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Case Digest: Tabasa v. Court of Appeals

Tabasa v. Court of Appeals

TOPIC: Elements of the State: Citizens: Citizenship: Loss of Citizenship, Reacquisition and Retention


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.

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the Bureau that respondent’s Passport No. 053854189 issued on June 10, 1994 in San Francisco, California, U.S.A., had been revoked by the U.S. Department of State;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).

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. Tabasa’s passport has been revoked because he is the subject of an outstanding federal warrant of arrest issued on January 25, 1996 by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of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).

The BID ordered petitioner’s 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 respondent’s 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.


whether petitioner has validly reacquired Philippine citizenship under RA 8171.


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:

  1. Filipino women who lost their Philippine citizenship by marriage to aliens; and
  2. 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 parent’s 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.



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