The plight of ABS-CBN: Of dual citizenship and foreign ownership of mass media

The plight of ABS-CBN: Of dual citizenship and foreign ownership of mass media

| Second of a series |

Dual citizenship and dual allegiance

By Justice Noel Gimenez Tijam (Ret.)

Ret. Justice Noel Tijam

During the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, Bishop Teodoro Bacani confirmed that citizenship cannot be separated from allegiance:


BISHOP BACANI. Mr. Presiding Officer, does citizenship always include


MR. OPLE. Yes.

BISHOP BACANI. Therefore, if we have dual citizenship, we have dual



In response, Commissioner Blas Ople distinguished two levels of allegiance:


MR. OPLE. Allegiance at the formal level. There is another allegiance at an inner and deeper level — formality versus the authentic sentiment of the citizen.

I said that dual citizenship is a formality; I am not disturbed by it. It is often a function of an accident, say, a mixed marriage, or birth in a foreign soil.

There is nothing insidious in it; there is nothing in it that threatens national security or sovereignty.

BISHOP BACANI. Yes, but if every citizenship includes allegiance, if we

deny dual allegiance, we also deny dual citizenship. Is this not yet foreclosed by the interpretation of Section 2?4


MR. VILLACORTA. In the 1973 Constitution, there is an Article on

Duties and Obligations of Citizens. Is that within the purview of the

Committee as well?

4 Records of the Constitutional Commission, Vol. I, July 8, 1986, p. 367.

6 MR. OPLE. Actually, I think the future legislature that will deal with this

problem of dual allegiance will address many specific borderline cases, and all I am saying is there is no necessary correlation between dual allegiance and dual citizenship.

In dual allegiance, there can be malice, or an insidious threat to our

sovereignty and security. But in dual citizenship, especially for those

Filipinos born in American soil and have become American citizens as a

consequence thereof, I will not read any embarrassment of a dual allegiance in that situation. I think dual allegiance, as interpreted in this amendment, refers to more insidious acts than merely the accident — whether welcome or unwelcome — of a dual citizenship occurring out of mixed marriages or birth in a foreign soil. 5 (emphasis supplied)

Paraphrasing Commissioner Ople, there could be a benign allegiance or allegiance at the “formal level” and an insidious allegiance at the “level of being a threat to society.” While the former deals with allegiance as a correlative and inescapable result of the application of different laws of each country, the latter supposedly evinces a much deeper level of allegiance, which is the conscious and voluntary submission of one’s loyalty to a country. In other words, benign allegiance flows from the fact of birth while the insidious allegiance is the consequence of a positive act.

The distinction between the two levels of allegiance was carried throughout the deliberations but rather took a different nomenclature: the allegiance resulting from the operation of citizenship laws of two or more sovereigns was regarded as “dual citizenship” while the allegiance resulting from a positive act was known as “dual allegiance.”

Going further, Section 5 was introduced which categorically proscribes “dual allegiance.” The proscription against dual allegiance under Section 5 must be read in the context of the proliferation of Chinese and Taiwanese in the Philippines who, at that time, became naturalized Filipinos but nonetheless remained allegiant to China and Taiwan:

MR. OPLE. xxxx.

What we would like the Committee to consider is to take constitutional cognizance of the problem of dual allegiance. For example, we all know what happens in the triennial elections of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce which consists of about 600 chapters all over the 5 Id. 7 country. There is a Peking ticket, as well as a Taipei ticket. Not widely known is the fact that the Filipino-Chinese community is represented in the Legislative Yuan of the Republic of China in Taiwan. And until recently, the sponsor might recall, in Mainland China in the People’s Republic of China, they have the Associated Legislative Council for overseas Chinese wherein all of Southeast Asia including some European and Latin countries were represented, which they dissolved after several years because of diplomatic frictions. At that time, the Filipino-Chinese were also represented in that Overseas Council.

When I speak of double allegiance, therefore, I speak of this unsettled kind of allegiance of Filipinos, of citizens who are already Filipinos but who, by their acts, may be said to be bound by a second allegiance, either to Peking or Taiwan. I also took close note of the concern expressed by some Commissioners yesterday, including Commissioner Villacorta, who were concerned about the lack of guarantees of thorough assimilation, and especially Commissioner Concepcion who has always been worried about minority claims on our natural resources.

Dual allegiance can actually siphon scarce national capital to Taiwan, Singapore, China or Malaysia, and this is already happening. Some of the great commercial places in downtown Taipei are Filipino-owned, owned by Filipino-Chinese — it is of common knowledge in Manila. It can mean a tragic capital outflow when we have to endure a capital famine which also means economic stagnation, worsening unemployment and social unrest.

And so, this is exactly what we ask — that the Committee kindly consider incorporating a new section, probably Section 5, in the Article on Citizenship which will read as follows: DUAL ALLEGIANCE IS INIMICAL TO CITIZENSHIP AND SHALL BE DEALT WITH ACCORDING TO LAW.


While the perspective used was partial (such that the Chinese/Taiwanese are capable of dual allegiance, but not Filipinos who may later on become Americans but remain allegiant to the Philippines), the link between allegiance and citizenship is clear: Filipinos or those who have become Filipinos, owe allegiance only to the Philippines which citizenship they enjoy and not to any other. Such linkage was recognized by the Framers in the original version of Section 5:


MR. OPLE. This is linked to citizenship in the original version before I accepted the Sarmiento amendment. Actually, it reads: “DUAL ALLEGIANCE IS OBNOXIOUS TO CITIZENSHIP,” until it was 8 replaced by “NATIONAL INTEREST.” We speak of a problem that in order to understand its importance, we really should locate it in the area of citizenship, because we generally speak of newly naturalized Filipinos who continue to manifest dual allegiance. Although we cannot be too detailed in a constitutional provision, that is in the immediate as well as in the distant background of this proposed amendment, Mr. Presiding Officer. So it is linked to citizenship.


MR. MONSOD. I assume that when we say “dual allegiance is obnoxious to citizenship,” any act that promotes, cultivates or manifests dual allegiance is obnoxious.

MR. OPLE. Yes, obnoxious, pernicious, repugnant, inimical, offensive.

MR. MONSOD. Will the presence of such a provision in our Constitution be an inhibiting provision, or will it prohibit us from trying to attract our balikbayans back who have acquired American citizenship to reinvest and reestablish their linkages with their former country?


There was actually a proposal to include a provision concerning dual citizenship of a Filipino citizen, who by reason of marriage to an alien, acquires the latter’s citizenship thereby becoming a dual citizen. In inserting this provision, a dual citizen by reason of marriage must decide which citizenship to retain:


GUINGONA. Thank you. 

The second amendment refers to the matter of dual citizenship and this is found in Section 2, starting with line 3, page 2. My proposed amendment would be: “Citizens of the Philippines who marry aliens BY REASON OF WHICH THEY ACQUIRED THE CITIZENSHIP OF THE SPOUSE shall retain their citizenship, PROVIDED THAT AT ANY TIME WITHIN ONE YEAR FROM THE CELEBRATION OF THEIR MARRIAGE, THEY RENOUNCE THE CITIZENSHIP OF THEIR SPOUSES, OTHERWISE, THEY WOULD LOSE THEIR PHILIPPINE CITIZENSHIP.” 

This proposal was a verbatim copy of the proposal submitted by the University of the Philippines Law Revision Project of 1970 which suggested the possession of only one citizenship for the following reasons:


1.      Citizens of the Philippines, including those of dual citizenship, would be entitled to all rights and privileges of a citizen, including the right to be elected to the highest positions in the government. 

2.      Filipinos of dual citizenship would be subject to the jurisdiction of other states of which he or she is also a citizen and to which he or she would owe allegiance and would have the duty to serve and the duty to pay taxes . . . 

3.      It would be advisable for us to provide in the Constitution even indirectly that we uphold the theory of only one citizenship as proposed by the late Dr. Salvador Araneta, a 1971 Constitutional Convention delegate. Filipinos of dual citizenship could at best be suspected of divided loyalty as far as the countries of which they are citizens are concerned. At times even these countries may, in the future, come into conflict with one another. 

Finally, the renunciation of one’s citizenship under a foreign country, although the same may have no effect therein, would serve as an evident declaration of loyalty to our country. 

While acknowledging the proposal, Father Joaquin Bernas submitted this matter to the will of the legislature:

FR. BERNAS. The matter of dual citizenship has relevance not just to Section 2 but also to paragraph 2 of Section 1 because the latter can also give rise to dual citizenship. But it is the position of the sponsor that the matter of dual citizenship be handled by ordinary legislation. It is perfectly within the competence of the legislative body to pass a law saying that those possessing dual citizenship must make a choice within a certain period.

And, further, as follows:


MR. ROMULO. May I ask a few questions. I want to determine whether or not a child, whose circumstances I will describe later, may have a dual citizenship even upon reaching the age of majority. A child is born in the United States of both Filipino parents, therefore, as I understand American laws, he is a natural-born American. 


MR. ROMULO. And as I understand these provisions, he is also a natural born Filipino. 


MR. ROMULO. He did not elect citizenship, neither under American law nor under Philippine law. Am I then correct in saying that he has dual citizenship for the rest of his life? 

FR. BERNAS. I am not sure, if there is now a law in the Philippines requiring him to choose. I am not sure; but certainly he is born with dual citizenship. 


FR. BERNAS. How long he is allowed to keep that, I am not sure. 

MR. ROMULO. That is my question, and should that not be settled by the Constitution? 

FR. BERNAS. We will entertain the wisdom of others on that.


MR. OPLE. Therefore, I would like to revert to the point earlier raised by Commissioner Romulo on whether or not it might be time for his Committee to consider a more categorical policy on double citizenship, not only for the sake of national security but also for a greater clarity about our policy, it having been admitted earlier that it is actually possible for a Filipino- Chinese to be born and be reared under a double citizenship, if he is born in the United States of Filipino parents, and, therefore, his political status can be very ambivalent until he reaches a point where he is forced to make a choice between two citizenships. Does Commissioner Bernas’ Committee contemplate the possibility of addressing this concern now about double citizenship? 

FR. BERNAS. The Committee in its discussion did not consider that, partly because the Committee thought that this is a matter better left to ordinary legislation because we already have in Section 3 a provision which says: “Philippine citizenship may be lost or re- acquired in the manner provided by law.’’ 

So, the option we have really is, do we treat the matter of double citizenship – dual citizenship – in the Constitution or do we relegate that to ordinary legislation? It is something which we can discuss. 


MR. GUINGONA. As pointed out by Commissioner Rodrigo, a citizen of the Philippines who marries an alien and who, therefore, retains his or her citizenship, may acquire the citizenship of the alien’s spouse, if, according to the laws of the country of that spouse he or she acquires such citizenship. I am not aware of the consensus in the Gentleman’s Committee about the matter of dual citizenship. 

FR. BERNAS. The feeling of the Committee, if I may attempt to reflect it, is that the question of dual citizenship can be dealt with in ordinary legislation. 

MR. GUINGONA. I see. I felt that perhaps even in the Constitution itself, there could be some attempts to discourage dual citizenship. My question is: Has the Committee considered the possibility of requiring this Filipino citizen who has now a dual citizenship on account of marriage to renounce the citizenship of the spouse within a specified period? 

FR. BERNAS. We did not because we feel that is better left to ordinary legislation.  (emphasis supplied)


While the proposal of Commissioner Guingona did not find its way to the final version of the fundamental law, it nevertheless shows the preference to protect State sovereignty by exclusivity which the Framers deemed best for the legislature to address.

Consistently, there was a suggestion that a child of a Filipino parent and alien parent be left to decide on his/her citizenship, effectively choosing between the two and submitting his/her allegiance to just one:



The purpose of the committee report is to elevate the Filipino mother to a level of equality with the Filipino father. First, we do not wish to punish the Filipino mother and her child simply because she married an alien, in the same way that we do not punish the Filipino father and his child when he marries an alien. Second, the child has two options. In many cases, he will have dual citizenship — he may either choose the citizenship of his mother or the citizenship of the father. He should be allowed to choose. The choice must not be imposed on him. True, this can give rise to dual citizenship but the naturalization law can provide that the child with dual citizenship must make a choice within a certain period of time.  (emphasis supplied)


Based on the journals of the Constitutional Commission, the Framers wanted Congress to legislate on the status of dual citizens and at the same time put an end to dual allegiance, which they considered obnoxious to the national interest. The Framers were ambivalent in giving dual citizens express Constitutional recognition. Even Father Bernas admitted that a Filipino by blood cannot be allowed to remain as a dual citizen in perpetuity.

Dovetailing, the Supreme Court in Mercado v. Manzano, did not allow the perpetuation of dual citizenship as it actually mandated the renunciation of the foreign citizenship.  

Mercado, in fact, recognized the perils of maintaining dual citizenship in seeking any elective post in the Philippines. The Supreme Court’s instruction reads: “[u]nlike those with dual allegiance, who must, therefore, be subject to strict process with respect to the termination of their status, for candidates with dual citizenship, it should suffice if, upon the filing of their certificates of candidacy, they elect Philippine citizenship to terminate their status as persons with dual citizenship considering that their condition is the unavoidable consequence of conflicting laws of different states.”

Clearly, for purposes of seeking any elective post, the Court finds the possession of a person of dual citizenship unacceptable. The Supreme Court in Mercado further explained that: “[b]y electing Philippine citizenship, such candidates at the same time forswear allegiance to the other country of which they are also citizens and thereby terminate their status as dual citizens.”

Whether the allegiance is considered benign (or what was inaccurately termed as “dual citizenship”) or insidious (dual allegiance), it will be difficult to separate citizenship from allegiance, as these terms are ordinarily understood. Allegiance is necessarily interpreted within the context of citizenship. Allegiance, whether benign or insidious, should be interpreted as a matter of action (rather than mere intent) because without which allegiance will be reduced to an empty promise. Hence, it is entirely possible that a dual citizen presumed to possess only a benign or passive allegiance is, in actuality, allegiant to one but not to the other, or is actually bound by a second allegiance. When the actual allegiance either falls to the foreign state or is in addition to Philippine allegiance, such dual allegiance offends insofar as the Philippines is concerned. 

R.A. No. 9225

As earlier noted, there is this growing trend towards the acceptance of dual citizenship. Adjunct with this initiative is the inclination of several countries like Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Italy, India, and Thailand to retain the birth citizenship notwithstanding naturalization elsewhere. In 2003, the Philippines joined this roster of nations with the passage of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9225 or the Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003. Reference to R.A. No. 9225 must be made considering its effect on the Constitutional proscription against dual allegiance and ambivalence towards dual citizenship, as well as on the Supreme Court’s pronouncement in Mercado that dual citizenship cannot be held in perpetuum.

Under the old law (Commonwealth Act 63), a natural-born citizen who became a naturalized citizen of a foreign country loses his Philippine citizenship. Now, under R.A. No. 9225, natural-born Filipinos who were naturalized in other countries could reacquire or retain their Philippine citizenship after undergoing the procedure provided for under the law. 

It is interesting to note that while the original bills filed in the lower House referred to “dual citizenship,” the approved version now reflects the phrase “retention of Philippine citizenship by natural-born Filipino citizens who acquire foreign citizenship” – which essentially means the same thing. The law was astutely silent on the effect of its operation on the already acquired foreign citizenship. Assuming that the foreign citizenship is not thereby lost and applying the doctrine of processual presumption, then R.A. No. 9225 effectively created a dual citizen capable of dual allegiance.

The Supreme Court in 2007 was quick to notice that the law shifted to the concerned foreign country the burden of determining whether or not there is dual allegiance.  This was a stance impelled either by lack of jurisdiction and incompetency to address foreign state’s citizenship laws or a product of a one-sided Philippine perspective. 

This ambivalence towards the operation of citizenship laws of other countries was justified by the need to “give back” to Filipinos the citizenship they lost through naturalization (which, under the Constitutional deliberations and the Mercado case, is a positive act from which dual allegiance flows). According to the proponents of the law, Filipinos were merely compelled by economic circumstances, short of saying financial strategy, to adopt foreign citizenship. Resistance to this line of reasoning is understandable, if not warranted. It reduces Filipinos as “liars” who would readily take an oath of allegiance to a foreign country for convenience, even if they really did not mean to be bound thereby.

A clear take-away, however, is that with the passage of R.A. No. 9225, the distinction laid down in Mercado that dual citizenship is involuntary while dual allegiance is the result of an individual’s volition was rendered nugatory. Under R.A. No. 9225, Philippine citizenship is re-acquired or retained, as the case may be, by the positive act of taking the Philippine oath of allegiance before a duly authorized Philippine official. 

The Supreme Court nevertheless upheld the law, noting the congressional deliberations that stressed that “by swearing to the supreme authority of the Republic, the person implicitly renounces his foreign citizenship.” Curiously, the oath, while exacting support to the Philippine’s Constitution, laws, and legal orders, and recognition of the Philippines’ supreme authority, does not require one to expressly and absolutely renounce his allegiance to any other country. 

Because the crafters of R.A. No. 9225 realized that dual citizenship and, consequently, dual allegiance may result from the operation of the law, they installed safeguards by requiring the renunciation of foreign citizenship of those who seek political careers and by withholding from those who are candidates or public officials or enlisted servicemen the right to vote and be elected or appointed to a government post in the Philippines. These, without doubt, are clear elements of allegiance.

Citing AASJS v. Datumanong,  the Supreme Court categorically stated in 2015 that R.A. No. 9225 “allows dual citizenship.”  This “dual citizenship” could not have been the benign allegiance referred to under the Constitution precisely because the dual citizenship occasioned by R.A. No. 9225 was not accidental but a product of will and volition – making the resulting allegiance of the insidious kind. R.A. No. 9225 is a complete departure from the intent of the constitutional framers, and contradicts the dictum laid down by the Supreme Court in Mercado. It is therefore not wrong to entertain doubts on the constitutionality of R.A. No. 9225. 

To be continued

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