Case Digest: Republic v. Li Ching Chung

G.R. No. 197450 : March 20, 2013




On August 22, 2007, respondent, otherwise known as Bernabe Luna Li or Stephen Lee Keng, a Chinese national, filed his Declaration of Intention to Become a Citizen of the Philippines before the OSG. On March 12, 2008 or almost seven months after filing his declaration of intention, respondent filed his Petition for Naturalization before the RTC.

On June 3, 2009, the RTC granted respondents application for naturalization as a Filipino citizen. The OSG appealed the RTC decision to the CA. The OSG argues that the petition for naturalization should not be granted in view of its patent jurisdictional infirmities, particularly because: 1) it was filed within the one (1) year proscribed period from the filing of declaration of intention; 2) no certificate of arrival, which is indispensable to the validity of the Declaration of Intention, was attached to the petition; and 3) respondents failure to comply with the publication and posting requirements set under CA 473.

The CA affirmed the RTC decision. The CA held that although the petition for naturalization was filed less than one (1) year from the time of the declaration of intent before the OSG, this defect was not fatal. Moreover, contrary to the allegation of the OSG that respondent did not present his Certificate of Arrival, the fact of his arrival could be easily confirmed from the Certification, dated August 21, 2007, issued by the Bureau of Immigration, and from the stamp in the passport of respondent indicating his arrival on January 26, 1981. The CA further stated that the Republic participated in every stage of the proceedings below. It was accorded due process which it vigorously exercised from beginning to end. Whatever procedural defects, if at all they existed, did not taint the proceedings, let alone the Republics meaningful exercise of its right to due process.

ISSUE: Whether or not the CA erred in affirming the RTC decision and denying the appeal by the OSG

HELD: Yes. CA decision reversed and set aside

Political Law- declaration of intention must be filed one year prior to the filing of the petition for naturalization

As held in Tan v. Republic, "the period of one year required therein is the time fixed for the State to make inquiries as to the qualifications of the applicant. If this period of time is not given to it, the State will have no sufficient opportunity to investigate the qualifications of the applicants and gather evidence thereon. An applicant may then impose upon the courts, as the State would have no opportunity to gather evidence that it may present to contradict whatever evidence that the applicant may adduce on behalf of his petition." The period is designed to give the government ample time to screen and examine the qualifications of an applicant and to measure the latters good intention and sincerity of purpose.

Stated otherwise, the waiting period will unmask the true intentions of those who seek Philippine citizenship for selfish reasons alone, such as, but not limited to, those who are merely interested in protecting their wealth, as distinguished from those who have truly come to love the Philippines and its culture and who wish to become genuine partners in nation building.

The law is explicit that the declaration of intention must be filed one year prior to the filing of the petition for naturalization. Republic v. Go Bon Leelikewise decreed that substantial compliance with the requirement is inadequate. In that case, Go filed his declaration of intention to become a citizen of the Philippines on May 23, 1940. After eleven months, he filed his petition for naturalization on April 18, 1941.

The only exception to the mandatory filing of a declaration of intention is specifically stated in Section 6 of CA No. 473, to wit: Section 6. Persons exempt from requirement to make a declaration of intention. Persons born in the Philippines and have received their primary and secondary education in public schools or those recognized by the Government and not limited to any race or nationality, and those who have resided continuously in the Philippines for a period of thirty years or more before filing their application, may be naturalized without having to make a declaration of intention upon complying with the other requirements of this Act. To such requirements shall be added that which establishes that the applicant has given primary and secondary education to all his children in the public schools or in private schools recognized by the Government and not limited to any race or nationality. The same shall be understood applicable with respect to the widow and minor children of an alien who has declared his intention to become a citizen of the Philippines, and dies before he is actually naturalized.

Unquestionably, respondent does not fall into the category of such exempt individuals that would excuse him from filing a declaration of intention one year prior to the filing of a petition for naturalization. Contrary to the CA finding, respondents premature filing of his petition for naturalization before the expiration of the one-year period is fatal.

In naturalization proceedings, the burden of proof is upon the applicant to show full and complete compliance with the requirements of the law. The opportunity of a foreigner to become a citizen by naturalization is a mere matter of grace, favor or privilege extended to him by the State; the applicant does not possess any natural, inherent, existing or vested right to be admitted to Philippine citizenship. The only right that a foreigner has, to be given the chance to become a Filipino citizen, is that which the statute confers upon him; and to acquire such right, he must strictly comply with all the statutory conditions and requirements. The absence of one jurisdictional requirement is fatal to the petition as this necessarily results in the dismissal or severance of the naturalization process.

Petition granted.