I received an e-mail from a reader about his curiosity on the issue of citizenship. He mentioned the article about a Filipino nurse who is employed as a flight attendant. The attendant rendered assistance to a passenger who delivered her baby while onboard a commercial aircraft while still some hours away from Manila. (See related story: SLU grad helps deliver baby in airborne PAL plane) The question is: what is the citizenship of the baby since she was delivered mid-air?
In order to answer this question properly, the citizenship of the parents, or at least the mother must be determined. Unfortunately, the article did not mention who the mother of the child is. But the most important matter here is our country’s policy or laws with respect to citizenship in a situation similar to this. One of the ways in determining citizenship in our country is by blood or the principle of Jus Sanguinis. Although we are not familiar with the laws of other countries on citizenship, another way of determining citizenship is the place of birth or Jus Soli. In the United States, a person born within the territory of the United States is considered a US citizen. It is then possible for a child born within the air space of the United States or even inside its warships, to acquire US citizenship. This is not the case in the Philippines. Our Constitution declares in Article IV, Section 1 that: “The following are citizens of the Philippines:  Those who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this Constitution;  Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines;  Those born before January 17, 1973, of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority; and  Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.”
Before the 1973 Constitution, citizenship was a little complicated if the father is an alien but the mother is a Filipino. The 1935 Constitution states that: “Those whose mothers are citizens of the Philippines and, upon reaching the age majority, elect Philippine Citizenship” are citizens of the Philippines. In effect, if the mother is a Filipino but the father is a foreigner, that person is not a Filipino but becomes one if he elects “Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age majority”. This lead to difficult situations for many who assumed that since they were born and lived in the country they are Filipinos even is their fathers are foreigners, not knowing that they needed to elect Philippine citizenship. The landmark case of Villahermosa vs. The Commissioner of Immigration (G.R. No. L-1663, March 31, 1948) demonstrated this policy under the 1935 Constitution. Delfin Co, (who was 18 at that time), was born in the Philippines to a Filipino mother and a father who was a Chinese national. Delfin left the Philippines for China but the economic situation there at that time forced him to return by trying to enter the country illegally. Together with other Chinese nationals they were apprehended by the authorities and they were due for deportation. After learning of her son’s arrest, Florentina took an oath of allegiance to acquire her Filipino citizenship lost through her marriage with a Chinese national. She filed a petition for habeas corpus claiming that Delfin should not be deported because he is a Filipino citizen. The Supreme Court made a categorical declaration that Delfin Co was not a Filipino since under the Constitution (1935) a person whose father is a foreigner or an alien even if the mother is a Filipino, is still an alien until he elects Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority. The fact that Florentina reacquired her citizenship, does not help Delfin since he could not still be considered a Filipino because he has yet to elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority. He was Chinese at the time of his arrest and therefore must be deported.
This was remedied by the 1973 constitution when it stated that those “whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines” are Filipinos. This was adopted by the 1987 Constitution and our policy remains that for as long as at least one of the parents is a Filipino, the child is considered a citizen of the Philippines.