DUAL CITIZENSHIP BILL APPROVED!

After a nine-hour session that ended past midnight Thursday, the House of Representatives, voting 128 to 33, approved on final reading a bill allowing millions of Filipino expatriates to retain their Filipino citizenship.

Lawmakers who opposed the measure said it violated the Constitution and would question it before the Supreme Court.

Dual citizenship would allow Filipinos who have obtained citizenship in other countries to do business in their former home country, Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. said in a statement.

"Filipinos abroad constitute a mighty economic force. Their investments here could trigger a housing and real estate boom," said De Venecia, one of the billís principal sponsors. "The bottom line is: once a Filipino, always a Filipino."

"We must never take away the rights of all natural-born Filipino expatriates who continue to love their country," Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said.

The Constitution limits foreign ownership of land and use of the countryís natural resources and reserves the participation in key industries to Filipinos.

De Venecia said he expected Filipinos abroad to pour up to $10 billion in investments. Thirty percent of the seven million Filipinos living abroad are in Canada and the United States, "yet they contribute up to 70 percent of the total $8-billion annual dollar remittances of Filipinos in foreign lands."

The House and the Senate, which had passed its counterpart measure last year, will reconcile their versions of the bill in August after Congress returns from recess July 28.

The House held the marathon session, which saw periodic heated debates and line-by-line revisions, to pass the bill before Congress went on recess Friday.

The bill seeks to revise a 65-year-old law, which stipulates that Filipinos who become naturalized citizens of another country automatically lose their Filipino citizenship.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, the original author of the bill, said the measure was "long overdue and is an affirmation of the fact that the vast majority of our erstwhile countrymen remain Filipinos in their heart and mind."

He said many Filipinos "who became citizens of their adoptive country have done so mainly for economic reasons, or for broadening career opportunities or for maximizing their social security and protection."

At least 90 countries allow some form of dual or multiple citizenships, Drilon said.

House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla, however, accused De Venecia of railroading the bill to pass Drilonís "pet measure."

Crediting the opposition for their "constructive fiscalization," De Venecia said many of their proposed amendments were included in the measure.

Padilla also accused Drilon of "blackmailing" the legislature and violating interparliamentary courtesy.

"Quotation reaching us is that the Senate would not act on our local bills and other priorities of congressmen if we do not pass the dual citizenship bill," he said.
"Did we conduct hearings simply because of one person special to Drilon?"

Some of the billís opponents such as Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen, Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat, Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla and Iloilo Rep. Rolex Suplico were not able to question the bill because a motion to terminate the debates was raised and quickly approved.

Padilla said his speech was even cut short.

Lack of jobs and better pay force thousands of Filipinos each month to seek greener pastures abroad. About seven million are working in at least a dozen countries.

The government depends heavily on the money they remit to their families back home ó which reaches at least $8 billion annually ó to prop up the countryís sluggish economy.

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