CA reverses trial court ruling on 2017 naturalization case

Published March 12, 2019, 3:44 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Rey Panaligan

The Court of Appeals (CA) has reversed a 2017 trial court ruling that granted the plea of a Chinese national to become a Filipino citizen for her failure to meet all the requirements of the law on naturalization.

The CA though – in a decision written by Associate Justice Ma. Luisa C. Quijano Padilla – said Jingdi Wu, who has been a resident of Paranaque City since 2002, can refile her petition for naturalization as soon as she satisfies all the requirements of the law under Commonwealth Act No. 473 as amended.

Court of Appeals
(KJ Rosales | Manila Bulletin file photo)

The CA decision granted the appeal filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in behalf of the government.

Case records showed that Wu was 25 years old when she filed a petition for naturalization before the Paranaque City regional trial court (RTC).

She said she was born in China on Aug. 22, 1991, first arrived in the Philippines on Aug. 20, 2002 and has resided in Paranaque City since then.

For more than 10 years of continuously residing in the Philippines, Wu said she “has learned to love the Philippines, the Filipino people, their culture and way of life.”

She also said she is “of good moral character, believes in the underlying principles of the Philippine Constitution and has conducted herself in irreproachable manner during her residence in the Philippines, and finished her college degree from De La Salle University.”

At the same time, she said she speaks and writes fluently in English and Pilipino and gainfully employed as assistant vice president for operations of a Philippine registered company.

On Nov. 17, 2017, the RTC granted Wu’s petition with a ruling that she has all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications under the law.

The OSG appealed the trial court’s ruling before the CA. Among other things, the OSG pointed out that Wu failed to substantiate issues on good moral character and engagement in a lucrative trade.

Granting the OSG’s appeal, the CA said that Wu merely presented the testimonies of her two witnesses “without providing evidence of their credibility as mandated by law and jurisprudence.”

Citing a Supreme Court (SC) decision, the CA said: “… in naturalization proceedings, it is the burden of the applicant to prove not only his own good moral character but also the good moral character of his/her witnesses who must be ‘credible persons,’”

Quoting from the same SC decision, it said: “What must be ‘credible’ is not the declaration made, but the person making it. This implies that such person must have a good standing in the community; that he is known to be honest and upright; that he is reputed to be trustworthy and reliable; and that his word may be taken on its face value, as a good warranty of the worthiness of the petitioner.”

On engagement in lucrative trade, the CA said: “Here, petitioner-appellee (Wu) does not claim to own any real estate in the Philippines. Instead, she claims to be engaged in a lucrative trade or profession, in order to qualify for naturalization.”

“Further, herein petitioner-appellee has a monthly income of only P15,000.00, with a reported annual income of P54,040.96 in her income tax return,” it said.

It said “we are constrained to rule… that petitioner-appellee in this case failed to prove that she is engaged in a lucrative trade or profession, as required by the Revised Naturalization Law.”

Among the qualifications for naturalization listed under Commonwealth Act No. 473 are:

  1. “He must be not less than twenty-one years of age on the day of the hearing of the petition.
  2.  “He must have resided in the Philippines for a continuous period of not less than ten years.
  3. “He must be of good moral character and believes in the principles underlying the Philippine Constitution, and must have conducted himself in a proper and irreproachable manner during the entire period of his residence in the Philippines in his relation with the constituted government as well as with the community in which he is living.
  4.  “He must own real estate in the Philippines … or must have some known lucrative trade, profession, or lawful occupation.”