Republic v. Sagun (G.R. No. 187567; February 15, 2012)


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.


Is an action or proceeding for judicial declaration of Philippine citizenship procedurally and jurisdictionally permissible?

Is an election of Philippine citizenship, made twelve (12) years after reaching the age of majority,  considered to have been made within a reasonable time as interpreted by jurisprudence?
HELD: 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:
x x x x

(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.

Based on the foregoing circumstances, respondent clearly failed to comply with the procedural requirements for a valid and effective election of Philippine citizenship. Respondent cannot assert that the exercise of suffrage and the participation in election exercises constitutes a positive act of election of Philippine citizenship since the law specifically lays down the requirements for acquisition of citizenship by election. The mere exercise of suffrage, continuous and uninterrupted stay in the Philippines, and other similar acts showing exercise of Philippine citizenship cannot take the place of election of Philippine citizenship. Hence, respondent cannot now be allowed to seek the intervention of the court to confer upon her Philippine citizenship when clearly she has failed to validly elect Philippine citizenship. As we held in Ching, the prescribed procedure in electing Philippine citizenship is certainly not a tedious and painstaking process. All that is required of the elector is to execute an affidavit of election of Philippine citizenship and, thereafter, file the same with the nearest civil registry. Having failed to comply with the foregoing requirements, respondents petition before the trial court must be denied. (Re: Application For Admission to the Philippine Bar. Vicente D. Ching, Bar Matter No. 914, October 1, 1999, 316 SCRA 1, 7-8.)