Jurisdiction over deportation proceedings

In Go, Sr. v. Ramos (G.R. Nos. 167569, 167570 & 171946, September 4, 2009), the validity of the April 17, 2002 Bureau of Immigration (BI) Decision that ordered the apprehension and deportation of petitioner Go was already passed upon with finality. Therein, one of the issues presented for resolution was whether the evidence adduced by petitioner Go and his father, Go, Sr., to prove their claim of Philippine citizenship is substantial and sufficient to oust the BI of its jurisdiction from continuing with the deportation proceedings in order to give way to a formal judicial action to pass upon the issue of alienage.
While petitioner Go and Go, Sr. conceded that the BI has jurisdiction to hear cases against an alleged alien, they insisted that judicial intervention may be resorted to when the claim to citizenship is so substantial that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the claim is correct. They posited that the judicial intervention required is not merely a judicial review of the proceedings below but a full­blown, adversarial, trial-type proceedings where the rules of evidence are strictly observed. The Supreme Court disagreed and opined that the jurisdiction of the BI is not divested by mere claim of citizenship. It was held:
There can be no question that the [BI] Board [of Commissioners] has the authority to hear and determine the deportation case against a deportee and in the process determine also the question of citizenship raised by him. However, [the High] Court, following American jurisprudence, laid down the exception to the primary jurisdiction enjoyed by the deportation board in the case of Chua Hiong v. Deportation Board wherein we stressed that judicial determination is permitted in cases when the courts themselves believe that there is substantial evidence supporting the claim of citizenship, so substantial that there are reasonable grounds for the belief that the claim is correct. Moreover, when the evidence submitted by a deportee is conclusive of his citizenship, the right to immediate review should also be recognized and the courts shall promptly enjoin the deportation proceedings.

While we are mindful that resort to the courts may be had, the same should be allowed only in the sound discretion of a competent court in proper proceedings. After all, the Board's jurisdiction is not divested by the mere claim of citizenship. Moreover, a deportee who claims to be a citizen and not therefore subject to deportation has the right to have his citizenship reviewed by the courts, after the deportation proceedings. The decision of the Board on the question is, of course, not final but subject to review by the courts.

After a careful evaluation of the evidence, the appellate court was not convinced that the same was sufficient to oust the Board of its jurisdiction to continue with the deportation proceedings considering that what were presented particularly the birth certificates of Jimmy, as well as those of his siblings, Juliet Go and Carlos Go, Jr. indicate that they are Chinese citizens. Furthermore, like the Board, it found the election of Carlos of Philippine citizenship, which was offered as additional proof of his claim, irregular as it was not made on time.

[The Supreme Court found] no cogent reason to overturn the above findings of the appellate tribunal. The question of whether substantial evidence had been presented to allow immediate recourse to the regular courts is a question of fact which is beyond this Court's power of review for it is not a trier of facts. None of the exceptions in which this Court may resolve factual issues has been shown to exist in this case. Even if we evaluate their arguments and the evidence they presented once again, the same conclusion will still be reached. (Emphasis supplied)

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