Case Digest: Republic v. Lao Ong

G.R. No. 175430 : June 18, 2012




Respondent Ong, then 38 years old, filed a Petition for Naturalization. Ong alleged in his petition that he has been a "businessman/business manager" since 1989, earning an average annual income of P150,000.00. When he testified, however, he said that he has been a businessman since he graduated from college in 1978. Moreover, Ong did not specify or describe the nature of his business.

As proof of his income, Ong presented four tax returns for the years 1994 to 1997. Based on these returns, Ongs gross annual income was P60,000.00 for 1994; P118,000.00 for 1995; P118,000.00 for 1996; and P128,000.00 for 1997. On November 23, 2001, the trial court granted Ongs petition.

The Republic, through the Solicitor General, appealed to the CA. The Republic faulted the trial court for granting Ong's petition despite his failure to prove that he possesses a known lucrative trade, profession or lawful occupation as required under Section 2, fourth paragraph of the Revised Naturalization Law.

The Republic posited that, contrary to the trial courts finding, respondent Ong did not prove his allegation that he is a businessman/business manager earning an average income of P150,000.00 since 1989. His income tax returns belie the value of his income. Moreover, he failed to present evidence on the nature of his profession or trade, which is the source of his income. Considering that he has four minor children (all attending exclusive private schools), he has declared no other property and/or bank deposits, and he has not declared owning a family home, his alleged income cannot be considered lucrative. Under the circumstances, the Republic maintained that respondent Ong is not qualified as he does not possess a definite and existing business or trade.

The appellate court dismissed the Republic's appeal. The appellate court denied the Republic's motion for reconsideration.

ISSUE: Whether or not respondent Ong has proved that he has some known lucrative trade, profession or lawful occupation in accordance with Section 2, fourth paragraph of the Revised Naturalization Law?

HELD: Court of Appeals decision is reversed and set aside.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: naturalization

The courts must always be mindful that naturalization proceedings are imbued with the highest public interest.Naturalization laws should be rigidly enforced and strictly construed in favor of the government and against the applicant. The burden of proof rests upon the applicant to show full and complete compliance with the requirements of law.

Based on jurisprudence, the qualification of "some known lucrative trade, profession, or lawful occupation" means "not only that the person having the employment gets enough for his ordinary necessities in life. It must be shown that the employment gives one an income such that there is an appreciable margin of his income over his expenses as to be able to provide for an adequate support in the event of unemployment, sickness, or disability to work and thus avoid ones becoming the object of charity or a public charge." His income should permit "him and the members of his family to live with reasonable comfort, in accordance with the prevailing standard of living, and consistently with the demands of human dignity, at this stage of our civilization."

It has been held that in determining the existence of a lucrative income, the courts should consider only the applicant's income; his or her spouses income should not be included in the assessment. The spouses additional income is immaterial "for under the law the petitioner should be the one to possess some known lucrative trade, profession or lawful occupation to qualify him to become a Filipino citizen." Lastly, the Court has consistently held that the applicant's qualifications must be determined as of the time of the filing of his petition.

A review of the decisions involving petitions for naturalization shows that the Court is not precluded from reviewing the factual existence of the applicant's qualifications. In fact, jurisprudence holds that the entire records of the naturalization case are open for consideration in an appeal to this Court. Indeed, "[a] naturalization proceeding is so infused with public interest that it has been differently categorized and given special treatment. x x x [U]nlike in ordinary judicial contest, the granting of a petition for naturalization does not preclude the reopening of that case and giving the government another opportunity to present new evidence. A decision or order granting citizenship will not even constitute res judicata to any matter or reason supporting a subsequent judgment cancelling the certification of naturalization already granted, on the ground that it had been illegally or fraudulently procured. For the same reason, issues even if not raised in the lower court may be entertained on appeal. As the matters brought to the attention of this Court x x x involve facts contained in the disputed decision of the lower court and admitted by the parties in their pleadings, the present proceeding may be considered adequate for the purpose of determining the correctness or incorrectness of said decision, in the light of the law and extant jurisprudence." In the case at bar, there is even no need to present new evidence. A careful review of the extant records suffices to hold that respondent Ong has not proven his possession of a "known lucrative trade, profession or lawful occupation" to qualify for naturalization.

Republic won the case.