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Godinez v Fong Pak Luen

Facts:

On September 30, 1966, the plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Court of


First Instance of Sulu alleging among others that they are the heirs of Jose
Godinez who was married to Martina Alvarez Godinez sometime in 1910;
that during the marriage of their parents the said parents acquired a
parcel of land lot No. 94 of Jolo townsite with an area of 3,665 square
meters as evidenced by Original Certificate of Title No. 179 (D -155) in the
name of Jose Godinez; that their mother died sometime in 1938 leaving
the plaintiffs as their sole surviving heirs
that on November 27, 1941, without the knowledge of the plaintiffs, the
said Jose Godinez, for valuable consideration, sold the aforesaid parcel of
land to the defendant Fong Pak Luen, a Chinese citizen, which transaction
is contrary to law
on January 11, 1963, said defendant Fong Pak Luen executed a power of
attorney in favor of his co-defendant Kwan Pun Ming, also an alien, who
conveyed and sold the above described parcel of land to co-defendant
Trinidad S. Navata, who is aware of and with full knowledge that Fong Pak
Luen is a Chinese citizen as well as Kwan Pun Ming, who under the law are
prohibited and disqualified to acquire real property in this jurisdiction
that since one-half of the said property is conjugal property inherited by
the plaintiffs from their mother, Jose Godinez could -not have legally
conveyed the entire property
that notwithstanding repeated demands on said defendant to surrender to
plaintiffs the said property she refused and still refuses to do so to the
great damage and prejudice of the plaintiffs
The plaintiffs thus pray that they be adjudged as the owners of the parcel
of land in question and that Transfer Certificate of Title RT-90 (T-884)
issued in the name of defendant Fong Pak Luen be declared null and
void ab initio; and that the power of attorney issued in the name of Kwan
Pun Ming, as well as Transfer Certificate of Title No. 'L322 issued in the
name of defendant Navata be likewise declared null and void
On August 18, 1966, the defendant Register of Deeds filed an answer
claiming that he was not yet the register of deeds then; that it was only
the ministerial duty of his office to issue the title in favor of the defendant
Navata once he was determined the registerability of the documents
presented to his office
On October 20, 1966, the defendant Navata filed her answer with the
affirmative defenses and counterclaim alleging among others that the
complaint does not state a cause of action since it appears from the
allegation that the property is registered in the name of Jose Godinez so
that as his sole property he may dispose of the same;

On December 2, 196 7, the court issued an order as follows:

Both parties having agreed to the suggestion of the Court that they
submit their supplemental pleadings to support both motion and
opposition and after submittal of the same the said motion to dismiss
which is an affirmative defense alleged in the complaint is deemed
submitted. Failure of both parties or either party to submit their
supplemental pleadings on or about December 9, the Court will resolve
the case. On November 29, 1968, the trial court issued an order missing
the complaint without pronouncement as to costs

Issue:

whether or not the heirs of a person who sold a parcel of land to an alien
in violation of a constitutional prohibition may recover the property if it
had, in the meantime, been conveyed to a Filipino citizen qualified to own
and possess it

Held:

There can be no dispute that the sale in 1941 by Jose Godinez of his
residential lot acquired from the Bureau of Lands as part of the Jolo
townsite to Fong Pak Luen, a Chinese citizen residing in Hongkong, was
violative of Section 5, Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution

The Krivenko ruling that "under the Constitution aliens may not acquire
private or agricultural lands, including residential lands" is a declaration of
an imperative constitutional policy. Consequently, prescription may never
be invoked to defend that which the Constitution prohibits

neither can the vendor or his heirs rely on an argument based on


imprescriptibility because the land sold in 1941 is now in the hands of a
Filipino citizen against whom the constitutional prescription was never
intended to apply. The lower court erred in treating the case as one
involving simply the application of the statute of limitations

From the fact that prescription may not be used to defend a contract
which the Constitution prohibits, it does not necessarily follow that the
appellants may be allowed to recover the property sold to an alien As
earlier mentioned, Fong Pak Luen, the disqualified alien vendee later sold
the same property to Trinidad S. Navata, a Filipino citizen qualified to
acquire real property.

Herrera v. Luy Kim Guan (SCRA 406) reiterated the above ruling by
declaring that where land is sold to a Chinese citizen, who later sold it to a
Filipino, the sale to the latter cannot be impugned.

Only recently, in Sarsosa vda. de Barsobia v. Cuenco (113 SCRA 547) we had
occasion to pass upon a factual situation substantially similar to the one in the
instant case. We ruled:

But the factual set-up has changed. The litigated property is now in the
hands of a naturalized Filipino. It is no longer owned by a disqualified
vendee. Respondent, as a naturalized citizen, was constitutionally
qualified to own the subject property. There would be no more public
policy to be served in allowing petitioner Epifania to recover the land as it
is already in the hands of a qualified person.

Laches has been defined as the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable


and unexplained length of time, to do that which by exercising due
diligence could or should have been done earlier; it is negligence or
ommission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a
presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or
declined to assert it

Respondent, therefore, must be declared to be the rightful owner of the


property

Respondent Navata, the titled owner of the property is declared the


rightful owner.

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is hereby denied. The orders dismissing


the complaint and denying the motion for reconsideration are affirmed.

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