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Consti I: Art. XII Sec.

8 (Exemption for
Former Filipino Citizens; citizenship at time of
Republic v. CA acquisition; read with Retention and
280
Reacquisition Law)
G.R. No. 108998 August 24, 1994 BIDIN, J.: Matt Ledesma
Petitioners: Respondents:
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES THE COURT OF APPEALS AND SPOUSES
MARIO B. LAPIÑA AND FLOR DE VEGA,
Recit Ready Summary

Spouses de Vega purchased a lot in San Pablo City. At the time of the purchase, respondent spouses
where then natural-born Filipino citizens. They then filed an application for registration of title of the two
(2) parcels of land. 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.
RTC ruled in favour of the spouses. CA affirmed.

This issue before the court is W/N a foreigner may apply for registration of title over a parcel of
land which he acquired by purchase while still a citizen of the Philippines? – YES

The SC affirmed the lower courts decision stating that Sec 8 of the Constitution provides:
“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.”

The law applicaple here is BP 185 which allows any person who was a former Filipino citizen to be a
transferee of land not exceeding a certain area. In this case, the spouses were obviously Natural-Born
Citizens when they purchased the land, therefore, they may be allowed to register it regardless if they
are no longer Filipino Citizens.

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.
Facts
1. On June 17, 1978, the respondent Spouses, Mario Lapiña and Flor De Vega, bought 2 lots (total
area = 91.77sqm) in San Pablo City from one Cristeta Belen.
2. In 1987, the spouses filed an application for registration of title for the 2 lots they bought in 1978.
This time, however, they had already been naturalized as Canadian Citizens.
3. The petitioners, Republic, filed an opposition to the registration. The petitioners ground their
argument on the fact that the spouses have only been in open, continuous, notorious, and
exclusive possession of the land since 1978, and not since June 12, 1945 (which is required by
law). They also anchor their argument on the fact that the Spouses are Canadian Citizens.
4. The Trial Court approved the registration, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision. Hence,
the case was brought before the SC.
Issues: Ruling
1. W/N the spouses have been in open, continuous, notorious, and 1. YES.
exclusive possession of the land since June 12, 1945? 2. YES.
2. W/N a foreigner may apply for registration of title over a parcel of land
which he acquired by purchase while still a citizen of the Philippines?
*PERTINENT ISSUE*

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Rationale

1. The spouses have been in open, continuous, notorious, and exclusive possession of the
land
- The Republic argues that the spouses could not have been in open, continuous, notorious,
and exclusive possession of the land since 1945, since they only purchased the lands in
1978. Even, if they possessed the qualifications of an applicant, they still fall short in the
possession requirement.
- The SC said this argument is untenable. If this followed, literally all transferees of
unregistered lands after 1945 or for less than 30 years, would be prohibited from registering
the land. But this is not what the law provides. The law provides that the person “himself” or
his “predecessors-in-interest” have been in open, continuous, notorious and exclusive
possession for 30 years or since 1945.
- In this case, even if the spouses only acquired the land in 1978, their predecessors in interest
have possessed the land since 1937. Thus, they qualify.
2. The spouses may apply for the registriation of the title of the parcel of land
- The Republic cites the case of Director of Lands v .Buyco . This case involved the foreign
nationals who acquired the land they sought to register while they were still Natural-Born
Filipinos. The spouses in Buyco were denied registration. However, the denial was not
because of their foreign citizenship, but rather it was the fact that the spouses could not
prove that their predecessors-in-interest had possessed the land since time immemorial.
- 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 Lapiñas mother.
- Sec 7 and 8 of the Constitution provide:
o 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.
o 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) (same
as Sec 15 of Art XIV of the 1973 Consti)
- BP 185 was passed pursuant thereto:
o 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
o 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.
o 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.

- Upon the adoption of the 1987 Consti, there has been no law which repealed or amended
BP 185. This means, BP 185 applies in this case.
- 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

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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.

Disposition

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

SO ORDERED.

Separate Opinions

Cruz, J., Dissenting


Cruz point out that Sec 8 of Art XII applies to a situation where land was acquired AFTER the person
had become a foreigner. Which is why it should not apply. Cruz says that all the requirements in BP
185 have not been met.

Feliciano, J., Concurring


Feliciano argues that BP 185 cannot apply since the law talks about when property is acquired AFTER
they have become foreign citizens. But he says that they may register the land, since they purchased it
as natural-born Filipino citizens.