On June 30, 1988, Benjamin Taylor (Benjamin), a British subject, married Joselyn Taylor , a 17-year old Filipina. On June 9, 1989, while their marriage was subsisting, Joselyn bought a 1,294 square-meter lot in Boracay, for and in consideration of P129,000.00. The sale was allegedly financed by Benjamin. They constructed improvements thereon and eventually converted the property to a vacation and tourist resort, also using Benjamin’s funds.
All required permits and licenses for the operation of the resort were obtained in the name of Ginna Celestino, Joselyn’s sister. However, Benjamin and Joselyn had a falling out, and Joselyn ran away with Kim Philippsen.
Joselyn executed a Special Power of Attorney (SPA) in favor of Benjamin, authorizing the latter to maintain, sell, lease, and sub-lease and otherwise enter into contract with third parties with respect to their Boracay property. On July 20, 1992, Joselyn as lessor and petitioner Philip Matthews as lessee, entered into an Agreement of Lease involving the Boracay property for a period of 25 years, with an annual rental of P12,000.00. The agreement was signed by the parties and executed before a Notary Public. Petitioner thereafter took possession of the property and renamed the resort.
Claiming that the Agreement was null and void since it was entered into by Joselyn without his (Benjamin’s) consent, Benjamin instituted an action for Declaration of Nullity of Agreement of Lease with Damages against Joselyn and the petitioner. Benjamin claimed that his funds were used in the acquisition and improvement of the Boracay property, and coupled with the fact that he was Joselyn’s husband, any transaction involving said property required his consent.
Can an alien husband nullify a lease contract entered into by his Filipina wife bought during their marriage?
The rule is clear and inflexible: aliens are absolutely not allowed to acquire public or private lands in the Philippines, save only in constitutionally recognized exceptions. There is no rule more settled than this constitutional prohibition, as more and more aliens attempt to circumvent the provision by trying to own lands through another.
In a long line of cases, we have settled issues that directly or indirectly involve the above constitutional provision. We had cases where aliens wanted that a particular property be declared as part of their father’s estate; that they be reimbursed the funds used in purchasing a property titled in the name of another; that an implied trust be declared in their (aliens’) favor; and that a contract of sale be nullified for their lack of consent.
Benjamin has no right to nullify the Agreement of Lease between Joselyn and petitioner. Benjamin, being an alien, is absolutely prohibited from acquiring private and public lands in the Philippines. Considering that Joselyn appeared to be the designated “vendee” in the Deed of Sale of said property, she acquired sole ownership thereto. This is true even if we sustain Benjamin’s claim that he provided the funds for such acquisition. By entering into such contract knowing that it was illegal, no implied trust was created in his favor; no reimbursement for his expenses can be allowed; and no declaration can be made that the subject property was part of the conjugal/community property of the spouses.
In any event, he had and has no capacity or personality to question the subsequent lease of the Boracay property by his wife on the theory that in so doing, he was merely exercising the prerogative of a husband in respect of conjugal property. To sustain such a theory would countenance indirect controversion of the constitutional prohibition. If the property were to be declared conjugal, this would accord the alien husband a substantial interest and right over the land, as he would then have a decisive vote as to its transfer or disposition. This is a right that the Constitution does not permit him to have.