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CHAVEZ VS PEA & AMARI

Facts: The petition seeks to compel the Public Estates Authority to disclose all facts on PEAs then ongoing renegotiations with Amari Coastal Bay and Development Corporation to reclaim portions of Manila
Bay. The petition further seeks to enjoin PEA from signing a new agreement with AMARI involving such
reclamation. PEA argues that petitioner has no standing to institute mandamus proceedings to enforce
his constitutional right to information without a showing that PEA refused to perform an affirmative duty
imposed on PEA by the Constitution. PEA also claims that petitioner has not shown that he will suffer any
concrete injury because of the signing or implementation of the Amended JVA. Thus, there is no actual
controversy requiring the exercise of the power of judicial review.
Issue: Whether or not petitioner has legal standing to compel PEA to comply with its constitutional
duties?
Decision: Petition granted. The petitioner has standing to bring this taxpayers suit because the petition
seeks to compel PEA to comply with its constitutional duties. The right of citizens to information on
matters of public concern and the application of a constitutional provision intended to insure the equitable
distribution of alienable lands of the public domain among Filipino citizens are two constitutional rights
involved. The thrust of the first issue is to compel PEA to disclose publicly information on the sale of
government lands worth billions of pesos. The second issue is to prevent PEA from alienating hundreds
of hectares of alienable lands of the public domain in violation of the Constitution, compelling PEA to
comply with a constitutional duty to the nation.
Facts: On February 4, 1977, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1084
creating PEA. PD No. 1084 tasked PEA "to reclaim land, including foreshore and submerged areas," and
"to develop, improve, acquire, lease and sell any and all kinds of lands." On the same date, then
President Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1085 transferring to PEA the "lands reclaimed in the
foreshore and offshore of the Manila Bay" under the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road and Reclamation
Project (MCCRRP).
On January 19, 1988, then President Corazon C. Aquino issued Special Patent No. 3517,
granting and transferring to PEA "the parcels of land so reclaimed under the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road
and Reclamation Project (MCCRRP) containing a total area of one million nine hundred fifteen thousand
eight hundred ninety four (1,915,894) square meters." Subsequently, on April 9, 1988, the Register of
Deeds of the Municipality of Paraaque issued Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. 7309, 7311, and 7312,
in the name of PEA, covering the three reclaimed islands known as the "Freedom Islands" located at the
southern portion of the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road, Paraaque City.
PEA and AMARI entered into the JVA through negotiation without public bidding. On April 28,
1995, the Board of Directors of PEA, in its Resolution No. 1245, confirmed the JVA. On June 8, 1995,
then President Fidel V. Ramos, through then Executive Secretary Ruben Torres, approved the JVA.

The Senate Committees reported the results of their investigation in Senate Committee Report
No. 560 dated September 16, 1997. Among the conclusions of their report are: (1) the reclaimed lands
PEA seeks to transfer to AMARI under the JVA are lands of the public domain which the government has
not classified as alienable lands and therefore PEA cannot alienate these lands; (2) the certificates of title
covering the Freedom Islands are thus void, and (3) the JVA itself is illegal.
On December 5, 1997, then President Fidel V. Ramos issued Presidential Administrative Order
No. 365 creating a Legal Task Force to conduct a study on the legality of the JVA in view of Senate
Committee Report No. 560. The members of the Legal Task Force were the Secretary of Justice, the
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, and the Government Corporate Counsel. The Legal Task Force upheld
the legality of the JVA, contrary to the conclusions reached by the Senate Committees.
On April 27, 1998, petitioner Frank I. Chavez ("Petitioner" for brevity) as a taxpayer, filed the
instant Petition for Mandamus with Prayer for the Issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction and
Temporary Restraining Order. Petitioner contends the government stands to lose billions of pesos in the
sale by PEA of the reclaimed lands to AMARI. Petitioner prays that PEA publicly disclose the terms of any
renegotiation of the JVA, invoking Section 28, Article II, and Section 7, Article III, of the 1987 Constitution
on the right of the people to information on matters of public concern.
Due to the approval of the Amended JVA by the Office of the President, petitioner now prays that
on "constitutional and statutory grounds the renegotiated contract be declared null and void."
Issue: Whether the stipulations in the amended joint venture agreement for the transfer to AMARI of
certain lands, reclaimed and still to be reclaimed violate the 1987 Constitution.
Ruling: Article 339 of the Civil Code of 1889 defined property of public dominion as follows:
"Art. 339.
1.

Property of public dominion is

That devoted to public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges constructed by

the State, riverbanks, shores, roadsteads, and that of a similar character;


2.

That belonging exclusively to the State which, without being of general public use, is employed in

some public service, or in the development of the national wealth, such as walls, fortresses, and other
works for the defense of the territory, and mines, until granted to private individuals.
Property devoted to public use referred to property open for use by the public. In contrast, property
devoted to public service referred to property used for some specific public service and open only to
those authorized to use the property.Property of public dominion referred not only to property devoted to
public use, but also to property not so used but employed to develop the national wealth. This class of
property constituted property of public dominion although employed for some economic or commercial
activity to increase the national wealth.

"Art. 341.

Property of public dominion, when no longer devoted to public use or to the defense

of the territory, shall become a part of the private property of the State." This provision, however, was not
self-executing. The legislature, or the executive department pursuant to law, must declare the property no
longer needed for public use or territorial defense before the government could lease or alienate the
property to private parties.
Act No. 2874 of the Philippine Legislature - Sec. 55.

Any tract of land of the public domain

which, being neither timber nor mineral land, shall be classified as suitable for residential purposes or for
commercial, industrial, or other productive purposes other than agricultural purposes, and shall be open
to disposition or concession, shall be disposed of under the provisions of this chapter, and not otherwise.
The rationale behind this State policy is obvious. Government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy
public lands for non-agricultural purposes retain their inherent potential as areas for public service. This is
the reason the government prohibited the sale, and only allowed the lease, of these lands to private
parties. The State always reserved these lands for some future public service.
However, government reclaimed and marshy lands, although subject to classification as
disposable public agricultural lands, could only be leased and not sold to private parties because of Act
No. 2874.
The 1987 Constitution continues the State policy in the 1973 Constitution banning private
corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain. Like the 1973 Constitution,
the 1987 Constitution allows private corporations to hold alienable lands of the public domain only
through lease. As in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, the general law governing the lease to private
corporations of reclaimed, foreshore and marshy alienable lands of the public domain is still CA No. 141.
Without the constitutional ban, individuals who already acquired the maximum area of alienable
lands of the public domain could easily set up corporations to acquire more alienable public lands. An
individual could own as many corporations as his means would allow him. An individual could even hide
his ownership of a corporation by putting his nominees as stockholders of the corporation. The
corporation is a convenient vehicle to circumvent the constitutional limitation on acquisition by individuals
of alienable lands of the public domain.
PD No. 1085, coupled with President Aquino's actual issuance of a special patent covering the
Freedom Islands, is equivalent to an official proclamation classifying the Freedom Islands as alienable or
disposable lands of the public domain. Being neither timber, mineral, nor national park lands, the
reclaimed Freedom Islands necessarily fall under the classification of agricultural lands of the public
domain. Under the 1987 Constitution, agricultural lands of the public domain are the only natural
resources that the State may alienate to qualified private parties. All other natural resources, such as the
seas or bays, are "waters . . . owned by the State" forming part of the public domain, and are inalienable
pursuant to Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
In short, DENR is vested with the power to authorize the reclamation of areas under water, while
PEA is vested with the power to undertake the physical reclamation of areas under water whether directly

or through private contractors. DENR is also empowered to classify lands of the public domain into
alienable or disposable lands subject to the approval of the President. On the other hand, PEA is tasked
to develop, sell or lease the reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain.
Clearly, the mere physical act of reclamation by PEA of foreshore or submerged areas does not
make the reclaimed lands alienable or disposable lands of the public domain, much less patrimonial lands
of PEA. Likewise, the mere transfer by the National Government of lands of the public domain to PEA
does not make the lands alienable or disposable lands of the public domain, much less patrimonial lands
of PEA.
There is no express authority under either PD No. 1085 or EO No. 525 for PEA to sell its
reclaimed lands. PD No. 1085 merely transferred "ownership and administration" of lands reclaimed from
Manila Bay to PEA, while EO No. 525 declared that lands reclaimed by PEA "shall belong to or be owned
by PEA." PEA's charter, however, expressly tasks PEA "to develop, improve, acquire, administer, deal in,
subdivide, dispose, lease and sell any and all kinds of lands . . . owned, managed, controlled and/or
operated by the government." 87 (Emphasis supplied) There is, therefore, legislative authority granted to
PEA to sell its lands, whether patrimonial or alienable lands of the public domain. PEA may sell to private
parties its patrimonial properties in accordance with the PEA charter free from constitutional limitations.
The constitutional ban on private corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the public domain does
not apply to the sale of PEA's patrimonial lands.
Moreover, under Section 79 of PD No. 1445, otherwise known as the Government Auditing Code,
the government is required to sell valuable government property through public bidding. Section 79 of PD
No. 1445 mandates that:... "In the event that the public auction fails, the property may be sold at a private
sale at such price as may be fixed by the same committee or body concerned and approved by the
Commission."
However, the original JVA dated April 25, 1995 covered not only the Freedom Islands and the
additional 250 hectares still to be reclaimed, it also granted an option to AMARI to reclaim another 350
hectares. The original JVA, a negotiated contract, enlarged the reclamation area to 750 hectares. The
failure of public bidding on December 10, 1991, involving only 407.84 hectares, is not a valid justification
for a negotiated sale of 750 hectares, almost double the area publicly auctioned.
Jurisprudence holding that upon the grant of the patent or issuance of the certificate of title the
alienable land of the public domain automatically becomes private land cannot apply to government units
and entities like PEA.
The grant of legislative authority to sell public lands in accordance with Section 60 of CA No. 141
does not automatically convert alienable lands of the public domain into private or patrimonial lands. The
alienable lands of the public domain must be transferred to qualified private parties, or to government
entities not tasked to dispose of public lands, before these lands can become private or patrimonial lands.
Otherwise, the constitutional ban will become illusory if Congress can declare lands of the public domain
as private or patrimonial lands in the hands of a government agency tasked to dispose of public lands.

To allow vast areas of reclaimed lands of the public domain to be transferred to PEA as private
lands will sanction a gross violation of the constitutional ban on private corporations from acquiring any
kind of alienable land of the public domain. This scheme can even be applied to alienable agricultural
lands of the public domain since PEA can "acquire . . . any and all kinds of lands."
The 157.84 hectares of reclaimed lands comprising the Freedom Islands, now covered by
certificates of title in the name of PEA, are alienable lands of the public domain. PEA may lease these
lands to private corporations but may not sell or transfer ownership of these lands to private corporations.

FRENZEL VS CATITO GR NO. 143958


A case involving a foreigner seeking monetary reimbursement for money spent on purchase of Philippine
land, the provision on unjust enrichment does not apply if the action is proscribed by the Constitution.
SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 143958. July 11, 2003]

ALFRED FRITZ FRENZEL, petitioner, vs. EDERLINA P. CATITO, respondent.


DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
Before us is a petition for review of the Decision
which affirmed the Decision

[2]

[1]

of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 53485

of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch 14, in Civil Case No.

17,817 dismissing the petitioners complaint, and the resolution of the Court of Appeals denying his motion
for reconsideration of the said decision.

The Antecedents

[3]

As gleaned from the evidence of the petitioner, the case at bar stemmed from the following factual
backdrop:
Petitioner Alfred Fritz Frenzel is an Australian citizen of German descent. He is an electrical engineer
by profession, but worked as a pilot with the New Guinea Airlines. He arrived in the Philippines in 1974,
started engaging in business in the country two years thereafter, and married Teresita Santos, a Filipino
citizen. In 1981, Alfred and Teresita separated from bed and board without obtaining a divorce.
Sometime in February 1983, Alfred arrived in Sydney, Australia for a vacation. He went to Kings
Cross, a night spot in Sydney, for a massage where he met Ederlina Catito, a Filipina and a native of
Bajada, Davao City. Unknown to Alfred, she resided for a time in Germany and was married to Klaus
Muller, a German national. She left Germany and tried her luck in Sydney, Australia, where she found
employment as a masseuse in the Kings Cross nightclub. She was fluent in German, and Alfred enjoyed
talking with her. The two saw each other again; this time Ederlina ended up staying in Alfreds hotel for
three days. Alfred gave Ederlina sums of money for her services.

[4]

Alfred was so enamored with Ederlina that he persuaded her to stop working at Kings Cross, return
to the Philippines, and engage in a wholesome business of her own. He also proposed that they meet in
Manila, to which she assented. Alfred gave her money for her plane fare to the Philippines. Within two
weeks of Ederlinas arrival in Manila, Alfred joined her. Alfred reiterated his proposal for Ederlina to stay in
the Philippines and engage in business, even offering to finance her business venture. Ederlina was
delighted at the idea and proposed to put up a beauty parlor. Alfred happily agreed.
Alfred told Ederlina that he was married but that he was eager to divorce his wife in Australia. Alfred
proposed marriage to Ederlina, but she replied that they should wait a little bit longer.
Ederlina found a building at No. 444 M.H. del Pilar corner Arquiza Street, Ermita, Manila, owned by
one Atty. Jose Hidalgo who offered to convey his rights over the property for P18,000.00. Alfred and
Ederlina accepted the offer. Ederlina put up a beauty parlor on the property under the business name
Edorial Beauty Salon, and had it registered with the Department of Trade and Industry under her name.
Alfred paid Atty. HidalgoP20,000.00 for his right over the property and gave P300,000.00 to Ederlina for
the purchase of equipment and furnitures for the parlor. As Ederlina was going to Germany, she executed
a special power of attorney on December 13, 1983

[5]

appointing her brother, Aser Catito, as her attorney-

in-fact in managing the beauty parlor business. She stated in the said deed that she was married to Klaus
Muller. Alfred went back to Papua New Guinea to resume his work as a pilot.
When Alfred returned to the Philippines, he visited Ederlina in her Manila residence and found it
unsuitable for her. He decided to purchase a house and lot owned by Victoria Binuya Steckel in San
Francisco del Monte, Quezon City, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 218429 for US$20,000.00.
Since Alfred knew that as an alien he was disqualified from owning lands in the Philippines, he agreed
that only Ederlinas name would appear in the deed of sale as the buyer of the property, as well as in the
title covering the same. After all, he was planning to marry Ederlina and he believed that after their
marriage, the two of them would jointly own the property. On January 23, 1984, a Contract to Sell was
entered into between Victoria Binuya Steckel as the vendor and Ederlina as the sole vendee. Alfred
signed therein as a witness.

[6]

Victoria received from Alfred, for and in behalf of Ederlina, the amount of
[7]

US$10,000.00 as partial payment, for which Victoria issued a receipt. When Victoria executed the deed
of absolute sale over the property on March 6, 1984,

[8]

she received from Alfred, for and in behalf of

Ederlina, the amount of US$10,000.00 as final and full payment. Victoria likewise issued a receipt for the
said amount.

[9]

After Victoria had vacated the property, Ederlina moved into her new house. When she left

for Germany to visit Klaus, she had her father Narciso Catito and her two sisters occupy the property.
Alfred decided to stay in the Philippines for good and live with Ederlina. He returned to Australia and
sold his fiber glass pleasure boat to John Reid for $7,500.00 on May 4, 1984.

[10]

He also sold his

television and video business in Papua New Guinea for K135,000.00 to Tekeraoi Pty. Ltd.

[11]

He had his

personal properties shipped to the Philippines and stored at No. 14 Fernandez Street, San Francisco del
Monte, Quezon City. The proceeds of the sale were deposited in Alfreds account with the Hong Kong

Shanghai
807016.

[12]

Banking

Corporation

(HSBC),

Kowloon

Branch

under

Bank

Account

No.

018-2-

When Alfred was in Papua New Guinea selling his other properties, the bank sent telegraphic

letters updating him of his account.

[13]

Several checks were credited to his HSBC bank account from

Papua New Guinea Banking Corporation, Westpac Bank of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group
Limited and Westpac BankPNG-Limited. Alfred also had a peso savings account with HSBC, Manila,
under Savings Account No. 01-725-183-01.

[14]

Once, when Alfred and Ederlina were in Hong Kong, they opened another account with HSBC,
Kowloon, this time in the name of Ederlina, under Savings Account No. 018-0-807950.

[15]

Alfred

transferred his deposits in Savings Account No. 018-2-807016 with the said bank to this new account.
Ederlina also opened a savings account with the Bank of America Kowloon Main Office under Account
No. 30069016.

[16]

On July 28, 1984, while Alfred was in Papua New Guinea, he received a Letter dated December 7,
1983 from Klaus Muller who was then residing in Berlin, Germany. Klaus informed Alfred that he and
Ederlina had been married on October 16, 1978 and had a blissful married life until Alfred intruded
therein. Klaus stated that he knew of Alfred and Ederlinas amorous relationship, and discovered the same
sometime in November 1983 when he arrived in Manila. He also begged Alfred to leave Ederlina alone
and to return her to him, saying that Alfred could not possibly build his future on his (Klaus) misfortune.[17]
Alfred had occasion to talk to Sally MacCarron, a close friend of Ederlina. He inquired if there was
any truth to Klaus statements and Sally confirmed that Klaus was married to Ederlina. When Alfred
confronted Ederlina, she admitted that she and Klaus were, indeed, married. But she assured Alfred that
she would divorce Klaus. Alfred was appeased. He agreed to continue the amorous relationship and wait
for the outcome of Ederlinas petition for divorce. After all, he intended to marry her. He retained the
services of Rechtsanwltin Banzhaf with offices in Berlin, as her counsel who informed her of the progress
of the proceedings.

[18]

Alfred paid for the services of the lawyer.

In the meantime, Alfred decided to purchase another house and lot, owned by Rodolfo Morelos
covered by TCT No. 92456 located in Pea Street, Bajada, Davao City.

[19]

Alfred again agreed to have the

deed of sale made out in the name of Ederlina. On September 7, 1984, Rodolfo Morelos executed a deed
of absolute sale over the said property in favor of Ederlina as the sole vendee for the amount
of P80,000.00.

[20]

Alfred paid US$12,500.00 for the property.

Alfred purchased another parcel of land from one Atty. Mardoecheo Camporedondo, located in
Moncado, Babak, Davao, covered by TCT No. 35251. Alfred once more agreed for the name of Ederlina
to appear as the sole vendee in the deed of sale. On December 31, 1984, Atty. Camporedondo executed
a deed of sale over the property for P65,000.00 in favor of Ederlina as the sole vendee.

[21]

Alfred, through

Ederlina, paid the lot at the cost of P33,682.00 and US$7,000.00, respectively, for which the vendor

signed receipts.
said property.

[22]

On August 14, 1985, TCT No. 47246 was issued to Ederlina as the sole owner of the

[23]

Meanwhile, Ederlina deposited on December 27, 1985, the total amount of US$250,000 with the
HSBC Kowloon under Joint Deposit Account No. 018-462341-145.

[24]

The couple decided to put up a beach resort on a four-hectare land in Camudmud, Babak, Davao,
owned by spouses Enrique and Rosela Serrano. Alfred purchased the property from the spouses
for P90,000.00, and the latter issued a receipt therefor.
submitted a sketch of the beach resort.

[26]

[25]

A draftsman commissioned by the couple

Beach houses were forthwith constructed on a portion of the

property and were eventually rented out by Ederlinas father, Narciso Catito. The rentals were collected by
Narciso, while Ederlina kept the proceeds of the sale of copra from the coconut trees in the property. By
this time, Alfred had already spent P200,000.00 for the purchase, construction and upkeep of the
property.
Ederlina often wrote letters to her family informing them of her life with Alfred. In a Letter dated
January 21, 1985, she wrote about how Alfred had financed the purchases of some real properties, the
establishment of her beauty parlor business, and her petition to divorce Klaus.

[27]

Because Ederlina was preoccupied with her business in Manila, she executed on July 8, 1985, two
[28]

special powers of attorney

appointing Alfred as attorney-in-fact to receive in her behalf the title and the

deed of sale over the property sold by the spouses Enrique Serrano.
In the meantime, Ederlinas petition for divorce was denied because Klaus opposed the same. A
second petition filed by her met the same fate. Klaus wanted half of all the properties owned by Ederlina
in the Philippines before he would agree to a divorce. Worse, Klaus threatened to file a bigamy case
against Ederlina.[29]
Alfred proposed the creation of a partnership to Ederlina, or as an alternative, the establishment of a
corporation, with Ederlina owning 30% of the equity thereof. She initially agreed to put up a corporation
and contacted Atty. Armando Dominguez to prepare the necessary documents. Ederlina changed her
mind at the last minute when she was advised to insist on claiming ownership over the properties
acquired by them during their coverture.
Alfred and Ederlinas relationship started deteriorating. Ederlina had not been able to secure a
divorce from Klaus. The latter could charge her for bigamy and could even involve Alfred, who himself
was still married. To avoid complications, Alfred decided to live separately from Ederlina and cut off all
contacts with her. In one of her letters to Alfred, Ederlina complained that he had ruined her life. She
admitted that the money used for the purchase of the properties in Davao were his. She offered to convey
the properties deeded to her by Atty. Mardoecheo Camporedondo and Rodolfo Morelos, asking Alfred to
prepare her affidavit for the said purpose and send it to her for her signature.

[30]

The last straw for Alfred

came on September 2, 1985, when someone smashed the front and rear windshields of Alfreds car and
damaged the windows. Alfred thereafter executed an affidavit-complaint charging Ederlina and Sally
MacCarron with malicious mischief.

[31]

On October 15, 1985, Alfred wrote to Ederlinas father, complaining that Ederlina had taken all his life
savings and because of this, he was virtually penniless. He further accused the Catito family of acquiring
for themselves the properties he had purchased with his own money. He demanded the return of all the
amounts that Ederlina and her family had stolen and turn over all the properties acquired by him and
Ederlina during their coverture.

[32]

Shortly thereafter, Alfred filed a Complaint

[33]

dated October 28, 1985, against Ederlina, with the

Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, for recovery of real and personal properties located in Quezon City
and Manila. In his complaint, Alfred alleged, inter alia, that Ederlina, without his knowledge and consent,
managed to transfer funds from their joint account in HSBC Hong Kong, to her own account with the
same bank. Using the said funds, Ederlina was able to purchase the properties subject of the complaints.
He also alleged that the beauty parlor in Ermita was established with his own funds, and that the Quezon
City property was likewise acquired by him with his personal funds.

[34]

Ederlina failed to file her answer and was declared in default. Alfred adduced his evidence ex-parte.
In the meantime, on November 7, 1985, Alfred also filed a complaint

[35]

against Ederlina with the

Regional Trial Court, Davao City, for specific performance, declaration of ownership of real and personal
properties, sum of money, and damages. He alleged, inter alia, in his complaint:
4. That during the period of their common-law relationship, plaintiff solely through his own efforts and
resources acquired in the Philippines real and personal properties valued more or less at P724,000.00;
The defendants common-law wife or live-in partner did not contribute anything financially to the
acquisition of the said real and personal properties. These properties are as follows:

I. Real Properties

a. TCT No. T-92456 located at Bajada, Davao City, consisting of 286 square meters, (with
residential house) registered in the name of the original title owner Rodolfo M. Morelos but
already fully paid by plaintiff. Valued at P342,000.00;
b. TCT No. T-47246 (with residential house) located at Babak, Samal, Davao, consisting of 600
square meters, registered in the name of Ederlina Catito, with the Register of Deeds of
Tagum, Davao del Norte valued at P144,000.00;

c. A parcel of agricultural land located at Camudmud, Babak, Samal, Davao del Norte,
consisting of 4.2936 hectares purchased from Enrique Serrano and Rosela B. Serrano.
Already paid in full by plaintiff. Valued at P228,608.32;

II. Personal Properties:

a. Furniture valued at P10,000.00.


5. That defendant made no contribution at all to the acquisition of the above-mentioned properties as all
the monies (sic) used in acquiring said properties belonged solely to plaintiff;

[36]

Alfred prayed that after hearing, judgment be rendered in his favor:


WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, it is respectfully prayed that judgment be rendered in
favor of plaintiff and against defendant:
a) Ordering the defendant to execute the corresponding deeds of transfer and/or conveyances
in favor of plaintiff over those real and personal properties enumerated in Paragraph 4 of this
complaint;
b) Ordering the defendant to deliver to the plaintiff all the above real and personal properties or
their money value, which are in defendants name and custody because these were acquired
solely with plaintiffs money and resources during the duration of the common-law
relationship between plaintiff and defendant, the description of which are as follows:
(1) TCT No. T-92456 (with residential house) located at Bajada, Davao City, consisting of 286
square meters, registered in the name of the original title owner Rodolfo Morelos but already
fully paid by plaintiff. Valued at P342,000.00;
(2) TCT No. T-47246 (with residential house) located at Babak, Samal, Davao, consisting of 600
square meters, registered in the name of Ederlina Catito, with the Register of Deeds of
Tagum, Davao del Norte, valued at P144,000.00;
(3) A parcel of agricultural land located at Camudmud, Babak, Samal, Davao del Norte,
consisting of 4.2936 hectares purchased from Enrique Serrano and Rosela B. Serrano.
Already fully paid by plaintiff. Valued at P228,608.32;
c) Declaring the plaintiff to be the sole and absolute owner of the above-mentioned real and
personal properties;
d) Awarding moral damages to plaintiff in an amount deemed reasonable by the trial court;

e) To reimburse plaintiff the sum of P12,000.00 as attorneys fees for having compelled the
plaintiff to litigate;
f) To reimburse plaintiff the sum of P5,000.00 incurred as litigation expenses also for having
compelled the plaintiff to litigate; and
g) To pay the costs of this suit;
Plaintiff prays for other reliefs just and equitable in the premises.[37]
In her answer, Ederlina denied all the material allegations in the complaint, insisting that she
acquired the said properties with her personal funds, and as such, Alfred had no right to the same. She
alleged that the deeds of sale, the receipts, and certificates of titles of the subject properties were all
made out in her name.

[38]

By way of special and affirmative defense, she alleged that Alfred had no cause

of action against her. She interposed counterclaims against the petitioner.

[39]

In the meantime, the petitioner filed a Complaint dated August 25, 1987, against the HSBC in the
[40]

Regional Trial Court of Davao City

for recovery of bank deposits and damages.

[41]

He prayed that after

due proceedings, judgment be rendered in his favor, thus:


WHEREFORE, plaintiff respectfully prays that the Honorable Court adjudge defendant bank, upon
hearing the evidence that the parties might present, to pay plaintiff:
1. ONE HUNDRED TWENTY SIX THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY U.S. DOLLARS AND
NINETY EIGHT CENTS (US$126,230.98) plus legal interests, either of Hong Kong or of the Philippines,
from 20 December 1984 up to the date of execution or satisfaction of judgment, as actual damages or in
restoration of plaintiffs lost dollar savings;
2.The same amount in (1) above as moral damages;
3. Attorneys fees in the amount equivalent to TWENTY FIVE PER CENT (25%) of (1) and (2) above;
4. Litigation expenses in the amount equivalent to TEN PER CENT (10%) of the amount in (1) above; and
5. For such other reliefs as are just and equitable under the circumstances.

[42]

On April 28, 1986, the RTC of Quezon City rendered its decision in Civil Case No. Q-46350, in favor
of Alfred, the decretal portion of which reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered ordering the defendant to perform the
following:

(1) To execute a document waiving her claim to the house and lot in No. 14 Fernandez St., San Francisco
Del Monte, Quezon City in favor of plaintiff or to return to the plaintiff the acquisition cost of the same in
the amount of $20,000.00, or to sell the said property and turn over the proceeds thereof to the plaintiff;
(2) To deliver to the plaintiff the rights of ownership and management of the beauty parlor located at 444
Arquiza St., Ermita, Manila, including the equipment and fixtures therein;
(3) To account for the earnings of rental of the house and lot in No. 14 Fernandez St., San Francisco Del
Monte, Quezon City, as well as the earnings in the beauty parlor at 444 Arquiza St., Ermita, Manila and
turn over one-half of the net earnings of both properties to the plaintiff;
(4) To surrender or return to the plaintiff the personal properties of the latter left in the house at San
Francisco Del Monte, to wit:
(1) Mamya automatic camera
(1) 12 inch Sonny T.V. set, colored with remote control.
(1) Micro oven
(1) Electric fan (tall, adjustable stand)
(1) Office safe with (2) drawers and safe
(1) Electric Washing Machine
(1) Office desk and chair
(1) Double bed suits
(1) Mirror/dresser
(1) Heavy duty voice/working mechanic
(1) Sony Beta-Movie camera
(1) Suitcase with personal belongings
(1) Cardboard box with belongings
(1) Guitar Amplifier
(1) Hanger with mens suit (white).
To return to the plaintiff, (1) Hi-Fi Stereo equipment left at 444 Arquiza Street, Ermita, Manila, as well as
the Fronte Suzuki car.
(4) To account for the monies (sic) deposited with the joint account of the plaintiff and defendant (Account
No. 018-0-807950); and to restore to the plaintiff all the monies (sic) spent by the defendant without
proper authority;
(5) To pay the amount of P5,000.00 by way of attorneys fees, and the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

[43]

However, after due proceedings in the RTC of Davao City, in Civil Case No. 17,817, the trial court
rendered judgment on September 28, 1995 in favor of Ederlina, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the Court cannot give due course to the complaint and hereby orders its dismissal. The
counterclaims of the defendant are likewise dismissed.
SO ORDERED.[44]
The trial court ruled that based on documentary evidence, the purchaser of the three parcels of land
subject of the complaint was Ederlina. The court further stated that even if Alfred was the buyer of the
properties, he had no cause of action against Ederlina for the recovery of the same because as an alien,
he was disqualified from acquiring and owning lands in the Philippines. The sale of the three parcels of
land to the petitioner was null and void ab initio. Applying the pari delicto doctrine, the petitioner was
precluded from recovering the properties from the respondent.
Alfred appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals

[45]

in which the petitioner posited the view that

although he prayed in his complaint in the court a quo that he be declared the owner of the three parcels
of land, he had no intention of owning the same permanently. His principal intention therein was to be
declared the transient owner for the purpose of selling the properties at public auction, ultimately enabling
him to recover the money he had spent for the purchase thereof.
On March 8, 2000, the CA rendered a decision affirming in toto the decision of the RTC. The
appellate court ruled that the petitioner knowingly violated the Constitution; hence, was barred from
recovering the money used in the purchase of the three parcels of land. It held that to allow the petitioner
to recover the money used for the purchase of the properties would embolden aliens to violate the
Constitution, and defeat, rather than enhance, the public policy.

[46]

Hence, the petition at bar.


The petitioner assails the decision of the court contending that:
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN APPLYING THE RULE OF IN PARI DELICTO IN
THE INSTANT CASE BECAUSE BY THE FACTS AS NARRATED IN THE DECISION IT IS APPARENT
THAT THE PARTIES ARE NOT EQUALLY GUILTY BUT RATHER IT WAS THE RESPONDENT WHO
EMPLOYED FRAUD AS WHEN SHE DID NOT INFORM PETITIONER THAT SHE WAS ALREADY
MARRIED TO ANOTHER GERMAN NATIONAL AND WITHOUT SUCH FRAUDULENT DESIGN
PETITIONER COULD NOT HAVE PARTED WITH HIS MONEY FOR THE PURCHASE OF THE
PROPERTIES.

[47]

and
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT THE INTENTION OF THE
PETITIONER IS NOT TO OWN REAL PROPERTIES IN THE PHILIPPINES BUT TO SELL THEM AT
PUBLIC AUCTION TO BE ABLE TO RECOVER HIS MONEY USED IN PURCHASING THEM.

[48]

Since the assignment of errors are intertwined with each other, the Court shall resolve the same
simultaneously.
The petitioner contends that he purchased the three parcels of land subject of his complaint because
of his desire to marry the respondent, and not to violate the Philippine Constitution. He was, however,
deceived by the respondent when the latter failed to disclose her previous marriage to Klaus Muller. It
cannot, thus, be said that he and the respondent are equally guilty; as such, the pari delicto doctrine is
not applicable to him. He acted in good faith, on the advice of the respondents uncle, Atty. Mardoecheo
Camporedondo. There is no evidence on record that he was aware of the constitutional prohibition
against aliens acquiring real property in the Philippines when he purchased the real properties subject of
his complaint with his own funds. The transactions were not illegal per se but merely prohibited, and
under Article 1416 of the New Civil Code, he is entitled to recover the money used for the purchase of the
properties. At any rate, the petitioner avers, he filed his complaint in the court a quo merely for the
purpose of having him declared as the owner of the properties, to enable him to sell the same at public
auction. Applying by analogy Republic Act No. 133

[49]

as amended by Rep. Act No. 4381 and Rep. Act

No. 4882, the proceeds of the sale would be remitted to him, by way of refund for the money he used to
purchase the said properties. To bar the petitioner from recovering the subject properties, or at the very
least, the money used for the purchase thereof, is to allow the respondent to enrich herself at the
expense of the petitioner in violation of Article 22 of the New Civil Code.
The petition is bereft of merit.
Section 14, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution provides, as follows:
Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private land shall be transferred or conveyed except to
individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands in the public domain.

[50]

Lands of the public domain, which include private lands, may be transferred or conveyed only to
individuals or entities qualified to acquire or hold private lands or lands of the public domain. Aliens,
whether individuals or corporations, have been disqualified from acquiring lands of the public
domain. Hence, they have also been disqualified from acquiring private lands.

[51]

Even if, as claimed by the petitioner, the sales in question were entered into by him as the real
vendee, the said transactions are in violation of the Constitution; hence, are null and void ab initio.

[52]

contract that violates the Constitution and the law, is null and void and vests no rights and creates no
obligations. It produces no legal effect at all.

[53]

The petitioner, being a party to an illegal contract, cannot

come into a court of law and ask to have his illegal objective carried out. One who loses his money or
property by knowingly engaging in a contract or transaction which involves his own moral turpitude may
not maintain an action for his losses. To him who moves in deliberation and premeditation, the law is
unyielding.

[54]

The law will not aid either party to an illegal contract or agreement; it leaves the parties

where it finds them.

[55]

Under Article 1412 of the New Civil Code, the petitioner cannot have the subject

properties deeded to him or allow him to recover the money he had spent for the purchase
thereof.

[56]

Equity as a rule will follow the law and will not permit that to be doneindirectly which, because

of public policy, cannot be done directly.[57] Where the wrong of one party equals that of the other, the
defendant is in the stronger position ... it signifies that in such a situation, neither a court of equity nor a
court of law will administer a remedy.

[58]

The rule is expressed in the maxims: EX DOLO MALO NON

ORITUR ACTIO and IN PARI DELICTO POTIOR EST CONDITIO DEFENDENTIS.

[59]

The petitioner cannot feign ignorance of the constitutional proscription, nor claim that he acted in
good faith, let alone assert that he is less guilty than the respondent. The petitioner is charged with
knowledge of the constitutional prohibition.

[60]

As can be gleaned from the decision of the trial court, the

petitioner was fully aware that he was disqualified from acquiring and owning lands under Philippine law
even before he purchased the properties in question; and, to skirt the constitutional prohibition, the
petitioner had the deed of sale placed under the respondents name as the sole vendee thereof:
Such being the case, the plaintiff is subject to the constitutional restrictions governing the acquisition of
real properties in the Philippines by aliens.
From the plaintiffs complaint before the Regional Trial Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Branch 84,
Quezon City in Civil Case No. Q-46350 he alleged:
xxx That on account that foreigners are not allowed by the Philippine laws to acquire real properties in
their name as in the case of my vendor Miss Victoria Vinuya (sic) although married to a foreigner, we
agreed and I consented in having the title to subject property placed in defendants name alone although I
paid for the whole price out of my own exclusive funds. (paragraph IV, Exhibit W.)
and his testimony before this Court which is hereby quoted:
ATTY. ABARQUEZ:
Q. In whose name the said house and lot placed, by the way, where is his house and lot
located?
A. In 14 Fernandez St., San Francisco, del Monte, Manila.

Q. In whose name was the house placed?


A. Ederlina Catito because I was informed being not a Filipino, I cannot own the property. (tsn,
p. 11, August 27, 1986).
xxx xxx xxx
COURT:
Q. So you understand that you are a foreigner that you cannot buy land in the Philippines?
A. That is correct but as she would eventually be my wife that would be owned by us later on.
(tsn, p. 5, September 3, 1986)
xxx xxx xxx
Q. What happened after that?
A. She said you foreigner you are using Filipinos to buy property.
Q. And what did you answer?
A. I said thank you very much for the property I bought because I gave you a lot of money
(tsn., p. 14, ibid).
It is evident that the plaintiff was fully aware that as a non-citizen of the Philippines, he was
disqualified from validly purchasing any land within the country.

[61]

The petitioners claim that he acquired the subject properties because of his desire to marry the
respondent, believing that both of them would thereafter jointly own the said properties, is belied by his
own evidence. It is merely an afterthought to salvage a lost cause. The petitioner admitted on crossexamination that he was all along legally married to Teresita Santos Frenzel, while he was having an
amorous relationship with the respondent:
ATTY. YAP:
Q When you were asked to identify yourself on direct examination you claimed before this
Honorable Court that your status is that of being married, do you confirm that?
A Yes, sir.
Q To whom are you married?
A To a Filipina, since 1976.
Q Would you tell us who is that particular person you are married since 1976?
A Teresita Santos Frenzel.

Q Where is she now?


A In Australia.
Q Is this not the person of Teresita Frenzel who became an Australian citizen?
A I am not sure, since 1981 we were separated.
Q You were only separated, in fact, but not legally separated?
A Thru my counsel in Australia I filed a separation case.
Q As of the present you are not legally divorce[d]?
A I am still legally married.

[62]

The respondent was herself married to Klaus Muller, a German citizen. Thus, the petitioner and the
respondent could not lawfully join in wedlock. The evidence on record shows that the petitioner in fact
knew of the respondents marriage to another man, but nonetheless purchased the subject properties
under the name of the respondent and paid the purchase prices therefor. Even if it is assumed gratia
arguendi that the respondent and the petitioner were capacitated to marry, the petitioner is still
disqualified to own the properties in tandem with the respondent.

[63]

The petitioner cannot find solace in Article 1416 of the New Civil Code which reads:
Art. 1416. When the agreement is not illegal per se but is merely prohibited, and the prohibition by the law
is designed for the protection of the plaintiff, he may, if public policy is thereby enhanced, recover what he
has paid or delivered.

[64]

The provision applies only to those contracts which are merely prohibited, in order to benefit private
interests. It does not apply to contracts void ab initio. The sales of three parcels of land in favor of the
petitioner who is a foreigner is illegal per se. The transactions are void ab initio because they were
entered into in violation of the Constitution. Thus, to allow the petitioner to recover the properties or the
money used in the purchase of the parcels of land would be subversive of public policy.
Neither may the petitioner find solace in Rep. Act No. 133, as amended by Rep. Act No. 4882, which
reads:
SEC. 1. Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, private real property may be mortgaged in
favor of any individual, corporation, or association, but the mortgagee or his successor-in- interest, if
disqualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines, shall not take possession of
the mortgaged property during the existence of the mortgage and shall not take possession of mortgaged
property except after default and for the sole purpose of foreclosure, receivership, enforcement or other
proceedings and in no case for a period of more than five years from actual possession and shall not bid

or take part in any sale of such real property in case of foreclosure: Provided, That said mortgagee or
successor-in-interest may take possession of said property after default in accordance with the prescribed
judicial procedures for foreclosure and receivership and in no case exceeding five years from actual
possession.[65]
From the evidence on record, the three parcels of land subject of the complaint were not mortgaged
to the petitioner by the owners thereof but were sold to the respondent as the vendee, albeit with the use
of the petitioners personal funds.
Futile, too, is petitioners reliance on Article 22 of the New Civil Code which reads:
Art. 22. Every person who through an act of performance by another, or any other means, acquires or
comes into possession of something at the expense of the latter without just or legal ground, shall return
the same to him.

[66]

The provision is expressed in the maxim: MEMO CUM ALTERIUS DETER DETREMENTO
PROTEST (No person should unjustly enrich himself at the expense of another). An action for recovery of
what has been paid without just cause has been designated as an accion in rem verso.

[67]

This provision

does not apply if, as in this case, the action is proscribed by the Constitution or by the application of
the pari delicto doctrine.

[68]

It may be unfair and unjust to bar the petitioner from filing an accion in rem

verso over the subject properties, or from recovering the money he paid for the said properties, but, as
Lord Mansfield stated in the early case of Holman vs. Johnson:

[69]

The objection that a contract is immoral

or illegal as between the plaintiff and the defendant, sounds at all times very ill in the mouth of the
defendant. It is not for his sake, however, that the objection is ever allowed; but it is founded in general
principles of policy, which the defendant has the advantage of, contrary to the real justice, as between
him and the plaintiff.
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DISMISSED. The decision of the Court of
Appeals is AFFIRMED in toto.
Costs against the petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
Bellosillo, J., (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, and Tinga, JJ., concur.
Quisumbing, on leave.

Republic

of

the

Philippines

SUPREME

COURT

Manila
EN BANC

G.R. No. L-23481 June 29, 1972


BISHOP

OF

CALBAYOG,

Mons.

Miguel

F.

Acebedo, applicant-appellant,

vs.
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS and THE MUNICIPALITY OF CATARMAN, SAMAR, oppositors-appellees.
Padilla Law Office for applicant-appellant.
Provincial Fiscal Eliseo de Veyra and Assistant Provincial Fiscal Espiridion R. Lim of Samar for
oppositors-appellees.

MAKALINTAL, J.:p
This is an appeal from the decision of the Court of First Instance of Samar in Land Registration Case No.
3448 involving three parcels of land located in Catarman, Samar (denominated as Lots 1, 2 and 3), titles
to which were sought to be confirmed and registered in favor of the Bishop of Calbayog. The lower court
adjudicated Lot 2 in favor of the Municipality of Catarman and declared the eastern portion of Lot 1, and
the portions of Nalazon street and Anunciacion street traversing said Lot 1 and Lot 2, as public plaza and
public thoroughfares, respectively, and hence not subject to registration.
The petition for registration was filed by the Bishop of Calbayog, as a corporation sole, on March 27,
1953, alleging open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession, since the Spanish regime, of three
parcels of land known as Lot 1 and 2 in the survey plan Exhibit D, dated September 14-15, 1951, and Lot
3 in the survey plan Exhibit E, the first two lots situated in the poblacion of Catarman, Samar, and the
third in barrio Cawayan.
Opposition to the application was filed by the Director of Lands with respect to the three lots on October
1, 1953, and by the Municipality of Catarman with respect to Lot 2 during the survey thereof.

On October 15, 1955 the lower court issued an order of general default except as against the
aforementioned oppositors. In the same order the Municipality of Catarman was given 5 days from notice
within which to submit in proper form its opposition with respect to Lot 2. Copy of the order of general
default was received by the municipal secretary on October 18, 1955, and on October 21 the Municipality
of Catarman filed its formal opposition as ordered. On November 28, 1956 it filed an amended opposition,
including therein the eastern portion of Lot 1 and portions of Nalazon street and Anunciacion street
traversing said Lot 1. A second amended opposition was filed on June 15, 1957, particularly describing
Lot 1 and Lot 2 and alleging that the eastern portion of Lot 1, being a municipal plaza, was registrable in
favor of the municipality.
After initial hearing the lower court, in an order dated June 15, 1957, denied the amendment on the
ground that the proper procedure, which was by means of petition for relief from the order of general
default, had not been resorted to.
After trial on the merits the lower court rendered its decision on April 18, 1964 (1) ordering the applicant to
segregate from Lot I Nalazon street and Anunciacion street as public thoroughfares and the eastern
portion of Lot 1, beginning from Nalazon street up to Mendiola street, as public plaza of the Municipality of
Catarman; (2) confirming the imperfect title of the applicant over the remaining portion of Lot 1, with all
the improvements existing thereon, and ordering that the same be registered in the name of the Bishop of
Calbayog as a corporation sole; (3) adjudicating Lot 2, together with all the improvements existing
thereon, except the portion of Nalazon street along the eastern boundary of the lot, in favor of the
Municipality of Catarman; and (4) confirming the applicant's title over Lot 3 and ordering that the same be
registered in the name of the Bishop of Calbayog.
The Bishop of Calbayog appealed.
The evidence discloses the following pertinent facts: The survey plan presented by the applicant as
Exhibit D, which was executed on September 14-15, 1951, shows that the entire area of Lot 1 is 17,571
square meters, more o less. It is bounded on the north by a provincial road (now Rizal St.), on the east by
Mendiola St., on the south by Bonifacio St., and on the west by a national road (Trece Martires del 1900
St.). Opposite Lot 1 to the northwest is Lot 2, which has an area of approximately 4,707 square meters. It
is bounded by the provincial road (Rizal St.) on the south, on the west by the national road (Trece
Martires del 1900 St.), on the north by Blumentrit St. and on the east by a municipal lot.
The survey plan does not contain any other information or markings. But from the undisputed actual
observation by the lower court as well as from the description given by the witnesses for both parties,
Nalazon St., which traverses the entire length of the poblacion from south to north, crosses Jacinto and
Real streets and cuts across Lot 1 from Bonifacio St. to Rizal St., passing immediately in front of the

church and the convent. It extends across Lot 2 along its eastern boundary from Rizal St. to Blumentrit St.
Thus, from actual observation Lot 2 appears bounded on the east by Nalazon St. and not by the
municipal lot as described in the survey plan. With respect to Lot 1, Nalazon St. divides the lot into the
western portion, which forms about 2/3 of the entire area, and the eastern portion which comprises the
other 1/3. All the permanent improvements on Lot 1, which include the Roman Catholic church, the belfry
and convent, the St. Michael Academy building and a nun's residence, are found on the western portion.
Lot 2 has no permanent improvements. The eastern portion of Lot 1, the area in contention, is an empty
space except for concrete benches along the perimeter. A partly cemented path runs across this lot from
east to west leading up to the front or entrance of the church and appears to be an extension of
Anunciacion St., which runs from the bank of the Catarman river up to Mendiola St. In the middle of this
path, half-way between Mendiola St. and the church, is a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The Roman Catholic Church relies on the testimony of its witnesses to prove its ownership. Mariano
Singzon, 59 years old and one-time municipal councilor of Catarman and also counsel in this case for the
applicant, was the principal witness. The following is his testimony: Prior to 1910 the portions of Nalazon
and Anunciacion streets traversing Lot 1 and Lot 2 were merely trails used by the parishioners in going to
and from the church. A retracing (Exhibit M) of a survey plan of the poblacion of Catarman executed in
1909 shows that Anunciacion St. stopped at Calle Garfil (now Mendiola St.) and that there was no other
street traversing Lot 1. According to Atty. Singzon, Nalazon St. was opened and improved by the
municipality sometime in 1910 or 1911. Anunciacion St. was opened only about 2 years before the trial of
the case. In 1920, the municipality planted acacia trees on both sides of Nalazon St. inside Lot 1 and
along Mendiola St. bordering Lot 1 but these trees were recently cut down upon order of the priest, Fr.
Ricalde, and all that remain are stumps. The statue of the Sacred Heart found in the middle of
Anunciacion St. was put up in 1927, but the base of the statue had been standing on that site even before
1905. The Roman Catholic Church had made no improvements on this eastern portion of Lot 1, which at
present is being used as a public playground, although a bandstand stood there for about three years
after it was constructed in 1926 by the members of an orchestra which was organized by a Fr. Ranera
and which used to give musical performances on the bandstand. On the feast of Corpus Christi the
parishioners would construct an altar on this lot and hold the procession there.
With respect to Lot 2, although the Church had made no improvements thereon, around the turn of the
century there were camarins on this lot which were used as stables for the horses and cows owned by a
Fr. Troquillo. In 1933 the municipal council passed a resolution (Exhibit G) asking the Bishop of
Calbayog, then Mons. Hacbang, to donate a small portion of this lot for the construction of a monument in
honor of the Trece Martires del 1900, but this request was denied by the Bishop. Gonzalo Olmedo, the
municipal secretary of Catarman in 1933 whose signature appears on Exhibit G, testified as to the
authenticity of the resolution and even pointed to the western portion of Lot 2 as the subject matter of the
request. Mons. Desoloc, who acted as private secretary to the Bishop at that time, testified that the writing

on the lower right hand corner of Exhibit G, which reads "cont. negativ" is the handwriting of the Bishop
and was meant to impart an order that the request contained in the resolution be denied. In 1949 Mayor
Eusebio Moore of Catarman and Fr. Ortega asked him, Atty. Singzon, to draft a contract of exchange
between Lot 2 and a lot owned by the municipality, but the exchange did not materialize because the lot
intended to be bartered by the municipality had no title, although he (the witness) found a copy of a tax
declaration (Exhibit F) for Lot 2 dated May 8, 1948 in the name of the Roman Catholic Church. This tax
declaration describes Lot 2 as being bounded by Trece Martires del 1900 on the west, Nalazon St.
(instead of the municipal lot as described in Exhibit D) on the east, Blumentrit St. on the north and Rizal
St. on the south.
The testimony of Atty. Singzon was corroborated by Candido Franzuela, a 63 year-old resident of
Catarman and brother of Fr. Franzuela of the same municipality as well as Salvadora Olmedo, an 82
year-old local resident, who died after giving her direct testimony. Franzuela confirmed the existence on
Lot 2 of camarins used as stables for the cattle owned by the church. He remembered that sometime in
1927 a group of Chinese asked permission from the parish priest to use the lot as a football ground,
which they did for 2 years. On cross-examination he admitted that before Nalazon St. was extended there
was no visible boundary between Lot 2 claimed by the Church and the municipal lot on which a public
school building used to stand. Salvadora Olmedo also testified that when she was yet schooling a certain
Fr. Troquillo had camarins on Lot 2 which he used as stables for his cows and horses and that whenever
she and her classmates wanted to gather flowers on this lot they asked permission from the priest.
The case for oppositors was presented by the following witnesses:
1. Martin Evangelista, 65 years old and former municipal treasurer of Catarman, declared that as property
custodian of the municipality before his retirement, he knew that Lot 2 was owned by the municipality.
This lot was fenced by the municipality first with bamboos and then with barbed wire because the
municipal prisoners were planting camotes on this lot. On February 21, 1952 Fr. Franquela personally
handed to him a letter (Exhibit 1) asking that he be allowed to use a portion of Lot 2 as playground for the
students of St. Michael Academy. He endorsed the letter to the municipal council of Catarman, which
passed Resolution No. 19 (Exhibit 3), declaring Lot 2 as temporary public playground until such time that
the municipality was ready to construct a permanent improvement thereon.
2. Eusebio Moore, 54, mayor of Catarman since 1948, declared that Lot 2 was owned by the municipality
because when he was in the elementary grades he attended classes in a public school building located
on the municipal lot next to Lot 2 and did school gardening on Lot 2. When he was in Grade 6, as leader
of the school football team he invited the Chinese team to play and he was the one who asked permission
from the municipal president to use Lot 2 as their football ground. When he assumed office in 1948 he
had the lot fenced and planted to fruit trees and during fiestas temporary sheds would be put up for rent

to itinerant merchants. It was Fr. Ortega who went to see him in 1949 regarding the fencing of Lot 2 by
the municipality and together they discussed the matter with Atty. Singzon, the lawyer for the Church, and
the latter suggested to him that Lot 2 be exchanged with another lot owned by the municipality and he
replied that it was up to the municipal council to decide. In 1950 he had the lot declared for taxation
purposes. The tax declaration (Exhibit 5) covers the entire area of Lot 2 claimed by the applicant as well
as the uncontested municipal lot, from Trece Martires del 1900 on the west to Mendiola St. on the east,
Blumentrit St. on the north and Rizal St. on the south. This tax declaration was marked on the reverse
side as newly issued because according to him the old tax declaration could not be located as the public
records had been destroyed during the war. Mayor Moore denied the authenticity of Resolution No. 19
(Exh. G) sent by the municipal council to the Bishop in 1933 on the ground that the document is in
Spanish, language not spoken either by the municipal secretary who certified as to the correctness of the
resolution or by the municipal president, who supposedly dictated its text. The witness produced the
affidavits of Pelayo Saldo, municipal councilor in 1933 and one of those listed as present when the
resolution was taken up, to the effect that Lot 2 is owned by the municipality. He also produced a similar
affidavit executed by Antonio Oladive, a former municipal president of Catarman. To further buttress the
municipality's position the mayor produced a letter dated February 29, 1952 by Matias Rodriguez,
representing the Northern Samar Academy, requesting that Lot 2 be used as playground for the school.
The mayor disclosed that he, the mayor, had been president of the Northern Samar Academy. Nalazon
St. and Anunciacion St., according to Mayor Moore, are cleaned and maintained by the municipality. With
respect to the eastern portion of Lot 1 the same had always been regarded as owned by the municipality
because the municipal building used to face this lot, although when he assumed the office of Mayor he
had the backyard of the municipal building improved and the stairway transferred there.
3. Gaudencio Camposano, a 75 year-old resident of Catarman, testified that a bandstand was
constructed on the eastern portion of Lot 1 in 1905 and it was not only the orchestra organized by Fr.
Ranera that used to play there but also the municipal band. He also testified that when he was attending
school in 1905 the school garden was located inside Lot 2, which he believed to be in the possession of
the municipality because nobody owned it and when he became acting mayor he required the prisoners
to clear Lot 2 and had it planted to camotes and bananas.
The conclusion that may be drawn from the evidence on record is that Lot 2, called the "town plaza" by
oppositor, is a public plaza and that Nalazon St., traversing Lot I and Lot 2, is a public thoroughfare and
should therefore be excluded from the application for registration filed by the Church.
Admittedly Nalazon St. was originally merely a trail used by the parishioners in going to and from the
church. But since 1910, when it was opened and improved as a public thoroughfare by the municipality, it
had been continuously used as such by the townspeople of Catarman without objection from the Church
authorities. The acacia trees along both sides of the street were planted by the municipality in 1920,

although these trees were cut down recently upon order of the priest. There is no proof that the Church
merely tolerated and limited the use of this street for the benefit of its parishioners, considering that the
street traverses the entire length of the poblacionfrom south to north and that Lot 1, on which the church
stands, is located almost at the center of the poblacion. The street does not stop on Lot I but extends
north toward the sea, passing along the lot occupied by the Central Elementary School and the Northern
Samar General Hospital. Thus it is clear that Nalazon St. inside Lot 1 is used by the residents not only in
going to the church but to the public school and the general hospital north of Lot 1.
With respect to Lot 2, there is no evidence that either the Church or the municipality exercised clear acts
of ownership or of exclusive possession over this lot. It is true that there were witnesses who testified that
around the turn of the century there were camarins inside this lot used as stables for the horses and cows
owned by a Fr. Troquillo. But these witnesses likewise testified that this lot had been used also as a
playground as well as a school garden by the students of the public school located on the adjoining
municipal lot. This lot still serves as a public playground up to the present. The municipality also makes
use of this lot during town fiestas by constructing temporary sheds which are rented to itinerant vendors.
In 1949 the municipality constructed a fence around this lot because the prisoners planted it to camotes.
The Church, however, objected to the putting up of the fence.
All these facts only show that neither the Church nor the municipality possessed Lot 2 exclusively. While
it may be true that as late as 1933 the municipality acknowledged the ownership of the Church over Lot 2
and in 1949 the Church declared this lot for tax purposes, the continuous use thereof enjoyed by the
residents of Catarman is admitted by all the witnesses. Thus, even the witness for the applicant testified
that the Church had made no improvements on Lot 2 and that the same had been used primarily as
playground for schoolchildren. The municipality stands on the same footing as the Church. The tax
declaration in its name was issued only in 1950, when the present dispute was already imminent. The
letters of Fr. Franzuela and Mr. Matias Rodriguez asking permission to use this lot as a playground are
not proof of municipal ownership, since after all the municipal government may be considered the
administrator of public property, that is, property for public use.
In the case of Harty vs. Municipality of Victoria, 13 Phil. 152, involving the question as to the ownership of
a parcel of land which surrounded the parish church of the town, this Court said:
Even though all the remaining space of land which now forms the great plaza of the town
of Victoria had been owned by the said Taedo, it must be presumed that he waived his
right thereto for the benefit of the townspeople, since from the creation or establishment
of the town, down to the present day, all the residents, including the curate of said town,
have enjoyed the free use of said plaza.

xxx xxx xxx


That both the curates and the gobernadorcillos of said town procured fruit trees and
plants to be set out in the plaza, does not constitute an act of private ownership, but
evidences the public use thereof, or perhaps the intention to improve or embellish the
said plaza for the benefit of the townspeople.
xxx xxx xxx
Certain it is that the plaintiff has not proven that the Catholic Church or the parish of
Victoria was the owner or proprietor of the said extensive piece of land which now forms
the public plaza of said town, nor that it was in possession thereof under the form and
conditions required by law, inasmuch as it has been fully proven that said plaza has been
used without let or hindrance by the public and the residents of the town of Victoria ever
since its creation.
Since neither the Church nor the municipality could present positive proof of ownership or exclusive
possession for an appreciable period of time and the only indubitable fact is the free and continuous use
of Lot 2 by the residents of Catarman, coupled with the fact that the town has no public plaza to speak of
other than this disputed parcel of land, there is a strong presumption that the same was segregated as a
public plaza upon the founding of the municipality of Catarman.
The municipality, as has been heretofore noted, was declared in default with respect to Lot 1, and the
default was never lifted. Indeed the amended opposition of the municipality which purported to include the
eastern portion of said lot, was denied by the lower court. In any event, the municipality failed to establish
its allegation with respect to the said portion of Lot 1 and to the portion of Anunciacion St. within this lot.
This portion is only a path which is cemented from the corner of Mendiola St. to the monument of the
Sacred Heart, and asphalted from the monument to the front of the church. There is no evidence that this
path was planted to acacia trees, unlike Nalazo St. and Mendiola St., where acacia stumps were
observed by the lower court. The explanation offered by Mayor Moore as to the presence of this religious
monument in the middle of a public thoroughfare that the residents of Catarman are religious is not
convincing. The statue was enthroned only in 1927, when the separation of church and state was already
a confirmed legal principle. The statue was even recently improved with the construction of a platform
beneath it. Its location shows that the path leading to it and to the front of the church is not an extension
of Anunciacion St. but was opened mainly for the benefit of the parishioners. The eastern portion of Lot 1
itself is used for religious functions, such as the feast of Corpus Christi and the procession held on the
occasion. It is admitted by the municipality that the Church does not ask for a permit whenever it uses this
lot for such activities.

On the other hand, there is no evidence that the municipality uses this lot for its official activities to
support its claim that this lot is a municipal plaza. The circumstance that the municipal band used to
perform weekly on the "kiosko" found on this lot sometime in 1927 does not constitute an act of exclusive
possession which could be the basis of a title. Moreover, the "kiosko" stood only for three years and the
municipality has not adduced any evidence that it continued to use the lot after the "kiosko" was
demolished.
For the foregoing reasons, the appealed decision is hereby modified in the sense that Lot 2, being a
public plaza, and Nalazon St., traversing Lot 1 and Lot 2, being a public thoroughfare, are not subject to
registration; and that the title of the Bishop of Calbayog with respect to the entire area of Lot 1, except the
portion covered by Nalazon St., and to Lot 3, is confirmed and ordered registered in his name, as
corporation sole. In all other respects the decision appealed from is affirmed. No pronouncement as to
costs.
Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Zaldivar, Castro, Fernando, Teehankee, Barredo, Makasiar and Antonio,
JJ., concur.

Republic

of

the

Philippines

SUPREME

COURT

Manila
FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. L-37682 March 29, 1974


REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Represented by the DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner,
vs.
HON. PEDRO SAMSON ANIMAS, in his capacity as Judge of CFI South Cotabato, Branch I,
General Santos City, ISAGANI DU TIMBOL and the REGISTER OF DEEDS OF GENERAL SANTOS
CITY, respondent.
Office of the Solicitor General Estelito P. Mendoza, Assistant Solicitor General Santiago M. Kapunan and
Solicitor Patricio M. Patajo for petitioner.
Quitain Law Office for private respondent.

ESGUERRA, J.:p
Petition to review the order of the Court of First Instance of South Cotabato, Branch I, General Santos
City, dated June 22, 1973, dismissing the complaint in its Civil Case No. 1253, entitled "Republic of the
Philippines, Plaintiff, vs. Isagani Du Timbol and the Register of Deeds of General Santos City,
Defendants", instituted by the plaintiff to declare null and void Free Patent No. V-466102 and Original
Certificate of Title (O.C.T.) No. P-2508 based thereon issued in the name of defendant Isagani Du
Timbol; to order the aforesaid defendant to surrender the owner's duplicate of O.C.T. No. P-2508 and the
defendant Register of Deeds to cancel the same; to decree the reversion of the land in question to the
mass of public domain, and granting such further relief as may be just and equitable in the premises.
The land covered by the free patent and title in question was originally applied for by Precila Soria, who
on February 23, 1966, transferred her rights to the land and its improvements to defendant Isagani Du
Timbol who filed his application therefor on February 3, 1969, as a transferee from Precila Soria.

On December 12, 1969, free Patent No. V-466102 was issued by the President of the Philippines for the
land in question, and on July 20, 1970, after transmittal of the patent to the Register of Deeds of General
Santos City, Original Certificate of Title (O.C.T.) No. P-2508 was issued in the name of defendant Isagani
Du Timbol.
On August 5, 1971, the Republic of the Philippines, at the instance of the Bureau of Forestry, filed a
complaint in the Court of First Instance of Cotabato, Branch I, General Santos City (Civil Case No. 1253),
to declare free patent No. V-466102 and Original Certificate of Title No. P-2508 in the name of defendant
Isagani Du Timbol null and void ab initio and to order the reversion of the land in question to the mass of
public domain. The action is based on the ground that the land covered thereby is a forest or timber land
which is not disposable under the Public Land Act; that in a reclassification of the public lands in the
vicinity where the land in question is situated made by the Bureau of Forestry on March 7, 1958, the said
land was plotted on Bureau of Forestry map L.C. 700 to be inside the area which was reverted to the
category of public forest, whereas the application for free patent by Isagani Du Timbol was filed on June
3, 1969, or more than eleven years thereafter; that the said patent and title were obtained fraudulently as
private respondent Isagani Du Timbol never occupied and cultivated the land applied for.
Invoking the case of Ramirez vs. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. L-28591, 30 SCRA 207-301), holding that a
certificate of title fraudulently secured is not null and void ab initio, unless the fraud consisted in
misrepresenting that the land covered by the application is part of the public domain when it is not, the
respondent court dismissed the complaint on the ground that Certificate of Title based on the patent had
became indefeasible in view of the lapse of the one-year period prescribed under Section 38 of the Land
Registration Act for review of a decree of title on the ground of fraud. From this order of June 22, 1973,
dismissing the complaint, plaintiff Republic of the Philippines has appealed to this Court for review.
After careful deliberation, this Court grants the petition on the ground that the area covered by the patent
and title is not disposable public land, it being a part of the forest zone and, hence the patent and title
thereto are null and void.
The defense of indefeasibility of a certificate of title issued pursuant to a free patent does not lie against
the state in an action for reversion of the land covered thereby when such land is a part of a public forest
or of a forest reservation. As a general rule, timber or forest lands are not alienable or disposable under
either the Constitution of 1935 or the Constitution of 1973. Although the Director of Lands has jurisdiction
over public lands classified as agricultural under the constitution, or alienable or disposable under the
Public Land Act, and is charged with the administration of all laws relative thereto, mineral and timber
lands are beyond his jurisdiction. It is the Bureau of Forestry that has jurisdiction and authority over the
demarcation, protection, management, reproduction, occupancy and use of all public forests and forest
reservations and over the granting of licenses for the taking of products therefrom, including stone and

earth (Section 1816 of the Revised Administrative Code). That the area in question is a forest or timber
land is clearly established by the certification made by the Bureau of Forest Development that it is within
the portion of the area which was reverted to the category of forest land, approved by the President on
March 7, 1958. When the defendant Isagani Du Timbol filed his application for free patent over the land in
question on June 3, 1969, the area in question was not a disposable or alienable public land but a public
forest. Titles issued to private parties by the Bureau of Lands when the land covered thereby is not
disposable public land but forest land are void ab initio. In Gatchalian vs. Pavilen, et al., L-17619, Oct. 31,
1962, 6 SCRA p. 508, 512, this Court said:
And if it be true that the Bureau of Lands had no jurisdiction to issue a patent because
the land involved was still inalienable forest land when granted, then it may be plausibly
contended that the patent title would be ab initio void, subject to attack at any time by any
party adversely affected. (Gatchalian vs. Pavilen, et al., L-17619, Oct. 31, 1962, supra,
citing Civil Code Arts. 1409 and 1421; Vao vs. Insular Gov't., 41 Phil. 161; Aderable vs.
Director of Forestry, L-13663, March 25, 1960).
A patent is void at law if the officer who issued the patent had no authority to do so (Knight vs. Land Ass.,
142 U.S. 161, 12 Sup. Ct., 258, 35L ED. 974; emphasis supplied). If a person obtains a title under the
Public Land Act which includes, by mistake or oversight, lands which cannot be registered under the
Torrens System, or when the Director of Lands did not have jurisdiction over the same because it is a
public forest, the grantee does not, by virtue of said certificate of title alone, become the owner of the land
illegally included. (See Ledesma vs. Municipality of Iloilo, 49 Phil. 769)
The case of Ramirez vs. Court of Appeals, G. R. No. L-28591, Oct. 31, 1969, 30 SCRA 297, relied upon
by respondent Court in dismissing this case, is not controlling. In that case no forest land was involved
but agricultural public land which was first covered by a patent issued to one party and later registered
under the Torrens System by the other party. The litigation was between private parties where the party
who registered it under Act No. 496 sought the nullity of the title of the patentee under the Public Land
Act. In the case at bar the party seeking the nullity of the title and reversion of the land is the state itself
which is specifically authorized under Section 101 of the Public Land Act to initiate such proceedings as
an attribute of sovereignty, a remedy not available to a private individual.
The complaint alleges in its paragraph 8 that applicant Isagani Du Timbol was never in possession of the
property prior to his filing the application, contrary to the provisions of law that the applicant must have
been in possession or cultivation thereof for at least 30 years; that the applicant, after diligent search by
the Acting Chief of the Survey-Party, Francisco R. Alcones, in South Cotabato, could not be contacted
because he is a resident of Davao City; that there are no existing signs of improvements found in the area
in question as it is not under cultivation but covered with grasses, bushes and small trees; that it is being

used as ranch for grazing cows by the heirs of Hermogenes Chilsot; that no monuments were placed on
the area surveyed which goes to show that there was no actual survey thereof; that the property in
question is inside the ranch of the heirs of Hermogenes Chilsot under Pasture Lease Agreement No.
1244 and, therefore, inside the forest zone; and that said ranch has a fence around it to show that other
persons could not enter and cultivate the same, and that the signature of then Acting District Land Officer
Elias de Castro of South Cotabato has been forged to facilitate the issuance of patent in favor of Isagani
Du Timbol.
The above alleged circumstances are indicative of fraud in the filing of the application and obtaining title
to the land, and if proven would override respondent Judge's order dismissing the case without hearing.
The misrepresentations of the applicant that he had been occupying and cultivating the land and residing
thereon are sufficient grounds to nullify the grant of the patent and title under Section 91 of the Public
Land Law which provides as follows:
That statements made in the application shall be considered as essential conditions or
parts of any concession, title or permit issued on the basis of such application, and any
false statement thereon or omission of facts, changing, or modifying the consideration of
the facts set forth in such statement, and any subsequent modification, alteration, or
change of the material facts set forth in the application shall ipso facto produce the
cancellation of the concession, title or permit granted. ...
A certificate of title that is void may be ordered cancelled. A title will be considered void if it is procured
through fraud, as when a person applies for registration of the land under his name although the property
belongs to another. In the case of disposable public lands, failure on the part of the grantee to comply
with the conditions imposed by law is a ground for holding such title void (Director of Lands vs. Court of
Appeals, et al., G.R. No. L-17696, May 19, 1966, 17 SCRA, 71, 79-80; emphasis supplied). The lapse of
the one year period within which a decree of title may be reopened for fraud would not prevent the
cancellation thereof, for to hold that a title may become indefeasible by registration, even if such title had
been secured through fraud or in violation of the law, would be the height of absurdity. Registration
should not be a shield of fraud in securing title. (J. M. Tuason & Co., Inc. vs. Macalindog, L-15398,
December 29, 1962, 6 SCRA 938, page 38).
Considering that it is the state is seeking the cancellation of the title of respondent Isagani Du Timbol,
said title has not become indefeasible for prescription cannot be invoked against the state. A title founded
on fraud may be cancelled, notwithstanding the lapse of one year from the issuance thereof, through a
petition filed in court by the Solicitor General, (Sumail vs. Court of First Instance of Cotabato, 51 O.G. p.
2414 Phil. L-8278. 96 Phil. 946: Eugenio, et al., vs. Perdido, et al., G. R. No. L-7083, May 19, 1955; De
los Santos vs. Roman Catholic Church of Midsayap G.R. No. L-6088, Feb. 24, 1954, 94 Phil. 405).

Public land fraudulently included in patents or certificates of title may be recovered or reverted to the state
in accordance with Section 101 of the Public Land Act (Director of Lands vs. Jugado et al., G.R. No. L14707, May 23, 1961). Prescription does not lie against the state in such cases for the Statute of
Limitations does not run against the state (Article 1108, paragraph 4 of the New Civil Code). The right of
reversion or reconveyance to the state is not barred prescription (Republic of the Philippines vs. Ramona
Ruiz, et al., G.R. No. L-23712, April 29, 1968, 23 SCRA 348. People vs. Ramos, G.R. No. L-15484, Jan.
31, 1963, 47 SCRA 12; Government of the Philippines vs. Monte de Piedad 35 Phil. 728; 751-753).
Even granting that the title of private respondent Isagani Du Timbol can no longer be reopened under the
Land Registration Act, the land covered thereby may be reconveyed to the state in an action for
reconveyance under Section 101 of Commonwealth Act 141 (Public Land Act), for the remedy of
reconveyance is adequately covered by the prayer of the complaint for the grant of such other relief as
may be just and equitable in the premises.
FOR ALL THE FOREGOING, the order of the respondent court, dated June 22, 1973, dismissing the
complaint, and that of September 29, 1973, denying the motion for its reconsideration, both issued in Civil
Case No. 1253 of the respondent court, are hereby annulled and set aside. The respondent court shall
proceed to hear said Civil Case and render judgment thereon accordingly.
Costs against respondent Isagani Du Timbol.
Makalintal, C.J., Castro, Makasiar, Muoz Palma, JJ., concur.

FAUSTINO IGNACIO VS DIRECTOR OF LANDS GR NO. L 12958 MAY 30, 1960


Facts: Ignacio applied for the registration of a parcel of a mangrove land in Rizal. It was stated in the
application that he owned the parcel by right of accretion. The director of land opposed the registration for
the reason that the land to be registered is an area of public domain and that the applicant nor his
predecessor in interest possessed sufficient title for the land. The parcel of land applied was acquired
from the government by the virtue of a free patent title. However, the land in question was formed by
accretion and alluvial deposits caused by the action of the Manila bay. The petition was denied by the
lower court and decided that the land to be registered are part of the public domain. Faustino, however,
contended that the court could have declared the land not to be part of the public domain.
Issue: Whether or not the courts have the power to reclassify a land
Ruling: No, the courts do not have the power to reclassify a land. The courts are primarily called upon to
determine whether a land is to be used for public purpose. However, it is only limited there. A formal
declaration of reclassification of land should come from the government, specifically from the executive
department or the legislature. These bodies should declare that a land in question is no longer needed for
public use, some public use or for the improvement of national wealth.
FACTS: Faustino Ignacio filed an application to register a parcel of land (mangrove) which he alleged he
acquired by right of accretion since it adjoins a parcel of land owned by the Ignacio. His application is
opposed by the Director of Lands, Laureano Valeriano, contending that said land forms part of the public
domain. The Trial Court dismissed the application holding that said land formed part of the public domain.
Thus the case at bar.
ISSUE: Whether or not the land forms part of the public domain
HELD: YES
1. The law on accretion cited by Ignacio in inapplicable in the present case because it refers to accretion
or deposits on the banks of rivers while this refers to action in the Manila Bay, which is held to be part of
the sea
2. Although it is provided for by the Law of Waters that lands added to shores by accretions caused by
actions of the sea form part of the pubic domain when they are no longer necessary for purposes of
public utility, only the executive and the legislative departments have the authority and the power to make
the declaration that any said land is no longer necessary for public use. Until such declaration is made by
said departments, the lot in question forms part of the public domain, not available for private
appropriation or ownership.

Republic

of

the

Philippines

SUPREME

COURT

Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. L-12958

May 30, 1960


IGNACIO, applicant-appellant,

FAUSTINO
vs.

THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS and LAUREANO VALERIANO, oppositors-appellees.


Acting Assistant Solicitor General Pacifico P. de Castro and Solicitor Crispin V. Bautista for appellee
Director

of

Lands.

Benjamin H. Aquino for appellee Laureano Veleriano.


MONTEMAYOR, J.:
Faustino Ignacio is appealing the decision of the Court of First Instance of Rizal, dismissing his
application for the registration of a parcel of land.
On January 25, 1950, Ignacio filed an application for the registration of a parcel of land (mangrove),
situated in barrio Gasac, Navotas, Rizal, with an area of 37,877 square meters. Later, he amended his
application by alleging among others that he owned the parcel applied for by right of accretion. To the
application, the Director of Lands, Laureano Valeriano and Domingo Gutierrez filed oppositions. Gutierrez
later withdrew his opposition. The Director of Lands claimed the parcel applied for as a portion of the
public domain, for the reason that neither the applicant nor his predecessor-in-interest possessed
sufficient title thereto, not having acquired it either by composition title from the Spanish government or by
possessory information title under the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894, and that he had not possessed
the same openly, continuously and adversely under a bona fide claim of ownership since July 26, 1894.
In his turn, Valeriano alleged he was holding the land by virtue of a permit granted him by the Bureau of
Fisheries, issued on January 13, 1947, and approved by the President.
It is not disputed that the land applied for adjoins a parcel owned by the applicant which he had acquired
from the Government by virtue of a free patent title in 1936. It has also been established that the parcel in
question was formed by accretion and alluvial deposits caused by the action of the Manila Bay which
boarders it on the southwest. Applicant Ignacio claims that he had occupied the land since 1935, planting
it with api-api trees, and that his possession thereof had been continuous, adverse and public for a period
of twenty years until said possession was distributed by oppositor Valeriano.

On the other hand, the Director of Lands sought to prove that the parcel is foreshore land, covered by the
ebb and flow of the tide and, therefore, formed part of the public domain.
After hearing, the trial court dismissed the application, holding that the parcel formed part of the public
domain. In his appeal, Ignacio assigns the following errors:
I. The lower court erred in holding that the land in question, altho an accretion to the land of the
applicant-appellant, does not belong to him but forms part of the public domain.
II. Granting that the land in question forms part of the public domain, the lower court nevertheless
erred in not declaring the same to be the necessary for any public use or purpose and in not
ordering in the present registration proceedings.
III. The lower court erred in not holding that the land in question now belongs to the applicantappellant by virtue of acquisitive prescription, the said land having ceased to be of the public
domain and became the private or patrimonial property of the State.
IV. The lower court erred in not holding that the oppositor Director of Lands is now in estoppel
from claiming the land in question as a land of the public domain.
Appellant contends that the parcel belongs to him by the law of accretion, having been formed by gradual
deposit by action of the Manila Bay, and he cites Article 457 of the New Civil Code (Article 366, Old Civil
Code), which provides that:
To the owners of lands adjoining the banks of rivers belong the accretion which they gradually
receive from the effects of the current of the waters.
The article cited is clearly inapplicable because it refers to accretion or deposits on the banks of rivers,
while the accretion in the present case was caused by action of the Manila Bay.
Appellant next contends that Articles 1, 4 and 5 of the Law of Waters are not applicable because they
refer to accretions formed by the sea, and that Manila Bay cannot be considered as a sea. We find said
contention untenable. A bay is a part of the sea, being a mere indentation of the same:
Bay. An opening into the land where the water is shut in on all sides except at the entrance; an
inlet of the sea; an arm of the sea, distinct from a river, a bending or curbing of the shore of the
sea or of a lake. 7 C.J. 1013-1014 (Cited in Francisco, Philippine Law of Waters and Water
Rights p. 6)

Moreover, this Tribunal has some cases applied the Law of Waters on Lands bordering Manila Bay. (See
the cases of Ker & Co. vs. Cauden, 6 Phil., 732, involving a parcel of land bounded on the sides by
Manila Bay, where it was held that such land formed by the action of the sea is property of the State;
Francisco vs. Government of the P.I., 28 Phil., 505, involving a land claimed by a private person and
subject to the ebb and flow of the tides of the Manila Bay).
Then the applicant argues that granting that the land in question formed part of the public domain, having
been gained from the sea, the trial court should have declared the same no longer necessary for any
public use or purpose, and therefore, became disposable and available for private ownership. Article 4 of
the Law of Waters of 1866 reads thus:
ART. 4. Lands added to the shores by accretions and alluvial deposits caused by the action of the
sea, form part of the public domain. When they are no longer washed by the waters of the sea
and are not necessary for purposes of public utility, or for the establishment of special industries,
or for the coastguard service, the Government shall declare them to be the property of the owners
of the estates adjacent thereto and as increment thereof.
Interpreting Article 4 of the Law of Waters of 1866, in the case of Natividad vs. Director of Lands, (CA) 37
Off. Gaz., 2905, it was there held that:
Article 4 of the Law of Waters of 1866 provides that when a portion of the shore is no longer
washed by the waters of the sea and is not necessary for purposes of public utility, or for the
establishment of special industries, or for coastguard service, the government shall declare it to
be the property of the owners of the estates adjacent thereto and as an increment thereof. We
believe that only the executive and possibly the legislative departments have the authority and
the power to make the declaration that any land so gained by the sea, is not necessary for
purposes of public utility, or for the establishment of special industries, on for coast-guard service.
If no such declaration has been made by said departments, the lot in question forms part of the
public domain. (Natividad vs. Director of Lands, supra.)
The reason for this pronouncement, according to this Tribunal in the case of Vicente Joven y Monteverde
vs. Director of Lands, 93 Phil., 134, (cited in Velayo's Digest, VI. I, p. 52).
. . . is undoubtedly that the courts are neither primarily called upon, nor indeed in a position to
determine whether any public land are to be used for the purposes specified in Article 4 of the
Law of Waters.
Consequently, until a formal declaration on the part of the Government, through the executive department
or the Legislature, to the effect that the land in question is no longer needed for coast guard service, for

public use or for special industries, they continue to be part of the public domain, not available for private
appropriation or ownership.
Appellant next contends that he had acquired the parcel in question through acquisitive prescription,
having possessed the same for over ten years. In answer, suffice it to say that land of the public domain
is not subject to ordinary prescription. In the case of Insular Government vs. Aldecoa & Co., 19 Phil., 505
this Court said:
The occupation or material possession of any land formed upon the shore by accretion, without
previous permission from the proper authorities, although the occupant may have held the same
as owner for seventeen years and constructed a wharf on the land, is illegal and is a mere
detainer, inasmuch as such land is outside of the sphere of commerce; it pertains to the national
domain; it is intended for public uses and for the benefit of those who live nearby.
We deem it unnecessary to discuss the other points raised in the appeal.
In view of the foregoing, the appealed decision is hereby affirmed, with costs.
Paras, C.J., Bengzon, Padilla, Bautista Angelo, Labrador, Concepcion, Barrera, and Gutierrez David,
JJ., concur.