Salvador H. Laurel vs. Ramon Garcia.

G.R. No. 92013, July 25, 1990.


President Aquino issued Executive Order No. 296 entitling non-Filipino citizens or entities to avail of reparations’ capital goods and services in the event of sale, lease or disposition. The subject property in this case is the Roppongi property which is one of the four (4) properties in Japan acquired by the Philippine government under the Reparations Agreement. The properties and the capital goods and services procured from the Japanese government for national development projects are part of the indemnification to the Filipino people for their losses in life and property and their suffering during World War II. The property has twice been set for bidding. 

The petitioners filed petitions for prohibition to enjoin the respondents from proceeding with the bidding for the sale of the Roppongi property. The following grounds are provided

  1. the Roppongi property comes under “property intended for public service” as provided in Article 420 of the Civil Code; therefore being one of public dominion, no ownership by any one can attach to it, not even by the State. It cannot be alienated nor be the subject matter of contracts.

ART. 420. The following things are property of public dominion:

“(1)Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges constructed by the State, banks, shores, roadsteads, and others of similar character;

“(2)Those which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or for the development of the national wealth.

  1. Executive Order No. 296 contravenes the constitutional mandate to conserve and develop the national patrimony stated in the Preamble. 

The respondents contended that 

  1. The subject property is not governed by our Civil Code but by the laws of Japan where the property is located. They rely upon the rule of lex situs which is used in determining the applicable law regarding the acquisition, transfer and devolution of the title to a property. 
  2. Even if the Civil Code is applicable, the Roppongi property has ceased to become property of public dominion. It has become patrimonial property because it has not been used for public service or for diplomatic purposes for over thirteen (13) years


(1) Whether the Roppongi property and others of its kind be alienated by the Philippine Government

(2) Whether the Japanese law and not our Civil Code should apply in the sale of Roppongi property. 

(3) the Chief Executive, her officers and agents, have the authority and jurisdiction, to sell the Roppongi property


(1) As property of public dominion, the Roppongi lot is outside the commerce of man. It cannot be alienated. Its ownership is a special collective ownership for general use and enjoyment, an application to the satisfaction of collective needs, and resides in the social group. The purpose is not to serve the State as a juridical person, but the citizens; it is intended for the common and public welfare and cannot be the object of appropriation.

The Roppongi property is correctly classified under paragraph 2 of Article 420 of the Civil Code as property belonging to the State and intended for some public service.

The fact that the Roppongi site has not been used for a long time for actual Embassy service does not automatically convert it to patrimonial property. A property continues to be part of the public domain, not available for private appropriation or ownership “until there is a formal declaration on the part of the government to withdraw it from being such

Abandonment of the intention to use the Roppongi property for public service and to make it patrimonial property under Article 422 of the Civil Code must be definite. Abandonment cannot be inferred from the non-use alone especially if the non-use was attributable not to the government’s own deliberate and indubitable will but to a lack of financial support to repair and improve the property (See Heirs of Felino Santiago v. Lazaro, 166 SCRA 368 [1988]). Abandonment must be a certain and positive act based on correct legal premises. 

(2) The Japanese law—its coverage and effects, when enacted, and exceptions to its provisions—is not presented to the Court. It is simply asserted that the lex loci rei sitae or Japanese law should apply without stating what that law provides. It is assumed on faith that Japanese law would allow the sale.

There is no conflict of law rule that should apply when no conflict of law situation exists. A conflict of law situation arises only when: (1) There is a dispute over the title or ownership of an immovable, such that the capacity to take and transfer immovables, the formalities of conveyance, the essential validity and effect of the transfer, or the interpretation and effect of a conveyance, are to be determined and (2) A foreign law on land ownership and its conveyance is asserted to conflict with a domestic law on the same matters. Hence, the need to determine which law should apply.

None of the above elements exists. The issues are not concerned with validity of ownership or title. There is no question that the property belongs to the Philippines. The issue is the authority of the respondent officials to validly dispose of property belonging to the State. And the validity of the procedures adopted to effect its sale. This is governed by Philippine Law. The rule of lex situs does not apply.

(3) It is not for the President to convey valuable real property of the government on his or her own sole will. Any such conveyance must be authorized and approved by a law enacted by the Congress. It requires executive and legislative concurrence.

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