A Very Flawed Brawner Decision
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.