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PROPERTY RULES

Yours but mine

/ 12:08 AM November 19, 2016

After a whirlwind courtship, Luke Hunter, a foreigner, lived with the Cebu born, Dalisay Moreno without the benefit of marriage.

Luke Hunter bought a lot in Meycauyan, Bulacan. The parcel of land was eventually registered in the name of Dalisay. Several months after, Luke Hunter financed the construction of their love nest.

Few years later, Luke Hunter, sensing that something was amiss, demanded that Dalisay execute a contract of lease to define their respective rights over the property.

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Under their agreement, Luke Hunter would rent the lot for a period of 50 years, to be automatically renewed for another 50 years upon its expiration, for the amount of P40,000 for the whole term of the lease, and Dalisay as the lessor is prohibited from selling, donating, or mortgaging the lot without the consent of Luke Hunter.

In the evening of Valentine’s day, Luke Hunter saw Dalisay kissing their driver, Manong Jerry, under the super moon. Soon, curses in two languages filled the bright night.

Claiming that he is the one entitled to the physical possession of the Meycauyan property, Luke Hunter sent Dalisay Moreno a letter demanding that she vacate the property. As a result of her failure to heed the demand, Luke Hunter filed a complaint for unlawful detainer against Dalisay before the MCTC.

Q: What is a lease contract?

A: In the lease of things, one of the parties binds himself to give to another the enjoyment or use of a thing for a price certain, and for a period which may be definite or indefinite. However, no lease for more than ninety-nine years shall be valid. (Art. 1643, Civil Code)

Q: Is the lease contract agreement executed by Luke Hunter and Dalisay valid?

A: No, it is void.

The constitutional prohibition on the transfer and sale of private lands to alien also covers leases of lands amounting to the transfer of all or substantially all the rights of dominion.

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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. (Fullido vs. Grilli, G.R. No. 215014, February 29, 2016)

Q: Can Dalisay Moreno be ejected from the property?

A: No. The lease contract from which Luke Hunter purportedly drew his right of possession, is null and void for being unconstitutional. A contract that violates the Constitution and the law is null and void ab initio and vests no rights and creates no obligations. It produces no legal effect at all. Hence, as void contracts could not be the source of rights, Luke Hunter had no possessory right over the subject land. A person who does not have any right over a property from the beginning cannot eject another person possessing the same. Consequently, Luke Hunter’s complaint for unlawful detainer must be dismissed for failure to prove his cause of action. (Fullido vs. Grilli, G.R. No. 215014, February 29, 2016)

Q: When will a lease contract in favor of aliens be considered as valid?

A: 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. Aliens are not completely excluded by the Constitution from 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 fortune and misfortune, Filipino citizenship is not impossible to acquire. (Llantino vs. Co Liong Chiong, G.R. No. L-29663 August 20, 1990)

Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis is currently the Dean of College of Law, Lyceum of the Philippines University; and President of Philippine Association of Law Schools

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