Disbarment for gross ignorance of the law

One of the fundamental principles of Philippine constitutional law is that ownership of land is generally reserved only to Filipinos.  Article XII, Section 7 of the Constitution provides:  “Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.”  On the other hand, Article XII, Section 8 provides:  “Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this Article, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of private lands, subject to limitations provided by law.”  To summarize:

Under the Constitution, private lands may be transferred or conveyed to the following:

(a)     Filipino citizens;

(b)    Corporations and associations at least 60% of the capital of which is owned by Filipino citizens, since they have the capacity to hold lands of the public domain;

(c)    Aliens but only in cases of hereditary succession;  and

(d)   Natural born citizens who have lost their Philippine citizenship subject to limitations provided by law.  (see 2 Philippine Constitutional Law, p. 917 [2004])

One would think that all Philippine lawyers know this fundamental principle but that does not appear to be the case.  In Keld Stemmerik, represented by Attys. Herminio. Liwanag and Winston P.L. Esguerra vs. Atty. Leonuel N. Mas, A.C. No. 8010, June 16, 2009, Keld Stemmerik, a Danish national, expressed interest in buying land in the Philippines and Atty. Mas advised him that he can legally acquire and own land in the Philippines.

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