Published 25 July 2022, The Daily Tribune

Amid the ongoing conflict, persecution, violence and war plaguing other countries, the Philippines’ highest court promulgated the rules of procedure to facilitate the inclusion and assimilation of refugees and stateless persons into Philippine society. Its promulgation has been lauded as the first Judiciary-led initiative of its kind at the global level and epitomizes the country’s commitment to protect and provide a safe haven for people fleeing from persecution.

Pursuant to its rule-making power under Section 5(5), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, the Supreme Court approved AM 21-07-22-SC, or the Rule on Facilitated Naturalization of Refugees and Stateless Persons, on 15 February 2022 to reduce the legal and procedural hurdles in obtaining Philippine citizenship for refugees and stateless persons.

A “refugee” is defined under the Rule, as “any person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his or her own nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his or her formal habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

On the other hand, a “stateless person” is “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law.”

Section 9(f) of the Rule requires that the petition for naturalization filed by a refugee or stateless person be accompanied by a proof of recognition of refugee or stateless status by the Department of Justice-Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Unit (DoJ-RSPPU) or the appropriate Philippine government agency.

Notably, Sections 9 and 20 of the Rule expressly provide that the inability to produce the required documentary exhibits, except for the Declaration of Intention, shall not be a ground for the denial of the petition if the totality of the evidence is sufficient to establish that the petitioner meets all the qualifications and does not suffer any of the disqualifications under the law. This is in recognition that refugees and stateless persons, because of their vulnerable circumstances, may not have the complete documentary requirements and financial means to successfully go through the regular naturalization process under our existing laws.

The Rule also allows a petition for naturalization to be filed on behalf of an unaccompanied child or a joint petition involving related unaccompanied children. The petition may be filed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the appropriate Local Social Welfare and Development Office where the unaccompanied child resides, or the child-caring agency having care and custody of the child.

The Supreme Court also allowed electronic publication. Thus, the petition may be published “in the Official Gazette or its website and in one newspaper of general circulation or its website in the place where the petitioner resides, OR the official website of the Supreme Court.” Allowing electronic publication is a step toward the High Court’s goal to have a technology-driven Judiciary that can provide equal access to justice in real time.

Section 27 of the Rule also provides that the refugee and stateless person will only pay 50 percent of the prescribed docket and other legal fees, unless exempted by law.

The Rule is said to epitomize the Filipino people’s long-standing tradition of providing international protection to refugees and stateless individuals. The Philippines is the first country in Southeast Asia to accede to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. This is a clear affirmation of our commitment to afford human and other fundamental rights to the vulnerable and marginalized sectors in the global society.

For more of Dean Nilo Divina’s legal tidbits, please visit For comments and questions, please send an email to