Elpidio V. Peria
10 March 2013

I heard over the radio DZRH last Friday that the longest crocodile in the world “Lolong” is now subject of a tug-of-war between the mayor of Bunawan town in Agusan del Sur where the crocodile was captured, and the National Museum of the Philippines.

That raised to me the question of who actually owns Lolong, which should be a fairly simple affair, which means, the local government unit (LGU) of Bunawan, as that is where the crocodile was found. Examining the matter closely and consulting the usual references, it appears that animals like Lolong, as to who owns them, is not that really clear, or is it?

Looking at our Civil Code, especially its Chapter on Property, which I thought would clearly lay down how to deal with animals, unfortunately, the definition of what may be owned is classified into immovable and movables, not our usual notion of plants, animals or fungi.

In the immovables category, there is no mention of animals there, only “trees, plants and growing fruits, while they are attached to the land or form an integral part of an immovable”, maybe in this instance when the standing trees are included in the sale of a piece of land. If one looks at the movables, there’s a provision there which says : “in general, all things which can be transported from place to place without impairment of the real property to which they are fixed.”

If we go to the Constitution, it says there in art. XII, sec. 2 on National Economy and Patrimony:

Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State.

I guess this constitutional provision settles the question then, that Lolong is owned by the State, since no one will, it seems, put up a debate that, when captured, Lolong is a species of wildlife, captured in the waters off Bunawan Creek.

But in this instance, who is the State here, the local government unit of Bunawan or the National Museum of the Philippines? It seems we are back to square one.

The best way for the two entities of the State to resolve their dispute is to seek the opinion of the Department of Justice as to which among them will have custody and control of the remains of Lolong, considering that both entities are determined to show off Lolong as proof that the longest crocodile of the world, was found here in the Philippines.

If the DOJ lawyers will seek our opinion, of course, we will give it to them. But, as all of us know, any two bit lawyer will have his or her two bit opinion on this issue, but the DOJ’s at least, if not further questioned in court, will be the authoritative point-of-view, on this issue.


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