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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. 106763

May 9, 2001

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,


vs.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, HEIRS OF MARCELA
FRANCISCO, NAMELY: ROSARIO BERNARDO and PACIFICO
BERNARDO; HEIRS OF JUANA FRANCISCO NAMELY: BUENAVENTURA
CRISOSTOMO, ANDRES CRISOSTOMO, FELICITAS CRISOSTOMO;
HEIRS OF BRIGIDA FRANCISCO, NAMELY: LIWANAG JAVIER,
EUDOSIA JAVIER, ANAPURA JAVIER, AURORA JAVIER, DOMINADOR
JAVIER and FRANKLIN JAVIER; and THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF
CAVITE, respondents.

"WHEREFORE, this Court, confirming its previous order of general


default, hereby adjudges and decrees lots 356, 318, 319 and 330
of plain AP-1377, AP-1378, AP-1379 and AP-1380, respectively,
situated in the barrio of Salinas, municipality of Bacoor, province of
Cavite, free from any liens and encumbrances to applicants, jointly
and equally in undivided shares, in the following manners:
1.
to MARCELA FRANCISCO, widow 1/3 undivided
share.
2.

BUENAVENTURA CRISOSTOMO, married to Librada


Crisostomo;
ANDRES CRISOSTOMO, married to Esperanza
Legaspi;
FELICITAS CRISOSTOMO, married to Gregorio Javier;

GONZAGA-REYES, J.:
This is a petition for review of the decision 1 of the Court of Appeals
dismissing the petition to annul the decision of the Court of First Instance
(CFI) of Cavite, Branch III,2 in Reg. Case No. N-440, LRC Rec. No. 26961.
This case stems from proceedings to annul a 1965 decision of the said land
registration court which adjudicated to private respondents certain parcels
of land.
The antecedents are as follows: On April 22, 1964, the Municipality of
Bacoor, Cavite, represented by its Mayor, Pablo G. Sarino, sold Lot Nos.
317, 318, 330 and 356, Psu-164199, with an approximate combined area
of 3.1437 hectares, located at Barrio Salinas,3 in the said municipality, to
private respondents' predecessors-in-interest for P188.20 pursuant to Act
No. 33124 and Municipal Resolution No. 89 as amended by Resolution No.
289. Prior to the sale, private respondents' predecessor-in-interest, Brigida
Francisco, had been in possession of the subject lot and paid the real
estate taxes thereon as early as 1907. On October 27, 1964, private
respondents filed an application for land registration before the abovementioned CFI of Cavite, covering the aforesaid lots, docketed as LRC Case
No. N-440, LRC Record No. N-26961. On August 4, 1965, a decision was
rendered adjudicating to the applicants, herein private respondents, the
subject parcels of land, as follows:

to the HEIRS OF JUANA FRANCISCO, namely:

PEDRO CRISOSTOMO, single (these four own 1/3


undivided share.)
3.

to the HEIRS OF BRIGIDA FRANCISCO, namely:


LIWANAG JAVIER, married to Anastacio Dominguez;
EUDOSIA JAVIER, married to Ernesto de la Cruz;
AMAPURA JAVIER, married to Angel Sebastian;
AURORA JAVIER, single;
DOMINADOR JAVIER, married to Luz Manalili;
FRANKLIN JAVIER, married to Elina Jose (These six
own 1/3 undivided share.)

All applicants are Filipinos, of legal ages, and residents of Mabolo,


Bacoor, Cavite.

Once this decision becomes final, let the corresponding decree of


registration be issued.
SO ORDERED."5
Pursuant to said judgment, Decree No. N-105464 and the corresponding
Original Certificate of Title No. 0-468 were issued on October 7, 1965.
Twenty-five years later, or on October 15, 1990, the Office of Solicitor
General (OSG) filed with the Court of Appeals a petition to annul the
decision of the CFI of Cavite, Decree No. N-105464 and OCT No. 0-468
issued pursuant thereto; and to order the restoration or reversion of the
subject parcels of land to the mass of the public domain. The OSG alleged
that the registration proceedings were null and void for lack of jurisdiction
because the parcels of land subject thereof were still classified as forest
land, having been released therefrom only on February 21, 1972; that the
OSG was not furnished with a copy of the application for registration and
other records as mandated by Section 51, of the Public Land Act; and that
the applicants have not shown possession and occupation of the lands in
the manner and for the length of time required by section 48(b) of the
Public Land Act, as amended. On August 13, 1992, the Court of Appeals
rendered its decision, dismissing for lack of merit as aforesaid, the petition
to annul the Decision dated August 4, 1965 of the CFI of Cavite, Br. III in
Reg. Case No. N-440, LRC Rec. No. 26961.6 The Court of Appeals ruled that
"by virtue of Act 3312 enacted by the Philippine Legislature on December
2, 1926, the subject lots were previously classified as communal in
character; that the predecessors-in-interest of private respondents were
able to purchase subject lots as authorized by said Act; that there is no
question about the validity of Act 3312 especially the power of the
Philippine Legislature at that time to authorize the sale of land then
classified as communal land; and that the predecessors-in-interest of
private respondents acquired the subject lots pursuant to this law and their
right has acquired the sanctity of a vested right which cannot be adversely
affected by the subsequent passage of C.A. 141."
Hence, the instant petition questioning whether or not the Court of Appeals
erred in: (1) relying solely on Act No. 3312 as basis for its conclusion that
subject lots are alienable and disposable, in total disregard of the Public
Land Act; (2) in holding that the registration court had jurisdiction to
adjudicate subject lots as private property of private respondents'
predecessors-in-interest despite their being "communal lands" and, hence,
not agricultural lands subject to disposition; (3) in holding that a vested
right had been acquired by the predecessors-in-interest of private
respondent over the subject lots which could no longer be affected by the

Public Land Act; (4) in not finding that the Office of the Solicitor General
was never furnished with a copy of the application and other records in the
registration proceedings as mandated by Section 51 of the Public Land Act;
(5) in considering as non-issue the lack of approval of the provincial board
of Cavite and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources on the
sale of subject lots to private respondents' predecessors-in-interest; (6) in
not declaring that the subject lots were only classified and released as
alienable and disposable lands of the public domain in February, 1972,
hence, beyond the jurisdiction of the registration court; (7) in not holding
that the applicants' predecessors-in-interest had no registrable title over
the subject lots at the time the same were adjudicated to them by the
registration court; (8) in not declaring the sale of the subject lots by the
municipality of Bacoor, Cavite, a mere trustee thereof, as void ab initio for
lack of approval or consent of the provincial board of Cavite and the
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources as required by law.
As the Court sees it, the assignedERRORS
be reduced into the following, to wit:

cognizable by this Court may

1. Whether the sale of communal lands of the Municipality of


Bacoor to private respondents' predecessors-in-interest was
authorized by law; and
2. Whether the land registration court acquired jurisdiction over the
parcels of land covered by the decree issued on October 7, 1965
pursuant to the decision of said court of August 4, 1965.
The petition is not impressed with merit.
First of all, we agree with the Court of Appeals that Act No. 3312, known as
the "Act Authorizing the Sale of the Communal Lands in the Municipality
of Bacoor, Province of Cavite, and for other purposes," which was enacted
into law on December 2, 1926, was the law governing the sale and
acquisition by private respondents of the subject parcels of land. It
provided:
"SECTION 1. The sale to private parties of the communal lands
situated in the municipality of Bacoor, Province of Cavite, Philippine
Islands, and held in trust by the municipal council thereof for the
benefit of the inhabitants of said municipality, is hereby
authorized: Provided, That the present tenants and lessees of the
different parcels composing said lands shall have the right to buy
their respective leaseholds subject to such rules and regulations

which shall be adopted by the municipal council of Bacoor subject


to the approval of the Provincial Board of Cavite and the Secretary
of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Provided, further, That if any
parcel of land is the subject of litigation in court the sale thereof
shall be suspended until after the litigation is finally terminated.
xxx
xxx
xxx."
ACT 3312 authorized and recognized the sale of communal lands in the
municipality of Bacoor, Cavite, to qualified applicants. By express
declaration of Section 1 of Act 3312 quoted above, lands designated as
communal lands of the municipality of Bacoor were open to disposition to
private parties. Pursuant thereto, the Municipality of Bacoor issued
Resolution No. 289, Series of 1962, entitled, "A Resolution to Amend
Resolution No. 89, Series of 1956 Authorizing the Sale of Communal Lands
in the Municipality of Bacoor, Province of Cavite, and Prescribing Rules and
Regulations for the Purpose of Implementing the Provisions of Philippine
Legislature Act No. 3312 as approved on December 2, 1926." Among
others, Resolution No. 289 imposed as conditions, the following: 1. Buyers
should be tenants and lessees as of December 2, 1926 of the different
parcels composing said lands as recorded in the communal lands register
in the Office of the Mayor; and 2. they must pay the corresponding rental in
arrears and other obligations due to the municipality. Presumably, with no
proof to the contrary shown, the predecessors-in-interest of private
respondents have met all the requirements of the law and the rules and
regulations issued pursuant thereto for the execution of the sale.
Notably, petitioner's petition for annulment of judgment in the Court of
Appeals contended that the decree in favor of the private respondents was
issued at the time when the subject land was still forest land, based
primarily on the Final Report of Investigation of Senior Land Management
Officer Romeo B. Manicat dated December 28, 1989. According to his
report, the subject parcels of land were found, among others, to be within
the forest zone at the time they were adjudicated to the applicants by the
land registration court in 1965, as shown by the Land Classification Map
No. 2376 under Project No. 6-A. However, a scrutiny of the foregoing
documents fails to conclusively establish the actual classification of the
land prior to its release as alienable and disposable in February 21, 1972.
The aforesaid Land Classification Map drawn several years after the
issuance of the decree in 1965 merely shows that the subject lots were
part of Project 6-A, a big tract of land in Bacoor, Cavite which was certified
and declared as alienable or disposable land on February 21, 1972 under
Forestry Administrative Order No. 4-1253. Contrary to petitioner's posture,
the Report of Senior Land Management Officer Romeo B. Manicat who
conducted an investigation of the parcels of land does not prove the real

nature and character of the subject lots at the time of their sale and
registration. In fact, he indicated in said report that the lands were cleared,
converted into a modern community, with permanent improvements. More
important, the subject lots were previously classified as communal lands,
which were then held in trust by the Municipal Council of Bacoor, Cavite,
for the benefit of the inhabitants of said municipality. The private
respondents were able to purchase the same pursuant to Act No. 3312 and
Resolution No. 289 of the Municipal Council of Bacoor prescribing the Rules
and Regulations for the Implementation of Act 3112.1wphi1.nt
Secondly, it isERROR to say that private respondents, as qualified
applicants, could no longer avail of the benefits of Act 3312, due to the
subsequent passage of C.A. 141. True, the sale was perfected and
consummated only on April 22, 1964 and the application for registration
was filed only on October 27, 1964. But we agree with the Court of Appeals
that the right of private respondents had already acquired the sanctity of
"vested or acquired rights" which cannot be defeated or adversely affected
by the passage of C.A. 141. The right was vested by the fact that their
predecessors-ininterest have been occupying the said communal lands
embraced by the law since 1907, as found by the registration court. While
petitioner contests this finding of fact, we cannot depart from the wellentrenched rule that uniformly holds that findings of facts of the trial court
particularly when affirmed by the Court of Appeals are binding upon the
Supreme Court.7 Further, review by the Supreme Court in a petition under
Rule 45 of the Rules of Court is generally limited only to questions of law. 8
Thirdly, we are not persuaded by petitioner's argument that Act 3312 was
repealed by C.A. 141. According to petitioner, as between Act No. 3312, an
earlier enactment passed by the Philippine Legislature on December 2,
1926, on one hand, and C.A. 141, enacted on November 7, 1936 on the
other, the latter should prevail over the former because the assailed
disposition of the subject lots took place in 1964-65, or at a time when C.A.
141 had long been in force and effect. Petitioner adds that while the sale of
communal lands situated in the Municipality of Bacoor, Cavite, was
authorized under Act No. 3312, the same should now bow to C.A. 141
limiting the disposition of the lands of the public domain only to
agricultural lands. There can be no implied repeal of Act 3312 by the
subsequent enactment of C.A. 141 as it is a well-settled rule of statutory
construction that repeals of statutes by implication are not favored. 9 If
repeal of particular or specific law or laws is intended, the proper step is to
so express it.10 The Public Land Act is a general law governing the
administration and disposition of the lands of the public domain; while Act
3312 is a special law on the sale of lands designated as communal situated
in the Municipality of Bacoor in Cavite. The presumption against implied

repeal is stronger when of two laws, one is special and the other general;
and this rule applies even though the terms of the general act are broad
enough to include the matter covered by the special statute. 11 Therefore,
we apply the rule that unless otherwise repealed by a subsequent law or
adjudged unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, a law will always be
presumed valid and the first and fundamental duty of the court is to apply
the law.12 The other issues raised by petitioner pertaining to the nontransmittal of the records in the registration proceedings to the Solicitor
General and that the sale did not bear the approval of the Provincial Board
of Cavite and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources deserve
scant consideration as these are not jurisdictional prerequisites for the
valid exercise of jurisdiction by a court in a land registration case. It must
be stated that a petition to annul judgment which is void, is anchored on
want of jurisdiction or that it has been obtained by extrinsic
fraud.13 Conformably with this rule, the issues raised must be limited to a
discussion of lack of jurisdiction or fraud.

declared alienable and disposable and if there is any reversion in


favor of the Republic, the land recovered would not be for public
use, but for eventual disposition to other private persons. It would
be grave injustice and would not serve any declared national land
policy to dispossess private respondents of the said parcels of
land at this point, where possession has been found to date as far
back as 1907, only to enable the government to dispose anew the
lands covered thereby to subsequent applicants.14 Moreover, it is
now almost thirty (30) years since the land was released in 1972.
In a few more months, the possessors of the land would acquire
title to the portions they adversely possess through acquisitive
prescription, without need of title or good faith, pursuant to the
Civil Code.15

Finally, the Republic as petitioner, does not stand to be deprived


of its patrimony, as the said parcels of land had already been

SO ORDER

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED for lack of merit and


challenged judgment of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED.