Citizenship Not Chosen

by Manuel B. Quintal, Esq.

Becoming a naturalized citizen is a free and voluntary act made by an individual of legal age after complying with the requirements provided by law.  Becoming a natural-born citizen, on the other hand, is obviously not a matter of choice by the citizen born.

A natural-born citizen becomes a citizen of a country or countries by reason simply of his parental relationship or place he was born.  We do not and cannot choose our parents. Neither do we decide where we are born.  An individual is a natural-born Filipino citizen simply because his parents were Filipino citizens at the time of his birth. An individual born within United States territory is considered a natural- born United States citizen.  Under both Philippine Constitution and United States Constitution, and respective laws, that citizenship is perfect already, not just perfectable.  He does not have to do anything or participate in any ceremony to be a complete citizen. He does not have to sign any pledge in either country.  An individual born in the United States of Filipino parents is a citizen, one-hundred percent, of both countries. He has dual citizenship at birth, a situation brought about by parentage and place of birth.

We do not and cannot choose our parents. Neither do we decide where we are born. 

The individual, with all his physical components as a human being, is considered the citizen.  Not just any portion of his physical being. No country in the world views any of its citizens as less than 100th citizens.

Applying the rules cited, Mr. Gabby Lopez of ABS-CBN who was born in Massachusetts is one-hundred percent U.S. citizen. He is also a one-hundred percent Filipino citizen because his parents were Filipino citizens when he was born. It does not matter which kind of passport he used or uses. His citizenship was determined at the time of his birth and it may be terminated only by his express renunciation or termination by the courts for any reason(s) enumerated in the laws. Based on information, none of these happened.  That he allegedly applied for or filed some application under the Dual Citizenship Law of the Philippines did not deprive him of that status as a natural-born Filipino citizen. Republic Act 9225, “Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003”  applies only to those natural-born Filipino citizens  who (1) after the  enactment of that law become a citizen of another country and wish to retain his Filipino citizenship, and (2) were naturalized in another country before the passage of that law and wish to re-acquire his Filipino citizenship. By decision of the courts, the individual who re-acquires such citizenship is still considered a natural-born Filipino citizen.

By the letter of the Philippine Constitution, he can, through the ABS-CBN, engage in the mass media business. Article XVI, Section 11 of the Philippine Constitution says that “The ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens.”  The issue is whether he, as a citizen of both United States and Philippines, qualifies to be involved in mass media.  His questioners are probing into his allegiance to the Philippines. Allegiance, by the way is “a citizen’s obligation of fidelity and obedience to the government or sovereign in return for the benefits of the protection of the state.”  (Black’s Law Dictionary). They are questioning his loyalty to the Philippines. His questioners want to show that Mr. Lopez has been less than what a Filipino should be or do. What makes a Filipino less than any other Filipino in terms of allegiance or loyalty as to disqualify him to engage in business reserved only for Filipino citizens?  Mr. Lopez was asked to recite a part of a pledge of allegiance.  This seems to be an attempt to becloud the obvious fact that he is a Filipino citizen and divert the attention of the deciders from that simple fact.

How many of those educated in the Philippines can recite those decades after they left the halls of their schools?

Ability to recite a certain pledge of allegiance, or part of it, is not a reliable measure of one’s allegiance, loyalty, or of Filipino-ness.  Just imagine a natural-born Filipino citizen, (his only citizenship is that of a Filipino), born in the Philippines of Filipino citizen parents, who spent his early years of education outside the Philippines.  He was never required to recite the Philippines’ “Panatang Makabayan” (Patriotic Oath) or “Panunumpa ng Katapatan sa Watawat ng Pilipinas” (Pledge of Allegiance to the Philippine Flag) every day before classes began.  Is his allegiance or loyalty questionable because he could not recite them, and, therefore, cannot be involved in any business reserved only for Filipino citizens?   How many of those educated in the Philippines can recite those decades after they left the halls of their schools? If this, and similar standards, is a way to determine once allegiance or loyalty to the Philippines, then millions will fail the test.   A Filipino citizen who openly declares his sympathy to another country may have questionable allegiance.

Granting that the alleged illegal acts by Mr. Lopez and/or ABS-CBN are not established by the questioners, the franchise renewal or extension should be granted.  But then again, the ways of the kingdom of politics can triumph those of the kingdom of the laws.



(The Philippine Daily Mirror welcomes MANUEL B. QUINTAL, Esq. as a regular columnist. He is an attorney practicing in New York since 1989. He is active in the community as a member, an officer, or a legal adviser of various professional, business, and not-for-profit organizations. He was a columnist of Newstar Philippines, an English language weekly newspaper published in New York from 2006 to 2009. He was also Executive Editor of International Tribune, an English language weekly newspaper for the Asian community, based in New York, from 2010 to 2012.)

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