Thursday, October 1, 2015

FAQ by overseas Filipinos on common legal issues - by Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles

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Can I acquire real property in the Philippines even if I am already a naturalized American citizen?

Any natural-born citizen who has lost his Philippine citizenship may acquire a private land up to a maximum area of five thousand (5,000) square meters in the case of urban land or three (3) hectares in the case of rural land to be used by him/her for business or other purposes. In the case of married couples, one of them may avail of the privilege herein granted (please see Republic. Act 8179, Sec 10). 

I would like to donate certain items (books, computers, medicine, etc.) to a beneficiary in the Philippines. Can said items be extended duty-free entry status and be brought into the Philippines without paying customs duties and taxes?

Food, medicine and other relief goods, books and educational materials, essential machineries/equipment, consumer goods and other articles may be granted duty-free entry by the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Customs, upon the recommendation of the Department of Social Work and Development or other concerned agency. Prospective donors can seek assistance from the: 

Commission on Filipinos Overseas 
1345 Citigold Center, Quirino Avenue 
cor. South Superhighway, Manila 
Tel # (632) 562.3852 
Fax # 011.632.561.8332 

I am interested in adopting a Filipino child. How may I go about it?

A child who is below 15 years of age and is in the legal custody of the Department of Social Work and Services (DSWD) may be adopted under the Inter-country Adoption Law. Prospective adopters may contact: 

The Inter-Country Adoption Board 
Department of Social Welfare and Development 
6th Floor Sinagoga Bldg. 
Sinagoga St., Malate, Manila 
Tel. Nos. : (632) 525-1375; (632) 524-1243; 
Fax : (632) 524-1425 

What is the effect of a divorce obtained abroad to the marital status of a Filipino citizen?

The following illustrative cases are helpful in determining the effect of a foreign divorce on the marriage or legal status of a Filipino citizen: 

Case: Pedro and Maria are both Filipino citizens when they got married in Manila in 1989. The following year, Maria migrated to Southern California. She later met John, a U.S. citizen, and both planned to marry. As Maria had a previous subsisting marriage with Pedro in the Philippines, she secured a divorce decree from a U.S. court to enable her and John to get married. The U.S. court granted a divorce decree dissolving Maria’s marriage to Pedro. 

Question: Will the divorce be recognized under Philippine law? 

Answer: No, the divorce decree obtained by Maria will not be recognized under Philippine law. Maria and Pedro were married in the Philippines, hence the laws of the Philippines, i.e. the Family Code of the Philippines, should determine how the marriage will be severed. Moreover, Maria is still a Filipino citizen. Even though she is permanently residing outside of the Philippines, as a Filipino citizen she is still subject to the laws of the Philippines relating to family rights and duties or status, condition and legal capacity (Art. 15 of the Family Code). Therefore, under the purview of Philippine law, the marriage of Maria and Pedro was not dissolved by the divorce decree issued by the U.S. court. Pedro is still the legal husband of Maria. 

Question: What if Maria obtained a divorce decree from a U.S. court not for the purpose of marrying John but solely to dissolve her marriage with Pedro? 

Answer: Regardless of Maria’s intention in obtaining a divorce, a decision of a foreign court dissolving a marriage between Filipino citizens does not have any legal effect under Philippine law. Such a divorce would still be void and invalid. 

Question: Are there foreign divorces that are recognized under Philippine law? 

Answer: As a rule, divorce is not recognized in the Philippines as a mode of dissolving marriage. In cases however where a Filipino citizen contracts a marriage with a foreigner, a divorce validly obtained thereafter in a foreign court by the foreigner spouse, i.e. the foreigner spouse initiated the divorce proceedings, such a divorce will be recognized under Philippine law (Article 26, paragraph (2), of the Family Code). The foreign divorce will have the effect of capacitating either the foreigner spouse or the Filipino spouse to remarry under Philippine law.    

Question: What if Maria initiates the court proceedings to obtain a divorce? 

Answer: The Family Code provides that the foreigner spouse should be the one who will initiate the divorce proceedings. If Maria herself initiated the action to dissolve the marriage, a divorce obtained thereafter will not have any legal effect on her marriage with Pedro. Any subsequent marriage contracted by Maria will be considered null and void under Philippine law. 

Question: Can Maria use the surname of John in the event that she applies for a Philippine passport? 

Answer: Since the marriage of Maria and John are not recognized under Philippine law, Maria cannot use John’s surname as her married surname in her Philippine passport. 

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