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Case Digest:Poe-Llamanzares v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 221677, 11 March 2016

Poe-Llamanzares v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 221677, 11 March 2016

TOPIC: Elements of the State: Citizens: Citizenship: Citizenship of Foundlings and Naturalized Citizens


Mary Grace Natividad S. Poe-Llamanzares (petitioner) was found abandoned as a newborn infant in the Parish Church of Jaro, Iloilo by a certain Edgardo Militar (Edgardo) on 3 September 1968. Parental care and custody over petitioner was passed on by Edgardo to his relatives, Emiliano Militar (Emiliano) and his wife. Three days after, 6 September 1968, Emiliano reported and registered petitioner as a foundling with the Office of the Civil Registrar of Iloilo City (OCR-Iloilo). In her Foundling Certificate and Certificate of Live Birth, the petitioner was given the name “Mary Grace Natividad Contreras Militar.”

When petitioner was five (5) years old, celebrity spouses Ronald Allan Kelley Poe (a.k.a. Fenando Poe, Jr.) and Jesusa Sonora Poe (a.k.a. Susan Roces) filed a petition for her adoption with the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of San Juan City. On 13 May 1974, the trial court granted their petition and ordered that petitioner’s name be changed from “Mary Grace Natividad Contreras Militar” to “Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe.”

Having reached the age of eighteen (18) years in 1986, petitioner registered as a voter with the local COMELEC Office in San Juan City. On 13 December 1986, she received her COMELEC Voter’s Identification Card for Precinct No. 196 in Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila.

On 4 April 1988, petitioner applied for and was issued Philippine Passport No. F9272876 by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). Subsequently, on 5 April 1993 and 19 May 1998, she renewed her Philippine passport and respectively secured Philippine Passport Nos. L881511 and DD156616.

Initially, the petitioner enrolled and pursued a degree in Development Studies at the University of the Philippines but she opted to continue her studies abroad and left for the United States of America (U.S.) in 1988. Petitioner graduated in 1991 from Boston College in Chestnuts Hill, Massachusetts where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Studies.

On 27 July 1991, petitioner married Teodoro Misael Daniel V. Llamanzares (Llamanzares), a citizen of both the Philippines and the U.S., at Sanctuario de San Jose Parish in San Juan City. Desirous of being with her husband who was then based in the U.S., the couple flew back to the U.S. two days after the wedding ceremony or on 29 July 1991.

While in the U.S., the petitioner gave birth to her eldest child Brian Daniel (Brian) on 16 April 1992. Her two daughters Hanna MacKenzie (Hanna) and Jesusa Anika (Anika) were both born in the Philippines on 10 July 1998 and 5 June 2004, respectively.

On 18 October 2001, petitioner became a naturalized American citizen.  She obtained U.S. Passport No. 017037793 on 19 December 2001.

On 8 April 2004, the petitioner came back to the Philippines together with Hanna to support her father’s candidacy for President in the May 2004 elections. It was during this time that she gave birth to her youngest daughter Anika. She returned to the U.S. with her two daughters on 8 July 2004.

After a few months, specifically on 13 December 2004, petitioner rushed back to the Philippines upon learning of her father’s deteriorating medical condition. Her father slipped into a coma and eventually expired. The petitioner stayed in the country until 3 February 2005 to take care of her father’s funeral arrangements as well as to assist in the settlement of his estate.

According to the petitioner, the untimely demise of her father was a severe blow to her entire family. In her earnest desire to be with her grieving mother, the petitioner and her husband decided to move and reside permanently in the Philippines sometime in the first quarter of 2005.19 The couple began preparing for their resettlement including notification of their children’s schools that they will be transferring to Philippine schools for the next semester; coordination with property movers for the relocation of their household goods, furniture and cars from the U.S. to the Philippines;21 and inquiry with Philippine authorities as to the proper procedure to be followed in bringing their pet dog into the country.22 As early as 2004, the petitioner already quit her job in the U.S.

Finally, petitioner came home to the Philippines on 24 May 200524 and without delay, secured a Tax Identification Number from the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Her three (3) children immediately followed while her husband was forced to stay in the U.S. to complete pending projects as well as to arrange the sale of their family home there.

The petitioner and her children briefly stayed at her mother’s place until she and her husband purchased a condominium unit with a parking slot at One Wilson Place Condominium in San Juan City in the second half of 2005.27 The corresponding Condominium Certificates of Title covering the unit and parking slot were issued by the Register of Deeds of San Juan City to petitioner and her husband on 20 February 2006.28 Meanwhile, her children of school age began attending Philippine private schools.

On 14 February 2006, the petitioner made a quick trip to the U.S. to supervise the disposal of some of the family’s remaining household belongings.29 She travelled back to the Philippines on 11 March 2006.

In late March 2006, petitioner’s husband officially informed the U.S. Postal Service of the family’s change and abandonment of their address in the U.S. The family home was eventually sold on 27 April 2006. Petitioner’s husband resigned from his job in the U.S. in April 2006, arrived in the country on 4 May 2006 and started working for a major Philippine company in July 2006.

In early 2006, petitioner and her husband acquired a 509-square meter lot in Corinthian Hills, Quezon City where they built their family home34 and to this day, is where the couple and their children have been residing.35 A Transfer Certificate of Title covering said property was issued in the couple’s name by the Register of Deeds of Quezon City on 1June 2006.

On 7 July 2006, petitioner took her Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines pursuant to Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9225 or the Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003.36 Under the same Act, she filed with the Bureau of Immigration (BI) a sworn petition to reacquire Philippine citizenship together with petitions for derivative citizenship on behalf of her three minor children on 10 July 2006. As can be gathered from its 18 July 2006 Order, the BI acted favorably on petitioner’s petitions and declared that she is deemed to have reacquired her Philippine citizenship while her children are considered as citizens of the Philippines.38 Consequently, the BI issued Identification Certificates (ICs) in petitioner’s name and in the names of her three (3) children.

Again, petitioner registered as a voter of Barangay Santa Lucia, San Juan City on 31 August 2006. She also secured from the DFA a new Philippine Passport bearing the No. XX4731999. This passport was renewed on 18 March 2014 and she was issued Philippine Passport No. EC0588861 by the DFA.

On 6 October 2010, President Benigno S. Aquino III appointed petitioner as Chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).43 Before assuming her post, petitioner executed an “Affidavit of Renunciation of Allegiance to the United States of America and Renunciation of American Citizenship” before a notary public in Pasig City on 20 October 2010, in satisfaction of the legal requisites stated in Section 5 of R.A. No. 9225. The following day, 21 October 2010 petitioner submitted the said affidavit to the BI and took her oath of office as Chairperson of the MTRCB. From then on, petitioner stopped using her American passport.

On 12 July 2011, the petitioner executed before the Vice Consul of the U.S. Embassy in Manila an “Oath/Affirmation of Renunciation of Nationality of the United States.” On that day, she accomplished a sworn questionnaire before the U.S. Vice Consul wherein she stated that she had taken her oath as MTRCB Chairperson on 21 October 2010 with the intent, among others, of relinquishing her American citizenship. In the same questionnaire, the petitioner stated that she had resided outside of the U.S., specifically in the Philippines, from 3 September 1968 to 29 July 1991 and from May 2005 to present.

On 9 December 2011, the U.S. Vice Consul issued to petitioner a “Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States” effective 21 October 2010.


WON she is a natural-born Filipino citizen and that she is a resident of the Philippines for at least ten (10) years and eleven (11) months up to the day before the 9 May 2016 Elections.



We find no such intent or language permitting discrimination against foundlings. On the contrary, all three Constitutions guarantee the basic right to equal protection of the laws. All exhort the State to render social justice. Of special consideration are several provisions in the present charter: Article II, Section 11 which provides that the “State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights,” Article XIII, Section 1 which mandates Congress to “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 x x x” and Article XV, Section 3 which requires the State to defend 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.” Certainly, these provisions contradict an intent to discriminate against foundlings on account of their unfortunate status.

Domestic laws on adoption also support the principle that foundlings are Filipinos. These laws do not provide that adoption confers citizenship upon the adoptee. Rather, the adoptee must be a Filipino in the first place to be adopted. The most basic of such laws is Article 15 of the Civil Code which provides that “[l]aws relating to family rights, duties, status, conditions, legal capacity of persons are binding on citizens of the Philippines even though living abroad.” Adoption deals with status, and a Philippine adoption court will have jurisdiction only if the adoptee is a Filipino.

Recent legislation is more direct. R.A. No. 8043 entitled “An Act Establishing the Rules to Govern the Inter-Country Adoption of Filipino Children and For Other Purposes” (otherwise known as the “Inter-Country Adoption Act of 1995”), R.A. No. 8552, entitled “An Act Establishing the Rules and Policies on the Adoption of Filipino Children and For Other Purposes” (otherwise known as the Domestic Adoption Act of 1998) and this Court’s A.M. No. 02-6-02-SC or the “Rule on Adoption,” all expressly refer to “Filipino children” and include foundlings as among Filipino children who may be adopted.

It has been argued that the process to determine that the child is a foundling leading to the issuance of a foundling certificate under these laws and the issuance of said certificate are acts to acquire or perfect Philippine citizenship which make the foundling a naturalized Filipino at best. This is erroneous. Under Article IV, 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.” In the first place, “having to perform an act” means that the act must be personally done by the citizen. In this instance, the determination of foundling status is done not by the child but by the authorities.121 Secondly, the object of the process is the determination of the whereabouts of the parents, not the citizenship of the child. Lastly, the process is certainly not analogous to naturalization proceedings to acquire Philippine citizenship, or the election of such citizenship by one born of an alien father and a Filipino mother under the 1935 Constitution, which is an act to perfect it.

Foundlings are likewise citizens under international law. Under the 1987 Constitution, an 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.124 On the other hand, generally accepted principles of international law, by virtue of the incorporation clause of the Constitution, form part of the laws of the land even if they do not derive from treaty obligations. Generally accepted principles of international law include international custom as evidence of a general practice accepted as law, and general principles of law recognized by civilized nations.125 International customary rules are accepted as binding as a result from the combination of two elements: the established, widespread, and consistent practice on the part of States; and a psychological element known as the opinionjuris sive necessitates (opinion as to law or necessity). Implicit in the latter element is a belief that the practice in question is rendered obligatory by the existence of a rule of law requiring it.126 “General principles of law recognized by civilized nations” are principles “established by a process of reasoning” or judicial logic, based on principles which are “basic to legal systems generally,”127 such as “general principles of equity, i.e., the general principles of fairness and justice,” and the “general principle against discrimination” which is embodied in the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention Against Discrimination in Education, the Convention (No. 111) Concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation.”128 These are the same core principles which underlie the Philippine Constitution itself, as embodied in the due process and equal protection clauses of the Bill of Rights.129

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”) has been interpreted by this Court as part of the generally accepted principles of international law and binding on the State.130 Article 15 thereof states:

  1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.
  2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

The Philippines has also ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Article 7 of the UNCRC imposes the following obligations on our country:

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.

In 1986, the country also ratified the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 24 thereof provide for the right of every child “to acquire a nationality:”

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.

The common thread of the UDHR, UNCRC and ICCPR is to obligate the Philippines to grant nationality from birth and ensure that no child is stateless. This grant of nationality must be at the time of birth, and it cannot be accomplished by the application of our present naturalization laws, Commonwealth Act No. 473, as amended, and R.A. No. 9139, both of which require the applicant to be at least eighteen (18) years old.

The principles found in two conventions, while yet unratified by the Philippines, are generally accepted principles of international law. The first is Article 14 of the 1930 Hague Convention on Certain Questions Relating to the Conflict of Nationality Laws under which a foundling is presumed to have the “nationality of the country of birth,” to wit:

Article 14

A child whose parents are both unknown shall have the nationality of the country of birth. If the child’s parentage is established, its nationality shall be determined by the rules applicable in cases where the parentage is known.

A foundling is, until the contrary is proved, presumed to have been born on the territory of the State in which it was found. (Underlining supplied)

The second is the principle that a foundling is presumed born of citizens of the country where he is found, contained in Article 2 of the 1961 United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness:

Article 2

A foundling found in the territory of a Contracting State shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be considered to have been born within the territory of parents possessing the nationality of that State.

That the Philippines is not a party to the 1930 Hague Convention nor to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness does not mean that their principles are not binding. While the Philippines is not a party to the 1930 Hague Convention, it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Article 15(1) ofwhich131 effectively affirms Article 14 of the 1930 Hague Convention. Article 2 of the 1961 “United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness” merely “gives effect” to Article 15(1) of the UDHR.

Current legislation reveals the adherence of the Philippines to this generally accepted principle of international law. In particular, R.A. No. 8552, R.A. No. 8042 and this Court’s Rules on Adoption, expressly refer to “Filipino children.” In all of them, foundlings are among the Filipino children who could be adopted. Likewise, it has been pointed that the DFA issues passports to foundlings. Passports are by law, issued only to citizens. This shows that even the executive department, acting through the DFA, considers foundlings as Philippine citizens.

Adopting these legal principles from the 1930 Hague Convention and the 1961 Convention on Statelessness is rational and reasonable and consistent with the jus sanguinis regime in our Constitution. The presumption of natural-born citizenship of foundlings stems from the presumption that their parents are nationals of the Philippines. As the empirical data provided by the PSA show, that presumption is at more than 99% and is a virtual certainty.


The Constitution requires presidential candidates to have ten (10) years’ residence in the Philippines before the day of the elections. Since the forthcoming elections will be held on 9 May 2016, petitioner must have been a resident of the Philippines prior to 9 May 2016 for ten (10) years. In answer to the requested information of “Period of Residence in the Philippines up to the day before May 09, 2016,” she put in “10 years 11 months” which according to her pleadings in these cases corresponds to a beginning date of 25 May 2005 when she returned for good from the U.S.

When petitioner immigrated to the U.S. in 1991, she lost her original domicile, which is the Philippines. There are three requisites to acquire a new domicile: 1. Residence or bodily presence in a new locality; 2. an intention to remain there; and 3. an intention to abandon the old domicile.152 To successfully effect a change of domicile, one must demonstrate an actual removal or an actual change of domicile; a bona fide intention of abandoning the former place of residence and establishing a new one and definite acts which correspond with the purpose. In other words, there must basically be animus manendi coupled with animus non revertendi. The purpose to remain in or at the domicile of choice must be for an indefinite period of time; the change of residence must be voluntary; and the residence at the place chosen for the new domicile must be actual.

Petitioner presented voluminous evidence showing that she and her family abandoned their U.S. domicile and relocated to the Philippines for good. These evidence include petitioner’s former U.S. passport showing her arrival on 24 May 2005 and her return to the Philippines every time she travelled abroad; e-mail correspondences starting in March 2005 to September 2006 with a freight company to arrange for the shipment of their household items weighing about 28,000 pounds to the Philippines; e-mail with the Philippine Bureau of Animal Industry inquiring how to ship their dog to the Philippines; school records of her children showing enrollment in Philippine schools starting June 2005 and for succeeding years; tax identification card for petitioner issued on July 2005; titles for condominium and parking slot issued in February 2006 and their corresponding tax declarations issued in April 2006; receipts dated 23 February 2005 from the Salvation Army in the U.S. acknowledging donation of items from petitioner’s family; March 2006 e-mail to the U.S. Postal Service confirming request for change of address; final statement from the First American Title Insurance Company showing sale of their U.S. home on 27 April 2006; 12 July 2011 filled-up questionnaire submitted to the U.S. Embassy where petitioner indicated that she had been a Philippine resident since May 2005; affidavit from Jesusa Sonora Poe (attesting to the return of petitioner on 24 May 2005 and that she and her family stayed with affiant until the condominium was purchased); and Affidavit from petitioner’s husband (confirming that the spouses jointly decided to relocate to the Philippines in 2005 and that he stayed behind in the U.S. only to finish some work and to sell the family home).

To avoid the logical conclusion pointed out by the evidence of residence of petitioner, the COMELEC ruled that petitioner’s claim of residence of ten (10) years and eleven (11) months by 9 May 2016 in her 2015 COC was false because she put six ( 6) years and six ( 6) months as “period of residence before May 13, 2013” in her 2012 COC for Senator. Thus, according to the COMELEC, she started being a Philippine resident only in November 2006. In doing so, the COMELEC automatically assumed as true the statement in the 2012 COC and the 2015 COC as false.

As explained by petitioner in her verified pleadings, she misunderstood the date required in the 2013 COC as the period of residence as of the day she submitted that COC in 2012. She said that she reckoned residency from April-May 2006 which was the period when the U.S. house was sold and her husband returned to the Philippines. In that regard, she was advised by her lawyers in 2015 that residence could be counted from 25 May 2005.

Petitioner’s explanation that she misunderstood the query in 2012 (period of residence before 13 May 2013) as inquiring about residence as of the time she submitted the COC, is bolstered by the change which the COMELEC itself introduced in the 2015 COC which is now “period of residence in the Philippines up to the day before May 09, 2016.” The COMELEC would not have revised the query if it did not acknowledge that the first version was vague.

That petitioner could have reckoned residence from a date earlier than the sale of her U.S. house and the return of her husband is plausible given the evidence that she had returned a year before. Such evidence, to repeat, would include her passport and the school records of her children.

It was grave abuse of discretion for the COMELEC to treat the 2012 COC as a binding and conclusive admission against petitioner. It could be given in evidence against her, yes, but it was by no means conclusive. There is precedent after all where a candidate’s mistake as to period of residence made in a COC was overcome by evidence.



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