Nationality principle (Article 15)

Article 15 of the Civil Code provides: "Laws relating to family rights and duties or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad."

The status of a person in civil law includes personal qualities and relations, more or less permanent in nature, and not ordinarily terminable at one's own will, such as his being married or not, or his being legitimate or illegitimate. (Paras, 2008 citing 119 Restatement). Bouvier’s Law Dictionary defines status as the sum total of a person’s rights, duties, and capacities (Vol. 3, p. 3229). Sanchez Roman considers civil status the distinct consideration of a person before the civil law. (Vol. 2, p. 110)

Family rights and duties are those provided by our family laws, including family and marriage provisions under the 1987 Constitution. Status, condition and legal capacity refer to being a minor or someone of legal age, having the capacity to enter into contracts, being married or single, being the citizen of a country, being a legitimate or illegitimate child, being a licensed professional, being a parent and others that are not ordinarily terminable at one's own will. They may include having a name, having a last name or a middle name, etc.

THE OBLIGATION AND THE RIGHT TO SUPPORT

According to Dean Albano, insofar as Philippine laws are concerned, specifically the provisions of the Family Code on support, the same only applies to Filipino citizens. By analogy, the same principle applies to foreigners such that they are governed by their national law with respect to family rights and duties which provides that laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad.

The obligation to give support to a child is a matter that falls under family rights and duties.  Since the respondent is a citizen of Holland or the Netherlands, the lower court was correct that he is subject to the laws of his country, not to Philippine law, as to whether he is obliged to give support to his child, as well as the consequences of his failure to do so. In Vivo v. Cloribel, G.R. No. L-25441, October 26, 1968, it was said that being still aliens, they are not in position to invoke the provisions of the Civil Code of the Philippines, for that Code cleaves to the principle that family rights and duties are governed by their personal law, i.e., the laws of the nation to which they belong even when staying in a foreign country (Civil Code, Article 15; Norma A. Del Socorro v. Ernest Johan Brinkman Van Wilsen, G.R. No. 193707, December 10, 2014, Peralta, J).

Even though the obligation to support may fall under the sphere of the nationality principle, it must be emphasized that failure (especially continued refusal) to give support to one's children is a crime in the Philippines, specifically an act of violence against women and their child or children (Republic Act No. 9262). Therefore, Article 14 of the Civil Code can be said to be applicable, which provides that: [p]enal laws and those of public security and safety shall be obligatory upon all who live and sojourn in Philippine territory, subject to the principle of public international law and to treaty stipulations."

ARTICLE 15 AND RECOGNITION OF FOREIGN JUDGMENTS

In the recognition of foreign judgments, Philippine courts are incompetent to substitute their judgment on how a case was decided under foreign law. They cannot decide on the "family rights and duties, or on the status, condition and legal capacity" of the foreign citizen who is a party to the foreign judgment. Thus, Philippine courts are limited to the question of whether to extend the effect of a foreign judgment in the Philippines. In a foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage involving a citizen of a foreign country, Philippine courts only decide whether to extend its effect to the Filipino party, under the rule of lex nationalii expressed in Article 15 of the Civil Code. (Fujiki v. Marinay, G.R. No. 196049, June 26, 2013)

In the recognition of foreign judgments, Philippine courts are incompetent to substitute their judgment on how a case was decided under foreign law. They cannot decide on the "family rights and duties, or on the status, condition and legal capacity" of the foreign citizen who is a party to the foreign judgment. Thus, Philippine courts are limited to the question of whether to extend the effect of a foreign judgment in the Philippines. In a foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage involving a citizen of a foreign country, Philippine courts only decide whether to extend its effect to the Filipino party, under the rule of lex nationalii expressed in Article 15 of the Civil Code. (Fujiki v. Marinay, G.R. No. 196049, June 26, 2013)

NATIONALITY PRINCIPLE IN RELATION TO DIVORCE

It must be emphasized that the nationality principle, found under Article 15 of the Civil Code, is not an absolute and unbending rule. In fact, the mere existence of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code is a testament that the State may provide for an exception thereto. Moreover, blind adherence to the nationality principle must be disallowed if it would cause unjust discrimination and oppression to certain classes of individuals whose rights are equally protected by law. The courts have the duty to enforce the laws of divorce as written by the Legislature only if they are constitutional. (G.R. No. 221029, April 24, 2018)

It is true that owing to the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Civil Code, only Philippine nationals are covered by the policy against absolute divorces the same being considered contrary to our concept of public policy and morality. However, aliens may obtain divorces abroad, which may be recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according to their national law. In this case, the divorce in Nevada released private respondent from the marriage from the standards of American law, under which divorce dissolves the marriage. (G.R. No. 221029, April 24, 2018)

"The purpose and effect of a decree of divorce from the bond of matrimony by a court of competent jurisdiction are to change the existing status or domestic relation of husband and wife, and to free them both from the bond. The marriage tie, when thus severed as to one party, ceases to bind either. A husband without a wife, or a wife without a husband, is unknown to the law. When the law provides, in the nature of a penalty, that the guilty party shall not marry again, that party, as well as the other, is still absolutely freed from the bond of the former marriage." (Federal Supreme Court of the United States in Atherton vs. Atherton, 45 L. Ed. 794, 799)

Without the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code and due to the nationality principle, all Filipino citizens are covered by the lack of a legally recognized procedure for absolute divorce. As a consequence of this, a divorce decree obtained abroad by a Filipino citizen would not be enforceable in the Philippines. However, due to the interpretation given by the Supreme Court to Article 26 in the case of Republic v. Manalo (2018), the second paragraph is now an exception to Article 15 of the Civil Code.

NATIONALITY PRINCIPLE UNDER PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL LAW

Under public international law, the nationality principle recognizes that a sovereign can adopt criminal laws which govern the conduct of the sovereign’s nationals while outside of the sovereign’s borders.  Under this principle, for example, a sovereign can make it a crime for its nationals to engage is sexual relations with minors while outside of its borders or to pay bribes outside of its borders to public officials of another sovereign. The nationality principle has the effect of allowing a sovereign to adopt laws that make it a crime for its nationals to engage in conduct that is not illegal in the place where the conduct is performed.  For example, under this principle a sovereign could make it a crime for its nationals to gamble.  If Jane Smith, one of the sovereign’s nationals goes to Monte Carlo and gambles, notwithstanding that gambling is perfectly legal in Monte Carlo, Jane Smith has committed a crime in her country and is subject to prosecution. (www.kentlaw.edu)

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