Political Law

Antonio Bengson III vs The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal

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G.R. No. 142840 – 357 SCRA 545 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Legislative Department – “Natural Born” Requirement – Requirements to be a Congressman

Antonio Bengson III and Teodoro Cruz were rivals in the 1998 elections in the 2nd District of Pangasinan. Cruz won by a significant margin over the incumbent Bengson. Bengson then filed a quo warranto proceeding in the HRET (House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal) alleging that Cruz is not a natural born citizen, as defined by law; hence he should be disqualified from holding office. The HRET subsequently declared and affirmed Cruz as the winner. Bengson filed a motion for reconsideration alleging that Cruz was indeed born a Filipino and he is defined under the 1935 Constitution as a natural born citizen. Cruz however lost his citizenship when he enlisted in the US Army in 1985. He also swore allegiance to the US without consent from the Philippines. Cruz, on the other hand, argued that he regained his Filipino Citizenship by virtue of Republic Act No. 2630 which provides that:

Any person who had lost his Philippine citizenship by rendering service to, or accepting commission in, the Armed Forces of the United States, or after separation from the Armed Forces of the United States, acquired United States citizenship, may reacquire Philippine citizenship by taking an oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines…

Bengson insists that Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution expressly states that natural-born citizens are those who are citizens from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect such citizenship.

ISSUE: Whether or not Cruz is a natural-born citizen.

HELD: Yes. Bengson’s contention that Cruz is no longer a natural-born citizen since he had to perform an act to regain his citizenship is untenable.  As correctly explained by the HRET in its decision, the term “natural-born citizen” was first defined in Article III, Section 4 of the 1973 Constitution as follows:

Sec. 4. A natural-born citizen is one who is a citizen of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect his Philippine citizenship.

In Cruz’s case, he lost his Filipino citizenship when he rendered service in the Armed Forces of the United States. However, he subsequently reacquired Philippine citizenship under R.A. No. 2630. Under said law, repatriation results in the recovery of the original nationality. This means that a natural-born  Filipino who lost his citizenship will be restored to his prior status as a natural-born Filipino citizen.

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