G.R. No. 215014, 29 February 2016, 785 SCRA 278
Grilli, an Italian national, met Fullido in Bohol and courted her. Grilli decided to build a residential house where he and Fullido would to stay whenever he would be vacationing in the country. Grilli financially assisted Fullido in procuring a lot from her parents which was registered in her name On the said property, they constructed a house, which was funded by Grilli. Upon completion, they maintained a common-law relationship and lived there whenever Grilli was on vacation in the Philippines twice a year. Grilli and Fullido executed a contract of lease a memorandum of agreement and a special power of attorney to define their respective rights over the house and lot.
The lease contract stipulated, among others, that Grilli as the lessee, would rent the lot, registered in the name of Fullido, for a period of fifty (50) years, to be automatically renewed for another fifty (50) years upon its expiration; and that Fullido as the lessor, was prohibited from selling, donating, or encumbering the said lot without the written consent of Grilli. The MOA, on the other hand, stated, among others, that Grilli paid for the purchase price of the house and lot; that ownership of the house and lot was to reside with him; and that should the common-law relationship be terminated, Fullido could only sell the house and lot to whomever Grilli so desired.
Lastly, the SPA allowed Grilli to administer, manage, and transfer the house and lot on behalf of Fullido. Initially, their relationship was harmonious, but it turned sour after 16 years of living together. Both charged each other with infidelity. They could not agree who should leave the common property, and Grilli sent formal letters to Fullido demanding that she vacate the property, but these were unheeded. Grilli filed a complaint for unlawful detainer with prayer for issuance of preliminary injunction against Fullido The MCTC dismissed the case after finding that Fullido could not be ejected from their house and lot. The MCTC opined that she was a co-owner of the house as she contributed to it by supervising its construction. RTC reversed and set aside the MCTC decision CA upheld the decision of the RTC emphasizing that in an ejectment case, the only issue to be resolved would be the physical possession of the property. Hence, this petition.
Whether or not Grilli has the right to possess the property by virtue of the Contract of Lease.
No. The lease contract and the MOA circumvent the constitutional restraint against foreign ownership of lands. Hence, it is null and void. Under Section 1 of Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution, natural resources shall not be alienated, except with respect to public agricultural lands and in such cases, the alienation is limited to Filipino citizens.
Concomitantly, Section 5 thereof states 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. The prohibition, however, is not limited to the sale of lands to foreigners. It also covers leases of lands amounting to the transfer of all or substantially all the rights of dominion. Where a scheme to circumvent the Constitutional prohibition against the transfer of lands to aliens is readily revealed as the purpose for the contracts, then the illicit purpose becomes the illegal cause rendering the contracts void.
Thus, 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, 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 but also of the right to dispose of it — rights which constitute ownership.
If this can be done, then the Constitutional ban against alien landholding in the Philippines, is indeed in grave peril. Based on the above-cited constitutional, legal and jurisprudential limitations, the Court finds that the lease contract and the MOA in the present case are null and void for virtually transferring the reigns of the land to a foreigner.
*Case digest by Stephanie C. Castillo, JD-IV, Andres Bonifacio College, SY: 2019-2020