You are on page 1of 36

G.R. No.

L-630 November 15, 1947

ALEXANDER A. KRIVENKO, petitioner-appellant,


vs.
THE REGISTER OF DEEDS, CITY OF MANILA, respondent and appellee.

Gibbs, Gibbs, Chuidian and Quasha of petitioner-appellant.


First Assistant Solicitor General Reyes and Solicitor Carreon for respondent-appellee.
Marcelino Lontok appeared as amicus curies.

MORAN, C.J.:

Alenxander A. Kriventor alien, bought a residential lot from the Magdalena Estate, Inc., in December of 1941, the registration of which was interrupted by the war. In May, 1945,
he sought to accomplish said registration but was denied by the register of deeds of Manila on the ground that, being an alien, he cannot acquire land in this jurisdiction. Krivenko
then brought the case to the fourth branch of the Court of First Instance of Manila by means of a consulta, and that court rendered judgment sustaining the refusal of the register of
deeds, from which Krivenko appealed to this Court.

There is no dispute as to these facts. The real point in issue is whether or not an alien under our Constitution may acquire residential land.

It is said that the decision of the case on the merits is unnecessary, there being a motion to withdraw the appeal which should have been granted outright, and reference is made to
the ruling laid down by this Court in another case to the effect that a court should not pass upon a constitutional question if its judgment may be made to rest upon other grounds.
There is, we believe, a confusion of ideas in this reasoning. It cannot be denied that the constitutional question is unavoidable if we choose to decide this case upon the merits. Our
judgment cannot to be made to rest upon other grounds if we have to render any judgment at all. And we cannot avoid our judgment simply because we have to avoid a
constitutional question. We cannot, for instance, grant the motion withdrawing the appeal only because we wish to evade the constitutional; issue. Whether the motion should be,
or should not be, granted, is a question involving different considerations now to be stated.

According to Rule 52, section 4, of the Rules of Court, it is discretionary upon this Court to grant a withdrawal of appeal after the briefs have been presented. At the time the
motion for withdrawal was filed in this case, not only had the briefs been prensented, but the case had already been voted and the majority decision was being prepared. The
motion for withdrawal stated no reason whatsoever, and the Solicitor General was agreeable to it. While the motion was pending in this Court, came the new circular of the
Department of Justice, instructing all register of deeds to accept for registration all transfers of residential lots to aliens. The herein respondent-appellee was naturally one of the
registers of deeds to obey the new circular, as against his own stand in this case which had been maintained by the trial court and firmly defended in this Court by the Solicitor
General. If we grant the withdrawal, the the result would be that petitioner-appellant Alexander A. Krivenko wins his case, not by a decision of this Court, but by the decision or
circular of the Department of Justice, issued while this case was pending before this Court. Whether or not this is the reason why appellant seeks the withdrawal of his appeal and
why the Solicitor General readily agrees to that withdrawal, is now immaterial. What is material and indeed very important, is whether or not we should allow interference with the
regular and complete exercise by this Court of its constitutional functions, and whether or not after having held long deliberations and after having reached a clear and positive
conviction as to what the constitutional mandate is, we may still allow our conviction to be silenced, and the constitutional mandate to be ignored or misconceived, with all the
harmful consequences that might be brought upon the national patromony. For it is but natural that the new circular be taken full advantage of by many, with the circumstance that
perhaps the constitutional question may never come up again before this court, because both vendors and vendees will have no interest but to uphold the validity of their
transactions, and very unlikely will the register of deeds venture to disobey the orders of their superior. Thus, the possibility for this court to voice its conviction in a future case
may be remote, with the result that our indifference of today might signify a permanent offense to the Constitution.

All thse circumstances were thoroughly considered and weighted by this Court for a number of days and the legal result of the last vote was a denial of the motion withdrawing the
appeal. We are thus confronted, at this stage of the proceedings, with our duty, the constitutional question becomes unavoidable. We shall then proceed to decide that question.

Article XIII, section 1, of the Constitutional is as follows:

Article XIII. Conservation and utilization of natural resources.

SECTION 1. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, water, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, and
other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State, and their disposition, exploitation, development, or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines,
or to corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned by such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant, lease, or concession at
the time of the inaguration of the Government established uunder this Constitution. Natural resources, with the exception of public agricultural land, shall not be
alienated, and no licence, concession, or lease for the exploitation, development, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period exceeding
twenty-five years, renewable for another twenty-five years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development
of water "power" in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant.

The scope of this constitutional provision, according to its heading and its language, embraces all lands of any kind of the public domain, its purpose being to establish a permanent
and fundamental policy for the conservation and utilization of all natural resources of the Nation. When, therefore, this provision, with reference to lands of the public domain,
makes mention of only agricultural, timber and mineral lands, it means that all lands of the public domain are classified into said three groups, namely, agricultural, timber and
mineral. And this classification finds corroboration in the circumstance that at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, that was the basic classification existing in the public
laws and judicial decisions in the Philippines, and the term "public agricultural lands" under said classification had then acquired a technical meaning that was well-known to the
members of the Constitutional Convention who were mostly members of the legal profession.

As early as 1908, in the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government (10 Phil., 175, 182), this Court said that the phrase "agricultural public lands" as defined in the Act of Congress of
July 1, 1902, which phrase is also to be found in several sections of the Public Land Act (No. 926), means "those public lands acquired from Spain which are neither mineral for
timber lands." This definition has been followed in long line of decisions of this Court. (See Montano vs.Insular Government, 12 Phil., 593; Ibaez de Aldecoa vs. Insular
Government, 13 Phil., 159; Ramos vs. Director of Lands, 39 Phil., 175; Jocson vs. Director of Forestry, 39 Phil., 560; Ankron vs. Government of the Philippines, 40 Phil., 10.) And
with respect to residential lands, it has been held that since they are neither mineral nor timber lands, of necessity they must be classified as agricultural. In Ibaez de
Aldecoa vs. Insular Government (13 Phil., 159, 163), this Court said:

Hence, any parcel of land or building lot is susceptible of cultivation, and may be converted into a field, and planted with all kinds of vegetation; for this reason, where
land is not mining or forestal in its nature, it must necessarily be included within the classification of agricultural land, not because it is actually used for the purposes of
agriculture, but because it was originally agricultural and may again become so under other circumstances; besides, the Act of Congress contains only three
classification, and makes no special provision with respect to building lots or urban lands that have ceased to be agricultural land.
In other words, the Court ruled that in determining whether a parcel of land is agricultural, the test is not only whether it is actually agricultural, but also its susceptibility to
cultivation for agricultural purposes. But whatever the test might be, the fact remains that at the time the Constitution was adopted, lands of the public domain were classified in
our laws and jurisprudence into agricultural, mineral, and timber, and that the term "public agricultural lands" was construed as referring to those lands that were not timber or
mineral, and as including residential lands. It may safely be presumed, therefore, that what the members of the Constitutional Convention had in mind when they drafted the
Constitution was this well-known classification and its technical meaning then prevailing.

Certain expressions which appear in Constitutions, . . . are obviously technical; and where such words have been in use prior to the adoption of a Constitution, it is
presumed that its framers and the people who ratified it have used such expressions in accordance with their technical meaning. (11 Am. Jur., sec. 66, p.
683.) AlsoCalder vs. Bull, 3 Dall. [U.S.], 386; 1 Law. ed., 648; Bronson vs. Syverson, 88 Wash., 264; 152 P., 1039.)

It is a fundamental rule that, in construing constitutions, terms employed therein shall be given the meaning which had been put upon them, and which they possessed, at
the time of the framing and adoption of the instrument. If a word has acquired a fixed, technical meaning in legal and constitutional history, it will be presumed to have
been employed in that sense in a written Constitution. (McKinney vs. Barker, 180 Ky., 526; 203 S.W., 303; L.R.A., 1918 E, 581.)

Where words have been long used in a technical sense and have been judicially construed to have a certain meaning, and have been adopted by the legislature as having a
certain meaning prior to a particular statute in which they are used, the rule of construction requires that the words used in such statute should be construed according to
the sense in which they have been so previously used, although the sense may vary from strict literal meaning of the words. (II Sutherland, Statutory Construction, p.
758.)

Therefore, the phrase "public agricultural lands" appearing in section 1 of Article XIII of the Constitution must be construed as including residential lands, and this is in conformity
with a legislative interpretation given after the adoption of the Constitution. Well known is the rule that "where the Legislature has revised a statute after a Constitution has been
adopted, such a revision is to be regarded as a legislative construction that the statute so revised conforms to the Constitution." (59 C.J., 1102.) Soon after the Constitution was
adopted, the National Assembly revised the Public Land Law and passed Commonwealth Act No. 141, and sections 58, 59 and 60 thereof permit the sale of residential lots to
Filipino citizens or to associations or corporations controlled by such citizens, which is equivalent to a solemn declaration that residential lots are considered as agricultural lands,
for, under the Constitution, only agricultural lands may be alienated.

It is true that in section 9 of said Commonwealth Act No. 141, "alienable or disposable public lands" which are the same "public agriculture lands" under the Constitution, are
classified into agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial and for other puposes. This simply means that the term "public agricultural lands" has both a broad and a particular
meaning. Under its broad or general meaning, as used in the Constitution, it embraces all lands that are neither timber nor mineral. This broad meaning is particularized in section 9
of Commonwealth Act No. 141 which classifies "public agricultural lands" for purposes of alienation or disposition, into lands that are stricly agricultural or actually devoted to
cultivation for agricultural puposes; lands that are residential; commercial; industrial; or lands for other purposes. The fact that these lands are made alienable or disposable under
Commonwealth Act No. 141, in favor of Filipino citizens, is a conclusive indication of their character as public agricultural lands under said statute and under the Constitution.

It must be observed, in this connection that prior to the Constitution, under section 24 of Public Land Act No. 2874, aliens could acquire public agricultural lands used for
industrial or residential puposes, but after the Constitution and under section 23 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, the right of aliens to acquire such kind of lands is completely
stricken out, undoubtedly in pursuance of the constitutional limitation. And, again, prior to the Constitution, under section 57 of Public Land Act No. 2874, land of the public
domain suitable for residence or industrial purposes could be sold or leased to aliens, but after the Constitution and under section 60 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, such land may
only be leased, but not sold, to aliens, and the lease granted shall only be valid while the land is used for the purposes referred to. The exclusion of sale in the new Act is
undoubtedly in pursuance of the constitutional limitation, and this again is another legislative construction that the term "public agricultural land" includes land for residence
purposes.

Such legislative interpretation is also in harmony with the interpretation given by the Executive Department of the Government. Way back in 1939, Secretary of Justice Jose Abad
Santos, in answer to a query as to "whether or not the phrase 'public agricultural lands' in section 1 of Article XII (now XIII) of the Constitution may be interpreted to include
residential, commercial, and industrial lands for purposes of their disposition," rendered the following short, sharp and crystal-clear opinion:

Section 1, Article XII (now XIII) of the Constitution classifies lands of the public domain in the Philippines into agricultural, timber and mineral. This is the basic
classification adopted since the enactment of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, known as the Philippine Bill. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution of the
Philippines, the term 'agricultural public lands' and, therefore, acquired a technical meaning in our public laws. The Supreme Court of the Philippines in the leading case
of Mapa vs. Insular Government, 10 Phil., 175, held that the phrase 'agricultural public lands' means those public lands acquired from Spain which are neither timber nor
mineral lands. This definition has been followed by our Supreme Court in many subsequent case. . . .

Residential commercial, or industrial lots forming part of the public domain must have to be included in one or more of these classes. Clearly, they are neither timber nor
mineral, of necessity, therefore, they must be classified as agricultural.

Viewed from another angle, it has been held that in determining whether lands are agricultural or not, the character of the land is the test (Odell vs. Durant, 62 N.W., 524;
Lorch vs. Missoula Brick and Tile Co., 123 p.25). In other words, it is the susceptibility of the land to cultivation for agricultural purposes by ordinary farming methods
which determines whether it is agricultural or not (State vs. Stewart, 190 p. 129).

Furthermore, as said by the Director of Lands, no reason is seen why a piece of land, which may be sold to a person if he is to devote it to agricultural, cannot be sold to
him if he intends to use it as a site for his home.

This opinion is important not alone because it comes from a Secratary of Justice who later became the Chief Justice of this Court, but also because it was rendered by a member of
the cabinet of the late President Quezon who actively participated in the drafting of the constitutional provision under consideration. (2 Aruego, Framing of the Philippine
Constitution, p. 598.) And the opinion of the Quezon administration was reiterated by the Secretary of Justice under the Osmea administration, and it was firmly maintained in
this Court by the Solicitor General of both administrations.

It is thus clear that the three great departments of the Government judicial, legislative and executive have always maintained that lands of the public domain are classified
into agricultural, mineral and timber, and that agricultural lands include residential lots.

Under section 1 of Article XIII of the Constitution, "natural resources, with the exception of public agricultural land, shall not be aliented," and with respect to public agricultural
lands, their alienation is limited to Filipino citizens. But this constitutional purpose conserving agricultural resources in the hands of Filipino citizens may easily be defeated by the
Filipino citizens themselves who may alienate their agricultural lands in favor of aliens. It is partly to prevent this result that section 5 is included in Article XIII, and it reads as
follows:

Sec. 5. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private agricultural land will be transferred or assigned except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to
acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines.
This constitutional provision closes the only remaining avenue through which agricultural resources may leak into aliens' hands. It would certainly be futile to prohibit the
alienation of public agricultural lands to aliens if, after all, they may be freely so alienated upon their becoming private agricultural lands in the hands of Filipino citizens.
Undoubtedly, as above indicated, section 5 is intended to insure the policy of nationalization contained in section 1. Both sections must, therefore, be read together for they have
the same purpose and the same subject matter. It must be noticed that the persons against whom the prohibition is directed in section 5 are the very same persons who under section
1 are disqualified "to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines." And the subject matter of both sections is the same, namely, the non-transferability of
"agricultural land" to aliens. Since "agricultural land" under section 1 includes residential lots, the same technical meaning should be attached to "agricultural land under section 5.
It is a rule of statutory construction that "a word or phrase repeated in a statute will bear the same meaning throughout the statute, unless a different intention appears." (II
Sutherland, Statutory Construction, p. 758.) The only difference between "agricultural land" under section 5, is that the former is public and the latter private. But such difference
refers to ownership and not to the class of land. The lands are the same in both sections, and, for the conservation of the national patrimony, what is important is the nature or class
of the property regardless of whether it is owned by the State or by its citizens.

Reference is made to an opinion rendered on September 19, 1941, by the Hon. Teofilo Sison, then Secretary of Justice, to the effect that residential lands of the public domain may
be considered as agricultural lands, whereas residential lands of private ownership cannot be so considered. No reason whatsoever is given in the opinion for such a distinction, and
no valid reason can be adduced for such a discriminatory view, particularly having in mind that the purpose of the constitutional provision is the conservation of the national
patrimony, and private residential lands are as much an integral part of the national patrimony as the residential lands of the public domain. Specially is this so where, as indicated
above, the prohibition as to the alienable of public residential lots would become superflous if the same prohibition is not equally applied to private residential lots. Indeed, the
prohibition as to private residential lands will eventually become more important, for time will come when, in view of the constant disposition of public lands in favor of private
individuals, almost all, if not all, the residential lands of the public domain shall have become private residential lands.

It is maintained that in the first draft of section 5, the words "no land of private ownership" were used and later changed into "no agricultural land of private ownership," and lastly
into "no private agricultural land" and from these changes it is argued that the word "agricultural" introduced in the second and final drafts was intended to limit the meaning of the
word "land" to land actually used for agricultural purposes. The implication is not accurate. The wording of the first draft was amended for no other purpose than to clarify
concepts and avoid uncertainties. The words "no land" of the first draft, unqualified by the word "agricultural," may be mistaken to include timber and mineral lands, and since
under section 1, this kind of lands can never be private, the prohibition to transfer the same would be superfluous. Upon the other hand, section 5 had to be drafted in harmony with
section 1 to which it is supplementary, as above indicated. Inasmuch as under section 1, timber and mineral lands can never be private, and the only lands that may become private
are agricultural lands, the words "no land of private ownership" of the first draft can have no other meaning than "private agricultural land." And thus the change in the final draft is
merely one of words in order to make its subject matter more specific with a view to avoiding the possible confusion of ideas that could have arisen from the first draft.

If the term "private agricultural lands" is to be construed as not including residential lots or lands not strictly agricultural, the result would be that "aliens may freely acquire and
possess not only residential lots and houses for themselves but entire subdivisions, and whole towns and cities," and that "they may validly buy and hold in their names lands of
any area for building homes, factories, industrial plants, fisheries, hatcheries, schools, health and vacation resorts, markets, golf courses, playgrounds, airfields, and a host of other
uses and purposes that are not, in appellant's words, strictly agricultural." (Solicitor General's Brief, p. 6.) That this is obnoxious to the conservative spirit of the Constitution is
beyond question.

One of the fundamental principles underlying the provision of Article XIII of the Constitution and which was embodied in the report of the Committee on Nationalization and
Preservation of Lands and other Natural Resources of the Constitutional Convention, is "that lands, minerals, forests, and other natural resources constitute the exclusive heritage
of the Filipino nation. They should, therefore, be preserved for those under the sovereign authority of that nation and for their posterity." (2 Aruego, Framing of the Filipino
Constitution, p. 595.) Delegate Ledesma, Chairman of the Committee on Agricultural Development of the Constitutional Convention, in a speech delivered in connection with the
national policy on agricultural lands, said: "The exclusion of aliens from the privilege of acquiring public agricultural lands and of owning real estate is a necessary part of the
Public Land Laws of the Philippines to keep pace with the idea of preserving the Philippines for the Filipinos." (Emphasis ours.) And, of the same tenor was the speech of Delegate
Montilla who said: "With the complete nationalization of our lands and natural resources it is to be understood that our God-given birthright should be one hundred per cent in
Filipino hands . . .. Lands and natural resources are immovables and as such can be compared to the vital organs of a person's body, the lack of possession of which may cause
instant death or the shortening of life. If we do not completely antionalize these two of our most important belongings, I am afraid that the time will come when we shall be sorry
for the time we were born. Our independence will be just a mockery, for what kind of independence are we going to have if a part of our country is not in our hands but in those of
foreigners?" (Emphasis ours.) Professor Aruego says that since the opening days of the Constitutional Convention one of its fixed and dominating objectives was the conservation
and nationalization of the natural resources of the country. (2 Aruego, Framing of the Philippine Constitution, p 592.) This is ratified by the members of the Constitutional
Convention who are now members of this Court, namely, Mr. Justice Perfecto, Mr. Justice Briones, and Mr. Justice Hontiveros. And, indeed, if under Article XIV, section 8, of the
Constitution, an alien may not even operate a small jitney for hire, it is certainly not hard to understand that neither is he allowed to own a pieace of land.

This constitutional intent is made more patent and is strongly implemented by an act of the National Assembly passed soon after the Constitution was approved. We are referring
again to Commonwealth Act No. 141. Prior to the Constitution, there were in the Public Land Act No. 2874 sections 120 and 121 which granted aliens the right to acquire private
only by way of reciprocity. Said section reads as follows:

SEC. 120. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of this Act, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or
transferred, except to persons, corporations, associations, or partnerships who may acquire lands of the public domain under this Act; to corporations organized in the
Philippine Islands authorized therefor by their charters, and, upon express authorization by the Philippine Legislature, to citizens of countries the laws of which grant to
citizens of the Philippine Islands the same right to acquire, hold, lease, encumber, dispose of, or alienate land, or permanent improvements thereon, or any interest
therein, as to their own citizens, only in the manner and to the extent specified in such laws, and while the same are in force but not thereafter.

SEC. 121. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of the former Public Land Act or of any other Act, ordinance, royal order, royal decree, or any
other provision of law formerly in force in the Philippine Islands with regard to public lands, terrenos baldios y realengos, or lands of any other denomination that were
actually or presumptively of the public domain or by royal grant or in any other form, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or
conveyed, except to persons, corporations, or associations who may acquire land of the public domain under this Act; to corporate bodies organized in the Philippine
Islands whose charters may authorize them to do so, and, upon express authorization by the Philippine Legislature, to citizens of the countries the laws of which grant to
citizens of the Philippine Islands the same right to acquire, hold, lease, encumber, dispose of, or alienate land or pemanent improvements thereon or any interest therein,
as to their own citizens, and only in the manner and to the extent specified in such laws, and while the same are in force, but not thereafter: Provided, however, That this
prohibition shall not be applicable to the conveyance or acquisition by reason of hereditary succession duly acknowledged and legalized by competent courts, nor to
lands and improvements acquired or held for industrial or residence purposes, while used for such purposes: Provided, further, That in the event of the ownership of the
lands and improvements mentioned in this section and in the last preceding section being transferred by judicial decree to persons,corporations or associations not legally
capacitated to acquire the same under the provisions of this Act, such persons, corporations, or associations shall be obliged to alienate said lands or improvements to
others so capacitated within the precise period of five years, under the penalty of such property reverting to the Government in the contrary case." (Public Land Act, No.
2874.)

It is to be observed that the pharase "no land" used in these section refers to all private lands, whether strictly agricultural, residential or otherwise, there being practically no
private land which had not been acquired by any of the means provided in said two sections. Therefore, the prohibition contained in these two provisions was, in effect, that no
private land could be transferred to aliens except "upon express authorization by the Philippine Legislature, to citizens of Philippine Islands the same right to acquire, hold, lease,
encumber, dispose of, or alienate land." In other words, aliens were granted the right to acquire private land merely by way of reciprocity. Then came the Constitution and
Commonwealth Act No. 141 was passed, sections 122 and 123 of which read as follows:
SEC. 122. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of this Act, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or
transferred, except to persons, corporations, associations, or partnerships who may acquire lands of the public domain under this Act or to corporations organized in the
Philippines authorized thereof by their charters.

SEC. 123. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of any previous Act, ordinance, royal order, royal decree, or any other provision of law
formerly in force in the Philippines with regard to public lands terrenos baldios y realengos, or lands of any other denomination that were actually or presumptively of
the public domain, or by royal grant or in any other form, nor any permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or conveyed, except to persons,
corporations or associations who may acquire land of the public domain under this Act or to corporate bodies organized in the Philippines whose charters authorize them
to do so: Provided, however, That this prohibition shall not be applicable to the conveyance or acquisition by reason of hereditary succession duly acknowledged and
legalized by competent courts: Provided, further, That in the event of the ownership of the lands and improvements mentioned in this section and in the last preceding
section being transferred by judicial decree to persons, corporations or associations not legally capacitated to acquire the same under the provisions of this Act, such
persons, corporations, or associations shall be obliged to alienate said lands or improvements to others so capacitated within the precise period of five years; otherwise,
such property shall revert to the Government.

These two sections are almost literally the same as sections 120 and 121 of Act No. 2874, the only difference being that in the new provisions, the right to reciprocity granted to
aliens is completely stricken out. This, undoubtedly, is to conform to the absolute policy contained in section 5 of Article XIII of the Constitution which, in prohibiting the
alienation of private agricultural lands to aliens, grants them no right of reciprocity. This legislative construction carries exceptional weight, for prominent members of the National
Assembly who approved the new Act had been members of the Constitutional Convention.

It is said that the lot question does not come within the purview of sections 122 and 123 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, there being no proof that the same had been acquired by
one of the means provided in said provisions. We are not, however, diciding the instant case under the provisions of the Public Land Act, which have to refer to land that had been
formerly of the public domain, otherwise their constitutionality may be doubtful. We are deciding the instant case under section 5 of Article XIII of the Constitution which is more
comprehensive and more absolute in the sense that it prohibits the transfer to alien of any private agricultural land including residential land whatever its origin might have been.

And, finally, on June 14, 1947, the Congress approved Republic Act No. 133 which allows mortgage of "private real property" of any kind in favor of aliens but with a
qualification consisting of expressly prohibiting aliens to bid or take part in any sale of such real property as a consequence of the mortgage. This prohibition makes no distinction
between private lands that are strictly agricultural and private lands that are residental or commercial. The prohibition embraces the sale of private lands of any kind in favor of
aliens, which is again a clear implementation and a legislative interpretation of the constitutional prohibition. Had the Congress been of opinion that private residential lands may
be sold to aliens under the Constitution, no legislative measure would have been found necessary to authorize mortgage which would have been deemed also permissible under the
Constitution. But clearly it was the opinion of the Congress that such sale is forbidden by the Constitution and it was such opinion that prompted the legislative measure intended
to clarify that mortgage is not within the constitutional prohibition.

It is well to note at this juncture that in the present case we have no choice. We are construing the Constitution as it is and not as we may desire it to be. Perhaps the effect of our
construction is to preclude aliens, admitted freely into the Philippines from owning sites where they may build their homes. But if this is the solemn mandate of the Constitution,
we will not attempt to compromise it even in the name of amity or equity. We are satisfied, however, that aliens are not completely excluded by the Constitution from the use of
lands for residential purposes. Since their residence in the Philippines is temporary, they may be granted temporary rights such as a lease contract which is not forbidden by the
Constitution. Should they desire to remain here forever and share our fortunes and misfortunes, Filipino citizenship is not impossible to acquire.
For all the foregoing, we hold that under the Constitution aliens may not acquire private or public agricultural lands, including residential lands, and, accordingly, judgment is
affirmed, without costs.

Feria, Pablo, Perfecto, Hilado, and Briones, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinion

PERFECTO, J., concurring:

Today, which is the day set for the promulgation of this Court's decision might be remembered by future generations always with joy, with gratitude, with pride. The failure of the
highest tribunal of the land to do its duty in this case would have amounted to a national disaster. We would have refused to share the responsibility of causing it by, wittingly or
unwittingly, allowing ourselves to act as tools in a conspiracy to sabotage the most important safeguard of the age-long patrimony of our people, the land which destiny of
Providence has set aside to be the permanent abode of our race for unending generations. We who have children and grandchildren, and who expect to leave long and ramifying
dendriform lines of descendants, could not bear the thought of the curse they may fling at us should the day arrive when our people will be foreigners in their fatherland, because in
the crucial moment of our history , when the vision of judicial statemanship demanded on us the resolution and boldness to affirm and withhold the letter and spirit of the
Constitution, we faltered. We would have prefered heroic defeat to inglorious desertion. Rather than abandon the sacred folds of the banner of our convictions for truth, for justice,
for racial survival. We are happy to record that this Supreme Court turned an impending failure to a glorious success, saving our people from a looming catastrophe.

On July 3, 1946, the case of Oh Cho vs. Director of Lands, (43 Off. Gaz., 866), was submitted for our decision. The case was initiated in the Court of First Instance of Tayabas on
January 17, 1940, when an alien, Oh Cho, a citizen of China, applied for title and registration of a parcel of land located in the residential district of Guinayangan, Tayabas, with a
house thereon. The Director of Lands opposed the application, one of the main grounds being that "the applicant, being a Chinese, is not qualified to acquire public or private
agricultural lands under the provisions of the Constitution."

On August 15, 1940, Judge P. Magsalin rendered decision granting the application. The Director of Lands appealed. In the brief filed by Solicitor General Roman Ozaeta,
afterwards Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and now Secretary of Justice, and Assistant Solicitor General Rafael Amparo, appellant made only two assignments of error,
although both raised but one question, the legal one stated in the first assignment of error as follows:

The lower court erred in declaring the registration of the land in question in favor of the applicant who, according to his own voluntary admission is a citizen of the
Chinese Republic.

The brief was accompanied, as Appendix A, by the opinion of Secretary of Justice Jose A. Santos who, while Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, suffered heroic martyrdom at
the hands of the Japanese addressed to the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce on July 15, 1939, supporting the same theory as the one advanced by the Director of Lands.
The same legal question raised by appellant is discussed, not only in the brief for the appellee, but also in the briefs of the several amici curiae allowed by the Supreme Court to
appear in the case.
As a matter of fact, the case has been submitted for final decision of the Supreme Court since July of 1941, that is, six years ago. It remained undecided when the Pacific War
broke out in December, 1941. After the Supreme Court was recognized in the middle of 1945, it was found that the case was among those which were destroyed in February, 1945,
during the battle for the liberation of Manila. The case had to be reconstituted upon motion of the office of the Solicitor General, filed with this Court on January 14, 1946, in
which it was also prayed that, after being reconstituted, the case be submitted for final adjudication. The case was for the second time submitted for decision on July 3, 1946.

After the last submission, it took the Supreme Court many days to deliberate on the case, especially on the legal question as to whether an alien may, under the Constitution,
acquire private urban lands. An overwhelming majority answered no. But when the decision was promulgated on August 31, 1946, a majority resolved to ignore the question,
notwithstanding our efforts to have the question, which is vital, pressing and far-reaching, decided once and for all, to dispel definitely the uncertainty gnawing the conscience of
the people. It has been out lot to be alone in expressing in unmistakable terms our opinion and decision on the main legal question raised by the appellant. The constitutional
question was by-passed by the majority because they were of opinion that it was not necessary to be decided, notwithstanding the fact that it was the main and only legal question
upon which appellant Director of Lands relied in his appeal, and the question has been almost exhaustively argued in four printed briefs filed by the parties and the amici curiae.
Assurance was, nevertheless, given that in the next case in which the same constitutional question is raised, the majority shall make known their stand on the question.

The next case came when the present one submitted to us for decision on February 3, 1947. Again, we deliberated on the constitutional question for several days.

On February 24, 1947, the case was submitted for final vote, and the result was that the constitutional question was decided against petitioner. The majority was also
overwhelming. There were eight of us, more than two-thirds of the Supreme Court. Only three Justices dissented.

While the decision was being drafted, somehow, the way the majority had voted must have leaked out. On July 10, 1947, appellant Krivenko filed a motion for withdrawal of his
appeal, for the evident purpose of preventing the rendering of the majority decision, which would settle once and for all the all-important constitutional question as to whether
aliens may acquire urban lots in the Philippines.

Appellant chose to keep silent as to his reason for filing the motion. The Solicitor General's office gave its conformity to the withdrawal of the appeal. This surprising assent was
given without expressing any ground at all. Would the Supreme Court permit itself to be cheated of its decision voted since February 24, 1947?

Discussion immediately ensued as to whether the motion should be granted or denied, that is, whether this Court should abstain from promulgating the decision in accordance with
the result of the vote taken on February 24, 1947, as if, after more than six years during which the question has been submitted for the decision of the highest tribunal of the land,
the same has failed to form a definite opinion.

After a two-day deliberation, the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Paras, Mr. Justice Hontiveros, Mr. Justice Padilla and and Mr. Justice Tuason voted to grant the motion for withdrawal.
Those who voted to deny the motion were Mr. Justice Feria, Mr. Justice Pablo, ourselves, Mr. Justice Hilado and Mr. Justice Bengzon. The vote thus resulted in a tie, 5-5. The
deadlock resulting from the tie should have the effect of denying the motion, as provided by section 2 of Rule 56 to the effect that "where the Court in banc is equally divided in
opinion . . . on all incidental matters, the petition or motion shall be denied." And we proposed that the rule be complied with, and the denial be promulgated.

Notwithstanding this, as Mr. Justice Briones was then absent, our brethren resolved to give him the opportunity of casting his vote on the question, although we insisted that it was
unnecessary. Days later, when all the members of the Court were already present, a new vote was taken. Mr. Justice Briones voted for the denial of the motion, and his vote would
have resulted, as must be expected, in 6 votes for the denial against 5 for granting. But the final result was different. Seven votes were cast for granting the motion and only four
were cast for its denial.
But then, by providential design or simply by a happy stroke of luck or fate, on the occasion of the registration by the register of deeds of Manila of land purchases of two aliens, a
heated public polemic flared up in one section of the press, followed by controversial speeches, broadcast by radio, and culminating in the issuance on August 12, 1947, of Circular
No. 128 of the Secretary of Justice which reads as follows:

TO ALL REGISTER OF DEEDS:

Paragraph 5 of Circular No. 14, dated August 25, 1945, is hereby amended so as to read as follows:

5"(a). Instruments by which private real property is mortgaged in favor of any individual, corporation, or association for a period not exceeding five years, renewable for
another five years, may be accepted for registration. (Section 1, Republic Act No. 138.)

"(b). Deeds or documents by which private residential, commercial, industrial or other classes of urban lands, or any right, title or interest therein is transferred, assigned
or encumbered to an alien, who is not an enemy national, may be registered. Such classes of land are not deemed included within the purview of the prohibition
contained in section 5, Article XIII of the Constitution against the acquisition or holding of "private agricultural land" by those who are not qualified to hold or acquire
lands of the public domain. This is in conformity with Opinion No. 284, series of 1941, of the Secretary of Justice and with the practice consistently followed for nearly
ten years since the Constitution took effect on November 15, 1935.

"(c). During the effectivity of the Executive Agreement entered into between the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of the United States on July 4, 1946, in
pursuance of the so-called Parity Amendment to the Constitution, citizens of the United States and corporations or associations owned or controlled by such citizens are
deemed to have the same rights as citizens of the Philippines and corporations or associations owned or controlled by such are deemed to have the same rights as citizens
of the Philippines and corporations or associations owned or controlled by citizens of the Philippines in the acquisition of all classes of lands in the Philippines, whether
of private ownership or pertaining to the public domain."

ROMAN OZAETA
Secretary of Justice

Paragraph 5 of Circular No. 14 dated August 25, 1945, amended by the above is as follows:

Deeds or other documents by which a real property, or a right, or title thereto, or an interest therein, is transferred, assigned or encumbered to an alien, who is not enemy
national, may be entered in the primary entry book; but, the registration of said deeds or other documents shall be denied unless and/or until otherwise specifically
directed by a final decision or order of a competent court and the party in interest shall be advised of such denial, so that he could avail himself of the right to appeal
therefrom, under the provisions of section 200 of the Revised Administrative Code. The denial of registration of shall be predicated upon the prohibition contained in
section 5, Article XIII (formerly Article XII) of the Constitution of the Philippines, and sections 122 and 123 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, the former as amended by
the Commonwealth Act No. 615.

The polemic found echo even in the Olympic serenity of a cloistered Supreme Court and the final result of long and tense deliberation which ensued is concisely recorded in the
following resolution adopted on August 29, 1947:
In Krivenko vs. Register of Deeds, City of Manila, L-630, a case already submitted for decision, the appellant filed a motion to withdraw his appeal with the conformity
of the adverse party. After full discussion of the matter specially in relation to the Court's discretion (Rule 52, section 4, and Rule 58), Mr. Justice Paras, Mr. Justice
Hilado, Mr. Justice Bengzon, Mr. Justice Padilla and Mr. Justice Tuazon voted to grant, while the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Feria, Mr,. Justice Pablo, Mr. Justice
Perfecto and Mr. Justice Briones voted to deny it. A redeliberation was consequently had, with the same result. Thereupon Mr. Justice Paras proposed that Mr. Justice
Hontiveros be asked to sit and break the tie; but in view of the latter's absence due to illness and petition for retirement, the Court by a vote of seven to three did not
approve the proposition. Therefore, under Rule 56, section 2, the motion to withdraw is considered denied.

Mr. Justice Padilla states that in his opinion the tie could not have the effect of overruling the previous vote of seven against four in favor of the motion to withdraw.

Mr. Justice Paras states: Justice Hontiveros is aware of and conversant with the controversy. He has voted once on the motion to withdraw the appeal. He is still a
member of the Court and, on a moment's notice, can be present at any session of the Court. Last month, when all the members were present, the votes on the motion
stood 7 to 4. Now, in the absence of one member, on reconsideration, another changed his vote resulting in a tie. Section 2 of Rule 56 requires that all efforts be exerted
to break a deadlock in the votes. I deplore the inability of the majority to agree to my proposition that Mr. Justice Hontiveros be asked to participate in the resolution of
the motion for withdrawal. I hold it to be fundamental and necessary that the votes of all the members be taken in cases like this.

Mr. Justice Perfecto stated, for purposes of completeness of the narration of facts, that when the petition to withdraw the appeal was submitted for resolution of this Court
two days after this petition was filed, five justices voted to grant and five others voted to deny, and expressed the opinion that since then, according to the rules, the
petition should have been considered denied. Said first vote took place many days before the one alluded to by Mr. Justice Padilla.

Mr. Justice Tuason states: The motion to withdraw the appeal was first voted upon with the result that 5 were granting and 5 for denial. Mr. Justice Briones was absent
and it was decided to wait for him. Some time later, the same subject was deliberated upon and a new voting was had, on which occasion all the 11 justices were present.
The voting stood 7 for allowing the dismissal of the appeal and 4 against. Mr. Justice Perfecto and Mr. Justice Briones expressed the intention to put in writing their
dissents. Before these dissents were filed, about one month afterwards, without any previous notice the matter was brought up again and re-voted upon; the result was 5
to 5. Mr. Justice Hontiveros, who was ill but might have been able to attend if advised of the necessity of his presence, was absent. As the voting thus stood, Mr. Justice
Hontiveros' vote would have changed its result unless he changed his mind, a fact of which no one is aware. My opinion is that since there was no formal motion for
reconsideration nor a previous notice that this matter would be taken up once more, and since Mr. Justice Hontiveros had every reason to believe that the matter was over
as far as he was concerned, this Justice's vote in the penultimate voting should, if he was not to be given an opportunity to recast his vote, be counted in favor of the vote
for the allowance of the motion to withdraw. Above all, that opportunity should not have been denied on grounds of pure technicality never invoked before. I counted
that the proceeding was arbitrary and illegal.

The resolution does not recite all the reasons why Mr. Justice Hontiveros did not participate in that last two votings and why it became unnecessary to wait for him any further to
attend the sessions of the Court and to cast his vote on the question.

Appellant Krivenko moved for the reconsideration of the denial of his withdrawal of appeal, alleging that it became moot in view of the ruling made by the Secretary of Justice in
circular No. 128, thus giving us a hint that the latter, wittingly or unwittingly, had the effect of trying to take away from the Supreme Court the decision of an important
constitutional question, submitted to us in a pending litigation. We denied the motion for reconsideration. We did not want to entertain any obstruction to the promulgation of our
decision.
If the processes had in this case had been given the publicity suggested by us for all the official actuations of this Supreme Court, it should have been known by the whole world
that since July, 1946, that is, more than a year ago, the opinion of the members of this Court had already been crystallized to the effect that under the Constitution, aliens are
forbidded from acquiring urban lands in the Philippines, and it must have known that in this case a great majority had voted in that sense on February 24, 1947.

The constitutional question involved in this case cannot be left undecided without jeopardizing public interest. The uncertainty in the public mind should be dispelled without
further delay. While the doubt among the people as to what is the correct answer to the question remains to be dissipated, there will be uneasiness, undermining public morale and
leading to evils of unpredictable extent. This Supreme Tribunal, by overwhelming majority, already knows what the correct answer is, and should not withhold and keep it for
itself with the same zealousness with which the ancient families of the Eumolpides and Keryces were keeping the Eleusinian mysteries. The oracle of Delphus must speak so that
the people may know for their guidance what destiny has in store for them.

The great question as to whether the land bequeathed to us by our forefathers should remain as one of the most cherished treasures of our people and transmitted by inheritance to
unending generations of our race, is not a new one. The long chain of land-grabbing invasions, conquests, depredations, and colonial imperialism recorded in the darkest and
bloodiest pages of history from the bellicose enterprises of the Hittites in the plains of old Assyria, irrigated by the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates, and the invasion of Egypt by
the Hyksos, up to the conquests of Hernan Cortes and Pizarro, the achievements of Cecil Rhodes, and the formation of the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French and German
colonial empires, had many of its iron links forged in our soil since Magellan, the greatest navigator of all history, had set foot at Limasawa and paid, for his daring enterprises,
with his life at the hands of Lapulapu's men in the battle of Mactan.

Since then, almost four centuries ago, our people have continuously been engaged in an unrelentless struggle to defend the national patrimony against the aggressive onslaughts of
foreigners bent on grabbing our lands. First came the Spanish encomenderos and other gratuitous concessioners who were granted by the Spanish crown immense areas of land.
Immediately came the friars and other religious corporations who, notwithstanding their sacred vow of poverty, felt their greed whetted by the bountiful opportunities for easy and
unscrupulous enrichment. Taking advantage of the uncontrollable religious leadership, on one side, and of the Christian virtues of obedience, resignation, humility, and credulity of
a people who, after conversion to Catholicism, embraced with tacit faith all its tenets and practiced them with the loyalty and fidelity of persons still immune from the
disappointments and bitterness caused by the vices of modern civilization, the foreign religious orders set aside all compunction to acquire by foul means many large estates.
Through the practice of confession and other means of moral intimidation, mostly based on the eternal tortures of hell, they were able to obtain by donation or by will the lands of
many simple and credulous Catholics who, in order to conquer the eternal bliss of heaven, renounced all their property in favor of religious orders and priests, many under the
guise of chaplaincies or other apparently religious purposes, leaving in destitute their decendants and relatives. Thus big religious landed estates were formed, and under the system
unbearable iniquities were committed. The case of the family of Rizal is just an index of the situation, which, under the moral leadership of the hero, finally drove our people into a
national revolution not only against the Spanish sovereignty under which the social cancer had grown to unlimited proportions.

Profiting from the lessons of history, the Delegates to our Constitutional Convention felt it their duty to insert in the fundamental law effective guarantees for conserving the
national patrimony, the wisdom of which cannot be disputed in a world divided into nations and nationalities. In the same way that scientists and technicians resorted to radar,
sonars, thermistors and other long range detection devices to stave off far-away enemy attacks in war, said Delegates set the guarantees to ward off open inroads or devious
incursions into the national patrimony as a means of insuring racial safety and survival.

When the ideal of one world should have been translated into reality, those guarantees might not be needed and our people may eliminate them. But in the meantime, it is our
inescapable devoir, as the ultimate guardians of the Constitution, never to neglect the enforcement of its provisions whenever our action is called upon in a case, like the one now
before us.
One of the fundamental purposes of the government established by our Constitution is, in its very words, that it "shall conserve and develop the patrimony of the nation." That
mandate is addressed to all departments and branches of our government, without excluding this Supreme Court. To make more specific the mandate, Article XIII has been
inserted so as to avoid all doubt that all the natural resources of the country are reserved to Filipino citizens. Our land is the most important of our natural resources. That land
should be kept in the hands of our people until, by constitutional amendment, they should decide to renounce that age-long patrimony. Save by hereditary succession the only
exception allowed by the Constitution no foreigner may by any means acquire any land, any kind of land, in the Philippines. That was the overwhelming sentiment prevailing in
the Constitutional Convention, that was the overpowering desire of the great majority of the Delegates, that was the dominating thought that was intended to be expressed in the
great document, that was what the Committee on Style the drafter of the final text has written in the Constitution, and that was what was solemnly ratified in the plebiscite by
our people, who then were rankling by the sore spot of illegally Japanized Davao.

The urgency of settling once and forever the constitutional question raised in this case cannot be overemphasized. If we should decide this question after many urban lots
have been transferred to and registered in the name of alien purchasers, a situation may be created in which it will be hard to nullify the transfers and the nullification
may create complications and problems highly distasteful to solve. The Georgia case is an objective lesson upon which we can mirror ourselves. From pages 22 and 23
of the book of Charless P. Curtiss, Jr. entitled "Lions Under the Throne," we quote the following:

It is of interest that it seems to have happened chiefly in important cases. Fletcher vs. Peck, in 1810, is the stock example. That was the first case in which the Court held
a state statute void. It involved a national scandal. The 1795 legislature of Georgia sold its western lands, most of Alabama and Mississippi, to speculators. Perhaps it was
the greatest real estate steal in our history. The purchase price was only half a million dollars. The next legislature repealed the statute for fraud, the bribery of legislator,
but not before the land companies had completed the deal and unloaded. By that time, and increasingly soon afterwards, more and more people had bought, and their title
was in issue. Eleven million of the acres had been bought for eleven cents an acre by leading citizens of Boston. How could they clear their title? Alexander Hamilton
gave an opinion, that the repeal of the grant was void under the Constitution as an impairment of the obligation of a contract.

But could they not get a decision from the Supreme Court? Robert Fletcher of Anhirst, New Hampshire, had bought fifteen thousand acres from John Peck of Boston. He
sued Peck, and he won. Fletcher appealed. Plainly it was a friendly suit. Marshall was nobody's fool. He told Cranch that the Court was reluctant to decide the case "as it
appeared manifestly made up for the purpose of getting the Court's judgment." John Quincy Adams so reports in his diary. Yet Marshall decided it, and he held the repeal
void, just as Hamilton said it was. "The fact that Marshall rendered an opinion, under the circumstances," says Beveridge, "is one of the finest proofs of his greatness. A
weaker man than John Marshall, and one less wise and courageous, would have dismissed the appeal." That may be, but it was the act of a stateman, not of a judge. The
Court has always been able to overcome its judicial diffidence on state occasions.

We see from the above how millions of acres of land were stolen from the people of Georgia and due to legal technicalities the people were unable to recover the stolen property.
But in the case of Georgia, the lands had fallen into American hands and although the scandal was of gigantic proportions, no national disaster ensued. In our case if our lands
should fall into foreign hands, although there may not be any scandal at all, the catastrophe sought to be avoided by the Delegates to our Constitutional Convention will surely be
in no remote offing.

We conclude that, under the provisions of the Constitution, aliens are not allowed to acquire the ownership of urban or residential lands in the Philippines and, as consequence, all
acquisitions made in contravention of the prohibitions since the fundamental law became effective are null and void per se and ab initio. As all public officials have sworn, and are
duty bound, to obey and defend the Constitution, all those who, by their functions, are in charge of enforcing the prohibition as laid down and interpreted in the decision in this
case, should spare no efforts so that any and all violations which may have taken place should be corrected.
We decide, therefore, that, upon the above premises, appellant Alexander A. Krivenko, not being a Filipino citizen, could not acquire by purchase the urban or residential lot here
in question, the sale made in his favor by the Magdalena Estate, Inc. being null and void ab initio, and that the lower court acted correctly in rendering the appealed decision, which
we affirm.

HILADO, J., concurring:

Upon appellant's motion to withdraw his appeal herein with the conformity of the Solicitor General in behalf of appellee, indulging, at that time, all possible intendments in favor
of another department, I ultimately voted to grant the motion after the matter was finally deliberated and voted upon. But the votes of the ten Justices participating were evenly
divided, and under Rule 52, section 4, in relation, with Rule 56, section 2, the motion was denied. The resolution to deny was adopted in the exercise of the court's discretion under
Rule 52, section 4, by virtue of which it has discretion to deny the withdrawal of the appeal even though both appellant and appellee agree upon the withdrawal, when appellee's
brief has been filed. Under the principle that where the necessary number have concurred in an opinion or resolution, the decision or determination rendered is the decision or
determination of the court (2 C.J.S., 296), the resolution denying the motion to withdraw the appeal was the resolution of the court. Pursuant to Rule 56, section 2, where the
court in banc is equally divided in opinion, such a motion "shall be denied." As a necessary consequence, the court as to decide the case upon the merits.

After all, a consistent advocate and defender of the principle of separation of powers in a government like ours that I have always been, I think that under the circumstances it is
well for all concerned that the Court should go ahead and decide the constitutional question presented. The very doctrine that the three coordinate, co-equal and independent
departments should be maintained supreme in their respective legitimate spheres, makes it at once the right and duty of each to defend and uphold its own peculiar powers and
authority. Public respect for and confidence in each department must be striven for and kept, for any lowering of the respect and diminution of that confidence will in the same
measure take away from the very usefulness of the respective department to the people. For this reason, I believe that we should avert and avoid any tendency in this direction with
respect to this Court.

I am one of those who presume that Circular No. 128, dated August 12, 1947, of the Secretary of Justice, was issued in good faith. But at the same time, that declaration in sub-
paragraph (b) of paragraph 5 of Circular No. 14, which was already amended, to the effect that private residential, commercial, industrial or other classes of urban lands "are not
deemed included within the purview of the prohibition contained in section 5, Article XIII, of the Constitution", made at a time when the self-same question was pending decision
of this Court, gives rise to the serious danger that should this Court refrain from deciding said question and giving its own interpretation of the constitutional mandate, the people
may see in such an attitude an abandonment by this Court of a bounden duty, peculiarly its own, to decide a question of such a momentous transcedence, in view of an opinion,
given in advance of its own decision, by an officer of another department. This will naturally detract in no small degree from public respect and confidence towards the highest
Court of land. Of course, none of us the other governmental departments included would desire such a situation to ensue.

I have distinctively noticed that the decision of the majority is confined to the constitutional question here presented, namely, "whether or not an alien under our Constitution may
acquire residential land." (Opinion, p. 2) Leases of residential lands, or acquisition, ownership or lease of a house or building thereon, for example, are not covered by the decision.

With these preliminary remarks and the statement of my concurrence in the opinion ably written by the Chief Justice, I have signed said decision.
G.R. No. 108998 August 24, 1994

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,


vs.
THE COURT OF APPEALS AND SPOUSES MARIO B. LAPIA AND FLOR DE VEGA, respondents.

Byron V. Belarmino and Juan B. Belarmino for private respondents.

BIDIN, J.:

Can a foreign national apply for registration of title over a parcel of land which he acquired by purchase while still a citizen of the Philippines, from a vendor who has complied
with the requirements for registration under the Public Land Act (CA 141)?

The Republic would have us rule on the negative and asks this Court to nullify the decision of the appellate court which affirmed the judgment of the court a quo in granting the
application of respondent spouses for registration over the lots in question.

On June 17, 1978, respondent spouses bought Lots 347 and 348, Cad. s38-D, as their residence with a total area of 91.77 sq. m. situated in San Pablo City, from one Cristeta Dazo
Belen (Rollo, p. 41). At the time of the purchase, respondent spouses where then natural-born Filipino citizens.

On February 5, 1987, the spouses filed an application for registration of title of the two (2) parcels of land before the Regional Trial Court of San Pablo City, Branch XXXI. This
time, however, they were no longer Filipino citizens and have opted to embrace Canadian citizenship through naturalization.

An opposition was filed by the Republic and after the parties have presented their respective evidence, the court a quo rendered a decision confirming private respondents' title to
the lots in question, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, this Court hereby approves the said application and confirms the title and possession of herein applicants over Lots
347 and 348, Ap-04-003755 in the names of spouses Mario B. Lapia and Flor de Vega, all of legal age, Filipino citizens by birth but now Canadian citizens by
naturalization and residing at 14 A. Mabini Street, San Pablo City and/or 201-1170-124 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T5M-OK9, Canada.

Once this Decision becomes final, let the corresponding decree of registration be issued. In the certificate of title to be issued, there shall be annotated an
easement of .265 meters road right-of-way.

SO ORDERED. (Rollo, p. 25)

On appeal, respondent court affirmed the decision of the trial court based on the following ratiocination:
In the present case, it is undisputed that both applicants were still Filipino citizens when they bought the land in controversy from its former owner. For this
reason, the prohibition against the acquisition of private lands by aliens could not apply. In justice and equity, they are the rightful owners of the subject realty
considering also that they had paid for it quite a large sum of money. Their purpose in initiating the instant action is merely to confirm their title over the land,
for, as has been passed upon, they had been the owners of the same since 1978. It ought to be pointed out that registration is not a mode of acquiring
ownership. The Torrens System was not established as a means for the acquisition of title to private land. It is intended merely to confirm and register the title
which one may already have (Municipality of Victorias vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-31189, March 31, 1987). With particular reference to the main issue
at bar, the High Court has ruled that title and ownership over lands within the meaning and for the purposes of the constitutional prohibition dates back to the
time of their purchase, not later. The fact that the applicants-appellees are not Filipino citizens now cannot be taken against them for they were not disqualified
from acquiring the land in question (Bollozos vs. Yu Tieng Su, G.R. No. L-29442, November 11, 1987). (Rollo, pp. 27-28)

Expectedly, respondent court's disposition did not merit petitioner's approval, hence this present recourse, which was belatedly filed.

Ordinarily, this petition would have been denied outright for having been filed out of time had it not been for the constitutional issue presented therein.

At the outset, petitioner submits that private respondents have not acquired proprietary rights over the subject properties before they acquired Canadian citizenship through
naturalization to justify the registration thereof in their favor. It maintains that even privately owned unregistered lands are presumed to be public lands under the principle that
lands of whatever classification belong to the State under the Regalian doctrine. Thus, before the issuance of the certificate of title, the occupant is not in the jurisdical sense the
true owner of the land since it still pertains to the State. Petitioner further argued that it is only when the court adjudicates the land to the applicant for confirmation of title would
the land become privately owned land, for in the same proceeding, the court may declare it public land, depending on the evidence.

As found by the trial court:

The evidence thus presented established that applicants, by themselves and their predecessors-in-interest, had been in open, public, peaceful, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the two adjacent parcels of land applied for registration of title under a bona-fide claim of ownership long
before June 12, 1945. Such being the case, it is conclusively presumed that all the conditions essential to the confirmation of their title over the two adjacent
parcels of land are sought to be registered have been complied with thereby entitling them to the issuance of the corresponding certificate of title pursuant to
the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree. (Rollo, p. 26)

Respondent court echoed the court a quo's observation, thus:

The land sought to be registered has been declared to be within the alienable and disposable zone established by the Bureau of Forest Development (Exhibit
"P"). The investigation conducted by the Bureau of Lands, Natural Resources District (IV-2) reveals that the disputed realty had been occupied by the
applicants "whose house of strong materials stands thereon"; that it had been declared for taxation purposes in the name of applicants-spouses since 1979; that
they acquired the same by means of a public instrument entitled "Kasulatan ng Bilihang Tuluyan" duly executed by the vendor, Cristeta Dazo Belen, on June
17, 1978 (Exhibits "I" and "J"); and that applicants and their predecessors in interest had been in possession of the land for more than 30 years prior to the
filing of the application for registration. But what is of great significance in the instant case is the circumstance that at the time the applicants purchased the
subject lot in 1978, both of them were Filipino citizens such that when they filed their application for registration in 1987, ownership over the land in dispute
had already passed to them. (Rollo, p., 27)
The Republic disagrees with the appellate court's concept of possession and argues:

17. The Court of Appeals found that the land was declared for taxation purposes in the name of respondent spouses only since 1979. However, tax declarations
or reality tax payments of property are not conclusive evidence of ownership. (citing cases)

18. Then again, the appellate court found that "applicants (respondents) and their predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the land for more than 30
years prior to the filing of the application for registration." This is not, however, the same as saying that respondents have been in possession "since June 12,
1945." (PD No. 1073, amending Sec. 48 [b], CA NO. 141; sec. also Sec. 14, PD No. 1529). So there is a void in respondents' possession. They fall short of the
required possession since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto. And, even if they needed only to prove thirty (30) years possession prior to the filing of their
application (on February 5, 1987), they would still be short of the required possession if the starting point is 1979 when, according to the Court of Appeals, the
land was declared for taxation purposes in their name. (Rollo, pp. 14-15)

The argument is myopic, to say the least. Following the logic of petitioner, any transferee is thus foreclosed to apply for registration of title over a parcel of land notwithstanding
the fact that the transferor, or his predecessor-in-interest has been in open, notorious and exclusive possession thereof for thirty (30) years or more. This is not, however, what the
law provides.

As petitioner itself argues, Section 48 of the Public Land Act (CA 141) reads:

Sec. 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming interest therein, but whose titles have not been
perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their
claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of
agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the
application for confirmation of title except when prevented by wars or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the
conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. (Emphasis supplied)

As amended by PD 1073:

Sec. 4. The provisions of Section 48(b) and Section 48(c), Chapter VIII, of the Public Land Act are hereby amended in the sense that these provisions shall
apply only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain which have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by
the applicant himself or thru his predecessor-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, since June 12, 1945.

It must be noted that with respect to possession and occupation of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, the law employs the terms "by themselves", "the
applicant himself or through his predecessor-in-interest". Thus, it matters not whether the vendee/applicant has been in possession of the subject property for only a day so long as
the period and/or legal requirements for confirmation of title has been complied with by his predecessor-in-interest, the said period is tacked to his possession. In the case at bar,
respondents' predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the disputed land not only since June 12, 1945, but even as early as
1937. Petitioner does not deny this except that respondent spouses, in its perception, were in possession of the land sought to be registered only in 1978 and therefore short of the
required length of time. As aforesaid, the disputed parcels of land were acquired by private respondents through their predecessors-in-interest, who, in turn, have been in open and
continued possession thereof since 1937. Private respondents stepped into the shoes of their predecessors-in-interest and by virtue thereof, acquired all the legal rights necessary to
confirm what could otherwise be deemed as an imperfect title.

At this juncture, petitioner's reliance in Republic v. Villanueva (114 SCRA 875 [1982]) deserves scant consideration. There, it was held that before the issuance of the certificate of
title, the occupant is not in the juridical sense the true owner of the land since it still pertains to the State.

Suffice it to state that the ruling in Republic v. Villanueva (supra), has already been abandoned in the 1986 case of Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court (146 SCRA
509; and reiterated in Director of Lands v. Iglesia ni Cristo, 200 SCRA 606 [1991]) where the Court, through then Associate Justice, now Chief Justice Narvasa, declared that:

(The weight of authority is) that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public land for the period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction
whereby the land, upon completion of the requisite period ipso jure and without the need of judicial or other sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes
private property. . . .

Herico in particular, appears to be squarely affirmative:

. . . Secondly, under the provisions of Republic Act


No. 1942, which the respondent Court held to be inapplicable to the petitioner's case, with the latter's proven occupation and cultivation for
more than 30 years since 1914, by himself and by his predecessors-in-interest, title over the land has vested on petitioner so as to segregate
the land from the mass of public land. Thereafter, it is no longer disposable under the Public Land Act as by free patent . . .

xxx xxx xxx

As interpreted in several cases, when the conditions as specified in the foregoing provision are complied with, the possessor is deemed to
have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, a government grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The
land, therefore, ceases to be of the public domain and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. The application for
confirmation is mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and
the Torrens title to be issued upon the strength of said patent.

Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical inevitability of considering possession of public land which is of the character and duration prescribed by the
statute as the equivalent of an express grant from the State than the dictum of the statute itself (Section 48 [b]) that the possessor(s) ". . . shall be conclusively
presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title ..." No proof being admissible to
overcome a conclusive presumption, confirmation proceedings would, in truth be little more than a formality, at the most limited to ascertaining whether the
possession claims is of the required character and length of time; and registration thereunder would not confer title, but simply recognize a title already
vested. The proceedings would not originally convert the land from public to private land, but only confirm such a conversion already affected by operation of
law from the moment the required period of possession became complete. As was so well put in Cario, ". . .(There are indications that registration was
expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, wherever made, was not to
confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. (Emphasis supplied)

Subsequent cases have hewed to the above pronouncement such that open, continuous and exclusive possession for at least 30 years of alienable public land ipso jure converts the
same to private property (Director of Lands v. IAC, 214 SCRA 604 [1992]; Pineda v. CA, 183 SCRA 602 [1990]). This means that occupation and cultivation for more than 30
years by an applicant and his predecessors-in-interest, vest title on such applicant so as to segregate the land from the mass of public and (National Power Corporation v. CA, 218
SCRA 41 [1993]).

The Public Land Act requires that the applicant must prove that (a) the land is alienable public land and (b) his possession, in the concept above stated, must be either since time
immemorial or for the period prescribed in the Public Land Act (Director of Lands v. Buyco, 216 SCRA 78 [1992]). When the conditions set by law are complied with, the
possessor of the land, by operation of law, acquires a right to a grant, a government grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued (National Power Corporation v.
CA, supra). As such, the land ceases to be a part of the public domain and goes beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of.

In other words, the Torrens system was not established as a means for the acquisition of title to private land (Municipality of Victorias v. CA, 149 SCRA 32 [1987]). It merely
confirms, but does not confer ownership. As could be gleaned from the evidence adduced, private respondents were able to establish the nature of possession of their predecessors-
in-interest. Evidence was offered to prove that their predecessors-in-interest had paid taxes on the subject land and introduced improvements thereon (Exhibits "F" to "F9"). A
certified true copy of the affidavit executed by Cristeta Dazo and her sister Simplicia was also formally offered to prove that the subject parcels of land were inherited by vendor
Cristeta Dazo from her father Pedro Dazo with the conformity of her only sister Simplicia (Exhibit "G"). Likewise, a report from the Bureau of Lands was presented in evidence
together with a letter from the Bureau of Forest Development, to prove that the questioned lots were part of the alienable and disposable zone of the government and that no
forestry interest was affected (CA GR No. 28953, Records, p. 33).

In the main, petitioner seeks to defeat respondents' application for registration of title on the ground of foreign nationality. Accordingly, the ruling in Director of Lands v. Buyco
(supra) supports petitioner's thesis.

We disagree.

In Buyco, the applicants therein were likewise foreign nationals but were natural-born Filipino citizens at the time of their supposed acquisition of the property. But this is where
the similarity ends. The applicants in Buyco sought to register a large tract of land under the provisions of the Land Registration Act, and in the alternative, under the provisions of
the Public Land Act. The land registration court decided in favor of the applicants and was affirmed by the appellate court on appeal. The Director of Lands brought the matter
before us on review and we reversed.

This Court, speaking through Justice Davide, Jr., stated:

As could be gleaned from the evidence adduced, the private respondents do not rely on fee simple ownership based on a Spanish grant or possessory
information title under Section 19 of the Land Registration Act; the private respondents did not present any proof that they or their predecessors-in-interest
derived title from an old Spanish grant such as (a) the "titulo real" or royal grant (b) the "concession especial" or especial grant; (c) the "composicion con el
estado" title or adjustment title; (d) the "titulo de compra" or title by purchase; and (e) the "informacion posesoria" or possessory information title, which could
become a "titulo gratuito" or a gratuitous title (Director of Forestry v. Muoz, 23 SCRA 1183 [1968]). The primary basis of their claim is possession, by
themselves and their predecessors-in-interest, since time immemorial.

If indeed private respondents and their predecessors have been in possession since time immemorial, the rulings of both courts could be upheld for, as this
Court stated in Oh Cho v. Director of Lands (75 Phil. 890 [1946]):

. . . All lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain. An exception to the
rule would be any land that should have been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors in interest since time immemorial,
for such possession would justify the presumption that the land had never been part of the public domain or that if had been a private
property even before the Spanish conquest (Cario v. Insular Government, 41 Phil 935 [1909]; 212 U.S. 449; 53 Law. Ed., 594) The
applicant does not come under the exception, for the earliest possession of the lot by his first predecessor in interest began in 1880.

. . . alienable public land held by a possessor, personally or through his predecessors-in-interest, openly, continuously and exclusively for
the prescribed statutory period (30 years under the Public Land Act, as amended) is converted to private property by the mere lapse or
completion of said period, ipso jure. (Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, supra)

It is obvious from the foregoing rule that the applicant must prove that (a) the land is alienable public land and (b) his possession, in the concept above stated,
must be either since time immemorial, as ruled in both Cario and Susi, or for the period prescribed in the Public Land Act. As to the latter, this Court, in
Gutierrez Hermanos v. Court of Appeals (178 SCRA 37 [1989]), adopted the rule enunciated by the Court of Appeals, per then Associate Justice Hugo R.
Gutierrez, Jr., . . ., that an applicant for registration under Section 48 of the Public Land Act must secure a certification from the Government that the lands
which he claims to have possessed as owner for more than thirty (30) years are alienable and disposable. It is the burden of the applicant to prove its positive
averments.

In the instant case, private respondents offered no evidence at all to prove that the property subject of the application is an alienable and disposable land. On the
contrary, the entire property . . . was pasture land (and therefore inalienable under the then 1973 Constitution).

. . . (P)rivate respondents' evidence miserably failed to establish their imperfect title to the property in question. Their allegation of possession since time
immemorial, . . ., is patently baseless. . . . When referring to possession, specifically "immemorial possession," it means possession of which no man living has
seen the beginning, and the existence of which he has learned from his elders (Susi v. Razon, supra). Such possession was never present in the case of private
respondents. . . .

. . ., there does not even exist a reasonable basis for the finding that the private respondents and their predecessors-in-interest possessed the land for more than
eighty (80) years, . . .

xxx xxx xxx

To this Court's mind, private respondents failed to prove that (their predecessor-in-interest) had possessed the property allegedly covered by Tax Declaration
No. 15853 and made the subject of both his last will and testament and the project of partition of his estate among his heirs in such manner as to remove the
same from the public domain under the Cario and Susi doctrines. Thus, (when the predecessor-in-interest) died on 31 May 1937, he transmitted no right
whatsoever, with respect to the said property, to his heirs. This being the case, his possession cannot be tacked to that of the private respondents for the latter's
benefit pursuant to Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, the alternative ground relied upon in their application . . .

xxx xxx xxx

Considering that the private respondents became American citizens before such filing, it goes without saying that they had acquired no vested right, consisting
of an imperfect title, over the property before they lost their Philippine citizenship. (Emphasis supplied)

Clearly, the application in Buyco were denied registration of title not merely because they were American citizens at the time of their application therefor. Respondents therein
failed to prove possession of their predecessor-in-interest since time immemorial or possession in such a manner that the property has been segregated from public domain; such
that at the time of their application, as American citizens, they have acquired no vested rights over the parcel of land.

In the case at bar, private respondents were undoubtedly natural-born Filipino citizens at the time of the acquisition of the properties and by virtue thereof, acquired vested rights
thereon, tacking in the process, the possession in the concept of owner and the prescribed period of time held by their predecessors-in-interest under the Public Land Act. In
addition, private respondents have constructed a house of strong materials on the contested property, now occupied by respondent Lapias mother.

But what should not be missed in the disposition of this case is the fact that the Constitution itself allows private respondents to register the contested parcels of land in their favor.
Sections 7 and 8 of Article XII of the Constitution contain the following pertinent provisions, to wit:

Sec. 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.

Sec. 8. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this Article, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a
transferee of private lands, subject to limitations provided by law. (Emphasis supplied)

Section 8, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution above quoted is similar to Section 15, Article XIV of the then 1973 Constitution which reads:

Sec. 15. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 14 of this Article, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his citizenship may be a transferee
of private land, for use by him as his residence, as the Batasang Pambansa may provide.

Pursuant thereto, Batas Pambansa Blg. 185 was passed into law, the relevant provision of which provides:

Sec. 2. Any natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship and who has the legal capacity to enter into a contract under
Philippine laws may be a transferee of a private land up to a maximum area of one thousand square meters, in the case of urban land, or one hectare in the case
of rural land, to be used by him as his residence. In the case of married couples, one of them may avail of the privilege herein granted; Provided, That if both
shall avail of the same, the total area acquired shall not exceed the maximum herein fixed.
In case the transferee already owns urban or rural lands for residential purposes, he shall still be entitled to be a transferee of an additional urban or rural lands
for residential purposes which, when added to those already owned by him, shall not exceed the maximum areas herein authorized.

From the adoption of the 1987 Constitution up to the present, no other law has been passed by the legislature on the same subject. Thus, what governs the disposition of private
lands in favor of a natural-born Filipino citizen who has lost his Philippine citizenship remains to be BP 185.

Even if private respondents were already Canadian citizens at the time they applied for registration of the properties in question, said properties as discussed above were already
private lands; consequently, there could be no legal impediment for the registration thereof by respondents in view of what the Constitution ordains. The parcels of land sought to
be registered no longer form part of the public domain. They are already private in character since private respondents' predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous and
exclusive possession and occupation thereof under claim of ownership prior to June 12, 1945 or since 1937. The law provides that a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has
lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of a private land up to a maximum area of 1,000 sq.m., if urban, or one (1) hectare in case of rural land, to be used by him as his
residence (BP 185).

It is undisputed that private respondents, as vendees of a private land, were natural-born citizens of the Philippines. For the purpose of transfer and/or acquisition of a parcel of
residential land, it is not significant whether private respondents are no longer Filipino citizens at the time they purchased or registered the parcels of land in question. What is
important is that private respondents were formerly natural-born citizens of the Philippines, and as transferees of a private land, they could apply for registration in accordance with
the mandate of Section 8, Article XII of the Constitution. Considering that private respondents were able to prove the requisite period and character of possession of their
predecessors-in-interest over the subject lots, their application for registration of title must perforce be approved.

The dissenting opinion, however, states that the requirements in BP 185, must also be complied with by private respondents. Specifically, it refers to Section 6, which provides:

Sec. 6. In addition to the requirements provided for in other laws for the registration of titles to lands, no private land shall be transferred under this Act, unless
the transferee shall submit to the register of deeds of the province or city where the property is located a sworn statement showing the date and place of his
birth; the names and addresses of his parents, of his spouse and children, if any; the area, the location and the mode of acquisition of his landholdings in the
Philippines, if any; his intention to reside permanently in the Philippines; the date he lost his Philippine citizenship and the country of which he is presently a
citizen; and such other information as may be required under Section 8 of this Act.

The Court is of the view that the requirements in Sec. 6 of BP 185 do not apply in the instant case since said requirements are primarily directed to the register of deeds before
whom compliance therewith is to be submitted. Nowhere in the provision is it stated, much less implied, that the requirements must likewise be submitted before the land
registration court prior to the approval of an application for registration of title. An application for registration of title before a land registration court should not be confused with
the issuance of a certificate of title by the register of deeds. It is only when the judgment of the land registration court approving the application for registration has become final
that a decree of registration is issued. And that is the time when the requirements of Sec. 6, BP 185, before the register of deeds should be complied with by the applicants. This
decree of registration is the one that is submitted to the office of the register of deeds for issuance of the certificate of title in favor of the applicant. Prior to the issuance of the
decree of registration, the register of deeds has no participation in the approval of the application for registration of title as the decree of registration is yet to be issued.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED and the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C.J., Cruz, Feliciano, Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Quiason, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, and Mendoza, JJ.,concur.

Separate Opinions

CRUZ, J., dissenting:

With all due respect, I have to dissent.

The ponencia begins by posing the issue thus:

Can a foreign national apply for registration of title over a parcel of land which he acquired by purchase while still a citizen of the Philippines, from a vendor
who has complied with the requirements for registration under the Public Land Act (CA 141)?

There is no question that the property is private land and thus subject to registration by qualified persons. It was really needless to elaborate on Buyco, which is clearly inapplicable
here. We can agree that the ruling case is Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, which is not challenged in this petition.

But I think the ponencia misses the point. The finding that the respondent spouses were natural-born Filpinos at the time they acquired the land does not settle the question posed.

The important point is that the respondent spouses are no longer citizens of the Philippines but naturalized Canadians. It does not follow that because they were citizens of the
Philippines when they acquired the land, they can register it in their names now even if they are no longer Filipinos.

Section 7 of Article XII of the Constitution is irrelevant because it is not disputed that the respondent spouses were qualified to acquire the land in question when it was transferred
to them.

Section 8 of the same article is not applicable either because it speaks of a transfer of private land to a former natural-born citizen of the Philippines after he became a foreigner.

Thus it states:
Sec. 8. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this Article, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a
transferee of private lands, subject to limitations provided by law.

Even if it be assumed that the provision is applicable, it does not appear that the private respondents have observed "the limitations provided by law."

The ponencia finds that all the requisites for the registration of the land in the private respondents' name have been complied with. I do not believe so for there is no showing that
B.P. 185 has also been enforced.

The view has been expressed that we should confine ourselves to the requirements for registration under the Public Land Act. I respectfully submit that the requirements in B.P.
185 have been read into the Act and should also be applied.

Strict compliance is necessary because of the special privilege granted to former Filipinos who have become foreigners by their own choice. If we can be so strict with our own
citizens, I see no reason why we should be less so with those who have renounced our country.

Feliciano, J.: concurring

I agree with the great bulk of the majority opinion written by Mr. Justice Bidin and the result reached therein.

This separate statement is concerned only with the last two (2) paragraphs, just before the dispositive portion, of the majority opinion. In my view, it should be stressed that B.P.
Blg. 185 which took effect on 16 March 1982, does not purport to cover the set of facts before the Court in this case: i.e., the respondent spouses became transferees (on 17 June
1978) of the land here involved while they were natural-born Philippine citizens who happened sometime later to have been naturalized as citizens of another country. B.P. Blg.
185, as far as I can determine, addresses itself only to a situation of persons who were already foreign nationals at the time they became transferees of private land in the
Philippines, but who were previously natural-born Philippine citizens. It is difficult, therefore, to see how B.P. Blg. 185 can become applicable to the present situation even at the
subsequent time when the respondent spouses would come before the Register of Deeds. B.P. Blg. 185, especially Section 6 thereof, imposes certain requirements, including a
specific limitation on the quantity of land (not more than 1,000 square meters) which may be acquired thereunder, an amount limitation which must not be exceeded both by the
land of which such foreign national becomes transferee and by such land taken together with other land previously acquired by such foreign national. (2nd paragraph, Section 2,
B.P. Blg. 185)

B.P. Blg. 185 would, of course, apply to subsequent purchases of land by the respondent spouses, that is, purchases made after they were naturalized as Canadian nationals.

# Separate Opinions

CRUZ, J., dissenting:

With all due respect, I have to dissent.


The ponencia begins by posing the issue thus:

Can a foreign national apply for registration of title over a parcel of land which he acquired by purchase while still a citizen of the Philippines, from a vendor
who has complied with the requirements for registration under the Public Land Act (CA 141)?

There is no question that the property is private land and thus subject to registration by qualified persons. It was really needless to elaborate on Buyco, which is clearly inapplicable
here. We can agree that the ruling case is Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, which is not challenged in this petition.

But I think the ponencia misses the point. The finding that the respondent spouses were natural-born Filpinos at the time they acquired the land does not settle the question posed.

The important point is that the respondent spouses are no longer citizens of the Philippines but naturalized Canadians. It does not follow that because they were citizens of the
Philippines when they acquired the land, they can register it in their names now even if they are no longer Filipinos.

Section 7 of Article XII of the Constitution is irrelevant because it is not disputed that the respondent spouses were qualified to acquire the land in question when it was transferred
to them.

Section 8 of the same article is not applicable either because it speaks of a transfer of private land to a former natural-born citizen of the Philippines after he became a foreigner.

Thus it states:

Sec. 8. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this Article, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a
transferee of private lands, subject to limitations provided by law.

Even if it be assumed that the provision is applicable, it does not appear that the private respondents have observed "the limitations provided by law."

The ponencia finds that all the requisites for the registration of the land in the private respondents' name have been complied with. I do not believe so for there is no showing that
B.P. 185 has also been enforced.

The view has been expressed that we should confine ourselves to the requirements for registration under the Public Land Act. I respectfully submit that the requirements in B.P.
185 have been read into the Act and should also be applied.

Strict compliance is necessary because of the special privilege granted to former Filipinos who have become foreigners by their own choice. If we can be so strict with our own
citizens, I see no reason why we should be less so with those who have renounced our country.

Feliciano, J.: concurring


I agree with the great bulk of the majority opinion written by Mr. Justice Bidin and the result reached therein.

This separate statement is concerned only with the last two (2) paragraphs, just before the dispositive portion, of the majority opinion. In my view, it should be stressed that B.P.
Blg. 185 which took effect on 16 March 1982, does not purport to cover the set of facts before the Court in this case: i.e., the respondent spouses became transferees (on 17 June
1978) of the land here involved while they were natural-born Philippine citizens who happened sometime later to have been naturalized as citizens of another country. B.P. Blg.
185, as far as I can determine, addresses itself only to a situation of persons who were already foreign nationals at the time they became transferees of private land in the
Philippines, but who were previously natural-born Philippine citizens. It is difficult, therefore, to see how B.P. Blg. 185 can become applicable to the present situation even at the
subsequent time when the respondent spouses would come before the Register of Deeds. B.P. Blg. 185, especially Section 6 thereof, imposes certain requirements, including a
specific limitation on the quantity of land (not more than 1,000 square meters) which may be acquired thereunder, an amount limitation which must not be exceeded both by the
land of which such foreign national becomes transferee and by such land taken together with other land previously acquired by such foreign national. (2nd paragraph, Section 2,
B.P. Blg. 185)

B.P. Blg. 185 would, of course, apply to subsequent purchases of land by the respondent spouses, that is, purchases made after they were naturalized as Canadian nationals.

G.R. No. L-17587 September 12, 1967


PHILIPPINE BANKING CORPORATION, representing the estate of JUSTINA SANTOS Y CANON FAUSTINO, deceased, plaintiff-appellant,
vs.
LUI SHE in her own behalf and as administratrix of the intestate estate of Wong Heng, deceased, defendant-appellant.

Nicanor S. Sison for plaintiff-appellant.


Ozaeta, Gibbs & Ozaeta for defendant-appellant.

CASTRO, J.:

Justina Santos y Canon Faustino and her sister Lorenzo were the owners in common of a piece of land in Manila. This parcel, with an area of 2,582.30 square meters, is located on
Rizal Avenue and opens into Florentino Torres street at the back and Katubusan street on one side. In it are two residential houses with entrance on Florentino Torres street and the
Hen Wah Restaurant with entrance on Rizal Avenue. The sisters lived in one of the houses, while Wong Heng, a Chinese, lived with his family in the restaurant. Wong had been a
long-time lessee of a portion of the property, paying a monthly rental of P2,620.

On September 22, 1957 Justina Santos became the owner of the entire property as her sister died with no other heir. Then already well advanced in years, being at the time 90 years
old, blind, crippled and an invalid, she was left with no other relative to live with. Her only companions in the house were her 17 dogs and 8 maids. Her otherwise dreary existence
was brightened now and then by the visits of Wong's four children who had become the joy of her life. Wong himself was the trusted man to whom she delivered various amounts
for safekeeping, including rentals from her property at the corner of Ongpin and Salazar streets and the rentals which Wong himself paid as lessee of a part of the Rizal Avenue
property. Wong also took care of the payment; in her behalf, of taxes, lawyers' fees, funeral expenses, masses, salaries of maids and security guard, and her household expenses.

"In grateful acknowledgment of the personal services of the lessee to her," Justina Santos executed on November 15, 1957 a contract of lease (Plff Exh. 3) in favor of Wong,
covering the portion then already leased to him and another portion fronting Florentino Torres street. The lease was for 50 years, although the lessee was given the right to
withdraw at any time from the agreement; the monthly rental was P3,120. The contract covered an area of 1,124 square meters. Ten days later (November 25), the contract was
amended (Plff Exh. 4) so as to make it cover the entire property, including the portion on which the house of Justina Santos stood, at an additional monthly rental of P360. For his
part Wong undertook to pay, out of the rental due from him, an amount not exceeding P1,000 a month for the food of her dogs and the salaries of her maids.

On December 21 she executed another contract (Plff Exh. 7) giving Wong the option to buy the leased premises for P120,000, payable within ten years at a monthly installment of
P1,000. The option, written in Tagalog, imposed on him the obligation to pay for the food of the dogs and the salaries of the maids in her household, the charge not to exceed
P1,800 a month. The option was conditioned on his obtaining Philippine citizenship, a petition for which was then pending in the Court of First Instance of Rizal. It appears,
however, that this application for naturalization was withdrawn when it was discovered that he was not a resident of Rizal. On October 28, 1958 she filed a petition to adopt him
and his children on the erroneous belief that adoption would confer on them Philippine citizenship. The error was discovered and the proceedings were abandoned.

On November 18, 1958 she executed two other contracts, one (Plff Exh. 5) extending the term of the lease to 99 years, and another (Plff Exh. 6) fixing the term of the option of 50
years. Both contracts are written in Tagalog.
In two wills executed on August 24 and 29, 1959 (Def Exhs. 285 & 279), she bade her legatees to respect the contracts she had entered into with Wong, but in a codicil (Plff Exh.
17) of a later date (November 4, 1959) she appears to have a change of heart. Claiming that the various contracts were made by her because of machinations and inducements
practiced by him, she now directed her executor to secure the annulment of the contracts.

On November 18 the present action was filed in the Court of First Instance of Manila. The complaint alleged that the contracts were obtained by Wong "through fraud,
misrepresentation, inequitable conduct, undue influence and abuse of confidence and trust of and (by) taking advantage of the helplessness of the plaintiff and were made to
circumvent the constitutional provision prohibiting aliens from acquiring lands in the Philippines and also of the Philippine Naturalization Laws." The court was asked to direct the
Register of Deeds of Manila to cancel the registration of the contracts and to order Wong to pay Justina Santos the additional rent of P3,120 a month from November 15, 1957 on
the allegation that the reasonable rental of the leased premises was P6,240 a month.

In his answer, Wong admitted that he enjoyed her trust and confidence as proof of which he volunteered the information that, in addition to the sum of P3,000 which he said she
had delivered to him for safekeeping, another sum of P22,000 had been deposited in a joint account which he had with one of her maids. But he denied having taken advantage of
her trust in order to secure the execution of the contracts in question. As counterclaim he sought the recovery of P9,210.49 which he said she owed him for advances.

Wong's admission of the receipt of P22,000 and P3,000 was the cue for the filing of an amended complaint. Thus on June 9, 1960, aside from the nullity of the contracts, the
collection of various amounts allegedly delivered on different occasions was sought. These amounts and the dates of their delivery are P33,724.27 (Nov. 4, 1957); P7,344.42 (Dec.
1, 1957); P10,000 (Dec. 6, 1957); P22,000 and P3,000 (as admitted in his answer). An accounting of the rentals from the Ongpin and Rizal Avenue properties was also demanded.

In the meantime as a result of a petition for guardianship filed in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, the Security Bank & Trust Co. was appointed guardian of the
properties of Justina Santos, while Ephraim G. Gochangco was appointed guardian of her person.

In his answer, Wong insisted that the various contracts were freely and voluntarily entered into by the parties. He likewise disclaimed knowledge of the sum of P33,724.27,
admitted receipt of P7,344.42 and P10,000, but contended that these amounts had been spent in accordance with the instructions of Justina Santos; he expressed readiness to
comply with any order that the court might make with respect to the sums of P22,000 in the bank and P3,000 in his possession.

The case was heard, after which the lower court rendered judgment as follows:

[A]ll the documents mentioned in the first cause of action, with the exception of the first which is the lease contract of 15 November 1957, are declared null and void;
Wong Heng is condemned to pay unto plaintiff thru guardian of her property the sum of P55,554.25 with legal interest from the date of the filing of the amended
complaint; he is also ordered to pay the sum of P3,120.00 for every month of his occupation as lessee under the document of lease herein sustained, from 15 November
1959, and the moneys he has consigned since then shall be imputed to that; costs against Wong Heng.

From this judgment both parties appealed directly to this Court. After the case was submitted for decision, both parties died, Wong Heng on October 21, 1962 and Justina Santos
on December 28, 1964. Wong was substituted by his wife, Lui She, the other defendant in this case, while Justina Santos was substituted by the Philippine Banking Corporation.

Justina Santos maintained now reiterated by the Philippine Banking Corporation that the lease contract (Plff Exh. 3) should have been annulled along with the four other
contracts (Plff Exhs. 4-7) because it lacks mutuality; because it included a portion which, at the time, was in custodia legis; because the contract was obtained in violation of the
fiduciary relations of the parties; because her consent was obtained through undue influence, fraud and misrepresentation; and because the lease contract, like the rest of the
contracts, is absolutely simulated.

Paragraph 5 of the lease contract states that "The lessee may at any time withdraw from this agreement." It is claimed that this stipulation offends article 1308 of the Civil Code
which provides that "the contract must bind both contracting parties; its validity or compliance cannot be left to the will of one of them."

We have had occasion to delineate the scope and application of article 1308 in the early case of Taylor v. Uy Tieng Piao.1 We said in that case:

Article 1256 [now art. 1308] of the Civil Code in our opinion creates no impediment to the insertion in a contract for personal service of a resolutory condition permitting
the cancellation of the contract by one of the parties. Such a stipulation, as can be readily seen, does not make either the validity or the fulfillment of the contract
dependent upon the will of the party to whom is conceded the privilege of cancellation; for where the contracting parties have agreed that such option shall exist, the
exercise of the option is as much in the fulfillment of the contract as any other act which may have been the subject of agreement. Indeed, the cancellation of a contract in
accordance with conditions agreed upon beforehand is fulfillment. 2

And so it was held in Melencio v. Dy Tiao Lay 3 that a "provision in a lease contract that the lessee, at any time before he erected any building on the land, might rescind the lease,
can hardly be regarded as a violation of article 1256 [now art. 1308] of the Civil Code."

The case of Singson Encarnacion v. Baldomar 4 cannot be cited in support of the claim of want of mutuality, because of a difference in factual setting. In that case, the lessees
argued that they could occupy the premises as long as they paid the rent. This is of course untenable, for as this Court said, "If this defense were to be allowed, so long as
defendants elected to continue the lease by continuing the payment of the rentals, the owner would never be able to discontinue it; conversely, although the owner should desire the
lease to continue the lessees could effectively thwart his purpose if they should prefer to terminate the contract by the simple expedient of stopping payment of the rentals." Here,
in contrast, the right of the lessee to continue the lease or to terminate it is so circumscribed by the term of the contract that it cannot be said that the continuance of the lease
depends upon his will. At any rate, even if no term had been fixed in the agreement, this case would at most justify the fixing of a period5 but not the annulment of the contract.

Nor is there merit in the claim that as the portion of the property formerly owned by the sister of Justina Santos was still in the process of settlement in the probate court at the time
it was leased, the lease is invalid as to such portion. Justina Santos became the owner of the entire property upon the death of her sister Lorenzo on September 22, 1957 by force of
article 777 of the Civil Code. Hence, when she leased the property on November 15, she did so already as owner thereof. As this Court explained in upholding the sale made by an
heir of a property under judicial administration:

That the land could not ordinarily be levied upon while in custodia legis does not mean that one of the heirs may not sell the right, interest or participation which he has
or might have in the lands under administration. The ordinary execution of property in custodia legis is prohibited in order to avoid interference with the possession by
the court. But the sale made by an heir of his share in an inheritance, subject to the result of the pending administration, in no wise stands in the way of such
administration.6

It is next contended that the lease contract was obtained by Wong in violation of his fiduciary relationship with Justina Santos, contrary to article 1646, in relation to article 1941 of
the Civil Code, which disqualifies "agents (from leasing) the property whose administration or sale may have been entrusted to them." But Wong was never an agent of Justina
Santos. The relationship of the parties, although admittedly close and confidential, did not amount to an agency so as to bring the case within the prohibition of the law.
Just the same, it is argued that Wong so completely dominated her life and affairs that the contracts express not her will but only his. Counsel for Justina Santos cites the testimony
of Atty. Tomas S. Yumol who said that he prepared the lease contract on the basis of data given to him by Wong and that she told him that "whatever Mr. Wong wants must be
followed."7

The testimony of Atty. Yumol cannot be read out of context in order to warrant a finding that Wong practically dictated the terms of the contract. What this witness said was:

Q Did you explain carefully to your client, Doa Justina, the contents of this document before she signed it?

A I explained to her each and every one of these conditions and I also told her these conditions were quite onerous for her, I don't really know if I have expressed my
opinion, but I told her that we would rather not execute any contract anymore, but to hold it as it was before, on a verbal month to month contract of lease.

Q But, she did not follow your advice, and she went with the contract just the same?

A She agreed first . . .

Q Agreed what?

A Agreed with my objectives that it is really onerous and that I was really right, but after that, I was called again by her and she told me to follow the wishes of Mr.
Wong Heng.

xxx xxx xxx

Q So, as far as consent is concerned, you were satisfied that this document was perfectly proper?

xxx xxx xxx

A Your Honor, if I have to express my personal opinion, I would say she is not, because, as I said before, she told me "Whatever Mr. Wong wants must be followed."8

Wong might indeed have supplied the data which Atty. Yumol embodied in the lease contract, but to say this is not to detract from the binding force of the contract. For the
contract was fully explained to Justina Santos by her own lawyer. One incident, related by the same witness, makes clear that she voluntarily consented to the lease contract. This
witness said that the original term fixed for the lease was 99 years but that as he doubted the validity of a lease to an alien for that length of time, he tried to persuade her to enter
instead into a lease on a month-to-month basis. She was, however, firm and unyielding. Instead of heeding the advice of the lawyer, she ordered him, "Just follow Mr. Wong
Heng."9 Recounting the incident, Atty. Yumol declared on cross examination:

Considering her age, ninety (90) years old at the time and her condition, she is a wealthy woman, it is just natural when she said "This is what I want and this will be
done." In particular reference to this contract of lease, when I said "This is not proper," she said "You just go ahead, you prepare that, I am the owner, and if there is
any illegality, I am the only one that can question the illegality."10
Atty. Yumol further testified that she signed the lease contract in the presence of her close friend, Hermenegilda Lao, and her maid, Natividad Luna, who was constantly by her
side.11 Any of them could have testified on the undue influence that Wong supposedly wielded over Justina Santos, but neither of them was presented as a witness. The truth is that
even after giving his client time to think the matter over, the lawyer could not make her change her mind. This persuaded the lower court to uphold the validity of the lease contract
against the claim that it was procured through undue influence.

Indeed, the charge of undue influence in this case rests on a mere inference 12 drawn from the fact that Justina Santos could not read (as she was blind) and did not understand the
English language in which the contract is written, but that inference has been overcome by her own evidence.

Nor is there merit in the claim that her consent to the lease contract, as well as to the rest of the contracts in question, was given out of a mistaken sense of gratitude to Wong who,
she was made to believe, had saved her and her sister from a fire that destroyed their house during the liberation of Manila. For while a witness claimed that the sisters were saved
by other persons (the brothers Edilberto and Mariano Sta. Ana)13 it was Justina Santos herself who, according to her own witness, Benjamin C. Alonzo, said "very emphatically"
that she and her sister would have perished in the fire had it not been for Wong. 14 Hence the recital in the deed of conditional option (Plff Exh. 7) that "[I]tong si Wong Heng ang
siyang nagligtas sa aming dalawang magkapatid sa halos ay tiyak na kamatayan", and the equally emphatic avowal of gratitude in the lease contract (Plff Exh. 3).

As it was with the lease contract (Plff Exh. 3), so it was with the rest of the contracts (Plff Exhs. 4-7) the consent of Justina Santos was given freely and voluntarily. As Atty.
Alonzo, testifying for her, said:

[I]n nearly all documents, it was either Mr. Wong Heng or Judge Torres and/or both. When we had conferences, they used to tell me what the documents should contain.
But, as I said, I would always ask the old woman about them and invariably the old woman used to tell me: "That's okay. It's all right."15

But the lower court set aside all the contracts, with the exception of the lease contract of November 15, 1957, on the ground that they are contrary to the expressed wish of Justina
Santos and that their considerations are fictitious. Wong stated in his deposition that he did not pay P360 a month for the additional premises leased to him, because she did not
want him to, but the trial court did not believe him. Neither did it believe his statement that he paid P1,000 as consideration for each of the contracts (namely, the option to buy the
leased premises, the extension of the lease to 99 years, and the fixing of the term of the option at 50 years), but that the amount was returned to him by her for safekeeping. Instead,
the court relied on the testimony of Atty. Alonzo in reaching the conclusion that the contracts are void for want of consideration.

Atty. Alonzo declared that he saw no money paid at the time of the execution of the documents, but his negative testimony does not rule out the possibility that the considerations
were paid at some other time as the contracts in fact recite. What is more, the consideration need not pass from one party to the other at the time a contract is executed because the
promise of one is the consideration for the other.16

With respect to the lower court's finding that in all probability Justina Santos could not have intended to part with her property while she was alive nor even to lease it in its entirety
as her house was built on it, suffice it to quote the testimony of her own witness and lawyer who prepared the contracts (Plff Exhs. 4-7) in question, Atty. Alonzo:

The ambition of the old woman, before her death, according to her revelation to me, was to see to it that these properties be enjoyed, even to own them, by Wong Heng
because Doa Justina told me that she did not have any relatives, near or far, and she considered Wong Heng as a son and his children her grandchildren; especially her
consolation in life was when she would hear the children reciting prayers in Tagalog. 17
She was very emphatic in the care of the seventeen (17) dogs and of the maids who helped her much, and she told me to see to it that no one could disturb Wong Heng
from those properties. That is why we thought of the ninety-nine (99) years lease; we thought of adoption, believing that thru adoption Wong Heng might acquire
Filipino citizenship; being the adopted child of a Filipino citizen. 18

This is not to say, however, that the contracts (Plff Exhs. 3-7) are valid. For the testimony just quoted, while dispelling doubt as to the intention of Justina Santos, at the same time
gives the clue to what we view as a scheme to circumvent the Constitutional prohibition against the transfer of lands to aliens. "The illicit purpose then becomes the
illegal causa"19 rendering the contracts void.

Taken singly, the contracts show nothing that is necessarily illegal, but considered collectively, they reveal an insidious pattern to subvert by indirection what the Constitution
directly prohibits. To be sure, a lease to an alien for a reasonable period is valid. So is an option giving an alien the right to buy real property on condition that he is granted
Philippine citizenship. As this Court said in Krivenko v. Register of Deeds:20

[A]liens are not completely excluded by the Constitution from the use of lands for residential purposes. Since their residence in the Philippines is temporary, they may be
granted temporary rights such as a lease contract which is not forbidden by the Constitution. Should they desire to remain here forever and share our fortunes and
misfortunes, Filipino citizenship is not impossible to acquire.

But if an alien is given not only a lease of, but also an option to buy, a piece of land, by virtue of which the Filipino owner cannot sell or otherwise dispose of his property,21 this to
last for 50 years, then it becomes clear that the arrangement is a virtual transfer of ownership whereby the owner divests himself in stages not only of the right to enjoy the land
( jus possidendi, jus utendi, jus fruendi and jus abutendi) but also of the right to dispose of it ( jus disponendi) rights the sum total of which make up ownership. It is just as if
today the possession is transferred, tomorrow, the use, the next day, the disposition, and so on, until ultimately all the rights of which ownership is made up are consolidated in an
alien. And yet this is just exactly what the parties in this case did within the space of one year, with the result that Justina Santos' ownership of her property was reduced to a
hollow concept. If this can be done, then the Constitutional ban against alien landholding in the Philippines, as announced in Krivenko v. Register of Deeds,22 is indeed in grave
peril.

It does not follow from what has been said, however, that because the parties are in pari delicto they will be left where they are, without relief. For one thing, the original parties
who were guilty of a violation of the fundamental charter have died and have since been substituted by their administrators to whom it would be unjust to impute their guilt.23 For
another thing, and this is not only cogent but also important, article 1416 of the Civil Code provides, as an exception to the rule on pari delicto, that "When the agreement is not
illegal per se but is merely prohibited, and the prohibition by law is designed for the protection of the plaintiff, he may, if public policy is thereby enhanced, recover what he has
paid or delivered." The Constitutional provision that "Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private agricultural land shall be transferred or assigned except to individuals,
corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines"24 is an expression of public policy to conserve lands for the Filipinos. As
this Court said in Krivenko:

It is well to note at this juncture that in the present case we have no choice. We are construing the Constitution as it is and not as we may desire it to be. Perhaps the
effect of our construction is to preclude aliens admitted freely into the Philippines from owning sites where they may build their homes. But if this is the solemn mandate
of the Constitution, we will not attempt to compromise it even in the name of amity or equity . . . .

For all the foregoing, we hold that under the Constitution aliens may not acquire private or public agricultural lands, including residential lands, and, accordingly,
judgment is affirmed, without costs.25
That policy would be defeated and its continued violation sanctioned if, instead of setting the contracts aside and ordering the restoration of the land to the estate of the deceased
Justina Santos, this Court should apply the general rule of pari delicto. To the extent that our ruling in this case conflicts with that laid down in Rellosa v. Gaw Chee Hun 26 and
subsequent similar cases, the latter must be considered as pro tanto qualified.

The claim for increased rentals and attorney's fees, made in behalf of Justina Santos, must be denied for lack of merit.

And what of the various amounts which Wong received in trust from her? It appears that he kept two classes of accounts, one pertaining to amount which she entrusted to him from
time to time, and another pertaining to rentals from the Ongpin property and from the Rizal Avenue property, which he himself was leasing.

With respect to the first account, the evidence shows that he received P33,724.27 on November 8, 1957 (Plff Exh. 16); P7,354.42 on December 1, 1957 (Plff Exh. 13); P10,000 on
December 6, 1957 (Plff Exh. 14) ; and P18,928.50 on August 26, 1959 (Def. Exh. 246), or a total of P70,007.19. He claims, however, that he settled his accounts and that the last
amount of P18,928.50 was in fact payment to him of what in the liquidation was found to be due to him.

He made disbursements from this account to discharge Justina Santos' obligations for taxes, attorneys' fees, funeral services and security guard services, but the checks (Def Exhs.
247-278) drawn by him for this purpose amount to only P38,442.84. 27 Besides, if he had really settled his accounts with her on August 26, 1959, we cannot understand why he still
had P22,000 in the bank and P3,000 in his possession, or a total of P25,000. In his answer, he offered to pay this amount if the court so directed him. On these two grounds,
therefore, his claim of liquidation and settlement of accounts must be rejected.

After subtracting P38,442.84 (expenditures) from P70,007.19 (receipts), there is a difference of P31,564 which, added to the amount of P25,000, leaves a balance of
P56,564.3528 in favor of Justina Santos.

As to the second account, the evidence shows that the monthly income from the Ongpin property until its sale in Rizal Avenue July, 1959 was P1,000, and that from the Rizal
Avenue property, of which Wong was the lessee, was P3,120. Against this account the household expenses and disbursements for the care of the 17 dogs and the salaries of the 8
maids of Justina Santos were charged. This account is contained in a notebook (Def. Exh. 6) which shows a balance of P9,210.49 in favor of Wong. But it is claimed that the rental
from both the Ongpin and Rizal Avenue properties was more than enough to pay for her monthly expenses and that, as a matter of fact, there should be a balance in her favor. The
lower court did not allow either party to recover against the other. Said the court:

[T]he documents bear the earmarks of genuineness; the trouble is that they were made only by Francisco Wong and Antonia Matias, nick-named Toning, which was
the way she signed the loose sheets, and there is no clear proof that Doa Justina had authorized these two to act for her in such liquidation; on the contrary if the result
of that was a deficit as alleged and sought to be there shown, of P9,210.49, that was not what Doa Justina apparently understood for as the Court understands her
statement to the Honorable Judge of the Juvenile Court . . . the reason why she preferred to stay in her home was because there she did not incur in any debts . . . this
being the case, . . . the Court will not adjudicate in favor of Wong Heng on his counterclaim; on the other hand, while it is claimed that the expenses were much less than
the rentals and there in fact should be a superavit, . . . this Court must concede that daily expenses are not easy to compute, for this reason, the Court faced with the
choice of the two alternatives will choose the middle course which after all is permitted by the rules of proof, Sec. 69, Rule 123 for in the ordinary course of things, a
person will live within his income so that the conclusion of the Court will be that there is neither deficit nor superavit and will let the matter rest here.

Both parties on appeal reiterate their respective claims but we agree with the lower court that both claims should be denied. Aside from the reasons given by the court, we think
that the claim of Justina Santos totalling P37,235, as rentals due to her after deducting various expenses, should be rejected as the evidence is none too clear about the amounts
spent by Wong for food29 masses30 and salaries of her maids.31 His claim for P9,210.49 must likewise be rejected as his averment of liquidation is belied by his own admission that
even as late as 1960 he still had P22,000 in the bank and P3,000 in his possession.

ACCORDINGLY, the contracts in question (Plff Exhs. 3-7) are annulled and set aside; the land subject-matter of the contracts is ordered returned to the estate of Justina Santos as
represented by the Philippine Banking Corporation; Wong Heng (as substituted by the defendant-appellant Lui She) is ordered to pay the Philippine Banking Corporation the sum
of P56,564.35, with legal interest from the date of the filing of the amended complaint; and the amounts consigned in court by Wong Heng shall be applied to the payment of rental
from November 15, 1959 until the premises shall have been vacated by his heirs. Costs against the defendant-appellant.

Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Makalintal, Bengzon, J.P., Zaldivar, Sanchez and Angeles, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions

FERNANDO, J., concurring:

With the able and well-written opinion of Justice Castro, I am in full agreement. The exposition of the facts leaves nothing to be desired and the statement of the law is notable for
its comprehensiveness and clarity. This concurring opinion has been written solely to express what I consider to be the unfortunate and deplorable consequences of applying
the pari delicto concept, as was, to my mind, indiscriminately done, to alien landholding declared illegal under the Krivenko doctrine in some past decisions.

It is to be remembered that in Krivenko v. The Register of Deeds of Manila,1 this Court over strong dissents held that residential and commercial lots may be considered
agricultural within the meaning of the constitutional provision prohibiting the transfer of any private agricultural land to individuals, corporations or associations not qualified to
acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines save in cases of hereditary succession.

That provision of the Constitution took effect on November 15, 1935 when the Commonwealth Government was established. The interpretation as set forth in
the Krivenko decision was only handed down on November 15, 1947. Prior to that date there were many who were of the opinion that the phrase agricultural land should be
construed strictly and not be made to cover residential and commercial lots. Acting on that belief, several transactions were entered into transferring such lots to alien vendees by
Filipino-vendors.

After the Krivenko decision, some Filipino vendors sought recovery of the lots in question on the ground that the sales were null and void. No definite ruling was made by this
Court until September of 1953, when on the 29th of said month, Rellosa v. Gaw Chee Hun,2 Bautista v. Uy Isabelo,3 Talento v. Makiki,4 Caoile v. Chiao Peng5 were decided.
Of the four decisions in September, 1953, the most extensive discussion of the question is found in Rellosa v. Gaw Chee Hun, the opinion being penned by retired Justice Bautista
Angelo with the concurrence only of one Justice, Justice Labrador, also retired. Former Chief Justice Paras as well as the former Justices Tuason and Montemayor concurred in the
result. The necessary sixth vote for a decision was given by the then Justice Bengzon, who had a two-paragraph concurring opinion disagreeing with the main opinion as to the
force to be accorded to the two cases,6 therein cited. There were two dissenting opinions by former Justices Pablo and Alex Reyes. The doctrine as announced in the Rellosa case is
that while the sale by a Filipino-vendor to an alien-vendee of a residential or a commercial lot is null and void as held in the Krivenko case, still the Filipino-vendor has no right to
recover under a civil law doctrine, the parties being in pari delicto. The only remedy to prevent this continuing violation of the Constitution which the decision impliedly sanctions
by allowing the alien vendees to retain the lots in question is either escheat or reversion. Thus: "By following either of these remedies, or by approving an implementary law as
above suggested, we can enforce the fundamental policy of our Constitution regarding our natural resources without doing violence to the principle of pari delicto."7

Were the parties really in pari delicto? Had the sale by and between Filipino-vendor and alien-vendee occurred after the decision in the Krivenko case, then the above view would
be correct that both Filipino-vendor and alien-vendee could not be considered as innocent parties within the contemplation of the law. Both of them should be held equally guilty
of evasion of the Constitution.

Since, however, the sales in question took place prior to the Krivenko decision, at a time when the assumption could be honestly entertained that there was no constitutional
prohibition against the sale of commercial or residential lots by Filipino-vendor to alien-vendee, in the absence of a definite decision by the Supreme Court, it would not be doing
violence to reason to free them from the imputation of evading the Constitution. For evidently evasion implies at the very least knowledge of what is being evaded. The new Civil
Code expressly provides: "Mistakes upon a doubtful or difficult question of law may be the basis of good faith." 8

According to the Rellosa opinion, both parties are equally guilty of evasion of the Constitution, based on the broader principle that "both parties are presumed to know the law."
This statement that the sales entered into prior to the Krivenko decision were at that time already vitiated by a guilty knowledge of the parties may be too extreme a view. It appears
to ignore a postulate of a constitutional system, wherein the words of the Constitution acquire meaning through Supreme Court adjudication.1awphl.nt

Reference may be made by way of analogy to a decision adjudging a statute void. Under the orthodox theory of constitutional law, the act having been found unconstitutional was
not a law, conferred no rights, imposed no duty, afforded no protection. 9 As pointed out by former Chief Justice Hughes though in Chicot County Drainage District v. Baxter State
Bank:10 "It is quite clear, however, that such broad statements as to the effect of a determination of unconstitutionality must be taken with qualifications. The actual existence of a
statute, prior to such a determination, is an operative fact and may have consequences which cannot justly be ignored. The past cannot always be erased by a new judicial
declaration. The effect of subsequent ruling as to invalidity may have to be considered in various aspects, with respect to particular relations, individual and corporate, and
particular conduct, private and official. Questions of rights claimed to have become vested, of status, of prior determinations deemed to have finality and acted upon accordingly,
of public policy in the light of the nature both of the statute and of its previous application, demand examination."

After the Krivenko decision, there is no doubt that continued possession by alien-vendee of property acquired before its promulgation is violative of the Constitution. It is as if an
act granting aliens the right to acquire residential and commercial lots were annulled by the Supreme Court as contrary to the provision of the Constitution prohibiting aliens from
acquiring private agricultural land.

The question then as now, therefore, was and is how to divest the alien of such property rights on terms equitable to both parties. That question should be justly resolved in
accordance with the mandates of the Constitution not by a wholesale condemnation of both parties for entering into a contract at a time when there was no ban as yet arising from
the Krivenko decision, which could not have been anticipated. Unfortunately, under the Rellosa case, it was assumed that the parties, being in pari delicto, would be left in the
situation in which they were, neither being in a position to seek judicial redress.
Would it not have been more in consonance with the Constitution, if instead the decision compelled the restitution of the property by the alien-vendee to the Filipino-vendor?
Krivenko decision held in clear, explicit and unambigous language that: "We are deciding the instant case under section 5 of Article XIII of the Constitution which is more
comprehensive and more absolute in the sense that it prohibits the transfer to aliens of any private agricultural land including residential land whatever its origin might have been . .
. . This prohibition [Rep. Act No. 133] makes no distinction between private lands that are strictly agricultural and private lands that are residential or commercial. The prohibition
embraces the sale of private lands of any kind in favor of aliens, which is again a clear implementation and a legislative interpretation of the constitutional prohibition. . . . It is well
to note at this juncture that in the present case we have no choice. We are construing the Constitution as it is and not as we may desire it to be. Perhaps the effect of our
construction is to preclude aliens, admitted freely into the Philippines, from owning sites where they may build their homes. But if this is the solemn mandate of the Constitution,
we will not attempt to compromise it even in the name of amity or equity." 11

Alien-vendee is therefore incapacitated or disqualified to acquire and hold real estate. That incapacity and that disqualification should date from the adoption of the Constitution on
November 15, 1935. That incapacity and that disqualification, however, was made known to Filipino-vendor and to alien-vendee only upon the promulgation of
the Krivenko decision on November 15, 1947. Alien-vendee, therefore, cannot be allowed to continue owning and exercising acts of ownership over said property, when it is
clearly included within the Constitutional prohibition. Alien-vendee should thus be made to restore the property with its fruits and rents to Filipino-vendor, its previous owner, if it
could be shown that in the utmost good faith, he transferred his title over the same to alien-vendee, upon restitution of the purchase price of course.

The Constitution bars alien-vendees from owning the property in question. By dismissing those suits, the lots remained in alien hands. Notwithstanding the solution of escheat or
reversion offered, they are still at the moment of writing, for the most part in alien hands. There have been after almost twenty years no proceedings for escheat or reversion.

Yet it is clear that an alien-vendee cannot consistently with the constitutional provision, as interpreted in the Krivenko decision, continue owning and exercising acts of ownership
over the real estate in question. It ought to follow then, if such a continuing violation of the fundamental law is to be put an end to, that the Filipino-vendor, who in good faith
entered into, a contract with an incapacitated person, transferring ownership of a piece of land after the Constitution went into full force and effect, should, in the light of the ruling
in the Krivenko case, be restored to the possession and ownership thereof, where he has filed the appropriate case or proceeding. Any other construction would defeat the ends and
purposes not only of this particular provision in question but the rest of the Constitution itself.

The Constitution frowns upon the title remaining in the alien-vendees. Restoration of the property upon payment of price received by Filipino vendor or its reasonable equivalent
as fixed by the court is the answer. To give the constitutional provision full force and effect, in consonance with the dictates of equity and justice, the restoration to Filipino-vendor
upon the payment of a price fixed by the court is the better remedy. He thought he could transfer the property to an alien and did so. After the Krivenko case had made clear that he
had no right to sell nor an alien-vendee to purchase the property in question, the obvious solution would be for him to reacquire the same. That way the Constitution would be
given, as it ought to be given, respect and deference.

It may be said that it is too late at this stage to hope for such a solution, the Rellosa opinion, although originally concurred in by only one justice, being too firmly imbedded. The
writer however sees a welcome sign in the adoption by the Court in this case of the concurring opinion of the then Justice, later Chief Justice, Bengzon. Had it been followed then,
the problem would not be still with us now. Fortunately, it is never too late not even in constitutional adjudication.