Civil Law, Political Law

David vs. Agbay G.R. No. 199113 March 18, 2015 Retroactivity of laws, Citizenship, R.A. 9225

FACTS:

Petitioner migrated to Canada where he became a Canadian citizen by naturalization. Upon retirement, petitioner and his wife returned to the Philippines and purchased a lot along the beach in Oriental Mindoro where they constructed a residential house. However, the portion where they built their house is public land and part of the salvage zone.

 

Petitioner filed a Miscellaneous Lease Application (MLA) over the subject land with the DENR. In the said application, petitioner indicated that he is a Filipino citizen.

 

Private respondent Editha Agbay opposed the application on the ground that petitioner, a Canadian citizen, is disqualified to own land. She also filed a criminal complaint for falsification of public documents under Article 172 of the RPC against the petitioner.

 

Meanwhile, petitioner re-acquired his Filipino citizenship under the provisions of Republic Act No. 9225.

 

The CENRO rejected petitioner’s MLA, ruling that petitioner’s subsequent re-acquisition of Philippine citizenship did not cure the defect in his MLA which was void ab initio.

 

An information for Falsification of Public Document was filed before the MTC and a warrant of arrest was issued against the petitioner.

 

Since the crime for which petitioner was charged was alleged and admitted to have been committed before he had re- acquired his Philippine citizenship, the MTC concluded that petitioner was at that time still a Canadian citizen.

 

Petitioner elevated the case to the RTC via a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, alleging grave abuse of discretion on the part of the MTC. The petition was denied.

 

ISSUE:

Whether or not petitioner may be indicted for falsification for representing himself as a Filipino in his Public Land Application despite his subsequent re-acquisition of Philippine citizenship under the provisions of R.A. 9225.

 

RULING:

Considering that petitioner was naturalized as a Canadian citizen prior to the effectivity of R.A. 9225, he belongs to the first category of natural- born Filipinos under the first paragraph of Section 3 who lost Philippine citizenship by naturalization in a foreign country. As the new law allows dual citizenship, he was able to re-acquire his Philippine citizenship by taking the required oath of allegiance.

For the purpose of determining the citizenship of petitioner at the time of filing his MLA, it is not necessary to discuss the rulings in Frivaldo and Altarejos on the retroactivity of such reacquisition because R.A. 9225 itself treats those of his category as having already lost Philippine citizenship, in contradistinction to those natural-born Filipinos who became foreign citizens after R.A. 9225 came into force. In other words, Section 2 declaring the policy that considers Filipinos who became foreign citizens as not to have lost their Philippine citizenship, should be read together with Section 3, the second paragraph of which clarifies that such policy governs all cases after the new law’s effectivity.

Petitioner made the untruthful statement in the MLA, a public document, that he is a Filipino citizen at the time of the filing of said application, when in fact he was then still a Canadian citizen.

 

Under CA 63, the governing law at the time he was naturalized as Canadian citizen, naturalization in a foreign country was among those ways by which a natural-born citizen loses his Philippine citizenship. While he re-acquired Philippine citizenship under R.A. 9225 six months later, the falsification was already a consummated act, the said law having no retroactive effect insofar as his dual citizenship status is concerned. The MTC therefore did not err in finding probable cause for falsification of public document under Article 172, paragraph 1.

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