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G.R. No.

101949
238 SCRA 524
December 1, 1994
Petitioner: The Holy See
Respondent: Hon. Elidberto Rosario, Jr., in his capacity as Presiding Judge of RTC
Makati, Branch 61 and Starbright Sales Enterprises, Inc.
Facts:
Petition for certiorari is filled to reverse and set aside the Orders of the Regional Trial
Court of Makati, Manila in Civil Case No. 90-183. The Holy See exercises soverenity
over Vatican and is represented Philippines by the Papal Nuncio while the
respondent is engaged in the real estate business. The petition arouse from a
controversy over a parcel of land consisting of 6,000 sq.m. (Lot 5-A) located in the
Municipality of Paraaque and registered in the name of the petitioner. The Lot 5-a
is nearby to Lots 5-B and 5-D which are registered to Philippine Realty Corporation.
Three lots were sold to Ramon Licup. In view of the refusal of the squatters to
vacate the lots sold, a dispute arose as to who of the parties has the responsibility
of evicting and clearing the land of squatters. Complicating the relations of the
parties was the sale by petitioner of the lot of concern to Tropicana. Respondent
Starbright Sales Enterprises Inc. claims that Holy See should be the one to clear the
property while Holy See says that respondent corporation should do it or the earnest
money will be returned and Msgr. Cirilios, the agent, subsequently returned the
P100, 000 earnest money. The same lots were then sold to Tropicana Properties and
Development Corporation.
Starbright Sales Enterprises, Inc. filed a suit for annulment of the Deeds of sale
against the PRC and the Tropicana, the reconveyance of the lots in question and
specific performance and damages against Msgr. Cirilios and the owner of the lots.
The Holy See and Msgr. Cirilos moved to dismiss the petition for lack of jurisdiction
based on sovereign immunity from suit. RTC denied the motion on ground that
petitioner already "shed off" its sovereign immunity by entering into a business
contract. The subsequent Motion for Reconsideration was also denied hence this
special civil action for certiorari was forwarded to the Supreme Court.
Issue:
Whether the Holy See can invoke sovereign immunity only on its own behalf and on
behalf of its official representative, the Papal Nuncio.
Held:
The petition for certiorari was hereby GRANTED and the complaint in Civil Case No.
90-183 against petitioner was DISMISSED. The Court held that Holy See may

properly invoke sovereign immunity for its non-suability. As expressed in Sec. 2 Art II
of the 1987 Constitution, we have generally accepted principles of International Law
are adopted by our Courts and thus shall form part of the laws of the land as a
condition and consequence of our admission in the society of nations.
It was noted in Article 31(A) of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations
that diplomatic envoy shall be granted immunity from civil and administrative
jurisdiction of the receiving state over any real action relating to private immovable
property. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) 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 transaction of the petitioner having bought and sold lands in the ordinary
course of real estate business can be categorized as an act of jure gestionis.
However, petitioner has denied that the acquisition and subsequent disposal of the
lot were made for profit but claimed that it acquired said property for the site of its
mission or the Apostolic Nunciature in the Philippines. The act of selling the lot of
concern is non-propriety in nature making The Holy See immune from suit. The lot
was acquired through a donation from the Archdiocese of Manila for the use of
petitioner to construct the official place of residence of the Papal Nuncio, the Holy
Sees Ambassador, not for a commercial purpose. The transfer of the property and
its subsequent disposal are likewise clothed with a governmental (non-proprietal)
character as petitioner sold the lot not for profit or gain rather because it merely
cannot remove the squatters living in said property.

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