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The petitioner is the Holy See who exercises sovereignty over the Vatican City in Rome, Italy,
and is represented in the Philippines by the Papal Nuncio; Private respondent Starbright Sales Enterprises,
Inc., (Starbright) is a domestic corporation engaged in the real estate business.
The petition arose from a controversy over a parcel of land consisting of 6,000 square meters
located in Paranaque, Metro Manila, and is registered in the name of the petitioner. Said lot was
contiguous to two other lots registered in the name of Philippine Realty Corporation (PRC). These lots
were sold to Ramon Licup, through Domingo Cirilos, acting as agent to the sellers. Licup then assigned
his rights to Starbright. The squatters in the lots refused to vacate the premises. A dispute arose as to who
between the parties has the responsibility of evicting and clearing the land of squatters.
Whether or not the Holy See is immune from suit insofar as its business relations regarding
selling a lot to a private entity
The Court held that the Holy See is immune from suit. The act of selling the lot of concern is
non-proprietary in nature since the lot was acquired through a donation from the Archdiocese of Manila.
Such donation was made not for a commercial purpose but for the use of the Holy See to construct the
official place of residence of the Papal Nuncio. The right of a foreign sovereign to acquire property, real
or personal, in a receiving state, necessary for the creation and maintenance of its diplomatic mission, is
recognized in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. This treaty was concurred in by the
Philippine Senate and entered into force in the Philippines. According to Art. 31(a) of the Convention, a
diplomatic envoy is granted immunity from civil and administrative jurisdiction of the receiving state
over any real action relating to private immovable property situated in the territory of the receiving state
which the envoy holds on behalf of the sending state for the purposes of the mission.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also certified that the embassy of the Holy See is a
duly accredited diplomatic missionary to the Republic of the Philippines and is thus exempted from local
jurisdiction and is entitled to the immunity rights of a diplomatic mission or embassy in this court.
The transfer of the property and its subsequent disposal are likewise clothed with governmental
character. The lot was not sold for profit or gain. The petitioner merely wanted to dispose the lot because
the squatters living there made it almost impossible for the petitioner to use it for the purpose of the