Detained Filipino-American seeks release, reversal of illegal alien status
MANILA, Philippines — A 71-year-old Filipino-American who is currently detained at the Bureau of Immigration (BI) Deportation facility has sought for his release and the reversal of a resolution that ruled his reacquisition of Filipino citizenship as illegal.
In a 25-page urgent motion for reconsideration filed before the Court of Appeals (CA), Walter Manuel Prescott contested the previous CA decision, which ruled that he failed to obtain Filipino citizenship during the time prescribed, thus making his detention valid.
Prescott, who was assisted by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), insists that he is not an alien as he was a natural-born Filipino, being the son of a Filipina mother.
While the court agreed that he was supposed to choose his citizenship within 1971, or when he has reached the age of majority, Prescott argued that the 1973 Constitution then affirmed that individuals born to Filipino mothers are indeed Filipinos.
“While Petitioner-appellant was born on 10 April 1950, during which the 1935 Constitution was still in effect, the 1973 Constitution was enacted on 17 January 1973 when he was still 22 years old or only one year removed from reaching the age of majority,” Prescott said in the motion.
The Fil-Am’s camp is banking on a Supreme Court decision that was affirmed by CA itself, which interpreted the age of majority — 21 years of age — as something not fixed. This means it could be extendable for up to three years.
In Prescott’s case, he argues that he still had time to decide by the time the 1973 Constitution was enshrined, although it was deemed unnecessary as he was already a Filipino citizen according to the basic law.
“As affirmed by this Honorable Court, in Re: Application for Admission to the Philippine Bar vs. Vicente Ching, Bar Matter No. 914, 1 October 1999, the Supreme Court interpreted the clause ‘upon reaching the age of majority’ […] as being a flexible period (may be extended) of three years from reaching the age of majority which was then 21 years old,” he explained.
“Thus, when the 1973 Constitution took effect, Petitioner-appellant still had time to elect Philippine citizenship; but this election was already rendered nugatory precisely because of the effectivity of the 1973 Constitution declaring that those born of a Filipino mother is a Filipino citizen,” he added.
Prescott has been detained at the BI facility in Taguig since August 2016, after he was arrested for overstaying, and was recommended for deportation. However, he was not immediately deported as the BI allegedly reasoned out that there were still criminal cases that he had to face — a claim that Prescott’s camp said was not true, and is supported by various documents.
The revocation of Prescott’s reacquired Filipino citizenship came in November 2013, when then-Justice secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima released a resolution declaring so. According to Prescott, he only knew of the said resolution after he went to the Department of Foreign Affairs to renew his Philippine passport.
Both the resolution and the deportation process have been considered by Prescott’s side as a violation to his right to due process.
But aside from these issues, Prescott’s camp also reasoned that it would be unjust to deport him considering his advanced age and his medical condition.
In the medical certificate attached to the petition, PAO said that he suffers from a myriad of health conditions: benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, chronic recurrent headache, hypertensive cardiovascular disease, acute gastroenteritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and upper tract respiratory infection.
It was also specified that Prescott cannot travel for long hours without medical care.
“Finally and most importantly, there would be a grave and irreparable injustice and irreversible fatal consequences in deporting a 71-year-old sickly man who cannot withstand long travel, whose deportation is clearly baseless, unjust, and illegal,” the petition read.
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