“Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.”-Article XII, Section 7, 1987 Constitution.”
Ben, a Britiish national, and Joselyn, a Filipino, were married in 1988. In the course of their marriage, they bought several properties, using funds provided by Ben. One of these properties was the Boracay property. In 1989, Joselyn ran away with another foreigner. She executed in favour of Ben a special power of attorney with respect to the Boracay property. However, she entered into an Agreement of Lease for the Boracay property with Philip, another foreign national. Upon learning of the Agreement, Ben sought to have it nullified, on the ground that he had not given his consent to it and the property was bought by funds provided by him.
After trial, the lower court decided in favour of Ben, which judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
May Ben, a foreigner, nullify the Agreement of Lease over the Boracay property, on the ground that as husband, his consent was not secured when the Agreement was entered into?
The Supreme disagreed with the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals in their decision on the case based on personal and family relations laws, citing the case have constitutional law ramifications involving ownership of private lands by aliens.
“The trial and appellate courts both focused on the property relations of petitioner and respondent in light of the Civil Code and Family Code provisions. They, however, failed to observe the applicable constitutional principles, which, in fact, are the more decisive.
Section 7, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution states:
Section 7. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.
Aliens, whether individuals or corporations, have been disqualified from acquiring lands of the public domain. Hence, by virtue of the aforecited constitutional provision, they are also disqualified from acquiring private lands. The primary purpose of this constitutional provision is the conservation of the national patrimony. Our fundamental law cannot be any clearer. The right to acquire lands of the public domain is reserved only to Filipino citizens or corporations at least sixty percent of the capital of which is owned by Filipinos.”
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“In light of the foregoing jurisprudence, we find and so hold that Benjamin has no right to nullify the Agreement of Lease between Joselyn and petitioner. Benjamin, being an alien, is absolutely prohibited from acquiring private and public lands in the Philippines. Considering that Joselyn appeared to be the designated “vendee” in the Deed of Sale of said property, she acquired sole ownership thereto. This is true even if we sustain Benjamin’s claim that he provided the funds for such acquisition. By entering into such contract knowing that it was illegal, no implied trust was created in his favor; no reimbursement for his expenses can be allowed; and no declaration can be made that the subject property was part of the conjugal/community property of the spouses. In any event, he had and has no capacity or personality to question the subsequent lease of the Boracay property by his wife on the theory that in so doing, he was merely exercising the prerogative of a husband in respect of conjugal property. To sustain such a theory would countenance indirect controversion of the constitutional prohibition. If the property were to be declared conjugal, this would accord the alien husband a substantial interest and right over the land, as he would then have a decisive vote as to its transfer or disposition. This is a right that the Constitution does not permit him to have.”