Published 29 October 2018, The Daily Tribune

To conclude the three-part series on modes of naturalization, I will now discuss what perhaps may be the fastest route to Philippine citizenship, assuming that the candidate  unquestionably possesses all the requisite qualifications–legislative naturalization.

Pursuant to their legislative authority under Article VI, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution, Congress of the Philippines composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives has the authority to grant Filipino citizenship to certain foreign nationals for their notable service to the country and to the Filipino people.

Among others, notable American sports personalities like swimmer Akiko ThompsonGilas Pilipinas basketball players Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche were granted Filipino citizenship though legislative action.  Even the late sportscaster Ronnie Nathanielsz, who was born in Sri Lanka was naturalized as Filipino citizen thru Presidential Decree No. 192 issued on May 14, 1973 by former President Ferdinand Marcos when the late President was still exercising both executive and legislative power.  Today, there is a pending bill in the House of Representatives to naturalize Ginebra San Miguel’s popular and charismatic import Justin Brownlee.

In the case of legislative naturalization, the pathway to Filipino citizenship is commenced by filing a bill by any member of the House of the Representatives or the Senate of the Philippines.

As provided for under Section 26, paragraph 2 of the 1987 Constitution, a naturalization bill shall be passed after undergoing three readings on separate days in the house of Congress where it originates.

On first reading, in line with the legislative process of how a bill becomes a law, the title and number of the bill are read into the records and thereafter referred to the proper committee for consideration.

The committee then evaluates the bill as to the necessity of conducting public hearings, where resource persons, experts and other stakeholders on the proposed naturalization bill may be invited. If the committee finds that no public hearing is needed, it schedules the bill for committee discussions. Based on the result of the public hearings or committee discussions, the committee may introduce amendments, consolidate bills on the same subject matter, or propose a substitute bill. The committee will then prepare the corresponding committee report.

During the second reading, after the sponsorship speech by the proponent or sponsor of the naturalization bill, debates on whether the grant of citizenship to the foreigner is favorable to the country or not will transpire. Amendments may also take place and voting thereto may be done by manual count, nominal voting, viva voce or division of the house.

On third reading, the only number and title of the amended naturalization bill will be read. No further amendments on the bill will allowed at this stage. The members of Congress will then vote on the bill either by nominal voting or a roll call. The member if he so desires may explain his vote. The naturalization bill granting Filipino citizenship to a foreigner must be approved by an affirmative vote of the majority of the members present.

The approved naturalization bill is thereafter transmitted to the other house of Congress for its concurrence. If the bill originated from the House of Representatives, it will be transmitted to the Senate and vice versa. There, it will undergo the same legislative process.

Ordinarily, there are no contentious provisions on a naturalization bill. In case of differences or disagreements however between the versions of the bill from the two houses, a conference committee composed of members from each house of congress is constituted to settle the disagreements. The conference committee will then sign a committee report.

Thereafter, copies of the bill, signed by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, duly certified by both the Secretary of the Senate and the Secretary General of the House, are transmitted to the President for his signature and approval. Once the bill is signed by the President, the bill becomes a law.

After publication of the naturalization law, oath taking by the foreign applicant and the issuance to him of a Certificate of Naturalization by the Bureau of Immigration, the foreigner is granted Philippine citizenship with all the rights and privileges of a naturalized citizen under Philippine laws.

In the case of Marcus Doubhit, he was naturalized by virtue of Republic 10148 which lapsed into law on March 12, 2011, while Andray Blatche was made Filipino by Republic Act 10636 approved on June 11, 2014.

In fine, obtaining Philippine citizenship through naturalization is possible and attainable. Though the pathway to Philippine citizenship may not be easy, even long and rigorous, still all branches of government, namely the executive, the judiciary and the legislative departments provide an avenue for a foreigner to become a Filipino citizen.

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Please allow me to take this opportunity to thank the Asian Legal Business for the award recently bestowed on DivinaLaw as Immigration Law Firm of the Year.

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