De Lima files resolution urging PRRD, Congress to halt efforts to sell government properties in Japan

Published October 8, 2020, 12:03 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima has filed a resolution calling on President  Duterte and Congress to terminate all present efforts to sell the country’s real estate properties in Japan.

Senator Leila de Lima

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 535 saying that selling these properties would “diminish the historical significance” of these assets and “rid our future generations of yet another reminder of the bravery of our forefathers in defending our country against seemingly insurmountable forces during World War II.”

“To insist on selling the Japan properties first before resorting to other properties of the Philippine government speaks more of the interests of those pushing to buy the said properties more than that of the Filipino people,” De Lima stated in the resolution.

“The President and Congress must resist any efforts to sell these properties and preserve the same for our future generations to celebrate and enjoy,” she stressed.

The Philippine government was able to acquire four properties in Tokyo and Kobe under the war reparation agreement with Japan on May 9, 1956 — the Roponggi and the Nampeidai property in Tokyo and a commercial and a residential property in Kobe.

Duterte had earlier justified the need to sell the country’s assets in Tokyo and Kobe as a stopgap measure to prevent PhilHealth from going bankrupt.

The President bared his plans only after Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. disclosed that there are plans to use the proceeds from the proposed sale as a “retirement fund of last resort” for some government officials “who’ve run through the budgets of their own agencies.”

Locsin opposed the plan, saying he would never agree to the sale of the properties in Japan “for any reason.” Some senators, particularly Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Sen.Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel Jr., and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, also opposed the plan.

De Lima said a Supreme Court ruling has stated that the Philippines’ Ropponggi property “is valuable not so much because of the inflated prices fetched by the real property in Tokyo but more so because of its symbolic value to all Filipinos—veterans and civilians alike.”

She said the same ruling also stressed the need for the President and Congress to first concur before the governments sells these properties in Japan.

But the former Justice Secretary said whether or not the Roppongi and related properties will eventually be sold is a policy determination where both the President and Congress must concur.
She also said the laws on conversion and disposition of property of public dominion must be faithfully followed.

“We have seen during this time of pandemic that funds can be raised in many other ways in order to protect our economy and our people against the ravages of COVID-19 without disposing of properties that have both symbolic and material significance for our country,” she stressed.