Land in Fort Boni for AFP Officers’ Village can’t be used for Navy golf course, SC rules

Published November 2, 2020, 1:06 PM

by Rey Panaligan 

The Supreme Court has ruled that portions of the 245.5 hectares of land within the Fort Andres Bonifacio Military Reservation which had been reserved for the Armed Forces of the Philippines Officers’ Village in 1965 cannot be used by the Philippine Navy for its golf course.

In a decision written by Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez, the SC said the proclamation on the AFP Officers’ Village was issued in 1965 while the PN golf course was developed in 1976.

“The golf course was developed only in 1976…As such, the empty land on which the golf course now stands remains part of the alienable and disposable public land of the AFP Officers’ Village,” the SC said.

It stressed that the exclusionary clause in the 1965 Presidential Proclamation No. 461 “applies only to areas that are being used or earmarked for public or quasi-public purposes.”

It pointed out that “the exclusionary clause cannot comprehend the golf course which is inexistent at the time the Proclamation was issued.

Moreover, no subsequent law or proclamation earmarked the land for the construction of the golf course.”

With the ruling, the SC denied the petition filed by the Philippine Navy Golf Club Inc., the PN, and the PN Flag-Officer-in-Command.

The petitioners challenged the ruling of the Court of Appeals which upheld the decision of the Regional Trial Court.

The SC decision was promulgated last July but was made public only last Oct. 21.

Published reports in 2019 showed that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had issued Department Order No. 42 which directed the Navy Flag-Officer-in-Command to turn over several portions of the land occupied by the PN golf course to qualified owners from the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) Case records showed that much later after the issuance of Proclamation No. 461, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources awarded lots within the AFP Officers’ Village to Merardo C. Abaya, Ruben I. Follosco in 1996, and Angelito P. Maglonzo and Elias B. Sta. Clara in 1998.

However, the four awardees failed to introduce improvements on the awarded property because the PN golf course was already occupying the land.

Abaya and his group filed a case for recovery of title or ownership over the awarded property.  In 2015, the RTC ruled in their favor and ordered the PN and the golf club to turn over the lots and pay rentals on the awarded property.

The PN and its golf club elevated the issue before the CA which upheld the RTC ruling in 2017.

The CA ruled that the presidential proclamation declared the lots within the AFP Officers’ Village available for disposition but no subsequent proclamation reserved the lands for the use of the golf club or the development of a golf course.

Also, the CA declared that the doctrine of non-suability cannot be used by the PN and the golf club “to perpetrate an injustice against the retired AFP members and beneficiaries.”

The PN and the golf club filed a petition with the SC against the CA’s decision.

In denying the petition, the SC said: “…there is no existing issuance which allocated the land within the AFP Officers’ Village for the construction of the golf course.

“To be sure, the Philippine Navy and any of its officers are not vested with the power to classify and re-classify lands of public domain.

“At most, the subsequent development of the golf course was a  unilateral decision on the part of the Philippine Navy, which is not ratified by any proclamation from the President.

“The exclusionary clause cannot be use to shield the land on which the golf course stands against the actual purpose for which it was allotted — the housing of the AFP officers and veterans, who meritoriously served and protected our country.

“Corollarily, the Philippine Navy and the Golf Club cannot deprive Abaya, et al. the enjoyment of the lands awarded to them.

“For these reasons, the petition is denied. The Court of Appeals decision… is affirmed with modification in that the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Navy Golf Club Inc. are ordered to pay rental fees of P5,000 per month to: (a) Merardo Abaya computed from December 1996; (b) Ruben Follosco computed from December 1996; (c) Angelito Maglonzo computed from November 1998; and (d) Elias Sta. Clara computed from November 1998, until they have completely vacated the lots.

“In addition, the rental fees shall earn interest at the rate of six per cent per annum from the date of the RTC decision on June 24, 2015 until full payment.”