Thursday, October 1, 2015

Naturalization; income and moral character requirements.


“X x x.

In Republic v. Hong,1  it was held in essence that an applicant for naturalization must show full and complete compliance with the requirements of the naturalization law; otherwise, his petition for naturalization will be denied.  This ponente has likewise held that “[t]he courts must always be mindful that naturalization proceedings are imbued with the highest public interest.  Naturalization laws should be rigidly enforced and strictly construed in favor of the government and against the applicant. The burden of proof rests upon the applicant to show full and complete compliance with the requirements of law.”2 

Section 2 of the Revised Naturalization Law or CA 473 requires, among others, that an applicant for naturalization must be of good moral character and must have some known lucrative trade, profession, or lawful occupation.  In regard to the requirement that the applicant must have a known lucrative trade, this ponente declared:

Based on jurisprudence, the qualification of “some known lucrative trade, profession, or lawful occupation” means “not only that the person having the employment gets enough for his ordinary necessities in life.  It must be shown that the employment gives one an income such that there is an appreciable margin of his income over his expenses as to be able to provide for an adequate support in the event of unemployment, sickness, or disability to work and thus avoid one’s becoming the object of charity or a public charge.” His income should permit “him and the members of his family to live with reasonable comfort, in accordance with the prevailing standard of living, and consistently with the demands of human dignity, at this stage of our civilization.”

Moreover, it has been held that in determining the existence of a lucrative income, the courts should consider only the applicant’s income; his or her spouse’s income should not be included in the assessment.  The spouse’s additional income is immaterial “for under the law the petitioner should be the one to possess ‘some known lucrative trade, profession or lawful occupation’ to qualify him to become a Filipino citizen.” Lastly, the Court has consistently held that the applicant’s qualifications must be determined as of the time of the filing of his petition.3 (Emphasis supplied)

From the above, it may be concluded that there is no basis for the CA finding that respondent is engaged in a lucrative trade.  Indeed, his supposed income of P15,000.00 to P18,000.00 per month as found by the CA is not enough for the support of his family.  By his own admission, most of his family’s daily expenses are still shouldered by his parents who own the zipper manufacturing business which employs him.  This simply means that respondent continues to be a burden to, and a charge upon, his parents; he lives on the charity of his parents.  He cannot support his own family on his own.

Indeed, it is even doubtful that respondent is carrying on a trade at all.  He admitted during trial that he was not even listed or included in the payroll of his family’s zipper business.  If this is the case, then he may not be considered an employee thereof.  One of the most effective pieces of evidence to prove employment – aside from the employment contract itself and other documents such as daily time records4  – is a worker’s inclusion in the payroll.  With this admitted fact, one may not be faulted for believing that respondent’s alleged employment in his family’s zipper business was contrived for the sole purpose of complying with the legal requirements prior to obtaining Philippine citizenship.

On the other hand, even assuming that respondent was indeed employed by his parents, his non-inclusion in the payroll for all the years he has worked in his parents’ business5  suggests – as correctly argued by petitioner – an intent to evade taxes or to conceal the true nature of his employment and the amount of his salary or income.  It is concealment of the truth; an attempt to circumvent with impunity the tax laws, labor laws relative to the employment of aliens, and other laws that would otherwise regulate respondent’s actions during his stay in this country.  Indeed, without payroll records, it can never be said that respondent works for his parents’ zipper business.  If such is the case, then respondent is not required to state in his income tax return – as is the case – his employer and what he actually receives as salary therefrom; he is free to conveniently declare any amount of income in his tax returns.

Either way, respondent’s deliberate non-inclusion in the payroll of his parents’ business can have only the most unpleasant connotations.  And his consent to be part of such scheme reflects negatively on his moral character.  It shows a proclivity for untruthfulness and dishonesty, and an unreserved willingness and readiness to violate Philippine laws.

The appellate court’s reliance upon the case of Republic v. Court of Appeals6 is misplaced.  In that case, there was only a discrepancy between the applicant’s estimate of his income in his application and that declared by him during his direct testimony.  In the present case, respondent is not at all listed on the payroll of his parent’s business, where he is supposed to be its general manager.  As a result, there is absolutely no basis for the correct determination of his income; instead, he invites Us to conveniently rely on his income tax returns and his unilateral declarations.  As We have earlier said, if We are to believe them, then still, they are insufficient to generate a conclusion that respondent is carrying on a lucrative trade; he cannot support his family from his declared income.

Moreover, respondent’s admitted false declaration under oath contained in the August 2001 deed of sale that he is a Filipino citizen – which he did to secure the seamless registration of the property in the name of his wife – is further proof of respondent’s lack of good moral character.  It is also a violation of the constitutional prohibition on ownership of lands by foreign individuals.7  His defense that he unknowingly signed the deed is unacceptable.  First of all, as a foreigner living in a foreign land, he should conduct himself accordingly in this country – with care, circumspect, and respect for the laws of the host.  Finally, as an educated and experienced businessman, it must be presumed that he acted with due care and signed the deed of sale with full knowledge of its import.8 

Having decided in the foregoing manner, We must conclude the instant case and disregard the other issues and arguments of the parties; they are deemed irrelevant and will not alter the conclusion arrived at.  As far as this Court is concerned, respondent has failed to satisfy the law which renders him completely undeserving of Filipino citizenship.

X x x.”

1 520 Phil. 276, 285 (2006).
2 Republic v. Ong, G.R. No. 175430, June 18, 2012, 673 SCRA 485, 498.
3 Id. at 499-500.
4 See Ang v. San Joaquin, Jr., G.R. No. 185549, August 7, 2013, 703 SCRA 269, 287.
5 Or since 2000.
6 354 Phil. 733 (1998).
7 CONSTITUTION, Article XII, Section 7. – Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.

8 See Development Bank of the Philippines v. National Merchandising Corporation, 148-B Phil. 310 (1971).