Tuesday, December 18, 2007

May a lawyer who has lost his Filipino citizenship and reacquired it still practice law in the Philippines?

Banjamin Dacanay was admitted to the Philippine bar in March 1960. He practiced law until he migrated to Canada in December 1998 to seek medical attention for his ailments. He subsequently applied for Canadian citizenship to avail of Canada’s free medical aid program. His application was approved and he became a Canadian citizen in May 2004. On July 14, 2006, pursuant to Republic Act (RA) 9225 (Citizenship Retention and Re-Acquisition Act of 2003), he reacquired his Philippine citizenship. On that day, he took his oath of allegiance as a Filipino citizen before the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto, Canada. Thereafter, he returned to the Philippines and now intends to resume his law practice.

Given the foregoing, may a lawyer who has lost his Filipino citizenship and reacquired it still practice law in the Philippines?

In B.M. No. 1678 dated 17 December 2007, the Supreme Court answered in affirmative. Said the High Tribunal :

Under RA 9225, if a person intends to practice the legal profession in the Philippines and he reacquires his Filipino citizenship pursuant to its provisions “(he) shall apply with the proper authority for a license or permit to engage in such practice.” Stated otherwise, before a lawyer who reacquires Filipino citizenship pursuant to RA 9225 can resume his law practice, he must first secure from this Court the authority to do so, conditioned on:

(a) the updating and payment in full of the annual membership dues in the IBP;

(b) the payment of professional tax;

(c) the completion of at least 36 credit hours of mandatory continuing legal education; this is specially significant to refresh the applicant/petitioner’s knowledge of Philippine laws and update him of legal developments and

(d) the retaking of the lawyer’s oath which will not only remind him of his duties and responsibilities as a lawyer and as an officer of the Court, but also renew his pledge to maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines.

Compliance with these conditions will restore his good standing as a member of the Philippine bar.