News/US: Point of View: Once a Filipino, always a Filipino

New Message Reply Date view Thread view Subject view Author view Other groups

Subject: News/US: Point of View: Once a Filipino, always a Filipino
From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Mon Oct 04 1999 - 10:34:54 EDT

Not about trafficking, but some what related. Also, thought some might be


Point of View: Once a Filipino, always a Filipino
Isabel Caro Wilson and Reynald Trillana
BusinessWorld (Manila), September 29, 1999, p. 5

    My country is the world. - Thomas Paine


In their desire for a better life and driven by economic opportunities abroad,
the exodus of Filipinos continues unabated. By their hard work and sacrifices,
these Filipinos contribute about $7 billion to the Philippine economy yearly.
Yet, Philippine citizenship laws strip them of their Filipino citizenship when
they are naturalized in other countries. And when they are not naturalized
can be subjected to unequal treatment and discriminatory practices in their
host country.

The authors aim to focus on the need for reforms to address this issue of the
Philippine diaspora, a phenomenon whereby approximately five million Filipinos
have emigrated to other countries as workers, spouses of foreign nationals,
families or dependents of overseas Filipinos, students, tourists, and in other
capacities and conditions. The authors further submit that these Filipinos
deserve our admiration, respect and appreciation.

The authors will argue that there is a need to introduce legal reforms that
allow a Filipino, even when naturalized in other countries, to possess dual
citizenship, that is, become a citizen of the host country, thereby
enjoying the
same protection, rights and privileges, and at the same time retaining their
Filipino citizenship. Such reforms, the authors believe, do not require
amending the Constitution. It will merely require new legislation from
Congress that would amend Commonwealth Act No. 63 as amended by
Republic Act No. 106.

Citizenship laws of the Philippines

Laws on citizenship are enshrined in Article 4 of the 1987 Constitution and in
Commonwealth Act No. 63 as amended. The Constitution specifically states in
Section 5 of Article 4: "Dual allegiance of citizens is inimical to the
interest and shall be dealt with by law." It was clear, however, in the
deliberations of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 and subsequent rulings
of the Supreme Court that there is a clear demarcation line between dual
allegiance and dual citizenship. Some commissioners, in fact, said the
provisions were deliberately made vague and left the clarification of such to

The 1987 Constitution does not prohibit dual citizenship in cases of marriage
to a foreigner whose laws in force in his country automatically vest on the
Filipino woman the nationality of the foreigner (the same is true with
men) or other circumstances that do not entail renunciation of Philippine
citizenship through overt acts and deeds. Section 4 of the same article
provides: "Citizens of the Philippines who marry aliens shall retain their
citizenship, unless by their act or omission they are deemed, under the
law, to
have renounced it." Commonwealth Act No. 63, in turn, provides for the
manner by which Filipino citizens may lose their citizenship. These include
naturalization in a foreign country, expressed renunciation of citizenship,
subscribing an oath of allegiance to support the Constitution of another
country, serving in the military, and other expressed acts enumerated in
Section I.

It is the view of the authors that dual citizenship be allowed in the
More specifically this paper will argue for legal and policy changes that
provide for the following:(1) Filipinos who acquire other citizenship by
naturalization should not automatically lose their Filipino citizenship.(2)
Filipinos who swear allegiance to other countries and are subsequently
required to renounce their Filipino citizenship to reapply for Filipino
citizenship if such renunciation was made as a requirement for retaining their
citizenship in other countries.

Such positions are anchored on several arguments. First, dual citizenship
recognizes the fact that millions of Filipinos, by choice or otherwise, are
outside the country. Second, the concepts of citizenship and nationality, or
even loyalty, should be substantially differentiated in the light of new
developments. Third, the "Bagong Bayani," the overseas Filipino workers, must
be given the opportunity for genuine recognition in terms of legal,
political, and
social protection in the country where they are staying. Last, emerging global
trends should prompt Filipinos to redefine nationalism especially in terms of
allowing a citizen to possess dual citizenship.

Dual citizenship

Allowing the possession of dual citizenship will give Filipinos the
to progress economically, socially, and politically in other countries while
continuing to contribute to the growth of the Philippines. It recognizes
the fact
that the Philippines is a much wider nation than the territory it
encompasses. A
great number of Filipinos have decided for various reasons, mostly economic,
to emigrate to other countries. Instead of punishing them by stripping them of
their Philippine citizenship, government should reward their efforts and allow
them to retain that imprimatur of being considered a citizen of the country
where their hearts and their roots are. The idea of dual citizenship, even
multiple citizenship, is not even a very recent phenomenon. As early as the
time of the Greek and Roman city-states it was possible for a man to be
simultaneously a citizen of his original home city and of another. A famous
example is Paul, one of the founders of Christianity. Although a citizen of
Tarsus, in Asia Minor, when he was arrested he was able to claim certain
privileges by virtue of being also a citizen of Rome.

Citizenship and nationality

One's nationality cannot be reduced to a mere legal characteristic of a
the idea of nationality binds him culturally and socially to the land where he
was born no matter where he is residing. Recent developments, in fact, show
that citizenship, as the cornerstone of national identity, is in decline at
least in
the United States and Western Europe. The problematic concepts of
citizenship and nationality have been drastically altered by the advent of
transnational migration. While citizenship is traditionally referred to as the
personal, more or less permanent membership in a political community
involving the possession of civil and political rights and imposes duty of
allegiance, nationality should be regarded as something that is the product of
one's experiences with one's homeland. With the reevaluation of citizenship
in the west, the concept of citizenship is being recast from an expression of
national determination to a legal device for protecting individual human
Citizenship has been reinvented to take on a contractual character.

International migration

Such policy reason is consistent with global trends where national boundaries
are no longer hindrances for peoples of the world to advance their interests
and welfare. Communal boundaries have, in effect, been deterritorialized by
the growing phenomenon of transnational migration. According to the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), flows of
permanent and temporary migrant range up to three million a year in recent
years. OECD countries received in 1996 total inflows of 1.7 million nationals
from other countries. The same source shows that in 1996 alone, foreign
population among OECD member countries has ballooned to 19.4 million. The
United States has 24,600,000 and Canada has 4,971,000. Available data also
reveal that Filipinos comprise 6% of the foreign population in the United
and 16% of migrants in Japan. In 1975 only 36,000 Filipinos were deployed
abroad, from 1992 to 1997, however, worker deployment reached four million.
Deployment last year reached 755,684.

A number of countries in the world, in fact, have responded to this global
evolution of migration and citizenship by providing for a liberal set of
laws on
citizenship. The British Nationality Act of 1981, for example, allows a
to reapply for a British citizenship if his or her act of renouncing British
citizenship was necessary for the retention or acquisition of some other
citizenship or nationality. Italy, on the other hand, allows citizens who
possess, acquire or regain a foreign citizenship to retain their citizenship.
South Africa specifically allows other nationals to acquire South African
citizenship without renouncing their original nationality. Canada, Portugal,
New Zealand, and Ireland give their citizens who have acquired other
nationality the option to renounce their original citizenship through a formal
declaration of renunciation. In other words, they are not automatically
of their citizenship. The Irish Citizenship Law explicitly provides for
this in
Article 24: "No person shall be deemed ever to have lost Irish citizenship -
merely by operation of the law of another country whereby citizenship of that
country is conferred on that person without any voluntary act on his part."
Portugal makes it an option for a Portuguese to renounce his citizenship "if
he or she does not want to be Portuguese." Again, there is no automatic loss
of citizenship. Canada, in fact, allows their citizens to become members of
the armed forces of other country. Only when armed conflict arises does the
Canadian government strip them of their Canadian citizenship. More
recently, Mexico passed the Mexican Nationality Law of 1998 that made it
possible for Mexicans to recover their nationality even if they acquire
one. Its significance lies in the fact that Mexico and the Philippines are the
countries with the largest migratory workers. In Spain, Filipinos with legal
residence may become Spanish citizens after two years of stay. At the time
they are nationalized, the judge advises them that they do not have to
their Filipino citizenship. It was Deng Xiao Ping who declared in 1986 "once
a Chinese always a Chinese." Thereby assuring millions of Chinese overseas
of their Chinese citizenship regardless of their status in any foreign land.

Recognizing the new heroes

Allowing dual citizenship will give Filipinos overseas their much delayed
recognition as bagong bayani; such policy revision will give them not just
empty rhetoric but some concrete recognition of their immense contribution to
the country. Government figures show that remittances of OFWs in 1998
alone reached $7 billion from $5.7 billion in 1997. Economic experts suggest
that it was the remittances of the overseas workers that eased the economic
crunch the country experienced because of the peso devaluation and the
economic crisis that plagued Asia. The economy avoided a recession last year
and attained a positive GNP growth rate principally because of OFW

Any serious sociologist cannot overlook the contributions of these migrants in
the creation of the Filipino middle class so vital in national development.
Immigrants come back with new ideas and attitudes to revitalize our society.
They will have an impact on how things are done. Young people educated
abroad are imbued with new technology and have a broader cultural
orientation that will enhance traditional practices and norms. One should also
remember that it was the European-educated middle class of the 19th-century
Philippines that raised the level of national consciousness among the
and contributed to the birth of an independent republic.

By their sheer numbers and socioeconomic contributions, therefore, the OFWs
and their voting relatives in the Philippines should constitute a strong
force that policy makers, Congress in particular, cannot afford to ignore.

Furthermore, it will pave the way for the elimination of the economic, social,
and historical barriers that hinder a great number of Filipinos from taking
up a
foreign citizenship in spite of being eligible for it. This will also widen
range of protection for Filipinos, not only those residing overseas, but also
those who have decided to return to the Philippines. Among the problems
confronting migrant workers is the issue of discrimination on the basis of
citizenship or national origin. The solution should obviously address the need
to abolish such discriminatory treatment by extending to migrant workers the
same treatment as that of the nationals of the host country. While
bilateral and
multilateral efforts have been exerted to address this issue, the problem
continues to persist. One effective way of achieving this is to give
Filipinos the
option to become a citizen of the country they are working in and at the same
time maintain their treasured citizenship as Filipinos. The reforms will
the Filipinos the enjoyment of rights (such as property ownership rights,
investment rights, and others) granted by the citizenship of the place where
they reside while at the same time not having to give up their Filipino
citizenship. Studies suggest that while many migrants do not avail of
naturalization even when they are eligible for it. Filipinos (like other
however, have a higher propensity to naturalize because of economic
consideration despite close ties to the Philippines. Naturalization, in
this sense,
is not perceived as a mere legal formality but an act resulting in a profound
transformation to the applicant such that his ties to the old country are
and that he intends to stay for the rest of his life in the host country.
It creates
a profound anxiety among Filipinos that one might be considered an alien in
one's own land.

Redefining nationalism

The claim that such policy revision is anti-nationalism is an anachronistic
One's nationalism cannot be measured by mere adherence to the strictly
legalistic understanding of citizenship but one's capacity to protect and
advance the country's interests. And times demand that the national interest
should not be viewed from a protectionist, ultranationalist perspective but
should take into consideration the emerging global trends in labor and
migration. History has demonstrated that extreme nationalism entails
dangerous and potentially disastrous consequences. Ultimately, dual
citizenship must be seen as being pro-Filipino because its overriding
is to recognize the efforts of, and protect Filipinos overseas. By allowing
to acquire double citizenship, their well-being (in terms of jobs, security
benefits) in a foreign land is guaranteed.


Based on these considerations, the authors strongly propose the following
changes to Section I of CA No. 63 as amended by RA 106:
  * Striking Paragraph 1 which states: "A Filipino may lose his citizenship in
any of the following ways and/or events: (1) by naturalizations in foreign
  * Replacing the deleted paragraph with the following provision: "Filipino
citizens who are naturalized in other countries are not automatically
to have renounced their Filipino citizenship. They continue to be Filipinos."
  * Amending Paragraph 2 to read: "...By express renunciation of citizenship
unless such renunciation is necessary for the retention or acquisition of some
other citizenship or nationality from other country. In which case, a
Filipino is
given the option to reapply for Filipino citizenship." This should not be
considered as dual allegiance in the strictest sense. Since the proposed
provision recognizes the practical rationale for the adoption of another
citizenship and the subsequent renunciation of Filipino citizenship.
  * Adding a provision to read: "Filipinos who are naturalized in another
and who opted to maintain his Filipino citizenship are deemed to have lost the
same if they accept any public office in the host country or agree to render
military service to the same." This provision is obviously intended to
solve the
potential problem regarding loyalty that might arise should the Philippines be
engaged in a war against another nation.

(Isabel Caro Wilson is a former Philippine ambassador to Spain, while Reynald
Trillana is with the Institute of Political Economy of the University of
Asia and
the Pacific.)

Melanie Orhant

STOP-TRAFFIC is a facilitated, international electronic mailing list
dealing with human rights abuses associated with trafficking in
persons, with an emphasis on trafficking in persons for forced
prostitution, sweatshop labor, domestic service and coercive mail order
bride arrangements.

Stop-Traffic archive:

To subscribe, please send an email to


Leave the subject blank. In the body of your message, write:

subscribe STOP-TRAFFIC <Your Name>

Inserting your real name (without brackets <>) after STOP-TRAFFIC.

To unsubscribe, send email to


Leave the subject blank. In the body of your message write:

unsubscribe STOP-TRAFFIC

To send a message to STOP-TRAFFIC, email:


New Message Reply Date view Thread view Subject view Author view Other groups

This archive was generated by hypermail 2a22 : Sun Nov 21 1999 - 20:09:49 EST