issue of
residency on the ground of prescription."90chanrobleslaw

Oral arguments were held by the Senate Electoral Tribunal on September 21,
2015.91 The parties were then "required to submit their respective [memoranda],
without prejudice to the submission of DNA evidence by [Senator Poe] within thirty
(30) days from the said date."92chanrobleslaw

On October 21, 2015, Senator Poe moved to extend for 15 days the submission of
DNA test results.93 The Senate Electoral Tribunal granted the Motion on October 27,
2015 through Resolution No. 15-08.94 On November 5, 2015, Senator Poe filed a
Manifestation regarding the results of DNA Testing,95 which stated that "none of the
tests that [Senator Poe] took provided results that would shed light to the real
identity of her biological parents."96 The Manifestation also stated that Senator Poe
was to continue to find closure regarding the issue and submit any development to
the Senate Electoral Tribunal. Later, Senator Poe submitted "the issue of her natural-
born Filipino citizenship as a foundling for resolution upon the legal arguments set
forth in her submissions to the Tribunal."97 On November 6, 2015, through
Resolution No. 15-10, the Senate Electoral Tribunal "noted the [M]anifestation and
considered the case submitted for resolution."98chanrobleslaw

On November 17, 2015, the Senate Electoral Tribunal promulgated its assailed
Decision finding Senator Poe to be a natural-born citizen and, therefore, qualified to
hold office as Senator.99 The Decision stated:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
We rule that Respondent is a natural-born citizen under the 1935 Constitution and
continue to be a natural-born citizen as defined under the 1987 Constitution, as she is
a citizen of the Philippines from birth, without having to perform any act to acquire
or perfect (her) Philippine citizenship.

....

In light of our earlier pronouncement that Respondent is a natural-born Filipino


citizen, Respondent validly reacquired her natural-born Filipino citizenship upon
taking her Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, as required under
Section 3 of R.A. No. 9225.

Under Section 11 of B.I. Memorandum Circular No. AFF 05-002 (the Revised Rules
Implementing R.A. No. 9225), the foregoing Oath of Allegiance is the "final act" to
reacquire natural-born Philippine citizenship.

....

To repeat, Respondent never used her USA passport from the moment she
renounced her American citizenship on 20 October 2010. She remained solely a
natural-born Filipino citizen from that time on until today.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition for quo warranto is


DISMISSED.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.100 (Citations omitted)


On November 23, 2015, David moved for reconsideration.101 The Senate Electoral
Tribunal issued Resolution No. 15-11 on November 24, 2015, giving Senator Poe five
(5) days to comment on the Motion for Reconsideration.102chanrobleslaw

Senator Poe filed her Comment/Opposition to the Motion for Reconsideration on


December 1, 2015.103David's Motion for Reconsideration was denied by the Senate
Electoral Tribunal on December 3, 2015:104
WHEREFORE, the Tribunal resolves to DENY the Verified Motion for Reconsideration
(of the Decision promulgated on 17 November 2015) of David Rizalito Y. David dated 23
November 2015.

The Tribunal further resolves to CONFIRM Resolution No. 15-11 dated 24


November 2015 issued by the Executive Committee of the Tribunal; to NOTE the
Comment/Opposition filed by counsel for Respondent on 01 December 2015;
to GRANT the motion for leave to appear and submit memorandum as amici
curiae filed by Dean Arturo de Castro [and to] NOTE the Memorandum (for
Volunteer Amicus Curiae) earlier submitted by Dean de Castro before the
Commission on Elections in SPA No. 15-139 (DC), entitled "Amado D. Valdez,
Petitoner, versus Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe Llaman[z]ares, Respondent."

SO ORDERED.105 (Emphasis in the original)


On December 8, 2015, the Senate Electoral Tribunal's Resolution was received by
David.106 On December 9, 2015, David filed the pre Petition for Certiorari before this
Court.107chanrobleslaw

On December 16, 2015, this Court required the Senate Electoral Tribunal and Senator
Poe to comment on the Petition "within a non-extendible period of fifteen (15) days
from notice."108 The Resolution also set oral arguments on January 19, 2016.109 The
Senate Electoral Tribunal, through the Office of the Solicitor General, submitted its
Comment on December 30, 2015.110 Senator Poe submitted her Comment on January
4, 2016.111chanrobleslaw

This case was held in abeyance pending the resolution of the Commission on
Elections case on the issue of private respondent's citizenship.

For resolution is the sole issue of whether the Senate Electoral Tribunal committed
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in dismissing
petitioner's Petition for Quo Warranto based on its finding that private respondent is
a natural-born Filipino citizen, qualified to hold a seat as Senator under Article VI,
Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution.
I

Petitioner comes to this Court invoking our power of judicial review through a
petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. He seeks to
annul the assailed Decision and Resolution of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, which
state its findings and conclusions on private respondent's citizenship.

Ruling on petitioner's plea for post-judgment relief calls for a consideration of two
(2) factors: first, the breadth of this Court's competence relative to that of the Senate
Electoral Tribunal; and second, the nature of the remedial vehiclea petition for
certiorarithrough which one who is aggrieved by a judgment of the Senate
Electoral Tribunal may seek relief from this Court.
I. A

The Senate Electoral Tribunal, along with the House of Representatives Electoral
Tribunal, is a creation of Article VI, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution:112
ARTICLE VI
The Legislative Department

....

SECTION 17. The Senate and the House of Representatives shall each have an
Electoral Tribunal which shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election,
returns, and qualifications of their respective Members. Each Electoral Tribunal shall be
composed of nine Members, three of whom shall be Justices of the Supreme Court to
be designated by the Chief Justice, and the remaining six shall be Members of the
Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, who shall be chosen on
the basis of proportional representation from the political parties and the parties or
organizations registered under the party-list system represented therein. The senior
Justice in the Electoral Tribunal shall be its Chairman. (Emphasis supplied)
Through Article VI, Section 17, the Constitution segregates from all other judicial
and quasi-judicial bodies (particularly, courts and the Commission on Elections113)
the power to rule on contests114 relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of
members of the Senate (as well as of the House of Representatives). These powers
are granted to a separate and distinct constitutional organ. There are two (2) aspects
to the exclusivity of the Senate Electoral Tribunal's power. The power to resolve such
contests is exclusive to any other body. The resolution of such contests is its only
task; it performs no other function.

The 1987 Constitution is not the first fundamental law to introduce into our legal
system an "independent, impartial and non-partisan body attached to the legislature
and specially created for that singular purpose."115 The 1935 Constitution similarly
created an Electoral Commission, independent from the National Assembly, to be
the sole judge of all contests relating to members of the National Assembly.116This
was a departure from the system introduced by prior organic acts enforced under
American colonial rulenamely: the Philippine Bill of 1902 and the Jones Law of
1916which vested the power to resolve such contests in the legislature itself. When
the 1935 Constitution was amended to make room for a bicameral legislature, a
corresponding amendment was made for there to be separate electoral tribunals for
each chamber of Congress.117 The 1973 Constitution did away with these electoral
tribunals, but they have since been restored by the 1987 Constitution.

All constitutional provisionsunder the 1935 and 1987 Constitutionswhich


provide for the creation of electoral tribunals (or their predecessor, the Electoral
Commission), have been unequivocal in their language. The electoral tribunal shall
be the "sole" judge.

In Lazatin v. House Electoral Tribunal:118


The use of the word "sole" emphasizes the exclusive character of the jurisdiction
conferred. . . . The exercise of the power by the Electoral Commission under the 1935
Constitution has been described as "intended to be as complete and unimpaired as if
it had remained originally in the legislature[.]" Earlier, this grant of power to the
legislature was characterized by Justice Malcohn as "full, clear and complete." . . .
Under the amended 1935 Constitution, the power was unqualifiedly reposed upon
the Electoral Tribunal . . . and it remained as full, clear and complete as that
previously granted the legislature and the Electoral Commission. . . . The same may
be said with regard to the jurisdiction of the Electoral Tribunals under the 1987
Constitution.119chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Exclusive, original jurisdiction over contests relating to the election, returns, and
qualifications of the elective officials falling within the scope of their powers is, thus,
vested in these electoral tribunals. It is only before them that post-election challenges
against the election, returns, and qualifications of Senators and Representatives (as
well as of the President and the Vice-President, in the case of the Presidential
Electoral Tribunal) may be initiated.

The judgments of these tribunals are not beyond the scope of any review. Article VI,
Section 17's stipulation of electoral tribunals' being the "sole" judge must be read in
harmony with Article VIII, Section 1's express statement that "[j]udicial power
includes the duty of the courts of justice . . . to determine whether or not there has
been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the
part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government." Judicial review is,
therefore, still possible. In Libanan v. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal:120
The Court has stressed that ". . . so long as the Constitution grants the [House of
Representatives Electoral Tribunal] the power to be the sole judge of all contests
relating to the election, returns and qualifications of members of the House of
Representatives, any final action taken by the [House of Representatives Electoral
Tribunal] on a matter within its jurisdiction shall, as a rule, not be reviewed by this
Court . . . the power granted to the Electoral Tribunal . . . excludes the exercise of any
authority on the part of this Court that would in any wise restrict it or curtail it or
even affect the same."

The Court did recognize, of course, its power of judicial review in exceptional cases.
In Robles vs. [House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal], the Court has explained that
while the judgments of the Tribunal are beyond judicial interference, the Court may
do so, however, but only "in the exercise of this Court's so-called extraordinary
jurisdiction, . . . upon a determination that the Tribunal's decision or resolution was
rendered without or in excess of its jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion or
paraphrasing Morrero, upon a clear showing of such arbitrary and improvident use
by the Tribunal of its power as constitutes a denial of due process of law, or upon a
demonstration of a very clear unmitigated error, manifestly constituting such grave
abuse of discretion that there has to be a remedy for such abuse."

In the old, but still relevant, case of Morrero vs. Bocar, the Court has ruled that the
power of the Electoral Commission "is beyond judicial interference except, in any
event, upon a clear showing of such arbitrary and improvident use of power as will
constitute a denial of due process." The Court does not, to paraphrase it in Co vs.
[House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal], venture into the perilous area of
correcting perceived errors of independent branches of the Government; it comes in
only when it has to vindicate a denial of due process or correct an abuse of discretion
so grave or glaring that no less than the Constitution itself calls for remedial
action.121 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)
This Court reviews judgments of the House and Senate Electoral Tribunals not in the
exercise of its appellate jurisdiction. Our review is limited to a determination of
whether there has been an error in jurisdiction, not an error in judgment.
I. B

A party aggrieved by the rulings of the Senate or House Electoral Tribunal invokes
the jurisdiction of this Court through the vehicle of a petition for certiorari under
Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. An appeal is a continuation of the
proceedings in the tribunal from which the appeal is taken. A petition for certiorari
is allowed in Article VIII, Section 1 of the Constitution and described in the 1997
Rules of Civil Procedure as an independent civil action.122 The viability of such a
petition is premised on an allegation of "grave abuse of discretion."123chanrobleslaw

The term "grave abuse of discretion" has been generally held to refer to such
arbitrary, capricious, or whimsical exercise of judgment as is tantamount to lack of
jurisdiction:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
[T]he abuse of discretion must be patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of a
positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in
contemplation of law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic
manner by reason of passion and hostility. Mere abuse of discretion is not enough: it
must be grave.124chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
There is grave abuse of discretion when a constitutional organ such as the Senate
Electoral Tribunal or the Commission on Elections, makes manifestly gross errors in
its factual inferences such that critical pieces of evidence, which have been
nevertheless properly introduced by a party, or admitted, or which were the subject
of stipulation, are ignored or not accounted for.125chanrobleslaw

A glaring misinterpretation of the constitutional text or of statutory provisions, as


well as a misreading or misapplication of the current state of jurisprudence, is also
considered grave abuse of discretion.126 The arbitrariness consists in the disregard of
the current state of our law.

Adjudication that fails to consider the facts and evidence or frivolously departs from
settled principles engenders a strong suspicion of partiality. This can be a badge of
hostile intent against a party.

Writs of certiorari have, therefore, been issued: (a) where the tribunal's approach to
an issue is premised on wrong considerations and its conclusions founded on a gross
misreading, if not misrepresentation, of the evidence;127 (b) where a tribunal's
assessment of a case is "far from reasonable[,] [and] based solely on very personal
and subjective assessment standards when the law is replete with standards that can
be used";128 "(c) where the tribunal's action on the appreciation and evaluation of
evidence oversteps the limits of its discretion to the point of being grossly
unreasonable";129 and (d) where the tribunal invokes erroneous or irrelevant
considerations in resolving an issue.130chanrobleslaw
I. C

We find no basis for concluding that the Senate Electoral Tribunal acted without or
in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
excess of jurisdiction.

The Senate Electoral Tribunal's conclusions are in keeping with a faithful and
exhaustive reading of the Constitution, one that proceeds from an intent to give life
to all the aspirations of all its provisions.

Ruling on the Petition for Quo Warranto initiated by petitioner, the Senate Electoral
Tribunal was confronted with a novel legal question: the citizenship status of
children whose biological parents are unknown, considering that the Constitution, in
Article IV, Section 1(2) explicitly makes reference to one's father or mother. It was
compelled to exercise its original jurisdiction in the face of a constitutional ambiguity
that, at that point, was without judicial precedent.

Acting within this void, the Senate Electoral Tribunal was only asked to make a
reasonable interpretation of the law while needfully considering the established
personal circumstances of private respondent. It could not have asked the impossible
of private respondent, sending her on a proverbial fool's errand to establish her
parentage, when the controversy before it arose because private respondent's
parentage was unknown and has remained so throughout her life.

The Senate Electoral Tribunal knew the limits of human capacity. It did not insist on
burdening private respondent with conclusively proving, within the course of the
few short months, the one thing that she has never been in a position to know
throughout her lifetime. Instead, it conscientiously appreciated the implications of
all other facts known about her finding. Therefore, it arrived at conclusions in a
manner in keeping with the degree of proof required in proceedings before a quasi-
judicial body: not absolute certainty, not proof beyond reasonable doubt or
preponderance of evidence, but "substantial evidence, or that amount of relevant
evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a
conclusion."131chanrobleslaw

In the process, it avoided setting a damning precedent for all children with the
misfortune of having been abandoned by their biological parents. Far from reducing
them to inferior, second-class citizens, the Senate Electoral Tribunal did justice to the
Constitution's aims of promoting and defending the well-being of children,
advancing human rights, and guaranteeing equal protection of the laws and equal
access to opportunities for public service.
II

Article VI, Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution spells out the requirement that "[n]o
person shall be a Senator unless he [or she] is a natural-born citizen of the
Philippines."

Petitioner asserts that private respondent is not a natural-born citizen and, therefore,
not qualified to sit as Senator of the Republic, chiefly on two (2) grounds. First, he
argues that as a foundling whose parents are unknown, private respondent fails to
satisfy the jus sanguinis principle: that is, that she failed to establish her Filipino
"blood line," which is supposedly the essence of the Constitution's determination of
who are natural-born citizens of the Philippines. Proceeding from this first assertion,
petitioner insists that as private respondent was never a natural-born citizen, she
could never leave reverted to natural-born status despite the performance of acts
that ostensibly comply with Republic Act No. 9225, otherwise known as the
Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003.

Petitioner's case hinges on the primacy he places over Article IV, Section 1 of the
1987 Constitution and its enumeration of who are Filipino citizens, more specifically
on Section 1(2), which identifies as citizens "[t]hose whose fathers or mothers are
citizens of the Philippines." Petitioner similarly claims that, as private respondent's
foundling status is settled, the burden to prove Filipino parentage was upon her.
With private respondent having supposedly failed to discharge this burden, the
supposed inevitable conclusion is that she is not a natural-born Filipino.
III

At the heart of this controversy is a constitutional ambiguity. Definitely, foundlings


have biological parents, either or both of whom can be Filipinos. Yet, by the nature
of their being foundlings, they may, at critical times, not know their parents. Thus,
this controversy must consider possibilities where parentage may be Filipino but,
due to no fault of the foundling, remains unknown.132 Resolving this controversy
hinges on constitutional interpretation.

Discerning constitutional meaning is an exercise in discovering the sovereign's


purpose so as to identify which among competing interpretations of the same text is
the more contemporarily viable construction. Primarily, the actual wordstext
and how they are situated within the whole documentcontextgovern.
Secondarily, when discerning meaning from the plain text (i.e., verba legis) fails,
contemporaneous construction may settle what is more viable. Nevertheless, even
when a reading of the plain text is already sufficient, contemporaneous construction
may still be resorted to as a means for verifying or validating the clear textual or
contextual meaning of the Constitution.
III. A

The entire exercise of interpreting a constitutional provision must necessarily begin


with the text itself. The language of the provision being interpreted is the principal
source from which this Court determines constitutional intent.133chanrobleslaw

To the extent possible, words must be given their ordinary meaning; this is
consistent with the basic precept of verba legis.134 The Constitution is truly a public
document in that it was ratified and approved by a direct act of the People exercising
their right of suffrage, they approved of it through a plebiscite. The preeminent
consideration in reading the Constitution, therefore, is the People's consciousness:
that is, popular, rather than technical-legal, understanding.
Thus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
We look to the language of the document itself in our search for its meaning. We do not of
course stop there, but that is where we begin. It is to be assumed that the words in which
constitutional provisions are couched express the objective sought to be attained.
They are to be given their ordinary meaning except where technical terms are
employed in which case the significance thus attached to them prevails. As the
Constitution is not primarily a lawyer's document, it being essential for the rule of
law to obtain that it should ever be present in the people's consciousness, its
language as much as possible should be understood in the sense they have in
common use. What it says according to the text of the provision to be construed
compels acceptance and negates the power of the courts to alter it, based on the
postulate that the framers and the people mean what they say. Thus, these are the
cases where the need for construction is reduced to a minimum.135 (Emphasis
supplied)
Reading a constitutional provision requires awareness of its relation with the whole
of the Constitution. A constitutional provision is but a constituent of a greater whole.
It is the framework of the Constitution that animates each of its components through
the dynamism of these components' interrelations. What is called into operation is
the entire document, not simply a peripheral item. The Constitution should,
therefore, be appreciated and read as a singular, whole unitut magis valeat quam
pereat.136 Each provision must be understood and effected in a way that gives life to
all that the Constitution contains, from its foundational principles to its finest
fixings.137chanrobleslaw

The words and phrases that establish its framework and its values color each
provision at the heart of a controversy in an actual case. In Civil Liberties Union v.
Executive Secretary:138
It is a well-established rule in constitutional construction that no one provision of the
Constitution is to be separated from all the others, to be considered alone, but that all
the provisions bearing upon a particular subject are to be brought into view and to
be so interpreted as to effectuate the great purposes of the instrument. Sections
bearing on a particular subject should be considered and interpreted together as to
effectuate the whole purpose of the Constitution and one section is not to be allowed
to defeat another, if by any reasonable construction, the two can be made to stand
together.

In other words, the court must harmonize them, if practicable, and must lean in
favor of construction which will render every word operative, rather than one which
may make the words idle and nugatory.139 (Citations omitted)
Reading a certain text includes a consideration of jurisprudence that has previously
considered that exact same text, if any. Our legal system is founded on the basic
principle that "judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the
Constitution shall form part of [our] legal system."140 Jurisprudence is not an
independent source of law. Nevertheless, judicial interpretation is deemed part of or
written into the text itself as of the date that it was originally passed. This is because
judicial construction articulates the contemporaneous intent that the text brings to
effect.141 Nevertheless, one must not fall into the temptation of considering prior
interpretation as immutable.

Interpretation grounded on textual primacy likewise looks into how the text has
evolved. Unless completely novel, legal provisions are the result of the re-
adoptionoften with accompanying re-calibrationof previously existing rules.
Even when seemingly novel, provisions are often introduced as a means of
addressing the inadequacies and excesses of previously existing rules.

One may trace the historical development of text by comparing its current iteration
with prior counterpart provisions, keenly taking note of changes in syntax, along
with accounting for more conspicuous substantive changes such as the addition and
deletion of provisos or items in enumerations, shifting terminologies, the use of
more emphatic or more moderate qualifiers, and the imposition of heavier penalties.
The tension between consistency and change galvanizes meaning.

Article IV, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution, which enumerates who are citizens of
the Philippines, may be compared with counterpart provisions, not only in earlier
Constitutions but even in organic laws142 and in similar mechanisms143 introduced
by colonial rulers whose precepts nevertheless still resonate today.

Even as ordinary meaning is preeminent, a realistic appreciation of legal


interpretation must grapple with the truth that meaning is not always singular and
uniform. In Social Weather Stations, Inc. v. Commission on Elections,144 this Court
explained the place of a holistic approach in legal
interpretation:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Interestingly, both COMELEC and petitioners appeal to what they (respectively)
construe to be plainly evident from Section 5.2(a)'s text on the part of COMELEC,
that the use of the words "paid for" evinces no distinction between direct purchasers
and those who purchase via subscription schemes; and, on the part of petitioners,
that Section 5.2(a)'s desistance from actually using the word "subscriber" means that
subscribers are beyond its contemplation. The variance in the parties' positions,
considering that they are both banking on what they claim to be the Fair Election
Act's plain meaning, is the best evidence of an extant ambiguity.

Second, statutory construction cannot lend itself to pedantic rigor that foments
absurdity. The dangers of inordinate insistence on literal interpretation are
commonsensical and need not be belabored. These dangers are by no means
endemic to legal interpretation. Even in everyday conversations, misplaced literal
interpretations are fodder for humor. A fixation on technical rules of grammar is no
less innocuous. A pompously doctrinaire approach to text can stifle, rather than
facilitate, the legislative wisdom that unbridled textualism purports to bolster.

Third, the assumption that there is, in all cases, a universal plain language is
erroneous. In reality, universality and uniformity in meaning is a rarity. A contrary
belief wrongly assumes that language is static.

The more appropriate and more effective approach is, thus, holistic rather than
parochial: to consider context and the interplay of the historical, the contemporary,
and even the envisioned. Judicial interpretation entails the convergence of social realities
and social ideals. The latter are meant to be effected by the legal apparatus, chief of which is
the bedrock of the prevailing legal order: the Constitution. Indeed, the word in the vernacular
that describes the Constitution saligan demonstrates this imperative of constitutional
primacy.

Thus, we refuse to read Section 5.2(a) of the Fair Election Act in isolation. Here, we
consider not an abstruse provision but a stipulation that is part of the whole, i.e., the
statute of which it is a part, that is aimed at realizing the ideal of fair elections. We
consider not a cloistered provision but a norm that should have a present
authoritative effect to achieve the ideals of those who currently read, depend on, and
demand fealty from the Constitution.145 (Emphasis supplied)
III. B

Contemporaneous construction and aids that are external to the text may be resorted
to when the text is capable of multiple, viable meanings.146 It is only then that one
can go beyond the strict boundaries of the document. Nevertheless, even when
meaning has already been ascertained from a reading of the plain text,
contemporaneous construction may serve to verify or validate the meaning yielded
by such reading.

Limited resort to contemporaneous construction is justified by the realization that


the business of understanding the Constitution is not exclusive to this Court. The
basic democratic foundation of our constitutional order necessarily means that all
organs of government, and even the People, read the fundamental law and are
guided by it. When competing viable interpretations arise, a justiciable controversy
may ensue requiring judicial intervention in order to arrive with finality at which
interpretation shall be sustained. To remain true to its democratic moorings,
however, judicial involvement must remain guided by a framework or deference
and constitutional avoidance. This same principle underlies the basic doctrine that
courts are to refrain from issuing advisory opinions. Specifically as regards this
Court, only constitutional issues that are narrowly framed, sufficient to resolve an
actual case, may be entertained.147chanrobleslaw

When permissible then, one may consider analogous jurisprudence (that is, judicial
decisions on similar, but not the very same, matters or concerns),148 as well as
thematically similar statutes and international norms that form part of our legal
system. This includes discerning the purpose and aims of the text in light of the
specific facts under consideration. It is also only at this juncturewhen external aids
may be consultedthat the supposedly underlying notions of the framers, as
articulated through records of deliberations and other similar accounts, can be
illuminating.
III. C

In the hierarchy of the means for constitutional interpretation, inferring meaning


from the supposed intent of the framers or fathoming the original understanding of
the individuals who adopted the basic document is the weakest approach.

These methods leave the greatest room for subjective interpretation. Moreover, they
allow for the greatest errors. The alleged intent of the framers is not necessarily
encompassed or exhaustively articulated in the records of deliberations. Those that
have been otherwise silent and have not actively engaged in interpellation and
debate may have voted for or against a proposition for reasons entirely their own
and not necessarily in complete agreement with those articulated by the more vocal.
It is even possible that the beliefs that motivated them were based on entirely
erroneous premises. Fathoming original understanding can also misrepresent
history as it compels a comprehension of actions made within specific historical
episodes through detached, and not necessarily better-guided, modern lenses.

Moreover, the original intent of the framers of the Constitution is not always
uniform with the original understanding of the People who ratified it. In Civil
Liberties Union:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
While it is permissible in this jurisdiction to consult the debates and proceedings of
the constitutional convention in order to arrive at the reason and purpose of the
resulting Constitution, resort thereto may be had only when other guides fail as said
proceedings are powerless to vary the terms of the Constitution when the meaning is
clear. Debates in the constitutional convention "are of value as showing the views of
the individual members, and as indicating the reasons for their votes, but they give
us no light as to the views of the large majority who did not talk, much less of the
mass of our fellow citizens whose votes at the polls gave the instrument the force of
fundamental law. We think it safer to construe the constitution from what appears
upon its face." The proper interpretation therefore depends more on how it was understood
by the people adopting it than in the framer's understanding thereof.149 (Emphasis supplied)
IV

Though her parents are unknown, private respondent is a Philippine citizen without
the need for an express statement in the Constitution making her so. Her status as
such is but the logical consequence of a reasonable reading of the Constitution
within its plain text. The Constitution provides its own cues; there is not even a need
to delve into the deliberations of its framers and the implications of international
legal instruments. This reading proceeds from several levels.

On an initial level, a plain textual reading readily identifies the specific provision,
which principally governs: the Constitution's actual definition, in Article IV, Section
2, of "natural-born citizens." This definition must be harmonized with Section 1's
enumeration, which includes a reference to parentage. These provisions must then
be appreciated in relation to the factual milieu of this case. The pieces of evidence
before the Senate Electoral Tribunal, admitted facts, and uncontroverted
circumstances adequately justify the conclusion of private respondent's Filipino
parentage.

On another level, the assumption should be that foundlings are natural-born unless
there is substantial evidence to the contrary. This is necessarily engendered by a
complete consideration of the whole Constitution, not just its provisions on
citizenship. This includes its mandate of defending the well-being of children,
guaranteeing equal protection of the law, equal access to opportunities for public
service, and respecting human rights, as well as its reasons for requiring natural-
born status for select public offices. Moreover, this is a reading validated by
contemporaneous construction that considers related legislative enactments,
executive and administrative actions, and international instruments.
V
Private respondent was a Filipino citizen at birth. This status' commencement from
birth means that private respondent never had to do anything to consummate this
status. By definition, she is natural-born. Though subsequently naturalized, she
reacquired her natural-born status upon satisfying the requirement of Republic Act
No. 9225. Accordingly, she is qualified to hold office as Senator of the Republic.
V. A

Article IV, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution enumerates who are citizens of the
Philippines:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Section 1. The following are citizens of the Philippines:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this
Constitution;

(2) Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines;

(3) Those born before January 17, 1973, of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine
citizenship upon reaching the age of majority; and

(4) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.150


Article IV, Section 2 identifies who are natural-born
citizens:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Sec. 2. Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth
without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship.
Those who elect Philippine citizenship in accordance with paragraph (3), Section 1
hereof shall be deemed natural-born citizens. (Emphasis supplied)
Section 2's significance is self-evident. It provides a definition of the term "natural-
born citizens." This is distinct from Section 1's enumeration of who are citizens. As
against Section 1's generic listing, Section 2 specifically articulates those who may
count themselves as natural-born.

The weight and implications of this categorical definition are better appreciated
when supplemented with an understanding of how our concepts of citizenship and
natural-born citizenship have evolved. As will be seen, the term "natural-born
citizen" was a transplanted, but tardily defined, foreign concept.
V. B

Citizenship is a legal device denoting political affiliation. It is the "right to have


rights."151 It is one's personal and . . . permanent membership in a political
community. . . The core of citizenship is the capacity to enjoy political rights, that is,
the right to participate in government principally through the right to vote, the right
to hold public office[,] and the right to petition the government for redress of
grievance.152chanrobleslaw
Citizenship also entails obligations to the political community of which one is
part.153 Citizenship, therefore, is intimately tied with the notion that loyalty is owed
to the state, considering the benefits and protection provided by it. This is
particularly so if these benefits and protection have been enjoyed from the moment
of the citizen's birth.

Tecson v. Commission on Elections154 reckoned with the historical development of our


concept of citizenship, beginning under Spanish colonial rule.155 Under the Spanish,
the native inhabitants of the Philippine Islands were identified not as citizens but as
"Spanish subjects."156 Church records show that native inhabitants were referred to
as "indios." The alternative identification of native inhabitants as subjects or as indios
demonstrated the colonial master's regard for native inhabitants as
inferior.157Natives were, thus, reduced to subservience in their own land.

Under the Spanish Constitution of 1876, persons born within Spanish territory, not
just peninsular Spain, were considered Spaniards, classification, however, did not
extend to the Philippine Islands, as Article 89 expressly mandated that the
archipelago was to be governed by special laws.158 It was only on December 18, 1889,
upon the effectivity in this jurisdiction of the Civil Code of Spain, that there existed a
categorical enumeration of who were Spanish
citizens,159 thus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
(a) Persons born in Spanish territory,

(b) Children of a Spanish father or mother, even if they were born outside of
Spain,

(c) Foreigners who have obtained naturalization papers,

(d) Those who, without such papers, may have become domiciled inhabitants of
any town of the Monarchy.160
1898 marked the end of Spanish colonial rule. The Philippine Islands were ceded by
Spain to the United States of America under the Treaty of Paris, which was entered
into on December 10, 1898. The Treaty of Paris did not automatically convert the
native inhabitants to American citizens.161 Instead, it left the determination of the
native inhabitants' status to the Congress of the United
States:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Spanish subjects, natives of the Peninsula, residing in the territory over which Spain
by the present treaty relinquishes or cedes her sovereignty may remain in such
territory or may remove therefrom. . . . In case they remain in the territory they may
preserve their allegiance to the Crown of Spain by making . . . a declaration of their
decision to preserve such allegiance; in default of which declaration they shall be
held to have renounced it and to have adopted the nationality of the territory in
which they may reside.

Thus -
The civil rights and political status of the native inhabitants of the territories hereby
ceded to the United States shall be determined by
Congress.162chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Pending legislation by the United States Congress, the native inhabitants who had
ceased to be Spanish subjects were "issued passports describing them to be citizens
of the Philippines entitled to the protection of the United States."163chanrobleslaw

The term "citizens of the Philippine Islands" first appeared in legislation in the
Philippine Organic Act, otherwise known as the Philippine Bill of 1902:164
Section 4. That all inhabitants of the Philippine Islands continuing to reside therein,
who were Spanish subjects on the eleventh day of April, eighteen hundred and
ninety-nine, and then resided in said Islands, and their children born subsequent
thereto, shall be deemed and held to be citizens of the Philippine Islands and as such
entitled to the protection of the United States, except such as shall have elected to
preserve their allegiance to the Crown of Spain in accordance with the provisions of
the treaty of peace between the United States and Spain signed at Paris December
tenth, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight. (Emphasis supplied)
The Philippine Bill of 1902 explicitly covered the status of children born in the
Philippine Islands to its inhabitants who were Spanish subjects as of April 11, 1899.
However, it did not account for the status of children born in the Islands to parents
who were not Spanish subjects. A view was expressed that the common law concept
of jus soli (or citizenship by place of birth), which was operative in the United States,
applied to the Philippine Islands.165chanrobleslaw

On March 23, 1912, the United States Congress amended Section 4 of the Philippine
Bill of 1902. It was made to include a proviso for the enactment by the legislature of a
law on acquiring citizenship. This proviso read:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Provided, That the Philippine Legislature, herein provided for, is hereby authorized
to provide by law for the acquisition of Philippine citizenship by those natives of the
Philippine Islands who do not come within the foregoing provisions, the natives of
the insular possessions of the United States, and such other persons residing in the
Philippine Islands who are citizens of the United States, or who could become
citizens of the United States under the laws of the United States if residing
therein.166chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In 1916, the Philippine Autonomy Act, otherwise known as the Jones Law of 1916,
replaced the Philippine Bill of 1902. It restated the citizenship provision of the
Philippine Bill of 1902, as amended:167
Section 2.Philippine Citizenship and Naturalization

That all inhabitants of the Philippine Islands who were Spanish subjects on the
eleventh day of April, eighteen hundred and ninety-nine, and then resided in said
Islands, and their children born subsequent thereto, shall be deemed and held to be
citizens of the Philippine Islands, except such as shall have elected to preserve their
allegiance to the Crown of Spain in accordance with the provisions of the treaty of
peace between the United States and Spain, signed at Paris December tenth, eighteen
hundred and ninety-eight, and except such others as have since become citizens of
some other country: Provided, That the Philippine Legislature, herein provided for,
is hereby authorized to provide by law for the acquisition of Philippine citizenship
by those natives of the Philippine Islands who do not come within the foregoing
provisions, the natives of the insular possessions of the United States, and such other
persons residing in the Philippine Islands who are citizens of the United States, or
who could become citizens of the United States under the laws of the United States if
residing therein.
The Jones Law of 1916 provided that a native-born inhabitant of the Philippine
Islands was deemed to be a citizen of the Philippines as of April 11, 1899 if he or she
was "(1) a subject of Spain on April 11, 1899, (2) residing in the Philippines on said
date, and (3) since that date, not a citizen of some other country."168chanrobleslaw

There was previously the view that jus soli may apply as a mode of acquiring
citizenship. It was the 1935 Constitution that made sole reference to parentage vis-a-
vis the determination of citizenship.169 Article III, Section 1 of the 1935 Constitution
provided:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
SECTION 1. The following are citizens of the Philippines:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippine Islands at the time of the adoption of
this Constitution.

(2) Those born in the Philippines Islands of foreign parents who, before the
adoption of this Constitution, had been elected to public office in the
Philippine Islands.

(3) Those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines.

(4) Those whose mothers are citizens of the Philippines and upon reaching the
age of majority, elect Philippine citizenship.

(5) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.


The term "natural-born citizen" first appeared in this jurisdiction in the 1935
Constitution's provision stipulating the qualifications for President and Vice-
President of the Philippines. Article VII, Section 3 read:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
SECTION 3. No person may be elected to the office of President or Vice-President,
unless he be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a qualified voter, forty years of
age or over, and has been a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years
immediately preceding the election.
While it used the term "natural-born citizen," the 1935 Constitution did not define
the term.

Article II, Section 1(4) of the 1935 Constitutionread with the then civil law
provisions that stipulated the automatic loss of Filipino citizens lip by women who
marry alien husbandswas discriminatory towards women.170 The 1973
Constitution rectified this problematic situation:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
SECTION 1. The following are citizens of the Philippines:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this
Constitution.

(2) Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines.

(3) Those who elect Philippine citizenship pursuant to the provisions of the
Constitution of nineteen hundred and thirty-five.

(4) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.

SECTION 2. A female citizen of the Philippines who marries an alien shall retain her
Philippine citizenship, unless by her act or omission she is deemed, under the law, to
have renounced her citizenship.171chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The 1973 Constitution was the first instrument to actually define the term "natural-
born citizen." Article III, Section 4 of the 1973 Constitution
provided:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
SECTION 4. A natural-born citizen is one who is a citizen of the Philippines from
birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect his Philippine
citizenship.172chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The present Constitution adopted most of the provisions of the 1973 Constitution on
citizenship, "except for subsection (3) thereof that aimed to correct the irregular
situation generated by the questionable proviso in the 1935
Constitution."173chanrobleslaw

Article IV, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution now reads:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary


Section 1. The following are citizens of the Philippines:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this
Constitution;

(2) Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines;

(3) Those born before January 17, 1973, of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine
citizenship upon reaching the age of majority; and

(4) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.174


Article IV, Section 2 also calibrated the 1973 Constitution's previous definition of
natural-born citizens, as follows:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Sec. 2. Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth
without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship.
Those who elect Philippine citizenship in accordance with paragraph (3), Section 1
hereof shall be deemed natural-born citizens. (Emphasis supplied)
Ironically, the concept of "natural-born" citizenship is a "foreign" concept that was
transplanted into this jurisdiction as part of the 1935 Constitution's eligibility
requirements for President and Vice-President of the Philippines.

In the United States Constitution, from which this concept originated, the term
"natural-born citizen" appears in only a single instance: as an eligibility requirement
for the presidency.175 It is not defined in that Constitution or in American laws. Its
origins and rationale for inclusion as a requirement for the presidency are not even
found in the records of constitutional deliberations.176 However, it has been
suggested that, as the United States was under British colonial rule before its
independence, the requirement of being natural-born was introduced as a safeguard
against foreign infiltration in the administration of national
government:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
It has been suggested, quite plausibly, that this language was inserted in response to
a letter sent by John Jay to George Washington, and probably to other delegates, on
July 25, 1787, which stated:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Permit me to hint, whether it would be wise and seasonable to provide a strong
check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national
Government; and to declare expressly that the Command in Chief of the American
army shall not be given to nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen.
Possibly this letter was motivated by distrust of Baron Von Steuben, who had served
valiantly in the Revolutionary forces, but whose subsequent loyalty was suspected
by Jay. Another theory is that the Jay letter, and the resulting constitutional
provision, responded to rumors that the Convention was concocting a monarchy to
be ruled by a foreign monarch.177chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In the United States, however, citizenship is based on jus soli, not jus sanguinis.
V. C

Today, there are only two (2) categories of Filipino citizens: natural-born and
naturalized.

A natural-born citizen is defined in Article IV, Section 2 as one who is a citizen of the
Philippines "from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect
Philippine citizenship." By necessary implication, a naturalized citizen is one who is
not natural-born. Bengson v. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal178 articulates
this definition by dichotomy:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
[O]nly naturalized Filipinos are considered not natural-born citizens. It is apparent
from the enumeration of who are citizens under the present Constitution that there
are only two classes of citizens: . . . A citizen who is not a naturalized Filipino, i.e.,
did not have to undergo the process of naturalization to obtain Philippine
citizenship, necessarily is a natural-born Filipino.179chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Former Associate Justice Artemio Panganiban further shed light on the concept of
naturalized citizens in his Concurring Opinion in Bengson: naturalized citizens, he
stated, are "former aliens or foreigners who had to undergo a rigid procedure, in
which they had to adduce sufficient evidence to prove that they possessed all the
qualifications and none of the disqualifications provided by law in order to become
Filipino citizens."180chanrobleslaw

One who desires to acquire Filipino citizenship by naturalization is generally


required to file a verified petition.181 He or she must establish. among others, that he
or she is of legal age, is of good moral character, and has the capacity to adapt to
Filipino culture, tradition, and principles, or otherwise has resided in the Philippines
for a significant period of time.182 Further, the applicant must show that he or she
will not be a threat to the state, to the public, and to the Filipinos' core
beliefs.183chanrobleslaw
V. D

Article IV, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution merely gives an enumeration. Section 2
categorically defines "natural-born citizens." This constitutional definition is further
clarified in jurisprudence, which delineates natural-born citizenship from
naturalized citizenship. Consistent with Article 8 of the Civil Code, this
jurisprudential clarification is deemed written into the interpreted text, thus
establishing its contemporaneous intent.

Therefore, petitioner's restrictive reliance on Section 1 and the need to establish


bloodline is misplaced. It is inordinately selective and myopic. It divines Section 1's
mere enumeration but blatantly turns a blind eye to the succeeding Section's
unequivocal definition.

Between Article IV, Section 1(2), which petitioner harps on, and Section 2, it is
Section 2 that is on point. To determine whether private respondent is a natural-born
citizen, we must look into whether she had to do anything to perfect her citizenship.
In view of Bengson, this calls for an inquiry into whether she underwent the
naturalization process to become a Filipino.

She did not.

At no point has it been substantiated that private respondent went through the
actual naturalization process. There is no more straightforward and more effective
way to terminate this inquiry than this realization of total and utter lack of proof.

At most, there have been suggestions likening a preferential approach to foundlings,


as well as compliance with Republic Act No. 9225, with naturalization. These
attempts at analogies are misplaced. The statutory mechanisms for naturalization are
clear, specific, and narrowly devised. The investiture of citizenship on foundlings
benefits children, individuals whose capacity to act is restricted.184 It is a glaring
mistake to liken them to an adult filing before the relevant authorities a sworn
petition seeking to become a Filipino, the grant of which is contingent on evidence
that he or she must himself or herself adduce. As shall later be discussed, Republic
Act No. 9225 is premised on the immutability of natural-born status. It privileges
natural-born citizens and proceeds from an entirely different premise from the
restrictive process of naturalization.
So too, the jurisprudential treatment of naturalization vis-a-vis natural-born status is
clear. It should be with the actual process of naturalization that natural-born status is
to be contrasted, not against other procedures relating to citizenship. Otherwise, the
door may be thrown open for the unbridled diminution of the status of citizens.
V. E

Natural-born citizenship is not concerned with being a human thoroughbred.

Section 2 defines "natural-born citizens." Section 1(2) stipulates that to be a citizen,


either one's father or one's mother must be a Filipino citizen.

That is all there is to Section 1(2). Physical features, genetics, pedigree, and ethnicity
are not determinative of citizenship.

Section 1(2) does not require one's parents to be natural-born Filipino citizens. It
does not even require them to conform to traditional conceptions of what is
indigenously or ethnically Filipino. One or both parents can, therefore, be ethnically
foreign.

Section 1(2) requires nothing more than one ascendant degree: parentage. The
citizenship of everyone else in one's ancestry is irrelevant. There is no need, as
petitioner insists, for a pure Filipino bloodline.

Section 1(2) requires citizenship, not identity. A conclusion of Filipino citizenship


may be sustained by evidence adduced in a proper proceeding, which substantially
proves that either or both of one's parents is a Filipino citizen.
V. F

Private respondent has done this. The evidence she adduced in these proceedings
attests to how at least oneif not bothof her biological parents were Filipino
citizens.

Proving private respondent's biological parentage is now practically impossible. To


begin with, she was abandoned as a newborn infant. She was abandoned almost half
a century ago. By now, there are only a handful of those who, in 1968, were able-
minded adults who can still lucidly render testimonies on the circumstances of her
birth and finding. Even the identification of individuals against whom DNA
evidence may be tested is improbable, and by sheer economic cost, prohibitive.

However, our evidentiary rules admit of alternative means for private respondent to
establish her parentage.

In lieu of direct evidence, facts may be proven through circumstantial evidence.


In Suerte-Felipe v. People:185
Direct evidence is that which proves the fact in dispute without the aid of any
inference or presumption; while circumstantial evidence is the proof of fact or facts
from which, taken either singly or collectively, the existence of a particular fact in
dispute may be inferred as a necessary or probable
consequence.186chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
People v. Raganas187 further defines circumstantial
evidence:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Circumstantial evidence is that which relates to a series of facts other than the fact in
issue, which by experience have been found so associated with such fact that in a
relation of cause and effect, they lead us to a satisfactory conclusion.188 (Citation
omitted)
Rule 133, Section 4 of the Revised Rules on Evidence, for instance, stipulates when
circumstantial evidence is sufficient to justify a conviction in criminal
proceedings:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Section 4. Circumstantial evidence, when sufficient. Circumstantial evidence is
sufficient for conviction if:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary(a) There is more than one circumstances;

(b) The facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and cralawlawlibrary

(c) The combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction


beyond reasonable doubt.
Although the Revised Rules on Evidence's sole mention of circumstantial evidence is
in reference to criminal proceedings, this Court has nevertheless sustained the use of
circumstantial evidence in other proceedings.189 There is no rational basis for making
the use of circumstantial evidence exclusive to criminal proceedings and for not
considering circumstantial facts as valid means for proof in civil and/or
administrative proceedings.

In criminal proceedings, circumstantial evidence suffices to sustain a conviction


(which may result in deprivation of life, liberty, and property) anchored on the
highest standard or proof that our legal system would require, i.e., proof beyond
reasonable doubt. If circumstantial evidence suffices for such a high standard, so too
may it suffice to satisfy the less stringent standard of proof in administrative and
quasi-judicial proceedings such as those before the Senate Electoral Tribunal, i.e.,
substantial evidence.190chanrobleslaw

Private respondent was found as a newborn infant outside the Parish Church of Jaro,
Iloilo on September 3, 1968.191 In 1968, Iloilo, as did mostif not allPhilippine
provinces, had a predominantly Filipino population.192 Private respondent is
described as having "brown almond-shaped eyes, a low nasal bridge, straight black
hair and an oval-shaped face."193 She stands at 5 feet and 2 inches tall.194 Further, in
1968, there was no international airport in Jaro, Iloilo.

These circumstances are substantial evidence justifying an inference that her


biological parents were Filipino. Her abandonment at a Catholic Church is more or
less consistent with how a Filipino who, in 1968, lived in a predominantly religious
and Catholic environment, would have behaved. The absence of an international
airport in Jaro, Iloilo precludes the possibility of a foreigner mother, along with a
foreigner father, swiftly and surreptitiously coming in and out of Jaro, Iloilo just to
give birth and leave her offspring there. Though proof of ethnicity is unnecessary,
her physical features nonetheless attest to it.

In the other related case of Poe-Llamanzares v. Commission on Elections,195 the Solicitor


General underscored how it is statistically more probable that private respondent
was born a Filipino citizen rather than as a foreigner. He submitted the following
table is support of his statistical inference:196
NUMBER OF FOREIGN AND FILIPINO CHILDREN BORN IN THE PHILIPPINES:
1965-1975 and 2010-2014

FOREIGN CHILDREN BORN IN FILIPINO CHILDREN BORN IN


YEAR
THE PHILIPPINES THE PHILIPPINES

1965 1,479 795,415

1966 1,437 823,342

1967 1,440 840,302

1968 1,595 898,570

1969 1,728 946,753

1970 1,521 966,762

1971 1,401 963,749

1972 1,784 968,385

1973 1,212 1,045,290

1974 1,496 1,081,873

1975 1,493 1,223,837

2010 1,244 1,782,877

2011 1,140 1,746,685

2012 1,454 1,790,367

2013 1,315 1,751,523

2014 1,351 1,748,782


Source: Philippine Statistics Authority [illegible]197chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Thus, out of the 900,165 recorded births in the Philippines in 1968, only 1,595 or
0.18% newborns were foreigners. This translates to roughly 99.8% probability that
private respondent was born a Filipino citizen.

Given the sheer difficulty, if not outright impossibility, of identifying her parents
after half a century, a range of substantive proof is available to sustain a reasonable
conclusion as to private respondent's parentage.
VI

Before a discussion on how private respondent's natural-born status is sustained by


a general assumption on foundlings arising from a comprehensive reading and
validated by a contemporaneous construction of the Constitution, and considering
that we have just discussed the evidence pertaining to the circumstances of private
respondent's birth, it is opportune to consider petitioner's allegations that private
respondent bore the burden of provingthrough proof of her bloodlineher
natural-born status.

Petitioner's claim that the burden of evidence shifted to private respondent upon a
mere showing that she is a foundling is a serious error.

Petitioner invites this Court to establish a jurisprudential presumption that all


newborns who have been abandoned in rural areas in the Philippines are not
Filipinos. His emphasis on private respondent's supposed burden to prove the
circumstances of her birth places upon her an impossible condition. To require proof
from private respondent borders on the absurd when there is no dispute that the
crux of the controversythe identity of her biological parentsis simply not known.

"Burden of proof is the duty of a party to present evidence on the facts in issue
necessary to establish his claim or defense by the amount of evidence required by
law." Burden of proof lies on the party making the allegations;198 that is, the party
who "alleges the affirmative of the issue"199 Burden of proof never shifts from one
party to another. What shifts is the burden of evidence. This shift happens when a
party makes a prima facie case in his or her favor.200 The other party then bears the
"burden of going forward"201 with the evidence considering that which has
ostensibly been established against him or her.

In an action for quo warranto, the burden of proof necessarily falls on the party who
brings the action and who alleges that the respondent is ineligible for the office
involved in the controversy. In proceedings before quasi-judicial bodies such as the
Senate Electoral Tribunal, the requisite quantum of proof is substantial
evidence.202 This burden was petitioner's to discharge. Once the petitioner makes a
prima facie case, the burden of evidence shifts to the respondent.

Private respondent's admitted status as a foundling does not establish a prima facie
case in favor of petitioner. While it does establish that the identities of private
respondent's biological parents are not known, it does not automatically mean that
neither her father nor her mother is a Filipino.

The most that petitioner had in his favor was doubt. A taint of doubt, however, is by
no means substantial evidence establishing a prima facie case and shifting the
burden of evidence to private respondent.

Isolating the fact of private respondent's being a foundling, petitioner trivializes


other uncontroverted circumstances that we have previously established as
substantive evidence of private respondent's parentage:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
(1) Petitioner was found in front of a church in Jaro, Iloilo;

(2) She was only an infant when she was found, practically a newborn;

(3) She was-found sometime in September 1968;

(4) Immediately after she was found, private respondent was registered as a
foundling;

(5) There was no international airport in Jaro, Iloilo; and

(6) Private respondent's physical features are consistent with those of typical
Filipinos.
Petitioner's refusal to account for these facts demonstrates an imperceptive bias. As
against petitioner's suggested conclusions, the more reasonable inference from these
facts is that at least one of private respondent's parents is a Filipino.
VII

Apart from how private respondent is a natural-born Filipino citizen consistent with
a reading that harmonizes Article IV, Section 2's definition of natural-born citizens
and Section 1(2)'s reference to parentage, the Constitution sustains a presumption
that all foundlings found in the Philippines are born to at least either a Filipino
father or a Filipino mother and are thus natural-born, unless there is substantial
proof otherwise. Consistent with Article IV, Section 1(2), any such countervailing
proof must show that bothnot just oneof a foundling's biological parents are not
Filipino citizens.
VII. A
Quoting heavily from Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro's Dissenting
Opinion to the assailed November 17, 2015 Decision, petitioner intimates that no
inference or presumption in favor of natural-born citizenship may be indulged in
resolving this case.203 He insists that it is private respondent's duty to present
incontrovertible proof of her Filipino parentage.

Relying on presumptions is concededly less than ideal. Common sense dictates that
actual proof is preferable. Nevertheless, resolving citizenship issues based on
presumptions is firmly established in jurisprudence.

In 2004, this Court resolved Tecson on the basis of presumptions. Ruling on the
allegations that former presidential candidate Ronald Allan Poe (more popularly
known as Fernando Poe, Jr.) was not a natural-born Filipino citizen, this Court
proceeded from the presumptions that: first, Fernando Poe Jr.'s grandfather, Lorenzo
Pou, was born sometime in 1870, while the country was still under Spanish colonial
rule;204 and second, that Lorenzo Pou's place of residence, as indicated in his dearth
certificate, must have also been his place of residence before death, which subjected
him to the "en masse Filipinization," or sweeping investiture of Filipino citizenship
effected by the Philippine Bill of 1902.205 This Court then noted that Lorenzo Pou's
citizenship would have extended to his son and Fernando Poe Jr.'s father, Allan F.
Poe. Based on these, Fernando Poe. Jr. would then have been a natural-born Filipino
as he was born while the 1935 Constitution, which conferred Filipino citizenship to
those born to Filipino fathers, was in effect:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
In ascertaining, in G.R. No. 161824, whether grave abuse of discretion has been
committed by the COMELEC, it is necessary to take on the matter of whether or not
respondent FPJ is a natural-born citizen, which, in turn, depended on whether or not
the father of respondent, Allan F. Poe, would have himself been a Filipino citizen
and, in the affirmative, whether or not the alleged illegitimacy of respondent
prevents him from taking after the Filipino citizenship of his putative father. Any
conclusion on the Filipino citizenship of Lorenzo Pou could only be drawn from the
presumption that having died in 1954 at 84 years old, when the Philippines was
under Spanish rule, and that San Carlos, Pangasinan, his place of residence upon his
death in 1954, in the absence of any other evidence, could have well been his place of
residence before death, such that Lorenzo Pou would have benefited from the "en
masse Filipinization" that the Philippine Bill had effected in 1902. That citizenship (of
Lorenzo Pou), if acquired, would thereby extend to his son, Allan F. Poe, father of
respondent FPJ. The 1935 Constitution, during which regime respondent FPJ has
seen first light, confers citizenship to all persons whose fathers are Filipino citizens
regardless of whether such children are legitimate or
illegitimate.206chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
It is true that there is jurisprudencePaa v. Chan207 and Go v. Ramos208 (which merely
cites Paa)to the effect that presumptions cannot be entertained in citizenship cases.

Paa, decided in 1967, stated:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary


It is incumbent upon the respondent, who claims Philippine citizenship, to prove to
the satisfaction of the court that he is really a Filipino. No presumption can be
indulged in favor of the claimant, of Philippine citizenship, and any doubt regarding
citizenship must be resolved in favor of the State.209 (Emphasis supplied)
These pronouncements are no longer controlling in light of this Court's more recent
ruling in Tecson.

Moreover, what this Court stated in Paa was that "no presumption can be indulged
in favor of the claimant of Philippine citizenship." This reference to "the claimant"
was preceded by a sentence specifically referencing the duty of "the respondent."
The syntax of this Court's pronouncementusing the definitive article "the"
reveals that its conclusion was specific only to Chan and to his circumstances.
Otherwise, this Court would have used generic language. Instead of the definite
article "the," it could have used the indefinite article "a" in that same sentence: "no
presumption can be indulged in favor of a claimant of Philippine citizenship." In the
alternative, it could have used other words that would show absolute or sweeping
application, for instance: "no presumption can be indulged in favor
of any/every claimant of Philippine citizenship;" or, "no presumption can be
indulged in favor of all claimants of Philippine citizenship."

The factual backdrop of Paa is markedly different from those of this case. Its
statements, therefore, are inappropriate precedents for this case. In Paa, clear
evidence was adduced showing that respondent Quintin Chan was registered as an
alien with the Bureau of Immigration. His father was likewise registered as an alien.
These pieces of evidence already indubitably establish foreign citizenship and shut
the door to any presumption. In contrast, petitioner in this case presents no proof,
direct or circumstantial, of private respondent's or of both of her parents' foreign
citizenship.

Go cited Paa, taking the same quoted portion but revising it to make it appear that
the same pronouncement was generally applicable:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
It is incumbent upon one who claims Philippine citizenship to prove to the
satisfaction of the court that he is really a Filipino. No presumption can be indulged
hi favor of the claimant of Philippine citizenship, and any doubt regarding
citizenship must be resolved in favor of the state.210 (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, Paa's essential and pivotal nuance was lost in proverbial translation. In any
case, Go was decided by this Court sitting in Division. It cannot overturn Tecson,
which was decided by this Court sitting En Banc. Likewise, Go's factual and even
procedural backdrops are different from those of this case. Go involved the
deportation of an allegedly illegal and undesirable alien, not an election controversy.
In Go, copies of birth certificates unequivocally showing the Chinese citizenship of
Go and of his siblings were adduced.
VII. B

The presumption that all foundlings found in the Philippines are born to at least
either a Filipino father or a Filipino mother (and are thus natural-born, unless there
is substantial proof otherwise) arises when one reads the Constitution as a whole, so
as to "effectuate [its] whole purpose."211chanrobleslaw

As much as we have previously harmonized Article IV, Section 2 with Article IV,
Section 1(2), constitutional provisions on citizenship must not be taken in isolation.
They must be read in light of the constitutional mandate to defend the well-being of
children, to guarantee equal protection of the law and equal access to opportunities
for public service, and to respect human rights. They must also be read in
conjunction with the Constitution's reasons for requiring natural-born status for
select public offices. Further, this presumption is validated by contemporaneous
construction that considers related legislative enactments, executive and
administrative actions, and international instruments.

Article II, Section 13 and Article XV, Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution require the
state to enhance children's well-being and to project them from conditions
prejudicial to or that may undermine their development. Fulfilling this mandate
includes preventing discriminatory conditions and, especially, dismantling
mechanisms for discrimination that hide behind the veneer of the legal
apparatus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
ARTICLE II

....

State Policies
....

SECTION 13. The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building
and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and
social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and
encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.

....
ARTICLE XV
The Family

....

SECTION 3. The State shall defend:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary. . . .

(2) The right of children to assistance, including proper care and nutrition,
and special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and
other conditions prejudicial to their development[.] (Emphasis supplied)
Certain crucial government offices are exclusive to natural-born citizens of the
Philippines. The 1987 Constitution makes the following offices exclusive to natural-
born citizens:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
(1) President;212

(2) Vice-President;213

(3) Senator;214

(4) Member of the House of Representatives;215

(5) Member of the Supreme Court or any lower collegiate court;216

(6) Chairperson and Commissioners of the Civil Service Commission;217

(7) Chairperson and Commissioners of the Commission on Elections;218

(8) Chairperson and Commissioners of the Commission on Audit;219

(9) Ombudsman and his or her deputies;220

(10) Board of Governors of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas;221 and

(11) Chairperson and Members of the Commission on Human Rights.222


Apart from these, other positions that are limited to natural-born citizens include,
among others, city fiscals,223 assistant city fiscals,224 Presiding Judges and Associate
Judges of the Sandiganbayan, and other public offices.225 Certain professions are also
limited to natural-born citizens,226 as are other legally established benefits and
incentives.227chanrobleslaw

Concluding that foundlings are not natural-born Filipino citizens is tantamount to


permanently discriminating against our foundling citizens. They can then never be
of service to the country in the highest possible capacities. It is also tantamount to
excluding them from certain means such as professions and state scholarships,
which will enable the actualization of their aspirations. These consequences cannot
be tolerated by the Constitution, not least of all through the present politically
charged proceedings, the direct objective of which is merely to exclude a singular
politician from office. Concluding that foundlings are not natural-born citizens
creates an inferior class of citizens who are made to suffer that inferiority through no
fault of their own.

If that is not discrimination, we do not know what is.

The Constitution guarantees equal protection of the laws and equal access to
opportunities for public service:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
ARTICLE II

....
State Policies

....

SECTION 26. The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public
service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.

....
ARTICLE III
Bill of Rights

SECTION 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due


process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.

....
ARTICLE XIII
Social Justice and Human Rights

SECTION 1. The Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures
that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social,
economic, and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably
diffusing wealth and political power for the common good. (Emphasis supplied)
The equal protection clause serves as a guarantee that "persons under like
circumstances and falling within the same class are treated alike, in terms of
'privileges conferred and liabilities enforced.' It is a guarantee against 'undue favor
and individual or class privilege, as well as hostile discrimination or oppression of
inequality.'"228chanrobleslaw

Other than the anonymity of their biological parents, no substantial


distinction229 differentiates foundlings from children with known Filipino parents.
They are both entitled to the full extent of the state's protection from the moment of
their birth. Foundlings' misfortune in failing to identify the parents who abandoned
theman inability arising from no fault of their owncannot be the foundation of a
rule that reduces them to statelessness or, at best, as inferior, second-class citizens
who are not entitled to as much benefits and protection from the state as those who
know their parents. Sustaining this classification is not only inequitable; it is
dehumanizing. It condemns those who, from the very beginning of their lives, were
abandoned to a life of desolation and deprivation.

This Court does not exist in a vacuum. It is a constitutional organ, mandated to effect
the Constitution's dictum of defending and promoting the well-being and
development of children. It is not our business to reify discriminatory classes based
on circumstances of birth.

Even more basic than their being citizens of the Philippines, foundlings are human
persons whose dignity we value and rights we, as a civilized nation, respect.
Thus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
ARTICLE II

....

State Policies

....

SECTION 11. The State values the dignity of every human person and
guarantees full respect for human rights. (Emphasis supplied)
VII. C

Though the matter is settled by interpretation exclusively within the confines of


constitutional text, the presumption that foundlings are natural-born citizens of the
Philippines (unless substantial evidence of the foreign citizenship of both of the
foundling's parents is presented) is validated by a parallel consideration or
contemporaneous construction of the Constitution with acts of Congress,
international instruments in force in the Philippines, as well as acts of executive
organs such as the Bureau of Immigration, Civil Registrars, and the President of the
Philippines.

Congress has enacted statutes founded on the premise that foundlings are Filipino
citizens at birth. It has adopted mechanisms to effect the constitutional mandate to
protect children. Likewise, the Senate has ratified treaties that put this mandate into
effect.

Republic Act No. 9344, otherwise known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of
2006, provides:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
SEC. 2. Declaration of State Policy. - The following State policies shall be observed
at all times:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary. . . .

(b) The State shall protect the best interests of the child through measures that will
ensure the observance of international standards of child protection, especially
those to which the Philippines is a party. Proceedings before any authority shall be
conducted in the best interest of the child and in a manner which allows the child to
participate and to express himself/herself freely. The participation of children in the
program and policy formulation and implementation related to juvenile justice and
welfare shall be ensured by the concerned government agency. (Emphasis supplied)
Section 4(b) of the Republic Act No. 9344 defines the "best interest of the child" as the
"totality of the circumstances and conditions which are most congenial to the
survival, protection and feelings of security of the child and most encouraging to the
child's physical, psychological and emotional development."
Consistent with this statute is our ratification230 of the United Nations Convention on
the Rights of the Child. This specifically requires the states-parties' protection of:
first, children's rights to immediate registration and nationality after birth; second,
against statelessness; and third, against discrimination on account of their birth
status.231 Pertinent portions of the Convention read:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Preamble

The State Parties to the present Convention,

Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the
United Nations, recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and
inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of
freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Bearing in mind that the peoples of the United Nations have, in the
Charter, reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity
and worth of the human person, and have determined to promote social progress
and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Recognizing that the United Nations has, in the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and in the International Covenants on Human Rights, proclaimed and agreed
that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without
distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or
other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,

Recalling that, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations
has proclaimed that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance,

....

Have agreed as follows:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary. . . .

Article 2
1. State parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present
Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without
discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her
parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion,
political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property,
disability, birth or other status.
2. States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure that the child
is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the
basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the
child's parents, legal guardians, or family members.
Article 3
1. In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or
private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative
authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be
a primary consideration.
2. States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care
as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights
and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals
legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all
appropriate legislative and administrative measures.
....

Article 7
1. The child, shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have
the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and as
far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.
2. States Parties shall ensure the implementation of these rights in
accordance with their national law and their obligations under the
relevant international instruments in this field, in particular where the
child would otherwise be stateless. (Emphasis supplied)
The Philippines likewise ratified232 the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights. As with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, this treaty
requires that children be allowed immediate registration after birth and to acquire a
nationality. It similarly defends them against
discrimination:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Article 24. . . .

1. Every child shall have, without any discrimination as to race, colour, sex,
language, religion, national or social origin, property or birth, the right to such
measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his
family, society and the State.

2. Every child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have a name.

3. Every child has the right to acquire a nationality.

....

Article 26. All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any
discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law
shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective
protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex,
language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin,
property, birth or other status. (Emphasis supplied)
Treaties are "international agreements] concluded between state| in written form
and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in
two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation."233 Under
Article VII, Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution, treaties require concurrence by the
Senate before they became binding:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
SECTION 21. No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless
concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.
The Senate's ratification of a treaty makes it legally effective and binding by
transformation. It then has the force and effect of a statute enacted by Congress.
In Pharmaceutical and Health Care Association of the Philippines v. Duque III, et al.:234
Under the 1987 Constitution, international law can become part of the sphere of
domestic law either by transformation or incorporation. The transformation method
requires that an international law be transformed into a domestic law through a
constitutional mechanism such as local legislation. The incorporation method applies
when, by mere constitutional declaration, international law is deemed to have the
force of domestic law.

Treaties become part of the law of the land through transformation pursuant to Article VII,
Section 21 of the Constitution which provides that "[n]o treaty or international agreement
shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the
Senate." Thus, treaties or conventional international law must go through a process
prescribed by the Constitution for it to be transformed into municipal law that can be applied
to domestic conflicts.235 (Emphasis supplied)
Following ratification by the Senate, no further action, legislative or otherwise, is
necessary. Thereafter, the whole of governmentincluding the judiciaryis duty-
bound to abide by the treaty, consistent with the maxim pacta sunt servanda.

Accordingly, by the Constitution and by statute, foundlings cannot be the object of


discrimination. They are vested with the rights to be registered and granted
nationality upon birth. To deny them these rights, deprive them of citizenship, and
render them stateless is to unduly burden them, discriminate them, and undermine
their development.

Not only Republic Act No. 9344, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights effect the constitutional dictum
of promoting the well-being of children and protecting them from discrimination.
Other legislative enactments demonstrate the intent to treat foundlings as Filipino
citizens from birth.

Republic Act No. 8552, though briefly referred to as the Domestic Adoption Act of
1998, is formally entitled An Act Establishing the Rules and Policies on Domestic
Adoption of Filipino Children and for Other Purposes. It was enacted as a
mechanism to "provide alternative protection and assistance through foster care or
adoption of every child who is neglected, orphaned, or abandoned."236chanrobleslaw

Foundlings are explicitly among the "Filipino children" covered by Republic Act No.
8552:237
SECTION 5. Location of Unknown Parent(s). It shall be the duty of the Department
or the child-placing or child-caring agency which has custody of the child to exert all
efforts to locate his/her unknown biological parent(s). If such efforts fail, the child
shall be registered as a foundling and subsequently be the subject of legal
proceedings where he/she shall be declared abandoned. (Emphasis supplied)
Similarly, Republic Act No. 8043, though briefly referred to as the Inter-Country
Adoption Act of 1995, is formally entitled An Act Establishing the Rules to Govern
Inter-Country Adoption of Filipino Children, and for Other Purposes. As with
Republic Act No. 8552, it expressly includes foundlings among "Filipino children"
who may be adopted:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
SECTION 8. Who May Be Adopted. Only a legally free child may be the subject of
inter-country adoption, hi order that such child may be considered for placement,
the following documents must be submitted: to the Board:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary a) Child study;

b) Birth certificate/foundling certificate;

c) Deed of voluntary commitment/decree of abandonment/death certificate of


parents;

d) Medical evaluation/history;

e) Psychological evaluation, as necessary; and cralawlawlibrary

f) Recent photo of the child. (Emphasis supplied)


In the case of foundlings, foundling certificates may be presented in lieu of
authenticated birth certificates to satisfy the requirement for the issuance of
passports, which will then facilitate their adoption by
foreigners:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
SECTION 5. If the applicant is an adopted person, he must present a certified true
copy of the Court Order of Adoption, certified true copy of his original and
amended birth certificates as issued by the OCRG. If the applicant is a minor, a
Clearance from the DSWD shall be required. In case the applicant is for adoption by
foreign parents under R.A. No. 8043, the following, shall be required:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
a) Certified true copy of the Court Decree of Abandonment of Child, the Death
Certificate of the child's parents, or the Deed of Voluntary Commitment
executed after the birth of the child.

b) Endorsement of child to the Intercountry Adoption Board by the DSWD.


c) Authenticated Birth or Foundling Certificate.238 (Emphasis supplied)
Our statutes on adoption allow for the recognition of foundlings' Filipino citizenship
on account of their birth. They benefit from this without having to do any act to
perfect their citizenship or without having to complete the naturalization process.
Thus, by definition, they are natural-born citizens.

Specifically regarding private respondent, several acts of executive organs have


recognized her natural-born status. This status was never questioned throughout her
life; that is, until circumstances made it appear that she was a viable candidate for
President of the Philippines. Until this, as well as the proceedings in the related case
of Poe-Llamanzares, private respondent's natural-born status has been affirmed and
reaffirmed through various official public acts.

First, private respondent was issued a foundling certificate and benefitted from the
domestic adoption process. Second, on July 18, 2006, she was granted an order of
reacquisition of natural-born citizenship under Republic Act No. 9225 by the Bureau
of Immigration. Third, on October 6, 2010, the President of the Philippines appointed
her as MTRCB Chairpersonan office that requires natural-born
citizenship.239chanrobleslaw
VIII

As it is settled that private respondent's being a foundling is not a bar to natural-


born citizenship, petitioner's proposition as to her inability to benefit from Republic
Act No. 9225 crumbles. Private respondent, a natural-born Filipino citizen, re-
acquired natural-born Filipino citizenship when, following her naturalization as a
citizen of the United States, she complied with the requisites of Republic Act No.
9225.
VIII. A

"Philippine citizenship may be lost or reacquired in the manner provided by


law."240 Commonwealth Act No. 63, which was in effect when private respondent
was naturalized an American citizen on October 18, 2001, provided in Section 1(1)
that "[a] Filipino citizen may lose his citizenship . . . [b]y naturalization in a foreign
country." Thus, private respondent lost her Philippine citizenship when she was
naturalized an American citizen. However, on July 7, 2006, she took her Oath of
Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines under Section 3 of Republic Act No.
9225. Three (3) days later, July 10, 2006, she filed before the Bureau of Immigration
and Deportation a Petition for Reacquisition of her Philippine citizenship. Shortly
after, this Petition was granted.241chanrobleslaw

Republic Act No. 9225 superseded Commonwealth Act No. 63242 and Republic Act
No. 8171243 specifically "to do away with the provision in Commonwealth Act No. 63
which takes away Philippine citizenship from natural-born Filipinos who become
naturalized citizens of other countries."244chanrobleslaw
The citizenship regime put in place by Republic Act No. 9225 is designed, in its own
words, to ensure "that all Philippine citizens who become citizens of another country
shall be deemed not to have lost their Philippine citizenship."245 This Court shed light
on this in Calilung v. Commission on Elections:246 "[w]hat Rep. Act No. 9225 does is
allow dual citizenship to natural-born Filipino citizens who have lost Philippine
citizenship by reason of their naturalization as citizens of a foreign
country."247chanrobleslaw

Republic Act No. 9225 made natural-born Filipinos' status permanent and
immutable despite naturalization as citizens of other countries. To effect this, Section
3 of Republic Act No. 9225 provides:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
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:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
"I _________________________, solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and
defend the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines and obey the laws and
legal orders promulgated by the duly constituted authorities of the Philippines; and
I hereby declare that I recognize and accept the supreme authority of the Philippines
and will maintain true faith and allegiance thereto; and that I impose this obligation
upon myself voluntarily without mental reservation or purpose of evasion."
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.
Section 3's implications are clear. Natural-born Philippine citizens who, after
Republic Act 9225 took effect, are naturalized in foreign countries "retain," that is,
keep, their Philippine citizenship, although the effectivity of this retention and the
ability to exercise the rights and capacities attendant to this status are subject to
certain solemnities (i.e., oath of allegiance and other requirements for specific rights
and/or acts, as enumerated in Section 5). On the other hand, those who became
citizens of another country before the effectivity of Republic Act No. 9225 "reacquire"
their Philippine citizenship and may exercise attendant rights and capacities, also
upon compliance with certain solemnities. Read in conjunction with Section 2's
declaration of a policy of immutability, this reacquisition is not a mere restoration
that leaves a vacuum in the intervening period. Rather, this reacquisition works to
restore natural-born status as though it was never lost at all.
VIII. B

Taking the Oath of Allegiance effects the retention or reacquisition of natural-born


citizenship. It also facilitates the enjoyment of civil and political rights, "subject to all
attendant liabilities and responsibilities."248 However, other conditions must be met
for the exercise of other faculties:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Sec. 5. Civil and Political Rights and Liabilities. - Those who retain or re-acquire
Philippine citizenship under this Act shall enjoy full civil and political rights and be
subject to all attendant liabilities and responsibilities under existing laws of the
Philippines and the following conditions:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
(1) Those intending to exercise their right of suffrage must meet the
requirements under Section 1, Article V of the Constitution, Republic Act
No. 9189, otherwise known as "the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of
2003" and other existing laws;

(2) Those seeking elective public office in the Philippines shall meet the
qualifications for holding such public office as required by the
Constitution and existing laws and, at the time of the filing of the
certificate of candidacy, make a personal and sworn renunciation of any
and all foreign citizenship before any public officer authorized to
administer an oath;

(3) Those appointed to any public office shall subscribe and swear to an oath
of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines and its duly constituted
authorities prior to their assumption of office; Provided, That they
renounce their oath of allegiance to the country where they took that
oath;

(4) Those intending to practice their profession in the Philippines shall apply
with the proper authority for a license or permit to engage in such
practice; and

(5) That the right to vote or be elected or appointed to any public office in
the Philippines cannot be exercised by, or extended to, those who:

a. are candidates for or are occupying any public office in the country of
which they are naturalized citizens; and/or

b. are in active service as commissioned or noncommissioned officers in the


armed forces of the country which they are naturalized citizens.
(Emphasis supplied)
Thus, natural-born Filipinos who have been naturalized elsewhere and wish to run
for elective public office must comply with all of the following requirements:
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryFirst, taking the oath of allegiance to the Republic. This
effects the retention or reacquisition of one's status as a natural-born Filipino.249 This
also enables the enjoyment of full civil and political rights, subject to all attendant
liabilities and responsibilities under existing laws, provided the solemnities recited
in Section 5 of Republic Act No. 9225 are satisfied.250chanrobleslaw

Second, compliance with Article V, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution,251 Republic


Act No. 9189, otherwise known as the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003, and
other existing laws. This is to facilitate the exercise of the right of suffrage; that is, to
allow for voting in elections.252chanrobleslaw

Third, "mak[ing] a personal and sworn renunciation of any and all foreign
citizenship before any public officer authorized to administer an oath."253 This, along
with satisfying the other qualification requirements under relevant laws, makes one
eligible for elective public office.

As explained in Sobejana-Condon v. Commission on Elections,254 this required sworn


renunciation is intended to complement Article XI, Section 18 of the Constitution in
that "[p]ublic officers and employees owe the State and this Constitution allegiance
at all times and any public officer or employee who seeks to change his citizenship
or acquire the status of an immigrant of another country during his tenure shall be
dealt with by law."255 It is also in view of this that Section 5(5) similarly bars those
who seek or occupy public office elsewhere and/or who are serving in the armed
forces of other countries from being appointed or elected to public office in the
Philippines.
VIII. C

Private respondent has complied with all of these requirements. First, on July 7,
2006, she took the Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines.256 Second,
on August 31, 2006, she became a registered voter of Barangay Santa Lucia, San
Juan.257 This evidences her compliance with Article V, Section 1 of the 1987
Constitution. Since she was to vote within the country, this dispensed with the need
to comply with the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003. Lastly, on October 20,
2010, she executed an Affidavit of Renunciation of Allegiance to the United States of
America and Renunciation of American Citizenship.258This was complemented by
her execution of an Oath/Affirmation of Renunciation of Nationality of the United
States259 before Vice-Consul Somer E. Bessire-Briers on July 12, 2011,260 which was, in
turn, followed by Vice Consul Jason Galian's issuance of a Certificate of Loss of
Nationality on December 9, 2011261 and the approval of this certificate by the
Overseas Citizen Service, Department of State, on February 3, 2012.262chanrobleslaw

Private respondent has, therefore, not only fully reacquired natural-born citizenship;
she has also complied with all of the other requirements for eligibility to elective
public office, as stipulated in Republic Act No. 9225.
VIII. D
It is incorrect to intimate that private respondent's having had to comply with
Republic Act No. 9225 shows that she is a naturalized, rather than a natural-born,
Filipino citizen. It is wrong to postulate that compliance with Republic Act No. 9225
signifies the performance of acts to perfect citizenship.

To do so is to completely disregard the unequivocal policy of permanence and


immutability as articulated in Section 2 of Republic Act No. 9225 and as illuminated
in jurisprudence. It is to erroneously assume that a natural-born Filipino citizen's
naturalization elsewhere is an irreversible termination of his or her natural-born
status.

To belabor the point, those who take the Oath of Allegiance under Section 3 of
Republic Act No. 9225 reacquire natural-born citizenship. The prefix "re" signifies
reference to the preceding state of affairs. It is to this status quo ante that one returns.
"Re"-acquiring can only mean a reversion to "the way things were." Had Republic
Act No. 9225 intended to mean the investiture of an entirely new status, it should not
have used a word such as "reacquire." Republic Act No. 9225, therefore, does not
operate to make new citizens whose citizenship commences only from the moment
of compliance with its requirements.

Bengson, speaking on the analogous situation of repatriation, ruled that repatriation


involves the restoration of former status or the recovery of one's original
nationality:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Moreover, repatriation results in the recovery of the original nationality. This means
that a naturalized Filipino who lost his citizenship will be restored to his prior status
as a naturalized Filipino citizen. On the other hand, if he was originally a natural-born
citizen before he lost his Philippine citizenship, he will be restored to his former status as a
natural-born Filipino.263 (Emphasis supplied)
Although Bengson was decided while Commonwealth Act No. 63 was in force, its
ruling is in keeping with Republic Act No. 9225 's policy of permanence and
immutablity: "all Philippine citizens of another country shall be deemed not to have
lost their Philippine citizenship."264 In Bengson's words, the once naturalized citizen
is "restored" or brought back to his or her natural-born status. There may have been
an interruption in the recognition of this status, as, in the interim, he or she was
naturalized elsewhere, but the restoration of natural-born status expurgates this
intervening fact. Thus, he or she does not become a Philippine citizen only from the
point of restoration and moving forward. He or she is recognized, de jure, as a
Philippine citizen from birth, although the intervening fact may have consequences
de facto.

Republic Act No. 9225 may involve extended processes not limited to taking the
Oath of Allegiance and requiring compliance with additional solemnities, but these
are for facilitating the enjoyment of other incidents to citizenship, not for effecting
the reacquisition of natural-born citizenship itself. Therefore, it is markedly different
from naturalization as there is no singular, extended process with which the former
natural-born citizen must comply.
IX

To hold, as petitioner suggests, that private respondent is stateless265 is not only to


set a dangerous and callous precedent. It is to make this Court an accomplice to
injustice.

Equality, the recognition of the humanity of every individual, and social justice are
the bedrocks of our constitutional order. By the unfortunate fortuity of the inability
or outright irresponsibility of those gave them life, foundlings are compelled to
begin their very existence at a disadvantage. Theirs is a continuing destitution that
can never be truly remedied by any economic relief.

If we are to make the motives of our Constitution true, then we an never tolerate an
interpretation that condemns foundlings to an even greater misfortune because of
their being abandoned. The Constitution cannot be rendered inert and meaningless
for them by mechanical judicial fiat.

Dura lex sed lex is not a callous and unthinking maxim to be deployed against other
reasonable interpretations of our basic law. It does command us to consider legal
text, but always with justice in mind.

It is the empowering and ennobling interpretation of the Constitution that we must


always sustain. Not only will this manner of interpretation edify the less fortunate; it
establishes us, as Filipinos, as a humane and civilized people.

The Senate Electoral Tribunal acted well within the bounds of its constitutional
competence when it ruled that private respondent is a natural-born citizen qualified
to sit as Senator of the Republic. Contrary to petitioner's arguments, there is no basis
for annulling its assailed Decision and Resolution.

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Certiorari is DISMISSED. Public respondent Senate


Electoral Tribunal did not act without or in excess of its jurisdiction or with grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in rendering its
assailed November 17, 2015 Decision and December 3, 2015 Resolution.

Private respondent Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares is a natural-born Filipino citizen


qualified to hold office as Senator of the Republic.

SO ORDERED.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

MARIA JEANETTE C. TECSON and FELIX B. DESIDERIO, JR., petitioners, vs. The
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, RONALD ALLAN KELLY POE (a.k.a.
FERNANDO POE, JR.) and VICTORINO X. FORNIER, respondents.
[G.R. No. 161634. March 3, 2004]
ZOILO ANTONIO VELEZ, petitioner, vs. RONALD ALLAN KELLEY
POE, a.k.a. FERNANDO POE, JR., respondent.
[G. R. No. 161824. March 3, 2004]
VICTORINO X. FORNIER, petitioner, vs. HON. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS
and RONALD ALLAN KELLEY POE, ALSO KNOWN AS FERNANDO POE
JR., respondents.
DECISION
VITUG, J.:
Citizenship is a treasured right conferred on those whom the state believes are
deserving of the privilege. It is a precious heritage, as well as an inestimable
acquisition,[1] that cannot be taken lightly by anyone - either by those who enjoy it
or by those who dispute it.
Before the Court are three consolidated cases, all of which raise a single question
of profound importance to the nation. The issue of citizenship is brought up to
challenge the qualifications of a presidential candidate to hold the highest office of the
land.Our people are waiting for the judgment of the Court with bated breath. Is
Fernando Poe, Jr., the hero of silver screen, and now one of the main contenders for
the presidency, a natural-born Filipino or is he not?
The moment of introspection takes us face to face with Spanish and American
colonial roots and reminds us of the rich heritage of civil law and common law
traditions, the fusion resulting in a hybrid of laws and jurisprudence that could be no
less than distinctly Filipino.
Antecedent Case Settings
On 31 December 2003, respondent Ronald Allan Kelly Poe, also known as
Fernando Poe, Jr. (hereinafter "FPJ"), filed his certificate of candidacy for the position
of President of the Republic of the Philippines under the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang
Pilipino (KNP) Party, in the forthcoming national elections. In his certificate of
candidacy, FPJ, representing himself to be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines,
stated his name to be "Fernando Jr.," or "Ronald Allan" Poe, his date of birth to be 20
August 1939 and his place of birth to be Manila.
Victorino X. Fornier, petitioner in G.R. No. 161824, entitled "Victorino X. Fornier,
Petitioner, versus Hon. Commission on Elections and Ronald Allan Kelley Poe, also
known as Fernando Poe, Jr., Respondents," initiated, on 09 January 2004, a petition
docketed SPA No. 04-003 before the Commission on Elections ("COMELEC") to
disqualify FPJ and to deny due course or to cancel his certificate of candidacy upon
the thesis that FPJ made a material misrepresentation in his certificate of candidacy by
claiming to be a natural-born Filipino citizen when in truth, according to Fornier, his
parents were foreigners; his mother, Bessie Kelley Poe, was an American, and his
father, Allan Poe, was a Spanish national, being the son of Lorenzo Pou, a Spanish
subject. Granting, petitioner asseverated, that Allan F. Poe was a Filipino citizen, he
could not have transmitted his Filipino citizenship to FPJ, the latter being an
illegitimate child of an alien mother. Petitioner based the allegation of the illegitimate
birth of respondent on two assertions - first, Allan F. Poe contracted a prior marriage
to a certain Paulita Gomez before his marriage to Bessie Kelley and, second, even if no
such prior marriage had existed, Allan F. Poe, married Bessie Kelly only a year after
the birth of respondent.
In the hearing before the Third Division of the COMELEC on 19 January 2004,
petitioner, in support of his claim, presented several documentary exhibits - 1) a copy
of the certificate of birth of FPJ, 2) a certified photocopy of an affidavit executed in
Spanish by Paulita Poe y Gomez attesting to her having filed a case for bigamy and
concubinage against the father of respondent, Allan F. Poe, after discovering his
bigamous relationship with Bessie Kelley, 3) an English translation of the affidavit
aforesaid, 4) a certified photocopy of the certificate of birth of Allan F. Poe, 5) a
certification issued by the Director of the Records Management and Archives Office,
attesting to the fact that there was no record in the National Archives that a Lorenzo
Poe or Lorenzo Pou resided or entered the Philippines before 1907, and 6) a
certification from the Officer-In-Charge of the Archives Division of the National
Archives to the effect that no available information could be found in the files of the
National Archives regarding the birth of Allan F. Poe.
On his part, respondent, presented twenty-two documentary pieces of evidence,
the more significant ones being - a) a certification issued by Estrella M. Domingo of
the Archives Division of the National Archives that there appeared to be no available
information regarding the birth of Allan F. Poe in the registry of births for San Carlos,
Pangasinan, b) a certification issued by the Officer-In-Charge of the Archives Division
of the National Archives that no available information about the marriage of Allan F.
Poe and Paulita Gomez could be found, c) a certificate of birth of Ronald Allan Poe, d)
Original Certificate of Title No. P-2247 of the Registry of Deeds for the Province of
Pangasinan, in the name of Lorenzo Pou, e) copies of Tax Declaration No. 20844, No.
20643, No. 23477 and No. 23478 in the name of Lorenzo Pou, f) a copy of the certificate
of death of Lorenzo Pou, g) a copy of the purported marriage contract between
Fernando Pou and Bessie Kelley, and h) a certification issued by the City Civil
Registrar of San Carlos City, Pangasinan, stating that the records of birth in the said
office during the period of from 1900 until May 1946 were totally destroyed during
World War II.
On 23 January 2004, the COMELEC dismissed SPA No. 04-003 for lack of
merit. Three days later, or on 26 January 2004, Fornier filed his motion for
reconsideration. The motion was denied on 06 February 2004 by the COMELEC en
banc. On 10 February 2004, petitioner assailed the decision of the COMELEC before
this Court conformably with Rule 64, in relation to Rule 65, of the Revised Rules of
Civil Procedure. The petition, docketed G. R. No. 161824, likewise prayed for a
temporary restraining order, a writ of preliminary injunction or any other resolution
that would stay the finality and/or execution of the COMELEC resolutions.
The other petitions, later consolidated with G. R. No. 161824, would include G. R.
No. 161434, entitled "Maria Jeanette C. Tecson, and Felix B. Desiderio, Jr., vs. The
Commission on Elections, Ronald Allan Kelley Poe (a.k.a. Fernando Poe, Jr.), and
Victorino X. Fornier," and the other, docketed G. R. No. 161634, entitled "Zoilo
Antonio G. Velez, vs. Ronald Allan Kelley Poe, a.k.a. Fernando Poe, Jr.," both
challenging the jurisdiction of the COMELEC and asserting that, under Article VII,
Section 4, paragraph 7, of the 1987 Constitution, only the Supreme Court had original
and exclusive jurisdiction to resolve the basic issue on the case.
Jurisdiction of the Court
In G. R. No. 161824
In seeking the disqualification of the candidacy of FPJ and to have the COMELEC
deny due course to or cancel FPJs certificate of candidacy for alleged
misrepresentation of a material fact (i.e., that FPJ was a natural-born citizen) before the
COMELEC, petitioner Fornier invoked Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code
Section 78. Petition to deny due course to or cancel a certificate of candidacy. --- A verified
petition seeking to deny due course or to cancel a certificate of candidacy may be
filed by any person exclusively on the ground that any material representation
contained therein as required under Section 74 hereof is false
in consonance with the general powers of COMELEC expressed in Section 52 of the
Omnibus Election Code -
Section 52. Powers and functions of the Commission on Elections. In addition to the
powers and functions conferred upon it by the Constitution, the Commission shall
have exclusive charge of the enforcement and administration of all laws relative to
the conduct of elections for the purpose of ensuring free, orderly and honest
elections -
and in relation to Article 69 of the Omnibus Election Code which would authorize
"any interested party" to file a verified petition to deny or cancel the certificate of
candidacy of any nuisance candidate.
Decisions of the COMELEC on disqualification cases may be reviewed by the
Supreme Court per Rule 64[2] in an action for certiorari under Rule 65[3] of the Revised
Rules of Civil Procedure. Section 7, Article IX, of the 1987 Constitution also reads
"Each Commission shall decide by a majority vote of all its Members any case or
matter brought before it within sixty days from the date of its submission for
decision or resolution. A case or matter is deemed submitted for decision or
resolution upon the filing of the last pleading, brief, or memorandum, required by
the rules of the Commission or by the Commission itself. Unless otherwise provided
by this Constitution or by law, any decision, order, or ruling of each Commission
may be brought to the Supreme Court on certiorari by the aggrieved party within
thirty days from receipt of a copy thereof."
Additionally, Section 1, Article VIII, of the same Constitution provides that
judicial power is vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be
established by law which power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle
actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable,
and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting
to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the
Government.
It is sufficiently clear that the petition brought up in G. R. No. 161824 was aptly
elevated to, and could well be taken cognizance of by, this Court. A contrary view
could be a gross denial to our people of their fundamental right to be fully informed,
and to make a proper choice, on who could or should be elected to occupy the highest
government post in the land.
In G. R. No. 161434 and G. R. No. 161634
Petitioners Tecson, et al., in G. R. No. 161434, and Velez, in G. R. No. 161634,
invoke the provisions of Article VII, Section 4, paragraph 7, of the 1987 Constitution
in assailing the jurisdiction of the COMELEC when it took cognizance of SPA No. 04-
003 and in urging the Supreme Court to instead take on the petitions they directly
instituted before it. The Constitutional provision cited reads:
"The Supreme Court, sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to
the election, returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice-President, and may
promulgate its rules for the purpose."
The provision is an innovation of the 1987 Constitution. The omission in the 1935 and
the 1973 Constitution to designate any tribunal to be the sole judge of presidential and
vice-presidential contests, has constrained this Court to declare, in Lopez vs. Roxas,[4] as
not (being) justiciable controversies or disputes involving contests on the elections,
returns and qualifications of the President or Vice-President. The constitutional lapse
prompted Congress, on 21 June 1957, to enact Republic Act No. 1793, "An Act
Constituting an Independent Presidential Electoral Tribunal to Try, Hear and Decide Protests
Contesting the Election of the President-Elect and the Vice-President-Elect of the Philippines
and Providing for the Manner of Hearing the Same." Republic Act 1793 designated the
Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court to be the members of the
tribunal. Although the subsequent adoption of the parliamentary form of government
under the 1973 Constitution might have implicitly affected Republic Act No. 1793, the
statutory set-up, nonetheless, would now be deemed revived under the present
Section 4, paragraph 7, of the 1987 Constitution.
Ordinary usage would characterize a "contest" in reference to a post-
election scenario. Election contests consist of either an election protest or a quo
warranto which, although two distinct remedies, would have one objective in view, i.e.,
to dislodge the winning candidate from office. A perusal of the phraseology in Rule
12, Rule 13, and Rule 14 of the "Rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal," promulgated
by the Supreme Court en banc on 18 April 1992, would support this premise -
Rule 12. Jurisdiction. - The Tribunal shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to
the election, returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice-President of
the Philippines.
Rule 13. How Initiated. - An election contest is initiated by the filing of an election
protest or a petition for quo warranto against the President or Vice-President. An
election protest shall not include a petition for quo warranto. A petition for quo
warranto shall not include an election protest.
Rule 14. Election Protest. - Only the registered candidate for President or for Vice-
President of the Philippines who received the second or third highest number of
votes may contest the election of the President or the Vice-President, as the case may
be, by filing a verified petition with the Clerk of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal
within thirty (30) days after the proclamation of the winner.
The rules categorically speak of the jurisdiction of the tribunal over contests
relating to the election, returns and qualifications of the "President" or "Vice-
President", of the Philippines, and not of "candidates" for President or Vice-
President. A quo warranto proceeding is generally defined as being an action against a
person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office.[5] In
such context, the election contest can only contemplate a post-election scenario. In Rule
14, only a registered candidate who would have received either the second or third
highest number of votes could file an election protest. This rule again presupposes a
post-election scenario.
It is fair to conclude that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, defined by Section
4, paragraph 7, of the 1987 Constitution, would not include cases directly brought
before it, questioning the qualifications of a candidate for the presidency or vice-
presidency before the elections are held.
Accordingly, G. R. No. 161434, entitled "Maria Jeanette C. Tecson, et al., vs.
Commission on Elections et al.," and G. R. No. 161634, entitled "Zoilo Antonio Velez
vs. Ronald Allan Kelley Poe a.k.a. Fernando Poe, Jr." would have to be dismissed for
want of jurisdiction.
The Citizenship Issue
Now, to the basic issue; it should be helpful to first give a brief historical
background on the concept of citizenship.
Perhaps, the earliest understanding of citizenship was that given by Aristotle,
who, sometime in 384 to 322 B.C., described the "citizen" to refer to a man who shared
in the administration of justice and in the holding of an office. [6] Aristotle saw its
significance if only to determine the constituency of the "State," which he described as
being composed of such persons who would be adequate in number to achieve a self-
sufficient existence.[7] The concept grew to include one who would both govern and
be governed, for which qualifications like autonomy, judgment and loyalty could be
expected. Citizenship was seen to deal with rights and entitlements, on the one hand,
and with concomitant obligations, on the other.[8] In its ideal setting, a citizen was
active in public life and fundamentally willing to submit his private interests to the
general interest of society.
The concept of citizenship had undergone changes over the centuries. In the 18th
century, the concept was limited, by and large, to civil citizenship, which established
the rights necessary for individual freedom, such as rights to property, personal
liberty and justice.[9] Its meaning expanded during the 19th century to include political
citizenship, which encompassed the right to participate in the exercise of political
power.[10] The 20th century saw the next stage of the development of social citizenship,
which laid emphasis on the right of the citizen to economic well-being and social
security.[11] The idea of citizenship has gained expression in the modern welfare state
as it so developed in Western Europe. An ongoing and final stage of development, in
keeping with the rapidly shrinking global village, might well be the internationalization
of citizenship.[12]
The Local Setting - from Spanish
Times to the Present
There was no such term as "Philippine citizens" during the Spanish regime but
"subjects of Spain" or "Spanish subjects."[13]In church records, the natives were
called 'indios', denoting a low regard for the inhabitants of the archipelago. Spanish
laws on citizenship became highly codified during the 19th century but their sheer
number made it difficult to point to one comprehensive law. Not all of these
citizenship laws of Spain however, were made to apply to the Philippine Islands
except for those explicitly extended by Royal Decrees.[14]
Spanish laws on citizenship were traced back to the Novisima
Recopilacion, promulgated in Spain on 16 July 1805 but as to whether the law was
extended to the Philippines remained to be the subject of differing views among
experts;[15] however, three royal decrees were undisputably made applicable to
Spaniards in the Philippines - the Order de la Regencia of 14 August 1841,[16] the Royal
Decree of 23 August 1868 specifically defining the political status of children born in
the Philippine Islands,[17] and finally, the Ley Extranjera de Ultramar of 04 July 1870,
which was expressly made applicable to the Philippines by the Royal Decree of 13 July
1870.[18]
The Spanish Constitution of 1876 was never extended to the Philippine Islands
because of the express mandate of its Article 89, according to which the provisions of
the Ultramar among which this country was included, would be governed by special
laws.[19]
It was only the Civil Code of Spain, made effective in this jurisdiction on 18
December 1889, which came out with the first categorical enumeration of who were
Spanish citizens. -
(a) Persons born in Spanish territory,
(b) Children of a Spanish father or mother, even if they were born outside of
Spain,
(c) Foreigners who have obtained naturalization papers,
(d) Those who, without such papers, may have become domiciled
inhabitants of any town of the Monarchy.[20]
The year 1898 was another turning point in Philippine history. Already in the state
of decline as a superpower, Spain was forced to so cede her sole colony in the East to
an upcoming world power, the United States. An accepted principle of international
law dictated that a change in sovereignty, while resulting in an abrogation of all
political laws then in force, would have no effect on civil laws, which would remain
virtually intact.
The Treaty of Paris was entered into on 10 December 1898 between Spain and the
United States.[21] Under Article IX of the treaty, the civil rights and political status of
the native inhabitants of the territories ceded to the United States would be
determined by its Congress -
"Spanish subjects, natives of the Peninsula, residing in the territory over which Spain
by the present treaty relinquishes or cedes her sovereignty may remain in such
territory or may remove therefrom, retaining in either event all their rights of
property, including the right to sell or dispose of such property or of its proceeds;
and they shall also have the right to carry on their industry, commerce, and
professions, being subject in respect thereof to such laws as are applicable to
foreigners. In case they remain in the territory they may preserve their allegiance to
the Crown of Spain by making, before a court of record, within a year from the date
of the exchange of ratifications of this treaty, a declaration of their decision to
preserve such allegiance; in default of which declaration they shall be held to have
renounced it and to have adopted the nationality of the territory in which they
reside.
Thus
"The civil rights and political status of the native inhabitants of the territories hereby
ceded to the United States shall be determined by the Congress."[22]
Upon the ratification of the treaty, and pending legislation by the United States
Congress on the subject, the native inhabitants of the Philippines ceased to be Spanish
subjects. Although they did not become American citizens, they, however, also ceased
to be "aliens" under American laws and were thus issued passports describing them
to be citizens of the Philippines entitled to the protection of the United States.
The term "citizens of the Philippine Islands" appeared for the first time in the
Philippine Bill of 1902, also commonly referred to as the Philippine Organic Act of
1902, the first comprehensive legislation of the Congress of the United States on the
Philippines -
".... that all inhabitants of the Philippine Islands continuing to reside therein, who were
Spanish subjects on the 11th day of April, 1891, and then resided in said Islands, and their
children born subsequent thereto, shall be deemed and held to be citizens of the Philippine
Islands and as such entitled to the protection of the United States, except such as
shall have elected to preserve their allegiance to the Crown of Spain in accordance
with the provisions of the treaty of peace between the United States and Spain,
signed at Paris, December tenth eighteen hundred and ninety eight."[23]
Under the organic act, a citizen of the Philippines was one who was an inhabitant of
the Philippines, and a Spanish subject on the 11th day of April 1899. The term
inhabitant was taken to include 1) a native-born inhabitant, 2) an inhabitant who was
a native of Peninsular Spain, and 3) an inhabitant who obtained Spanish papers on or
before 11 April 1899.[24]
Controversy arose on to the status of children born in the Philippines from 11
April 1899 to 01 July 1902, during which period no citizenship law was extant in the
Philippines. Weight was given to the view, articulated in jurisprudential writing at the
time, that the common law principle of jus soli, otherwise also known as the principle
of territoriality, operative in the United States and England, governed those born in
the Philippine Archipelago within that period.[25] More about this later.
In 23 March 1912, the Congress of the United States made the following
amendment to the Philippine Bill of 1902 -
"Provided, That the Philippine Legislature is hereby authorized to provide by law
for the acquisition of Philippine citizenship by those natives of the Philippine Islands
who do not come within the foregoing provisions, the natives of other insular
possession of the United States, and such other persons residing in the Philippine
Islands who would become citizens of the United States, under the laws of the
United States, if residing therein."[26]
With the adoption of the Philippine Bill of 1902, the concept of "Philippine
citizens" had for the first time crystallized. The word "Filipino" was used by William
H. Taft, the first Civil Governor General in the Philippines when he initially made
mention of it in his slogan, "The Philippines for the Filipinos." In 1916, the Philippine
Autonomy Act, also known as the Jones Law restated virtually the provisions of the
Philippine Bill of 1902, as so amended by the Act of Congress in 1912 -
That all inhabitants of the Philippine Islands who were Spanish subjects on the
eleventh day of April, eighteen hundred and ninety-nine, and then resided in said
Islands, and their children born subsequently thereto, shall be deemed and held to be
citizens of the Philippine Islands, except such as shall have elected to preserve their
allegiance to the Crown of Spain in accordance with the provisions of the treaty of
peace between the United States and Spain, signed at Paris December tenth, eighteen
hundred and ninety-eight and except such others as have since become citizens of
some other country; Provided, That the Philippine Legislature, herein provided for,
is hereby authorized to provide for the acquisition of Philippine citizenship by those
natives of the Philippine Islands who do not come within the foregoing provisions,
the natives of the insular possessions of the United States, and such other persons
residing in the Philippine Islands who are citizens of the United States, or who could
become citizens of the United States under the laws of the United States, if residing
therein."
Under the Jones Law, a native-born inhabitant of the Philippines was deemed to
be a citizen of the Philippines as of 11 April 1899 if he was 1) a subject of Spain on 11
April 1899, 2) residing in the Philippines on said date, and, 3) since that date, not a
citizen of some other country.
While there was, at one brief time, divergent views on whether or not jus soli was
a mode of acquiring citizenship, the 1935 Constitution brought to an end to any such
link with common law, by adopting, once and for all, jus sanguinis or blood
relationship as being the basis of Filipino citizenship -
Section 1, Article III, 1935 Constitution. The following are citizens of the Philippines -
(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippine Islands at the time of the adoption of this
Constitution
(2) Those born in the Philippines Islands of foreign parents who, before the adoption
of this Constitution, had been elected to public office in the Philippine Islands.
(3) Those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines.
(4) Those whose mothers are citizens of the Philippines and upon reaching the age of
majority, elect Philippine citizenship.
(5) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.
Subsection (4), Article III, of the 1935 Constitution, taken together with existing
civil law provisions at the time, which provided that women would automatically lose
their Filipino citizenship and acquire that of their foreign husbands, resulted in
discriminatory situations that effectively incapacitated the women from transmitting
their Filipino citizenship to their legitimate children and required illegitimate children
of Filipino mothers to still elect Filipino citizenship upon reaching the age of
majority.Seeking to correct this anomaly, as well as fully cognizant of the newly found
status of Filipino women as equals to men, the framers of the 1973 Constitution crafted
the provisions of the new Constitution on citizenship to reflect such concerns -
Section 1, Article III, 1973 Constitution - The following are citizens of the Philippines:
(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this
Constitution.
(2) Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines.
(3) Those who elect Philippine citizenship pursuant to the provisions of the
Constitution of nineteen hundred and thirty-five.
(4) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.
For good measure, Section 2 of the same article also further provided that
"A female citizen of the Philippines who marries an alien retains her Philippine
citizenship, unless by her act or omission she is deemed, under the law to have
renounced her citizenship."
The 1987 Constitution generally adopted the provisions of the 1973 Constitution,
except for subsection (3) thereof that aimed to correct the irregular situation generated
by the questionable proviso in the 1935 Constitution.
Section I, Article IV, 1987 Constitution now provides:
The following are citizens of the Philippines:
(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this
Constitution.
(2) Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines.
(3) Those born before January 17, 1973 of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine
citizenship upon reaching the age of majority; and
(4) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.
The Case Of FPJ
Section 2, Article VII, of the 1987 Constitution expresses:
"No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the
Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least forty years of age on
the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years
immediately preceding such election."
The term "natural-born citizens," is defined to include "those who are citizens of
the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect
their Philippine citizenship."[27]
The date, month and year of birth of FPJ appeared to be 20 August 1939 during
the regime of the 1935 Constitution.Through its history, four modes of acquiring
citizenship - naturalization, jus soli, res judicata and jus sanguinis[28] had been in
vogue. Only two, i.e., jus soli and jus sanguinis, could qualify a person to being a
natural-born citizen of the Philippines. Jus soli, per Roa vs. Collector of
Customs[29] (1912), did not last long. With the adoption of the 1935 Constitution and
the reversal of Roa in Tan Chong vs. Secretary of Labor[30] (1947), jus sanguinis or blood
relationship would now become the primary basis of citizenship by birth.
Documentary evidence adduced by petitioner would tend to indicate that the
earliest established direct ascendant of FPJ was his paternal grandfather Lorenzo Pou,
married to Marta Reyes, the father of Allan F. Poe. While the record of birth of Lorenzo
Pou had not been presented in evidence, his death certificate, however, identified him
to be a Filipino, a resident of San Carlos, Pangasinan, and 84 years old at the time of
his death on 11 September 1954. The certificate of birth of the father of FPJ, Allan F.
Poe, showed that he was born on 17 May 1915 to an Espaol father, Lorenzo Pou, and
a mestiza Espaol mother, Marta Reyes. Introduced by petitioner was an uncertified
copy of a supposed certificate of the alleged marriage of Allan F. Poe and Paulita
Gomez on 05 July 1936. The marriage certificate of Allan F. Poe and Bessie Kelley
reflected the date of their marriage to be on 16 September 1940. In the same certificate,
Allan F. Poe was stated to be twenty-five years old, unmarried, and a Filipino citizen,
and Bessie Kelley to be twenty-two years old, unmarried, and an American
citizen. The birth certificate of FPJ, would disclose that he was born on 20 August 1939
to Allan F. Poe, a Filipino, twenty-four years old, married to Bessie Kelly, an American
citizen, twenty-one years old and married.
Considering the reservations made by the parties on the veracity of some of the
entries on the birth certificate of respondent and the marriage certificate of his parents,
the only conclusions that could be drawn with some degree of certainty from the
documents would be that -
1. The parents of FPJ were Allan F. Poe and Bessie Kelley;
2. FPJ was born to them on 20 August 1939;
3. Allan F. Poe and Bessie Kelley were married to each other on 16
September, 1940;
4. The father of Allan F. Poe was Lorenzo Poe; and
5. At the time of his death on 11 September 1954, Lorenzo Poe was 84 years
old.
Would the above facts be sufficient or insufficient to establish the fact that FPJ is
a natural-born Filipino citizen? The marriage certificate of Allan F. Poe and Bessie
Kelley, the birth certificate of FPJ, and the death certificate of Lorenzo Pou are
documents of public record in the custody of a public officer. The documents have
been submitted in evidence by both contending parties during the proceedings before
the COMELEC.
The birth certificate of FPJ was marked Exhibit "A" for petitioner and Exhibit "3"
for respondent. The marriage certificate of Allan F. Poe to Bessie Kelley was submitted
as Exhibit "21" for respondent. The death certificate of Lorenzo Pou was submitted by
respondent as his Exhibit "5." While the last two documents were submitted in
evidence for respondent, the admissibility thereof, particularly in reference to the facts
which they purported to show, i.e., the marriage certificate in relation to the date of
marriage of Allan F. Poe to Bessie Kelley and the death certificate relative to the death
of Lorenzo Pou on 11 September 1954 in San Carlos, Pangasinan, were all admitted by
petitioner, who had utilized those material statements in his argument. All three
documents were certified true copies of the originals.
Section 3, Rule 130, Rules of Court states that -
Original document must be produced; exceptions. - When the subject of inquiry is
the contents of a document, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original
document itself, except in the following cases:
xxxxxxxxx
(d) When the original is a public record in the custody of a public office or is
recorded in a public office.
Being public documents, the death certificate of Lorenzo Pou, the marriage certificate
of Allan F. Poe and Bessie Kelly, and the birth certificate of FPJ, constitute prima
facie proof of their contents. Section 44, Rule 130, of the Rules of Court provides:
Entries in official records. Entries in official records made in the performance of his
duty by a public officer of the Philippines, or by a person in the performance of a
duty specially enjoined by law, are prima facie evidence of the facts therein stated.
The trustworthiness of public documents and the value given to the entries made
therein could be grounded on 1) the sense of official duty in the preparation of the
statement made, 2) the penalty which is usually affixed to a breach of that duty, 3) the
routine and disinterested origin of most such statements, and 4) the publicity of record
which makes more likely the prior exposure of such errors as might have occurred.[31]
The death certificate of Lorenzo Pou would indicate that he died on 11 September
1954, at the age of 84 years, in San Carlos, Pangasinan. It could thus be assumed that
Lorenzo Pou was born sometime in the year 1870 when the Philippines was still a
colony of Spain. Petitioner would argue that Lorenzo Pou was not in the Philippines
during the crucial period of from 1898 to 1902 considering that there was no existing
record about such fact in the Records Management and Archives Office.Petitioner,
however, likewise failed to show that Lorenzo Pou was at any other place during the
same period. In his death certificate, the residence of Lorenzo Pou was stated to be
San Carlos, Pangasinan. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, it should be
sound to conclude, or at least to presume, that the place of residence of a person at the
time of his death was also his residence before death. It would be extremely doubtful
if the Records Management and Archives Office would have had complete records of
all residents of the Philippines from 1898 to 1902.
Proof of Paternity and Filiation
Under Civil Law.
Petitioner submits, in any case, that in establishing filiation (relationship or civil
status of the child to the father [or mother]) or paternity (relationship or civil status of
the father to the child) of an illegitimate child, FPJ evidently being an illegitimate son
according to petitioner, the mandatory rules under civil law must be used.
Under the Civil Code of Spain, which was in force in the Philippines from 08
December 1889 up until the day prior to 30 August 1950 when the Civil Code of the
Philippines took effect, acknowledgment was required to establish filiation or
paternity.Acknowledgment was either judicial (compulsory) or voluntary. Judicial or
compulsory acknowledgment was possible only if done during the lifetime of the
putative parent; voluntary acknowledgment could only be had in a record of birth, a
will, or a public document.[32] Complementary to the new code was Act No. 3753 or
the Civil Registry Law expressing in Section 5 thereof, that -
In case of an illegitimate child, the birth certificate shall be signed and sworn to
jointly by the parents of the infant or only by the mother if the father refuses. In the
latter case, it shall not be permissible to state or reveal in the document the name of
the father who refuses to acknowledge the child, or to give therein any information
by which such father could be identified.
In order that the birth certificate could then be utilized to prove voluntary
acknowledgment of filiation or paternity, the certificate was required to be signed or
sworn to by the father. The failure of such requirement rendered the same useless as
being an authoritative document of recognition.[33] In Mendoza vs. Mella,[34] the Court
ruled -
"Since Rodolfo was born in 1935, after the registry law was enacted, the question
here really is whether or not his birth certificate (Exhibit 1), which is merely a
certified copy of the registry record, may be relied upon as sufficient proof of his
having been voluntarily recognized. No such reliance, in our judgment, may be
placed upon it. While it contains the names of both parents, there is no showing that
they signed the original, let alone swore to its contents as required in Section 5 of Act
No. 3753. For all that might have happened, it was not even they or either of them
who furnished the data to be entered in the civil register. Petitioners say that in any
event the birth certificate is in the nature of a public document wherein voluntary
recognition of a natural child may also be made, according to the same Article 131.
True enough, but in such a case, there must be a clear statement in the document
that the parent recognizes the child as his or her own."
In the birth certificate of respondent FPJ, presented by both parties, nowhere in
the document was the signature of Allan F. Poe found. There being no will apparently
executed, or at least shown to have been executed, by decedent Allan F. Poe, the only
other proof of voluntary recognition remained to be "some other public
document." In Pareja vs. Pareja,[35] this Court defined what could constitute such a
document as proof of voluntary acknowledgment:
"Under the Spanish Civil Code there are two classes of public documents,
those executed by private individuals which must be authenticated by notaries, and
those issued by competent public officials by reason of their office. The public
document pointed out in Article 131 as one of the means by which recognition may
be made belongs to the first class."
Let us leave it at that for the moment.
The 1950 Civil Code categorized the acknowledgment or recognition of
illegitimate children into voluntary, legal or compulsory. Voluntary recognition was
required to be expressedly made in a record of birth, a will, a statement before a court
of record or in any authentic writing. Legal acknowledgment took place in favor of
full blood brothers and sisters of an illegitimate child who was recognized or judicially
declared as natural. Compulsory acknowledgment could be demanded generally in
cases when the child had in his favor any evidence to prove filiation. Unlike an action
to claim legitimacy which would last during the lifetime of the child, and might pass
exceptionally to the heirs of the child, an action to claim acknowledgment, however,
could only be brought during the lifetime of the presumed parent.
Amicus Curiae Ruben F. Balane defined, during the oral argument, "authentic
writing," so as to be an authentic writing for purposes of voluntary recognition, simply
as being a genuine or indubitable writing of the father. The term would include a
public instrument (one duly acknowledged before a notary public or other competent
official) or a private writing admitted by the father to be his.
The Family Code has further liberalized the rules; Article 172, Article 173, and
Article 175 provide:
Art. 172. The filiation of legitimate children is established by any of the following:
(1) The record of birth appearing in the civil register or a final judgment; or
(2) An admission of legitimate filiation in a public document or a private
handwritten instrument and signed by the parent concerned.
In the absence of the foregoing evidence, the legitimate filiation shall be proved by:
(1) The open and continuous possession of the status of a legitimate child; or
(2) Any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws.
Art. 173. The action to claim legitimacy may be brought by the child during his or
her lifetime and shall be transmitted to the heirs should the child die during
minority or in a state of insanity. In these cases, the heirs shall have a period of five
years within which to institute the action.
The action already commenced by the child shall survive notwithstanding the death
of either or both of the parties.
x x x x x x x x x.
Art. 175. Illegitimate children may establish their illegitimate filiation in the same
way and on the same, evidence as legitimate children.
The action must be brought within the same period specified in Article 173, except
when the action is based on the second paragraph of Article 172, in which case the
action may be brought during the lifetime of the alleged parent.
The provisions of the Family Code are retroactively applied; Article 256 of the
code reads:
"Art. 256. This Code shall have retroactive effect insofar as it does not prejudice or
impair vested or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other laws.
Thus, in Vda. de Sy-Quia vs. Court of Appeals,[36] the Court has ruled:
"We hold that whether Jose was a voluntarily recognized natural child should be
decided under Article 278 of the Civil Code of the Philippines. Article 2260 of that
Code provides that 'the voluntary recognition of a natural child shall take place
according to this Code, even if the child was born before the effectivity of this body
of laws' or before August 30, 1950. Hence, Article 278 may be given retroactive
effect."
It should be apparent that the growing trend to liberalize the acknowledgment or
recognition of illegitimate children is an attempt to break away from the traditional
idea of keeping well apart legitimate and non-legitimate relationships within the
family in favor of the greater interest and welfare of the child. The provisions are
intended to merely govern the private and personal affairs of the family. There is little,
if any, to indicate that the legitimate or illegitimate civil status of the individual would
also affect his political rights or, in general, his relationship to the State. While, indeed,
provisions on "citizenship" could be found in the Civil Code, such provisions must be
taken in the context of private relations, the domain of civil law; particularly -
"Civil Law is that branch of law which has for its double purpose the organization of
the family and the regulation of property. It has thus [been] defined as the mass of
precepts which determine and regulate the relations of assistance, authority and
obedience among members of a family, and those which exist among members of a
society for the protection of private interests."[37]
In Yaez de Barnuevo vs. Fuster,[38] the Court has held:
"In accordance with Article 9 of the Civil Code of Spain, x x x the laws relating to
family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons,
govern Spaniards although they reside in a foreign country; that, in consequence, 'all
questions of a civil nature, such as those dealing with the validity or nullity of the
matrimonial bond, the domicile of the husband and wife, their support, as between
them, the separation of their properties, the rules governing property, marital
authority, division of conjugal property, the classification of their property, legal
causes for divorce, the extent of the latter, the authority to decree it, and, in general,
the civil effects of marriage and divorce upon the persons and properties of the
spouses, are questions that are governed exclusively by the national law of the
husband and wife."
The relevance of "citizenship" or "nationality" to Civil Law is best exemplified in
Article 15 of the Civil Code, stating that -
"Laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal
capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living
abroad" -
that explains the need to incorporate in the code a reiteration of the Constitutional
provisions on citizenship. Similarly, citizenship is significant in civil relationships
found in different parts of the Civil Code,[39] such as on successional rights and family
relations.[40] In adoption, for instance, an adopted child would be considered the child
of his adoptive parents and accorded the same rights as their legitimate child but such
legal fiction extended only to define his rights under civil law[41] and not his political
status.
Civil law provisions point to an obvious bias against illegitimacy. This
discriminatory attitude may be traced to the Spanish family and property laws, which,
while defining proprietary and successional rights of members of the family, provided
distinctions in the rights of legitimate and illegitimate children. In the monarchial set-
up of old Spain, the distribution and inheritance of titles and wealth were strictly
according to bloodlines and the concern to keep these bloodlines uncontaminated by
foreign blood was paramount.
These distinctions between legitimacy and illegitimacy were codified in the
Spanish Civil Code, and the invidious discrimination survived when the Spanish Civil
Code became the primary source of our own Civil Code. Such distinction, however,
remains and should remain only in the sphere of civil law and not unduly impede or
impinge on the domain of political law.
The proof of filiation or paternity for purposes of determining his citizenship
status should thus be deemed independent from and not inextricably tied up with that
prescribed for civil law purposes. The Civil Code or Family Code provisions on proof
of filiation or paternity, although good law, do not have preclusive effects on matters
alien to personal and family relations. The ordinary rules on evidence could well and
should govern. For instance, the matter about pedigree is not necessarily precluded
from being applicable by the Civil Code or Family Code provisions.
Section 39, Rule 130, of the Rules of Court provides -
Act or Declaration about pedigree. The act or declaration of a person deceased, or
unable to testify, in respect to the pedigree of another person related to him by birth
or marriage, may be received in evidence where it occurred before the controversy,
and the relationship between the two persons is shown by evidence other than such
act or declaration. The word `pedigree includes relationship, family genealogy, birth,
marriage, death, the dates when and the places where these facts occurred, and the
names of the relatives. It embraces also facts of family history intimately connected
with pedigree.
For the above rule to apply, it would be necessary that (a) the declarant is already
dead or unable to testify, (b) the pedigree of a person must be at issue, (c) the declarant
must be a relative of the person whose pedigree is in question, (d) declaration must be
made before the controversy has occurred, and (e) the relationship between the
declarant and the person whose pedigree is in question must be shown by evidence
other than such act or declaration.
Thus, the duly notarized declaration made by Ruby Kelley Mangahas, sister of
Bessie Kelley Poe submitted as Exhibit 20 before the COMELEC, might be accepted to
prove the acts of Allan F. Poe, recognizing his own paternal relationship with FPJ,
i.e, living together with Bessie Kelley and his children (including respondent FPJ) in
one house, and as one family -
"I, Ruby Kelley Mangahas, of legal age and sound mind, presently residing in
Stockton, California, U.S.A., after being sworn in accordance with law do hereby
declare that:
1. I am the sister of the late Bessie Kelley Poe.
2. Bessie Kelley Poe was the wife of Fernando Poe, Sr.
3. Fernando and Bessie Poe had a son by the name of Ronald Allan Poe,
more popularly known in the Philippines as `Fernando Poe, Jr., or `FPJ.
4. Ronald Allan Poe `FPJ was born on August 20, 1939 at St. Luke's Hospital,
Magdalena Street, Manila.
xxxxxxxxx
7. Fernando Poe Sr., and my sister Bessie, met and became engaged while
they were students at the University of the Philippines in 1936. I was
also introduced to Fernando Poe, Sr., by my sister that same year.
8. Fernando Poe, Sr., and my sister Bessie had their first child in 1938.
9. Fernando Poe, Sr., my sister Bessie and their first three children, Elizabeth,
Ronald, Allan and Fernando II, and myself lived together with our
mother at our family's house on Dakota St. (now Jorge Bocobo St.),
Malate until the liberation of Manila in 1945, except for some months
between 1943-1944.
10. Fernando Poe, Sr., and my sister, Bessie, were blessed with four (4) more
children after Ronald Allan Poe.
xxxxxxxxx
18. I am executing this Declaration to attest to the fact that my nephew,
Ronald Allan Poe is a natural born Filipino, and that he is the
legitimate child of Fernando Poe, Sr.
Done in City of Stockton, California, U.S.A., this 12th day of January 2004.
Ruby Kelley Mangahas
Declarant
DNA Testing
In case proof of filiation or paternity would be unlikely to satisfactorily establish
or would be difficult to obtain, DNA testing, which examines genetic codes obtained
from body cells of the illegitimate child and any physical residue of the long dead
parent could be resorted to. A positive match would clear up filiation or
paternity. In Tijing vs. Court of Appeals,[42] this Court has acknowledged the strong
weight of DNA testing -
"Parentage will still be resolved using conventional methods unless we adopt the
modern and scientific ways available. Fortunately, we have now the facility and
expertise in using DNA test for identification and parentage testing. The University
of the Philippines Natural Science Research Institute (UP-NSRI) DNA Analysis
Laboratory has now the capability to conduct DNA typing using short tandem
repeat (STR) analysis. The analysis is based on the fact that the DNA of a
child/person has two (2) copies, one copy from the mother and the other from the
father. The DNA from the mother, the alleged father and the child are analyzed to
establish parentage. Of course, being a novel scientific technique, the use of DNA
test as evidence is still open to challenge. Eventually, as the appropriate case comes,
courts should not hesitate to rule on the admissibility of DNA evidence. For it was
said, that courts should apply the results of science when competently obtained in
aid of situations presented, since to reject said result is to deny progress."
Petitioners Argument For
Jurisprudential Conclusiveness
Petitioner would have it that even if Allan F. Poe were a Filipino citizen, he could
not have transmitted his citizenship to respondent FPJ, the latter being an illegitimate
child. According to petitioner, prior to his marriage to Bessie Kelley, Allan F. Poe, on
July 5, 1936, contracted marriage with a certain Paulita Gomez, making his subsequent
marriage to Bessie Kelley bigamous and respondent FPJ an illegitimate child. The
veracity of the supposed certificate of marriage between Allan F. Poe and Paulita
Gomez could be most doubtful at best. But the documentary evidence introduced by
no less than respondent himself, consisting of a birth certificate of respondent and a
marriage certificate of his parents showed that FPJ was born on 20 August 1939 to a
Filipino father and an American mother who were married to each other a year later,
or on 16 September 1940. Birth to unmarried parents would make FPJ an illegitimate
child. Petitioner contended that as an illegitimate child, FPJ so followed the citizenship
of his mother, Bessie Kelley, an American citizen, basing his stand on the ruling of this
Court in Morano vs. Vivo,[43]citing Chiongbian vs. de Leon[44] and Serra vs. Republic.[45]
On the above score, the disquisition made by amicus curiae Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ,
is most convincing; he states -
"We must analyze these cases and ask what the lis mota was in each of them. If the
pronouncement of the Court on jus sanguinis was on the lis mota, the pronouncement
would be a decision constituting doctrine under the rule of stare decisis. But if the
pronouncement was irrelevant to the lis mota, the pronouncement would not be a
decision but a mere obiter dictum which did not establish doctrine. I therefore invite
the Court to look closely into these cases.
First, Morano vs. Vivo. The case was not about an illegitimate child of a Filipino
father. It was about a stepson of a Filipino, a stepson who was the child of a Chinese
mother and a Chinese father. The issue was whether the stepson followed the
naturalization of the stepfather.Nothing about jus sanguinis there. The stepson did
not have the blood of the naturalized stepfather.
Second, Chiongbian vs. de Leon. This case was not about the illegitimate son of a
Filipino father. It was about a legitimate son of a father who had become Filipino by
election to public office before the 1935 Constitution pursuant to Article IV, Section
1(2) of the 1935 Constitution. No one was illegitimate here.
Third, Serra vs. Republic. The case was not about the illegitimate son of a Filipino
father. Serra was an illegitimate child of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. The
issue was whether one who was already a Filipino because of his mother who still
needed to be naturalized. There is nothing there about invidious jus sanguinis.
Finally, Paa vs. Chan.[46] This is a more complicated case. The case was about the
citizenship of Quintin Chan who was the son of Leoncio Chan. Quintin Chan
claimed that his father, Leoncio, was the illegitimate son of a Chinese father and a
Filipino mother. Quintin therefore argued that he got his citizenship from Leoncio,
his father. But the Supreme Court said that there was no valid proof that Leoncio
was in fact the son of a Filipina mother. The Court therefore concluded that Leoncio
was not Filipino. If Leoncio was not Filipino, neither was his son Quintin. Quintin
therefore was not only not a natural-born Filipino but was not even a Filipino.
The Court should have stopped there. But instead it followed with an obiter
dictum. The Court said obiter that even if Leoncio, Quintin's father, were Filipino,
Quintin would not be Filipino because Quintin was illegitimate. This statement
about Quintin, based on a contrary to fact assumption, was absolutely unnecessary
for the case. x x x It was obiter dictum, pure and simple, simply repeating the obiter
dictum in Morano vs. Vivo.
xxxxxxxxx
"Aside from the fact that such a pronouncement would have no textual foundation
in the Constitution, it would also violate the equal protection clause of the
Constitution not once but twice. First, it would make an illegitimate distinction
between a legitimate child and an illegitimate child, and second, it would make an
illegitimate distinction between the illegitimate child of a Filipino father and the
illegitimate child of a Filipino mother.
The doctrine on constitutionally allowable distinctions was established long ago by
People vs. Cayat.[47] I would grant that the distinction between legitimate children
and illegitimate children rests on real differences. x x x But real differences alone do
not justify invidious distinction. Real differences may justify distinction for one
purpose but not for another purpose.
x x x What is the relevance of legitimacy or illegitimacy to elective public
service? What possible state interest can there be for disqualifying an illegitimate
child from becoming a public officer. It was not the fault of the child that his parents
had illicit liaison. Why deprive the child of the fullness of political rights for no fault
of his own? To disqualify an illegitimate child from holding an important public
office is to punish him for the indiscretion of his parents. There is neither justice nor
rationality in that. And if there is neither justice nor rationality in the distinction,
then the distinction transgresses the equal protection clause and must be reprobated.
The other amici curiae, Mr. Justice Vicente Mendoza (a former member of this
Court), Professor Ruben Balane and Dean Martin Magallona, at bottom, have
expressed similar views. The thesis of petitioner, unfortunately hinging solely on
pure obiter dicta, should indeed fail.
Where jurisprudence regarded an illegitimate child as taking after the citizenship
of its mother, it did so for the benefit the child. It was to ensure a Filipino nationality
for the illegitimate child of an alien father in line with the assumption that the mother
had custody, would exercise parental authority and had the duty to support her
illegitimate child. It was to help the child, not to prejudice or discriminate against him.
The fact of the matter perhaps the most significant consideration is that the 1935
Constitution, the fundamental law prevailing on the day, month and year of birth of
respondent FPJ, can never be more explicit than it is. Providing neither conditions nor
distinctions, the Constitution states that among the citizens of the Philippines are
those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines. There utterly is no cogent
justification to prescribe conditions or distinctions where there clearly are none
provided.
In Sum
(1) The Court, in the exercise of its power of judicial review, possesses jurisdiction
over the petition in G. R. No. 161824, filed under Rule 64, in relation to Rule 65, of the
Revised Rules of Civil Procedure. G.R. No. 161824 assails the resolution of the
COMELEC for alleged grave abuse of discretion in dismissing, for lack of merit, the
petition in SPA No. 04-003 which has prayed for the disqualification of respondent
FPJ from running for the position of President in the 10th May 2004 national elections
on the contention that FPJ has committed material representation in his certificate of
candidacy by representing himself to be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines.
(2) The Court must dismiss, for lack of jurisdiction and prematurity, the petitions
in G. R. No. 161434 and No. 161634 both having been directly elevated to this Court in
the latters capacity as the only tribunal to resolve a presidential and vice-presidential
election contest under the Constitution. Evidently, the primary jurisdiction of the
Court can directly be invoked only after, not before, the elections are held.
(3) In ascertaining, in G.R. No. 161824, whether grave abuse of discretion has been
committed by the COMELEC, it is necessary to take on the matter of whether or not
respondent FPJ is a natural-born citizen, which, in turn, depended on whether or not
the father of respondent, Allan F. Poe, would have himself been a Filipino citizen and,
in the affirmative, whether or not the alleged illegitimacy of respondent prevents him
from taking after the Filipino citizenship of his putative father. Any conclusion on the
Filipino citizenship of Lorenzo Pou could only be drawn from the presumption that
having died in 1954 at 84 years old, Lorenzo would have been born sometime in the
year 1870, when the Philippines was under Spanish rule, and that San Carlos,
Pangasinan, his place of residence upon his death in 1954, in the absence of any other
evidence, could have well been his place of residence before death, such that Lorenzo
Pou would have benefited from the en masse Filipinization that the Philippine Bill had
effected in 1902. That citizenship (of Lorenzo Pou), if acquired, would thereby extend
to his son, Allan F. Poe, father of respondent FPJ. The 1935 Constitution, during which
regime respondent FPJ has seen first light, confers citizenship to all persons whose
fathers are Filipino citizens regardless of whether such children are legitimate or
illegitimate.
(4) But while the totality of the evidence may not establish conclusively that
respondent FPJ is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, the evidence on hand still
would preponderate in his favor enough to hold that he cannot be held guilty of
having made a material misrepresentation in his certificate of candidacy in violation
of Section 78, in relation to Section 74, of the Omnibus Election Code. Petitioner has
utterly failed to substantiate his case before the Court, notwithstanding the ample
opportunity given to the parties to present their position and evidence, and to prove
whether or not there has been material misrepresentation, which, as so ruled
in Romualdez-Marcos vs. COMELEC,[48] must not only be material, but also deliberate
and willful.
WHEREFORE, the Court RESOLVES to DISMISS
1. G. R. No. 161434, entitled "Maria Jeanette C. Tecson and Felix B. Desiderio, Jr.,
Petitioners, versus Commission on Elections, Ronald Allan Kelley Poe
(a.k.a. "Fernando Poe, Jr.,) and Victorino X. Fornier, Respondents," and G. R. No.
161634, entitled "Zoilo Antonio Velez, Petitioner, versus Ronald Allan Kelley
Poe, a.k.a. Fernando Poe, Jr., Respondent," for want of jurisdiction.
2. G. R. No. 161824, entitled Victorino X. Fornier, Petitioner, versus Hon.
Commission on Elections and Ronald Allan Kelley Poe, also known as Fernando Poe,
Jr., for failure to show grave abuse of discretion on the part of respondent Commission
on Elections in dismissing the petition in SPA No. 04-003.
No Costs.
RENALD F. VILANDO, Petitioner,
vs.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL, JOCELYN SY
LIMKAICHONG AND HON. SPEAKER PROSPERO NOGRALES, Respondents.
DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:
This is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court assailing
the March 24, 2010 Decision1of the House of Representatives Electoral
Tribunal (HRET) dismissing the petitions for quo warranto and declaring private
respondent Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong (Limkaichong) not disqualified as Member of
the House of Representatives representing the First District of Negros Oriental and
its Resolution2 dated May 17, 2010, denying the motion for reconsideration.
In the May 14, 2007 elections, Limkaichong filed her certificate of candidacy for the
position of Representative of the First District of Negros Oriental. She won over the
other contender, Olivia Paras.
On May 25, 2007, she was proclaimed as Representative by the Provincial Board of
Canvassers on the basis of Comelec Resolution No. 80623 issued on May 18, 2007.
On July 23, 2007, she assumed office as Member of the House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, petitions involving either the disqualification or the proclamation of
Limkaichong were filed before the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) which
reached the Court.
The petitions, which questioned her citizenship, were filed against Limkaichong by
her detractors: Louis Biraogo (G.R. No. 179120);4 Olivia Paras (G.R. Nos. 179132-
33);5 and Renald F. Vilando (G.R. Nos. 179240-41).6 These three (3) petitions were
consolidated with the petition for certiorari filed by Limkaichong (G.R. Nos. 178831-
32) assailing the Joint Resolution issued by the COMELEC which resolved the
disqualification cases against her.
On April 1, 2009, the Court granted the aforesaid petition of Limkaichong, reversed
the Joint Resolution of the Comelec, dismissed the three (3) other petitions, and
directed the petitioners to seek relief before the HRET by way of a petition for Quo
Warranto.
On April 21, 2009 and May 27, 2009, petitioner Renald F. Vilando (Vilando), as
taxpayer; and Jacinto Paras, as registered voter of the congressional district
concerned, filed separate petitions for Quo Warranto against Limkaichong before the
HRET. These petitions were consolidated by the HRET as they both challenged the
eligibility of one and the same respondent. Petitioners asserted that Limkaichong
was a Chinese citizen and ineligible for the office she was elected and proclaimed.
They alleged that she was born to a father (Julio Sy), whose naturalization had not
attained finality, and to a mother who acquired the Chinese citizenship of Julio Sy
from the time of her marriage to the latter. Also, they invoked the jurisdiction of the
HRET for a determination of Limkaichongs citizenship, which necessarily included
an inquiry into the validity of the naturalization certificate of Julio Sy.
For her defense, Limkaichong maintained that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen.
She averred that the acquisition of Philippine citizenship by her father was regular
and in order and had already attained the status of res judicata. Further, she claimed
that the validity of such citizenship could not be assailed through a collateral attack.
On March 24, 2010, the HRET dismissed both petitions and declared Limkaichong
not disqualified as Member of the House of Representatives. Pertinent portions of
the HRET decision reads:
By and large, petitioners failed to satisfy the quantum of proof to sustain their theory
that respondent is not a natural-born Filipino citizen and therefore not qualified as
Representative of the First District, Negros Oriental. This being so, their petitions
must fail.
WHEREFORE, the Tribunal DISMISSES the instant petition for lack of merit and
declares that respondent Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong is not disqualified as Member of
the House of Representatives representing the First District, Negros Oriental.
As soon as the Decision becomes final and executory, notice of copies thereof shall
be sent to the President of the Philippines, the House of Representatives through the
Speaker, the Commission on Audit through the Chairman, pursuant to Rule 96 of
the 2004 Rules of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal. Let a copy of this
Decision be furnished the Chairman, Commission on Elections, for his information
and appropriate action.
SO ORDERED.7
The petitioners sought reconsideration of the aforesaid decision, but it was denied
by the HRET in its Resolution dated May 17, 2010.
Hence, this petition for certiorari filed by Vilando anchored on the following
GROUNDS:
THE ONE-SIDED RESOLUTION OF THE SUBJECT PETITION FOR QUO
WARRANTO AND THE UTTER FAILURE OF THE HRET TO DISQUALIFY
LIMKAICHONG AS MEMBER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES DESPITE
MANIFEST EVIDENCE THAT SHE IS NOT A NATURAL-BORN FILIPINO
CITIZEN IS WHIMSICAL, CAPRICIOUS AND ARBITRARY BECAUSE:
1. THE PETITION FOR QUO WARRANTO DOES NOT OPERATE AS
A COLLATERAL ATTACK ON THE CITIZENSHIP OF
LIMKAICHONGS FATHER FOR THE REASON THAT HER
FATHERS CERTIFICATE OF NATURALIZATION IS OF NO FORCE
AND EFFECT FROM THE VERY BEGINNING, HENCE, THERE IS
ACTUALLY NOTHING BEING ATTACKED OR ASSAILED BY THE
SAME.
2. LIMKAICHONG CANNOT DERIVE PHILIPPINE CITIZENSHIP
FROM HER MOTHER GIVEN THAT AT THE TIME OF HER BIRTH,
HER MOTHER IS NOT ALREADY A FILIPINO CITIZEN AS A
RESULT OF HER MARRIAGE TO HER FATHER AS PROVIDED FOR
UNDER SECTION 1 (7) OF COMMONWEALTH ACT NO. 63 IN
RELATION TO ARTICLE 2 (1) CHAPTER II OF THE CHINESE
REVISED NATIONALITY LAW OF FEBRUARY 5, 1959.
3. HAVING THE PLENARY, ABSOLUTE AND EXCLUSIVE
JURISDICTION TO DETERMINE, AMONG OTHERS, THE
QUALIFICATIONS OF MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES, THE HRET CAN LOOK INTO THE
ELIGIBILITY OF LIMKAICHONG EVEN IF, AS AN INCIDENT
THERETO, IT WOULD MEAN LOOKING INTO THE VALIDITY OF
THE CERTIFICATE OF NATURALIZATION.8
It should be noted that Limkaichongs term of office as Representative of the First
District of Negros Oriental from June 30, 2007 to June 30, 2010 already expired. As
such, the issue questioning her eligibility to hold office has been rendered moot and
academic by the expiration of her term. Whatever judgment is reached, the same can
no longer have any practical legal effect or, in the nature of things, can no longer be
enforced.9 Thus, the petition may be dismissed for being moot and academic.
Moreover, there was the conduct of the 2010 elections, a supervening event, in a
sense, has also rendered this case moot and academic. A moot and academic case is
one that ceases to present a justiciable controversy by virtue of supervening events,
so that a declaration thereon would be of no practical value. As a rule, courts decline
jurisdiction over such case, or dismiss it on ground of mootness. 10
Citizenship, being a continuing requirement for Members of the House of
Representatives, however, may be questioned at anytime.11 For this reason, the
Court deems it appropriate to resolve the petition on the merits. This position finds
support in the rule that courts will decide a question, otherwise moot and academic,
if it is "capable of repetition, yet evading review."12 The question on Limkaichongs
citizenship is likely to recur if she would run again, as she did run, for public office,
hence, capable of repetition.
In any case, the Court is of the view that the HRET committed no grave abuse of
discretion in finding that Limkaichong is not disqualified to sit as Member of the
House of Representatives.
Vilandos argument, that the quo warranto petition does not operate as a collateral
attack on the citizenship of Limkaichongs father as the certificate of naturalization is
null and void from the beginning, is devoid of merit.
In this petition, Vilando seeks to disqualify Limkaichong on the ground that she is a
Chinese citizen. To prove his point, he makes reference to the alleged nullity of the
grant of naturalization of Limkaichongs father which, however, is not allowed as it
would constitute a collateral attack on the citizenship of the father. In our
jurisdiction, an attack on a person's citizenship may only be done through a direct
action for its nullity.13
The proper proceeding to assail the citizenship of Limkaichongs father should be in
accordance with Section 18 of Commonwealth Act No. 473. As held in Limkaichong v.
Comelec,14 thus:
As early as the case of Queto v. Catolico,15 where the Court of First Instance
judge motu propio and not in the proper denaturalization proceedings called to court
various grantees of certificates of naturalization (who had already taken their oaths
of allegiance) and cancelled their certificates of naturalization due to procedural
infirmities, the Court held that:
x x x It may be true that, as alleged by said respondents, that the proceedings for
naturalization were tainted with certain infirmities, fatal or otherwise, but that is
beside the point in this case. The jurisdiction of the court to inquire into and rule
upon such infirmities must be properly invoked in accordance with the procedure
laid down by law. Such procedure is the cancellation of the naturalization certificate.
[Section 1(5), Commonwealth Act No. 63], in the manner fixed in Section 18 of
Commonwealth Act No. 473, hereinbefore quoted, namely, "upon motion made in
the proper proceedings by the Solicitor General or his representatives, or by the
proper provincial fiscal." In other words, the initiative must come from these officers,
presumably after previous investigation in each particular case.
Clearly, under law and jurisprudence, it is the State, through its representatives
designated by statute, that may question the illegally or invalidly procured
certificate of naturalization in the appropriate denaturalization proceedings. It is
plainly not a matter that may be raised by private persons in an election case
involving the naturalized citizens descendant.
Vilando asserts that as an incident in determining the eligibility of Limkaichong, the
HRET, having the plenary, absolute and exclusive jurisdiction to determine her
qualifications, can pass upon the efficacy of the certificate of naturalization.
True, the HRET has jurisdiction over quo warranto petitions, specifically over cases
challenging ineligibility on the ground of lack of citizenship. No less than the 1987
Constitution vests the HRET the authority to be the sole judge of all contests relating
to the election, returns and qualifications of its Members. This constitutional power
is likewise echoed in the 2004 Rules of the HRET. Rule 14 thereof restates this duty,
thus:
Rule 14. Jurisdiction. The Tribunal is the sole judge of all contests relating to the
election, returns, and qualifications of the Members of the House of Representatives.
Time and again, this Court has acknowledged this sole and exclusive jurisdiction of
the HRET.16 The power granted to HRET by the Constitution is intended to be as
complete and unimpaired as if it had remained originally in the legislature.17 Such
power is regarded as full, clear and complete and excludes the exercise of any
authority on the part of this Court that would in any wise restrict it or curtail it or
even affect the same.18
Such power of the HRET, no matter how complete and exclusive, does not carry
with it the authority to delve into the legality of the judgment of naturalization in the
pursuit of disqualifying Limkaichong. To rule otherwise would operate as a
collateral attack on the citizenship of the father which, as already stated, is not
permissible. The HRET properly resolved the issue with the following ratiocination:
xxx We note that Jocelyn C. Limkaichong, not the father Julio Ong Sy, is the
respondent in the present case. The Tribunal may not dwell on deliberating on the
validity of naturalization of the father if only to pursue the end of declaring the
daughter as disqualified to hold office.
Unfortunately, much as the Tribunal wants to resolve said issue, it cannot do so
because its jurisdiction is limited to the qualification of the proclaimed respondent
Limkaichong, being a sitting Member of the Congress.
Evidently, there is no basis to oblige the Tribunal to reopen the naturalization
proceedings for a determination of the citizenship of the ascendant of respondent. A
petition for quo warranto is not a means to achieve that purpose. To rule on this issue
in this quo warranto proceeding will not only be a clear grave abuse of discretion
amounting to a lack or excess of jurisdiction, but also a blatant violation of due
process on the part of the persons who will be affected or who are not parties in this
case.19
Thus, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) wrote that "a collateral attack against
a judgment is generally not allowed, unless the judgment is void upon its face or its
nullity is apparent by virtue of its own recitals."20 Under the present situation, there
is no evidence to show that the judgment is void on its face:
As to the Order of the CFI, Negros Oriental dated July 9, 1957 and September 21,
1959 that were offered in evidence, far from proving an invalid oath of allegiance
and certificate of naturalization, being public records, they do in fact constitute
legitimate source of authority for the conferment of status of the father of respondent
as naturalized Filipino. Absent any contrary declaration by a competent court, the
Tribunal presumes the validity of the CFI Orders of July 9, 1957 and September 21,
1959, and the resulting documentations of Julio Sys acquisition of Filipino
citizenship by naturalization as valid and of legal effect. The oath of allegiance and
certificate of naturalization are themselves proofs of the actual conferment of
naturalization.21
The HRET, therefore, correctly relied on the presumption of validity of the July 9,
1957 and September 21, 1959 Orders of the Court of First Instance (CFI) Negros
Oriental, which granted the petition and declared Julio Sy a naturalized Filipino
absent any evidence to the contrary.
Records disclose that Limkaichong was born in Dumaguete City on November 9,
1959. The governing law is the citizenship provision of the 1935 Constitution, the
pertinent portion thereof, reads:
Article IV
Section 1. The following are citizens of the Philippines:
xxx
(3) Those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines.
(4) Those whose mothers are citizens of the Philippines and, upon reaching the age
of majority, elect Philippine citizenship.
xxx
Indubitably, with Limkaichongs father having been conferred the status as a
naturalized Filipino, it follows that she is a Filipino citizen born to a Filipino father.
Even on the assumption that the naturalization proceedings and the subsequent
issuance of certificate of naturalization were invalid, Limkaichong can still be
considered a natural-born Filipino citizen having been born to a Filipino mother and
having impliedly elected Filipino citizenship when she reached majority age. The
HRET is, thus, correct in declaring that Limkaichong is a natural-born Filipino
citizen:
Respondent Limkaichong falls under the category of those persons whose fathers are
citizens of the Philippines. (Section 1(3), Article IV, 1935 Constitution) It matters not
whether the father acquired citizenship by birth or by naturalization. Therefore,
following the line of transmission through the father under the 1935 Constitution,
the respondent has satisfactorily complied with the requirement for candidacy and
for holding office, as she is a natural-born Filipino citizen.
Likewise, the citizenship of respondent Limkaichong finds support in paragraph 4,
Section 1, Article IV of the 1935 Constitution.
Having failed to prove that Anesia Sy lost her Philippine citizenship, respondent can
be considered a natural born citizen of the Philippines, having been born to a mother
who was a natural-born Filipina at the time of marriage, and because respondent
was able to elect citizenship informally when she reached majority age. Respondent
participated in the barangay elections as a young voter in 1976, accomplished voters
affidavit as of 1984, and ran as a candidate and was elected as Mayor of La Libertad,
Negros Oriental in 2004. These are positive acts of election of Philippine citizenship.
The case of In re: Florencio Mallare, elucidates how election of citizenship is
manifested in actions indubitably showing a definite choice. We note that
respondent had informally elected citizenship after January 17, 1973 during which
time the 1973 Constitution considered as citizens of the Philippines all those who
elect citizenship in accordance with the 1935 Constitution. The 1987 Constitution
provisions, i.e., Section 1(3), Article [IV] and Section 2, Article [IV] were enacted to
correct the anomalous situation where one born of a Filipino father and an alien
mother was automatically accorded the status of a natural-born citizen, while one
born of a Filipino mother and an alien father would still have to elect Philippine
citizenship yet if so elected, was not conferred natural-born status. It was the
intention of the framers of the 1987 Constitution to treat equally those born before
the 1973 Constitution and who elected Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age
of majority either before or after the effectivity of the 1973 Constitution. Thus, those
who would elect Philippine citizenship under par. 3, Section 1, Article [IV] of the
1987 Constitution are now, under Section 2, Article [IV] thereof also natural-born
Filipinos. The following are the pertinent provisions of the 1987 Constitution:
Article IV
Section 1. The following are citizens of the Philippines:
(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this
Constitution;
(2) Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines;
(3) Those born before January 17, 1973, of Filipino mothers, who elect
Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority; and
(4) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.
Section 2. Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from
birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine
citizenship. Those who elect Philippine citizenship in accordance with paragraph (3),
Section 1 hereof shall be deemed natural-born citizens.22
Vilandos assertion that Limkaichong cannot derive Philippine citizenship from her
mother because the latter became a Chinese citizen when she married Julio Sy, as
provided for under Section 1 (7) of Commonwealth Act No. 63 in relation to Article 2
(1) Chapter II of the Chinese Revised Nationality Law of February 5, 1959, must
likewise fail.
As aptly pointed out by the HRET, Vilando was not able to offer in evidence a duly
certified true copy of the alleged Chinese Revised Law of Nationality to prove that
Limkaichongs mother indeed lost her Philippine citizenship. Verily, Vilando failed
to establish his case through competent and admissible evidence to warrant a
reversal of the HRET ruling.
Also, an application for an alien certificate of registration (ACR) is not an indubitable
proof of forfeiture of Philippine citizenship. It is well to quote the ruling of the HRET
on this matter, to wit:
An alien certificate of registration is issued to an individual who declares that he is
not a Filipino citizen. It is obtained only when applied for. It is in a form prescribed
by the agency and contains a declaration by the applicant of his or her personal
information, a photograph, and physical details that identify the applicant. It bears
no indication of basis for foreign citizenship, nor proof of change to foreign
citizenship. It certifies that a person named therein has applied for registration and
fingerprinting and that such person was issued a certificate of registration under the
Alien Registration Act of 1950 or other special law. It is only evidence of registration.
Unlike birth certificates registered pursuant to Act 3753 (The Civil Register Law),
and much less like other public records referred to under Section 23, Rule 132, an
alien certificate of registration is not a public document that would be prima
facie evidence of the truth of facts contained therein. On its face, it only certifies that
the applicant had submitted himself or herself to registration. Therefore, there is no
presumption of alienage of the declarant. This is especially so where the declarant
has in fact been a natural-born Filipino all along and never lost his or her status as
such.23 1avvphi1
Thus, obtaining an ACR by Limkaichongs mother was not tantamount to a
repudiation of her original citizenship. Neither did it result in an acquisition of alien
citizenship. In a string of decisions, this Court has consistently held that an
application for, and the holding of, an alien certificate of registration is not an act
constituting renunciation of Philippine citizenship.24 For renunciation to effectively
result in the loss of citizenship, the same must be express.25 Such express
renunciation is lacking in this case.
Accordingly, Limkaichongs mother, being a Filipino citizen, can transmit her
citizenship to her daughter.
Well-settled is the principle that the judgments of the HRET are beyond judicial
interference. The only instance where this Court may intervene in the exercise of its
so-called extraordinary jurisdiction is upon a determination that the decision or
resolution of the HRET was rendered without or in excess of its jurisdiction, or with
grave abuse of discretion or upon a clear showing of such arbitrary and improvident
use of its power to constitute a denial of due process of law, or upon a
demonstration of a very clear unmitigated error, manifestly constituting such grave
abuse of discretion that there has to be a remedy for such abuse.26 In this case, there
is no showing of any such arbitrariness or improvidence. The HRET acted well
within the sphere of its power when it dismissed the quo warranto petition.
In fine, this Court finds sufficient basis to sustain the ruling of the HRET which
resolved the issue of citizenship in favor of Limkaichong.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. Accordingly, the Court affirms the March
24, 2010 Decision of the HRET declaring that Limkaichong is not disqualified as
Member of the House of Representatives representing the First District, Negros
Oriental.
THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. NORA FE SAGUN,
Respondent.

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:


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 by Atty.
Cristeta Leungon but was not recorded and registered with the Local Civil Registrar
of Baguio City.

Sometime in September 2005, respondent 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 of
Precinct No. 0419A of Barangay Manuel A. Roxas 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 conducting a hearing, the trial court rendered the assailed Decision on April 3,
2009 granting the petition and declaring respondent a Filipino citizen.

Upon payment of the required fees, the Local Civil Registrar of Baguio City is hereby
directed to annotate [on] her birth certificate, this judicial declaration of Filipino
citizenship of said petitioner.

Petitioner, through the OSG, directly filed the instant recourse via a petition for
review on certiorari before us. Petitioner points out that while respondent 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: Whether or not an action or proceeding for judicial declaration of Philippine


citizenship is procedurally and jurisdictionally permissible; and,Whether or not an election of
Philippine citizenship, made twelve (12) years after reaching the age of majority, is
considered to have been made within a reasonable time as interpreted by jurisprudence.

HELD: The original ruling was reversed.

POLITICAL LAW: requirements of citizenship

The petition is meritorious.

Under our laws, there can be no action or proceeding for the judicial declaration of
the citizenship of an individual. Courts of justice exist for settlement of justiciable
controversies, which imply a given right, legally demandable and enforceable, an act
or omission violative of said right, and a remedy, granted or sanctioned by law, for
said breach of right. As an incident only of the adjudication of the rights of the
parties to a controversy, the court may pass upon, and make a pronouncement
relative to their status. Otherwise, such a pronouncement is beyond judicial power.

Clearly, it was erroneous for the trial court to make a specific declaration of
respondents Filipino citizenship as such pronouncement was not within the court's
competence.

As to the propriety of respondent's petition seeking a judicial declaration of election


of Philippine citizenship, it is imperative that we determine whether respondent is
required under the law to make an election and if so, whether she has complied with
the procedural requirements in the election of Philippine citizenship.

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:

xxxx

(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. The right to elect Philippine citizenship was recognized in the 1973
Constitution when it provided that [t]hose who elect Philippine citizenship pursuant
to the provisions of the Constitution of nineteen hundred and thirty-five are citizens
of the Philippines. Likewise, this recognition by the 1973 Constitution was carried
over to the 1987 Constitution which states that [t]hose born before January 17, 1973
of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of
majority are Philippine citizens. It should be noted, however, that the 1973 and 1987
Constitutional provisions on the election of Philippine citizenship should not be
understood as having a curative effect on any irregularity in the acquisition of
citizenship for those covered by the 1935 Constitution. If the citizenship of a person
was subject to challenge under the old charter, it remains subject to challenge under
the new charter even if the judicial challenge had not been commenced before the
effectivity of the new Constitution.

G.R. No. 200983, March 18, 2015


REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. HUANG TE FU, A.K.A. ROBERT
UY, Respondent.
DECISION
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
This case reiterates the rule in naturalization cases that when full and complete
compliance with the requirements of the Revised Naturalization Law, or
Commonwealth Act No. 473 (CA 473), is not shown, a petition for naturalization
must be perfunctorily denied.

This Petition for Review on Certiorari1 seeks to set aside 1) the November 29, 2011
Decision2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 91213 affirming the
September 24, 2007 Order3 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 96 in
Nat. Case/Spec. Proc. No. Q-05-55251, as well as 2) the CAs March 7, 2012
Resolution4 denying petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.5cralawred

Factual Antecedents

On March 19, 2004, respondent Huang Te Fu, a.k.a. Robert Uy a citizen of the
Republic of China (Taiwan) filed a sworn Declaration of Intent to Become [a]
Citizen of the Philippines6 with the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

On April 27, 2005, respondent filed with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City
(trial court) a Petition for Naturalization,7 which was docketed as Spec. Proc. No. Q-
05-55251 and assigned to Branch 96. The Petition states:

I apply for naturalization as citizen of the Philippines and to the Court, respectfully
shows [sic]:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
First: My full name is HUANG TE FU, also known as ROBERT
UY;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Second: My places of residence were:
1982 1 Santiago Street, Malinta, Valenzuela City
1982 to Biak na Bato, San Francisco Del Monte, Quezon City
1984
1984 to 235 C 3rd Street, 10th Avenue, Caloocan City
1994
1994 to 64-A Parklane Street, Barangay Sangandaan, Project 8, Quezon
present City;

Third: My trade or profession is a Businessman engaged in the manufacture of


zipper, in which I have been connected since 1992; and from which I derive an
average monthly income of P15,000.00;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Fourth: I was born on the 15th day of August 1976 in Taiwan. I am at present a
Citizen or subject of the Republic of China, under whose laws Filipinos may become
naturalized citizens or subjects thereof [sic];ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Fifth: I am married to a Filipino, IRENE D. CHAN, 28 years of age, having been born
on 11 April 1977 at Manila, and with whom I have two (2) children, namely:
ROCHELLE IVY C. HUANG, 3 years of age, who was born on 26 March 2002 at [sic]
Quezon City; and REYNARD IVAN C. HUANG, 1 year of age, who was born on 25
February 2004 at [sic] Quezon City. My wife and two children are presently residing
with me at 64-A Parklane Street, Barangay Sangandaan, Project 8, Quezon
City;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Sixth: I arrived in the Philippines via China Airlines on the 13th of August
1982;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Seventh: I have filed my Declaration of Intent to Become a Citizen of the Philippines


with the Office of the Solicitor General on 4 March 2004, pursuant to and in
compliance with Section 5 of Commonwealth Act No. 473, as amended;8cralawred

Eighth: I have resided continuously, for the last twenty three (23) years, in the
Philippines since my arrival. I have received my primary education at Philippine
Cultural High School; secondary education at Philippine Cultural High School; and
finished my college education at Ateneo de Manila University with the degree of
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, respectively, which are schools recognized
by the Government and not limited to any race or
nationality;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Ninth: I am able to speak and write English and


Filipino;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Tenth: I believe in the principle underlying the Philippine Constitution. I am of good


moral character and have conducted myself in a proper and irreproachable manner
during the entire period of my residence in the Philippines, in my relations with the
constituted Government as well as with the community in which I am living. I have
mingled socially with the Filipinos, and have evinced a sincere desire to learn and
embrace the customs, traditions, and ideals of the Filipinos. I have all the
qualifications required under Section 2, a special qualification under Section 3, by
being married to a Filipino woman, and none of the disqualifications under Section 4
of Commonwealth Act No. 473;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

I am not opposed to organized government or affiliated with any association or


group of persons who uphold and teach doctrines opposing all organized
governments. I am not defending or teaching the necessity or propriety of violence,
personal assault, or assassination for the success and predominance of mens ideas. I
am not a polygamist nor a believer in the practice of polygamy. I have not been
convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude. I am not suffering from any
mental alienation or incurable diseases. The nation of which I am a citizen or subject
of is not at war with the Philippines. The country of which I am a citizen or subject
of grants Filipinos the right to become naturalized citizens or subjects
thereof;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Eleventh: It is my intention in good faith to become a citizen or subject of the
Philippines and to renounce absolutely and forever all allegiance and fidelity to my
foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, and particularly to the Republic of
China of which at this time I am a citizen or subject. I will reside continuously in the
Philippines from the date of the filing of my petition up to the time of my admission
to the Philippine Citizenship;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Twelfth: I have not heretofore made any petition for citizenship to any
Court;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Thirteenth: Mr. BENJAMIN A. MORALEDA, JR., of legal age, married, residing at 82-
A Maginoo Street, Barangay Central, Quezon City, and Ms. BELLA RAMONA A.
ANTONANO, of legal age, single, residing at 1 Ligaya Street, Mandaluyong City,
who are both Filipinos, will appear and testify as my witnesses at the hearing of my
herein petition.

Attached hereto and made an integral part of this petition are: (a) the Original
Certification of Arrival from the Bureau of Immigration (Annex A); (b) Declaration
of Intent to Become a Citizen of the Philippines (Annex B); (c) Affidavit of the two
witnesses (Annexes C and D); and (d) my two recent photographs (Annexes E
and E-1).

WHEREFORE, petitioner prays that he be admitted a citizen of the


Philippines.9cralawlawlibrary

After trial, the trial court issued a September 24, 2007 Order10 granting respondents
petition for naturalization, decreeing thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Petitioner11 thereafter testified that he was born on August 15, 1976 in Taiwan; that
his father, Huang Ping-Hsung, and mother, Huang Wen, Chiu-Yueh are both
Chinese nationals; that he is the holder of Alien Certificate of Registration No.
E062035 and Immigrant Certificate of Residence No. 259804; that he resided at Lin 4,
Chienkuo Li, Panchiao City, Taipei County, Taiwan Province since his birth until he
came to Manila, Philippines on August 13, 1982; that he first stayed at Santiago
Street, Valenzuela City; that they transferred to Biak-na-Bato Street, San Francisco
Del Monte and they later transferred to 23-C, 3rd Street, 10th Avenue, Caloocan City;
that petitioner presently resides at No. 64-A Parklane Street, Barangay Sangandaan,
Project 8, Quezon City; that he attended Philippine Cultural High School for his
elementary and secondary education; that he attended Ateneo de Manila University
where he took up Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

When petitioner graduated from College in the year 2000, he worked as General
Manager of MIT Zipper, a company owned by the family of the petitioner; that as a
businessman he conscientiously files Income Tax Returns; that he is presently
married to Irene Chan, a Filipino citizen on October 01, 2000; that he has two
children namely, Rochelle Ivy C. Huang, 3 years old, and Reynard Ivan C. Huang, 1
year old and that he and his family are presently residing at 64-A Parklane Street,
Barangay Sangandaan, Project 8, Quezon City.

Petitioner further alleged that he believes in the principles underlying the Philippine
Constitution. He had conducted himself in a proper, irreproachable manner during
his entire period of residence in the Philippines in his relations with the constituted
government as well as with the community in which he is living. These allegations
are evinced by the clearances petitioner was able to secure from the Philippine
National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, Office of the Clerk of Court
Regional Trial Court, Quezon City, and the Office of the City Prosecutor. He has
mingled socially with the Filipinos, and have [sic] evinced a sincere desire to learn
and embrace the customs, traditions, and ideals of the Filipinos.

Petitioner further alleged that he is not a polygamist nor a believer in the practice of
polygamy. He has not been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude. He is
not suffering from any mental alienation or any incurable or contagious disease. The
nation of which he is presently a citizen or subject of, is not at war with the
Philippines. He is not opposed to organized government or affiliated with any
association or group of persons who uphold and teach doctrines opposing all
organized governments. He has all the qualifications required and none of the
disqualifications under Commonwealth Act No. 473, as amended.

Moreover, petitioners intention to become a citizen of the Philippines is being done


in good faith, and to renounce absolutely and forever all allegiance and fidelity to
any foreign state, prince, potentate or sovereignty and particularly to the Chinese
Government of which at this time he is a citizen and subject, and that petitioner shall
reside continuously in the Philippines from the date of filing of this petition up to
the time of [his] admission to the Philippine Citizenship.

Based on the foregoing, the Court believes that the petitioner was able to establish by
sufficient evidence, both testimonial and documentary, that he has all the
qualifications and none of the disqualifications provided for under the law which
will warrant the granting of the relief being prayed for.

ACCORDINGLY, therefore, the petition for admission as citizen of the Philippines is


hereby GRANTED.

This decision shall become executory after two (2) years from its promulgation and
after the Court, after hearing, with the attendance of the Solicitor General or his
representative, is satisfied, and so finds that during the intervening time the
applicant has (1) not left the Philippines, (2) dedicated himself continuously to a
lawful calling or profession, (3) not been convicted of any offense or violation of
government[-]promulgated rules, or (4) committed any act of [sic] prejudicial to the
interest of the nation or contrary to any government renounced [sic] policies.

SO ORDERED.12cralawlawlibrary
Ruling of the Court of Appeals

Petitioner filed an appeal with the CA, which was docketed as CA-G.R. CV No.
91213. Petitioner contended in its Appellants Brief13 that respondent may not
become a naturalized Filipino citizen because: 1) he does not own real estate in the
Philippines; 2) he does not have some known lucrative trade, profession or lawful
occupation; 3) he is not gainfully employed, as he merely worked in the business
owned by his family and was merely given allowances by his parents for the daily
expenses of his family; 4) in an August 2001 Deed of Sale14 covering a parcel of land
in Antipolo City he and his wife supposedly purchased, respondent falsely
misrepresented himself as a Filipino citizen, thus exemplifying his lack of good
moral character; 5) his income tax returns for the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 reveal
that his actual monthly income differs from his monthly income as declared in his
petition for naturalization, leading to the conclusion that either he is evading taxes or
concealing the truth regarding his income; and 6) on cross-examination by
petitioner, he could not cite any of the principles underlying the Philippine
Constitution which he is supposed to believe in.

In a short Comment/Opposition15 to petitioners brief, respondent admitted that


while he was merely made to sign the Deed of Sale which falsely represented him
as a Filipino citizen, he had nothing to do with the preparation thereof and was
unaware that his citizenship was even indicated therein he just signed the
document as requested by the broker so that the property will be registered in the
name of his wife; that the discrepancy between his income declarations in his tax
returns and the declared income in his petition for naturalization came to light and
resulted from the fact that he does not personally file his income tax returns and
that he merely received salaries in the range of P15,000.00 per month considering
that he is employed in a family corporation; that most of his expenses are taken
care of by his parents who own the corporation, and this has been
explained during his cross-examination; that while petitioner claimed that he could
not cite any underlying principles of the Constitution, he was not confronted by the
former about these principles during the proceedings; and that petitioners
opposition is based merely on conjecture and particular portions of the evidence
which do not represent the whole context of the proceedings.

On November 29, 2011, the CA issued the assailed Decision, pronouncing


thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
First off, an examination of the evidence presented during the proceedings below
shows that the petitioner-appellee16 has been engaged in some lucrative trade or
lawful occupation. He works as general manager in their family-owned business,
Crown Shipper Manufacturer and Trading Corporation, a zipper manufacturing
company employing workers mostly coming from the province.

Prior to his appointment as general manager, petitioner-appellee has also been


working in the familys business before his parents turned over the management of
its affairs. This is evidenced by the increase in the declared gross income of the
petitioner-appellee in his Income Tax Returns filed for the years 2002, 2003, 2004 and
2005. The extent of the operations of the petitioner-appellees family business and
his involvement in the management thereof are corroborated by the testimonies of
Atty. Benjamin Moraleda and Atty. Bella Ramona Antonano, both friends of the
Huang family and the petitioner-appellee since 1987 and 1994, respectively. Both
witnesses also testified that the petitioner-appellee possessed all the qualifications
and none of the disqualifications to become a naturalized citizen of the Philippines.

Secondly, the Solicitor General also averred that the petitioner-appellee failed to
conduct himself in a proper and irreproachable manner during his entire stay or
residence in the Philippines. It noted that the petitioner-appellee stated in his
petition that he earns an average of P15,000.00 per month but his declared gross
income for 2002 and 2003 indicated that he earned P120,000.00 annually while in
2004, his annual gross income was P210,000.00. The Solicitor General contended that
because of the petitioner-appellees failure to divulge his true income, his moral
character has been tainted.

We hold otherwise.

Absent a clear and unmistakable showing that the petitioner-appellee knowingly


and deliberately filed a fraudulent return with intent to evade tax or that he has
concealed the truth in his income tax returns, the presumption that the latter has
regularly filed his return prevails. The petitioner-appellee has, in fact, explained
before the trial court that his salary is not exactly fixed; sometimes he earns more or
sometimes less than his estimated or average monthly earnings which could well be
between P15,000.00 to P18,000.00. He even testified that he is not included in the
payroll since his parents own the company and his salaries are handed to him by his
parents.

In the case of Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals and Loh Khuan Fatt, the
Supreme Court did not agree with the argument of the Solicitor General that there
had been a willful failure on the part of the applicant to disclose the petitioners true
income, thereby tainting his moral character. The discrepancy between the
petitioners estimate of his income in his application and that declared by him
during his direct testimony should not be taken against him as an indication of
intent to evade payment of taxes. x x x

xxxx

Lastly, the Solicitor General argued that petitioner-appellee is disqualified from


becoming a citizen of the Philippines because he could not even cite any of the
principles underlying the Constitution during cross-examination x x x.chanrobleslaw

xxxx
We agree with the observation of the petitioner-appellee that the oppositors
representative during the cross-examination was actually asking the petitioner-
appellee to recite what these underlying principles of the Constitution are in a
manner which a law professor would normally ask his Political Law students. Not
being able to enumerate the principles in verbatim does not necessarily mean that
one does not believe in the Constitution. What is important is that the petitioner-
appellee declared under oath that he believes in the principles underlying the
Constitution, and that he had no derogatory or criminal record which would be a
clear violation of the law of the land. Apparently, during cross-examination the
oppositor-appellant did not confront the petitioner-appellee of the principles which
it thought the latter does not believe in.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED and the Decision dated September 24, 2007 of
the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 96 in Naturalization Case No. Q-05-
55251 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.17cralawlawlibrary

Petitioner moved for reconsideration, but in its March 7, 2012 Resolution, the
appellate court stood its ground.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Issue

Thus, the instant Petition was filed, raising the following


issue:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHETHER X X X RESPONDENT X X X HAS DULY COMPLIED WITH THE RIGID
REQUISITES PRESCRIBED BY COMMONWEALTH ACT NO. 473, OTHERWISE
KNOWN AS THE REVISED NATURALIZATION LAW, AS TO ENTITLE HIM TO
BE ADMITTED AS A CITIZEN OF THE PHILIPPINES.18cralawred
cralawlawlibrary

Petitioners Arguments

In its Petition and Reply19 seeking the reversal of the assailed CA dispositions as well
as the denial of respondents petition for naturalization, petitioner argues that
respondent failed to prove that he is engaged in a lucrative trade, profession or
lawful occupation; that respondents admission during trial that he is not even in the
payroll of his employer belies his claim that he is the general manager thereof, as
well as his claim that he is engaged in a lucrative trade; that respondents declared
monthly income is not even sufficient for his family, much less could it be
considered lucrative; that respondents admission that he received allowances
from his parents to answer for the daily expenses of his family further proves the
point that he does not have a lucrative trade; that the monthly income declared in
respondents petition for naturalization could not be reconciled with the incomes
stated in his annual tax returns; that the inconsistencies in respondents testimonial
and documentary evidence point to the fact the he could either be evading taxes or
concealing the truth regarding his income, and indicates that he does not possess the
requisite good moral character; that respondents act of falsely declaring himself a
Filipino citizen in the August 2001 deed of sale proves lack of good moral character
and defiance of the constitutional prohibition regarding foreign ownership of land;
and that respondent has exhibited lack of knowledge of the underlying principles of
the Philippine Constitution.

Respondents Arguments

In his Comment,20 respondent reiterates that the inconsistencies in his income tax
returns and declarations during the naturalization proceedings are explained by the
fact that he does not personally file his income tax returns; that his monthly salary is
not fixed; that most of his expenses are taken cared of by his parents who own the
zipper manufacturing business which employs him; that the Antipolo property was
not titled in his name, but in the name of his wife, and the title thereto merely
describes and indicates that the owner his wife is married to him; that he was
merely made to sign the deed of sale, and he had no hand in its preparation nor
was he aware that his citizenship was indicated therein; and that as he was not a law
student, he could not at the trial be expected to recite verbatim and specifically the
underlying legal principles of the Constitution, which is what petitioner expected
him to do at the time.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Our Ruling

The Court finds for petitioner.

In Republic v. Hong,21 it was held in essence that an applicant for naturalization must
show full and complete compliance with the requirements of the naturalization law;
otherwise, his petition for naturalization will be denied. This ponente has likewise
held that [t]he courts must always be mindful that naturalization proceedings are
imbued with the highest public interest. Naturalization laws should be rigidly
enforced and strictly construed in favor of the government and against the applicant.
The burden of proof rests upon the applicant to show full and complete compliance
with the requirements of law.22cralawred

Section 2 of the Revised Naturalization Law or CA 473 requires, among others, that
an applicant for naturalization must be of good moral character and must have some
known lucrative trade, profession, or lawful occupation. In regard to the
requirement that the applicant must have a known lucrative trade,
this ponente declared:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Based on jurisprudence, the qualification of some known lucrative trade,
profession, or lawful occupation means not only that the person having the
employment gets enough for his ordinary necessities in life. It must be shown
that the employment gives one an income such that there is an appreciable margin
of his income over his expenses as to be able to provide for an adequate support in
the event of unemployment, sickness, or disability to work and thus avoid ones
becoming the object of charity or a public charge. His income should permit
him and the members of his family to live with reasonable comfort, in
accordance with the prevailing standard of living, and consistently with the
demands of human dignity, at this stage of our civilization.

Moreover, it has been held that in determining the existence of a lucrative income,
the courts should consider only the applicants income; his or her spouses income
should not be included in the assessment. The spouses additional income is
immaterial for under the law the petitioner should be the one to possess some
known lucrative trade, profession or lawful occupation to qualify him to become a
Filipino citizen. Lastly, the Court has consistently held that the applicants
qualifications must be determined as of the time of the filing of his
petition.23 (Emphasis supplied)cralawlawlibrary

From the above, it may be concluded that there is no basis for the CA finding that
respondent is engaged in a lucrative trade. Indeed, his supposed income of
P15,000.00 to P18,000.00 per month as found by the CA is not enough for the support
of his family. By his own admission, most of his familys daily expenses are still
shouldered by his parents who own the zipper manufacturing business which
employs him. This simply means that respondent continues to be a burden to, and a
charge upon, his parents; he lives on the charity of his parents. He cannot support
his own family on his own.

Indeed, it is even doubtful that respondent is carrying on a trade at all. He admitted


during trial that he was not even listed or included in the payroll of his familys
zipper business. If this is the case, then he may not be considered an employee
thereof. One of the most effective pieces of evidence to prove employment aside
from the employment contract itself and other documents such as daily time
records24 is a workers inclusion in the payroll. With this admitted fact, one may
not be faulted for believing that respondents alleged employment in his familys
zipper business was contrived for the sole purpose of complying with the legal
requirements prior to obtaining Philippine citizenship.

On the other hand, even assuming that respondent was indeed employed by his
parents, his non-inclusion in the payroll for all the years he has worked in his
parents business25 suggests as correctly argued by petitioner an intent to evade
taxes or to conceal the true nature of his employment and the amount of his salary or
income. It is concealment of the truth; an attempt to circumvent with impunity the
tax laws, labor laws relative to the employment of aliens, and other laws that would
otherwise regulate respondents actions during his stay in this country. Indeed,
without payroll records, it can never be said that respondent works for his parents
zipper business. If such is the case, then respondent is not required to state in his
income tax return as is the case his employer and what he actually receives as
salary therefrom; he is free to conveniently declare any amount of income in his tax
returns.

Either way, respondents deliberate non-inclusion in the payroll of his parents


business can have only the most unpleasant connotations. And his consent to be
part of such scheme reflects negatively on his moral character. It shows a proclivity
for untruthfulness and dishonesty, and an unreserved willingness and readiness to
violate Philippine laws.

The appellate courts reliance upon the case of Republic v. Court of Appeals26 is
misplaced. In that case, there was only a discrepancy between the applicants
estimate of his income in his application and that declared by him during his direct
testimony. In the present case, respondent is not at all listed on the payroll of his
parents business, where he is supposed to be its general manager. As a result, there
is absolutely no basis for the correct determination of his income; instead, he invites
Us to conveniently rely on his income tax returns and his unilateral declarations. As
We have earlier said, if We are to believe them, then still, they are insufficient to
generate a conclusion that respondent is carrying on a lucrative trade; he cannot
support his family from his declared income.

Moreover, respondents admitted false declaration under oath contained in the


August 2001 deed of sale that he is a Filipino citizen which he did to secure the
seamless registration of the property in the name of his wife is further proof of
respondents lack of good moral character. It is also a violation of the constitutional
prohibition on ownership of lands by foreign individuals.27 His defense that he
unknowingly signed the deed is unacceptable. First of all, as a foreigner living in a
foreign land, he should conduct himself accordingly in this country with care,
circumspect, and respect for the laws of the host. Finally, as an educated and
experienced businessman, it must be presumed that he acted with due care and
signed the deed of sale with full knowledge of its import.28cralawred

Having decided in the foregoing manner, We must conclude the instant case and
disregard the other issues and arguments of the parties; they are deemed irrelevant
and will not alter the conclusion arrived at. As far as this Court is concerned,
respondent has failed to satisfy the law which renders him completely undeserving
of Filipino citizenship.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. The November 29, 2011 Decision and
March 7, 2012 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 91213
are REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. The September 24, 2007 Order of the Regional
Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 96 in Nat. Case/Spec. Proc. No. Q-05-55251 is
likewise ANNULLED and SET ASIDE, and the respondents Petition for
Naturalization in said case is DISMISSED.

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. KAMRAN F.


KARBASI, Respondent.
DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:
The Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of
refugees. They shall in particular make every effort to expedite naturalization proceedings
and to reduce as far as possible the charges and costs of such proceedings.1
This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing
the January 29, 2013 Decision2 and the November 27, 20133 Resolution of the Court
of Appeals (CA), in CA-G.R. CV No. 01126-MIN, which affirmed the January 17,2007
Order of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 10, Dipolog City (RTC), in a naturalization
case docketed as Naturalization Case No. 2866. The RTC order granted the petition
for naturalization and, thus, admitted Kamran F. Karbasi as a citizen of the
Philippines.
The Facts

On June 25, 2002, Kamran F. Karbasi (Karbasi) filed a petition for naturalization with
the RTC, where he alleged the following:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
1. His full name is Kamran F. Karbasi;
2. He is recognized as a Person of Concern by the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as shown in a certification duly
issued by the UNHCR;
3. He is presently residing with his family at 341 Burgos Street, Dipolog
City, since early part of June 2000 and more so has resided
continuously in the Philippines for not less than 11 years immediately
preceding the date of this petition; to wit, since 11 July 1990 and in
Dipolog City for more than one (1) year;
4. His last place of foreign residence was Pakistan and his other places of
residence, prior to his present residence, were as follows (i) Panay
Ave., Quezon City; (ii) Sta. Filomena, Dipolog City; (iii) Capitol Area,
Dumaguete City; (iv) Dohinob, Roxas, Zamboanga del Norte;
5. He was born on 4 September 1966 in Tehran, Iran, as shown in his
identity card which also serves as his birth certificate;
6. He is married and is the father of one (1) child;
7. His wife Cliji G. Lim Karbasi is a Filipino citizen, 22 years old and born
on 10 August 1979 in Cebu City, whom he married on 12 October 2000
in Dipolog City, as shown in their certificate of marriage;
8. His child, Keenyji L. Karbasi, l-year old , was born on 9 June 2001 in
Dipolog City and presently residing with him and his wife at 341
Burgos Street, Dipolog City;
9. He arrived in Manila, Philippines, under an assumed name (Syed Gul
Agha) from Pakistan on 11 July 1990 specifically at the Manila
International Airport on board Philippine Airlines Flight No. 731, per
UNHCR certification containing reference to his Pakistani passport
issued under said assumed name;
10. Due to his marriage, he is entitled to the benefit of Section 3 of
Commonwealth Act No. 473, which reduced to five years the ten year
requirement of continuous residence;
11. He speaks and writes English and Visayan;
12. His trade or occupation is as a repair technician in which he has been
engaged since 1998 and, as such, he derives an average annual income
of Php 80,000.00 more or less;
13. He has all the qualifications required under Section 2 and none of the
disqualifications under Section 4, of the Commonwealth Act No. 473;
14. He has complied with the requirements of the Naturalization Law
(Commonwealth Act No. 473) regarding the filing with the Office of
the Solicitor General of his bona fide intention to become a citizen of
the Philippines, as shown in his Declaration of Intention duly filed on
25 May 2001;
15. It is his intention in good faith to become a citizen of the Philippines
and to renounce absolutely and forever all allegiance and fidelity to
any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, and particularly to
Iran of which, at this time, he is a citizen or subject; that he will reside
continuously in the Philippines from the date of filing of this petition
up to the time of his admission to Philippine citizenship;
16. Dominador Natividad Tagulo, of legal age, Filipino, married and
residing at ABC Compound, Quezon Ave., Miputak, Dipolog City and
Alton C. Ratificar, of legal age, Filipino, married and residing at 047
Burgos Street, Dipolog City, who are Filipino citizens, whose affidavits
are attached to his petition, will appear and testify as witnesses at the
hearing thereof.
[Emphasis Supplied]
On July 2, 2002, after finding the petition sufficient in form and substance, the RTC
issued an order setting the petition for hearing on October 21, 2002 and ordering the
publication thereof, once a week for three (3) consecutive weeks, in the Official
Gazette and in a newspaper of general circulation in Zamboanga del Norte and in
the cities of Dipolog and Dapitan. In the same Order, persons concerned were
enjoined to show cause, if any, why the petition should not be granted and oppose
the petition.

On July 22, 2002, the RTC amended its previous order and, with notice to the Office
of the Solicitor General (OSG), reset the hearing on September 10, 2003 instead
because the National Printing Office could no longer accommodate the publication
requirement before the first hearing date.

On December 2, 9 and 16, 2002, copies of the amended order and Karbasi's petition
were published in the Official Gazette. Subsequently, the same were published
in Press Freedom on January 27, February 3 and 10, 2003. The said copies were
likewise posted on the bulletin boards of the RTC and the Municipal Building of
Roxas, Zamboanga del Norte and Capitol Building, Dipolog City.

On September 10, 2003, Karbasi and his counsel appeared and presented proof of
compliance with the jurisdictional requirements. Nobody appeared to interpose an
objection to the petition.

During the hearing on May 18, 2006, Alton C. Ratificar (Ratificar) and Dominador
Natividad Tagulo (Tagulo) testified as character witnesses.
Ratificar testified that in 1990, he was introduced to Karbasi whose house was
located about 30 meters away from his; that he came to know him since then; that
when Karbasi got married, he was invited to the wedding ceremony where the then
City Mayor of Dipolog was one of the wedding sponsors; that he also attended the
celebration; that he used to see Karbasi almost every day as he owned an electronics
repair shop near his house; that Karbasi would also allow neighbors, who did not
own television sets at home, to watch shows at his repair shop; that he never heard
of any complaint by the neighbors against Karbasi, who went to church during
Sundays and even on weekdays; that on several occasions, he was invited to
Karbasi's home, where he observed his good relationship with his in-laws and his
treatment of his wife and child which was in accordance with Filipino customs; and
that Karbasi talked to him in both Visayan and English.

For his part, witness Tagulo testified that he worked at the Andres Bonifacio College
and had known Karbasi since July 1990 when the latter was then enrolled in a
vocational course; that Karbasi was very respectful to his instructors and that he had
good grades; that he treated his schoolmates in accordance with Filipino customs;
that he never showed any inclination to violence; that when Karbasi transferred to
Dumaguete City, he visited him there; and that during this visits, Tagulo witnessed
how Karbasi socially interacted and mingled with the rest of the community.

On August 10, 2006, the wife of Karbasi, Cliji G. Lim (Cliji), also took the witness
stand. She testified that her father introduced her to Karbasi during her graduation
party; that a courtship followed thereafter for five months, during which Karbasi
was well-behaved and acted like any other Filipino; that when Karbasi proposed
marriage to her, he was accompanied by his brother, Ali Karbasi; that Karbasi's
baptism as a Catholic coincided with her birthday; that after their marriage, they
begot two (2) children; that Karbasi continuously stayed with his family and never
returned to Iran; that he was a good husband, father and provider; that all his
income from the repair shop was turned over to her for the budgeting of the family's
expenses; and that he was then earning a daily income of P1,000.00.

She added that Karbasi and his family regularly attended the Catholic mass and
received communion; that they were active members of Couples for Christ since
2003; that he actively participated in Catholic practices like the novena and vigil for
her deceased grandfather; that Karbasi was not a polygamist and that he did not flirt
with other women; that she never heard her husband speak of any terrorist groups;
and that he was never known to have an immoral reputation.

On several hearing dates thereafter, Karbasi himself took the witness stand. As
summarized by the RTC, the gist of his testimony is as
follows:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
He is an Iranian national. He was born in Tehran, Iran, and resided there since birth
up to 1986. His father is Abdolhossein Karbasi, a doctor in Iran, and his mother is
Narjes Froghnia Karbasi, a retired teacher.
He has five brothers and two sisters. The eldest of the brood, Hamid Reza Karbasi, is
in the United States of America and is now an American Citizen. The second, Dr. Ali
Reza Karbasi, admitted as Filipino citizen in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 6,
Dipolog City, is in the Philippines. The third is Qite Karbasi, his sister. The fourth,
his brother, Dr. Abduoul Reza Karbasi, graduated in India. The fifth, his sister, Kia
Karbasi, is a nurse. The sixth, his brother Qolam Reza Karbasi, is an engineer who
graduated in France. His last four siblings are all in Iran.

He was a Shiite Muslim before he was converted as Roman Catholic. His former
religion believes in the existence of a Supreme Being called God. It believes in the
existence of government and repudiates violence. His said religion is not within an
organization of Al Qaeda, Jemayah Islamiya, or any terrorist group. It also adheres
to the principle of one man-one woman marital relation.

He and his brother, Ali Reza Karbasi, left Iran in 1986 because of the war between
Iran and Iraq at that time. When the Shah of Iran, Pahlavi, was overthrown by
Ayatolah Khomini in 1979, some Iranian nationals left Iran. He and Ali Reza, who
also condemns the act of overthrowing an existing government by force and
violence, were among those who left. Since the government confiscated his passport,
they traveled by camel and passed by the desert during night time to reach Pakistan.
He stayed there for almost three (3) years,

Being foreigners in Pakistan, they submitted themselves to the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees. However, they were not granted the status of refugee
right away since Pakistan is adjacent to Iran. They had to transfer to a third country
not at war with Iran. Since his brother Ali Reza was already studying in the
Philippines, they decided to come here.

As it was difficult for him to get travel documents, petitioner procured a Pakistani
passport under the assumed name of Syed Gul Agha.

Upon his arrival in the Philippines on July n, 1990, he submitted himself to the
United Nations in Manila. After several interviews, he was admitted as a refugee
and, later on, as a person of concern. As a refugee, he was granted by the United
Nations allowances, medical benefits and protection to some extent.

After having been interviewed by the Solicitor General regarding his intention to
become a Filipino citizen, he filed the corresponding Declaration of Intention, dated
March 28, 2001, on May 25, 2001.

Sometime in 2002, petitioner, having signified his intention to become a Filipino


citizen, was issued a certification captioned "UN High Commissioner for Refugees,
Liaison Office for the Philippines," dated 25 June 2002, certifying that he has been
recognized as a person of concern who arrived in the Philippines on 11 July 1990 on
board Philippine Airlines flight 731 under an assumed name (Syed Gul Agha).
At the time of the filing of the petition, he was already married and residing at 341
Burgos Street, Dipolog City. However, upon arrival in the Philippines, he first
resided at Panay Avenue, Quezon City, where he stayed for almost six months.
During those times, the United Nations provided him a monthly allowance of
2,800.00, being a refugee. He then transferred to Burgos Street, Miputak, Dipolog
City, where he stayed at the house of the father-in-law of his brother Ali Reza for a
month.

He then moved to Sta. Filomena, Dipolog City, at the house of his sister-in-law. It
was during this time that he enrolled at Andres Bonifacio College where he studied
from 1990 to 1992. He finished a two-year vocational course in said school as
evidenced by a Diploma issued by the Andres Bonifacio College, Dipolog City. In
Iran, he finished Bachelor of Science in Economics.

He then pursued a four-year course (Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology


Major in Electronics) at the Central Visayas Polytechnic College in Dumaguete City.
He resided in the Capitol Area of said city. He was already receiving a monthly
allowance of 4,800.00 from the United Nations at that time. He graduated from said
institution as evidenced by a Diploma issued by said school. He also attended
technical trainings conducted by Asian Durables Manufacturing, Inc. as evidenced
by a Certificate of Attendance issued by said company.

In 1996, he returned to Dipolog City and resided at Burgos Street where he opened
his electronics repair shop (KX3 Electronics Repair Shop).

On October 12, 2000, he got married. The couple transferred to the house of his
parents-in-law after the marriage. When the grandfather of his wife got ill, they were
requested to take care of him. Thus, the couple transferred their residence to
Dohinob, Roxas. However, they moved back to their house in Burgos Street, Dipolog
City, as it is nearer to a hospital. When his grandfather-in-law died, he participated
in all the rites and ceremonies relative to his wake and burial.

At present, his repair shop's gross monthly income hovers between P20,000.00 to
P25,000.00."4
Additionally, Karbasi claimed that he had never been involved in any demonstration
or mass action protesting any issuances, policies or acts of the Philippine
Government and its officials; that he had never made any rebellious or seditious
utterances; that he believed in the principles underlying the Philippine Constitution
and he had even memorized the preamble; and that he can also sing the Philippine
National Anthem and recite the Filipino Patriotic Pledge, both of which he did in
open court.

The following documents were proffered in Karbasi's Formal Offer of Exhibits: 1]


Identity Card issued by Iran to prove his Iranian citizenship; 2] Pakistani passport
with visa under the assumed name of Syed Gul Agha; 3] Certifications and
Identification Card issued by the UNHCR to prove his status as a refugee and, later,
as a "person of concern"; 4] Alien Certificate of Registration; 5] Certifications to
prove Filipino nationality of Karbasi's wife, Cliji G. Lim; 6] Certificate of Marriage
between Karbasi and Cliji; 7] Certificates of Live Birth of his children Keenyji and
Kerl Jasmen; 8] Karbasi's Certificate of Baptism; 9] Affidavits of his character
witnesses Alton C. Ratificar and Dommador Tagulo; 10] Police and NBI Clearances;
11] Certifications and Diploma to prove his completion of vocational technology, BS
Industrial Technology, and training seminars; 12] Alien Employment Permit for
Refugees; 13] Business Permit, Clearances and DTI Certificates of Accreditation to
KX3 Repair Shop, Karbasi's source of livelihood; 14] Income Tax Returns for the
years 2001 to 2005; and 15] Contract of Service with Quality Circuits Services, Inc.
and Kolins Philippines Intl. Inc., including a Summary of Accounts paid to KX3
Electronics Repair Shop.5chanrobleslaw

On January 17, 2007, the RTC found Karbasi's evidence sufficient to support his
petition. Finding Karbasi as possessing all the qualifications and none of the
disqualifications to become a Filipino citizen, the RTC rendered its decision, the
dispositive portion of which reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition for naturalization filed by
KAMRAN F. KARBASI to be admitted as citizen of the Philippines is hereby
GRANTED.

SO ORDERED.6
Not in conformity, the Republic of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor
General (OSG), interposed an appeal to the CA, based mainly on the ground that the
RTC erred in granting Karbasi's petition as he failed to comply with the provisions
of Commonwealth Act No. 473 (Naturalization Law) on character, income and
reciprocity. Specifically, the OSG pointed out that Karbasi failed to establish that: 1]
Iran grants reciprocal rights of naturalization to Filipino citizens; 2] he has a
lucrative income as required under the law; and 3] he is of good moral character as
shown by his disregard of Philippine tax laws when he had underdeclared his
income in his income tax returns (ITRs) and overstated the same in his petition for
naturalization.

On January 29, 2013, the CA rendered the assailed decision affirming the grant of
Filipino citizenship to Karbasi. The dispositive portion of the CA decision
reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision dated 17
January 2007 of the Regional Trial Court of Dipolog City, Branch 10 in
Naturalization Case No. 2866 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.7
The CA ruled that the alleged under declaration in Karbasi's ITRs was prepared in
good faith because he was of the belief that he no longer needed to include the
income he received as payment of his services to Daewoo Electronics Electronics
Services, Inc. (Daewoo) and Kolins Philippines International, Inc. (Kolins), because the
same were already withheld at source. The CA likewise affirmed the RTC finding
that Karbasi, as a refugee, need not prove reciprocity between Philippine and Iranian
laws.

Hence, this petition.

Position of the OSG

The OSG asserts that the findings of the courts a quo are not in accord with law and
jurisprudence because Karbasi failed to prove that he had a lucrative income and an
irreproachable character. It insists that Karbasi failed to establish his lucrative
income considering that at the time of the filing of his petition for naturalization in
2002, his gross income was 21,868.65. Per table of Annual Income and Expenditure
in Western Mindanao, the average income for the year 2000 was P86,135.00 and for
2003 was P93,000.00. This shows that Karbasi's declared gross income was way
below the average income and average expenses in Western Mindanao, the region
where Dipolog City, his residence, is located. The OSG argues that even if the
subsequent years were to be considered, Karbasi's income was still insufficient as
compared to the average income and expenditure in the area. Karbasi's declared
income for the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 were P31,613.00, 41,200.00 and P39,020.00,
respectively. The same table presentation, however, provides that the average
expenditure for the year 2000 was P69,452.00, and for the year 2003 was P75,000.00.
This shows that Karbasi's declared gross income was not enough to support his
family within the contemplation of the law. Whether based on his testimony or on
his ITRs, Karbasi's gross income was not adequate, given the high cost of living
prevailing in the region. The OSG also mentions that Karbasi's child had started
formal schooling which would entail substantial income on the part of Karbasi, so
that he could meet his family's needs.

The OSG cites the discrepancy between his petition for naturalization and his ITRs
as another reason to deny his application for Filipino citizenship. An examination of
the petition discloses that Karbasi claimed an annual income of P80,000.00. He had
also declared in his testimony that he was earning P20,000.00 to P25,000.00, monthly,
from his electronic repair shop. His ITRs on the other hand, show his gross income
as P14,870.00 in 2001; P21,868.65 in 2002; P31,613.00 in 2003; P41,200.00 in 2004; and
P 39,020.00 in 2005.

The OSG further argues that the "underdeclaration" of Karbasi's income in his ITRs
reflects his disregard of Philippine tax laws and, worse, its overstatement in his
petition indicates his intent to make it appear that there was compliance with the
Naturalization Law, when there was actually none. According to the OSG, this
negates irreproachable behavior which required of every applicant for naturalization
because the failure to enter the true income on the tax return is indicative of
dishonesty. The OSG cited the ruling in Republic v. Yao,8 where the Court ordered the
cancellation of the naturalization certificate issued to the applicant therein upon the
discovery of his underdeclaration and underpayment of income tax. In the OSG's
words, "[underdeclaration of income is a serious matter that it is used as a ground to
cancel the certificate of naturalization. If the court can reverse the decision in an
application for naturalization, with more reason can underdeclaration be considered
in denying an application," as in Karbasi's case.9chanrobleslaw

Position of Karbasi

In the April 7, 2014 Resolution of the Court, Karbasi was required to file a comment
on the petition in which he mainly argued that the petition did not raise questions of
law but questions of facts which were too unsubstantial to require consideration. He
countered that while, admittedly, the "lucrative trade/occupation" requirement
under the law must be complied with, it has been emphasized in jurisprudence that,
the objective of this economic requirement is to ensure that the applicant should not
become a public charge or an economic burden upon the society.10 Karbasi claims
that he had more than satisfactorily established his lucrative trade or occupation,
showing that he would become a citizen who could contribute to national progress.
This has been clearly and unanimously appreciated by the RTC and the CA.

Karbasi also avers that the analysis of the OSG with respect to the data on Annual
Income and Expenditure in Western Mindanao is misplaced. Firstly, the data
presented were merely statistical and not actual, and did not reflect the
circumstances relative to a specific subject or person. Hence, these are greatly
unreliable with respect to a specific person in a naturalization case. At best, it was
only intended for the purpose it was made - for planning and for policy making of
the government and not to determine whether a certain trade, occupation or income
is lucrative or not.

Anent the allegation that the underdeclaration of his income projects was a flaw on
his moral character, Karbasi point out that he had sincerely explained that his failure
to declare his correct annual income was in good faith not intended to commit fraud.
He believed that the other sources of his income apart from his repair shop had
already been withheld by the companies for whom he had rendered services. For
Karbasi, the meaning of "irreproachable" as required by the law does not mean
"perfectly faultless."

On September 18, 2014, Karbasi moved for leave of court to file a supplemental
pleading, in which he insisted that pursuant to the 1951 Convention Relating to the
Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, to which
the Philippines was a signatory, the country was bound to safeguard the rights and
well-being of the refugees and to ensure the facility of their local integration including
naturalization. Karbasi reasoned that this was precisely why Department Circular 58
Series of 2012 was issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Under the said
circular, the Refugees and Stateless Persons Unit was created not only to facilitate
the identification and determination of refugees but also for the protection of these
refugees.

Karbasi insisted that unlike any other alien applying for naturalization, he had to
leave Iran out of fear of persecution without any mental and financial preparation,
and only with a view of finding safe refuge in the Philippines.

Reply of OSG

In its Reply, the OSG contended that Karbasi could not downplay the significance of
the Data on Annual Income and Expenditure in Western Mindanao, as it was an
accurate illustration of the financial condition of a typical family in a particular
region. The said table was prepared by the National Statistics Coordination Board
(NSCB), which strengthened the credibility of the report. The OSG explained that
whether the data were statistical or actual, the numbers still reflected the financial
standing of Karbasi. It followed then that Karbasi could not claim good faith in
failing to declare the income he gained from his transactions with several companies.
He even failed to present a certificate of tax withheld to show that these companies
had actually remitted the withholding taxes due to the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Even assuming that Karbasi's declared income allegedly excluded the amount
withheld by these companies, the OSG claimed that his income would still be below
the standard income and expenditure per the table.
The Court's Ruling

The Court is confronted with the issue of whether or not the CA had correctly
affirmed the RTC decision granting Karbasi's application for naturalization despite
the opposition posed by the OSG.

Citizenship is personal and, more or less a permanent membership in a political


community. It denotes possession within that particular political community of full
civil and political rights subject to special disqualifications. Reciprocally, it imposes
the duty of allegiance to the political community.11 The core of citizenship is the
capacity to enjoy political rights, that is, the right to participate in government
principally through the right to vote, the right to hold public office and the right to
petition the government for redress of grievance.12chanrobleslaw

No less than the 1987 Constitution enumerates who are Filipino citizens.13 Among
those listed are citizens by naturalization. Naturalization refers to the legal act of
adopting an alien and clothing him with the privilege of a native-born citizen. Under
the present laws, the process of naturalization can be judicial or administrative.
Judicially, the Naturalization Law provides that after hearing the petition for
citizenship and the receipt of evidence showing that the petitioner has all the
qualifications and none of the disqualifications required by law, the competent court
may order the issuance of the proper naturalization certificate and its registration in
the proper civil registry. On the other hand, Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9139 provides
that aliens born and residing in the Philippines may be granted Philippine
citizenship by administrative proceeding by filing a petition for citizenship with the
Special Committee, which, in view of the facts before it, may approve the petition
and issue a certificate of naturalization.14 In both cases, the petitioner shall take an
oath of allegiance to the Philippines as a sovereign nation.
It is a well-entrenched rule that Philippine citizenship should not easily be given
away.15 All those seeking to acquire it must prove, to the satisfaction of the Court,
that they have complied with all the requirements of the law. The reason for this
requirement is simple. Citizenship involves political status; hence, every person
must be proud of his citizenship and should cherish it. Naturalization is not a right,
but one of privilege of the most discriminating, as well as delicate and exacting
nature, affecting, as it does, public interest of the highest order, and which may be
enjoyed only under the precise conditions prescribed by law
therefor.16chanrobleslaw

Jurisprudence dictates that in judicial naturalization, the application must show


substantial and formal compliance with the law. In other words, an applicant must
comply with the jurisdictional requirements; establish his or her possession of the
qualifications and none of the disqualifications enumerated under the law; and
present at least two (2) character witnesses to support his allegations.17 Section 2 of
the Naturalization Law clearly sets forth the qualifications that must be possessed by
any applicant, viz:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Section 2. Qualifications. - Subject to section four of this Act, any person having the
following qualifications may become a citizen of the Philippines by
naturalization:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
First. He must be not less than twenty-one years of age on the day of the hearing of
the petition;

Second. He must have resided in the Philippines for a continuous period of not less
than ten years;

Third. He must be of good moral character and believes in the principles underlying
the Philippine Constitution, and must have conducted himself in a proper and
irreproachable manner during the entire period of his residence in the Philippines in
his relation with the constituted government as well as with the community in
which he is living.

Fourth. He must own real estate in the Philippines worth not less than five thousand
pesos, Philippine currency, or must have some known lucrative trade, profession,
or lawful occupation;

Fifth. He must be able to speak and write English or Spanish and any one of the
principal Philippine languages;

Sixth. He must have enrolled his minor children of school age, in any of the public
schools or private schools recognized by the Office of Private Education1 of the
Philippines, where the Philippine history, government and civics are taught or
prescribed as part of the school curriculum, during the entire period of the residence
in the Philippines required of him prior to the hearing of his petition for
naturalization as Philippine citizen.
[Emphasis supplied]
The contention in this case revolves around the following
points:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
1. the sufficiency of Karbasi's income for purposes of naturalization;
2. the effect of the alleged discrepancy in the amounts of his gross income
as declared in his ITRs, on one hand, and in his petition for
naturalization on the other; and
3. the necessity of proving reciprocity between Iranian and Philippine
laws on naturalization.
The Court resolves these issues in seriatim.

First. A reading of the OSG's pleadings discloses that its position arose out of a
comparison made between Karbasi's declared income and the amounts reflected in
the Data on Annual Income and Expenditure in Western Mindanao issued by the
NSCB. The OSG also invokes the past rulings of the Court where the concept of
"lucrative trade, trade, profession or lawful occupation" was explained in this
wise:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
It means not only that the person having the employment gets enough for his
ordinary necessities in life. It must be shown that the employment gives one an
income such that there is an appreciable margin of his income over his expenses as
to be able to provide for an adequate support in the event of unemployment,
sickness, or disability to work and thus avoid one's becoming the object of charity or
a public charge. His income should permit him and the members of his family to live
with reasonable comfort, in accordance with the prevailing standard of living, and
consistently with the demands of human dignity, at this stage of our civilization.18
A long line of cases reveals that the Court did not hesitate in reversing grants of
citizenship upon a showing that the applicant had no lucrative income and would,
most likely, become a public charge. A summary of some of these notable cases is in
order:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
1. In the Matter of the Petition for Admission to Philippine Citizenship of
Engracio Chan also known as Nicasio Lim.19 - The Court found that the
petitioner, who was a salesman at the Caniogan Sari-Sari and Grocery
Store, then located in Pasig, Rizal, from which he received a monthly
salary of P200.00, with free board and lodging, had no lucrative
income. Even if the petitioner was then an unmarried man without
dependents, a monthly income of P200.00 with free board and lodging,
was not considered gainful employment. Further, there was no proof
that he was legally authorized to use an alias and his use thereof, being
in violation of the Anti-Alias Law, was indicative of a reproachable
conduct.
2. In the Matter of the Petition of Antonio Po to be admitted a Citizen of the
Philippines.20 - The Court found Antonio Po, then single and employed
as collector of the Surigao Chamber of Commerce as without lucrative
income on the ground that his employment had so long depended
upon the selection of the succeeding presidents of the chamber and
that he then got free board and lodging by living with his widowed
mother. Simply put, there was not enough stability in his claimed
salary. His additional income gained from helping his mother to run a
store was also insufficient to satisfy the law, in the amount and in its
steadiness. His free board and lodging pretense was also discerned as
indicative of dependence upon his mother for support.
3. In the Matter of the Petition ofTanpa Ong Alias Pedro Tan to be admitted a
Citizen of the Philippines.21 - The income of the applicant as
contemplated in the naturalization law was only P3,000.00 a year.
Considering that he had a wife and seven children to support, this
income was held as insufficient to meet the high cost of living at that
time.
4. Keng Giok v. Republic.22 - The Court held that an income of P9,074.50 per
annum was not sufficient for a married applicant with a wife and five
children to support.
5. Sy Ang Hoc vs. Republic.23 - The Court held that his income, derived
from employment in a business enterprise of the petitioner's father,
was not sufficient to establish compliance with the statutory
requirement of lucrative occupation or calling.
6. In the Matter of the Petition to be admitted a Citizen of the Philippines by
Pantaleon Sia alias Alfredo Sia.24 - The Court ruled that the determination
of lucrative income or occupation should be reckoned as of the time of
the filing of the petition. The Court decided against the petitioner as his
regular salary was not ample enough to defray his family's expenses.
The excess amounts representing his bonuses and commissions should
not be considered in determining whether or not petitioner had a
lucrative income or occupation.
With the pronouncements in these cases in mind, the comparison made by the OSG
now begets another question: can the possession of an applicant's lucrative trade,
profession or lawful occupation, for purposes of naturalization, be fairly determined
through a simplistic read-through on government data?

The Court answers in the negative.

While it is true that a naturalization case is not an ordinary judicial contest to be


decided in favor of the party whose claim is supported by the preponderance of the
evidence, this does not accord infallibility on any and all of the OSG's assertions. If
this were the case, the rules of evidence might as well be brushed aside in order to
accord conclusiveness to every opposition by the Republic. Needless to state, the
Court still has the final authority and duty to evaluate the records of proceedings a
quo and decide on the issues with fair and sound judgment.

Here, it is clear that the circumstances prevailing in the above-cited cases are not at
all attendant in Karbasi's situation. There was neither a showing that Karbasi was
dependent on another person for support nor proof that his family's extraordinary
expenses that would render his income as inadequate. As in any other business
venture, the risk of losses is a possibility for his repair shop but, still, this risk was
not clearly established to render his livelihood as unstable and volatile. In fact, the
OSG does not belie the fact that Karbasi has been engaged by reputable companies
for his services. Conversely, the findings of the RTC would indicate that Karbasi had
indeed exhibited industry and hard work in putting up his repair shop business and
that his wife considered him as a good provider, not to mention a vocational and
college degree holder. Admittedly, testimonies in favor of an applicant for
naturalization are expected to be self-serving. Nevertheless, the Court finds it
difficult to agree with the OSG's meager use of government data to prove that
Karbasi would become a burden to the Philippine society in the future. Except for its
own citation of government data, nothing else was presented to establish that
Karbasi had indeed no lucrative income or trade to support himself and his family.

To accept the OSG's logic is a dangerous precedent that would peg the compliance to
this requirement in the law to a comparison with the results of research, the purpose
of which is unclear. This is not to say that the data produced by government research
are inappropriate, or much less irrelevant in judicial proceedings. The plain reliance
on this research information, however, may not be expected to produce the force of
logic which the OSG wants to attain in this case. Besides, had the law intended for
government data on livelihood and income research to be used as a gauge for the
"lucrative income" requirement, it must have stated the same and foreclosed the
Court's power to assess existing facts in any given case. Here, the Court opts to
exercise this power and delve into a judicious review of the findings of the RTC and
the CA and, as explained, to rule that Karbasi, possesses a lucrative income and a
lawful occupation, as required by the Naturalization Law.

At this point, it is worthy to note the Court's ruling in Republic v. Court of Appeals and
Chua25 (Chua), where the Court assessed the prevailing circumstances of an applicant
for naturalization who was a medical student at the time of the filing of her petition.
In Chua, the Court rejected the Republic's argument that the applicant's status as a
subsequent passer of the Board Examinations of 1985 for Doctors of Medicine could
not by itself be equated with "gainful employment or tangible receipts." The Court
held that this interpretation of the income requirement in the law is "too literal and
restrictive." It then cited Uy v. Republic,26 where the Court laid down the public
policy underlying the lucrative income requirement as
follows:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
[T]he Court must be satisfied that there is reasonable assurance not only that the
applicant will not be a social burden or liability but that he is a potential asset to the
country he seeks to adopt for himself and quite literally, for his children and his
children's children.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The Court, in Chua, continued:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The economic qualification for naturalization may be seen to embody the objective of
ensuring that the petitioner would not become a public charge or an economic
burden upon society. The requirement relates, in other words, not simply to the time
of execution of the petition for naturalization but also to the probable future of the
applicant for naturalization. In the case at bar, the Solicitor General does not dispute
that respondent applicant, then a student, was earning P2,000.00 a month, with free
board and lodging, at the time she filed her Petition in August 1984. While this
amount was not, even in 1984, exactly a princely sum, she was not then a public
charge and the respondent applicant having passed the qualifying medical board
examinations, can scarcely be regarded as likely to become a public charge in the
future should she be admitted as a citizen of this Republic. Respondent is certainly
in a position to earn substantial income if allowed to exercise her profession. Being a
Doctor of Medicine, she is also clearly a "potential asset to the country."27
As in Chua's case, it does not at all seem likely that Karbasi, in his current
circumstances, will ever become a public charge. It bears emphasis to note that from
a refugee who had nothing when he came to the Philippines, Karbasi had indeed
refused to be the object of charity by working hard to graduate from college and to
eventually engage in business to give his family support and comfort. The CA could
not have explained this in better terms
Thus, Karbasi went from being a refugee - who was dependent on the UNCHR for
support - to a self-made entrepreneur who can ably support himself and his family.
As such, there is no showing that Karbasi may turn out to be a public charge and a
burden to our country's resources. The fact moreover that he overcame this adversity
through his education and skills shows that he is a potential asset of the
country.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Second. The OSG raised the issue of Karbasi's alleged underdeclaration of income in
his ITRs. It contended that even if Karbasi had, indeed, a lucrative means of earning,
his failure to declare the income which he had earned from service contracts and to
present any proof of the withholding of the taxes thereon, would reflect adversely on
his conduct, which under the statute must be "proper and irreproachable." The OSG
cited Lim Eng Yu v. Republic28 (Lim Eng Yu), where the applicant later refuted the
amounts reflected in his ITRs in order to prove that he had lucrative trade or
occupation. The Court rebuffed this "eleventh hour explanation" and concluded that
the applicant had to conceal his true income for the purpose of evading payment of
lawful taxes. The Court found that Lim Eng Yu, at that time, had a wife and two
children, so, at most, his total tax exemption then, was P5,000.00. Had he stated the
net incomes he claimed in his ITRs, he would have been required to pay income
taxes, it appearing that the same exceeded his exemption under the law. Such
conduct showed that Lim Eng Yu's moral character was not irreproachable, or as
good as it should be, thus, disqualifying him for naturalization.

Like the CA, the Court is inclined not to apply the rigidity of the ruling in Lim Eng
Yu to the present case. Unlike Lim Eng Yu, Karbasi did not deny the charge of the
OSG and instead admitted a procedural lapse on his part. Here, there is no showing
that the income earned by Karbasi was undeclared in order to benefit from statutory
tax exemptions. To clarify, this does not intend to downplay the requirement of good
moral character in naturalization cases. It bears stressing that the granting of
applications for naturalization still necessitates that only those who are deserving
may be admitted as Filipino citizens. The character of the applicant remains to be
one of the significant measures to determine entitlement to Filipino citizenship.
Nonetheless, the tenor of the ground used for the denial of the application in Lim
Eng Yu is not akin to what happened in this case.

Clearly, in Lim Eng Yu, the petitioner altogether intended to evade the payment of
taxes by abusing the benefits granted by tax exemptions. In this case, Karbasi did not
deny that he gained income through his transactions with Daewoo and Kolin. He
even presented, as evidence, the contracts of service he had entered into with the
companies including a Summary of Accounts paid to his repair shop. He did not
disclaim that he had rendered services to these companies and that he had earned a
considerable sum therefrom. Instead, he explained the cause of his lapse and
acknowledged his mistaken belief that his earnings from these transactions need not
be declared in his ITRs as these were withheld already.

Again, it is not the objective of the Court to justify irregularities in ITRs by reason of
a "mistaken belief." The Court, however, finds it difficult to equate Karbasi's lapse
with a moral depravity that is fatal to his application for Filipino citizenship. This
mistaken understanding of the proper way to declare income is actually so common
to individual taxpayers, including lawyers and other professionals. While this is not
to be taken as an excuse for every irregularity in ITR.S, the Court is not prepared to
consider this as an outright reflection of one's immoral inclinations. With due
consideration to his character as established by witnesses, and as observed by the
RTC during the hearings, Karbasi should be deemed to have sufficiently explained
his mistake.

In the case of Chua, the Court had even disregarded the OSG's argument that the
applicant's failure to execute her ITR "reflects adversely on her conduct." Her
explanation of non-filing as an "honest mistake" was accepted by the Court with due
regard to the other circumstances of her case. Like the CA, the Court also finds the
same degree of sincerity in Karbasi's case, for he was candid enough to elicit this
conclusion. Besides, there was no suggestion in the records that Karbasi habitually
excluded particular income in his ITRs. Echoing the findings in Chua, the Court does
not believe that this one lapse should be regarded as having so blackened Karbasi's
character as to disqualify him from naturalization as a Philippine citizen.

Third. Considering the above disquisitions, the Court does not need to belabor the
last issue on reciprocity between Iranian and Philippine laws on naturalization.
True, the Naturalization Law disqualifies citizens or subjects of a foreign country
whose laws do not grant Filipinos the right to become naturalized citizens or
subjects. A perusal of Karbasi's petition, both with the RTC and the CA, together
with his supplemental pleadings filed with the Court, however, reveals that he has
successfully established his refugee status upon arrival in the Philippines. In effect,
the country's obligations under its various international commitments come into
operation. Articles 6 and 34 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of
Refugees, to which the Philippines is a signatory, must be considered in this case, to
wit:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Article 6 of the 1951 Convention:

For the purposes of this Convention, the term "in the same circumstances" implies
that any requirements (including requirements as to length and conditions of
sojourn or residence) which the particular individual would have to fulfill for the
enjoyment of the right in question, if he were not a refugee, must be fulfilled by him,
with the exception of requirements which by their nature a refugee is incapable of
fulfilling.

Article 34 of the 1951 Convention:

The Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and
naturalization of refugees. They shall in particular make every effort to expedite
naturalization proceedings and to reduce as far as possible the charges and costs of
such proceedings.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In the same vein, Article 729 of the said Convention expressly provides exemptions
from reciprocity, while Article 34 states the earnest obligation of contracting parties
to "as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of refugees." As
applied to this case, Karbasi's status as a refugee has to end with the attainment of
Filipino citizenship, in consonance with Philippine statutory requirements and
international obligations. Indeed, the Naturalization Law must be read in light of the
developments in international human rights law specifically the granting of
nationality to refugees and stateless persons.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.

BENGSON VS. HRET AND CRUZ


MARCH 28, 2013 ~ VBDIAZ
BENGSON vs. HRET and CRUZ
G.R. No. 142840
May 7, 2001
FACTS: The citizenship of respondent Cruz is at issue in this case, in view of the
constitutional requirement that no person shall be a Member of the House of
Representatives unless he is a natural-born citizen.
Cruz was a natural-born citizen of the Philippines. He was born in Tarlac in 1960 of
Filipino parents. In 1985, however, Cruz enlisted in the US Marine Corps and
without the consent of the Republic of the Philippines, took an oath of allegiance to
the USA. As a Consequence, he lost his Filipino citizenship for under CA No. 63 [(An
Act Providing for the Ways in Which Philippine Citizenship May Be Lost or
Reacquired (1936)] section 1(4), a Filipino citizen may lose his citizenship by, among
other, rendering service to or accepting commission in the armed forces of a foreign
country.
Whatever doubt that remained regarding his loss of Philippine citizenship was
erased by his naturalization as a U.S. citizen in 1990, in connection with his service in
the U.S. Marine Corps.
In 1994, Cruz reacquired his Philippine citizenship through repatriation under RA
2630 [(An Act Providing for Reacquisition of Philippine Citizenship by Persons Who
Lost Such Citizenship by Rendering Service To, or Accepting Commission In, the
Armed Forces of the United States (1960)]. He ran for and was elected as the
Representative of the 2nd District of Pangasinan in the 1998 elections. He won over
petitioner Bengson who was then running for reelection.
Subsequently, petitioner filed a case for Quo Warranto Ad Cautelam with
respondent HRET claiming that Cruz was not qualified to become a member of the
HOR since he is not a natural-born citizen as required under Article VI, section 6 of
the Constitution.
HRET rendered its decision dismissing the petition for quo warranto and declaring
Cruz the duly elected Representative in the said election.
ISSUE: WON Cruz, a natural-born Filipino who became an American citizen, can
still be considered a natural-born Filipino upon his reacquisition of Philippine
citizenship.
HELD: petition dismissed
YES
Filipino citizens who have lost their citizenship may however reacquire the same in
the manner provided by law. C.A. No. 63 enumerates the 3 modes by which
Philippine citizenship may be reacquired by a former citizen:
1. by naturalization,
2. by repatriation, and
3. by direct act of Congress.
**
Repatriation may be had under various statutes by those who lost their citizenship
due to:
1. desertion of the armed forces;
2. services in the armed forces of the allied forces in World War II;
3. service in the Armed Forces of the United States at any other time,
4. marriage of a Filipino woman to an alien; and
5. political economic necessity
Repatriation results in the recovery of the original nationality This means that a
naturalized Filipino who lost his citizenship will be restored to his prior status as a
naturalized Filipino citizen. On the other hand, if he was originally a natural-born
citizen before he lost his Philippine citizenship, he will be restored to his former
status as a natural-born Filipino.
R.A. No. 2630 provides:
Sec 1. Any person who had lost his Philippine citizenship by rendering service to, or
accepting commission in, the Armed Forces of the United States, or after separation
from the Armed Forces of the United States, acquired United States citizenship, may
reacquire Philippine citizenship by taking an oath of allegiance to the Republic of the
Philippines and registering the same with Local Civil Registry in the place where he
resides or last resided in the Philippines. The said oath of allegiance shall contain a
renunciation of any other citizenship.
Having thus taken the required oath of allegiance to the Republic and having
registered the same in the Civil Registry of Magantarem, Pangasinan in accordance
with the aforecited provision, Cruz is deemed to have recovered his original status
as a natural-born citizen, a status which he acquired at birth as the son of a Filipino
father. It bears stressing that the act of repatriation allows him to recover, or return
to, his original status before he lost his Philippine citizenship.
JOEVANIE ARELLANO TABASA, Petitioner,
vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION and
DEPORTATION and WILSON SOLUREN, Respondents.
DECISION
VELASCO, JR., J.:
Citizenship is a priceless possession. Former U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren fittingly
emphasized its crowning value when he wrote that "it is mans basic right for it is
nothing less than to have rights." 1 When a person loses citizenship, therefore, the
State sees to it that its reacquisition may only be granted if the former citizen fully
satisfies all conditions and complies with the applicable law. Without doubt,
repatriation is not to be granted simply based on the vagaries of the former Filipino
citizen.
The Case
The instant petition for review 2 under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure
contests the denial by the Court of Appeals (CA) of the Petition for Habeas
Corpus interposed by petitioner Joevanie Arellano Tabasa from the Order of
Summary Deportation issued by the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID)
for his return to the United States.
The Facts
The facts as culled by the CA from the records show that petitioner Joevanie
Arellano Tabasa was a natural-born citizen of the Philippines. In 1968, 3 when
petitioner was seven years old, 4 his father, Rodolfo Tabasa, became a naturalized
citizen 5 of the United States. By derivative naturalization (citizenship derived from
that of another as from a person who holds citizenship by virtue of naturalization 6),
petitioner also acquired American citizenship.
Petitioner arrived in the Philippines on August 3, 1995, and was admitted as a
"balikbayan" for one year. Thereafter, petitioner was arrested and detained by agent
Wilson Soluren of the BID on May 23, 1996, pursuant to BID Mission Order No. LIV-
96-72 in Baybay, Malay, Aklan; subsequently, he was brought to the BID Detention
Center in Manila. 7
Petitioner was investigated by Special Prosecutor Atty. Edy D. Donato at the Law
and Investigation Division of the BID on May 28, 1996; and on the same day, Tabasa
was accused of violating Section 8, Chapter 3, Title 1, Book 3 of the 1987
Administrative Code, in a charge sheet which alleged:
1. That on 3 August 1995, respondent (petitioner herein [Tabasa]) arrived in the
Philippines and was admitted as a balikbayan;
2. That in a letter dated 16 April 1996, Honorable Kevin Herbert, Consul General of
[the] U.S. Embassy, informed the Bureau that respondents Passport No. 053854189
issued on June 10, 1994 in San Francisco, California, U.S.A., had been revoked by the
U.S. Department of State;
3. Hence, respondent [petitioner Tabasa] is now an undocumented and undesirable
alien and may be summarily deported pursuant to Law and Intelligence Instructions
No. 53 issued by then Commissioner Miriam Defensor Santiago to effect his
deportation (Exhibit 3). 8
The pertinent portion of the Herbert letter is as follows:
The U.S. Department of State has revoked U.S. passport 053854189 issued on June 10,
1994 in San Francisco, California under the name of Joevanie Arellano Tabasa, born
on February 21, 1959 in the Philippines. Mr. Tabasas passport has been revoked
because he is the subject of an outstanding federal warrant of arrest issued on
January 25, 1996 by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, for
violation of Section 1073, "Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution," of Title 18 of the
United States Code. He is charged with one count of a felon in possession of a
firearm, in violation of California Penal Code, Section 12021(A)(1), and one count of
sexual battery, in violation of California Penal Code, Section 243.4 (D). 9
The BID ordered petitioners deportation to his country of origin, the United States,
on May 29, 1996, in the following summary deportation order:
Records show that on 16 April 1996, Mr. Kevin F. Herbert, Consul General of the
U.S. Embassy in Manila, filed a request with the Bureau to apprehend and deport
the abovenamed [sic] respondent [petitioner Tabasa] on the ground that a standing
warrant for several federal charges has been issued against him, and that the
respondents Passport No. 053854189 has been revoked.
By reason thereof, and on the strength of Mission Order No. LIV-96-72, Intelligence
operatives apprehended the respondent in Aklan on 23 May 1996.
In Schonemann vs. Commissioner Santiago, et al., (G.R. No. 81461 [sic, 81461
should be 86461], 30 May 1989), the Supreme Court ruled that if a foreign embassy
cancels the passport of an alien, or does not reissue a valid passport to him, the alien
loses the privilege to remain in the country. Further, under Office Memorandum
Order No. 34 issued on 21 August 1989, summary deportation proceedings lie where
the passport of the alien has expired.
It is, thus, apparent that respondent has lost his privilege to remain in the country. 10
Petitioner filed before the CA a Petition for Habeas Corpus with Preliminary
Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order 11 on May 29, 1996, which was
docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 40771. Tabasa alleged that he was not afforded due
process; that no warrant of arrest for deportation may be issued by immigration
authorities before a final order of deportation is made; that no notice of the
cancellation of his passport was made by the U.S. Embassy; that he is entitled to
admission or to a change of his immigration status as a non-quota immigrant
because he is married to a Filipino citizen as provided in Section 13, paragraph (a) of
the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940; and that he was a natural-born citizen of the
Philippines prior to his derivative naturalization when he was seven years old due
to the naturalization of his father, Rodolfo Tabasa, in 1968.
At the time Tabasa filed said petition, he was already 35 years old. 12
On May 30, 1996, the CA ordered the respondent Bureau to produce the person of
the petitioner on June 3, 1996 and show the cause of petitioners detention, and
restrained the Bureau from summarily deporting him. On June 3, 1996, the BID
presented Tabasa before the CA; and on June 6, 1996, the CA granted both parties
ten (10) days within which to file their memoranda, after which the case would be
considered submitted for decision. 13Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Immigration
granted the petitioners temporary release on bail on a PhP 20,000.00 cash bond. 14
However, on June 13, 1996, petitioner filed a Supplemental Petition alleging that he
had acquired Filipino citizenship by repatriation in accordance with Republic Act
No. 8171 (RA 8171), and that because he is now a Filipino citizen, he cannot be
deported or detained by the respondent Bureau. 15
The Ruling of the Court of Appeals
The CA, in its August 7, 1996 Decision, 16 denied Tabasas petition on the ground
that he had not legally and successfully acquiredby repatriationhis Filipino
citizenship as provided in RA 8171. The court said that although he became an
American citizen by derivative naturalization when his father was naturalized in
1968, there is no evidence to show that he lost his Philippine citizenship "on account
of political or economic necessity," as explicitly provided in Section 1, RA 8171the
law governing the repatriation of natural-born Filipinos who have lost their
citizenship. The affidavit does not state that political or economic necessity was the
compelling reason for petitioners parents to give up their Filipino citizenship in
1968. Moreover, the court a quo found that petitioner Tabasa did not dispute the
truth of the April 16, 1996 letter of the United States Consul General Kevin F.
Herbert or the various warrants issued for his arrest by the United States court. The
court a quo noted that after petitioner was ordered deported by the BID on May 29,
1996, he successively executed an Affidavit of Repatriation on June 6, 1996 and took
an oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines on June 13, 1996more than
ten months after his arrival in the country on August 3, 1995. The appellate court
considered petitioners "repatriation" as a last ditch effort to avoid deportation and
prosecution in the United States. The appellate court concluded that his only reason
to want to reacquire Filipino citizenship is to avoid criminal prosecution in the
United States of America. The court a quo, therefore, ruled against Tabasa, whose
petition is now before us.
The Issue
The only issue to be resolved is whether petitioner has validly reacquired Philippine
citizenship under RA 8171. If there is no valid repatriation, then he can be summarily
deported for his being an undocumented alien.
The Courts Ruling
The Court finds no merit in this petition.
RA 8171, "An Act Providing for the Repatriation of Filipino Women Who Have Lost
Their Philippine Citizenship by Marriage to Aliens and of Natural-Born Filipinos,"
was enacted on October 23, 1995. It provides for the repatriation of only two (2)
classes of persons, viz:
Filipino women who have lost their Philippine citizenship by marriage to aliens and
natural-born Filipinos who have lost their Philippine citizenship, including their
minor children, on account of political or economic necessity, may reacquire
Philippine citizenship through repatriation in the manner provided in Section 4 of
Commonwealth Act No. 63, as amended: Provided, That the applicant is not a:
(1) Person opposed to organized government or affiliated with any association or
group of persons who uphold and teach doctrines opposing organized government;
(2) Person defending or teaching the necessity or propriety of violence, personal
assault, or association for the predominance of their ideas;
(3) Person convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude; or
(4) Person suffering from mental alienation or incurable contagious
diseases. 17 (Emphasis supplied.)
Does petitioner Tabasa qualify as a natural-born Filipino who had lost his Philippine
citizenship by reason of political or economic necessity under RA 8171?
He does not.
Persons qualified for repatriation under RA 8171
To reiterate, the only persons entitled to repatriation under RA 8171 are the
following:
a. Filipino women who lost their Philippine citizenship by marriage to aliens; and
b. Natural-born Filipinos including their minor children who lost their Philippine
citizenship on account of political or economic necessity.
Petitioner theorizes that he could be repatriated under RA 8171 because he is
a child of a natural-born Filipino, and that he lost his Philippine citizenship by
derivative naturalization when he was still a minor.
Petitioner overlooks the fact that the privilege of repatriation under RA 8171 is
available only to natural-born Filipinos who lost their citizenship on account of
political or economic necessity, and to the minor children of said natural-born
Filipinos. This means that if a parent who had renounced his Philippine citizenship
due to political or economic reasons later decides to repatriate under RA 8171, his
repatriation will also benefit his minor children according to the law. This includes a
situation where a former Filipino subsequently had children while he was a
naturalized citizen of a foreign country. The repatriation of the former Filipino will
allow him to recover his natural-born citizenship and automatically vest Philippine
citizenship on his children of jus sanguinis or blood relationship:18 the children
acquire the citizenship of their parent(s) who are natural-born Filipinos. To claim the
benefit of RA 8171, however, the children must be of minor age at the time the
petition for repatriation is filed by the parent. This is so because a child does not
have the legal capacity for all acts of civil life much less the capacity to undertake a
political act like the election of citizenship. On their own, the minor children cannot
apply for repatriation or naturalization separately from their parents.
In the case at bar, there is no dispute that petitioner was a Filipino at birth. In 1968,
while he was still a minor, his father was naturalized as an American citizen; and by
derivative naturalization, petitioner acquired U.S. citizenship. Petitioner now wants
us to believe that he is entitled to automatic repatriation as a child of natural-born
Filipinos who left the country due to political or economic necessity. This is absurd.
Petitioner was no longer a minor at the time of his "repatriation" on June 13, 1996.
The privilege under RA 8171 belongs to children who are of minor age at the time of
the filing of the petition for repatriation.
Neither can petitioner be a natural-born Filipino who left the country due to political
or economic necessity. Clearly, he lost his Philippine citizenship by operation of law
and not due to political or economic exigencies. It was his father who could have
been motivated by economic or political reasons in deciding to apply for
naturalization. The decision was his parents and not his. The privilege of
repatriation under RA 8171 is extended directly to the natural-born Filipinos who
could prove that they acquired citizenship of a foreign country due to political and
economic reasons, and extended indirectly to the minor children at the time of
repatriation.
In sum, petitioner is not qualified to avail himself of repatriation under RA 8171.
However, he can possibly reacquire Philippine citizenship by availing of the
Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003 (Republic Act No. 9225) by
simply taking an oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines.
Where to file a petition for repatriation pursuant to RA 8171
Even if we concede that petitioner Tabasa can avail of the benefit of RA 8171, still he
failed to follow the procedure for reacquisition of Philippine citizenship. He has to
file his petition for repatriation with the Special Committee on Naturalization (SCN),
which was designated to process petitions for repatriation pursuant to
Administrative Order No. 285 (A.O. No. 285) dated August 22, 1996, to wit:
Section 1. Composition.The composition of the Special Committee on
Naturalization, with the Solicitor General as Chairman, the Undersecretary of
Foreign Affairs and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Coordinating
Agency, as members, shall remain as constituted.
Sec. 2. Procedure.Any person desirous of repatriating or reacquiring Filipino
citizenship pursuant to R.A. No. 8171 shall file a petition with the Special Committee
on Naturalization which shall process the same. If their applications are approved[,]
they shall take the necessary oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines,
after which they shall be deemed to have reacquired Philippine citizenship. The
Commission on Immigration and Deportation shall thereupon cancel their certificate
of registration (emphasis supplied).
Sec. 3. Implementing Rules.The Special Committee is hereby authorized to
promulgate rules and regulations and prescribe the appropriate forms and the
required fees for the processing of petitions.
Sec. 4. Effectivity.This Administrative Order shall take effect immediately.
In the Amended Rules and Regulations Implementing RA 8171 issued by the SCN
on August 5, 1999, applicants for repatriation are required to submit documents in
support of their petition such as their birth certificate and other evidence proving
their claim to Filipino citizenship. 19 These requirements were imposed to enable the
SCN to verify the qualifications of the applicant particularly in light of the reasons
for the renunciation of Philippine citizenship.
What petitioner simply did was that he took his oath of allegiance to the Republic of
the Philippines; then, executed an affidavit of repatriation, which he registered,
together with the certificate of live birth, with the Office of the Local Civil Registrar
of Manila. The said office subsequently issued him a certificate of such
registration. 20At that time, the SCN was already in place and operational by virtue
of the June 8, 1995 Memorandum issued by President Fidel V. Ramos. 21 Although
A.O. No. 285 designating the SCN to process petitions filed pursuant to RA 8171 was
issued only on August 22, 1996, it is merely a confirmatory issuance according to the
Court in Angat v. Republic. 22 Thus, petitioner should have instead filed a petition for
repatriation before the SCN.
Requirements for repatriation under RA 8171
Even if petitionernow of legal agecan still apply for repatriation under RA 8171,
he nevertheless failed to prove that his parents relinquished their Philippine
citizenship on account of political or economic necessity as provided for in the law.
Nowhere in his affidavit of repatriation did he mention that his parents lost their
Philippine citizenship on account of political or economic reasons. It is notable that
under the Amended Rules and Regulations Implementing RA 8171, the SCN
requires a petitioner for repatriation to set forth, among others, "the reason/s why
petitioner lost his/her Filipino citizenship, whether by marriage in case of Filipino
woman, or whether by political or economic necessity in case of [a] natural-born
Filipino citizen who lost his/her Filipino citizenship. In case of the latter, such
political or economic necessity should be specified." 23
Petitioner Tabasa asserts, however, that the CA erred in ruling that the applicant for
repatriation must prove that he lost his Philippine citizenship on account of political
or economic necessity. He theorizes that the reference to political or economic
reasons is "merely descriptive, not restrictive, of the widely accepted reasons for
naturalization in [a] foreign country." 24
Petitioners argument has no leg to stand on.
A reading of Section 1 of RA 8171 shows the manifest intent of the legislature to limit
the benefit of repatriation only to natural-born Filipinos who lost their Philippine
citizenship on account of political or economic necessity, in addition to Filipino
women who lost their Philippine citizenship by marriage to aliens. The precursor of
RA 8171, Presidential Decree No. 725 (P.D. 725), 25 which was enacted on June 5,
1975 amending Commonwealth Act No. 63, also gives to the same groups of former
Filipinos the opportunity to repatriate but without the limiting phrase, "on account
of political or economic necessity" in relation to natural-born Filipinos. By adding the
said phrase to RA 8171, the lawmakers clearly intended to limit the application of
the law only to political or economic migrants, aside from the Filipino women who
lost their citizenship by marriage to aliens. This intention is more evident in the
following sponsorship speech of Rep. Andrea B. Domingo on House Bill No. 1248,
the origin of RA 8171, to wit:
Ms. Domingo: x x x
From my experience as the Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and
Deportation, I observed that there are only four types of Filipinos who leave the
country.
The first is what we call the "economic refugees" who go abroad to work because
there is no work to be found in the country. Then we have the "political refugees"
who leave the country for fear of their lives because they are not in consonance with
the prevailing policy of government. The third type is those who have committed
crimes and would like to escape from the punishment of said crimes. Lastly, we have
those Filipinos who feel that they are not Filipinos, thereby seeking other citizenship
elsewhere.
Of these four types of Filipinos, Mr. Speaker, the first two have to leave the country
not of choice, but rather out of sacrifice to look for a better life, as well as for a safer
abode for themselves and their families. It is for these two types of Filipinos that this
measure is being proposed for approval by this body. (Emphasis supplied.)
xxxx
x x x [I]f the body would recall, I mentioned in my short sponsorship speech the four
types of Filipinos who leave their country. And the two typesthe economic and
political refugeesare the ones being addressed by this proposed law, and they are
not really Filipino women who lost their citizenship through marriage. We had a lot
of problems with these people who left the country because of political persecution
or because of pressing economic reasons, and after feeling that they should come
back to the country and get back their citizenship and participate as they should in
the affairs of the country, they find that it is extremely difficult to get their
citizenship back because they are treated no different from any other class of alien. 26
From these two sources, namely, P.D. 725 and the sponsorship speech on House Bill
No. 1248, it is incontrovertible that the intent of our legislators in crafting Section 1 of
RA 8171, as it is precisely worded out, is to exclude those Filipinos who have
abandoned their country for reasons other than political or economic necessity.
Petitioner contends it is not necessary to prove his political or economic reasons
since the act of renouncing allegiance to ones native country constitutes a "necessary
and unavoidable shifting of his political allegiance," and his fathers loss of
Philippine citizenship through naturalization "cannot therefore be said to be for any
reason other than political or economic necessity." 27
This argument has no merit.
While it is true that renunciation of allegiance to ones native country is necessarily a
political act, it does not follow that the act is inevitably politically or economically
motivated as alleged by petitioner. To reiterate, there are other reasons why Filipinos
relinquish their Philippine citizenship. The sponsorship speech of former
Congresswoman Andrea B. Domingo illustrates that aside from economic and
political refugees, there are Filipinos who leave the country because they have
committed crimes and would like to escape from punishment, and those who really
feel that they are not Filipinos and that they deserve a better nationality, and
therefore seek citizenship elsewhere.
Thus, assuming petitioner Tabasa is qualified under RA 8171, it is incumbent upon
him to prove to the satisfaction of the SCN that the reason for his loss of citizenship
was the decision of his parents to forfeit their Philippine citizenship for political or
economic exigencies. He failed to undertake this crucial step, and thus, the sought
relief is unsuccessful.
Repatriation is not a matter of right, but it is a privilege granted by the State. This is
mandated by the 1987 Constitution under Section 3, Article IV, which provides that
citizenship may be lost or reacquired in the manner provided by law. The State has
the power to prescribe by law the qualifications, procedure, and requirements for
repatriation. It has the power to determine if an applicant for repatriation meets the
requirements of the law for it is an inherent power of the State to choose who will be
its citizens, and who can reacquire citizenship once it is lost. If the applicant, like
petitioner Tabasa, fails to comply with said requirements, the State is justified in
rejecting the petition for repatriation.
Petitioner: an undocumented alien subject to summary deportation
Petitioner claims that because of his repatriation, he has reacquired his Philippine
citizenship; therefore, he is not an undocumented alien subject to deportation.
This theory is incorrect.
As previously explained, petitioner is not entitled to repatriation under RA 8171 for
he has not shown that his case falls within the coverage of the law.
Office Memorandum No. 34 dated August 21, 1989 of the BID is enlightening on
summary deportation:
2. The Board of Special Inquiry and the Hearing Board IV shall observe summary
deportation proceedings in cases where the charge against the alien is overstaying,
or the expiration or cancellation by his government of his passport. In cases
involving overstaying aliens, BSI and the Hearing Board IV shall merely require the
presentation of the aliens valid passport and shall decide the case on the basis
thereof.
3. If a foreign embassy cancels the passport of the alien, or does not reissue a valid
passport to him, the alien loses the privilege to remain in the country, under the
Immigration Act, Sections 10 and 15 (Schonemann v. Santiago, et al., G.R. No. 81461
[sic, should be 86461], 30 May 1989). The automatic loss of the privilege obviates
deportation proceedings. In such instance, the Board of Commissioners may issue
summary judgment of deportation which shall be immediately executory. 28
In addition, in the case of Schonemann v. Defensor Santiago, et al., this Court held:
It is elementary that if an alien wants to stay in the Philippines, he must possess the
necessary documents. One of these documents is a valid passport. There are, of
course, exceptions where in the exercise of its sovereign prerogatives the Philippines
may grant refugee status, refuse to extradite an alien, or otherwise allow him or her
to stay here even if he [the alien] has no valid passport or Philippine visa. "Boat
people" seeking residence elsewhere are examples. However, the grant of the
privilege of staying in the Philippines is discretionary on the part of the proper
authorities. There is no showing of any grave abuse of discretion, arbitrariness, or
whimsicality in the questioned summary judgment. x x x 29
Petitioner Tabasa, whose passport was cancelled after his admission into the
country, became an undocumented alien who can be summarily deported. His
subsequent "repatriation" cannot bar such deportation especially considering that he
has no legal and valid reacquisition of Philippine citizenship.
WHEREFORE, this petition for review is DISMISSED, and the August 7, 1996
Decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED. No costs to the petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
ARLENE LLENA EMPAYNADO CHUA, Petitioner,
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, IMELDA E. FRAGATA, and KRYSTLE MARIE
C. BACANI, Respondents.
DECISION
LEONEN, J.:
Dual citizens are disqualified from running for any elective local position. They
cannot successfully run and assume office because their ineligibility is inherent in
them, existing prior to the filing of their certificates of candidacy. Their certificates of
candidacy are void ab initio, and votes cast for them will be disregarded.
Consequently, whoever garners the next highest number of votes among the eligible
candidates is the person legally entitled to the position.
This resolves a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition1 assailing the Commission on
Elections Resolutions dated October 17, 20132 and January 30, 2015.3 The
Commission on Elections annulled the "proclamation of . . . Arlene Llena
Empaynado Chua as Councilor for the Fourth District of Manila[,]"4 and directed the
Board of Canvassers to reconvene and proclaim Krystle Marie C. Bacani (Bacani) as
Councilor for having garnered the next highest number of votes.5
On October 3, 2012, Arlene Llena Empaynado Chua (Chua) filed her Certificate of
Candidacy6 for Councilor for the Fourth District of Manila during the May 13, 2013
National and Local Elections. The Fourth District of Manila is entitled to six (6) seats
in the Sangguniang Panlungsod.7
After the conduct of elections, Chua garnered the sixth highest number of votes.8 She
was proclaimed by the Board of Canvassers on May 15, 2013.9
On the date of Chuas proclamation, however, Imelda E. Fragata (Fragata) filed a
Petition10 captioned as a "petition to declare [Chua] as a nuisance candidate"11 and
"to deny due course and/or cancel [Chuas] Certificate of Candidacy."12 Fragata was
allegedly a registered voter in the Fourth District13 who claimed that Chua was
unqualified to run for Councilor on two grounds: Chua was not a Filipino citizen,
and she was a permanent resident of the United States of America.14 Fragata
specifically alleged the following in her Petition:
3. [Chua] is not a Filipino Citizen.
4. Prior to the filing of her candidacy, [Chua] has been living in the United
States of America (USA) for at least 33 years.
5. [Chua] is an immigrant and was validly issued a Green Card by the
Government of the USA.
6. She resided and continues to reside [in Georgia, USA].
7. [Chua] has been a Registered Professional Nurse in the State of Georgia,
USA since November 17, 1990.
8. . . . [Chuas] Professional License in the USA is still to expire in 31 January
2014.15
The last paragraph of the Petition prayed that Chua "be disqualified as a candidate
for the position of councilor in the Fourth District of the City of Manila[.]"16
Answering the Petition, Chua contended that she was a natural-born Filipino, born
to Filipino parents in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija.17 With respect to her residency,
Chua alleged that she had been residing in Sampaloc, Manila since 200818 and had
more than complied with the one-year period required to run for Councilor.19
According to Chua, Fragatas Petition was belatedly filed,20 whether it was treated as
one for declaration of a nuisance candidate21 or for denial of due course or
cancellation of certificate of candidacy.22 Fragata filed her Petition on May 15, 2013,
which was beyond five (5) days from October 5, 2012, the last day of the filing of
certificates of candidacy.23 The Petition was also filed beyond 25 days from October
3, 2012,24 the date Chua filed her Certificate of Candidacy.25
Chua stressed that she had already been proclaimed on May 15, 2013, the same date
that Fragata filed her Petition; hence, Fragatas proper remedy was to file a petition
for quo warranto26 under Section 253 of the Omnibus Election Code. Chua prayed
that the Commission dismiss Fragatas Petition.27
On June 19, 2013, Bacani filed a Motion to Intervene with Manifestation and Motion
to Annul Proclamation.28Bacani alleged that she likewise ran for Councilor in the
Fourth District of Manila, and that after the canvassing of votes, she ranked seventh
among all the candidates, next to Chua.29 Should Chua be disqualified, Bacani
claimed that she should be proclaimed Councilor30 following this Courts ruling
in Maquiling v. Commission on Elections.31
Bacani argued that Chua, being a dual citizen, was unqualified to run for
Councilor.32 Based on an Order of the Bureau of Immigration, Chua was allegedly
naturalized as an American citizen on December 7, 1977.33 She was issued an
American passport34 on July 14, 2006.
Chua took an Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines on September 21,
2011.35 Nonetheless, Chua allegedly continued on using her American passport,
specifically on the following dates:
October 16, 2012 Departure for the United States
December 11, 2012 Arrival in the Philippines
May 30, 2013 Departure for the United States36
Moreover, Chua did not execute an oath of renunciation of her American
citizenship.37
With Chua being a dual citizen at the time she filed her Certificate of Candidacy,
Bacani prayed that the Commission on Elections annul Chuas proclamation.38
In her Comment/Opposition (to the Motion to Intervene of Krystle Marie
Bacani),39 Chua argued that the Motion was a belatedly filed petition to deny due
course or cancel a certificate of candidacy, having been filed after the day of the
elections.40 According to Chua, the Motion should not even be considered since she
was already proclaimed by the Board of Canvassers.41 Thus, Chua prayed that the
Motion to Intervene be denied and expunged from the records of the case.42
The Commission on Elections then ordered the parties to file their respective
memoranda.43
In her Memorandum,44 Chua maintained that Fragatas Petition was filed out of time
and should have been outright dismissed.45 Reiterating that she had already been
proclaimed, Chua argued that Fragatas proper remedy was a petition for quo
warranto.46
Countering Chuas claims, Fragata and Bacani restated in their Joint
Memorandum47 that Chua was a dual citizen disqualified from running for any
elective local position.
The Commission on Elections Second Division resolved Fragatas Petition. Ruling
that Bacani had a legal interest in the matter in litigation, it allowed Bacanis Motion
to Intervene.48 The Commission said that should Fragatas Petition be granted, the
votes for Chua would not be counted.49 In effect, Bacani would garner the sixth
highest number of votes among the qualified candidates, which would earn her a
seat in the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Manila.50
With respect to the nature of Fragatas Petition, the Commission on Elections held
that it was one for disqualification, regardless of the caption stating that it was a
petition to declare Chua a nuisance candidate.51The Petition alleged a ground for
disqualification under Section 40 of the Local Government Code,52 specifically, that
Chua was a permanent resident in the United States.
Since Fragata filed a petition for disqualification, Rule 25, Section 3 of the
Commission on Elections Rules of Procedure governed the period for its
filing.53 Under the Rules, a petition for disqualification should be filed "any day after
the last day for filing of certificates of candidacy, but not later than the date of the
proclamation." Fragata filed the Petition within this period, having filed it on the
date of Chuas proclamation on May 15, 2013.54
The Commission no longer discussed whether Chua was a permanent resident of the
United States. Instead, it found that Chua was a dual citizen when she filed her
Certificate of Candidacy.55 Although she reacquired her Filipino citizenship in 2011
by taking an Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, petitioner failed
to take a sworn and personal renunciation of her American citizenship required
under Section 5(2) of the Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003.56
Considering that Chua is a dual citizen, the Commission held that Chua was
disqualified to run for Councilor pursuant to Section 40 of the Local Government
Code.57 Consequently, Chuas Certificate of Candidacy was void ab initio, and all
votes casted for her were stray.58 Chuas proclamation was likewise voided, and
per Maquiling, Bacani was declared to have garnered the sixth highest number of
votes.59
Thus, in the Resolution dated October 17, 2013, the Commission on Elections Second
Division ruled in favor of Fragata and Bacani.60 The dispositive portion of the
October 17, 2013 Resolution reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission (Second
Division) RESOLVES, as it hereby RESOLVED:
1. To ANNUL the proclamation of respondent Arlene Llena Empaynado
Chua as Councilor for the Fourth District of Manila;
2. To DIRECT the Board of Canvassers of the City of Manila
to CONVENE and PROCLAIM Intervenor Krystle Marie C. Bacani as the
duly elected Councilor of the Fourth District of the City of Manila, having
obtained the sixth highest number of votes for said position.
Let the Deputy Executive Director for Operations implement this Resolution.
SO ORDERED.61
Chua moved for reconsideration,62 but the Commission on Elections En Banc denied
the Motion in the Resolution dated January 30, 2015.
Arguing that the Commission issued its October 17, 2013 and January 30, 2015
Resolutions with grave abuse of discretion, Chua filed before this Court a Petition
for Certiorari and Prohibition with prayer for issuance of temporary restraining
order and/or writ of preliminary injunction.63 Fragata and Bacani jointly filed their
Comment,64while the Commission on Elections filed its Comment65 through the
Office of the Solicitor General.
Chua emphasizes that she was already proclaimed as a duly elected
Councilor.66 Assuming that she was ineligible to run for office, this created a
permanent vacancy in the Sangguniang Panlungsod, which was to be filled
according to the rule on succession under Section 45 of the Local Government Code,
and not by proclamation of the candidate who garnered the next highest number of
votes.67
Chua maintains that Fragata belatedly filed her Petition before the Commission on
Elections.68 Since Fragata filed a Petition to deny due course or cancel certificate of
candidacy, it should have been filed within five (5) days from the last day for filing
of certificates of candidacy, but not later than 25 days from the time of the filing of
the certificate of candidacy assailed.69 Fragata filed the Petition on May 15, 2013,
more than 25 days after Chua filed her Certificate of Candidacy on October 3,
2012.70 The Commission on Elections, therefore, should have outright dismissed
Fragatas Petition.71
With her already proclaimed, Chua argues that the Commission on Elections should
have respected the voice of the people.72 Chua prays that the Resolutions annulling
her proclamation and subsequently proclaiming Bacani be set aside.73
As for Fragata and Bacani as well as the Commission on Elections, all maintain that
Fragatas Petition was a petition for disqualification assailing Chuas citizenship and
status as a permanent resident in the United States.74The Petition, which Fragata
filed on the date of Chuas proclamation, was filed within the reglementary period.75
The Commission on Elections stresses that Chua was a dual citizen at the time she
filed her Certificate of Candidacy.76 Consequently, she was ineligible to run for
Councilor and was correctly considered a non-candidate. 77 All the votes casted in
Chuas favor were correctly disregarded, resulting in Bacani garnering the next
highest number of votes.78 Following Maquiling, the Commission argues that Bacani
was validly proclaimed as Councilor, and, contrary to Chuas claim, the rule on
succession under Section 45 of the Local Government Code did not apply, with the
disqualifying circumstance existing prior to the filing of the Certificate of
Candidacy.79
Although Chua was already proclaimed, the Commission on Elections argues that
"[t]he will of the people as expressed through the ballot cannot cure the vice of
ineligibility, especially if they mistakenly believed that the candidate was
qualified."80 Fragata, Bacani, and the Commission on Elections pray that the Petition
for Certiorari and Prohibition be dismissed.81
The issues for this Courts resolution are the following:
First, whether private respondent Imelda E. Fragata filed a petition for
disqualification or a petition to deny due course or cancel certificate of candidacy;
and
Second, whether the rule on succession under Section 45 of the Local Government
Code applies to this case.
We dismiss the Petition. The allegations of private respondent Fragatas Petition
before the Commission on Elections show that it was a timely filed petition for
disqualification. Moreover, the Commission on Elections did not gravely abuse its
discretion in disqualifying petitioner Arlene Llena Empaynado Chua, annulling her
proclamation, and subsequently proclaiming private respondent Krystle Marie C.
Bacani, the candidate who garnered the sixth highest number of votes among the
qualified candidates.
I
As this Court has earlier observed in Fermin v. Commission on Elections,82 members of
the bench and the bar have "indiscriminately interchanged"83 the remedies of a
petition to deny due course or cancel certificate of candidacy and a petition for
disqualification, thus "adding confusion to the already difficult state of our
jurisprudence on election laws."84
The remedies, however, have different grounds and periods for their filing. The
remedies have different legal consequences.
A person files a certificate of candidacy to announce his or her candidacy and to
declare his or her eligibility for the elective office indicated in the
certificate.85 Section 74 of the Omnibus Election Code on the contents of a certificate
of candidacy states:
Sec. 74. Contents of certificate of candidacy. The certificate of candidacy shall state
that the person filing it is announcing his candidacy for the office stated therein and
that he is eligible for said office; if for Member of the Batasang Pambansa, the
province, including its component cities, highly urbanized city or district or section
which he seeks to represent; the political party to which he belongs; civil status; his
date of birth; residence; his post office address for all election purposes; his
profession or occupation; that he will support and defend the Constitution of the
Philippines and will maintain true faith and allegiance thereto; that he will obey the
laws, legal orders, and decrees promulgated by the duly constituted authorities; that
he is not a permanent resident or immigrant to a foreign country; that the obligation
imposed by his oath is assumed voluntarily, without mental reservation or purpose
of evasion; and that the facts stated in the certificate of candidacy are true to the best
of his knowledge.
Unless a candidate has officially changed his name through a court approved
proceeding, a candidate shall use in a certificate of candidacy the name by which he
has been baptized, or if has not been baptized in any church or religion, the name
registered in the office of the local civil registrar or any other name allowed under
the provisions of existing law or, in the case of a Muslim, his Hadji name after
performing the prescribed religious pilgrimage: Provided, That when there are two or
more candidates for an office with the same name and surname, each candidate,
upon being made aware of such fact, shall state his paternal and maternal surname,
except the incumbent who may continue to use the name and surname stated in his
certificate of candidacy when he was elected. He may also include one nickname or
stage name by which he is generally or popularly known in the locality.
The person filing a certificate of candidacy shall also affix his latest photograph,
passport size; a statement in duplicate containing his bio-data and program of
government not exceeding one hundred words, if he so desires.
The Commission on Elections has the ministerial duty to receive and acknowledge
receipt of certificates of candidacy.86 However, under Section 78 of the Omnibus
Election Code,87 the Commission may deny due course or cancel a certificate of
candidacy through a verified petition filed exclusively on the ground that "any
material representation contained therein as required under Section 74 hereof is
false." The "material representation" referred to in Section 78 is that which involves
the eligibility or qualification for the office sought by the person who filed the
certificate.88 Section 78 must, therefore, be read "in relation to the constitutional and
statutory provisions on qualifications or eligibility for public office."89 Moreover, the
false representation "must consist of a deliberate attempt to mislead, misinform, or
hide a fact which would otherwise render a candidate ineligible."90
A person intending to run for public office must not only possess the required
qualifications for the position for which he or she intends to run. The candidate must
also possess none of the grounds for disqualification under the law. As Justice
Vicente V. Mendoza said in his Dissenting Opinion in Romualdez-Marcos v.
Commission on Elections,91 "that an individual possesses the qualifications for a public
office does not imply that he is not disqualified from becoming a candidate or
continuing as a candidate for a public office and vice-versa."92
Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code provides for grounds in filing a petition for
disqualification:
Sec. 68 Disqualifications. Any candidate who, in action or protest in which he is a
party is declared by final decision of a competent court guilty of, or found by the
Commission of having (a) given money or other material consideration to influence,
induce or corrupt the voters or public officials performing electoral functions; (b)
committed acts of terrorism to enhance his candidacy; (c) spent in his election
campaign an amount in excess of that allowed by this Code; (d) solicited, received or
made any contribution prohibited under Sections 89, 95, 96, 97 and 104; or (e)
violated any of Sections 80, 83, 85, 86 and 261, paragraphs d, e, k, v, and cc, sub-
paragraph 6, shall be disqualified from continuing as a candidate, or if he has been
elected, from holding the office. Any person who is a permanent resident of or an
immigrant of a foreign country in accordance with the residence requirement
provided for in the election laws.
Apart from the grounds provided in Section 68, any of the grounds in Section 12 of
the Omnibus Election Code as well as in Section 40 of the Local Government Code
may likewise be raised in a petition for disqualification. Section 12 of the Omnibus
Election Code states:
Sec. 12. Disqualifications. Any person who has been declared by competent
authority insane or incompetent, or has been sentenced by final judgment for
subversion, insurrection, rebellion, or for any offense for which he has been
sentenced to a penalty of more than eighteen months or for a crime involving moral
turpitude, shall be disqualified to be a candidate and to hold any office, unless he
has been given plenary pardon or granted amnesty.
This disqualifications to be a candidate herein provided shall be deemed removed
upon the declaration by competent authority that said insanity or incompetence had
been removed or after the expiration of a period of five years from his service of
sentence, unless within the same period he again becomes disqualified.
Disqualifications specifically applicable to those running for local elective positions
are found in Section 40 of the Local Government Code:
SECTION 40. Disqualifications. The following persons are disqualified from
running for any elective local position:
(a) Those sentenced by final judgment for an offense involving moral
turpitude or for an offense punishable by one (1) year or more of
imprisonment, within two (2) years after serving sentence;
(b) Those removed from office as a result of an administrative case;
(c) Those convicted by final judgment for violating the oath of allegiance to
the Republic;
(d) Those with dual citizenship;
(e) Fugitives from justice in criminal or nonpolitical cases here or abroad;
(f) Permanent residents in a foreign country or those who have acquired the
right to reside abroad and continue to avail of the same right after the
effectivity of this Code; and
(g) The insane or feeble-minded.
Private respondent Fragata alleges in her Petition that petitioner is a permanent
resident in the United States, a green card holder who, prior to the filing of her
Certificate of Candidacy for Councilor, has resided in the State of Georgia for 33
years. She anchors her Petition on Section 40 of the Local Government Code, which
disqualifies permanent residents of a foreign country from running for any elective
local position.
It is true that under Section 74 of the Omnibus Election Code, persons who file their
certificates of candidacy declare that they are not a permanent resident or immigrant
to a foreign country. Therefore, a petition to deny due course or cancel a certificate of
candidacy may likewise be filed against a permanent resident of a foreign country
seeking an elective post in the Philippines on the ground of material
misrepresentation in the certificate of candidacy.93
What remedy to avail himself or herself of, however, depends on the petitioner. If
the false material representation in the certificate of candidacy relates to a ground for
disqualification, the petitioner may choose whether to file a petition to deny due
course or cancel a certificate of candidacy or a petition for disqualification, so long as
the petition filed complies with the requirements under the law.94
Before the Commission on Elections, private respondent Fragata had a choice of
filing either a petition to deny due course or cancel petitioners certificate of
candidacy or a petition for disqualification. In her Petition, private respondent
Fragata did not argue that petitioner made a false material representation in her
Certificate of Candidacy; she asserted that petitioner was a permanent resident
disqualified to run for Councilor under Section 40 of the Local Government Code.
Private respondent Fragatas Petition, therefore, was a petition for disqualification.
It follows that private respondent Fragata timely filed her Petition before the
Commission on Elections. Under Rule 25, Section 3 of the Rules of Procedure of the
Commission, a petition for disqualification "shall be filed any day after the last day
for filing of certificates of candidacy, but not later that the date of proclamation."
Private respondent Fragata filed her Petition on the date of petitioners proclamation
on May 15, 2013. The Commission on Elections did not gravely abuse its discretion
in taking cognizance of private respondent Fragatas Petition.
In addition, the Commission on Elections correctly admitted private respondent
Bacanis pleading-in-intervention.
An adverse decision against petitioner would require a pronouncement as to who
should assume the position of Councilor. Hence, those who believe that they are
entitled to the position may prove their legal interest in the matter in litigation95 and
may properly intervene for a complete disposition of the case.
Private respondent Bacani claims that she is entitled to the position of Councilor. In
her Motion to Intervene, she argues for petitioners disqualification and alleges the
circumstances surrounding petitioners dual citizenship. She then cites Maquiling,
arguing that she should be proclaimed in lieu of petitioner because she obtained the
sixth highest number of votes among the qualified candidates. Private respondent
Bacanis intervention was, therefore, proper.
II
The Commission on Elections did not gravely abuse its discretion in disqualifying
petitioner, annulling her proclamation, and subsequently proclaiming private
respondent Bacani as the duly elected Councilor for the Fourth District of Manila.
Petitioner was born to Filipino parents in 1967, which makes her a natural-born
Filipino under the 1935 Constitution.96 Ten years later, on December 7, 1977,
petitioner became a naturalized American. Hence, she lost her Filipino citizenship
pursuant to Section 1 of Commonwealth Act No. 63.97
It was on September 21, 2011 when petitioner took an Oath of Allegiance to the
Republic of the Philippines, thus reacquiring her Filipino citizenship.98 From
September 21, 2011 up to the present, however, petitioner failed to execute a sworn
and personal renunciation of her foreign citizenship particularly required of those
seeking elective public office. Section 5(2) of the Citizenship Retention and Re-
acquisition Act of 2003
provides:
SECTION 5. Civil and Political Rights and Liabilities. Those who retain or re-acquire
Philippine citizenship under this Act shall enjoy full civil and political rights and be
subject to all attendant liabilities and responsibilities under existing laws of the
Philippines and the following conditions:
....
(2) Those seeking elective public office in the Philippines shall meet the
qualifications for holding such public office as required by the Constitution and
existing laws and, at the time of the filing of the certificate of candidacy, make a
personal and sworn renunciation of any and all foreign citizenship before any public
officer authorized to administer an oath[.]
Petitioner cannot claim that she has renounced her American citizenship by taking
the Oath of Allegiance. The oath of allegiance and the sworn and personal
renunciation of foreign citizenship are separate requirements, the latter being
an additional requirement for qualification to run for public office. In Jacot v. Dal:99
[T]he oath of allegiance contained in the Certificate of Candidacy, which is
substantially similar to the one contained in Section 3 of Republic Act No. 9225, does
not constitute the personal and sworn renunciation sought under Section 5(2) of
Republic Act No. 9225. It bears to emphasize that the said oath of allegiance is a
general requirement for all those who wish to run as candidates in Philippine
elections; while the renunciation of foreign citizenship is an additional requisite only
for those who have retained or reacquired Philippine citizenship under Republic Act
No. 9225 and who seek elective public posts, considering their special circumstance
of having more than one citizenship.100
With petitioners failure to execute a personal and sworn renunciation of her
American citizenship, petitioner was a dual citizen at the time she filed her
Certificate of Candidacy on October 3, 2012. Under Section 40 of the Local
Government Code, she was disqualified to run for Councilor in the Fourth District of
Manila during the 2013 National and Local Elections.
Petitioner, however, argues that the Commission on Elections gravely abused its
discretion in proclaiming private respondent Bacani, the mere seventh placer among
the candidates for Councilor and, therefore, not the electorates choice. Petitioner
maintains that the vacancy left by her disqualification should be filled according to
the rule on succession under Section 45(a)(1) of the Local Government Code, which
provides:
SECTION 45. Permanent Vacancies in the Sanggunian. (a) Permanent vacancies in
the sanggunian where automatic successions provided above do not apply shall be
filled by appointment in the following manner:
(1) The President, through the Executive Secretary, in the case of the
sangguniang panlalawigan and the sangguniang panlungsod of highly
urbanized cities and independent component cities[.]
The permanent vacancies referred to in Section 45 are those arising "when an elective
local official fills a higher vacant office, refuses to assume office, fails to qualify, dies,
is removed from office, voluntarily resigns, or is otherwise permanently
incapacitated to discharge the functions of his office."101 In these situations, the
vacancies were caused by those whose certificates of candidacy were valid at the
time of the filing "but subsequently had to be cancelled because of a violation of law
that took place, or a legal impediment that took effect, after the filing of the
certificate of candidacy."102
The rule on succession under Section 45, however, would not apply if the permanent
vacancy was caused by one whose certificate of candidacy was void ab initio.
Specifically with respect to dual citizens, their certificates of candidacy are void ab
initio because they possess "a substantive [disqualifying circumstance] . . . [existing]
prior to the filing of their certificate of candidacy."103 Legally, they should not even
be considered candidates. The votes casted for them should be considered stray and
should not be counted.104
In cases of vacancies caused by those with void ab initio certificates of candidacy, the
person legally entitled to the vacant position would be the candidate who garnered
the next highest number of votes among those eligible.105 In this case, it is private
respondent Bacani who is legally entitled to the position of Councilor, having
garnered the sixth highest number of votes among the eligible candidates. The
Commission on Elections correctly proclaimed private respondent Bacani in lieu of
petitioner.
Petitioner may have garnered more votes than private respondent Bacani. She may
have already been proclaimed. Nevertheless, elections are more than a numbers
game. Hence, in Maquiling:
The ballot cannot override the constitutional and statutory requirements for
qualifications and disqualifications of candidates. When the law requires certain
qualifications to be possessed or that certain disqualifications be not possessed by
persons desiring to serve as elective public officials, those qualifications must be met
before one even becomes a candidate. When a person who is not qualified is voted
for and eventually garners the highest number of votes, even the will of the
electorate expressed through the ballot cannot cure the defect in the qualifications of
the candidate. To rule otherwise is to trample upon and rent asunder the very law
that sets forth the qualifications and disqualifications of candidates. We might as
well write off our election laws if the voice of the electorate is the sole determinant of
who should be proclaimed worthy to occupy elective positions in our republic.
....
As in any contest, elections are governed by rules that determine the qualifications
and disqualifications of those who are allowed to participate as players. When there
are participants who turn out to be ineligible, their victory is voided and the laurel is
awarded to the next in rank who does not possess any of the disqualifications nor
lacks any of the qualifications set in the rules to be eligible as candidates. 106
All told, petitioner Arlene Llena Empaynado Chua is a dual citizen correctly
disqualified from running for the position of Councilor in the Fourth District of
Manila during the 2013 National and Local elections. With her dual citizenship
existing prior to the filing of the certificate of candidacy, her Certificate of Candidacy
was void ab initio. She was correctly considered a non-candidate. All votes casted
for her were stray, and the person legally entitled to the position is private
respondent Krystle Marie C. Bacani, the candidate with the next highest number of
votes among the eligible candidates. The Commission on Elections did not gravely
abuse its discretion in annulling Chua's proclamation and subsequently proclaiming
private respondent Bacani.
WHEREFORE, the Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition is DISMISSED. This
Decision is immediately executory.
SO ORDERED.
ARSENIO A. AGUSTIN, Petitioner, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS AND
SALVADOR S. PILLOS, Respondent.
DECISION
BERSAMIN, J.:
A person of dual citizenship is disqualified from running for a public office in the
Philippines.
The Case

The petitioner seeks to annul and set aside the adverse resolution issued on April 23,
2013 in SPA No. 13-023 (DC),1 whereby the Commission on Elections
(COMELEC) En Banc disposed:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Motion for Reconsideration of Petitioner
Stewart D. De La Cruz in SPA No. 13-024 (DC) is denied for lack of merit. On the
other hand, the Motion for Reconsideration of Petitioner Salvador S. Pillos in SPA
No. 13-023 (DC) is granted; consequently, the Certificate of Candidacy of
Respondent Arsenio A. Agustin is hereby CANCELLED and DENIED DUE
COURSE.

SO ORDERED.2ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
cralawlawlibrary

Antecedents

In 1997, the petitioner was naturalized as a citizen of the United States of America
(USA).3 On October 5, 2012,4 he filed his certificate of candidacy (CoC) for the
position of Mayor of the Municipality of Marcos, Ilocos Norte to be contested in the
May 13, 2013 local elections.5 As the official candidate of the Nacionalista Party,6 he
declared in his CoC that he was eligible for the office he was seeking to be elected to;
that he was a natural born Filipino citizen; and that he had been a resident of the
Municipality of Marcos, Ilocos Norte for 25 years.7

On October 10, 2012, respondent Salvador S. Pillos, a rival mayoralty candidate, filed
in the COMELEC a Petition To Deny Due Course and/or to Cancel the Certificate of
Candidacy of Arsenio A. Agustin, docketed as SPA No. 13-023 (DC),8 alleging that the
petitioner had made a material misrepresentation in his CoC by stating that he had
been a resident of the Municipality of Marcos for 25 years despite having registered
as a voter therein only on May 31, 2012. The petition stated the sole ground
thuswise:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
THE DECLARATION UNDER OATH MADE BY THE RESPONDENT THAT HE IS
ELIGIBLE FOR THE OFFICE OR SEEK TO BE ELECTED TO (sic) CONSTITUTES
MATERIAL MISREPRESENTATION FOR THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER (sic) HE
HAS NOT RESIDED AS REQUIRED BY LAW FOR A PERIOD OF ONE YEAR IN
THE LOCALITY HE SEEKS TO BE ELECTED.9cralawlawlibrary

and prayed, viz.:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary


WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed before this Honorable Commission, to issue
an order to immediately deny due course and or to cancel the certificate of
candidacy of respondent Arsenio A. Agustin.

Other reliefs just and equitable are likewise prayed of (sic).10cralawlawlibrary

In his answer, the petitioner countered that the one-year requirement referred to
residency, not to voter registration; that residency was not dependent on citizenship,
such that his travel to Hawaii for business purposes did not violate the residency
requirement pursuant to prevailing jurisprudence; and that as regards citizenship,
he attached a copy of his Affidavit of Renunciation of U.S./American
Citizenship executed on October 2, 2012.11

On January 28, 2013, the COMELEC Second Division issued its omnibus
resolution,12 pertinently holding:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
As can be clearly gathered from the Velasco case, a candidate's status as a registered
voter is a material fact which falls under the same classification as one's citizenship
or residence. While they are under the same classification as referring to a
candidate's qualification for elective office, the requirements are different. The
requirement that a candidate must be a registered voter does not carry with it the
requirement that he must be so one year before the elections because this refers to
the residency qualification.

On this score, it could not be said that respondents falsely represented the length of
their residence in the municipality simply because they became registered voters
thereof only fairly recently. As far as registration as a voter is concerned, it should
suffice that they are duly registered upon the filing of their COCs or within the
period prescribed by law for such registration.

Anent petitioner['] allegations that respondents were unable to vote because they are
residents of other countries, the records are bereft of any evidence that would
substantiate this. It is a fundamental rule that he who alleges, not he who denies,
must prove. Mere, petitioners have not adduced a single shred of competent
evidence that respondents were actually residents or citizens of other countries that
is why they were unable to vote.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petitions are hereby DENIED for lack of
merit.

SO ORDERED.13ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
cralawlawlibrary

On February 12, 2013, Pillos moved for the reconsideration of the January 28, 2013
resolution with the COMELEC En Banc.14 He underscored in his motion that the
certification issued by the Bureau of Immigration reflected that the petitioner had
voluntarily declared in his travel documents that he was a citizen of the USA; that
when he travelled to Hawaii, USA on October 6, 2012, he still used his USA passport
despite his renunciation of his USA citizenship on October 2, 2012 and after filing his
CoC on October 5, 2012, in which he declared that he was a resident of the
Municipality of Marcos, Ilocos Norte; and that the petitioner's declaration of his
eligibility in his CoC constituted material misrepresentation because of his failure to
meet the citizenship and residency requirements.

The petitioner opposed the motion for reconsideration.15

On April 23, 2013, the COMELEC En Banc issued its assailed resolution cancelling
and denying due course to the petitioner's CoC, observing as
follows:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Having admitted his dual citizenship, Agustin had the burden of proving through
his evidence that he complied with the statutory requirements imposed upon dual
citizens provided under Republic Act 9225, particularly Section 3 and 5(2) thereof, to
wit:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

xxxx

While Agustin presented a copy of his Affidavit of Renunciation, he failed to furnish


this Commission a copy of his Oath of Allegiance. Noteworthy is the fact, that in
Agustin's Affidavit of Renunciation, it was stated that his Oath of Allegiance is
attached as Annex "B"; however, said attachment has not been made available for the
perusal of this Commission. Having failed to sufficiently show that he complied
with the provisions of RA 9225, Agustin's COC must be cancelled and/or denied
due course. Consequently, the Motion for Reconsideration is only granted as against
Respondent Agustin.16ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
cralawlawlibrary

On May 3, 2013, the petitioner filed a Verified Urgent Motion for Reconsideration with
Leave of Court.17He attached thereto copies of the Order of Approval dated February
12, 201218 and his Oath of Allegiance dated March 9, 2012,19 both issued by the
Consulate General of the Philippines in Honolulu, Hawaii. He further attached
certifications issued by Election Officers in Ilocos Norte attesting that the documents
had been received by the COMELEC and retained in its files. He explained that the
documents were not presented during the course of the proceedings because the sole
issue raised by Pillos' Petition to Deny Due Course and/or to Cancel Certificate of
Candidacy had involved only his (petitioner) compliance with the one-year residency
requirement.

Pillos submitted a Motion for Issuance of Writ of Execution and Comment on the Verified
Motion for Reconsideration with Leave of Court on May 8, 2013,20 praying that a writ of
execution be issued to implement the cancellation of the petitioner's COC.

On election day, May 13, 2013, the name of the petitioner remained in the ballot. He
was later on proclaimed as the duly elected Municipal Mayor of Marcos, Ilocos
Norte for obtaining 5,020 votes,21 the highest among the contending parties.

Sensing that the 30-day period within which a petition for certiorari should be filed in
the Supreme Court was about to expire, the petitioner filed on May 24, 2013 an
Urgent Motion to Withdraw Verified Urgent Motion for Reconsideration with Leave of
Court dated May 3, 2013.22

On May 28, 2013, the petitioner thus instituted this case, alleging grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the COMELEC
En Banc based on the following grounds:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
a. The assailed En Banc Resolution was promulgated in gross violation of
Petitioner's guaranteed Constitutional Right to Due Process and to be
informed of the facts and the law on which the same was based; and
b. The grave erroneous appreciation of the facts, law, and the evidence of
the case.23
cralawlawlibrary

Meanwhile, on June 18, 2013, the COMELEC En Banc, pointing out that the filing of a
motion for reconsideration of an en banc resolution was not allowed under Rule 13 of
the 1993 COMELEC Rules of Procedure; and that, accordingly, the April 23, 2013
resolution was deemed final and executory pursuant to Section 8, paragraph 2 of
COMELEC Resolution No. 9523, issued the writ of execution.24

On July 16, 2013, the Court required the parties to observe the status quo prevailing
before the issuance of the COMELEC En Banc resolution dated April 23,
2013.25cralawred
Issues

The core issue involves the eligibility of the petitioner as a candidate for the position
of Mayor of the Municipality of Marcos, Ilocos Norte.

A secondary issue concerns the propriety of Pillos' claim as the rightful occupant of
the contested elective position.
Ruling

The petition for certiorari lacks merit.

The Court finds and declares that the petitioner made no material misrepresentation
in his CoC; hence, there is no legal or factual basis for the cancellation of the CoC.
Even so, he was disqualified to run as Mayor of the Municipality of Marcos, Ilocos
Norte for being a dual citizen. With his disqualification having been determined and
pronounced by final judgment before the elections, the votes cast in his favor should
not be counted. Accordingly, his rival, respondent Pillos, should be proclaimed duly
elected Mayor for obtaining the highest number of votes in the elections.
1.
Administrative due process was observed

Before anything more, let us deal with the petitioner's insistence that the
COMELEC En Banc gravely abused its discretion in resolving Pillos' motion for
reconsideration based on a ground that was neither the basis of nor raised in
the Petition To Deny Due Course and/or to Cancel the Certificate of Candidacy of Arsenio
A. Agustin; that the non-presentation of his Oath of Allegiance should not be fatal to
his constitutional right to run for public office especially because the sole ground for
Pillos' petition in the COMELEC had dealt only with the residency requirement; that
Pillos could have included citizenship as a ground by the amendment of his petition,
but he did not move for that purpose; that he duly complied with the requirements
for the re-acquisition of his Philippine citizenship pursuant to Republic Act No. 9225,
and the proof of the re-acquisition had been submitted to the Election Officers in
Ilocos Norte; and that the COMELEC, by not at least holding a clarificatory hearing
to ascertain and confirm such matters, violated his right to due process by denying
to him the opportunity to prepare for his defense.

The petitioner's insistence lacks merit.

We note that the petitioner's citizenship came to the fore because he himself asserted
his Philippine citizenship in his answer to Pillos' petition to cancel his CoC in order
to bolster his allegation of compliance with the one-year residency requirement. As
such, he could not credibly complain about being denied due process, especially
considering that he had been able to file an opposition to Pillos' motion for
reconsideration. It is worthy to state that the observance of due process in
administrative proceedings does not always require or involve a trial-type
proceeding, for the demand of due process is also met whenever a person, being
notified, is afforded the opportunity to explain or defend himself. Also, due process
is satisfied by giving the opportunity to seek the reconsideration of the action or
ruling complained of.26 The rule is the same in election cases.27
2.
The petitioner filed a valid CoC, but the use of
his USA passport after his renunciation of
foreign citizenship rendered him disqualified
from continuing as a mayoralty candidate

A valid CoC arises upon the timely filing of a person's declaration of his intention to
run for public office and his affirmation that he possesses the eligibility for the
position he seeks to assume. The valid CoC renders the person making the
declaration a valid or official candidate.28

There are two remedies available under existing laws to prevent a candidate from
running in an electoral race. One is by petition for disqualification, and the other by
petition to deny due course to or to cancel his certificate of candidacy. In Fermin v.
Commission on Elections,29 the Court has differentiated the two remedies
thuswise:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
[A] petition for disqualification, on the one hand, can be premised on Section 12 or
68 of the OEC, or Section 40 of the LGC. On the other hand, a petition to deny due
course to or cancel a CoC can only be grounded on a statement of a material
representation in the said certificate that is false. The petitions also have different
effects. While a person who is disqualified under Section 68 is merely prohibited to
continue as a candidate, the person whose certificate is cancelled or denied due
course under Section 78 is not treated as a candidate at all, as if he/she never filed a
CoC.30cralawlawlibrary

Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code states:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary


Section 78. Petition to deny due course to or cancel a certificate of candidacy. - A
verified petition seeking to deny due course or to cancel a certificate of candidacy
may be filed by the person exclusively on the ground that any material
representation contained therein as required under Section 74 hereof is false. The
petition may be filed at any time not later than twenty-five days from the time of the
filing of the certificate of candidacy and shall be decided, after due notice and
hearing, not later than fifteen days before the election.cralawlawlibrary

The Court has described the nature of a Section 78 petition


in Fermin thusly:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
[t]he denial of due course to or the cancellation of the CoC is not based on the lack of
qualifications but on a finding that the candidate made a material representation that is false,
which may relate to the qualifications required of the public office he/she is running for. It is
noted that the candidate states in his/her CoC that he/she is eligible for the office
he/she seeks. Section 78 of the OEC, therefore, is to be read in relation to the
constitutional and statutory provisions on qualifications or eligibility for public
office. If the candidate subsequently states a material representation in the CoC
that is false, the COMELEC, following the law, is empowered to deny due course
to or cancel such certificate. Indeed, the Court has already likened a proceeding
under Section 78 to a quo warranto proceeding under Section 253 of the OEC since
they both deal with the eligibility or qualification of a candidate, with the distinction
mainly in the feet that a "Section 78" petition is filed before proclamation, while a
petition for quo warranto is filed after proclamation of the winning
candidate.31cralawlawlibrary

The denial of due course to or the cancellation of the CoC under Section 78 of the
Omnibus Election Code involves a finding not only that a person lacked a
qualification for the office he is vying for but also that such he made a material
representation in the CoC that was false. The Court has stressed in Mitra v.
Commission on Elections32 that in addition to materiality there must be a deliberate
attempt to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact that would otherwise render the
candidate ineligible, viz.:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The false representation under Section 78 must likewise be a "deliberate attempt to
mislead, misinform, or hide a fact that would otherwise render a candidate
ineligible." Given the purpose of the requirement, it must be made with the intention
to deceive the electorate as to the would-be candidate's qualifications for public
office. Thus, the misrepresentation that Section 78 addresses cannot be the result of a
mere innocuous mistake, and cannot exist in a situation where the intent to deceive
is patently absent, or where no deception on the electorate results. The deliberate
character of the misrepresentation necessarily follows from a consideration of the
consequences of any material falsity: a candidate who falsifies a material fact cannot
run; if he runs and is elected, he cannot serve; in both cases, he can be prosecuted for
violation of the election laws.33ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
cralawlawlibrary

A petition for the denial of due course to or cancellation of COC that falls short of
the foregoing requirements should not be granted.

The petition of Pillos in SPA No. 13-023 (DC) was in the nature of the Section 78
petition to deny due course to or to cancel the CoC of the petitioner because it
contained allegations pertaining to a Section 78 petition, namely: (a) the petitioner as
a candidate made a representation in his CoC; (b) the representation referred to a
material matter that would affect his substantive right as candidate (that is, the right
to run for the position for which he filed his CoC); and (c) he made the false
representation with the intention to deceive the electorate as to his qualification for
public office, or he deliberately attempted to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact that
would otherwise render him ineligible. Pillos further challenged the petitioner's
eligibility for public office based on his failure to comply with the one-year residency
requirement stated in the Local Government Code, and ultimately specifically prayed
that the COMELEC "issue an order to immediately deny due course and or to cancel
the certificate of candidacy of respondent Arsenio A. Agustin."34

Yet, the COMELEC En Banc canceled the petitioner's CoC not because of his failure
to meet the residency requirement but because of his failure "to sufficiently show
that he complied with the provisions of RA 9225."35 In our view, such basis for
cancelation was unwarranted considering that he became eligible to run for public
office when he expressly renounced his USA citizenship, by which he fully complied
with the requirements stated in Section 5(2) of Republic Act No. 9225, to
wit:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Section 5. Civil and Political Rights and Liabilities - Those who retain or re-acquire
Philippine citizenship under this Act shall enjoy full civil and political rights and be
subject to all attendant liabilities and responsibilities under existing laws of the
Philippines and the following conditions:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

xxxx

(2) Those seeking elective public in the Philippines shall meet the qualification for
holding such public office as required by the Constitution and existing laws and, at
the time of the filing of the certificate of candidacy, make a personal and sworn
renunciation of any and all foreign citizenship before any public officer authorized
to administer an oath;

xxxx
cralawlawlibrary

More particularly, the petitioner took his Oath of Allegiance on March 9, 2012 and
executed his Affidavit of Renunciation on October 2, 2012. By his Oath of Allegiance
and his renunciation of his USA citizenship, he reverted to the status of an
exclusively Filipino citizen. On October 5, 2012, the date he filed his CoC he was,
therefore, exclusively a Filipino citizen, rendering him eligible to run for public
office. His CoC was valid for all intents and purposes of the election laws because he
did not make therein any material misrepresentation of his eligibility to run as
Mayor of the Municipality of Marcos, Ilocos Norte.

Nonetheless, we uphold the declaration by the COMELEC En Banc that the


petitioner was ineligible to run and be voted for as Mayor of the Municipality of
Marcos, Ilocos Norte. It is not disputed that on October 6, 2012,36 after having
renounced his USA citizenship and having already filed his CoC, he travelled
abroad using his USA passport, thereby representing himself as a citizen of the USA.
He continued using his USA passport in his subsequent travels abroad37 despite
having been already issued his Philippine passport on August 23, 2012.38 He thereby
effectively repudiated his oath of renunciation on October 6, 2012, the first time he
used his USA passport after renouncing his USA citizenship on October 2, 2012.
Consequently, he could be considered an exclusively Filipino citizen only for the
four days from October 2, 2012 until October 6, 2012.

The petitioner's continued exercise of his rights as a citizen of the USA through using
his USA passport after the renunciation of his USA citizenship reverted him to his
earlier status as a dual citizen.39 Such reversion disqualified him from being elected
to public office in the Philippines pursuant to Section 40(d) of the Local Government
Code, viz.:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Section 40. Disqualifications. - The following persons arc disqualified from running
for any elective local position:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

xxxx

(d) Those with dual citizenship;

x x x x (Emphasis supplied)
cralawlawlibrary

A candidate is ineligible if he is disqualified to be elected to office, and he is


disqualified if he lacks any of the qualifications for elective office.40 Even if it made
no finding that the petitioner had deliberately attempted to mislead or to misinform
as to warrant the cancellation of his CoC, the COMELEC could still declare him
disqualified for not meeting the requisite eligibility under the Local Government Code.
3.
The petitioner was declared disqualified by
final judgment before election day; hence, the
votes cast for him should not be counted.

Considering that the Section 78 petition to deny due course to or to cancel the CoC
requires a finding that he made a material representation in the CoC that was false,
the COMELEC En Banc, in granting Pillos' motion for reconsideration, expressly held
the petitioner ineligible to participate in the elections or disqualified from the
mayoralty race, which was the basis for the cancellation of his CoC. Such reason
cancelling the petitioner's CoC despite the absence of the material misrepresentation
at the time he filed his CoC might not be in order, but the undisputed fact is that the
COMELEC En Banc expressly decreed his disqualification in the April 23, 2013
resolution.

The effect of the petitioner's disqualification under the April 23, 2013 resolution
depended on when the disqualification attained finality. The distinction exists
because of Section 6 of Republic Act No. 6646 (The Electoral Reforms Law of 1987),
which states:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Section 6. Effect of Disqualification Case. Any candidate who has been declared by
final judgment to be disqualified shall not be voted for, and the votes cast for him
shall not be counted. If for any reason a candidate is not declared by final judgment
before an election to be disqualified and he is voted for and receives the winning
number of votes in such election, the Court or Commission shall continue with the
trial and hearing of the action, inquiry, or protest and, upon motion of the
complainant or any intervenor, may during the pendency thereof order the
suspension of the proclamation of such candidate whenever the evidence of his guilt
is strong.
cralawlawlibrary
In Cayat v. Commission on Elections,41 the Court has expounded on the effect of
Section 6 of Republic Act No. 6646 thusly:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The law expressly declares that a candidate disqualified by final judgment before an
election cannot be voted for, and votes cast for him shall not be counted. This is a
mandatory provision of law. Section 6 of Republic Act No. 6646, The Electoral
Reforms Law of 1987, states:
Sec. 6. Effect of Disqualification Case. Any candidate who has been declared by
final judgment to be disqualified shall not be voted for, and the votes cast for him
shall not be counted. If for any reason a candidate is not declared by final
judgment before an election to be disqualified and he is voted for and receives the
winning number of votes in such election, the Court or Commission shall continue
with the trial and hearing of the action, inquiry, or protest and, upon motion of the
complainant or any intervenor, may during the pendency thereof order the
suspension of the proclamation of such candidate whenever the evidence of his guilt
is strong. (Emphasis added)
Section 6 of the Electoral Reforms Law of 1987 covers two situations. The first is
when the disqualification becomes final before the elections, which is the situation
covered in the first sentence of Section 6. The second is when the disqualification
becomes final after the elections, which is the situation covered in the second
sentence of Section 6.

The present case falls under the first situation. Section 6 of the Electoral Reforms
Law governing the first situation is categorical: a candidate disqualified by final
judgment before an election cannot be voted for, and votes cast for him shall not
be counted. The Resolution disqualifying Cayat became final on 17 April 2004, way
before the 10 May 2004 elections. Therefore, all the 8,164 votes cast in Cayat's favor
are stray. Cayat was never a candidate in the 10 May 2004 elections. Palileng's
proclamation is proper because he was the sole and only candidate, second to
none.42cralawlawlibrary

Even if his disqualification did not subvert the validity of his CoC, the petitioner
would be reduced to a non-candidate under the terms of Section 6, supra, should it
be shown that the disqualification attained finality prior to the 2013 elections. The
effect was to render the votes cast in his favor stray, resulting in Pillos being
proclaimed the winning candidate.

It is crucial, therefore, to determine with certainty the time when the judgment
declaring the petitioner disqualified from running for the local elective position
attained finality.

Pillos submits that the April 23, 2013 resolution was already deemed final and
executory as of May 4, 2013; hence, the writ of execution was issued on June 18, 2013;
and that the petitioner's disqualification thus attained finality prior to the May 13,
2013 elections.
Pillos' submission is correct.

Although the petitioner filed his Verified Urgent Motion for Reconsideration with Leave
of Court on May 3, 201343 upon receiving the April 23, 2013 resolution granting Pillos'
motion for reconsideration,44 such filing did not impede the April 23, 2013 resolution
from being deemed final and executory because Section l(d), Rule 13 of the 1993
COMELEC Rules of Procedure expressly disallowed the filing of the motion for
reconsideration.45 Within the context of Section 13, Rule 18,46 and Section 3, Rule
37,47 both of the 1993 COMELEC Rules of Procedure, the April 23, 2013 resolution
became final and executory as of May 4, 2013 upon the lapse of five days from its
promulgation without a restraining order being issued by the Supreme Court.

Under the circumstances, the finality of the petitioner's disqualification pursuant to


the April 23, 2013 resolution prior to the May 13, 2013 elections rendered him a non-
candidate, and the votes cast for him should not have been counted.48 Pillos, being
the qualified candidate obtaining the highest number of votes, should be proclaimed
duly elected as Mayor of the Municipality of Marcos, Ilocos Norte in the 2013
elections.

WHEREFORE, the Court DISMISSES the petition for certiorari; AFFIRMS the
resolution dated April 23, 2013 insofar as it disqualified petitioner Arsenio A.
Agustin from running for any local elective position in the May 13, 2013
elections; DECLARES respondent Salvador S. Pillos the duly elected Mayor of the
Municipality of Marcos, Ilocos Norte in the May 13, 2013 elections; ORDERS the
Commission on Elections to cause the proclamation of respondent Salvador S. Pillos
as the duly elected Mayor of the Municipality of Marcos, Ilocos Norte in the May 13,
2013 elections; and REQUIRES the petitioner to pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

TEODORA SOBEJANA-CONDON, Petitioner,


vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, LUIS M. BAUTISTA, ROBELITO V. PICAR
and WILMA P. PAGADUAN, Respondents.
SERENO,*
PERLAS-BERNABE, JJ *
DECISION
REYES, J.:
Failure to renounce foreign citizenship in accordance with the exact tenor of Section
5(2) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9225 renders a dual citizen ineligible to run for and
thus hold any elective public office.
The Case
At bar is a special civil action for certiorari1 under Rule 64 of the Rules of Court
seeking to nullify Resolution2dated September 6, 2011 of the Commission on
Elections (COMELEC) en banc in EAC (AE) No. A-44-2010. The assailed resolution
(a) reversed the Order3 dated November 30, 2010 of COMELEC Second Division
dismissing petitioners appeal; and (b) affirmed the consolidated Decision4 dated
October 22, 2010 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Bauang, La Union, Branch 33,
declaring petitioner Teodora Sobejana-Condon (petitioner) disqualified and
ineligible to her position as Vice-Mayor of Caba, La Union.
The Undisputed Facts
The petitioner is a natural-born Filipino citizen having been born of Filipino parents
on August 8, 1944. On December 13, 1984, she became a naturalized Australian
citizen owing to her marriage to a certain Kevin Thomas Condon.
On December 2, 2005, she filed an application to re-acquire Philippine citizenship
before the Philippine Embassy in Canberra, Australia pursuant to Section 3 of R.A.
No. 9225 otherwise known as the "Citizenship Retention and Re-Acquisition Act of
2003."5 The application was approved and the petitioner took her oath of allegiance
to the Republic of the Philippines on December 5, 2005.
On September 18, 2006, the petitioner filed an unsworn Declaration of Renunciation
of Australian Citizenship before the Department of Immigration and Indigenous
Affairs, Canberra, Australia, which in turn issued the Order dated September 27,
2006 certifying that she has ceased to be an Australian citizen.6
The petitioner ran for Mayor in her hometown of Caba, La Union in the 2007
elections. She lost in her bid. She again sought elective office during the May 10, 2010
elections this time for the position of Vice-Mayor. She obtained the highest numbers
of votes and was proclaimed as the winning candidate. She took her oath of office on
May 13, 2010.
Soon thereafter, private respondents Robelito V. Picar, Wilma P. Pagaduan7 and Luis
M. Bautista,8 (private respondents) all registered voters of Caba, La Union, filed
separate petitions for quo warranto questioning the petitioners eligibility before the
RTC. The petitions similarly sought the petitioners disqualification from holding her
elective post on the ground that she is a dual citizen and that she failed to execute a
"personal and sworn renunciation of any and all foreign citizenship before any
public officer authorized to administer an oath" as imposed by Section 5(2) of R.A.
No. 9225.
The petitioner denied being a dual citizen and averred that since September 27, 2006,
she ceased to be an Australian citizen. She claimed that the Declaration of
Renunciation of Australian Citizenship she executed in Australia sufficiently
complied with Section 5(2), R.A. No. 9225 and that her act of running for public
office is a clear abandonment of her Australian citizenship.
Ruling of the RTC
In its consolidated Decision dated October 22, 2010, the trial court held that the
petitioners failure to comply with Section 5(2) of R.A. No. 9225 rendered her
ineligible to run and hold public office. As admitted by the petitioner herself during
trial, the personal declaration of renunciation she filed in Australia was not under
oath. The law clearly mandates that the document containing the renunciation of
foreign citizenship must be sworn before any public officer authorized to administer
oath. Consequently, the RTCs decision disposed as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court renders judgment in FAVOR of
[private respondents] and AGAINST (petitioner):
1) DECLARING [petitioner] TEODORA SOBEJANA-CONDON, disqualified and
ineligible to hold the office of Vice-Mayor of Caba, La Union;
2) NULLIFYING her proclamation as the winning candidate for Vice-Mayor of said
municipality; and
3) DECLARING the position of Vice-Mayor in said municipality vacant.
SO ORDERED.9
Ruling of the COMELEC
The petitioner appealed to the COMELEC but the appeal was dismissed by the
Second Division in its Order10dated November 30, 2010 for failure to pay the docket
fees within the prescribed period. On motion for reconsideration, the appeal was
reinstated by the COMELEC en banc in its Resolution11 dated September 6, 2011. In
the same issuance, the substantive merits of the appeal were given due course. The
COMELEC en banc concurred with the findings and conclusions of the RTC; it also
granted the Motion for Execution Pending Appeal filed by the private respondents.
The decretal portion of the resolution reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered the Commission RESOLVED as it
hereby RESOLVES as follows:
1. To DISMISS the instant appeal for lack of merit;
2. To AFFIRM the DECISION dated 22 October 2010 of the court a quo; and
3. To GRANT the Motion for Execution filed on November 12, 2010.
SO ORDERED.12 (Emphasis supplied)
Hence, the present petition ascribing grave abuse of discretion to the COMELEC en
banc.
The Petitioners Arguments
The petitioner contends that since she ceased to be an Australian citizen on
September 27, 2006, she no longer held dual citizenship and was only a Filipino
citizen when she filed her certificate of candidacy as early as the 2007 elections.
Hence, the "personal and sworn renunciation of foreign citizenship" imposed by
Section 5(2) of R.A. No. 9225 to dual citizens seeking elective office does not apply to
her.
She further argues that a sworn renunciation is a mere formal and not a mandatory
requirement. In support thereof, she cites portions of the Journal of the House of
Representatives dated June 2 to 5, 2003 containing the sponsorship speech for House
Bill (H.B.) No. 4720, the precursor of R.A. No. 9225.
She claims that the private respondents are estopped from questioning her eligibility
since they failed to do so when she filed certificates of candidacy for the 2007 and
2010 elections.
Lastly, she disputes the power of the COMELEC en banc to: (a) take cognizance of
the substantive merits of her appeal instead of remanding the same to the
COMELEC Second Division for the continuation of the appeal proceedings; and (b)
allow the execution pending appeal of the RTCs judgment.
The Issues
Posed for resolution are the following issues: I) Whether the COMELEC en banc may
resolve the merits of an appeal after ruling on its reinstatement; II) Whether the
COMELEC en banc may order the execution of a judgment rendered by a trial court
in an election case; III) Whether the private respondents are barred from questioning
the qualifications of the petitioner; and IV) For purposes of determining the
petitioners eligibility to run for public office, whether the "sworn renunciation of
foreign citizenship" in Section 5(2) of R.A. No. 9225 is a mere pro-forma requirement.
The Courts Ruling
I. An appeal may be simultaneously
reinstated and definitively resolved
by the COMELEC en banc in a
resolution disposing of a motion for
reconsideration.
The power to decide motions for reconsideration in election cases is arrogated unto
the COMELEC en banc by Section 3, Article IX-C of the Constitution, viz:
Sec. 3. The Commission on Elections may sit en banc or in two divisions, and shall
promulgate its rules of procedure in order to expedite disposition of election cases,
including pre-proclamation controversies. All such election cases shall be heard and
decided in division, provided that motions for reconsideration of decisions shall be
decided by the Commission en banc.
A complementary provision is present in Section 5(c), Rule 3 of the COMELEC Rules
of Procedure, to wit:
Any motion to reconsider a decision, resolution, order or ruling of a Division shall be
resolved by the Commission en banc except motions on interlocutory orders of the
division which shall be resolved by the division which issued the order.
Considering that the above cited provisos do not set any limits to the COMELEC en
bancs prerogative in resolving a motion for reconsideration, there is nothing to
prevent the body from directly adjudicating the substantive merits of an appeal after
ruling for its reinstatement instead of remanding the same to the division that
initially dismissed it.
We thus see no impropriety much more grave abuse of discretion on the part of the
COMELEC en banc when it proceeded to decide the substantive merits of the
petitioners appeal after ruling for its reinstatement.
Further, records show that, in her motion for reconsideration before the COMELEC
en banc, the petitioner not only proffered arguments on the issue on docket fees but
also on the issue of her eligibility. She even filed a supplemental motion for
reconsideration attaching therewith supporting documents13 to her contention that
she is no longer an Australian citizen. The petitioner, after obtaining an unfavorable
decision, cannot be permitted to disavow the en bancs exercise of discretion on the
substantial merits of her appeal when she herself invoked the same in the first place.
The fact that the COMELEC en banc had remanded similar appeals to the Division
that initially dismissed them cannot serve as a precedent to the disposition of the
petitioners appeal. A decision or resolution of any adjudicating body can be
disposed in several ways. To sustain petitioners argument would be virtually
putting a straightjacket on the COMELEC en bancs adjudicatory powers.
More significantly, the remand of the appeal to the COMELEC Second Division
would be unnecessarily circuitous and repugnant to the rule on preferential
disposition of quo warranto cases espoused in Rule 36, Section 15 of the COMELEC
Rules of Procedure.14
II. The COMELEC en banc has the
power to order discretionary
execution of judgment.
We cannot subscribe to petitioners submission that the COMELEC en banc has no
power to order the issuance of a writ of execution and that such function belongs
only to the court of origin.
There is no reason to dispute the COMELECs authority to order discretionary
execution of judgment in view of the fact that the suppletory application of the Rules
of Court is expressly sanctioned by Section 1, Rule 41 of the COMELEC Rules of
Procedure.15
Under Section 2, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, execution pending appeal may be
issued by an appellate court after the trial court has lost jurisdiction. In Batul v.
Bayron,16 we stressed the import of the provision vis--vis election cases when we
held that judgments in election cases which may be executed pending appeal
includes those decided by trial courts and those rendered by the COMELEC whether
in the exercise of its original or appellate jurisdiction.
III. Private respondents are not
estopped from questioning
petitioners eligibility to hold public
office.
The fact that the petitioners qualifications were not questioned when she filed
certificates of candidacy for 2007 and 2010 elections cannot operate as an estoppel to
the petition for quo warranto before the RTC.
Under the Batas Pambansa Bilang 881 (Omnibus Election Code), there are two
instances where a petition questioning the qualifications of a registered candidate to
run for the office for which his certificate of candidacy was filed can be raised, to wit:
(1) Before election, pursuant to Section 78 thereof which provides that:
Sec. 78. Petition to deny due course or to cancel a certificate of candidacy. A
verified petition seeking to deny due course or to cancel a certificate of candidacy
may be filed by any person exclusively on the ground that any material
representation contained therein as required under Section 74 hereof is false. The
petition may be filed at any time not later than twenty-five days from the time of the
filing of the certificate of candidacy and shall be decided, after due notice and
hearing, not later than fifteen days before the election; and
(2) After election, pursuant to Section 253 thereof, viz:
Sec. 253. Petition for quo warranto. Any voter contesting the election of any
Member of the Batasang Pambansa, regional, provincial, or city officer on the
ground of ineligibility or of disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines shall file a
sworn petition for quo warranto with the Commission within ten days after the
proclamation of the results of the election. (Emphasis ours)
Hence, if a person qualified to file a petition to disqualify a certain candidate fails to
file the petition within the twenty-five (25)-day period prescribed by Section 78 of
the Omnibus Election Code for whatever reasons, the elections laws do not leave
him completely helpless as he has another chance to raise the disqualification of the
candidate by filing a petition for quo warranto within ten (10) days from the
proclamation of the results of the election, as provided under Section 253 of the
Omnibus Election Code.17
The above remedies were both available to the private respondents and their failure
to utilize Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code cannot serve to bar them should
they opt to file, as they did so file, a quo warranto petition under Section 253.
IV. Petitioner is disqualified from
running for elective office for
failure to renounce her Australian
citizenship in accordance with
Section 5(2) of R.A. No. 9225.
R.A. No. 9225 allows the retention and re-acquisition of Filipino citizenship for
natural-born citizens who have lost their Philippine citizenship18 by taking an oath
of allegiance to the Republic, thus:
Section 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 re-acquired Philippine citizenship upon taking
the following oath of allegiance to the Republic:
"I, _____________________, solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will
support and defend the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines
and obey the laws and legal orders promulgated by the duly
constituted authorities of the Philippines; and I hereby declare that I
recognize and accept the supreme authority of the Philippines and will
maintain true faith and allegiance thereto; and that I imposed this
obligation upon myself voluntarily without mental reservation or
purpose of evasion."
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.
The oath is an abbreviated repatriation process that restores ones Filipino
citizenship and all civil and political rights and obligations concomitant therewith,
subject to certain conditions imposed in Section 5, viz:
Sec. 5. Civil and Political Rights and Liabilities. Those who retain or re-acquire
Philippine citizenship under this Act shall enjoy full civil and political rights and be
subject to all attendant liabilities and responsibilities under existing laws of the
Philippines and the following conditions:
(1) Those intending to exercise their right of suffrage must meet the requirements
under Section 1, Article V of the Constitution, Republic Act No. 9189, otherwise
known as "The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003" and other existing laws;
(2) Those seeking elective public office in the Philippines shall meet the qualification
for holding such public office as required by the Constitution and existing laws and,
at the time of the filing of the certificate of candidacy, make a personal and sworn
renunciation of any and all foreign citizenship before any public officer authorized
to administer an oath;
(3) Those appointed to any public office shall subscribe and swear to an oath of
allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines and its duly constituted authorities
prior to their assumption of office: Provided, That they renounce their oath of
allegiance to the country where they took that oath;
(4) Those intending to practice their profession in the Philippines shall apply with
the proper authority for a license or permit to engage in such practice; and
(5) That right to vote or be elected or appointed to any public office in the
Philippines cannot be exercised by, or extended to, those who:
(a) are candidates for or are occupying any public office in the country of which they
are naturalized citizens; and/or
(b) are in active service as commissioned or non-commissioned officers in the armed
forces of the country which they are naturalized citizens. (Emphasis ours)
Under the provisions of the aforementioned law, the petitioner has validly re-
acquired her Filipino citizenship when she took an Oath of Allegiance to the
Republic of the Philippines on December 5, 2005. At that point, she held dual
citizenship, i.e., Australian and Philippine.
On September 18, 2006, or a year before she initially sought elective public office, she
filed a renunciation of Australian citizenship in Canberra, Australia. Admittedly,
however, the same was not under oath contrary to the exact mandate of Section 5(2)
that the renunciation of foreign citizenship must be sworn before an officer
authorized to administer oath.
To obviate the fatal consequence of her inutile renunciation, the petitioner pleads the
Court to interpret the "sworn renunciation of any and all foreign citizenship" in
Section 5(2) to be a mere pro forma requirement in conformity with the intent of the
Legislature. She anchors her submission on the statement made by Representative
Javier during the floor deliberations on H.B. No. 4720, the precursor of R.A. No.
9225.
At the outset, it bears stressing that the Courts duty to interpret the law according to
its true intent is exercised only when the law is ambiguous or of doubtful meaning.
The first and fundamental duty of the Court is to apply the law. As such, when the
law is clear and free from any doubt, there is no occasion for construction or
interpretation; there is only room for application.19 Section 5(2) of R.A. No. 9225 is
one such instance.
Ambiguity is a condition of admitting two or more meanings, of being understood in
more than one way, or of referring to two or more things at the same time. For a
statute to be considered ambiguous, it must admit of two or more possible
meanings.20
The language of Section 5(2) is free from any ambiguity. In Lopez v.
COMELEC,21 we declared its categorical and single meaning: a Filipino American or
any dual citizen cannot run for any elective public position in the Philippines unless
he or she personally swears to a renunciation of all foreign citizenship at the time of
filing the certificate of candidacy. We also expounded on the form of the
renunciation and held that to be valid, the renunciation must be contained in an
affidavit duly executed before an officer of the law who is authorized to administer
an oath stating in clear and unequivocal terms that affiant is renouncing all foreign
citizenship.
The same meaning was emphasized in Jacot v. Dal,22 when we held that Filipinos re-
acquiring or retaining their Philippine citizenship under R.A. No. 9225 must
explicitly renounce their foreign citizenship if they wish to run for elective posts in
the Philippines, thus:
The law categorically requires persons seeking elective public office, who either
retained their Philippine citizenship or those who reacquired it, to make a personal
and sworn renunciation of any and all foreign citizenship before a public officer
authorized to administer an oath simultaneous with or before the filing of the
certificate of candidacy.
Hence, Section 5(2) of Republic Act No. 9225 compels natural-born Filipinos, who
have been naturalized as citizens of a foreign country, but who reacquired or
retained their Philippine citizenship (1) to take the oath of allegiance under Section 3
of Republic Act No. 9225, and (2) for those seeking elective public offices in the
Philippines, to additionally execute a personal and sworn renunciation of any and all
foreign citizenship before an authorized public officer prior or simultaneous to the
filing of their certificates of candidacy, to qualify as candidates in Philippine
elections.
Clearly Section 5(2) of Republic Act No. 9225 (on the making of a personal and
sworn renunciation of any and all foreign citizenship) requires of the Filipinos
availing themselves of the benefits under the said Act to accomplish an undertaking
other than that which they have presumably complied with under Section 3 thereof
(oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines). This is made clear in the
discussion of the Bicameral Conference Committee on Disagreeing Provisions of
House Bill No. 4720 and Senate Bill No. 2130 held on 18 August 2003 (precursors of
Republic Act No. 9225), where the Hon. Chairman Franklin Drilon and Hon.
Representative Arthur Defensor explained to Hon. Representative Exequiel Javier
that the oath of allegiance is different from the renunciation of foreign citizenship;
xxxx
The intent of the legislators was not only for Filipinos reacquiring or retaining their
Philippine citizenship under Republic Act No. 9225 to take their oath of allegiance to the
Republic of the Philippines, but also to explicitly renounce their foreign citizenship if they
wish to run for elective posts in the Philippines. To qualify as a candidate in Philippine
elections, Filipinos must only have one citizenship, namely, Philippine
citizenship.23 (Citation omitted and italics and underlining ours)
Hence, in De Guzman v. COMELEC,24 we declared petitioner therein to be
disqualified from running for the position of vice-mayor for his failure to make a
personal and sworn renunciation of his American citizenship.
We find no reason to depart from the mandatory nature infused by the above rulings
to the phrase "sworn renunciation". The language of the provision is plain and
unambiguous. It expresses a single, definite, and sensible meaning and must thus be
read literally.25 The foreign citizenship must be formally rejected through an
affidavit duly sworn before an officer authorized to administer oath.
It is conclusively presumed to be the meaning that the Legislature has intended to
convey.26 Even a resort to the Journal of the House of Representatives invoked by the
petitioner leads to the same inference, viz:
INTERPELLATION OF REP. JAVIER
Rep. Javier initially inquired whether under the Bill, dual citizenship is only limited
to natural-born Filipinos and not to naturalized Filipinos.
Rep. Libanan replied in the affirmative.
Rep. Javier subsequently adverted to Section 5 of the Bill which provides that
natural-born Filipinos who have dual citizenship shall continue to enjoy full civil
and political rights. This being the case, he sought clarification as to whether they
can indeed run for public office provided that they renounce their foreign
citizenship.
Rep. Libanan replied in the affirmative, citing that these citizens will only have to
make a personal and sworn renunciation of foreign citizenship before any
authorized public officer.
Rep. Javier sought further clarification on this matter, citing that while the Bill
provides them with full civil and political rights as Filipino citizens, the measure also
discriminates against them since they are required to make a sworn renunciation of
their other foreign citizenship if and when they run for public office. He thereafter
proposed to delete this particular provision.
In his rejoinder, Rep. Libanan explained that this serves to erase all doubts
regarding any issues that might be raised pertaining to the citizenship of any
candidate. He subsequently cited the case of Afroyim vs. Rusk, wherein the
United States considered a naturalized American still as an American citizen even
when he cast his vote in Israel during one of its elections.
Rep. Javier however pointed out that the matter of voting is different because in
voting, one is not required to renounce his foreign citizenship. He pointed out that
under the Bill, Filipinos who run for public office must renounce their foreign
citizenship. He pointed out further that this is a contradiction in the Bill.
Thereafter, Rep. Javier inquired whether Filipino citizens who had acquired foreign
citizenship and are now entitled to reacquire their Filipino citizenship will be
considered as natural-born citizens. As such, he likewise inquired whether they will
also be considered qualified to run for the highest elective positions in the country.
Rep. Libanan replied in the affirmative, citing that the only requirement is that they
make a sworn renunciation of their foreign citizenship and that they comply with
the residency and registration requirements as provided for in the Constitution.
Whereupon, Rep. Javier noted that under the Constitution, natural-born citizens are
those who are citizens at the time of birth without having to perform an act to
complete or perfect his/her citizenship.
Rep. Libanan agreed therewith, citing that this is the reason why the Bill seeks the
repeal of CA No. 63. The repeal, he said, would help Filipino citizens who acquired
foreign citizenship to retain their citizenship. With regard then to Section 5 of the
Bill, he explained that the Committee had decided to include this provision because
Section 18, Article XI of the Constitution provides for the accountability of public
officers.
In his rejoinder, Rep. Javier maintained that in this case, the sworn renunciation of a
foreign citizenship will only become a pro forma requirement.
On further queries of Rep. Javier, Rep. Libanan affirmed that natural-born Filipino
citizens who became foreign citizens and who have reacquired their Filipino
citizenship under the Bill will be considered as natural-born citizens, and therefore
qualified to run for the presidency, the vice-presidency or for a seat in Congress. He
also agreed with the observation of Rep. Javier that a natural-born citizen is one who
is a citizen of the country at the time of birth. He also explained that the Bill will, in
effect, return to a Filipino citizen who has acquired foreign citizenship, the status of
being a natural-born citizen effective at the time he lost his Filipino citizenship.
As a rejoinder, Rep. Javier opined that doing so would be discriminating against
naturalized Filipino citizens and Filipino citizens by election who are all disqualified
to run for certain public offices. He then suggested that the Bill be amended by not
considering as natural-born citizens those Filipinos who had renounced their
Filipino citizenship and acquired foreign citizenship. He said that they should be
considered as repatriated citizens.
In reply, Rep. Libanan assured Rep. Javier that the Committee will take note of the
latters comments on the matter. He however stressed that after a lengthy
deliberation on the subject, the Committees on Justice, and Foreign Affairs had
decided to revert back to the status of being natural-born citizens those natural-born
Filipino citizens who had acquired foreign citizenship but now wished to reacquire
their Filipino citizenship.
Rep. Javier then explained that a Filipina who loses her Filipino citizenship by virtue
of her marriage to a foreigner can regain her repatriated Filipino citizenship, upon
the death of her husband, by simply taking her oath before the Department of Justice
(DOJ).
Rep. Javier said that he does not oppose the Bill but only wants to be fair to other
Filipino citizens who are not considered natural-born. He reiterated that natural-
born Filipino citizens who had renounced their citizenship by pledging allegiance to
another sovereignty should not be allowed to revert back to their status of being
natural-born citizens once they decide to regain their Filipino citizenship. He
underscored that this will in a way allow such Filipinos to enjoy dual citizenship.
On whether the Sponsors will agree to an amendment incorporating the position of
Rep. Javier, Rep. Libanan stated that this will defeat the purpose of the Bill.
Rep. Javier disagreed therewith, adding that natural-born Filipino citizens who
acquired foreign citizenships and later decided to regain their Filipino citizenship,
will be considered as repatriated citizens.
Rep. Libanan cited the case of Bengzon vs. HRET wherein the Supreme Court had
ruled that only naturalized Filipino citizens are not considered as natural-born
citizens.
In reaction, Rep. Javier clarified that only citizens by election or those whose mothers
are Filipino citizens under the 1935 Constitution and who elected Filipino citizenship
upon reaching the age of maturity, are not deemed as natural-born citizens.
In response, Rep. Libanan maintained that in the Bengzon case, repatriation results
in the recovery of ones original nationality and only naturalized citizens are not
considered as natural-born citizens.
On whether the Sponsors would agree to not giving back the status of being natural-
born citizens to natural-born Filipino citizens who acquired foreign citizenship, Rep.
Libanan remarked that the Body in plenary session will decide on the matter.27
The petitioner obviously espouses an isolated reading of Representative Javiers
statement; she conveniently disregards the preceding and succeeding discussions in
the records.
The above-quoted excerpts of the legislative record show that Representative Javiers
statement ought to be understood within the context of the issue then being
discussed, that is whether former natural-born citizens who re-acquire their
Filipino citizenship under the proposed law will revert to their original status as
natural-born citizens and thus be qualified to run for government positions reserved
only to natural-born Filipinos, i.e. President, Vice-President and Members of the
Congress.
It was Representative Javiers position that they should be considered as repatriated
Filipinos and not as natural-born citizens since they will have to execute a personal
and sworn renunciation of foreign citizenship. Natural-born citizens are those who
need not perform an act to perfect their citizenship. Representative Libanan,
however, maintained that they will revert to their original status as natural-born
citizens. To reconcile the renunciation imposed by Section 5(2) with the principle
that natural-born citizens are those who need not perform any act to perfect their
citizenship, Representative Javier suggested that the sworn renunciation of foreign
citizenship be considered as a mere pro forma requirement.
Petitioners argument, therefore, loses its point. The "sworn renunciation of foreign
citizenship" must be deemed a formal requirement only with respect to the re-
acquisition of ones status as a natural-born Filipino so as to override the effect of the
principle that natural-born citizens need not perform any act to perfect their
citizenship. Never was it mentioned or even alluded to that, as the petitioner wants
this Court to believe, those who re-acquire their Filipino citizenship and thereafter
run for public office has the option of executing an unsworn affidavit of
renunciation.
It is also palpable in the above records that Section 5 was intended to complement
Section 18, Article XI of the Constitution on public officers primary accountability of
allegiance and loyalty, which provides:
Sec. 18. Public officers and employees owe the State and this Constitution
allegiance at all times and any public officer or employee who seeks to change his
citizenship or acquire the status of an immigrant of another country during his
tenure shall be dealt with by law.
An oath is a solemn declaration, accompanied by a swearing to God or a revered
person or thing, that ones statement is true or that one will be bound to a promise.
The person making the oath implicitly invites punishment if the statement is untrue
or the promise is broken. The legal effect of an oath is to subject the person to
penalties for perjury if the testimony is false.28
Indeed, the solemn promise, and the risk of punishment attached to an oath ensures
truthfulness to the prospective public officers abandonment of his adopted state and
promise of absolute allegiance and loyalty to the Republic of the Philippines.
To hold the oath to be a mere pro forma requirement is to say that it is only for
ceremonial purposes; it would also accommodate a mere qualified or temporary
allegiance from government officers when the Constitution and the legislature
clearly demand otherwise.
Petitioner contends that the Australian Citizenship Act of 1948, under which she is
already deemed to have lost her citizenship, is entitled to judicial notice. We
disagree.
Foreign laws are not a matter of judicial notice. Like any other fact, they must be
alleged and proven.29 To prove a foreign law, the party invoking it must present a
copy thereof and comply with Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132 of the Revised Rules of
Court which reads:
Sec. 24. Proof of official record. The record of public documents referred to in
paragraph (a) of Section 19, when admissible for any purpose, may be evidenced by
an official publication thereof or by a copy attested by the officer having the legal
custody of the record, or by his deputy, and accompanied, if the record is not kept in
the Philippines, with a certificate that such officer has the custody. If the office in
which the record is kept is in a foreign country, the certificate may be made by a
secretary of the embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice- consul, or consular
agent or by any officer in the foreign service of the Philippines stationed in the
foreign country in which the record is kept, and authenticated by the seal of his
office. (Emphasis ours)
Sec. 25. What attestation of copy must state. Whenever a copy of a document or record
is attested for the purpose of the evidence, the attestation must state, in substance,
that the copy is a correct copy of the original, or a specific part thereof, as the case
may be. The attestation must be under the official seal of the attesting officer, if there
be any, or if he be the clerk of a court having a seal, under the seal of such court.
The Court has admitted certain exceptions to the above rules and held that the
existence of a foreign law may also be established through: (1) a testimony under
oath of an expert witness such as an attorney-at-law in the country where the foreign
law operates wherein he quotes verbatim a section of the law and states that the
same was in force at the time material to the facts at hand; and (2) likewise, in
several naturalization cases, it was held by the Court that evidence of the law of a
foreign country on reciprocity regarding the acquisition of citizenship, although not
meeting the prescribed rule of practice, may be allowed and used as basis for
favorable action, if, in the light of all the circumstances, the Court is "satisfied of the
authenticity of the written proof offered." Thus, in a number of decisions, mere
authentication of the Chinese Naturalization Law by the Chinese Consulate General
of Manila was held to be a competent proof of that law.30
The petitioner failed to prove the Australian Citizenship Act of 1948 through any of
the above methods. As uniformly observed by the RTC and COMELEC, the
petitioner failed to show proof of the existence of the law during trial. Also, the letter
issued by the Australian government showing that petitioner already renounced her
Australian citizenship was unauthenticated hence, the courts a quo acted judiciously
in disregarding the same.
We are bound to arrive at a similar conclusion even if we were to admit as
competent evidence the said letter in view of the photocopy of a Certificate of
Authentication issued by Consular Section of the Philippine Embassy in Canberra,
Australia attached to the petitioners motion for reconsideration.
We have stressed in Advocates and Adherents of Social Justice for School Teachers
and Allied Workers (AASJS) Member v. Datumanong31 that the framers of R.A. No.
9225 did not intend the law to concern itself with the actual status of the other
citizenship.
This Court as the government branch tasked to apply the enactments of the
legislature must do so conformably with the wisdom of the latter sans the
interference of any foreign law. If we were to read the Australian Citizen Act of 1948
into the application and operation of R.A. No. 9225, we would be applying not what
our legislative department has deemed wise to require. To do so would be a brazen
encroachment upon the sovereign will and power of the people of this Republic.32
The petitioners act of running for public office does not suffice to serve as an
effective renunciation of her Australian citizenship. While this Court has previously
declared that the filing by a person with dual citizenship of a certificate of candidacy
is already considered a renunciation of foreign citizenship,33 such ruling was already
adjudged superseded by the enactment of R.A. No. 9225 on August 29, 2003 which
provides for the additional condition of a personal and sworn renunciation of
foreign citizenship.34
The fact that petitioner won the elections can not cure the defect of her candidacy.
Garnering the most number of votes does not validate the election of a disqualified
candidate because the application of the constitutional and statutory provisions on
disqualification is not a matter of popularity.35
In fine, R.A. No. 9225 categorically demands natural-born Filipinos who re-acquire
their citizenship and seek elective office, to execute a personal and sworn
renunciation of any and all foreign citizenships before an authorized public officer
prior to or simultaneous to the filing of their certificates of candidacy, to qualify as
candidates in Philippine elections.36 The rule applies to all those who have re-
acquired their Filipino citizenship, like petitioner, without regard as to whether they
are still dual citizens or not. It is a pre-requisite imposed for the exercise of the right
to run for public office.
Stated differently, it is an additional qualification for elective office specific only to
Filipino citizens who re-acquire their citizenship under Section 3 of R.A. No. 9225. It
is the operative act that restores their right to run for public office. The petitioner's
failure to comply therewith in accordance with the exact tenor of the law, rendered
ineffectual the Declaration of Renunciation of Australian Citizenship she executed
on September 18, 2006. As such, she is yet to regain her political right to seek elective
office. Unless she executes a sworn renunciation of her Australian citizenship, she is
ineligible to run for and hold any elective office in the Philippines.
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the petition is hereby DISMISSED. The
Resolution dated September 6, 2011 of the Commission on Elections en bane in EAC
(AE) No. A-44-2010 is AFFIRMED in toto.
SO ORDERED.
JENNIFER A. AGUSTIN-SE AND ROHERMIA J. JAMSANI-
RODRIGUEZ, Petitioners, v. OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, REPRESENTED BY
EXECUTIVE SECRETARY PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR., ORLANDO C.
CASIMIRO, OVERALL DEPUTY OMBUDSMAN, OFFICE OF THE
OMBUDSMAN, AND JOHN I.C. TURALBA, ACTING DEPUTY SPECIAL
PROSECUTOR, OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR, Respondents.
DECISION
CARPIO, J.:
The Case

This is a petition for review on certiorari1 to set aside the 29 November 2012
Decision2 and the 23 May 20133 Resolution of the Court of Appeals upholding the 14
June 20114 Decision of the Office of the President (OP) to dismiss the complaint of
Jennifer A. Agustin-Se and Rohermia J. Jamsani-Rodriguez (petitioners) against
respondents Orlando C. Casimiro (Casimiro) and John I.C. Turalba
(Turalba).chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The Facts

Petitioners are Assistant Special Prosecutors III of the Office of the Ombudsman,
who have been assigned to prosecute cases against Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Leopoldo S. Acot
(Acot), Bgen. (Ret.) Ildelfonso N. Dulinayan (Dulinayan) and several others before
the Sandiganbayan for alleged ghost deliveries of assorted supplies and materials to
the Philippine Air Force amounting to about Eighty Nine Million Pesos
(P89,000,000.00).

Sometime in early 1995, the Judge Advocate General's Office of the Armed Forces of
the Philippines filed a complaint before the Ombudsman against Acot, Dulinayan
and several others which was eventually docketed as OMB-AFP-CRIM-94-0218. In a
Resolution dated 12 April 1996,5 Ombudsman Investigators Rainier C. Almazan
(Almazan) and Rudifer G. Falcis II (Falcis) recommended the filing of Informations
against Acot, Dulinayan, and several others for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-
Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019 [RA No. 3019]) and/or for
Malversation through Falsification. Casimiro was then the Director of the Criminal
and Administrative Investigation Division of the Office of the Ombudsman and the
immediate supervisor of Almazan and Falcis. Casimiro concurred with and signed
the 12 April 1996 Resolution and indorsed the same to Bgen. (Ret.) Manuel B.
Casaclang, then Casimiro's immediate superior.

In a Memorandum dated 10 July 1996,6 then Special Prosecution Officer III Reynaldo
L. Mendoza recommended the modification of the 12 April 1996 Resolution to
charge Acot, Dulinayan and several others only with the violation of Section 3(e) of
RA No. 3019. In a Memorandum dated 12 January 1998,7Special Prosecutor
Leonardo Tamayo (Tamayo) recommended that the charges against Acot and
Dulinayan be dismissed for lack of evidence. Affirming the recommendation of
Tamayo, on 2 March 1998, Ombudsman Aniano A. Desierto approved the 12 April
1996 Resolution with the modification to dismiss the charges against Acot and
Dulinayan.

In a Memorandum dated 29 April 2005,8 Nolasco B. Ducay and Melita A. Cuasay,


record officers of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other
Law Enforcement Officers (OMB-MOLEO), brought to the attention of Casimiro
(who was then already the Deputy Ombudsman for MOLEO having been appointed
on 16 December 1999) that the main folder containing the 12 April 1996 Resolution
could not be located despite the records having been returned to the OMB-MOLEO
on 6 March 1998. The discovery of the missing folder was made when Col. Proceso I.
Sabado and Ltc. Jose R. Gadin, who were co-respondents of Acot and Dulinayan,
applied for a clearance with the Office of the Ombudsman. Due to the delay in the
action on the 12 April 1996 Resolution and inexplicable loss of the main folder,
Almazan and Falcis, in a Memorandum dated 7 July 2005,9 strongly recommended a
thorough review of the case. Casimiro forwarded the 7 July 2005 Memorandum to
Ombudsman Simeon V. Marcelo who directed the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) to
study the records and submit a recommendation.

In a Memorandum dated 25 June 2007,10 the OLA noted that the 12 April 1996
Resolution had "no force and effect because it was never promulgated." The OLA
recommended, among others, the filing of Informations against Acot, Dulinayan and
several others. In a Memorandum dated 23 February 2009, Assistant Special
Prosecutor II Terence S. Fernando of the Office of the Ombudsman Proper
recommended the approval of the OLA's Memorandum. On 3 March 2009, acting
pursuant to delegated authority, Casimiro approved both the 25 June 2007 and 23
February 2009 Memoranda. The Informations were thereafter filed against Acot,
Dulinayan and several others with the Sandiganbayan.

Acot and Dulinayan filed their respective Motions to Quash/Dismiss and to Defer
Arraignment mainly on the grounds that: (1) the right of the State to prosecute had
already prescribed; and (2) given the amount of time the case was filed after the
preliminary investigation was started almost 15 years, their right to speedy
disposition of case had been violated.11 Dulinayan further alleged that a clearance
had been issued by the Office of the Ombudsman stating that there were no pending
cases against him. The Sandiganbayan required petitioners, the assigned prosecutors
for this case, to comment on the motions filed by Acot and Dulinayan.

To determine the veracity of the statement of Dulinayan that he had been issued a
clearance stating that there are no pending cases against him, petitioners confirmed
with the Public Assistance Bureau of the Office of the Ombudsman whether such
clearance had been issued.12 Moreover, to determine the events that transpired after
the modification of the 12 April 1996 Resolution, petitioners requested certified
machine copies of the docket entries with the Records Division.13 While the issuance
of the clearance was timely confirmed, the certified machine copies of the docket
entries were delayed; and thus, petitioners were constrained to file several Motions
for Extension of Time to File Comment/Opposition to the Motions filed by
Dulinayan and Acot.

Based on their evaluation of the records, petitioners found that there were
procedural lapses in the handling of the cases, which they attributed to Casimiro.
Thus, instead of filing the required Comment and/or Opposition with the
Sandiganbayan, petitioners submitted a Memorandum dated 5 January 2010,14which
contained their findings against Casimiro. This Memorandum, while addressed to
then Special Prosecutor Dennis M. Villa-Ignacio, was submitted to Turalba, who was
the Officer-in-Charge, Director, Prosecution Bureau V. Turalba, however, merely
attached the said Memorandum as part of the records and thereafter relieved
petitioners from the cases, alluding that they were remiss in their duty to file the
necessary Comment and/or Opposition with the Sandiganbayan.15 Turalba filed his
owa Comment and/or Opposition which prompted petitioners to seek the approval
of Villa-Ignacio of their version of the draft Comment and/or Opposition, which
they eventually filed with the Sandiganbayan.16 However, the Informations against
Acot, Dulinayan and several others were subsequently dismissed by the
Sandiganbayan for violation of the accused's right to speedy disposition of the case.

In the meantime, Turalba furnished Casimiro with the 5 January 2010 Memorandum
of petitioners. Casimiro thereafter required petitioners to explain why they should
not be held criminally and administratively liable for insubordination, gross neglect
and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.17 Instead of responding to
Casimiro, petitioners submitted a Memorandum dated 20 January 2010 to Villa-
Ignacio explaining their actions.18chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Thereafter, on 4 February 2010, Casimiro filed a Complaint19 against petitioners with


the Internal Affairs Board (IAB) of the Office of the Ombudsman for the crime of
libel and Section 3(e) of RA No. 3019, and administratively, for grave misconduct,
conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, gross neglect of duty, and
insubordination. Pending investigation, petitioners were placed under preventive
suspension.

On 3 November 2010, petitioners filed their own Complaint20 before the OP, alleging
that Casimiro and Turalba committed the following administrative infractions: (1)
grave misconduct, (2) gross negligence; (3) oppressions, (4) conduct grossly
prejudicial to the best interest of the service; (5) violation of the rules on
confidentiality; (6) violation of Office Order No. 05-18, and Office Order No. 05-13;
and (7) violation of Section 35 of RA No. 6770,21 amounting to dishonesty and gross
misconduct.22chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The Ruling of the Office of the President

In a Decision dated 14 June 2011,23 the OP dismissed the complaint filed against
Casimiro and Turalba. On the allegation that Casimiro caused the delay in the
investigation of the cases against Acot, Dulinayan and several others, the OP ruled
that:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
This Office finds that the delay in the preliminary investigation of OMB-AFP-CRM-
94-0218 could not be validly attributed to respondent Casimiro, whose participation
in the disposition of the case is his initial review as Director, submission of the
Memorandum of 7 July 2005 and the Information in accordance with the Resolution
dated 12 April 1996, as approved by Ombudsman Desierto, and his approval of the
final resolution of the case by delegated authority and of the various Informations
for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 against the accused, now
docketed as SB-09-CRM-0184 to 0189 of the Sandiganbayan.

This Office agrees with respondent Casimiro that as a mere Director of a Bureau of
the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Military and other Law Enforcement
Offices and who was thereafter appointed Deputy Ombudsman only on December
16, 1999, he had every right to presume regularity in the investigation of the case.

In fact, no less than the Office of Legal Affairs of the Office of the Ombudsman,
concluded that the Resolution dated 12 April 1996 had never become final.

x x xx

No delay, therefore, may be attributed to respondent Casimiro who came across the
records of the case nine (9) years after he signed the Resolution dated 12 April 1996
recommending the filing of informations to his superior, if the Office of the
Ombudsman itself never considered that the Resolution dated 12 April 1996 as final
and executory.24chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
On the issue of whether Casimiro and Turalba violated the rules on confidentiality,
the OP stated:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
The Memorandum dated January 5, 2010 is not confidential or classified information
within the ambit of R.A. No. 6713 and R.A. No. 3019.

Therefore, Director Turalba could not be faulted for his act of furnishing a copy
thereof to respondent Casimiro who was the subject of the investigation which the
complainants sought to be conducted. On the other hand, respondent Casimiro
cannot be blamed for issuing the Memorandum dated January 18, 2010 directing
complainants to explain their action, in view of the latter's insinuation that it was by
his fault that the preliminary investigation of OMB-AFP-CRM-94-0218 had been
prolonged.25cralawred
On 2 November 2011, the OP denied the Motion for Reconsideration filed by
petitioners.26 On 28 November 2011, they filed a petition for review on certiorari
under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court with the Court of Appeals to set aside the
decision of the OP.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In a Decision dated 29 November 2012, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision
rendered by the OP. The Court of Appeals held:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
As correctly raised by respondent Casimiro, the delay, if any, was necessitated by
the layers of preliminary investigation and multiple reviews conducted by the
concerned authorities in the Office of the Ombudsman over a period of time under
different leaderships starting from Ombudsman Desierto, to Ombudsman Marcelo
and thereafter, to Ombudsman Gutierrez. It must be emphasized that for his part,
respondent Casimiro concurred with the findings of his subordinates, Almazan
and Falcis, who conducted the preliminary investigation against Acot and
company, and who issued the 12 April 1996 Resolution recommending the filing
of appropriate criminal Informations against the latter. This, in turn, was
recommended for approval by Casaclang, respondent Casimiro's immediate
superior, to Ombudsman Desierto.

xxxx

From the foregoing factual antecedents, it becomes evident that upon review of the
12 April 1996 Resolution, the charges against Acot and Dulinayan were approved for
dismissal by Ombudsman Desierto, and not for the filing of Information as
recommended and concurred with by Almazan and Falcis, and respondent
Casimiro, respectively. Thus, respondent Casimiro cannot be faulted in the delay, if
any, in filing the appropriate criminal Informations against Acot and Dulinayan
considering that Ombudsman Desierto overruled the recommendations and
concurrence by the Investigators and Casimiro as to the finding of probable cause
against the said military officials. Simply put, there was nothing to be filed before
the Sandiganbayan against Acot and Dulinayan after the approval and
modification of the 12 April 1996 Resolution as the charges against them were
approved for dismissal.27chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In a Resolution dated 23 May 2013,28 the Court of Appeals denied the Motion for
Reconsideration29 filed by petitioners on 21 December 2012. Thereafter, this petition
for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court was timely filed on 19
June 2013.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The Issues

In this petition, petitioners seek a reversal of the decision of the OP and the Court of
Appeals, and raise the following issues for resolution:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
A. WHETHER THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS CORRECTLY RULED
THAT PETITIONERS' RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS WAS NOT VIOLATED BY
RESPONDENT OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, WHEN IT DID NOT CONSIDER
THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY THE PETITIONERS DURING THE
ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATION;

B. WHETHER THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED


WHEN IT RULED THAT THERE ARE NO SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE ON
RECORD AS AGAINST RESPONDENT CASIMIRO FOR THE DELAY IN THE
DISPOSITION AND PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF OMB-AFP-CRM-94-0218
(SB-09-CRM-0184-0189), AND AGAINST RESPONDENTS CASIMIRO AND
TURALBA FOR VIOLATION OF OFFICE ORDER NO. 05-18, OFFICE ORDER NO.
05-13, VIOLATION OF SEC. 35 OF R.A. 6770 AND SEC. 3 (K) OF R.A. 3019;

C. WHETHER THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN


SUSTAINING THE DECISION OF THE RESPONDENT OFFICE OF THE
PRESIDENT THAT THE PREVENTIVE SUSPENSION OF THE COMPLAINANT
WAS BY REASON OF THE "DELAY" IN FILING THEIR COMMENT IN SB-09-
CRM-0184-0189, TO THE MOTION TO QUASH SEPARATELY FILED BY
ACCUSED ACOT AND DULINAYAN;

D. WHETHER THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN


SUSTAINING THE DECISION OF THE RESPONDENT OFFICE OF THE
PRESIDENT IN DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT AGAINST RESPONDENTS,
WHICH IS NOT IN ACCORD WITH THE EVIDENCE ON RECORD, BUT
CONTRARY TO ESTABLISHED JURISPRUDENCE AND ITS PREVIOUS RULINGS;

E. WHETHER THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN


APPLYING THE PROVISIONS OF EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 13;
F. WHETHER THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN
SUSTAINING THE RULING OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, WHEN IT
FAILED TO RULE ON VARIOUS ISSUES RAISED BY THE PETITIONERS, SUCH
AS:
1. WHEN IT FAILED TO CONSIDER THE FINDINGS OF THE COURT OF
APPEALS IN C.A. G.R. 114210 ENTITLED JENNIFER AGUSTIN-SE ET AL. VS.
INTERNAL AFFAIRS BOARD ET AL.;

2. TO RULE ON THE ISSUE THAT RESPONDENT [OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT]


ERRONEOUSLY CONCLUDED THAT THE PREVENTIVE SUSPENSION OF THE
COMPLAINANT WAS JUSTIFIED BY REASON OF THE DELAY IN FILING THEIR
COMMENT IN SB-09- CRM-0184-0189;

3. WHETHER OR NOT THE FINDING OF THE RESPONDENT [OFFICE OF THE


PRESIDENT] IS CORRECT THAT THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE RELATIVE TO
THE UNDUE INJURY CAUSE [SIC] TO THE PEOPLE AND TO
PETITIONERS.30chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The Ruling of the Court

The petition lacks merit.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary


Question of Law v. Question of Fact

At the outset, we note that questions of fact are raised in this petition which are not
proper under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.

A question of law arises when there is a doubt as to what the law is on a certain state
of facts, while there is a question of fact when doubt arises as to the truth or falsity of
the alleged facts.31 For a question to be a question of law, it must not involve an
examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants. The
resolution of the issue must rest solely on what the law provides on the given set of
facts and circumstances. Once it is clear that the issue invites a review of the
evidence presented, the question is one of fact. Thus, the test of whether a question is
one of law or of fact is not the appellation given to such question by the party raising
the same; rather, it is whether the appellate court can determine the issue without
examining or evaluating the evidence, in which case, it is a question of law;
otherwise, it is a question of fact.32chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

In this case, petitioners allege, among others, that (1) the Court of Appeals did not
consider their evidence during the administrative adjudication; (2) the Court of
Appeals gravely erred in ruling that there is no substantial evidence on record
against Casimiro for the delay in the disposition and preliminary investigation, and
against Casimiro and Turalba for violations of Office Order No. 05-18, Office Order
No. 05-13, Section 35 of RA No. 6770 and Section 3(k) of RA No. 3019; (3) the Court
of Appeals gravely erred in sustaining the finding of the OP that they were
preventively suspended by reason of their delay in filing their Comment, (4) the
Court of Appeals gravely erred in sustaining the dismissal of the Complaint by the
OP which is not in accord with the evidence on record but contrary to established
jurisprudence and its previous rulings; and (5) the Court of Appeals gravely erred in
sustaining the OP without ruling on the finding of the OP that there was no evidence
relative to the undue injury caused to the people and the petitioners.33 These issues
all involve a review of the facts on record or the examination of the probative value
of the evidence submitted.

Applying the test of whether the question is one of law or of fact, the
aforementioned are questions of fact because petitioners assail the appreciation of
evidence by the Court of Appeals.34 We have previously held that questions on the
probative value of the evidence, or those which relate to the analysis of the records
by the lower courts are questions of fact which are not proper for review by this
Court:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Whether certain items of evidence should be accorded probative value or weight, or
should be rejected as feeble or spurious; or whether or not the proofs on one side or
the other are clear and convincing and adequate to establish a proposition in issue;
whether or not the body of proofs presented by a party, weighed and analyzed in
relation to contrary evidence submitted by adverse party, may be said to be strong,
clear and convincing; whether or not certain documents presented by one side
should be accorded full faith and credit in the face of protests as to their spurious
character by the other side; whether or not inconsistencies in the body of proofs of a
party are of such gravity as to justify refusing to give said proofs weight - all these
are issues of fact. Questions like these are not reviewable by the Supreme Court
whose review of cases decided by the CA is confined only to questions of law raised
in the petition and therein distinctly set forth.35chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Moreover, it is well-settled that as a general rule, this Court is not a trier of
facts.36 Thus, absent the recognized exceptions to this general rule, this Court will
not review the findings of fact of the lower courts.37 In this case, petitioners failed to
show that the exceptions to justify a review of the appreciation of facts by the Court
of Appeals are present.

On the contrary, the findings of the Court of Appeals are all supported by the
evidence on record and further, are in accordance with the findings of the OP. In
fact, other than the bare and general allegation that the Court of Appeals did not
consider the evidence presented, petitioners were not able to identify the Court of
Appeals' alleged error in the appreciation of facts. A reading of the assailed decisions
shows that both the OP and the Court of Appeals considered the pleadings and
corresponding evidence submitted by both parties in arriving at their respective
decisions. Thus, we find no error in the appreciation of facts by the Court of
Appeals.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Due Process

Petitioners allege that their right to due process was violated when the OP (1) did
not consider the evidence they have presented and (2) issued its decision without the
recommendation of the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs
(ODESLA) as provided in Executive Order (EO) No. 13.

We find these contentions untenable.

Essence of Due Process in Administrative Cases

The essence of due process is an opportunity to be heard - as applied to


administrative proceedings, it is an opportunity to explain one's side or an
opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of.38 In this
case, petitioners were given both opportunities - the opportunity to explain their
side by filing their pleadings which contained all their allegations and evidence in
support of their arguments, and the opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the
ruling complained of, as shown by their motions for reconsideration and appeals. As
long as parties are afforded these opportunities, the requirement of due process in
administrative proceedings is sufficiently met. As evidenced by the pleadings filed
during the administrative proceeding, and their subsequent appeal to the Court of
Appeals and now to this Court, they have been afforded the fullest opportunity to
establish their claims and to seek a reconsideration of the ruling complained of.

Moreover, a reading of the decisions of the Court of Appeals and the OP shows that
the evidence petitioners presented had been duly considered. Indeed, aside from
their general allegation that the Court of Appeals did not consider their evidence,
petitioners failed to identify any conclusion arrived at by the Court of Appeals or the
OP that was not supported by the evidence on record. Moreover, both the Court of
Appeals and the OP addressed the issues raised by the parties, and subsequently
cited the proper evidence on record and quoted the applicable laws and
jurisprudence to support their findings. The bare allegation that they were denied
due process cannot overcome the clear fact that they were given every opportunity
to establish their claims.

Recommendation of ODESLA

Petitioners further allege that the Court of Appeals gravely erred in applying the
provisions of EO No. 13,39 as the decision of the OP was approved only by the
Executive Secretary without the recommendation of the ODESLA. They argue that
their right to due process was violated as the decision was rendered by only one
person rather than through the recommendation of a collegial body - namely the
Investigative and the Adjudicatory Division of the ODESLA.

We find this argument patently baseless. As correctly pointed out by the Court of
Appeals, there is nothing in EO No. 13 which states that findings on the complaints
against a presidential appointee, such as a Deputy Ombudsman, must be issued by a
collegial body. The ODESLA is merely a fact-finding and recommendatory body to
the President; and thus, it does not have the power to settle controversies and
adjudicate cases. In Pichay, Jr. v. ODESLA-IAD,40 the Court
held:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Under E.O. 12, the PAGC was given the authority to "investigate or hear
administrative cases or complaints against all presidential appointees in the
government" and to "submit its report and recommendations to the President." The
IAD-ODESLA is a fact-finding and recommendatory body to the President, not
having the power to settle controversies and adjudicate cases. As the Court ruled
in Cario v. Commission on Human Rights, and later reiterated in Biraogo v. The
Philippine Truth Commission:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Fact-finding is not adjudication and it cannot be likened to the judicial function of a
court of justice, or even a quasi-judicial agency or office. The function of receiving
evidence and ascertaining therefrom the facts of a controversy is not a judicial
function. To be considered as such, the act of receiving evidence and arriving at
factual conclusions in a controversy must be accompanied by the authority of
applying the law to the factual conclusions to the end that the controversy may be
decided or determined authoritatively, finally and definitively, subject to such
appeals or modes of review as may be provided by law.
xxxx

While the Ombudsman's function goes into the determination of the existence of
probable cause and the adjudication of the merits of a criminal accusation, the
investigative authority of the IAD-ODESLA is limited to that of a fact-finding
investigator whose determinations and recommendations remain so until acted
upon by the President. As such, it commits no usurpation of the Ombudsman's
constitutional duties.41chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Moreover, as the report of the ODESLA is merely recommendatory in nature, its
absence does not negate the validity of the decision of the OP. There is nothing in EO
No. 13 which states that the lack of recommendation of the ODESLA renders the
OP's decision in an administrative case void. Thus, it cannot be said that petitioners
were deprived of their right to due process.

Inordinate Delay

Petitioners posit that the delay in the filing of the Informations against Acot,
Dulinayan and several others should be attributed to Casimiro. They further argue
that this delay amounts to grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the interest of
the service, and gross neglect of duty.

While it is unfortunate that the filing of the Informations has taken an inexplicable
amount of delay from the preliminary investigation, this cannot be blamed solely on
Casimiro. The records show that the initial delay was incurred because of the
procedural layers of review done to the 12 April 1996 Resolution recommending the
filing of Informations against Acot, Dulinayan and several others. Moreover,
considering that the 12 April 1996 Resolution was modified to dismiss the charges
against Acot and Dulinayan, Casimiro cannot be faulted for the delay in the filing of
the Informations against them as there was nothing to be filed. Casimiro was
appointed Deputy Ombudsman only on 16 December 1999 and thus, had every right
to presume regularity in the investigation of the cases. The delay, therefore, cannot
be attributed to Casimiro.

Petitioners also bewail the fact that there was no apparent movant in the case against
Acot, Dulinayan and several others; and thus, Casimiro, by reviewing this case,
showed unusual interest. However, the records show that the case was brought to
the attention of the MOLEO when Col. Sabado and Ltc. Gadin, co-respondents of
Acot and Dulinayan, requested for their Ombudsman Clearance. This was when the
record officers found out that the first folder of the case was missing and that the
action taken on the 12 April 1996 Resolution after its 2 March 1998 modification was
unknown. As these facts were brought to the attention of Casimiro, it would have
been highly irresponsible for him to turn a blind eye to the irregularities uncovered.
To expect Casimiro, who was then the Deputy Ombudsman for the MOLEO, to turn
a blind eye to this anomaly would have been more suspect and highly
irregular.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Confidentiality of Memorandum

Petitioners allege that the Court of Appeals gravely erred when it affirmed the
decision of the OP holding that Casimiro did not violate Section 3(k) of RA No. 3019,
Office Order No. 05-13 and Office Order No. 05-18.

In particular, petitioners aver that Casimiro and Turalba, in conspiracy with each
other, violated Section 3(k) of RA No. 3019, as well as Section 7, paragraph (c) of RA
No. 6713,42 when the latter furnished Casimiro with the 5 January 2010
Memorandum which they alleged was of a confidential nature. Petitioners further
allege that they are considered "whistleblowers" under Office Order No. 05-18, Series
of 2005 (Rules on Internal Whistleblowing and Reporting); and thus, they should be
protected against any retaliatory action of Casimiro. This allegation is again based on
the premise that their 5 January 2010 Memorandum calling for the investigation of
Casimiro is a "protected disclosure" which should not have been disclosed by
Turalba to Casimiro.

We find these contentions to be without merit.

Protected disclosure is defined as "the deliberate and voluntary disclosure by an


official or employee who has relevant information of an actual, suspected or
anticipated wrongdoing by any official or employee, or by any OMB organizational
unit."43 On the other hand, a whistleblower refers "to an official or employee who
makes protected disclosure to his immediate supervisor, other superior officers, the
Tanodbayan and/or his duly authorized/designated representative or the Internal
Affairs Board (IAB)."44 Petitioners insist that based on the foregoing definitions, the 5
January 2010 Memorandum is a protected disclosure; and thus, they are considered
whistleblowers who should be protected from retaliatory
action.45chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

A reading of the Rules on Internal Whistleblowing and Reporting, however, will


show that the conditions for "protected disclosure" have not been met in this case.
Specifically, Section 7 provides:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Section 7. Conditions for Protected Disclosure. -

Whistleblowers shall be entitled to the benefits under these Rules, provided that all
the following requisites concur:

(a) The disclosure is made voluntarily, in writing and under oath;

(b) The disclosure pertains to a matter not yet the subject of a complaint already filed
with, or investigated by the IAB or by any other concerned office; unless, the
disclosures are necessary for the effective and successful prosecutions, or essential
for the acquisitions of material evidence not yet in its possession;

(c) The whistleblower assists and participates in proceedings commenced in


connection with the subject matter of the disclosure; and

(d) The information given by the whistleblower contains sufficient particulars and,
as much as possible, supported by other material evidence.
The 5 January 2010 Memorandum does not meet the conditions set forth in Section 7;
and thus, it does not qualify as a protected disclosure under the rules. The
Memorandum fails to meet the first requirement as the disclosure, while made
voluntarily and in writing, was not executed under oath. Contrary to the allegations
of petitioners, there is also no indication that the document was to be treated as
confidential. If indeed they had intended that the Memorandum be considered of a
confidential nature, they should have indicated it clearly, such as by putting the
word "confidential" on the face of the document. This they failed to do; and thus, the
Memorandum was treated as a regular office memorandum.

Moreover, as correctly pointed out by the Court of Appeals and OP, the allegations
made by petitioners could all be easily verified through the records and thus do not
fall under the ambit of protected information. There was nothing confidential about
the Memorandum. Neither did it contain any classified information. Thus, there
could have been no violation of Section 3(k) of RA No. 301946 or of Section 7(c) of RA
No. 6713.47 Moreover, as there was no violation of Section 7(c) of RA No. 6713, there
is also no violation of Office Order No. 05-13 which provides in
part:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Section 1. OMB officials and employees shall not disclose any confidential
information acquired by them in the course of their employment in the Office.
Pursuant to Section 7(c) of Republic Act 6713 otherwise known as the Code of
Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, they shall not use
or divulge confidential or classified information officially known to them by reason
of their office and not made available to the public either: (1) to further their private
interest or give undue advantage to anyone; or (2) to prejudice the public interest, x
x x.
To reiterate, the 5 January 2010 Memorandum was bereft of any confidential
character - it was not a protected disclosure nor did it contain any confidential or
classified information as provided under the law. As such, Turalba could not have
violated any rules on confidentiality when he provided Casimiro with a copy of the
said Memorandum.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Malicious Prosecution

As for the allegation that Casimiro was liable for malicious prosecution under
Section 35 of RA No. 6770, we find that this argument must also fail.

Section 35 of RA No. 6770 provides:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary


Section 35. Malicious Prosecution. Any person who, actuated by malice or gross
bad faith, files a completely unwarranted or false complaint against any government
official or employee shall be subject to a penalty of one (1) month and one (1) day to
six (6) months imprisonment and a fine not exceeding five thousand pesos
(P5,000.00).
In turn, malicious prosecution has been defined as
follows:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
In this jurisdiction, the term malicious prosecution has been defined as an action for
damages brought by one against whom a criminal prosecution, civil suit, or other
legal proceeding has been instituted maliciously and without probable cause, after
the termination of such prosecution, suit, or other proceeding in favor of the
defendant therein. While generally associated with unfounded criminal actions, the
term has been expanded to include unfounded civil suits instituted just to vex and
humiliate the defendant despite the absence of a cause of action or probable cause.

xxxx

This Court has drawn the four elements that must be shown to concur to recover
damages for malicious prosecution. Therefore, for a malicious prosecution suit to
prosper, the plaintiff must prove the following: (1) the prosecution did occur, and
the defendant was himself the prosecutor or that he instigated its commencement;
(2) the criminal action finally ended with an acquittal; (3) in bringing the action, the
prosecutor acted without probable cause; and (4) the prosecution was impelled by
legal malice - an improper or a sinister motive. The gravamen of malicious
prosecution is not the filing of a complaint based on the wrong provision of law, but
the deliberate initiation of an action with the knowledge that the charges were false
and groundless.48chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Based on the foregoing, we see that the elements of malicious prosecution are
wanting in this case. Based on the Complaint filed by Casimiro before the IAB, there
had been probable cause for him to initiate the charges against petitioners. It is of
record that petitioners had indeed filed several motions for extension of time, and
that instead of filing the necessary Comment, they had submitted the 5 January 2010
Memorandum. This could have constituted conduct prejudicial to the best interest of
the service or gross neglect of duty. Moreover, when they were asked by Casimiro to
explain their actions, they did not respond, but merely submitted another
Memorandum, addressed to Villa-Ignacio, which were considered actions that
evinced resistance to authority.49 In fact, the IAB found petitioners guilty of Simple
Discourtesy in the Course of Official Duties and were reprimanded for their
conduct.50 Thus, the gravamen of malicious prosecution - the deliberate initiation of
an action with the knowledge that the charges were false and groundless - was
absent on the part of Casimiro.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Stare Decisis and Res Judicata

Petitioners further allege that the Court of Appeals gravely erred when it failed to
take judicial notice of CA-G.R. No. 114210, where the Twelfth Division of the Court
of Appeals found that petitioners were not remiss in performing their duties in
relation to the criminal cases against Acot, Dulinayan and several others.

Again, we do not find any reversible error.

Petitioners, in essence, are arguing that the Court of Appeals should have applied
the doctrine of stare decisis, which enjoins adherence to judicial precedence, such that
lower courts are bound to follow the rule established in a decision of the Supreme
Court,51 or the doctrine of res judicata, which provides that a final judgment or decree
on the merits rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive of the rights
of the parties or their privies in all later suits and on all points and matters
determined in the previous suit.52chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

However, we note that the decision being relied on by petitioners was rendered
merely by another division of the Court of Appeals, and not this Court. We have
previously settled that the decision of a division of the Court of Appeals is not
binding on a co-division.53 We held:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
In the case at bar, this Court holds that there was no grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction committed by the Special Sixth Division
of the Court of Appeals in not giving due deference to the decision of its co-
division. As correctly pointed out by the Special Sixth Division of the Court of
Appeals, the decision of its co-division is not binding on its other division.
Further, it must be stressed that judicial decisions that form part of our legal
system are only the decisions of the Supreme Court. Moreover, at the time
petitioners made the aforesaid Manifestation, the Decision dated 14 December 2007
in CA-G.R. SP No. 96717 of the Special Tenth Division was still on appeal before this
Court.

Therefore, the Special Sixth Division of the Court of Appeals cannot be faulted for
not giving due deference to the said Decision of its co-division, and its actuation
cannot be considered grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of its
jurisdiction.54(Boldfacing and underscoring supplied)
Moreover, as correctly pointed out by the Court of Appeals, the subject matter in
CA-G.R. No. 114210 is different from the issues involved in this case. While this
petition involves the administrative complaint filed by petitioners against Casimiro
in relation to the alleged failure of Casimiro to file the Informations against Acot,
Dulinayan and several others, the petition involved in CA-G.R. No. 114210 is the
administrative complaint filed by petitioners which relates to the delay incurred by
petitioners in filing the necessary pleadings before the Sandiganbayan. Thus, the
Court of Appeals did not err in not taking judicial notice of CA-G.R. No. 114210.

WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. We AFFIRM the 29 November 2012 Decision


and the 23 May 2013 Resolution of the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the 14 June
2011 Decision of the Office of the President.

SO ORDERED.cralawlawlibrary

NAPOLEON D. SENIT, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
DECISION
REYES, J.:
Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of
Court assailing the Decision2dated November 20, 2009 and the. Resolution3 dated
June 17, 2010 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 00390-MIN which
affirmed with modification the Dedision4 dated April 26, 2006 of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Branch 10, in Criminal Case No. 10717-
00 convicting Napoleon D. Senit (petitioner) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
Reckless Imprudence resulting to Multiple Serious Physical Injuries and Damage to
Property.
The Antecedents
The facts as narrated are culled from the Comments5 of the Office of the Solicitor
General (OSG) and from the assailed decision of the CA:
In the morning of September 2, 2000, private complainant Mohinder Toor, Sr. was
driving north along Aglayan from the direction of Valencia on board his Toyota
pick-up with his wife Rosalinda Toor, their three-year-old son Mohinder Toor, Jr.,
and househelper Mezelle Jane Silayan. He turned left and was coming to the center
of Aglayan when a speeding Super 5 bus driven by petitioner and coming from
Malaybalay headed south towards Valencia, suddenly overtook a big truck from the
right side. Petitioner tried to avoid the accident by swerving to the right towards the
shoulder of the road and applying the brakes, but he was moving too fast and could
not avoid a collision with the pick-up. The bus crashed into the right side of private
complainants pick-up at a right angle.
All passengers of the pick-up were injured and immediately brought to Bethel
Baptist Hospital, Sumpong, Malaybalay City. However, because of lack of medical
facilities, they were transferred to the Bukidnon Doctors Hospital in Valencia City,
Bukidnon. Rosalinda Toor sustained an open fracture of the humerus of the right
arm and displaced, closed fracture of the proximal and distal femur of the right
lower extremity which required two surgical operations. She was paralyzed as a
result of the accident and was unable to return to her job as the Regional Manager of
COSPACHEM Product Laboratories. Mohinder Toor, Sr. spent about P580,000.00 for
her treatment and P3,000.00 for Mezelle Jean Silayan, who suffered frontal area
swelling as a result of the accident. Mohinder Toor, Sr. suffered a complete fracture
of the scapular bone of his right shoulder while his son Mohinder Toor, Jr. sustained
abdominal injury and a wound on the area of his right eye which required suturing.
The damage sustained by the pick-up reached P106,155.00.
Thus, on May 30, 2001, Carlo B. Mejia, City Prosecutor of Malaybalay City, charged
petitioner with Reckless Imprudence Resulting to Multiple Serious Physical Injuries
and Damage to Property in an Amended Information which was filed with Branch
10 of the [RTC] in Malaybalay City. The information reads:
"That on or about September 2, 2000 in the morning at [sic] Barangay Aglayan,
Malaybalay City, Province of Bukidnon, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully, and criminally in violation of the Land Transportation and Traffic Code,
in negligent, careless, imprudent manner and without precaution to prevent accident
[to] life and property, drive a Super Five Nissan Bus, color white/red bearing plate
No. MVD-776 owned by PAUL PADAYHAG of Rosario Heights, Iligan City, as a
result hit and bumped the [sic] motor vehicle, Toyota Pick-up color blue with plate
No. NEF-266 driven and owned by MOHINDER S. TOO[R,] SR., and with his wife
Rosalinda Toor, son Mohinder Toor, Jr., 3 years old and househelp Mezelle Jane
Silayan, 17 years old, riding with him. The Toyota pick-up was damaged in the
amount of [P]105,300.00 and spouses Mohinder Toor[,] Sr. and Rosalinda Toor,
Mohinder Toor[,] Jr[.] and Mezelle Jane Silayan sustained the following injuries to
wit:
MOHINDER TOOR[,] SR.
= complete fracture of superior scapular bone right shoulder
MOHINDER TOOR[,] JR.
= MPI secondary to MVA r/o Blunt abdominal injury
= Saturing [sic] right eye area
ROSALINDA TOOR
= Fracture, open type 11, supracondylar, humerus right
= Fracture, closed, Complete, displaced, subtrochanter
= and supracondylar femur right
MEZELLE JANE SILAYAN
= Frontal area swelling 20 vehicular accident
to the damage and prejudice of the complainant victim in such amount that they are
entitled to under the law.
CONTRARY TO and in Violation of Article 365 in relation to 263 of the Revised
Penal Code. IN RELATION TO THE FAMILY CODE."6 (Citations omitted)
Upon being arraigned on June 21, 2001, the petitioner, with the assistance of his
counsel, pleaded not guilty to the Information in this case.7
Trial ensued. However, after the initial presentation of evidence for the petitioner, he
resigned from his employment and transferred residence. His whereabouts allegedly
became unknown so he was not presented as a witness by his new counsel.8
On April 26, 2006, the RTC rendered its Decision in absentia convicting the petitioner
of the crime charged. The fallo of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered and finding the accused NAPOLEON SENIT y
Duhaylungsod guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime as charged, he is hereby
sentenced to an imprisonment of an indeterminate penalty of Four [4] months and
One [1] day of Arresto Mayor maximum as minimum and to Four [4] years and Two
[2] months Prision Correc[c]ional medium as maximum. The accused is further
ordered to indemnify the private complainant the amount of Fifty Thousand
[P50,000.00] Pesos as moral damages, the amount of Four Hundred Eighty Thousand
[P480,000.00] [Pesos] for the expenses incurred in the treatment and hospitalization
of Rosalinda Toor, Mohinder Toor, Jr[.] and Mezelle Jean Silayan and the amount of
Eighty Thousand [P80,000.00] [Pesos] for the expenses incurred in the repair of the
damaged Toyota pick-up vehicle.
SO ORDERED.9
The RTC issued a Promulgation10 dated August 4, 2006, which included an order for
the arrest of the petitioner.
The petitioner then filed a motion for new trial via registered mail on the ground that
errors of law or irregularities have been committed during trial that are allegedly
prejudicial to his substantial rights. He claimed that he was not able to present
evidence during trial because he was not notified of the schedule. Likewise, he
mistakenly believed that the case against him has been dismissed as private
complainant Mohinder Toor, Sr. (Toor, Sr.) purportedly left the country.11
On September 22, 2006, the public prosecutor opposed the motion for new trial filed
by the petitioner.12
On October 26, 2006, the motion for new trial was denied by the lower court
pronouncing that notices have been duly served the parties and that the reason
given by the petitioner was self-serving.13
Dissatisfied with the RTC decision, the petitioner filed his Notice of Appeal dated
November 6, 2006 by registered mail to the CA, on both questions of facts and
laws.14
Ruling of the CA
On November 20, 2009, the CA affirmed the decision of the RTC with modification
as to the penalty imposed, the dispositive portion thereof reads:
ACCORDINGLY, with MODIFICATION that [the petitioner] should suffer the
penalty of three (3) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor, the Court AFFIRMS in
all other respects the appealed 26 April 2006 Decision of the [RTC] of Malaybalay
City, Branch 10, in Criminal Case No. 10717-00.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.15
In affirming with modification the decision of the RTC, the CA ratiocinated as
follows: first, the evidence presented by OSG overwhelmingly points to the
petitioner as the culprit. A scrutiny of the records further reveals that the pictures
taken after the accident and the Traffic Investigation Report all coincide with the
testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, which are in whole consistent and
believable thus, debunking the claim of the petitioner that he was convicted on the
mere basis of allegedly biased and hearsay testimonies which do not establish his
guilt beyond reasonable doubt. In addition, there was no existing evidence to show
that there was an improper motive on the part of the eyewitnesses.16
Second, it found the arguments of the petitioner to move for a new trial as baseless.17
Lastly, it rendered that the proper imposable penalty is the maximum period
of arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods that is imprisonment for three
(3) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor since the petitioner has, by reckless
imprudence, committed an act which, had it been intentional, would have
constituted a less grave felony, based on the first paragraph of Article 365 in relation
to Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).18
The petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied by the CA, in its
Resolution19 dated June 17, 2010.
As a final recourse, the petitioner filed the petition for review before this Court,
praying that the applicable law on the matter be reviewed, and the gross
misappreciation of facts committed by the court a quo and by the CA be given a
second look.
The Issues
I. WHETHER OR NOT THE RTC AND THE CA ERRED IN DENYING THE
MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL OR TO RE-OPEN THE SAME IN ORDER TO ALLOW
THE PETITIONER TO PRESENT EVIDENCE ON HIS BEHALF; AND
II. WHETHER OR NOT THE RTC ERRED IN CONVICTING THE PETITIONER
DESPITE THE APPARENT FAILURE ON THE PART OF THE PROSECUTION TO
PROVE THE GUILT OF THE PETITIONER BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.20
Ruling of the Court
The petition lacks merit.
The RTC and CA did not err in denying the petitioners motion for new trial or to
re-open the same.
The Court finds that no errors of law or irregularities, prejudicial to the substantial
rights of the petitioner, have been committed during trial.
The petitioner anchors his motion for new trial on Rule 121, Section 2(a) of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, to wit:
Sec. 2. Grounds for a new trial. The Court shall grant a new trial on any of the
following grounds:
(a) That errors of law or irregularities prejudicial to the substantial rights of
the accused have been committed during the trial;
(b) That new and material evidence has been discovered which the accused
could not with reasonable diligence have discovered and produced at the trial
and which if introduced and admitted would probably change the judgment.
(Emphasis ours)
To sum up the claims of the petitioner, he theorizes that there was an error of law or
irregularities committed when the RTC promulgated a decision in absentia and
deemed that he had waived his right to present evidence resulting to denial of due
process, a one-sided decision by the RTC, and a strict and rigid application of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure against him.
First, it must be noted that the petitioner had already been arraigned and therefore,
the court a quo had already acquired jurisdiction over him. In fact, there was already
an initial presentation of evidence for the defense when his whereabouts became
unknown.
The petitioners claims that he had not testified because he did not know the
schedule of the hearings, and mistakenly believed that the case had already been
terminated with the departure of Toor, Sr., do not merit our consideration.21
The holding of trial in absentia is authorized under Section 14(2), Article III of the
1987 Constitution which provides that after arraignment, trial may proceed
notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly notified
and his failure to appear is unjustifiable.22 It is established that notices have been
served to the counsel of the petitioner and his failure to inform his counsel of his
whereabouts is the reason for his failure to appear on the scheduled date. Thus, the
arguments of the petitioner against the validity of the proceedings and promulgation
of judgment in absentia for being in violation of the constitutional right to due
process are doomed to fail.23
In Estrada v. People,24 the Court ruled that:
Due process is satisfied when the parties are afforded a fair and reasonable
opportunity to explain their respective sides of the controversy.
In the present case, petitioner was afforded such opportunity. The trial court set a
hearing on May 14, 1997 for reception of defense evidence, notice of which was duly
sent to the addresses on record of petitioner and her counsel, respectively. When
they failed to appear at the May 14, 1997 hearing, they later alleged that they were
not notified of said setting. Petitioners counsel never notified the court of any
change in her address, while petitioner gave a wrong address from the very
beginning, eventually jumped bail and evaded court processes. Clearly, therefore,
petitioner and her counsel were given all the opportunities to be heard. They cannot
now complain of alleged violation of petitioners right to due process when it was by
their own fault that they lost the opportunity to present evidence.25 (Citation
omitted)
Similarly in the present case, the petitioner clearly had previous notice of the
criminal case filed against him and was given the opportunity to present evidence in
his defense. The petitioner was not in any way deprived of his substantive and
constitutional right to due process as he was duly accorded all the opportunities to
be heard and to present evidence to substantiate his defense, but he forfeited this
right, through his own negligence, by not appearing in court at the scheduled
hearings.26
The negligence of the petitioner in believing that the case was already terminated
resulting to his failure to attend the hearings, is inexcusable. The Court has ruled in
many cases that:
It is petitioners duty, as a client, to be in touch with his counsel so as to be
constantly posted about the case. It is mandated to inquire from its counsel about the
status and progress of the case from time to time and cannot expect that all it has to
do is sit back, relax and await the outcome of the case. It is also its responsibility,
together with its counsel, to devise a system for the receipt of mail intended for
them.27 (Citations omitted)
The Court finds that the negligence exhibited by the petitioner, towards the criminal
case against him in which his liberty is at risk, is not borne of ignorance of the law as
claimed by his counsel rather, lack of concern towards the incident, and the people
who suffered from it. While there was no showing in the case at bar that the counsel
of the petitioner was grossly negligent in failing to inform him of the notices served,
the Court cannot find anyone to blame but the petitioner himself in not exercising
diligence in informing his counsel of his whereabouts.
The Court also agrees with the Comment of the OSG that there is neither rule nor
law which specifically requires the trial court to ascertain whether notices received
by counsel are sufficiently communicated with his client.28
In GCP-Manny Transport Services, Inc. v. Judge Principe,29 the Court held that:
[W]hen petitioner is at fault or not entirely blameless, there is no reason to overturn
well-settled jurisprudence or to interpret the rules liberally in its favor. Where
petitioner failed to act with prudence and diligence, its plea that it was not accorded
the right to due process cannot elicit this Courts approval or even sympathy. It is
petitioners duty, as a client, to be in touch with his counsel so as to be constantly
posted about the case. x x x.30 (Citations omitted)
Even if the Court assumed that the petitioner anchors his claim on Section 2(b) of
Rule 121 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the argument still has no merit.
"A motion for new trial based on newly-discovered evidence may be granted only if
the following requisites are met: (a) that the evidence was discovered after trial; (b)
that said evidence could not have been discovered and produced at the trial even
with the exercise of reasonable diligence; (c) that it is material, not merely
cumulative, corroborative or impeaching; and (d) that the evidence is of such weight
that, if admitted, it would probably change the judgment. It is essential that the
offering party exercised reasonable diligence in seeking to locate the evidence before
or during trial but nonetheless failed to secure it."31 The Court agrees with the CA in
its decision which held that "a new trial may not be had on the basis of evidence
which was available during trial but was not presented due to its negligence.
Likewise, the purported errors and irregularities committed in the course of the trial
against [the petitioners] substantive rights do not exist."32
In Lustaa v. Jimena-Lazo,33 the Court ruled that:
Rules of procedure are tools designed to promote efficiency and orderliness as well
as to facilitate attainment of justice, such that strict adherence thereto is required. Their
application may be relaxed only when rigidity would result in a defeat of equity and
substantial justice, which is not present here. Utter disregard of the Rules cannot just
be rationalized by harking on the policy of liberal construction.34 (Citations omitted
and italics in the original)
In the instant case, the Court finds no reason to waive the procedural rules in order
to grant the motion for new trial of the petitioner. There is just no legal basis for the
grant of the motion for new trial. The Court believes that the petitioner was given
the opportunity to be heard but he chose to put this opportunity into waste by not
being diligent enough to ask about the status of the criminal case against him and
inform his counsel of his whereabouts.
The RTC did not err in convicting the petitioner.
The law applicable to the case at bar is Article 365 of the RPC, which provides that:
Art. 365. Imprudence and negligence. x x x.
xxxx
Reckless imprudence consists in voluntary, but without malice, doing or failing to
do an act from which material damage results by reason of inexcusable lack of
precaution on the part of the person performing or failing to perform such act,
taking into consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence,
physical condition and other circumstances regarding persons, time and place.
xxxx
The elements of reckless imprudence are: (1) that the offender does or fails to do an
act; (2) that the doing or the failure to do that act is voluntary; (3) that it be without
malice; (4) that material damage results from the reckless imprudence; and (5) that
there is inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the offender, taking into
consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical
condition, and other circumstances regarding persons, time, and place.35
All elements for the crime of reckless imprudence have been established in the
present case.
The petitioner questions the credibility of the prosecution witnesses and claims that
their testimonies are biased. He also claims that Toor, Sr. is the real culprit when he
turned left without looking for an incoming vehicle, thus violating traffic rules
resulting to the mishap.
The Court believes that the RTC and CA correctly appreciated the evidence and
testimonies presented in the instant case.
The Court agrees with the OSG that not only were the witnesses narrations of the
accident credible and worthy of belief, their accounts were also consistent and tallied
on all significant and substantial points.36 These witnesses testimonies are as
follows:
PO3 Jesus Delfin testified that he investigated the accident at Aglayan. He made the
following findings in his accident report: the pick-up owned and driven by Toor, Sr.,
together with his family and a househelper as his passengers, was turning left along
Aglayan when it was hit at a right angle position by a Super 5 bus driven by the
petitioner. He noted skid marks made by the bus and explained that the petitioner
was overtaking but was not able to do so because of the pick-up. The petitioner
could not swerve to the left to avoid the pick-up because there was a ten-wheeler
truck. He swerved to the right instead and applied breaks to avoid the accident. The
investigator clearly testified that, on the basis of data gathered, the collision was due
to the error of the bus driver who was driving too fast, as evinced by the distance
from the skid marks towards the axle.37
Albert Alon testified that he saw Toor, Sr.s pick-up turn left along Aglayan. He also
saw a big truck and a Super 5 bus both coming from Malaybalay. The truck was
running slowly while the Super 5 bus was running fast and overtaking the big truck
from the right side. The bus crashed into the pick-up and pushed the smaller vehicle
due to the force of the impact. He went nearer the area of collision and saw that the
four passengers of the pick-up were unconscious.38
Mezelle Jane Silayan testified that while moving towards the center of Aglayan on
board her employers pick-up, she saw a Super 5 bus overtaking a big truck from the
right side. Their vehicle was hit by the bus. She was thrown out of the pick-up and
hit her head on the ground.39
Toor, Sr. testified that while he was driving his pick-up at the corner of the center of
Aglayan, a Super 5 bus, moving fast, overtook a big truck from the right side. The
bus then hit the pick up, injuring him and all his passengers.40
Taken all together, the testimonies of the witnesses conclusively suggest that: (1) the
Super 5 bus was moving fast; (2) the bus overtook a big truck which was moving
slowly from the right side; and (3) when the petitioner saw the pick-up truck turning
left, he applied the brakes but because he was moving fast, the collision became
inevitable.
"Well-entrenched is the rule that the trial courts assessment of the credibility of
witnesses is entitled to great weight and is even conclusive and binding, if not
tainted with arbitrariness or oversight of some fact or circumstance of significance
and influence. This rule is based on the fact that the trial court had the opportunity
to observe the demeanor and the conduct of the witnesses."41 The Court finds in the
instant case that there is no reason for this Court to deviate from the rule.
The Court finds the testimonies of the witnesses not biased. There was no evidence
of ill motive of the witnesses against the petitioner.
Lastly, the petitioner claims that Toor, Sr. committed a traffic violation and thus, he
should be the one blamed for the incident. The Court finds this without
merit.1wphi1
The prosecution sufficiently proved that the Super 5 bus driven by the petitioner
recklessly drove on the right shoulder of the road and overtook another south-
bound ten-wheeler truck that slowed at the intersection, obviously to give way to
another vehicle about to enter the intersection. It was impossible for him not to
notice that the ten-wheeler truck in front and traveling in the same direction had
already slowed down to allow passage of the pick-up, which was then negotiating a
left turn to Aglayan public market. Seeing the ten-wheeler truck slow down, it was
incumbent upon the petitioner to reduce his speed or apply on the brakes of the bus
in order to allow the pick-up to safely make a left turn. Instead, he drove at a speed
too fast for safety, then chose to swerve to the right shoulder of the road and
overtake the truck, entering the intersection and directly smashing into the pick-up.
In flagrantly failing to observe the necessary precautions to avoid inflicting injury or
damage to other persons and things, the petitioner was recklessly imprudent in
operating the Super 5 bus.42
In Dumayag v. People,43 the Court held:
Section 37 of R.A. No. 4136, as amended, mandates all motorists to drive and operate
vehicles on the right side of the road or highway. When overtaking another, it
should be made only if the highway is clearly visible and is free from oncoming
vehicle. Overtaking while approaching a curve in the highway, where the driver's
view is obstructed, is not allowed. Corollarily, drivers of automobiles, when
overtaking another vehicle, are charged with a high degree of care and diligence
to avoid collision. The obligation rests upon him to see to it that vehicles coming
from the opposite direction are not taken unaware by his presence on the side of
the road upon which they have the right to pass.44 (Citations omitted and emphasis
ours)
Thus, the petitioner cannot blame Toor, Sr. for not noticing a fast-approaching bus,
as the cited law provides that the one overtaking on the road has the obligation to let
other cars in the opposite direction know his presence and not the other way around
as the petitioner suggests.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. Accordingly, the Decision dated November
20, 2009 and the Resolution dated June 17, 2010 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R.
CR No. 00390-MIN are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
DRUGSTORES ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES, INC. AND NORTHERN
LUZON DRUG CORPORATION, Petitioners, v. NATIONAL COUNCIL ON
DISABILITY AFFAIRS; DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH; DEPARTMENT OF
FINANCE; BUREAU OF INTERNAL REVENUE; DEPARTMENT OF THE
INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT; AND DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL
WELFARE AND DEVELOPMENT, Respondent.
DECISION
PERALTA, J.:
Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari1 with a Prayer for a Temporary
Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction which seeks to annul and
set aside the Decision2 dated July 26, 2010, and the Resolution3 dated November 19,
2010 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 109903. The CA dismissed
petitioners' Petition for Prohibition4 and upheld the constitutionality of the
mandatory twenty percent (20%) discount on the purchase of medicine by persons
with disability (PWD).

The antecedents are as follows:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryOn March 24, 1992, Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7277,


entitled "An Act Providing for the Rehabilitation, Self-Development and Self-
Reliance of Disabled Persons and their Integration into the Mainstream of Society
and for Other Purposes," otherwise known as the "Magna Carta for Disabled
Persons," was passed into law.5 The law defines "disabled persons", "impairment" and
"disability" as follows:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
SECTION 4. Definition of Terms. - For purposes of this Act, these terms are defined as
follows:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary(a) Disabled Persons are those suffering from restriction


of different abilities, as a result of a mental, physical or sensory impairment, to
perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a
human being;

(b) Impairment is any loss, diminution or aberration of psychological, physiological,


or anatomical structure of function;

(c) Disability shall mean (1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits
one or more psychological, physiological or anatomical function of an individual or
activities of such individual; (2) a record of such an impairment; or (3) being
regarded as having such an impairment.6chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
On April 30, 2007, Republic Act No. 94427 was enacted amending R.A. No. 7277. The
Title of R.A. No. 7277 was amended to read as "Magna Carta for Persons with
Disability" and all references on the law to "disabled persons" were amended to read as
"persons with disability" (PWD).8 Specifically, R.A. No. 9442 granted the PWDs a
twenty (20) percent discount on the purchase of medicine, and a tax deduction
scheme was adopted wherein covered establishments may deduct the discount
granted from gross income based on the net cost of goods sold or services
rendered:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
CHAPTER 8. Other Privileges and Incentives. SEC. 32. Persons with disability shall
be entitled to the following:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryx x x x

(d) At least twenty percent (20%) discount for the purchase of medicines in all
drugstores for the exclusive use or enjoyment of persons with disability;

xxxx

The abovementioned privileges are available only to persons with disability who are
Filipino citizens upon submission of any of the following as proof of his/her
entitlement thereto:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
(i) An identification card issued by the city or municipal mayor or the barangay
captain of the place where the person with disability resides;

(ii) The passport of the person with disability concerned; or

(ii) Transportation discount fare Identification Card (ID) issued by the National
Council for the Welfare of Disabled Persons (NCWDP).

xxxx

The establishments may claim the discounts granted in subsections (a), (b), (c), (f)
and (g) as tax deductions based on the net cost of the goods sold or services
rendered: Provided, however, That the cost of the discount shall be allowed as
deduction from gross income for the same taxable year that the discount is
granted: Provided, further, That the total amount of the claimed tax deduction net of
value-added tax if applicable, shall be included in their gross sales receipts for tax
purposes and shall be subject to proper documentation and to the provisions of the
National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC), as amended.9chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 944210 was jointly
promulgated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD),
Department of Education, Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Tourism,
Department of Transportation and Communication, Department of the Interior and
Local Government (DILG) and Department of Agriculture. Insofar as pertinent to
this petition, the salient portions of the IRR are hereunder quoted:11
RULE III. DEFINITION OF TERMS

Section 5. Definition of Terms. For purposes of these Rules and Regulations, these
terms are defined as follows:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary5.1. Persons with Disability - are those individuals


defined under Section 4 of RA 7277 "An Act Providing for the Rehabilitation, Self-
Development and Self-Reliance of Persons with Disability as amended and their
integration into the Mainstream of Society and for Other Purposes". This is defined
as a person suffering from restriction or different abilities, as a result of a mental,
physical or sensory impairment, to perform an activity in a manner or within the
range considered normal for human being. Disability shall mean (1) a physical or
mental impairment that substantially limits one or more psychological, physiological
or anatomical function of an individual or activities of such individual; (2) a record
of such an impairment; or (3) being regarded as having such an impairment.

xxxx

RULE IV. PRIVILEGES AND INCENTIVES FOR THE PERSONS WITH DISABILITY

Section 6. Other Privileges and Incentives. Persons with disability shall be entitled to
the following:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryx x x x

6.1.d. Purchase of Medicine - at least twenty percent (20%) discount on the purchase of
medicine for the exclusive use and enjoyment of persons with disability. All
drugstores, hospital, pharmacies, clinics and other similar establishments selling
medicines are required to provide at least twenty percent (20%) discount subject to
the guidelines issued by DOH and PHILHEALTH.12chanrobleslaw

xxxx

6.11 The abovementioned privileges are available only to persons with disability
who are Filipino citizens upon submission of any of the following as proof of
his/her entitlement thereto subject to the guidelines issued by the NCWDP in
coordination with DSWD, DOH and DILG.
6.11.1 An identification card issued by the city or municipal mayor or the barangay
captain of the place where the person with disability resides;

6.11.2 The passport of the persons with disability concerned; or

6.11.3 Transportation discount fare Identification Card (ID) issued by the National
Council for the Welfare of Disabled Persons (NCWDP). However, upon effectivity of
this Implementing Rules and Regulations, NCWDP will already adopt the
Identification Card issued by the Local Government Unit for purposes of uniformity
in the implementation. NCWDP will provide the design and specification of the
identification card that will be issued by the Local Government
Units.13chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
6.14. Availmenl of Tax Deductions by Establishment Granting Twenty Percent. 20%
Discount - The establishments may claim the discounts granted in sub-sections (6.1),
(6.2), (6.4), (6.5) and (6.6) as tax deductions based on the net cost of the goods sold or
services rendered: Provided, however, that the cost of the discount shall be allowed
as deduction from gross income for the same taxable year that the discount is
granted: Provided, further, That the total amount of the claimed tax deduction net of
value-added tax if applicable, shall be included in their gross sales receipts for tax
purposes and shall be subject to proper documentation and to the provisions of the
National Internal Revenue Code, as amended.
On April 23, 2008, the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA)14 issued
Administrative Order (A.O.) No. 1, Series of 2008,15 prescribing guidelines which
should serve as a mechanism for the issuance of a PWD Identification Card (IDC)
which shall be the basis for providing privileges and discounts to bona fide PWDs in
accordance with R.A. 9442:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
IV. INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS
A. The Local Government Unit of the City or Municipal Office shall
implement these guidelines in the issuance of the PWD-IDC
xxxx

D. Issuance of the appropriate document to confirm the medical condition of the


applicant is as follows:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Disability Document Issuing Entity

Apparent Medical
Licensed Private or Government Physician
Disability Certificate

School Licensed Teacher duly signed by the School


Assessment Principal

Certificate of Head of the Business Establishment or


Disability Head of Non-Government Organization

Non-Apparent Medical
Licensed Private or Government Physician
Disability Certificate
E. PWD Registration Forms and ID Cards shall be issued and signed by the City or
Municipal Mayor, or Barangay Captain.

xxxx
V. IMPLEMENTING GUIDELINES AND PROCEDURES
Any bonafide person with permanent disability can apply for the issuance of the
PWD-IDC. His/her caregiver can assist in the application process. Procedures for the
issuance of the ID Cards are as follows:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryA. Completion of the Requirements. Complete and/or


make available the following requirements:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
1. Two "1x1" recent ID pictures with the names, and signatures or
thumbmarks at the back of the picture
2. One (1) Valid ID
3. Document to confirm the medical or disability condition (See
Section IV, D for the required document).
On December 9, 2008, the DOF issued Revenue Regulations No. 1-200916 prescribing
rules and regulations to implement R.A. 9442 relative to the tax privileges of PWDs
and tax incentives for establishments granting the discount. Section 4 of Revenue
Regulations No. 001-09 states that drugstores can only deduct the 20% discount from
their gross income subject to some conditions.17chanrobleslaw

On May 20, 2009, the DOH issued A.O. No. 2009-001118 specifically stating that the
grant of 20% discount shall be provided in the purchase of branded medicines and
unbranded generic medicines from all establishments dispensing medicines for the
exclusive use of the PWDs.19 It also detailed the guidelines for the provision of
medical and related discounts and special privileges to PWDs pursuant to R.A.
9442.20chanrobleslaw

On July 28, 2009, petitioners filed a Petition for Prohibition with application for a
Temporary Restraining Order and/or a Writ of Preliminary Injunction21 before the
Court of Appeals to annul and enjoin the implementation of the following
laws:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
1) Section 32 of R.A. No. 7277 as amended by R.A. No. 9442;

2) Section 6, Rule IV of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 9442;

3) NCDA A.O. No. 1;

4) DOF Revenue Regulation No. 1-2009;

5) DOH A.O. No. 2009-0011.


On July 26, 2010, the CA rendered a Decision upholding the constitutionality of R.A.
7277 as amended, as well as the assailed administrative issuances. However, the CA
suspended the effectivity of NCDA A.O. No. 1 pending proof of respondent NCDA's
compliance with filing of said administrative order with the Office of the National
Administrative Register (ONAR) and its publication in a newspaper of general
circulation. The dispositive portion of the Decision
states:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the petition is PARTLY GRANTED. The effectivity of NCDA
Administrative Order No. 1 is hereby SUSPENDED pending Respondent's
compliance with the proof of filing of NCDA Administrative Order No. 1 with the
Office of the National Administrative Register and its publication in a newspaper of
general circulation.
Respondent NCDA filed a motion for reconsideration before the CA to lift the
suspension of the implementation of NCDA A.O. No. 1 attaching thereto proof of its
publication in the Philippine Star and Daily Tribune on August 12, 2010, as well as a
certification from the ONAR showing that the same was filed with the said office on
October 22, 2009.22 Likewise, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration of the CA
Decision.

In a Resolution dated November 19, 2010, the CA dismissed petitioners' motion for
reconsideration and lifted the suspension of the effectivity of NCDA A.O. No. 1
considering the filing of the same with ONAR and its publication in a newspaper of
general circulation.

Hence, the instant petition raising the following issues:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary


I. THE CA SERIOUSLY ERRED ON A QUESTION OF SUBSTANCE WHEN IT
RULED THAT THE MANDATED PWD DISCOUNT IS A VALID EXERCISE OF
POLICE POWER. ON THE CONTRARY, IT IS AN INVALID EXERCISE OF THE
POWER OF EMINENT DOMAIN BECAUSE IT FAILS TO PROVIDE JUST
COMPENSATION TO PETITIONERS AND OTHER SIMILARLY SITUATED
DRUGSTORES;

II. THE CA SERIOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT RULED THAT SECTION 32 OF RA 7277


AS AMENDED BY RA 9442, NCDA AO 1 AND THE OTHER IMPLEMENTING
REGULATIONS DID NOT VIOLATE THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE;

III. THE CA SERIOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT RULED THAT THE DEFINITIONS OF


DISABILITIES UNDER SECTION 4(A), SECTION 4(B) AND SECTION 4(C) OF RA
7277 AS AMENDED BY RA 9442, RULE 1 OF THE IMPLEMENTING RULES AND
REGULATIONS23 OF RA 7277, SECTION 5.1 OF THE IMPLEMENTING RULES
AND REGULATIONS OF RA 9442, NCDA AO 1 AND DOH AO 2009-11 ARE NOT
VAGUE, AMBIGUOUS AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL;

IV. THE CA SERIOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT RULED THAT THE MANDATED PWD
DISCOUNT DOES NOT VIOLATE THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE.
We deny the petition.

The CA is correct when it applied by analogy the case of Carlos Superdrug Corporation
et al. v. DSWD, et al.24 wherein We pronouced that Section 4 of R.A. No. 9257 which
grants 20% discount on the purchase of medicine of senior citizens is a legitimate
exercise of police power:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
The law is a legitimate exercise of police power which, similar to the power of
eminent domain, has general welfare for its object. Police power is not capable of an
exact definition, but has been purposely veiled in general terms to underscore its
comprehensiveness to meet all exigencies and provide enough room for an efficient
and flexible response to conditions and circumstances, thus assuring the greatest
benefits.25cralawredAccordingly, it has been described as the most essential, insistent
and the least limitable of powers, extending as it does to all the great public
needs.26 It is [t]he power vested in the legislature by the constitution to make, ordain,
and establish all manner of wholesome and reasonable laws, statutes, and
ordinances, either with penalties or without, not repugnant to the constitution, as
they shall judge to be for the good and welfare of the commonwealth, and of the
subjects of the same.27chanrobleslaw

For this reason, when the conditions so demand as determined by the legislature,
property rights must bow to the primacy of police power because property rights,
though sheltered by due process, must yield to general welfare.28chanrobleslaw

Police power as an attribute to promote the common good would be diluted


considerably if on the mere plea of petitioners that they will suffer loss of earnings
and capital, the questioned provision is invalidated. Moreover, in the absence of
evidence demonstrating the alleged confiscatory effect of the provision in question,
there is no basis for its nullification in view of the presumption of validity which
every law has in its favor.29chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Police power is the power of the state to promote public welfare by restraining and
regulating the use of liberty and property. On the other hand, the power of eminent
domain is the inherent right of the state (and of those entities to which the power has
been lawfully delegated) to condemn private property to public use upon payment
of just compensation. In the exercise of police power, property rights of private
individuals are subjected to restraints and burdens in order to secure the general
comfort, health, and prosperity of the state.30 A legislative act based on the police
power requires the concurrence of a lawful subject and a lawful method. In more
familiar words, (a) the interests of the public generally, as distinguished from those
of a particular class, should justify the interference of the state; and (b) the means
employed are reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose and not
unduly oppressive upon individuals.31chanrobleslaw

R.A. No. 7277 was enacted primarily to provide full support to the improvement of
the total well-being of PWDs and their integration into the mainstream of society.
The priority given to PWDs finds its basis in the
Constitution:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
ARTICLE XII

NATIONAL ECONOMY AND PATRIMONY

xxxx

Section 6. The use of property bears a social function, and all economic agents shall
contribute to the common good. Individuals and private groups, including
corporations, cooperatives, and similar collective organizations, shall have the right
to own, establish, and operate economic enterprises, subject to the duty of the State
to promote distributive justice and to intervene when the common good so
demands.32chanrobleslaw
ARTICLE XIII

SOCIAL JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS

xxxx

Section 11. The State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach
to health development which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health and
other social services available to all the people at affordable cost. There shall
be priority for the needs of the underprivileged, sick, elderly, disabled, women, and
children. The State shall endeavor to provide free medical care to
paupers.33chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Thus, R.A. No. 7277 provides:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
SECTION 2. Declaration of Policy. The grant of the rights and privileges for disabled
persons shall be guided by the following principles:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary(a). Disabled persons are part of the Philippine society,


thus the Senate shall give full support to the improvement of the total well-being of
disabled persons and their integration into the mainstream of society.

Toward this end, the State shall adopt policies ensuring the rehabilitation, self-
development and self-reliance of disabled persons.

It shall develop their skills and potentials to enable them to compete favorably for
available opportunities.

(b). Disabled persons have the same rights as other people to take their proper place
in society. They should be able to live freely and as independently as possible. This
must be the concern of everyone - the family, community and all government and
non-government organizations.

Disabled person's rights must never be perceived as welfare services by the


Government.
xxxx

(d). The State also recognizes the role of the private sector in promoting the welfare
of disabled persons and shall encourage partnership in programs that address their
needs and concerns.34chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
To implement the above policies, R.A. No. 9442 which amended R.A. No. 7277
grants incentives and benefits including a twenty percent (20%) discount to PWDs in
the purchase of medicines; fares for domestic air, sea and land travels including
public railways and skyways; recreation and amusement centers including theaters,
food chains and restaurants.35 This is specifically stated in Section 4 of the IRR of
R.A. No. 9442:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Section 4. Policies and Objectives - It is the objective of Republic Act No. 9442 to
provide persons with disability, the opportunity to participate fully into the
mainstream of society by granting them at least twenty percent (20%) discount in
all basic services. It is a declared policy of RA 7277 that persons with disability are
part of Philippine society, and thus the State shall give full support to the
improvement of their total wellbeing and their integration into the mainstream of
society. They have the same rights as other people to take their proper place in
society. They should be able to live freely and as independently as possible. This
must be the concern of everyone the family, community and all government and
non-government organizations. Rights of persons with disability must never be
perceived as welfare services. Prohibitions on verbal, non-verbal ridicule and
vilification against persons with disability shall always be observed at all
times.36chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Hence, the PWD mandatory discount on the purchase of medicine is supported by a
valid objective or purpose as aforementioned. It has a valid subject considering that
the concept of public use is no longer confined to the traditional notion of use by the
public, but held synonymous with public interest, public benefit, public welfare,
and public convenience. As in the case of senior citizens,37 the discount privilege to
which the PWDs are entitled is actually a benefit enjoyed by the general public to
which these citizens belong. The means employed in invoking the active
participation of the private sector, in order to achieve the purpose or objective of the
law, is reasonably and directly related.38 Also, the means employed to provide a fair,
just and quality health care to PWDs are reasonably related to its accomplishment,
and are not oppressive, considering that as a form of reimbursement, the discount
extended to PWDs in the purchase of medicine can be claimed by the establishments
as allowable tax deductions pursuant to Section 32 of R.A. No. 9442 as implemented
in Section 4 of DOF Revenue Regulations No. 1-2009. Otherwise stated, the discount
reduces taxable income upon which the tax liability of the establishments is
computed.

Further, petitioners aver that Section 32 of R.A. No. 7277 as amended by R.A. No.
9442 is unconstitutional and void for violating the due process clause of the
Constitution since entitlement to the 20% discount is allegedly merely based on any
of the three documents mentioned in the provision, namely: (i) an identification card
issued by the city or municipal mayor or the barangay captain of the place where the
PWD resides; (ii) the passport of the PWD; or (iii) transportation discount fare
identification card issued by NCDA. Petitioners, thus, maintain that none of the said
documents has any relation to a medical finding of disability, and the grant of the
discount is allegedly without any process for the determination of a PWD in
accordance with law.

Section 32 of R.A. No. 7277, as amended by R.A. No. 9442, must be read with its IRR
which stated that upon its effectivity, NCWDP (which is the government agency
tasked to ensure the implementation of RA 7277), would adopt the IDC issued by the
local government units for purposes of uniformity in the implementation.39 Thus,
NCDA A.O. No. 1 provides the reasonable guidelines in the issuance of IDCs to
PWDs as proof of their entitlement to the privileges and incentives under the
law40 and fills the details in the implementation of the law.

As stated in NCDA A.O. No. 1, before an IDC is issued by the city or municipal
mayor or the barangay captain,41 or the Chairman of the NCDA,42 the applicant must
first secure a medical certificate issued by a licensed private or government
physician that will confirm his medical or disability condition. If an applicant is an
employee with apparent disability, a "certificate of disability" issued by the head of
the business establishment or the head of the non-governmental organization is
needed for him to be issued a PWD-IDC. For a student with apparent disability, the
"school assessment" issued by the teacher and signed by the school principal should
be presented to avail of a PWD-ID.

Petitioners' insistence that Part IV (D) of NCDA Administrative Order No. 1 is void
because it allows allegedly non-competent persons like teachers, head of
establishments and heads of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to confirm
the medical condition of the applicant is misplaced. It must be stressed that only for
apparent disabilities can the teacher or head of a business establishment validly
issue the mentioned required document because, obviously, the disability is easily
seen or clearly visible. It is, therefore, not an unqualified grant of authority for the
said non-medical persons as it is simply limited to apparent disabilities. For a non-
apparent disability or a disability condition that is not easily seen or clearly visible,
the disability can only be validated by a licensed private or government physician,
and a medical certificate has to be presented in the procurement of an IDC. Relative
to this issue, the CA validly ruled, thus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
We agree with the Office of the Solicitor General's (OSG) ratiocination that teachers,
heads of business establishments and heads of NGOs can validly confirm the
medical condition of their students/employees with apparent disability for obvious
reasons as compared to non-apparent disability which can only be determined by
licensed physicians. Under the Labor Code, disabled persons are eligible as
apprentices or learners provided that their handicap are not as much as to
effectively impede the performance of their job. We find that heads of business
establishments can validly issue certificates of disability of their employees because
aside from the fact that they can obviously validate the disability, they also
have medical records of the employees as a pre-requisite in the hiring of
employees. Hence, Part IV (D) of NCDA AO No. 1 is logical and
valid.43chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Furthermore, DOH A.O. No. 2009-11 prescribes additional guidelines for the 20%
discount in the purchase of all medicines for the exclusive use of PWD.44 To avail of
the discount, the PWD must not only present his I.D. but also the doctor's
prescription stating, among others, the generic name of the medicine, the physician's
address, contact number and professional license number, professional tax receipt
number and narcotic license number, if applicable. A purchase booklet issued by the
local social/health office is also required in the purchase of over-the-counter
medicines. Likewise, any single dispensing of medicine must be in accordance with
the prescription issued by the physician and should not exceed a one (1) month
supply. Therefore, as correctly argued by the respondents, Section 32 of R.A. No.
7277 as amended by R.A. No. 9442 complies with the standards of substantive due
process.

We are likewise not persuaded by the argument of petitioners that the definition of
"disabilities" under the subject laws is vague and ambiguous because it is allegedly
so general and broad that the person tasked with implementing the law will
undoubtedly arrive at different interpretations and applications of the law. Aside
from the definitions of a "person with disability" or "disabled persons" under Section
4 of R.A. No. 7277 as amended by R.A. No. 9442 and in the IRR of RA 9442, NCDA
A.O. No. 1 also provides:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
4. Identification Cards shall be issued to any bonafide PWD with
permanent disabilities due to any one or more of the following
conditions: psychosocial, chronic illness, learning, mental, visual,
orthopedic, speech and hearing conditions. This includes persons
suffering from disabling diseases resulting to the person's limitations
to do day to day activities as normally as possible such as but not
limited to those undergoing dialysis, heart disorders, severe cancer
cases and such other similar cases resulting to temporary or permanent
disability.45
Similarly, DOH A.O. No. 2009-0011 defines the different categories of disability as
follows:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Rule IV, Section 4, Paragraph B of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of
this Act required the Department of Health to address the health concerns of seven
(7) different categories of disability, which include the following: (1) Psychological
and behavioral disabilities (2) Chronic illness with disabilities (3)Learning(cognitive
or intellectual) disabilities (4) Mental disabilities (5) Visual/seeing disabilities (6)
Orthopedic/moving, and (7) communication deficits.46chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Elementary is the rule that when laws or rules are clear, when the law is
unambiguous and unequivocal, application not interpretation thereof is imperative.
However, where the language of a statute is vague and ambiguous, an interpretation
thereof is resorted to. A law is deemed ambiguous when it is capable of being
understood by reasonably well-informed persons in either of two or more senses.
The fact that a law admits of different interpretations is the best evidence that it is
vague and ambiguous.47chanrobleslaw

In the instant case, We do not find the aforestated definition of terms as vague and
ambiguous. Settled is the rule that courts will not interfere in matters which are
addressed to the sound discretion of the government agency entrusted with the
regulation of activities coming under the special and technical training and
knowledge of such agency.48 As a matter of policy, We accord great respect to the
decisions and/or actions of administrative authorities not only because of the
doctrine of separation of powers but also for their presumed knowledge, ability, and
expertise in the enforcement of laws and regulations entrusted to their jurisdiction.
The rationale for this rule relates not only to the emergence of the multifarious needs
of a modern or modernizing society and the establishment of diverse administrative
agencies for addressing and satisfying those needs; it also relates to the accumulation
of experience and growth of specialized capabilities by the administrative agency
charged with implementing a particular statute.49chanrobleslaw

Lastly, petitioners contend that R.A. No. 7227, as amended by R.A. No. 9442, violates
the equal protection clause of the Constitution because it fairly singles out
drugstores to bear the burden of the discount, and that it can hardly be said to
"rationally" meet a legitimate government objective which is the purpose of the law.
The law allegedly targets only retailers such as petitioners, and that the other
enterprises in the drug industry are not imposed with similar burden. This same
argument had been raised in the case of Carlos Superdrug Corp., et al. v. DSWD, et
al.,50 and We reaffirm and apply the ruling therein in the case at
bar:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
The Court is not oblivious of the retail side of the pharmaceutical industry and the
competitive pricing component of the business. While the Constitution protects
property rights, petitioners must accept the realities of business and the State, in the
exercise of police power, can intervene in the operations of a business which may
result in an impairment of property rights in the process.

Moreover, the right to property has a social dimension. While Article XIII of the
Constitution provides the precept for the protection of property, various laws and
jurisprudence, particularly on agrarian reform and the regulation of contracts and
public utilities, continuously serve as a reminder that the right to property can be
relinquished upon the command of the State for the promotion of public
good.51chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Under the equal protection clause, all persons or things similarly situated must be
treated alike, both in the privileges conferred and the obligations imposed.
Conversely, all persons or things differently situated should be treated
differently.52 In the case of ABAKADA Guro Party List, et al. v. Hon. Purisima, et
al.,53We held:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Equality guaranteed under the equal protection clause is equality under the same
conditions and among persons similarly situated; it is equality among equals, not
similarity of treatment of persons who are classified based on substantial differences
in relation to the object to be accomplished. When things or persons are different in
fact or circumstance, they may be treated in law differently. In Victoriano v. Elizalde
Rope Workers' Union, this Court declared:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
The guaranty of equal protection of the laws is not a guaranty of equality in the
application of the laws upon all citizens of the State. It is not, therefore, a
requirement, in order to avoid the constitutional prohibition against inequality, that
every man, woman and child should be affected alike by a statute. Equality of
operation of statutes does not mean indiscriminate operation on persons merely as
such, but on persons according to the circumstances surrounding them. It guarantees
equality, not identity of rights. The Constitution does not require that things which
are different in fact be treated in law as though they were the same. The equal
protection clause does not forbid discrimination as to things that are different. It
does not prohibit legislation which is limited either in the object to which it is
directed or by the territory within which it is to operate.

The equal protection of the laws clause of the Constitution allows classification.
Classification in law, as in the other departments of knowledge or practice, is the
grouping of things in speculation or practice because they agree with one another in
certain particulars. A law is not invalid because of simple inequality. The very idea
of classification is that of inequality, so that it goes without saying that the mere fact
of inequality in no manner determines the matter of constitutionality. All that is
required of a valid classification is that it be reasonable, which means that the
classification should be based on substantial distinctions which make for real
differences, that it must be germane to the purpose of the law; that it must not be
limited to existing conditions only; and that it must apply equally to each member
of the class. This Court has held that the standard is satisfied if the classification
or distinction is based on a reasonable foundation or rational basis and is not
palpably arbitrary.

In the exercise of its power to make classifications for the purpose of enacting laws
over matters within its jurisdiction, the state is recognized as enjoying a wide range
of discretion. It is not necessary that the classification be based on scientific or
marked differences of things or in their relation. Neither is it necessary that the
classification be made with mathematical nicety. Hence, legislative classification may
in many cases properly rest on narrow distinctions, for the equal protection guaranty
does not preclude the legislature from recognizing degrees of evil or harm, and
legislation is addressed to evils as they may appear.
The equal protection clause recognizes a valid classification, that is, a classification
that has a reasonable foundation or rational basis and not arbitrary.54 With respect to
R.A. No. 9442, its expressed public policy is the rehabilitation, self-development and
self-reliance of PWDs. Persons with disability form a class separate and distinct from
the other citizens of the country. Indubitably, such substantial distinction is germane
and intimately related to the purpose of the law. Hence, the classification and
treatment accorded to the PWDs fully satisfy the demands of equal protection. Thus,
Congress may pass a law providing for a different treatment to persons with
disability apart from the other citizens of the country.

Subject to the determination of the courts as to what is a proper exercise of police


power using the due process clause and the equal protection clause as yardsticks, the
State may interfere wherever the public interests demand it, and in this particular, a
large discretion is necessarily vested in the legislature to determine, not only what
interests of the public require, but what measures are necessary for the protection of
such interests.55 Thus, We are mindful of the fundamental criteria in cases of this
nature that all reasonable doubts should be resolved in favor of the constitutionality
of a statute.56 The burden of proof is on him who claims that a statute is
unconstitutional. Petitioners failed to discharge such burden of proof.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated
July 26, 2010, and the Resolution dated November 19, 2010, in CA-G.R. SP No.
109903 are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

SUBIDO PAGENTE CERTEZA MENDOZA AND BINAY LAW


OFFICES, Petitioner, v. THE COURT OF APPEALS, HON. ANDRES B. REYES, JR.,
IN HIS CAPACITY AS PRESIDING JUSTICE OF THE COURT OF APPEALS,
AND THE ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING COUNCIL, REPRESENTED BY ITS
MEMBERS, HON. AMANDO M. TETANGCO, JR., GOVERNOR OF THE
BANGKO SENTRAL NG PILIPINAS, HON. TERESITA J. HERBOSA,
CHAIRPERSON OF THE SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, AND
HON. EMMANUEL F. DOOC, INSURANCE COMMISSIONER OF THE
INSURANCE COMMISSION, Respondents.
DECISION
PEREZ, J.:
Challenged in this petition for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules
1

of Court is the constitutionality of Section 11 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9160, the
Anti-Money Laundering Act, as amended, specifically the Anti-Money Laundering
Council's authority to file with the Court of Appeals (CA) in this case, an ex-
parte application for inquiry into certain bank deposits and investments, including
related accounts based on probable cause.
In 2015, a year before the 2016 presidential elections, reports abounded on the
supposed disproportionate wealth of then Vice President Jejomar Binay and the rest
of his family, some of whom were likewise elected public officers. The Office of the
Ombudsman and the Senate conducted investigations2 and inquiries3 thereon
ostensibly based on their respective powers delineated in the Constitution.
From various news reports announcing the inquiry into then Vice President Binay's
bank accounts, including accounts of members of his family, petitioner Subido
Pagente Certeza Mendoza & Binay Law Firm (SPCMB) was most concerned with the
article published in the Manila Times on 25 February 2015 entitled "Inspect Binay
Bank Accounts" which read, in pertinent part:
xxx The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) asked the Court of Appeals (CA)
to allow the [C]ouncil to peek into the bank accounts of the Binays, their
corporations, and a law office where a family member was once a partner.
xxxx
Also the bank accounts of the law office linked to the family, the Subido Pagente
Certeza Mendoza & Binay Law Firm, where the Vice President's daughter Abigail
was a former partner.4
The following day, 26 February 2015, SPCMB wrote public respondent, Presiding
Justice of the CA, Andres B. Reyes, Jr.:
The law firm of Subido Pagente Certeza Mendoza and Binay was surprised to
receive a call from Manila Times requesting for a comment regarding a [supposed
petition] filed by the Republic of the Philippines represented by the Anti-Money
Laundering Council before the Court of Appeals seeking to examine the law office's
bank accounts.
To verify the said matter, the law office is authorizing its associate Atty. Jose Julius
R. Castro to inquire on the veracity of said report with the Court of Appeals. He is
likewise authorized to secure copies of the relevant documents of the case, such as
the petition and orders issued, if such a case exists.
As this is a matter demanding serious and immediate attention, the Firm respectfully
manifests that if no written response is received within 24-hours from receipt of this
letter, we shall be at liberty to assume that such a case exists and we shall act
accordingly.
Hoping for your immediate action.
Respectfully yours,
For the Firm
CLARO F. CERTEZA5
Within twenty four (24) hours, Presiding Justice Reyes wrote SPCMB denying its
request, thus:
Anent your request for a comment on a supposed petition to inquire into your law
office's bank accounts, please be informed that a petition of this nature is strictly
confidential in that when processing the same, not even the handling staff members
of the Office of the Presiding Justice know or have any knowledge who the subject
bank account holders are, as well as the bank accounts involved.
Please be informed further that clearly under the rules, the Office of the Presiding
Justice is strictly mandated not to disclose, divulge, or communicate to anyone
directly or indirectly, in any manner or by any means, the fact of the filing of any
petition brought before this Court by the Anti-Money Laundering Council, its
contents and even its entry in the logbook.
Trusting that you find satisfactory the foregoing explanation.6
By 8 March 2015, the Manila Times published another article entitled, "CA orders
probe of Binay's assets" reporting that the appellate court had issued a Resolution
granting the ex-parte application of the AMLC to examine the bank accounts of
SPCMB:
The Court of Appeals (CA) has officially issued an order for examination of Vice
President Jejomar Binay's bank accounts.
In granting the petition of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the CA also
ordered the inspection of the bank deposits of Binay's wife, children, and a law office
connected to him.
xxx xxx xxx
The bank accounts of the law office linked to Binay - the Subido Pagente Certeza
Mendoza & Binay where Binay's daughter, Makati City (Metro Manila) Rep. Mar-
len Abigail Binay was a partner, are also included in the probe, the sources said.7
Forestalled in the CA thus alleging that it had no ordinary, plain, speedy, and
adequate remedy to protect its rights and interests in the purported ongoing
unconstitutional examination of its bank accounts by public respondent Anti-Money
Laundering Council (AMLC), SPCMB undertook direct resort to this Court via this
petition for certiorari and prohibition on the following grounds:
A. THE ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING ACT IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL
INSOFAR AS IT ALLOWS THE EXAMINATION OF A BANK ACCOUNT
WITHOUT ANY NOTICE TO THE AFFECTED PARTY:cralawlawlibrary
1. IT VIOLATES THE PERSON'S RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS; AND

2. IT VIOLATES THE PERSON'S RIGHT TO PRIVACY.


B. EVEN ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT THE ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING
ACT IS CONSTITUTIONAL, THE RESPONDENTS COMMITTED GRAVE
ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION CONSIDERING THAT:cralawlawlibrary
1. THE REFUSAL OF RESPONDENT PRESIDING JUSTICE TO PROVIDE
PETITIONER WITH A COPY OF THE EX-PARTE APPLICATION FOR
BANK EXAMINATION FILED BY RESPONDENT AMLC AND ALL OTHER
PLEADINGS, MOTIONS, ORDERS, RESOLUTIONS, AND PROCESSES
ISSUED BY THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS IN RELATION
THERETO VIOLATES PETITIONER'S RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS;

2. A CARTE BLANCHE AUTHORITY TO EXAMINE ANY AND ALL


TRANSACTIONS PERTAINING TO PETITIONER'S BANK ACCOUNTS
VIOLATES THE ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE WHICH IS
SACROSANCT IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION;

3. A BLANKET AUTHORITY TO EXAMINE PETITIONER'S BANK


ACCOUNTS, INCLUDING ANY AND ALL TRANSACTIONS THEREIN
FROM ITS OPENING UP TO THE PRESENT, PARTAKES THE NATURE OF
A GENERAL WARRANT THAT IS CLEARLY INTENDED TO AID A MERE
FISHING EXPEDITION;

4. THERE IS NOTHING IN THE ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING ACT THAT


ALLOWS OR JUSTIFIES THE WITHHOLDING OF INFORMATION
AND/OR ANY COURT RECORDS OR PROCEEDINGS PERTAINING TO
AN EXAMINATION OF A BANK ACCOUNT, ESPECIALLY IF THE COURT
HAS ALREADY GRANTED THE AUTHORITY TO CONDUCT THE
EXAMINATION;

5. THE PETITIONER DID NOT COMMIT, NOR HAS THE PETITIONER BEEN
IMPLEADED IN ANY COMPLAINT INVOLVING ANY PREDICATE CRIME
THAT WOULD JUSTIFY AN INQUIRY INTO ITS BANK ACCOUNTS; AND
7. THE EXAMINATION OF THE PETITIONER'S BANK ACCOUNTS IS A
FORM OF POLITICAL PERSECUTION OR HARASSMENT.8
In their Comment, the AMLC, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG),
points out a supposed jurisdictional defect of the instant petition, i.e., SPCMB failed
to implead the House of Representatives which enacted the AMLA and its
amendments. In all, the OSG argues for the dismissal of the present petition,
highlighting that the AMLC's inquiry into bank deposits does not violate due
process nor the right to privacy:
1. Section 11's allowance for AMLC's ex-parte application for an inquiry into
particular bank deposits and investments is investigative, not adjudicatory;
2. The text of Section 11 itself provides safeguards and limitations on the allowance
to the AMLC to inquire into bank deposits: (a) issued by the CA based on probable
cause; and (b) specific compliance to the requirements of Sections 2 and 3, Article III
of the Constitution;
3. The ex-parte procedure for investigating bank accounts is necessary to achieve a
legitimate state objective;
4. There is no legitimate expectation of privacy as to the bank records of a depositor;
5. The examination of, and inquiry, into SPCMB's bank accounts does not violate
Attorney-Client Privilege; and
6. A criminal complaint is not a pre-requisite to a bank inquiry order.
In their Reply, SPCMB maintains that the ex-parte proceedings authorizing inquiry of
the AMLC into certain bank deposits and investments is unconstitutional, violating
its rights to due process and privacy.
Before anything else, we here have an original action turning on three crucial
matters: (1) the petition reaches us from a letter of the Presiding Justice of the CA in
response to a letter written by SPCMB; (2) SPCMB's bank account has been reported
to be a related account to Vice President Binay's investigated by the AMLC for anti-
money laundering activities; and (3) the constitutionality of Section 11 of the AMLA
at its recent amendment has not been squarely raised and addressed.
To obviate confusion, we act on this petition given that SPCMB directly assails the
constitutionality of Section 11 of the AMLA where it has been widely reported that
Vice President Binay's bank accounts and all related accounts therewith are subject
of an investigation by the AMLC. In fact, subsequent events from the filing of this
petition have shown that these same bank accounts (including related accounts)
were investigated by the Ombudsman and both Houses of the Legislature. However,
at the time of the filing of this petition, SPCMB alleged that its accounts have been
inquired into but not subjected to a freeze order under Section 10 of the AMLA.
Thus, as previously noted, with its preclusion of legal remedies before the CA which
under the AMLA issues the ex-parte bank inquiry and freeze orders, Sections 10 and
11, respectively, SPCMB establishes that it has no plain, speedy and adequate
remedy in the ordinary course of law to protect its rights and interests from the
purported unconstitutional intrusion by the AMLC into its bank accounts.
The foregoing shall be addressed specifically and bears directly on the disposition of
the decision herein.
Additionally, we note that the OSG did not question how this petition reaches us
from a letter of the appellate court's Presiding Justice, only that, procedurally,
SPCMB should have impleaded Congress.
On the sole procedural issue of whether SPCMB ought to have impleaded Congress,
the contention of the OSG though novel is untenable. All cases questioning the
constitutionality of a law does not require that Congress be impleaded for their
resolution. The requisites of a judicial inquiry are elementary:
1. There must be an actual case or controversy; party;
2. The question of constitutionality must be raised by the proper party;
3. The constitutional question must be raised at the earliest possible opportunity; and
4. The decision of the constitutional question must be necessary to the determination
of the case itself.9
The complexity of the issues involved herein require us to examine the assailed
provision vis-a-vis the constitutional proscription against violation of due process.
The statute reads:
SEC. 11. Authority to Inquire into Bank Deposits. - Notwithstanding the provisions of
Republic Act No. 1405, as amended; Republic Act No. 6426, as amended; Republic
Act No. 8791; and other laws, the AMLC may inquire into or examine any particular
deposit or investment, including related accounts, with any banking institution or
non-bank financial institution upon order of any competent court based on an ex
parte application in cases of violations of this Act, when it has been established that
there is probable cause that the deposits or investments, including related accounts
involved, are related to an unlawful activity as defined in Section 3(i) hereof or a
money laundering offense under Section 4 hereof; except that no court order shall be
required in cases involving activities defined in Section 3(i)(1), (2), and (12) hereof,
and felonies or offenses of a nature similar to those mentioned in Section 3(i)(1), (2),
and (12), which are punishable under the penal laws of other countries, and
terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism as defined and penalized under
Republic Act No. 9372.
The Court of Appeals shall act on the application to inquire into or examine any
deposit or investment with any banking institution or non-bank financial institution
within twenty-four (24) hours from filing of the application.
To ensure compliance with this Act, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas may, in the
course of a periodic or special examination, check the compliance of a covered
institution with the requirements of the AMLA and its implementing rules and
regulations.
For purposes of this section, 'related accounts' shall refer to accounts, the funds and
sources of which originated from and/or are materially linked to the monetary
instrument(s) or property(ies) subject of the freeze order(s).
A court order ex parte must first be obtained before the AMLC can inquire into these
related Accounts: Provided, That the procedure for the ex parte application of the ex
parte court order for the principal account shall be the same with that of the related
accounts.
The authority to inquire into or examine the main account and the related accounts
shall comply with the requirements of Article III, Sections 2 and 3 of the 1987
Constitution, which are hereby incorporated by reference.10
The due process clause of the Constitution reads:
SECTION 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due
process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws. 11
The right to due process has two aspects: (1) substantive which deals with the
extrinsic and intrinsic validity of the law; and (2) procedural which delves into the
rules government must follow before it deprives a person of its life, liberty or
property.12
As presently worded, Section 11 of the AMLA has three elements: (1) ex-
parte application by the AMLC; (2) determination of probable cause by the CA; and
(3) exception of court order in cases involving unlawful activities defined in Sections
3(i)(1), (2), and (12).
As a brief backgrounder to the amendment to Section 11 of the AMLA, the text
originally did not specify for an ex-parte application by the AMLC for authority to
inquire into or examine certain bank accounts or investments. The extent of this
authority was the topic of Rep. of the Phils. v. Hon. Judge Eugenio, Jr., et al.
(Eugenio)13 where the petitioner therein, Republic of the Philippines, asseverated that
the application for that kind of order under the questioned section of the AMLA did
not require notice and hearing. Eugenio schooled us on the AMLA, specifically on the
provisional remedies provided therein to aid the AMLC in enforcing the law:
It is evident that Section 11 does not specifically authorize, as a general rule, the
issuance ex-parte of the bank inquiry order. We quote the provision in full:
SEC. 11. Authority to Inquire into Bank Deposits. Notwithstanding the
provisions of Republic Act No. 1405, as amended, Republic Act No. 6426, as
amended, Republic Act No. 8791, and other laws, the AMLC may inquire into or
examine any particular deposit or investment with any banking institution or non
bank financial institution upon order of any competent court in cases of violation of
this Act, when it has been established that there is probable cause that the
deposits or investments are related to an unlawful activity as defined in Section
3(i) hereof or a money laundering offense under Section 4 hereof, except that no
court order shall be required in cases involving unlawful activities defined in
Sections 3(i)1, (2) and (12).
To ensure compliance with this Act, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) may
inquire into or examine any deposit of investment with any banking institution or
non bank financial institution when the examination is made in the course of a
periodic or special examination, in accordance with the rules of examination of the
BSP. (Emphasis supplied)
Of course, Section 11 also allows the AMLC to inquire into bank accounts without
having to obtain a judicial order in cases where there is probable cause that the
deposits or investments are related to kidnapping for ransom, certain violations of
the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, hijacking and other violations
under R.A. No. 6235, destructive arson and murder. Since such special circumstances
do not apply in this case, there is no need for us to pass comment on this proviso.
Suffice it to say, the proviso contemplates a situation distinct from that which
presently confronts us, and for purposes of the succeeding discussion, our reference
to Section 11 of the AMLA excludes said proviso.
In the instances where a court order is required for the issuance of the bank inquiry
order, nothing in Section 11 specifically authorizes that such court order may be
issued ex parte. It might be argued that this silence does not preclude the ex
parte issuance of the bank inquiry order since the same is not prohibited under
Section 11. Yet this argument falls when the immediately preceding provision,
Section 10, is examined.
SEC 10. Freezing of Monetary Instrument or Property. The Court of
Appeals, upon application ex parte by the AMLC and after determination that
probable cause exists that any monetary instrument or property is in any way
related to an unlawful activity as defined in Section 3(i) hereof, may issue a freeze
order which shall be effective immediately. The freeze order shall be for a period of
twenty (20) days unless extended by the court.
Although oriented towards different purposes, the freeze order under Section 10 and
the bank inquiry order under Section 11 are similar in that they are extraordinary
provisional reliefs which the AMLC may avail of to effectively combat and prosecute
money laundering offenses. Crucially, Section 10 uses specific language to authorize
an ex parte application for the provisional relief therein, a circumstance absent in
Section 11. If indeed the legislature had intended to authorize ex parte proceedings
for the issuance of the bank inquiry order, then it could have easily expressed such
intent in the law, as it did with the freeze order under Section 10.
Even more tellingly, the current language of Sections 10 and 11 of the AMLA was
crafted at the same time, through the passage of R.A. No. 9194. Prior to the
amendatory law, it was the AMLC, not the Court of Appeals, which had authority to
issue a freeze order, whereas a bank inquiry order always then required, without
exception, an order from a competent court. It was through the same enactment
that ex parte proceedings were introduced for the first time into the AMLA, in the
case of the freeze order which now can only be issued by the Court of Appeals. It
certainly would have been convenient, through the same amendatory law, to allow a
similar ex parte procedure in the case of a bank inquiry order had Congress been so
minded. Yet nothing in the provision itself, or even the available legislative record,
explicitly points to an ex parte judicial procedure in the application for a bank inquiry
order, unlike in the case of the freeze order.
That the AMLA does not contemplate ex parte proceedings in applications for bank
inquiry orders is confirmed by the present implementing rules and regulations of the
AMLA, promulgated upon the passage of R.A. No. 9194. With respect to freeze
orders under Section 10, the implementing rules do expressly provide that the
applications for freeze orders be filed ex parte, but no similar clearance is granted in
the case of inquiry orders under Section 11. These implementing rules were
promulgated by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Insurance Commission and the
Securities and Exchange Commission, and if it was the true belief of these
institutions that inquiry orders could be issued ex parte similar to freeze orders,
language to that effect would have been incorporated in the said Rules. This is
stressed not because the implementing rules could authorize ex parte applications for
inquiry orders despite the absence of statutory basis, but rather because the framers
of the law had no intention to allow such ex parte applications.
Even the Rules of Procedure adopted by this Court in A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC to
enforce the provisions of the AMLA specifically authorize ex parte applications with
respect to freeze orders under Section 10 but make no similar authorization with
respect to bank inquiry orders under Section 11.
The Court could divine the sense in allowing ex parte proceedings under Section 10
and in proscribing the same under Section 11. A freeze order under Section 10 on the
one hand is aimed at preserving monetary instruments or property in any way
deemed related to unlawful activities as defined in Section 3(i) of the AMLA. The
owner of such monetary instruments or property would thus be inhibited from
utilizing the same for the duration of the freeze order. To make such freeze order
anteceded by a judicial proceeding with notice to the account holder would allow for
or lead to the dissipation of such funds even before the order could be issued.
(Citations omitted.)
Quite apparent from the foregoing is that absent a specific wording in the AMLA
allowing for ex-parte proceedings in orders authorizing inquiry and examination by
the AMLC into certain bank deposits or investments, notice to the affected party is
required.
Heeding the Court's observance in Eugenio that the remedy of the Republic then lay
with the legislative, Congress enacted Republic Act No. 10167 amending Section 11
of the AMLA and specifically inserted the word ex-parte appositive of the nature of
this provisional remedy available to the AMLC thereunder.
It is this current wording of Section 11 which SPCMB posits as unconstitutional and
purportedly actually proscribed in Eugenio.
We do not subscribe to SPCMB's position.
Succinctly, Section 11 of the AMLA providing for ex-parte application and inquiry by
the AMLC into certain bank deposits and investments does not violate substantive
due process, there being no physical seizure of property involved at that stage. It is
the preliminary and actual seizure of the bank deposits or investments in question
which brings these within reach of the judicial process, specifically a determination
that the seizure violated due process.14 In fact, Eugenio delineates a bank inquiry
order under Section 11 from a freeze order under Section 10 on both remedies' effect
on the direct objects, i.e. the bank deposits and investments:
On the other hand, a bank inquiry order under Section 11 does not necessitate any
form of physical seizure of property of the account holder. What the bank inquiry
order authorizes is the examination of the particular deposits or investments in
banking institutions or non-bank financial institutions. The monetary instruments or
property deposited with such banks or financial institutions are not seized in a
physical sense, but are examined on particular details such as the account holder's
record of deposits and transactions. Unlike the assets subject of the freeze order, the
records to be inspected under a bank inquiry order cannot be physically seized or
hidden by the account holder. Said records are in the possession of the bank and
therefore cannot be destroyed at the instance of the account holder alone as that
would require the extraordinary cooperation and devotion of the bank.15
At the stage in which the petition was filed before us, the inquiry into certain bank
deposits and investments by the AMLC still does not contemplate any form of
physical seizure of the targeted corporeal property. From this cite, we proceed to
examine whether Section 11 of the law violates procedural due process.
As previously stated, the AMLA now specifically provides for an ex-parte application
for an order authorizing inquiry or examination into bank deposits or investments
which continues to pass constitutional muster.
Procedural due process is essentially the opportunity to be heard.16 In this case, at
the investigation stage by the AMLC into possible money laundering offenses,
SPCMB demands that it have notice and hearing of AMLC's investigation into its
bank accounts.
We are not unaware of the obiter in Eugenio17 and cited by SPCMB, voicing
misgivings on an interpretation of the former Section 11 of the AMLA allowing
for ex-parte proceedings in bank inquiry orders, to wit:
There certainly is fertile ground to contest the issuance of an ex-parte order. Section
11 itself requires that it be established that "there is probable cause that the deposits
or investments are related to unlawful activities," and it obviously is the court which
stands as arbiter whether there is indeed such probable cause. The process of
inquiring into the existence of probable cause would involve the function of
determination reposed on the trial court. Determination clearly implies a function of
adjudication on the part of the trial court, and not a mechanical application of a
standard pre-determination by some other body. The word "determination" implies
deliberation and is, in normal legal contemplation, equivalent to "the decision of a
court of justice."
The court receiving the application for inquiry order cannot simply take the AMLC's
word that probable cause exists that the deposits or investments are related to an
unlawful activity. It will have to exercise its own determinative function in order to
be convinced of such fact. The account holder would be certainly capable of
contesting such probable cause if given the opportunity to be apprised of the
pending application to inquire into his account; hence a notice requirement would
not be an empty spectacle. It may be so that the process of obtaining the inquiry
order may become more cumbersome or prolonged because of the notice
requirement, yet we fail to see any unreasonable burden cast by such circumstance.
After all, as earlier stated, requiring notice to the account holder should not, in any
way, compromise the integrity of the bank records subject of the inquiry which
remain in the possession and control of the bank. (Emphasis supplied)
On that score, the SPCMB points out that the AMLC 's bank inquiry is preliminary to
the seizure and deprivation of its property as in a freeze order under Section 10 of
the AMLA which peculiarity lends itself to a sui generis proceeding akin to the
evaluation process in extradition proceedings pronounced in Secretary of Justice v.
Hon. Lantion.18 Under the extradition law, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs is bound
to make a finding that the extradition request and its supporting documents are
sufficient and complete in form and substance before delivering the same to the
Secretary of Justice. We ruled:
[L]ooking at the factual milieu of the case before us, it would appear that there was
failure to abide by the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1069. For while it is true
that the extradition request was delivered to the Department of Foreign Affairs on
June 17, 1999, the following day or less than 24 hours later, the Department of Justice
received the request, apparently without the Department of Foreign affairs
discharging its duty thoroughly evaluating the same and its accompanying
documents. xxx.
xxxx
[T]he record cannot support the presumption of regularity that the Department of
Foreign Affairs thoroughly reviewed the extradition request and supporting
documents and that it arrived at a well-founded judgment that the request and its
annexed documents satisfy the requirements of law. XXX.
The evaluation process, just like the extradition proceedings, proper belongs to a
class by itself. It is sui generis. It is not a criminal investigation, but it is also
erroneous to say that it is purely an exercise of ministerial functions. At such
stage, the executive authority has the power: (a) to make a technical assessment of
the completeness and sufficiency of the extradition papers; (b) to outrightly deny
the request if on its face and on the face of the supporting documents the crimes
indicated are not extraditable; and (c) to make a determination whether or not the
request is politically motivated, or that the offense is a military one which is not
punishable under non-military penal legislation. Hence, said process may be
characterized as an investigative or inquisitorial process in contrast to a
proceeding conducted in the exercise of an administrative body's quasi-judicial
power.
In administrative law, a quasi-judicial proceeding involves: (a) taking and evaluation
of evidence; (b) determining facts based upon the evidence presented; and (c)
rendering an order or decision supported by the facts proved. Inquisitorial power,
which is also known as examining or investigatory power, is one of the
determinative powers of an administrative body which better enables it to exercise
its quasi-judicial authority. This power allows the administrative body to inspect the
records and premises, and investigate the activities, of persons or entities coming
under its jurisdiction, or to require disclosure of information by means of accounts,
records, reports, testimony of witnesses, production of documents, or otherwise.
The power of investigation consists in gathering, organizing, and analyzing
evidence, which is a useful aid or tool in an administrative agency's performance of
its rule-making or quasi-judicial functions. Notably, investigation is indispensable to
prosecution.19 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)
The submission of AMLC requires a determination whether the AMLC is an
administrative body with quasi-judicial powers; corollary thereto, a determination of
the jurisdiction of the AMLC.
Lim v. Gamosa20 is enlightening on jurisdiction and the requirement of a specific grant
thereof in the enabling law. We declared that the creation of the National
Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act
(IPRA) did not confer it exclusive and original, nor primary jurisdiction, in all claims
and disputes involving rights of IPs and ICCs where no such specific grant is
bestowed.
In this instance, the grant of jurisdiction over cases involving money laundering
offences is bestowed on the Regional Trial Courts and the Sandiganbayan as the case
may be. In fact, Rule 5 of the IRR is entitled Jurisdiction of Money Laundering
Cases and Money Laundering Investigation Procedures:
Rule 5.a. Jurisdiction of Money Laundering Cases. The Regional Trial Courts shall
have the jurisdiction to try all cases on money laundering. Those committed by
public officers and private persons who are in conspiracy with such public officers
shall be under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan.
Rule 5.b. Investigation of Money Laundering Offenses. - The AMLC shall
investigate:
(1) suspicious transactions;
(2) covered transactions deemed suspicious after an investigation conducted by the
AMLC;
(3) money laundering activities; and
(4) other violations of the AMLA, as amended.
The confusion on the scope and parameters of the AMLC's investigatory powers and
whether such seeps into and approximates a quasi-judicial agency's inquisitorial
powers lies in the AMLC's investigation and consequent initial determination of
whether certain activities are constitutive of anti-money laundering offenses.
The enabling law itself, the AMLA, specifies the jurisdiction of the trial courts, RTC
and Sandiganbayan, over money laundering cases, and delineates the investigative
powers of the AMLC.
Textually, the AMLA is the first line of defense against money laundering in
compliance with our international obligation. There are three (3) stages of
determination, two (2) levels of investigation, falling under three (3) jurisdictions:
1. The AMLC investigates possible money laundering offences and initially
determines whether there is probable cause to charge any person with a money
laundering offence under Section 4 of the AMLA, resulting in the filing of a
complaint with the Department of Justice or the Office of the Ombudsman;21
2. The DOJ or the Ombudsman conducts the preliminary investigation proceeding
and if after due notice and hearing finds probable cause for money laundering
offences, shall file the necessary information before the Regional Trial Courts or the
Sandiganbayan;22
3. The RTCs or the Sandiganbayan shall try all cases on money laundering, as may
be applicable.23
Nowhere from the text of the law nor its Implementing Rules and Regulations can
we glean that the AMLC exercises quasi-judicial functions whether the actual
preliminary investigation is done simply at its behest or conducted by the
Department of Justice and the Ombudsman.
Again, we hark back to Lantion citing Ruperto v. Torres,23-a where the Court had
occasion to rule on the functions of an investigatory body with the sole power of
investigation:
[Such a body] does not exercise judicial functions and its power is limited to
investigating facts and making findings in respect thereto. The Court laid down the
test of determining whether an administrative body is exercising judicial functions
or merely investigatory functions: Adjudication signifies the exercise of power and
authority to adjudicate upon the rights and obligations of the parties before it.
Hence, if the only purpose for investigation is to evaluate evidence submitted before
it based on the facts and Circumstances presented to it, and if the agency is not
authorized to make a final pronouncement affecting the parties, then there is an
absence of judicial discretion and judgment.
adjudicate in regard to the rights and obligations of both the Requesting State and
the prospective extraditee. Its only power is to determine whether the papers comply
with the requirements of the law and the treaty and, therefore, sufficient to be the
basis of an extradition petition. Such finding is thus merely initial and not final. The
body has no power to determine whether or not the extradition should be effected.
That is the role of the court. The body's power is limited to an initial finding of
whether or not the extradition petition can be filed in court.
It is to be noted, however, that in contrast to ordinary investigations, the evaluation
procedure is characterized by certain peculiarities. Primarily, it sets into motion the
wheels of the extradition process. Ultimately, it may result in the deprivation of
liberty of the prospective extraditee. This deprivation can be effected at two
stages: First, the provisional arrest of the prospective extraditee pending the
submission of the request. This is so because the Treaty provides that in case of
urgency, a contracting party may request the provisional arrest of the person sought
pending presentation of the request (Paragraph [1], Article 9, RP-US Extradition
Treaty), but he shall be automatically discharged after 60 days if no request is
submitted (Paragraph 4). Presidential Decree No. 1069 provides for a shorter period
of 20 days after which the arrested person could be discharged (Section 20[d]).
Logically, although the Extradition Law is silent on this respect, the provisions only
mean that once a request is forwarded to the Requested State, the prospective
extraditee may be continuously detained, or if not, subsequently rearrested
(Paragraph [5], Article 9, RP-US Extradition Treaty), for he will only be discharged if
no request is submitted. Practically, the purpose of this detention is to prevent his
possible flight from the Requested State. Second, the temporary arrest of the
prospective extraditee during the pendency of the extradition petition in court
(Section 6, Presidential Decree No. 1069).
Clearly, there is an impending threat to a prospective extraditee's liberty as early as
during the evaluation stage. It is not only an imagined threat to his liberty, but a
very imminent one.
Because of these possible consequences, we conclude that the evaluation process is
akin to an administrative agency conducting an investigative proceeding, the
consequences of which are essentially criminal since such technical assessment sets
off or commences the procedure for, and ultimately, the deprivation of liberty of a
prospective extraditee, As described by petitioner himself, this is a "tool" for criminal
law enforcement. In essence, therefore, the evaluation process partakes of the nature
of a criminal investigation. In a number of cases, we had occasion to make available
to a respondent in an administrative case or investigation certain constitutional
rights that are ordinarily available only in criminal prosecutions. Further, as pointed
out by Mr. Justice Mendoza during the oral arguments, there are rights formerly
available only at the trial stage that had been advanced to an earlier stage in the
proceedings, such as the right to counsel and the right against self-
incrimination.24 (Citations omitted)
In contrast to the disposition in Lantion that the evaluation process before the
Department of Foreign Affairs is akin to an administrative agency conducting
investigative proceedings with implications on the consequences of criminal
liability, i.e., deprivation of liberty of a prospective extraditee, the sole investigative
functions of the AMLC finds more resonance with the investigative functions of the
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
That the AMLC does not exercise quasi-judicial powers and is simply an
investigatory body finds support in our ruling in Shu v. Dee.25 In that case, petitioner
Shu had filed a complaint before the NBI charging respondents therein with
falsification of two (2) deeds of real estate mortgage submitted to the Metropolitan
Bank and Trust Company (Metrobank). After its investigation, the NBI came up with
a Questioned Documents Report No. 746-1098 finding that the signatures of
petitioner therein which appear on the questioned deeds are not the same as the
standard sample signatures he submitted to the NBI. Ruling on the specific issue
raised by respondent therein that they had been denied due process during the NBI
investigation, we stressed that the functions of this agency are merely investigatory
and informational in nature:
[The NBI] has no judicial or quasi-judicial powers and is incapable of granting any
relief to any party. It cannot even determine probable cause. The NBI is an
investigative agency whose findings are merely recommendatory. It undertakes
investigation of crimes upon its own initiative or as public welfare may require in
accordance with its mandate. It also renders assistance when requested in the
investigation or detection of crimes in order to prosecute the persons responsible.
Since the NBI's findings were merely recommendatory, we find that no denial of the
respondent's due process right could have taken place; the NBI's findings were still
subject to the prosecutor's and the Secretary of Justice's actions for purposes of
finding the existence of probable cause. We find it significant that the specimen
signatures in the possession of Metrobank were submitted by the respondents for
the consideration of the city prosecutor and eventually of the Secretary of Justice
during the preliminary investigation proceedings. Thus, these officers had the
opportunity to examine these signatures.
The respondents were not likewise denied their right to due process when the NBI
issued the questioned documents report. We note that this report merely stated that
the signatures appearing on the two deeds and in the petitioner's submitted sample
signatures were not written by one and the same person. Notably, there was no
categorical finding in the questioned documents report that the respondents falsified
the documents. This report, too, was procured during the conduct of the NBI's
investigation at the petitioner's request for assistance in the investigation of the
alleged crime of falsification. The report is inconclusive and does not prevent the
respondents from securing a separate documents examination by handwriting
experts based on their own evidence. On its own, the NBI's questioned documents
report does not directly point to the respondents' involvement in the crime charged.
Its significance is that, taken together with the other pieces of evidence submitted by
the parties during the preliminary investigation, these evidence could be sufficient
for purposes of finding probable cause the action that the Secretary of Justice
undertook in the present case.
As carved out in Shu, the AMLC functions solely as an investigative body in the
instances mentioned in Rule 5.b.26 Thereafter, the next step is for the AMLC to file a
Complaint with either the DOJ or the Ombudsman pursuant to Rule 6.b.
Even in the case of Estrada v. Office of the Ombudsman,27 where the conflict arose at the
preliminary investigation stage by the Ombudsman, we ruled that the
Ombudsman's denial of Senator Estrada's Request to be furnished copies of the
counter-affidavits of his co-respondents did not violate Estrada's constitutional right
to due process where the sole issue is the existence of probable cause for the purpose
of determining whether an information should be filed and does not prevent Estrada
from requesting a copy of the counter-affidavits of his co-respondents during the
pre-trial or even during trial. We expounded on the nature of preliminary
investigation proceedings, thus:
It should be underscored that the conduct of a preliminary investigation is only for
the determination of probable cause, and "probable cause merely implies probability
of guilt and should be determined in a summary manner. A preliminary
investigation is not a part of the trial and it is only in a trial where an accused can
demand the full exercise of his rights, such as the right to confront and cross-
examine his accusers to establish his innocence." Thus, the rights of a respondent in a
preliminary investigation are limited to those granted by procedural law.
A preliminary investigation is defined as an inquiry or proceeding for the purpose of
determining whether there is sufficient ground to engender a well founded belief
that a crime cognizable by the Regional Trial Court has been committed and that the
respondent is probably guilty thereof, and should be held for trial. The quantum of
evidence now required in preliminary investigation is such evidence sufficient to
"engender a well founded belief' as to the fact of the commission of a crime and the
respondent's probable guilt thereof A preliminary investigation is not the occasion
for the full and exhaustive display of the parties' evidence; it is for the presentation
of such evidence only as may engender a well-grounded belief that an offense has
been committed and that the accused is probably guilty thereof. We are in accord
with the state prosecutor's findings in the case at bar that there exists prima facie
evidence of petitioner's involvement in the commission of the crime, it being
sufficiently supported by the evidence presented and the facts obtaining therein.
Likewise devoid of cogency is petitioner's argument that the testimonies of Galarion
and Hanopol are inadmissible as to him since he was not granted the opportunity of
cross-examination.
It is a fundamental principle that the accused in a preliminary investigation has no
right to cross-examine the witnesses which the complainant may present. Section 3,
Rule 112 of the Rules of Court expressly provides that the respondent shall only
have the right to submit a counter-affidavit, to examine all other evidence submitted
by the complainant and, where the fiscal sets a hearing to propound clarificatory
questions to the parties or their witnesses, to be afforded an opportunity to be
present but without the right to examine or cross-examine. Thus, even if petitioner
was not given the opportunity to cross-examine Galarion and Hanopol at the time
they were presented to testify during the separate trial of the case against Galarion
and Roxas, he cannot assert any legal right to cross-examine them at the preliminary
investigation precisely because such right was never available to him. The
admissibility or inadmissibility of said testimonies should be ventilated before the
trial court during the trial proper and not in the preliminary investigation.
Furthermore, the technical rules on evidence are not binding on the fiscal who has
jurisdiction and control over the conduct of a preliminary investigation. If by its very
nature a preliminary investigation could be waived by the accused, we find no
compelling justification for a strict application of the evidentiary rules. In addition,
considering that under Section 8, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court, the record of the
preliminary investigation does not form part of the record of the case in the Regional
Trial Court, then the testimonies of Galarion and Hanopol may not be admitted by
the trial court if not presented in evidence by the prosecuting fiscal. And, even if the
prosecution does present such testimonies, petitioner can always object thereto and
the trial court can rule on the admissibility thereof; or the petitioner can, during the
trial, petition said court to compel the presentation of Galarion and Hanopol for
purposes of cross-examination. (Citations and emphasis omitted)
Plainly, the AMLC's investigation of money laundering offenses and its
determination of possible money laundering offenses, specifically its inquiry into
certain bank accounts allowed by court order, does not transform it into an
investigative body exercising quasi-judicial powers. Hence, Section 11 of the AMLA,
authorizing a bank inquiry court order, cannot be said to violate SPCMB's
constitutional right to procedural due process.
We now come to a determination of whether Section 11 is violative of the
constitutional right to privacy enshrined in Section 2, Article III of the Constitution.
SPCMB is adamant that the CA's denial of its request to be furnished copies of
AMLC's ex-parte application for a bank inquiry order and all subsequent pleadings,
documents and orders filed and issued in relation thereto, constitutes grave abuse of
discretion where the purported blanket authority under Section 11: (1) partakes of a
general warrant intended to aid a mere fishing expedition; (2) violates the attorney-
client privilege; (3) is not preceded by predicate crime charging SPCMB of a money
laundering offense; and (4) is a form of political harassment [of SPCMB's] clientele.
We shall discuss these issues jointly since the assailed Section 11 incorporates by
reference that "[t]he authority to inquire into or examine the main and the related
accounts shall comply with the requirements of Article III, Sections 2 and 3 of the
1987 Constitution." On this point, SPCMB asseverates that "there is nothing in the
AMLA that allows or justifies the withholding of information and/or any court
records or proceedings pertaining to an examination of a bank account, especially if
the court has already granted the authority to conduct the examination."
The theme of playing off privacy rights and interest against that of the state's interest
in curbing money laundering offenses is recurring.28
The invoked constitutional provisions read:
SEC. 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any
purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue
except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after
examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may
produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or
things to be seized.
SEC. 3. (1) The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable
except upon lawful order of the court, or when public policy or order requires
otherwise as prescribed by law.
(2) Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be
inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.
Once again, Eugenio29 offers guidance:
The Court's construction of Section 11 of the AMLA is undoubtedly influenced by
right to privacy considerations. If sustained, petitioner's argument that a bank
account may be inspected by the government following an ex parte proceeding
about which the depositor would know nothing would have significant implications
on the right to privacy, a right innately cherished by all notwithstanding the legally
recognized exceptions thereto. The notion that the government could be so
empowered is cause for concern of any individual who values the right to privacy
which, after all, embodies even the right to be "let alone," the most comprehensive of
rights and the right most valued by civilized people.
One might assume that the constitutional dimension of the right to privacy, as
applied to bank deposits, warrants our present inquiry. We decline to do so.
Admittedly, that question has proved controversial in American
jurisprudence. Notably, the United States Supreme Court in U.S. v. Miller held that
there was no legitimate expectation of privacy as to the bank records of a
depositor. Moreover, the text of our Constitution has not bothered with the
triviality of allocating specific rights peculiar to bank deposits.
However, sufficient for our purposes, we can assert there is a right to privacy
governing bank accounts in the Philippines, and that such right finds application to
the case at bar. The source of such right is statutory, expressed as it is in R.A. No.
1405 otherwise known as the Bank Secrecy Act of 1955. The right to privacy is
enshrined in Section 2 of that law, to wit:
SECTION 2. All deposits of whatever nature with banks or banking institutions in
the Philippines including investments in bonds issued by the Government of the
Philippines, its political subdivisions and its instrumentalities, are hereby
considered as of an absolutely confidential nature and may not be examined,
inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office, except
upon written permission of the depositor, or in cases of impeachment, or upon order
of a competent court in cases of bribery or dereliction of duty of public officials, or in
cases where the money deposited or invested is the subject matter of the litigation.
Because of the Bank Secrecy Act, the confidentiality of bank deposits remains a basic
state policy in the Philippines. Subsequent laws, including the AMLA, may have
added exceptions to the Bank Secrecy Act, yet the secrecy of bank deposits still lies
as the general rule. It falls within the zones of privacy recognized by our laws. The
framers of the 1987 Constitution likewise recognized that bank accounts are not
covered by either the right to information under Section 7, Article III or under the
requirement of full public disclosure under Section 28, Article II. Unless the Bank
Secrecy Act is repealed or amended, the legal order is obliged to conserve the
absolutely confidential nature of Philippine bank deposits.
Any exception to the rule of absolute confidentiality must be specifically legislated.
Section 2 of the Bank Secrecy Act itself prescribes exceptions whereby these bank
accounts may be examined by "any person, government official, bureau or office";
namely when: (1) upon written permission of the depositor; (2) in cases of
impeachment; (3) the examination of bank accounts is upon order of a competent
court in cases of bribery or dereliction of duty of public officials; and (4) the money
deposited or invested is the subject matter of the litigation. Section 8 of R.A. Act No.
3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, has been recognized by this Court as
constituting an additional exception to the rule of absolute confidentiality, and there
have been other similar recognitions as well.
The AMLA also provides exceptions to the Bank Secrecy Act. Under Section 11, the
AMLC may inquire into a bank account upon order of any competent court in cases
of violation of the AMLA, it having been established that there is probable cause that
the deposits or investments are related to unlawful activities as defined in Section
3(i) of the law, or a money laundering offense under Section 4 thereof. Further, in
instances where there is probable cause that the deposits or investments are related
to kidnapping for ransom, certain violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous
Drugs Act of 2002, hijacking and other violations under R.A. No. 6235, destructive
arson and murder, then there is no need for the AMLC to obtain a court order before
it could inquire into such accounts.
It cannot be successfully argued the proceedings relating to the bank inquiry order
under Section 11 of the AMLA is a "litigation" encompassed in one of the exceptions
to the Bank Secrecy Act which is when "the money deposited or invested is the
subject matter of the litigation." The orientation of the bank inquiry order is simply
to serve as a provisional relief or remedy. As earlier stated, the application for such
does not entail a full-blown trial.
Nevertheless, just because the AMLA establishes additional exceptions to the Bank
Secrecy Act it does not mean that the later law has dispensed with the general
principle established in the older law that "[a]ll deposits of whatever nature with
banks or banking institutions in the Philippines x x x are hereby considered as of an
absolutely confidential nature." Indeed, by force of statute, all bank deposits are
absolutely confidential, and that nature is unaltered even by the legislated
exceptions referred to above. There is disfavor towards construing these exceptions
in such a manner that would authorize unlimited discretion on the part of the
government or of any party seeking to enforce those exceptions and inquire into
bank deposits. If there are doubts in upholding the absolutely confidential nature of
bank deposits against affirming the authority to inquire into such accounts, then
such doubts must be resolved in favor of the former. Such a stance would persist
unless Congress passes a law reversing the general state policy of preserving the
absolutely confidential nature of Philippine bank accounts. (Citations omitted,
emphasis supplied)
From the foregoing disquisition, we extract the following principles:
1. The Constitution did not allocate specific rights peculiar to bank deposits;
2. The general rule of absolute confidentiality is simply statutory,30i.e. not specified
in the Constitution, which has been affirmed in jurisprudence;31
3. Exceptions to the general rule of absolute confidentiality have been carved out by
the Legislature which legislation have been sustained, albeit subjected to heightened
scrutiny by the courts;32 and
4. One such legislated exception is Section 11 of the AMLA.
The warning in Eugenio that an ex-parte proceeding authorizing the government to
inspect certain bank accounts or investments without notice to the depositor would
have significant implications on the right to privacy still does not preclude such a
bank inquiry order to be allowed by specific legislation as an exception to the
general rule of absolute confidentiality of bank deposits.
We thus subjected Section 11 of the AMLA to heightened scrutiny and found
nothing arbitrary in the allowance and authorization to AMLC to undertake an
inquiry into certain bank accounts or deposits. Instead, we found that it provides
safeguards before a bank inquiry order is issued, ensuring adherence to the general
state policy of preserving the absolutely confidential nature of Philippine bank
accounts:
(1) The AMLC is required to establish probable cause as basis for its ex-
parte application for bank inquiry order;
(2) The CA, independent of the AMLC's demonstration of probable cause, itself
makes a finding of probable cause that the deposits or investments are related to an
unlawful activity under Section 3(i) or a money laundering offense under Section 4
of the AMLA;
(3) A bank inquiry court order ex-parte for related accounts is preceded by a bank
inquiry court order ex-parte for the principal account which court order ex-parte for
related accounts is separately based on probable cause that such related account is
materially linked to the principal account inquired into; and
(4) The authority to inquire into or examine the main or principal account and the
related accounts shall comply with the requirements of Article III, Sections 2 and 3 of
the Constitution.
The foregoing demonstrates that the inquiry and examination into the bank account
are not undertaken whimsically and solely based on the investigative discretion of
the AMLC. In particular, the requirement of demonstration by the AMLC, and
determination by the CA, of probable cause emphasizes the limits of such
governmental action. We will revert to these safeguards under Section 11 as we
specifically discuss the CA's denial of SPCMB's letter request for information
concerning the purported issuance of a bank inquiry order involving its accounts.
First. The AMLC and the appellate court are respectively required to demonstrate
and ascertain probable cause. Ret. Lt. Gen. Ligot, et al. v. Republic of the
Philippines,33 which dealt with the adjunct provisional remedy of freeze order under
Section 10 of the AMLA, defined probable cause, thus:
The probable cause required for the issuance of a freeze order differs from the
probable cause required for the institution of a criminal action, xxx.
As defined in the law, the probable cause required for the issuance of a freeze order
refers to "such facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably discreet,
prudent or cautious man to believe that an unlawful activity and/or money
laundering offence is about to be, is being or has been committed and that the
account or any monetary instrument or property subject thereof sought to be
frozen is in any way related to said unlawful activity and/or money laundering
offense."
In other words, in resolving the issue of whether probable cause exits, the CA's
statutorily-guided determination's focus is not on the probable commissions of an
unlawful activity (or money laundering) that the office of the Ombudsman has
already determined to exist, but on whether the bank accounts, assets, or other
monetary instruments sought to be frozen are in any way related to any of the illegal
activities enumerated under R.A. 9160, as amended. Otherwise stated, probable
cause refers to the sufficiency of the relation between an unlawful activity and the
property or monetary instrument which is the focal point of Section 10 of RA No.
9160, as amended. xxx. (Emphasis supplied)
Second. As regards SPCMB's contention that the bank inquiry order is in the nature
of a general warrant, Eugenio already declared that Section 11, even with the
allowance of an ex parte application therefor, "is not a search warrant or warrant of
arrest as it contemplates a direct object but not the seizure of persons or
property."34 It bears repeating that the ''bank inquiry order" under Section 11 is a
provisional remedy to aid the AMLC in the enforcement of the AMLA.
Third. Contrary to the stance of SPCMB, the bank inquiry order does not contemplate
that SPCMB be first impleaded in a money laundering case already filed before the
courts:
We are unconvinced by this proposition, and agree instead with the then Solicitor
General who conceded that the use of the phrase "in cases of' was unfortunate, yet
submitted that it should be interpreted to mean "in the event there are violations" of
the AMLA, and not that there are already cases pending in court concerning such
violations. If the contrary position is adopted, then the bank inquiry order would be
limited in purpose as a tool in aid of litigation of live cases, and wholly inutile as a
means for the government to ascertain whether there is sufficient evidence to sustain
an intended prosecution of the account holder for violation of the AMLA. Should
that be the situation, in all likelihood the AMLC would be virtually deprived of its
character as a discovery tool, and thus would become less circumspect in filing
complaints against suspect account holders. After all, under such set-up the
preferred strategy would be to allow or even encourage the indiscriminate filing of
complaints under the AMLA with the hope or expectation that the evidence of
money laundering would somehow .surface during the trial. Since the AMLC could
not make use of the bank inquiry order to determine whether there is evidentiary
basis to prosecute the suspected malefactors, not filing any case at all would not be
an alternative. Such unwholesome set-up should not come to pass. Thus Section 11
cannot be interpreted in a way that would emasculate the remedy it has established
and encourage the unfounded initiation of complaints for money
laundering.35 (Citation omitted)
Guided as we are by prior holdings, and bound as we are by the requirements for
issuance of a bank inquiry order under Section 11 of the AMLA, we are hard pressed
to declare that it violates SPCMB's right to privacy.
Nonetheless, although the bank inquiry order ex-parte passes constitutional muster,
there is nothing in Section 11 nor the implementing rules and regulations of the
AMLA which prohibits the owner of the bank account, as in his instance SPCMB, to
ascertain from the CA, post issuance of the bank inquiry order ex-parte, if his account
is indeed the subject of an examination. Emphasized by our discussion of the
safeguards under Section 11 preceding the issuance of such an order, we find that
there is nothing therein which precludes the owner of the account from challenging
the basis for the issuance thereof.
The present controversy revolves around the issue of whether or not the appellate
court, through the Presiding Justice, gravely abused its discretion when it effectively
denied SPCMB's letter-request for confirmation that the AMLC had applied (ex-
parte) for, and was granted, a bank inquiry order to examine SPCMB's bank accounts
relative to the investigation conducted on Vice-President Binay's accounts.
We recall the Presiding Justice's letter to SPCMB categorically stating that "under the
rules, the Office of the Presiding Justice is strictly mandated not to disclose, divulge,
or communicate to anyone directly or indirectly, in any manner or by any means, the
fact of the filing of the petition brought before [the Court of Appeals] by the
[AMLC], its contents and even its entry in the logbook." Note that the letter did not
cite the aforementioned rules that were supposedly crystal clear to foreclose
ambiguity. Note further that Rules 10.c.3 and 10.d of the IRR on Authority to File
Petitions for Freeze Order provides that:
Rule 10.c. Duty of Covered Institutions upon receipt thereof.
Rule 10.c.1. Upon receipt of the notice of the freeze order, the covered institution
concerned shall immediately freeze the monetary instrument or property and related
accounts subject thereof.
Rule 10.c.2. The covered institution shall likewise immediately furnish a copy of the
notice of the freeze order upon the owner or holder of the monetary instrument or
property or related accounts subject thereof.
Rule 10.c.3. Within twenty-four (24) hours from receipt of the freeze order, the
covered institution concerned shall submit to the Court of Appeals and the AMLC,
by personal delivery, a detailed written return on the freeze order, specifying all the
pertinent and relevant information which shall include the following:
(a) the account numbers;
(b) the names of the account owners or holders;
(c) the amount of the monetary instrument, property or related accounts as of the
time they were frozen;
(d) all relevant information as to the nature of the monetary instrument or property;
(e) any information on the related accounts pertaining to the monetary instrument or
property subject of the freeze order; and
(f) the time when the freeze thereon took effect.
Rule 10.d. Upon receipt of the freeze order issued by the Court of Appeals and upon
verification by the covered institution that the related accounts originated from
and/or are materially linked to the monetary instrument or property subject of the
freeze order, the covered institution shall freeze these related accounts wherever
these may be found.
The return of the covered institution as required under Rule 10.c.3 shall include the
fact of such freezing and an explanation as to the grounds for the identification of
the related accounts.
If the related accounts cannot be determined within twenty-four (24) hours from
receipt of the freeze order due to the volume and/or complexity of the transactions
or any other justifiable factor(s), the covered institution shall effect the freezing of
the related accounts, monetary instruments and properties as soon as practicable
and shall submit a supplemental return thereof to the Court of Appeals and the
AMLC within twenty-four (24) hours from the freezing of said related accounts,
monetary instruments and properties.
The foregoing rule, in relation to what Section 11 already provides, signifies that ex-
parte bank inquiry orders on related accounts may be questioned alongside, albeit
subsequent to, the issuance of the initial freeze order of the subject bank accounts.
The requirements and procedure for the issuance of the order, including the return
to be made thereon lay the grounds for judicial review thereof. We expound.
An act of a court or tribunal can only be considered tainted with grave abuse of
discretion when such act is done in a capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment as
is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. It is well-settled that the abuse of discretion to be
qualified as "grave" must be so patent or gross as to constitute an evasion of a
positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform the duty or to act at all in contemplation
of law.36 In this relation, case law states that not every error in the proceedings, or
every erroneous conclusion of law or fact, constitutes grave abuse of
discretion.37 The degree of gravity, as above-described, must be met.
That the propriety of the issuance of the bank inquiry order is a justiciable issue
brooks no argument. A justiciable controversy refers to an existing case or
controversy that is appropriate or ripe for judicial determination, not one that is
conjectural or merely anticipatory.38
As previously adverted to in our discussion on the right to privacy, the clash of
privacy rights and interest against that of the government's is readily apparent.
However, the statutorily enshrined general rule on absolute confidentiality of bank
accounts remains. Thus, the safeguards instituted in Section II of the AMLA and
heretofore discussed provide for certain well defined limits, as in the language
of Baker v. Carr, "judicially discoverable standards" for determining the validity of
the exercise of such discretion by the appellate court in denying the letter-request of
SPCMB.39 In short, Section II itself provides the basis for the judicial inquiry and
which the owner of the bank accounts subject of the AMLC inquiry may invoke.
Undeniably, there is probable and preliminary governmental action against SPCMB
geared towards implementation of the AMLA directed at SPCMB's property,
although there is none, as yet, physical seizure thereof, as in freezing of bank
accounts under Section 10 of the AMLA.40 Note, however, that the allowance to
question the bank inquiry order we carve herein is tied to the appellate court's
issuance of a freeze order on the principal accounts. Even in Eugenio, while declaring
that the bank inquiry order under Section II then required prior notice of such to the
account owner, we recognized that the determination of probable cause by the
appellate court to issue the bank inquiry order can be contested. As presently
worded and how AMLC functions are designed under the AMLA, the occasion for
the issuance of the freeze order upon the actual physical seizure of the investigated
and inquired into bank account, calls into motions the opportunity for the bank
account owner to then question, not just probable cause for the issuance of the freeze
order under Section I 0, but, to begin with, the determination of probable cause for
an ex-parte bank inquiry order into a purported related account under Section II.
In enacting the amendment to Section II of the AMLC, the legislature saw it fit to
place requirements before a bank inquiry order may be issued. We discussed these
requirements as basis for a valid exception to the general rule on absolute
confidentiality of bank accounts. However, these very safe guards allow SPCMB,
post issuance of the ex-parte bank inquiry order, legal bases to question the propriety
of such issued order, if any. To emphasize, this allowance to the owner of the bank
account to question the bank inquiry order is granted only after issuance of the
freeze order physically seizing the subject bank account. It cannot be undertaken
prior to the issuance of the freeze order.
While no grave abuse of discretion could be ascribed on the part of the appellate
court when it explained in its letter that petitions of such nature "is strictly
confidential in that when processing the same, not even the handling staff members
of the Office of the Presiding Justice know or have any knowledge who the subject
bank account holders are, as well as the bank accounts involved," it was incorrect
when it declared that "under the rules, the Office of the Presiding Justice is strictly
mandated not to disclose, divulge, or communicate to anyone directly or indirectly,
in any manner or by any means, the fact of the filing of any petition brought before
[the Court of Appeals] by the Anti-Money Laundering Council, its contents and even
its entry in the logbook." As a result, the appellate court effectively precluded and
prevented SPCMB of any recourse, amounting to a denial of SPCMB's letter request.
We cannot overemphasize that SPCMB, as the owner of the bank account which may
be the subject of inquiry of the AMLC, ought to have a legal remedy to question the
validity and propriety of such an order by the appellate court under Section 11 of the
AMLA even if subsequent to the issuance of a freeze order. Moreover, given the
scope of inquiry of the AMLC, reaching and including even related accounts, which
inquiry into specifies a proviso that: "[t]hat the procedure for the ex-parte application
of the ex-parte court order for the principal account shall be the same with that of the
related accounts," SPCMB should be allowed to question the government intrusion.
Plainly, by implication, SPCMB can demonstrate the absence of probable cause, i.e.
that it is not a related account nor are its accounts materially linked to the principal
account being investigated.41
In BSB Group, Inc. v. Go,42 we recounted the objective of the absolute confidentiality
rule which is protection from unwarranted inquiry or investigation if the purpose of
such inquiry or investigation is merely to determine the existence and nature, as well
as the amount of the deposit in any given bank account:
xxx. There is, in fact, much disfavor to construing these primary and supplemental
exceptions in a manner that would authorize unbridled discretion, whether
governmental or otherwise, in utilizing these exceptions as authority for
unwarranted inquiry into bank accounts. It is then perceivable that the present legal
order is obliged to conserve the absolutely confidential nature of bank deposits.
The measure of protection afforded by the law has been explained in China Banking
Corporation v. Ortega. That case principally addressed the issue of whether the
prohibition against an examination of bank deposits precludes garnishment in
satisfaction of a judgment. Ruling on that issue in the negative, the Court found
guidance in the relevant portions of the legislative deliberations on Senate Bill No.
351 and House Bill No. 3977, which later became the Bank Secrecy Act, and it held
that the absolute confidentiality rule in R.A. No. 1405 actually aims at protection
from unwarranted inquiry or investigation if the purpose of such inquiry or
investigation is merely to determine the existence and nature, as well as the amount
of the deposit in any given bank account. Thus,
x x x The lower court did not order an examination of or inquiry into the deposit of
B&B Forest Development Corporation, as contemplated in the law. It merely
required Tan Kim Liong to inform the court whether or not the defendant B&B
Forest Development Corporation had a deposit in the China Banking Corporation
only for purposes of the garnishment issued by it, so that the bank would hold the
same intact and not allow any withdrawal until further order. It will be noted from
the discussion of the conference committee report on Senate Bill No. 351 and House
Bill No. 3977 which later became Republic Act No. 1405, that it was not the intention
of the lawmakers to place banks deposits beyond the reach of execution to satisfy a
final judgment Thus:
x x x Mr. Marcos: Now, for purposes of the record, I should like the Chairman of the
Committee on Ways and Means to clarify this further. Suppose an individual has a
tax case. He is being held liable by the Bureau of Internal Revenue [(BIR)] or, say,
P1,000.00 worth of tax liability, and because of this the deposit of this individual [has
been] attached by the [BIR].
Mr. Ramos: The attachment will only apply after the court has pronounced sentence
declaring the liability of such person. But where the primary aim is to determine
whether he has a bank deposit in order to bring about a proper assessment by the
[BIR], such inquiry is not allowed by this proposed law.
Mr. Marcos: But under our rules of procedure and under the Civil Code, the
attachment or garnishment of money deposited is allowed. Let us assume for
instance that there is a preliminary attachment which is for garnishment or for
holding liable all moneys deposited belonging to a certain individual, but such
attachment or garnishment will bring out into the open the value of such deposit. Is
that prohibited by... the law?
Mr. Ramos: It is only prohibited to the extent that the inquiry... is made only for the
purpose of satisfying a tax liability already declared for the protection of the right in
favor of the government; but when the object is merely to inquire whether he has a
deposit or not for purposes of taxation, then this is fully covered by the law. x x x
Mr. Marcos: The law prohibits a mere investigation into the existence and the
amount of the deposit.
Mr. Ramos: Into the very nature of such deposit. x x x (Citations omitted)
What is reflected by the foregoing disquisition is that the law plainly prohibits a
mere investigation into the existence and the amount of the deposit. We relate the
principle to SPCMB's relationship to the reported principal account under
investigation, one of its clients, former Vice President Binay. SPCMB as the owner of
one of the bank accounts reported to be investigated by the AMLC for probable
money laundering offenses should be allowed to pursue remedies therefrom where
there are legal implications on the inquiry into its accounts as a law firm. While we
do not lapse into conjecture and cannot take up the lance for SPCMB on probable
violation of the attorney-client privilege based on pure speculation, the extent of
information obtained by the AMLC concerning the clients of SPCMB has not been
fully drawn and sufficiently demonstrated. At the same time, the owner of bank
accounts that could be potentially affected has the right to challenge whether the
requirements for issuance of the bank inquiry order were indeed complied with
given that such has implications on its property rights. In this regard, SPCMB's
obeisance to promulgated rules on the matter could have afforded it a remedy, even
post issuance of the bank inquiry order.
Rule 10.b. of the IRR defines probable cause as "such facts and circumstances which
would lead a reasonably discreet, prudent or cautious man to believe that an
unlawful activity and/or a money laundering offense is about to be, is being or has
been committed and that the account or any monetary instrument or property
sought to be frozen is in any way related to said unlawful activity and/or money
laundering offense." Evidently, the provision only refers to probable cause for freeze
orders under Section 10 of the AMLA. From this we note that there is a
glaring lacunae in our procedural rules concerning the bank inquiry order under
Section 11. Despite the advent of RA No. 10167, amending Section 11 of the AMLA,
we have yet to draft additional rules corresponding to the ex-parte bank inquiry
order under Section 11. A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC entitled "Rule of Procedure in Cases of
Civil Forfeiture, Asset Preservation, and Freezing of Monetary Instrument, Property,
or Proceeds Representing, Involving, or Relating to an Unlawful Activity or Money
Laundering Offense Under Republic Act No. 9160, as Amended," only covers what is
already provided in the title. As we have already noted, the bank inquiry order must
likewise be governed by rules specific to its issuance where the AMLC regularly
invokes this provision and which, expectedly clashes with the rights of bank account
holders.
Apart from Section 2, Rule IV of the 2009 Internal Rules of the CA (IRCA) reads:
SEC. 2. Action by the Presiding Justice or Executive Justice. When a petition
involves an urgent matter, such as an application for writ of habeas corpus, amparo or
habeas data or for temporary restraining order, and there is no way of convening
the Raffle Committee or calling any of its members, the Presiding Justice or the
Executive Justice, as the case may be, or in his/her absence, the most senior Justice
present, may conduct the raffle or act on the petition, subject to raffle in the latter
case on the next working day in accordance with Rule III hereof.
(AMLA cases are limited to the first three most senior Justices as stated in the law
and are raffled by the Chairmen of the First, Second and Third Divisions to the
members of their Divisions only.)
Nothing in the IRCA justifies the disallowance to SPCMB of information and/or
court records or proceedings pertaining to the possible bank inquiry order covering
its bank deposits or investment.
We note that the Presiding Justice's reply to the request for comment of SPCMB on
the existence of a petition for bank inquiry order by the AMLC covering the latter's
account only contemplates the provisions of Section 10 of the AMLA, its IRR and the
promulgated rules thereon. Such immediate and definitive foreclosure left SPCMB
with no recourse on how to proceed from what it perceived to be violation of its
rights as owner of the bank account examined. The reply of the Presiding Justice
failed to take into consideration Section 54 of A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC on Notice of
Freeze Order which reads:
SEC. 54. Notice of freeze order.- The Court shall order that notice of the freeze order be
served personally, in the same manner provided for the service of the asset
preservation order in Section 14 of this Rule, upon the respondent or any person
acting in his behalf and such covered institution or government agency. The court
shall notify also such party in interest as may have appeared before the
court. (Emphasis supplied)
We relate this Section 54 to the already cited Rule 10.d of the IRR
Rule 10.d. Upon receipt of the freeze order issued by the Court of Appeals and upon
verification by the covered institution that the related accounts originated from
and/or are materially linked to the monetary instrument or property subject of the
freeze order, the covered institution shall freeze these related accounts wherever
these may be found.
The return of the covered institution as required under Rule 10.c.3 shall include
the fact of such freezing and an explanation as to the grounds for the
identification of the related accounts.
If the related accounts cannot be determined within twenty-four (24) hours from
receipt of the freeze order due to the volume and/or complexity of the transactions
or any other justifiable factor(s), the covered institution shall effect the freezing of
the related accounts, monetary instruments and properties as soon as practicable
and shall submit a supplemental return thereof to the Court of Appeals and the
AMLC within twenty-four (24) hours from the freezing of said related accounts,
monetary instruments and properties. (Emphasis supplied)
demonstrating that the return of the Freeze Order must provide an explanation as to
the grounds for the identification of the related accounts, or the requirement of
notice to a party in interest affected thereby whose bank accounts were examined.
This necessarily contemplates the procedure for a prior bank inquiry order which we
ought to provide for.
For exact reference, we cite A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC, Title VIII on Petitions for Freeze
Order in the CA which certain pertinent provisions we adopt and apply suppletorily
as a separate Title on Petitions for Bank Inquiry Order:
TITLE VIII
PETITIONS FOR FREEZE ORDER IN THE COURT OF APPEALS
SEC. 43. Applicability. - This Rule shall apply to petitions for freeze order in the Court
of Appeals. The 2002 Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals, as amended, shall apply
suppletorily in all other aspects.
xxxx
SEC. 46. Contents of the petition. - The petition shall contain the following allegations:
(a) The name and address of the respondent;

(b) A specific description with particularity of the monetary instrument,


property or proceeds, their location, the name of the owner, holder,
lienholder or possessor, if known;

(c) The grounds relied upon for the issuance of a freeze order; and
(d) The supporting evidence showing that the subject monetary instrument,
property, or proceeds are in any way related to or involved in an unlawful
activity as defined under Section 3(i) of Republic Act No. 9160, as amended
by Republic Act No. 9194.
The petition shall be filed in seven clearly legible copies and shall be
accompanied by clearly legible copies of supporting documents duly
subscribed under oath.
xxxx
SEC. 49. Confidentiality; prohibited disclosure. - The logbook and the entries therein
shall be kept strictly confidential and maintained under the responsibility of the
Presiding Justice or the Executive Justices, as the case may be. No person, including
Court personnel, shall disclose, divulge or communicate to anyone directly or
indirectly, in any manner or by any means, the fact of the filing of the petition for
freeze order, its contents and its entry in the logbook except to those authorized by
the Court. Violation shall constitute contempt of court.
xxxx
SEC. 51. Action by the Court of Appeals.- All members of the Division of the Court to
which the assigned justice belongs shall act on the petition within twenty-four hours
after its filing. However, if one member of the Division is not available, the assigned
justice and the other justice present shall act on the petition. If only the assigned
justice is present, he shall act alone. The action of the two justices or of the assigned
justice alone, as the case may be, shall be forthwith promulgated and thereafter
submitted on the next working day to the absent member or members of the
Division for ratification, modification or recall.
If the Court is satisfied from the verified allegations of the petition that there exists
probable cause that the monetary instrument, property, or proceeds are in any way
related to or involved in any unlawful activity as defined in Section 3(i) of Republic
Act No. 9160, as amended by Republic Act No. 9194, it shall issue ex parte a freeze
order as hereinafter provided.
If the Court finds no substantial merit in the petition, it shall dismiss the petition
outright, stating the specific reasons for such dismissal.
When the unanimous vote of the three justices of the Division cannot be obtained,
the Presiding Justice or the Executive Justice shall designate two justices by raffle
from among the other justices of the first three divisions to sit temporarily with them
forming a special division of five justices. The concurrence of a majority of such
special division shall be required for the pronouncement of a judgment or resolution.
SEC. 52. Issuance, form and contents of the freeze order - The freeze order shall:
(a) issue in the name of the Republic of the Philippines represented by the Anti-
Money Laundering Council;

(b) describe with particularity the monetary instrument, property or proceeds


frozen, as well as the names of their owner or owners; and

(c) direct the person or covered institution to immediately freeze the subject
monetary instrument, property or proceeds or its related web of accounts.
SEC. 53. Freeze order.
(a) Effectivity; post issuance hearing. - The freeze order shall be effective
immediately for a period of twenty days. Within the twenty-day period, the
court shall conduct a summary hearing, with notice to the parties, to
determine whether or not to modify or lift the freeze order, or extend its
effectivity as hereinafter provided.

(b) Extension. - On motion of the petitioner filed before the expiration of twenty
days from issuance of a freeze order, the court may for good cause extend its
effectivity for a period not exceeding six months.
SEC. 54. Notice of freeze order.- The Court shall order that notice of the freeze order be
served personally, in the same manner provided for the service of the asset
preservation order in Section 14 of this Rule, upon the respondent or any person
acting in his behalf and such covered institution or government agency. The court
shall notify also such party in interest as may have appeared before the court.
SEC. 55. Duty of respondent, covered institution or government agency upon receipt of
freeze order. - Upon receipt of a copy of the freeze order, the respondent, covered
institution or government agency shall immediately desist from and not allow any
transaction, withdrawal, deposit, transfer, removal, conversion, other movement or
concealment the account representing, involving or relating to the subject monetary
instrument, property, proceeds or its related web of accounts.
SEC. 56. Consolidation with the pending civil forfeiture proceedings - After the post-
issuance hearing required in Section 53, the Court shall forthwith remand the case
and transmit the records to the regional trial court for consolidation with the
pending civil forfeiture proceeding.
SEC. 57. Appeal.- Any party aggrieved by the decision or ruling of the court may
appeal to the Supreme Court by petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court. The appeal shall not stay the enforcement of the subject decision or
final order unless the Supreme Court directs otherwise.
A reverse situation affords us a clearer picture of the arbitrary and total preclusion of
SPCMB to question the bank inquiry order of the appellate court. In particular, in an
occasion where the appellate court denies the AMLC's ex-parte application for a bank
inquiry order under Section 11, the AMLC can question this denial and assail such
an order by the appellate court before us on grave abuse of discretion. Among
others, the AMLC can demonstrate that it has established probable cause for its
issuance, or if the situation contemplates a denial of an application for a bank
inquiry order into a related account, the AMLC can establish that the account
targeted is indeed a related account. The resolution on these factual and legal issues
ought to be reviewable, albeit post issuance of the Freeze Order, akin to the
provision of an Appeal to the Supreme Court under Section 57 of A.M. No. 05-11-04-
SC.
Palpably, the requirement to establish probable cause is not a useless supposition. To
establish and demonstrate the required probable cause before issuance of the bank
inquiry and the freeze orders is a screw on which the AMLC's intrusive functions
turns. We are hard pressed to justify a disallowance to an aggrieved owner of a bank
account to avail of remedies.
That there are no specific rules governing the bank inquiry order does not signify
that the CA cannot confirm to the actual owner of the bank account reportedly being
investigated whether it had in fact issued a bank inquiry order for covering its
accounts, of course after the issuance of the Freeze Order. Even in Ligot,43 we held
that by implication, where the law did not specify, the owner of the "frozen"
property may move to lift the freeze order issued under Section 10 of the AMLA if
he can show that no probable cause exists or the 20-day period of the freeze order
has already lapsed without any extension being requested from and granted by the
CA. Drawing a parallel, such a showing of the absence of probable cause ought to be
afforded SPCMB.
Ligot clarifies that "probable cause refers to the sufficiency of the relation between an
unlawful activity and the property or monetary instrument which is the focal point
of Section 10 of the AMLA, as amended." This same probable cause is likewise the
focal point in a bank inquiry order to further determine whether the account under
investigation is linked to unlawful activities and/or money laundering offense.
Thus, the specific applicability of Sections 52, 53, 54 and 57 Title VIII of A.M. No. 05-
11-04-SC covering the following: (1) Issuance, Form and Content of the Freeze Order;
(2) Effectivity of the Freeze Order and Post Issuance Hearing thereon; (3) Notice of
the Freeze Order; and (4) Appeal from the Freeze Order as separate Rules for
Petitions to Question the Bank Inquiry Order. And as held in Eugenio which now
applies to the present Section 11 of the AMLA:
Although oriented towards different purposes, the freeze order under Section 10 and
the bank inquiry order under Section 11 are similar in that they are extraordinary
provisional reliefs which the AMLC may avail of to effectively combat and prosecute
money laundering offenses. Crucially, Section 10 uses specific language to authorize
an ex parte application for the provisional relief therein, a circumstance absent in
Section 11. xxx.44
The cited rules cover and approximate the distinction made by Eugenio in declaring
that the bank inquiry order is not a search warrant, and yet there are instituted
requirements for the issuance of these orders given that such is now allowed ex-parte:
The Constitution and the Rules of Court prescribe particular requirements attaching
to search warrants that are not imposed by the AMLA with respect to bank inquiry
orders. A constitutional warrant requires that the judge personally examine under
oath or affirmation the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, such
examination being in the form of searching questions and answers. Those are
impositions which the legislative did not specifically prescribe as to the bank inquiry
order under the AMLA and we cannot find sufficient legal basis to apply them to
Section 11 of the AMLA. Simply put, a bank inquiry order is not a search warrant or
warrant of arrest as it contemplates a direct object but not the seizure of persons or
property.
Even as the Constitution and the Rules of Court impose a high procedural standard
for the determination of probable cause for the issuance of search warrants which
Congress chose not to prescribe for the bank inquiry order under the AMLA,
Congress nonetheless disallowed ex parte applications for the inquiry order. We can
discern that in exchange for these procedural standards normally applied to search
warrants, Congress chose instead to legislate a right to notice and a right to be heard
characteristics of judicial proceedings which are not ex parte. Absent any
demonstrable constitutional infirmity, there is no reason for us to dispute such
legislative policy choices.45
Thus, as an ex-parte bank inquiry order which Congress has now specifically
allowed, the owner of a bank account post issuance of the freeze order has an
opportunity under the Rules to contest the establishment of probable cause.
Again, we cannot avoid the requirement-limitation nexus in Section 11. As it affords
the government authority to pursue a legitimate state interest to investigate money
laundering offenses, such likewise provides the limits for the authority given.
Moreover, allowance to the owner of the bank account, post issuance of the bank
inquiry order and the corresponding freeze order, of remedies to question the order,
will not forestall and waylay the government's pursuit of money launderers. That
the bank inquiry order is a separate from the freeze order does not denote that it
cannot be questioned. The opportunity is still rife for the owner of a bank account to
question the basis for its very inclusion into the investigation and the corresponding
freezing of its account in the process.
As noted in Eugenio, such an allowance accorded the account holder who wants to
contest the issuance of the order and the actual investigation by the AMLC, does not
cast an unreasonable burden since the bank inquiry order has already been issued.
Further, allowing for notice to the account holder should not, in any way,
compromise the integrity of the bank records subject of the inquiry which remain in
the possession and control of the bank. The account holder so notified remains
unable to do anything to conceal or cleanse his bank account records of suspicious or
anomalous transactions, at least not without the whole hearted cooperation of the
bank, which inherently has no vested interest to aid the account holder in such
manner. Rule 10.c.46 of the IRR provides for Duty of the Covered Institution
receiving the Freeze Order. Such can likewise be made applicable to covered
institutions notified of a bank inquiry order.
On the other hand, a scenario where SPCMB or any account holder under
examination later shows that the bank inquiry order was without the required
probable cause, the information obtained through the account reverts to, and
maintains, its confidentiality. In short, any and all information obtained therein by
the AMLC remains confidential, as if no examination or inquiry on the bank account
or investments was undertaken. The foregoing consequence can be added as a
Section in the Rules entitled "Effect of absence of probable cause."
All told, we affirm the constitutionality of Section 11 of the AMLA allowing the ex-
parte application by the AMLC for authority to inquire into, and examine, certain
bank deposits and investments.
Section 11 of the AMLA providing for the ex-parte bank deposit inquiry is
constitutionally firm for the reasons already discussed. The ex-parte inquiry shall be
upon probable cause that the deposits or investments are related to an unlawful
activity as defined in Section 3(i) of the law or a money laundering offense under
Section 4 of the same law. To effect the limit on the ex-parte inquiry, the petition
under oath for authority to inquire, must, akin to the requirement of a petition for
freeze order enumerated in Title VIII of A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC, contain the name and
address of the respondent; the grounds relied upon for the issuance of the order of
inquiry; and the supporting evidence that the subject bank deposit are in any way
related to or involved in an unlawful activity.
If the CA finds no substantial merit in the petition, it shall dismiss the petition
outright stating the specific reasons for such denial. If found meritorious and there is
a subsequent petition for freeze order, the proceedings shall be governed by the
existing Rules on Petitions for Freeze Order in the CA. From the issuance of a freeze
order, the party aggrieved by the ruling of the court may appeal to the Supreme
Court by petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court raising
all pertinent questions of law and issues, including the propriety of the issuance of a
bank inquiry order. The appeal shall not stay the enforcement of the subject decision
or final order unless the Supreme Court directs otherwise. The CA is directed to
draft rules based on the foregoing discussions to complement the existing A.M. No.
05-11-04-SC Rule of Procedure in Cases of Civil Forfeiture, Asset Preservation, and
Freezing of Monetary Instrument, Property, or Proceeds Representing, Involving, or
Relating to an Unlawful Activity or Money Laundering Offense under Republic Act
No. 9160, as Amended for submission to the Committee on the Revision of the Rules
of Court and eventual approval and promulgation of the Court en banc.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. Section 11 of Republic Act No. 9160, as
amended, is declared VALID and CONSTITUTIONAL.
SO ORDERED.
Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Brion, Bersamin, Del Castillo,
Mendoza, Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.
Peralta, J., no part.
Leonen, J., see separate concurring opinion.
Caguioa, J., on leave.
Endnotes:

* (On Leave).
1Rollo, pp. 3-46.
2 Fact-finding as preliminary investigation based on administrative supervision and

powers to investigate government officials, Section 5, Article XI of the Constitution,


Ombudsman Act of 1990.
3 In aid of legislation under Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution.
4Rollo, p. 10
5 Id. at 60.
6 Id. at 51.
7 Id. at 11.
8 Id. at 12-13.
9Dumlao v. Commission on Elections, 184 Phil. 369, 376-377 (1980).
10 Republic Act No. 9160 as amended by RA 10167.
11 CONSTITUTION, Article III, Sec. 1.
12Perez, et al. v. Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Co., et al., 602 Phil. 522, 545 (2009).
13 569 Phil. 98, 120-124 (2008).
14Republic of the Phils. v. Glasgow Credit and Collection Services, Inc., et al. 566 Phil. 94,

106-107 (2008).
15 Supra note 13 at 124-125.
16 Supra note 11 & 12.
17 Supra note 13 at 126.
18 379 Phil. 165 (2000).
19 Id. at 196-198.
20 G. R. No. 193964, December 2, 2015.
21 Rule 6.b. When the AMLC finds, after investigation, that there is probable cause to

charge any person with a money laundering offense under Section 4 of the AMLA,
as amended, it shall cause a complaint to be filed, pursuant to Section 7 (4) of the
AMLA, as amended, before the Department of Justice or the Office of the
Ombudsman, which shall then conduct the preliminary investigation of the case.
22 Rule 6.c If after due notice and hearing in the preliminary investigation

proceedings, the Department of Justice, or the Office of the Ombudsman, as the case
may be, finds probable cause for a money laundering offense, it shall file the
necessary information before the Regional Trial Courts or the Sadiganbayan.
23 Rule 5.a. Jurisdiction of Money Laundering Cases. The Regional Trial Courts

shall have the jurisdiction to try all cases on money laundering. Those committed by
public officers and private persons who are in conspiracy with such public officers
shall be under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan.
23-a 100 Phil. 1098 (1957).
24 Supra note 18 at 198-200.
25 G.R. No. 182573, April 23, 2014, 723 SCRA 512, 522-523.
26 Rule 5.b. Investigation of Money Laundering Offenses.- The AMLC shall

investigate:
(1) suspicious transactions;
(2) covered transactions deemed suspicious after an investigation conducted by the
AMLC;
(3) money laundering activities; and
(4) other violations of the AMLA, as amended.
27 G.R. No. 212140-41, January-21, 2015.
28 Recommended Citation, Robert S. Pasley, Privacy Rights v. Anti-Money Laundering

Enforcement, I 6 N.C. Banking Inst. 147 (2002).


29 Supra note 13 at 127-132.
30 Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) of 1955, RA No. 1405.
31BSB Group, Inc. v. Go, 626 Phil. 501 (2010).
32 Supra note 30 at 513; Sec. 2 of the BSA.
33 705 Phil. 477, 501-502 (2013).
34 Supra note 13 at 127.
35 Id. at 120.
36Republic of the Philippines v. Roque, 718 Phil. 294, 303 (2013).
37Villanueva v. Mayor Ople, 512 Phil. 187 (2005).
38Velarde v. Social Justice Society, 472 Phil. 285, 302 (2004)
39 369 U.S. 186 (1962), cited in Francisco, Jr. v. The House of Representatives, 460 Phil.

830, 890- 891 (2003).


40See note 13 at 124-125.
41 Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9160 as amended by RA 9194 and RA

10167;
Rule 3.e.3. "Related Accounts" are those accounts, the funds and sources of which
originated from and/or are materially linked to the monetary instruments or
properties subject of the freeze order.
Rule 3.e.3.a. Materially linked accounts include but are not limited to the following:
(1) All accounts or monetary instruments belonging to the same person whose
accounts, monetary instruments or properties are the subject of the freeze
order;

(2) All accounts or monetary instruments held, owned or controlled by the


owner or holder of the accounts, monetary instruments or properties subject
of the freeze order, whether such accounts are held, owned or controlled
singly or jointly with another person;

(3) All accounts or monetary instruments the funds of which are transferred to
the accounts, monetary instruments or properties subject of the freeze order
without any legal or trade obligation, purpose or economic justification;

(4) All "In Trust For" (lTF) accounts where the person whose accounts, monetary
instruments or properties are the subject of the freeze order is either the
trustee or the trustor;

(5) All accounts held for the benefit or in the interest of the person whose
accounts, monetary instruments or properties are the subject of the freeze
order;

(6) All accounts or monetary instruments under the name of the immediate
family or household members of the person whose accounts, monetary
instruments or properties are the subject of the freeze order if the amount or
value involved is not commensurate with the business or financial capacity
of the said family or household member;

(7) All accounts of corporate and juridical entities that are substantially owned,
controlled or effectively controlled by the person whose accounts, monetary
instruments or properties are subject of the freeze order;

(8) All shares or units in any investment accounts and/or pooled funds of the
person whose accounts, monetary instruments or properties are subject of
the freeze order; and

(9) All other accounts, shares, units or monetary instruments that are similar,
analogous or identical to any of the foregoing.
42 Supra note 31 at 514-515.
43 Supra note 33 at 483.
44 Supra note 13 at 122.
45 Id. at 127.
46Rule 10.c. Duty of Covered Institutions upon receipt thereof. -
Rule 10.c.1. Upon receipt of the notice of the freeze order, the covered institution
concerned shall immediately freeze the monetary instrument or property and related
accounts subject thereof.
Rule 10.c.2. The covered institution shall likewise immediately furnish a copy of the
notice of the freeze order upon the owner or holder of the monetary instrument or
property or related accounts subject thereof.
Rule 10.c.3. Within twenty-four (24) hours from receipt of the freeze order, the
covered institution concerned shall submit to the Court of Appeals and the AMLC,
by personal delivery, a detailed written return on the freeze order, specifying all the
pertinent and relevant information which shall include the following:
(a) the account numbers;

(b) the names of the account owners or holders;

(c) the amount of the monetary instrument, property or related accounts as of


the time they were frozen;

(d) all relevant information as to the nature of the monetary instrument or


property;

(e) any information on the related accounts pertaining to the monetary


instrument or property subject of the freeze order; and

(f) the time when the freeze thereon took effect.

CONCURRING OPINION
LEONEN, J.:
I concur in the result. It is my honor to do so considering that the majority opinion is
the final ponencia for this Court En Banc of our esteemed colleague Justice Jose P.
Perez.
I join the unanimous declaration that, based on the challenges posed by the present
petitions and only within its ambient facts, Section 11 of Republic Act No. 9160 or
the Anti-Money Laundering Act is not unconstitutional. Further, that we are
unanimous in declaring that the depositor has no right to demand that it be notified
of any application or issuance of an order to inquire into his or her bank deposit. The
procedure in the Court of Appeals is ex parte but requires proof of probable cause of
the occurrence of the predicate crime as well as the potential liability of the owner of
the deposit.
After the inquiry of the bank deposits and related accounts within the limitations
contained in the court order, it is still the option of the law enforcers or the Anti-
Money Laundering Council, to proceed to request for a Freeze Order in accordance
with Section 10 of the same law. The depositor is, thus, entitled to be informed only
after the freeze order has been issued. In questioning the freeze order, the depositor
may then raise defenses relating to the existence of sufficient evidence to lead the
court to believe that there is probable cause that a covered crime has occurred, that
the depositor is a participant in the crime, and that the stay of all transactions with
respect to the bank account is essential in order to preserve evidence or to keep the
proceeds of the crime intact for and on behalf of the victims.
I differ with the premises used to arrive at the same conclusion.
I
The numbers on a bank's ledger corresponding to the amounts of money that a
depositor has and its various transactions, especially when digitized, are definitely
not physical. Yet, just because they are not physical does not necessarily mean that
they do not partake of the kinds of "life, liberty, or property"1protected by the due
process clause of the Constitution. Neither should it mean that the numerical
equivalent of the bank's debt to a depositor or the record of its various transactions
have nothing to do with the "persons . . . papers, and effects"2 constitutionally
protected against "unreasonable searches and seizures."3 The majority opinion's
statement that the "inquiry by the [Anti-Money Laundering Council] into certain
bank deposits and investments does not violate substantive due process, there being
no physical seizure of property involved at that stage"4 may have been inadvertent.
It does, however, neglect that the penumbra of rights protected by the due process
clause and the proscription against unreasonable searches and seizures also pertains
to protecting the intangibles essential to human life. Definitely, every liberal
democratic constitutional order has outgrown the archaic concept that life is only
that which can be tangible.
The due process clause is crafted as a proscription. Thus, it states that "[n]o person
shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law[.]"5 This
means that there is a sphere of individual existence or a penumbra of individual
autonomy that exists prior to every regulation that should primordially be left
untouched. In other words, the existence of what Louis D. Brandeis and Samuel D.
Warren once called "the right to be let alone"6 is now broadly, though at times
awkwardly referred to roughly as the right to privacy, presumed. Every regulation
therefore that limits this aspect of individuality may be the subject of inquiry that it
does not "deprive" one of their "life, liberty or property" without "due process of
law".
Thus, in the often cited writings of Warren and Brandeis as early as 1890 on the right
to privacy:
That the individual shall have full protection in person and in property is a principle
as old as the common law; but it has been found necessary from time to time to
define anew the exact nature and extent of such protection. Political, social, and
economic changes entail the recognition of new rights, and the common law, in its
eternal youth, grows to meet the demands of society. Thus, in very early times, the
law gave a remedy only for physical interference with life and property, for
trespasses vi et armis. Then the "right to life" served only to protect the subject from
battery in its various forms; liberty meant freedom from actual restraint; and the
right to property secured to the individual his lands and his cattle. Later, there came
a recognition of man's spiritual nature, of his feelings and his intellect. Gradually the
scope of these legal rights broadened; and now the right to life has come to mean the
right to enjoy life, the right to be let alone; the right to liberty secures the exercise
of extensive civil privileges; and the term "property" has grown to comprise every
form of possession intangible, as well as tangible.
Thus, with the recognition of the legal value of sensations, the protection against
actual bodily injury was extended to prohibit mere attempts to do such injury; that
is, the putting another in fear of such injury. From the action of battery grew that of
assault. Much later there came a qualified protection of the individual against
offensive noises and odors, against dust and smoke, and excessive vibration. The law
of nuisance was developed. So regard for human emotions soon extended the scope
of personal immunity beyond the body of the individual. His reputation, the
standing among his fellow-men, was considered, and the law of slander and libel
arose. Man's family relations became a part of the legal conception of his life, and the
alienation of a wife's affections was held remediable. Occasionally the law halted,
as in its refusal to recognize the intrusion by seduction upon the honor of the family.
But even here the demands of society were met. A mean fiction, the action per quod
servitium amisit, was resorted to, and by allowing damages for injury to the parents'
feelings, an adequate remedy was ordinarily afforded. Similar to the expansion of
the right to life was the growth of the legal conception of property. From corporeal
property arose the incorporeal rights issuing out of it; and then there opened the
wide realm of intangible property, in the products and processes of the mind, as
works of literature and art, goodwill, trade secrets, and trademarks.
This development of the law was inevitable.7 (Citations omitted)
Nothing in the structure of the due process clause limits the protected sphere of
individual existence or autonomy only to the physical or corporeal aspects of life.
After all, as we have long held, life is not limited only to physical
existence.8 Property can be incorporeal.9 Liberty denotes something more than just
freedom from physical restraint.
More fundamentally, the reservation of a very broad sphere of individual privacy or
individual autonomy is implied in the very concept of society governed under a
constitutional and democratic order. The aspects of our humanity and the parts of
our liberty surrendered to the government, in order to assure a functioning society,
should only be as much as necessary for a just society and no more. While the extent
of necessary surrender cannot be determined with precision, our existing doctrine is
that any state interference should neither be arbitrary nor unfair. In many cases, we
have held that due process of law simply means that regulation should both be
reasonable and fair.
Reasonability and fairness is tentatively captured in the twin legal concepts of
substantive and procedural due process respectively. Substantive due process is
usually, though not in all cases, a nuanced means-to-end test. Basically, this means
that the regulation which impinges on individual autonomy is necessary to meet a
legitimate state interest to be protected through means that can logically relate to
achieving that end.10 Procedural due process is succinctly and most descriptively
captured in the idea that in the kinds of deprivation of rights where it would be
relevant, there should be an opportunity to be heard.11
In the due process clause, there is the requirement of "deprivation" of one's right to
"life, liberty or property." In my view, this means more than the occasional and
temporary discomforts we suffer, which is consistent with the natural workings of
groups of human beings living within a society. De minimis discomfort is a part of
group life, independent of the workings of the State. The deprivation that may
trigger a judicial inquiry should be more than momentary. It must be fundamentally
disruptive of a value that we protect because it is constitutive of our concept of
individual autonomy.
For instance, a person who chooses to walk down a public street cannot complain
that a police officer glances or even stares at him or her. The discomfort of being the
subject of the observation by others, under those circumstances, may be too fleeting
and trivial that it should not cause any constitutional query. That we look at each
other in public spaces is inherently a part of existing within a society. After all, one
of the worst human indignities may be that we are rendered invisible to everyone for
all time within public spaces.
On the other hand, the uninvited and unwelcome peering eyes of the State's agents
as we reside in our most private spaces presumptively violates our right to life,
liberty, and even our property. In such cases, even the most fleeting act of voyeurism
can cause substantial disruption of our collective values. Certainly, there is reason to
trigger judicial inquiry. If the intrusion is unreasonable, it violates the constitutional
protection of the due process clause.
Examining the petitioner's bank accounts is analogous to the situation involving the
uninvited and unwelcome glance. For some, their financial worth contained in the
bank's ledgers may not be physical, but it is constitutive of that part of their identity,
which for their own reasons, they may not want to disclose. Peering into one's bank
accounts and related transactions is sufficiently disruptive as to be considered a
"deprivation" within the meaning of the due process clause. It may be short of the
physical seizure of property but it should, in an actual controversy such as this case
at bar, be subject of judicial review.
I disagree with the majority's opinion that bank accounts do not have any "legitimate
expectation of privacy[.]"12 I believe that such opinion may be too broad a reading
of Republic v. Hon. Judge Eugenio, Jr., et al.13 It is true that no bank account or
investment can be made without the cooperation of those who work with financial
intermediaries. The possibility that there are those, who may come across personal
financial information, should not be the measure of what may be "legitimate
expectation" in a constitutional sense. We should start to distinguish between
knowledge of the content of these accounts, storage of these information, exchange
of data, and making public disclosures.
What we deal with when the Court of Appeals allows inquiry is simply providing
the Anti-Money Laundering Council or the appropriate law enforcement agency
with access to knowledge of the content of these accounts. The limits of its storage,
how it is exchanged, and making public disclosures are another matter. Nothing in
this decision should be used to imply the nature of the right to privacy or the factors
to be considered to establish "legitimate expectation of privacy" as it applies to
storage, exchange, and public disclosures of information.
The truth is that most of today's digital data is vulnerable to one who is curious
enough, exceedingly determined, skillful, and willing to deploy the necessary time
and resources to make discovery of our most private information. Ubiquitous
surveillance systems that ensure the integrity as well as increase confidence in the
security of the data kept in a system are ever present. Copying or transferring digital
data occurs likewise with phenomenal speed. Data shared in cyberspace also tends
to be resilient and difficult to completely delete. Users of various digital platforms,
including bank accounts, are not necessarily aware of these vulnerabilities.
Therefore, the concept of "legitimate expectation of privacy" as the framework for
assessing whether personal information fall within the constitutionally protected
penumbra need to be carefully reconsidered. In my view, the protected spheres of
privacy will make better sense when our jurisprudence in the appropriate cases
make clear how specific types of information relate to personal identity and why this
is valuable to assure human dignity and a robust democracy in the context of a
constitutional order.
II
A bank inquiry order is a provisional relief available to the Anti-Money Laundering
Council in aid of its investigative powers. It partakes of the character of a search
warrant.
United Laboratories Inc. v. Isip14 discussed the nature of a search warrant:
On the first issue, we agree with the petitioner's contention that a search warrant
proceeding is, in no sense, a criminal action or the commencement of a
prosecution. The proceeding is not one against any person, but is solely for the discovery
and to get possession of personal property. It is a special and peculiar remedy, drastic in
nature, and made necessary because of public necessity. It resembles in some respect with
what is commonly known as John Doe proceedings. While an application for a
search warrant is entitled like a criminal action, it does not make it such an action.
A search warrant is a legal process which has been likened to a writ of discovery employed by
the State to procure relevant evidence of crime. It is in the nature of a criminal process,
restricted to cases of public prosecutions. A search warrant is a police weapon, issued
under the police power. A search warrant must issue in the name of the State,
namely, the People of the Philippines.
A search warrant has no relation to a civil process. It is not a process for adjudicating
civil rights or maintaining mere private rights. It concerns the public at large as
distinguished from the ordinary civil action involving the rights of private persons.
It may only be applied for in the furtherance of public prosecution.15 (Emphasis
supplied, citations omitted)
In a search warrant proceeding, there is already a crime that has been committed
and law enforcers apply for a search warrant to find evidence to support a case or to
retrieve and preserve evidence already known to them.
In the same way, a bank inquiry order is "a means for the government to ascertain
whether there is sufficient evidence to sustain an intended prosecution of the
account holder for violation of the [Anti-Money Laundering Act]."16 It is a
preparatory tool for the discovery and procurement, and preservation through
the subsequent issuance of a freeze order of relevant evidence of a money
laundering transaction or activity.
Considering its implications on the depositor's right to privacy, Section 11 of the
Anti-Money Laundering Act explicitly mandates that "[t]he authority to inquire into
or examine the main account and the related accounts shall comply with the
requirements of Article III, Sections 2 and 3 of the 1987 Constitution[.]"
Article III, Section II of the Constitution states:
SECTION 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for
any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall
issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after
examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may
produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or
things to be seized.
"The phrase 'upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after
examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may
produce' allows a determination of probable cause by the judge [or the Court of
Appeals in Anti-Money Laundering Act cases] ex parte." 17
In People v. Delos Reyes,18 the Court held that due to the ex parte and non-adversarial
nature of the proceedings, "the [j]udge acting on an application for a search warrant
is not bound to apply strictly the rules of evidence."19
The ordinary rules of evidence are generally not applied in ex parte proceedings, partly
because there is no opponent to invoke them, partly because the Judge's determination is
usually discretionary, partly because it is seldom that, but mainly because the system of
evidence rules was devised for the special control of trials by jury.20(Emphasis supplied)
"The existence [of probable cause] depends to a large degree upon the finding or
opinion of the judge [or magistrate] conducting the examination."21 "However, the
findings of the judge [or magistrate] should not disregard the facts before him nor
run counter to the clear dictates of reason."22
Search warrant proceedings are ex parte because of the necessities of the
investigation. La Chemise Lacoste, S.A. v. Hon. Fernandez, etc. et al.,23 states:
... an application for a search warrant is heard ex parte. It is neither a trial nor a part of
the trial. Action on these applications must be expedited for time is of the essence. Great
reliance has to be accorded by the judge to the testimonies under oath of the complainant and
the witnesses.24 (Emphasis supplied)
Similarly, it is essential that investigations for Anti-Money Laundering Act offenses,
including the proceedings for the issuance of bank inquiry orders, be kept ex parte, in
order not to frustrate the State's effort in building its case and eventually prosecuting
money laundering offenses.
III
The absence of notice to the owner of a bank account that an ex parte application as
well as an order to inquire has been granted by the Court of Appeals is not
unreasonable nor arbitrary. The lack of notice does not violate the due process clause
of the Constitution.
It is reasonable for the State, through its law enforcers, to inquire ex parte and
without notice because of the nature of a bank account at present.
A bank deposit is an obligation. It is a debt owed by a bank to its client-depositor. It
is understood that the bank will make use of the value of the money deposited to
further create credit. This means that it may use the value to create loans with
interest to another. Whoever takes out a loan likewise creates a deposit with another
bank creating another obligation and empowering that other bank to create credit
once mere through providing other loans.
Bank deposits are not isolated information similar to personal sets of preferences.
Rather, bank deposits exist as economically essential social constructs. The inherent
constitutionally protected private rights in bank deposits and other similar
instruments are not absolute. These rights should, in proper cases, be weighed
against the need to maintaining the integrity of our financial system. The integrity of
our financial system on the other hand contributes to the viability of banks and
financial intermediaries, and therefore the viability of keeping bank deposits.
Furthermore, we are at an age of instantaneous financial transactions. It would be
practically impossible to locate, preserve, and later on present evidence of crimes
covered by the Anti-Money Laundering Act if the theory of the petitioner is correct.
After all, as correctly pointed out by the majority opinion, the right to information
accrues only after a freeze order is issued. It is then that limitations on the ability to
transact the value of the bank account will truly affect the depositor.
Accordingly, with these clarifications, I vote to DENY the Petition.
JOSE JESUS M. DISINI, JR., ROWENA S. DISINI, LIANNE IVY P. MEDINA,
JANETTE TORAL and ERNESTO SONIDO, JR., Petitioners,
vs.
THE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE, THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF
THE INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
OF THE INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY OFFICE,
THE CHIEF OF THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE and THE DIRECTOR OF
THE NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, Respondents.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 203299
LOUIS "BAROK" C. BIRAOGO, Petitioner,
vs.
NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION and PHILIPPINE NATIONAL
POLICE, Respondents.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 203306
ALAB NG MAMAMAHAYAG (ALAM), HUKUMAN NG MAMAMAYAN
MOVEMENT, INC., JERRY S. YAP, BERTENI "TOTO" CAUSING, HERNANI Q.
CUARE, PERCY LAPID, TRACY CABRERA, RONALDO E. RENTA, CIRILO P.
SABARRE, JR., DERVIN CASTRO, ET AL., Petitioners,
vs.
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, represented by President Benigno Simeon Aquino
III, SENATE OF THE PHILIPPINES, and HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES, Respondents.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 203359
SENATOR TEOFISTO DL GUINGONA III, Petitioner,
vs.
EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, THE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE, THE SECRETARY
OF THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, THE
CHIEF OF THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE, and DIRECTOR OF THE
NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, Respondents.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 203378
ALEXANDER ADONIS, ELLEN TORDESILLAS, MA. GISELA ORDENES-
CASCOLAN, H. HARRY L. ROQUE, JR., ROMEL R. BAGARES, and GILBERT T.
ANDRES, Petitioners,
vs.
THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, THE DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND
MANAGEMENT, THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, THE DEPARTMENT OF
THE INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, THE NATIONAL BUREAU OF
INVESTIGATION, THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE, AND THE
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY OFFICE-
DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, Respondents.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 203391
HON. RAYMOND V. PALATINO, HON. ANTONIO TINIO, VENCER MARI
CRISOSTOMO OF ANAKBAYAN, MA. KATHERINE ELONA OF THE
PHILIPPINE COLLEGIAN, ISABELLE THERESE BAGUISI OF THE NATIONAL
UNION OF STUDENTS OF THE PHILIPPINES, ET AL., Petitioners,
vs.
PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR., in his capacity as Executive Secretary and alter-ego of
President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, LEILA DE LIMA in her capacity as
Secretary of Justice, Respondents.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 203407
BAGONG ALYANSANG MAKABAYAN SECRETARY GENERAL RENATO M.
REYES, JR., National Artist BIENVENIDO L. LUMBERA, Chairperson of
Concerned Artists of the Philippines, ELMER C. LABOG, Chairperson of
Kilusang Mayo Uno, CRISTINA E. PALABAY, Secretary General of Karapatan,
FERDINAND R. GAITE, Chairperson of COURAGE, JOEL B. MAGLUNSOD,
Vice President of Anakpawis Party-List, LANA R. LINABAN, Secretary General
Gabriela Women's Party, ADOLFO ARES P. GUTIERREZ, and JULIUS GARCIA
MATIBAG, Petitioners,
vs.
BENIGNO SIMEON C. AQUINO III, President of the Republic of the
Philippines, PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR., Executive Secretary, SENATE OF THE
PHILIPPINES, represented by SENATE PRESIDENT JUAN PONCE ENRILE,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, represented by SPEAKER FELICIANO
BELMONTE, JR., LEILA DE LIMA, Secretary of the Department of Justice, LOUIS
NAPOLEON C. CASAMBRE, Executive Director of the Information and
Communications Technology Office, NONNATUS CAESAR R. ROJAS, Director
of the National Bureau of Investigation, D/GEN. NICANOR A. BARTOLOME,
Chief of the Philippine National Police, MANUEL A. ROXAS II, Secretary of the
Department of the Interior and Local Government, Respondents.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 203440
MELENCIO S. STA. MARIA, SEDFREY M. CANDELARIA, AMPARITA STA.
MARIA, RAY PAOLO J. SANTIAGO, GILBERT V. SEMBRANO, and RYAN
JEREMIAH D. QUAN (all of the Ateneo Human Rights Center), Petitioners,
vs.
HONORABLE PAQUITO OCHOA in his capacity as Executive Secretary,
HONORABLE LEILA DE LIMA in her capacity as Secretary of Justice,
HONORABLE MANUEL ROXAS in his capacity as Secretary of the Department
of Interior and Local Government, The CHIEF of the Philippine National Police,
The DIRECTOR of the National Bureau of Investigation (all of the Executive
Department of Government), Respondents.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 203453
NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS OF THE PHILIPPINES (NUJP),
PHILIPPINE PRESS INSTITUTE (PPI), CENTER FOR MEDIA FREEDOM AND
RESPONSIBILITY, ROWENA CARRANZA PARAAN, MELINDA QUINTOS-DE
JESUS, JOSEPH ALWYN ALBURO, ARIEL SEBELLINO AND THE
PETITIONERS IN THE e-PETITION http://www.nujp.org/no-to-
ra10175/, Petitioners,
vs.
THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, THE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE, THE
SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, THE
SECRETARY OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT, THE DIRECTOR GENERAL
OF THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE, THE DIRECTOR OF THE
NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, THE CYBERCRIME
INVESTIGATION AND COORDINATING CENTER, AND ALL AGENCIES
AND INSTRUMENTALITIES OF GOVERNMENT AND ALL PERSONS
ACTING UNDER THEIR INSTRUCTIONS, ORDERS, DIRECTION IN
RELATION TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF REPUBLIC ACT NO.
10175, Respondents.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 203454
PAUL CORNELIUS T. CASTILLO & RYAN D. ANDRES, Petitioners,
vs.
THE HON. SECRETARY OF JUSTICE THE HON. SECRETARY OF INTERIOR
AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, Respondents.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 203469
ANTHONY IAN M. CRUZ; MARCELO R. LANDICHO; BENJAMIN NOEL A.
ESPINA; MARCK RONALD C. RIMORIN; JULIUS D. ROCAS; OLIVER
RICHARD V. ROBILLO; AARON ERICK A. LOZADA; GERARD ADRIAN P.
MAGNAYE; JOSE REGINALD A. RAMOS; MA. ROSARIO T. JUAN;
BRENDALYN P. RAMIREZ; MAUREEN A. HERMITANIO; KRISTINE JOY S.
REMENTILLA; MARICEL O. GRAY; JULIUS IVAN F. CABIGON; BENRALPH S.
YU; CEBU BLOGGERS SOCIETY, INC. PRESIDENT RUBEN B. LICERA, JR; and
PINOY EXPAT/OFW BLOG AWARDS, INC. COORDINATOR PEDRO E.
RAHON; Petitioners,
vs.
HIS EXCELLENCY BENIGNO S. AQUINO III, in his capacity as President of the
Republic of the Philippines; SENATE OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by
HON. JUAN PONCE ENRILE, in his capacity as Senate President; HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES, represented by FELICIANO R. BELMONTE, JR., in his
capacity as Speaker of the House of Representatives; HON. PAQUITO N.
OCHOA, JR., in his capacity as Executive Secretary; HON. LEILA M. DE LIMA, in
her capacity as Secretary of Justice; HON. LOUIS NAPOLEON C. CASAMBRE, in
his capacity as Executive Director, Information and Communications Technology
Office; HON. NONNATUS CAESAR R. ROJAS, in his capacity as Director,
National Bureau of Investigation; and P/DGEN. NICANOR A. BARTOLOME, in
his capacity as Chief, Philippine National Police, Respondents.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 203501
PHILIPPINE BAR ASSOCIATION, INC., Petitioner,
vs.
HIS EXCELLENCY BENIGNO S. AQUINO III, in his official capacity as President
of the Republic of the Philippines; HON. PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR., in his
official capacity as Executive Secretary; HON. LEILA M. DE LIMA, in her official
capacity as Secretary of Justice; LOUIS NAPOLEON C. CASAMBRE, in his
official capacity as Executive Director, Information and Communications
Technology Office; NONNATUS CAESAR R. ROJAS, in his official capacity as
Director of the National Bureau of Investigation; and DIRECTOR GENERAL
NICANOR A. BARTOLOME, in his official capacity as Chief of the Philippine
National Police, Respondents.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 203509
BAYAN MUNA REPRESENTATIVE NERI J. COLMENARES, Petitioner,
vs.
THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY PAQUITO OCHOA, JR., Respondent.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 203515
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB OF THE PHILIPPINES, INC. represented by BENNY
D. ANTIPORDA in his capacity as President and in his personal
capacity, Petitioner,
vs.
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, PRES. BENIGNO SIMEON AQUINO III,
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR AND LOCAL
GOVERNMENT, PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE, NATIONAL BUREAU OF
INVESTIGATION, DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT AND
ALL OTHER GOVERNMENT INSTRUMENTALITIES WHO HAVE HANDS IN
THE PASSAGE AND/OR IMPLEMENTATION OF REPUBLIC ACT
10175, Respondents.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 203518
PHILIPPINE INTERNET FREEDOM ALLIANCE, composed of DAKILA-
PHILIPPINE COLLECTIVE FOR MODERN HEROISM, represented by Leni
Velasco, PARTIDO LAKAS NG MASA, represented by Cesar S. Melencio,
FRANCIS EUSTON R. ACERO, MARLON ANTHONY ROMASANTA
TONSON, TEODORO A. CASIO, NOEMI LARDIZABAL-DADO, IMELDA
ORALES, JAMES MATTHEW B. MIRAFLOR, JUAN G.M. RAGRAGIO, MARIA
FATIMA A. VILLENA, MEDARDO M. MANRIQUE, JR., LAUREN DADO,
MARCO VITTORIA TOBIAS SUMAYAO, IRENE CHIA, ERASTUS NOEL T.
DELIZO, CRISTINA SARAH E. OSORIO, ROMEO FACTOLERIN, NAOMI L.
TUPAS, KENNETH KENG, ANA ALEXANDRA C. CASTRO, Petitioners,
vs.
THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, THE SECRETARY OF JUSTICE, THE
SECRETARY OF INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, THE SECRETARY
OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY OFFICE, THE DIRECTOR OF THE
NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, THE CHIEF, PHILIPPINE
NATIONAL POLICE, THE HEAD OF THE DOJ OFFICE OF CYBERCRIME, and
THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE CYBERCRIME INVESTIGATION AND
COORDINATING CENTER, Respondents.
DECISION
ABAD, J.:
These consolidated petitions seek to declare several provisions of Republic Act
(R.A.) 10175, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, unconstitutional and void.
The Facts and the Case
The cybercrime law aims to regulate access to and use of the cyberspace. Using his
laptop or computer, a person can connect to the internet, a system that links him to
other computers and enable him, among other things, to:
1. Access virtual libraries and encyclopedias for all kinds of information that
he needs for research, study, amusement, upliftment, or pure curiosity;
2. Post billboard-like notices or messages, including pictures and videos, for
the general public or for special audiences like associates, classmates, or
friends and read postings from them;
3. Advertise and promote goods or services and make purchases and
payments;
4. Inquire and do business with institutional entities like government
agencies, banks, stock exchanges, trade houses, credit card companies, public
utilities, hospitals, and schools; and
5. Communicate in writing or by voice with any person through his e-mail
address or telephone.
This is cyberspace, a system that accommodates millions and billions of
simultaneous and ongoing individual accesses to and uses of the internet. The
cyberspace is a boon to the need of the current generation for greater information
and facility of communication. But all is not well with the system since it could not
filter out a number of persons of ill will who would want to use cyberspace
technology for mischiefs and crimes. One of them can, for instance, avail himself of
the system to unjustly ruin the reputation of another or bully the latter by posting
defamatory statements against him that people can read.
And because linking with the internet opens up a user to communications from
others, the ill-motivated can use the cyberspace for committing theft by hacking into
or surreptitiously accessing his bank account or credit card or defrauding him
through false representations. The wicked can use the cyberspace, too, for illicit
trafficking in sex or for exposing to pornography guileless children who have access
to the internet. For this reason, the government has a legitimate right to regulate the
use of cyberspace and contain and punish wrongdoings.
Notably, there are also those who would want, like vandals, to wreak or cause havoc
to the computer systems and networks of indispensable or highly useful institutions
as well as to the laptop or computer programs and memories of innocent
individuals. They accomplish this by sending electronic viruses or virtual dynamites
that destroy those computer systems, networks, programs, and memories. The
government certainly has the duty and the right to prevent these tomfooleries from
happening and punish their perpetrators, hence the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
But petitioners claim that the means adopted by the cybercrime law for regulating
undesirable cyberspace activities violate certain of their constitutional rights. The
government of course asserts that the law merely seeks to reasonably put order into
cyberspace activities, punish wrongdoings, and prevent hurtful attacks on the
system.
Pending hearing and adjudication of the issues presented in these cases, on February
5, 2013 the Court extended the original 120-day temporary restraining order (TRO)
that it earlier issued on October 9, 2012, enjoining respondent government agencies
from implementing the cybercrime law until further orders.
The Issues Presented
Petitioners challenge the constitutionality of the following provisions of the
cybercrime law that regard certain acts as crimes and impose penalties for their
commission as well as provisions that would enable the government to track down
and penalize violators. These provisions are:
a. Section 4(a)(1) on Illegal Access;
b. Section 4(a)(3) on Data Interference;
c. Section 4(a)(6) on Cyber-squatting;
d. Section 4(b)(3) on Identity Theft;
e. Section 4(c)(1) on Cybersex;
f. Section 4(c)(2) on Child Pornography;
g. Section 4(c)(3) on Unsolicited Commercial Communications;
h. Section 4(c)(4) on Libel;
i. Section 5 on Aiding or Abetting and Attempt in the Commission of
Cybercrimes;
j. Section 6 on the Penalty of One Degree Higher;
k. Section 7 on the Prosecution under both the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and
R.A. 10175;
l. Section 8 on Penalties;
m. Section 12 on Real-Time Collection of Traffic Data;
n. Section 13 on Preservation of Computer Data;
o. Section 14 on Disclosure of Computer Data;
p. Section 15 on Search, Seizure and Examination of Computer Data;
q. Section 17 on Destruction of Computer Data;
r. Section 19 on Restricting or Blocking Access to Computer Data;
s. Section 20 on Obstruction of Justice;
t. Section 24 on Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC);
and
u. Section 26(a) on CICCs Powers and Functions.
Some petitioners also raise the constitutionality of related Articles 353, 354, 361, and
362 of the RPC on the crime of libel.
The Rulings of the Court
Section 4(a)(1)
Section 4(a)(1) provides:
Section 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of
cybercrime punishable under this Act:
(a) Offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data
and systems:
(1) Illegal Access. The access to the whole or any part of a computer system
without right.
Petitioners contend that Section 4(a)(1) fails to meet the strict scrutiny standard
required of laws that interfere with the fundamental rights of the people and should
thus be struck down.
The Court has in a way found the strict scrutiny standard, an American
constitutional construct,1 useful in determining the constitutionality of laws that
tend to target a class of things or persons. According to this standard, a legislative
classification that impermissibly interferes with the exercise of fundamental right or
operates to the peculiar class disadvantage of a suspect class is presumed
unconstitutional. The burden is on the government to prove that the classification is
necessary to achieve a compelling state interest and that it is the least restrictive
means to protect such interest.2 Later, the strict scrutiny standard was used to assess
the validity of laws dealing with the regulation of speech, gender, or race as well as
other fundamental rights, as expansion from its earlier applications to equal
protection.3
In the cases before it, the Court finds nothing in Section 4(a)(1) that calls for the
application of the strict scrutiny standard since no fundamental freedom, like
speech, is involved in punishing what is essentially a condemnable act accessing
the computer system of another without right. It is a universally condemned
conduct.4
Petitioners of course fear that this section will jeopardize the work of ethical hackers,
professionals who employ tools and techniques used by criminal hackers but would
neither damage the target systems nor steal information. Ethical hackers evaluate the
target systems security and report back to the owners the vulnerabilities they found
in it and give instructions for how these can be remedied. Ethical hackers are the
equivalent of independent auditors who come into an organization to verify its
bookkeeping records.5
Besides, a clients engagement of an ethical hacker requires an agreement between
them as to the extent of the search, the methods to be used, and the systems to be
tested. This is referred to as the "get out of jail free card."6Since the ethical hacker
does his job with prior permission from the client, such permission would insulate
him from the coverage of Section 4(a)(1).
Section 4(a)(3) of the Cybercrime Law
Section 4(a)(3) provides:
Section 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of
cybercrime punishable under this Act:
(a) Offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data
and systems:
xxxx
(3) Data Interference. The intentional or reckless alteration, damaging, deletion or
deterioration of computer data, electronic document, or electronic data message,
without right, including the introduction or transmission of viruses.
Petitioners claim that Section 4(a)(3) suffers from overbreadth in that, while it seeks
to discourage data interference, it intrudes into the area of protected speech and
expression, creating a chilling and deterrent effect on these guaranteed freedoms.
Under the overbreadth doctrine, a proper governmental purpose, constitutionally
subject to state regulation, may not be achieved by means that unnecessarily sweep
its subject broadly, thereby invading the area of protected freedoms.7 But Section
4(a)(3) does not encroach on these freedoms at all. It simply punishes what
essentially is a form of vandalism,8 the act of willfully destroying without right the
things that belong to others, in this case their computer data, electronic document, or
electronic data message. Such act has no connection to guaranteed freedoms. There
is no freedom to destroy other peoples computer systems and private documents.
All penal laws, like the cybercrime law, have of course an inherent chilling effect, an
in terrorem effect9 or the fear of possible prosecution that hangs on the heads of
citizens who are minded to step beyond the boundaries of what is proper. But to
prevent the State from legislating criminal laws because they instill such kind of fear
is to render the state powerless in addressing and penalizing socially harmful
conduct.10 Here, the chilling effect that results in paralysis is an illusion since Section
4(a)(3) clearly describes the evil that it seeks to punish and creates no tendency to
intimidate the free exercise of ones constitutional rights.
Besides, the overbreadth challenge places on petitioners the heavy burden of
proving that under no set of circumstances will Section 4(a)(3) be valid.11 Petitioner
has failed to discharge this burden.
Section 4(a)(6) of the Cybercrime Law
Section 4(a)(6) provides:
Section 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of
cybercrime punishable under this Act:
(a) Offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data
and systems:
xxxx
(6) Cyber-squatting. The acquisition of domain name over the internet in bad faith
to profit, mislead, destroy the reputation, and deprive others from registering the
same, if such a domain name is:
(i) Similar, identical, or confusingly similar to an existing trademark
registered with the appropriate government agency at the time of the domain
name registration;
(ii) Identical or in any way similar with the name of a person other than the
registrant, in case of a personal name; and
(iii) Acquired without right or with intellectual property interests in it.
Petitioners claim that Section 4(a)(6) or cyber-squatting violates the equal protection
clause12 in that, not being narrowly tailored, it will cause a user using his real name
to suffer the same fate as those who use aliases or take the name of another in satire,
parody, or any other literary device. For example, supposing there exists a well
known billionaire-philanthropist named "Julio Gandolfo," the law would punish for
cyber-squatting both the person who registers such name because he claims it to be
his pseudo-name and another who registers the name because it happens to be his
real name. Petitioners claim that, considering the substantial distinction between the
two, the law should recognize the difference.
But there is no real difference whether he uses "Julio Gandolfo" which happens to be
his real name or use it as a pseudo-name for it is the evil purpose for which he uses
the name that the law condemns. The law is reasonable in penalizing him for
acquiring the domain name in bad faith to profit, mislead, destroy reputation, or
deprive others who are not ill-motivated of the rightful opportunity of registering
the same. The challenge to the constitutionality of Section 4(a)(6) on ground of denial
of equal protection is baseless.
Section 4(b)(3) of the Cybercrime Law
Section 4(b)(3) provides:
Section 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of
cybercrime punishable under this Act:
xxxx
b) Computer-related Offenses:
xxxx
(3) Computer-related Identity Theft. The intentional acquisition, use, misuse,
transfer, possession, alteration, or deletion of identifying information belonging to
another, whether natural or juridical, without right: Provided: that if no damage has
yet been caused, the penalty imposable shall be one (1) degree lower.
Petitioners claim that Section 4(b)(3) violates the constitutional rights to due process
and to privacy and correspondence, and transgresses the freedom of the press.
The right to privacy, or the right to be let alone, was institutionalized in the 1987
Constitution as a facet of the right protected by the guarantee against unreasonable
searches and seizures.13 But the Court acknowledged its existence as early as 1968 in
Morfe v. Mutuc,14 it ruled that the right to privacy exists independently of its
identification with liberty; it is in itself fully deserving of constitutional protection.
Relevant to any discussion of the right to privacy is the concept known as the "Zones
of Privacy." The Court explained in "In the Matter of the Petition for Issuance of Writ
of Habeas Corpus of Sabio v. Senator Gordon"15 the relevance of these zones to the
right to privacy:
Zones of privacy are recognized and protected in our laws. Within these zones, any
form of intrusion is impermissible unless excused by law and in accordance with
customary legal process. The meticulous regard we accord to these zones arises not
only from our conviction that the right to privacy is a "constitutional right" and "the
right most valued by civilized men," but also from our adherence to the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights which mandates that, "no one shall be subjected to
arbitrary interference with his privacy" and "everyone has the right to the protection
of the law against such interference or attacks."
Two constitutional guarantees create these zones of privacy: (a) the right against
unreasonable searches16 and seizures, which is the basis of the right to be let alone,
and (b) the right to privacy of communication and correspondence.17 In assessing the
challenge that the State has impermissibly intruded into these zones of privacy, a
court must determine whether a person has exhibited a reasonable expectation of
privacy and, if so, whether that expectation has been violated by unreasonable
government intrusion.18
The usual identifying information regarding a person includes his name, his
citizenship, his residence address, his contact number, his place and date of birth, the
name of his spouse if any, his occupation, and similar data.19 The law punishes those
who acquire or use such identifying information without right, implicitly to cause
damage. Petitioners simply fail to show how government effort to curb computer-
related identity theft violates the right to privacy and correspondence as well as the
right to due process of law.
Also, the charge of invalidity of this section based on the overbreadth doctrine will
not hold water since the specific conducts proscribed do not intrude into guaranteed
freedoms like speech. Clearly, what this section regulates are specific actions: the
acquisition, use, misuse or deletion of personal identifying data of another. There is
no fundamental right to acquire anothers personal data.
Further, petitioners fear that Section 4(b)(3) violates the freedom of the press in that
journalists would be hindered from accessing the unrestricted user account of a
person in the news to secure information about him that could be published. But this
is not the essence of identity theft that the law seeks to prohibit and punish.
Evidently, the theft of identity information must be intended for an illegitimate
purpose. Moreover, acquiring and disseminating information made public by the
user himself cannot be regarded as a form of theft.
The Court has defined intent to gain as an internal act which can be established
through the overt acts of the offender, and it may be presumed from the furtive
taking of useful property pertaining to another, unless special circumstances reveal a
different intent on the part of the perpetrator.20 As such, the press, whether in quest
of news reporting or social investigation, has nothing to fear since a special
circumstance is present to negate intent to gain which is required by this Section.
Section 4(c)(1) of the Cybercrime Law
Section 4(c)(1) provides:
Sec. 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of cybercrime
punishable under this Act:
xxxx
(c) Content-related Offenses:
(1) Cybersex. The willful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly
or indirectly, of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the
aid of a computer system, for favor or consideration.
Petitioners claim that the above violates the freedom of expression clause of the
Constitution.21 They express fear that private communications of sexual character
between husband and wife or consenting adults, which are not regarded as crimes
under the penal code, would now be regarded as crimes when done "for favor" in
cyberspace. In common usage, the term "favor" includes "gracious kindness," "a
special privilege or right granted or conceded," or "a token of love (as a ribbon)
usually worn conspicuously."22 This meaning given to the term "favor" embraces
socially tolerated trysts. The law as written would invite law enforcement agencies
into the bedrooms of married couples or consenting individuals.
But the deliberations of the Bicameral Committee of Congress on this section of the
Cybercrime Prevention Act give a proper perspective on the issue. These
deliberations show a lack of intent to penalize a "private showing x x x between and
among two private persons x x x although that may be a form of obscenity to
some."23 The understanding of those who drew up the cybercrime law is that the
element of "engaging in a business" is necessary to constitute the illegal
cybersex.24 The Act actually seeks to punish cyber prostitution, white slave trade,
and pornography for favor and consideration. This includes interactive prostitution
and pornography, i.e., by webcam.25
The subject of Section 4(c)(1)lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual
activityis not novel. Article 201 of the RPC punishes "obscene publications and
exhibitions and indecent shows." The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003
penalizes those who "maintain or hire a person to engage in prostitution or
pornography."26 The law defines prostitution as any act, transaction, scheme, or
design involving the use of a person by another, for sexual intercourse or lascivious
conduct in exchange for money, profit, or any other consideration.27
The case of Nogales v. People28 shows the extent to which the State can regulate
materials that serve no other purpose than satisfy the market for violence, lust, or
pornography.29 The Court weighed the property rights of individuals against the
public welfare. Private property, if containing pornographic materials, may be
forfeited and destroyed. Likewise, engaging in sexual acts privately through internet
connection, perceived by some as a right, has to be balanced with the mandate of the
State to eradicate white slavery and the exploitation of women.
In any event, consenting adults are protected by the wealth of jurisprudence
delineating the bounds of obscenity.30The Court will not declare Section 4(c)(1)
unconstitutional where it stands a construction that makes it apply only to persons
engaged in the business of maintaining, controlling, or operating, directly or
indirectly, the lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity with the aid of
a computer system as Congress has intended.
Section 4(c)(2) of the Cybercrime Law
Section 4(c)(2) provides:
Sec. 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of cybercrime
punishable under this Act:
xxxx
(c) Content-related Offenses:
xxxx
(2) Child Pornography. The unlawful or prohibited acts defined and punishable
by Republic Act No. 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, committed
through a computer system: Provided, That the penalty to be imposed shall be (1)
one degree higher than that provided for in Republic Act No. 9775.
It seems that the above merely expands the scope of the Anti-Child Pornography Act
of 200931 (ACPA) to cover identical activities in cyberspace. In theory, nothing
prevents the government from invoking the ACPA when prosecuting persons who
commit child pornography using a computer system. Actually, ACPAs definition of
child pornography already embraces the use of "electronic, mechanical, digital,
optical, magnetic or any other means." Notably, no one has questioned this ACPA
provision.
Of course, the law makes the penalty higher by one degree when the crime is
committed in cyberspace. But no one can complain since the intensity or duration of
penalty is a legislative prerogative and there is rational basis for such higher
penalty.32 The potential for uncontrolled proliferation of a particular piece of child
pornography when uploaded in the cyberspace is incalculable.
Petitioners point out that the provision of ACPA that makes it unlawful for any
person to "produce, direct, manufacture or create any form of child
pornography"33 clearly relates to the prosecution of persons who aid and abet the
core offenses that ACPA seeks to punish.34 Petitioners are wary that a person who
merely doodles on paper and imagines a sexual abuse of a 16-year-old is not
criminally liable for producing child pornography but one who formulates the idea
on his laptop would be. Further, if the author bounces off his ideas on Twitter,
anyone who replies to the tweet could be considered aiding and abetting a
cybercrime.
The question of aiding and abetting the offense by simply commenting on it will be
discussed elsewhere below. For now the Court must hold that the constitutionality
of Section 4(c)(2) is not successfully challenged.
Section 4(c)(3) of the Cybercrime Law
Section 4(c)(3) provides:
Sec. 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of cybercrime
punishable under this Act:
xxxx
(c) Content-related Offenses:
xxxx
(3) Unsolicited Commercial Communications. The transmission of commercial
electronic communication with the use of computer system which seeks to advertise,
sell, or offer for sale products and services are prohibited unless:
(i) There is prior affirmative consent from the recipient; or
(ii) The primary intent of the communication is for service and/or
administrative announcements from the sender to its existing users,
subscribers or customers; or
(iii) The following conditions are present:
(aa) The commercial electronic communication contains a simple,
valid, and reliable way for the recipient to reject receipt of further
commercial electronic messages (opt-out) from the same source;
(bb) The commercial electronic communication does not purposely
disguise the source of the electronic message; and
(cc) The commercial electronic communication does not purposely
include misleading information in any part of the message in order to
induce the recipients to read the message.
The above penalizes the transmission of unsolicited commercial communications,
also known as "spam." The term "spam" surfaced in early internet chat rooms and
interactive fantasy games. One who repeats the same sentence or comment was said
to be making a "spam." The term referred to a Monty Pythons Flying Circus scene in
which actors would keep saying "Spam, Spam, Spam, and Spam" when reading
options from a menu.35
The Government, represented by the Solicitor General, points out that unsolicited
commercial communications or spams are a nuisance that wastes the storage and
network capacities of internet service providers, reduces the efficiency of commerce
and technology, and interferes with the owners peaceful enjoyment of his property.
Transmitting spams amounts to trespass to ones privacy since the person sending
out spams enters the recipients domain without prior permission. The OSG
contends that commercial speech enjoys less protection in law.
But, firstly, the government presents no basis for holding that unsolicited electronic
ads reduce the "efficiency of computers." Secondly, people, before the arrival of the
age of computers, have already been receiving such unsolicited ads by mail. These
have never been outlawed as nuisance since people might have interest in such ads.
What matters is that the recipient has the option of not opening or reading these mail
ads. That is true with spams. Their recipients always have the option to delete or not
to read them.
To prohibit the transmission of unsolicited ads would deny a person the right to
read his emails, even unsolicited commercial ads addressed to him. Commercial
speech is a separate category of speech which is not accorded the same level of
protection as that given to other constitutionally guaranteed forms of expression but
is nonetheless entitled to protection.36 The State cannot rob him of this right without
violating the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. Unsolicited
advertisements are legitimate forms of expression.
Articles 353, 354, and 355 of the Penal Code
Section 4(c)(4) of the Cyber Crime Law
Petitioners dispute the constitutionality of both the penal code provisions on libel as
well as Section 4(c)(4) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act on cyberlibel.
The RPC provisions on libel read:
Art. 353. Definition of libel. A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime,
or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or
circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or
juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.
Art. 354. Requirement for publicity. Every defamatory imputation is presumed to
be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making
it is shown, except in the following cases:
1. A private communication made by any person to another in the
performance of any legal, moral or social duty; and
2. A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or
remarks, of any judicial, legislative or other official proceedings which are not
of confidential nature, or of any statement, report or speech delivered in said
proceedings, or of any other act performed by public officers in the exercise of
their functions.
Art. 355. Libel means by writings or similar means. A libel committed by means
of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical
exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means, shall be punished by
prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from 200
to 6,000 pesos, or both, in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the
offended party.
The libel provision of the cybercrime law, on the other hand, merely incorporates to
form part of it the provisions of the RPC on libel. Thus Section 4(c)(4) reads:
Sec. 4. Cybercrime Offenses. The following acts constitute the offense of
cybercrime punishable under this Act:
xxxx
(c) Content-related Offenses:
xxxx
(4) Libel. The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the
Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any
other similar means which may be devised in the future.
Petitioners lament that libel provisions of the penal code37 and, in effect, the libel
provisions of the cybercrime law carry with them the requirement of "presumed
malice" even when the latest jurisprudence already replaces it with the higher
standard of "actual malice" as a basis for conviction.38 Petitioners argue that inferring
"presumed malice" from the accuseds defamatory statement by virtue of Article 354
of the penal code infringes on his constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.
Petitioners would go further. They contend that the laws on libel should be stricken
down as unconstitutional for otherwise good jurisprudence requiring "actual malice"
could easily be overturned as the Court has done in Fermin v. People39 even where
the offended parties happened to be public figures.
The elements of libel are: (a) the allegation of a discreditable act or condition
concerning another; (b) publication of the charge; (c) identity of the person defamed;
and (d) existence of malice.40
There is "actual malice" or malice in fact41 when the offender makes the defamatory
statement with the knowledge that it is false or with reckless disregard of whether it
was false or not.42 The reckless disregard standard used here requires a high degree
of awareness of probable falsity. There must be sufficient evidence to permit the
conclusion that the accused in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of the
statement he published. Gross or even extreme negligence is not sufficient to
establish actual malice.43
The prosecution bears the burden of proving the presence of actual malice in
instances where such element is required to establish guilt. The defense of absence of
actual malice, even when the statement turns out to be false, is available where the
offended party is a public official or a public figure, as in the cases of Vasquez (a
barangay official) and Borjal (the Executive Director, First National Conference on
Land Transportation). Since the penal code and implicitly, the cybercrime law,
mainly target libel against private persons, the Court recognizes that these laws
imply a stricter standard of "malice" to convict the author of a defamatory statement
where the offended party is a public figure. Societys interest and the maintenance of
good government demand a full discussion of public affairs.44
Parenthetically, the Court cannot accept the proposition that its ruling in Fermin
disregarded the higher standard of actual malice or malice in fact when it found
Cristinelli Fermin guilty of committing libel against complainants who were public
figures. Actually, the Court found the presence of malice in fact in that case. Thus:
It can be gleaned from her testimony that petitioner had the motive to make
defamatory imputations against complainants. Thus, petitioner cannot, by simply
making a general denial, convince us that there was no malice on her part. Verily,
not only was there malice in law, the article being malicious in itself, but there was
also malice in fact, as there was motive to talk ill against complainants during the
electoral campaign. (Emphasis ours)
Indeed, the Court took into account the relatively wide leeway given to utterances
against public figures in the above case, cinema and television personalities, when it
modified the penalty of imprisonment to just a fine of P6,000.00.
But, where the offended party is a private individual, the prosecution need not
prove the presence of malice. The law explicitly presumes its existence (malice in
law) from the defamatory character of the assailed statement.45 For his defense, the
accused must show that he has a justifiable reason for the defamatory statement
even if it was in fact true.46
Petitioners peddle the view that both the penal code and the Cybercrime Prevention
Act violate the countrys obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR). They point out that in Adonis v. Republic of the
Philippines,47 the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) cited its
General Comment 34 to the effect that penal defamation laws should include the
defense of truth.
But General Comment 34 does not say that the truth of the defamatory statement
should constitute an all-encompassing defense. As it happens, Article 361 recognizes
truth as a defense but under the condition that the accused has been prompted in
making the statement by good motives and for justifiable ends. Thus:
Art. 361. Proof of the truth. In every criminal prosecution for libel, the truth may
be given in evidence to the court and if it appears that the matter charged as libelous
is true, and, moreover, that it was published with good motives and for justifiable
ends, the defendants shall be acquitted.
Proof of the truth of an imputation of an act or omission not constituting a crime
shall not be admitted, unless the imputation shall have been made against
Government employees with respect to facts related to the discharge of their official
duties.
In such cases if the defendant proves the truth of the imputation made by him, he
shall be acquitted.
Besides, the UNHRC did not actually enjoin the Philippines, as petitioners urge, to
decriminalize libel. It simply suggested that defamation laws be crafted with care to
ensure that they do not stifle freedom of expression.48Indeed, the ICCPR states that
although everyone should enjoy freedom of expression, its exercise carries with it
special duties and responsibilities. Free speech is not absolute. It is subject to certain
restrictions, as may be necessary and as may be provided by law.49
The Court agrees with the Solicitor General that libel is not a constitutionally
protected speech and that the government has an obligation to protect private
individuals from defamation. Indeed, cyberlibel is actually not a new crime since
Article 353, in relation to Article 355 of the penal code, already punishes it. In effect,
Section 4(c)(4) above merely affirms that online defamation constitutes "similar
means" for committing libel.
But the Courts acquiescence goes only insofar as the cybercrime law penalizes the
author of the libelous statement or article. Cyberlibel brings with it certain
intricacies, unheard of when the penal code provisions on libel were enacted. The
culture associated with internet media is distinct from that of print.
The internet is characterized as encouraging a freewheeling, anything-goes writing
style.50 In a sense, they are a world apart in terms of quickness of the readers
reaction to defamatory statements posted in cyberspace, facilitated by one-click reply
options offered by the networking site as well as by the speed with which such
reactions are disseminated down the line to other internet users. Whether these
reactions to defamatory statement posted on the internet constitute aiding and
abetting libel, acts that Section 5 of the cybercrime law punishes, is another matter
that the Court will deal with next in relation to Section 5 of the law.
Section 5 of the Cybercrime Law
Section 5 provides:
Sec. 5. Other Offenses. The following acts shall also constitute an offense:
(a) Aiding or Abetting in the Commission of Cybercrime. Any person who
willfully abets or aids in the commission of any of the offenses enumerated in
this Act shall be held liable.
(b) Attempt in the Commission of Cybercrime. Any person who willfully
attempts to commit any of the offenses enumerated in this Act shall be held
liable.
Petitioners assail the constitutionality of Section 5 that renders criminally liable any
person who willfully abets or aids in the commission or attempts to commit any of
the offenses enumerated as cybercrimes. It suffers from overbreadth, creating a
chilling and deterrent effect on protected expression.
The Solicitor General contends, however, that the current body of jurisprudence and
laws on aiding and abetting sufficiently protects the freedom of expression of
"netizens," the multitude that avail themselves of the services of the internet. He
points out that existing laws and jurisprudence sufficiently delineate the meaning of
"aiding or abetting" a crime as to protect the innocent. The Solicitor General argues
that plain, ordinary, and common usage is at times sufficient to guide law
enforcement agencies in enforcing the law.51 The legislature is not required to define
every single word contained in the laws they craft.
Aiding or abetting has of course well-defined meaning and application in existing
laws. When a person aids or abets another in destroying a forest,52 smuggling
merchandise into the country,53 or interfering in the peaceful picketing of
laborers,54 his action is essentially physical and so is susceptible to easy assessment
as criminal in character. These forms of aiding or abetting lend themselves to the
tests of common sense and human experience.
But, when it comes to certain cybercrimes, the waters are muddier and the line of
sight is somewhat blurred. The idea of "aiding or abetting" wrongdoings online
threatens the heretofore popular and unchallenged dogmas of cyberspace use.
According to the 2011 Southeast Asia Digital Consumer Report, 33% of Filipinos
have accessed the internet within a year, translating to about 31 million
users.55 Based on a recent survey, the Philippines ranks 6th in the top 10 most
engaged countries for social networking.56 Social networking sites build social
relations among people who, for example, share interests, activities, backgrounds, or
real-life connections.57
Two of the most popular of these sites are Facebook and Twitter. As of late 2012, 1.2
billion people with shared interests use Facebook to get in touch.58 Users register at
this site, create a personal profile or an open book of who they are, add other users
as friends, and exchange messages, including automatic notifications when they
update their profile.59 A user can post a statement, a photo, or a video on Facebook,
which can be made visible to anyone, depending on the users privacy settings.
If the post is made available to the public, meaning to everyone and not only to his
friends, anyone on Facebook can react to the posting, clicking any of several buttons
of preferences on the programs screen such as "Like," "Comment," or "Share." "Like"
signifies that the reader likes the posting while "Comment" enables him to post
online his feelings or views about the same, such as "This is great!" When a Facebook
user "Shares" a posting, the original "posting" will appear on his own Facebook
profile, consequently making it visible to his down-line Facebook Friends.
Twitter, on the other hand, is an internet social networking and microblogging
service that enables its users to send and read short text-based messages of up to 140
characters. These are known as "Tweets." Microblogging is the practice of posting
small pieces of digital contentwhich could be in the form of text, pictures, links,
short videos, or other mediaon the internet. Instead of friends, a Twitter user has
"Followers," those who subscribe to this particular users posts, enabling them to
read the same, and "Following," those whom this particular user is subscribed to,
enabling him to read their posts. Like Facebook, a Twitter user can make his tweets
available only to his Followers, or to the general public. If a post is available to the
public, any Twitter user can "Retweet" a given posting. Retweeting is just reposting
or republishing another persons tweet without the need of copying and pasting it.
In the cyberworld, there are many actors: a) the blogger who originates the assailed
statement; b) the blog service provider like Yahoo; c) the internet service provider
like PLDT, Smart, Globe, or Sun; d) the internet caf that may have provided the
computer used for posting the blog; e) the person who makes a favorable comment
on the blog; and f) the person who posts a link to the blog site.60 Now, suppose
Maria (a blogger) maintains a blog on WordPress.com (blog service provider). She
needs the internet to access her blog so she subscribes to Sun Broadband (Internet
Service Provider).
One day, Maria posts on her internet account the statement that a certain married
public official has an illicit affair with a movie star. Linda, one of Marias friends
who sees this post, comments online, "Yes, this is so true! They are so immoral."
Marias original post is then multiplied by her friends and the latters friends, and
down the line to friends of friends almost ad infinitum. Nena, who is a stranger to
both Maria and Linda, comes across this blog, finds it interesting and so shares the
link to this apparently defamatory blog on her Twitter account. Nenas "Followers"
then "Retweet" the link to that blog site.
Pamela, a Twitter user, stumbles upon a random persons "Retweet" of Nenas
original tweet and posts this on her Facebook account. Immediately, Pamelas
Facebook Friends start Liking and making Comments on the assailed posting. A lot
of them even press the Share button, resulting in the further spread of the original
posting into tens, hundreds, thousands, and greater postings.
The question is: are online postings such as "Liking" an openly defamatory
statement, "Commenting" on it, or "Sharing" it with others, to be regarded as "aiding
or abetting?" In libel in the physical world, if Nestor places on the office bulletin
board a small poster that says, "Armand is a thief!," he could certainly be charged
with libel. If Roger, seeing the poster, writes on it, "I like this!," that could not be libel
since he did not author the poster. If Arthur, passing by and noticing the poster,
writes on it, "Correct!," would that be libel? No, for he merely expresses agreement
with the statement on the poster. He still is not its author. Besides, it is not clear if
aiding or abetting libel in the physical world is a crime.
But suppose Nestor posts the blog, "Armand is a thief!" on a social networking site.
Would a reader and his Friends or Followers, availing themselves of any of the
"Like," "Comment," and "Share" reactions, be guilty of aiding or abetting libel? And,
in the complex world of cyberspace expressions of thoughts, when will one be liable
for aiding or abetting cybercrimes? Where is the venue of the crime?
Except for the original author of the assailed statement, the rest (those who pressed
Like, Comment and Share) are essentially knee-jerk sentiments of readers who may
think little or haphazardly of their response to the original posting. Will they be
liable for aiding or abetting? And, considering the inherent impossibility of joining
hundreds or thousands of responding "Friends" or "Followers" in the criminal charge
to be filed in court, who will make a choice as to who should go to jail for the
outbreak of the challenged posting?
The old parameters for enforcing the traditional form of libel would be a square peg
in a round hole when applied to cyberspace libel. Unless the legislature crafts a
cyber libel law that takes into account its unique circumstances and culture, such law
will tend to create a chilling effect on the millions that use this new medium of
communication in violation of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to freedom of
expression.
The United States Supreme Court faced the same issue in Reno v. American Civil
Liberties Union,61 a case involving the constitutionality of the Communications
Decency Act of 1996. The law prohibited (1) the knowing transmission, by means of
a telecommunications device, of
"obscene or indecent" communications to any recipient under 18 years of age; and (2)
the knowing use of an interactive computer service to send to a specific person or
persons under 18 years of age or to display in a manner available to a person under
18 years of age communications that, in context, depict or describe, in terms
"patently offensive" as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or
excretory activities or organs.
Those who challenged the Act claim that the law violated the First Amendments
guarantee of freedom of speech for being overbroad. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed
and ruled:
The vagueness of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), 47 U.S.C.S. 223,
is a matter of special concern for two reasons. First, the CDA is a content-based
regulation of speech. The vagueness of such a regulation raises special U.S. Const.
amend. I concerns because of its obvious chilling effect on free speech. Second, the
CDA is a criminal statute. In addition to the opprobrium and stigma of a criminal
conviction, the CDA threatens violators with penalties including up to two years in
prison for each act of violation. The severity of criminal sanctions may well cause
speakers to remain silent rather than communicate even arguably unlawful words,
ideas, and images. As a practical matter, this increased deterrent effect, coupled with
the risk of discriminatory enforcement of vague regulations, poses greater U.S.
Const. amend. I concerns than those implicated by certain civil regulations.
xxxx
The Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), 47 U.S.C.S. 223, presents a great
threat of censoring speech that, in fact, falls outside the statute's scope. Given the
vague contours of the coverage of the statute, it unquestionably silences some
speakers whose messages would be entitled to constitutional protection. That danger
provides further reason for insisting that the statute not be overly broad. The CDAs
burden on protected speech cannot be justified if it could be avoided by a more
carefully drafted statute. (Emphasis ours)
Libel in the cyberspace can of course stain a persons image with just one click of the
mouse. Scurrilous statements can spread and travel fast across the globe like bad
news. Moreover, cyberlibel often goes hand in hand with cyberbullying that
oppresses the victim, his relatives, and friends, evoking from mild to disastrous
reactions. Still, a governmental purpose, which seeks to regulate the use of this
cyberspace communication technology to protect a persons reputation and peace of
mind, cannot adopt means that will unnecessarily and broadly sweep, invading the
area of protected freedoms.62
If such means are adopted, self-inhibition borne of fear of what sinister predicaments
await internet users will suppress otherwise robust discussion of public issues.
Democracy will be threatened and with it, all liberties. Penal laws should provide
reasonably clear guidelines for law enforcement officials and triers of facts to
prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.63 The terms "aiding or abetting"
constitute broad sweep that generates chilling effect on those who express
themselves through cyberspace posts, comments, and other messages.64 Hence,
Section 5 of the cybercrime law that punishes "aiding or abetting" libel on the
cyberspace is a nullity.
When a penal statute encroaches upon the freedom of speech, a facial challenge
grounded on the void-for-vagueness doctrine is acceptable. The inapplicability of the
doctrine must be carefully delineated. As Justice Antonio T. Carpio explained in his
dissent in Romualdez v. Commission on Elections,65 "we must view these statements
of the Court on the inapplicability of the overbreadth and vagueness doctrines to
penal statutes as appropriate only insofar as these doctrines are used to mount
facial challenges to penal statutes not involving free speech."
In an "as applied" challenge, the petitioner who claims a violation of his
constitutional right can raise any constitutional ground absence of due process,
lack of fair notice, lack of ascertainable standards, overbreadth, or vagueness. Here,
one can challenge the constitutionality of a statute only if he asserts a violation of his
own rights. It prohibits one from assailing the constitutionality of the statute based
solely on the violation of the rights of third persons not before the court. This rule is
also known as the prohibition against third-party standing.66
But this rule admits of exceptions. A petitioner may for instance mount a "facial"
challenge to the constitutionality of a statute even if he claims no violation of his
own rights under the assailed statute where it involves free speech on grounds of
overbreadth or vagueness of the statute.
The rationale for this exception is to counter the "chilling effect" on protected speech
that comes from statutes violating free speech. A person who does not know
whether his speech constitutes a crime under an overbroad or vague law may simply
restrain himself from speaking in order to avoid being charged of a crime. The
overbroad or vague law thus chills him into silence.67
As already stated, the cyberspace is an incomparable, pervasive medium of
communication. It is inevitable that any government threat of punishment regarding
certain uses of the medium creates a chilling effect on the constitutionally-protected
freedom of expression of the great masses that use it. In this case, the particularly
complex web of interaction on social media websites would give law enforcers such
latitude that they could arbitrarily or selectively enforce the law.
Who is to decide when to prosecute persons who boost the visibility of a posting on
the internet by liking it? Netizens are not given "fair notice" or warning as to what is
criminal conduct and what is lawful conduct. When a case is filed, how will the
court ascertain whether or not one netizens comment aided and abetted a
cybercrime while another comment did not?
Of course, if the "Comment" does not merely react to the original posting but creates
an altogether new defamatory story against Armand like "He beats his wife and
children," then that should be considered an original posting published on the
internet. Both the penal code and the cybercrime law clearly punish authors of
defamatory publications. Make no mistake, libel destroys reputations that society
values. Allowed to cascade in the internet, it will destroy relationships and, under
certain circumstances, will generate enmity and tension between social or economic
groups, races, or religions, exacerbating existing tension in their relationships.
In regard to the crime that targets child pornography, when "Google procures,
stores, and indexes child pornography and facilitates the completion of transactions
involving the dissemination of child pornography," does this make Google and its
users aiders and abettors in the commission of child pornography crimes?68 Byars
highlights a feature in the American law on child pornography that the Cybercrimes
law lacksthe exemption of a provider or notably a plain user of interactive
computer service from civil liability for child pornography as follows:
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the
publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content
provider and cannot be held civilly liable for any action voluntarily taken in good
faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers
to be obscene...whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.69
When a person replies to a Tweet containing child pornography, he effectively
republishes it whether wittingly or unwittingly. Does this make him a willing
accomplice to the distribution of child pornography? When a user downloads the
Facebook mobile application, the user may give consent to Facebook to access his
contact details. In this way, certain information is forwarded to third parties and
unsolicited commercial communication could be disseminated on the basis of this
information.70 As the source of this information, is the user aiding the distribution of
this communication? The legislature needs to address this clearly to relieve users of
annoying fear of possible criminal prosecution.
Section 5 with respect to Section 4(c)(4) is unconstitutional. Its vagueness raises
apprehension on the part of internet users because of its obvious chilling effect on
the freedom of expression, especially since the crime of aiding or abetting ensnares
all the actors in the cyberspace front in a fuzzy way. What is more, as the petitioners
point out, formal crimes such as libel are not punishable unless consummated.71 In
the absence of legislation tracing the interaction of netizens and their level of
responsibility such as in other countries, Section 5, in relation to Section 4(c)(4) on
Libel, Section 4(c)(3) on Unsolicited Commercial Communications, and Section
4(c)(2) on Child Pornography, cannot stand scrutiny.
But the crime of aiding or abetting the commission of cybercrimes under Section 5
should be permitted to apply to Section 4(a)(1) on Illegal Access, Section 4(a)(2) on
Illegal Interception, Section 4(a)(3) on Data Interference, Section 4(a)(4) on System
Interference, Section 4(a)(5) on Misuse of Devices, Section 4(a)(6) on Cyber-squatting,
Section 4(b)(1) on Computer-related Forgery, Section 4(b)(2) on Computer-related
Fraud, Section 4(b)(3) on Computer-related Identity Theft, and Section 4(c)(1) on
Cybersex. None of these offenses borders on the exercise of the freedom of
expression.
The crime of willfully attempting to commit any of these offenses is for the same
reason not objectionable. A hacker may for instance have done all that is necessary to
illegally access another partys computer system but the security employed by the
systems lawful owner could frustrate his effort. Another hacker may have gained
access to usernames and passwords of others but fail to use these because the system
supervisor is alerted.72 If Section 5 that punishes any person who willfully attempts
to commit this specific offense is not upheld, the owner of the username and
password could not file a complaint against him for attempted hacking. But this is
not right. The hacker should not be freed from liability simply because of the
vigilance of a lawful owner or his supervisor.
Petitioners of course claim that Section 5 lacks positive limits and could cover the
innocent.73 While this may be true with respect to cybercrimes that tend to sneak
past the area of free expression, any attempt to commit the other acts specified in
Section 4(a)(1), Section 4(a)(2), Section 4(a)(3), Section 4(a)(4), Section 4(a)(5), Section
4(a)(6), Section 4(b)(1), Section 4(b)(2), Section 4(b)(3), and Section 4(c)(1) as well as
the actors aiding and abetting the commission of such acts can be identified with
some reasonable certainty through adroit tracking of their works. Absent concrete
proof of the same, the innocent will of course be spared.
Section 6 of the Cybercrime Law
Section 6 provides:
Sec. 6. All crimes defined and penalized by the Revised Penal Code, as amended,
and special laws, if committed by, through and with the use of information and
communications technologies shall be covered by the relevant provisions of this Act:
Provided, That the penalty to be imposed shall be one (1) degree higher than that
provided for by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and special laws, as the case
may be.
Section 6 merely makes commission of existing crimes through the internet a
qualifying circumstance. As the Solicitor General points out, there exists a
substantial distinction between crimes committed through the use of information
and communications technology and similar crimes committed using other means.
In using the technology in question, the offender often evades identification and is
able to reach far more victims or cause greater harm. The distinction, therefore,
creates a basis for higher penalties for cybercrimes.
Section 7 of the Cybercrime Law
Section 7 provides:
Sec. 7. Liability under Other Laws. A prosecution under this Act shall be without
prejudice to any liability for violation of any provision of the Revised Penal Code, as
amended, or special laws.
The Solicitor General points out that Section 7 merely expresses the settled doctrine
that a single set of acts may be prosecuted and penalized simultaneously under two
laws, a special law and the Revised Penal Code. When two different laws define two
crimes, prior jeopardy as to one does not bar prosecution of the other although both
offenses arise from the same fact, if each crime involves some important act which is
not an essential element of the other.74 With the exception of the crimes of online
libel and online child pornography, the Court would rather leave the determination
of the correct application of Section 7 to actual cases.
Online libel is different. There should be no question that if the published material
on print, said to be libelous, is again posted online or vice versa, that identical
material cannot be the subject of two separate libels. The two offenses, one a
violation of Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code and the other a violation of Section
4(c)(4) of R.A. 10175 involve essentially the same elements and are in fact one and
the same offense. Indeed, the OSG itself claims that online libel under Section 4(c)(4)
is not a new crime but is one already punished under Article 353. Section 4(c)(4)
merely establishes the computer system as another means of publication.75 Charging
the offender under both laws would be a blatant violation of the proscription against
double jeopardy.76
The same is true with child pornography committed online. Section 4(c)(2) merely
expands the ACPAs scope so as to include identical activities in cyberspace. As
previously discussed, ACPAs definition of child pornography in fact already covers
the use of "electronic, mechanical, digital, optical, magnetic or any other means."
Thus, charging the offender under both Section 4(c)(2) and ACPA would likewise be
tantamount to a violation of the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy.
Section 8 of the Cybercrime Law
Section 8 provides:
Sec. 8. Penalties. Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts
enumerated in Sections 4(a) and 4(b) of this Act shall be punished with
imprisonment of prision mayor or a fine of at least Two hundred thousand pesos
(PhP200,000.00) up to a maximum amount commensurate to the damage incurred or
both.
Any person found guilty of the punishable act under Section 4(a)(5) shall be
punished with imprisonment of prision mayor or a fine of not more than Five
hundred thousand pesos (PhP500,000.00) or both.
If punishable acts in Section 4(a) are committed against critical infrastructure, the
penalty of reclusion temporal or a fine of at least Five hundred thousand pesos
(PhP500,000.00) up to maximum amount commensurate to the damage incurred or
both, shall be imposed.
Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts enumerated in Section 4(c)(1)
of this Act shall be punished with imprisonment of prision mayor or a fine of at least
Two hundred thousand pesos (PhP200,000.00) but not exceeding One million pesos
(PhP1,000,000.00) or both.
Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts enumerated in Section 4(c)(2)
of this Act shall be punished with the penalties as enumerated in Republic Act No.
9775 or the "Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009:" Provided, That the penalty to be
imposed shall be one (1) degree higher than that provided for in Republic Act No.
9775, if committed through a computer system.
Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts enumerated in Section 4(c)(3)
shall be punished with imprisonment of arresto mayor or a fine of at least Fifty
thousand pesos (PhP50,000.00) but not exceeding Two hundred fifty thousand pesos
(PhP250,000.00) or both.
Any person found guilty of any of the punishable acts enumerated in Section 5 shall
be punished with imprisonment one (1) degree lower than that of the prescribed
penalty for the offense or a fine of at least One hundred thousand pesos
(PhP100,000.00) but not exceeding Five hundred thousand pesos (PhP500,000.00) or
both.
Section 8 provides for the penalties for the following crimes: Sections 4(a) on
Offenses Against the Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability of Computer Data
and Systems; 4(b) on Computer-related Offenses; 4(a)(5) on Misuse of Devices; when
the crime punishable under 4(a) is committed against critical infrastructure; 4(c)(1)
on Cybersex; 4(c)(2) on Child Pornography; 4(c)(3) on Unsolicited Commercial
Communications; and Section 5 on Aiding or Abetting, and Attempt in the
Commission of Cybercrime.
The matter of fixing penalties for the commission of crimes is as a rule a legislative
prerogative. Here the legislature prescribed a measure of severe penalties for what it
regards as deleterious cybercrimes. They appear proportionate to the evil sought to
be punished. The power to determine penalties for offenses is not diluted or
improperly wielded simply because at some prior time the act or omission was but
an element of another offense or might just have been connected with another
crime.77 Judges and magistrates can only interpret and apply them and have no
authority to modify or revise their range as determined by the legislative
department.
The courts should not encroach on this prerogative of the lawmaking body.78
Section 12 of the Cybercrime Law
Section 12 provides:
Sec. 12. Real-Time Collection of Traffic Data. Law enforcement authorities, with
due cause, shall be authorized to collect or record by technical or electronic means
traffic data in real-time associated with specified communications transmitted by
means of a computer system.
Traffic data refer only to the communications origin, destination, route, time, date,
size, duration, or type of underlying service, but not content, nor identities.
All other data to be collected or seized or disclosed will require a court warrant.
Service providers are required to cooperate and assist law enforcement authorities in
the collection or recording of the above-stated information.
The court warrant required under this section shall only be issued or granted upon
written application and the examination under oath or affirmation of the applicant
and the witnesses he may produce and the showing: (1) that there are reasonable
grounds to believe that any of the crimes enumerated hereinabove has been
committed, or is being committed, or is about to be committed; (2) that there are
reasonable grounds to believe that evidence that will be obtained is essential to the
conviction of any person for, or to the solution of, or to the prevention of, any such
crimes; and (3) that there are no other means readily available for obtaining such
evidence.
Petitioners assail the grant to law enforcement agencies of the power to collect or
record traffic data in real time as tending to curtail civil liberties or provide
opportunities for official abuse. They claim that data showing where digital
messages come from, what kind they are, and where they are destined need not be
incriminating to their senders or recipients before they are to be protected.
Petitioners invoke the right of every individual to privacy and to be protected from
government snooping into the messages or information that they send to one
another.
The first question is whether or not Section 12 has a proper governmental purpose
since a law may require the disclosure of matters normally considered private but
then only upon showing that such requirement has a rational relation to the purpose
of the law,79 that there is a compelling State interest behind the law, and that the
provision itself is narrowly drawn.80 In assessing regulations affecting privacy rights,
courts should balance the legitimate concerns of the State against constitutional
guarantees.81
Undoubtedly, the State has a compelling interest in enacting the cybercrime law for
there is a need to put order to the tremendous activities in cyberspace for public
good.82 To do this, it is within the realm of reason that the government should be
able to monitor traffic data to enhance its ability to combat all sorts of cybercrimes.
Chapter IV of the cybercrime law, of which the collection or recording of traffic data
is a part, aims to provide law enforcement authorities with the power they need for
spotting, preventing, and investigating crimes committed in cyberspace. Crime-
fighting is a state business. Indeed, as Chief Justice Sereno points out, the Budapest
Convention on Cybercrimes requires signatory countries to adopt legislative
measures to empower state authorities to collect or record "traffic data, in real time,
associated with specified communications."83 And this is precisely what Section 12
does. It empowers law enforcement agencies in this country to collect or record such
data.
But is not evidence of yesterdays traffic data, like the scene of the crime after it has
been committed, adequate for fighting cybercrimes and, therefore, real-time data is
superfluous for that purpose? Evidently, it is not. Those who commit the crimes of
accessing a computer system without right,84 transmitting viruses,85 lasciviously
exhibiting sexual organs or sexual activity for favor or consideration;86 and
producing child pornography87 could easily evade detection and prosecution by
simply moving the physical location of their computers or laptops from day to day.
In this digital age, the wicked can commit cybercrimes from virtually anywhere:
from internet cafs, from kindred places that provide free internet services, and from
unregistered mobile internet connectors. Criminals using cellphones under pre-paid
arrangements and with unregistered SIM cards do not have listed addresses and can
neither be located nor identified. There are many ways the cyber criminals can
quickly erase their tracks. Those who peddle child pornography could use relays of
computers to mislead law enforcement authorities regarding their places of
operations. Evidently, it is only real-time traffic data collection or recording and a
subsequent recourse to court-issued search and seizure warrant that can succeed in
ferreting them out.
Petitioners of course point out that the provisions of Section 12 are too broad and do
not provide ample safeguards against crossing legal boundaries and invading the
peoples right to privacy. The concern is understandable. Indeed, the Court
recognizes in Morfe v. Mutuc88 that certain constitutional guarantees work together
to create zones of privacy wherein governmental powers may not intrude, and that
there exists an independent constitutional right of privacy. Such right to be left alone
has been regarded as the beginning of all freedoms.89
But that right is not unqualified. In Whalen v. Roe,90 the United States Supreme
Court classified privacy into two categories: decisional privacy and informational
privacy. Decisional privacy involves the right to independence in making certain
important decisions, while informational privacy refers to the interest in avoiding
disclosure of personal matters. It is the latter rightthe right to informational
privacythat those who oppose government collection or recording of traffic data in
real-time seek to protect.
Informational privacy has two aspects: the right not to have private information
disclosed, and the right to live freely without surveillance and intrusion.91 In
determining whether or not a matter is entitled to the right to privacy, this Court has
laid down a two-fold test. The first is a subjective test, where one claiming the right
must have an actual or legitimate expectation of privacy over a certain matter. The
second is an objective test, where his or her expectation of privacy must be one
society is prepared to accept as objectively reasonable.92
Since the validity of the cybercrime law is being challenged, not in relation to its
application to a particular person or group, petitioners challenge to Section 12
applies to all information and communications technology (ICT) users, meaning the
large segment of the population who use all sorts of electronic devices to
communicate with one another. Consequently, the expectation of privacy is to be
measured from the general publics point of view. Without reasonable expectation of
privacy, the right to it would have no basis in fact.
As the Solicitor General points out, an ordinary ICT user who courses his
communication through a service provider, must of necessity disclose to the latter, a
third person, the traffic data needed for connecting him to the recipient ICT user. For
example, an ICT user who writes a text message intended for another ICT user must
furnish his service provider with his cellphone number and the cellphone number of
his recipient, accompanying the message sent. It is this information that creates the
traffic data. Transmitting communications is akin to putting a letter in an envelope
properly addressed, sealing it closed, and sending it through the postal service.
Those who post letters have no expectations that no one will read the information
appearing outside the envelope.
Computer datamessages of all kindstravel across the internet in packets and in a
way that may be likened to parcels of letters or things that are sent through the
posts. When data is sent from any one source, the content is broken up into packets
and around each of these packets is a wrapper or header. This header contains the
traffic data: information that tells computers where the packet originated, what kind
of data is in the packet (SMS, voice call, video, internet chat messages, email, online
browsing data, etc.), where the packet is going, and how the packet fits together with
other packets.93 The difference is that traffic data sent through the internet at times
across the ocean do not disclose the actual names and addresses (residential or
office) of the sender and the recipient, only their coded internet protocol (IP)
addresses. The packets travel from one computer system to another where their
contents are pieced back together.
Section 12 does not permit law enforcement authorities to look into the contents of
the messages and uncover the identities of the sender and the recipient.
For example, when one calls to speak to another through his cellphone, the service
providers communications system will put his voice message into packets and send
them to the other persons cellphone where they are refitted together and heard. The
latters spoken reply is sent to the caller in the same way. To be connected by the
service provider, the sender reveals his cellphone number to the service provider
when he puts his call through. He also reveals the cellphone number to the person
he calls. The other ways of communicating electronically follow the same basic
pattern.
In Smith v. Maryland,94 cited by the Solicitor General, the United States Supreme
Court reasoned that telephone users in the 70s must realize that they necessarily
convey phone numbers to the telephone company in order to complete a call. That
Court ruled that even if there is an expectation that phone numbers one dials should
remain private, such expectation is not one that society is prepared to recognize as
reasonable.
In much the same way, ICT users must know that they cannot communicate or
exchange data with one another over cyberspace except through some service
providers to whom they must submit certain traffic data that are needed for a
successful cyberspace communication. The conveyance of this data takes them out of
the private sphere, making the expectation to privacy in regard to them an
expectation that society is not prepared to recognize as reasonable.
The Court, however, agrees with Justices Carpio and Brion that when seemingly
random bits of traffic data are gathered in bulk, pooled together, and analyzed, they
reveal patterns of activities which can then be used to create profiles of the persons
under surveillance. With enough traffic data, analysts may be able to determine a
persons close associations, religious views, political affiliations, even sexual
preferences. Such information is likely beyond what the public may expect to be
disclosed, and clearly falls within matters protected by the right to privacy. But has
the procedure that Section 12 of the law provides been drawn narrowly enough to
protect individual rights?
Section 12 empowers law enforcement authorities, "with due cause," to collect or
record by technical or electronic means traffic data in real-time. Petitioners point out
that the phrase "due cause" has no precedent in law or jurisprudence and that
whether there is due cause or not is left to the discretion of the police. Replying to
this, the Solicitor General asserts that Congress is not required to define the meaning
of every word it uses in drafting the law.
Indeed, courts are able to save vague provisions of law through statutory
construction. But the cybercrime law, dealing with a novel situation, fails to hint at
the meaning it intends for the phrase "due cause." The Solicitor General suggests that
"due cause" should mean "just reason or motive" and "adherence to a lawful
procedure." But the Court cannot draw this meaning since Section 12 does not even
bother to relate the collection of data to the probable commission of a particular
crime. It just says, "with due cause," thus justifying a general gathering of data. It is
akin to the use of a general search warrant that the Constitution prohibits.
Due cause is also not descriptive of the purpose for which data collection will be
used. Will the law enforcement agencies use the traffic data to identify the
perpetrator of a cyber attack? Or will it be used to build up a case against an
identified suspect? Can the data be used to prevent cybercrimes from happening?
The authority that Section 12 gives law enforcement agencies is too sweeping and
lacks restraint. While it says that traffic data collection should not disclose identities
or content data, such restraint is but an illusion. Admittedly, nothing can prevent
law enforcement agencies holding these data in their hands from looking into the
identity of their sender or receiver and what the data contains. This will
unnecessarily expose the citizenry to leaked information or, worse, to extortion from
certain bad elements in these agencies.
Section 12, of course, limits the collection of traffic data to those "associated with
specified communications." But this supposed limitation is no limitation at all since,
evidently, it is the law enforcement agencies that would specify the target
communications. The power is virtually limitless, enabling law enforcement
authorities to engage in "fishing expedition," choosing whatever specified
communication they want. This evidently threatens the right of individuals to
privacy.
The Solicitor General points out that Section 12 needs to authorize collection of
traffic data "in real time" because it is not possible to get a court warrant that would
authorize the search of what is akin to a "moving vehicle." But warrantless search is
associated with a police officers determination of probable cause that a crime has
been committed, that there is no opportunity for getting a warrant, and that unless
the search is immediately carried out, the thing to be searched stands to be removed.
These preconditions are not provided in Section 12.
The Solicitor General is honest enough to admit that Section 12 provides minimal
protection to internet users and that the procedure envisioned by the law could be
better served by providing for more robust safeguards. His bare assurance that law
enforcement authorities will not abuse the provisions of Section 12 is of course not
enough. The grant of the power to track cyberspace communications in real time and
determine their sources and destinations must be narrowly drawn to preclude
abuses.95
Petitioners also ask that the Court strike down Section 12 for being violative of the
void-for-vagueness doctrine and the overbreadth doctrine. These doctrines however,
have been consistently held by this Court to apply only to free speech cases. But
Section 12 on its own neither regulates nor punishes any type of speech. Therefore,
such analysis is unnecessary.
This Court is mindful that advances in technology allow the government and
kindred institutions to monitor individuals and place them under surveillance in
ways that have previously been impractical or even impossible. "All the forces of a
technological age x x x operate to narrow the area of privacy and facilitate intrusions
into it. In modern terms, the capacity to maintain and support this enclave of private
life marks the difference between a democratic and a totalitarian society."96 The
Court must ensure that laws seeking to take advantage of these technologies be
written with specificity and definiteness as to ensure respect for the rights that the
Constitution guarantees.
Section 13 of the Cybercrime Law
Section 13 provides:
Sec. 13. Preservation of Computer Data. The integrity of traffic data and
subscriber information relating to communication services provided by a service
provider shall be preserved for a minimum period of six (6) months from the date of
the transaction. Content data shall be similarly preserved for six (6) months from the
date of receipt of the order from law enforcement authorities requiring its
preservation.
Law enforcement authorities may order a one-time extension for another six (6)
months: Provided, That once computer data preserved, transmitted or stored by a
service provider is used as evidence in a case, the mere furnishing to such service
provider of the transmittal document to the Office of the Prosecutor shall be deemed
a notification to preserve the computer data until the termination of the case.
The service provider ordered to preserve computer data shall keep confidential the
order and its compliance.
Petitioners in G.R. 20339197 claim that Section 13 constitutes an undue deprivation of
the right to property. They liken the data preservation order that law enforcement
authorities are to issue as a form of garnishment of personal property in civil
forfeiture proceedings. Such order prevents internet users from accessing and
disposing of traffic data that essentially belong to them.
No doubt, the contents of materials sent or received through the internet belong to
their authors or recipients and are to be considered private communications. But it is
not clear that a service provider has an obligation to indefinitely keep a copy of the
same as they pass its system for the benefit of users. By virtue of Section 13,
however, the law now requires service providers to keep traffic data and subscriber
information relating to communication services for at least six months from the date
of the transaction and those relating to content data for at least six months from
receipt of the order for their preservation.
Actually, the user ought to have kept a copy of that data when it crossed his
computer if he was so minded. The service provider has never assumed
responsibility for their loss or deletion while in its keep.
At any rate, as the Solicitor General correctly points out, the data that service
providers preserve on orders of law enforcement authorities are not made
inaccessible to users by reason of the issuance of such orders. The process of
preserving data will not unduly hamper the normal transmission or use of the same.
Section 14 of the Cybercrime Law
Section 14 provides:
Sec. 14. Disclosure of Computer Data. Law enforcement authorities, upon
securing a court warrant, shall issue an order requiring any person or service
provider to disclose or submit subscribers information, traffic data or relevant data
in his/its possession or control within seventy-two (72) hours from receipt of the
order in relation to a valid complaint officially docketed and assigned for
investigation and the disclosure is necessary and relevant for the purpose of
investigation.
The process envisioned in Section 14 is being likened to the issuance of a subpoena.
Petitioners objection is that the issuance of subpoenas is a judicial function. But it is
well-settled that the power to issue subpoenas is not exclusively a judicial function.
Executive agencies have the power to issue subpoena as an adjunct of their
investigatory powers.98
Besides, what Section 14 envisions is merely the enforcement of a duly issued court
warrant, a function usually lodged in the hands of law enforcers to enable them to
carry out their executive functions. The prescribed procedure for disclosure would
not constitute an unlawful search or seizure nor would it violate the privacy of
communications and correspondence. Disclosure can be made only after judicial
intervention.
Section 15 of the Cybercrime Law
Section 15 provides:
Sec. 15. Search, Seizure and Examination of Computer Data. Where a search and
seizure warrant is properly issued, the law enforcement authorities shall likewise
have the following powers and duties.
Within the time period specified in the warrant, to conduct interception, as defined
in this Act, and:
(a) To secure a computer system or a computer data storage medium;
(b) To make and retain a copy of those computer data secured;
(c) To maintain the integrity of the relevant stored computer data;
(d) To conduct forensic analysis or examination of the computer data storage
medium; and
(e) To render inaccessible or remove those computer data in the accessed
computer or computer and communications network.
Pursuant thereof, the law enforcement authorities may order any person who has
knowledge about the functioning of the computer system and the measures to
protect and preserve the computer data therein to provide, as is reasonable, the
necessary information, to enable the undertaking of the search, seizure and
examination.
Law enforcement authorities may request for an extension of time to complete the
examination of the computer data storage medium and to make a return thereon but
in no case for a period longer than thirty (30) days from date of approval by the
court.
Petitioners challenge Section 15 on the assumption that it will supplant established
search and seizure procedures. On its face, however, Section 15 merely enumerates
the duties of law enforcement authorities that would ensure the proper collection,
preservation, and use of computer system or data that have been seized by virtue of
a court warrant. The exercise of these duties do not pose any threat on the rights of
the person from whom they were taken. Section 15 does not appear to supersede
existing search and seizure rules but merely supplements them.
Section 17 of the Cybercrime Law
Section 17 provides:
Sec. 17. Destruction of Computer Data. Upon expiration of the periods as
provided in Sections 13 and 15, service providers and law enforcement authorities,
as the case may be, shall immediately and completely destroy the computer data
subject of a preservation and examination.
Section 17 would have the computer data, previous subject of preservation or
examination, destroyed or deleted upon the lapse of the prescribed period. The
Solicitor General justifies this as necessary to clear up the service providers storage
systems and prevent overload. It would also ensure that investigations are quickly
concluded.
Petitioners claim that such destruction of computer data subject of previous
preservation or examination violates the users right against deprivation of property
without due process of law. But, as already stated, it is unclear that the user has a
demandable right to require the service provider to have that copy of the data saved
indefinitely for him in its storage system. If he wanted them preserved, he should
have saved them in his computer when he generated the data or received it. He
could also request the service provider for a copy before it is deleted.
Section 19 of the Cybercrime Law
Section 19 empowers the Department of Justice to restrict or block access to
computer data:
Sec. 19. Restricting or Blocking Access to Computer Data. When a computer data
is prima facie found to be in violation of the provisions of this Act, the DOJ shall
issue an order to restrict or block access to such computer data.
Petitioners contest Section 19 in that it stifles freedom of expression and violates the
right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Solicitor General concedes that
this provision may be unconstitutional. But since laws enjoy a presumption of
constitutionality, the Court must satisfy itself that Section 19 indeed violates the
freedom and right mentioned.
Computer data99 may refer to entire programs or lines of code, including malware,
as well as files that contain texts, images, audio, or video recordings. Without having
to go into a lengthy discussion of property rights in the digital space, it is
indisputable that computer data, produced or created by their writers or authors
may constitute personal property. Consequently, they are protected from
unreasonable searches and seizures, whether while stored in their personal
computers or in the service providers systems.
Section 2, Article III of the 1987 Constitution provides that the right to be secure in
ones papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever
nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable. Further, it states that no search
warrant shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the
judge. Here, the Government, in effect, seizes and places the computer data under its
control and disposition without a warrant. The Department of Justice order cannot
substitute for judicial search warrant.
The content of the computer data can also constitute speech. In such a case, Section
19 operates as a restriction on the freedom of expression over cyberspace. Certainly
not all forms of speech are protected. Legislature may, within constitutional bounds,
declare certain kinds of expression as illegal. But for an executive officer to seize
content alleged to be unprotected without any judicial warrant, it is not enough for
him to be of the opinion that such content violates some law, for to do so would
make him judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one.100
Not only does Section 19 preclude any judicial intervention, but it also disregards
jurisprudential guidelines established to determine the validity of restrictions on
speech. Restraints on free speech are generally evaluated on one of or a combination
of three tests: the dangerous tendency doctrine, the balancing of interest test, and the
clear and present danger rule.101 Section 19, however, merely requires that the data
to be blocked be found prima facie in violation of any provision of the cybercrime
law. Taking Section 6 into consideration, this can actually be made to apply in
relation to any penal provision. It does not take into consideration any of the three
tests mentioned above.
The Court is therefore compelled to strike down Section 19 for being violative of the
constitutional guarantees to freedom of expression and against unreasonable
searches and seizures.
Section 20 of the Cybercrime Law
Section 20 provides:
Sec. 20. Noncompliance. Failure to comply with the provisions of Chapter IV
hereof specifically the orders from law enforcement authorities shall be punished as
a violation of Presidential Decree No. 1829 with imprisonment of prision correctional
in its maximum period or a fine of One hundred thousand pesos (Php100,000.00) or
both, for each and every noncompliance with an order issued by law enforcement
authorities.
Petitioners challenge Section 20, alleging that it is a bill of attainder. The argument is
that the mere failure to comply constitutes a legislative finding of guilt, without
regard to situations where non-compliance would be reasonable or valid.
But since the non-compliance would be punished as a violation of Presidential
Decree (P.D.) 1829,102 Section 20 necessarily incorporates elements of the offense
which are defined therein. If Congress had intended for Section 20 to constitute an
offense in and of itself, it would not have had to make reference to any other statue
or provision.
P.D. 1829 states:
Section 1. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period, or a fine
ranging from 1,000 to 6,000 pesos, or both, shall be imposed upon any person who
knowingly or willfully obstructs, impedes, frustrates or delays the apprehension of
suspects and the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases by committing any
of the following acts:
x x x.
Thus, the act of non-compliance, for it to be punishable, must still be done
"knowingly or willfully." There must still be a judicial determination of guilt, during
which, as the Solicitor General assumes, defense and justifications for non-
compliance may be raised. Thus, Section 20 is valid insofar as it applies to the
provisions of Chapter IV which are not struck down by the Court.
Sections 24 and 26(a) of the Cybercrime Law
Sections 24 and 26(a) provide:
Sec. 24. Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center. There is hereby created,
within thirty (30) days from the effectivity of this Act, an inter-agency body to be
known as the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC), under the
administrative supervision of the Office of the President, for policy coordination
among concerned agencies and for the formulation and enforcement of the national
cybersecurity plan.
Sec. 26. Powers and Functions. The CICC shall have the following powers and
functions:
(a) To formulate a national cybersecurity plan and extend immediate assistance of
real time commission of cybercrime offenses through a computer emergency
response team (CERT); x x x.
Petitioners mainly contend that Congress invalidly delegated its power when it gave
the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) the power to
formulate a national cybersecurity plan without any sufficient standards or
parameters for it to follow.
In order to determine whether there is undue delegation of legislative power, the
Court has adopted two tests: the completeness test and the sufficient standard test.
Under the first test, the law must be complete in all its terms and conditions when it
leaves the legislature such that when it reaches the delegate, the only thing he will
have to do is to enforce it.1avvphi1 The second test mandates adequate guidelines or
limitations in the law to determine the boundaries of the delegates authority and
prevent the delegation from running riot.103
Here, the cybercrime law is complete in itself when it directed the CICC to formulate
and implement a national cybersecurity plan. Also, contrary to the position of the
petitioners, the law gave sufficient standards for the CICC to follow when it
provided a definition of cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity refers to the collection of tools, policies, risk management approaches,
actions, training, best practices, assurance and technologies that can be used to
protect cyber environment and organization and users assets.104 This definition
serves as the parameters within which CICC should work in formulating the
cybersecurity plan.
Further, the formulation of the cybersecurity plan is consistent with the policy of the
law to "prevent and combat such [cyber] offenses by facilitating their detection,
investigation, and prosecution at both the domestic and international levels, and by
providing arrangements for fast and reliable international cooperation."105 This
policy is clearly adopted in the interest of law and order, which has been considered
as sufficient standard.106 Hence, Sections 24 and 26(a) are likewise valid.
WHEREFORE, the Court DECLARES:
1. VOID for being UNCONSTITUTIONAL:
a. Section 4(c)(3) of Republic Act 10175 that penalizes posting of
unsolicited commercial communications;
b. Section 12 that authorizes the collection or recording of traffic data in
real-time; and
c. Section 19 of the same Act that authorizes the Department of Justice
to restrict or block access to suspected Computer Data.
2. VALID and CONSTITUTIONAL:
a. Section 4(a)(1) that penalizes accessing a computer system without
right;
b. Section 4(a)(3) that penalizes data interference, including
transmission of viruses;
c. Section 4(a)(6) that penalizes cyber-squatting or acquiring domain
name over the internet in bad faith to the prejudice of others;
d. Section 4(b)(3) that penalizes identity theft or the use or misuse of
identifying information belonging to another;
e. Section 4(c)(1) that penalizes cybersex or the lascivious exhibition of
sexual organs or sexual activity for favor or consideration;
f. Section 4(c)(2) that penalizes the production of child pornography;
g. Section 6 that imposes penalties one degree higher when crimes
defined under the Revised Penal Code are committed with the use of
information and communications technologies;
h. Section 8 that prescribes the penalties for cybercrimes;
i. Section 13 that permits law enforcement authorities to require service
providers to preserve traffic data and subscriber information as well as
specified content data for six months;
j. Section 14 that authorizes the disclosure of computer data under a
court-issued warrant;
k. Section 15 that authorizes the search, seizure, and examination of
computer data under a court-issued warrant;
l. Section 17 that authorizes the destruction of previously preserved
computer data after the expiration of the prescribed holding periods;
m. Section 20 that penalizes obstruction of justice in relation to
cybercrime investigations;
n. Section 24 that establishes a Cybercrime Investigation and
Coordinating Center (CICC);
o. Section 26(a) that defines the CICCs Powers and Functions; and
p. Articles 353, 354, 361, and 362 of the Revised Penal Code that
penalizes libel.
Further, the Court DECLARES:
1. Section 4(c)(4) that penalizes online libel as VALID and
CONSTITUTIONAL with respect to the original author of the post; but VOID
and UNCONSTITUTIONAL with respect to others who simply receive the
post and react to it; and
2. Section 5 that penalizes aiding or abetting and attempt in the commission of
cybercrimes as VA L I D and CONSTITUTIONAL only in relation to Section
4(a)(1) on Illegal Access, Section 4(a)(2) on Illegal Interception, Section 4(a)(3)
on Data Interference, Section 4(a)(4) on System
Interference, Section 4(a)(5) on Misuse of Devices, Section 4(a)(6) on Cyber-squatting,
Section 4(b)(1) on Computer-related Forgery, Section 4(b)(2) on Computer-related
Fraud, Section 4(b)(3) on Computer-related Identity Theft, and Section 4(c)(1) on
Cybersex; but VOID and UNCONSTITUTIONAL with respect to Sections 4(c)(2) on
Child Pornography, 4(c)(3) on Unsolicited Commercial Communications, and 4(c)(4)
on online Libel.1wphi1
Lastly, the Court RESOLVES to LEAVE THE DETERMINATION of the correct
application of Section 7 that authorizes prosecution of the offender under both the
Revised Penal Code and Republic Act 10175 to actual cases, WITH THE
EXCEPTION of the crimes of:
1. Online libel as to which, charging the offender under both Section 4(c)(4) of
Republic Act 10175 and Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code constitutes a
violation of the proscription against double jeopardy; as well as
2. Child pornography committed online as to which, charging the offender
under both Section 4(c)(2) of Republic Act 10175 and Republic Act 9775 or the
Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 also constitutes a violation of the same
proscription, and, in respect to these, is VOID and UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
SO ORDERED.
THE DIOCESE OF BACOLOD, REPRESENTED BY THE MOST REV. BISHOP
VICENTE M. NAVARRA and THE BISHOP HIMSELF IN HIS PERSONAL
CAPACITY, Petitioners,
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS AND THE ELECTION OFFICER OF
BACOLOD CITY, ATTY. MAVIL V. MAJARUCON, Respondents.
DECISION
LEONEN, J.:
"The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and
all government authority emanates from them." Article II, Section 1, Constitution
All governmental authority emanates from our people. No unreasonable restrictions
of the fundamental and preferred right to expression of the electorate during
political contests no matter how seemingly benign will be tolerated.
This case defines the extent that our people may shape the debates during elections.
It is significant and of first impression. We are asked to decide whether the
Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has the competence to limit expressions made
by the citizens who are not candidates during elections.
Before us is a special civil action for certiorari and prohibition with application for
preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order1 under Rule 65 of the Rules
of Court seeking to nullify COMELECs Notice to Remove Campaign
Materials2 dated February 22, 2013 and letter3 issued on February 27, 2013.
The facts are not disputed.
On February 21, 2013, petitioners posted two (2) tarpaulins within a private
compound housing the San Sebastian Cathedral of Bacolod. Each tarpaulin was
approximately six feet (6') by ten feet (10') in size. They were posted on the front
walls of the cathedral within public view. The first tarpaulin contains the message
"IBASURA RH Law" referring to the Reproductive Health Law of 2012 or Republic
Act No. 10354. The second tarpaulin is the subject of the present case.4 This tarpaulin
contains the heading "Conscience Vote" and lists candidates as either "(Anti-RH)
Team Buhay" with a check mark, or "(Pro-RH) Team Patay" with an "X" mark.5 The
electoral candidates were classified according to their vote on the adoption of
Republic Act No. 10354, otherwise known as the RH Law.6Those who voted for the
passing of the law were classified by petitioners as comprising "Team Patay," while
those who voted against it form "Team Buhay":7
TEAM BUHAY TEAM PATAY
Estrada, JV Angara, Juan Edgardo
Honasan, Gregorio Casio, Teddy
Magsaysay, Mitos Cayetano, Alan Peter
Pimentel, Koko Enrile, Jackie
Trillanes, Antonio Escudero, Francis
Villar, Cynthia Hontiveros, Risa
Party List Buhay Legarda, Loren
Party List Ang Pamilya Party List Gabriela
Party List Akbayan
Party List Bayan Muna
Party List Anak Pawis
During oral arguments, respondents conceded that the tarpaulin was neither
sponsored nor paid for by any candidate. Petitioners also conceded that the
tarpaulin contains names ofcandidates for the 2013 elections, but not of politicians
who helped in the passage of the RH Law but were not candidates for that election.
On February 22, 2013, respondent Atty. Mavil V. Majarucon, in her capacity as
Election Officer of Bacolod City, issued a Notice to Remove Campaign
Materials8 addressed to petitioner Most Rev. Bishop Vicente M. Navarra. The
election officer ordered the tarpaulins removal within three (3) days from receipt for
being oversized. COMELEC Resolution No. 9615 provides for the size requirement
of two feet (2) by three feet (3).9
On February 25, 2013, petitioners replied10 requesting, among others, that (1)
petitioner Bishop be given a definite ruling by COMELEC Law Department
regarding the tarpaulin; and (2) pending this opinion and the availment of legal
remedies, the tarpaulin be allowed to remain.11
On February 27, 2013, COMELEC Law Department issued a letter12 ordering the
immediate removal of the tarpaulin; otherwise, it will be constrained to file an
election offense against petitioners. The letter of COMELEC Law Department was
silenton the remedies available to petitioners. The letter provides as follows:
Dear Bishop Navarra:
It has reached this Office that our Election Officer for this City, Atty. Mavil
Majarucon, had already given you notice on February 22, 2013 as regards the
election propaganda material posted on the church vicinity promoting for or against
the candidates and party-list groups with the following names and messages,
particularly described as follows:
Material size : six feet (6) by ten feet (10)
Description : FULL COLOR TARPAULIN
Image of : SEE ATTACHED PICTURES
Message : CONSCIENCE VOTE (ANTI RH) TEAM
BUHAY; (PRO RH) TEAM PATAY
Location : POSTED ON THE CHURCH VICINITY
OF THE DIOCESE OF BACOLOD CITY
The three (3) day notice expired on February 25, 2013.
Considering that the above-mentioned material is found to be in violation of
Comelec Resolution No. 9615 promulgated on January 15, 2013 particularly on the
size (even with the subsequent division of the said tarpaulin into two), as the lawful
size for election propaganda material is only two feet (2) by three feet (3), please
order/cause the immediate removal of said election propaganda material, otherwise,
we shall be constrained to file an election offense case against you.
We pray that the Catholic Church will be the first institution to help the Commission
on Elections inensuring the conduct of peaceful, orderly, honest and credible
elections.
Thank you and God Bless!
[signed]
ATTY. ESMERALDA AMORA-LADRA
Director IV13
Concerned about the imminent threatof prosecution for their exercise of free speech,
petitioners initiated this case through this petition for certiorari and prohibition with
application for preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order.14 They
question respondents notice dated February 22, 2013 and letter issued on February
27, 2013. They pray that: (1) the petition be given due course; (2) a temporary
restraining order (TRO) and/or a writ of preliminary injunction be issued
restraining respondents from further proceeding in enforcing their orders for the
removal of the Team Patay tarpaulin; and (3) after notice and hearing, a decision be
rendered declaring the questioned orders of respondents as unconstitutional and
void, and permanently restraining respondents from enforcing them or any other
similar order.15
After due deliberation, this court, on March 5, 2013, issued a temporary restraining
order enjoining respondents from enforcing the assailed notice and letter, and set
oral arguments on March 19, 2013.16
On March 13, 2013, respondents filed their comment17 arguing that (1) a petition for
certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court filed before this court
is not the proper remedy to question the notice and letter of respondents; and (2) the
tarpaulin is an election propaganda subject to regulation by COMELEC pursuant to
its mandate under Article IX-C, Section 4 of the Constitution. Hence, respondents
claim that the issuances ordering its removal for being oversized are valid and
constitutional.18
During the hearing held on March 19, 2013, the parties were directed to file their
respective memoranda within 10 days or by April 1, 2013, taking into consideration
the intervening holidays.19
The issues, which also served as guide for the oral arguments, are:20
I.
WHETHER THE 22 FEBRUARY 2013 NOTICE/ORDER BY ELECTION OFFICER
MAJARUCON AND THE 27 FEBRUARY 2013 ORDER BY THE COMELEC LAW
DEPARTMENT ARE CONSIDERED JUDGMENTS/FINAL
ORDERS/RESOLUTIONS OF THE COMELEC WHICH WOULD WARRANT A
REVIEW OF THIS COURT VIA RULE 65 PETITION[;]
A. WHETHER PETITIONERS VIOLATED THE HIERARCHY OF
COURTS DOCTRINE AND JURISPRUDENTIAL RULES
GOVERNING APPEALS FROM COMELEC DECISIONS;
B. ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT THE AFOREMENTIONED
ORDERS ARE NOT CONSIDERED JUDGMENTS/FINAL
ORDERS/RESOLUTIONS OF THE COMELEC, WHETHER THERE
ARE EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH WOULD ALLOW
THIS COURT TO TAKE COGNIZANCE OF THE CASE[;]
II.
WHETHER IT IS RELEVANT TODETERMINE WHETHER THE TARPAULINS
ARE "POLITICAL ADVERTISEMENT" OR "ELECTION PROPAGANDA"
CONSIDERING THAT PETITIONER IS NOT A POLITICAL CANDIDATE[;]
III.
WHETHER THE TARPAULINS ARE A FORM OR EXPRESSION (PROTECTED
SPEECH), OR ELECTION PROPAGANDA/POLITICAL ADVERTISEMENT[;]
A. ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT THE TARPAULINS ARE A
FORM OF EXPRESSION, WHETHER THE COMELEC POSSESSES
THE AUTHORITY TO REGULATE THE SAME[;]
B. WHETHER THIS FORM OF EXPRESSION MAY BE REGULATED[;]
IV.
WHETHER THE 22 FEBRUARY 2013 NOTICE/ ORDER BY ELECTION OFFICER
MAJARUCON AND THE 27 FEBRUARY 2013 ORDER BY THE COMELEC LAW
DEPARTMENT VIOLATES THE PRINCIPLE OF SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND
STATE[;] [AND]
V.
WHETHER THE ACTION OF THE PETITIONERS IN POSTING ITS TARPAULIN
VIOLATES THE CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLE OF SEPARATION OF CHURCH
AND STATE.
I
PROCEDURAL ISSUES
I.A
This courts jurisdiction over COMELEC cases
Respondents ask that this petition be dismissed on the ground that the notice and
letter are not final orders, decisions, rulings, or judgments of the COMELEC En Banc
issued in the exercise of its adjudicatory powers, reviewable via Rule 64 of the Rules
of Court.21
Rule 64 is not the exclusive remedy for all acts of the COMELEC. Rule 65 is
applicable especially to raise objections relating to a grave abuse of discretion
resulting in the ouster of jurisdiction.22 As a special civil action, there must also be a
showing that there be no plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course
of the law.
Respondents contend that the assailed notice and letter are not subject to review by
this court, whose power to review is "limited only to final decisions, rulings and
orders of the COMELEC En Banc rendered in the exercise of its adjudicatory or
quasi-judicial power."23 Instead, respondents claim that the assailed notice and letter
are reviewable only by COMELEC itself pursuant to Article IX-C, Section 2(3) of the
Constitution24 on COMELECs power to decide all questions affecting
elections.25 Respondents invoke the cases of Ambil, Jr. v. COMELEC,26Repol v.
COMELEC,27 Soriano, Jr. v. COMELEC,28 Blanco v. COMELEC,29 and Cayetano v.
COMELEC,30 to illustrate how judicialintervention is limited to final decisions,
orders, rulings and judgments of the COMELEC En Banc.31
These cases are not applicable.
In Ambil, Jr. v. COMELEC, the losing party in the gubernatorial race of Eastern
Samar filed the election protest.32At issue was the validity of the promulgation of a
COMELEC Division resolution.33 No motion for reconsideration was filed to raise
this issue before the COMELEC En Banc. This court declared that it did not have
jurisdiction and clarified:
We have interpreted [Section 7, Article IX-A of the Constitution]34 to mean final
orders, rulings and decisionsof the COMELEC rendered in the exercise of its
adjudicatory or quasi-judicial powers." This decision must be a final decision or
resolution of the Comelec en banc, not of a division, certainly not an interlocutory
order of a division.The Supreme Court has no power to review viacertiorari, an
interlocutory order or even a final resolution of a Division of the Commission on
Elections.35 (Emphasis in the original, citations omitted)
However, in the next case cited by respondents, Repol v. COMELEC, this court
provided exceptions to this general rule. Repolwas another election protest case,
involving the mayoralty elections in Pagsanghan, Samar.36 This time, the case was
brought to this court because the COMELEC First Division issued a status quo ante
order against the Regional Trial Court executing its decision pending appeal.37 This
courts ponencia discussed the general rule enunciated in Ambil, Jr. that it cannot
take jurisdiction to review interlocutory orders of a COMELEC Division.38However,
consistent with ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation v. COMELEC,39 it clarified the
exception:
This Court, however, has ruled in the past that this procedural requirement [of filing
a motion for reconsideration] may be glossed over to prevent miscarriage of justice,
when the issue involves the principle of social justice or the protection of labor,
when the decision or resolution sought to be set aside is a nullity, or when the need
for relief is extremely urgent and certiorari is the only adequate and speedy remedy
available.40
Based on ABS-CBN, this court could review orders and decisions of COMELEC in
electoral contests despite not being reviewed by the COMELEC En Banc, if:
1) It will prevent the miscarriage of justice;
2) The issue involves a principle of social justice;
3) The issue involves the protection of labor;
4) The decision or resolution sought tobe set aside is a nullity; or
5) The need for relief is extremely urgent and certiorari is the only adequate
and speedy remedy available.
Ultimately, this court took jurisdiction in Repoland decided that the status quo
anteorder issued by the COMELEC Division was unconstitutional.
Respondents also cite Soriano, Jr. v. COMELEC.This case was also an election protest
case involving candidates for the city council of Muntinlupa City.41 Petitioners in
Soriano, Jr.filed before this court a petition for certiorari against an interlocutory
order of the COMELEC First
Division.42 While the petition was pending in this court, the COMELEC First
Division dismissed the main election protest case.43 Sorianoapplied the general rule
that only final orders should be questioned with this court. The ponencia for this
court, however, acknowledged the exceptions to the general rule in ABS-CBN.44
Blanco v. COMELEC, another case cited by respondents, was a disqualification case
of one of the mayoralty candidates of Meycauayan, Bulacan.45 The COMELEC
Second Division ruled that petitioner could not qualify for the 2007 elections due to
the findings in an administrative case that he engaged in vote buying in the 1995
elections.46 No motion for reconsideration was filed before the COMELEC En Banc.
This court, however, took cognizance of this case applying one of the exceptions in
ABS-CBN: The assailed resolution was a nullity.47
Finally, respondents cited Cayetano v. COMELEC, a recent election protest case
involving the mayoralty candidates of Taguig City.48 Petitioner assailed a resolution
of the COMELEC denying her motion for reconsideration to dismiss the election
protest petition for lack of form and substance.49 This court clarified the general rule
and refused to take cognizance of the review of the COMELEC order. While
recognizing the exceptions in ABS-CBN, this court ruled that these exceptions did
not apply.50
Ambil, Jr., Repol, Soriano, Jr., Blanco, and Cayetano cited by respondents do not
operate as precedents to oust this court from taking jurisdiction over this case. All
these cases cited involve election protests or disqualification cases filed by the losing
candidate against the winning candidate.
In the present case, petitioners are not candidates seeking for public office. Their
petition is filed to assert their fundamental right to expression.
Furthermore, all these cases cited by respondents pertained to COMELECs exercise
of its adjudicatory or quasi-judicial power. This case pertains to acts of COMELEC in
the implementation of its regulatory powers. When it issued the notice and letter, the
COMELEC was allegedly enforcingelection laws.
I.B
Rule 65, grave abuse of discretion,
and limitations on political speech
The main subject of thiscase is an alleged constitutional violation: the infringement
on speech and the "chilling effect" caused by respondent COMELECs notice and
letter.
Petitioners allege that respondents committed grave abuse of discretion amounting
to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the notice51 dated February 22,2013 and
letter52 dated February 27, 2013 ordering the removal of the tarpaulin.53 It is their
position that these infringe on their fundamental right to freedom of expression and
violate the principle of separation of church and state and, thus, are
unconstitutional.54
The jurisdiction of this court over the subject matter is determined from the
allegations in the petition. Subject matter jurisdiction is defined as the authority "to
hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings in question
belong and is conferred by the sovereign authority which organizes the court and
defines its powers."55 Definitely, the subject matter in this case is different from the
cases cited by respondents.
Nothing less than the electorates political speech will be affected by the restrictions
imposed by COMELEC. Political speech is motivated by the desire to be heard and
understood, to move people to action. It is concerned with the sovereign right to
change the contours of power whether through the election of representatives in a
republican government or the revision of the basic text of the Constitution. The zeal
with which we protect this kind of speech does not depend on our evaluation of the
cogency of the message. Neither do we assess whether we should protect speech
based on the motives of COMELEC. We evaluate restrictions on freedom of
expression from their effects. We protect both speech and medium because the
quality of this freedom in practice will define the quality of deliberation in our
democratic society.
COMELECs notice and letter affect preferred speech. Respondents acts are capable
of repetition. Under the conditions in which it was issued and in view of the novelty
of this case,it could result in a "chilling effect" that would affect other citizens who
want their voices heard on issues during the elections. Other citizens who wish to
express their views regarding the election and other related issues may choose not
to, for fear of reprisal or sanction by the COMELEC. Direct resort to this court is
allowed to avoid such proscribed conditions. Rule 65 is also the procedural platform
for raising grave abuse of discretion.
Both parties point to constitutional provisions on jurisdiction. For petitioners, it
referred to this courts expanded exercise of certiorari as provided by the
Constitution as follows:
Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies
involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine
whether ornot there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess
of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the
Government.56(Emphasis supplied)
On the other hand, respondents relied on its constitutional mandate to decide all
questions affectingelections. Article IX-C, Section 2(3) of the Constitution, provides:
Sec. 2. The Commission on Elections shall exercise the following powers and
functions:
....
(3) Decide, except those involving the right to vote, all questions affecting elections,
including determination of the number and location of polling places, appointment
of election officials and inspectors, and registration of voters.
Respondents reliance on this provision is misplaced.
We are not confronted here with the question of whether the COMELEC, in its
exercise of jurisdiction, gravely abused it. We are confronted with the question as to
whether the COMELEC had any jurisdiction at all with its acts threatening imminent
criminal action effectively abridging meaningful political speech.
It is clear that the subject matter of the controversy is the effect of COMELECs notice
and letter on free speech. This does not fall under Article IX-C, Section 2(3) of the
Constitution. The use of the word "affecting" in this provision cannot be interpreted
to mean that COMELEC has the exclusive power to decide any and allquestions that
arise during elections. COMELECs constitutional competencies during elections
should not operate to divest this court of its own jurisdiction.
The more relevant provision for jurisdiction in this case is Article VIII, Section 5(1) of
the Constitution.This provision provides for this courts original jurisdiction over
petitions for certiorari and prohibition. This should be read alongside the expanded
jurisdiction of the court in Article VIII, Section 1 of the Constitution.
Certainly, a breach of the fundamental right of expression by COMELEC is grave
abuse of discretion. Thus, the constitutionality of the notice and letter coming from
COMELEC is within this courts power to review.
During elections, we have the power and the duty to correct any grave abuse of
discretion or any act tainted with unconstitutionality on the part of any government
branch or instrumentality. This includes actions by the COMELEC. Furthermore, it is
this courts constitutional mandate to protect the people against governments
infringement of their fundamental rights. This constitutional mandate out weighs
the jurisdiction vested with the COMELEC.
It will, thus, be manifest injustice if the court does not take jurisdiction over this case.
I.C
Hierarchy of courts
This brings us to the issue of whether petitioners violated the doctrine of hierarchy
of courts in directly filing their petition before this court.
Respondents contend that petitioners failure to file the proper suit with a lower
court of concurrent jurisdiction is sufficient ground for the dismissal of their
petition.57 They add that observation of the hierarchy of courts is compulsory, citing
Heirs of Bertuldo Hinog v. Melicor.58 While respondents claim that while there are
exceptions to the general rule on hierarchy of courts, none of these are present in this
case.59
On the other hand, petitioners cite Fortich v. Corona60 on this courts discretionary
power to take cognizance of a petition filed directly to it if warranted by "compelling
reasons, or [by] the nature and importance of the issues raised. . . ."61 Petitioners
submit that there are "exceptional and compelling reasons to justify a direct resort
[with] this Court."62
In Baez, Jr. v. Concepcion,63 we explained the necessity of the application of the
hierarchy of courts:
The Court must enjoin the observance of the policy on the hierarchy of courts, and
now affirms that the policy is not to be ignored without serious consequences. The
strictness of the policy is designed to shield the Court from having to deal with
causes that are also well within the competence of the lower courts, and thus leave
time to the Court to deal with the more fundamental and more essential tasks that
the Constitution has assigned to it. The Court may act on petitions for the
extraordinary writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus only when absolutely
necessary or when serious and important reasons exist to justify an exception to the
policy.64
In Baez, we also elaborated on the reasons why lower courts are allowed to issue
writs of certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus, citing Vergara v. Suelto:65
The Supreme Court is a court of lastresort, and must so remain if it is to satisfactorily
perform the functions assigned to it by the fundamental charter and immemorial
tradition. It cannot and should not be burdened with the task of dealing with causes
in the first instance. Its original jurisdiction to issue the so-called extraordinary writs
should be exercised only where absolutely necessary or where serious and important
reasons exist therefore. Hence, that jurisdiction should generally be exercised
relative to actions or proceedings before the Court of Appeals, or before
constitutional or other tribunals, bodies or agencies whose acts for some reason or
another are not controllable by the Court of Appeals. Where the issuance of an
extraordinary writ is also within the competence of the Court of Appeals or a
Regional Trial Court, it is in either of these courts that the specific action for the
writs procurement must be presented. This is and should continue to be the policy
in this regard, a policy that courts and lawyers must strictly observe.66 (Emphasis
omitted)
The doctrine that requires respect for the hierarchy of courts was created by this
court to ensure that every level of the judiciary performs its designated roles in an
effective and efficient manner. Trial courts do not only determine the facts from the
evaluation of the evidence presented before them. They are likewise competent to
determine issues of law which may include the validity of an ordinance, statute, or
even an executive issuance in relation to the Constitution.67 To effectively perform
these funct