Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Ma. Venus Raj - Bb.Pilipinas Universe controversy, due process of law, and other legal issues

I don’t really care about this controversy except for the legal issues involved. Besides, as far as I am concerned, the most beautiful woman in the universe is movie actress Angel Locsin! Anyway, this controversy revolves on the alleged falsified entries in Ma. Venus Raj’s birth certificate. According to a press release by the event organizer Bb. Pilipinas Charities Inc (BPCI):

“Raj’s birth certificate showed she was born in Camarines Sur. She and her mother, however, claimed she was born in Doha, Qatar. Her father, Vincent Raj, registered as a Catholic Filipino in her birth certificate was discovered to be an Indian national and is not married to her mother, contrary to what is stated in her birth record.

“The legal document [Raj’s birth certificate] is indeed authentic. The information in the document, however, is fabricated, it being filed three years after Venus’ birth by her mother’s cousin who, at the time, worked in the Civil Registrar’s office. BCPI only discovered this accidentally after the coronation, the admission coming straight from the mouth of Ms. Raj, later on, her mother.”
What legal lessons can we learn from this controversy?

1. Venus reportedly said in “The Buzz” interview that “Sobrang sakit lang na sinasabi nila na disqualified ako because I was born out of wedlock.” I have not really followed all the developments in this controversy and so my explanation may be flawed. If she was really disqualified because she is an illegitimate child, then Venus should really fight tooth and nail for her crown.

But it seems that
BPCI did not disqualify Venus because she was born out of wedlock but because she is not a Filipino citizen. (I stand to be corrected on this, okay?) If this is the reason why she was disqualified, then Venus may have a Constitutional ground to fight for her crown. Article IV, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution defines who are Filipino citizens:
  • 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.
Even if her father was actually an Indian national, Venus can claim Filipino citizenship because her mother is a Filipino citizen. Her place of birth (whether Doha, Qatar or Camarines Sur) does not affect her citizenship since the Philippines follows the principle of “jus sanguinis” or blood relationship.

2. Even if it is true that the entries in the birth certificate were falsified, Venus did not have any participation in it; she was about three years old at that time. Her mother and mother’s cousin were the ones responsible. She should not be held responsible for something she did not participate in on the basis of the legal principle of “Res inter alios acta, aliis nec nocet nec prodest”. This principle holds that the rights of a party cannot be prejudiced by an act, declaration, or omission of another.

3. The event organizer in its press release said that Venus herself, right after the coronation, admitted that there were false entries in her birth certificate. If this is true, then the legal principle involved is “admission against interest”. Her statement admitting that she knew of the falsifications can be taken as evidence against her.

4. Venus also reportedly said in the Buz interview that “kung may inconsistencies, sana lang from the very beginning sinabi na sana nila [Bb. Pilipinas Charities, Inc.] para hindi na ako umasa. “Hindi malinaw why I was dethroned.”

Venus has a point. First, it does not speak well of BPCI that it did not do its homework of checking all the background information of the contestants. Second, it seems that BPCI just dethroned her without giving her the chance to answer the allegations against her. This involves the issue of due process:
  • The Bill of Rights of our 1987 Constitution states in Article 3 Section 1 that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”
  • By “due process of law” we mean “a law which hears before it condemns; which proceeds upon inquiry, and renders judgment only after trial.” It contemplates notice and opportunity to be heard before judgment is rendered, affecting one's person or property” (Lopez vs. Director of Lands, 47 Phil. 23, 32; Sicat vs. Reyes, L-11023, Dec. 14, 1956)
Simply stated, due process demands that there be notice and hearing. The event organizer should have notified Venus of the charges against her and given her the chance to refute such charges. (Please read my related post “Due process and two-notice rule in termination of employment; five calendar days to answer the charges and hearing required”. If indeed BPCI did not accord Venus the due process she is entitled to, then she can file a civil case for damages under Articles 19 to 21of the New Civil Code of the Philippines. The said articles state:
Art. 19. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.

Art. 20. Every person who, contrary to law, wilfully or negligently causes damage to another, shall indemnify the latter for the same.

Art. 21. Any person who wilfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.