Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon has joined Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. in vehemently opposing the planned sale of various Philippine government properties in Japan citing their symbolic value to the Filipinos.
“I agree with and support Sec Locsin’s position on this issue. We oppose any plan to sell any of our properties in Japan. You can never put a price tag on these properties,” Drilon said .
As the Supreme Court said in its ruling: “it is indeed true that the Roppongi property is valuable, not so much because of the inflated prices fetched by real property in Tokyo, but more so because of its symbolic value to all Filipinos, veterans and civilians alike,” he added.
Drilon said that the Roppongi property, along with three other Philippine properties in Japan, are “symbols of Filipinos’ bravery and sacrifices.”
The Roppongi property was acquired by the Philippine government pursuant to the reparations agreement between the Philippine and Japanese governments in 1956. Under the agreement, the Roppongi property was acquired by the Philippine government for a specific purpose, namely to serve as the site of the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, Japan.
Aside from the Roppongi property, the Philippines has three more properties in Japan: the Nampeidai Property in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, the Kobe Commercial Property in Naniwa-cho, Kobe and the Kobe Residential Property in Obanoyama-cho, Shinohara, Nada-ku, Kobe.
In 1990, the Supreme Court, in the case of Laurel v. Garcia, ruled that the Roppongi property cannot be sold without the concurrence of Congress.
The former justice secretary explained that in accordance with the said ruling, the President cannot convey valuable real property of the government on his own sole will as such conveyance must be authorized and approved by a law enacted by Congress.
But considering the properties’ importance and value, Drilon said the laws on conversion and disposition of property of public dominion must be faithfully followed in accordance with Supreme Court rulings.
As part of public dominion, the Roppongi property and all other properties in Japan cannot be sold unless it is transformed into private property through legislation.
Aside from the legislation that will transform these properties into private property, it would also need a law authorizing their conveyance. Section 48, Book I of the Administrative Code of 1997 provides that before the Philippine government can sell properties exceeding P100,000.00, the relevant Department Secretary is required to submit the necessary papers and recommendations to the Congress of the Philippines for approval, according to Drilon.
“Let me quote Vice President Savador Laurel when he said that ‘the Roppongi property is not just like any piece of property. The Tokyo properties are a monument to the bravery and sacrifice of the Filipino people in the face of an invader; like the monuments of Rizal, Quezon, and other Filipino heroes, we do not expect economic or financial benefits from them.’” Drilon said.
The minority leader said he is ready to fight “tooth and nail” in order to preserve the Philippine properties in Japan.
“I will oppose the passage of that law in the Senate,” he said.
Drilon said the government should instead sell Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo if it aims to generate funds, not the Roponggi properties that have so much historical value to Filipinos.