Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 169958               March 5, 2010

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE SECRETARY RAUL M. GONZALEZ,BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION COMMISSIONER and BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS CHAIRMAN ALIPIO F. FERNANDEZ, JR., IMMIGRATION ASSOCIATE COMMISSIONERS and BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS MEMBERS ARTHEL B. CARONONGAN, TEODORO B. DELARMENTE, JOSE D.L. CABOCHAN, and FRANKLIN Z. LITTUA, Petitioners,
vs.
MICHAEL ALFIO PENNISI, Respondent.

D E C I S I O N

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

Before the Court is a petition for review1 assailing the 30 September 2005 Decision2 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 87271.

The Antecedent Facts

The facts, gathered from the Court of Appealsí decision, are as follows:

Michael Alfio Pennisi (respondent) was born on 13 March 1975 in Queensland, Australia to Alfio Pennisi, an Australian national, and Anita T. Quintos (Quintos), allegedly a Filipino citizen. In March 1999, respondent filed a petition for recognition as Filipino citizen before the Bureau of Immigration (BI). Respondent submitted the following documents before the BI:

1. Certified photocopy of the certificate of birth of Quintos, and a certification issued by the Local Civil Registrar of San Antonio, Nueva Ecija stating that Quintos was born on 14 August 1949 of Filipino parents, Felipe M. Quintos and Celina G. Tomeda, in Panabingan, San Antonio, Nueva Ecija;

2. Certified true copy of the certificate of marriage of respondentís parents dated 9 January 1971, indicating the Philippines as Quintosí birthplace;

3. Certified true copy of Quintosí Australian certificate of registration of alien, indicating her nationality as Filipino;

4. Certified true copy of respondentís birth certificate stating that he was born on 13 March 1975 and indicating the Philippines as his motherís birthplace; and

5. Certified true copy of the letter dated 14 July 1999 of the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, stating that as of 14 July 1999, Quintos has not been granted Australian citizenship.

On 17 February 2000, BI Associate Commissioner Alan Roullo Yap issued an order granting respondentís petition for recognition as Filipino citizen. In a 2nd Indorsement dated 28 February 2000, the Secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ) disapproved the order. However, upon respondentís submission of additional documents, BI Commissioner Rufus B. Rodriguez granted the order as per Recognition Order No. 206679 dated 3 March 2000 which states:

Finding the grounds cited in the instant petition for recognition as a citizen of the Philippines filed on behalf of the applicant to be well-founded and meritorious, we hereby authorize the recognition of MICHAEL ALFIO PENNISI as a citizen of the Philippines pursuant to Article III[,] Section 1, para. 2 of the 1973 Constitution.

Henceforth, applicant shall be entitled to all the rights and privileges appurtenant thereto. Once this Order is affirmed by the Secretary of Justice and upon payment of the corresponding fees, he/she shall be issued an identification Certificate which shall indicate prominently thereon the date of affirmation.

An Exit Clearance Certificate (ECC) fee shall also be assessed against the applicant whenever he/she departs for abroad using a foreign passport or travel documents.

Give the applicant a copy of this Order.

SO ORDERED.3

In a 2nd Indorsement dated 8 March 2000, the DOJ affirmed Recognition Order No. 206679, as follows:

Respectfully returned to the Commissioner of Immigration, Manila, the within records relating to the request for reconsideration of this Departmentís 2nd Indorsement dated February 28, 2000, which disapproved the Order of that Office dated February 17, 2000 granting the petition for recognition as a Filipino citizen of MICHAEL ALFIO PENNISI.

The additional documents submitted (duly authenticated Certificate of Birth of the petitioner and Certificate of Marriage of his parents), together with the original records, satisfactorily establish that petitioner was born in Queensland, Australia, on March 13, 1975, the legitimate issue of the spouses Anita T. Quintos, a natural-born Filipino citizen, and Alfio Pennisi, an Australian national, and may, therefore, be deemed a citizen of the Philippines pursuant to Section 1(2), Article III of the 1973 Constitution, in relation to Section 1(2), Article IV of the present Constitution.

Wherefore, the instant request for reconsideration is hereby granted and the above-mentioned Order of that Office dated February 17, 2000 granting the petition for recognition as a Filipino citizen of Michael Alfio Pennisi is now AFFIRMED.

This supersedes our aforesaid 2nd Indorsement dated February 28, 2000 on the same subject matter.4

Thereafter, respondent was drafted and played for the Red Bull, a professional basketball team in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

On 7 August 2003, the Senate Committees on Games, Amusement and Sports and on Constitutional Amendments (Senate Committees) jointly submitted Committee Report No. 2565 (Committee Report) recommending, among other things, that (1) the BI conduct summary deportation proceedings against several Filipino-foreign PBA players, including respondent; and (2) the DOJ Secretary conduct an immediate review of all orders of recognition. Respondent was included in the list on the basis of the following findings of the Senate Committees:

F. Michael Alfio Pennisi was able to present before the BI and the committees, the documents required in granting recognition of Philippine citizenship, particularly the birth certificate of his Filipino mother, Anita Tomeda Quintos;

However, a verification on the authenticity of the above documents reveals highly suspicious circumstances.

His alleged mother and other relatives, specifically the parents of the former, namely: Felipe M. Quintos and Celina G. Tomeda, who were mentioned in his application for recognition of Philippine citizenship in the BI, are not known and have never existed in Panabingan, San Antonio, Nueva Ecija.1avvphi1

According to the affidavits executed by Barangay Captain Ramon Soliman and Barangay Treasurer Condrado P. Peralta of the abovementioned place, there are no Quintoses or Tomedas that have lived or have resided in the said barangay.

Both barangay officials further claimed that even in their census or master list of voters, the family names of Quintos or Tomedas do not exist.

His motherís certificate of birth in the civil registrar of San Antonio, Nueva Ecija was issued on the basis of an application for late registration, which is ten (10) years after the date of birth.

Thereafter, the DOJ issued Department Order No. 412 dated 21 September 2004 creating a special committee, with Chief State Counsel Ricardo V. Paras as Chairperson, to investigate the citizenship of Filipino-foreign players in the PBA. The special committee required respondent to submit a position paper in connection with the investigation. On 18 October 2004, the DOJ issued a resolution revoking respondentís certificate of recognition and directing the BI to begin summary deportation proceedings against respondent and other Filipino-foreign PBA players.

On 20 October 2004, respondent and Davonn Harp (Harp), another Filipino-foreign PBA player, filed a petition for prohibition with an application for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction before the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 268 (trial court), to enjoin the DOJ and BI from instituting summary deportation proceedings against them. On even date, respondent received a letter from the BI directing him to submit, within five days from notice, a memorandum in connection with the deportation proceedings being conducted against him. Respondent submitted his memorandum on 25 October 2004.

In a hearing before the trial court on the same date, the Office of the Solicitor General, representing the DOJ and BI, manifested that respondent would not be subjected to summary deportation and that he would be given an opportunity to present evidence of his Filipino citizenship in a full-blown trial on the merits. However, in a Summary Deportation6 Order dated 26 October 2004, the BI directed the deportation of several Filipino-foreign PBA players, including respondent. Respondent and Harp withdrew their petition before the trial court without prejudice, which the trial court granted in its order of 4 November 2004. Respondent filed a petition for review, with an application for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, before the Court of Appeals.

The Decision of the Court of Appeals

In its 30 September 2005 Decision, the Court of Appeals granted the petition.

The Court of Appeals noted that respondentís citizenship was previously recognized by the BI and DOJ and it was only after four years that the BI and DOJ reversed themselves in view of the finding in the Committee Report. The Court of Appeals ruled that the "highly suspicious circumstances" stated in the Committee Report referred to the affidavits of Barangay Captain Ramon Soliman (Soliman) and Barangay Treasurer Condrado P. Peralta (Peralta) that there were no Quintoses or Tomedas in the birthplace of respondentís mother and that no such surnames appeared in the census or master list of voters. The Court of Appeals ruled that apart from the affidavits, no other evidence was presented to prove that Quintos was not a Filipino citizen or that her birth certificate was false or fraudulently obtained. The Court of Appeals ruled that respondentís documentary evidence before the BI and DOJ have more probative value and must prevail over the allegations of Soliman and Peralta. The Court of Appeals further noted that among the documents presented by respondent were authenticated documents issued by the Commonwealth of Australia attesting that Quintos consistently presented herself to be a Filipino citizen. The Court of Appeals ruled that the authenticity of the documents issued by the Australian government was never questioned nor put in issue. The Court of Appeals further ruled that the fact that the Quintoses and Tomedas were not included in the census or master list of voters did not automatically render Quintosí birth certificate invalid. The Court of Appeals ruled that unless a public document is declared invalid by competent authority, it should be presumed valid and binding for all intents and purposes.

The dispositive portion of the Court of Appealsí Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The assailed resolution of the Department of Justice dated October 18, 2004 and summary deportation order of the Bureau of Immigration dated October 26, 2004 are hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE.

SO ORDERED.7

Hence, the petition before this Court.

The Issue

Petitioners raise this sole issue in their Memorandum:8

Whether the Court of Appeals committed a reversible error in finding that respondent is a Filipino citizen.

Petitioners allege that respondentís petition was filed out of time. Petitioners further allege that respondentís voluntary departure from the Philippines had rendered the petition moot. Finally, petitioners allege that the cancellation of respondentís certificate of recognition as a Filipino citizen and the issuance of the deportation order against him are valid.

The Ruling of this Court

The petition has no merit.

Late Filing of Petition

Petitioners allege that the petition filed before the Court of Appeals should have been dismissed for late filing. Petitioners allege that respondent only had 15 days from 19 October 2004, the date of receipt of the 18 October 2004 DOJ Resolution, within which to file a petition for review before the Court of Appeals. However, respondent filed his petition only on 4 November 2004, or one day beyond the reglementary period for filing the petition for review. Petitioners allege that when the petition was filed, the 18 October 2004 DOJ Resolution had already lapsed into finality.

We do not agree.

A one-day delay does not justify the appealís dismissal where no element of intent to delay the administration of justice could be attributed to the petitioner.9 The Court has ruled:

The general rule is that the perfection of an appeal in the manner and within the period prescribed by law is, not only mandatory, but jurisdictional, and failure to conform to the rules will render the judgment sought to be reviewed final and unappealable. By way of exception, unintended lapses are disregarded so as to give due course to appeals filed beyond the reglementary period on the basis of strong and compelling reasons, such as serving the ends of justice and preventing a grave miscarriage thereof. The purpose behind the limitation of the period of appeal is to avoid an unreasonable delay in the administration of justice and to put an end to controversies.10

Respondent had a valid excuse for the late filing of the petition before the Court of Appeals. It is not disputed that there was a pending petition for prohibition before the trial court. Before filing the petition for review before the Court of Appeals, respondent had to withdraw the petition for prohibition before the trial court. The trial court granted the withdrawal of the petition only on 4 November 2004, the date of filing of the petition for review before the Court of Appeals. Under the circumstances, we find the one-day delay in filing the petition for review excusable.

We reiterate:

Rules of procedure are merely tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. If the application of the Rules would tend to frustrate rather than to promote justice, it is always within our power to suspend the rules or except a particular case from their operation. Law and jurisprudence grant to courts the prerogative to relax compliance with the procedural rules, even the most mandatory in character, mindful of the duty to reconcile the need to put an end to litigation speedily and the partiesí right to an opportunity to be heard.11

Hence, we sustain the Court of Appeals in accepting the petition for review although it was filed one-day late.

Mootness of the Petition

Petitioners allege that the petition had been rendered moot because respondent already left the country.

Petitioners cited Lewin v. The Deportation Board12 where the Court ruled:

x x x. Even if the deportation case is to proceed and even if this Court will decide this appeal on the merits, there would be no practical value or effect of such action upon Lewin, because he has already left the country. Consequently, the issues involved herein have become moot and academic.13

However, we agree with respondent that the factual circumstances in Lewin are different from the case before us. In Lewin, petitioner was an alien who entered the country as a temporary visitor, to stay for only 50 days. He prolonged his stay by securing several extensions. Before his last extension expired, he voluntarily left the country, upon filing a bond, without any assurance from the Deportation Board that he would be admitted to the country upon his return. The Court found that he did not return to the country, and at the time he was living in another country. The Court ruled that Lewinís voluntary departure from the country, his long absence, and his status when he entered the country as a temporary visitor rendered academic the question of his deportation as an undesirable alien.

In this case, respondent, prior to his deportation, was recognized as a Filipino citizen. He manifested his intent to return to the country because his Filipino wife and children are residing in the Philippines. The filing of the petitions before the Court of Appeals and before this Court showed his intention to prove his Filipino lineage and citizenship, as well as the error committed by petitioners in causing his deportation from the country. He was precisely questioning the DOJís revocation of his certificate of recognition and his summary deportation by the BI.

Therefore, we rule that respondentís deportation did not render the present case moot.

Validity of the Cancellation of Respondentís
Certificate of Recognition and the Issuance of Deportation Order by the BID

Petitioners allege that the DOJ adduced substantial evidence warranting the revocation of respondentís certificate of recognition and the filing of the deportation proceedings against him. Petitioners likewise allege that the certificate of recognition did not attain finality as claimed by respondent.

We agree with petitioners that the issuance of certificate of recognition to respondent has not attained finality. In Go v. Ramos,14 the Court ruled that citizenship proceedings are a class of its own and can be threshed out again and again as the occasion may demand. Res judicata may be applied in cases of citizenship only if the following concur:

1. a personís citizenship must be raised as a material issue in a controversy where said person is a party;

the Solicitor General or his authorized representative took active part in the resolution thereof; and

the finding or citizenship is affirmed by this Court.15

However, the courts are not precluded from reviewing the findings of the BI. Judicial review is permitted if the courts believe that there is substantial evidence supporting the claim of citizenship, so substantial that there are reasonable grounds for the belief that the claim is correct.16 When the evidence submitted by a deportee is conclusive of his citizenship, the right to immediate review should be recognized and the courts should promptly enjoin the deportation proceedings.17 Courts may review the actions of the administrative offices authorized to deport aliens and reverse their rulings when there is no evidence to sustain the rulings.18

In this case, we sustain the Court of Appeals that the evidence presented before the BI and the DOJ, i.e., (1) certified photocopy of the certificate of birth of Quintos, and a certification issued by the Local Civil Registrar of San Antonio, Nueva Ecija stating that Quintos was born on 14 August 1949 of Filipino parents, Felipe M. Quintos and Celina G. Tomeda, in Panabingan, San Antonio, Nueva Ecija; (2) certified true copy of the certificate of marriage of respondentís parents dated 9 January 1971, indicating the Philippines as Quintosí birthplace; (3) certified true copy of Quintosí Australian certificate of registration of alien, indicating her nationality as Filipino; (4) certified true copy of respondentís birth certificate stating that he was born on 13 March 1975 and indicating the Philippines as his motherís birthplace; and (5) certified true copy of the letter dated 14 July 1999 of the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, stating that as of 14 July 1999, Quintos has not been granted Australian citizenship, have more probative value and must prevail over the statements of Soliman and Peralta before the Senate Committees. The Committee Report on respondent stated:

F. Michael Alfio Pennisi was able to present before the BI and the committees, the documents required in granting recognition of Philippine citizenship, particularly the birth certificate of his Filipino mother, Anita Tomeda Quintos.

However, a verification of the authenticity of the above documents reveals highly suspicious circumstances.

His alleged mother and other relatives, specifically the parents of the former, namely: Felipe M. Quintos and Celina G. Tomeda, who were mentioned in his application for recognition of Philippine citizenship in the BI, are not known and have never existed in Panabingan, San Antonio, Nueva Ecija.

According to the affidavits executed by Barangay Captain Ramon Soliman and Barangay Treasurer Condrado P. Peralta of the abovementioned place, there are no Quintoses or Tomedas that have lived or have resided in the said barangay.

Both barangay officials further claimed that even in the census or master list of voters, the family names of Quintos or Tomedas do not exist.

His mother's certificate of birth in the civil registrar of San Antonio, Nueva Ecija was issued on the basis of an application for late registration, which is ten (10) years after the date of birth.19

The memorandum20 of the DOJ special committee also cited only the affidavits of Soliman and Peralta and then concluded that the evidence presented before the Senate Committees had overcome the presumption that the entries in the certificate of live birth of Quintos are prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.21

We agree with the Court of Appeals that while the affidavits of Soliman and Peralta might have cast doubt on the validity of Quintosí certificate of live birth, such certificate remains valid unless declared invalid by competent authority. The rule stands that "(d)ocuments consisting of entries in public records made in the performance of a duty by a public officer are prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein. x x x."22

We further sustain the Court of Appeals that there could be reasons why the Quintoses and Tomedas were not included in the census, such as they could have been mere transients in the place. As for their absence in the masterís list of voters, they could have failed to register themselves as voters. The late registration of Quintosí certificate of live birth was made 10 years after her birth and not anytime near the filing of respondentís petition for recognition as Filipino citizen. As such, it could not be presumed that the certificateís late filing was meant to use it fraudulently. Finally, the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs itself attested that as of 14 July 1999, Quintos has not been granted Australian citizenship. Respondent submitted a certified true copy of Quintosí Australian certificate of registration of alien, indicating her nationality as Filipino. These pieces of evidence should prevail over the affidavits submitted by Soliman and Peralta to the Senate Committees.

WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. We AFFIRM the 30 September 2005 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 87271.

SO ORDERED.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO
Associate Justice
ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ
Associate Justice

A T T E S T A T I O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courtís Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersonís Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courtís Division.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice


Footnotes

1 Under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

2Rollo, pp. 31-43. Penned by Associate Justice Edgardo P. Cruz with Associate Justices Josefina Guevara-Salonga and Sesinando E. Villon, concurring.

3 Rollo, pp. 32-33.

4 Id. at 33-34.

5 Id. at 45-56.

6 Id. at 138-145.

7 Id. at 43.

8 Id. at 341-357.

9 Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation v. Angara, G.R. No. 142937, 15 November 2005, 475 SCRA 41.

10 Republic Cement Corporation v. Guinmapang, G.R. No. 168910, 24 August 2009. Emphasis in the original.

11 Sta. Ana v. Carpo, G.R. No. 164340, 28 November 2008, 572 SCRA 463, 477.

12 No. L-16872, 31 January 1962, 4 SCRA 307.

13 Id. at 311.

14 G.R. No. 167569, 4 September 2009.

15 Id.

16 Id.

17 Id.

18 Domingo v. Scheer, 466 Phil. 235 (2004).

19 Rollo, p. 51.

20 Id. at 64-111.

21 Id. at 97-98.

22 Section 23, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court.


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