The Supreme Court’s First Division, in a 10-page decision penned by Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez, declared that the area occupied by the Philippine Navy golf course located inside the Fort Andres Bonifacio Military Reservation in Taguig City, remains part of the alienable and disposable public land of the AFP Officers’ Village.
The SC’s decision affirmed the ruling issued by the lower court and upheld by the Court of Appeals on July 10, 2017, which directed the Philippine Navy to turn over portions of the 245.5 hectares AFP Officers’ Village to qualified and legitimate owners Merardo Abaya, Ruben Follosco, Elias Sta. Clara and the heirs of Angelito Maglonzo.
The SC said no law or proclamation has been issued to earmark the land for the construction of the golf course.
The SC pointed out that the Philippine Navy and any of its officers are not vested with the power to classify and reclassify lands of public domain
The SC denied the petition filed by the Philippine Navy Golf Club Inc., the PN and the PN’s Flag-Officer-in-Command.
On top of ordering the return of the property to claimants, the SC also directed the petitioners to pay rental fees of P5,000 per month to Abaya (computed from December 1996), Follosco (from December 1996), Maglonzo (from November 1998) and Sta. Clara (from November 1998), until they had completely vacated the lots.
In addition, the SC said the rental fees would earn interest at the rate of 6 percent per annum from the date of the RTC decision on June 24, 2015, until full payment.
Last year, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana issued a department order directing the Philippine Navy to relinquish control of the area comprising the Philippine Navy Golf Course to legitimate lot owners of the AFP Officers’ Village.
Case records showed that after the issuance of Proclamation No. 461, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources awarded lots within the AFP Officers’ Village to Abaya and others in 1998.
However, the four awardees failed to introduce improvements on the awarded property because the 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 regional trial court (RTC) ruled in their favor and ordered the Philippine Navy and the golf club to turn over the lots and to pay rentals on the awarded property.
The PN and its golf club elevated the issue before the CA which upheld in 2017 the RTC’s ruling.