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Republic of the Philippines
G.R. Nos. 95122-23 May 31, 1991
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS (COMMISSION ON IMMIGRATION AND DEPORTATION), BOARD OF SPECIAL INQUIRY, COMMISSIONER ANDREA D. DOMINGO, ASSOCIATE COMMISSIONER JORGE V. SARMIENTO, ACTING ASSOCIATE COMMISSIONER REGINO R. SANTIAGO, MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF SPECIAL INQUIRY, ESTANISLAO CANTA, LEO MAGAHOM and BENJAMIN KALAW, petitioners,
HON. JOSELITO DELA ROSA, Presiding Judge, RTC Manila, Branch 29, WILLIAM T. GATCHALIAN, respondents.
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS (COMMISSION ON IMMIGRATION AND DEPORTATION), BOARD OF SPECIAL INQUIRY, COMMISSIONER ANDREA D. DOMINGO, ASSOCIATE COMMISSIONER JORGE V. SARMIENTO, ACTING ASSOCIATE COMMISSIONER REGINO R. SANTIAGO, MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF SPECIAL INQUIRY, ESTANISLAO CANTA, LEO MAGAHOM and BENJAMIN KALAW, petitioners,
HON. TERESITA DIZON CAPULONG, Presiding Judge, RTC Branch 172, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, DEE HUA T. GATCHALIAN, SHERWING T. GATCHALIAN, KENNETH T. GATCHALIAN, REXLON T. GATCHALIAN, and WESLIE T. GATCHALIAN, respondents.
G.R. Nos. 95612-13 May 31, 1991
WILLIAM T. GATCHALIAN, petitioner,
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS (COMMISSION ON IMMIGRATION AND DEPORTATION), et al., respondents.
The Solicitor General for petitioners.
Ledesma, Saludo & Associates for respondent William Gatchalian.
Cervo and Tanay Law Office for respondent T.D. Capulong, D.H.T. Gatchalian, et al.
D E C I S I O N
This is a petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by the Solicitor General seeking 1) to set aside the Resolution/Temporary Restraining Order dated September 7, 1990, issued by respondent Judge de la Rosa in Civil Case No. 90-54214 which denied petitioners’ motion to dismiss and restrained petitioners from commencing or continuing with any of the proceedings which would lead to the deportation of respondent William Gatchalian, docketed as D.C. No. 90-523, as well as the Order of respondent Judge Capulong dated September 6, 1990 in Civil Case No. 3431-V-90 which likewise enjoined petitioners from proceeding with the deportation charges against respondent Gatchalian, and 2) to prohibit respondent judges from further acting in the aforesaid civil cases.
On October 23, 1990, respondent Gatchalian filed his Comment with Counter-Petition, docketed as G.R. Nos. 96512-13, alleging lack of jurisdiction on the part of respondent Board of Commissioners, et al., over his person with prayer that he be declared a Filipino citizen, or in the alternative, to remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
On December 13, 1990, petitioners filed their comment to respondent Gatchalian’s counter-petition. The Court considers the comment filed by respondent Gatchalian as answer to the petition and petitioners’ comment as answer to the counter-petition and gives due course to the petitions.
There is no dispute as to the following facts:
On July 12, 1960, Santiago Gatchalian, grandfather of William Gatchalian, was recognized by the Bureau of Immigration as a native born Filipino citizen following the citizenship of his natural mother, Marciana Gatchalian (Annex “1”, counter-petition). Before the Citizenship Evaluation Board, Santiago Gatchalian testified that he has five (5) children with his wife Chu Gim Tee, namely: Jose Gatchalian, Gloria Gatchalian, Francisco Gatchalian, Elena Gatchalian and Benjamin Gatchalian (Annex “2”, counter-petition).
On June 27, 1961, William Gatchalian, then a twelve-year old minor, arrived in Manila from Hongkong together with Gloria, Francisco, and Johnson, all surnamed Gatchalian. They had with them Certificates of Registration and Identity issued by the Philippine Consulate in Hongkong based on a cablegram bearing the signature of the then Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Felixberto Serrano, and sought admission as Filipino citizens. Gloria and Francisco are the daughter and son, respectively, of Santiago Gatchalian; while William and Johnson are the sons of Francisco.
After investigation, the Board of Special Inquiry No. 1 rendered a decision dated July 6, 1961, admitting William Gatchalian and his companions as Filipino citizens (Annex “C”, petition). As a consequence thereof, William Gatchalian was issued Identification Certificate No. 16135 by the immigration authorities on August 16, 1961 (Annex “D”, petition).
On January 24, 1962, the then Secretary of Justice issued Memorandum No. 9 setting aside all decisions purporting to have been rendered by the Board of Commissioners on appeal or on review motu proprio of decisions of the Board of Special Inquiry. The same memorandum directed the Board of Commissioners to review all cases where entry was allowed on the ground that the entrant was a Philippine citizen. Among those cases was that of William and others.
On July 6, 1962, the new Board of Commissioners, after a review motu proprio of the proceedings had in the Board of Special Inquiry, reversed the decision of the latter and ordered the exclusion of, among others, respondent Gatchalian (Annex “E”, petition). A warrant of exclusion also dated July 6, 1962 was issued alleging that “the decision of the Board of Commissioners dated July 6, 1962 . . . has now become final and executory (Annex “F”, petition).
The actual date of rendition of said decision by the Board of Commissioners (whether on July 6, 1962 or July 20, 1962) became the subject of controversy in the 1967 case of Arocha vs. Vivo (21 SCRA 532) wherein this Court sustained the validity of the decision of the new Board of Commissioners having been promulgated on July 6, 1962, or within the reglementary period for review.
Sometime in 1973, respondent Gatchalian, as well as the others covered by the July 6, 1962 warrant of exclusion, filed a motion for re-hearing with the Board of Special Inquiry where the deportation case against them was assigned.
On March 14, 1973, the Board of Special Inquiry recommended to the then Acting Commissioner Victor Nituda the reversal of the July 6, 1962 decision of the then Board of Commissioners and the recall of the warrants of arrest issued therein (Annex “5”, counter-petition).
On March 15, 1973, Acting Commissioner Nituda issued an order reaffirming the July 6, 1961 decision of the Board of Special Inquiry thereby admitting respondent Gatchalian as a Filipino citizen and recalled the warrant of arrest issued against him (Annex “6”, counter-petition).
On June 7, 1990, the acting director of the National Bureau of Investigation wrote the Secretary of Justice recommending that respondent Gatchalian along with the other applicants covered by the warrant of exclusion dated July 6, 1962 be charged with violation of Sec. 37 (a), pars. 1 and 2, in relation to Secs. 45 (c), and (d) and (e) of Commonwealth Act No. 613, as amended, also known as the Immigration Act of 1940 (Annex “G”, petition).
On August 1, 1990, the Secretary of Justice indorsed the recommendation of the NBI to the Commissioner of Immigration for investigation and immediate action (Annex “20”, counter-petition).
On August 15, 1990, petitioner Commissioner Domingo of the Commission of Immigration and Deportation * issued a mission order commanding the arrest of respondent William Gatchalian (Annex “18”, counter-petition). The latter appeared before Commissioner Domingo on August 20, 1990 and was released on the same day upon posting P200,000.00 cash bond.
On August 29, 1990, William Gatchalian filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with injunction before the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Br. 29, presided by respondent Judge dela Rosa, docketed as Civil Case No. 90-54214.
On September 4, 1990, petitioners filed a motion to dismiss Civil Case No. 90-54214 alleging that respondent judge has no jurisdiction over the Board of Commissioners and/or the Board of Special Inquiry. Nonetheless, respondent judge dela Rosa issued the assailed order dated September 7, 1990, denying the motion to dismiss.
Meanwhile, on September 6, 1990, respondent Gatchalian’s wife and minor children filed before the Regional Trial Court of Valenzuela, Metro Manila, Br. 172, presided by respondent judge Capulong Civil Case No. 3431-V-90 for injunction with writ of preliminary injunction. The complaint alleged, among others, that petitioners acted without or in excess of jurisdiction in the institution of deportation proceedings against William. On the same day, respondent Capulong issued the questioned temporary restraining order restraining petitioners from continuing with the deportation proceedings against William Gatchalian.
The petition is anchored on the following propositions: 1) respondent judges have no jurisdiction over petitioners (Board of Commissioners, et al.,) and the subject matter of the case, appellate jurisdiction being vested by BP 129 with the Court of Appeals; 2) assuming respondent judges have jurisdiction, they acted with grave abuse of discretion in preempting petitioners in the exercise of the authority and jurisdiction to hear and determine the deportation case against respondent Gatchalian, and in the process determine also his citizenship; 3) respondent Judge dela Rosa gravely abused his discretion in ruling that the issues raised in the deportation proceedings are beyond the competence and jurisdiction of petitioners, thereby disregarding the cases of Arocha vs. Vivo and Vivo vs. Arca (supra), which put finality to the July 6, 1962 decision of the Board of Commissioners that respondent Gatchalian is a Chinese citizen; and 4) respondent judge Capulong should have dismissed Civil Case No. 3431-V-90 for forum-shopping.
In his counter-petition, William Gatchalian alleges among others that: 1) assuming that the evidence on record is not sufficient to declare him a Filipino citizen, petitioners have no jurisdiction to proceed with the deportation case until the courts shall have finally resolved the question of his citizenship; 2) petitioners can no longer judiciously and fairly resolve the question of respondent’s citizenship in the deportation case because of their bias, pre-judgment and prejudice against him; and 3) the ground for which he is sought to be deported has already prescribed.
For purposes of uniformity, the parties herein will be referred to in the order the petitions were filed.
Petitioners argue that under Sec. 9 (3) of BP 129, it is the Court of Appeals which has exclusive appellate jurisdiction over all final judgments or orders of quasi-judicial agencies, boards or commissions, such as the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Special Inquiry.
Respondent, on the other hand, contends that petitioners are not quasi-judicial agencies and are not in equal rank with Regional Trial Courts.
Under Sec. 21 (1) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, the Regional Trial Courts have concurrent jurisdiction with this Court and the Court of Appeals to issue “writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction which may be enforced in any part of their respective regions, . . .” Thus, the RTCs are vested with the power to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government.
It is true that under Sec. 9 (3) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, the Court of Appeals is vested with —
(3) Exclusive appellate jurisdiction over all final judgments, decisions, resolutions, order, or awards of Regional Trial Courts and quasi-judicial agencies, instrumentalities, board or commission, except those falling within the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in accordance with the Constitution, the provisions of this Act, and of sub-paragraph (1) of the third paragraph of and sub-paragraph (4) of the fourth paragraph of Section 17 of the Judiciary Act of 1948.
It does not provide, however, that said exclusive appellate jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals extends to all quasi-judicial agencies. The quasi-judicial bodies whose decisions are exclusively appealable to the Court of Appeals are those which under the law, Republic Act No. 5434, or their enabling acts, are specifically appealable to the Court of Appeals (Presidential Anti-Dollar Salting Task Force vs. Court of Appeals, 171 SCRA 348 ; Lupangco vs. Court of Appeals, 160 SCRA 848 ). Thus, under Republic Act No. 5434, it is specifically provided that the decisions of the Land Registration Commission (LRC), the Social Security Commission (SSC), Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), the Patent Office and the Agricultural Invention Board are appealable to the Court of Appeals.
In the Presidential Anti-Dollar Salting Task Force (supra), this Court clarified the matter when We ruled:
Under our Resolution dated January 11, 1983:
. . . The appeals to the Intermediate Appellate Court (now Court of Appeals) from quasi-judicial bodies shall continue to be governed by the provisions of Republic Act No. 5434 insofar as the same is not inconsistent with the provisions of B.P. Blg. 129.
The pertinent provisions of Republic Act No. 5434 are as follows:
Sec. 1. Appeals from specified agencies.— Any provision of existing law or Rules of Court to the contrary notwithstanding, parties aggrieved by a final ruling, award, order, or decision, or judgment of the Court of Agrarian Relations; the Secretary of Labor under Section 7 of Republic Act Numbered Six hundred and two, also known as the “Minimum Wage Law”; the Department of Labor under Section 23 of Republic Act Numbered Eight hundred seventy-five, also known as the “Industrial Peace Act”; the Land Registration Commission; the Social Security Commission; the Civil Aeronautics Board; the Patent Office and the Agricultural Inventions Board, may appeal therefrom to the Court of Appeals, within the period and in the manner herein provided, whether the appeal involves questions of fact, mixed questions of fact and law, or questions of law, or all three kinds of questions. From final judgments or decisions of the Court of Appeals, the aggrieved party may appeal by certiorari to the Supreme Court as provided under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
Because of subsequent amendments, including the abolition of various special courts, jurisdiction over quasi-judicial bodies has to be, consequently, determined by the corresponding amendatory statutes. Under the Labor Code, decisions and awards of the National Labor Relations Commission are final and executory, but, nevertheless, reviewable by this Court through a petition for certiorari and not by way of appeal.
Under the Property Registration Decree, decision of the Commission of Land Registration, en consulta, are appealable to the Court of Appeals.
The decisions of the Securities and Exchange Commission are likewise appealable to the Appellate Court, and so are decisions of the Social Security Commission.
As a rule, where legislation provides for an appeal from decisions of certain administrative bodies to the Court of Appeals, it means that such bodies are co-equal with the Regional Trial Courts, in terms of rank and stature, and logically, beyond the control of the latter. (Emphasis supplied)
There are quasi-judicial agencies, as the National Labor Relations Commissions, whose decisions are directly appealable to this Court. It is only when a specific law, as Republic Act No. 5434, provides appeal from certain bodies or commissions to the Court of Appeals as the Land Registration Commission (LRC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and others, that the said commissions or boards may be considered co-equal with the RTCs in terms of rank, stature and are logically beyond the control of the latter.
However, the Bureau of Immigration (or CID) is not among those quasi-judicial agencies specified by law whose decisions, orders, and resolutions are directly appealable to the Court of Appeals. In fact, its decisions are subject to judicial review in accordance with Sec. 25, Chapter 4, Book VII of the 1987 Administrative Code, which provides as follows:
Sec. 25. Judicial Review.—(1) Agency decisions shall be subject to judicial review in accordance with this chapter and applicable laws.
x x x x x x x x x
(6) The review proceeding shall be filed in the court specified in the statute or, in the absence thereof, in any court of competent jurisdiction in accordance with the provisions on venue of the Rules of Court.
Said provision of the Administrative Code, which is subsequent to B.P. Blg. 129 and which thus modifies the latter, provides that the decision of an agency like the Bureau of Immigration should be subject to review by the court specified by the statute or in the absence thereof, it is subject to review by any court of competent jurisdiction in accordance with the provisions on venue of the Rules of Court.
B.P. Blg. 129 did not intend to raise all quasi-judicial bodies to the same level or rank of the RTC except those specifically provided for under the law as aforestated. As the Bureau of Immigration is not of equal rank as the RTC, its decisions may be appealable to, and may be reviewed through a special civil action for certiorari by, the RTC (Sec. 21, (1) BP 129).
True, it is beyond cavil that the Bureau of Immigration has the exclusive authority and jurisdiction to try and hear cases against an alleged alien, and in the process, determine also their citizenship (Lao Gi vs. Court of Appeals, 180 SCRA 756 ). And a mere claim of citizenship cannot operate to divest the Board of Commissioners of its jurisdiction in deportation proceedings (Miranda vs. Deportation Board, 94 Phil. 531 ).
However, the rule enunciated in the above-cases admits of an exception, at least insofar as deportation proceedings are concerned. Thus, what if the claim to citizenship of the alleged deportee is satisfactory? Should the deportation proceedings be allowed to continue or should the question of citizenship be ventilated in a judicial proceeding? In Chua Hiong vs. Deportation Board (96 Phil. 665 ), this Court answered the question in the affirmative, and We quote:
When the evidence submitted by a respondent is conclusive of his citizenship, the right to immediate review should also be recognized and the courts should promptly enjoin the deportation proceedings. A citizen is entitled to live in peace, without molestation from any official or authority, and if he is disturbed by a deportation proceeding, he has the unquestionable right to resort to the courts for his protection, either by a writ of habeas corpus or of prohibition, on the legal ground that the Board lacks jurisdiction. If he is a citizen and evidence thereof is satisfactory, there is no sense nor justice in allowing the deportation proceedings to continue, granting him the remedy only after the Board has finished its investigation of his undesirability.
. . . And if the right (to peace) is precious and valuable at all, it must also be protected on time, to prevent undue harassment at the hands of ill-meaning or misinformed administrative officials. Of what use is this much boasted right to peace and liberty if it can be availed of only after the Deportation Board has unjustly trampled upon it, besmirching the citizen’s name before the bar of public opinion? (Emphasis supplied)
The doctrine of primary jurisdiction of petitioners Board of Commissioners over deportation proceedings is, therefore, not without exception (Calacday vs. Vivo, 33 SCRA 413 ; Vivo vs. Montesa, 24 SCRA 155 ). Judicial intervention, however, should be granted only in cases where the “claim of citizenship is so substantial that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the claim is correct. In other words, the remedy should be allowed only on sound discretion of a competent court in a proper proceeding (Chua Hiong vs. Deportation Board, supra; Co. vs. Deportation Board, 78 SCRA 107 ). It appearing from the records that respondent’s claim of citizenship is substantial, as We shall show later, judicial intervention should be allowed.
In the case at bar, the competent court which could properly take cognizance of the proceedings instituted by respondent Gatchalian would nonetheless be the Regional Trial Court and not the Court of Appeals in view of Sec. 21 (1), BP 129, which confers upon the former jurisdiction over actions for prohibition concurrently with the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court and in line with the pronouncements of this Court in Chua Hiong and Co cases.
Ordinarily, the case would then be remanded to the Regional Trial Court. But not in the case at bar. Considering the voluminous pleadings submitted by the parties and the evidence presented, We deem it proper to decide the controversy right at this instance. And this course of action is not without precedent for “it is a cherished rule of procedure for this Court to always strive to settle the entire controversy in a single proceeding leaving no root or branch to bear the seeds of future litigation. No useful purpose will be served if this case is remanded to the trial court only to have its decision raised again to the Court of Appeals and from there to this Court” (Marquez vs. Marquez, 73 Phil. 74; Keramic Industries, Inc. vs. Guerrero, 61 SCRA 265 ) Alger Electric, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals (135 SCRA 37 ), citing Gayos vs. Gayos (67 SCRA 146 ).
In Lianga Bay Logging Co., Inc. vs. Court of Appeals (157 SCRA 357 ), We also stated:
Remand of the case to the lower court for further reception of evidence is not necessary where the court is in a position to resolve the dispute based on the records before it. On many occasions, the Court, in the public interest and the expeditious administration of justice, has resolved actions on the merits instead of remanding them to the trial court for further proceedings, such as where the ends of justice would not be subserved by the remand of the case or when public interest demands an early disposition of the case or where the trial court had already received all the evidence of the parties (Quisumbing vs. CA, 112 SCRA 703; Francisco, et al., vs. The City of Davao, et al., supra; Republic vs. Security Credit & Acceptance Corp., et al., 19 SCRA 58; Samal vs. CA, supra; Republic vs. Central Surety & Insurance Co., 25 SCRA 641).
Likewise in Tejones vs. Gironella (159 SCRA 100 ), We said:
Sound practice seeks to accommodate the theory which avoids waste of time, effort and expense, both to the parties and the government, not to speak of delay in the disposal of the case (cf. Fernandez vs. Garcia, 92 Phil. 592, 297). A marked characterstic of our judicial set-up is that where the dictates of justice so demand . . . the Supreme Court should act, and act with finality (Li Siu Liat vs. Republic, 21 SCRA 1039, 1046, citing Samal vs. CA, 99 Phil. 230 and US vs. Gimenez, 34 Phil. 74.) (Beautifont, Inc. vs. Court of appeals, et al., Jan. 29, 1988; See also Labo vs. Commission on Elections, 176 SCRA 1 ).
Respondent Gatchalian has adduced evidence not only before the Regional Trial Court but also before Us in the form of public documents attached to his pleadings. On the other hand, Special Prosecutor Renato Mabolo in his Manifestation (dated September 6, 1990; Rollo, p. 298, counter-petition) before the Bureau of Immigration already stated that there is no longer a need to adduce evidence in support of the deportation charges against respondent. In addition, petitioners invoke that this Court’s decision in Arocha vs. Vivo and Vivo vs. Arca (supra), has already settled respondent’s alienage. Hence, the need for a judicial determination of respondent’s citizenship specially so where the latter is not seeking admission, but is already in the Philippines (for the past thirty  years) and is being expelled (Chua Hiong vs. Deportation Board, supra).
According to petitioners, respondent’s alienage has been conclusively settled by this Court in the Arocha and Vivo cases, We disagree. It must be noted that in said cases, the sole issue resolved therein was the actual date of rendition of the July 6, 1962 decision of the then board of Commissioners, i.e., whether the decision was rendered on July 6, 1962 or on July 20, 1962 it appearing that the figure (date) “20” was erased and over it was superimposed the figure “6” thereby making the decision fall within the one-year reglementary period from July 6, 1961 within which the decision may be reviewed. This Court did not squarely pass upon any question of citizenship, much less that of respondent’s who was not a party in the aforesaid cases. The said cases originated from a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed on July 21, 1965 by Macario Arocha in behalf of Pedro Gatchalian. Well settled is the rule that a person not party to a case cannot be bound by a decision rendered therein.
Neither can it be argued that the Board of Commissioners’ decision (dated July 6, 1962) finding respondent’s claim to Philippine citizenship not satisfactorily proved, constitute res judicata. For one thing, said decision did not make any categorical statement that respondent Gatchalian is a Chinese. Secondly, the doctrine of res judicata does not apply to questions of citizenship (Labo vs. Commission on Elections (supra); citing Soria vs. Commissioner of Immigration, 37 SCRA 213; Lee vs. Commissioner of Immigration, 42 SCRA 561 ; Sia Reyes vs. Deportation Board, 122 SCRA 478 ).
In Moy Ya Lim vs. Commissioner of Immigration (41 SCRA 292 ) and in Lee vs. Commissioner of Immigration (supra), this Court declared that:
(e)verytime the citizenship of a person is material or indispensable in a judicial or administrative case, whatever the corresponding court or administrative authority decides therein as to such citizenship is generally not considered as res adjudicata, hence it has to be threshed out again and again as the occasion may demand.
An exception to the above rule was laid by this Court in Burca vs. Republic (51 SCRA 248 ), viz:
We declare it to be a sound rule that where the citizenship of a party in a case is definitely resolved by a court or by an administrative agency, as a material issue in the controversy, after a full-blown hearing with the active participation of the Solicitor General or his authorized representative, and this finding or the citizenship of the party is affirmed by this Court, the decision on the matter shall constitute conclusive proof of such party’s citizenship in any other case or proceeding. But it is made clear that in no instance will a decision on the question of citizenship in such cases be considered conclusive or binding in any other case or proceeding, unless obtained in accordance with the procedure herein stated.
Thus, in order that the doctrine of res judicata may be applied in cases of citizenship, the following must be present: 1) a person’s citizenship must be raised as a material issue in a controversy where said person is a party; 2) the Solicitor General or his authorized representative took active part in the resolution thereof, and 3) the finding or citizenship is affirmed by this Court.
Gauged by the foregoing, We find the pre-conditions set forth in Burca inexistent in the Arocha and Vivo cases relied upon by petitioners. Indeed, respondent William Gatchalian was not even a party in said cases.
Coming now to the contention of petitioners that the arrest of respondent follows as a matter of consequence based on the warrant of exclusion issued on July 6, 1962, coupled with the Arocha and Vivo cases (Rollo, pp. 33), the Court finds the same devoid of merit.
Sec. 37 (a) of Commonwealth Act No. 613, as amended, otherwise known as the Immigration Act of 1940, reads:
Sec. 37. (a) The following aliens shall be arrested upon the warrant of the Commissioner of Immigration or of any other officer designated by him for the purpose and deported upon the warrant of the Commissioner of Immigration after a determination by the Board of Commissioner of the existence of the ground for deportation as charged against the alien. (Emphasis supplied)
From a perusal of the above provision, it is clear that in matters of implementing the Immigration Act insofar as deportation of aliens are concerned, the Commissioner of Immigration may issue warrants of arrest only after a determination by the Board of Commissioners of the existence of the ground for deportation as charged against the alien. In other words, a warrant of arrest issued by the Commissioner of Immigration, to be valid, must be for the sole purpose of executing a final order of deportation. A warrant of arrest issued by the Commissioner of Immigration for purposes of investigation only, as in the case at bar, is null and void for being unconstitutional (Ang Ngo Chiong vs. Galang, 67 SCRA 338  citing Po Siok Pin vs. Vivo, 62 SCRA 363 ; Vivo vs. Montesa, 24 SCRA 155; Morano vs. Vivo, 20 SCRA 562; Qua Chee Gan vs. Deportation Board, 9 SCRA 27 ; Ng Hua To vs. Galang, 10 SCRA 411; see also Santos vs. Commissioner of Immigration, 74 SCRA 96 ).
As We held in Qua Chee Gan vs. Deportation Board (supra), “(t)he constitution does not distinguish warrants between a criminal case and administrative proceedings. And if one suspected of having committed a crime is entitled to a determination of the probable cause against him, by a judge, why should one suspected of a violation of an administrative nature deserve less guarantee?” It is not indispensable that the alleged alien be arrested for purposes of investigation. If the purpose of the issuance of the warrant of arrest is to determine the existence of probable cause, surely, it cannot pass the test of constitutionality for only judges can issue the same (Sec. 2, Art. III, Constitution).
A reading of the mission order/warrant of arrest (dated August 15, 1990; Rollo, p. 183, counter-petition) issued by the Commissioner of Immigration, clearly indicates that the same was issued only for purposes of investigation of the suspects, William Gatchalian included. Paragraphs 1 and 3 of the mission order directs the Intelligence Agents/Officers to:
x x x x x x x x x
- Make a warrantless arrest under the Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 113, Sec. 5, for violation of the Immigration Act, Sec. 37, para. a; Secs. 45 and 46 Administrative Code;
x x x x x x x x x
- Deliver the suspect to the Intelligence Division and immediately conduct custodial interrogation, after warning the suspect that he has a right to remain silent and a right to counsel; . . .
Hence, petitioners’ argument that the arrest of respondent was based, ostensibly, on the July 6, 1962 warrant of exclusion has obviously no leg to stand on. The mission order/warrant of arrest made no mention that the same was issued pursuant to a final order of deportation or warrant of exclusion.
But there is one more thing that militates against petitioners’ cause. As records indicate, which petitioners conveniently omitted to state either in their petition or comment to the counter-petition of respondent, respondent Gatchalian, along with others previously covered by the 1962 warrant of exclusion, filed a motion for re-hearing before the Board of Special Inquiry (BSI) sometime in 1973.
On March 14, 1973, the Board of Special Inquiry, after giving due course to the motion for re-hearing, submitted a memorandum to the then Acting Commissioner Victor Nituda (Annex “5”, counter-petition) recommending 1 the reconsideration of the July 6, 1962 decision of the then Board of Commissioners which reversed the July 6, 1961 decision of the then Board of Special Inquiry No. 1 and 2 the lifting of the warrants of arrest issued against applicants. The memorandum inferred that the “very basis of the Board of Commissioners in reversing the decision of the Board of Special Inquiry was due to a forged cablegram by the then Secretary of Foreign Affairs, . . ., which was dispatched to the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong authorizing the registration of applicants as P.I. citizens.” The Board of Special Inquiry concluded that “(i)f at all, the cablegram only led to the issuance of their Certificate(s) of Identity which took the place of a passport for their authorized travel to the Philippines. It being so, even if the applicants could have entered illegally, the mere fact that they are citizens of the Philippines entitles them to remain in the country.”
On March 15, 1973, then Acting Commissioner Nituda issued an Order (Annex “6”, counter-petition) which affirmed the Board of Special Inquiry No. 1 decision dated July 6, 1961 admitting respondent Gatchalian and others as Filipino citizens; recalled the July 6, 1962 warrant of arrest and revalidated their Identification Certificates.
The above order admitting respondent as a Filipino citizen is the last official act of the government on the basis of which respondent William Gatchalian continually exercised the rights of a Filipino citizen to the present. Consequently, the presumption of citizenship lies in favor of respondent William Gatchalian.
There should be no question that Santiago Gatchalian, grandfather of William Gatchalian, is a Filipino citizen. As a matter of fact, in the very order of the BOC of July 6, 1962, which reversed the July 6, 1961 BSI order, it is an accepted fact that Santiago Gatchalian is a Filipino. The opening paragraph of said order states:
The claim to Filipino citizenship of abovenamed applicants is based on the citizenship of one Santiago Gatchalian whose Philippine citizenship was recognized by the Bureau of Immigration in an Order dated July 12, 1960. (Annex “37”, Comment with Counter-Petition).
Nonetheless, in said order it was found that the applicants therein have not satisfactorily proven that they are the children and/or grandchildren of Santiago Gatchalian. The status of Santiago Gatchalian as a Filipino was reiterated in Arocha and Arca (supra) where advertence is made to the “applicants being the descendants of one Santiago Gatchalian, a Filipino.” (at p. 539).
In the sworn statement of Santiago Gatchalian before the Philippine Consul in Hongkong in 1961 (Annex “1” to the Comment of petitioners to Counter-Petition), he reiterated his status as a Philippine citizen being the illegitimate child of Pablo Pacheco and Marciana Gatchalian, the latter being a Filipino; that he was born in Manila on July 25, 1905; and that he was issued Philippine Passport No. 28160 (PA-No. A91196) on November 18, 1960 by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila. In his affidavit of January 23, 1961 (Annex “5”, counter-petition), Santiago reiterated his claim of Philippine citizenship as a consequence of his petition for cancellation of his alien registry which was granted on February 18, 1960 in C.E.B. No. 3660-L; and that on July 20, 1960, he was recognized by the Bureau of Immigration as a Filipino and was issued Certificate No. 1-2123.
The dissenting opinions of my esteemed brethrens, Messrs. Justices F.P. Feliciano and H.G. Davide, Jr., proposing to re-open the question of citizenship of Santiago Gatchalian at this stage of the case, where it is not even put in issue, is quite much too late. As stated above, the records of the Bureau of Immigration show that as of July 20, 1960, Santiago Gatchalian had been declared to be a Filipino citizen. It is a final decision that forecloses a re-opening of the same 30 years later. Petitioners do not even question Santiago Gatchalian’s Philippine citizenship. It is the citizenship of respondent William Gatchalian that is in issue and addressed for determination of the Court in this case.
Furthermore, petitioners’ position is not enhanced by the fact that respondent’s arrest came twenty-eight (28) years after the alleged cause of deportation arose. Section 37 (b) of the Immigration Act states that deportation “shall not be effected . . . unless the arrest in the deportation proceedings is made within five (5) years after the cause of deportation arises.” In Lam Shee vs. Bengzon (93 Phil. 1065 ), We laid down the consequences of such inaction, thus:
There is however an important circumstance which places this case beyond the reach of the resultant consequence of the fraudulent act committed by the mother of the minor when she admitted that she gained entrance into the Philippines by making use of the name of a Chinese resident merchant other than that of her lawful husband, and that is, that the mother can no longer be the subject of deportation proceedings for the simple reason that more than 5 years had elapsed from the date of her admission. Note that the above irregularity was divulged by the mother herself, who in a gesture of sincerity, made an spontaneous admission before the immigration officials in the investigation conducted in connection with the landing of the minor on September 24, 1947, and not through any effort on the part of the immigration authorities. And considering this frank admission, plus the fact that the mother was found to be married to another Chinese resident merchant, now deceased, who owned a restaurant in the Philippines valued at P15,000 and which gives a net profit of P500 a month, the immigration officials then must have considered the irregularity not serious enough when, inspire of that finding, they decided to land said minor “as a properly documented preference quota immigrant” (Exhibit D). We cannot therefore but wonder why two years later the immigration officials would reverse their attitude and would take steps to institute deportation proceedings against the minor.
Under the circumstances obtaining in this case, we believe that much as the attitude of the mother would be condemned for having made use of an improper means to gain entrance into the Philippines and acquire permanent residence there, it is now too late, not to say unchristian, to deport the minor after having allowed the mother to remain even illegally to the extent of validating her residence by inaction, thus allowing the period of prescription to set in and to elapse in her favor. To permit his deportation at this late hour would be to condemn him to live separately from his mother through no fault of his thereby leaving him to a life of insecurity resulting from lack of support and protection of his family. This inaction or oversight on the part of immigration officials has created an anomalous situation which, for reasons of equity, should be resolved in favor of the minor herein involved. (Emphasis supplied)
In the case at bar, petitioners’ alleged cause of action and deportation against herein respondent arose in 1962. However, the warrant of arrest of respondent was issued by Commissioner Domingo only on August 15, 1990 — 28 long years after. It is clear that petitioners’ cause of action has already prescribed and by their inaction could not now be validly enforced by petitioners against respondent William Gatchalian. Furthermore, the warrant of exclusion dated July 6, 1962 was already recalled and the Identification certificate of respondent, among others, was revalidated on March 15, 1973 by the then Acting Commissioner Nituda.
It is also proposed in the dissenting opinions of Messrs. Justices Feliciano and Davide, Jr., that the BOC decision dated July 6, 1962 and the warrant of exclusion which was found to be valid in Arocha should be applicable to respondent William Gatchalian even if the latter was not a party to said case. They also opined that under Sec. 37 (b) of the Immigration Act, the five (5) years limitation is applicable only where the deportation is sought to be effected under clauses of Sec. 37 (b) other than clauses 2, 7, 8, 11 and 12 and that no period of limitation is applicable in deportations under clauses 2, 7, 8, 11 and 12.
The Court disagrees. Under Sec. 39 of the Immigration Act, it is reiterated that such deportation proceedings should be instituted within five (5) years. Section 45 of the same Act provides penal sanctions for violations of the offenses therein enumerated with a fine of “not more than P1,000.00 and imprisonment for not more than two (2) years and deportation if he is an alien.” Thus:
Sec. 45. Any individual who—
(a) When applying for an immigration document personates another individual, or falsely appears in the name of deceased individual, or evades the immigration laws by appearing under an assumed name; fictitious name; or
(b) Issues or otherwise disposes of an immigration document, to any person not authorized by law to receive such document; or
(c) Obtains, accepts or uses any immigration document, knowing it to be false; or
(d) Being an alien, enters the Philippines without inspection and admission by the immigration officials, or obtains entry into the Philippines by willful, false, or misleading representation or willful concealment of a material fact; or
(e) Being an alien shall for any fraudulent purpose represent himself to be a Philippine citizen in order to evade any requirement of the immigration laws; or
(f) In any immigration matter shall knowingly make under oath any false statement or representations; or
(g) Being an alien, shall depart from the Philippines without first securing an immigration clearance certificates required by section twenty-two of this Act; or
(h) Attempts or conspires with another to commit any of the foregoing acts, shall be guilty of an offense, and upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than one thousand pesos, and imprisoned for not more than two years, and deported if he is an alien. (Emphasis supplied)
Such offenses punishable by correctional penalty prescribe in 10 years (Art. 90, Revised Penal Code); correctional penalties also prescribe in 10 years (Art. 92, Revised Penal Code).
It must be noted, however, that under Sec. 1, Act No. 3326 , as amended, (Prescription for Violations Penalized by Special Acts and Municipal Ordinances) “violations penalized by special acts shall, unless otherwise provided in such acts, prescribe in accordance with the following rules: . . .c) after eight years for those punished by imprisonment for two years or more, but less than six years; . . .”
Consequently, no prosecution and consequent deportation for violation of the offenses enumerated in the Immigration Act can be initiated beyond the eight-year prescriptive period, the Immigration Act being a special legislation.
The Court, therefore, holds that the period of effecting deportation of an alien after entry or a warrant of exclusion based on a final order of the BSI or BOC are not imprescriptible. The law itself provides for a period of prescription. Prescription of the crime is forfeiture or loss of the rights of the State to prosecute the offender after the lapse of a certain time, while prescription of the penalty is the loss or forfeiture by the government of the right to execute the final sentence after the lapse of a certain time (Padilla, Criminal Law, Vol. 1, 1974, at p. 855).
“Although a deportation proceeding does not partake of the nature of a criminal action, however, considering that it is a harsh and extraordinary administrative proceeding affecting the freedom and liberty of a person, the constitutional right of such person to due process should not be denied. Thus, the provisions of the Rules of Court of the Philippines particularly on criminal procedure are applicable to deportation proceedings.” (Lao Gi vs. Court of Appeals, supra). Under Sec. 6, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, a final judgment may not be executed after the lapse of five (5) years from the date of its entry or from the date it becomes final and executory. Thereafter, it may be enforced only by a separate action subject to the statute of limitations. Under Art. 1144 (3) of the Civil Code, an action based on judgment must be brought within 10 years from the time the right of action accrues.
In relation to Sec. 37 (b) of the Immigration Act, the rule, therefore, is:
- Deportation or exclusion proceedings should be initiated within five (5) years after the cause of deportation or exclusion arises when effected under any other clauses other than clauses 2, 7, 8, 11 and 12 and of paragraph (a) of Sec. 37 of the Immigration Act; and
- When deportation or exclusion is effected under clauses 2, 7, 8, 11 and 12 of paragraph (a) of Sec. 37, the prescriptive period of the deportation or exclusion proceedings is eight (8) years.
In the case at bar, it took petitioners 28 years since the BOC decision was rendered on July 6, 1962 before they commenced deportation or exclusion proceedings against respondent William Gatchalian in 1990. Undoubtedly, petitioners’ cause of action has already prescribed. Neither may an action to revive and/or enforce the decision dated July 6, 1962 be instituted after ten (10) years (Art. 1144 , Civil Code).
Since his admission as a Filipino citizen in 1961, respondent William Gatchalian has continuously resided in the Philippines. He married Ting Dee Hua on July 1, 1973 (Annex “8”, counter-petition) with whom he has four (4) minor children. The marriage contract shows that said respondent is a Filipino (Annex “8”). He holds passports and earlier passports as a Filipino (Annexes “9”, “10” & “11”, counter-petition). He is a registered voter of Valenzuela, Metro Manila where he has long resided and exercised his right of suffrage (Annex 12, counter-petition). He engaged in business in the Philippines since 1973 and is the director/officer of the International Polymer Corp. and Ropeman International Corp. as a Filipino (Annexes, “13” & “14”, counter-petition). He is a taxpayer. Respondent claims that the companies he runs and in which he has a controlling investment provides livelihood to 4,000 employees and approximately 25,000 dependents. He continuously enjoyed the status of Filipino citizenship and discharged his responsibility as such until petitioners initiated the deportation proceedings against him.
“The power to deport an alien is an act of the State. It is an act by or under the authority of the sovereign power. It is a police measure against undesirable aliens whose presence in the country is found to be injurious to the public good and domestic tranquility of the people” (Lao Gi vs. Court of Appeals, supra). How could one who has helped the economy of the country by providing employment to some 4,000 people be considered undesirable and be summarily deported when the government, in its concerted drive to attract foreign investors, grants Special Resident Visa to any alien who invest at least US$50,000.00 in the country? Even assuming arguendo that respondent is an alien, his deportation under the circumstances is unjust and unfair, if not downright illegal. The action taken by petitioners in the case at bar is diametrically opposed to settled government policy.
Petitioners, on the other hand, claim that respondent is an alien. In support of their position, petitioners point out that Santiago Gatchalian’s marriage with Chu Gim Tee in China as well as the marriage of Francisco (father of William) Gatchalian to Ong Chiu Kiok, likewise in China, were not supported by any evidence other than their own self-serving testimony nor was there any showing what the laws of China were. It is the postulate advanced by petitioners that for the said marriages to be valid in this country, it should have been shown that they were valid by the laws of China wherein the same were contracted. There being none, petitioners conclude that the aforesaid marriages cannot be considered valid. Hence, Santiago’s children, including Francisco, followed the citizenship of their mother, having been born outside of a valid marriage. Similarly, the validity of the Francisco’s marriage not having been demonstrated, William and Johnson followed the citizenship of their mother, a Chinese national.
After a careful consideration of petitioner’s argument, We find that it cannot be sustained.
In Miciano vs. Brimo (50 Phil. 867 ; Lim and Lim vs. Collector of Customs, 36 Phil. 472; Yam Ka Lim vs. Collector of Customs, 30 Phil. 46 ), this Court held that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, foreign laws on a particular subject are presumed to be the same as those of the Philippines. In the case at bar, there being no proof of Chinese law relating to marriage, there arises the presumption that it is the same as that of Philippine law.
The lack of proof of Chinese law on the matter cannot be blamed on Santiago Gatchalian much more on respondent William Gatchalian who was then a twelve-year old minor. The fact is, as records indicate, Santiago was not pressed by the Citizenship Investigation Board to prove the laws of China relating to marriage, having been content with the testimony of Santiago that the Marriage Certificate was lost or destroyed during the Japanese occupation of China. Neither was Francisco Gatchalian’s testimony subjected to the same scrutiny by the Board of Special Inquiry. Nevertheless, the testimonies of Santiago Gatchalian and Francisco Gatchalian before the Philippine consular and immigration authorities regarding their marriages, birth and relationship to each other are not self-serving but are admissible in evidence as statements or declarations regarding family reputation or tradition in matters of pedigree (Sec. 34, Rule 130). Furtheremore, this salutary rule of evidence finds support in substantive law. Thus, Art. 267 of the Civil Code provides:
Art. 267. In the absence of a record of birth, authentic document, final judgment or possession of status, legitimate filiation may be proved by any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws. (See also Art. 172 of the Family Code)
Consequently, the testimonies/affidavits of Santiago Gatchalian and Francisco Gatchalian aforementioned are not self-serving but are competent proof of filiation (Art. 172 , Family Code).
Philippine law, following the lex loci celebrationis, adheres to the rule that a marriage formally valid where celebrated is valid everywhere. Referring to marriages contracted abroad, Art. 71 of the Civil Code (now Art. 26 of the Family Code) provides that “(a)ll marriages performed outside of the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were performed, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country . . .” And any doubt as to the validity of the matrimonial unity and the extent as to how far the validity of such marriage may be extended to the consequences of the coverture is answered by Art. 220 of the Civil Code in this manner: “In case of doubt, all presumptions favor the solidarity of the family. Thus, every intendment of law or facts leans toward the validity of marriage, the indissolubility of the marriage bonds, the legitimacy of children, the community of property during marriage, the authority of parents over their children, and the validity of defense for any member of the family in case of unlawful aggression.” (Emphasis supplied). Bearing in mind the “processual presumption” enunciated in Miciano and other cases, he who asserts that the marriage is not valid under our law bears the burden of proof to present the foreign law.
Having declared the assailed marriages as valid, respondent William Gatchalian follows the citizenship of his father Francisco, a Filipino, as a legitimate child of the latter. Francisco, in turn is likewise a Filipino being the legitimate child of Santiago Gatchalian who (the latter) is admittedly a Filipino citizen whose Philippine citizenship was recognized by the Bureau of Immigration in an order dated July 12, 1960.
Finally, respondent William Gatchalian belongs to the class of Filipino citizens contemplated under Sec. 1, Article IV of the Constitution, which provides:
Sec. 1. The following are citizens of the Philippines:
(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this Constitution. . . .
This forecloses any further question about the Philippine citizenship of respondent William Gatchalian.
The Court is not unaware of Woong Woo Yiu vs. Vivo (13 SCRA 552 ) relied upon by petitioners. The ruling arrived thereat, however, cannot apply in the case at bar for the simple reason that the parties therein testified to have been married in China by a village leader, which undoubtedly is not among those authorized to solemnize marriage as provided in Art. 56 of the Civil Code (now Art. 7, Family Code).
Premises considered, the Court deems it unnecessary to resolve the other issues raised by the parties.
WHEREFORE, G.R. Nos. 95122-23 is DISMISSED for lack of merit; G.R. Nos. 95612-13 is hereby GRANTED and respondent William Gatchalian is declared a Filipino citizen. Petitioners are hereby permanently enjoined from continuing with the deportation proceedings docketed as DC No. 90-523 for lack of jurisdiction over respondent Gatchalian, he being a Filipino citizen; Civil Cases No. 90-54214 and 3431-V-90 pending before respondent judges are likewise DISMISSED. Without pronouncement as to costs.
Gutierrez, Jr., Gancayco, Sarmiento, Griño-Aquino and Medialdea, JJ., concur.
Fernan, C.J., and Narvasa, J., concur in the result.
* Renamed Bureau of Immigration as per Executive Order No. 292.