What is citizenship, naturalization?

Citizenship is personal and, more or less a permanent membership in a political community. It denotes possession within that particular political community of full civil and political rights subject to special disqualifications. Reciprocally, it imposes the duty of allegiance to the political community.[1] The core of citizenship is the capacity to enjoy political rights, that is, the right to participate in government principally through the right to vote, the right to hold public office and the right to petition the government for redress of grievance.[2]No less than the 1987 Constitution enumerates who are Filipino citizens. Among those listed are citizens by naturalization. Naturalization refers to the legal act of adopting an alien and clothing him with the privilege of a native-born citizen. Under the present laws, the process of naturalization can be judicial or administrative. Judicially, the Naturalization Law provides that after hearing the petition for citizenship and the receipt of evidence showing that the petitioner has all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications required by law, the competent court may order the issuance of the proper naturalization certificate and its registration in the proper civil registry. On the other hand, Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9139 provides that aliens born and residing in the Philippines may be granted Philippine citizenship by administrative proceeding by filing a petition for citizenship with the Special Committee, which may approve the petition and issue a certificate of naturalization.[3]

It is a well-entrenched rule that Philippine citizenship should not easily be given away.[4] All those seeking to acquire it must prove, to the satisfaction of the Supreme Court, that they have complied with all the requirements of the law. The reason for this requirement is simple. Citizenship involves political status; hence, every person must be proud of his citizenship and should cherish it. Naturalization is not a right, but one of privilege of the most discriminating, as well as delicate and exacting nature, affecting, as it does, public interest of the highest order, and which may be enjoyed only under the precise conditions prescribed by law therefor.[5]

[1] Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: A Commentary, 2009 ed., p. 629.

[2] Id. at p. 629-630.

[3] Republic Act No. 9139 entitled "An Act Providing for the Acquisition of Philippine Citizenship for Certain Aliens by Administrative Naturalization and for Other purposes".

[4] Tochip v. Republic, 121 Phil. 248, 250 (1965).

[5] Cuaki Tan Si v. Republic, 116 Phil. 855, 857 (1962).