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Case No.

09
G.R. No. L-13298

November 19, 1918

CORNELIO RAMOS, petitioner-appellant,


vs.
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, objector-appellee.

Facts:
Restituto Romero gained possession of a tract of land located in the municipality of
San Jose, Province of Nueva Ecija, in the year 1882.

He took advantage of the Royal Decree of 1894, to obtain a possessory information


title to the land, registered as such on 1896.

Parcel No. 1, included within the limits of the possessory information title of Restituto
Romero, was sold to Cornelio Ramos, the instant petitioner.

Ramos instituted appropriate proceedings to have his title registered which was
opposed by the Director of Lands on the ground that Ramos had not acquired a good
title from the Spanish government and by the Director of Forestry on the ground that
the first parcel was forest land.

Trial Court and CA agreed with Director of Lands and excluded parcel No. 1 from
registration.

Issues
1. Whether the actual occupancy of a part of the land described in the instrument

giving color of title sufficient to give title to the entire tract of land? Yes
2. Whether or not Parcel No. 1 was a forest land? NO

Held 1: YES.
The doctrine of constructive possession indicates the answer. The general rule is that
the possession and cultivation of a portion of a tract under claim of ownership of all
is a constructive possession of all, if the remainder is not in the adverse possession
of another.
Ramos has a color of title, is in good faith and had been in OPEN possession
The claimant has color of title; he acted in good faith; and he has had open,
peaceable, and notorious possession of a portion of the property, sufficient to apprise
the community and the world that the land was for his enjoyment.
Possession in the eyes of the law does not mean that a man has to have his feet on
every square meter of ground before it can be said that he is in possession. Ramos
and his predecessor in interest fulfilled the requirements of the law on the
supposition that he premises consisted of agricultural public land.

Held 2: No.
There was no satisfactory evidence to support the claim that the land is a forest
land
Forest reserves of public land can be established as provided by law. When the claim
of the citizen and the claim of the Government as to a particular piece of property
collide, if the Government desires to demonstrate that the land is in reality a forest,
the Director of Forestry should submit to the court convincing proof that the land is
not more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes.
Great consideration, it may be stated, should, and undoubtedly will be, paid by the
courts to the opinion of the technical expert who speaks with authority on forestry
matters. But a mere formal opposition on the part of the Attorney-General for the
Director of Forestry, unsupported by satisfactory evidence will not stop the courts
from giving title to the claimant.
Ramos proved a title to the entire tract of land for which he asked registration, under
the provisions of subsection 6, of section 54, of Act No. 926, as amended by Act No.
1908, with reference to the Philippine Bill and the Royal Decree of February 13,
1894, and Ponces possessory information.

RTC shall register in the name of the applicant the entire tract in parcel No. 1, as
described in plan Exhibit A.

G.R. No. L-13298

November 19, 1918

CORNELIO RAMOS, petitioner-appellant,


vs.
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, objector-appellee.
Basilio Aromin for appellant.
Office of the Solicitor-General Paredes for appellee.

MALCOLM, J.:
This is an appeal by the applicant and appellant from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of
Nueva Ecija, denying the registration of the larger portion of parcel No. 1 (Exhibit A of the petitioner),
marked by the letters A, B, and C on the plan, Exhibit 1, of the Government.
One Restituto Romero y Ponce apparently gained possession of a considerable tract of land located
in the municipality of San Jose, Province of Nueva Ecija, in the year 1882. He took advantage of the
Royal Decree of February 13, 1894, to obtain a possessory information title to the land, registered as
such on February 8, 1896. Parcel No. 1, included within the limits of the possessory information title
of Restituto Romero, was sold in February, 1907, to Cornelio Ramos, the instant petitioner, and his
wife Ambrosia Salamanca.
Ramos instituted appropriate proceedings to have his title registered. Opposition was entered by the
Director of Lands on the ground that Ramos had not acquired a good title from the Spanish
government and by the Director of Forestry on the ground that the first parcel was forest land. The
trial court agreed with the objectors and excluded parcel No. 1 from registration. So much for the
facts.
As to the law, the principal argument of the Solicitor-General is based on the provisions of the
Spanish Mortgage Law and of the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894, commonly known as the
Maura Law. The Solicitor-General would emphasize that for land to come under the protective gis
of the Maura Law, it must have been shown that the land was cultivated for six years previously, and
that it was not land which pertained to the "zonas forestales." As proof that the land was, even as
long ago as the years 1894 to 1896, forestal and not agricultural in nature is the fact that there are
yet found thereon trees from 50 to 80 years of age.

We do not stop to decide this contention, although it might be possible, following the doctrine laid
down by the United States Supreme Court with reference to Mexican and Spanish grantes within the
United States, where some recital is claimed to be false, to say that the possessory information,
apparently having taken cognizance of the requisites for title, should not now be disturbed.
(Hancock vs. McKinney [1851], 7 Tex., 192; Hornsby and Roland vs. United States [1869], 10 Wall.,
224.) It is sufficient, as will later appear, merely to notice that the predecessor in interest to the
petitioner at least held this tract of land under color of title.
Subsection 6 of section 54, of Act No. 926, entitled The Public Land Law, as amended by Act No.
1908, reads as follows:
6. All persons who by themselves or their predecessors and interest have been in the open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural public lands,
as defined by said Act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and two, under a bona fide
claim of ownership except as against the Government, for a period of ten years next
preceding the twenty-sixth day of July, nineteen hundred and four, except when prevented by
war or force majeure, shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions
essential to a government grant and to have received the same, and shall be entitled to a
certificate of title to such land under the provisions of this chapter.
There are two parts to the above quoted subsection which must be discussed. The first relates to the
open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of what, for present
purposes, can be conceded to be agricultural public land, under a bona fide claim of ownership.
Actual possession of 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. Relative to actuality of possession, it is
admitted that the petitioner has cultivated only about one fourth of the entire tract. This is graphically
portrayed by Exhibit 1 of the Government, following:

The question at once arises: Is that actual occupancy of a part of the land described in the
instrument giving color of title sufficient to give title to the entire tract of land?
lawphil.net

The doctrine of constructive possession indicates the answer. The general rule is that the
possession and cultivation of a portion of a tract under claim of ownership of all is a constructive
possession of all, if the remainder is not in the adverse possession of another. (Barr vs. Gratz's Heirs
[1819], 4 Wheat., 213; Ellicott vs. Pearl [1836], 10 Pet., 412; Smith vs. Gale [1892], 144 U. S., 509.)
Of course, there are a number of qualifications to the rule, one particularly relating to the size of the
tract in controversy with reference to the portion actually in possession of the claimant. It is here only
necessary to apply the general rule.
The claimant has color of title; he acted in good faith; and he has had open, peaceable, and
notorious possession of a portion of the property, sufficient to apprise the community and the world
that the land was for his enjoyment. (See arts. 446, 448, Civil Code.) Possession in the eyes of the
law does not mean that a man has to have his feet on every square meter of ground before it can be
said that he is in possession. Ramos and his predecessor in interest fulfilled the requirements of the
law on the supposition that he premises consisted of agricultural public land.
The second division of the law requires consideration of the term "agricultural public land." The law
affirms that the phrase is denied by the Act of Congress of July 1st, 1902, known as the Philippine
bill. Turning to the Philippine Bill, we find in sections 13 to 18 thereof that three classes of land are
mentioned. The first is variously denominated "public land" or "public domain," the second "mineral
land," and the third "timber land." Section 18 of the Act of Congress comes nearest to a precise

definition, when it makes the determination of whether the land is more valuable for agricultural or for
forest uses the test of its character.
Although these sections of the Philippine Bill have come before the courts on numerous occasions,
what was said in the case of Jones vs. Insular Government ([1906], 6 Phil., 122), is still true, namely:
"The meaning of these sections is not clear and it is difficult to give to them a construction that will be
entirely free from objection." In the case which gave most serious consideration to the subject
(Mapa vs. Insular Government [1908], 10 Phil., 175), it was found that there does exist in the Act of
Congress a definition of the phrase "agricultural public lands." It was said that the phrase
"agricultural public lands" as used in Act No. 926 means "those public lands acquired from Spain
which are not timber or mineral lands."
The idea would appear to be to determine, by exclusion, if the land is forestal or mineral in nature
and, if not so found, to consider it to be agricultural land. Here, again, Philippine law is not very
helpful. For instance, section 1820 of the Administrative Code of 1917 provides: "For the purposes of
this chapter, 'public forest' includes, except as otherwise specially indicated, all unreserved public
land, including nipa and mangrove swamps, and all forest reserves of whatever character." This
definition of "public forest," it will be noted, is merely "for the purposes of this chapter." A little further
on, section 1827 provides: "Lands in public forests, not including forest reserves, upon the
certification of the Director of Forestry that said lands are better adapted and more valuable for
agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept under forest,
shall be declared by the Department Head to be agricultural lands." With reference to the last
section, there is no certification of the Director of Forestry in the record, as to whether this land is
better adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes.
The lexicographers define "forest" as "a large tract of land covered with a natural growth of trees and
underbrush; a large wood." The authorities say that he word "forest" has a significant, not an
insignificant meaning, and that it does not embrace land only partly woodland. It is a tract of land
covered with trees, usually of considerable extent. (Higgins vs. Long Island R. Co. [1908], 114 N. Y.
Supp., 262; People vs. Long Island R. Co. [1908], 110 N. Y. Supp., 512.)
The foresters say that no legal definition of "forest" is practicable or useful. B. H. Baden-Powell, in
his work on Forest Law of India, states as follows:
Every definition of a forest that can be framed for legal purposes will be found either to
exclude some cases to which the law ought to apply, or on the other hand, to include some
with which the law ought not to interfere. It may be necessary, for example, to take under the
law a tract of perfectly barren land which at present has neither trees, brushwood, nor grass
on it, but which in the course f time it is hoped will be "reboise;" but any definition wide
enough to take in all such lands, would also take in much that was not wanted. On the other
hand, the definition, if framed with reference to tree-growth, might (and indeed would be
almost sure to) include a garden, shrubbery, orchard, or vineyard, which it was not designed
to deal with.
B. E. Fernow, in his work on the Economics of Forestry, states as follows:

A forest in the sense in which we use the term, as an economic factor, is by no means a
mere collection of trees, but an organic whole in which all parts, although apparently
heterogeneous, jumbled together by accident as it were and apparently unrelated, bear a
close relation to each other and are as interdependent as any other beings and conditions in
nature.
The Director of Forestry of the Philippine Islands has said:
During the time of the passage of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, this question of forest
and agricultural lands was beginning to receive some attention and it is clearly shown in
section 18 of the above mentioned Act; it leaves to the Bureau of Forestry the certification as
to what lands are for agricultural or forest uses. Although the Act states timber lands, the
Bureau has in its administration since the passage of this act construed this term to mean
forest lands in the sense of what was necessary to protect, for the public good; waste lands
without a tree have been declared more suitable for forestry in many instances in the past.
The term 'timber' as used in England and in the United States in the past has been applied to
wood suitable for construction purposes but with the increase in civilization and the
application of new methods every plant producing wood has some useful purpose and the
term timber lands is generally though of as synonymous with forest lands or lands producing
wood, or able to produce wood, if agricultural crops on the same land will not bring the
financial return that timber will or if the same land is needed for protection purposes.
xxx

xxx

xxx

The laws in the United States recognize the necessity of technical advice of duly appointed
boards and leave it in the hands of these boards to decide what lands are more valuable for
forestry purposes or for agricultural purposes.
In the Philippine Islands this policy is follows to as great an extent as allowable under the
law. In many cases, in the opinion of the Bureau of Forestry, lands without a single tree on
them are considered as true forest land. For instance, mountain sides which are too steep
for cultivation under ordinary practice and which, if cultivated, under ordinary practice would
destroy the big natural resource of the soil, by washing, is considered by this bureau as
forest land and in time would be reforested. Of course, examples exist in the Mountain
Province where steep hillsides have been terraced and intensive cultivation practiced but
even then the mountain people are very careful not to destroy forests or other vegetative
cover which they from experience have found protect their water supply. Certain chiefs have
lodged protests with the Government against other tribes on the opposite side of the
mountain cultivated by them, in order to prevent other tribes from cutting timber or destroy
cover guarding their source of water for irrigation.
Dr. M. S. Shaler, formerly Dean of the Lawrence Scientific School, remarked that if mankind
could not devise and enforce ways dealing with the earth, which will preserve this source of
like "we must look forward to the time, remote it may be, yet equally discernible, when out kin
having wasted its great inheritance will fade from the earth because of the ruin it has
accomplished."

The method employed by the bureau of Forestry in making inspection of lands, in order to
determine whether they are more adapted for agricultural or forest purposes by a technical
and duly trained personnel on the different phases of the conservation of natural resources,
is based upon a previously prepared set of questions in which the different characters of the
land under inspection are discussed, namely:
Slope of land: Level; moderate; steep; very steep.
Exposure: North; South; East; West.
Soil: Clay; sandy loam; sand; rocky; very rocky.
Character of soil cover: Cultivated, grass land, brush land, brush land and timber mixed,
dense forest.
If cultivated, state crops being grown and approximate number of hectares under cultivation.
(Indicate on sketch.)
For growth of what agricultural products is this land suitable?
State what portion of the tract is wooded, name of important timber species and estimate of
stand in cubic meters per hectare, diameter and percentage of each species.
If the land is covered with timber, state whether there is public land suitable for agriculture in
vicinity, which is not covered with timber.
Is this land more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes? (State reasons in full.)
Is this land included or adjoining any proposed or established forest reserve or communal
forest? Description and ownership of improvements.
If the land is claimed under private ownership, give the name of the claimant, his place of
residence, and state briefly (if necessary on a separate sheet) the grounds upon which he
bases his claim.
When the inspection is made on a parcel of public land which has been applied for, the
corresponding certificate is forwarded to the Director of Lands; if it is made on a privately
claimed parcel for which the issuance of a title is requested from the Court of Land
Registration, and the inspection shows the land to be more adapted for forest purposes, then
the Director of Forestry requests the Attorney-General to file an opposition, sending him all
data collected during the inspection and offering him the forest officer as a witness.
It should be kept in mind that the lack of personnel of this Bureau, the limited time
intervening between the notice for the trial on an expediente of land and the day of the trial,
and the difficulties in communications as well as the distance of the land in question greatly
hinder the handling of this work.

In the case of lands claimed as private property, the Director of Forestry, by means of his
delegate the examining officer, submits before the court all evidence referring to the present
forest condition of the land, so that the court may compare them with the alleged right by the
claimant. Undoubtedly, when the claimant presents a title issued by the proper authority or
evidence of his right to the land showing that he complied with the requirements of the law,
the forest certificate does not affect him in the least as such land should not be considered
as a part of the public domain; but when the alleged right is merely that of possession, then
the public or private character of the parcel is open to discussion and this character should
be established not simply on the alleged right of the claimant but on the sylvical condition
and soil characteristics of the land, and by comparison between this area, or different
previously occupied areas, and those areas which still preserve their primitive character.
Either way we look at this question we encounter difficulty. Indubitably, there should be conservation
of the natural resources of the Philippines. The prodigality of the spendthrift who squanders his
substance for the pleasure of the fleeting moment must be restrained for the less spectacular but
surer policy which protects Nature's wealth for future generations. Such is the wise stand of our
Government as represented by the Director of Forestry who, with the Forester for the Government of
the United States, believes in "the control of nature's powers by man for his own good." On the other
hand, the presumption should be, in lieu of contrary proof, that land is agricultural in nature. One
very apparent reason is that it is for the good of the Philippine Islands to have the large public
domain come under private ownership. Such is the natural attitude of the sagacious citizen.
If in this instance, we give judicial sanction to a private claim, let it be noted that the Government, in
the long run of cases, has its remedy. Forest reserves of public land can be established as provided
by law. When the claim of the citizen and the claim of the Government as to a particular piece of
property collide, if the Government desires to demonstrate that the land is in reality a forest, the
Director of Forestry should submit to the court convincing proof that the land is not more valuable for
agricultural than for forest purposes. Great consideration, it may be stated, should, and undoubtedly
will be, paid by the courts to the opinion of the technical expert who speaks with authority on forestry
matters. But a mere formal opposition on the part of the Attorney-General for the Director of Forestry,
unsupported by satisfactory evidence will not stop the courts from giving title to the claimant.
We hold that the petitioner and appellant has proved a title to the entire tract of land for which he
asked registration, under the provisions of subsection 6, of section 54, of Act No. 926, as amended
by Act No. 1908, with reference to the Philippine Bill and the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894,
and his possessory information.
Judgment is reversed and the lower court shall register in the name of the applicant the entire tract
in parcel No. 1, as described in plan Exhibit A, without special finding as to costs. So ordered.
Arellano, C.J., Torres, Johnson, Street and Fisher, JJ., concur.

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