This is the issue discussed by the Supreme Court in the case of Borromeo vs. Descallar, G.R. No. 159310, February 24, 2009.

The facts as stated in the decision are:

Jambrich, an Austrian arrived in the Philippines in 1983 being assigned in the country and was transferred to Cebu and met and fell in love with a separated Filipina [ herein referred to as respondent ], with two kids and who had no means of livelihood. Thereafter they bought their house and lots but the Register of Deeds refused registration of the Deed of Absolute Sale on the ground that Jambrich was an alien and could not acquire alienable lands of the public domain and therefore his name was erased and the titles issued in the name of the Filipina.

In 1986, Jambrich sold his rights and interests in the said property to a Filipino buyer, Borromeo, [ the petitioner in this case ] to pay for his debt but when Borromeo sought to register the deed of assignment, he discovered that the titles to the lots have been transferred in the name of the Filipina and that the same had been mortgaged.

The buyer, Borromeo then filed a complaint for recovery of the properties. The Filipina girlfiriend claimed that she bought it with her own funds and that Jambrich being a foreigner, was not entitled to own land in the Philippines. The Regional Trial Court rendered a decision in favour of the buyer and declared him to be the owner of the properties since the facts show that the Filipina had no means of livelihood or funds to have bought the property.

The Filipina appealed and the decision was reversed by the Court of Appeals stating that the foreigner, Jambrich, could not have acquired land being a foreigner.

The buyer, Borromeo, appealed by way of petition to the Supreme Court which stated the issues :

1. Who purchased the subject properties?

2. What is the effect of registration of the properties in the name of the Filipina?

In upholding the decision of the lower court, the Supreme Court stated:

The evidence presented showed that Jambrich had all the authority to transfer all his rights, interests and participation in the subject properties by virtue of the Deed of Assignment to the buyer, Borromeo, as it was shown that the funds to purchase the properties came from Jambrich, who was therefore the true buyer of the property, and,

“ Further, the fact that the disputed properties were acquired during the couple’s cohabitation does not help respondent. The rule that co-ownership applies to a man and a woman living exclusively with each other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage, but are otherwise capacitated to marry each other does not apply. In the instant case, the respondent was still legally married to another when she and Jambrich lived together. In such adulterous relationship, no co-ownership exists between the parties. It is necessary for each of the partners to prove his or her actual contribution in the acquisition of property in order to be able to lay claim to any portion of it. Presumptions of co-ownership and equal contribution does not apply.”

As to the registration of the properties in the name of the Filipina, the Supreme Court said,

“It is settled that registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership. It is only a means of confirming the fact of its existence with notice to the world at large. Certificates of title are not a source of right. The mere possession of a title does not make one the true owner of the property x x x x x x This is the situation in the instant case. Respondent did not contribute a single centavo in the acquisition of the properties. She had no income of her own at that time, nor did she have any savings. She and her two sons were then fully supported by Jambrich.”

As to the capacity of Jambrich, being an alien, to acquire land, the Supreme Court said,

‘ xxxx the transfer of land xxx to Jambrich, who is an Austrian, would have been declared invalid if challenged, had not Jambrich conveyed the properties to petitioner who is a Filipino citizen. xxxxxx

The rationale behind the Court’s ruling in United Church Board for World Ministries, as reiterated in subsequent cases, is this – since the ban on aliens is intended to preserve the nation’s land for future generations of Filipinos, that aim is achieved by making lawful the acquisition of real estate by aliens who became Filipino citizens by naturalization or those transfers made by aliens to Filipino citizens. As the property in dispute is already in the hands of a qualified person, a Filipino citizen, there would be no more public policy to be protected. The objective of the constitutional provision to keep our lands in Filipino hands has been achieved.”


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