Thursday, September 17, 2015

58. Foundling, Citizenship, and Adoption

In paragraph 57, we discussed that the Maquiling case did not have any relevance in determining Sen Grace Poe's legal fitness to run for public office. I am not a lawyer of Grace Poe, so I am writing this for my own legal satisfaction. In fact, it may be different from what her lawyers are saying. Nonetheless, as her candidacy has been announced last night, I might as well discuss the other legal hurdles that she would go through to complete her run. The argument has been raised that she is not a natural-born Filipino, because she was a foundling. Her bio says she was adopted in accordance with law by Fernando Poe, Jr. and Susan Roces, after she was found as a baby in a church in Jaro, Iloilo City. Under the Constitution, natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship, (Section 2 Article IV 1987 Constitution). Meanwhile, Filipino citizens are those 1) who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, which was October 15, 1986; 2) those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines; 3) Those born before January 17, 1973, of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority, 4) those naturalized in accordance with law, (Section 1 Article IV 1987 Constitution). (See also Art. 48 of the Civil Code). The argument is that, being a foundling whose real parents are unknown, Sen. Grace Poe cannot establish that her blood parents are Filipinos as defined above. Thus, she is not a natural-born Filipino. The underlying proposition is that foundlings in the Philippines are born stateless and remain stateless in spite of the adoption. As being a natural-born citizen is traced through bloodlines, the argument is that a foundling's bloodline is untraceable, and therefore the foundling is stateless. This argument proposes a strict application of the bloodline principle, and demands the burden of proving the bloodline on the foundling, which is the opposite of how it operates in real life. A foundling rescued in the Philippine is always treated as if the foundling had Filipino parents. Thus, when the foundling is subjected to adoption proceedings, the foundling's citizenship is presumed to be Filipino. Our law office, which handles adoption by specialty, have never been asked by a judge to prove the citizenship of a foundling. If, by any chance, any one were to challenge the citizenship of a foundling, the burden is on the challenger to show the foreign lineage and not on the foundling. This practice arises out of the Philippines' assent to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which mandates the recognition of every human being's right to a nationality from birth. The UDHR, along with other human rights treaties, are considered part of the laws of the Philippine as binding customary international law.  In addition, I think the key to further neutralizing this argument is Article 189 of the Family Code, which defines the effect of adoption as follows: 

"For civil purposes, the adopted shall be deemed to be a legitimate child of the adopters and both shall acquire the reciprocal rights and obligations arising from the relationship of parent and child, including the right of the adopted to use the surname of the adopters".
In other words, once the foundling is adopted, the adoption creates a legal fiction, which deems that the adopted is a legitimate child of the adoptee. The effect of the legal fiction between adopter and adoptee is restricted to that relation. Yet, my view is this is not so in the case of citizenship, as the Constitution and the Civil Code state that one is a Filipino if her father or mother is Filipino without qualifications. This should apply to both natural parents and adoptive parents as the law does not distinguish. It goes without saying that the foundling did not have to perform anything to acquire or perfect the citizenship, because being the subject of adoption proceedings, the foundling or the adopted does not take an active role in her adoption; the adoptive parents are the main participants in the foundling's adoption proceedings. In other words, not only is the foundling regarded as a Filipino upon birth, once the foundling is adopted, the foundling acquires the rights of a legitimate child, which includes the citizenship of the adopters. Thus, the argument of the stateless foundling is not just unkind -- the foundling normally does not come with a passport -- but also inconsistent with the presumptions mandated by the adherence of the Philippines to international treaties on human rights, and  the basic law on adoption as defined in Article 189 of the Family Code of the Philippines and the Constitution.

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