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Jul 27, 2010

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

  • PRIVATE INTERNATIONAL LAW: Before determining whether it is domestic or foreign law that should be applied, one must first determine whether a conflict of laws situation exists.


The Roppongi Property is one of the four properties in Japan acquired by the Philippine government under the Reparations Agreement, as part of the indemnification to the Filipino people for their losses in life and property and their suffering during WWII. The Roppongi property became the site of the Philippine Embassy until the latter was transferred to another site when the Roppongi building needed major repairs. Due to the failure of our government to provide necessary funds, the Roppongi property has remained undeveloped since that time. After many years, the Aquino administration advanced the sale of the reparation properties, which included the Roppongi lot. This move was opposed on the ground that the Roppongi property is public in character. For their part, the proponents of the sale raised that Japanese law should apply, following the doctrine of lex loci rei sitae.

ISSUE: Whether or not the conflict of law rule on lex loci rei sitae should apply


We see no reason why a conflict of law rule 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 (See Salonga, Private International Law, 1981 ed., pp. 377-383); 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.

In the instant case, 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.

The assertion that the opinion of the Secretary of Justice sheds light on the relevance of the lex situs rule is misplaced. The opinion does not tackle the alienability of the real properties procured through reparations nor the existence in what body of the authority to sell them. In discussing who are capable of acquiring the lots, the Secretary merely explains that it is the foreign law which should determine who can acquire the properties so that the constitutional limitation on acquisition of lands of the public domain to Filipino citizens and entities wholly owned by Filipinos is inapplicable. We see no point in belaboring whether or not this opinion is correct. Why should we discuss who can acquire the Roppongi lot when there is no showing that it can be sold?


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