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San Juan Gossip Mills Outlet

A veritable fanatic of the Internet. His avocation is teaching while his main vocation is practicing the much maligned law profession. Currently teaching Constitutional Law at the FEU Institute of Law and a guest lecturer at the De La Salle University teaching "Freedom and Regulation in Cyberspace" in the Graduate Program of the Department of Communication. He is married to his beautiful Ateneo law school classmate and is blessed with a daughter and a son.

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Location: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Very Flawed Brawner Decision

I had the opportunity to read the Brawner decision on the case of Jesse Robredo, courtesy of John Nery. Without going too legalese, let me raise my objections to Commissioner Brawner's decision which are replete with errors and ignoring existing jurisprudence on the matter.

In order to disqualify the citizenship of Jesse Robredo, Jojo Villafuerte, the petitioner, attacked the citizenship of the mayor on the ground that Lim Teng, his grandfather, and later rechristened Juan Robredo, was not a Filipino citizen as prescribed under the Philippine Bill of 1902. Brawner attached himself to that theory and proceeded to demolish Mayor Robredo's Filipino citizenship on the following points:

a. Lim Teng is not the same person as "Juan Robredo" because there is no proof to such effect;

b. Lim Teng has no proof that he resided continuously in the Philippines after 11 April 1899 as required under the Philippine Bill of 1902;

As a backgrounder and pertinent to this case, the Philippine Bill of 1902 recognizes a person as being a Filipino citizen - any person who arrived in the Philippines prior to 11 April 1899. This date is the date of exchange of the ratification of the Treaty of Paris between the United States and Spain. In effect, the law effected a mass naturalization of all inhabitants in the Philippines subject to certain exceptions.

In addition to arriving in the Philippines prior to 11 April 1899, the law requires an inhabitant to continously reside in the Philippines and have children born subsequent thereto. That is the long and short of how an alien like Lim Teng who arrived in 1896 could have become a Filipino citizen.

Brawner said that Lim Teng and Juan Robredo are not the same person and therefore, Juan Robredo can not claim to be a Filipino citizen. That is a rather strange conclusion because following the premise of Brawner that Lim Teng and Juan Robredo are not the same person, then the logical premise and conclusion should have been - if Juan Robredo is not the Chinese Lim Teng , then logic would dictate that Juan Robredo being a Filipino name would have been a Filipino citizen. Which makes Brawner's argument that Lim Teng and Juan Robredo are two different persons actually supportive of Jesse Robredo's claim that he is a Filipino citizen. Deba?

The honest disclosure of the Robredos that Juan Robredo and Lim Teng are one and the same person did not sit well with Brawner because he said there is no proof. That is incorrect. The conclusive proofs of such fact are the birth certificates of Jose Robredo (Jesse's dad) and Jesse and the fact that they know Juan Robredo to be Lim Teng himself. In legal contemplation, these are public documents and are the best evidence of such fact. And again, if Brawner insists that Lim Teng is not his grandfather, then logic would dictate all the more that Juan Robredo, a Filipino sounding name, is a Filipino citizen.

Brawner also contended (to cover his back) that assuming Lim Teng is the same person as Juan Robredo, he cannot be considered a Filipino citizen because there is no proof that he continuously resided in the Philippines as required under the law. Brawner is mentally dishonest and does not know his law and jurisprudence. In the Philippine Bill of 1902 of which he justified Lim Teng as not covered, he conveniently fails to mention that in addition to arriving before 11 April 1899 and residing continously, he should have his children born here. Jose Robredo, the father of Jesse, was born in the Philippines. On that point alone, he complied with the three requisites of the law. Thus, he is a Filipino citizen.

With respect to his claim that there is no proof of continuous residence, Brawner fails to mention the fact that in the FPJ case, the Supreme Court said that the place of death of FPJ's grandfather is presumed to be his residence. Following that Supreme Court pronouncement, if Lim Teng died in Naga City, then Lim Teng's continuous residence would have been presumably in Naga City. If the Supreme Court can make such a leap, given the same problem that there was a dearth of proof of continuous residence by FPJ's grandfather, why didn't Brawner justifiably do so?

What is unfair in the decision is that Brawner attacked the citizenship of Jesse's grandfather who will never have the chance to rise from the dead and defend himself. And in fact, the Supreme Court said in a Co versus HRET, a case cited by Brawner himself, that you cannot attack the citizenship of a father just to get back at the son. This should be done in a direct action to nullify the citizenship of the father. In this case, Brawner should not entertain an attack on the citizenship of the grandfather just to get back at the grandson. Brawner knows the case, skips that particular part of the case and conveniently said that the Co case is totally not applicable to Jesse's case.

That is the paternal line of Jesse which Brawner attacked and which I have shown why Brawner's attack was ill conceived, deficient in research and totally unfair and disrespectful of the dead Lim Teng who in one swift stroke by Brawner was stripped posthumously of his Filipino citizenship.

Not satisfied with the paternal line, Brawner proceeded to destroy the maternal line as well. He said that Jesse who was born of a Filipino mother did not elect Philippine citizenship as provided by CA No. 625 which requires a person to execute a statement of an oath of allegiance to the Philippines and filed before the local civil registry. Brawner said that voting in an election or running for public office does not qualify because there is a procedure for election. I think that is a very restrictive interpretation of what election means. Brawner cites the case of Co v. HRET as basis for saying that implied election does not apply to non-Filipino like Jesse.

The present understanding in electing citizenship is that one has to elect in accordance with CA No. 625. I think the Supreme Court would have to revisit that jurisprudence because what better way to show your oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines than to vote in an election or run for public office. Moreover, there is no definitive ruling from the court that CA No. 625 and implied election of Philippine citizenship such as voting in an election are mutually exclusive of each other.

The Supreme Court has mentioned that our citizenship laws are antiquated. I think now is the time to test our ideas on what constitute citizenship. Brawner was too quick to point out the absence of proofs forgetting the fact the evidences are nearly a century old and may no longer be extant. He also forgets the fact that their own Comelec building just burned down and the evidences have been destroyed. If a recent fire gutted down their building destroying all evidence, is it not fair to say that Brawner is being unreasonable to demand proof of documents a century old?

I just lost my respect for the fellow.

2 Comments:

Blogger baycas2 said...

i suspect the brawner doctrine, as mareng winnie likes to call it, was only fed to him by the villafuertes.

mayor jesse robredo was in effect villafuerted, as yesterday's inquirer editorial has suggested.

5:14 AM  
Blogger MLQ3 said...

This was the Today Newspaper editorial for January 13, 2004:

Citizenship

IN a country where the level of philosophical discourse is usually at the level of “”who farted?”, public debate has now entered the metaphysical realm of “what is a natural-born Filipino citizen?” Or, to be precise, “is Fernando Poe, Jr. a natural-born Filipino citizen?” The Palace, for one, is being cunning, if not cagey, in loftily proclaiming that in its opinion, FPJ is “heart and soul” a Filipino. Which is neither here, nor there. The intangible measure of a person’s Filipino-ness is not being contended, what is being contended is FPJ’s standing before the law.

Our view is that Manoling Morato is the one to consult on this issue, because his father was faced with the same question when he was elected to the First Congress of the Republic as a Representative for one of the districts of Tayabas (now Quezon Province) in 1946. Tomas Morato was the son of a Spanish sea captain; Morato’s opponents argued the man wasn’t elegible for elected office because he wasn’t a Filipino citizen at all. Morato replied that while his father was a Spaniard, he himself was a Filipino by virtue of the Treaty of Paris, which handed over the Philippines and its inhabitants to America, and created the category of Filipino citizens since America didn’t want Filipinos to be Americans. Morato’s opponents, in turn, asserted that Morato never made a public proclamation that he intended to choose Filipino citizenship and thus, by default, retained his Spanish nationality. In the end, after much wrangling, Morato was allowed to take his seat.

The case of FPJ is particularly complicated because of various documents floating around, with no objective party so far stepping in to ascertain whether any of the documents being spoken of are genuine or not. The case of those questioning Poe’s citizenship stand their argument on three legs: first, that Poe’s father was a Spaniard, which makes FPJ originally a Spanish citizen; second, that Poe was born of a bigamous union, which means that FPJ would, by law, have had to assume, at birth, the citizenship of his mother, an American; third, that FPJ’s spokesmen mentioned FPJ deserves credit for electing to be a Filipino while his siblings did not, which means FPJ’s Filipino citizenship was not natural-born.

Which means that the irony of the whole question, while it is serious, is itself quite rich. In a country where legions of Filipinos are dying to relinquish their citizenship, and for whom to have been born an American or a Spaniard is a wet dream, here comes the idol of the masses who no one questions is a patriotic man, but who might just turn out not to have been born a Filipino. Ernesto Maceda in our vew is not helping matters by tacitly admitting there might be something to the issue by announcing the opposition will run Susan Roces in FPJ’s stead in case what they say is impossible -FPJ’s disqualification by virtue of naturalized, and not natural-born, citizenship- takes place.

But here is a question for the proponents of the FPJ is not natural-born question to consider: Fernando Poe, Sr. was a decorated veteran of Bataan, an authentic war hero: his children may have elected to become foreign citizens by virtue of Poe, Sr. having served in the USAFFE -or because of their mother. And while foreigners did fight for the Philippines in World War II -Spaniards, Czechs, and so on- would Poe, Sr., have been inducted into the Army of the Commonwealth if he wasn’t a Filipino? What is at stake here is not just the reputation of FPJ, but the posthumous reputation of the man -Poe, Sr.- who was supposedly the model for UP’s Oblation statue, and who had a better record of resistance against the Japanese than say, President Arroyo’s father. We do not think the administration or any of Poe’s opponents want to go down the road of trying to hit a dead man’s reputation.

By all means, the question of FPJ’s citizenship should be settled, but the battle will have to be before the Supreme Court, unless the Comelec wants to be burned to the ground by an enraged mob of Da King’s supporters. The man to ask is the Director of the Records Management and Archives Office (or National Archives), Ricardo Manlapat, who has custody of pre-war birth, marriage, and death certificates. The records of Poe, Sr., as a veteran can also be sought at the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States -as well as of his siblings, and of Poe’s widow, if they ever received benefits due to Poe’s service in Usaffe. This will be a big can of worms; but it is incumbent on everyone to settle the issue early on, and once and for all, because the whisper campaign has been going on far too long to be healthy for the country.

12:53 PM  

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