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Case Digest: Bengson III v. HRET. G.R. No. 142840, 7 May 2001

Bengson III v. HRET. G.R. No. 142840, 7 May 2001

TOPIC: Elements of the State: Citizens: Citizenship: Modes of Acquisition


The citizenship of respondent Teodoro C. Cruz is at issue in this case, in view of the constitutional requirement that “no person shall be a Member of the House of Representative unless he is a natural-born citizen.”

Respondent Cruz was a natural-born citizen of the Philippines. He was born in San Clemente, Tarlac, on April 27, 1960, of Filipino parents. The fundamental law then applicable was the 1935 Constitution.

On November 5, 1985, however, respondent Cruz enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and without the consent of the Republic of the Philippines, took an oath of allegiance to the United States. As a Consequence, he lost his Filipino citizenship for under Commonwealth Act No. 63, 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 on June 5, 1990, in connection with his service in the U.S. Marine Corps.

On March 17, 1994, respondent Cruz reacquired his Philippine citizenship through repatriation under Republic Act No. 2630.3 He ran for and was elected as the Representative of the Second District of Pangasinan in the May 11, 1998 elections. He won by a convincing margin of 26,671 votes over petitioner Antonio Bengson III, who was then running for reelection.1âwphi1.nêt

Subsequently, petitioner filed a case for Quo Warranto Ad Cautelam with respondent House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) claiming that respondent Cruz was not qualified to become a member of the House of Representatives since he is not a natural-born citizen as required under Article VI, section 6 of the Constitution.

On March 2, 2000, the HRET rendered its decision5 dismissing the petition for quo warranto and declaring Cruz the duly elected Representative of the Second District of Pangasinan in the May 1998 elections. The HRET likewise denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the decision in its resolution dated April 27, 2000.6


WON Teodoro Cruz a natural-born Filipino who became an American citizen, can still be considered a natural-born Filipino upon his reacquisition of Philippine citizenship.


The 1987 Constitution enumerates who are Filipino citizens as follow:

(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 mother, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority, and

(4) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.8


There are two ways of acquiring citizenship: (1) by birth, and (2) by naturalization. These ways of acquiring citizenship correspond to the two kinds of citizens: the natural-born citizen, and the naturalized citizen. A person who at the time of his birth is a citizen of a particular country, is a natural-born citizen thereof.

As defined in the same Constitution, natural-born citizens “are those citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect his Philippine citezenship.”

On the other hand, naturalized citizens are those who have become Filipino citizens through naturalization, generally under Commonwealth Act No. 473, otherwise known as the Revised Naturalization Law, which repealed the former Naturalization Law (Act No. 2927), and by Republic Act No. 530. To be naturalized, an applicant has to prove that he possesses all the qualifications and none of the disqualification provided by law to become a Filipino citizen. The decision granting Philippine citizenship becomes executory only after two (2) years from its promulgation when the court is satisfied that during the intervening period, the applicant has (1) not left the Philippines; (2) has dedicated himself to a lawful calling or profession; (3) has not been convicted of any offense or violation of Government promulgated rules; or (4) committed any act prejudicial to the interest of the nation or contrary to any Government announced policies.

Filipino citizens who have lost their citizenship may however reacquire the same in the manner provided by law. Commonwealth Act. No. (C.A. No. 63), enumerates the three 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.

Naturalization is mode for both acquisition and reacquisition of Philippine citizenship. As a mode of initially acquiring Philippine citizenship, naturalization is governed by Commonwealth Act No. 473, as amended. On the other hand, naturalization as a mode for reacquiring Philippine citizenship is governed by Commonwealth Act No. 63. Under this law, a former Filipino citizen who wishes to reacquire Philippine citizenship must possess certain qualifications and none of the disqualification mentioned in Section 4 of C.A. 473.

Repatriation, on the other hand, may be had under various statutes by those who lost their citizenship due to: (1) desertion of the armed forces; 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.

As distinguished from the lengthy process of naturalization, repatriation simply consists of the taking of an oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippine and registering said oath in the Local Civil Registry of the place where the person concerned resides or last resided.

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.

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, respondent 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.

Petitioner’s contention that respondent Cruz is no longer a natural-born citizen since he had to perform an act to regain his citizenship is untenable. As correctly explained by the HRET in its decision, the term “natural-born citizen” was first defined in Article III, Section 4 of the 1973 Constitution as follows:


Sec. 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.

Two requisites must concur for a person to be considered as such: (1) a person must be a Filipino citizen birth and (2) he does not have to perform any act to obtain or perfect his Philippine citizenship.

Under the 1973 Constitution definition, there were two categories of Filipino citizens which were not considered natural-born: (1) those who were naturalized and (2) those born before January 17, 1973,38 of Filipino mothers who, upon reaching the age of majority, elected Philippine citizenship. Those “naturalized citizens” were not considered natural-born obviously because they were not Filipino at birth and had to perform an act to acquire Philippine citizenship. Those born of Filipino mothers before the effectively of the 1973 Constitution were likewise not considered natural-born because they also had to perform an act to perfect their Philippines citizenship.

The present Constitution, however, now consider those born of Filipino mothers before the effectivity of the 1973 Constitution and who elected Philippine citizenship upon reaching the majority age as natural-born. After defining who re natural-born citizens, Section 2 of Article IV adds a sentence: “Those who elect Philippine citizenship in accordance with paragraph (3), Section 1 hereof shall be deemed natural-born citizens.” Consequently, only 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: (1) those who are natural-born and (2) those who are naturalized in accordance with law. 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 natural-born Filipino. Noteworthy is the absence in said enumeration of a separate category for persons who, after losing Philippine citizenship, subsequently reacquire it. The reason therefor is clear: as to such persons, they would either be natural-born or naturalized depending on the reasons for the loss of their citizenship and the mode prescribed by the applicable law for the reacquisition thereof. As respondent Cruz was not required by law to go through naturalization proceeding in order to reacquire his citizenship, he is perforce a natural-born Filipino. As such, he possessed all the necessary qualifications to be elected as member of the House of Representatives.



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