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THIRD DIVISION

CHARLES L. ONG, G.R. No. 175746


Petitioner,
Present:
Ynares-Santiago, J. (Chairperson),
- versus - Austria-Martinez,
Chico-Nazario,
Nachura, and
Reyes, JJ.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES,
Respondent. Promulgated:
March 12, 2008
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DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This petition for review on certiorari assails the April 25, 2006 Decision [1] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 76085, which reversed and set aside
the January 16, 2002 Decision[2] of the Municipal Trial Court of Mangaldan, Pangasinan in Land Registration Case No. 99-023, and the November 20, 2006
Resolution[3]which denied petitioners motion for reconsideration.
The antecedent facts are as follows.
On July 1, 1999, petitioner Charles L. Ong (petitioner) in his behalf and as duly authorized representative of his brothers, namely, Roberto, Alberto and
Cesar, filed an Application for Registration of Title [4] over Lot 15911 (subject lot) situated in Barangay Anolid, Mangaldan, Pangasinan with an area of five hundred
seventy four (574) square meters, more or less. They alleged that they are the co-owners of the subject lot; that the subject lot is their exclusive property having acquired
the same by purchase from spouses Tony Bautista and Alicia Villamil on August 24, 1998; that the subject lot is presently unoccupied; and that they and their
predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous and peaceful possession of the subject lot in the concept of owners for more than thirty (30) years.
After due notice and publication, only respondent Republic of the Philippines (respondent), represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, opposed the
application for registration of title. Respondent asserted that neither applicants nor their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of the subject lot since June 12, 1945 or earlier as required by Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Presidential
Decree (P.D.) No. 1073; that applicants failed to adduce any muniment of title to prove their claims; that the tax declaration appended to the application does not appear
genuine and merely shows pretended possession of recent vintage; that the application was filed beyond the period allowed under P.D. No. 892; and that the subject lot
is part of the public domain which cannot be the subject of private appropriation.
On January 16, 2002, the trial court rendered a Decision in favor of petitioner and his brothers, viz:
The foregoing evidences presented by the applicant indubitably established sufficient basis to grant the applicant (sic) for registration.
Originally, the whole parcel of land was owned by spouses Teofilo Abellara and Abella Charmine who acquired the same by virtue of a Deed of
Sale from Cynthia Cacho, Agustin Cacho, Jr., Jasmin Cacho, Jover Cacho and Lauro Cacho. Later, they sold the same parcel of land to spouses
Tony C. Villamil and Alicia Bautista, who in turn sold the same land to herein applicants.
The same parcel of land has been declared in the name of the applicant and her predecessors-in-interest and its taxes has (sic) been
religiously paid.
The said circumstances further show that the possession and ownership of the applicant and her (sic) predecessors-in-interest over the
same parcel of land has (sic) been continuous and peaceful under bona fide claim of ownership before the filing of the instant application for
registration on [July 1, 1999].
WHEREFORE, after confirming the Order of General Default, the Court hereby orders and decrees the registration of a parcel of land
as shown on plan ap-01-004897 approved by the Bureau of Land(s) situated in Barangay Anolid, Mangaldan, Pangasinan, containing an area of
Five Hundred Seventy Four (574) square meters, subject of the application for registration of title, in accordance with Presidential Decree No.
1529, in favor of CHARLIE L. ONG in his behalf and as representative of his brothers namely, ROBERTO L. ONG, ALBERTO L. ONG and
CESAR L. ONG.
Furnish copies of this Decision to the Office of the Solicitor General, Makati City, Metro Manila, the Office of the Provincial
Prosecutor, Dagupan City, Atty. Celestino Domingo Jr., the Office of the Land Registration Authority, Quezon City, as well as the applicant.
SO ORDERED.[5]
Aggrieved, respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals which rendered the assailed Decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is GRANTED. Accordingly, the decision of the court a quo granting the application for registration
of title of applicants-appellees is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.[6]
In reversing the decision of the trial court, the Court of Appeals found that the subject lot is part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. Thus, it was
incumbent upon petitioner to prove that they possessed the subject lot in the nature and for the duration required by law. However, petitioner failed to prove that he or
his predecessors-in-interest have been in adverse possession of the subject lot in the concept of owner since June 12, 1945 or earlier as mandated by Section 14(1) of
P.D. 1529. It noted that the earliest tax declaration which petitioner presented is dated 1971. Consequently, petitioner could not fairly claim possession of the land prior
to 1971. Neither was petitioner able to prove that he or his predecessors-in-interest actually occupied the subject lot prior to the filing of the application. Thus, the trial
court erred in granting the application for registration of title over the subject lot.
Hence, this petition raising the following issues:
1. WHETHER OR NOT PETITIONER, TOGETHER WITH HIS BROTHERS, NAMELY, ROBERTO L. ONG, ALBERTO L. ONG AND
CEZAR L. ONG, HAVE REGISTRABLE OWNERSHIP OVER THE REAL PROPERTY SUBJECT MATTER OF LAND
REGISTRATION CASE NO. 99-023, AND
2. WHETHER OR NOT THE FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION OF THE FORMER SPECIAL FOURTH DIVISION OF THE COURT OF
APPEALS THAT THE SUBJECT REAL PROPERTY IS A PUBLIC LAND IS CORRECT.[7]

The petition lacks merit.


Section 14(1) of P.D. 1529 (Property Registration Decree), as amended, provides
SEC. 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of
title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:
(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12,
1945, or earlier.
Thus, pursuant to the aforequoted provision of law, applicants for registration of title must prove: (1) that the subject land forms part of the disposable and alienable
lands of the public domain, and (2) that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the same under a bona fide claim of
ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.[8] These requisites involve questions of fact which are not proper in a petition for review on certiorari. Factual findings of the
court a quo are generally binding on this Court except for certain recognized exceptions, as is the case here, where the trial court and the Court of Appeals arrived at
conflicting findings.[9] After a careful review of the records, we sustain the findings and conclusions of the Court of Appeals.
There is no dispute that the subject lot is classified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. The Report[10] dated January 17, 2000 of the
Bureau of Lands stated that the subject lot is within the alienable and disposable zone as classified under Project 50 L.C. Map No. 698 and released and classified as
such onNovember 21, 1927.[11] This finding is, likewise, embodied in the Report [12] dated January 7, 1999 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR-CENRO) and the blue print Copy [13] of the plan covering the subject lot. However, petitioner failed to
prove that he or his predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the subject lot since June 12, 1945 or
earlier.
The records show that petitioner and his brothers bought the subject lot from spouses Tony Bautista and Alicia Villamil on August 24, 1998,[14] who in turn
purchased the same from spouses Teofilo Abellera and Abella Sarmen on January 16, 1997.[15] The latter bought the subject lot from Cynthia, Agustin Jr., Jasmin, Omir
and Lauro, all surnamed Cacho, on July 10, 1979.[16] The earliest tax declaration which was submitted in evidence was Tax Declaration No. 25606 [17] issued in 1971 in
the names of spouses Agustin Cacho and Eufrosinia Baustista. While tax declarations are not conclusive proof of ownership, they constitute good indicia of possession
in the concept of owner and a claim of title over the subject property. [18] Even if we were to tack petitioners claim of ownership over the subject lot to that of their
alleged predecessors-in-interest, spouses Agustin Cacho and Eufrosinia Baustista in 1971, still this would fall short of the required possession from June 12, 1945 or
earlier.
Further, as correctly pointed by the Court of Appeals, possession alone is not sufficient to acquire title to alienable lands of the public domain because the law requires
possession and occupation. As held in Republic v. Alconaba:[19]
The law speaks of possession and occupation. Since these words are separated by the conjunction and, the clear intention of the law is
not to make one synonymous with the other. Possession is broader than occupation because it includes constructive possession. When, therefore,
the law adds the word occupation, it seeks to delimit the all encompassing effect of constructive possession. Taken together with the words open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious, the word occupation serves to highlight the fact that for an applicant to qualify, his possession must not be a
mere fiction. Actual possession of a land consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such a nature as a party would naturally
exercise over his own property.[20]
Petitioner admitted that after he and his brothers bought the subject lot from spouses Tony Bautista and Alicia Villamil in 1998, neither he nor his brothers
actually occupied the subject lot. [21] No improvements were made thereon and the most that they did was to visit the lot on several occasions. [22] Petitioners predecessorin-interest, Tony Bautista testified that he and his wife never actually occupied the subject lot from the time they bought the same from spouses Teofilo Abellera and
Abella Sarmen in 1997.[23] Aside from these two testimonies, no other evidence was presented to establish the character of the possession of the subject lot by
petitioners other alleged predecessors-in-interest. Clearly, petitioners evidence failed to establish specific acts of ownership to substantiate the claim that he and his
predecessors-in-interest possessed and occupied the subject lot in the nature and duration required by law.
The burden of proof in land registration cases rests on the applicant who must show by clear, positive and convincing evidence that his alleged possession
and occupation of the land is of the nature and duration required by law. [24] Unfortunately, petitioners evidence do not constitute the well-nigh incontrovertible evidence
necessary in cases of this nature. [25] Accordingly, the Court of Appeals did not err in reversing the Decision of the trial court and in denying his application for
registration of title over the subject lot.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is DENIED. The April 25, 2006 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 76085 which
reversed and set aside the January 16, 2002 Decision of the Municipal Trial Court of Mangaldan, Pangasinan in Land Registration Case No. 99-023, and the November
20, 2006 Resolution denying the motion for reconsideration, are AFFIRMED.

THIRD DIVISION
Canete
,
Petitioners, Present:
Ynares-Santiago, J. (Chairperson),
- versus - Austria-Martinez,
Corona,*
Nachura, and
Reyes, JJ.
GENUINO ICE COMPANY, INC.,
Respondent. Promulgated:
January 22, 2008
x ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x
DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This petition for review on certiorari seeks to set aside the Decision [1] of the Court of Appeals dated January 9, 2002 in CA-G.R. SP No. 64337
entitled Genuino Ice Company, Inc. vs. Hon. Victorino P. Evangelista, Nelsie B. Caete, et al., and its Resolution[2] dated June 26, 2002, dismissing petitioners Second
Amended Complaint in Civil Case No. Q-99-36483 filed in Branch 223 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City.
Records show that on January 11, 1999, petitioners filed a complaint for cancellation of title to property covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) Nos.
N-140441;[3] 14399;[4] RT-94384 (292245);[5] RT-94794 (292246);[6] and 292247.[7] Petitioners alleged that said titles are spurious, fictitious and were issued under
mysterious circumstances, considering that the holders thereof including their predecessors-in-interest were never in actual, adverse and physical possession of the
property, rendering them ineligible to acquire title to the said property under the Friar Lands Act. [8] Petitioners also sought to nullify Original Certificate of Title (OCT)
No. 614 from which the foregoing titles sought to be cancelled originated or were derived.

Respondent Genuino Ice Co., Inc. filed a motion to dismiss [9] on the ground that the complaint states no cause of action because petitioners are not real
parties-in-interest; that no relief may be granted as a matter of law; and that petitioners failed to exhaust administrative remedies, but it was denied by the trial
court. Respondent moved for reconsideration but the same was denied.
On November 4, 1999, petitioners filed a Second Amended Complaint [10] which sought to annul, in addition to the titles already alleged in the original
complaint, TCT Nos. 274095 and 274096;[11] 274097 and 274098;[12] and 274099.[13]
The Second Amended Complaint alleged the following causes of action, as well as the remedy sought to be obtained, thus:
4. That plaintiffs (petitioners) and their predecessors-in-interest are among those who have been in actual, adverse, peaceful and
continuous possession in concept of owners of unregistered parcels of land situated at Sitio Mabilog, Barangay Culiat, Quezon City, Metro
Manila, which parcels of land are more particularly described as follows:
(1) A parcel of unregistered land known as Lot 668, situated at Barangay Culiat, Quezon City x x x.
(2) A parcel of unregistered land known as Lot 669, situated at Barangay Culiat, Quezon City x x x.
5. That the above-described real property is a portion of a friar land known as Piedad Estate, which property is intended for
distribution among the bona fide occupants thereof pursuant to the Friar Lands Act.
6. That transfer certificates of title allegedly having originated or derived from Original Certificate of Title No. 614 were issued by the
Register of Deeds of Quezon City, which transfer certificates of title are in truth and in fact fictitious, spurious and null and void, for the
following reasons: (a) that no record of any agency of the government shows as to how and in what manner was OCT 614 issued; (b) that no
record of any proceedings whatsoever, whether judicial or administrative, can support defendants claim that the above-described property
originated from OCT 614; and (c) that the transfer certificates of title over the above-described property were issued under mysterious
circumstances for the above-named defendants and their so-called predecessors-in-interest never had any actual, adverse, physical possession of
the said property, thus, not allowed to acquire title over the property in litigation pursuant to the Friar Lands Act.
7. That defendants are holders of transfer certificates of title of the above-described property, which transfer certificates of title are null
and void, for reasons specifically mentioned in Paragraph 6 hereof x x x;
8. That the acts in acquiring and keeping the said transfer certificates of title in violation of the Friar Lands Act and other existing laws
are prejudicial to plaintiffs rights over the above-described property.
9. That equity demands that defendants transfer certificates of title as specified in Paragraph 7 hereof be declared fictitious, spurious
and null and void ab initio.
P R AYE R
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court that judgment be rendered in favor of
plaintiffs and against defendants:
(1) Declaring as null and void ab initio OCT 614 and all transfer certificates of title derived therefrom;
(2) Declaring as null and void defendants transfer certificates of title over the property in litigation;
(3) Ordering defendant Register of Deeds of Quezon City to cancel defendants transfer certificates of title and all transfer certificates
of title derived therefrom;
(4) Declaring the plaintiffs as bona fide occupants of the property in litigation pursuant to the provisions of the Friar Lands Act and
other existing laws.[14]
Respondent moved to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint on the following grounds:
a) The complaint states no cause of action because: (1) on the allegations alone, plaintiffs (petitioners) are not real parties in interest
who may bring suit to cancel defendants (including respondent) titles; (2) based on the allegations and prayer of the complaint, no relief, as a
matter of law, may be granted;
b) Prescription has set in;
c) There are earlier similar complaints (Civil Case Nos. Q-95-22834 and Q-95-23111) filed by a different set of plaintiffs against a
different set of defendants but which involve the same subject matter, cause of action and allegations of the plaintiffs, with respect to the
cancellation of OCT 614 and succeeding titles derived from it. Said complaints have since been dismissed by Branch 93 of the Regional Trial
Court of Quezon City, the dismissal of which is the subject of a pending certiorari proceeding in the appellate court. [15]
On January 3, 2001,[16] the trial court denied respondents motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. Its motion for reconsideration was likewise
denied hence respondent filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals.
The appellate court granted respondents petition for certiorari and dismissed petitioners Second Amended Complaint for failure to state a cause of
action. Hence, the instant petition raising the following issues:
A. THAT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DECLARING THAT THE COMPLAINT FILED BY THE PETITIONERS WITH THE
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OFQUEZON CITY IN CIVIL CASE NO. Q-99-36483 DOES NOT STATE A VALID CAUSE OF
ACTION;
B. THAT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DECLARING THAT THE PETITIONERS ARE NOT REAL PARTIES IN INTEREST;
C. THAT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN APPLYING THE DOCTRINE OF EXHAUSTION OF ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES;
and,
D. THAT THE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AND DENIED PETITIONERS RIGHT TO DUE
PROCESS WHEN IT DISMISSED THEIR COMPLAINT.[17]
We deny the petition.
The subject lots are part of the Piedad Estate, Quezon City, a Friar Land acquired on December 23, 1903 by the Philippine Government from the Philippine
Sugar Estates Development Company, Ltd., La Sociedad Agricola de Ultramar, the British-Manila Estate Company, Ltd., and the Recoleto Order of the Philippine
Islands, as indicated in Public Act No. 1120 (Friar Lands Act) enacted on April 26, 1904.[18]
After the Piedad Estate was registered in OCT No. 614 in the name of the Philippine Government in 1910 under the provisions of Act 496, the area was
subdivided originally into 874 lots. As a result of subsequent surveys executed in the course of disposition, the number of lots increased to 1,305. Disposition of these
lots was made by the Bureau of Lands thru sales, under the Friar Lands Act, as early as 1910 and records show that even before the Second World War, all lots in the

Piedad Estate have been disposed of. [19] The Piedad Estate has long been segregated from the mass of the public domain and has become private land duly registered
under the Torrenssystem following the procedure for the confirmation of private lands prescribed in Act 496. Thus the lands inside the Piedad Estate are no longer lands
of the public domain.[20]
One who acquires land under the Friar Lands Act, as well as his successors-in-interest, may not claim successional rights to purchase by reason of
occupation from time immemorial, as this contravenes the historical fact that friar lands were bought by the Government of the Philippine Islands, pursuant to an Act of
Congress of the United States, approved on July 1, 1902, not from individual persons but from certain companies, a society and a religious order. Under the Friar Lands
Act, only actual settlers and occupants at the time said lands are acquired by the Government were given preference to lease, purchase, or acquire their holdings, in
disregard of the settlement and occupation of persons before the government acquired the lands. [21]
The basic rules of proper pleading and procedure require that every pleading shall contain in a methodical and logical form, a plain, concise and direct
statement of the ultimate facts on which the party pleading relies for his claim or defense, as the case may be, omitting the statement of mere evidentiary facts. [22] And in
all averments of fraud or mistake, the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake must be stated with particularity.[23]
It is axiomatic that the averments of the complaint determine the nature of the action, and consequently, the jurisdiction of the
courts. This is because the complaint must contain a concise statement of the ultimate facts constituting the plaintiff's cause of action and must
specify the relief sought. No rule is better established than that which requires the complaint to contain a statement of all the facts constituting the
plaintiff's cause of action. Additionally, Section 5, Rule 8 of the Rules of Court provides that in all averments of fraud or mistake, the
circumstances constituting fraud or mistake must be stated with particularity. In the case at bar, while there are allegations of fraud in the above
quoted complaints, the same are not particular enough to bring the controversy within the SEC's jurisdiction. The said allegations are not
statements of ultimate facts but are mere conclusions of law.
A pleading should state the ultimate facts essential to the rights of action or defense asserted, as distinguished from mere conclusions
of fact, or conclusions of law. General allegations that a contract is valid or legal, or is just, fair and reasonable, are mere conclusions of
law. Likewise, allegations that a contract is void, voidable, invalid, illegal, ultra vires, or against public policy, without stating facts showing its
invalidity, are mere conclusions of law.[24]
Ultimate facts means the essential facts constituting the plaintiff's cause of action, or such facts as are so essential that they cannot be stricken out without
leaving the statement of the cause of action inadequate. [25] Cause of action has been defined as an act or omission of one party in violation of the legal right or rights of
the other;[26] and its essential elements are: 1) a right in favor of the plaintiff by whatever means and under whatever law it arises or is created; 2) an obligation on the
part of the named defendant to respect or not to violate such right; and 3) an act or omission on the part of the named defendant violative of the right of the plaintiff or
constituting a breach of the obligation of defendant to the plaintiff for which the latter may maintain an action for recovery of damages. If these elements are not extant,
the complaint becomes vulnerable to a motion to dismiss on the ground of failure to state a cause of action. [27] In the resolution of a motion to dismiss based on failure to
state a cause of action, only the facts alleged in the complaint as well as its annexes must be considered. [28] The test in such case is whether a court can render a valid
judgment on the complaint based upon the facts alleged and pursuant to the prayer therein.[29]
Corollarily, the question of whether or not a complaint states a cause of action against a defendant or the action is premature is one of law. The trial court can
consider all the pleadings filed, including annexes, motions and the evidence on record. However in so doing, the trial court does not rule on the truth or falsity of such
documents. It merely includes such documents in the hypothetical admission. Any review of a finding of lack of cause of action based on these documents would not
involve a calibration of the probative value of such pieces of evidence but would only limit itself to the inquiry of whether the law was properly applied given the facts
and these supporting documents. Therefore, what would inevitably arise from such a review are pure questions of law, and not questions of fact.
The trial court must likewise apply relevant statutes and jurisprudence in determining whether the allegations in a complaint establish a cause of
action. While it focuses on the complaint, a court clearly cannot disregard decisions material to the proper appreciation of the questions before it. In resolving a motion
to dismiss, every court must take cognizance of decisions this Court has rendered because they are proper subjects of mandatory judicial notice. The said decisions,
more importantly, form part of the legal system, and failure of any court to apply them shall constitute an abdication of its duty to resolve a dispute in accordance with
law, and shall be a ground for administrative action against an inferior court magistrate.[30]
Considering the foregoing, it is not difficult to see the need for particularity and incipient substantiation in the petitioners Second Amended Complaint.
First, their initial claim that OCT 614 of which all the other subject titles are derivatives is null and void, has been proven wrong. As has been held
in Pinlac and other cases, OCT 614 did legally exist and was previously issued in the name of the Philippine Government in 1910 under the provisions of Act 496.
Second, the Ad Hoc Committee of the then Ministry of Natural Resources, which was specifically tasked to investigate the historical background of the
Piedad Estate, found that as early as the period prior to the Second World War, all lots in the Piedad Estate had already been disposed of.
Third, the Piedad Estate has been placed under the Torrens system of land registration, which means that all lots therein are titled.
Fourth, as held in the Balicudiong case, one who acquires land under the Friar Lands Act, as well as his successors-in-interest, may not claim successional
rights to purchase by reason of occupation from time immemorial, which means that petitioners claimed actual, adverse, peaceful and continuous possession of the
subject property is really of no moment unless it is shown that their predecessors-in-interest were actual settlers and occupants at the time said lands were acquired by
the Government, and whose rights were not disregarded even though they were in occupation of the same before the government acquired the land; yet, no period of
time in relation to adverse possession is alleged.
Petitioners Second Amended Complaint betrays no more than an incomplete narration of facts unsupported by documentary or other exhibits; the allegations
therein partake of conclusions of law unsupported by a particular averment of circumstances that will show why or how such inferences or conclusions were arrived
at. Itis replete with sweeping generalizations and inferences derived from facts that are not found therein. While there are allegations of fraud upon the claim that the
subject titles were fictitious, spurious and obtained under mysterious circumstances, the same are not specific to bring the controversy within the trial courts
jurisdiction. There is no explanation or narration of facts as would show why said titles are claimed to be fictitious or spurious, contrary to the requirement of the Rules
that the circumstances constituting fraud must be stated with particularity; otherwise, the allegation of fraud would simply be an unfounded conclusion of law. In the
absence of specific averments, the complaint is defective, for it presents no basis upon which the court should act, or for the defendant to meet it with an intelligent
answer.
As to the second issue raised, petitioners claim that they are bona fide occupants of the subject property within the contemplation of the Friar Lands Act,
having allegedly been in actual, adverse, peaceful and continuous possession of the property, although it is not stated for how long and since when. In their second
amended complaint, they seek judgment
(4) Declaring the plaintiffs as bona fide occupants of the property in litigation pursuant to the provisions of the Friar Lands Act and
other existing laws. (Emphasis supplied)
They do not pray to be declared owners of the subject property despite their alleged adverse possession but only to be adjudged as the bona fide occupants thereof. In
other words, petitioners concede the States ownership of the property.
Being so, petitioners may not be considered the real parties in interest for the purpose of maintaining the suit for cancellation of the subject titles. The Court
of Appeals is correct in declaring that only the State, through the Solicitor General, may institute such suit. Jurisprudence on the matter has been settled and the issue
need not be belabored. Thus
The Court also holds that private respondents are not the proper parties to initiate the present suit. The complaint, praying as it did for
the cancellation of the transfer certificates of title of petitioners on the ground that they were derived from a spurious OCT No. 4216, assailed in
effect the validity of said title. While private respondents did not pray for the reversion of the land to the government, we agree with the
petitioners that the prayer in the complaint will have the same result of reverting the land to the government under the Regalian doctrine. Gabila
vs. Barriga ruled that only the government is entitled to this relief. The Court in that case held:

The present motion to dismiss is actually predicated on Section 1(g), Rule 16 of the Revised Rules of Court,
i.e., failure of the complaint to state a cause of action, for it alleges in paragraph 12 thereof that the plaintiff admits that he
has no right to demand the cancellation or amendment of the defendants title, because, even if the said title were canceled
or amended, the ownership of the land embraced therein, or of the portion thereof affected by the amendment, would revert
to the public domain. In his amended complaint the plaintiff makes no pretense at all that any part of the land covered by
the defendants title was privately owned by him or by his predecessors-in-interest. Indeed, it is admitted therein that the
said land was at all times a part of the public domain until December 18, 1964, when the government issued a title thereon
in favor of defendant. Thus, if there is any person or entity to relief, it can only be the government.
In the case at bar, the plaintiffs own averments negate the existence of such right, for it would appear therefrom
that whatever right might have been violated by the defendant belonged to the government, not to the plaintiff. Plaintiffappellant argues that although his complaint is captioned as one for cancellation of title, he has nevertheless stated therein
several causes of action based on his alleged rights of possession and ownership over the improvements, on defendantappellees alleged fraudulent acquisition of the land, and on the damages allegedly incurred by him (plaintiff-appellant) in
relation to the improvements. These matters are merely ancillary to the central issue of whether or not defendant-appellees
title should be canceled or amended, and they may not be leaned upon in an effort to make out a cause of action in relation
to the said focal issue. Indeed, the principal relief prayed for in the amended complaint is the cancellation or amendment of
defendant-appellees title.[31]
Under Rule 3, Section 2 of the Rules of Court, a real party in interest is the party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or the
party entitled to the avails of the suit. Interest within the meaning of the rule means material interest, an interest in issue and to be affected by the decree, as
distinguished from mere interest in the question involved, or a mere incidental interest. The interest of the party must also be personal and not one based on a desire to
vindicate the constitutional right of some third and unrelated party. Real interest, on the other hand, means a present substantial interest, as distinguished from a mere
expectancy or a future, contingent, subordinate, or consequential interest. [32]
If petitioners are to be believed, they would possess a mere inchoate interest in the properties covered by the subject titles, a mere expectancy conditioned
upon the fact that if the questioned titles are cancelled and the property is reverted to the State, they would probably or possibly be given preferential treatment as
qualified buyers or lessees of the property under the Friar Lands Act. But this certainly is not the interest required by law that grants them license or the personality to
prosecute their case.Only to the State does the privilege belong.
On the issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies, suffice it to state that since petitioners do not possess the necessary interest to prosecute the case for
cancellation of title in the courts, neither do they have the right to pursue administrative remedies outside thereof. They are not the owners; nor are they qualified
applicants therefor. It has not been shown by their complaint that they have previously taken steps to avail of the benefits under the Friar Lands Act, since all they seek,
should the questioned titles be nullified, is to be declared bona fide occupants of the property covered by the questioned titles. Neither is there any indication that they
possess the qualifications necessary to enable them to avail of the preference granted under the Act.
Finally, there is no merit in petitioners contention that respondent belatedly filed the petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals, and that the appellate
court gravely abused its discretion when it entertained and resolved the same.
The Order of the trial court dated January 3, 2001 denying respondents motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint was received by the respondent
onJanuary 16, 2001. Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration on January 18, 2001 which was denied on February 28, 2001. Respondent received the order
denying its motion for reconsideration on March 27, 2001. On the same day, it filed a Notice to File Petition for Certiorari. On April 2, 2001, the petition for certiorari
was filed with the Court of Appeals. Clearly, the same was timely filed hence, the appellate court correctly entertained the same.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated January 9, 2002 in CA-G.R. SP No. 64337 dismissing petitioners
Second Amended Complaint in Civil Case No. Q-99-36483 and the Resolution dated June 26, 2002 denying the motion for reconsideration, are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. L-24066

December 9, 1925

VALENTIN SUSI, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
ANGELA RAZON and THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, defendants. THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, appellant.
Acting Attorney-General Reyes for appellant.
Monico R. Mercado for appellee.

VILLA-REAL, J.:
This action was commenced in the Court of First Instance of Pampanga by a complaint filed by Valentin Susi against Angela Razon and
the Director of Lands, praying for judgment: (a) Declaring plaintiff the sole and absolute owner of the parcel of land described in the
second paragraph of the complaint; (b) annulling the sale made by the Director of Lands in favor of Angela Razon, on the ground that
the land is a private property; (c) ordering the cancellation of the certificate of title issued to said Angela Razon; and (d) sentencing
the latter to pay plaintiff the sum of P500 as damages, with the costs.
For his answer to the complaint, the Director of Lands denied each and every allegation contained therein and, as special defense,
alleged that the land in question was a property of the Government of the United States under the administration and control of the
Philippine Islands before its sale to Angela Razon, which was made in accordance with law.
After trial, whereat evidence was introduced by both parties, the Court of First Instance of Pampanga rendered judgment declaring the
plaintiff entitled to the possession of the land, annulling the sale made by the Director of Lands in favor of Angela Razon, and ordering
the cancellation of the certificate of title issued to her, with the costs against Angela Razon. From this judgment the Director of Lands
took this appeal, assigning thereto the following errors, to wit: (1) The holding that the judgment rendered in a prior case between the
plaintiff and defendant Angela Razon on the parcel of land in question is controlling in this action; (2) the holding that plaintiff is
entitled to recover the possession of said parcel of land; the annulment of the sale made by the Director of Lands to Angela Razon;
and the ordering that the certificate of title issued by the register of deeds of the Province of Pampanga to Angela Razon by virtue of
said sale be cancelled; and (3) the denial of the motion for new trial filed by the Director of Lands.

The evidence shows that on December 18, 1880, Nemesio Pinlac sold the land in question, then a fish pond, tho Apolonio Garcia and
Basilio Mendoza for the sum of P12, reserving the right to repurchase the same (Exhibit B). After having been in possession thereof
for about eight years, and the fish pond having been destroyed, Apolonio Garcia and Basilio Mendoza, on September 5, 1899, sold it
to Valentin Susi for the sum of P12, reserving the right to repurchase it (Exhibit A). Before the execution of the deed of sale, Valentin
Susi had already paid its price and sown "bacawan" on said land, availing himself of the firewood gathered thereon, with the proceeds
of the sale of which he had paid the price of the property. The possession and occupation of the land in question, first, by Apolonio
Garcia and Basilio Mendoza, and then by Valentin Susi has been open, continuous, adverse and public, without any interruption,
except during the revolution, or disturbance, except when Angela Razon, on September 13, 1913, commenced an action in the Court
of First Instance of Pampanga to recover the possession of said land (Exhibit C), wherein after considering the evidence introduced at
the trial, the court rendered judgment in favor of Valentin Susi and against Angela Razon, dismissing the complaint (Exhibit E). Having
failed in her attempt to obtain possession of the land in question through the court, Angela Razon applied to the Director of Lands for
the purchase thereof on August 15, 1914 (Exhibit C). Having learned of said application, Valentin Susi filed and opposition thereto on
December 6, 1915, asserting his possession of the land for twenty-five years (Exhibit P). After making the proper administrative
investigation, the Director of Lands overruled the opposition of Valentin Susi and sold the land to Angela Razon. By virtue of said
grant the register of deeds of Pampanga, on August 31, 1921, issued the proper certificate of title to Angela Razon. Armed with said
document, Angela Razon required Valentin Susi to vacate the land in question, and as he refused to do so, she brought and action for
forcible entry and detainer in the justice of the peace court of Guagua, Pampanga, which was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, the
case being one of title to real property (Exhibit F and M). Valentin Susi then brought this action.
With these facts in view, we shall proceed to consider the questions raised by the appellant in his assignments of error.lawphi1.net
It clearly appears from the evidence that Valentin Susi has been in possession of the land in question openly, continuously, adversely,
and publicly, personally and through his predecessors, since the year 1880, that is, for about forty-five years. While the judgment of
the Court of First Instance of Pampanga against Angela Razon in the forcible entry case does not affect the Director of Lands, yet it is
controlling as to Angela Razon and rebuts her claim that she had been in possession thereof. When on August 15, 1914, Angela Razon
applied for the purchase of said land, Valentin Susi had already been in possession thereof personally and through his predecessors
for thirty-four years. And if it is taken into account that Nemesio Pinlac had already made said land a fish pond when he sold it on
December 18, 1880, it can hardly be estimated when he began to possess and occupy it, the period of time being so long that it is
beyond the reach of memory. These being the facts, the doctrine laid down by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of
Cario vs. Government of the Philippine Islands (212 U. S., 449 1), is applicable here. In favor of Valentin Susi, there is, moreover, the
presumption juris et de jure established in paragraph (b) of section 45 of Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926, that all the necessary
requirements for a grant by the Government were complied with, for he has been in actual and physical possession, personally and
through his predecessors, of an agricultural land of the public domain openly, continuously, exclusively and publicly since July 26,
1894, with a right to a certificate of title to said land under the provisions of Chapter VIII of said Act. So that when Angela Razon
applied for the grant in her favor, Valentin Susi had already acquired, by operation of law, not only a right to a grant, but a grant of
the Government, for it is not necessary that certificate of title should be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the
courts, an application therefore is sufficient, under the provisions of section 47 of Act No. 2874. If by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi had
acquired the land in question by a grant of the State, it had already ceased to be the public domain and had become private property,
at least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the Director of Lands. Consequently, in selling the land in question to
Angela Razon, the Director of Lands disposed of a land over which he had no longer any title or control, and the sale thus made was
void and of no effect, and Angela Razon did not thereby acquire any right.
The Director of Lands contends that the land in question being of the public domain, the plaintiff-appellee cannot maintain an action
to recover possession thereof.lawphi1.net
If, as above stated, the land, the possession of which is in dispute, had already become, by operation of law, private property of the
plaintiff, there lacking only the judicial sanction of his title, Valentin Susi has the right to bring an action to recover possession thereof
and hold it.
For the foregoing, and no error having been found in the judgment appealed from, the same is hereby affirmed in all its parts, without
special pronouncement as to costs. So ordered.

G.R. No. 73002 December 29, 1986


THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner,
vs.
INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT and ACME PLYWOOD & VENEER CO. INC., ETC., respondents.
D. Nacion Law Office for private respondent.

NARVASA, J.:
The Director of Lands has brought this appeal by certiorari from a judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court affirming a decision of the Court of First
Instance of Isabela, which ordered registration in favor of Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc. of five parcels of land measuring 481, 390 square meters,
more or less, acquired by it from Mariano and Acer Infiel, members of the Dumagat tribe.
The registration proceedings were for confirmation of title under Section 48 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 (The Public Land Act). as amended: and the
appealed judgment sums up the findings of the trial court in said proceedings in this wise:
1. That Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., represented by Mr. Rodolfo Nazario is a corporation duly organized in accordance with the laws of
the Republic of the Philippines and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on December 23, 1959;

2. That Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., represented by Mr. Rodolfo Nazario can acquire real properties pursuant to the provisions of the
Articles of Incorporation particularly on the provision of its secondary purposes (paragraph (9), Exhibit 'M-l');
3. That the land subject of the Land Registration proceeding was ancestrally acquired by Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., on October 29,
1962, from Mariano Infiel and Acer Infiel, both members of the Dumagat tribe and as such are cultural minorities;
4. That the constitution of the Republic of the Philippines of 1935 is applicable as the sale took place on October 29, 1962;
5. That the possession of the Infiels over the land relinquished or sold to Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., dates back before the Philippines
was discovered by Magellan as the ancestors of the Infiels have possessed and occupied the land from generation to generation until the
same came into the possession of Mariano Infiel and Acer Infiel;
6. That the possession of the applicant Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., is continuous, adverse and public from 1962 to the present and
tacking the possession of the Infiels who were granted from whom the applicant bought said land on October 29, 1962, hence the possession
is already considered from time immemorial.
7. That the land sought to be registered is a private land pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No. 3872 granting absolute ownership to
members of the non-Christian Tribes on land occupied by them or their ancestral lands, whether with the alienable or disposable public land or
within the public domain;
8. That applicant Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., has introduced more than Forty-Five Million (P45,000,000.00) Pesos worth of
improvements, said improvements were seen by the Court during its ocular investigation of the land sought to be registered on September 18,
1982;
9. That the ownership and possession of the land sought to be registered by the applicant was duly recognized by the government when the
Municipal Officials of Maconacon, Isabela, have negotiated for the donation of the townsite from Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., and this
negotiation came to reality when the Board of Directors of the Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., had donated a part of the land bought by the
Company from the Infiels for the townsite of Maconacon Isabela (Exh. 'N') on November 15, 1979, and which donation was accepted by the
Municipal Government of Maconacon, Isabela (Exh. 'N-l'), during their special session on November 22, 1979.
The Director of Lands takes no issue with any of these findings except as to the applicability of the 1935 Constitution to the matter at hand. Concerning
this, he asserts that, the registration proceedings have been commenced only on July 17, 1981, or long after the 1973 Constitution had gone into effect,
the latter is the correctly applicable law; and since section 11 of its Article XIV prohibits private corporations or associations from holding alienable lands
of the public domain, except by lease not to exceed 1,000 hectares (a prohibition not found in the 1935 Constitution which was in force in 1962 when
Acme purchased the lands in question from the Infiels), it was reversible error to decree registration in favor of Acme Section 48, paragraphs (b) and (c),
of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, reads:
SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an
interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land
is located for confirmation of their claims, and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
xxx xxx xxx
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession
and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, for at least thirty years
immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be
conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under
the provisions of this chapter.
(c) Members of the National Cultural minorities who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open. continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of lands of the public domain suitable to agriculture, whether disposable or not, under a
bona fide claim of ownership for at least 30 years shall be entitled to the rights granted in subsection (b) hereof.
The Petition for Review does not dispute-indeed, in view of the quoted findings of the trial court which were cited and affirmed by the Intermediate
Appellate Court, it can no longer controvert before this Court-the fact that Mariano and Acer Infiel, from whom Acme purchased the lands in question on
October 29, 1962, are members of the national cultural minorities who had, by themselves and through their progenitors, possessed and occupied those
lands since time immemorial, or for more than the required 30-year period and were, by reason thereof, entitled to exercise the right granted in Section
48 of the Public Land Act to have their title judicially confirmed. Nor is there any pretension that Acme, as the successor-in-interest of the Infiels, is
disqualified to acquire and register ownership of said lands under any provisions of the 1973 Constitution other than Section 11 of its Article XIV already
referred to.
Given the foregoing, the question before this Court is whether or not the title that the Infiels had transferred to Acme in 1962 could be confirmed in favor
of the latter in proceedings instituted by it in 1981 when the 1973 Constitution was already in effect, having in mind the prohibition therein against private
corporations holding lands of the public domain except in lease not exceeding 1,000 hectares.
The question turns upon a determination of the character of the lands at the time of institution of the registration proceedings in 1981. If they were then
still part of the public domain, it must be answered in the negative. If, on the other hand, they were then already private lands, the constitutional
prohibition against their acquisition by private corporations or associations obviously does not apply.
In this regard, attention has been invited to Manila Electric Company vs. Castro-Bartolome, et al, 1 where a similar set of facts prevailed. In that case,
Manila Electric Company, a domestic corporation more than 60% of the capital stock of which is Filipino-owned, had purchased in 1947 two lots in
Tanay, Rizal from the Piguing spouses. The lots had been possessed by the vendors and, before them, by their predecessor-in-interest, Olimpia Ramos,
since prior to the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941. On December 1, 1976, Meralco applied to the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Makati Branch, for
confirmation of title to said lots. The court, assuming that the lots were public land, dismissed the application on the ground that Meralco, a juridical
person, was not qualified to apply for registration under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act which allows only Filipino citizens or natural persons to
apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect titles to public land. Meralco appealed, and a majority of this Court upheld the dismissal. It was held that:
..., the said land is still public land. It would cease to be public land only upon the issuance of the certificate of title to any Filipino citizen
claiming it under section 48(b). Because it is still public land and the Meralco, as a juridical person, is disqualified to apply for its registration
under section 48(b), Meralco's application cannot be given due course or has to be dismissed.

Finally, it may be observed that the constitutional prohibition makes no distinction between (on the one hand) alienable agricultural public
lands as to which no occupant has an imperfect title and (on the other hand) alienable lands of the public domain as to which an occupant has
on imperfect title subject to judicial confirmation.
Since section 11 of Article XIV does not distinguish, we should not make any distinction or qualification. The prohibition applies to alienable
public lands as to which a Torrens title may be secured under section 48(b). The proceeding under section 48(b) 'presupposes that the land is
public' (Mindanao vs. Director of Lands, L-19535, July 30, 1967, 20 SCRA 641, 644).
The present Chief Justice entered a vigorous dissent, tracing the line of cases beginning with Carino in 1909 2thru Susi in 1925 3 down to Herico in
1980, 4 which developed, affirmed and reaffirmed the doctrine that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public land for the period
prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land, upon completion of the requisite period ipso jure and without the need of judicial or other
sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes private property. That said dissent expressed what is the better and, indeed, the correct, viewbecomes evident from a consideration of some of the principal rulings cited therein,
The main theme was given birth, so to speak, in Carino involving the Decree/Regulations of June 25, 1880 for adjustment of royal lands wrongfully
occupied by private individuals in the Philippine Islands. It was ruled that:
It is true that the language of articles 4 and 5 5 attributes title to those 'who may prove' possession for the necessary time and we do not
overlook the argument that this means may prove in registration proceedings. It may be that an English conveyancer would have
recommended an application under the foregoing decree, but certainly it was not calculated to convey to the mind of an Igorot chief the notion
that ancient family possessions were in danger, if he had read every word of it. The words 'may prove' (acrediten) as well or better, in view of
the other provisions, might be taken to mean when called upon to do so in any litigation. There are indications that registration was expected
from all but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, wherever made, was
not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. ...
That ruling assumed a more doctrinal character because expressed in more categorical language, in Susi:
.... In favor of Valentin Susi, there is, moreover, the presumption juris et de jure established in paragraph (b) of section 45 of Act No. 2874,
amending Act No. 926, that all the necessary requirements for a grant by the Government were complied with, for he has been in actual and
physical possession, personally and through his predecessors, of an agricultural land of the public domain openly, continuously, exclusively
and publicly since July 26, 1984, with a right to a certificate of title to said land under the provisions of Chapter VIII of said Act. So that when
Angela Razon applied for the grant in her favor, Valentin Susi had already acquired, by operation of law not only a right to a grant, but a grant
of the Government, for it is not necessary that a certificate of title should be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts,
an application therefore is sufficient, under the provisions of section 47 of Act No. 2874. If by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi had acquired the
land in question by a grant of the State, it had already ceased to be of the public domain and had become private property, at least by
presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the Director of Lands. Consequently, in selling the land in question of Angela Razon, the
Director of Lands disposed of a land over which he had no longer any title or control, and the sale thus made was void and of no effect, and
Angela Razon did not thereby acquire any right. 6
Succeeding cases, of which only some need be mentioned, likeof Lacaste vs. Director of Lands, 7 Mesina vs. Vda. de Sonza, 8 Manarpac vs.
Cabanatuan, 9 Miguel vs. Court of Appeals 10 and Herico vs. Dar, supra, by invoking and affirming the Susi doctrine have firmly rooted it in jurisprudence.
Herico, in particular, appears to be squarely affirmative: 11
.... Secondly, under the provisions of Republic Act No. 1942, which the respondent Court held to be inapplicable to the petitioner's case, with
the latter's proven occupation and cultivation for more than 30 years since 1914, by himself and by his predecessors-in-interest, title over the
land has vested on petitioner so as to segregate the land from the mass of public land. Thereafter, it is no longer disposable under the Public
Land Act as by free patent. ....
xxx xxx xxx
As interpreted in several cases, when the conditions as specified in the foregoing provision are complied with, the possessor is deemed to
have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, a government grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The land,
therefore, ceases to be of the public domain and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. The application for confirmation is
mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be
issued upon the strength of said patent. 12
Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical inevitability of considering possession of public land which is of the character and duration prescribed
by statute as the equivalent of an express grant from the State than the dictum of the statute itself 13 that the possessor(s) "... shall be conclusively
presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title .... " No proof being
admissible to overcome a conclusive presumption, confirmation proceedings would, in truth be little more than a formality, at the most limited to
ascertaining whether the possession claimed is of the required character and length of time; and registration thereunder would not confer title, but simply
recognize a title already vested. The proceedings would not originally convert the land from public to private land, but only confirm such a conversion
already affected by operation of law from the moment the required period of possession became complete. As was so well put in Carino, "... (T)here are
indications that registration was expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. The effect of
the proof, wherever made, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law."
If it is accepted-as it must be-that the land was already private land to which the Infiels had a legally sufficient and transferable title on October 29, 1962
when Acme acquired it from said owners, it must also be conceded that Acme had a perfect right to make such acquisition, there being nothing in the
1935 Constitution then in force (or, for that matter, in the 1973 Constitution which came into effect later) prohibiting corporations from acquiring and
owning private lands.
Even on the proposition that the land remained technically "public" land, despite immemorial possession of the Infiels and their ancestors, until title in
their favor was actually confirmed in appropriate proceedings under the Public Land Act, there can be no serious question of Acmes right to acquire the
land at the time it did, there also being nothing in the 1935 Constitution that might be construed to prohibit corporations from purchasing or acquiring
interests in public land to which the vendor had already acquired that type of so-called "incomplete" or "imperfect" title. The only limitation then extant
was that corporations could not acquire, hold or lease public agricultural lands in excess of 1,024 hectares. The purely accidental circumstance that
confirmation proceedings were brought under the aegis of the 1973 Constitution which forbids corporations from owning lands of the public domain
cannot defeat a right already vested before that law came into effect, or invalidate transactions then perfectly valid and proper. This Court has already
held, in analogous circumstances, that the Constitution cannot impair vested rights.

We hold that the said constitutional prohibition 14 has no retroactive application to the sales application of Binan Development Co., Inc.
because it had already acquired a vested right to the land applied for at the time the 1973 Constitution took effect.
That vested right has to be respected. It could not be abrogated by the new Constitution. Section 2, Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution allows
private corporations to purchase public agricultural lands not exceeding one thousand and twenty-four hectares. Petitioner' prohibition action is
barred by the doctrine of vested rights in constitutional law.
xxx xxx xxx
The due process clause prohibits the annihilation of vested rights. 'A state may not impair vested rights by legislative enactment, by the
enactment or by the subsequent repeal of a municipal ordinance, or by a change in the constitution of the State, except in a legitimate
exercise of the police power'(16 C.J.S. 1177-78).
xxx xxx xxx
In the instant case, it is incontestable that prior to the effectivity of the 1973 Constitution the right of the corporation to purchase the land in
question had become fixed and established and was no longer open to doubt or controversy.
Its compliance with the requirements of the Public Land Law for the issuance of a patent had the effect of segregating the said land from the
public domain. The corporation's right to obtain a patent for the land is protected by law. It cannot be deprived of that right without due process
(Director of Lands vs. CA, 123 Phil. 919).<re||an1w> 15
The fact, therefore, that the confirmation proceedings were instituted by Acme in its own name must be regarded as simply another accidental
circumstance, productive of a defect hardly more than procedural and in nowise affecting the substance and merits of the right of ownership sought to be
confirmed in said proceedings, there being no doubt of Acme's entitlement to the land. As it is unquestionable that in the light of the undisputed facts, the
Infiels, under either the 1935 or the 1973 Constitution, could have had title in themselves confirmed and registered, only a rigid subservience to the letter
of the law would deny the same benefit to their lawful successor-in-interest by valid conveyance which violates no constitutional mandate.
The Court, in the light of the foregoing, is of the view, and so holds, that the majority ruling in Meralco must be reconsidered and no longer deemed to be
binding precedent. The correct rule, as enunciated in the line of cases already referred to, is that alienable public land held by a possessor, personally or
through his predecessors-in-interest, openly, continuously and exclusively for the prescribed statutory period (30 years under The Public Land Act, as
amended) is converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of said period, ipso jure. Following that rule and on the basis of the
undisputed facts, the land subject of this appeal was already private property at the time it was acquired from the Infiels by Acme. Acme thereby
acquired a registrable title, there being at the time no prohibition against said corporation's holding or owning private land. The objection that, as a
juridical person, Acme is not qualified to apply for judicial confirmation of title under section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is technical, rather than
substantial and, again, finds its answer in the dissent in Meralco:
6. To uphold respondent judge's denial of Meralco's application on the technicality that the Public Land Act allows only citizens of the
Philippines who are natural persons to apply for confirmation of their title would be impractical and would just give rise to multiplicity of court
actions. Assuming that there was a technical error not having filed the application for registration in the name of the Piguing spouses as the
original owners and vendors, still it is conceded that there is no prohibition against their sale of the land to the applicant Meralco and neither is
there any prohibition against the application being refiled with retroactive effect in the name of the original owners and vendors (as such
natural persons) with the end result of their application being granted, because of their indisputable acquisition of ownership by operation of
law and the conclusive presumption therein provided in their favor. It should not be necessary to go through all the rituals at the great cost of
refiling of all such applications in their names and adding to the overcrowded court dockets when the Court can after all these years dispose of
it here and now. (See Francisco vs. City of Davao)
The ends of justice would best be served, therefore, by considering the applications for confirmation as amended to conform to the evidence,
i.e. as filed in the names of the original persons who as natural persons are duly qualified to apply for formal confirmation of the title that they
had acquired by conclusive presumption and mandate of the Public Land Act and who thereafter duly sold to the herein corporations (both
admittedly Filipino corporations duly qualified to hold and own private lands) and granting the applications for confirmation of title to the private
lands so acquired and sold or exchanged.
There is also nothing to prevent Acme from reconveying the lands to the Infiels and the latter from themselves applying for confirmation of title and, after
issuance of the certificate/s of title in their names, deeding the lands back to Acme. But this would be merely indulging in empty charades, whereas the
same result is more efficaciously and speedily obtained, with no prejudice to anyone, by a liberal application of the rule on amendment to conform to the
evidence suggested in the dissent in Meralco.
While this opinion seemingly reverses an earlier ruling of comparatively recent vintage, in a real sense, it breaks no precedent, but only reaffirms and reestablished, as it were, doctrines the soundness of which has passed the test of searching examination and inquiry in many past cases. Indeed, it is
worth noting that the majority opinion, as well as the concurring opinions of Chief Justice Fernando and Justice Abad Santos, in Meralco rested chiefly
on the proposition that the petitioner therein, a juridical person, was disqualified from applying for confirmation of an imperfect title to public land under
Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. Reference to the 1973 Constitution and its Article XIV, Section 11, was only tangential limited to a brief paragraph in
the main opinion, and may, in that context, be considered as essentially obiter. Meralco, in short, decided no constitutional question.
WHEREFORE, there being no reversible error in the appealed judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court, the same is hereby affirmed, without costs
in this instance.
SO ORDERED.
Feria, Yap, Fernan, Alampay, Cruz, Paras and Feliciano, JJ., concur.

SECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 144057. January 17, 2005]

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and CORAZON NAGUIT, respondents.
DECISION
TINGA, J.:
This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking to review the Decision [1] of the Sixth Division
of the Court of Appeals dated July 12, 2000 in CA-G.R. SP No. 51921. The appellate court affirmed the decisions of both the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
[2]
Branch 8, of Kalibo, Aklan dated February 26, 1999, and the 7 th Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) [3] of Ibajay-Nabas, Aklan dated February 18,
1998, which granted the application for registration of a parcel of land of Corazon Naguit (Naguit), the respondent herein.
The facts are as follows:
On January 5, 1993, Naguit, a Filipino citizen, of legal age and married to Manolito S. Naguit, filed with the MCTC of Ibajay-Nabas, Aklan, a
petition for registration of title of a parcel of land situated in Brgy. Union, Nabas, Aklan. The parcel of land is designated as Lot No. 10049, Cad. 758-D,
Nabas Cadastre, AP 060414-014779, and contains an area of 31,374 square meters. The application seeks judicial confirmation of respondents
imperfect title over the aforesaid land.
On February 20, 1995, the court held initial hearing on the application. The public prosecutor, appearing for the government, and Jose Angeles,
representing the heirs of Rustico Angeles, opposed the petition. On a later date, however, the heirs of Rustico Angeles filed a formal opposition to the
petition. Also on February 20, 1995, the court issued an order of general default against the whole world except as to the heirs of Rustico Angeles and
the government.
The evidence on record reveals that the subject parcel of land was originally declared for taxation purposes in the name of Ramon Urbano
(Urbano) in 1945 under Tax Declaration No. 3888 until 1991. [4] On July 9, 1992, Urbano executed a Deed of Quitclaim in favor of the heirs of Honorato
Maming (Maming), wherein he renounced all his rights to the subject property and confirmed the sale made by his father to Maming sometime in 1955 or
1956.[5] Subsequently, the heirs of Maming executed a deed of absolute sale in favor of respondent Naguit who thereupon started occupying the same.
She constituted Manuel Blanco, Jr. as her attorney-in-fact and administrator. The administrator introduced improvements, planted trees, such as
mahogany, coconut and gemelina trees in addition to existing coconut trees which were then 50 to 60 years old, and paid the corresponding taxes due
on the subject land. At present, there are parcels of land surrounding the subject land which have been issued titles by virtue of judicial decrees. Naguit
and her predecessors-in-interest have occupied the land openly and in the concept of owner without any objection from any private person or even the
government until she filed her application for registration.
After the presentation of evidence for Naguit, the public prosecutor manifested that the government did not intend to present any evidence while
oppositor Jose Angeles, as representative of the heirs of Rustico Angeles, failed to appear during the trial despite notice. On September 27, 1997, the
MCTC rendered a decision ordering that the subject parcel be brought under the operation of the Property Registration Decree or Presidential Decree
(P.D.) No. 1529 and that the title thereto registered and confirmed in the name of Naguit. [6]
The Republic of the Philippines (Republic), thru the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed a motion for reconsideration. The OSG stressed
that the land applied for was declared alienable and disposable only on October 15, 1980, per the certification from Regional Executive Director Raoul T.
Geollegue of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Region VI. [7] However, the court denied the motion for reconsideration in an order
dated February 18, 1998.[8]
Thereafter, the Republic appealed the decision and the order of the MCTC to the RTC, Kalibo, Aklan, Branch 8. On February 26, 1999, the RTC
rendered its decision, dismissing the appeal.[9]
Undaunted, the Republic elevated the case to the Court of Appeals via Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. On July 12, 2000, the
appellate court rendered a decision dismissing the petition filed by the Republic and affirmed in toto the assailed decision of the RTC.
Hence, the present petition for review raising a pure question of law was filed by the Republic on September 4, 2000. [10]
The OSG assails the decision of the Court of Appeals contending that the appellate court gravely erred in holding that there is no need for the
governments prior release of the subject lot from the public domain before it can be considered alienable or disposable within the meaning of P.D. No.
1529, and that Naguit had been in possession of Lot No. 10049 in the concept of owner for the required period.[11]
Hence, the central question for resolution is whether is necessary under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree that the subject land be
first classified as alienable and disposable before the applicants possession under a bona fide claim of ownership could even start.
The OSG invokes our holding in Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court[12] in arguing that the property which is in open, continuous and
exclusive possession must first be alienable. Since the subject land was declared alienable only on October 15, 1980, Naguit could not have maintained
a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, as required by Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree, since prior to 1980, the land was not
alienable or disposable, the OSG argues.
Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree, governing original registration proceedings, bears close examination. It expressly provides:
SECTION 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or
through their duly authorized representatives:
(1) those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
(2) Those who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws.
....
There are three obvious requisites for the filing of an application for registration of title under Section 14(1) that the property in question is
alienable and disposable land of the public domain; that the applicants by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open,

continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation, and; that such possession is under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945
or earlier.
Petitioner suggests an interpretation that the alienable and disposable character of the land should have already been established since June 12,
1945 or earlier. This is not borne out by the plain meaning of Section 14(1). Since June 12, 1945, as used in the provision, qualifies its antecedent
phrase under a bonafide claim of ownership. Generally speaking, qualifying words restrict or modify only the words or phrases to which they are
immediately associated, and not those distantly or remotely located.[13] Ad proximum antecedents fiat relation nisi impediatur sentencia.
Besides, we are mindful of the absurdity that would result if we adopt petitioners position. Absent a legislative amendment, the rule would be,
adopting the OSGs view, that all lands of the public domain which were not declared alienable or disposable before June 12, 1945 would not be
susceptible to original registration, no matter the length of unchallenged possession by the occupant. Such interpretation renders paragraph (1) of
Section 14 virtually inoperative and even precludes the government from giving it effect even as it decides to reclassify public agricultural lands as
alienable and disposable. The unreasonableness of the situation would even be aggravated considering that before June 12, 1945, the Philippines was
not yet even considered an independent state.
Instead, the more reasonable interpretation of Section 14(1) is that it merely requires the property sought to be registered as already alienable and
disposable at the time the application for registration of title is filed. If the State, at the time the application is made, has not yet deemed it proper to
release the property for alienation or disposition, the presumption is that the government is still reserving the right to utilize the property; hence, the need
to preserve its ownership in the State irrespective of the length of adverse possession even if in good faith. However, if the property has already been
classified as alienable and disposable, as it is in this case, then there is already an intention on the part of the State to abdicate its exclusive prerogative
over the property.
This reading aligns conformably with our holding in Republic v. Court of Appeals.[14] Therein, the Court noted that to prove that the land subject of
an application for registration is alienable, an applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the government such as a presidential
proclamation or an executive order; an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute.
[15]
In that case, the subject land had been certified by the DENR as alienable and disposable in 1980, thus the Court concluded that the alienable status
of the land, compounded by the established fact that therein respondents had occupied the land even before 1927, sufficed to allow the application for
registration of the said property. In the case at bar, even the petitioner admits that the subject property was released and certified as within alienable and
disposable zone in 1980 by the DENR.[16]
This case is distinguishable from Bracewell v. Court of Appeals,[17] wherein the Court noted that while the claimant had been in possession since
1908, it was only in 1972 that the lands in question were classified as alienable and disposable. Thus, the bid at registration therein did not succeed.
In Bracewell, the claimant had filed his application in 1963, or nine (9) years before the property was declared alienable and disposable. Thus, in this
case, where the application was made years after the property had been certified as alienable and disposable, the Bracewell ruling does not apply.
A different rule obtains for forest lands,[18] such as those which form part of a reservation for provincial park purposes [19] the possession of which
cannot ripen into ownership. [20]It is elementary in the law governing natural resources that forest land cannot be owned by private persons. As held
in Palomo v. Court of Appeals,[21] forest land is not registrable and possession thereof, no matter how lengthy, cannot convert it into private property,
unless such lands are reclassified and considered disposable and alienable.[22] In the case at bar, the property in question was undisputedly classified as
disposable and alienable; hence, the ruling in Palomo is inapplicable, as correctly held by the Court of Appeals.[23]
It must be noted that the present case was decided by the lower courts on the basis of Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, which
pertains to original registration through ordinary registration proceedings. The right to file the application for registration derives from a bona fide claim of
ownership going back to June 12, 1945 or earlier, by reason of the claimants open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain.
A similar right is given under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, which reads:
Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such land or an interest therein, but those
titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the
issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
xxx xxx xxx
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural
lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for
confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a
Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.
When the Public Land Act was first promulgated in 1936, the period of possession deemed necessary to vest the right to register their title to
agricultural lands of the public domain commenced from July 26, 1894. However, this period was amended by R.A. No. 1942, which provided that
the bona fide claim of ownership must have been for at least thirty (30) years. Then in 1977, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act was again amended,
this time by P.D. No. 1073, which pegged the reckoning date at June 12, 1945. This new starting point is concordant with Section 14(1) of the Property
Registration Decree.
Indeed, there are no material differences between Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree and Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as
amended. True, the Public Land Act does refer to agricultural lands of the public domain, while the Property Registration Decree uses the term alienable
and disposable lands of the public domain. It must be noted though that the Constitution declares that alienable lands of the public domain shall be
limited to agricultural lands.[24] Clearly, the subject lands under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act and Section 14(1) of the Property Registration
Decree are of the same type.
Did the enactment of the Property Registration Decree and the amendatory P.D. No. 1073 preclude the application for registration of alienable
lands of the public domain, possession over which commenced only after June 12, 1945? It did not, considering Section 14(2) of the Property
Registration Decree, which governs and authorizes the application of those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the
provisions of existing laws.
Prescription is one of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil Code. [25] There is a consistent jurisprudential rule that properties classified
as alienable public land may be converted into private property by reason of open, continuous and exclusive possession of at least thirty (30) years.
[26]
With such conversion, such property may now fall within the contemplation of private lands under Section 14(2), and thus susceptible to registration
by those who have acquired ownership through prescription. Thus, even if possession of the alienable public land commenced on a date later than June

12, 1945, and such possession being been open, continuous and exclusive, then the possessor may have the right to register the land by virtue of
Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree.
The land in question was found to be cocal in nature, it having been planted with coconut trees now over fifty years old. [27] The inherent nature of
the land but confirms its certification in 1980 as alienable, hence agricultural. There is no impediment to the application of Section 14(1) of the Property
Registration Decree, as correctly accomplished by the lower courts.
The OSG posits that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that Naguit had been in possession in the concept of owner for the required period. The
argument begs the question. It is again hinged on the assertionshown earlier to be unfoundedthat there could have been no bona fide claim of
ownership prior to 1980, when the subject land was declared alienable or disposable.
We find no reason to disturb the conclusion of both the RTC and the Court of Appeals that Naguit had the right to apply for registration owing to
the continuous possession by her and her predecessors-in-interest of the land since 1945. The basis of such conclusion is primarily factual, and the
Court generally respects the factual findings made by lower courts. Notably, possession since 1945 was established through proof of the existence of 50
to 60-year old trees at the time Naguit purchased the property as well as tax declarations executed by Urbano in 1945. Although tax declarations and
realty tax payment of property are not conclusive evidence of ownership, nevertheless, they are good indicia of the possession in the concept of owner
for no one in his right mind would be paying taxes for a property that is not in his actual or at least constructive possession. They constitute at least proof
that the holder has a claim of title over the property. The voluntary declaration of a piece of property for taxation purposes manifests not only ones
sincere and honest desire to obtain title to the property and announces his adverse claim against the State and all other interested parties, but also the
intention to contribute needed revenues to the Government. Such an act strengthens ones bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership.[28]
Considering that the possession of the subject parcel of land by the respondent can be traced back to that of her predecessors-in-interest which
commenced since 1945 or for almost fifty (50) years, it is indeed beyond any cloud of doubt that she has acquired title thereto which may be properly
brought under the operation of the Torrens system. That she has been in possession of the land in the concept of an owner, open, continuous, peaceful
and without any opposition from any private person and the government itself makes her right thereto undoubtedly settled and deserving of protection
under the law.
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals dated July 12, 2000 is hereby AFFIRMED. No costs.
SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 156117. May 26, 2005]
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. JEREMIAS AND DAVID HERBIETO, respondents.
DECISION
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari, under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking the reversal of the Decision of
the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 67625, dated 22 November 2002, [1] which affirmed the Judgment of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of
Consolacion, Cebu, dated 21 December 1999,[2] granting the application for land registration of the respondents.
Respondents in the present Petition are the Herbieto brothers, Jeremias and David, who filed with the MTC, on 23 September 1998, a single
application for registration of two parcels of land, Lots No. 8422 and 8423, located in Cabangahan, Consolacion, Cebu (Subject Lots). They claimed to
be owners in fee simple of the Subject Lots, which they purchased from their parents, spouses Gregorio Herbieto and Isabel Owatan, on 25 June 1976.
[3]
Together with their application for registration, respondents submitted the following set of documents:
(a) Advance Survey Plan of Lot No. 8422, in the name of respondent Jeremias; and Advance Survey Plan of Lot No. 8423, in the name of respondent
David;[4]
(b) The technical descriptions of the Subject Lots;[5]
(c) Certifications by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) dispensing with the need for Surveyors Certificates for the Subject
Lots;[6]
(d) Certifications by the Register of Deeds of Cebu City on the absence of certificates of title covering the Subject Lots; [7]
(e) Certifications by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the DENR on its finding that the Subject Lots are alienable
and disposable, by virtue of Forestry Administrative Order No. 4-1063, dated 25 June 1963; [8]
(f) Certified True Copies of Assessment of Real Property (ARP) No. 941800301831, in the name of Jeremias, covering Lot No. 8422, issued in 1994; and
ARP No. 941800301833, in the name of David, covering Lot No. 8423, also issued in 1994;[9] and
(g) Deed of Definite Sale executed on 25 June 1976 by spouses Gregorio Herbieto and Isabel Owatan selling the Subject Lots and the improvements
thereon to their sons and respondents herein, Jeremias and David, for P1,000. Lot No. 8422 was sold to Jeremias, while Lot No. 8423 was sold to
David.[10]
On 11 December 1998, the petitioner Republic of the Philippines (Republic) filed an Opposition to the respondents application for registration of
the Subject Lots arguing that: (1) Respondents failed to comply with the period of adverse possession of the Subject Lots required by law; (2)
Respondents muniments of title were not genuine and did not constitute competent and sufficient evidence of bona fide acquisition of the Subject Lots;
and (3) The Subject Lots were part of the public domain belonging to the Republic and were not subject to private appropriation. [11]

The MTC set the initial hearing on 03 September 1999 at 8:30 a.m. [12] All owners of the land adjoining the Subject Lots were sent copies of the
Notice of Initial Hearing.[13] A copy of the Notice was also posted on 27 July 1999 in a conspicuous place on the Subject Lots, as well as on the bulletin
board of the municipal building of Consolacion, Cebu, where the Subject Lots were located. [14] Finally, the Notice was also published in the Official
Gazette on 02 August 1999[15] and The Freeman Banat News on 19 December 1999.[16]
During the initial hearing on 03 September 1999, the MTC issued an Order of Special Default, [17] with only petitioner Republic opposing the
application for registration of the Subject Lots. The respondents, through their counsel, proceeded to offer and mark documentary evidence to prove
jurisdictional facts. The MTC commissioned the Clerk of Court to receive further evidence from the respondents and to submit a Report to the MTC after
30 days.
On 21 December 1999, the MTC promulgated its Judgment ordering the registration and confirmation of the title of respondent Jeremias over Lot
No. 8422 and of respondent David over Lot No. 8423. It subsequently issued an Order on 02 February 2000 declaring its Judgment, dated 21 December
1999, final and executory, and directing the Administrator of the Land Registration Authority (LRA) to issue a decree of registration for the Subject Lots. [18]
Petitioner Republic appealed the MTC Judgment, dated 21 December 1999, to the Court of Appeals. [19] The Court of Appeals, in its Decision,
dated 22 November 2002, affirmed the appealed MTC Judgment reasoning thus:
In the case at bar, there can be no question that the land sought to be registered has been classified as within the alienable and disposable zone since June 25, 1963.
Article 1113 in relation to Article 1137 of the Civil Code, respectively provides that All things which are within the commerce of men are susceptible of prescription,
unless otherwise provided. Property of the State or any of its subdivisions of patrimonial character shall not be the object of prescription and that Ownership and other
real rights over immovables also prescribe through uninterrupted adverse possession thereof for thirty years, without need of title or of good faith.
As testified to by the appellees in the case at bench, their parents already acquired the subject parcels of lands, subject matter of this application, since 1950 and that
they cultivated the same and planted it with jackfruits, bamboos, coconuts, and other trees (Judgment dated December 21, 1999, p. 6). In short, it is undisputed that
herein appellees or their predecessors-in-interest had occupied and possessed the subject land openly, continuously, exclusively, and adversely since 1950.
Consequently, even assuming arguendo that appellees possession can be reckoned only from June 25, 1963 or from the time the subject lots had been classified as
within the alienable and disposable zone, still the argument of the appellant does not hold water.
As earlier stressed, the subject property, being alienable since 1963 as shown by CENRO Report dated June 23, 1963, may now be the object of prescription, thus
susceptible of private ownership. By express provision of Article 1137, appellees are, with much greater right, entitled to apply for its registration, as provided by
Section 14(4) of P.D. 1529 which allows individuals to own land in any manner provided by law. Again, even considering that possession of appelless should only be
reckoned from 1963, the year when CENRO declared the subject lands alienable, herein appellees have been possessing the subject parcels of land in open, continuous,
and in the concept of an owner, for 35 years already when they filed the instant application for registration of title to the land in 1998. As such, this court finds no reason
to disturb the finding of the court a quo.[20]
The Republic filed the present Petition for the review and reversal of the Decision of the Court of Appeals, dated 22 November 2002, on the basis
of the following arguments:
First, respondents failed to establish that they and their predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, and adverse possession of the
Subject Lots in the concept of owners since 12 June 1945 or earlier. According to the petitioner Republic, possession of the Subject Lots prior to 25 June
1963 cannot be considered in determining compliance with the periods of possession required by law. The Subject Lots were classified as alienable and
disposable only on 25 June 1963, per CENROs certification. It also alleges that the Court of Appeals, in applying the 30-year acquisitive prescription
period, had overlooked the ruling in Republic v. Doldol,[21] where this Court declared that Commonwealth Act No. 141, otherwise known as the Public
Land Act, as amended and as it is presently phrased, requires that possession of land of the public domain must be from 12 June 1945 or earlier, for the
same to be acquired through judicial confirmation of imperfect title.
Second, the application for registration suffers from fatal infirmity as the subject of the application consisted of two parcels of land individually and
separately owned by two applicants. Petitioner Republic contends that it is implicit in the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as
the Property Registration Decree, as amended, that the application for registration of title to land shall be filed by a single applicant; multiple applicants
may file a single application only in case they are co-owners. While an application may cover two parcels of land, it is allowed only when the subject
parcels of land belong to the same applicant or applicants (in case the subject parcels of land are co-owned) and are situated within the same province.
Where the authority of the courts to proceed is conferred by a statute and when the manner of obtaining jurisdiction is mandatory, it must be strictly
complied with or the proceedings will be utterly void. Since the respondents failed to comply with the procedure for land registration under the Property
Registration Decree, the proceedings held before the MTC is void, as the latter did not acquire jurisdiction over it.
I
Jurisdiction
Addressing first the issue of jurisdiction, this Court finds that the MTC had no jurisdiction to proceed with and hear the application for registration
filed by the respondents but for reasons different from those presented by petitioner Republic.
A. The misjoinder of causes of action and parties does not affect the jurisdiction of the MTC to hear and proceed with respondents application for
registration.
Respondents filed a single application for registration of the Subject Lots even though they were not co-owners. Respondents Jeremias and David
were actually seeking the individual and separate registration of Lots No. 8422 and 8423, respectively.
Petitioner Republic believes that the procedural irregularity committed by the respondents was fatal to their case, depriving the MTC of jurisdiction
to proceed with and hear their application for registration of the Subject Lots, based on this Courts pronouncement in Director of Lands v. Court of
Appeals,[22] to wit:
. . . In view of these multiple omissions which constitute non-compliance with the above-cited sections of the Act, We rule that said defects have not invested the Court
with the authority or jurisdiction to proceed with the case because the manner or mode of obtaining jurisdiction as prescribed by the statute which is mandatory has not
been strictly followed, thereby rendering all proceedings utterly null and void.
This Court, however, disagrees with petitioner Republic in this regard. This procedural lapse committed by the respondents should not affect the
jurisdiction of the MTC to proceed with and hear their application for registration of the Subject Lots.

The Property Registration Decree [23] recognizes and expressly allows the following situations: (1) the filing of a single application by several
applicants for as long as they are co-owners of the parcel of land sought to be registered; [24] and (2) the filing of a single application for registration of
several parcels of land provided that the same are located within the same province. [25] The Property Registration Decree is silent, however, as to the
present situation wherein two applicants filed a single application for two parcels of land, but are seeking the separate and individual registration of the
parcels of land in their respective names.
Since the Property Registration Decree failed to provide for such a situation, then this Court refers to the Rules of Court to determine the proper
course of action. Section 34 of the Property Registration Decree itself provides that, [t]he Rules of Court shall, insofar as not inconsistent with the
provisions of this Decree, be applicable to land registration and cadastral cases by analogy or in a suppletory character and whenever practicable and
convenient.
Considering every application for land registration filed in strict accordance with the Property Registration Decree as a single cause of action, then
the defect in the joint application for registration filed by the respondents with the MTC constitutes a misjoinder of causes of action and parties. Instead
of a single or joint application for registration, respondents Jeremias and David, more appropriately, should have filed separate applications for
registration of Lots No. 8422 and 8423, respectively.
Misjoinder of causes of action and parties do not involve a question of jurisdiction of the court to hear and proceed with the case. [26] They are not
even accepted grounds for dismissal thereof.[27] Instead, under the Rules of Court, the misjoinder of causes of action and parties involve an implied
admission of the courts jurisdiction. It acknowledges the power of the court, acting upon the motion of a party to the case or on its own initiative, to order
the severance of the misjoined cause of action, to be proceeded with separately (in case of misjoinder of causes of action); and/or the dropping of a
party and the severance of any claim against said misjoined party, also to be proceeded with separately (in case of misjoinder of parties).
The misjoinder of causes of action and parties in the present Petition may have been corrected by the MTC motu propio or on motion of the
petitioner Republic. It is regrettable, however, that the MTC failed to detect the misjoinder when the application for registration was still pending before it;
and more regrettable that the petitioner Republic did not call the attention of the MTC to the fact by filing a motion for severance of the causes of action
and parties, raising the issue of misjoinder only before this Court.
B. Respondents, however, failed to comply with the publication requirements mandated by the Property Registration Decree, thus, the MTC was not
invested with jurisdiction as a land registration court.
Although the misjoinder of causes of action and parties in the present Petition did not affect the jurisdiction of the MTC over the land registration
proceeding, this Court, nonetheless, has discovered a defect in the publication of the Notice of Initial Hearing, which bars the MTC from assuming
jurisdiction to hear and proceed with respondents application for registration.
A land registration case is a proceeding in rem,[28] and jurisdiction in rem cannot be acquired unless there be constructive seizure of the land
through publication and service of notice.[29]
Section 23 of the Property Registration Decree requires that the public be given Notice of the Initial Hearing of the application for land registration
by means of (1) publication; (2) mailing; and (3) posting. Publication of the Notice of Initial Hearing shall be made in the following manner:
1. By publication.
Upon receipt of the order of the court setting the time for initial hearing, the Commissioner of Land Registration shall cause a notice of initial hearing to be published
once in the Official Gazette and once in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines: Provided, however, that the publication in the Official Gazette shall be
sufficient to confer jurisdiction upon the court. Said notice shall be addressed to all persons appearing to have an interest in the land involved including the adjoining
owners so far as known, and to all whom it may concern. Said notice shall also require all persons concerned to appear in court at a certain date and time to show cause
why the prayer of said application shall not be granted.
Even as this Court concedes that the aforequoted Section 23(1) of the Property Registration Decree expressly provides that publication in the
Official Gazette shall be sufficient to confer jurisdiction upon the land registration court, it still affirms its declaration in Director of Lands v. Court of
Appeals[30] that publication in a newspaper of general circulation is mandatory for the land registration court to validly confirm and register the title of the
applicant or applicants. That Section 23 of the Property Registration Decree enumerated and described in detail the requirements of publication, mailing,
and posting of the Notice of Initial Hearing, then all such requirements, including publication of the Notice in a newspaper of general circulation, is
essential and imperative, and must be strictly complied with. In the same case, this Court expounded on the reason behind the compulsory publication of
the Notice of Initial Hearing in a newspaper of general circulation, thus
It may be asked why publication in a newspaper of general circulation should be deemed mandatory when the law already requires notice by publication in the Official
Gazette as well as by mailing and posting, all of which have already been complied with in the case at hand. The reason is due process and the reality that the Official
Gazette is not as widely read and circulated as newspaper and is oftentimes delayed in its circulation, such that the notices published therein may not reach the
interested parties on time, if at all. Additionally, such parties may not be owners of neighboring properties, and may in fact not own any other real estate. In sum, the all
encompassing in rem nature of land registration cases, the consequences of default orders issued against the whole world and the objective of disseminating the notice
in as wide a manner as possible demand a mandatory construction of the requirements for publication, mailing and posting. [31]
In the instant Petition, the initial hearing was set by the MTC, and was in fact held, on 03 September 1999 at 8:30 a.m. While the Notice thereof
was printed in the issue of the Official Gazette, dated 02 August 1999, and officially released on 10 August 1999, it was published in The Freeman Banat
News, a daily newspaper printed in Cebu City and circulated in the province and cities of Cebu and in the rest of Visayas and Mindanao, only on 19
December 1999, more than three months after the initial hearing.
Indubitably, such publication of the Notice, way after the date of the initial hearing, would already be worthless and ineffective. Whoever read the
Notice as it was published inThe Freeman Banat News and had a claim to the Subject Lots was deprived of due process for it was already too late for
him to appear before the MTC on the day of the initial hearing to oppose respondents application for registration, and to present his claim and evidence
in support of such claim. Worse, as the Notice itself states, should the claimant-oppositor fail to appear before the MTC on the date of initial hearing, he
would be in default and would forever be barred from contesting respondents application for registration and even the registration decree that may be
issued pursuant thereto. In fact, the MTC did issue an Order of Special Default on 03 September 1999.
The late publication of the Notice of Initial Hearing in the newspaper of general circulation is tantamount to no publication at all, having the same
ultimate result. Owing to such defect in the publication of the Notice, the MTC failed to constructively seize the Subject Lots and to acquire jurisdiction
over respondents application for registration thereof. Therefore, the MTC Judgment, dated 21 December 1999, ordering the registration and confirmation
of the title of respondents Jeremias and David over Lots No. 8422 and 8423, respectively; as well as the MTC Order, dated 02 February 2000, declaring
its Judgment of 21 December 1999 final and executory, and directing the LRA Administrator to issue a decree of registration for the Subject Lots, are
both null and void for having been issued by the MTC without jurisdiction.

II
Period of Possession
Respondents failed to comply with the required period of possession of the Subject Lots for the judicial confirmation or legalization of imperfect or
incomplete title.
While this Court has already found that the MTC did not have jurisdiction to hear and proceed with respondents application for registration, this
Court nevertheless deems it necessary to resolve the legal issue on the required period of possession for acquiring title to public land.
Respondents application filed with the MTC did not state the statutory basis for their title to the Subject Lots. They only alleged therein that they
obtained title to the Subject Lots by purchase from their parents, spouses Gregorio Herbieto and Isabel Owatan, on 25 June 1976. Respondent
Jeremias, in his testimony, claimed that his parents had been in possession of the Subject Lots in the concept of an owner since 1950. [32]
Yet, according to the DENR-CENRO Certification, submitted by respondents themselves, the Subject Lots are within Alienable and Disposable,
Block I, Project No. 28 per LC Map No. 2545 of Consolacion, Cebu certified under Forestry Administrative Order No. 4-1063, dated June 25, 1963.
Likewise, it is outside Kotkot-Lusaran Mananga Watershed Forest Reservation per Presidential Proclamation No. 932 dated June 29, 1992. [33] The
Subject Lots are thus clearly part of the public domain, classified as alienable and disposable as of 25 June 1963.
As already well-settled in jurisprudence, no public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the
government;[34] and it is indispensable that the person claiming title to public land should show that his title was acquired from the State or any other
mode of acquisition recognized by law.[35]
The Public Land Act, as amended, governs lands of the public domain, except timber and mineral lands, friar lands, and privately-owned lands
which reverted to the State.[36] It explicitly enumerates the means by which public lands may be disposed, as follows:
(1) For homestead settlement;
(2) By sale;
(3) By lease;
(4) By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles;
(a) By judicial legalization; or
(b) By administrative legalization (free patent).[37]
Each mode of disposition is appropriately covered by separate chapters of the Public Land Act because there are specific requirements and application
procedure for every mode.[38] Since respondents herein filed their application before the MTC,[39] then it can be reasonably inferred that they are seeking
the judicial confirmation or legalization of their imperfect or incomplete title over the Subject Lots.
Judicial confirmation or legalization of imperfect or incomplete title to land, not exceeding 144 hectares, [40] may be availed of by persons identified
under Section 48 of the Public Land Act, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073, which reads
Section 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but
whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims
and the issuance of a certificate of title thereafter, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
(a) [Repealed by Presidential Decree No. 1073].
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation
of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately
preceding the filing of the applications for confirmation of title, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively
presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of
this chapter.
(c) Members of the national cultural minorities who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation of lands of the public domain suitable to agriculture whether disposable or not, under a bona fide claim of
ownership since June 12, 1945 shall be entitled to the rights granted in subsection (b) hereof.
Not being members of any national cultural minorities, respondents may only be entitled to judicial confirmation or legalization of their imperfect or
incomplete title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended. Section 48(b), as amended, now requires adverse possession of the land since
12 June 1945 or earlier. In the present Petition, the Subject Lots became alienable and disposable only on 25 June 1963. Any period of possession prior
to the date when the Subject Lots were classified as alienable and disposable is inconsequential and should be excluded from the computation of the
period of possession; such possession can never ripen into ownership and unless the land had been classified as alienable and disposable, the rules on
confirmation of imperfect title shall not apply thereto. [41] It is very apparent then that respondents could not have complied with the period of possession
required by Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended, to acquire imperfect or incomplete title to the Subject Lots that may be judicially
confirmed or legalized.
The confirmation of respondents title by the Court of Appeals was based on the erroneous supposition that respondents were claiming title to the
Subject Lots under the Property Registration Decree. According to the Decision of the Court of Appeals, dated 22 November 2002, Section 14(4) of the
Property Registration Decree allows individuals to own land in any other manner provided by law. It then ruled that the respondents, having possessed
the Subject Lots, by themselves and through their predecessors-in-interest, since 25 June 1963 to 23 September 1998, when they filed their application,
have acquired title to the Subject Lots by extraordinary prescription under Article 1113, in relation to Article 1137, both of the Civil Code. [42]
The Court of Appeals overlooked the difference between the Property Registration Decree and the Public Land Act. Under the Property
Registration Decree, there already exists a title which is confirmed by the court; while under the Public Land Act, the presumption always is that the land

applied for pertains to the State, and that the occupants and possessors only claim an interest in the same by virtue of their imperfect title or continuous,
open, and notorious possession.[43] As established by this Court in the preceding paragraphs, the Subject Lots respondents wish to register are
undoubtedly alienable and disposable lands of the public domain and respondents may have acquired title thereto only under the provisions of the
Public Land Act.
However, it must be clarified herein that even though respondents may acquire imperfect or incomplete title to the Subject Lots under the Public
Land Act, their application for judicial confirmation or legalization thereof must be in accordance with the Property Registration Decree, for Section 50 of
the Public Land Act reads
SEC. 50. Any person or persons, or their legal representatives or successors in right, claiming any lands or interest in lands under the provisions of this chapter, must in
every case present an application to the proper Court of First Instance, praying that the validity of the alleged title or claim be inquired into and that a certificate of title
be issued to them under the provisions of the Land Registration Act.[44]
Hence, respondents application for registration of the Subject Lots must have complied with the substantial requirements under Section 48(b) of
the Public Land Act and the procedural requirements under the Property Registration Decree.
Moreover, provisions of the Civil Code on prescription of ownership and other real rights apply in general to all types of land, while the Public Land
Act specifically governs lands of the public domain. Relative to one another, the Public Land Act may be considered a special law [45] that must take
precedence over the Civil Code, a general law. It is an established rule of statutory construction that between a general law and a special law, the
special law prevails Generalia specialibus non derogant.[46]
WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing, the instant Petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 67625, dated
22 November 2002, is REVERSED. The Judgment of the MTC of Consolacion, Cebu in LRC Case No. N-75, dated 21 December 1999, and its Order,
dated 02 February 2000 are declared NULL AND VOID. Respondents application for registration is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.

EN BANC
HEIRS OF MARIO MALABANAN, G.R. No. 179987
- versus REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, PERALTA, and
Respondent. BERSAMIN, JJ.

Promulgated:

April 29, 2009

x--------------------------------------------------------------------------- x

DECISION

TINGA, J.:

One main reason why the informal sector has not become formal is that from Indonesia to Brazil, 90 percent of the
informal lands are not titled and registered. This is a generalized phenomenon in the so-called Third World. And it has
many consequences.

xxx

The question is: How is it that so many governments, from Suharto's in Indonesia to Fujimori's in Peru, have wanted to title these
people and have not been able to do so effectively? One reason is that none of the state systems in Asia or Latin America can gather proof of
informal titles. In Peru, the informals have means of proving property ownership to each other which are not the same means developed by the
Spanish legal system. The informals have their own papers, their own forms of agreements, and their own systems of registration, all of which are
very clearly stated in the maps which they use for their own informal business transactions.

If you take a walk through the countryside, from Indonesia to Peru, and you walk by field after field--in each field a different dog is
going to bark at you. Even dogs know what private property is all about. The only one who does not know it is the government. The issue is that
there exists a "common law" and an "informal law" which the Latin American formal legal system does not know how to recognize.
- Hernando De Soto[1]

This decision inevitably affects all untitled lands currently in possession of persons and entities other than the Philippine
government. The petition, while unremarkable as to the facts, was accepted by the Court en banc in order to provide definitive clarity
to the applicability and scope of original registration proceedings under Sections 14(1) and 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree.
In doing so, the Court confronts not only the relevant provisions of the Public Land Act and the Civil Code, but also the reality on the
ground. The countrywide phenomenon of untitled lands, as well as the problem of informal settlement it has spawned, has
unfortunately been treated with benign neglect. Yet our current laws are hemmed in by their own circumscriptions in addressing the
phenomenon. Still, the duty on our part is primarily to decide cases before us in accord with the Constitution and the legal principles
that have developed our public land law, though our social obligations dissuade us from casting a blind eye on the endemic problems.

I.

On 20 February 1998, Mario Malabanan filed an application for land registration covering a parcel of land identified as Lot 9864-A,
Cad-452-D, Silang Cadastre,[2]situated in Barangay Tibig, Silang Cavite, and consisting of 71,324 square meters. Malabanan claimed
that he had purchased the property from Eduardo Velazco, [3] and that he and his predecessors-in-interest had been in open, notorious,
and continuous adverse and peaceful possession of the land for more than thirty (30) years.

The application was raffled to the Regional Trial Court of (RTC) Cavite-Tagaytay City, Branch 18. The Office of the Solicitor General
(OSG) duly designated the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor of Cavite, Jose Velazco, Jr., to appear on behalf of the State. [4] Apart from
presenting documentary evidence, Malabanan himself and his witness, Aristedes Velazco, testified at the hearing. Velazco testified
that the property was originally belonged to a twenty-two hectare property owned by his great-grandfather, Lino Velazco. Lino had
four sons Benedicto, Gregorio, Eduardo and Estebanthe fourth being Aristedess grandfather. Upon Linos death, his four sons inherited
the property and divided it among themselves. But by 1966, Estebans wife, Magdalena, had become the administrator of all the
properties inherited by the Velazco sons from their father, Lino. After the death of Esteban and Magdalena, their son Virgilio
succeeded them in administering the properties, including Lot 9864-A, which originally belonged to his uncle, Eduardo Velazco. It was
this property that was sold by Eduardo Velazco to Malabanan.[5]

Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Jose Velazco, Jr. did not cross-examine Aristedes Velazco. He further manifested that he also
[knew] the property and I affirm the truth of the testimony given by Mr. Velazco. [6] The Republic of the Philippines likewise did not
present any evidence to controvert the application.

Among the evidence presented by Malabanan during trial was a Certification dated 11 June 2001, issued by the Community
Environment & Natural Resources Office, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO-DENR), which stated that the
subject property was verified to be within the Alienable or Disposable land per Land Classification Map No. 3013 established under
Project No. 20-A and approved as such under FAO 4-1656 on March 15, 1982.[7]

On 3 December 2002, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of Malabanan, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, this Court hereby approves this application for registration and thus places under the
operation of Act 141, Act 496 and/or P.D. 1529, otherwise known as Property Registration Law, the lands described in
Plan Csd-04-0173123-D, Lot 9864-A and containing an area of Seventy One Thousand Three Hundred Twenty Four
(71,324) Square Meters, as supported by its technical description now forming part of the record of this case, in
addition to other proofs adduced in the name of MARIO MALABANAN, who is of legal age, Filipino, widower, and with
residence at Munting Ilog, Silang, Cavite.

issue.

Once this Decision becomes final and executory, the corresponding decree of registration shall forthwith

SO ORDERED.

The Republic interposed an appeal to the Court of Appeals, arguing that Malabanan had failed to prove that the property
belonged to the alienable and disposable land of the public domain, and that the RTC had erred in finding that he had been in
possession of the property in the manner and for the length of time required by law for confirmation of imperfect title.

On 23 February 2007, the Court of Appeals rendered a Decision [8] reversing the RTC and dismissing the application of
Malabanan. The appellate court held that under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree any period of possession prior to
the classification of the lots as alienable and disposable was inconsequential and should be excluded from the computation of the
period of possession. Thus, the appellate court noted that since the CENRO-DENR certification had verified that the property was
declared alienable and disposable only on 15 March 1982, the Velazcos possession prior to that date could not be factored in the
computation of the period of possession. This interpretation of the Court of Appeals of Section 14(1) of the Property Registration
Decree was based on the Courts ruling in Republic v. Herbieto.[9]

Malabanan died while the case was pending with the Court of Appeals; [10] hence, it was his heirs who appealed the decision
of the appellate court. Petitioners, before this Court, rely on our ruling in Republic v. Naguit,[11] which was handed down just four
months prior to Herbieto. Petitioners suggest that the discussion inHerbieto cited by the Court of Appeals is actually obiter
dictum since the Metropolitan Trial Court therein which had directed the registration of the property had no jurisdiction in the first
place since the requisite notice of hearing was published only after the hearing had already begun. Naguit, petitioners argue, remains
the controlling doctrine, especially when the property in question is agricultural land. Therefore, with respect to agricultural lands, any
possession prior to the declaration of the alienable property as disposable may be counted in reckoning the period of possession to
perfect title under the Public Land Act and the Property Registration Decree.

The petition was referred to the Court en banc,[12] and on 11 November 2008, the case was heard on oral arguments. The
Court formulated the principal issues for the oral arguments, to wit:

1. In order that an alienable and disposable land of the public domain may be registered under Section
14(1) of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, should the land be
classified as alienable and disposable as of June 12, 1945 or is it sufficient that such classification occur at any time
prior to the filing of the applicant for registration provided that it is established that the applicant has been in open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the land under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945
or earlier?

2. For purposes of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree may a parcel of land classified as
alienable and disposable be deemed private land and therefore susceptible to acquisition by prescription in
accordance with the Civil Code?

3. May a parcel of land established as agricultural in character either because of its use or because its slope
is below that of forest lands be registrable under Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree in relation to the
provisions of the Civil Code on acquisitive prescription?

4. Are petitioners entitled to the registration of the subject land in their names under Section 14(1) or
Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree or both?[13]

Based on these issues, the parties formulated their respective positions.

With respect to Section 14(1), petitioners reiterate that the analysis of the Court in Naguit is the correct interpretation of the
provision. The seemingly contradictory pronouncement in Herbieto, it is submitted, should be considered obiter dictum, since the land
registration proceedings therein was void ab initio due to lack of publication of the notice of initial hearing. Petitioners further point
out that in Republic v. Bibonia,[14] promulgated in June of 2007, the Court applied Naguit and adopted the same observation that the
preferred interpretation by the OSG of Section 14(1) was patently absurd. For its part, the OSG remains insistent that for Section
14(1) to apply, the land should have been classified as alienable and disposable as of 12 June 1945. Apart from Herbieto, the OSG
also cites the subsequent rulings inBuenaventura v. Republic,[15] Fieldman Agricultural Trading v. Republic [16] and Republic v. Imperial
Credit Corporation,[17] as well as the earlier case of Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals.[18]

With respect to Section 14(2), petitioners submit that open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of an alienable
land of the public domain for more than 30 years ipso jure converts the land into private property, thus placing it under the coverage
of Section 14(2). According to them, it would not matter whether the land sought to be registered was previously classified as
agricultural land of the public domain so long as, at the time of the application, the property had already been converted into private
property through prescription. To bolster their argument, petitioners cite extensively from our 2008 ruling in Republic v. T.A.N.
Properties.[19]

The arguments submitted by the OSG with respect to Section 14(2) are more extensive. The OSG notes that under Article
1113 of the Civil Code, the acquisitive prescription of properties of the State refers to patrimonial property, while Section 14(2)
speaks of private lands. It observes that the Court has yet to decide a case that presented Section 14(2) as a ground for application
for registration, and that the 30-year possession period refers to the period of possession under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act,
and not the concept of prescription under the Civil Code. The OSG further submits that, assuming that the 30-year prescriptive period
can run against public lands, said period should be reckoned from the time the public land was declared alienable and disposable.
Both sides likewise offer special arguments with respect to the particular factual circumstances surrounding the subject
property and the ownership thereof.
II.

First, we discuss Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree. For a full understanding of the provision, reference has to be made
to the Public Land Act.

A.

Commonwealth Act No. 141, also known as the Public Land Act, has, since its enactment, governed the classification and
disposition of lands of the public domain. The President is authorized, from time to time, to classify the lands of the public domain into
alienable and disposable, timber, or mineral lands. [20] Alienable and disposable lands of the public domain are further classified
according to their uses into (a) agricultural; (b) residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes; (c) educational,
charitable, or other similar purposes; or (d) reservations for town sites and for public and quasi-public uses. [21]
May a private person validly seek the registration in his/her name of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain?
Section 11 of the Public Land Act acknowledges that public lands suitable for agricultural purposes may be disposed of by
confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles through judicial legalization. [22]Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by P.D.
No. 1073, supplies the details and unmistakably grants that right, subject to the requisites stated therein:

Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or
claiming to own any such land or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may
apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and
the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

xxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under
a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of
the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be
conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled
to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.

Section 48(b) of Com. Act No. 141 received its present wording in 1977 when the law was amended by P.D. No. 1073. Two significant
amendments were introduced by P.D. No. 1073. First, the term agricultural lands was changed to alienable and disposable lands of
the public domain. The OSG submits that this amendment restricted the scope of the lands that may be registered. [23] This is not
actually the case. Under Section 9 of the Public Land Act, agricultural lands are a mere subset of lands of the public domain alienable
or open to disposition. Evidently, alienable and disposable lands of the public domain are a larger class than only agricultural lands.
Second, the length of the requisite possession was changed from possession for thirty (30) years immediately preceding the filing of
the application to possession sinceJune 12, 1945 or earlier. The Court in Naguit explained:

When the Public Land Act was first promulgated in 1936, the period of possession deemed necessary to vest
the right to register their title to agricultural lands of the public domain commenced from July 26, 1894. However,
this period was amended by R.A. No. 1942, which provided that the bona fide claim of ownership must have been for
at least thirty (30) years. Then in 1977, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act was again amended, this time by P.D.
No. 1073, which pegged the reckoning date at June 12, 1945. xxx

It bears further observation that Section 48(b) of Com. Act No, 141 is virtually the same as Section 14(1) of the Property Registration
Decree. Said Decree codified the various laws relative to the registration of property, including lands of the public domain. It is Section
14(1) that operationalizes the registration of such lands of the public domain. The provision reads:

SECTION 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of
title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

(1)

those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open,


continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable
lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or
earlier.

Notwithstanding the passage of the Property Registration Decree and the inclusion of Section 14(1) therein, the Public Land
Act has remained in effect. Both laws commonly refer to persons or their predecessors-in-interest who have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of
ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier. That circumstance may have led to the impression that one or the other is a redundancy, or
that Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act has somehow been repealed or mooted. That is not the case.

The opening clauses of Section 48 of the Public Land Act and Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree warrant
comparison:

Sec. 48 [of the Public Land Act]. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the
public domain or claiming to own any such land or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or
completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of
their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

xxx

Sec. 14 [of the Property Registration Decree]. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an
application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

xxx

It is clear that Section 48 of the Public Land Act is more descriptive of the nature of the right enjoyed by the possessor than
Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree, which seems to presume the pre-existence of the right, rather than establishing the
right itself for the first time. It is proper to assert that it is the Public Land Act, as amended by P.D. No. 1073 effective 25 January 1977,
that has primarily established the right of a Filipino citizen who has been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12,
1945 to perfect or complete his title by applying with the proper court for the confirmation of his ownership claim and the issuance of
the corresponding certificate of title.

Section 48 can be viewed in conjunction with the afore-quoted Section 11 of the Public Land Act, which provides that public
lands suitable for agricultural purposes may be disposed of by confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles, and given the notion that
both provisions declare that it is indeed the Public Land Act that primarily establishes the substantive ownership of the possessor who
has been in possession of the property since 12 June 1945. In turn, Section 14(a) of the Property Registration Decree recognizes the
substantive right granted under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as well provides the corresponding original registration
procedure for the judicial confirmation of an imperfect or incomplete title.

There is another limitation to the right granted under Section 48(b). Section 47 of the Public Land Act limits the period within which
one may exercise the right to seek registration under Section 48. The provision has been amended several times, most recently by
Rep. Act No. 9176 in 2002. It currently reads thus:

Section 47. The persons specified in the next following section are hereby granted time, not to extend
beyond December 31, 2020 within which to avail of the benefits of this Chapter: Provided, That this period shall
apply only where the area applied for does not exceed twelve (12) hectares: Provided, further, That the several
periods of time designated by the President in accordance with Section Forty-Five of this Act shall apply also to the
lands comprised in the provisions of this Chapter, but this Section shall not be construed as prohibiting any said
persons from acting under this Chapter at any time prior to the period fixed by the President. [24]

Accordingly under the current state of the law, the substantive right granted under Section 48(b) may be availed of only until 31
December 2020.

B.

Despite the clear text of Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended and Section 14(a) of the Property Registration
Decree, the OSG has adopted the position that for one to acquire the right to seek registration of an alienable and disposable land of
the public domain, it is not enough that the applicant and his/her predecessors-in-interest be in possession under a bona fide claim of
ownership since 12 June 1945; the alienable and disposable character of the property must have been declared also as of 12 June
1945. Following the OSGs approach, all lands certified as alienable and disposable after 12 June 1945 cannot be registered either
under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree or Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act as amended. The absurdity of such an
implication was discussed in Naguit.

Petitioner suggests an interpretation that the alienable and disposable character of the land should have
already been established since June 12, 1945 or earlier. This is not borne out by the plain meaning of Section 14(1).
Since June 12, 1945, as used in the provision, qualifies its antecedent phrase under a bonafide claim of ownership.
Generally speaking, qualifying words restrict or modify only the words or phrases to which they are immediately
associated, and not those distantly or remotely located. [25] Ad proximum antecedents fiat relation nisi impediatur
sentencia.

Besides, we are mindful of the absurdity that would result if we adopt petitioners position. Absent a legislative
amendment, the rule would be, adopting the OSGs view, that all lands of the public domain which were not declared
alienable or disposable before June 12, 1945 would not be susceptible to original registration, no matter the length of
unchallenged possession by the occupant. Such interpretation renders paragraph (1) of Section 14 virtually
inoperative and even precludes the government from giving it effect even as it decides to reclassify public
agricultural lands as alienable and disposable. The unreasonableness of the situation would even be aggravated
considering that before June 12, 1945, the Philippineswas not yet even considered an independent state.

Accordingly, the Court in Naguit explained:

[T]he more reasonable interpretation of Section 14(1) is that it merely requires the property sought to be
registered as already alienable and disposable at the time the application for registration of title is filed. If the State,
at the time the application is made, has not yet deemed it proper to release the property for alienation or
disposition, the presumption is that the government is still reserving the right to utilize the property; hence, the need
to preserve its ownership in the State irrespective of the length of adverse possession even if in good faith. However,
if the property has already been classified as alienable and disposable, as it is in this case, then there is already an
intention on the part of the State to abdicate its exclusive prerogative over the property.

The Court declares that the correct interpretation of Section 14(1) is that which was adopted in Naguit. The contrary
pronouncement in Herbieto, as pointed out inNaguit, absurdly limits the application of the provision to the point of virtual inutility
since it would only cover lands actually declared alienable and disposable prior to 12 June 1945, even if the current possessor is able
to establish open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession under a bona fide claim of ownership long before that date.

Moreover, the Naguit interpretation allows more possessors under a bona fide claim of ownership to avail of judicial
confirmation of their imperfect titles than what would be feasible under Herbieto. This balancing fact is significant, especially
considering our forthcoming discussion on the scope and reach of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree.

Petitioners make the salient observation that the contradictory passages from Herbieto are obiter dicta since the land
registration proceedings therein is void ab initio in the first place due to lack of the requisite publication of the notice of initial
hearing. There is no need to explicitly overturn Herbieto, as it suffices that the Courts acknowledgment that the particular line of
argument used therein concerning Section 14(1) is indeed obiter.
It may be noted that in the subsequent case of Buenaventura,[26] the Court, citing Herbieto, again stated that [a]ny period of possession prior to the date when
the [s]ubject [property was] classified as alienable and disposable is inconsequential and should be excluded from the computation of the period of possession That
statement, in the context of Section 14(1), is certainly erroneous. Nonetheless, the passage as cited in Buenaventura should again be considered as obiter. The
application therein was ultimately granted, citing Section 14(2). The evidence submitted by petitioners therein did not establish any mode of possession on their part
prior to 1948, thereby precluding the application of Section 14(1). It is not even apparent from the decision whether petitioners therein had claimed entitlement to
original registration following Section 14(1), their position being that they had been in exclusive possession under a bona fide claim of ownership for over fifty (50)
years, but not before 12 June 1945.
Thus, neither Herbieto nor its principal discipular ruling Buenaventura has any precedental value with respect to Section
14(1). On the other hand, the ratio ofNaguit is embedded in Section 14(1), since it precisely involved situation wherein the applicant
had been in exclusive possession under a bona fide claim of ownership prior to 12 June 1945. The Courts interpretation of Section
14(1) therein was decisive to the resolution of the case. Any doubt as to which between Naguit or Herbietoprovides the final word of
the Court on Section 14(1) is now settled in favor of Naguit.

We noted in Naguit that it should be distinguished from Bracewell v. Court of Appeals [27] since in the latter, the application for
registration had been filed before the land was declared alienable or disposable. The dissent though pronounces Bracewell as the
better rule between the two. Yet two years after Bracewell, its ponente, the esteemed Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, penned the
ruling in Republic v. Ceniza,[28] which involved a claim of possession that extended back to 1927 over a public domain land that was
declared alienable and disposable only in 1980. Ceniza cited Bracewell, quoted extensively from it, and following the mindset of the
dissent, the attempt at registration in Ceniza should have failed. Not so.

To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, an applicant must establish the
existence of a positive act of the government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an
administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute.

In this case, private respondents presented a certification dated November 25, 1994, issued by Eduardo M.
Inting, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer in the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources Office in Cebu City, stating that the lots involved were "found to be within the alienable and disposable
(sic) Block-I, Land Classification Project No. 32-A, per map 2962 4-I555 dated December 9, 1980." This is sufficient
evidence to show the real character of the land subject of private respondents application. Further, the certification
enjoys a presumption of regularity in the absence of contradictory evidence, which is true in this case. Worth noting
also was the observation of the Court of Appeals stating that:

[n]o opposition was filed by the Bureaus of Lands and Forestry to contest the application
of appellees on the ground that the property still forms part of the public domain. Nor is there any
showing that the lots in question are forestal land....

Thus, while the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that mere possession of public land for the period required
by law would entitle its occupant to a confirmation of imperfect title, it did not err in ruling in favor of private
respondents as far as the first requirement in Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is concerned, for they were able
to overcome the burden of proving the alienability of the land subject of their application.

As correctly found by the Court of Appeals, private respondents were able to prove their open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession of the subject land even before the year 1927. As a rule, we are bound by the
factual findings of the Court of Appeals. Although there are exceptions, petitioner did not show that this is one of
them.[29]

Why did the Court in Ceniza, through the same eminent member who authored Bracewell, sanction the registration under Section
48(b) of public domain lands declared alienable or disposable thirty-five (35) years and 180 days after 12 June 1945? The telling
difference is that in Ceniza, the application for registration was filed nearly six (6) years after the land had been declared alienable or
disposable, while in Bracewell, the application was filed nine (9) years before the land was declared alienable or
disposable. That crucial difference was also stressed in Naguit to contradistinguish it from Bracewell, a difference which the dissent
seeks to belittle.

III.

We next ascertain the correct framework of analysis with respect to Section 14(2). The provision reads:

SECTION 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of
title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

xxx

(2)

Those who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under the provisions
of existing laws.

The Court in Naguit offered the following discussion concerning Section 14(2), which we did even then recognize, and still do,
to be an obiter dictum, but we nonetheless refer to it as material for further discussion, thus:

Did the enactment of the Property Registration Decree and the amendatory P.D. No. 1073 preclude the
application for registration of alienable lands of the public domain, possession over which commenced only
after June 12, 1945? It did not, considering Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, which governs and
authorizes the application of those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the
provisions of existing laws.

Prescription is one of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil Code.[ [30]] There is a consistent
jurisprudential rule that properties classified as alienable public land may be converted into private property by
reason of open, continuous and exclusive possession of at least thirty (30) years.[ [31]] With such conversion, such
property may now fall within the contemplation of private lands under Section 14(2), and thus susceptible to
registration by those who have acquired ownership through prescription. Thus, even if possession of the alienable
public land commenced on a date later than June 12, 1945, and such possession being been open, continuous and
exclusive, then the possessor may have the right to register the land by virtue of Section 14(2) of the Property
Registration Decree.

Naguit did not involve the application of Section 14(2), unlike in this case where petitioners have based their registration bid primarily
on that provision, and where the evidence definitively establishes their claim of possession only as far back as 1948. It is in this case
that we can properly appreciate the nuances of the provision.

A.

The obiter in Naguit cited the Civil Code provisions on prescription as the possible basis for application for original registration under
Section 14(2). Specifically, it is Article 1113 which provides legal foundation for the application. It reads:

All things which are within the commerce of men are susceptible of prescription, unless otherwise provided. Property of the State or
any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription.

It is clear under the Civil Code that where lands of the public domain are patrimonial in character, they are susceptible to acquisitive
prescription. On the other hand, among the public domain lands that are not susceptible to acquisitive prescription are timber lands
and mineral lands. The Constitution itself proscribes private ownership of timber or mineral lands.

There are in fact several provisions in the Civil Code concerning the acquisition of real property through prescription.
Ownership of real property may be acquired by ordinary prescription of ten (10) years, [32] or through extraordinary prescription of
thirty (30) years.[33] Ordinary acquisitive prescription requires possession in good faith,[34] as well as just title.[35]

When Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree explicitly provides that persons who have acquired ownership over
private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws, it unmistakably refers to the Civil Code as a valid basis for the
registration of lands. The Civil Code is the only existing law that specifically allows the acquisition by prescription of private lands,
including patrimonial property belonging to the State. Thus, the critical question that needs affirmation is whether Section 14(2) does
encompass original registration proceedings over patrimonial property of the State, which a private person has acquired through
prescription.

The Naguit obiter had adverted to a frequently reiterated jurisprudence holding that properties classified as alienable public
land may be converted into private property by reason of open, continuous and exclusive possession of at least thirty (30) years.
[36]
Yet if we ascertain the source of the thirty-year period, additional complexities relating to Section 14(2) and to how exactly it
operates would emerge. For there are in fact two distinct origins of the thirty (30)-year rule.

The first source is Rep. Act No. 1942, enacted in 1957, which amended Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act by granting the
right to seek original registration of alienable public lands through possession in the concept of an owner for at least thirty years.

The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to
own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to
the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the
issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:

xxx

xxx

xxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona
fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the
application for confirmation of title, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be
conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled
to a certificate of title under the provisions of this Chapter. (emphasis supplied) [37]

This provision was repealed in 1977 with the enactment of P.D. 1073, which made the date 12 June 1945 the reckoning point
for the first time. Nonetheless, applications for registration filed prior to 1977 could have invoked the 30-year rule introduced by Rep.
Act No. 1942.

The second source is Section 14(2) of P.D. 1529 itself, at least by implication, as it applies the rules on prescription under the
Civil Code, particularly Article 1113 in relation to Article 1137. Note that there are two kinds of prescription under the Civil
Codeordinary acquisitive prescription and extraordinary acquisitive prescription, which, under Article 1137, is completed through
uninterrupted adverse possession for thirty years, without need of title or of good faith.

Obviously, the first source of the thirty (30)-year period rule, Rep. Act No. 1942, became unavailable after 1977. At present,
the only legal basis for the thirty (30)-year period is the law on prescription under the Civil Code, as mandated under Section 14(2).
However, there is a material difference between how the thirty (30)-year rule operated under Rep. Act No. 1942 and how it did under
the Civil Code.

Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by Rep. Act No. 1942, did not refer to or call into application the Civil Code
provisions on prescription. It merely set forth a requisite thirty-year possession period immediately preceding the application for
confirmation of title, without any qualification as to whether the property should be declared alienable at the beginning of, and
continue as such, throughout the entire thirty-(30) years. There is neither statutory nor jurisprudential basis to assert Rep. Act No.
1942 had mandated such a requirement, [38] similar to our earlier finding with respect to the present language of Section 48(b), which
now sets 12 June 1945 as the point of reference.

Then, with the repeal of Rep. Act No. 1942, the thirty-year possession period as basis for original registration became Section
14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, which entitled those who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under
the provisions of existing laws to apply for original registration. Again, the thirty-year period is derived from the rule on extraordinary
prescription under Article 1137 of the Civil Code. At the same time, Section 14(2) puts into operation the entire regime of prescription
under the Civil Code, a fact which does not hold true with respect to Section 14(1).

B.

Unlike Section 14(1), Section 14(2) explicitly refers to the principles on prescription under existing laws. Accordingly, we are
impelled to apply the civil law concept of prescription, as set forth in the Civil Code, in our interpretation of Section 14(2). There is no
similar demand on our part in the case of Section 14(1).

The critical qualification under Article 1113 of the Civil Code is thus: [p]roperty of the State or any of its subdivisions not
patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription. The identification what consists of patrimonial property is provided by
Articles 420 and 421, which we quote in full:

Art. 420. The following things are property of public dominion:

(1) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges constructed by the
State, banks, shores, roadsteads, and others of similar character;

(2) Those which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or
for the development of the national wealth.

Art. 421. All other property of the State, which is not of the character stated in the preceding article, is
patrimonial property

It is clear that property of public dominion, which generally includes property belonging to the State, cannot be the object of
prescription or, indeed, be subject of the commerce of man. [39] Lands of the public domain, whether declared alienable and disposable
or not, are property of public dominion and thus insusceptible to acquisition by prescription.

Let us now explore the effects under the Civil Code of a declaration by the President or any duly authorized government officer of
alienability and disposability of lands of the public domain. Would such lands so declared alienable and disposable be converted,
under the Civil Code, from property of the public dominion into patrimonial property? After all, by connotative definition, alienable and
disposable lands may be the object of the commerce of man; Article 1113 provides that all things within the commerce of man are
susceptible to prescription; and the same provision further provides that patrimonial property of the State may be acquired by
prescription.

Nonetheless, Article 422 of the Civil Code states that [p]roperty of public dominion, when no longer intended for public use
or for public service, shall form part of the patrimonial property of the State. It is this provision that controls how public dominion
property may be converted into patrimonial property susceptible to acquisition by prescription. After all, Article 420 (2) makes clear
that those property which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or for the
development of the national wealth are public dominion property. For as long as the property belongs to the State, although already
classified as alienable or disposable, it remains property of the public dominion if when it is intended for some public service or for
the development of the national wealth.

Accordingly, there must be an express declaration by the State that the public dominion property is no longer
intended for public service or the development of the national wealth or that the property has been converted into
patrimonial. Without such express declaration, the property, even if classified as alienable or disposable, remains
property of the public dominion, pursuant to Article 420(2), and thus incapable of acquisition by prescription. It is only
when such alienable and disposable lands are expressly declared by the State to be no longer intended for public
service or for the development of the national wealth that the period of acquisitive prescription can begin to run. Such
declaration shall be in the form of a law duly enacted by Congress or a Presidential Proclamation in cases where the
President is duly authorized by law.

It is comprehensible with ease that this reading of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree limits its scope and
reach and thus affects the registrability even of lands already declared alienable and disposable to the detriment of the bona
fide possessors or occupants claiming title to the lands. Yet this interpretation is in accord with the Regalian doctrine and its
concomitant assumption that all lands owned by the State, although declared alienable or disposable, remain as such and ought to be
used only by the Government.

Recourse does not lie with this Court in the matter. The duty of the Court is to apply the Constitution and the laws in
accordance with their language and intent. The remedy is to change the law, which is the province of the legislative branch. Congress
can very well be entreated to amend Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree and pertinent provisions of the Civil Code to
liberalize the requirements for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles.

The operation of the foregoing interpretation can be illustrated by an actual example. Republic Act No. 7227, entitled An Act
Accelerating The Conversion Of Military Reservations Into Other Productive Uses, etc., is more commonly known as the BCDA
law. Section 2 of the law authorizes the sale of certain military reservations and portions of military camps in Metro Manila,
including Fort Bonifacio and Villamor Air Base. For purposes of effecting the sale of the military camps, the law mandates the
President to transfer such military lands to the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) [40] which in turn is authorized to own,
hold and/or administer them.[41] The President is authorized to sell portions of the military camps, in whole or in part. [42] Accordingly,
the BCDA law itself declares that themilitary lands subject thereof are alienable and disposable pursuant to the provisions of existing
laws and regulations governing sales of government properties. [43]

From the moment the BCDA law was enacted the subject military lands have become alienable and disposable. However,
said lands did not become patrimonial, as the BCDA law itself expressly makes the reservation that these lands are to be sold in order
to raise funds for the conversion of the former American bases at Clark andSubic.[44] Such purpose can be tied to either public service
or the development of national wealth under Article 420(2). Thus, at that time, the lands remained property of the public dominion
under Article 420(2), notwithstanding their status as alienable and disposable. It is upon their sale as authorized under the BCDA law
to a private person or entity that such lands become private property and cease to be property of the public dominion.

C.

Should public domain lands become patrimonial because they are declared as such in a duly enacted law or duly
promulgated proclamation that they are no longer intended for public service or for the development of the national wealth, would
the period of possession prior to the conversion of such public dominion into patrimonial be reckoned in counting the prescriptive
period in favor of the possessors? We rule in the negative.

The limitation imposed by Article 1113 dissuades us from ruling that the period of possession before the public domain land becomes
patrimonial may be counted for the purpose of completing the prescriptive period. Possession of public dominion property before it
becomes patrimonial cannot be the object of prescription according to the Civil Code. As the application for registration under Section
14(2) falls wholly within the framework of prescription under the Civil Code, there is no way that possession during the time that the
land was still classified as public dominion property can be counted to meet the requisites of acquisitive prescription and justify
registration.

Are we being inconsistent in applying divergent rules for Section 14(1) and Section 14(2)? There is no inconsistency. Section
14(1) mandates registration on the basis of possession, while Section 14(2) entitles registration on the basis
of prescription. Registration under Section 14(1) is extended under the aegis of theProperty Registration Decree and
the Public Land Act while registration under Section 14(2) is made available both by the Property Registration Decree
and the Civil Code.

In the same manner, we can distinguish between the thirty-year period under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by
Rep. Act No. 1472, and the thirty-year period available through Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree in relation to Article
1137 of the Civil Code. The period under the former speaks of athirty-year period of possession , while the period under
the latter concerns a thirty-year period of extraordinary prescription. Registration under Section 48(b) of the Public
Land Act as amended by Rep. Act No. 1472 is based on thirty years of possession alone without regard to the Civil
Code, while the registration under Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree is founded on extraordinary
prescription under the Civil Code.

It may be asked why the principles of prescription under the Civil Code should not apply as well to Section 14(1). Notwithstanding the
vaunted status of the Civil Code, it ultimately is just one of numerous statutes, neither superior nor inferior to other statutes such as
the Property Registration Decree. The legislative branch is not bound to adhere to the framework set forth by the Civil Code when it
enacts subsequent legislation. Section 14(2) manifests a clear intent to interrelate the registration allowed under that provision with
the Civil Code, but no such intent exists with respect to Section 14(1).

IV.

One of the keys to understanding the framework we set forth today is seeing how our land registration procedures correlate with our
law on prescription, which, under the Civil Code, is one of the modes for acquiring ownership over property.

The Civil Code makes it clear that patrimonial property of the State may be acquired by private persons through prescription. This is
brought about by Article 1113, which states that [a]ll things which are within the commerce of man are susceptible to prescription,
and that [p]roperty of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription.

There are two modes of prescription through which immovables may be acquired under the Civil Code. The first is ordinary acquisitive
prescription, which, under Article 1117, requires possession in good faith and with just title; and, under Article 1134, is completed
through possession of ten (10) years. There is nothing in the Civil Code that bars a person from acquiring patrimonial property of the
State through ordinary acquisitive prescription, nor is there any apparent reason to impose such a rule. At the same time, there are
indispensable requisitesgood faith and just title. The ascertainment of good faith involves the application of Articles 526, 527, and
528, as well as Article 1127 of the Civil Code, [45] provisions that more or less speak for themselves.

On the other hand, the concept of just title requires some clarification. Under Article 1129, there is just title for the purposes
of prescription when the adverse claimant came into possession of the property through one of the modes recognized by law for the
acquisition of ownership or other real rights, but the grantor was not the owner or could not transmit any right. Dr. Tolentino explains:

Just title is an act which has for its purpose the transmission of ownership, and which would have actually
transferred ownership if the grantor had been the owner. This vice or defect is the one cured by prescription.
Examples: sale with delivery, exchange, donation, succession, and dacion in payment.[46]
The OSG submits that the requirement of just title necessarily precludes the applicability of ordinary acquisitive prescription to
patrimonial property. The major premise for the argument is that the State, as the owner and grantor, could not transmit ownership to
the possessor before the completion of the required period of possession. [47]It is evident that the OSG erred when it assumed that the
grantor referred to in Article 1129 is the State. The grantor is the one from whom the person invoking ordinary acquisitive prescription
derived the title, whether by sale, exchange, donation, succession or any other mode of the acquisition of ownership or other real
rights.

Earlier, we made it clear that, whether under ordinary prescription or extraordinary prescription, the period of possession
preceding the classification of public dominion lands as patrimonial cannot be counted for the purpose of computing prescription. But
after the property has been become patrimonial, the period of prescription begins to run in favor of the possessor. Once the requisite
period has been completed, two legal events ensue: (1) the patrimonial property is ipso jureconverted into private land; and (2) the
person in possession for the periods prescribed under the Civil Code acquires ownership of the property by operation of the Civil
Code.

It is evident that once the possessor automatically becomes the owner of the converted patrimonial property, the ideal next
step is the registration of the property under the Torrens system. It should be remembered that registration of property is not a mode
of acquisition of ownership, but merely a mode of confirmation of ownership. [48]

Looking back at the registration regime prior to the adoption of the Property Registration Decree in 1977, it is apparent that
the registration system then did not fully accommodate the acquisition of ownership of patrimonial property under the Civil Code.
What the system accommodated was the confirmation of imperfect title brought about by the completion of a period of possession
ordained under the Public Land Act (either 30 years following Rep. Act No. 1942, or since 12 June 1945following P.D. No. 1073).

The Land Registration Act[49] was noticeably silent on the requisites for alienable public lands acquired through ordinary
prescription under the Civil Code, though it arguably did not preclude such registration. [50] Still, the gap was lamentable, considering
that the Civil Code, by itself, establishes ownership over the patrimonial property of persons who have completed the prescriptive
periods ordained therein. The gap was finally closed with the adoption of the Property Registration Decree in 1977, with Section 14(2)
thereof expressly authorizing original registration in favor of persons who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription
under the provisions of existing laws, that is, the Civil Code as of now.

V.

We synthesize the doctrines laid down in this case, as follows:

(1) In connection with Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act recognizes and confirms
that those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of
ownership, since June 12, 1945 have acquired ownership of, and registrable title to, such lands based on the length and quality of
their possession.

(a) Since Section 48(b) merely requires possession since 12 June 1945 and does not require that the lands should
have been alienable and disposable during the entire period of possession, the possessor is entitled to secure judicial
confirmation of his title thereto as soon as it is declared alienable and disposable, subject to the timeframe imposed by
Section 47 of the Public Land Act.[51]

(b) The right to register granted under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is further confirmed by Section 14(1) of
the Property Registration Decree.

(2) In complying with Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, consider that under the Civil Code, prescription is recognized
as a mode of acquiring ownership of patrimonial property. However, public domain lands become only patrimonial property not only
with a declaration that these are alienable or disposable. There must also be an express government manifestation that the property
is already patrimonial or no longer retained for public service or the development of national wealth, under Article 422 of the Civil
Code. And only when the property has become patrimonial can the prescriptive period for the acquisition of property of the public
dominion begin to run.

(a) Patrimonial property is private property of the government. The person acquires ownership of patrimonial
property by prescription under the Civil Code is entitled to secure registration thereof under Section 14(2) of the Property
Registration Decree.

(b) There are two kinds of prescription by which patrimonial property may be acquired, one ordinary and other
extraordinary. Under ordinary acquisitive prescription, a person acquires ownership of a patrimonial property through
possession for at least ten (10) years, in good faith and with just title. Under extraordinary acquisitive prescription, a persons
uninterrupted adverse possession of patrimonial property for at least thirty (30) years, regardless of good faith or just title,
ripens into ownership.

B.

We now apply the above-stated doctrines to the case at bar.

It is clear that the evidence of petitioners is insufficient to establish that Malabanan has acquired ownership over the subject property
under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. There is no substantive evidence to establish that Malabanan or petitioners as his
predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the property since 12 June 1945 or earlier. The earliest that petitioners can date
back their possession, according to their own evidencethe Tax Declarations they presented in particularis to the year 1948. Thus, they
cannot avail themselves of registration under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree.

Neither can petitioners properly invoke Section 14(2) as basis for registration. While the subject property was declared as alienable or
disposable in 1982, there is no competent evidence that is no longer intended for public use service or for the development of the
national evidence, conformably with Article 422 of the Civil Code. The classification of the subject property as alienable and
disposable land of the public domain does not change its status as property of the public dominion under Article 420(2) of the Civil
Code. Thus, it is insusceptible to acquisition by prescription.

VI.

A final word. The Court is comfortable with the correctness of the legal doctrines established in this decision. Nonetheless,
discomfiture over the implications of todays ruling cannot be discounted. For, every untitled property that is occupied in the country
will be affected by this ruling. The social implications cannot be dismissed lightly, and the Court would be abdicating its social
responsibility to the Filipino people if we simply levied the law without comment.

The informal settlement of public lands, whether declared alienable or not, is a phenomenon tied to long-standing habit and cultural
acquiescence, and is common among the so-called Third World countries. This paradigm powerfully evokes the disconnect between a
legal system and the reality on the ground. The law so far has been unable to bridge that gap. Alternative means of acquisition of
these public domain lands, such as through homestead or free patent, have proven unattractive due to limitations imposed on the
grantee in the encumbrance or alienation of said properties. [52] Judicial confirmation of imperfect title has emerged as the most viable,
if not the most attractive means to regularize the informal settlement of alienable or disposable lands of the public domain, yet even
that system, as revealed in this decision, has considerable limits.

There are millions upon millions of Filipinos who have individually or exclusively held residential lands on which they have lived and
raised their families. Many more have tilled and made productive idle lands of the State with their hands. They have been regarded
for generation by their families and their communities as common law owners. There is much to be said about the virtues of
according them legitimate states. Yet such virtues are not for the Court to translate into positive law, as the law itself considered such
lands as property of the public dominion. It could only be up to Congress to set forth a new phase of land reform to sensibly regularize
and formalize the settlement of such lands which in legal theory are lands of the public domain before the problem becomes
insoluble. This could be accomplished, to cite two examples, by liberalizing the standards for judicial confirmation of imperfect title, or
amending the Civil Code itself to ease the requisites for the conversion of public dominion property into patrimonial.

Ones sense of security over land rights infuses into every aspect of well-being not only of that individual, but also to the
persons family. Once that sense of security is deprived, life and livelihood are put on stasis. It is for the political branches to bring
welcome closure to the long pestering problem.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 23 February 2007 and Resolution dated 2 October
2007 are AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION
[G.R. No. 181502. February 2, 2010.]
FLORENCIA G. DIAZ, petitioner, vs. REPUBLIC of the PHILIPPINES, respondent.
RESOLUTION
CORONA, J p:
This is a letter-motion praying for reconsideration (for the third time) of the June 16, 2008 resolution of this Court denying the petition for review filed by
petitioner Florencia G. Diaz.
Petitioner's late mother, Flora Garcia (Garcia), filed an application for registration of a vast tract of land 1 located in Laur, Nueva Ecija and Palayan City in
the then Court of First Instance (CFI), Branch 1, Nueva Ecija on August 12, 1976. 2 She alleged that she possessed the land as owner and worked,
developed and harvested the agricultural products and benefits of the same continuously, publicly and adversely for more or less 26 years.
The Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the application because the land in question was
within the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR), established by virtue of Proclamation No. 237 (Proclamation 237) 3 in 1955. Thus, it was
inalienable as it formed part of the public domain.
Significantly, on November 28, 1975, this Court already ruled in Director of Lands v. Reyes 4 that the property subject of Garcia's application was
inalienable as it formed part of a military reservation. Moreover, the existence of Possessory Information Title No. 216 (allegedly registered in the name
of a certain Melecio Padilla on March 5, 1895), on which therein respondent Paraaque Investment and Development Corporation anchored its claim on
the land, was not proven. Accordingly, the decree of registration issued in its favor was declared null and void.
Reyes notwithstanding, the CFI ruled in Garcia's favor in a decision 5 dated July 1, 1981.
The Republic eventually appealed the decision of the CFI to the Court of Appeals (CA). In its decision 6 dated February 26, 1992, penned by Justice
Vicente V. Mendoza (Mendoza decision), 7 the appellate court reversed and set aside the decision of the CFI. The CA found that Reyes was applicable
to petitioner's case as it involved the same property.

The CA observed that Garcia also traced her ownership of the land in question to Possessory Information Title No. 216. As Garcia's right to the property
was largely dependent on the existence and validity of the possessory information title the probative value of which had already been passed upon by
this Court in Reyes, and inasmuch as the land was situated inside a military reservation, the CA concluded that she did not validly acquire title
thereto. IDASHa
During the pendency of the case in the CA, Garcia passed away and was substituted by her heirs, one of whom was petitioner Florencia G. Diaz. 8
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the Mendoza decision. While the motion was pending in the CA, petitioner also filed a motion for recall of
the records from the former CFI. Without acting on the motion for reconsideration, the appellate court, with Justice Mendoza as ponente, issued a
resolution 9upholding petitioner's right to recall the records of the case.
Subsequently, however, the CA encouraged the parties to reach an amicable settlement on the matter and even gave the parties sufficient time to draft
and finalize the same.
The parties ultimately entered into a compromise agreement with the Republic withdrawing its claim on the more or less 4,689 hectares supposedly
outside the FMMR. For her part, petitioner withdrew her application for the portion of the property inside the military reservation. They filed a motion for
approval of the amicable settlement in the CA. 10
On June 30, 1999, the appellate court approved the compromise agreement. 11 On January 12, 2000, it directed the Land Registration Administration to
issue the corresponding decree of registration in petitioner's favor. 12 cSATDC
However, acting on a letter written by a certain Atty. Restituto S. Lazaro, the OSG filed a motion for reconsideration of the CA resolution ordering the
issuance of the decree of registration. The OSG informed the appellate court that the tract of land subject of the amicable settlement was still within the
military reservation.
On April 16, 2007, the CA issued an amended resolution (amended resolution) 13 annulling the compromise agreement entered into between the
parties. The relevant part of the dispositive portion of the resolution read:
ACCORDINGLY, the Court resolves to:
(1) . . .
(2) . . .
(3) . . .
(4) . . .
(5) . . .
(6) REVERSE the Resolution dated June 30, 1999 of this Court approving the Amicable Settlement dated May 18, 1999 executed
between the Office of the Solicitor General and Florencia Garcia Diaz[;]
(7) ANNUL and SET ASIDE the Amicable Settlement dated May 18, 1999 executed between the Office of the Solicitor General
and Florencia Garcia Diaz; the said Amicable Settlement is hereby DECLARED to be without force and effect;
(8) GRANT the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the Office of the Solicitor General and, consequently, SET ASIDE the
Resolution dated January 12, 2000 which ordered, among other matters, that a certificate of title be issued in the name
of plaintiff-appellee Florencia Garcia Diaz over the portion of the subject property in consonance with the Amicable
Settlement dated May 18, 1999 approved by the Court in its Resolution dated June 30, 1999;
(9) SET ASIDE the Resolution dated June 30, 1999 approving the May 18, 1999 Amicable Settlement and the Resolution dated
September 20, 1999 amending the aforesaid June 30, 1999 Resolution; and
(10) REINSTATE the Decision dated February 26, 1992 dismissing applicant-appellee Diaz' registration herein.
SO ORDERED.
(Emphasis supplied) DHIaTS
Petitioner moved for reconsideration. For the first time, she assailed the validity of the Mendoza decision the February 26, 1992 decision adverted to
in the CA's amended resolution. She alleged that Justice Mendoza was the assistant solicitor general during the initial stages of the land registration
proceedings in the trial court and therefore should have inhibited himself when the case reached the CA. His failure to do so, she laments, worked an
injustice against her constitutional right to due process. Thus, the Mendoza decision should be declared null and void. The motion was denied. 14

Thereafter, petitioner filed a petition for review on certiorari 15 in this Court. It was denied for raising factual issues. 16 She moved for
reconsideration. 17 This motion was denied with finality on the ground that there was no substantial argument warranting a modification of the Court's
resolution. The Court then ordered that no further pleadings would be entertained. Accordingly, we ordered entry of judgment to be made in due
course. 18
Petitioner, however, insisted on filing a motion to lift entry of judgment and motion for leave to file a second motion for reconsideration and to refer the
case to the Supreme Court en banc. 19 The Court denied 20 it considering that a second motion for reconsideration is a prohibited
pleading. 21 Furthermore, the motion to refer the case to the banc was likewise denied as the banc is not an appellate court to which decisions or
resolutions of the divisions may be appealed. 22 We reiterated our directive that no further pleadings would be entertained and that entry of judgment be
made in due course.
Not one to be easily deterred, petitioner wrote identical letters, first addressed to Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing (then Acting Chief Justice) and then to
Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno himself. 23 The body of the letter, undoubtedly in the nature of a third motion for reconsideration, is hereby reproduced in
its entirety:
This is in response to your call for "Moral Forces" in order to "redirect the destiny of our country which is suffering from moral
decadence," that to your mind, is the problem which confronts us. (Inquirer, January 15, 2009, page 1)[.]
I recently lost my case with the Supreme Court, G.R. N[o]. 181502, and my lawyer has done all that is humanly possible to
convince the court to take a second look at the miscarriage of justice that will result from the implementation of the DISMISSAL in
a MINUTE RESOLUTION of our Petition for Review.
Pending before your Division (First Division) is a last plea for justice so that the case may be elevated to the Supreme
Court en banc. I hope the Court exercises utmost prudence in resolving the last plea. For ready reference, a copy of the
Motion is hereto attached as Annex "A".
The issue that was brought before the Honorable Supreme Court involves the Decision of then Justice Vicente Mendoza of the
Court of Appeals, which is NULL and VOID, ab initio. EHTSCD
It is null and void because destiny placed Hon. Justice Vicente Mendoza in a position in which it became possible for him to
discharge the minimum requirement of due process, [i.e.] the ability of the court to render "impartial justice," because Mr. Justice
Mendoza became the ponente of the Court of Appeals Decision, reversing the findings of the trial court, notwithstanding the fact
that he, as Assistant Solicitor General, was the very person who appeared on behalf of the Republic, as the oppositor in the very
same land registration proceedings in which he lost.
In other words, he discharged the duties of prosecutor and judge in the very same case.
In the case of the "Alabang Boys[,]" the public was outraged by the actions of Atty. Verano who admitted having prepared a simple
resolution to be signed by the Secretary of Justice.
In my case, the act complained of is the worst kind of violation of my constitutional right. It is simply immoral, illegal and
unconstitutional, for the prosecutor to eventually act as the judge, and reverse the very decision in which he had lost.
If leaked to the tri-media[,] my case will certainly evoke even greater spite from the public, and put the Supreme Court in bad light.
I must confess that I was tempted to pursue such course of action. I however believe that such an action will do more harm than
good, and even destroy the good name of Hon. Justice Mendoza.
I fully support your call for "moral force" that will slowly and eventually lead our country to redirect its destiny and escape from this
moral decadence, in which we all find ourselves.
I am content with the fact that at least, the Chief Justice continues to fight the dark forces that surround us everyday.
I only ask that the Supreme Court endeavor to ensure that cases such as mine do not happen again, so that the next person who
seeks justice will not experience the pain and frustration that I suffered under our judicial system.
Thank you, and more power to you, SIR. (Emphasis in the original).
The language of petitioner's letter/motion is unmistakable. It is a thinly veiled threat precisely worded and calculated to intimidate this Court into giving in
to her demands to honor an otherwise legally infirm compromise agreement, at the risk of being vilified in the media and by the public.
This Court will not be cowed into submission. We deny petitioner's letter/third motion for reconsideration. SHCaEA
APPLICABILITY
OF REYES
The Court agrees with the Republic's position that Reyes is applicable to this case.

To constitute res judicata, the following elements must concur:


(1) the former judgment or order must be final;
(2) the judgment or order must be on the merits;
(3) it must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and parties; and
(4) there must be between the first and second actions, identity of parties, of subject matter, and of causes of action. 24
The first three requisites have undoubtedly been complied with. However, petitioner takes exception to the fourth requisite, particularly on the issue of
identity of parties. In her petition for review filed in this Court, she contends that since the applicants in the two cases are different, the merits of the two
cases should, accordingly, be determined independently of each other. 25
This contention is erroneous.
The facts obtaining in this case closely resemble those in Aquino v. Director of Lands. 26 In that case, Quintin Taedo endeavored to secure title to a
considerable tract of land by virtue of his possession thereof under CA 141. When the case eventually reached this Court, we affirmed the trial court's
decision to dismiss the proceedings as the property in question was part of the public domain. Quintin's successor-in-interest, Florencia Taedo, who
despite knowledge of the proceedings did not participate therein, thereafter sold the same property to Benigno S. Aquino. The latter sought to have it
registered in his name. The question in that case, as well as in this one, was whether our decision in the case in which another person was the applicant
constituted res judicata as against his successors-in-interest.
We ruled there, and we so rule now, that in registration cases filed under the provisions of the Public Land Act for the judicial confirmation of an
incomplete and imperfect title, an order dismissing an application for registration and declaring the land as part of the public domain constitutes res
judicata, not only against the adverse claimant, but also against all persons. 27
We also declared in Aquino that:
From another point of view, the decision in the first action has become the "law of the case" or at least falls within the rule of stare
decisis. That adjudication should be followed unless manifestly erroneous. It was taken and should be taken as the authoritative
view of the highest tribunal in the Philippines. It is indispensable to the due administration of justice especially by a court of last
resort that a question once deliberately examined and decided should be considered as settled and closed to further argument. . .
. 28 aIcCTA
Be that as it may, the fact is that, even before the CFI came out with its decision in favor of petitioner on July 1, 1981, this Court, in Reyes, already made
an earlier ruling on November 28, 1975 that the disputed realty was inalienable as it formed part of a military reservation. Thus, petitioner's argument
that the findings of fact of the trial court on her registrable title are binding on us on the principle that findings of fact of lower courts are accorded great
respect and bind even this Court is untenable. Rather, it was incumbent upon the court a quo to respect this Court's ruling in Reyes, and not the other
way around.
However, despite having been apprised of the Court's findings in Reyes (which should have been a matter of judicial notice in the first place), the trial
court still insisted on its divergent finding and disregarded the Court's decision in Reyes, declaring the subject land as forming part of a military
reservation, and thus outside the commerce of man.
By not applying our ruling in Reyes, the trial judge virtually nullified the decision of this Court and therefore acted with grave abuse of
discretion. 29 Notably, a judgment rendered with grave abuse of discretion is void and does not exist in legal contemplation. 30
All lower courts, especially the trial court concerned in this case, ought to be reminded that it is their duty to obey the decisions of the Supreme Court. A
conduct becoming of inferior courts demands a conscious awareness of the position they occupy in the interrelation and operation of our judicial system.
As eloquently declared by Justice J.B. L. Reyes, "There is only one Supreme Court from whose decision all other courts should take their bearings." 31
ACQUISITION OF
PRIVATE RIGHTS
Petitioner, however, argues that Proclamation 237 itself recognizes that its effectivity is "subject to private rights, if any there be."
By way of a background, we recognized in Reyes that the property where the military reservation is situated is forest land. Thus:
Before the military reservation was established, the evidence is inconclusive as to possession, for it is shown by the evidence that
the land involved is largely mountainous and forested. As a matter of fact, at the time of the hearing, it was conceded
that approximately 13,957 hectares of said land consist of public forest. . . . (Emphasis supplied) 32
Concomitantly, we stated therein, and we remind petitioner now, that forest lands are not registrable under CA 141.
[E]ven more important, Section 48[b] of CA No. 141, as amended, applies exclusively to public agricultural land. Forest lands or
area covered with forest are excluded. It is well-settled that forest land is incapable of registration; and its inclusion in a

title, whether such title be one issued using the Spanish sovereignty or under the present Torrens system of
registration, nullifies the title. (Emphasis supplied). 33
However, it is true that forest lands may be registered when they have been reclassified as alienable by the President in a clear and categorical manner
(upon the recommendation of the proper department head who has the authority to classify the lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable,
timber and mineral lands) 34 coupled with possession by the claimant as well as that of her predecessors-in-interest. Unfortunately for petitioner, she
was not able to produce such evidence. Accordingly, her occupation thereof, and that of her predecessors-in-interest, could not have ripened into
ownership of the subject land. This is because prior to the conversion of forest land as alienable land, any occupation or possession thereof cannot be
counted in reckoning compliance with the thirty-year possession requirement under Commonwealth Act 141 (CA 141) or the Public Land Act. 35 This
was our ruling in Almeda v. CA. 36 The rules on the confirmation of imperfect titles do not apply unless and until the land classified as forest land is
released through an official proclamation to that effect. Then and only then will it form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public
domain. 37 HDTSIE
Coming now to petitioner's contention that her "private rights" to the property, meaning her and her predecessors' possession thereof prior to the
establishment of the FMMR, must be respected, the same is untenable. As earlier stated, we had already recognized the same land to be public forest
even before the FMMR was established. To reiterate:
Before the military reservation was established, the evidence is inconclusive as to possession, for it is shown by the evidence that
the land involved is largely mountainous and forested. As a matter of fact, at the time of the hearing, it was conceded that
approximately 13,957 hectares of said land consist of public forest. . . .
Therefore, even if possession was for more than 30 years, it could never ripen to ownership.
But even assuming that the land in question was alienable land before it was established as a military reservation, there was nevertheless still a dearth
of evidence with respect to its occupation by petitioner and her predecessors-in-interest for more than 30 years. In Reyes, we noted:
Evidently, Melecio Padilla, having died on February 9, 1900, barely five (5) years after the inscription of the informacion
possessoria, could not have converted the same into a record of ownership twenty (20) years after such inscription, pursuant to
Article 393 of the Spanish Mortgage Law.
xxx xxx xxx
During the lifetime of Melecio Padilla, only a small portion thereof was cleared and cultivated under the 'kaingin' system, while
some portions were used as grazing land. After his death, his daughter, Maria Padilla, caused the planting of vegetables and had
about forty (40) tenants for the purpose. During the Japanese occupation, Maria Padilla died. . . .
xxx xxx xxx
A mere casual cultivation of portions of the land by the claimant, and the raising thereon of cattle, do not constitute possession
under claim of ownership. In that sense, possession is not exclusive and notorious as to give rise to a presumptive grant from the
State. While grazing livestock over land is of course to be considered with other acts of dominion to show possession, the mere
occupancy of land by grazing livestock upon it, without substantial inclosures, or other permanent improvements, is not sufficient
to support a claim of title thru acquisitive prescription. The possession of public land, however long the period may have extended,
never confers title thereto upon the possessor because the statute of limitations with regard to public land does not operate
against the State unless the occupant can prove possession and occupation of the same under claim of ownership for the
required number of years to constitute a grant from the State. 38 TcCEDS
xxx xxx xxx
Furthermore, the fact that the possessory information title on which petitioner also bases her claim of ownership was found to be inexistent
in Reyes, 39 thus rendering its probative value suspect, further militates against granting her application for registration.
NULLITY OF COMPROMISE
AGREEMENT
On the compromise agreement between the parties, we agree with the CA that the same was null and void.
An amicable settlement or a compromise agreement is in the nature of a contract and must necessarily comply with the provisions of Article 1318 of the
New Civil Code which provides:
Art. 1318. There is no contract unless the following requisites concur:
(1) Consent of the contracting parties;
(2) Object certain which is the subject matter of the contract;
(3) Cause of the obligation which is established.

Petitioner was not able to provide any proof that the consent of the Republic, through the appropriate government agencies, i.e., the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources, Land Management Bureau, Land Registration Authority, and the Office of the President, was secured by the OSG
when it executed the agreement with her. 40 The lack of authority on the part of the OSG rendered the compromise agreement between the parties null
and void because although it is the duty of the OSG to represent the State in cases involving land registration proceedings, it must do so only within the
scope of the authority granted to it by its principal, the Republic of the Philippines. 41
In this case, although the OSG was authorized to appear as counsel for respondent, it was never given the specific or special authority to enter into a
compromise agreement with petitioner. This is in violation of the provisions of Rule 138 Section 23, of the Rules of Court which requires "special
authority" for attorneys to bind their clients.
Section 23. Authority of attorneys to bind clients. Attorneys have authority to bind their clients in any case by any agreement in
relation thereto made in writing, and in taking appeals, and in all matters of ordinary judicial procedure. But they cannot, without
special authority, compromise their client's litigation, or receive anything in discharge of a client's claim but the full amount in
cash. (Emphasis supplied). ECaITc
Moreover, the land in question could not have been a valid subject matter of a contract because, being forest land, it was inalienable. Article 1347 of the
Civil Code provides:
Art. 1347. All things which are not outside the commerce of men, including future things, may be the object of a contract.
All rights which are not intransmissible may also be the object of contracts.
No contract may be entered into upon future inheritance except in cases expressly authorized by law.
All services which are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy may likewise be the object of a
contract. (Emphasis supplied)
Finally, the Court finds the cause or consideration of the obligation contrary to law and against public policy. The agreement provided that, in
consideration of petitioner's withdrawal of her application for registration of title from that portion of the property located within the military reservation,
respondent was withdrawing its claim on that part of the land situated outside said reservation. The Republic could not validly enter into such
undertaking as the subject matter of the agreement was outside the commerce of man.
PETITIONER'S CONTEMPT
OF COURT
This Court, being the very institution that dispenses justice, cannot reasonably be expected to just sit by and do nothing when it comes under attack.
That petitioner's letter-motion constitutes an attack against the integrity of this Court cannot be denied. Petitioner started her letter innocently enough by
stating:
This is in response to your call for "Moral Forces" in order to "redirect the destiny of our country which is suffering from moral
decadence," that to your mind, is the problem which confronts us. (Inquirer, January 15, 2009, page 1)[.]
It, however, quickly progressed into a barely concealed resentment for what she perceived as this Court's failure to exercise "utmost prudence" in
rendering "impartial justice" in deciding her case. Petitioner recounted:
I recently lost my case with the Supreme Court, G.R. N[o]. 181502, and my lawyer has done all that is humanly possible to
convince the court to take a second look at the miscarriage of justice that will result from the implementation of the
DISMISSAL in a MINUTE RESOLUTION of our Petition for Review.
Pending before your Division (First Division) is a last plea for justice so that the case may be elevated to the Supreme
Court en banc. I hope the Court exercises utmost prudence in resolving the last plea. For ready reference, a copy of the
Motion is hereto attached as Annex "A". DcaCSE
The issue that was brought before the Honorable Supreme Court involves the Decision of then Justice Vicente Mendoza of the
Court of Appeals, which is NULL and VOID, ab initio.
It is null and void because destiny placed Hon. Justice Vicente Mendoza in a position in which it became possible for him to
discharge the minimum requirement of due process, [i.e.,] the ability of the court to render "impartial justice," because Mr.
Justice Mendoza became the ponente of the Court of Appeals Decision, reversing the findings of the trial court, notwithstanding
the fact that he, as Assistant Solicitor General, was the very person who appeared on behalf of the Republic, as the oppositor in
the very same land registration proceedings in which he lost. (Emphasis supplied).
Petitioner then indirectly hints that, when push comes to shove, she has no choice but to expose the irregularity concerning the Mendoza decision to the
media. This is evident in her arrogant declaration that:
If leaked to the tri-media[,] my case will certainly evoke even greater spite from the public, and put the Supreme Court in bad light.

But she hastens to add in the same breath that:


I must confess that I was tempted to pursue such course of action. I however believe that such an action will do more harm than
good, and even destroy the good name of Hon. Justice Mendoza.
Petitioner ends her letter by taking this Court to task:
. . . endeavor to ensure that cases such as mine do not happen again, so that the next person who seeks justice will not
experience the pain and frustration that I suffered under our judicial system.
When required to show cause why she should not be cited for contempt for her baseless charges and veiled threats, petitioner answered:
xxx xxx xxx
The Letter of January 26, 2009 is not a "veiled threat[.] It was written in response to the call of the Chief Justice for a moral
revolution. Juxtaposed against the factual backdrop of the "Alabang Boys" case and the Meralco [c]ase, involving Mr. Justice Jose
L. Sabio which also enjoyed wide publicity over the tri-media, petitioner felt that the facts of the said cases pale in comparison to
the facts of her case where the lawyer of her opponent eventually became justice of the appellate court and ended up reversing
the very decision in which he lost, in clear violation of her [c]onstitutional [r]ight to fundamental fair play for no contestant in any
litigation can ever serve as a judge without transgression of the due process clause. This is basic.
Petitioner confesses that she may have been emotional in the delivery of her piece, because correctly or incorrectly[,] she
believes they are irrefutable. If in the course of that emotional delivery, she has offended your honors' sensibilities, she is ready for
the punishment, and only prays that his Court temper its strike with compassion as her letter to the Chief Justice was never
written with a view of threatening the Court. HEaCcD
xxx xxx xxx
Petitioner wrote the Chief Justice in order to obtain redress and correction of the inequity bestowed upon her by destiny. It was
never meant as a threat.
The Court now puts an end to petitioner's irresponsible insinuations and threats of "going public" with this case. We are not blind to petitioner's clever
and foxy interplay of threats alternating with false concern for the reputation of this Court.
It is well to remind petitioner that the Court has consistently rendered justice with neither fear nor favor. The disposition in this case was arrived at after a
careful and thorough deliberation of the facts of this case and all the matters pertaining thereto. The records of the case, in fact, show that all the
pertinent issues raised by petitioner were passed upon and sufficiently addressed by the appellate court and this Court in their respective resolutions.
As to petitioner's complaint regarding this Court's denial of her petition through a mere minute resolution (which allegedly deprived her of due process as
the Court did not issue a full-blown decision stating the facts and applicable jurisprudence), suffice it to say that the Court is not duty-bound to issue
decisions or resolutions signed by the justices all the time. It has ample discretion to formulate ponencias, extended resolutions or even minute
resolutions issued by or upon its authority, depending on its evaluation of a case, as long as a legal basis exists. When a minute resolution (signed by
the Clerk of Court upon orders of the Court) denies or dismisses a petition or motion for reconsideration for lack of merit, it is understood that the
assailed decision or order, together with all its findings of fact and legal conclusions, are deemed sustained. 42
Furthermore, petitioner has doggedly pursued her case in this Court by filing three successive motions for reconsideration, including the letter-motion
subject of this resolution. This, despite our repeated warnings that "no further pleadings shall be entertained in this case." Her unreasonable persistence
constitutes utter defiance of this Court's orders and an abuse of the rules of procedure. This, alongside her thinly veiled threats to leak her case to the
media to gain public sympathy although the tone of petitioner's compliance with our show-cause resolution was decidedly subdued compared to her
earlier letters constitutes contempt of court.
In Republic v. Unimex, 43 we held:
A statement of this Court that no further pleadings would be entertained is a declaration that the Court has already considered all
issues presented by the parties and that it has adjudicated the case with finality. It is a directive to the parties to desist from filing
any further pleadings or motions. Like all orders of this Court, it must be strictly observed by the parties. It should not be
circumvented by filing motions ill-disguised as requests for clarification.
A FEW OBSERVATIONS
If petitioner was, as she adamantly insists, only guarding her constitutional right to due process, then why did she question the validity of the Mendoza
decision late in the proceedings, that is, only after her motion for reconsideration in the CA (for its subsequent annulment of the compromise agreement)
was denied? It is obvious that it was only when her case became hopeless that her present counsel frantically searched for some ground, any ground to
resuscitate his client's lost cause, subsequently raising the issue. This is evident from a statement in her petition to this Court that: CAIaDT
It is this fresh discovery by the undersigned counsel of the nullity of the proceedings of the Court of Appeals that places
in doubt the entire proceedings it previously conducted, which led to the rendition of the February 26, 1992 Decision, a fact that

escaped the scrutiny of applicant for registration Flora L. Garcia, as well as her lawyer, Atty. Cayetano Dante Diaz, who
died in 1993, and the late Justice Fernando A. Santiago, who stood as counsel for Flora L. Garcia's successor-ininterest, herein petitioner, Florencia G. Garcia. 44 (Emphasis supplied).
The above cited statement does not help petitioner's cause at all. If anything, it only proves how desperate the case has become for petitioner and her
counsel.
WHEREFORE, the letter-motion dated January 26, 2009 of petitioner is NOTED and is hereby treated as a third motion for reconsideration. The motion
isDENIED considering that a third motion for reconsideration is a prohibited pleading and the plea utterly lacks merit.
Petitioner is found GUILTY of contempt of court. Accordingly, a FINE of Five Thousand Pesos is hereby imposed on her, payable within ten days from
receipt of this resolution. She is hereby WARNED that any repetition hereof shall be dealt with more severely.
Treble costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
||| (Diaz v. Republic, G.R. No. 181502, [February 2, 2010], 625 PHIL 243-268)

SECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 173423. March 5, 2014.]
SPS. ANTONIO FORTUNA and ERLINDA FORTUNA, petitioners, vs. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.
DECISION
BRION, J p:
Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari 1 filed by the petitioners, spouses Antonio and Erlinda Fortuna, assailing the decision dated May 16,
2005 2and the resolution dated June 27, 2006 3 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 71143. The CA reversed and set aside the decision
dated May 7, 2001 4 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Fernando, La Union, Branch 66, in Land Registration Case (LRC) No. 2372.
THE BACKGROUND FACTS
In December 1994, the spouses Fortuna filed an application for registration of a 2,597-square meter land identified as Lot No. 4457, situated in Bo.
Canaoay, San Fernando, La Union. The application was filed with the RTC and docketed as LRC No. 2372.
The spouses Fortuna stated that Lot No. 4457 was originally owned by Pastora Vendiola, upon whose death was succeeded by her children, Clemente
and Emeteria Nones. Through an affidavit of adjudication dated August 3, 1972, Emeteria renounced all her interest in Lot No. 4457 in favor of Clemente.
Clemente later sold the lot in favor of Rodolfo Cuenca on May 23, 1975. Rodolfo sold the same lot to the spouses Fortuna through a deed of absolute
sale dated May 4, 1984.
The spouses Fortuna claimed that they, through themselves and their predecessors-in-interest, have been in quiet, peaceful, adverse and
uninterrupted possession of Lot No. 4457 for more than 50 years, and submitted as evidence the lot's survey plan, technical description, and
certificate of assessment. cSEAHa
Although the respondent, Republic of the Philippines (Republic), opposed the application, 5 it did not present any evidence in support of its opposition.
Since no private opposition to the registration was filed, the RTC issued an order of general default on November 11, 1996 against the whole world,
except the Republic. 6
In its Decision dated May 7, 2001, 7 the RTC granted the application for registration in favor of the spouses Fortuna. The RTC declared that
"[the spouses Fortuna] have established [their] possession, including that of their predecessors-in-interest of the land sought to be registered, has been
open, continuous, peaceful, adverse against the whole world and in the concept of an owner since 1948, or for a period of over fifty (50) years." 8
The Republic appealed the RTC decision with the CA, arguing that the spouses Fortuna did not present an official proclamation from the government that
the lot has been classified as alienable and disposable agricultural land. It also claimed that the spouses Fortuna's evidence Tax Declaration No.
8366 showed that possession over the lot dates back only to 1948, thus, failing to meet the June 12, 1945 cut-off period provided under Section 14 (1)
of Presidential Decree(PD) No. 1529 or the Property Registration Decree (PRD).
In its decision dated May 16, 2005, 9 the CA reversed and set aside the RTC decision. Although it found that the spouses Fortuna were able to
establish the alienable and disposable nature of the land, 10 they failed to show that they complied with the length of possession that the law
requires, i.e., since June 12, 1945. It agreed with the Republic's argument that Tax Declaration No. 8366 only showed that the spouses Fortuna's
predecessor-in-interest, Pastora, proved that she had been in possession of the land only since 1948.

The CA denied the spouses Fortuna's motion for reconsideration of its decision in its resolution dated June 27, 2006. 11
THE PARTIES' ARGUMENTS
Through the present petition, the spouses Fortuna seek a review of the CA rulings.
They contend that the applicable law is Section 48 (b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141 or the Public Land Act (PLA), as amended by Republic
Act (RA) No. 1942. RA No. 1942 amended the PLA by requiring 30 years of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession to acquire
imperfect title over an agricultural land of the public domain. This 30-year period, however, was removed by PD No. 1073 and instead required that
the possession should be since June 12, 1945. The amendment introduced by PD No. 1073 was carried in Section 14 (1) of the PRD. 12
The spouses Fortuna point out that PD No. 1073 was issued on January 25, 1977 and published on May 9, 1977; and the PRD was issued on June
11, 1978 and published on January 2, 1979. On the basis of the Court's ruling in Taada, et al. v. Hon. Tuvera, etc., et al., 13 they allege that PD No.
1073 and the PRD should be deemed effective only on May 24, 1977 and January 17, 1979, respectively. By these dates, they claim to have already
satisfied the 30-year requirement under the RA No. 1942 amendment because Pastora's possession dates back, at the latest, to 1947.
They allege that although Tax Declaration No. 8366 was made in 1948, this does not contradict that fact that Pastora possessed Lot No. 4457 before
1948. The failure to present documentary evidence proving possession earlier than 1948 was explained by Filma Salazar, Records Officer of the
Provincial Assessor's Office, who testified that the records were lost beyond recovery due to the outbreak of World War II. IcESaA
Notwithstanding the absence of documents executed earlier than 1948, the spouses Fortuna contend that evidence exists indicating that Pastora
possessed the lot even before 1948. First, Tax Declaration No. 8366 does not contain a statement that it is a new tax declaration. Second, the annotation
found at the back of Tax Declaration No. 8366 states that "this declaration cancels Tax Nos. 10543[.]" 14 Since Tax Declaration No. 8366 was issued in
1948, the cancelled Tax Declaration No. 10543 was issued, at the latest, in 1947, indicating that there was already an owner and possessor of the lot
before 1948. Third, they rely on the testimony of one Macaria Flores in LRC No. 2373. LRC No. 2373 was also commenced by the spouses Fortuna to
register Lot Nos. 4462, 27066, and 27098, 15which were also originally owned by Pastora and are adjacent to the subject Lot No. 4457. Macaria
testified that she was born in 1926 and resided in a place a few meters from the three lots. She stated that she regularly passed by these lots on her way
to school since 1938. She knew the property was owned by Pastora because the latter's family had constructed a house and planted fruit-bearing trees
thereon; they also cleaned the area. On the basis of Macaria's testimony and the other evidence presented in LRC No. 2373, the RTC granted the
spouses Fortuna's application for registration of Lot Nos. 4462, 27066, and 27098 in its decision of January 3, 2005. 16 The RTC's decision has lapsed
into finality unappealed.
The spouses Fortuna claim that Macaria's testimony in LRC No. 2373 should be considered to prove Pastora's possession prior to 1948. Although LRC
No. 2373 is a separate registration proceeding, it pertained to lots adjacent to the subject property, Lot No. 4457, and belonged to the same
predecessor-in-interest. Explaining their failure to present Macaria in the proceedings before the RTC in LRC No. 2372, the spouses Fortuna said "it was
only after the reception of evidence . . . that [they] were able to trace and establish the identity and competency of Macaria[.]" 17
Commenting on the spouses Fortuna's petition, the Republic relied mostly on the CA's ruling which denied the registration of title and prayed for the
dismissal of the petition. DEScaT
THE COURT'S RULING
We deny the petition for failure of the spouses Fortuna to sufficiently prove their compliance with the requisites for the acquisition of title to alienable
lands of the public domain.
The

nature

disposable

of
public

Lot
land

No.
has

4457

as
not

alienable
been

and
sufficiently

established
The Constitution declares that all lands of the public domain are owned by the State. 18 Of the four classes of public land, i.e., agricultural lands, forest
or timber lands, mineral lands, and national parks, only agricultural lands may be alienated. 19 Public land that has not been classified as alienable
agricultural land remains part of the inalienable public domain. Thus, it is essential for any applicant for registration of title to land derived through
a public grant to establish foremost the alienable and disposable nature of the land. The PLA provisions on the grant and disposition of alienable
public lands, specifically, Sections 11 and 48 (b), will find application only from the time that a public land has been classified as agricultural and declared
as alienable and disposable.
Under Section 6 of the PLA, 20 the classification and the reclassification of public lands are the prerogative of the Executive Department. The President,
through a presidential proclamation or executive order, can classify or reclassify a land to be included or excluded from the public domain. The
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary is likewise empowered by law to approve a land classification and declare such
land as alienable and disposable. 21 Accordingly, jurisprudence has required that an applicant for registration of title acquired through a public land grant
must presentincontrovertible evidence that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable by establishing the existence of a positive act of
the government, such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands
investigators; and a legislative act or a statute.
In this case, the CA declared that the alienable nature of the land was established by the notation in the survey plan, 22 which states:

This survey is inside alienable and disposable area as per Project No. 13 L.C. Map No. 1395 certified August 7, 1940. It is
outside any civil or military reservation. 23
It also relied on the Certification dated July 19, 1999 from the DENR Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) that "there
is, per record, neither any public land application filed nor title previously issued for the subject parcel[.]" 24 However, we find that neither of the
above documents is evidence of a positive act from the government reclassifying the lot as alienable and disposable agricultural land of
the public domain.
Mere notations appearing in survey plans are inadequate proof of the covered properties' alienable and disposable character. 25 These
notations, at the very least, only establish that the land subject of the application for registration falls within the approved alienable and disposable area
per verification through survey by the proper government office. The applicant, however, must also present a copy of the original classification of
the land into alienable and disposable land, as declared by the DENR Secretary or as proclaimed by the President . 26 In Republic v. Heirs of
Juan Fabio, 27 the Court ruled that
[t]he applicant for land registration must prove that the DENR Secretary had approved the land classification and released the
land of the public domain as alienable and disposable, and that the land subject of the application for registration falls within
the approved area per verification through survey by the PENRO 28 or CENRO. In addition, the applicant must present a copy
of the original classification of the land into alienable and disposable, as declared by the DENR Secretary, or as
proclaimed by the President.
The survey plan and the DENR-CENRO certification are not proof that the President or the DENR Secretary has reclassified and released the
public land as alienable and disposable. The offices that prepared these documents are not the official repositories or legal custodian of the
issuances of the President or the DENR Secretary declaring the public land as alienable and disposable. 29
For failure to present incontrovertible evidence that Lot No. 4457 has been reclassified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain though a
positive act of the Executive Department, the spouses Fortuna's claim of title through a public land grant under the PLA should be denied.
In

judicial

or

incomplete

possession

confirmation
title,

of
the

should

commence,

imperfect
period
at

of
the

latest, as of May 9, 1947


Although the above finding that the spouses Fortuna failed to establish the alienable and disposable character of Lot No. 4457 serves as sufficient
ground to deny the petition and terminate the case, we deem it proper to continue to address the other important legal issues raised in the
petition. caIEAD
As mentioned, the PLA is the law that governs the grant and disposition of alienable agricultural lands. Under Section 11 of the PLA, alienable lands of
the public domain may be disposed of, among others, by judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title. This mode of acquisition of title is
governed by Section 48 (b) of the PLA, the original version of which states:
Sec. 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such
lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the
province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land
Registration Act, to wit:
xxx xxx xxx
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, except
as against the Government, since July twenty-sixth, eighteen hundred and ninety-four, except when prevented by war
or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a government grant and
shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. [emphasis supplied]
On June 22, 1957, the cut-off date of July 26, 1894 was replaced by a 30-year period of possession under RA No. 1942. Section 48 (b) of the PLA, as
amended byRA No. 1942, read:
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for
at least thirty years, immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title, except when prevented by war
or force majeure. [emphasis and underscore ours]
On January 25, 1977, PD No. 1073 replaced the 30-year period of possession by requiring possession since June 12, 1945. Section 4 of PD No.
1073 reads:
SEC. 4. The provisions of Section 48(b) and Section 48(c), Chapter VIII of the Public Land Act are hereby amended in the sense
that these provisions shall apply only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain which have been in open,

continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by the applicant himself or thru his predecessor-in-interest, under
a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945. [emphasis supplied]
Under the PD No. 1073 amendment, possession of at least 32 years from 1945 up to its enactment in 1977 is required. This effectively impairs the
vested rights of applicants who had complied with the 30-year possession required under the RA No. 1942 amendment, but whose possession
commenced only after the cut-off date of June 12, 1945 was established by the PD No. 1073 amendment. To remedy this, the Court ruled in Abejaron v.
Nabasa 30 that "Filipino citizens who by themselves or their predecessors-in-interest have been, prior to the effectivity of P.D. 1073 on January 25,
1977, in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership, for at least 30 years, or at least since January 24, 1947 may apply for judicial confirmation of their imperfect or incomplete
title under Sec. 48 (b) of the [PLA]." January 24, 1947 was considered as the cut-off date as this was exactly 30 years counted backward from
January 25, 1977 the effectivity date of PD No. 1073. cdll
It appears, however, that January 25, 1977 was the date PD No. 1073 was enacted; based on the certification from the National Printing Office, 31 PD
No. 1073was published in Vol. 73, No. 19 of the Official Gazette, months later than its enactment or on May 9, 1977. This uncontroverted fact
materially affects the cut-off date for applications for judicial confirmation of incomplete title under Section 48 (b) of the PLA.
Although Section 6 of PD No. 1073 states that "[the] Decree shall take effect upon its promulgation," the Court has declared in Taada, et al. v. Hon.
Tuvera, etc., et al. 32 that the publication of laws is an indispensable requirement for its effectivity. "[A]ll statutes, including those of local application and
private laws, shall be published as a condition for their effectivity, which shall begin fifteen days after publication unless a different effectivity date is fixed
by the legislature." 33Accordingly, Section 6 of PD No. 1073 should be understood to mean that the decree took effect only upon its publication, or on
May 9, 1977. This, therefore, moves the cut-off date for applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under Section 48
(b) of the PLA to May 8, 1947. In other words, applicants must prove that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least 30
years, or at least since May 8, 1947.
The
that

spouses
they

Fortuna
possessed

were
Lot

unable
No.

4457

to
since

prove
May

8, 1947
Even if the Court assumes that Lot No. 4457 is an alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain, the spouses Fortuna's application for
registration of title would still not prosper for failure to sufficiently prove that they possessed the land since May 8, 1947.
The spouses Fortuna's allegation that: (1) the absence of a notation that Tax Declaration No. 8366 was a new tax declaration and (2) the notation stating
that Tax Declaration No. 8366 cancels the earlier Tax Declaration No. 10543 both indicate that Pastora possessed the land prior to 1948 or, at the
earliest, in 1947. We also observe that Tax Declaration No. 8366 contains a sworn statement of the owner that was subscribed on October
23, 1947. 34 While these circumstances may indeed indicate possession as of 1947, none proves that it commenced as of the cut-off date of May 8,
1947. Even if the tax declaration indicates possession since 1947, it does not show the nature of Pastora's possession. Notably, Section 48 (b) of the
PLA speaks of possession and occupation. "Since these words are separated by the conjunction and, the clear intention of the law is not to make one
synonymous with the other. Possession is broader than occupation because it includes constructive possession. When, therefore, the law adds the
word occupation, it seeks to delimit the all encompassing effect of constructive possession. Taken together with the words open, continuous, exclusive
and notorious, the word occupation serves to highlight the fact that for an applicant to qualify, his possession must not be a mere fiction." 35 Nothing in
Tax Declaration No. 8366 shows that Pastora exercised acts of possession and occupation such as cultivation of or fencing off the land. Indeed, the lot
was described as "cogonal." 36
The spouses Fortuna seeks to remedy the defects of Tax Declaration No. 8366 by relying on Macaria's testimony in a separate land registration
proceeding, LRC No. 2373. Macaria alleged that she passed by Pastora's lots on her way to school, and she saw Pastora's family construct a house,
plant fruit-bearing trees, and clean the area. However, the Court is not convinced that Macaria's testimony constituted as the "well-nigh incontrovertible
evidence" required in cases of this nature.
The records disclose that the spouses Fortuna acquired adjoining parcels of land, all of which are claimed to have previously belonged to Pastora. These
parcels of land were covered by three separate applications for registration, to wit: ScAIaT
a. LRC No. N-1278, involving Lot Nos. 1 and 2, with a total area of 2,961 sq.m., commenced by Emeteria;
b. LRC No. 2373, involving Lot Nos. 4462, 27066, and 27098, with a total area of 4,006 sq.m., commenced by the spouses
Fortuna; and
c. LRC No. 2372 (the subject case), involving Lot No. 4457, with a total area of 2,597 sq.m.
As these cases involved different but adjoining lots that belonged to the same predecessor-in-interest, the spouses Fortuna alleged that the final
rulings in LRC Nos. N-1278 and 2373, 37 upholding Pastora's ownership, be taken into account in resolving the present case.
Notably, the total land area of the adjoining lots that are claimed to have previously belonged to Pastora is 9,564 sq.m. This is too big an area for the
Court to consider that Pastora's claimed acts of possession and occupation (as testified to by Macaria) encompassed the entirety of the lots. Given the
size of the lots, it is unlikely that Macaria (age 21 in 1947) could competently assess and declare that its entirety belonged to Pastora because she saw
acts of possession and occupation in what must have been but a limited area. As mentioned, Tax Declaration No. 8366 described Lot No. 4457 as
"cogonal," thus, Macaria could not have also been referring to Lot No. 4457 when she said that Pastora planted fruit-bearing trees on her properties.

The lower courts' final rulings in LRC Nos. N-1278 and 2373, upholding Pastora's possession, do not tie this Court's hands into ruling in favor of the
spouses Fortuna. Much to our dismay, the rulings in LRC Nos. N-1278 and 2373 do not even show that the lots have been officially reclassified as
alienable lands of the public domain or that the nature and duration of Pastora's occupation met the requirements of the PLA, thus, failing to convince us
to either disregard the rules of evidence or consider their merits. In this regard, we reiterate our directive in Santiago v. De los Santos: 38
Both under the 1935 and the present Constitutions, the conservation no less than the utilization of the natural resources is
ordained. There would be a failure to abide by its command if the judiciary does not scrutinize with care applications
to private ownership of real estate. To be granted, they must be grounded in well-nigh incontrovertible evidence.
Where, as in this case, no such proof would be forthcoming, there is no justification for viewing such claim with favor. It is a
basic assumption of our polity that lands of whatever classification belong to the state. Unless alienated in accordance with law,
it retains its rights over the same as dominus.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The decision dated May 16, 2005 and the resolution dated June 27, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV
No. 71143 are AFFIRMED insofar as these dismissed the spouses Antonio and Erlinda Fortuna's application of registration of title on the basis of the
grounds discussed above. Costs against the spouses Fortuna. LLpr
SO ORDERED.
||| (Spouses Fortuna v. Republic, G.R. No. 173423, [March 5, 2014])