CASE DIGEST: Republic v. Batugas

G.R. No. 183110 : October 7, 2013




Azucena filed a Petition for Naturalization before the RTC of Zamboanga del Sur. Azucena alleged in her Petition that she believes in the principles underlying the Philippine Constitution; that she has all the qualifications required under Section 2 and none of the disqualifications enumerated in Section 4 of Commonwealth Act No. 473.

After all the jurisdictional requirements mandated by Section 9of CA 473 had been complied with, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed its Motion to Dismisson the ground that Azucena failed to allege that she is engaged in a lawful occupation or in some known lucrative trade. Finding the grounds relied upon by the OSG to be evidentiary in nature, the RTC denied said Motion.Thereafter, the hearing for the reception of Azucenas evidence was then set on May 18, 2004.

Neither the OSG nor the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor appeared on the day of the hearing. Hence, Azucenas counsel moved that the evidence be presented ex-parte, which the RTC granted. Accordingly, the RTC designated its Clerk of Court as Commissioner to receive Azucenas evidence. During the ex-parte hearing, no representative from the OSG appeared despite due notice.

The RTC found that petitioner has all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications to be admitted as citizen of the Philippines in accordance with the provisions of the Naturalization Law.

In its Omnibus Motion,the OSG argued that the ex-parte presentation of evidence before the Branch Clerk of Court violates Section 10 of CA 473,as the law mandates public hearing in naturalization cases.

The OSG then appealed the RTC judgment to the CA,contending that Azucena failed to comply with the income requirement under CA 473. The OSG maintained that Azucena is not allowed under the Retail Trade Law (RA No. 1180) to engage directly or indirectly in the retail trade.

The OSG further asserted that the ex-parte proceeding before the commissioner is not a "public hearing" as ex-parte hearings are usually done in chambers, without the public in attendance.

The CA affirmed the decision of the RTC Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In dismissing the OSGs appeal,the CA found that Azucenas financial condition permits her and her family to live with reasonable comfort in accordance with the prevailing standard of living and consistent with the demands of human dignity. Petitioner-appellee, together with her Filipino husband, nonetheless, was able to send all her children to college, pursue a lucrative business and maintain a decent existence. The Supreme Court, in recent decisions, adopted a higher standard in determining whether a petitioner for Philippine citizenship has a lucrative trade or profession that would qualify him/her for admission to Philippine citizenship and to which petitioner has successfully convinced this Court of her ability to provide for herself and avoid becoming a public charge or a financial burden to her community.

ISSUE: Whether or not Azucena failed to meet the income and public hearing requirements of CA 473.

HELD: The decision of the Court of Appeals is sustained.

POLITICAL LAW naturalization

Under existing laws, an alien may acquire Philippine citizenship through either judicial naturalization under CA 473 or administrative naturalization under Republic Act No. 9139 (the "Administrative Naturalization Law of 2000"). A third option, called derivative naturalization, which is available to alien women married to Filipino husbands is found under Section 15 of CA 473, which provides that : "any woman who is now or may hereafter be married to a citizen of the Philippines and who might herself be lawfully naturalized shall be deemed a citizen of the Philippines."

Likewise, an alien woman married to an alien who is subsequently naturalized here follows the Philippine citizenship of her husband the moment he takes his oath as Filipino citizen, provided that she does not suffer from any of the disqualifications under said Section 4. Moy Ya Lim Yao v. Commissioner of Immigration

Records however show that in February 1980, Azucena applied before the then Commission on Immigration and Deportation (CID) for the cancellation of her Alien Certificate of Registration by reason of her marriage to a Filipino citizen. The CID granted her application. However, the Ministry of Justice set aside the ruling of the CID as it found no sufficient evidence that Azucenas husband is a Filipino citizenas only their marriage certificate was presented to establish his citizenship.

Having been denied of the process in the CID, Azucena was constrained to file a Petition for judicial naturalization based on CA 473. The choice of what option to take in order to acquire Philippine citizenship rests with the applicant.

In this case, Azucena has chosen to file a Petition for judicial naturalization under CA 473. The fact that her application for derivative naturalization under Section 15 of CA 473 was denied should not prevent her from seeking judicial naturalization under the same law.

It is to be remembered that her application at the CID was denied not because she was found to be disqualified, but because her husbands citizenship was not proven. Even if the denial was based on other grounds, it is proper, in a judicial naturalization proceeding, for the courts to determine whether there are in fact grounds to deny her of Philippine citizenship based on regular judicial naturalization proceedings.

On the submitted evidence, nothing would show that Azucena suffers from any of the disqualifications under Section 4 of the same Act. However, the case before us is a Petition for judicial naturalization and is not based on Section 15 of CA 473 which was denied by the then Ministry of Justice. The lower court which heard the petition and received evidence of her qualifications and absence of disqualifications to acquire Philippine citizenship, has granted the Petition, which was affirmed by the CA.

The OSG had the opportunity to contest the qualifications of Azucena during the initial hearing. However, the OSG or the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor failed to appear in said hearing, prompting the lower court to order ex parte presentation of evidence before the Clerk of Court on November 5, 2004. The OSG was also notified of the ex parte proceeding, but despite notice, again failed to appear.

On the second issue, we also affirm the findings of the CA that since the government who has an interest in, and the only one who can contest, the citizenship of a person, was duly notified through the OSG and the Provincial Prosecutors office, the proceedings have complied with the public hearing requirement under CA 473.