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Who Should be Owner of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in the Philippines?

UST sits on a piece of land donated by Francisca Bustamante Bayot, a Filipino. (Photo by Wikipedia)


Location of UST (Photo from UST facebook)


To identify the owner of the University of Santo Tomas

Who should be the owners of the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, Catholic University of the Philippines? This university will be referred to as UST from here on.

UST is owned by the original investors or incorporators. The first incorporator was Fr. Miquel Benavides, the third archbishop of Manila, and three others.

“In his last will, Fr. Benavides O.P. donated his personal library and 1, 500 pesos which was a huge amount of money at that time, to finance the establishment of the college.

“In his will dated July 26, 1605, Feast of St. Anne, Fray Miguel de Benavides, O.P. made provision for the foundation of the institution by bequeathing his library and goods valued at ₱1,500 which served as the nucleus of funds for the establishment of an institution of higher learning. This nucleus was increased to ₱7,140 by donations made by Pablo Rodríguez, Andrés Hermosa, and Juan Morales” (Palafox, A. Q. A. J. Asia’s Oldest University the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas. March 25,2013. Internet. Oct. 21,2014).

“Although a few Dominican missionaries worked together to establish the University – including Miguel de Benavides, Bernardo Navarro, and other old professors from the higher colleges and universities in Spain – the founding of the University is attributed mainly to Miguel de Benavides, the first to give a fund for the maintenance of the institution” (Wikipedia. History of the University of Santo Tomas).

Another incorporator of UST is Francisca Bustamante Bayot.

“At the beginning of the 20th century, a 21.5 hectares land at the Sulucan Hills in Sampaloc, Manila was donated by Francisca Bustamante Bayot to the Dominican fathers for the University's expansion outside the Intramuros campus.In 1927, Main Building, the first earthquake-proof building in the Philippines, was then inaugurated at the Sulucan site” (Wikipedia. History of the University of Santo Tomas).

Role of king of Spain

In 1785 in recognition of the role of the students and faculty in resisting the British, King Charles III conferred the title of “Royal” to the university and formally granted it the status of a royal university.

The authority of Spain over the Philippines had been abrogated by the Philippine Revolution of 1896-98. The forcible annexation of the Philippines by USA in 1902 to July 1946 had been terminated on the latter date.

Role of popes

On September 17, 1902, Pope Leo XIII made the University of Santo Tomas a “Pontifical University”, and by 1947, Pope Pius XII bestowed upon it the title of “The Catholic University of the Philippines”.

The king and pope had renamed UST into “Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, Catholic University of the Philippines,” its present name.

American regime

Following the requirements of Act No. 1459 also known as the Corporation Law of 1906, the University was incorporated. The application contained the following statements: That the name of the corporation is and will be known as the "Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas" and abbreviated as "University of Santo Tomas", "that the corporation is located in Manila with its main office at 139 Calle de Sto. Tomas, Intramuros" (Palafox).

Archdiocese of Manila

To avoid any mistake or falsification by paraphrasing, “Ownership of Church Property. A Primer” is quoted liberally, thus:

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“Authority over church property rests with the administrators who are given a variety of powers in the code concerning administration. One of the primary acts of power is the alienation of church property. Alienation is the sale, gift, long-term loan or mortgage, or any action that weakens or eliminates control over the property by the juridic person that holds dominion or ownership.”

“Juridic persons come into existence by a decree, either explicit or implicit, issued by Church authority competent to do so. Only the pope can create a diocese and only a bishop can create a parish.”

“A crucial concept in understanding the tenure and control of church property is the relationship of the diocesan bishop to the juridic person of the diocese. The diocese and the bishop are one. In fact, the ring given a bishop at the time of his ordination symbolizes his marriage to his diocese.”

“Catholic Church property belongs, according to canon law, to the juridic person that lawfully acquired it (Canon 1256). A physical person, such as a bishop or a parish pastor, cannot lawfully, according to canon law, own church property; however, physical persons are the administrators of church property.

“A juridic person is the canonical equivalent of a civil law corporation, though not precisely equal to it in nature. The 1917 term was a moral person. In the 1983 code, a juridic person is an equity that is the subject of law, rights and obligations. For example, a diocese is a juridic person” (Ownership of Church Property. A Primer. Adapted from Sex, Priests and Secret Codes, the Catholic Church’s 2,000-Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse, by Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, OP, Richard A.W. Sipe and Patrick J. Wall, III, Volt Press, Los Angeles, CA, © 2006 by Thomas P. Doyle, Richard A.W. Sipe and Patrick J. Wall, III).

During the Spanish regime, UST was owned by Spain and the Roman Catholic church. Authority was delegated to the archbishop of Manila, UST being under the diocese of Manila.

During the American regime, under the Corporation Law of 1906, UST was owned by the archdiocese of Manila. It appears that that is being consented to by the Philippines up until now.

Who or which should be the owner of UST?

We are looking for a legal personality, like the juridic person.

Under Act No. 1549, UST was most likely registered as a foreign registered non-profit corporation during the American regime (1902 to 1946). The incorporators could have been Fr. Benavides, Francisca Bustamante Bayot, Pablo Rodríguez, Andrés Hermosa, and Juan Morales. Most probably the archbishop of Manila was an incorporator. Being under the archbishop of Manila, UST has been virtually under the possession and control of the archbishop of Manila.

Such possession and control is contestable. Under the present corporation law of the Philippines, no foreign registered corporation can own land. Likewise, no foreign national can own land. This is true if the archbishop of Manila were a foreign national. This is true even if the archbishop of Manila were a Filipino because he is representing a foreign registered corporation that is the Roman Catholic church. Bayot did not donate the piece of land to the person of the archbishop of Manila. The present Filipino archbishop of Manila does not own the piece of land where UST sits.

Therefore, the UST campus consisting of 21.5 hectares belongs to its donor, Francisca Bustamante Bayot, being a Filipino entitled to own piece of land in the Philippines.

Granted that UST is a foreign registered non-profit corporation, it is still required by law to pay taxes to the Philippines.

That UST is exempted from paying taxes, which is the present dispensation, is debatable and can be a subject of judicial dispute.

It is debatable if in fact UST is a non-profit corporation the way it is operating now. Suppose it will be proven that UST is operating as a service entity?

“The deed of donation restricts the use of the land exclusively for educational, religious and charitable purposes. (The same non-profit activities, incidentally, are the bases for UST being tax-exempt.) [Pascual, Jr. Federico D. Dominicans in trouble over new UST hospital. PhilStar. June 3, 2007. Internet Oct. 21,2014].

“If there is a violation of the condition, it could result in the entire UST campus reverting to the estate of the donor as stipulated in the deed of donation.

“(At the current P250,000/sqm commercial valuation of the UST campus, its 220,000-sqm area can fetch a price of P55 TRILLION! That is just the land. All improvements on it, such as the buildings, will also go to the original owner.)” [Pascual].

(Mr. Pascual is using 22 hectares while the otherwise reported figure is 21.5 hectares. His figures are allowed as estimates.)

The value of Bayot’s donation has tremendously increased because of the demand for piece of land by the society. The value of the contributions by other incorporators has been pegged to the value of money, 42 to 44 pesos to the US dollar.

Conversion to service entity

Can the donation of Francisca B. Bayot, for charitable purposes, be converted to service entity? It appears that it cannot be. In 2005 the University of Santo Tomas Hospital Inc. (USTHI) was organized and registered as a service entity (for profit). This is separate from the UST that is registered as non-profit foreign corporation in 1908. USTHI was incorporated by nine Dominican priests, a lawyer and two doctors. The USTHI planned to lease six hectares from UST, out of the 21.5 hectares that F. B. Bayot donated to UST. If this lease were to pass it would convert the whole 21.5 hectares for use in service purposes. This is part of the controversy that is why the loan of Php 3 billion USTHI applied for from banks (Development Bank of the Philippines, P1.5 billion; Land Bank of the Philippines, P1 billion; Philtrust Bank, P300 million; and DBP Trust Services, P200 million) were not released (Pascual).

The other side of the coin is that UST planned to lease six hectares to USTHI out of the donation of F. B. Bayot. That is presuming that UST owns the 21.5 hectares

"...The priest-incorporators are members of the UST/Dominican Order and at the same time of the USTHI" (Pascual).

UST is owned by a foreign registered corporation (non-profit) with Francisca Bustamante Bayot as the principal Filipino co-owner.

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