Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Can a Foreigner Own Real Property in the Philippines?

Believe me, the question is not answerable by yes or no, since I intentionally worded the title to cover two types of properties that may or may not be owned by a foreigner (not including a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who lost his/her citizenship by naturalization in a foreign country but later reacquired the same through the Dual Citizenship law). For foreign nationals the answer to this question is not a hard and fast rule.

Understanding What is Considered Real Property

Under the Philippine Civil Code, real property includes not only the land but all the accessions rooted to it, i.e. buildings, trees and their crops.  Consequently, a foreigner may not be able to own the land, they can however own the building (and condo units in it) because the Philippine Constitution specifically prohibits ownership of the land by foreign nationals.

Ownership of Condominium Units

When I used to work in a government office, this scenario became even more significant by an American national who came to our office to complain about Philippine government employees who he says refused to act on his complaints regarding a condominium unit he bought.  Well, it wasn't my personal case, but it was the case of one of my investigators.  Since everyone at the office knew I am married to a foreigner, and since he is my staff anyway, I conducted the interview.  To make a long story short, during the course of the interview, I learned of a significant flaw in his case.  He bought the condominium unit and put it under the name of his significant other (not his wife).  Now that is wrong in so many levels, one of which is that on paper he is NOT the OWNER.  Consequently, he cannot execute acts of ownership on the property, like complaining on the substandard materials used on "his property".  I do not even understand why he did not put it under his name, when he could have put it UNDER his NAME all along.  We are talking of a condominium unit after all, NOT land! Consequently, there should have been no legal deterrent to his full ownership of the condominium unit.  Even on matters of succession, he would have to make a case in court to show he is actually the owner of the condominium unit and not his "significant other."

Foreigners Cannot Own Land Even By Succession

Laws are presumed to be consistent with existing laws including the Constitution.  Thus, although the rules on succession may provide that the spouse (who may be a foreign national) would inherit property (including land) from his spouse (Filipino), it cannot inherit in a manner such that he/she (a Foreign national) would have title to the land.  At most, what would happen is that the land may be sold to a Filipino and the proceeds from the sale shall constitute the inheritance of the foreign national. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Getting Used to the New Normal

Those who know me personally, and not just from this blog, know that I am undergoing cancer treatment.  It is unfortunately Stage 3A Breast Cancer; advanced but not too advanced yet that I feel hopeless.  Although I must admit some days I think of my mortality and wonder how all these planning about the future is futile if later on they find out it had metastasized to another body part, i.e. they see five lesions in my liver that may be benign but also may be cancer but at this point it is too small to know for sure if they are or aren't cancer.  So honestly, I have that lingering thought of my mortality sometimes.

I am turning 48 soon, in less than a month now. I almost always plan 10-year intervals of my life.  My first few years in the U.S. I planned to take the NY bar and take-up my Masters of Law, hopefully, if God is willing in a reputable law school.  I don't claim to have great grades in Law School but I have excellent work experience. I think most of the heads of agencies I have worked for, know me by name. The last time I asked for referral letters, I got really heart-warming praises from my last boss and even from previous bosses.

On the other hand, work or work-related efforts and responses have been pretty dicey.  Since my experience is very much specialized (government corruption) and difficult to cross-over to private law firm work (i.e. personal injury and family law) I have had great difficulty finding work.  Not that I have made a lot of effort. In fact I have not made too much effort, because I know finding work right now will be next to impossible with my cancer diagnosis and treatment plan.  I go to chemo now once a week for twelve weeks.  I know no employer will take me with that treatment plan.  Nonetheless, when I first started looking for a job, before my final diagnosis, I did get two requests for interviews, which I declined after I knew for sure I had a far more advanced cancer than I thought.

So I had started thinking about what I truly wanted to do with my life.  And frankly, I have started to think I want a less restrictive life than a "JOB."  I am thinking that this time of lull may be what I need to look at more freelancing work, or building a more professional blog on a different platform.  I am also thinking of shoring up on studying aspects of law that may be more practical for someone like me who wants to practice in both the U.S. and the Philippines, topics like Elder Law, Social Security, Veterans Affair, Trust and Estates, U.S. Immigration, etc.

I am just thinking out loud of course. On the Philippine side I am thinking on shoring-up on more studying on Property and Philippine Immigration.

What do you think? Good Idea?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Advocating Your Healthcare

During my husband's last health crisis in the Philippines, I have come to realize how it is incredibly important for a foreigner to have someone advocate for their healthcare.  Let me explain.

When my husband was bedridden for awhile because of his back pain (spondylosis) and after his initial hospitalization, we contacted the Veterans Affair in Manila at the end of October 2015.  He was given oxycodone to manage his pain.  However, one of the significant side effect of oxycodone is constipation.  So you can imagine how difficult it was for my husband to manage constipation when he could barely walk to the bathroom.  I cannot tell you how difficult that time was for me (as a caregiver) and for my husband as a patient.  We requested the VA in Manila several times for valium which my husband knows to be effective for him in previous bouts of back problems and does not have the same side effects.  I called VA Manila constantly, asking the primary care doctor to either refer us to a back specialist OR give us a Valium prescription.  By the end of November 2015, I still did not hear even a bleep from the VA.  Upset, angry and at the verge of a meltdown, I dug deep into my "lawyer" mode, and brought my disabled husband in a wheelchair to the VA even without an appointment.  I wrote a long letter to the VA director and although we had no appointment I demanded to speak to either our primary care doctor OR to a patient advocate.  The staff at the reception/lobby at the VA was ready to dismiss me as just another Pinay, but I look them in the eye, spoke fluent English, and told them I was not leaving until I spoke to either our primary care doctor or to a patient advocate.  Once I spoke to the patient advocate, I told him in no uncertain terms, that if the primary doctor doesn't do anything to help my husband over a clearly service-connected disability, I will have his medical license revoked for negligence.  To make a long story short, we changed primary doctors then and there and the new primary doctor scheduled us with a spine doctor in less than a week.

As a foreigner, it is difficult sometimes to be taken seriously in a foreign land.  Your "loud" "cantankerous" manner can be viewed as something that  most foreigners are prone towards and the average Pinoy can view it as menacing.  Most pinoys may just ignore you or report you to the Bureau of Immigration as an undesirable alien. But it helps when you do have someone who can advocate for you who is a Pinoy and not necessarily a laywer.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

U.S. Public Education System vs. Philippine Private Education System

First, I would like to make a caveat that I am making a comparison between the U.S. public education system vs. the Philippine private education system, which are two educational systems my son has been exposed to.  The Philippine public education system, with the exception of the well-known science high schools like Philippine Science High School, Manila Science High School and Quezon City Science High Schools, is something I would not go into evaluating since I myself have not been exposed to them.

Philippine Private Schools

Depending on the private school your child is enrolled in, some schools like Ateneo and the Katipunan-schools do try their best to maintain a level of excellence they can be proud of.  They are above average, so you get a lot of feedback from them.  My son went to John Dewey School (in Quezon City), which is  a progressive school with a fairly expensive yearly tuition ($2,000 a year).  I get a lot of feedback from the teachers on what my son needed to work on and what he is good at.  I think it is absolutely important that more than just making sure a child improves on something, they likewise need to provide positive feedback on what they are doing right.  So I got that from my son's private school education in the Philippines.  Since I was working 40 hours a week at the time, I honestly did not have a lot of time to tutor my own son.  Even his nanny could not provide the tutoring he needed. So on top of his regular school tuition, I paid a tutor to help him meet his school goals.  I would say I paid roughly an additional P2,000 a week for the tutor.

What I also particularly liked about my son's school was that it taught Singapore Math and Mandarin for the higher elementary grades.

U.S. Public School System

Having been here for a year, I would say first the quality is dependent on the district, after that that it depends on the level of commitment of the teacher.  I learned that the hard way because when we came in on the middle of the school year and we were forced to enroll my son in a school outside our district since ours was full, it turned out that it was a better choice because the teacher he was with on the first year (kindergarten) was excellent in communicating to us first what the expectation was, and second where my son was in that expectation.  Since I am not working at present, I am able to supplement what the school was doing.

The teacher this year is just dismal.  Since we moved to a Montessori setting (with no homework), I had no idea what the standard was for my son's first grade education.  On top of it, the teacher is fairly new into the school system and thinks that "grading" is just a matter of pass or fail without even communicating first what is expected of the student.  There are no benchmarks as to what is supposed to be covered for first grade reading, writing, science, etc. and I have found that I have had to supplement a lot of what my son is not learning in school.

The long and short of it, in either settings, the level of learning a child learns is wholly dependent on the parent.  No teacher or school system is more committed to seeing a child learn more than their parents.