Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 140

4.

(4)On August 11, 1924, said Buenaventura Balboa, for and in consideration of the sum of
P950, sold said land to the defendant Cecilio L. Farrales (Exhibit 2); and on October 16,
1924, the latter secured in his name transfer certificate of title No. 650 of said land
(Exhibit B).

>LICUANAN
[No. 27059. February 14, 1928]
BUENAVENTURA BALBOA, plaintiff and appellant, vs. CECILIO L. FARRALES, defendant and
appellant.
1. 1.VESTED RIGHTS, DEFINED.A vested right is some right or interest in property that
has become fixed and established, and is no longer open to doubt or controversy. Rights are
vested when the right to enjoyment, present or prospective, has become the property of
some person as present interest.
1. 2.HOMESTEADERS; TITLE TO HOMESTEAD.When a homesteader has complied with
all the terms and conditions which entitle him to a patent for a particular tract of public
land, he acquires a vested interest therein, and is to be regarded as the equitable owner
thereof. Where the right to a patent to land has once become vested in a purchaser of
public lands, it is equivalent to a patent actually issued. The execution and delivery of the
patent, after the right to a particular parcel of land has become complete, are the mere
ministerial acts of the officer charged with that duty. Even without a patent, a perfected
homestead is a property right in the fullest sense, unaffected by the fact that the
paramount title to the land is still in the Government. Such land may be conveyed or
inherited. No subsequent law can deprive him of that vested right.
APPEAL from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of Bataan. Rovira, J.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.
Ernesto Zaragoza for plaintiff-appellant.
Alejo Labrador for defendant-appellant.
499
VOL. 51, FEBRUARY 14, 1928

499

Balboa vs. Farrales


JOHNSON, J.:
The material facts in this case, as disclosed by the record, may be briefly stated as follows:
1. (1)Sometime in the year 1913, the plaintiff Buenaventura Balboa filed with the Bureau of
Lands an application for homestead, No. 10619, under the provisions of Act No. 926,
covering a tract of land situated in the barrio of Culis, municipality of Hermosa, Province
of Bataan, containing 14 hectares, 49 ares and 77 centares.
2. (2)Five years thereafter, or in 1918, Balboa submitted final proof, showing his' residence
upon, and cultivation of said land, as well as his compliance with all of the other
requirements of section 3 of said Act No. 926, which final proof was approved by the
Director of Lands on February 15, 1918 (Exhibit 3). On July 1, 1919, said Act No. 926 was
repealed by Act No. 2874.
3. (3)On September 10, 1920, or over a year after Act No. 2874 had gone into effect, the
homestead patent for said land, otherwise known as certificate of title No. 91 (Exhibit A)
was issued in favor of Buenaventura Balboa by the Governor-General of the Philippine
Islands.

On March 6, 1926, the plaintiff commenced the present action for the purpose of having said sale
declared null and void on the ground of lack of consent on his part and fraud on the part of the def
endant, and on the f urther ground that said sale was contrary to, and in violation of the provisions of
section 116 of Act No. 2874.
After a careful consideration of the evidence adduced during the trial of the cause the Honorable
Leopoldo Rovira, judge, arrived at the conclusion that the deed of sale in question (Exhibit 2) had been
duly executed by the
500
500

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Balboa vs. Farrales


plaintiff. He held, however, that said deed was null and void, in view of the fact that it was executed
before the lapse of five years from the date of the issuance of the certificate of title in favor of
Buenaventura Balboa, in Violation of the prohibition contained in section 116 of Act No. 2874.
The pertinent parts of the decision read as follows:
"Como cuestin bsica, se discute en el presente asunto la validez del documento Exhibit 2, o sea el
traspaso hecho por el demandante al demandado referente al terreno en cuestin. El demandante
sostiene que, bajo el artculo 116 de la Ley No. 2874, el traspaso es nulo por cuanto tuvo lugar el 11 de
agosto de 1924, esto es sin haber transcurrido todava los cinco aos siguientes a la fecha en que fu
expedido el certificado de ttulo No. 91 que lo fu el 10 de septiembre de 1920; el demandado, por el
contrario, sostiene, como punto de discusin legal, que 61 documento de traspaso Exhibit 2 no cae bajo
las disposiciones de la Ley No. 2874, sino dentro de las disposiciones de la Ley No. 926 y que bajo esta
Ley no exista tal limitacin de venta dentro de los cinco aos siguientes a la fecha de la expedicin del
ttulo de homestead, y que habiendo sido la solicitud de homestead aprobada el 15 de febrero de 1918,
aun contando los cinco aos siguientes, resultara que desde el 15 de febrero de 1918 hasta el 11 de
agosto de 1924 han transcurrido ms de cinco aos.
*

"De lo expuesto, el Juzgado llega a la conclusin de que el Exhibit 2 es nulo e ineficaz, por cuanto que la
venta fu otorgada fuera de lo prescrito en el artculo 116 de la Ley No. 2874, que procede declarar nulo
dicho documento Exhibit 2, y, consiguientemente, el certificado de transferencia de ttulo 650."
In accordance with the foregoing conclusion the trial judge rendered a judgment in favor of the
plaintiff and against the defendant, ordering the latter to return to the plaintiff the land in question,
and the plaintiff to return
501
VOL. 51, FEBRUARY 14, 1928

501

Balboa vs. Farrales


to the defendant the price received for said land, aggregating P652.69, with interest at the rate of 12 per
cent. From that judgment both parties appealed.
The principal question raised in this appeal is whether the validity of the sale of the land in
question should be determined under the provisions of Act No. 926 or under those of Act No. 2874. In
other words, which of the two Acts926 and 2874shall be applied in determining whether the sale in
question is valid or not?
The land in question was acquired by Buenaventura Balboa as homestead under the provisions and
pursuant to the requirements of Act No. 926. He filed his application and complied with all of the
requisites to the acquisition of said homestead, in conformity with the provisions of said Act No. 926. In

1918 and prior to the repeal of said Act he submitted his final proof, showing his residence upon, and
cultivation of the land, as well as his compliance with all of the other requirements of the law, and said
final proof was approved by the Director of Lands on February 15, 1918. In other words, Buenaventura
Balboa, had shown, to the satisfaction of the Government, that he had performed all of the acts
required. of an applicant for homestead, and, under the provisions of section 3 of Act No. 926, he became
entitled to a homestead patent or certificate of title to the land covered by his application.
Section 3 of Act No. 926 provides, inter alia, that upon the filing of final proof by the applicant and
the approval thereof by the Director of Lands, "he (the applicant) shall be entitled to a patent" or
certificate of title. Therefore, on February 15, 1918, after Buenaventura Balboa had submitted his final
proof and after the same had been approved by the Government, and while Act No. 926 was still in
force, he became the owner of the land and "entitled to a patent." At least on that date his right to the
land, as owner, ripened into a vested right. It was no longer expectant as depending on the continuance
of existing circumstances, or contingent as depending on some events or the performance of some
conditions.
502

A perfected valid appropriation of public lands operates as a withdrawal of the tract from the body
of the public domain and, so long as such appropriation remains valid and subsisting, the land covered
thereby is deemed private property. A perfected homestead, under the law, is property in the highest
sense, which may be sold and conveyed and will pass by descent. It has the effect of a grant of the right
to present and exclusive possession of said land. A valid and subsisting perfected homestead, made and
kept up in accordance with the provisions of the statute, has the effect of a grant of the present and
exclusive possession of the land. Even without a patent, a perfected homestead is a property right in the
fullest sense, unaffected by the fact that the paramount title to the land is in the Government. Such
land may be conveyed or inherited.
In the United States and in each and every State of the Union vested rights are safeguarded by the
14th Amendment to the Federal Constitution, which provides that no State "shall deprive any person of
life, liberty or property without due process of law."
"The state has no power to divest or to impair vested rights, whether such an attempt to do so be
made by legis504

502

504

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Balboa vs. Farrales


"Rights are vested when the right to enjoyment, present or prospective, has become the property of some
particular person or persons as a present interest." (12 C. J., sec. 485, p. 955.)
Vested right "is some right or interest in property which has become fixed and established and is no
longer open to doubt or controversy." (Downs vs. Blount, 170 Fed. Rep., 15, 20.)
The fact that the homestead patent or certificate of title No. 91 was issued on September 10, 1920,
after the repeal of Act No. 926, and under the provisions of section 116 of the repealing Act No. 2874,
cannot prejudice the vested right acquired by Buenaventura Balboa under the provisions of the former
Act. The issuance of the certificate of title was a mere ministerial act, and the certificate, an outward
symbol of his vested right to the land, of which he was virtually recognized as owner by the Government
on February 15, 1918.
In the case of United States vs. Freyberg (32 Fed. Rep., 195), where the right of a homesteader was
involved, it was .held that where the right to a patent for land has become vested in a purchaser the
Government holds the legal title in trust for the purchaser until the patent is issued. Again in the case
of Stark vs. Starr (6 Wallace [U. S.], 402), the Supreme Court of the United States held that where the
right to a patent is once vested, it is treated by the Government, when dealing with public lands, as
equivalent to a patent issued.
"A party who has complied with all the terms and conditions which entitle him to a patent for a
particular tract of public land acquires a vested interest therein, and is to be regarded as the equitable
owner thereof." (Wirth vs. Branson, 98 U. S., 118.)
"Where the right to a patent has once become vested in a purchaser of public lands, it is equivalent,
so far as the Government is concerned, to a patent actually issued. The execution and delivery of the
patent after the right to it has become complete are the mere ministerial acts of the
503
VOL. 51, FEBRUARY 14, 1928

503

Balboa vs. Farrales


officers charged with that duty." (Simmons vs. Wagner, 101 U. S., 260.)
The moment the plaintiff had received a certificate from the Government and had done all that was
necessary under the law to secure his patent, his right had become vested before the patent was issued.
His right had already vested prior to the issuance of the patent, and his rights to the land cannot be
affected by a subsequent law or by a subsequent grant by the Government to any other person.
(Herron vs. Dater, 120 U. S., 464.)
The delay in the issuance of the patent cannot affect the vested right of the homesteader.
(Murphy vs. Packer, 152 U. S., 398; Belkvs. Meagher, 104 U. S., 279; Sullivan vs. Iron Silver Mining
Co.,143 U. S., 431; McDaniel vs. Apacible and Cuisia, 42 Phil., 749.)

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Balboa vs. Farrales


lative enactment, by municipal ordinance, or by a change in the constitution of the state. This result
follows from prohibitions contained in the constitutions of practically all the states. Before the adoption
of the fourteenth amendment there was no prohibition in the Constitution of the United States which
would prevent the states from passing laws divesting vested rights, unless these laws also impaired the
obligation of contract, or were ex post facto laws; but vested property rights are now protected against
state action by the provision of the fourteenth amendment that no state 'shall deprive any person of .life,
liberty or property without due process of law.' "(12 C, J., sec. 486, pp. 956, 957.)
Section 3, paragraph 1, of the Jones Law provides: "That no law shall be enacted in said Islands
which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, etc." Thus, in this
jurisdiction, vested rights are also protected from impairment by express constitutional provision.
Therefore, the right vested in Buenaventura Balboa by Act No. 926 cannot be divested, impaired or
restricted by section 116 of Act No. 2874. Said right should be governed entirely and exclusively by the
provisions of Act No. 926, under which it was acquired.
Now, the vested right of Buenaventura Balboa to his homestead land necessarily carries with it the
right to alienate and dispose of the same. The only prohibition contained in Act No. 926 against
alienation of homestead acquired under said law, appears in section 4 thereof, which reads as follows:
"No lands acquired under the provisions of this chapter shall in any event become liable to the
satisfaction of any debt contracted prior to the issuance of a patent therefor." It follows, therefore that
the sale of the land in question by the plaintiff Buenaventura Balboa to the defendant Cecilio L.
Farrales does not infringe said prohibition, and consequently said sale is valid and binding, and should
be given full force and effect.
505
VOL. 51, FEBRUARY 14, 1928

505

Balboa vs. Farrales


Section 116 of Act No. 2874, which prohibits the sale of homestead land during the period of five years
subsequent to the issuance of the patent or certificate of title upon which rests the decision of the courta
quo, cannot be invoked to annul the sale in question. Said prohibition, if applied in the present case,
would impair and diminish the vested rights acquired under Act No. 926, contrary to the uniform
doctrine followed in the United States, and in violation of the express provisions of section 3 of the Jones
Law.
The right, title and interest of the appellant having become vested under the provisions of Act No.
926, his rights cannot be affected by any law passed subsequent thereto. The provisions of Act No. 2874
cannot be invoked for the purpose of defeating the vested right acquired by the appellant before its
adoption.

For all of the foregoing reasons, the judgment appealed from should be and is hereby reversed, and
it is hereby ordered and decreed that the defendant be absolved from all liability under the. complaint,
with costs against the plaintiff-appellant. So ordered.
Malcolm, Villamor, Ostrand, and Villa-Real, JJ., concur.
STREET, J., concurring:
I concur and wish to point out the difference between the present case and that of Beach vs. Pacific
Commercial Co. and Sheriff of Nueva Ecija (49 Phil., 365), which turned upon the interpretation of the
same provisions of law as those that are decisive of the present case, namely, section 4 of Act No. 926
and section 116 of Act No. 2874. The difference is that in the Beach case an attempt was made to seize
the property under process of law to satisfy an obligation created within five years after the issuance of
a patent; and we held that, under section 116 of Act No. 2874, the property was exempt. In the case
before us the owner of the land, in the exercise of his power as such, had voluntarily alienated the
property; and the court now
506
506

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Balboa vs. Farrales


holds that the act of alienation was effective notwithstanding the immunity conf erred by section 116 of
Act No. 2874. Though the distinction thus involved may appear to be somewhat refined, I believe it to be
sound, and I have no hesitation in giving my adherence to the present decision, especially in view of the
fact that soon after Act No. 2874 was passed the Attorney-General ruled that a voluntary alienation of a
homestead, under the conditions involved in this case, would be valid. A ruling contrary to that now
made by us would have the undesirable effect of interfering with rights that have been acquired in good
faith by purchasers relying upon the interpretation thus placed upon the law by the Attorney-General.
In the opinion in Beach vs. Pacific Commercial Co. and Sheriff of Nueva Ecija, supra, we used the
following language in calling attention to the difference between the situation then before the court and
that presented in the case now before us:
"The error underlying the contention of the appellee possibly has its origin in a failure to
distinguish between two entirely different ideas expressed in section 116 of Act No. 2874. The first has
reference to the power of the homesteader to encumber or alienate the homestead by his voluntary act,
while the second has reference to the subjection of the property to the satisfaction of debts against the
will of the homesteader. There might possibly be something in the contention of the appellee that the
homesteader's right became vested when he submitted his final proof if the case were one where he had
attempted to alienate the property by voluntary exercise of the power of an owner; but we are not called
upon to pass upon this point. We are here concerned exclusively with the power of the creditor to seize
the property of the owner against his will. That the property cannot be so taken follows in our opinion
necessarily from the language of section 116."
507

VOL. 51, FEBRUARY 14, 1928

507

Sinco vs. Longa


Our present decision recognizes the validity of this distinction suggested in the paragraph above quoted,
and it will thus be seen that there is no inconsistency between the decision now made and the
conclusion reached in the case cited.
Judgment reversed.

>LLENES
[No. L-7813. October 31, 1955]
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff and appellee vs.PEDRO DIAMONON, ET AL., defendants
and appellants.
1. 1.PUBLIC LAND LAW; HOMESTEAD; REVERSION.Under section 122 of Act No. 2874,
any acquisition, conveyance, alienation, transfer, or other contract made by a homesteader
in violation of said Act shall be unlawful and null and void from its execution and shall
produce the effect of annulling and canceling the grant title, patent, or permit originally
issued, and cause the reversion of the property and its improvements to the Government.
1. 2.ID.; ID.; ID.; RIGHT OF HOMESTEADER BECOMES VESTED AFTER APPROVAL BY
DIRECTOR OF LANDS.The right of a homesteader to the land granted to him ripens
into a vested right after the filing of final proof and approval thereof by the Director of
Lands.
1. 3.ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; LEGISLATIVE ACTION SUGGESTED TO MINIMIZE EFFECTS OF
REVERSION.In view of the situation revealed by this case, which probably may be
typical of many others, it has occurred to the mind of the Court to suggest that legislative
action be taken with a view to enhancing the rights of the homesteaders so as to
correspondingly minimize the possibilities or effects of reversion, or with a view to
grantingthe homesteaders a priority or preference in case his home
839
VOL. 97, OCTOBER 31, 1955

839

Republic of the Phil. vs. Diamonon, et al.


1. stead, already reverted, should again be made available and open for acquisition by private
persons.
APPEAL from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija. De Leon, J.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Solicitor General Ambrosio Padilla and Assistant Solicitor General Jose G. Bautista, for appellee.
Alfonso G. Espinosa for appellants.
PARAS, C. J.:
On July 22, 1916, Pedro Diamonon filed a homestead application covering lots Nos. 1378 and 1376
of the Sto. Domingo Cadastre situated in the barrio of Batoc, Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija. Said
application was approved by the Director of Lands on April 4, 1917. On June 29, 1932, Diamonon
mortgaged the homestead and the improvements and f uture crops thereon to the spouses Donato

Pangilinan and Maria de la Fuente for the sum of P822. Final proof was approved by the Director of
Lands on November 9, 1933, and the issuance of homestead patent in favor of Diamonon was
accordingly ordered. On February 24, 1937, Diamonon executed a deed transferring the homestead in
favor of Paz Pangilinan, unmarried daughter of Donato Pangilinan and Maria de la Fuente. This
conveyance was subsequently approved by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources,
homestead patent No. 44987 was issued in the name of Paz Pangilinan; and on January 18, 1938,
original certificates of title No. 5517 was issued in her name. On August 30, 1945, the latter in turn sold
the land to Alejandro de la Fuente to whom transfer certificate of title No. 21372 was issued.
Pedro Diamonon thereafter filed an action in the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija against
Donato Pangilinan, Maria de la Fuente, Paz Pangilinan and Alejandro de la Fuente (Civil Case No. 60L), for the recovery of
840
840

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic of the Phil. vs. Diamonon, et al.


the homestead; and said court, after holding that Diamonon had the right to repurchase the land under
section 16 of Act 2874, ordered the defendants to convey the land to Diamonon, upon deposit by the
latter with the clerk of court of the sum of P822 to be paid to the said defendants. Upon appeal (CAG.
R. No. 2098-R), the Court of Appeals modified the dicision of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija
by declaring the sale by Diamonon of his homestead right to Paz Pangilinan and the subsequent
transfer by the latter to Alejandro de la Fuente null and void, ordering the cancellation of homestead
patent No. 44987, original certificate of title No. 55187, and transfer certificate of title No. 21372; and
ordering the issuance in the name of Pedro Diamonon of a new homestead patent; and ordering the
spouses Donato Pangilinan and Maria de la Fuente to deliver the possession of the homestead to
Diamonon upon payment to or deposit with the clerk of Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija of the
sum of P822.
On March 13, 1951, the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija issued in Civil Case No. 60-L an
order of execution against the Director of Lands for the issuance of a new homestead patent to Pedro
Diamonon. On June 22, 1951, the Director of Lands filed a manifestation with the court, praying that
the order of execution be suspended until its propriety is finally determined, which manifestation was
denied on December 22, 1951.
In the meantime, or on October 19, 1951, the Director of Lands, on behalf of the Republic of the
Philippines, filed an action (Special Proceeding No. 840) with the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija,
in which it was prayed that homestead patent No. 44987 issued in the name of Paz Pangilinan, transfer
certificate of title No. 21372 issued in the name of Alejandro de la Fuente, and original certificate of title
No. 5517 issued in the name of Paz Pangilinan, be cancelled, and that the homestead in question be
declared reverted to the mass of public do841
VOL. 97, OCTOBER 31, 1955

841

Republic of the Phil. vs. Diamonon, et al.


main under the administration of the Director of Lands.
On January 21, 1952, the Director of Lands instituted in this Court an original action for certiorari
(G. R. No. L-5432), praying that judgment be rendered annulling the decision of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G. R. No. 2098-R and the order of execution issued by the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija
in Civil Case No. 60-L, hereinabove referred to. This certiorari proceedings was dismissed by this court,
inasmuch as the question raised therein could more expediently be threshed out in Special Proceeding
No. 840 brought by the Director of Lands on October 19, 1951.
In said Special Proceeding No. 840, the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, upon a stipulation of
facts submitted by the parties, rendered a decision on February 24, 1984, declaring the homestead in
question as having reverted to the public domain and setting aside the writ of execution for the issuance
of a homestead patent and a certificate of title in the name of Pedro Diamonon. The latter has taken the
present appeal.

The Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija reasoned out that as a result of the decision of the Court
of Appeals declaring null and void the transfer made by appellant Diamonon of his homestead right to
Paz Pangilinan, ordering the cancellation of the patent and certificate of title issued in her name, and
declaring the sale by Paz Pangilinan to Alejandro de la Fuente and the transfer certificate of title issued
in the latter's name cancelled, all by reason of the provisions of section 116 of Act No. 2874, the
homestead in question and its improvements automatically reverted to the public domain, in view of the
provisions of section 122 of Act No. 2874 which reads as follows: "Any acquisition, conveyance,
alienation, transfer, or other contract made or executed in violation of any of the provisions of sections
one hundred and sixteen one hundred and eighteen, one hundred and nineteen, one hundred and
twenty and one hundred and twenty-one of
842
842

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic of the Phil. vs. Diamonon, et al.


this Act shall be unlawful and null and void from its execution and shall produce the effect of annulling
and cancelling the grant, title, patent, or permit originally issued recognized, or confirmed, actually or
presumptively, and cause the reversion of the property and its improvements to the Government."
Counsel for appellant, without disputing the fight of the Government to institute the present action
for reversion, limits his contention to the fact that the case should be decided in the light of Act No. 926
which did not provide for any reversion in case of unlawful alienations of homestead rights, because
appellant's homestead application was approved on April 4, 1917, when said Act was still in force, and
refuge is sought in the case of Balboa vs.Farrales, 51 Phil., 498, particularly the following syllabus:
"When a homesteader has complied with all the terms and conditions which entitle him to a patent for a
particular tract of public land, he acquires a vested interest therein, and is to be regarded as the
equitable owner thereof. Where the right to a patent to land has once become vested in a purchaser of
public lands, it is equivalent to a patent actually issued. The execution and delivery of the patent, after
the right to a particular parcel of land has become complete, are the mere ministerial acts of the officer
charged with that duty. Even without a patent, a perfected homestead is a property right in the fullest
sense, unaffected by the fact that the paramount title to the land is still in the Government. Such land
may be conveyed or inherited. No subsequent law can deprive him of that vested right,"
The fallacy of appellant's argument lies in the failure to consider the facts in his citation, wherein final
proof was approved by the Government while Act No. 926 was effective. In the case now before us, it was
only on November 9, 1933, that the Director of Lands approved appellant's final proof, or about fourteen
years after the
843
VOL. 97, OCTOBER 31, 1955

843

Republic of the Phil. vs. Diamonon, et al.


enactment of Act No. 2874 on November 29, 1919. In the very case invoked by appellant it was held that
a vested right over a homestead arises only upon approval of final proof.
"Section 3 of Act No. 926 provides inter alia, that upon the filing of final proof by the applicant and the
approval thereof by the Director of Lands, 'he (the applicant) shall be entitled to a patent' or certificate
of title. Therefore, on February 15, 1918, after Buenavista Balboa had submitted his final proof and
after the same had been approved by the Government, and while Act No. 926 was still in force, he
became the owner of the land and 'entitled to a patent.' At least on that date his right to the land, as
owner, ripened into a vested right. It was no longer expectant as depending on the continuance of
existing circumstances, or contingent as depending on some events or the performance of some
conditions." (Balboa vs. Farrales, supra, p. 501.)
It is noteworthy that even in the decision of the Court of Appeals inCA-G. R. No. 2098-R, which was the
basis for the order of execution issued by the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija in favor of appellant,
Act No. 2874 was relied upon. The Court of Appeals, instead of cutting away, preserved the right of the
Government to institute the proper action for reversion, in virtue of the following pronouncement in its
resolution of March 9, 1949:

"Besides, it is believed that the administrative officials entrusted with the enforcement and application
of the Public Land Act should be granted discretion to determine whether to enforce reversion to the
Government or not. The law grants them authority to do so by actions to be instituted by the Attorney
General under section 99 of Act No. 2874. A certain amount of discretion should be vested with the
administrative officials to determine the propriety of instituting said action. Furthermore, there must
be well
844
844

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Ramos vs. Alvarez


defined policies on the matters of reversion of which this Court may not be aware and which were not
inquired into in this case. For all these reasons the Court is of the belief that it should not motu
proprio, decree the reversion, but that such reversion should be left to the discretion of the
administrative officials concerned," (46 Off, Gaz., pp. 6156-57.)
Neither can our decision in G. R. No. L-5432 be conclusive against the Government which, by the way,
was not a party in CA-G. R. No. 2098-R, because, as already pointed out, we merely believed that the
question of reversion could well be ventilated in Special Proceeding No, 840.
In. view of the situation revealed by this case, which probably may be typical of many others, it has
occurred to the mind of the Court to suggest that legislative action be taken with a view to enhancing
the rights of home-steaders so as to correspondingly minimize the possibilities or effects of reversion, or
with a view to granting the homesteader a priority or preference in case his home-stead, already
reverted, should again be made available and open for acquisition by private persons.
Wherefore, the appealed decision is affirmed, and it is so ordered, without costs.
Bengzon, Padilla, Montemayor, Reyes,
A., Jugo, Bautista
Angelo, Labrador, Concepcion and Reyes, J. B. L., JJ., concur.
Judgment affirmed.
_____________
Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

1. 2.ID. ; ID. ; EFFECT OF CONTRACT OF LANDLORD AND TENANT ExECUTED IN


GOOD FAITH.Even if the permit granted to petitioner's deceased husband by the
Bureau of Forestry to possess the land and work it out for his benefit was against the law
and as such could have no legal effect, yet where he had acted thereon in good faith
honestly believing that his possession of the land was legal, and had entered into a
contractual relation of landlord and tenant with the respondents in good faith, the contract
had produced as a necessary consequence the relation of landlord and tenant; therefore, his
widow should be given the preference to apply for the land for homestead purposes.
1. 3.ID.; DECISION RENDERED BY DIRECTOR OF LANDS AND APPROVED BY THE
SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCLUSIVE;
EXCEPTIONS.The doctrine that "a decision rendered by the Director of Lands and
approved by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, upon a question of fact is
conclusive and not subject to be reviewed by the courts, in the absence of a showing that
such decision was rendered in consequence of fraud, imposition, or mistake, other than
error of judgment in estimating the value or effect of evidence" does not apply to a decision
of the Director of Lands which has been revoked by the Secretary of Agri
126

126

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Vda. de Alfafara vs. Mapa, et al.

1. culture and Natural Resources. Even if there is unanimity in the decision, still the doctrine
would not apply if the conclusions drawn by the Secretary from the facts found are
erroneous or not warranted by law.
APPEAL from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of Cebu. Varela, J.
>MAQUIRAN
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
[No. L-7042. May 28, 1954]
CLOTILDE MEJIA VDA. DE ALFAFARA, petitioner and appellant, vs. PLACIDO MAPA, in his
capacity as Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, BENITA COMPANA, ET AL., respondents
and appellees.
1. 1.PUBLIC LAND LAW, DISPOSITION OF PUBLIC LANDS;DIRECTOR OF LANDS CAN
NOT DISPOSE LAND WITHIN THE FOREST ZONE. Where the land covered by the
homestead application of petitioner was still within the forest zone or under the
jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forestry, the Director of Lands had no jurisdiction to dispose
of said land under the provisions of the Public Land Law and the petitioner acquired no
right to the land.

Mariano M. Florido for appellant.


Abundio A. Aldemita for appellees Benito Campana, et al.
Assistant Solicitor General Guillermo E. Torres and Solicitor Jaime de los Angeles for appellee
Placido Mapa.
BAUTISTA ANGELO, J.:
This is a petition for certiorari filed in the Court of First Instance of Cebu in which petitioner seeks to
nullify a decision rendered by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources in D.A.N.R. Case No.

224 concerning lot. No. 741 of the Carcar cadastre on the ground that he acted in excess of his
jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion,
128
It appears that petitioner and respondents filed separately with the Bureau of Lands an
application claiming as homestead lot No. 741 of the Carcar cadastre. After an investigation conducted
in accordance with the rules and regulations of said bureau, a decision was rendered in favor of
petitioner thereby giving course to her application and overruling the application and protests of
respondents. In due course, respondents appealed to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
Resources, who reversed the decision of the Director of Lands. And her motion for reconsideration
having been denied, petitioner interposed the present petition for certiorari.
Respondents in their answer allege that, under section 3 of the Public Land Law, the Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources is the executive officer charged
127

VOL. 95, MAY 28, 1954

127

Vda. de Alfafara vs. Mapa, et al.

with the duty to carry out the provisions of said law relative to the administration and disposition of the
lands of the public domain in the Philippines; that the decision which is now disputed by petitioner was
rendered after a formal investigation conducted in accordance with the rules and regulations of the
Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources and on the basis of the evidence adduced therein
and, therefore, said Secretary has not abused his discretion in rendering it; and that the decision of the
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources on the matter is conclusive and not subject to review by
the courts, in the absence of a showing that it was rendered in consequence of ex raud, imposition, or
mistake other than an error of judgment in estimating the value or effect of the evidence presented,
citing in support of this contention the case ofOrtua vs. Singson Encarnacion, 59 Phil., 440.
The lower court, after the reception of the evidence, upheld the contention of respondents, and
dismissed the petition, whereupon petitioner took the case on appeal to the Court of Appeals. The case,
however, was certified to this court on the ground that the appeal involves purely questions of law.
The facts of this case as ex ound by the Director of Lands are: By virtue of an application filed by
Maximo Alfafara, the Bureau of Forestry granted him a permit on February 1, 1923, by virtue of which
he was authorized to construct and maintain a fishpond within lot No. 741 of the Carcar cadastre. Said
permittee constructed fishpond dikes along the side of the land facing General Luna street and running
parallel to the river. Said dikes were destroyed by the flood which occurred in the same year. In 1926,
the permittee abandoned the idea of converting the land into a fishpond and, instead, he decided to
convert it into a ricefield. To this effect, the permittee entered into an agreement with respondents
whereby the latter would convert the land into a ricefield on condition that they would take for
themselves the harvests for the first three
128

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Vda. de Alfafara vs. Mapa, et al.

years and thereafter the crop would be divided share and share alike between the permittee and the
respondents. In 1930, the permittee ceded his rights and interests in the land to his son, Catalino
Alfafara, who continued improving the same by constructing more rice paddies and planting nipa palms
along its border. Having converted the land into a ricefield, Catalino Alfafara filed a homestead
application therefor in his name while at the same time continuing the same arrangement with
respondents as share croppers. Upon the death of Catalino Alfafara in 1945, the respondents, after the
harvest in 1946, began asserting their own right over the land and refused to give the share
corresponding to Catalino Alfafara to his widow, the herein petitioner.
The claim of respondents that they improved the land in their own right and not with permission of
petitioner's predecessors-in-interest, was not given credence by the Bureau of Lands, for its agents
found, not only from the evidence presented, but also from their ocular inspection, that the land has
been under the rightful possession of Maximo Alfafara since 1923, and that respondents were only able
to work thereon upon his permission on a share basis. By virtue of these findings of the Director of
Lands, the homestead application of petitioner was given due course.
On appeal however to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, this official reversed the
decision of the Director of Lands invoking the ruling long observed by his department in connection with
disposition of public lands which are formerly within the forest zone or under the jurisdiction of the
Bureau of Forestry. He held that neither petitioner nor any of her predecessors-in-interest had acquired
any right under the homestead application filed by each inasmuch as the land covered by them was still
within the forest zone when applied for and that, for that reason, the Director of Lands had no
jurisdiction to dispose of said land under the provisions of the Public
129

VOL. 95, MAY 28, 1954

129

Vda. de Alfafara vs. Mapa, et al.

Land Law. He likewise held that, inasmuch as the Alfafaras have not established any right to the land
at the time they entered into the contract with respondents to work on the land on a share basis, the
relation of landlord and cropper between them did not legally exist and as such did not produce any
legal effect. Consequently,he held-the Alfafaras cannot be considered as landlords of respondents, and
between an actual occupant of an agricultural land which is released from the forest zone and certified

as disposable under the Public Land Law, and an applicant whose application expired prior to its
certification, the actual occupant is given preferential rightt hereto over the appellant.
The ruling above adverted to read as follows:
"It is the rule in this jurisdiction which has been followed consistently in the disposition of forest land
which have been declared agricultural lands that occupation of a forest land prior to the certification of
the Director of Forestry that the same is released from the forest zone and is disposable under the
provisions of the Public Land Law does not confer upon the occupant thereof the right of reference
thereto under the said law. In the same manner, this office does not give and does not recognize any
right of preference in favor of homestead applicants whose applications were filed prior to the
certification that the land covered thereby has already been released from the forest zone and is
disposable under the provisions of the Public Land Law. In other words, prior to the certification by the
Bureau of Forestry that a parcel of forest land is already released from the forest zone and is disposable
under the provisions of the Public Land Law, this Department does not recognize any right of preference
in favor of either the actual occupant thereof or any homestead applicant therefor. The reason for this is
that any permit or license issued by the Bureau of Forestry for a parcel of forest land can not bind the
Bureau of Lands to recognize any right in favor of the permittee under the provisions of the Public Land
Law; and any homestead application filed prior to the certification by the Director of Forestry is
ineffective and subject to rejection. From the time, however, that a parcel of forest land is released from
the forest zone and certified as disposable under the provisions of the Public Land Law, the occupation
of the actual occupant becomes effective and is recognized by the Public Land Law under section 95
thereof. Also the homestead
130

130

conclusions derived therefrom and on the effect upon them of the law regarding the disposition of public
lands which formerly were within the forest zone or under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forestry.
Thus, the first question decided by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources is: Has
petitioner or any of her predecessors-in-interest acquired any right to the land under the provisions of
the Public Land Law? And the Secretary, following the ruling above stated, answered in the negative.
His reasoning ex ollows: "Neither Clotilde Mejia Vda. de Alfafara nor any of her predecessorsin-interest
could acquire any right under the homestead application filed by each of them inasmuch as the land
covered thereby was still within the forest zone and that for that reason, the Director of Lands had no
jurisdiction to dispose of said land under the provisions of the Public Land Law." To this we agree, for it
appears that the land was released from the forest zone only on August 10, 1949, and the permit
granted to Maximo Alfafara to
131

VOL. 95, MAY 28, 1954

131

Vda. de Alfafara vs. Mapa, et al.

possess the land for purposes of homestead was in 1923. And with regard to Catalino Alfafara, his son,
his application was filed only in 1930.
PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Vda. de Alfafara vs. Mapa, et al.

application filed prior to the certification by the Director of Forestry will become effective from the date
of the certification, if the same had not been rejected prior to such certification. But, between the actual
occupant of a parcel of agricultural land and an applicant therefor whose application was filed prior to
its certification as such by the Director of Forestry, this office always recognizes the preferential right
thereto of the actual occupant thereof. In a long line of decisions in appealed cases, this office always
maintains that agricultural lands already and actually occupied and cultivated cannot be applied for
under the homestead law except by the actual occupant thereof." (Vicente Ruiz et al., vs. H. A. (New),
Mariano Ba. Mancao, Isabela, City of Zamboanga, decision dated April 13, 1949 and order dated July
22, 1949.)
The question now to be determined is: Has the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources abused
his discretion in reversing the decision of the Director of Lands?
At the outset, it should be stated that the findings of fact made by the Director of Lands had been
substantially upheld by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. They only differ on the

The second question decided by the Secretary is: What is the legal effect of the contractual relation
of landlord and tenant existing between the Alfafaras and the respondents? The answer of the Secretary
is: "Considering that none of the Alfafaras has established any right whatsoever to the land in question
at the time the contractual relation began, this office is of the opinion and so holds that the relation of
landlord and cropper could not and did not produce any legal effect because the supposed landlords, the
Alfafaras, have no title or right to the land in question under the provisions of the Public Land Law. In
other words, this office cannot see how any of the Alfafaras could be considered landlord of the claimants
on the land in question when none of them has any right over said land under the Public Land Law."
With this conclusion we disagree. Even in the supposition that the permit granted to Maximo
Alfafara by the Bureau of Forestry to possess the land and work it out for his benefit be against the law
and as such can have no legal effect, the fact however is that Maximo Alfafara has acted thereon in good
faith honestly believing that his possession of the land was legal and was given to him under and by
virtue of the authority of the law. Likewise, it cannot be reasonably disputed that when Maximo Aldo
afara entered into a contract with the respondents for the conversion of the land into a ricefield with the
understanding that the respondents, as a reward for their service, would get for themselves all the
harvest for the first three years, and thereafter the harvests would be divided between them and
Maximo Alfafara share and share alike both Alfafara and respondents have acted in good faith in the
honest belief that what they were doing was legal and in pursuance of the permit granted to Alfafara
under the authority of the law. Having entered
132

132

by law. These conclusions can still be the subject of judicial review. These are questions of law that are
reserved to the courts to determine, as can be inferred from the following ruling laid down in the same
case of Ortua:

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Vda. de Alfafara vs. Mapa, et al.

into that contractual relation in good faith no other conclusion can be drawn than that such contract has
produced as a necessary consequence the relation of landlord and tenant so much so that the
respondents worked the land only on the basis of such understanding. And this relation continued not
only when Maximo Alfafara assigned his right under the permit to his son Catalino, but also when the
latter died and his widow, the herein petitioner, took over and continued possessing the land as
successor-in-interest of her husband. And it was only in 1946, after the death of Catalino Alfafara, that
respondents got wise and taking advantage of the helplessness of his widow, coveted the land and
decided to assert their own right over it by filing their own application for homestead with the Bureau of
Lands. Such a conduct cannot be regarded as one done in good faith and, in our opinion, cannot serve as
basis ex or a grant of public land under the ruling invoked by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
Resources.
The possession therefore of the land by respondents should be considered as that of a tenant and in
this sense that possession cannot benefit them but their landlord, the widow, in contemplation of the
rule. As such, the widow should be given the preference to apply for the land for homestead purposes.
We are not unmindful of the doctrine laid down in the case of Ortua vs. Singson Encarnacion, 59
Phil., 440, to the effect that "a decision rendered by the Director of Lands and approved by the Secretary
of Agriculture and Natural Resources, upon a question of fact is conclusive and not subject to be
reviewed by the courts, in the absence of a showing that such decision was rendered in consequence of
fraud, imposition or mistake, other than error of judgment in estimating the value or effect of evidence."
But we hold that this doctrine does not apply here because we are not concerned with a decision of the
Director of Lands which was approved by the Secretary of Agriculture

"There is, however, another side to the case. It certainly was not intended by the legislative body to
remove from the jurisdiction of courts all right to review decisions of the Bureau of Lands, for to do so
would be to attempt something which could not be done legally. Giving force to all possible intendments
regarding the facts as found by the Director of Lands, yet so much of the decision of the Director of
Lands as relates to a question of law is in no sense conclusive upon the courts, but is subject to review.
In other words, any action of the Director of Lands which is based upon a miscontruction of the law can
be corrected by the courts." (Shirley vs.Cowan [1876], 91 U. S., 330; Moore vs. Robins [1878], 96 U. S.,
530;Marquez vs. Frisbie [1879], 101
U.
S.,
473; Black vs. Jackson [1900], 177
U.
S.,
349; Johnson vs. Riddle, supra.)
Wherefore, the decision appealed from is reversed. The court sets aside the decision of the Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources dated September 15, 1949 as well as his order dated January 3,
1950, reaffirming said decision. The court revives the decision of the Director of
_______________
1
This doctrine is based on section 4 of the Public Land Law. It provides that the decisions of the
Director of Lands "as to questions of fact shall be conclusive when approved by the Secretary of
Agriculture and (Natural Resources)."

134

134

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Vda. de Alfafara vs. Mapa, et al.

133

Lands dated March 18, 1948 and orders that it be given due course. No pronouncement as to costs.
VOL. 95, MAY 28, 1954

133
Bengzon, Montemayor, Jugo, Labrador and Concepcion, JJ.,concur.

Vda. de Alfafara vs. Mapa, et al.

and Natural Resources, but one which has been revoked. The philosophy behind this ruling is that if the
decision of the Director of Lands on a question of fact is concurred in by the Secretary of Agriculture
and Natural Resources, it becomes conclusive upon the courts upon the theory that the subject has been
thoroughly weighed and discussed and it must be given faith and credit, but not so when there is a
disagreement.1 And even if there is unanimity in the decision, still we believe that the doctrine would
not apply if the conclusions drawn by the Secretary from the facts found are erroneous or not warranted

PARS, C. J., dissenting:


It is true that Maximo Alfaf ara was granted on February 1, 1923, a permit to construct and maintain a
fishpond within lot No. 741 of the Carcar cadastre, but it nevertheless appears that said permit was
cancelled in 1926 after said fishpond was destroyed by a typhoon. In said year, Maximo Alfafara induced
the respondents Benita Compana et al., to convert the former fishpond into a riceland, the agreement
being that the crops for the first three years would be for said respondents and that thereafter the crops
would be divided equally between the former and the latter. According to the findings of the Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources, not contradicted in any way by those of the Director of Lands,
Maximo Alfafara and his successors-in-interest never worked on the land or spent anything for the

improvements thereon. The question that arises is, af ter the land was declared available ex or
homestead purposes by certification of the Director of Forestry in 1949, or long after the permit of
Alfafara had been cancelled, whether the Alfafaras should be preferred to those who actually worked on
the land. After the cancellation of his permit, Maximo Alfafara ceased to have any right or authority to
continue holding the land. Yet, he was given for several years one half of the crops harvested by the
respondents who took over the land in good faith and could already occupy it in their own right. It may
fairly be considered that the original holder had impliedly parted with his rights, if any, for valuable
consideration. It is plainly unjust, under the circumstances, to deprive the respondents of their priority
to the portions of the land actually held by them as homesteads. It appears, however, that there were
occupants
135

VOL. 95, MAY 31, 1954

135

People vs. Rodriguez, et al.

of the portions of the lot who did not apply for homesteads with the result that said portions may be
awarded to the Alfafaras if they are still entitled under the law.
I vote for the affirmance of the appealed decision.
Pablo, J.; concurs.
Judgment reversed.
_______________
Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

>PION
[No, L-10747. January 31, 1958]
MARIANO DIAZ and LEONCIA REYES, plaintiffs and appelleesvs. PASCUAL MACALINAO, ET AL.,
defendants and appellants.
HOMESTEAD; DETERMINATION OF RIGHT OF POSSESSION; WHEN DIRECTOR OF
LANDS is DIVESTED OF JURISDICTION.A homesteader who has been granted entry for a
homestead by the Director of Lands and thereafter deprived by another of the possession thereof,
can bring an action in court for the recovery, of the same. A homestead entry having been
permitted by the Director of Lands the homestead is segregated from the public domain and the
Director of Lands divested of the control and possession thereof except if the application is finally
disapproved and the entry annulled or revoked.

that they have a good and meritorious defense because defendant Pascual Macalinao is another
homestead applicant and his application conflicts with that of the late Mara Diaz, predecessor-ininterest of the plaintiffs, and that the other defendants have no interest or right over the land subject
matter of the action. The court, however, denied the motion for new trial, and
1001
VOL. 102, JANUARY 31, 1958

Diaz and Reyes vs. Macalinao, et al.


upon such denial and after a denial also of the motion for reconsideration of the order of denial, they
appeal directly to this Court.
The assignment of errors raised on this appeal is as follows:
1. "1.The trial court erred in not sustaining the defendantsappellants' motion to dismiss on the
ground that said court has no jurisdiction of the subject-matter of the action or suit.
2. 2.The trial court erred in holding that its decision by default of August 25, 1955, has already
become final and executory, and therefore could no longer be set aside and grant a new
trial to the defendants-appellants.

APPEAL from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of Isabela. Arranz, J.


The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Antonio M. Orara for appellants.
Bartolom N. Guirao for appellees.

3. 3.The trial court erred in not entertaining defendants-appellants' motion for new trial so as
to afford them the chance of putting up their defense of res adjudicata." (pp. 1 & 2, Brief for
the Defendants-appellants.)

LABRADOR, J.:
Appeal from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of Isabela, Hon. Manuel Arranz presiding,
ordering the defendants to restore to the plaintiffs the possession of the land described in the sketch,
Exhibit "B", to pay the plaintiffs the sum of P2,100 as damages, and to pay the costs.
Plaintiffs-appellees brought this action, alleging that they are absolute owners of a parcel of land
situated in Barrio Aneg, Tumauini, Isabela; that said land was ac-quired as a homestead by Maria Diaz
in the year 1939, by virtue of her H.A. No. 229763 (Entry No. 138890), approved by the Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources on November 29, 1950; that plaintiffs herein, parents of Maria Diaz,
succeeded to the possession of the said homestead; that defendants illegally took possession
1000
1000

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Diaz and Reyes vs. Macalinao, et al.


of a portion of the said homestead, containing an area of 6 hectares and yielding an annual harvest of
480 cavans of palay valued at P7.00 per cavan, They pray that judgment be rendered ordering the
defendants to deliver to them the land in question together with its annual produce since 1948 up to the
termination of the case, and to pay the costs.
The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, but the same was denied. As the defendants failed to file
an answer, they were declared in default, and after presentation of the evidence for the plaintiff,
judgment was rendered ordering the restoration of the land to the plaintiffs, the payment of P2,100 by
the defendants to the plaintiffs, and the payment of costs. On November 18, 1953, the decision was,
however, set aside on a motion for relief from judgment, because the court found that the attorney for
the defendants was not furnished with copy of the order of the court denying the motion to dismiss. The
order set the case for trial in the 1954 calendar.
Subsequently, however, the defendants were again declared in default, and after a hearing of the
evidence for the plaintiffs, the court again rendered a judgment identical to that which it has previously
promulgated. This was on August 25, 1955. Upon notice of the judgment the defendants moved for a new
trial on the ground that the lawyers who received a copy of the order for relief from judgment was not
their counsel but one who was temporarily engaged by them; that the failure of the defendant's attorney
to file their answer within the time fixed by the Rules was due to excusable negligence of their counsel;

1001

In support of the first assignment of error it is argued that as the land subject matter of the action is
still a part of the public domain, no homestead patent or title has been issued as yet, and consequently
the one that has jurisdiction over the case is the Director of Lands. The action presented is not one of
ownership, although plaintiffs allege ownership and pray that the land be declared in their favor.
However, the allegation of ownership in the complaint is not incompatible with the allegation that the
plaintiffs have succeeded to the right of a homesteader who has been granted entry but to whom no
homestead patent has yet been issued. The allegation of ownership and the prayer therefor may,
therefore, be considered as a mere surplusage and this case be considered as an action for possession.
The complaint alleges that the defendants entered possession in 1948. The case is, therefore, one for the
determination of the right of possession, whether it is the plaintiffs or the defendants who have a right
thereto. Inasmuch as the possession of the defendants has lasted for more than three years, there is no
doubt that the action falls within the jurisdiction of the court of
1002
1002

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Diaz and Reyes vs. Macalinao, et al.


first instance and not of the justice of the peace of court.
The contention that the Director of Lands has the jurisdiction to determine which of the rival
homesteaders should be entitled to possess is without merit. A homestead entry having been permitted
by the Director of Lands the homestead is segregated from the public domain and the Director of Lands
divested of the control and possession thereof except if the application is finally disapproved and the
entry annulled or revoked.
There is also no merit in the second assignment of error. The record sustains the finding of the trial
court that the motion for new trial was presented after the judgment had become final and executory.
The first order of default was issued on June 15, 1953 and the defendants learned of the decision on
September 26, 1953, and the decision was a default judgment. As a matter of fact the court set aside the
first judgment of default on November 18, 1953. Since September 26, 1953, when the defendants
presented their motion to set aside the judgment, they were aware that they had not presented their
answer. From that day, September 26, 1953, up to the second judgment by default on August 25, 1955,

the defendants had not filed their answer to all, inspite of the fact that the court had set aside its
previous judgment by default to give an opportunity to the defendants to file an answer to the
complaint. The reason given to the effect that another lawyer was notified of the order setting aside the
judgment of the court is no excuse for delaying the presentation of an answer. The lawyer who appeared
for defendants to secure the relief from the first default judgment was the lawyer who should be notified
of the order of relief and the defendants were bound by the notice to such lawyer. Since the notification
to their lawyer no answer had been presented by defendants and such notification took place around
September 26, 1953. So that for about two years they have failed to file an answer and they cannot claim
now that
1003
VOL. 102, JANUARY 31, 1958

1003

Lagmay and Madruo vs. Quinit, et al.


they have presented their motion for new trial in due time.
The resolution of the second assignment of error renders unnecessary the consideration of the third
assignment.
Judgment is hereby affirmed, with costs against defendants-appelllants.
Pars, C. J., Bengzon, Padilla, Montemayor, Reyes, A.,Bautista Angelo, Concepcin, Reyes, J. B.
L., Endencia, and Felix, JJ., concur.
Judgment affirmed.

conclusion to be drawn from the proven facts is a conclusion of law which the court may review
(Alfafara vs. Mapa, 95 Phil 125).
Homesteads; Approval of application is required before entry on homestead is allowed.Under
Section 13 of the Public Land Act, entry on a homestead is allowed only after the approval of the
application.
Same; Other indicia that prewar homestead application was approved.Where a person had all
the qualifications to apply for a homestead and he was in actual possession of the homestead at the time
he transferred his rights thereto, the presumption is that his application for said homestead was
approved by the Director of Lands.
Same; Conveyances of homestead without the prior approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and
Natural Resources are void; Cancellation of entry is not automatic.The sales of portions of a
homestead made without the previous approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources,
are void. Consequently, the purchasers should return the possession of
224

________________
224

Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

>QUEVEDO
Dauan vs. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, et al.
VOL. 19, JANUARY 31, 1967

223

Dauan vs. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, et al.

No. L-19547. January 31, 1967.


SERAPIO DAUAN, petitioner and appellee, vs. THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE and NATURAL
RESOURCES and the DIRECTOR OF LANDS, respondents and appellees. SIMON ILARDE,
ROMUALDO ILARDE, LORD CALANGAN, SANTOS BAYSA and BASILIA TOMAS, respondents and
appellants.
Administrative law; Rule regarding exhaustion of administrative remedies is not absolute; Appeal
of decision of Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources to the President.While the rule of
exhaustion of administrative remedies would indeed require an appeal of the decision of the Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources, in a homestead case, to the President before resort to the courts can
be made, it is equally true that the rule is not without exception. For instance, the rule does not apply
where the question in dispute is purely a legal one, and nothing of an administrative nature is to be or
can be done. Where the question was whether appellees prewar homestead application had been
approved, considering that the records of the Bureau of Lands had been destroyed during the war, the

said portions to the seller or homesteader upon the return to them of the purchase price they
had paid to the appellee (Tinio vs. Frances, 98 Phil. 32; Oliveros vs. Porciongcola, 69 Phil. 305), It is true
that a transfer of rights without the previous approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
Resources shall result in the cancellation of the entry and the refusal of the patent of the homesteader
but the cancellation is not automatic and as long as the Government has not chosen to act, the rights of
the homesteader must stand.
APPEAL from a decision of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Vizcaya.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Asterio T. Saquing for respondents-appellants.
Solicitor General for respondents-appellees.
Pedro C. Flores for petitioner-appellee.
REGALA, J.:

This case involves claims to 14.25 hectares of public land in Bambancsg, Sto. Domingo, Nueva Vizcaya.
The land was originally applied for as homestead by Jose Aquino. Upon his death, Aquino was
succeeded by his children who sold their rights to the land to the present appellee, Serapio Dauan.

The Director of Lands held the transactions to be sales and sustained their validity on a finding
that the homestead application of appellee had not been approved. His decision was subsequently
affirmed on appeal by the

Appellee himself filed an application (H.A, No. 206623) for a homestead of the land on February 14,
1935, but there is considerable dispute as to whether this application was approved by the Director of
Lands. This point became a crucial issue between the parties as appellee subsequently sold his rights to
various portions of the homestead to the appellants without securing the approval of the Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources and both parties took the view that, if appellees application had
been approved, then the transfer of rights to appellants must be approved by the Secretary; otherwise,
no such approval was necessary. Thus, it appears that on December 16, 1943, appellee sold his rights to
one-half of the land to appellant Simon Ilarde and that on July 24, 1951, he sold his rights to 4 hectares
to appellant Lord Calangan and to 3 hectares to appellant Basilia Tomas. On March 28, 1955, Calangan
and Tomas in turn sold their rights to some part of the land to Santos Baysa. These sales were all made
without the previous approval

________________
1
The power to approve transfer of rights under section 20 is now given to the Director of Lands. See
Rep. Act No. 1242.

226

226

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

225
Dauan vs. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, et al.

VOL. 19, JANUARY 31, 1967

225
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Said the Secretary:

Dauan vs. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, et al.

of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, The basis of contention of both parties is the
following provision of the Public Land Act (Com. Act No. 141):

The records x x x do not reveal that appellants H.A. No. 206623 has ever been approved, inspite of the
fact that it was filed as early as 1935. Over the allegation of the appellant (appellee herein) that his
homestead application was approved but the records thereof were lost during the war is the verity that
there are no reconstituted records to point to such approval of application nor is there any evidence to
show that he has ever attempted to reconstitute the documents relative to the said approval.
x x x

SEC. 20. If at any time after the approval of the application and before the patent is issued, the
applicant shall prove to the satisfaction of the Director of Lands that he has complied with all
requirements of the law, but can not continue with his homestead, through no fault of his own. and
there is abona fide purchaser for the rights and improvements of the applicant on the land, and that the
conveyance is not made for purposes of speculation, then the applicant, with the previous approval of
the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, may transfer his rights to the land and improvements to
any person legally qualified to apply for a homestead, and immediately after such transfer, the
purchaser shall file a homestead application to the land so acquired and shall succeed the original
homesteader in his rights and obligations beginning with the date of the approval of said application of
the purchaser. Any person who has so transferred his rights may again apply for a new homestead.
Every transfer made without the previous approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce shall
be null and void and shall result in the cancellation of the entry and the refusal of the patent." 1
The dispute arose when appellee asked the Bureau of Lands to cancel the application for free patents
which the appellants filed, covering the portions of the homestead sold to them. Appellee questioned the
validity of the sales, claiming that the agreement was that of a loan and that at any rate the supposed
sales were void for having been made without the prior approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and
Natural Resources. On the other hand, appellants maintained that their agreement with the appellee
was that of a sale and, that as the homestead application of appellee himself had not been approved by
the Director of Lands, no approval by the Secretary of the subsequent sales to them was necessary.

Of course, in all these transfers none ever secured any prior approval of the Director of Lands,
required in Section 20 of the Public Land Law, as amended by Republic Act No. 1242, but it should be
noted that the said provision of law demands such approval only when transfer of rights is executed
after the approval of a homestead application and, in the present case, there is no showing that the
homestead application of the appellant, basis of the rights so transferred, had ever been approved at the
time the transfers in question were executed.
Appellee did not appeal to the President. Instead, he filed this petition for certiorari in the Court of
First Instance of Nueva Vizcaya, charging that both Director of Lands and Secretary of Agriculture and
Natural Resources gravely abused their discretion in finding that his application had not been approved
and, consequently, in ruling that prior approval of the transfers to them was not required.
The court granted appellees petition, stating:
The court has noticed that the past war has caused the disappearance of the prewar records of the
homestead in question, but the papers pertinent thereto presented by the petitioner are, in the opinion
of this Court, more than sufficient to bring us to a legitimate conclusion that the petitioner is a holder of
a perfected homestead entitled to grant from the government, and having said petitioner remained in
the possession for a period of more than 23 years, he is entitled to the protection of the law; the sales

application of Romualdo lIarde is null and void with respect to the portion which embraces or includes a
portion of the homestead of the petitioner [the court having found no evidence at all that the portion
was conveyed to Romualdo Ilarde by the appellee]; the f ree patent applications of the respondent Simon
Ilarde, Basilia Tomas and Lord Calangan. having not been previously approved by the Secreta

228

228

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

227

Dauan vs. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, et al.


VOL. 19, JANUARY 31, 1967

227

Dauan vs. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, et al.

ry of Agriculture and Natural Resources are null and void, and as respondent Santos Baysa derives his
alleged rights from Basilia Tomas and Lord Calangan, necessarily his application is also null and void.
Appellants asked for a reconsideration of this decision and, failing to secure one, brought this matter
before us on appeal. They contend that the decision of the Director of Lands. which was affirmed by the
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, became final for failure of the appellee to appeal to the
President, with the result that this petition for certiorari should not have been entertained. Moreover, it
is claimed that the trial court erred in ruling that appellees application had been approved after it had
once been found by the Director and the Secretary that no such approval had been given.
While the rule of exhaustion of administrative remedies would indeed require an appeal to be
taken to the President before resort to the courts can be made, 2 it is equally true that the rule is not
without exception. For instance, the rule does not apply where the question in dispute is purely a legal
one, and nothing of an administrative nature is to be or can be done.3
Here the question was whether from the evidence submitted by the parties it could fairly be
concluded that appellees homestead application had been granted. Were the matter a simple process of
ascertaining from the records whether the application had been granted, we would agree with
appellants that it is a question of fact But precisely because the records of the Bureau of Lands had
been destroyed during the war that circumstantial evidence had to be introduced and it is a rule now
settled that the conclusion drawn from the facts is a conclusion of law which the courts may review. 4
________________
2

E.g. Calo vs. Fuertes, G.R. No. L-16537, June 29, 1962. See also Rellin vs. Cabigas, G.R. L-15926,
Oct. 31, 1960; Gamao vs. Calamba, G.R. L-13349, Sept. 30, 1960; Miguel vs. Reyes. 93 Phil. 542; Mari
vs. Secretary, 92 Phil. 410.
3
Pascual vs. Provincial Board, G.R. L-11959, Oct. 31, 1959. Nor does the rule apply to a party who
claims the land in dispute as his private property. Kimpo vs. Tabanar, G.R. L-16476, Oct. 31, 1961.

Alfafara vs. Mapa, 95 Phil. 125, 133 (1954).

And now to the main question: Is there warrant for the lower courts conclusion that appellees
application for a homestead had been approved? We believe there is:
First, it appears that sometime in 1936, a certain Teodocia Escobedo claimed in the Bureau of
Lands (Claim No. 103) the land in question and its improvements and contested appellees application
for this purpose. In a decision dated January 28, 1941, dismissing the claim, the Director of Lands made
a statement from which it may fairly be inferred that appellee had been allowed to enter the land and
that his application had been granted, since under section 13 of the Public Land Act entry is allowed
only after the approval of the application.
Second, . the documents entitled Transfer of Homestead Rights, whereby appellee transferred his
rights to 4 hectares to appellant Calangan and 3 hectares to Basilia Tomas, recite in the first
WHEREAS" that by virtue of Homestead Application No. 206623 approved on January 28, 1941 in
accordance with Chapter IV of Com. Act No. 141, as amended, the Director of Lands allowed SERAPIO
DAUAN to enter upon, occupy, cultivate, and reside on the tract of land described as follows x x x.
Incidentally, these documents are in the form prescribed by the Bureau of Lands. The date given
(January 28, 1941) as date of approval of the application is the date of the decision in Claim No. 103.
Third, if appellees application had not been approved then he obviously had no right to transfer to
the appellants, since as already pointed out, under section 13 of the statute, only after the approval of
his application can an applicant enter and cultivate the land being applied for. Fourth, appellee had all
qualifications prescribed by the statute 5 and the presumption is that in the perform________________
5

Section 12 of the Public Land Act provides:

Any citizen of the Philippines over the age of eighteen years, or the head of a family, who does not
own more than twenty-four hectares of land in the Philippines or has not had the benefit of any
gratuitous allotment of more than twentyfour hectares of land since the occupation of the Philippines by
the United States, may enter a homestead of not exceeding twenty-four hectares of agricultural land of
the public domain.
229

VOL. 19, JANUARY 81, 1967

229

that appellants return the possession of the land in question to the appellee upon the return to them of
the purchase price they had paid to the appellee. 6 We do not forget, of course, that a transfer of rights
without the previous approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources shall result in the
cancellation of the entry and the refusal of the patent of the appellee but the cancellation is not
automatic and as long as the Government has not chosen to act, the rights of appellee must stand. 7
Dauan vs. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, et al.

ance of his duty, the Director granted appellees application. Indeed, section 13 of the statute commands
the Director to approve the application. upon the filing (thereof) x x x if he finds that the application
should be approved x x x and authorize the applicant to take possession of the land upon payment of five
pesos, Philippine currency, as entry fee. The fact that appellee was in possession of the homestead at
the time of the conveyances to the appellants, coupled by the lack of anything to show that he was not in
possession of the requisite qualifications, fairly indicates that his application had been approved by the
Director of Lands.
These are circumstances strongly favoring the inference that appellees application had been
granted. In disregarding them and in insisting instead on the presentation of the records or
reconstituted records to prove the grant of appellees application, respondent land officials acted in
excess of jurisdiction. This is not the first time circumstantial evidence is admitted to prove the grant of
official sanction. In Garcia, v. Valera, 88 Phil. 472 (1951), the question was whether the sale of a
homestead had been previously approved by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The
trial court held that as defendant failed to prove that the sale was approved, the same was void. In
reversing the lower courts ruling, the Supreme Court held:
It is significant that appellees witness did not definitely declare that the sale in question did not carry
the requisite approval when it was presented for registration; that the appellant at least testified, and
this is uncontradicted, that he took to the office of the register of deeds of Nueva Vizcaya a letter
obtained from the Bureau of Lands in connection with his sale; and that the corresponding transfer
certificate of title (No. 3313) was issued in the name of appellant by the register of deeds of Nueva
Vizcaya in virtue of the sale made by Marcelo Uson. All these, coupled with the fact that the record does
not show any constitutional or legal ground for not approving the sale in question and with the legal
presumptions that official duty has been regularly performed and the law has been obeyed, fairly lead to
the conclusion that the sale from Marcelo Uson to the appellant was made in conformity with
Commonwealth Act No. 456 x x x.
230

Wherefore, the decision appealed from is affirmed, without pronouncement as to costs.


Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Makalintal, Bengzon, J.P., Zaldivar, Sanchez and Castro,
JJ., concur.
Decision affirmed.
Notes.As to exhaustion of administrative remedies, see Hodges vs. Municipal Board of Iloilo
City, L-18276, Jan. 12, 1967, ante.With respect to reversion, note the ruling that under section 29 of the
Public Land Law the reversion is automatic (Francisco vs. Rodriguez. 99 Phil. 1033).
____________
Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

>SANTELLICES
GR. NO. L-348
FLORENTINO PASCUA, plaintiff and appellee, vs. JOSE TALENS, defendant and appellant.
PUBLIC LAND LAW; HOMESTEAD; SALE AND REPURCHASE BY HOMESTEADER'S
WIDOW OR HEIRS.Under section 117 of Act No. 2874, the right to repurchase exist? not only
when the original homesteader makes the conveyance, but also when it is made by his widow or
heirs.
APPEAL from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija. Villasan, J.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.
Juan M. Ladaw and J. Mauricio Pimentel for appellant.
Benedicto Q. Bringas for appellee.
BENGZON, J.:

230

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Lavina vs. De Leon, et al.

We hold, therefore, that the conveyances to the appellants, which were admittedly made without the
previous approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, are void and, consequently,

This litigation calls for application or interpretation of section 117 of Act No. 2874, which for
convenience is herein quoted:
"Every conveyance of land acquired under the free patent or homestead provisions, when proper, shall
be subject to repurchase by the applicant, his widow, or legal heirs, for a period of five years from the
date of the conveyance."
When a legal heir of the homesteader acquires title to the homestead, and subsequently sells it, may the
said heir invoke the above section to establish his right to repurchase such homestead? That is the
question squarely raised in this expediente.
The facts are these: (1) Under the provisions of Act No. 2874, Sinforoso Pascua obtained ownership
of a homestead of about twenty-two hectares in Bongabon,

793
VOL. 80, APRIL 30, 1948

793

Pascua, vs. Talens


Nueva Ecija by Patent No. 32910 dated June 3, 1935, duly registered in the provincial register of deeds
as original certificate of title No. 2736. (2) On March 23, 1936, Florentino Pascua acquired said
homestead by inheritance, a transfer certificate of title No. 11253 having been issued to him. (3) On
August 2, 1940, Florentino Pascua (herein plaintiff) sold the above-mentioned land to Jose Talens (the
defendant) for the sum of P1,180.00. (4) In 1943, plaintiff demanded reconveyance of the land pursuant
to section 117 of Act No. 2874. The defendant having refused, this action was interposed in the Court of
First Instance of Nueva Ecija. (5) That court found for the plaintiff and rendered appropriate orders.
Hence this appeal by defendant, who has all the time maintained that section 117 is not applicable to
the situation.
We are not advised of any previous ruling of this Court on the matter. However, the solution of the
question is not hard to seek, if the section is carefully analyzed in the light of the purposes of the Public
Land Act.
It is well-known that the homestead laws were designed to distribute disposable agricultural lots of
the State to land-destitute citizens for their home and cultivation. Pursuant to such benevolent
intention the State prohibits the sale or encumbrance of the homestead (Section 116) within five years
after the grant of the patent. After' that five-year period the law impliedly permits alienation of the
homestead; but in line with the primordial purpose to favor the homesteader and his family the statute
provides that such alienation or conveyance (Section 117) shall be subject to the right of repurchase by
the homesteader, his widow or heirs within five years. This section 117 is undoubtedly a complement of
section 116. It aims to preserve and keep in the family of the homesteader that portion of public land
which the State had gratuitously given to him. It would, therefore, be in keeping with this fundamental
idea to hold, as we hold, that the right to repurchase exists not only when the original homesteader
makes the conveyance, but also when
794
794

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

Miguel vs. Tose


it is made by his widow or heirs. This construction is clearly deducible from the terms of the statute.
Wherefore, the appealed decision will be affirmed, with costs against the appellant. So ordered.
Feria, Pablo, Perfecto, and Tuason, JJ., concur.
Judgment affirmed.
_____________
Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

>L, SANTIAGO

610

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Salonga, Ordoez, Yap, Sicat & Associates for petitioners.


Simeon vs. Pea

Jesus B. Santos for respondents Peas.


TEEHANKEE, J.:

No. L-29049. December 29, 1970.


DEOGRACIAS SIMEON and NATIVIDAD MASANGKAY, petitioners, vs. LOURDES PEA,JOSE
PEA,The MANUFACTURERS BANK AND TRUST COMPANY and THE COURT OF APPEALS ,
respondents.
Public Land Law; Underlying principle for enactment. The plain intent of the law is to give the
homesteader or patentee every chance to preserve for himself and his family the land that the State had
gratuitously given to him as a reward for his labor in cleaning and cultivating it. It is in this sense that
the provision of law, Section 119 of Commonwealth Act

Appeal by certiorari from a decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the judgment rendered by the
Court of First Instance of Rizal.
Petitioners-spouses, as plaintiffs, had filed on July 1, 1963 with the Court of First Instance of Rizal
their complaint against respondents-spouses Lourdes Pea and Jose Pea as defendants to compel the
latter to resell to them the property of 4.4695 hectares in Antipolo, Rizal, covered by Transfer
Certificate of Title No. 90368 of the register
612

611
612
VOL. 36, DECEMBER 29, 1970

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

611
Simeon vs. Pea

Simeon vs. Pea

141, becomes unqualified and unconditional. And in keeping with such reasons behind the
passage of the law, its basic objective is to promote public policy, that is, to provide home and decent
living for destitutes, aimed at promoting a class of independent small landholders which is the bulwark
of peace and order.
Same; Redemption; When redemption may not be allowed.Homesteaders should not be allowed
to take advantage of the salutary policy behind the Public Land Law to enable them to recover the land
in question from vendees only to dispose of it again at much greater profit to themselves.
Remedial Law; Evidence; Witnesses; Weighing of conflicting evidence by the Court of Appeals.It
has been consistently held that the credibility of witnesses and the weighing of conflicting evidence are
matters within the exclusive authority of the Court of Appeals and that barring a showing that the
findings complained of are totally devoid of support in the record, or that they are so glaringly erroneous
as to constitute a serious abuse of discretion, such findings must stand, for the Supreme Court is not
expected or required to examine and contrast the oral and documentary evidence submitted by the
partieswhich evidence is not elevated to the Court and will not be sent for in the absence of special
reasons and circumstances to do so.
APPEAL by certiorari from a decision of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

of deeds of Rizal for the sum of P23,566.50. They joined in their suit as co-defendant, respondent
Manufacturers Bank and Trust Company to which the Pea spouses had mortgaged on October 4, 1961
the said property as security for payment of a P30,000.00-mortgage loan extended them by the bank.
The history of the property and of the transactions thereon between the parties is thus narrated in
the appellate court's decision: "On July 2, 1935, the then Governor General of the Philippine Islands,
Frank Murphy, issued Patent No. 18711 in the name of the heirs of Ignacio Simeon. The document was
duly registered in the Office of the Register of Deeds of the Province of Rizal, and on the basis thereof,
Original Certificate of Title No. 732 (Exh. O) was issued.
"The heirs of Ignacio Simeon, namely, plaintiff Deogracias Simeon and his brother, Emiliano,
executed an instrument of adjudication sometime in the year 1958 over the property covered by said
Certificate of Title No. 732. Upon registration thereof, Original Certificate of Title No. 732 was cancelled
and in lieu thereof Transfer Certificate of Title No. 57271 (Exh. B, for Lot No. 1, which is more
particularly described as follows, to wit: x x x was issued in the name of plaintiff Deogracias Simeon,
and Transfer Certificate of Title No. 57272, for Lot No. 2, was issued in the name of Emiliano Simeon,
the brother and co-heir of said plaintiff.
"On August 25, 1958, in the City of Manila, herein plaintiffs executed a Deed of First Mortgage
(Exhibit A) in favor of the defendants spouses over the above-described property to secure the payment
of a loan of P18,000.00 extended to them by defendants spouses. As plaintiffs defaulted in the payment
of the loan, defendant Lourdes Pea filed a Civil Case No. 5867 against them in the Court of First
Instance of Rizal for the foreclosure of the mortgage. The litigating parties therein, however entered into
a compromise agreement and on the basis thereof, a decision was promulgated under date of August 16,

1960 (Exhibit D). Plaintiffs herein failed to comply with the terms and conditions stipulated in the
aforesaid compromise agreement,
613

Simeon vs. Pea


VOL. 36, DECEMBER 29, 1970

613

Simeon vs. Pea

and upon motion of the herein defendants, the Court issued a writ of execution foreclosing the mortgage
on March 22, 1961.
"Accordingly, the property described in Transfer Certificate of Title No. 57271 was sold at public
auction on April 27, 1961, and defendant Lourdes Pea, as highest bidder purchased the same for
P23,566.50 as evidenced by the Certificate of Sale (Exhibit E) executed in her favor by the Provincial
Sheriff of Rizal. "The sale was approved and confirmed by the Court in its Order (Exhibit F) issued
under date of May 11, 1961.
"Upon registration of said Certificate of Sale and the Order above-adverted to, Transfer Certificate
of Title No. 57271 was cancelled and Transfer Certificate of Title No. 90368 (Exhibit G) was issued in
the name of defendant Lourdes Pea.
"On October 4, 1961, the same property was mortgaged by the defendants Jose Pea and Lourdes
Pea to the defendant Manufacturers Bank and Trust Company to secure an indebtedness of
P30,000.00. The mortgage was duly registered in the office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal under Entry
No. 31889/T-No. 90368 and annotated in Transfer Certificate of Title No. 90368.
"On March 27, 1963, plaintiffs, through their counsel sent a letter (Exh. H) to the defendants
demanding the repurchase of the property in question which demand, however, was not honored by the
latter thereby constraining the former to file the present suit."
The appellate court found that petitioner Simeon was a real estate owner and operator, having
subdivided another original homestead likewise inherited by him from his father which he sold as 45
subdivided residential lots: "It also appears that plaintiff Deogracias Simeon owned several parcels of
land apart from Lot 1 of Transfer Certificate of Title No. 57271, which is not the litigated parcel, among
which are

1. tipolo, Rizal, consisting of approximately 45 residential lots, although most of the lots
comprised in the same have already been sold (t.s.n., Session of December 2, 1965, pp. 69) ;
2. "(b)600 square meters of residential lot located at 36 Sumulong Street, Antipolo, Rizal (t.s.n.,
Session of December 2, 1965, p. 13);
3. "(c)Another residential lot located in the interior of Sumulong Street, Antipolo, Rizal,
consisting of 2,340 square meters (t.s.n., Session of December 2, 1965, p. 13);
4. "(d)A rice land located at Antipolo, Rizal consisting of around 500 square meters although
the plaintiff claims that he had already sold the same (t.s.n., Session of December 2, 1965,
p. 17).
"And that as admitted by the plaintiff the Doa Nati Subdivision formed part of an original homestead
granted to his late father Ignacio Simeon, which the plaintiff and his brother Emiliano subsequently
inherited from their father and divided it into equal shares (t.s.n., pp. 21-23, Dec. 2, 1965). One half of
this homestead grant was sold by Emiliano to the spouses Antonio Fernando and Felisa Nicolas (t.s.n.,
pp. 17-18, Dec. 2, 1965), while the other half portion was likewise sold by the plaintiff to Rosario
Tuason, which portion was later on repurchased by the plaintiff, now known as the Doa Nati
Subdivision (t.s.n., p. 18, Dec. 2, 1965), covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 92278 of the Register
of Deeds for the province of Rizal (t.s.n., p. 11, Dec. 2, 1965). Thereafter, plaintiff had caused this 'Doa
Nati Subdivision' to be subdivided into 45 residential lots more or less through a certain Atty.
Castaeda who took charge of selling the subdivided lots for the plaintiff (t.s.n., pp. 8-9, Dec. 2, 1965).
Almost all of these residential lots were already sold (t.s.n., p. 12, id.)."
The appellate court upheld the trial court in the latter's disbelieving petitioner Simeon's allegation
"that he is redeeming it for sentimental reasons without intention of subdividing much less selling the
same" as against respondent Lourdes Pea's testimony "that on several occasions in the year 1963,
plaintiff had been persuading them to sell back the property as he had either a buyer who
615

1. "(a)The Doa Nati Subdivision located at Parugan, An


VOL. 36, DECEMBER 29, 1970

614

614

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Simeon vs. Pea

615

was willing to pay a high price for the property or somebody who was willing to finance the development
and subdivision of the property and whatever profit they would realize would be divided equally with
them (plaintiff and defendants Peas)."
The appellate court thus ruled that it would not sanction petitioners' objective in seeking to redeem
the property merely to enable them to speculate and dispose of it again at much greater profit in
violation of the salutary policy behind section 119 of the Public Land Law "to preserve and keep in the
family of the homesteader that portion of the public land which the State had gratuitously given to
him."1 The appellate court held:
"The decisive issue to be threshed out is whether or not under the foregoing established facts the
plaintiffs can still redeem the property pursuant to Section 119 of Commonwealth Act 141, which
provides as follows:
'Section 119. Every conveyance of land acquired under the free patent or homestead provisions, when
proper, shall be subject to repurchase by the applicant, his widow, or legal heirs within a period of five
years from the date of conveyance.'
"In connection with this issue, we have examined with care the cases decided involving the aforequoted
provision of law (Pascua vs. Talens, 80 Phil. 792; Isaac, et al. vs. Tan Chuan Leong, et al., G.R. No. L3324, May 23, 1951; Sigbe Lasud, et al. vs. Sontay Lasud, et al., G.R. No. L-19242, Feb. 29,
1964; Sagucio vs. Bulos, G.R. Nos. L-17608-09, July 31, 1962; Francisco, et al. vs. Certeza, et al., G.R.
No. L-16849, Nov. 29, 1961) in order to analyze and effectively understand and weight the reason
underlying the decisions of the Supreme Court in said cases so as to serve as guideposts in resolving the
question presented before us by the plaintiffs-appellants. In all these cases heretofore mentioned the
Honorable Supreme Court adhered to the underlying principle for which said law was enacted in that
the plain intent of the law is to give the homesteader or patentee every chance to preserve for himself
and his family the land that the State had gratuitously given to him as

provide home and decent living for destitutes, aimed at promoting a class of independent small
landholders which is the bulwark of peace and order.
"In the instant case, however, the lower court found out that plaintiff's purpose in exercising his right of
redemption is not 'for the purpose of preserving the same within the family fold.' And such conclusion
reached by the trial court finds justification from the evidence of record. By the plaintiffs' own evidence
and admission in court, plaintiff is engaged in real estate business and that one of the homestead grants
of his father, which was inherited by him and later on converted by him into more or less 45 subdivided
residential lots were practically all disposed of through sale. Evidently, the reconveyance sought by the
plaintiff is not in accordance with the purpose of the law, that is, 'to preserve and keep in the family of
the homesteader that portion of public land which the State has gratuitously given to him' x x apart
from the fact that plaintiff as being the owner of several parcels cannot be treated as a landless person,
referred to in said law. Accordingly, plaintiffs-appellants cannot invoke the application of said law in his
favor."
Petitioners anchor their appeal on the contention that "there is no evidence that petitioners are not
going to preserve the homestead land in question in their family or that they are going to resell the
same after they have made the repurchase from respondents Peas," while conceding that respondent
Pea had testified that they had offered to share equally the profits of the sale or subdivision of the
property (which they would dismiss as a "bare uncorroborated allegation") 2 and that "petitioner
Deogracias Simeon had sold another homestead land inherited by him from his father, repurchased
from the vendee, and sub_______________
2

Petitioner's brief, pp. 8-9.

617

_______________
1

Pascua vs. Talens, 80 Phil. 792 (1948).

VOL. 36, DECEMBER 29, 1970

617

* Editor's Note: Should be read "applicant."


Simeon vs. Pea

616

616

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Simeon vs. Pea

a reward for his labor in cleaning and cultivating it. And we agree with the trial court that it is in this
sense that the provision of law in question becomes unqualified and unconditional. And in keeping with
such reasons behind, the passage of the law, its basic objective is to promote public policy, that is, to

divided it into lots some of which he has soldbut this does not mean that he is likewise repurchasing
the homestead land now, in question also for subdivision and resale. There is no proof at all of such
intention."3
These findings of fact of the Court of Appeals that "(E)vidently, the reconveyance sought by the
plaintiff [petitioner] is not in accordance with the purpose of the law, that is, 'to preserve and keep in the
family of the homesteader that portion of public land which the State has gratuitously given to him'"
and expressly found by it to "find justification from the evidence of record. By the plaintiff's own
evidence and admission in court . . .," as correctly contended by respondents, are beyond review of this
Court in this appeal. The Court has consistently held, as recently restated by Mr. Justice Jose B. L.
Reyes in Alvero vs. Reas,4 that "the credibility of witnesses and the weighing of conflicting evidence are
matters within the exclusive authority of the Court of Appeals" and that "barring a showing that the

findings complained of are totally devoid of support in the record, or that they are so glaringly erroneous
as to constitute a serious abuse of discretion, such findings must stand, for the Supreme Court is not
expected or required to examine and contrast the oral and documentary evidence submitted by the
parties"which evidence is not elevated to the Court and will not be sent for in the absence of special
reasons and circumstances to do so.

was constrained to allow recovery of the homestead upon payment of the original price paid, since the
sale had been made within the initial prohibitory five-year period and was null and void ab initio under
section 118, but in view of the lower court's findings that the homesteader had "embarked in a venture
of speculation over the homestead," the Court nevertheless found it appropriate "to refer this case to the
Director of Lands for

Under the circumstances, the Court is constrained to agree with the Court of Appeals that
petitioners' proposed repurchase of the property does not fall within the purpose, spirit and meaning of
section 119 of the Public Land Act, authorizing redemption of the homestead from any vendee thereof,
in the same manner that the Court ruled out in Lasud vs. Lasud,5 redemption by the daughter of the
homesteader from his son, of her one-half share of the homestead which she had sold to him (her
brother), after

_______________

_______________

See also Umengan vs. Butacan, 7 SCRA 311 (1963).

Supra, fn. 1.

103 Phil. 1 (1958).

619

Idem, p. 10.

L-28337, Sept. 30, 1970, citing Santa Ana, Jr. vs. Hernandez, 18 SCRA 973(1966).

10 SCRA 425 (1964).

VOL. 36, DECEMBER 29, 1970

619

618
Universal Textile Mills, Inc. vs. Court of Industrial Relations

618

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Simeon vs. Pea

their father's death. In the other decisions of the Court cited by the Court of Appeals as well as by the
parties,6 (upholding the right of redemption), what is noteworthy is that the redemptioner's purpose
therein in seeking redemption of the homestead was not questioned as being in violation of the policy
and spirit of section 119 of the Public Land Act which benevolently subjects to the right of repurchase
within five years from the date of conveyance, any conveyance of the homestead made by the
homesteader, his widow or legal heirs, even if it is effected past the 25-year period from issuance of title
during which any conveyance after the initial five-year prohibitory period (section 118) is required to
bear the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "These homestead laws" as
stated by the Court in Pascua vs. Talens,7 "were designed to distribute disposable agricultural lots of the
State to land-destitute citizens for their home and cultivation ... It [referring to sec. 119] aims to
preserve and keep in the family of the homesteader that portion of public land which the State had
gratuitously given to him." Here, petitioners' purpose was frontally challenged and conclusively found to
be for the speculative purpose of redeeming the land only to dispose of it again for greater profit in
violation of the law's policy and spirit.
In Santander vs. Villanueva,8 where the Court held that "[homesteaders] should not be allowed to
take advantage of the salutary policy behind the Public Land Law to enable them to rocover the land in
question from [vendees] only to dispose of it again and much greater profit to themselves," the Court

investigation and forfeiture of (the) homestead under sec. 124 of the Public Land Law, if the facts found
would warrant such forfeiture."
ACCORDINGLY, the judgment appealed from is hereby affirmed, with costs against petitioners.
Reyes. J.B.L., Dizon, Makalintal, Zaldivar, Fernando,Barredo, Villamor and Makasiar,
JJ., concur.
Concepcion, C.J. and Castro, J., did not take part.
Judgment affirmed.
______________
Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

>M, SANTIAGO

VOL. 205, JANUARY 27, 1992

515

Benzonan vs. Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 97973. January 27, 1992.*


SPOUSES GAUVAIN and BERNARDITA BENZONAN, petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS,
BENITO SALVANI PE and DEVELOPMENT BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

G.R. No. 97998. January 27, 1992.*


DEVELOPMENT BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs.COURT OF APPEALS and BENITO
SALVANI PE, respondents.
Agrarian Law; Commonwealth Act No. 141; Respondent cannot repurchase the disputed property
without doing violence to everything that Commonwealth Act No. 141 as amended, stands for.In the
light of the records of these cases, we rule that respondent Pe cannot repurchase the disputed property
without doing violence to everything that CA No. 141 (as amended) stands for. We ruled in Simeon v.
Pea, 36 SCRA 610, 617 [1970] through Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, that: x x x x x x x x x "These
findings of fact of the Court of Appeals that "(E)vidently, the reconveyance sought by the plaintiff
(petitioner) is not in accordance with the purpose of the law, that is, 'to preserve and keep in the family
of the homesteader that portion of public land which the State has gratuitously given to him'" and
expressly found by it to "find justification from the evidence of record. x x x." "Under the circumstances,
the Court is constrained to agree with the Court of Appeals that petitioners' proposed repurchase of the
property does not fall within the purpose, spirit and meaning of section 119 of the Public Land Act,
authorizing redemption of the homestead from any vendee thereof." We reiterated this ruling in Vargas
v. Court of Appeals, 91 SCRA 195, 200, [1979] viz: "As regards the case of Simeon v. Pea, petitioners
ought to know that petitioner

policy, that is, to provide home and decent living for destitutes, aimed at promoting a class of
independent small landholders which is the bulwark of peace and order." "As it was in Simeon v. Pea,
respondent Marias' intention in exercising the right of repurchase 'is not for the purpose of preserving
the same within the family fold,' but 'to dispose of it again for greater profit in violation of the law's
policy and spirit.' The foregoing conclusions are supported by the trial court's findings of fact already
cited, culled from evidence adduced. Thus respondent Marias was 71 years old and a widower at the
time of the sale in 1956; that he was 78 when he testified on October 24, 1963 (or over 94 years old today
if still alive); that. . . he was not living on the property when he sold the same but was residing in the
poblacion attending to a hardware store, and that the property was no longer agricultural at the time of
the sale, but was a residential and commercial lot in the midst of many subdivisions. The profit
motivation behind the effort to repurchase was conclusively shown when the then plaintiffs counsel, in
the case below, Atty. Loreto Castillo, in his presence, suggested to herein petitioners' counsel, Atty.
Rafael Dinglasan'. . . to just add to the original price so the case would be settled.' Moreover, Atty.
Castillo manifested in court that an amicable settlement was possible, for which reason he asked for
time 'within which to settle the terms thereof and that 'the plaintiff x x x Mr. Marias, has
517

VOL. 205, JANUARY 27, 1992

517

_______________
*

THIRD DIVISION.

Benzonan vs. Court of Appeals

516

516

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

manifested to the Court that if the defendants would be willing to pay the sum of One Peso and
Fifty Centavos (P1.50) per square meter, he would be willing to accept the offer and dismiss the case."
Our decisions were disregarded by the respondent court which chose to adopt a Court of Appeals ruling
in Lim, et al. v. Cruz, et al., CA-G.R. No. 67422, November 25, 1983 that the motives of the homesteader
in repurchasing the land are inconsequential" and that it does not matter even "when the obvious
purpose is for selfish gain or personal aggrandizement."

Benzonan vs. Court of Appeals

therein was not allowed to repurchase because the lower court found that his purpose was only
speculative and for profit. In the present case, the Court of Appeals found that herein petitioners'
purposes and motives are also speculative and for profit. "It might be well to note that the underlying
principle of Section 119 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 is to give the homesteader or patentee every
chance to preserve for himself and his family the land that the State had gratuitously given to him as a
reward for his labor in cleaning and cultivating it. (Simeon v. Pea, 36 SCRA 617). As found by the
Court of Appeals, the motive of the petitioners in repurchasing the lots in question being one for
speculation and profit, the same therefore does not fall within the purpose, spirit and meaning of said
section." And in Santana et. al, v. Marias, 94 SCRA 853, 861-862 [1979] to wit: "In Simeon v. Pea we
analyzed the various cases previously decided, and arrived at the conclusion that the plain intent,
the raison d'etre, of Section 119, C.A. No. 141 '. . . is to give the homesteader or patentee every chance to
preserve for himself and his family the land that the state had gratuitously given to him as a reward for
his labor in cleaning and cultivating it.' In the same breath, we agreed with the trial court, in that case,
that 'it is in this sense that the provision of law in question becomes unqualified and unconditional. And
in keeping with such reasons behind the passage of the law, its basic objective is to promote public

Same; Same; Civil Law; Retroactive application of a law; The retroactive application of a law
usually divests rights that have already become vested or impairs the obligations of contract and hence, is
unconstitutional.We sustain the petitioners' position. It is undisputed that the subject lot was
mortgaged to DBP on February 24, 1970. It was acquired by DBP as the highest bidder at a foreclosure
sale on June 18, 1977, and then sold to the petitioners on September 29, 1979. At that time, the
prevailing jurisprudence interpreting section 119 of R.A. 141 as amended was that enunciated in
Monge and Tupas cited above. The petitioners Benzonan and respondent Pe and the DBP are bound by
these decisions for pursuant to Article 8 of the Civil Code "judicial decisions applying or interpreting the
laws or the Constitution shall form a part of the legal system of the Philippines." But while our
decisions form part of the law of the land, they are also subject to Article 4 of the Civil Code which
provides that "laws shall have no retroactive effect unless the contrary is provided." This is expressed in
the familiar legal maxim lex prospicit, non respicit, the law looks forward not backward. The rationale
against retroactivity is easy to perceive. The retroactive application of a law usually divests rights that
have already become vested or impairs the obligations of contract and hence, is unconstitutional
(Francisco v. Certeza, 3 SCRA 565 [1961]). The same consideration underlies our rulings giving only
prospective effect to decisions enunciating new doctrines. Thus, we emphasized in People v. Jabinal, 55
SCRA 607 [1974] "x x x when a doctrine of this Court is overruled and a different view is adopted, the

new doctrine should be applied prospectively and should not apply to parties who had relied on the old
doctrine and acted on the faith thereof.

After the foreclosure sale, respondent Pe leased the lot and its improvements from DBP for
P1,500.00 a month. Part of the property was also leased by DBP to the then National Grains Authority.

PETITION for review from the decision of the Court of Appeals.

The respondent failed to redeem the property within the one year period. On September 24, 1979
DBP sold the lot to the petitioners for P1,650,000.00 payable in quarterly amortiza-

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.


519
Ruben E. Agpalo for Sps. Gauvain and Bernardita Benzonan.
518

518

VOL. 205, JANUARY 27, 1992

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Benzonan vs. Court of Appeals

Vicente R. Acsay for Benito Salvani Pe.


Thomas T. Jacobo for DBP.
GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:
This is a petition to review the August 31, 1990 decision of the Court of Appeals which sustained the
right of respondent Benito Salvani Pe to repurchase a parcel of land foreclosed by petitioner
Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and sold to petitioners Gauvain and Bernardita Benzonan.
Respondent Pe is a businessman in General Santos City who owns extensive commercial and
agricultural properties. He is the proprietor of the firm "Dadiangas B.P. Trading." One of the properties
he acquired through free patents and miscellaneous sales from the Bureau of Lands is a 26,064 square
meters parcel covered by Free Patent No. 46128 issued on October 29,1969. OCT No. P-2404 was issued
on November 24,1969.
On February 24, 1970 or barely three months after he acquired the land, the respondent mortgaged
the lot in question, together with another lot covered by TCT No. 3614 and some chattels to secure a
commercial loan of P978,920.00 from the DBP. The lot was developed into a commercial-industrial
complex with ricemill and warehouse facilities, a solar drier, an office and residential building, roadway,
garden, depository, and dumping grounds for various materials.
When the private respondent failed to pay his loan after more than seven years had passed, DBP
foreclosed the mortgage on June 28, 1977. On that date, the total obligation amounted to P1,114,913.34.
DBP was the highest bidder. Certificates of sale were issued in its favor; P452,995.00 was for the two
lots and P108,450.00 for the chattels. The certificate covering the disputed lot was registered with the
Registry of Deeds on January 24, 1978.

519

Benzonan vs. Court of Appeals

tions over a five year period. The petitioners occupied the purchased lot and introduced further
improvements worth P970,000.00.
On July 12, 1983, claiming that he was acting within the legal period given to him to repurchase,
respondent Pe offered in writing to repurchase the lot for P327,995.00. DBP countered, however, that
over the years a total of P3,056,739.52 had already been incurred in the preservation, maintenance, and
introduction of improvements.
On October 4, 1983, Pe filed a complaint for repurchase under Section 119 of Commonwealth Act
No. 141 with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of General Santos City.
On November 27, 1986, the trial court rendered judgment. The dispositive portion reads:
"WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the defendant Development Bank of the Philippines is ordered:
1. 1)to reconvey unto the plaintiff the parcel of land in question (Lot No. P-2404) for the
repurchase price of P327,995.00 plus legal interest from June 18, 1977 to June 19, 1978
only, and the expenses of extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage; expenses for registration
and ten percent (10%) attorney's fees;
2. 2)ordering the defendants to vacate forever the premises of said property in favor of the
plaintiff upon payment of the total repurchase price;
3. 3)ordering the defendants, jointly and solidarily, to pay the plaintiff attorney's fees in the
amount of P25,000.00;
4. 4)and to set an example to government banking and lending institutions not to take
borrowers for granted by making it hard for them to repurchase by misleading them, the
bank is hereby ordered to pay the plaintiff by way of exemplary damages in the amount of
P50,000.00;

Ordering further the defendant DBP:


1. 5)to reimburse the co-defendants spouses Benzonan the amount they have paid or advanced
the defendant DBP for the purchase of Lot O.C.T. No. P-2404;
2. 6)ordering the defendants to pay the cost of suit." (Rollo of G.R. No. 97973, pp. 74-75)
On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision with modifications as follows:

520

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Benzonan vs. Court of Appeals

xxxx

3. 3.The Court of Appeals erred in applying retroactively the ruling in Belisario v. Intermediate
Appellate Court, 165 SCRA 101 [1988], which held that the 5-year period is counted from
the date after the one-year period to redeem foreclosed homestead expired, to the
foreclosure of the land in question in 1977, as its retroactive application revived Pe's lost
right of repurchase and defeated petition
521

520

xxx

737 [1967] and Tupas v. Damasco, 132 SCRA 593 [1984], pursuant to which Pe's right to
repurchase already expired.

xxx

"All the foregoing premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered AFFIRMING the decision
rendered by the court a quo with the modification that the defendant DBP shall reimburse to its codefendant Benzonan spouses all amounts that the latter have paid for the land, minus interest, and that
the Benzonan spouses shall be allowed to remove the improvement that they have made on the property
under litigation, without impairing or damaging the same." (Rollo of G.R. No. 97973, p. 105)

VOL. 205, JANUARY 27, 1992

521

Benzonan vs. Court of Appeals

1. ers' right of ownership that already accrued under the then prevailing doctrinal law.
2. 4.Assuming, arguendo, that respondent Pe had the right to repurchase the land in question
and assuming, further, that the 5-year period is to be counted from the consolidation of
ownership after the expiration of the one-year period to redeem, the Court of Appeals erred
in not holding that the mere filing of an action for repurchase without tendering or
depositing the repurchase price did not satisfy the requirements of repurchase, Pe's failure
to make the tender or deposit even up to the present being confirmatory of speculative
motive behind his attempt to repurchase.

A motion for reconsideration was denied on March 19,1991.


The petitioners-spouses in G.R. No. 97973 raise the following "legal issues, reasons, or errors"
allegedly committed by the Court of Appeals, to wit:
1. 1.The Court of Appeals erred in holding that conversion and use of the land in question to
industrial or commercial purposes, as a result of which it could no longer be used for
cultivation, and the fact that respondent Pe has vast holdings whose motive in seeking to
repurchase the property is to continue the business or for speculation or greater profits did
not deprive him of the right to repurchase under Sec. 119 of CA 141, and, as a result, in
ignoring or disregarding Pe's admissions and undisputed facts establishing such
circumstances, contrary to what this Court held in Santana v. Marias, 94 SCRA
853 [1979], Vargas v. Court of Appeals, 91 SCRA 195 [1979] and Simeon v. Pea, 36 SCRA
610 [1970]).
2. 2.Assuming, arguendo, that respondent Pe still had the right to repurchase the land under
Sec. 119 of CA 141, the Court of Appeals erred in not counting the 5-year period from the
date of foreclosure sale on June 18, 1977 or at the very most from its registration on
January 24, 1978, in accordance with the prevailing doctrinal law at the time as
enunciated in Monge v. Angeles, 101 Phil. 561 [1957],Oliva v. Lamadrid, 21 SCRA

3. 5.Assuming, finally, that respondent Pe is entitled to repurchase the property, the Court of
Appeals erred in not holding that petitioners are possessors in good faith, similar to a
vendee a retro, entitled (a) to reimbursement of necessary and useful expenses under
Article 1616 of the Civil Code as held in Calagan v. CFI of Davao, 95 SCRA 498 [1980] and
in Lee v. Court of Appeals, 68 SCRA 196[1975]; and (b) to refund of all amounts paid by
them by reason of the sale of the property in their favor, including interest payments, in
both instances with right of retention." (Rollo of G.R. No. 97973, pp. 14-16)
In G.R. No. 97998, DBP limited its petition to the value of the repurchase price and the nature of the
contract between the parties. It framed the issues as follows:
1. "1.The Court of Appeals erred in not holding that Section 31 of Commonwealth Act No. 459
as amended is not applicable in the instant case to determine the repurchase price
contrary to decisions of the Honorable Supreme Court in the following cases: DBP v.
Jimenez, et al. (36 SCRA 426) and DBP v. Mirang (66 SCRA 141).
2. 2.The Court of Appeals erred in not holding that the law between the contracting parties are
the terms and conditions embodied in the contract signed by them." (Rollo of G.R. No.
97998, p. 12)

We find merit in the petitions.


The determination of the main issues raised by the petitioners calls for the proper application of
Section 119 of CA 141 as amended which provides: "Every conveyance of land acquired under the free
patent or homestead provisions, when proper, shall be subject to repurchase by the applicant, his widow,
or legal heirs, within a period of five years from the date of conveyance."

Q.

What about the area occupied by the residence as well as the roadways?

A.

It covers about another half of a hectare again, Sir.

Q.

Is any part of this two point six hectares devoted to agricultural production or production of agricultural

522

522

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

crops?

Benzonan vs. Court of Appeals

There is no dispute over the fact that the Government awarded the land to respondent Pe so that he
could earn a living by farming the land. Did respondent Pe lose his right to repurchase the subject
agricultural lot under the aforequoted law considering its conversion for industrial or commercial
purposes? The evidence relating to the conversion is sufficiently established and yet was not properly
appreciated by the respondent court.
Only three months after getting the free patent and the original certificate of title over the subject
lot, it was mortgaged by respondent Pe to get a commercial loan of nearly P1 million from DBP. Pe spent
the proceeds of the loan to construct permanent improvements on the lot for his rice-mill and other
businesses, i.e., two warehouse buildings; administration-residential building; perimeter fence; solar
and concrete drier; shed; machine shop; dirty kitchen; and machineries and equipments such as ricemill
(TSN, August 13, 1984, pp. 173-174). The entire lot has been converted to serve commercial and
industrial purposes. The testimony of petitioners Gauvain Benzonan on this score has not been
successfully challenged, viz:

A.

None whatsoever because the other portion is occupied as a dumping area for our waste materials." (TSN, PP.
361-362, Sept. 3, 1985).

The conversion of the lot for commercial purposes is understandable considering that the heart of
General Santos City developed in that area.
523

VOL. 205, JANUARY 27, 1992

523

Benzonan vs. Court of Appeals


"Q

Out of this 2.6 hectares land area, how much of this is devoted to the solar drier construction?

A.

Q.

meters.

The respondent does not deny that, he is using the land for purely commercial and industrial purposes.
His explanation is that the land may be converted into agricultural land in the future. He applies the
Krivenko v. Register of Deeds of Manila (79 Phil. 461 [1947]) ruling that lands not mineral or forest are
agricultural in nature and may be devoted to business purposes without losing their agricultural
classification.

What about the area occupied by the warehouse and the ricemill complex?

Indeed, the records show that it was never the intention of respondent Pe to utilize the land, given
to him for free by the Government, for agricultural purposes. He was not the kind of poor farmer for
whom homesteads and free patents were intended by the law.

The solar drier is about one thousand (1,000) square meters . . . ah no, about six thousand (6,000) square

As stated by the petitioners:


A.

The warehouse and ricemill complex is occupying about one and a half (11/2) hectares.

1. "1.Respondent Pe acquired by free patent the land in question with an area of 2.6064
hectares, which was issued Original Certificate of Title No. P-2404 on November 24,1969.
Instead of cultivating it for agricultural purposes, Pe mortgaged the land, along with
another land, on February 24, 1970, or only three (3) months from issuance of OCT No. P2404, with the DBP for P978,920.00. (par. 4, complaint, Annex "A"). Pe testified that his
purpose was to construct in the land in question 'bodega', an administration-residential
building, a perimeter fence, a concrete drier, and for some machineries and equipment."
(TSN, p. 95, June 22, 1984). He stated that the improvements and facilities in the land
included the warehouse, the ricemill and a big warehouse housing the palay of stocks of the
National Grains Authority and an administration residential building, a solar drier and a
perimeter fence and some sheds or garage x x x a small piggery pen of several
compartments, a dirty kitchen x x x a machine shop.' (TSN, pp. 173-174, August 13, 1984).
Pe used the property for such purposes and operated the ricemill business for a period of
about nine (9) years until September, 1979 (pars. 7 and 8, complaint, Annex "A"), without
paying the DBP of his mortgage indebtedness, as a result of which DBP foreclosed the
properties. (Annex "F")
2. 2.Respondent Pe testified that the land in question with its improvements has an appraised
value of P1,347,860.00 in 1974, and P2,028,030.00 in 1976. (TSN, pp. 176, 177, August 13,
1984). Petitioner Gauvain Benzonan claimed it has a fair market value, as of 1985, of
P5,000,000.00. (p. 8, trial court decision, Annex "F"). As against such value of the land and
improvements, respondent Pe insisted that the repurchase price should only be the
principal sum of P327,995.00. (par. 10, complaint, Annex "A")
524

524

(c)

2.000 hectares of agri. lot

P 40,000.00

(d)

2.000 hectares of agri. lot

P 40,000.00

(e)

6,064 sq. m. of industrial lot

P303,200.00

(f)

Industrial building

P434,130.00

(g)

Industrial machinery

P 96,000.00

On June 22,1984, when Pe testified, he said that 'I own three (3) residential lots,' (TSN, p. 153, June
22,1984) and that he and his wife own in Antique Province 'around twenty (20) hectares planted to
coconut and sugarcane' (ibid., p. 145); he used to have 30 hectares of agricultural lands and 22
subdivision lots, which he sold to Norma Salvani and Carlos Salvani. (TSN, pp. 166-169, June 22,1984);
Exhs. 1,1-A, 1-B, 1-C, 3,6,6-A-Benzonan)." (Rollo of G.R. No. 97973, pp. 17-19)

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

In the light of the records of these cases, we rule that respondent Pe cannot repurchase the disputed
property without doing violence to everything that CA No. 141 (as amended) stands for.

Benzonan vs. Court of Appeals

that:

We ruled in Simeon v. Pea, 36 SCRA 610,617 [1970] through Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee,

xxx
1. 3.Respondent Pe, when he testified in 1984, said he was 60 years old; he is now therefore
over 66 years old. He is a 'businessman and resident of Dadiangas, General Santos City'
(TSN, p. 3, June 20, 1984), doing business under the style, 'Dadiangas B.P. Trading' (TSN,
144, June 22,1984). In his sworn declaration dated July 18, 1983, filed with the assessor's
office pursuant to P.D. No. 1612, he listed the following real properties and their market
value, all situated in General Santos City, to wit (Exh. 11-Benzonan):

xxx

xxx

These findings of fact of the Court of Appeals that "(E)vidently, the reconveyance sought by the
plaintiff (petitioner) is not in accordance with the purpose of the law, that is, 'to preserve and keep in the
family of the homesteader that portion of public land which the State has gratuitously given to him'"
and expressly found by it to "find justification from the evidence of record. x x x."
"Under the circumstances, the Court is constrained to agree with the Court of Appeals that
petitioners' proposed repurchase of the property does not fall within the purpose, spirit and meaning of
section 119 of the Public Land Act, authorizing redemption of the

(a)

447 sq. m. residential

P 28,720.00
525

(b)

11.9980 hectares of agri. lot

P 23,880.00
VOL. 205, JANUARY 27, 1992

525

Benzonan vs. Court of Appeals

homestead from any vendee thereof."


We reiterated this ruling in Vargas v. Court of Appeals, 91 SCRA 195, 200, [1979] viz:
"As regards the case of Simeon v. Pea, petitioners ought to know that petitioner therein was not
allowed to repurchase because the lower court fund that his purpose was only speculative and for
profit. In the present case, the Court of Appeals found that herein petitioners' purposes and motives are
also speculative and for profit.
"It might be well to note that the underlying principle of Section 119 of Commonwealth Act No. 141
is to give the homesteader or patentee every chance to preserve for himself and his family the land that
the State had gratuitously given to him as a reward for his labor in cleaning and cultivating it. ( Simeon
v. Pea, 36 SCRA 617). As found by the Court of Appeals, the motive of the petitioners in repurchasing
the lots in question being one for speculation and profit, the same therefore does not fall within the
purpose, spirit and meaning of said section."
and in Santana et. al. v. Marias, 94 SCRA 853, 861-862 [1979] to wit:
"In Simeon v. Pea we analyzed the various cases previously decided, and arrived at the conclusion that
the plain intent, the raison d'etre, of Section 119, C.A. No. 141'. . . is to give the homesteader or patentee
every chance to preserve for himself and his family the land that the state had gratuitously given to him
as a reward for his labor in cleaning and cultivating it.' In the same breath, we agreed with the trial
court, in that case, that 'it is in this sense that the provision of law in question becomes unqualified and
unconditional. And in keeping with such reasons behind the passage of the law, its basic objective is to
promote public policy, that is, to provide home and decent living for destitutes, aimed at promoting a
class of independent small landholders which is the bulwark of peace and order."
"As it was in Simeon v. Pea, respondent Marias' intention in exercising the right of repurchase
'is not for the purpose of preserving the same within the family fold,' but to dispose of it again for
greater profit in violation of the law's policy and spirit.' The foregoing conclusions are supported by the
trial court's findings of fact already cited, culled from evidence adduced. Thus respondent Marias was
71 years old and a widower at the time of the sale in 1956; that he was 78 when he testified on October
24, 1963 (or over 94 years old today if still
526

526

alive); that . . . he was not living on the property when he sold the same but was residing in the
poblacion attending to a hardware store, and that the property was no longer agricultural at the time of
the sale, but was a residential and commercial lot in the midst of many subdivisions. The profit
motivation behind the effort to repurchase was conclusively shown when the then plaintiff's counsel, in
the case below, Atty. Loreto Castillo, in his presence, suggested to herein petitioners' counsel, Atty.
Rafael Dinglasan '. . . to just add to the original price so the case would be settled.' Moreover, Atty.
Castillo manifested in court that an amicable settlement was possible, for which reason he asked for
time 'within which to settle the terms thereof and that the plaintiff x x x Mr. Marias, has manifested to
the Court that if the defendants would be willing to pay the sum of One Peso and Fifty Centavos (P1 .
50) per square meter, he would be willing to accept the offer and dismiss the case."
Our decisions were disregarded by the respondent court which chose to adopt a Court of Appeals ruling
in Lim, et al v. Cruz, et al., CA-G.R. No. 67422, November 25, 1983 that the motives of the homesteader
in repurchasing the land are inconsequential" and that it does not matter even "when the obvious
purpose is for selfish gain or personal aggrandizement."
The other major issue is when to count the five-year period for the repurchase by respondent Pe
whether from the date of the foreclosure sale or from the expiration of the one year period to redeem the
foreclosed property.
The respondent court ruled that the period of repurchase should be counted from the expiration of
the one year period to redeem the foreclosed property. Since the one year period to redeem expired on
January 24, 1979 and he filed Case No. 280 on October 4, 1983 to enforce his right to repurchase the
disputed property, the Court of Appeals held that Pe exercised his right to repurchase within the fiveyear period provided by section 119 of CA 141 as amended.
The respondent court cited Belisario, et al., v. Intermediate Appellate Court, et al., 165 SCRA 101,
107 [1988] where we held:
"x x x In addition, Section 119 of Commonwealth Act 141 provides that every conveyance of land
acquired under the free patent or homestead patent provisions of the Public Land Act, when proper,
527

VOL. 205, JANUARY 27, 1992

527

Benzonan vs. Court of Appeals

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Benzonan vs. Court of Appeals

shall be subject to repurchase by the applicant, his widow or legal heirs within the period of five years
from the date of conveyance. The five-year period of redemption fixed in Section 119 of the Public Land
Law of homestead sold at extrajudicial foreclosure begins to run from the day after the expiration of the
one-year period of repurchase allowed in an extrajudicial foreclosure. (Manuel v. PNB, et al., 101 Phil.
968) Hence, petitioners still had five (5) years from July 22, 1972 (the expiration of the redemption
period under Act 3135) within which to exercise their right to repurchase under the Public Land Act."

As noted by the respondent court, the 1988 case of Belisarioreversed the previous rulings of this Court
enunciated in Monge, et al., v. Angeles, et al., 101 Phil. 563 [1957] and Tupas v. Damasco, et al., 132
SCRA 593 [1984] to the effect that the five year period of repurchase should be counted from the date of
conveyance or foreclosure sale. The petitioners, however, urge that Belisario should only be applied
prospectively or after 1988 since it established a new doctrine.
We sustain the petitioners' position. It is undisputed that the subject lot was mortgaged to DBP on
February 24, 1970. It was acquired by DBP as the highest bidder at a foreclosure sale on June 18, 1977,
and then sold to the petitioners on September 29, 1979.
At that time, the prevailing jurisprudence interpreting section 119 of R.A. 141 as amended was
that enunciated in Monge and Tupascited above. The petitioners Benzonan and respondent Pe and the
DBP are bound by these decisions for pursuant to Article 8 of the Civil Code "judicial decisions applying
or interpreting the laws or the Constitution shall form a part of the legal system of the Philippines." But
while our decisions form part of the law of the land, they are also subject to Article 4 of the Civil Code
which provides that "laws shall have no retroactive effect unless the contrary is provided." This is
expressed in the familiar legal maximlex prospicit, non respicit, the law looks forward not backward.
The rationale against retroactivity is easy to perceive, The retroactive application of a law usually
divests rights that have already become vested or impairs the obligations of contract and hence, is
unconstitutional (Francisco v. Certeza, 3 SCRA 565 [1961]).

two cases, the period to repurchase the disputed lot given to respondent Pe expired on June 18,1982. He
failed to exercise his right. His lost right cannot be revived by relying on the 1988 case of Belisario. The
right of petitioners over the subject lot had already become vested as of that time and cannot be
impaired by the retroactive application of the Belisario ruling.
Considering our above findings, we find no need to resolve the other issues raised by the petitioners
in their petitions.
WHEREFORE, the questioned decision of the respondent court is hereby REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. The complaint for repurchase under Section 119 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 as amended is
DISMISSED. No pronouncement as to costs.
Feliciano, Bidin, Davide, Jr. and Romero, JJ., concur.
Decision reversed and set aside.
Note.Petitioner is an example of a poor tenant farmer who due to sheer poverty was constrained
to mortgage his only land
529

The same consideration underlies our rulings giving only prospective effect to decisions enunciating
new doctrines. Thus, we
VOL. 205, JANUARY 27, 1992

528

528

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Benzonan vs. Court of Appeals

Castillo vs. Court of Appeals

to somebody else. (Torres vs. Ventura, 187 SCRA 96.)


o0o

emphasized in People v. Jabinal, 55 SCRA 607 [1974] "x x x when a doctrine of this Court is overruled
and a different view is adopted, the new doctrine should be applied prospectively and should not apply
to parties who had relied on the old doctrine and acted on the faith thereof.
There may be special cases where weighty considerations of equity and social justice will warrant a
retroactive application of doctrine to temper the harshness of statutory law as it applies to poor farmers
or their widows and orphans. In the present petitions, however, we find no such equitable
considerations. Not only did the private respondent apply for free agricultural land when he did not
need it and he had no intentions of applying it to the noble purposes behind the law, he would now
repurchase for only P327,995.00, the property purchased by the petitioners in good faith for
P1,650,000.00 in 1979 and which, because of improvements and the appreciating value of land must be
worth more than that amount now.
The buyers in good faith from DBP had a right to rely on our rulings in Monge and Tupas when
they purchased the property from DBP in 1979 or thirteen (13) years ago. Under the rulings in these

Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

529

>SANTOS

VOL. 91, JUNE 29, 1979

195

Vargas vs. Court of Appeals

No. L-35666. June 29, 1979.*


MARINA B. VARGAS and SEGISMUNDO VARGAS, SR., petitioners, vs. THE COURT OF APPEALS.
CONRADO ALCANTARA. LADISLAWA INQUIMBOY and ZACARl AS ANTONIO, respondents.
Civil Law; Homesteads; Principle underlying Sec. 119 of Commonwealth Act 141 on homesteads.
It might be well to note that the underlying principle of Section 119 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 is
to give the homesteader or patentee every chance to preserve for himself and his family the land that
the State had gratuitously given to him as a reward for his labor in cleaning and cultivating it. (Simeon
vs. Pea, 36 SCRA 617.) As found by the Court of Appeals, the motive of the petitioners in repurchasing
the lots in question being one for speculation and profit, the same therefore does not fall within the
purpose, spirit and meaning of said section.

questioned lots denied.The undisputed and admitted fact found by the Court of Appeals is that
after the issuance of the homestead patent and the original certificate of title, petitioners subdivided the
home lot into five parts and subsequently disposed all of them. What is more glaring is that even before
the issuance of the patent and before the expiration of the initial five year prohibitory period, petitioners
already alienated portions of the homestead. The patent was issued on September 27, 1951, but as early
as August 5, 1950, petitioners already sold Lot 1346-C with an area of 1.9997 hectares to the late
Congressman Luminog Mangelen. And again, on July 21, 1952, or less than a year after the patent was
issued, petitioners sold Lot 1346-B to Magno Mateo with an area of 1,1093 hectares. These acts,
according to the Court of Appeals, in which We agree, are highly indicative of a lack of intent on their
part to preserve the homestead for their family, as could further be gleaned from the fact that
petitioners never took steps to recover Lot 1346-B from Mateo Magno or Lot 1346-A from Atty. Eugenio
Millado. Petitioners abandoned their action to repurchase Lot 1346-C from Datu Luminog Mangelen
when the latter agreed to cede to them 1,200 square meters thereof, but, after receiving that area from
the Datu, petitioners immediately conveyed away one-half of that portion to their lawyer. Atty. Arturo
Peralta. Again, these acts according to the appellate court strongly negate an intention on the part of
petitioners to preserve the homestead for themselves.
Remedial Law; Civil Procedure; Appeals, Findings of fact; Findings of fact by Court of Appeals
generally final and conclusive; Exceptions.It is a well-established rule as to make it trite to say that in
appeal to the Supreme Court only questions of law may be raised. This Court has held in numerous
cases that findings of facts by the Court of Appeals are in general final and conclusive ( Chan vs. Court
of Appeals, 33 SCRA 737; Ramirez Tel. Corp. vs. Bank of America, 29 SCRA 191; Castro vs. Tomporong,
78 Phil. 804;Goduco vs. Court of Appeals; 14 SCRA 282; Tan vs. Court of Appeals, 20 SCRA 54, to name
a few), except when: 1. the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation; 2. the inference
made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; 3. there is a grave abuse of discretion; 4. the
judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; 5. the Court of Appeals in making its findings, went
beyond the issues of the case and the same are contrary to the submission of both appellant and
appellee. None of the above exceptions, however, exists in the case at bar; hence, there is no reason for
Us to disturb the findings of facts of the Court of Appeals.
197

Same; Same; Sale of portion of homestead before issuance of patent and before expiration of
initial 5-year prohibitory period indicates lack of interest on the homesteaders to preserve the homestead
for their family; Right of repurchase by petitioners of

VOL. 91, JUNE 29, 1979

197

__________________
*

FIRST DIVISION

Vargas vs. Court of Appeals

196
PETITION for review on certiorari of the decision of the Court of Appeals.
196

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.


Gregorio R. Puruganan & Associates for petitioner.

Vargas vs. Court of Appeals

E. G. Tanjuatco & Associates and Montalban de Jesus & Associates for private respondents.
DE CASTRO, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the Court of Appeals dated July 11, 1972
reversing the decision of the Court of First Instance of Cotabato, which sustained the right of herein
petitioners to repurchase, and ordered here private respondents to reconvey, portions of the homestead,
particularly Lots 1346-D and 1346-E, covered by Transfer Certificate of Titles Nos. T-9557 and T-9558,
respectively, of the Office of the Register of Deeds of Cotabato, for the same amount of P28,128.50 as
appearing in the deed of sale with pacto de retro.
On September 27, 1951, petitioner Segismundo Vargas, Sr., husband of Marina B. Vargas, was
issued Homestead Patent No. V-241 by the Office of the President covering a parcel of land known as Lot
No. 1346, Pls-209-D, situated at Lagao, General Santos (formerly Buayan), Cotabato, containing an area
of 9.2523 hectares. Two years after, or on May 1, 1953, Original Certificate of Title No. V-1733 covering
the said parcel of land was issued by the Office of the Register of Deeds of Cotabato in favor of the said
patentee.
On December 26, 1957, petitioners subdivided the homestead into five portions, denominated as
Lots 1346-A, 1346-B, 1346-C, 1346-D and 1346-E. Even before the issuance of the patent and title,
petitioners disposed a portion of the homestead. Thus, on August 5, 1950, petitioners sold a portion with
an area of 1.9997 hectares, later identified as Lot 1346-C to Congressman Luminog Mangelen for
P3,000.00. The amount of P1,600.00 was paid on the date of the execution of the deed of sale and the
balance of the purchase price in the amount of P1,400.00 was later paid in 1963 by Datu Samad
Mangelen, brother of the late Congressman. On July 21, 1952,
198

198

purpose of repurchasing Lots 1346-D and 1346-E, pursuant to Section 119 1 of Commonwealth Act No.
141, otherwise known as The Public Land Act.
The lower court, in its order dated June 20, 1968, upheld the rights of the petitioners to repurchase
and ordered the private respondents to reconvey Lots 1346-D and 1346-E covered by Transfer
Certificate of Titles Nos. T-9557 and T-9558, respectively, of the Office of the Register of Deeds of
Cotabato, for the same amount of P28,128.50 as appearing in the deed of
____________________
1
Section 119.Every conveyance of land acquired under the free patent or homestead provisions,
when proper, shall be subject to repurchase by the applicant, his widow, or legal heirs, within a period of
five years from the date of the conveyance.

199

VOL. 91, JUNE 29, 1979

199

Vargas vs. Court of Appeals

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Vargas vs. Court of Appeals

petitioners sold another portion with an area of 1.1093 hectares, indicated as Lot 1346-B, to Magno
Mateo. Dispositions of the homestead continued after the issuance of the patent and title. On June 14,
1957, petitioners ceded another portion containing an area of 5,176 square meters, known as Lot-1346A, to Atty. Eugenio Millado in concept of attorneys fees for the case of petitioners daughter. Finally, on
September 29, 1962, petitioner sold the lots in question, Lots 1346-D and 1346-E to the herein private
respondents spouses Conrado Alcantara and Ladislawa Inquimboy for a price of P28,128.50.
Accordingly, the Register of Deeds of Cotabato, Zacarias Antonio, also impleaded as respondent herein,
issued Transfer Certificate of Titles Nos. T-9557 and T-9558 to private respondents-vendees.
Petitioners filed an action to repurchase Lot 1346-C from Datu Mangelen. The case was docketed
as Civil Case No. 611 of the Court of First Instance of Cotabato. However, petitioners withdrew the
complaint in consideration of 1,200 square meters to said lot that Datu Mangelen ceded to the
petitioners. One-half of that portion was given by the petitioners to their counsel, Atty. Arturo Peralta,
as attorneys fee.
On June 10, 1965, petitioner Marina Vargas, by virtue of a power of attorney from her husband,
filed the present case against herein private respondents and the Register of Deeds of Cotabato, for the

sale. Petitioners were given thirty (30) days from the finality of the decision to exercise their right of
repurcase, otherwise said right shall be deemed forfeited.
Private respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals and as earlier mentioned, the Court of
Appeals reversed and set aside the order of the lower court and dismissed the complaint; hence this
appeal on certiorari, petitioner assigning the following errors:
1. I.THE COURT OF APPEALS OVERLOOKED THE REAL RULINGS OF THE SUPREME
COURT WHICH SUSTAIN THE RIGHT OF THE PETITIONERS TO REPURCHASE
THE LAND IN QUESTION HEREIN.
2. II.THE COURT OF APPEALS OVERLOOKED IMPORTANT FACTS CONTAINED IN
VARIOUS ADMISSIONS OF RECORD TO SHOW THAT PETITIONERS, IN DISPOSING
OF PORTIONS OF THEIR HOMESTEAD, ACTED UNDER FINANCIAL PRESSURE
RATHER THAN IN A SPIRIT OF SPECULATION.
3. III.THE COURT OF APPEALS ARRIVED AT CONCLUSIONS OF SPECULATIVE INTENT
ON THE PART OF PETITIONERS ON THE BASIS OF CIRCUMSTANCES THAT ARE
EQUIVOCAL.
1. 1.In the first assignment of error, petitioners anchor their right to repurchase on the basis of
the rulings of this Court on the cases of Santander vs. Villanueva (103 Phil. 1) and
allegedly reiterated in Simeon vs. Pea (36 SCRA 610). They urged this Court that said
cases sustain their right to repurchase the land in question.

We do not agree.
In the Santander case, the homesteaders were allowed to recover their homestead upon payment of
the price for which they sold it, because the sale was null and void ab initio under Section 118 2 of
Commonwealth Act No. 141, it being made
___________________

and subsequently disposed all of them. What is more glaring is that even before the issuance of the
patent and before the expiration of the initial five year prohibitory period, petitioners already alienated
portions of the homestead. The patent was issued on September 27, 1951, but as early as August 5,
1950, petitioners already sold Lot 1346-C with an area of 1.9997 hectares to the late Congressman
Luminog Mangelen. And again, on July 21, 1952, or less than a year after the patent was issued,
petitioners sold Lot 1346-B to
201

2
Section 118.Except in favor of the Government or any of its branches, units, or institutions,
lands acquired under free patent or homestead provisions shall not be subject to encumbrance or
alienation from the date of the approval of the application and for a term of five years from and after the
date of issuance of the patent or grant, x x x.

VOL. 91, JUNE 29, 1979

201

200
Vargas vs. Court of Appeals

200

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Vargas vs. Court of Appeals

within the initial prohibitory five year period from the date of the issuance of a homestead patent. In
the present case, the homestead patent was issued on September 27, 1951 and the sale of the lots in
question to private respondents was executed on September 29, 1962 which clearly was beyond the
initial prohibitory five year period.
As regards the case of Simeon vs. Pea, petitioners ought to know that petitioner therein was not
allowed to repurchase because the lower court found that his purpose was only speculative and for
profit. In the present case, the Court of Appeals found that herein petitioners purposes and motives are
also speculative and for profit.
It might be well to note that the underlying principle of Section 119 of Commonwealth Act No. 141
is to give the homesteader or patentee every chance to preserve for himself and his family the land that
the State had gratuitously given to him as a reward for his labor in cleaning and cultivating it. (Simeon
vs. Pea, 36 SCRA 617.) As found by the Court of Appeals, the motive of the petitioners in repurchasing
the lots in question being one for speculation and profit, the same therefore does not fall within the
purpose, spirit and meaning of said section.
1. 2.Petitioners claim in their second and third assignment of errors is that the finding of the
Court of Appeals of speculative and profit-making motive of petitioners in effecting the
repurchase, is contrary to evidence.
We also find no merit in this contention.
The undisputed and admitted fact found by the Court of Appeals is that after the issuance of the
homestead patent and the original certificate of title, petitioners subdivided the home lot into five parts

Magno Mateo with an area of 1.1093 hectares. These acts, according to the Court of Appeals, in which
We agree, are highly indicative of a lack of intent on their part to preserve the homestead for their
family, as could further be gleaned from the fact that petitioners never took steps to recover Lot 1346-B
from Mateo Magno or Lot 1346-A from Atty. Eugenio Millado. Petitioners abandoned their action to
repurchase Lot 1346-C from Datu Luminog Mangelen when the latter agreed to cede to them 1,200
square meters thereof.But, after receiving that area from the Datu, petitioners immediately conveyed
away one-half of that portion to their lawyer, Atty. Arturo Peralta. Again, these acts according to the
appellate court strongly negate an intention on the part of petitioners to preserve the homestead for
themselves.
With respect to the two lots in question which are sought to be repurchased by the petitioners, the
appellate court found out that petitioner Marina Vargas candidly admitted that if they (petitioners)
succeeded in their action to repurchase, they will convey a portion of the two lots to their lawyer, Atty.
Arturo Peralta in accordance to the demand of their counsel.
Moreover, upon testimony of witness Amanda Malonjao, a realtor, it was established that petitioner
Marina Vargas has offered to the former to resell the two lots involved in the present case at a higher
price even before the case has been finally decided by the lower court. Petitioner Marina Vargas denied
the same and claimed that her only purpose in going to the house of Amanda Malonjao in 1965 was to
accompany a certain Francisca Provido for the latter to redeem the title of a lot she had previously
mortgaged to Amanda Malonjao. Petitioner Marina Vargas presented Francisca Provido to buttress her
denial. The Court of Appeals, in resolving the question of fact as to which of the two testimonies should
be upheld, gave full credence to the testimony of Amanda Malonjao.
All these, together with the fact that petitioners do not reside in Cotabato but in San Miguel,
Bulacan, and that they do not have a house in any part of the homestead, the Court of Appeals found
basis for the conclusion that the purpose of bringing this case was not in order to keep and preserve the
homestead, if they succeed in recovering it, but their motives are for speculation and for profit.
202

202

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

VOL. 91, JUNE 29, 1979

Vargas vs. Court of Appeals

In the present appeal, petitioners dispute the factual findings of the Court of Appeals, which did not
resolve any legal question. The only question raised on appeal before the Court of Appeals is one of fact
whether petitioners purpose and motive in seeking to repurchase from the private respondents the
two lots in question is to preserve the homestead for themselves or whether their purpose and motive
are for speculation and for profit. Thus, the Court of Appeals observed:
It is thus obvious in the light of the foregoing circumstances that the heart of the case at bar is whether
or not plaintiffs (petitioners herein) are repurchasing the lots in question in order to preserve the
homestead for their family.

203

Vargas vs. Court of Appeals

No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Teehankee, (Chairman), Makasiar, Fernandez, Guerreroand Melencio-Herrera, JJ., concur.
Petition denied and decision affirmed.
Notes.Even if only a portion of public land lot is sold by the grantee without the necessary

Therefore, to resolve the vital issue, we are constrained to look into the past and present actuations
of the plaintiffs. For thru them, we can glean plaintiffs intent, scheme or cause of action.
It is a well-established rule as to make it trite to say that in appeal to the Supreme Court only questions
of law may be raised. This Court has held in numerous cases that findings of facts by the Court of
Appeals are in general final and conclusive (Chan vs. Court of Appeals, 33 SCRA 737; Ramirez Tel.
Corp. vs. Bank of America, 29 SCRA 191; Castro vs. Tomporong, 78 Phil. 804; Goduco vs. Court of
Appeals; 14 SCRA 282; Tan vs. Court of Appeals, 20 SCRA 54, to name a few), except when:
1. 1.the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation;
2. 2.the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible;

government approval, the entire land shall revert to the State. (Francisco vs. Rodriguez, 67 SCRA 212).
No right to public land is conferred by the fact that the Director of Lands gave due course to a sales
application. (Ibid).
A land patent is void where the officer who issued it has no authority to do so. (Republic vs. De la
Cruz, 67 SCRA 221).
Casual cultivation of land and raising cattle thereon do not constitute possession under claim of
ownership. (Director of Lands vs. Reyes, 68 SCRA 177).
The municipalities of the Philippines are not entitled, as a matter of right, to any part of the public
domain for use as communal lands. (Salas vs. Jarencio, 46 SCRA 734).

3. 3.there is a grave abuse of discretion;


4. 4.the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts;
5. 5.the Court of Appeals in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the
same are contrary to the submission of both appellant and appellee.
None of the above exceptions, however, exists in the case at bar; hence, there is no reason for Us to
disturb the findings of facts of the Court of Appeals.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby denied and the decision of the Court of Appeals sought to be
reviewed is affirmed.
203

Land granted by the Government to a private individual who applied for it as a homestead, is
considered no longer registerable within the meaning of the Land Registration Act after the issuance of
the homestead patent and the original certificate of title issued in accordance therewith. (Mabuhay
Development Company vs. Ronquillo, 38 SCRA 439.)
The non-liability of homestead grant should be extended to extracontractual obligations, such as
the civil liability arising from a crime committed by the homesteader. (Artates vs. Urbi, 37 SCRA 395.)
While the homestead itself may not be encumbered or alienated within five years from the issuance
of patent, the improvements thereon may, however, be the subject of a mortgage or pledge. (Tolentino vs.
Baltazar, 1 SCRA 822).
An unregistered sale of homestead is void. (Villaluz vs. Neme, 7 SCRA 27).
204

204

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Florendo vs. Javier

A sale of homestead made within five years from issuance of its patent is null and void. (Baje vs. Court
of Appeals, 11 SCRA 34).
o0o
Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

>TEYLAN

No. L-35537. December 27, 1979.*


FRANCISCO
respondent.

SANTANA

and

JOSE

H.

PANGANIBAN,

petitioners, vs. SOTERO

MARIAS,

Courts; Findings of fact; Findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are not subject to review by the
Supreme Court and said findings are binding upon the Supreme Court.It is elementary that the
findings of facts of the Court of Appeals are not subject to review by this Court. Stated in another way,
the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are binding upon this Court.
Land Registration; Free Patents/Homestead patent; Registration of free patent or homestead
patent under the Land Registration Act necessary so as to be brought under the operation of the Torrens
System and becomes a registered land.For indeed, a free patent or a homestead patent must be
registered under the Land Registration Act in order that the land covered thereby is brought under the
operation of the Torrens System and thus becomes a registered land.
Same; Same; Redemption; Right of patentee and his heirs to effect redemption of the patent is a
statutory right; An existing law forms part of a valid contract without the need of the parties expressly
making reference to it.Neither did respondent Marias misrepresent that the land is not subject to
redemption, because the right of the patentee and his heirs to effect such redemption is statutory and,
_______________
*

SECOND DIVISION

854

854

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Santana vs. Marias

therefore, the law allowing it formed part of and was deemed incorporated in the deed of
conveyance. It is settled that an existing law enters into and forms part of a valid contract without the
need for the parties expressly making reference to it.
Same; Same; Right of repurchase of free patent or homestead even though conveyed 25 years after
issuance of title is valid.Petitioners specific contention that it could not have been the intention of the
Legislature to subject to the right of repurchase a free patent or homestead conveyed 25 years after the
issuance of the title is without legal basis and a contrary to jurisprudence laid down on the matter.
Thus, in Isaac, et al. vs. Tan Chuan Leong, et al. the sale took place more than 27 years after the
issuance of the original title; while in Francisco v. Certeza, Sr., one of the 2 lots was sold more than 41

years after it was acquired. The right to repurchase was upheld in both cases despite the fact that the
above lots were acquired under Act No. 296 which contained no provision on the right of redemption. For
the right of repurchase was provided for only later, under Section 117 of Act No. 2874, approved on Nov.
29, 1919, and incorporated in Com. Act No. 141 as Section 119.
Same; Same; Same; Repurchase of land acquired thru homestead or free patent not allowed
where the motive of the homesteader or patentee behind the repurchase was not to preserve the land for
himself and his family but to exploit it for business purposes or greater profit which is contrary to the
philosophy behind Sec. 119 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 otherwise known as the Public Land Law; case
at bar.It could be true that the land in question is the only land owned by respondent-appellee. But
this is not the determinant factor in allowing the repurchase of land acquired through homestead or free
patent. The doctrine in Simeon v. Pea, supra, is explicit that what is unqualified and unconditional is
the right of the homesteader or patentee to preserve the land for himself and his family. We can,
therefore, properly inquire into the motives behind the repurchase and convinced as we are in the
instant case, that the intention is not so, but to exploit it for business purposes or greater profit, We can
deny the repurchase. To sustain respondent-appellees claim under the circumstances would put a
premium on speculation contrary to the philosophy behind Sec. 119 of Com. Act No. 141, otherwise
known as the Public Land Law. Thus, this Court, speaking through Mr. Justice J.B.L. Reyes, held
in Santander, et al. v. Villanueva that the law discourages homesteaders from taking ad-

respondent hereinfor recovery of the property in litigation under Section 119 of Com. Act No. 141,
otherwise known as Public Land Law and (2) ordered Francisco Santana and Jose H. Panganiban
defendants below and now herein petitionersto reconvey the aforesaid property to respondent Marias
upon payment by him of the repurchase price in the amount of P4,128.60, without special
pronouncement as to costs.2
Required to comment in the resolution of September 28, 1972, 3private respondent did so on October
20, 1972.4 Considering the allegations contained, the issues raised and the arguments adduced in the
petition, as well as the comment of
_______________

855

RA, pp. 36-45; Rollo, p. 71.

Rollo, pp. 48-49.

Id., p. 73.

Id., p. 78.

856
VOL. 94, DECEMBER 27, 1979

855
856

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Santana vs. Marias


Santana vs. Marias
vantage of the salutary policy behind the Public Land Law to enable them to recover the land in
question from (vendees) only to dispose of it again at much greater profit to themselves.
PETITION for review by certiorari from the decision of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Rafael Dinglasan for petitioners.

private respondent, the Court denied the petition for lack of merit in its resolution of October 31,
1972.5 In due time, petitioners filed their motion for reconsideration 6 of the aforesaid resolution denying
their petition for review. In the resolution of November 23, 1972, 7private respondent was required to
comment on the motion for reconsideration. The required comment was filed by private respondent on
December 15, 1972.8
On February 9, 1973, the Court resolved: (a) to reconsider its October 31, 1972 resolution of denial
and (b) to give due course to the petition.9 Accordingly, the parties filed their respective briefs.10

Cruz B. Carbon for respondent.


SANTOS, J.:
This is a petition for review by certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court of the decision
dated September 5, 1972 of the Special Sixth Division of the Court of Appealscomposed of Justice E.
Soriano, M. Barcelona and L.B. Reyesin CA-G.R. 37292-R, entitled Sotero Marias vs. Francisco
Santana and Jose H. Panganiban, Soriano, J., ponent, which (1) reversed the decision1 of the Court of
First Instance of Rizal dismissing the complaint of Sotero Mariasplaintiff below and private

The procedural, as well as the factual, antecedents that spawned the present case are not in
dispute. On April 21, 1960, private respondent Sotero Mariasas plaintifffiled in the Court of First
Instance of Rizal a complaint to recover a real property alleging, insofar as material to this petition, (1)
that he acquired, on May 22, 1929, under free patent and covered by Original Certificate of Title (OCT)
No. 217, Rizal Registry, a parcel of land containing an area of four hectares, twelve ares and eighty-six
centares (41,286 sq. m.); that on January 16, 1956, he sold the above parcel of land to petitioner
Francisco Santanaone of the defendants belowfor a sum of P4,128.60; that the other petitioner Jose
H. Panganibanalso a co-defendant belowwas included in the complaint because he is a subsequent
lienholder and/or encumbrancer, the property having been sold to him by Santana on March 25, 1956 for

the same amount of P4,128.60; that the land has an annual produce worth P400.00; and praying (2) that
judgment be rendered: (a) allowing him to repurchase the property for the sum of P4,128.60 and (b)
awarding to him P400.00 annually from date of filing of the complaint until the property is delivered to
him, with costs.11

absolving them completely from the complaint, with costs, and sentencing private respondent to pay
them moral damages of P10,000.00 and attorneys fees and litigation expenses in the amount of
P5,000.00; or in the remote possibility that repurchase by private respondent were allowed, to require
the latter to pay the reasonable market value of not less than P2.50 per square meter. 12

_______________

As stated at the outset, the trial court ruled out private respondents right to repurchase the
property and dismissed

Id., p. 87.

Id., p. 88.

________________
12
7

Id., p. 90.

Id., p. 95.

Id., p. 107.

Id., p. 71; Id., pp. 9, 11-13.

858

858

10

Id., pp. 112 and 125.

11

Id., p. 71; RA, pp. 2-4.

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Santana vs. Marias

857

VOL. 94, DECEMBER 27, 1979

857

Santana vs. Marias

On May 26, 1960, herein petitioners, defendants below, filed their respective answers admitting some
material factual allegations in the complaint; but denied the right of private respondent to repurchase
the property, and interposed the following affirmative defenses: (1) that at the time the absolute sales
were entered into, they were totally ignorant of and had no knowledge whatsoever to any encumbrance
or right to repurchase by private respondent, who assured petitioner Francisco Santana that he
(Santana) could sell the land in question absolutely and free from any encumbrance and is not subject to
any right of repurchase as he (respondent Marias) had been in possession of the property for over
twenty-five (25) years; (2) that they (petitioners) have always been of the honest belief that they acquired
absolute ownership of the property, free from any hen or encumbrances whatsoever and, hence, are
purchasers in good faith; (3) that being innocent purchasers for value, they acquired absolute ownership
over the property and private respondent cannot enforce against them any right of repurchase of
whatever nature; (4) that as absolute owners and possessors in good faith, they (petitioners) incurred
necessary and useful expenses thereon in the total amount of not less than P10,000.00; and (5) that the
property in question now a residential area with real estate subdivisions and roads in front and at the
back thereof and its present increased value is no less than P2.50 a square meter. Petitioners interposed
a counterclaim for moral damages in the amount of P10,000.00 and attorneys fees and litigation
expenses in the total sum of P5,000.00. In their prayer petitioners asked for the rendition of judgment

the complaint but that on appeal, the Court of AppealsSpecial Sixth Divisionreversed the trial
courts decision of dismissal and ordered petitioners to reconvey the land to private respondent upon
payment to the former of the repurchase price thereof in the amount of P4,128.60, without special
pronouncement as to costs.13
Not satisfied with the appellate courts decision, petitioners filed the instant petition, contending
that the Court of Appeals erred:
1. (1)IN NOT FINDING THAT RESPONDENT ACTED IN DELIBERATE BAD FAITH WHEN
HE SOLD THE LAND IN QUESTION TO PETITIONER-APPELLANT SANTANA BY
DECEITFULLY CONCEALING FROM HIM THE FACT THAT IT WAS ORIGINALLY
REGISTERED UNDER ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. 217, PURSUANT TO A
FREE PATENT GRANTED UNDER ACT NO. 2874, AND THAT PETITIONER SANTANA
PURCHASED SAID LAND IN GOOD FAITH IN VIRTUE OF A DEED OF ABSOLUTE
SALE PREPARED BY THE ATTORNEY FOR THE RESPONDENT AND SIGNED BY
HIMSELF, WHEREIN IT WAS FALSELY STATED THAT THE VENDOR IS THE
REGISTERED OWNER OF SAID LAND IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAND
REGISTRATION ACT NO. 496; AND IN NOT HOLDING THAT THEREFORE SAID
VENDOR COULD NOT REPURCHASE SAID LAND. (p. 11, rollo).
2. (2)IN NOT HOLDING, AS HELD BY THE TRIAL COURT, THAT UNDER ALL THE
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE, THE REPURCHASE OF THE LAND IN QUESTION
BY PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT IS NOT PROPER; IT IS NOT IN CONSONANCE WITH
REASON AND PURPOSE OF THE LAW; IT IS REPUGNANT TO JUSTICE AND
EQUITY. (p. 11, rollo).

3. (3)IN ORDERING PETITIONERS-APPELLANTS (DEFENDANTS BELOW) TO


RECONVEY TO RESPONDENT (PLAINTIFF BELOW) THE LAND DESCRIBED IN
THE COMPLAINT UPON PAYMENT BY HIM TO THE SAID PETITIONERS ONLY OF
THE PURCHASE PRICE THEREOF IN THE AMOUNT OF P4,128.60.14

16

Chan vs. CA, L-27488, June 30, 1970, 33 SCRA 737; Ramirez Telephone Corp. vs. Bank of
America, L-22614, Aug. 29, 1969, 29 SCRA 191; Lucero vs. Loot, L-16995, Oct. 28, 1968, 25 SCRA
687; Tan vs. CA, L-22793, May 16, 1967, 20 SCRA 54.
17

Pajomayo, et al. vs. Manipon, et al., L-33676, June 30, 1971, 39 SCRA 676.

18

Lakas Ng Manggagawang Makabayan (LMM) vs. Abiera, L-29474, December 19, 1970, 36 SCRA

_______________
13

Id., pp. 48-49.

14

Id., p. 24.

437.
860

859
860
VOL. 94, DECEMBER 27, 1979

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

859
Santana vs. Marias

Santana vs. Marias


dent. Put thus in issue is the proper construction and application of Section 119 of the Public Land Law,
Com. Act No. 141, which provides:
And now to consider and/or resolve the foregoing issues, seriatim.
1. Petitioners contention under the first assigned errori.e. that private respondent acted in
deliberate bad faith when he sold the land to petitioner Santana who acted in good faith in buying it
need not detain Us long. For this raises a question of fact which this Court is not at liberty to review at
this stage. It is elementary that the findings of facts of the Court of Appeals are not subject to review by
this Court.15 Stated in another way, the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are binding upon this
Court.16
At any rate, We see no point in the argument of petitioners that respondent Marias acted in bad
faith for having falsely stated in the deed of sale that he is the registered owner of the land in
accordance with the Land Registration Act. For indeed, a free patent or a homestead patent must be
registered under the Land Registration Act in order that the land covered thereby is brought under the
operation of the Torrens system and thus becomes a registered land. 17 Neither did respondent Marias
misrepresent that the land is not subject to redemption, because the right of the patentee and his heirs
to effect such redemption is statutory and, therefore, the law allowing it formed part of and was deemed
incorporated in the deed of conveyance. It is settled that an existing law enters into and forms part of a
valid contract without the need for the parties expressly making reference to it. 18

Every conveyance of land acquired under the free patent or homestead provisions, when proper, shall
be subject to repurchase by the applicant, his widow, or legal heirs, within a period of five years from the
date of conveyance.
Petitioners specific contention that it could not have been the intention of the Legislature to subject to
the right of repurchase a free patent or homestead conveyed 25 years after the issuance of the title is
without legal basis and is contrary to jurisprudence laid down on the matter. Thus, in Isaac, et al. v.
Tan Chuan Leong, et al.20 the sale took place more than 27 years after the issuance of the original title;
while in Francisco v. Certeza, Sr.,21 one of the 2 lots was sold more than 41 years after it was acquired.
The right to repurchase was upheld in both cases despite the fact that the above lots were acquired
under Act No. 296 which contained no provision on the right of redemption. For the right of repurchase
was provided for only later, under Section 117 of Act No. 2874, approved on Nov. 29, 1919, and
incorporated in Com. Act No. 141 as Section 119. 22
However, We uphold petitioners proposition that to allow the repurchase of the subject land, under
the peculiar circumstances obtaining herein, would be repugnant to the philosophy behind Section 119
of C.A. No. 141 and the jurisprudence laid down on the matter.

2. Petitioners next assail the order of the appellate court directing them to reconvey the subject
land to private respon-

The findings of fact of the trial courtthe then CFI Judge, Cecilia Muoz Palma, later a member of
this Court, presidingare clear and duly supported by the evidence. We quote:

_______________

Evidence has been adduced by the defendants that this property of Sotero Marias has ceased to be in
the nature of a homestead,

15
Alaros vs. CA, et al., 64 SCRA 671; Evangelista & Co. vs. Santos, 51 SCRA 416; Acosta vs.
People, L-17427, July 31, 1962, 5 SCRA 774.

_______________

20

89 Phil. 24 (1951).

21

L-16849, Nov. 29, 1961, 3 SCRA 565.

22

See Francisco v. Certeza, supra, p. 567.

862

862

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

861
Santana vs. Marias

VOL. 94, DECEMBER 27, 1979

861

Santana vs. Marias

and that instead it has been transformed into a growing commercial and residential area. The vicinity
of the property is now a vast expanding business empire, the lands having (been) converted into
subdivisions which are sold to the public at fantastic prices. Close to this particular property of Sotero
Marias the subdivision being developed by a son of the plaintiff who has extensive business interests
centered on construction of buildings such as the Rizal Provincial Capitol and development of
subdivisions. (See Exhs. 1 to 1-G). By plaintiffs own admission on cross-examination he is 78 years
old and sick with a lung ailment; while from the testimony of his son, Antonio Marias, it is shown that
the sons of plaintiff are all financially independent from the latter and have their respective properties
and meansof livelihood. Under these circumstances it is evident that to grant plaintiff the right to
repurchase the property at this time would be not for the purpose of giving him back the land for his
house and cultivation but for him to exploit it for business purposes at the expense of the defendants who
are innocent purchaser(s) in good faith and for value. 23
In Simeon vs. Pea We analyzed the various cases previously decided. 24 and arrived at the conclusion
that the plain intent, theraison d tre, of Section 119, C.A. No. 141 . . . is to give the homesteader or
patentee every chance to preserve for himself and his family the land that the state had gratuitously
given to him as a reward for his labor in cleaning and cultivating it. 25 In the same breath, We agreed
with the trial court, in that case, that it is in this sense that the provision of law in question becomes
unqualified and unconditional. And in keeping with such reasons behind the passage of the law, its basic
objective is to promote public policy, that is, to provide home and decent living for destitutes, aimed at
promoting a class of in_______________
23

Record on Appeal, pp. 39-40; Emphasis supplied.

24
Pascua v. Talens, 80 Phil. 792; Isaac, et al. v. Tan Chuan Leong, et al, L-3324, May 23,
1951; Sigbe Lasud, et al. v. Sontay Lasug, et al., L-19242, Feb. 29, 1964;Sagucio vs. Bulos, Nos. L-1760809, July 31, 1962; Francisco, et al. v. Certeza, et al.,L-16849, Nov. 29, 1961.

25

Simeon v. Pea, L-29049, Dec. 29, 1970, 36 SCRA 610, 615-616; Emphasis supplied.

dependent small landholders which is the bulwark of peace and order. 26


As it was in Simeon v. Pea, respondent Marias intention in exercising the right of repurchase is
not for the purpose of preserving the same within the family fold, 27 but to dispose of it again for
greater profit in violation of the laws policy and spirit. 28The foregoing conclusions are supported by the
trial courts findings of fact already cited, culled from evidence adduced. Thus respondent Marias was
71 years old and a widower at the time of the sale in 1956; that he was 78 when he testified on Oct. 24,
1963 (or over 94 years old today if still alive); that . . . he was not living on the property when he sold the
same but was residing in thepoblacion attending to a hardware store; 29 and that the property was no
longer agricultural at the time of the sale, but was a residential and commercial lot in the midst of
many subdivisions.30 The profit motivation behind the effort to repurchase was conclusively shown when
the then plaintiffs counsel, in the case below, Atty. Loreto Castillo, in his presence, suggested to herein
petitioners counsel, Atty. Rafael Dinglasan, . . . to just add to the original price so the case would be
settled. Moreover, Atty. Castillo manifested in court that an amicable settlement was possible, for
which reason he asked for time within which to settle the terms thereof and that the plaintiff x x x
Mr. Marias, has manifested to the Court that if the defendants would be willing to pay the sum of One
Peso and Fifty Centavos (P1.50) per square meter, he would be willing to accept the offer and dismiss
the case.31
Respondent Marias admission is on record that the money with which he would repurchase the
property was not his but
______________
26

Id., p. 616; Emphasis supplied.

27

Id., p. 618.

28

See ibid.

29

Rollo, pp. 2-3, 8 (Petition).

30

Id., pp. 4, 6, 8.

31

Id., pp. 6-7.

863

VOL. 94, DECEMBER 27, 1979

863

Santana vs. Marias

belonged to his children one of whom is Felix Marias, owner of Cristimar Subdivision. 32 Furthermore,
the trial court found that Marias ones are all financially independent from the latter and have their
respective properties and means of livelihood.33
The respondent Court of Appeals anchors respondent-appellee Marias right of repurchase on old
age and tuberculosis having caught up with appellant, and the land in question being his only property.
Allowing the repurchase would, thus, help tide over the needs of his remaining days. 34 according to
respondent court.
It could be true that the land in question is the only land owned by respondent-appellee. But this is
not the determinant factor in allowing the repurchase of land acquired through homestead or free
patent. The doctrine in Simeon v. Pea, supra, is explicit that what is unqualified and unconditional is
the right of the homesteader or patentee to preserve the land for himself and his family. We can,
therefore, properly inquire into the motives behind the repurchase and convinced as We are in the
instant case, that the intention is not so, but to exploit it for business purposes or greater profit, We can
deny the repurchase. To sustain respondent-appellees claim under the circumstances would put, a
premium on speculation contrary to the philosophy behind Sec. 119 of Com. Act No. 141, otherwise
known as the Public Land Law. Thus, this Court, speaking through Mr. Justice J.B.L. Reyes, held
in Santander, et al. v. Villanueva35 that the law discourages homesteaders from taking advantage of the
salutary policy behind the Public Land Law to enable them to recover the land in question from
(vendees) only to dispose of it again at much greater profit to themselves.
3. In view of Our holding above, disallowing the repurchase of the homestead property, it is
unnecesary to resolve this assigned error.
_______________
32

Santana vs. Marias

ACCORDINGLY, the Court of Appeals decision appealed from, directing the reconveyance of the subject
homestead lot to respondent Sotero Marias is hereby REVERSED, without special pronouncement as
to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Barredo (Chairman), Antonio, Aquino, Concepcion Jr. andAbad Santos, JJ., concur.
Notes.The Register of Deeds is liable for damages for malicious issuance of a second duplicate
certificate of Torrens Title, without the required Notice of Hearing (Vda. de Laig vs. Court of
Appeals, 82 SCRA 294).
The Secretary of Agriculture and the Director of Lands are not liable for damages for approving
two deeds of sale of the same parcel of land where no malice can be inferred from this fact (Ibid).
The motion and order for correction of technical description appearing in the original certificate of
title involved in a cadastral proceeding is ordered consolidated with an ordinary civil action between the
parties in dispute (Laperal Dev. Corp. vs. Vera, 81 SCRA 477).
Rep. Act 3348 which was approved on August 8, 1963 and which provided for allotment of public
lands as homesite to the actual occupants thereof at the time of the approval of this act does not apply
to the case of a Government lot which was sold to a private individual in 1953 (Mirando vs. Willington
Ty & Bros., Inc., 81 SCRA 506).
In a petition for cancellation of free patent with the Bureau of Lands, review by the courts will not
be permitted unless the administrative remedies are first exhausted (Pestanas vs. Dyogi, 81 SCRA 574).

Id., pp. 8, 9.
o0o

33

See note 22, supra (CFI Decision).

34

Id., p. 16 (CA Decision).

35

103 Phil. 1, 5(1958).

>VALDEZ

VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

864

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez


864

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

531

G.R. No. 166190. September 20, 2006.*


HEIRS OF VENANCIO BAJENTING and FELISA S. BAJENTING, NAMELY: Teresita A. Bajenting,
Ruel A. Bajenting, Gilbert A. Bajenting, Cresilda B. Puebla, Imelda B. Salac, Benedictina B. Ravina,
Margarita B. Reusora, Renato A. Bajenting, Lorena A. Bajenting, Elizalde A. Bajenting, Francisco
Malda, Jr., B. Selecio Bajenting, Trinidad M. Antinola, Roland B. Malda, Luisa B. Malda, Arsenia C.
Ramirez, Angelina Ricarte, Editha Esteban, Lourdes M. Garcia, Nora M. Alivio, Francisca B. Espina,
Francisco Malda, Sr., and Venencio A. Bajenting, represented by VENENCIO A. BAJENTING,
Attorney-in-Fact, petitioners, vs. ROMEO F. BAEZ, SPOUSES JONATHAN and SONIA LUZ
ALFAFARA, respondents.
Actions; Forum Shopping; The rule is that the certification of non-forum shopping must be signed
by all petitioners or plaintiffs and the signing by only one of them is not sufficient .The rule is that the
certification of non-forum shopping must be signed by all the petitioners or plaintiffs and the signing by
only one of them is not sufficient.
Same; Same; Petitioners have not filed any action against respondent in another court or tribunal
involving the same issues and property.In the present case, we find and so rule that petitioners
substantially complied with the Rules of Court. Petitioners, as heirs of the spouses Venancio and Felisa
Bajenting (the patentees), sought to exercise their right under Section 119, Act 141 to repurchase the
property within the statutory period therefor. Petitioner Venencio Bajenting was empowered to act for
and in their behalf before the Barangay Captain and in the RTC for the enforcement of their right as
such heirs. Petitioners have not filed any action against respondents in another court or tribunal
involving the same issues and property.
Courts; Jurisdictions; Settled is the rule that the jurisdiction of the Court in cases brought before
it from the CA via Rule 45 of the

absurd, or impossible; (3) when there is a grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the judgment is based on
misappreciation of facts; (5) when the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) when in making its findings are
contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee; (7) when the findings are contrary to those of
the trial court; (8) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they
are based; (9) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioners main and reply briefs
are not disputed by the respondent; and (10) when the findings of fact are premised on the supposed
absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record.
Public Lands; Free Patents; The object of the provisions of Act 141, as amended, granting rights
and privileges to patentees or homesteaders is to provide a house for each citizen where his family may
settle and live beyond the reach of financial misfortune and to inculcate in the individuals the feeling of
independence which are essential to the maintenance of free institution.As elucidated by this Court,
the object of the provisions of Act 141, as amended, granting rights and privileges to patentees or
homesteaders is to provide a house for each citizen where his family may settle and live beyond the
reach of financial misfortune and to inculcate in the individuals the feelings of independence which are
essential to the maintenance of free institution. The State is called upon to ensure that the citizen shall
not be divested of needs for support, and reclined to pauperism. The Court, likewise, emphasized that
the purpose of such law is conservation of a family home in keeping with the policy of the State to foster
families as the factors of society, and thus promote public welfare. The sentiment of patriotism and
independence, the spirit of citizenship, the feeling of interest in public affairs, are cultivated and
fostered more readily when the citizen lives permanently in his own house with a sense of its protection
and
533

VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

533

_______________
*

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

FIRST DIVISION.

532

532

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

Rules of Court is limited to reviewing errors of law.Section 1, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court
provides that only questions of law and not factual issues may be raised in this Court. Settled is the rule
that the jurisdiction of this Court in cases brought before it from the CA via Rule 45 of the Rules of
Court is limited to reviewing errors of law. However, while the findings of fact of the CA are conclusive
on this Court, there are, likewise, recognized exceptions, to wit: (1) when the findings are grounded
entirely on speculations, surmises or conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken,

durability. It is intended to promote the spread of small land ownership and the preservation of
public land grants in the names of the underprivileged for whose benefits they are specially intended
and whose welfare is a special concern of the State. The law is intended to commence ownership of lands
acquired as homestead by the patentee or homesteader or his heirs.
Same; Same; Sales; The law gives the patentee, his widow or his legal heirs the right to
repurchase the property within five years from the date of the sale. However, the patentee, his widow or
legal heirs should not be allowed to take advantage of the salutary policy of the law to enable them to
recover the land only to dispose of it again to amass a hefty profit to themselves.To ensure the
attainment of said objectives, the law gives the patentee, his widow or his legal heirs the right to
repurchase the property within five years from date of the sale. However, the patentee, his widow or
legal heirs should not be allowed to take advantage of the salutary policy of the law to enable them to
recover the land only to dispose of it again to amass a hefty profit to themselves. The Court cannot
sustain such a transaction which would put a premium on speculation which is contrary to the
philosophy behind Section 119 of Act 141, as amended.

Same; Same; Same; In an action to enforce the right to repurchase a homestead within five (5)
years from the sale thereof, it is of no consequence what exactly might be the motive of the plaintiff, and it
is necessary for the Court to inquire before hand into his financial capacity to make the repurchase for the
simple reason that such question will resolve itself should he fail to make the corresponding tender of
payment within the prescribed period.In an action to enforce the right to repurchase a homestead
within five (5) years from the sale thereof, it is of no consequence what exactly might be the motive of
the plaintiff, and it is unnecessary for the Court to inquire before hand into his financial capacity to
make the repurchase for the simple reason that such question will resolve itself should he fail to make
the corresponding tender of payment within the prescribed period.
Contracts; Sales; Ownership; A contract of sale is a consensual contractupon the perfection of
the contract, the parties may reciprocally demand performancethe vendee may compel transfer of
ownership of the object of the sale, and the vendor may require the vendee

docketed as Free Patent Application No. IV-45340. In the meantime, Venancio planted fruit trees in the
property3 such as mango, lanzones, coconut and santol. He
_______________
1

Penned by Associate Justice Portia Alio-Hormachuelos, with Associate Justices Perlita J. TriaTirona (retired) and Rosalinda Asuncion-Vicente, concurring, Rollo, pp. 32-40.
2

Rollo, pp. 41-43.

Records, p. 437.

535
534

VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006


534

535

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez


Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

to pay the thing sold.We agree with respondents contention that petitioners are obliged to
execute a notarized deed of absolute sale over the property upon payment of the P150,000.00 balance of
the purchase price of the property. A contract of sale is a consensual contract. Upon the perfection of the
contract, the parties may reciprocally demand performance. The vendee may compel transfer of
ownership of the object of the sale, and the vendor may require the vendee to pay the thing sold. In this
case, the balance of the purchase price of the property was due on or before December 31, 1993.
PETITION for review on certiorari of the decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals.

and his wife, Felisa Bajenting, along with their children, also resided in a house which stood on the
property.4
On February 18, 1974, Venancio died intestate. 5 His application for a free patent was thereafter
approved, and on December 18, 1975, Free Patent No. 577244 was issued in his favor. On February 6,
1976, the Register of Deeds issued Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. P-5677 over the property in
the name of Venancio Bajenting, married to Felisa Sultan. 6 Selecio Bajenting continued cultivating the
land.7
In the meantime, the Sangguniang Panglunsod approved City Ordinance No. 263, Series of 1982
and Resolution No. 10254 declaring the properties in Langub as a low density residential zone. 8

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.


Charlemagne B. Aldevera for petitioners.

On May 31, 1993, Felisa and the other heirs of Venancio (Heirs, for brevity), 9 executed an
Extrajudicial Settlement with Deed of Absolute Sale over Lot 23. They alleged therein that when
Venancio died intestate, they had agreed to adjudicate unto themselves as heirs of the deceased the
aforesaid property, as follows:

Susan P. Cariaga for respondents.


CALLEJO, SR., J.:
1

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari of the Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV
No. 76526, as well as its October 31, 2004 Resolution 2 denying the Motion for Reconsideration thereof.
The factual and procedural antecedents are as follows:
Venancio Bajenting applied for a free patent over a parcel of land, Lot 23 (Sgs. 546 D), Davao
Cadastre, located in Langub, Davao City, with an area of 104,140 square meters. The application was

TO: FELISA S. BAJENTING, One half (1/2) share of the whole of Oct. No. P-5677, as her co njugal
share; and the remaining onehalf (1/2) of OCT No. P-5677.
TO: FELISA S. BAJENTING, MARGARITA BAJENTING, FRANCISCA BAJENTING, SILVERIO
BAJENTING (Deceased) represented by his wife and children: Teresita Apas-Bajenting, Re_______________

TSN, February 16, 1998, p. 31.

Exhibit A, Records, p. 282.

10

Exhibit D-1, Records, p. 288.

Exhibit C, Id., at p. 286.

11

Exhibits D to D-3, Id., at pp. 287-290.

TSN, February 16, 1998, p. 31.

12

Exhibit E, Id., at p. 291.

Exhibit 8, Records, p. 356.

537

_______________

9
The following are the children/heirs of the deceased: Margarita, Francisca, Renato, Gilbert,
Criselda, Imelda, Venencio, Elizalde, Benedictina, Arsenia and Selecio, all surnamed Bajenting, and
Teresita Apas, Francisco, Leo, Angelina, Editha and Susana, all surnamed Malda.

VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

537

536
Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

536

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


fendants and that the latter had ignored the summons from theBarangay Captain for an amicable
settlement of the case. They prayed that after due proceedings, judgment be rendered in their favor:
Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

nato Bajenting, Gilbert Bajenting, Criselda Bejenting, Imelda Bajenting, Venancio Bajenting and
Elizalde Bajenting; MAXIMA BAJENTING (Deceased) represented by her husband, Francisco Malda,
and children: Lee B. Malda, Angelina B. Malda, Milagros B. Malda, Editha B. Malda and Susana B.
Malda; BENEDICTINA BAJENTING, ARSENIA BAJENTING; and CELECISO BAJENTING, in equal
share pro-indiviso.10

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is prayed of this Honorable Court that after hearing,
judgment be rendered in favor of plaintiffs and against herein defendants, by quieting and removing any
cloud on the Original Certificate of Title No. P-5677, Free Patent No. 577244, of the Registry of Deeds of
Davao City, and thereafter ordering the defendants to:
1. a)Return the owners duplicate copy of Original Certificate of Title No. P-5677, Free Patent
No. 577244 to plaintiff forthwith;
2. b)Vacate the premises including those who are acting for and in their behalf; and,

In the same deed, a 50,000 square meter portion of the property was sold to the spouses Sonia Luz
Alfafara; and the 54,140 square meter portion to Engr. Romeo F. Baez. The share of Felisa was
included in the portion sold to Engr. Baez. 11 However, the deed was not notarized; neither was the sale
approved by the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources. In the Agreement/Receipt executed
by Felisa Bajenting and Romeo Baez, the parties declared that the price of property was P500,000.00;
P350,000.00 was paid by the vendees, the balance of P150,000.00 to be due and payable on or before
December 31, 1993 at the residence of the vendors. 12 The owners duplicate of title was turned over to
the vendees. However, the deed was not filed with the Office of the Register of Deeds.

IN THE ALTERNATIVE, should the defendants prove their superior right over the subject
property (i.e., sale) as against the herein plaintiffs that they be ordered to resell back the said property
to the plaintiffs consonant to the provision of Sec. 119, C.A. No. 141, and in both instances, defendants
be, jointly and severally, ordered to pay plaintiffs:
1. 1.P50,000.00Moral Damages;

The Heirs, including Felisa, tried to repurchase the property as provided under Section 119 of
Commonwealth Act No. 141, but Romeo Baez and Sonia Alfafara did not allow them to exercise their
right.

2. 2.P50,000.00Exemplary Damages;

On May 31, 1995, the Heirs, through Venencio Bajenting, filed a Complaint for recovery of title
against Romeo Baez and the spouses Alfafara in the Office of the Barangay Captain. When no
settlement was reached, the Heirs filed a complaint for Quieting of Title, Repurchase of Property,
Recovery of Title plus Damages with the Regional Trial Court, claiming that they had tried to
repurchase the property from the de-

4. 4.P50,000.00Attorneys fees.

3. 3.P70,000.00Actual Damages;

Plaintiffs further pray for such relief just and equitable in the premises. 13

On October 29, 1996, the Heirs filed an Amended Complaint, alleging the following:

1. a)Return the owners duplicate copy of Original Certificate of Title No. P-5677, Free Patent
No. 577244 to plaintiffs forthwith;

1. 5.Sometime in May 1993, the afore-described real property was sold to defendants for a
consideration of Five Hundred Thousand (P500,000.00) Pesos and several months
thereafter, the owners duplicate copy Original Certificate of Title No. P-5677, Free Patent

2. b)Vacate the premises including those who are acting for and in their behalf; and
3. c)Jointly and severally, pay plaintiffs:

_______________
13

_______________

Records, pp. 6-7.

14

Records, p. 100.

15

Id., at p. 103.

538

538

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

1. No. 577244, was handed to them and, thereafter, their representative occupied the area. x x
x
2. 6.Defendants paid only the sum of THREE HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND (P350,000.00)
but did not pay the remaining purchase price in the amount of ONE HUNDRED FIFTY
THOUSAND (P150,000.00) PESOS. x x x
3. 7.The aforedescribed property sold to defendants, being a Free Patent, can be repurchased
within five (5) years from date of conveyance (1993) by the applicant, his widow, or legal
heirs pursuant to Sec. 119, Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, which provides that:

539

VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

539

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

1. 1)P 50,000.00Moral Damages;


2. 2)P 50,000.00Exemplary Damages;
3. 3)P 70,000.00Actual Damages;
4. 4)P 50,000.00Attorneys fees.

That every conveyance of land acquired under the free patent provisions, when proper, shall be the
subject to repurchase by the applicant, his widow, or legal heirs, within a period of five (5) years from
the date of the conveyance; (Emphasis supplied).14
xxxx
1. 13.Herein Plaintiffs have tendered the amount of THREE HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND
(P350,000.00) as repurchase price with the Office of the Clerk of Court as shown in hereto
attached xerox copy of Official Receipt No. 6547953 as Annex L.15
The Amended Complaint contained the following prayer:
WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is prayed of this Honorable Court that after hearing,
judgment be rendered ordering defendants to resell the property back to herein plaintiffs in accordance
with the provision of Sec. 119, C.A. No. 141 and ordering defendants further to:

Plaintiffs further pray for such relief just and equitable in the premises.

16

The Heirs deposited the amount of P350,000.00 with the Clerk of Court, and an official receipt was
issued therefor.
In their Amended Answer to the Complaint, the defendants averred, inter alia, that: (1) the
plaintiffs, who did not sign the Extrajudicial Settlement and Deed of Absolute Sale, were not heirs of
Venancio Bajenting; (2) it was only Venencio Bajenting, Jr. who wanted to repurchase the property for
and in behalf of a speculatori.e., for the sole use and enjoyment of the interested buyer and not for
cultivation of the heirs of the deceased homesteader; and (3) the Heirs have not tendered any amount to
perfect their repurchase of the property. They alleged, by way of Compulsory Counterclaim, that:
13. The parties herein have entered into an Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate with Deed of Absolute
Sale to evidence their agreement over the land in question. However, such deed has not yet been
notarized. Pursuant to Art. 1357 in relation to Art. 1358 (1) of the Civil Code, defendants may require

plaintiffs to deliver the proper document in the proper form to evidence the conveyance of the property
subject of this case and sufficient to effect the transfer of title to the same in favor of defendants; 17

On February 6, 1998, the plaintiffs, through counsel, filed a Manifestation with the trial court. The
pertinent portion reads:

The defendants prayed that, after due proceedings, judgment be rendered in their favor as follows:

1. 3.Plaintiffs are willing to receive the amount of FIVE MILLION (P5,000,000.00) Pesos, as an
additional purchase price of their property covered by Original Certificate of Title No. P5677 within the period of two (2) months counted from today. Should the defendant cannot
(sic) pay said amount, the plaintiffs will no longer agree to the payment of P5,000,000.00.

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court that after
trial on the merits, a decision be rendered:

2. 4.Although, the plaintiffs have no intention whatsoever to sell the property, but in order to
settle the case amicably, they are willing to look for interested buyers of the property,
subject matter of this repurchase, to sell the same for a consideration of not less than

_______________
16

Id., at pp. 103-104.

17

Id., at pp. 128-129.

_______________
18

540

Id., at pp. 129-130.

541

540

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

541

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez


Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez
1. 1.Finding that plaintiffs are not entitled to exercise their right to repurchase and confirming
the right of the defendants to continue to own, possess and enjoy the subject property;
2. 2.Ordering plaintiffs to deliver to defendants the proper document in the proper form to
evidence the conveyance of the property subject of this case and sufficient to effect the
transfer of title to the same in favor of defendants;
3. 3.Finding that plaintiffs should pay defendants, jointly and severally, the sum of:
1. a). equivalent to 25% of the value of the property as attorneys fee and P50,000.00 as
expenses of litigation;
2. b). P100,000.00 for each defendant as moral damages;
3. c). P50,000.00 for each defendant as exemplary damages;
Defendants further pray for such other equitable and legal reliefs as may be just and proper under the
premises.18
During the pre-trial on January 19, 1998, considering the possibility that the parties would amicably
settle the matter (that is, they would agree to entrust the property to a receiver, later sell it to a third
party and divide the proceeds among themselves), the court ordered a resetting of the case.

1. P5,000,000.00. And out of the said purchase price, Plaintiffs are willing to give, by way of
settlement to defendant, the amount equivalent to twenty percent (20%) of the proceeds;
2. 5.Plaintiffs shall go on with the presentation of their evidence;
3. 6.During the pendency of this case, receiver shall be appointed to take charge of the
property;
4. 7.Plaintiffs are willing to meet the defendant for the discussion of the foregoing on February
11, 1998 at 2:30 in the afternoon.19
The case was referred to the Barangay Captain and the Lupon Tagapamayapa for a possible settlement,
to no avail.20
The Heirs presented Vicente Ravino, the husband of Benedicta Bajenting, one of the daughters of
Venancio and Felisa. He testified that Felisa had died intestate on January 21, 1996. 21 For a period of
two years, he had been demanding that the vendee pay the balance of the purchase price, P150,000.00,
but the latter failed to pay the amount. The Heirs authorized Venencio Bajenting 22 to represent them for
the purpose of repurchasing the property from the defendants.

The defendants adduced evidence that the Sangguniang Panglunsod approved Ordinance No. 4042,
Series of 1996, classifying the properties in Langub as part of a low density property zone. 23 Such
properties were primarily intended for housing development with at least 20 dwelling units per hectare
density and below per hectare.24 They pointed out that under Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 957, the lots
could be

Engr. Baez, accompanied by Atty. Susan Cariaga, saw her (Anne) and asked if the Bajentings were
indeed going to re_______________
25

Exhibit 7, Records, p. 355.

26

Exhibits 9 to 13, Records, pp. 358-362; TSN, August 18, 1999, pp. 7-9.

27

TSN, August 18, 1999, pp. 14-15.

28

Id., at pp. 17-18.

29

Id., at pp. 21-22.

_______________
19

Records, p. 233.

20

Id., at p. 241.

21

Exhibit B, Records, p. 356.

22

Venencio is the grandson of Venancio, being the son of Silverio Bajenting, who, in turn is one of
the children of Venancio and Felisa.
23

Exhibit 8, Records, p. 356.

24

TSN, August 17, 1999, p. 27.

543

VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

543

542
Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez
542

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


purchase the property; she answered in the affirmative and volunteered to testify.30

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

used as first class residential. The City Planning Office and the Regional Development Council had,
likewise, recommended to the National Economic Development Authority the plan to establish an
astrodome, a government center to house government agencies, as well as the construction of a
circumferential road; however, no money had yet been appropriated to implement the said plans. 25
Anne Reyes, a real estate agent, testified that in March 1993, Venencio Bajenting and Margarita
Bajenting-Reusora, another heir, asked her to help them sell the property for P350,000.00. She agreed.
To enable her to offer the property for sale, the Bajentings entrusted to her a copy of the owners
duplicate of OCT No. P-5677, Tax Declaration No. D-8-8-159, Tax Clearance dated October 22, 1991 and
a Certificate from the City Assessor. 26 However, she failed to sell the property. In December 1995,
Margarita saw her again and asked her to return the said documents because she (Margarita) wanted to
sell the property for P10,000,000.00. Margarita told her that the property had been earlier sold for a
cheaper price, but she was requested to accompany any prospective buyers willing to pay P10,000,000.00
to Venencio Bajenting who had a special power of attorney to sell the property in behalf of the
Heirs.27 After her meeting with Margarita, nothing happened. On cross-examination, Anne admitted
that she had no written authority to sell the property. 28 In December 1995, she inquired from Engr.
Baez if he was willing to resell the property to the heirs of Venancio Bajenting. 29 In February 1996,

Ermelinda Oyco testified that during the proceedings of the case in the Office of
the Barangay Captain, Margarita told her and her sister that the Bajentings were going to repurchase
the property and would resell the same. She told Margarita that she had a prospective buyer, but
withheld the persons identity. Margarita told her that the Bajentings would sell the property for
P10,000,000.00. Venencio Bajenting confirmed the price and told her that she would receive a 3%
commission if she succeeded in selling the property. 31 On cross-examination, she declared that she was
invited to testify for Engr. Baez and that she agreed because she pitied him.
On rebuttal, Venencio Bajenting testified and declared that he did not meet Oyco and her mother in
December 1996, and that they had no interest to sell the property.32
Before she could testify, Margarita Reusora died on August 24, 1997. 33
On March 1, 2002, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of the Heirs. The dispositive portion
reads:
FOR THE FOREGOING, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of plaintiffs and against defendants,
ordering the latter to vacate subject property covered by Original Certificate of Title No. T-5677 and
deliver said Certificate of Title to plaintiffs within ten (10) days from receipt hereof.

Accordingly, the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court, Davao City, is hereby ordered to release
the amount of P350,000.00 deposited by plaintiffs in favor of defendants, representing the repurchase
money of subject property, evidenced by Official Receipt No. 6547953, dated October 11, 1996. Further,
the compulsory

SECOND ASSIGNED ERROR


THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THERE WAS NO PROPER BARANGAY
CONCILIATION BEFORE THIS CASE WAS FILED IN THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT AND THAT
THIS DEFECT WAS NEVER CURED.37

_______________
_______________
30

Id.

31

TSN, May 18, 2000, pp. 10-12.

32

TSN, March 2, 2001, pp. 3-4.

33

Records, p. 248.

34

Records, pp. 416-417.

35

G.R. No. L-35537, December 27, 1979, 94 SCRA 853.

36

152 Phil. 71; 52 SCRA 83 (1973).

37

CA Rollo, p. 35.

544
545

544

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

545

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez


Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez
counter-claim filed by defendants against plaintiffs is hereby DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.34
The RTC ruled that while there is evidence that first-class subdivisions are being developed in the
vicinity, no budget had been appropriated for the plans to construct the government center and the
sports complex. However, it declared that the defendants failed to present any evidence that the
plaintiffs were repurchasing the property for and in behalf of a financier.
The spouses Alfafara, and Baez filed a motion for reconsideration, which the court denied. It
declared that the ruling of this Court in Santana V. Marias 35 is not applicable, and that it was the
case of Hernaez v. Mamalio 36 that was controlling.
The spouses Alfafara, and Baez appealed the Decision to the CA, alleging that:
FIRST ASSIGNED ERROR
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT PLAINTIFFS PURPOSE IN REPURCHASING
THE PROPERTY IS ONLY TO BE ABLE TO SELL THE SAME TO ANOTHER BUYER FOR A
HIGHER PRICE OR MERELY FOR SPECULATION.

They averred that the trial court erred in not applying the ruling of this Court in Santana v.
Marias,38 reiterated in Quisumbing v. Court of Appeals 39 and Lacorda v. Intermediate Appellate
Court.40 They maintained that the Heirs were exercising their right to repurchase the property for
commercial purposes, not for the purpose of using the property for their family home. They asserted
that the property is surrounded by first-class subdivisions and is classified as a low-density residential
zone.
On February 27, 2004, the CA rendered judgment granting the appeal, and reversed the Decision of
the trial court. The CA ruled that as gleaned from the evidence on record and the pleadings of the Heirs,
the property was sought to be repurchased for profit, and not to preserve it for themselves and their
families.41 The appellate court applied the ruling in the Santana case.
The Heirs filed a motion for the reconsideration of the Decision, which the CA denied for lack of
merit.
Hence, the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari, where petitioners allege that the CA erred in
disregarding the findings of the trial court based on the evidence on record in applying the Santana case,
and in not resolving the issue of respondents failure to pay the balance of the purchase price of the
property.

They insist that the factual backdrop in Santana is substantially different from that in this case.
The speculative purpose ascribed to them may as well apply to respondents, who refused to resell the
property to petitioner, knowing that the value of the property had considerably increased. As between
the petitioners and the respondents, the law should be

mans statute does not apply to the testimonies of Reyes and Oyco, being as they were, mere witnesses
not parties to the case.
547

_______________
VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

38

Supra note 35.

39

207 Phil. 607; 122 SCRA 703 (1983).

40

G.R. No. L-67386, February 28, 1985, 135 SCRA 298.

41

Rollo, p. 38.

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

Respondents maintain that the ruling of this Court in Santana which reiterated its ruling in Simeon v.
Pea,42 applies in this case. They further claim that the CA cannot be faulted for not ordering them to
pay the balance of P150,000.00 to petitioners because it was not contained in their prayer.

546

546

547

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

Petitioners counter that they mentioned the non-payment by respondents of the balance of the
purchase price, P150,000.00 to emphasize their point that it was unfair for the CA to reverse the
decision of the RTC. The issues are as follows: (a) whether or not petitioners complied with the rule on
verification and certification against forum shopping; (b) whether petitioners are entitled to repurchase
the property from respondents; and (c) whether petitioners are obliged to execute a notarized deed of
absolute sale over the property.
The petition has no merit.

applied in their favor, being the heirs of the beneficiaries under Commonwealth Act 141, as amended.
The petitioners aver that respondents failed to prove with clear and convincing evidence that they
were exercising their right to repurchase the property only for the purpose of reselling the same at a
higher price, thereby rendering nugatory Section 119 of Commonwealth Act 141. The collective
testimonies of Reyes and Oyco were hearsay and inadmissible in evidence under the dead mans statute,
Margarita Reusora having died on August 24, 1997 before the witnesses had even testified. Neither
Margarita nor Venencio Bajenting could have informed Reyes and Oyco that the petitioners were selling
the property for P10,000,000.00 because petitioners, through Venencio Bajenting, had filed a case
against the respondents in the Office of the Barangay Captain. They insist that the CA erred in
declaring as self-serving the testimony of petitioner Venencio Bajenting.
Worse, petitioners aver, the CA ignored the fact that respondents had not paid them the balance of
the purchase price of the property worth P150,000.00; thus, they would have to file a separate suit to
collect the amount.
For their part, respondents aver that only petitioner Venencio Bajenting signed the verification and
certification of non-forum shopping in the petition. Petitioners failed to attach any power of attorney
authorizing Venencio Bajenting to sign the Verification and Certification Against Forum Shopping for
and in their behalf. As found by the CA, the testimonies of Reyes and Oyco were credible and deserving
of full probative weight. Indeed, their testimonies are buttressed by the trial courts Order dated
January 19, 1998. They add that the findings of the CA are binding on this Court, and that the dead

On the first issue, the Court notes that, of the 23 petitioners, only petitioner Venencio Bajenting
signed the Verification and Certification of Non-Forum Shopping. Petitioners did not append to their
petition a special power of attorney authorizing petitioner Venencio Bajenting to sign the Certification
for and in their behalf. The rule is that the certification of non-forum shopping must be signed by all the
petitioners or plaintiffs and the signing by only one of them is not sufficient. However, in Cavile v. Heirs
of Clarita Cavile,43 the Court made the following pronouncement:
The rule is that the certificate of non-forum shopping must be signed by all the petitioners or plaintiffs
in a case and the signing by only one of them is insufficient. However, the Court has also stressed that
the rules on forum shopping, which were designed to promote and facilitate the orderly administration
of justice, should not be interpreted with such absolute literalness as to subvert its own
_______________
42

146 Phil. 1093; 36 SCRA 610 (1970).

43

448 Phil. 302; 400 SCRA 255 (2003).

548

548

We note that the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources had not approved the sale of the
property (by the heirs of the patentee) to respondents. It bears stressing that Free Patent No. 577244
which was granted in favor of Venancio Bajenting on December 18, 1975 is subject to the following
conditions therein:

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

NOW, THEREFORE, KNOW YE, That by authority of the Constitution of the Philippines, and in
conformity with the provisions thereof and of the aforecited Republic Act No. 782 and Commonwealth Act
No. 141, as amended, there is hereby granted unto said VENANCIO BAJENTING, Filipino, of legal age,
married to Felisa Sultan, and residing in Langub, Ma-a, Davao City the tract of land above-described.

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

ultimate and legitimate objective. The rule of substantial compliance may be availed of with respect to
the contents of the certification. This is because the requirement of strict compliance with the provisions
regarding the certification of non-forum shopping merely underscores its mandatory nature in that the
certification cannot be altogether dispensed with or its requirements completely disregarded. It does not
thereby interdict substantial compliance with its provisions under justifiable circumstance.
We find that the execution by Thomas George Cavile, Sr. in behalf of all the other petitioners of the
certificate of non-forum shopping constitutes substantial compliance with the Rules. All the petitioners,
being relatives and co-owners of the properties in dispute, share a common interest thereon. They also
share a common defense in the complaint for partition filed by the respondents. Thus, when they filed
the instant petition, they filed it as a collective, raising only one argument to defend their rights over the
properties in question. There is sufficient basis, therefore, for Thomas George Cavili, Sr. to speak for and
in behalf of his co-petitioners that they have not filed any action or claim involving the same issues in
another court or tribunal, nor is there other pending action or claim in another court or tribunal
involving the same issues. Moreover, it has been held that the merits of substantive aspects of the case
may be deemed as special circumstance for the Court to take cognizance of a petition for review
although the certification against forum shopping was executed and signed by only one of the
petitioners.44
In the present case, we find and so rule that petitioners substantially complied with the Rules of Court.
Petitioners, as heirs of the spouses Venancio and Felisa Bajenting (the patentees), sought to exercise
their right under Section 119, Act 141 to repurchase the property within the statutory period therefor.
Petitioner Venencio Bajenting was empowered to act for and in their behalf before the BarangayCaptain
and in the RTC for the enforcement of their right as such heirs. Petitioners have not filed any action
against respondents in another court or tribunal involving the same issues and property.

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD the said tract of land, with the appurtenances thereunto of right
belonging unto the said VENANCIO BEJENTING and to his heirs and assigns forever, subject to the
provisions of Sections 118, 119, 121, 122 and 124 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, which
provide that except in favor of the Government or any of its branches, units, or institutions, the land
hereby acquired shall be inalienable and shall not be subject to encumbrance for a period of five (5) years
from the date of this patent, and shall not be liable for the satisfaction of any debt contracted prior to the
expiration of said period; that every conveyance of land acquired under the free patent provisions, when
proper, shall be subject to repurchase by the applicant, his widow, or legal heirs, within a period of five
years from the date of the conveyance; that it shall not be encumbered, alienated, or transferred to any
person, not qualified to acquire lands of the public domain under said Commonwealth Act No. 141, as
amended; and that it shall not be subject to any encumbrance whatsoever in favor of any corporation,
association or partnership except with the consent of the grantee and the approval of the Secretary of
Natural Resources and solely for educational, religious or charitable purposes or for a right of way; and
subject finally to all conditions and public easements and servitudes recognized and prescribed by law
especially those mentioned in Sections 109, 110, 111, 113 and 114 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as
amended, and the right of the Government to administer and protect the timber found thereon for a term
of five (5) years from the date of this patent, provided; however, that the grantee or heirs may cut and
utilize such timber as may be needed for his use or their personal use.
550

550

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

_______________
Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez
44

Id., at pp. 311-312; pp. 261-262.

549

Sections 118, 119 and 122 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, reads:

VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

549

SEC. 118. Except in favor of the Government or any of its branches, units, or institutions, or legally
constituted banking corporations, lands acquired under free patent or homestead provisions shall not be
subject to encumbrance or alienation from the date of the approval of the application and for a term of
five years from and after the date of issuance of the patent or grant nor shall they become liable to the
satisfaction of any debt contracted prior to the expiration of said period; but the improvements or crops
on the land may be mortgaged or pledged to qualified persons, associations, or corporations.

No alienation, transfer, or conveyance of any homestead after five years and before twenty-five years
after issuance of title shall be valid without the approval of the Secretary of Agricultural and Natural
Resources, which approval shall not be denied except on constitutional and legal grounds.45
SEC. 119. Every conveyance of land acquired under the free patent or homestead provisions, when
proper, shall be subject to repurchase by the applicant, his widow, or legal heirs, within a period of five
years from the date of the conveyance.
SEC. 122. No land originally acquired in any manner under the provisions of this Act, nor any
permanent improvement on such land, shall be encumbered, alienated, or transferred, except to
persons, corporations, associations, or partnerships who may acquire lands of the public domain under
this Act or to corporations organized in the Philippines authorized therefore by their charters. Except in
cases of hereditary succession, no land or any portion thereof originally acquired under the free patent,
homestead, or individual sale provisions of this Act, or any permanent improvement on such land, shall
be transferred or assigned to any individual, nor shall such land or any permanent improvement
thereon be leased to such individual, when the area of said land, added to that of his own, shall exceed
one hundred and forty-four hectares. Any transfer, assignment, or lease made in violation hereof shall
be null and void.46

The second issue is factual because it involves the determination of petitioners intention to
repurchase the property to enable them to amass a hefty net profit of P9,635,000.00 from its resale to a
third party, and not for the purpose of preserving the same for themselves and their families use as
envisioned in Com. Act No. 141, as amended.
Section 1, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court provides that only questions of law and not factual issues
may be raised in this Court. Settled is the rule that the jurisdiction of this Court in cases brought before
it from the CA via Rule 45 of the Rules of Court is limited to reviewing errors of law. However, while the
findings of fact of the CA are conclusive on this Court, there are, likewise, recognized exceptions, to wit:
(1) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculations, surmises or
_______________
47
Evangelista v. Manalo, 93 Phil. 275 (1953), cited in Alfredo v. Borras, 452 Phil. 178, 201; 404
SCRA 145, 162-163 (2003).

552

_______________
552
45

As amended by Com. Act No. 456, approved June 8, 1939.

46

As amended by Com. Act No. 615.

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez


551

VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

551

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

OCT No. P-5677 was issued to and in the name of Venancio Bajenting over the property on February 6,
1976. The 25-year period provided in Section 118 of the law was to expire on February 6, 2001. However,
in May 1999, Felisa Bajenting and her children sold the property to respondents without the approval of
the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (formerly the Department of Agriculture and
Natural Resources). There is no showing in the records that the Secretary of Environment and Natural
Resources had approved the sale.
The failure of the vendors to secure the approval of the Secretary of the DENR does not, ipso facto,
make the sale void. The approval may be secured later, producing the effect of ratifying and adopting the
transaction as if the sale had been previously authorized. The approval of the sale subsequent thereto
would have the effect of the Secretarys ratification and adoption as if the sale had been previously
author-ized.47 The Secretary may disapprove the sale on legal grounds.

conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd, or impossible; (3) when there
is a grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the judgment is based on misappreciation of facts; (5) when the
findings of fact are conflicting; (6) when in making its findings are contrary to the admissions of both
appellant and appellee; (7) when the findings are contrary to those of the trial court; (8) when the
findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (9) when the facts
set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioners main and reply briefs are not disputed by the
respondent; and (10) when the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and
contradicted by the evidence on record.48
In the present case, the findings and conclusions of the trial court are contrary to those of the CA.
Indeed, the trial court gave no probative weight to the testimonies of Reyes and Oyco despite the
absence of any factual and legal basis for it to do so. It is thus imperative for the Court to delve into and
resolve this factual issue.
As elucidated by this Court, the object of the provisions of Act 141, as amended, granting rights
and privileges to patentees or homesteaders is to provide a house for each citizen where his family may
settle and live beyond the reach of financial misfortune and to inculcate in the individuals the feelings of
independence which are essential to the maintenance of free institution. The State is called upon to
ensure that the citizen shall not be divested of needs for support, and reclined to pauperism. 49 The
Court, likewise, emphasized that the purpose of such law is conservation of a family home in keeping
with the policy of the State to foster families as the factors of society, and thus promote public welfare.
The sentiment of patriotism and independence, the spirit of citizen-

_______________

54

48
Cadungog v. Yap, G.R. No. 161223, September 12, 2005, 469 SCRA 561, 575;Caoili v. Court of
Appeals, 373 Phil. 122, 132; 314 SCRA 345, 354 (1999).

554

49

Jocson v. Soriano, 45 Phil. 375 (1923).

Santander v. Villanueva, 103 Phil. 1, 5 (1958).

554

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

553

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez


VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

553

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

ship, the feeling of interest in public affairs, are cultivated and fostered more readily when the citizen
lives permanently in his own house with a sense of its protection and durability. 50 It is intended to
promote the spread of small land ownership and the preservation of public land grants in the names of
the underprivileged for whose benefits they are specially intended and whose welfare is a special
concern of the State. 51 The law is intended to commence ownership of lands acquired as homestead by
the patentee or homesteader or his heirs.52
In Simeon v. Pea,53 the Court declared that the law was enacted to give the homesteader or
patentee every chance to preserve for himself and his family the land that the State had gratuitously
given to him as a reward for his labor in cleaning and cultivating it. In that sense, the law becomes
unqualified and unconditional. Its basic objective, the Court stressed, is to promote public policy, that is,
to provide home and decent living for destitutes, aimed at providing a class of independent small
landholders which is the bulwark of peace and order.
To ensure the attainment of said objectives, the law gives the patentee, his widow or his legal heirs
the right to repurchase the property within five years from date of the sale. However, the patentee, his
widow or legal heirs should not be allowed to take advantage of the salutary policy of the law to enable
them to recover the land only to dispose of it again to amass a hefty profit to themselves. 54 The Court
cannot sustain such a transaction which would put a premium on speculation which is contrary to the
philosophy behind Section 119 of Act 141, as amended.
_______________
50

Id.

51

Cassion v. Banco Nacional Filipino, 89 Phil. 560 (1951).

52

Soriano v. Ong Hoo, 103 Phil. 829 (1958).

53

Supra note 42, at p. 1100; pp. 615-616.

In this case, we agree with the ruling of the CA that, based on the pleadings of the parties and the
evidence on record, petitioners, through Venencio Bajenting and Margarita Reusora, sought to
repurchase the property only for the purpose of reselling the same for P10,000,000.00 and in the
process, amass a net profit amounting to P9,650,000.00. We quote, with approval, the findings of the CA,
thus:
The almost conclusive effect of the findings of the trial court cannot be denied. This is anchored on the
practical recognition of the vantage position of the trial judge in observing the demeanor of the witness.
However, such rule admits certain exceptions. Almost as well-recognized as the general rule is the
exception that We may nonetheless reverse the factual findings of the trial court if by the evidence on
record, or lack of it, it appears that the trial court erred. We find that such exception exists in the
present case.
The lack of documentary evidence proving that plaintiffs constituted Reyes and Oyco as agents for
the sale of the subject property merely shows that Reyes and Oyco were not constituted as agents in
accordance with the specific form prescribed by law. It does not, however, render their testimonies
improbable nor does it have any tendency to lessen the credibility of their testimonies respecting the
fact sought to be proven. What is material and should have been considered by the trial court were the
assertions of Reyes and Oyco stating that plaintiff made negotiations for them to find a buyer for the
subject property since it would prove that plaintiffs want to repurchase the subject property only in
order to resell it to another at a higher price.
The testimony of plaintiff Venencio Bajenting denying the claim of Reyes and Oyco cannot be given
much weight and credence. Being one who has a direct interest in the case, Venencio Bajenting
necessarily has a motive for coloring his testimony. Besides, apart from his denials, his testimony is
uncorroborated. In contrast, there is no evidence that Reyes and Oyco were actuated by any ill motive in
testifying against plaintiffs. In fact, their testimonies even show that their mother is a relative of
plaintiffs.
The profit motivation behind the instant complaint for repurchase is further shown by plaintiffs
declaration in their Opposition to defendants motion for reconsideration, that the Three Hundred Fifty
Thousand (P350,000.00) Pesos given for the ten-hectare land
555

VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

555

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

would be too small for defendant to own the property. Evidently, it is the same profit motivation that
impelled plaintiffs to agree to a settlement during the early stages of the proceedings before the trial
court. In the Manifestation filed by plaintiffs on February 4, 1998, plaintiffs expressed their agreement
to a settlement but only if defendants pay them an additional purchase price of Five Million Pesos
(PhP5,000,000.00) or if the subject property were to be sold to an interested buyer for no less than the
said amount with 80% of the proceeds going to the plaintiffs and offering 20% thereof to defendant.
In fine, the trial court committed an error in not applying the doctrine laid down in the Santana
case. As in the Santana case, plaintiffs motive in filing the present complaint for repurchase is not for
the purpose of preserving the subject property for themselves and their family but to dispose of it again
at a much greater profit for themselves. Hence, the repurchase should not be allowed. 55
We note that petitioner Venencio Bajenting is merely a mechanic. He had not explained to the trial court
how he and his co-heirs were able to produce P350,000.00 in 1996 and deposit the same with the Clerk
of Court when they filed their amended complaint. There is no evidence on record that petitioners were
financially capable to produce the amount in 1996, considering that they had to sell the property for
P500,000.00 three years earlier. The foregoing circumstances buttress the contention of respondents
that petitioners, through Venencio Bajenting, sought to repurchase the property for no other purpose
than to generate a hefty profit of P9,650,000.00.
That petitioners had no intention of retaining the property for their and their families use and
purpose is fortified by the fact that during pre-trial, they manifested their willingness to have the
property sold to a third party and, from the proceeds thereof, to receive the amount of P5,000,000.00;
and that in the meantime, a receiver would be appointed by the court.

Contrary to the allegations of petitioners, the collective testimonies of Reyes and Oyco are admissible in
evidence despite the fact that when they testified, Margarita Reusora was already dead. Section 20(a),
Rule 130 of the Revised Rules of Court reads:
Section 20. Disqualification by reason of interest or relationship.The following persons cannot testify
as to matters in which they are interested, directly or indirectly as herein enumerated:
(a) Parties or assignors of parties to a case, or persons in whose behalf a case is prosecuted, against
an executor or administrator or other representative of a deceased person, or against a person of
unsound mind, upon a claim or demand against the estate of such deceased person or against such
person of unsound mind, cannot testify as to any matter of fact occurring before the death of such
deceased person or before such became of unsound mind.
The bar under aforequoted rule applies only to parties to a case, or assignors of parties to a case or
persons in whose behalf a case is prosecuted. Reyes and Oyco were mere witnesses for respondents, not
parties in the court a quo, nor assignors of any of the parties in whose behalf the case was prosecuted.
Their testimonies were presented only to prove that the petitioners intended to repurchase the property
for profit, and not for the purpose of preserving it for their and their families use and enjoyment. 56
We agree with the ruling of the CA that the ruling in Santana v. Marias 57 applies in this case. As
in Santana,the property in this case was no longer agricultural but residential and commercial, in the
midst of several high-class residential subdivisions. The government had planned to construct in the
vicinity a circumferential road, a government center and an astrodome. As in Santana, petitioners,
through counsel, declared their willingness to settle the case for the
_______________
56

See Guerrero v. St. Clares Realty Co., Ltd., 209 Phil. 459, 471-472; 124 SCRA 553, 564 (1983).

57

Supra note 35.

557

_______________
55

VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

Rollo, pp. 37-39.

557

556
Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

556

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

amount of P5,000,000.00 and the sale of the property to a third party. The money which petitioners were
to use to repurchase the property was not theirs, but the money of petitioner Venencio Bajentings
employer.

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez


Petitioner cannot find solace in the ruling of this Court in Hernaez v. Mamalio,58 which in part
reads:

In an action to enforce the right to repurchase a homestead within five (5) years from the sale thereof,
it is of no consequence what exactly might be the motive of the plaintiff, and it is unnecessary for the
Court to inquire before hand into his financial capacity to make the repurchase for the simple reason
that such question will resolve itself should he fail to make the corresponding tender of payment within
the prescribed period.
First. The decision of the trial court ordering petitioner to execute a deed of sale over the property in
favor of respondent is grounded on the fact that his record on appeal of petitioner, as appellant, does not
contain sufficient relevant data showing that the appeal was filed on time;
Second. The ruling in Hernaez has not been reiterated by this Court. On the other hand, this Court
in Lacorda v. Intermediate Appellate Court,59 ruled that:
While it is true that the offer to repurchase was made within the statutory period both the trial and
appellate courts found as a fact that the petitioners did not really intend to derive their livelihood from
it but to resell part of it for a handsome profit. It is now settled that homesteaders should not be allowed
to take advantage of the salutary policy behind the Public Land Law to enable them to recover the land
in question from vendees only to dispose of it again at much greater profit. (Simeon v. Pea, L-29049,
Dec. 29, 1970, 36 SCRA 619 and other cases cited therein.)60
_______________

virgin land becomes more attractive if he is assured that his effort will not go for naught should
perchance his life be cut short. This is merely a recognition of how closely bound parents and children
are in Filipino family. Logic, the sense of fitness and of right, as well as pragmatic considerations thus
call for continued adherence to the policy that not the individual applicant alone but those so closely
related to him as are entitled to legal succession may take full advantage of the benefits the law
confers.62
On the third issue, we agree with respondents contention that petitioners are obliged to execute a
notarized deed of absolute sale over the property upon payment of the P150,000.00 balance of the
purchase price of the property. A contract of sale is a consensual contract. Upon the perfection of the
contract, the parties may reciprocally demand performance. The vendee may compel transfer of
ownership of the object of the sale, and the vendor may require the vendee to pay the thing sold. In this
case, the balance of the purchase price of the property was due on or before December 31, 1993.
_______________
61

377 Phil. 382; 319 SCRA 366 (1999).

62

Id., at p. 373.

559

58

Supra note 36, at p. 79; p. 90.

59

Supra note 38.

60

Id., at p. 299.

VOL. 502, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

558

558

559

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Heirs of Venancio Bajenting vs. Baez

IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the Petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The Decision of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 76526 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioners are
ORDERED to execute in favor of respondents a Deed of Absolute Sale over the property upon payment
of P150,000.00, the balance of the purchase price. This is without prejudice to any action the Secretary
of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources may take on the sale of the property by the
petitioners to the respondents. No costs.
SO ORDERED.

In a case of recent vintage, Fontanilla, Sr. v. Court of Appeals,61 this Court reiterated the doctrine that:
The foregoing construction is merely in keeping with the purpose of Section 119to enable the family
of the applicant or grantee to keep their homesteadfor it is well-settled that the law must be
construed liberally in order to carry out that purpose. As we held in Ferrer v. Magente
x x x The applicant for a homestead is to be given all the inducement that the law offers and is entitled
to its full protection. Its blessings, however, do not stop with him. This is particularly so in this case as
the appellee is the son of the deceased. There is no question then as to his status of being a legal heir.
The policy of the law is not difficult to understand. The incentive for a pioneer to venture into developing

Panganiban (C.J., Chairperson), Ynares-Santiago, Austria-Martinez and Chico-Nazario, JJ.,


concur.
Petition denied, judgment affirmed with modification.
Notes.Homestead grantees or their direct compulsory heirs can own and retain the original
homesteads, only for as long as they continue to cultivate them. (Paris vs. Alfeche, 364 SCRA 110[2001])

For the purpose of reckoning the five-year period to exercise the right to repurchase, the date of
conveyance is construed to refer to the date of execution of the deed transferring the ownership of the
land to the buyer. (Mata vs. Court of Appeals, 318 SCRA 416[1999])
o0o
560
Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

>VELASCO

574

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. De Guzman

G.R. No. 137887. February 28, 2000.*


REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. DAMIAN ERMITAO DE GUZMAN,
DEOGRACIAS ERMITAO DE GUZMAN, ZENAIDA ERMITAO DE GUZMAN, ALICIA ERMITAO
DE GUZMAN, SALVADOR ERMITAO DE GUZMAN, DOMINGA ERMITAO, NATIVIDAD
ENCARNACION, MELBA E. TORRES, FLORA MANALO, SOCORRO DELA ROSA, JOSE
ERMITAO, ESMERANDO ERMITAO, TRICOM DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION and
FILOMENO ERMITAO, respondents.
Land Titles; Prescription; Natural Resources; Forest Lands;Possession of a public land while still
inalienable forest land, or before it was declared alienable and disposable land of the public domain,
could not ripen into private ownership, and should be excluded from the computation of the 30-year open
and continuous possession in concept of owner.The Court of Appeals consideration of the period of
possession prior to the time the subject land was released as agricultural is in direct contravention of
the pronouncement in Almeda vs. Court of Appeals, to witThe Court of Appeals correctly ruled that
the private respondents had not qualified for a grant under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act because
their possession of the land while it was still inalienable forest land, or before it was declared alienable
and disposable land of the public domain on January 13, 1968, could not ripen into private ownership,
and should be excluded from the computation of the 30-year open and continuous possession in concept of
owner required under Section

Same; Same; Same; Same; Land classified as forest land may form part of the disposable
agricultural lands of the public domain only by a release in an official proclamation to that effect. So,
too, is the Court of Appeals reliance on the case of Director of Land Management vs. Court of
Appealsmisplaced. There, while the period of possession of the. applicants predecessor-in-interest was
tacked to his own possession to comply with the required thirty year period possession requirement, the
land involved therein was not forest land but alienable public land. On the other hand, in the case before
us, the property subject of private respondents application was only declared alienable in 1965. Prior to
such date, the same was forest land incapable of private appropriation. It was not registrable and
possession thereof, no matter how lengthy, could not convert it into private property, (unless) and until
such lands were reclassified and considered disposable and alienable. In summary, therefore, prior to its
declaration as alienable land in 1965, any occupation or possession thereon cannot be considered in the
counting of the thirty year possession requirement. This is in accord with the ruling in Almeda vs.
Court of Appeals, (supra), and because the rules on the confirmation of imperfect titles do not apply
unless and until the land classified as forest land is released in an official proclamation to that effect so
that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain.
PETITION for review on certiorari of a decision of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
The Solicitor General for petitioner.
Noe Zarate for Salvador E. de Guzman, et al.
576

________________
*

576

FIRST DIVISION.

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

575
Republic vs. De Guzman

VOL. 326, FEBRUARY 28, 2000

575
Antonio Villano for S. de Guzman.
Fortun, Narvasa & Salazar for Filomeno Ermitao.

Republic vs. De Guzman


Franco L. Loyola for Dominga Ermitao.
48(b) of Com. Act 141. It accords with our ruling in Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals,
Ibarra Bishar, et al., 178 SCRA 708, that: Unless and until the land classified as forest is released in an
official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable lands of the public domain,
the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply (Amunategui vs. Director of Forestry, 126 SCRA
69; Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, 129 SCRA 689; Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals,133
SCRA 701; Republic vs. Court of Appeals, 148 SCRA 480; Vallarta vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 151
SCRA 679).

Rogelio F. Vista for Tricom.


YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari of a decision of the Court of Appeals 1 affirming the
judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Tagaytay, Branch 18, in LRC Cases No. TG-362 and TG-396. 2

The facts are simple:

Hence, the instant Petition, anchored upon the following assignments of error

Conflicting applications for confirmation of imperfect title were filed by Norma Almanzor and
private respondent Salvador De Guzman over parcels of land located in Silang, Cavite. After trial on the
merits, the lower court rendered judgment in favor of private respondent De Guzman, to wit
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered by this Court as follows:

I
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE DE GUZMANS HAVE NOT SUBMITTED
PROOF OF THEIR FEE SIMPLE TITLE OR POSSESSION IN THE MANNER AND FOR THE
LENGTH OF TIME REQUIRED BY LAW TO JUSTIFY CONFIRMATION OF AN IMPERFECT
TITLE.

1. (1)In LRC Case No. TG-362, this Court hereby denies the application for registration of the
parcels of land mentioned therein by applicant Norma R. Almanzor for lack of factual and
legal bases;
2. (2)In LRC Case No. 396, this Court hereby approves the petition for registration and thus
places under the operation of Act 141, Act 946 and/or P.D. 1529, otherwise known as the
Property Registration Law, the land described in Plan Psu-67537-Amd-2 and containing an
area of 308,638 square meters, as supported by its technical descriptions now forming
parts of the records of these cases, in addition to other proofs adduced in the names of
petitioners Damian Ermitao De Guzman, Deogracias Ermitao De Guzman, Zenaida
Ermitao De Guzman, Alicia Ermitao De Guzman and

II
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT DECLARING THAT THE DE GUZMANS HAVE NOT
OVERTHROWN THE PRESUMPTION THAT THE LANDS ARE PORTIONS OF THE PUBLIC
DOMAIN BELONGING TO THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES.4
We find merit in the instant Petition. It is not disputed that the subject parcels of land were released as
agricultural land only in 19655 while the petition for
_______________

_______________
1

CA-G.R. CV No. 48785, dated 26 February 1998; Petition, Annex A; Rollo, pp. 24-38.
Dated 8 September 1994; Records, LRC Case No. TG-362, pp. 440-454.

577

Id., at p. 14; Rollo, p. 454.

Petition, pp. 7-8; Rollo, pp. 12-13.

See Exhibit S-4; Records, p. 98.

578

VOL. 326, FEBRUARY 28, 2000

577

Republic vs. De Guzman

1. Salvador De Guzman, all married, of legal age and with residence and postal addresses at
Magallanes Street, Carmona, Cavite, subject to the claims of oppositors Dominga
Ermitao, Natividad Encarnacion, Melba E. Torres, Flora Manalo, Socorro de la Rosa, Jose
Ermitao and Esmeranso Ermitao under an instrument entitled Waiver of Rights with
Conformity the terms and conditions of which are hereby ordered by this Court to be
annotated at the back of the certificates of title to be issued to the petitioners pursuant to
the judgment of this Court.

578

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. De Guzman

confirmation of imperfect title was filed by private respondents only in 1991. 6 Thus the period of
occupancy of the subject parcels of land from 1965 until the time the application was filed in 1991 was
only twenty six (26) years, four (4) years short of the required thirty (30) year period possession
requirement under Sec. 14, P.D. 29 and R.A. No. 6940.
In finding that private respondents possession of the subject property complied with law, the Court
of Appeals reasoned out that

SO ORDERED.3
As earlier mentioned, on appeal to the Court of Appeals, said judgment was affirmed and the petition
for registration of private respondents over the subject parcels of land was approved.

(W)hile it is true that the land became alienable and disposable only in December, 1965, however,
records indicate that as early as 1928, Pedro Ermitao, appellees predecessor-in-interest, was already
in possession of the property, cultivating it and planting various crops thereon. It follows that appellees

possession as of the time of the filing of the petition in 1991 when tacked to Pedro Ermitaos possession
is 63 years or more than the required 30 years period of possession. The land, which is agricultural, has
been converted to private property.7
We disagree.
The Court of Appeals consideration of the period of possession prior to the time the subject land
was released as agricultural is in direct contravention of the pronouncement in Almeda vs. Court of
Appeals,8 to wit
The Court of Appeals correctly ruled that the private respondents had not qualified for a grant under
Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act because their possession of the land while it was still inalienable
forest land, or before it was declared alienable and disposable land of the public domain on January 13,
1968, could not ripen into private ownership, and should be excluded from the computation of the 30-year
open and continuous possession in concept of owner required under Section 48(b) of Com. Act 141. It
accords with our ruling in Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, Ibarra Bishar, et al., 178 SCRA 708,
that:

So, too, is the Court of Appeals reliance on the case of Director of Land Management vs. Court of
Appeals9 misplaced. There, while the period of possession of the applicants predecessor-in-interest was
tacked to his own possession to comply with the required thirty year period possession requirement, the
land involved therein was not forest land but alienable public land. On the other hand, in the case before
us, the property subject of private respondents application wafe only declared alienable in 1965. Prior
to such date, the same was forest land incapable of private appropriation. It was not registrable and
possession thereof, no matter how lengthy, could not convert it into private property, (unless) and until
such lands were reclassified and considered disposable and alienable. 10
In summary, therefore, prior to its declaration as alienable land in 1965, any occupation or
possession thereon cannot be considered in the counting of the thirty year possession re________________
9

G.R. No. 94525, 205 SCRA 486 [1992].

10

_______________

Palomo vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 95608, 266 SCRA 392, 401 [1997].

580

See Petition; Records, LRC Case No. TG-396, pp. 1-18.

See Note 1, at p. 10; Rollo, p. 33.

G.R. No. 85322, 196 SCRA 476, 480 [1991].

580

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. De Guzman

579

VOL. 326, FEBRUARY 28, 2000

579

Republic vs. De Guzman

Unless and until the land classified as forest is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that
it may form, part of the disposable lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect
title do not apply (Amunategui vs. Director of Forestry, 126 SCRA 69; Director of Lands vs. Court of
Appeals, 129 SCRA 689; Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, 133 SCRA 701; Republic vs. Court of
Appeals, 148 SCRA 480;Vallarta vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 151 SCRA 679).
Thus possession of forest lands, however long, cannot ripen into private ownership (Vamo vs.
Government, 41 Phil. 161 [1920]; Adorable vs. Director of Forestry, 17 Phil. 410 [1960]). A parcel of forest
land is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forestry and beyond the power and jurisdiction
of the cadastral court to register under the Torrens System ( Republic vs. Court of Appeals, 89 SCRA
648; Republic vs. Vera, 120 SCRA 210 [1983]; Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, 129 SCRA
689[1984]). (emphasis ours)

quirement. This is in accord with the ruling in Almeda vs. Court of Appeals, (supra), and because the
rules on the confirmation of imperfect titles do not apply unless and until the land classified as forest
land is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable
agricultural lands of the public domain.11
While we acknowledge the Court of Appeals finding that private respondents and their
predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the subject land for sixty three (63) years at the time
of the application of their petition, our hands are tied by the applicable laws and jurisprudence in giving
practical relief to them. The fact remains that from the time the subject land was declared alienable
until the time of their application, private respondents occupation thereof was only twenty six (26)
years. We cannot consider their thirty seven (37) years of possession prior to the release of the land as
alienable because absent the fact of declassification prior to the possession and cultivation in good faith
by petitioner, the property occupied by him remained classified as forest or timberland, which he could
not have acquired by prescription. Further, jurisprudence is replete with cases which reiterate that
forest lands or forest reserves are not capable of private appropriation and possession thereof, however
long, cannot convert them into private property. Possession of the land by private respondents, whether
spanning decades or centuries, could never ripen into ownership. This Court is constrained to abide by
the latin maxim (d)ura lex, sed lex.12

WHEREFORE, the instant Petition is GRANTED and the February 26, 1998 decision of the Court
of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 48785 as well as that of the Regional Trial Court of Cavite, Branch 38, in
LRC Case No. TG-396 are both REVERSED. Judgment is rendered dismissing LRC Case No.
________________
11
Ituralde vs. Falcasantos, G.R. No. 128017, 301 SCRA 293, 296 [1999], citingSunbeam
Convenience Foods, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals, 181 SCRA 443, 448 [1990].

12

De la Cruz vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 120652, 286 SCRA 230, 235 [1998].

581

VOL. 326, FEBRUARY 28, 2000

581

Amagan vs. Marayag

396 for failure of the applicants therein to comply with the thirty year occupancy and possessory
requirements of law for confirmation of imperfect title. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr. (C.J., Chairman), Puno, Kapunan and Pardo,JJ., concur.
Petition granted, judgments of Court of Appeals and trial court reversed. Case ordered dismissed.
Notes.It is a settled rule that forest lands or forest reserves are not capable of private
appropriation and possession thereof, however long, cannot convert them into private property. (Reyes
vs. Court of Appeals, 295 SCRA 296 [1998]) Possession of forest lands, however long, cannot ripen into
private ownership. (Ituralde vs. Falcasantos,301 SCRA 293 [1999])
o0o
Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

>VIERNES
G.R. No. 179987. April 29, 2009.*
HEIRS OF MARIO MALABANAN, petitioner, vs. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.
Land Registration Act; Public Lands Act; 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.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.
Same; Same; 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 preexistence of the right, rather than establishing the right itself for the first time.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
_______________
* EN BANC.
173June 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.
Civil Law; Prescription; Under the Civil Code that where lands of the public domain are
patrimonial in character, they are susceptible to acquisitive 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.
Same; Land Registration Act; Prescription; 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.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.
Land Registration Act; Prescription; Public Land Act; If a public land is declared patrimonial by
law or proclamation, can the period of possession prior to such conversion be reckoned in counting the
period of prescription? No.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
174registration 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

land from the mass of public land. When a person is said to have acquired an imperfect title,

14(1) is extended under the aegis of the Property Registration Decree and the Public Land

the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. As such, the land ceased to be part of the

Registration Decree and the Civil Code.

confirmation of title, therefore, is but a mere formality.

CHICO-NAZARIO,J., Concurring and Dissenting Opinion:


Land Registration Act; Public Land Act; Prescription; Lands belonging to the public domain may
not be acquired by prescription.Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree clearly and explicitly
refers to private lands, without mention at all of public lands. There is no other way to understand the
plain language of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree except that the land was already
private when the applicant for registration acquired ownership thereof by prescription. The prescription
therein was not the means by which the public land was converted to private land; rather, it was the
way the applicant acquired title to what is already private land, from another person previously holding
title to the same. The provision in question is very clear and unambiguous. Well-settled is the rule that
when the law speaks in clear and categorical language, there is no reason for interpretation or
construction, but only for application.
Same; Same; Same; Sec. 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree applies only to what already are
private lands, which can be acquired by prescription.With the understanding that Section 14(2) of the
Property Registration Decree applies only to what are already private lands, then, there is no question
that the same can be acquired by prescription under the provisions of the Civil Code, because, precisely,
it is the Civil Code which governs rights to private lands.175
Supreme Court; Judgments; The acquisition of an imperfect title to a disposable land of the public
domain was raised as an issue in the Herbieto case and passed upon.It must be emphasized that the
acquisition of an imperfect title to alienable and disposable land of the public domain under Section
48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended, was directly raised as an issue in the Petition in Herbieto and
discussed extensively by the parties in their pleadings. That the application of Jeremias and David
Herbieto could already be dismissed on the ground of lack of proper publication of the notice of hearing
thereof, did not necessarily preclude the Court from resolving the other issues squarely raised in the
Petition before it. Thus, the Court dismissed the application for registration of Jeremias and David
Herbieto on two grounds: (1) the lack of jurisdiction of the land registration court over the application,

BRION,J., Concurring and Dissenting Opinion:


Constitutional Law; Land Registration Act; Public Land Act; Any consideration of lands of the
public domain must begin with the Constitution and its Regalian doctrine and the special laws thereon.
In light of our established hierarchy of laws, particularly the supremacy of the Philippine
Constitution, any consideration of lands of the public domain should start with the Constitution and its
Regalian doctrine; all lands belong to the State, and he who claims ownership carries the burden of
proving his claim. Next in the hierarchy is the PLA for purposes of the terms of the grant, alienation
and disposition of the lands of the public domain, and the PRD for the registration of lands. The PLA
and the PRD are special laws supreme in their respective spheres, subject only to the Constitution. The
Civil Code, for its part, is the general law on property and prescription and should be accorded respect
as such. In more concrete terms, where alienable and disposable lands of the public domain are
involved, the PLA is the primary law that should govern, and the Civil Code provisions on property and
prescription must yield in case of conflict.
Same; Same; Same; Presidential Decree No. 1073 should have provided January 24, 1947 and not
June 12, 1945 as its cut-off date.PD 1073 should have thus provided January 24, 1947 and not
177June 12, 1945 as its cut-off date, yet the latter date is the express legal reality. The reconciliation,
as properly defined by jurisprudence, is that where an applicant has satisfied the requirements of
Section 48 (b) of CA 141, as amended by RA 1942, prior to the effectivity of PD 1073, the applicant is
entitled to perfect his or her title, even if possession and occupation does not date back to June 12,

Section 14(2) entitles registration on the basis of prescription. Registration under Section

Act while registration under Section 14(2) is made available both by the Property

in light of the absence of proper publication of the notice of hearing; and (2) the evident lack of merit of
the application given that the applicants failed to comply with the requirements for judicial
confirmation of an imperfect title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended. This is only
in keeping with the duty of the Court to expeditiously and completely resolve the cases before it and,
once and for all, settle the dispute and issues between the parties. Without expressly discussing and
categorically ruling on the second ground, Jeremias and David Herbieto could have easily believed that
they could re-file their respective applications for registration, just taking care to comply with the
publication-of-notice requirement.
Land Registration Act; Public Land Act; Requisites for Judicial Confirmation of an Imperfect Title.
Judicial confirmation and registration of an imperfect title, under Section 48(b) of the Public Land
Act, as amended, and Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, respectively, should only be
granted when: (1) a Filipino citizen, by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, have been in
open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural land of the public
domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since 12 June 1945, or earlier; and (2) the
land in question, necessarily, was already declared alienable and disposable also by 12 June 1945 or
earlier.
Same; Same; When an individual acquires an imperfect title, he acquires a right to a grant by
operation of law.Stringency and prudence in interpreting and applying Section 48(b) of the Public
176Land Act, as amended, is well justified by the significant consequences arising from a finding that a
person has an imperfect title to agricultural land of the public domain. Not just any lengthy occupation
of an agricultural public land could ripen into an imperfect title. An imperfect title can only be
acquired by occupation and possession of the land by a person and his predecessors-ininterest for the period required and considered by law sufficient as to have segregated the

by operation of law, he acquires a right to a grant, a government grant to the land, without
public domain and goes beyond the authority of the State to dispose of. An application for

1945. For purposes of the present case, a discussion of the cut-off date has been fully made to

highlight that it is a date whose significance and import cannot be minimized nor glossed
over by mere judicial interpretation or by judicial social policy concerns; the full legislative
intent must be respected.

Same; Same; Same; Congress extended the period for filing applications for judicial confirmation of
imperfect titles to December 31, 2020.RA 6940 extended the period for filing applications for free
patent and judicial confirmation of imperfect title to December 31, 2000. The law now also allows the
issuance of free patents for lands not in excess of 12 hectares to any natural-born citizen of the
Philippines who is not the owner of more than 12 hectares and who, for at least 30 years prior to the
effectivity of the amendatory Act, has continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through
his predecessors-in-interest, a tract or tracts of agricultural public lands subject to disposition. Congress
recently extended the period for filing applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect and incomplete
titles to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under RA 9176 from December 31, 2000
under RA 6940 to December 31, 2020.
Same; Same; Same; The Court acted ultra vires in its interpretation of Sec. 48(b), as amended by
Presidential Decree No. 1073.This Court acts beyond the limits of the constitutionally-mandated
separation of powers in giving Section 48(b), as amended by PD 1073, an interpretation beyond its plain
wording. Even this Court cannot read into the law an intent that is not there even your purpose is to
avoid an absurd situation. If we feel that a law already has absurd effects because of the passage of
time, our role under the principle of separation of powers is not to give the law an interpretation that is
not there in order to avoid the perceived absurdity. We thereby dip into the realm of policya role
delegated by the Constitution to the Legislature. If only for this reason, we should avoid
178expandingthrough Naguit and the present ponenciathe plain meaning of Section 48(b) of the
PLA, as amended by PD 1073.
Same; Same; Same; Prescription; A public land, even if alienable is State property and prescription
does not run against the State.The purpose is to determine whether a grant or disposition of an
alienable and disposable land of the public domain has been made, then the PLA primarily applies and
the Civil Code applies only suppletorily. The possession and occupation that the PLA recognizes is based
on its Section 48(b) and, until the requirements of this Section are satisfied, the alienable and

disposable land of the public domain remains a State property that can be disposed only under the
terms of Section 11 of the PLA. In the face of this legal reality, the question of whether for purposes of
prescriptionan alienable and disposable land of the public domain is patrimonial or not becomes
immaterial; a public land, even if alienable and disposable, is State property and prescription does not
run against the State. In other words, there is no room for any hair-splitting that would allow
the inapplicable concept of prescription under the Civil Code to be directly applied to an

alienable and disposable land of the public domain before this land satisfies the terms of a
grant under Section 48(b) of the PLA.

Same; Same; Same; Same; Public land may become private by the governments declaration in
which case prescription under the Civil Code can run.I agree with this statement as it describes a
clear case when the property has become private by the governments own declaration so that
prescription under the Civil Code can run. Note in this regard that there is no inconsistency between
this conclusion and the hierarchy of laws on lands of the public domain that I expounded on. To
reiterate, the PLA applies as a special and primary law when a public land is classified as

alienable and disposable, and remains fully and exclusively applicable until the State itself
expressly declares that the land now qualifies as a patrimonial property. At that point, the
application of the Civil Code and its law on prescription are triggered. The application of

Section 14(2) of the PRD follows.179


Same; Same; Same; Same; Supreme Court; Stare Decisis; The ruling in Republic vs. Court of
Appeals and Naguit (442 SCRA 445) must be abandoned.Naguit must be abandoned and rejected for
being based on legally-flawed premises and for being an aberration in land registration jurisprudence.
At the very least, the present ponencia cannot be viewed as an authority on the effective pos-session
prior to classification since this ruling, by the ponencias own admission, is not necessary for the
resolution of the present case.
PETITION for review on certiorari of the decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Fortun, Narvasa & Salazar for petitioners.
The Solicitor General for respondent.
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 Suhartos in Indonesia to Fujimoris 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
fieldin each field a different dog is going to bark at you. Even dogs know what private property is all
180about. 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 Soto1
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
_______________
1 Hernando de Soto Interview by Reason Magazine dated 30 November 1999, at
http://www.reason.com/news/show/32213.html (Last visited, 21 April 2009).
2 More particularly described and delineated in Plan CSD-04-017123. Records, p. 161.
181square 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 sonsBenedicto, 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
_______________
3 But see note 5.
4 Id.
5 The trial court decision identified Eduardo Velazco as the vendor of the property, notwithstanding
the original allegation in the application that Malabanan purchased the same from Virgilio Velazco. See
note 3. In his subsequent pleadings, including those before this Court, Malabanan or his heirs stated
that the property was purchased from Eduardo Velazco, and not Virgilio. On this point, the appellate
court made this observation:
More importantly, Malabanan failed to prove his ownership over Lot 9864-A. In his application for
land registration, Malabanan alleged that he purchased the subject lot from Virgilio Velazco. Dur182
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:
_______________

ing the trial of the case, however, Malabanan testified that he purchased the subject lot from Eduardo
Velazco, which was corroborated by his witness, Aristedes Velazco, a son of Virgilio Velazco, who stated
that Eduardo was a brother of his grandfather. As aptly observed by the Republic, no copy of the deed of
sale covering Lot 9864-A, executed either by Virgilio or Eduardo Velazco, in favor of Malabanan was
marked and offered in evidence. In the appealed Decision, the court a quo mentioned of a deed of sale
executed in 1995 by Eduardo Velazco in favor of Malabanan which was allegedly marked as Exhibit I.
It appears, however, that what was provisionally marked as Exhibit I was a photocopy of the deed of
sale executed by Virgilio Velazco in favor of Leila Benitez and Benjamin Reyes. Section 34, Rule 132 of
the Rules of Court provides that the court shall consider no evidence which has not been formally
offered. The offer is necessary because it is the duty of a judge to rest his findings of facts and his
judgment only and strictly upon the evidence offered by the parties at the trial. Thus, Malabanan has
not proved that Virgilio or Eduardo Velazco was his predecessor-in-interest. Rollo, pp. 39-40.
6 Rollo, p. 74.
7 Id., at p. 38. Emphasis supplied.
183
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.
Once this Decision becomes final and executory, the corresponding decree of registration shall
forthwith issue.
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 8reversing 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
_______________
8 Penned by Associate Justice Marina Buzon of the Court of Appeals Fifth Division, and
concurred in by Associate Justices Edgardo Sundiam and Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa.
184of 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
inRepublic v. Naguit,11 which was handed down just four months prior to Herbieto. Petitioners suggest
that the discussion in Herbieto 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, continu_______________
9 G.R. No. 156117, 26 May 2005, 459 SCRA 183.
10 See Rollo, p. 11.
11 G.R. No. 144507, 17 January 2005, 448 SCRA 442.
12 Through a Resolution dated 5 December 2007. See Rollo, p. 141.
185ous, 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 in Buenaventura v. Republic,15 Fieldman Agricultural Trading v. Republic16 and Repub_______________
13 Id., at pp. 186-187.
14 G.R. No. 157466, 21 June 2007, 525 SCRA 268.
15 G.R. No. 166865, 2 March 2007, 459 SCRA 271.
16 G.R. No. 147359, 28 March 2008, 550 SCRA 92.
186lic v. Imperial Credit Corporation,17 as well as the earlier case ofDirector 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.
_______________
17 G.R. No. 173088, 25 June 2008, 555 SCRA 314.
18 G.R. No. 85322, 30 April 1991, 178 SCRA 708.
19 G.R. No. 154953, 16 June 2008.
187
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.22Section 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 prov_______________
20 Section 6, Com. Act No. 141, as amended
21 Section 9, Com. Act No. 141, as amended.
22 Section 11, Com. Act No. 141, as amended.
188ince 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 abona 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 since June 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
_______________
23 OSG Memorandum, p. 13.
189from 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:190
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
191Property 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:
Section47.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 FortyFive 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;
_______________
24 Section 47, Public Land Act, as amended by Rep. Act No. 9176.
192the 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 inNaguit.
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 Philippines was 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
_______________
25 R. Agpalo, Statutory Construction (3rd ed., 1995) at p. 182.
193not 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 inHerbieto, as pointed out in Naguit, 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 fideclaim 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.
194
It may be noted that in the subsequent case of Buenaventura,26the 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 rulingBuenaventura has any precedental value
with respect to Section 14(1). On the other hand, the ratio of Naguit 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 Herbieto provides 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 fromBracewell v. Court of Appeals27 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
_______________
26 See note 3.
27 380 Phil. 156; 323 SCRA 193 (2000).
195Ynares-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 inCeniza 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 4I555 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
_______________
28Also known as Republic v. Court of Appeals, 440 Phil. 697; 392 SCRA 190 (2002).
196able 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.
_______________
29 Id., at pp. 710-712; pp. 201-202.
197The 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.31With 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.
_______________
30 See Civil Code, Art. 1113.
31 See e.g., Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 65663, 16 October 1992, 214
SCRA 604, 611; Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108998, 24 August 1994, 235 SCRA 567,
576; Group Commander, Intelligence and Security Group v. Dr. Malvar, 438 Phil. 252, 275; 389 SCRA
493, 509 (2002).
198
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. 33Ordinary acquisitive prescription
requires possession in good faith,34as 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
_______________
32 See Article 1134, Civil Code.
33 See Article 1137, Civil Code.
34 See Article 1117 in relation to Article 1128, Civil Code. See also Articles 526, 527, 528 &
529, Civil Code on the conditions of good faith required.
35 See Article 1117, in relation to Article 1129, Civil Code.
199only 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. 36Yet 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:
x x xx x xx x x
(b)Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious
_______________
36 Citing Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 65663, 16 October 1992, 214
SCRA 604, 611; Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108998, 24 August 1994, 235 SCRA 567,
576; Group Commander, Intelligence and Security Group v. Dr. Malvar, 438 Phil. 252, 275; 389 SCRA
493, 509 (2002).
200possession 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
_______________
37 Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, immediately before its amendment by Rep. Act No. 1942,
reads as follows:
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, 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.
201under 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,
_______________
38 Again, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by Rep. Act No. 1942, was superseded
by P.D. No. 1073, which imposed the 12 June 1945 reckoning point, and which was then incorporated in
Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree.
202as 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
_______________
39See Villarico v. Sarmiento, G.R. No. 136438, 11 November 2004, 442 SCRA 110.
203the 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.204

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. 42Accordingly, the BCDA law itself
declares that the military lands subject thereof are alienable and disposable pursuant to the provi_______________
40 Rep. Act No. 7227, Sec. 7.
41 Rep. Act No. 7227, Sec. 4(a).
42 Rep. Act No. 7227, Sec. 7.
205sions 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 and Subic. 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,
_______________
43 Id.
44 Section 2, Rep. Act No. 7227.
206there 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 the Property Registration Decree and the Public Land Act while
registration under Section 14(2) is made available both by theProperty 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 a thirty-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
207the 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 rec_______________
45 See Civil Code, Art. 1128.
208ognized 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 jure converted 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.
_______________
46A. Tolentino, IV Civil Code of the Philippines (1991 ed.) at 26; citing 2 Castan 175.
47 Memorandum of the OSG, p. 21.
209
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 1945 following P.D.
No. 1073).
The Land Registration Act49 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:
_______________

48 See Angeles v. Samia, 66 Phil. 44 (1938).


49Act No. 496.
50See Section 19, Land Registration Act, which allowed application for registration of title by
person or persons claiming, singly or collectively, to own the legal estate in fee simple.
210
(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.
_______________
51See note 24.
211
(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

212property 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. 52Judicial con_______________
52See Section 118, Com. Act No. 141, as amended.
Except in favor of the Government or any of its branches, units, or institutions, lands acquired
under free patent or homestead provisions shall not be subject to encumbrance or alienation from the
date of the approval of the application and for a term of five years from and after the date of issuance of
the patent or grant, nor shall they become liable to the satisfaction of any debt contracted prior to the
expiration of said period, but the improvements or crops on the land may be mortgaged or pledged to
qualified persons, associations, or corporations.
No alienation, transfer, or conveyance of any homestead after five years and before twenty-five
years after issuance of title shall be
213firmation 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.
_______________
valid without the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, which approval shall not be
denied except on constitutional and legal grounds.
214
SO ORDERED.

>ZAMORA

722

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

San Miguel Corporation vs. Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 57667. May 28, 1990.*


SAN MIGUEL CORPORATION, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and DIRECTOR OF LANDS,
respondents.
Civil Procedure; Evidence; Factual findings of trial courts may nonetheless be reversed by the
Court of Appeals if by the evidence on record, it appears that the trial court involved erred. Suffice it to
state that while trial courts may have the opportunity to observe the demeanor of witnesses, their
factual findings may nonetheless be reversed by the Court of Appeals, the appellate court vested by law
to resolve both legal and factual issues, if, by the evidence on record, it appears that the trial court
involved erred.
Civil Law; Property; Prescription; Such open, continuous, exclusive and notorious occupation of
the disputed properties for more than 30 years must be conclusively established.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. Such open, continuous, exclusive
and notorious occupation of the disputed properties for more than 30 years must, however, be
conclusively established. This quantum of proof is necessary to avoid the erroneous validation of
actually fictitious claims of possession over the property in dispute.
Same; Same; Land Titles; Tax declarations and receipts not conclusive evidence of ownership or
right of possession over a piece of land.Tax declarations and receipts are not conclusive evidence of
ownership or right of possession over a piece of land. They are merely indicia of a claim of ownership.
Tax declarations only become strong evidence of ownership of land acquired by prescription, a mode of
acquisition of ownership relied upon by petitioner in this case, when accompanied by proof of actual
possession.
PETITION for certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeals. Asuncion, J.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Ciriaco Lopez, Jr. & Associates for petitioner.
_______________

THIRD DIVISION.

724

723
724
VOL. 185, MAY 28, 1990

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

723
San Miguel Corporation vs. Court of Appeals

San Miguel Corporation vs. Court of Appeals

FERNAN, C.J.:
In this petition for review on certiorari, San Miguel Corporation seeks the reversal of the decision of the
Court of Appeals1 denying its application for registration of a parcel of land in view of its failure to show
entitlement thereto.
On December 23, 1975, petitioner San Miguel Corporation (SMC for brevity) purchased from
Silverio Perez Lot 684, a 14,531-square-meter parcel of land located in Sta. Anastacia, Sto. Tomas,
Batangas, in consideration of the sum of P133,084.80. 2 On February 21, 1977, claiming ownership in fee
simple of the land, SMC filed before the then Court of First Instance, now Regional Trial Court of
Batangas an application for its registration under the Land Registration Act.
The Solicitor General, appearing for the Republic of the Philippines, opposed the application for
registration contending that SMCs claim of ownership in fee simple on the basis of a Spanish title or
grant could no longer be availed of by the applicant as the six-month period from February 16, 1976
prescribed by Presidential Decree No. 892 had elapsed; that the parcel of land in question is part of the
public domain, and that SMC, being a private corporation, is disqualified under Section 11, Article XIV
of the Constitution from holding alienable lands of the public domain. The Solicitor General thereafter
authorized the Provincial Fiscal of Batangas to appear in said case, subject to his supervision and
control.
At the initial and only hearing held on October 12, 1977, the Court, upon motion of SMC and there
being no opposition to the application except that of the Republic of the Philippines, issued an order of
general default. SMC was allowed to mark documentary evidence to establish jurisdictional facts and to
present additional evidence before the Clerk of Court who was appointed Commissioner for that
purpose.
On December 12, 1977, the lower court, presided by Judge Eduardo C. Abaya, rendered a decision
granting the application for registration and adjudicating the property in favor of SMC.
__________________
1
In CA-G.R. No. 63737-R, penned by Justice Elias B. Asuncion and concurred in Justices Porfirio V.
Sison and Mariano A. Zosa.

Exhibit 1.

The Solicitor General appealed to the Court of Appeals. In its decision of March 23, 1981, said court
reversed the decision of the lower court and declared the parcel of land involved as public land. Hence,
the instant petition with SMC submitting the following alleged grave errors of the Court of Appeals for
this Courts resolution: (1) the Court of Appeals failure to hold that prescription is a mode of acquiring
title or ownership of land and that the title thus acquired is registrable; (2) the Court of Appeals
disregard of SMCs evidence not on the basis of controverting evidence but on the basis of unfounded
suppositions and conjectures, and (3) the Court of Appeals reversal of the factual findings of the trial
court which had the opportunity of observing the demeanor and sincerity of the witnesses. 3
We need not dwell lengthily on the third error assigned by petitioner. Suffice it to state that while
trial courts may have the opportunity to observe the demeanor of witnesses, their factual findings may
nonetheless be reversed by the Court of Appeals, the appellate court vested by law to resolve both legal
and factual issues, if, by the evidence on record, it appears that the trial court involved erred. What is of
primary concern to us in this case is the issue of whether or not the evidence presented by the petitioner
is sufficient to warrant a ruling that SMC and/ or its predecessor-in-interest has a registrable right over
Lot 684.
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. 4 Such open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious occupation of the disputed properties for more than 30 years must,
however, be conclusively established.5This quantum of proof is necessary to avoid
__________________
3

p. 18, Rollo.

Director of Lands vs. Bengzon, G.R. No. 54045, July 28, 1987, 152 SCRA 369;Director of Lands vs.
Manila Electric Co., G.R. No. 57461, September 11, 1987, 153 SCRA 686; Director of Lands vs.
Intermediate Appellate Court and Acme Plywood and Veneer Co., Inc., G.R. No. 73002, December 29,
1986, 146 SCRA 509.
5

Municipality of Santiago, Isabela vs. Court of Appeals, L-49903,

725

VOL. 185, MAY 28, 1990

725

726

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

San Miguel Corporation vs. Court of Appeals

San Miguel Corporation vs. Court of Appeals

the erroneous validation of actually fictitious claims of possession over the property in dispute.

sale to SMC.11

In this case, petitioners claim that its predecessor-in-interest had open, exclusive and undisputed
possession of Lot 684 for more than thirty years is anchored on certain documentary and testimonial
evidence. Its documentary evidence consist of tax declaration No. 923 wherein it appears that in 1974,
Silverio Perez declared as his own for taxation purposes, a certain riceland with an area of 1.5657
hectares located in Sta. Anastacia, Sto. Tomas, Batangas, 6 and a certification of the Office of the
Treasurer of Sto. Tomas to the effect that in 1977, Silverio Perez paid realty taxes for the land subject of
tax declaration no. 923.7

Petitioner did not present other witnesses to corroborate Perez testimony. Its other witness,
Antonio M. de las Alas, Jr., a lawyer of the petitioner, simply testified that he handled the negotiations
for the purchase of the property; that SMC was authorized to own and acquire property as shown by its
articles of incorporation and by-laws; that since its acquisition in 1975, the property had been used as a
hatchery farm of SMC; that SMCs possession in the concept of an owner had been continuous, adverse
and against the whole world, and that the land was declared for taxation purposes still in the name of
Silverio Perez.12

Tax declarations and receipts are not conclusive evidence of ownership or right of possession over a
piece of land.8 They are merely indicia of a claim of ownership. 9 Tax declarations only become strong
evidence of ownership of land acquired by prescription, a mode of acquisition of ownership relied upon
by petitioner in this case, when accompanied by proof of actual possession. 10

We hold that there is paucity of evidence of actual, notorious and exclusive possession of the
property on the part of vendor Silverio Perez so as to attach to it the character of an express grant from
the government.13 Indeed, as correctly held by the Court of Appeals, Silverio Perezs testimony, being
uncorroborated, is simply self-serving and hence, undeserving of any weight.

Such proof of actual possession was sought to be provided by the testimony of vendor Silverio Perez
that he had been in possession of the property since 1933 until he sold it to SMC in 1975; that the
property was given to him by his parents when he got married; that no document evidenced that
transfer; that it had been in the possession of his parents since 1925; that he had declared the property
in his name for taxation purposes; that he had paid taxes therefor, and that he was in peaceful,
continuous and exclusive possession of the property until its

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against the
petitioner.

____________________
February 21, 1983, 120 SCRA 734, 745.
6

Exhibit H.

Exhibit J.

Ferrer-Lopez vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 50420, May 29, 1987, 150 SCRA 393; Director of
Lands vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 50340, December 26, 1984,133 SCRA 701.
9

Municipality of Antipolo vs. Zapanta, G.R. No. 65334, December 26, 1984, 133 SCRA 820.

10

Bautista vs. Court of Appeals, L-43105, August 31, 1984, 131 SCRA 532.

726

SO ORDERED.
Gutierrez, Jr., Feliciano, Bidin and Corts, JJ., concur.
Decision affirmed.
Note.No title to registered land in derogation of that of the registered owner shall be acquired by
prescription or adverse possession. (Gallardo vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 155 SCRA 248.)
o0o
________________
11

TSN, October 12, 1977, pp. 5 to 12.

12

Supra, pp. 13-18.

13

See: Republic vs. De Porkan, G.R. No. 66866, June 18, 1987, 151 SCRA 88.

727

Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

>ZARAGOZA

VOL. 146, DECEMBER 29, 1986

509

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

No. L-73002. December 29, 1986.*


THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner, vs. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT and ACME
PLYWOOD & VENEER CO. INC., ETC., respondents.
Land Registration; A juridical confirmation proceeding should at most be limited to ascertaining
whether the possession claimed is of the required character and length of time as it is not so much one to
confer title as it is to recognize a title already vested.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 that
the possessor(s) "x x x shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a
Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title x x x." 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 Cario, "x x x (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."
Same; Constitutional Law; The 1973 Constitution cannot impair vested rights. Thus where land
was acquired in 1962 when corporations were allowed to acquire lands not beyond 1,024 hectares, the
same may be registered in 1982 although under 1973 Constitution corporations cannot acquire lands of
the public domain.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 Acme's right

Same; Same; The ruling in MERALCO vs. CASTROBARTOLOME (114 SCRA 799), that public
land ceases to be so only upon issuance of a certificate of title, is hereby reconsidered and abandoned.
Correct rule is that in Susi vs. Razon, 48 Phil 424.The Court, in the light of the foregoing, is of the
view, and so holds, that the majority ruling in Meralcomust 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
511

VOL. 146, DECEMBER 29, 1986

511

________________
*

EN BANC.

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

510

510

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

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.
Same; Same; Same.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.

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.
Same; Same; Same; A corporation that acquired private land in 1962 may have it registered in
1982 despite the prohibition in the 1973 Constitution which cannot be given retroactive effect as to impair
vested rights.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.
Same; Same; Same; Same.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.
TEEHANKEE, C.J., concurring:

Land Registration; The provision that only natural persons may apply for confirmation of title is
a technicality of procedure, not of substance.The cited Act's provision that only natural persons may
apply thereunder for confirmation of title is in effect a technicality of procedure and not of substance.
My submittal in Meralco, mutatis mutandis, is properly applicable: "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

VOL. 146, DECEMBER 29, 1986

513

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court


512

512

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

stand, was done after the decision in the Meralco and lglesia ni Cristocases) just for the purpose
of complying on paper with the technicality of having natural persons file the application for
confirmation of title to the private land.
MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., dissenting:

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

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." Indeed, then Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando likewise dissented
along the same line from the majority ruling therein and held: "I dissent insofar as the opinion of the
Court would characterize such jurisdictional defect that the applicant was Meralco, a juridical person
rather than the natural persons-transferors, under the particular circumstances of this case, as an
insurmountable obstacle to the relief sought. I would apply by analogy, although the facts could be
distinguished, the approach followed by us inFrancisco v. City of Davao, where the legal question raised,
instead of being deferred and possibly taken up in another case, was resolved.
Same; Same; Reason for limiting filing of applications to natural persons.To my mind, the
reason why the Act limits the filing of such applications to natural citizens who may prove their
undisputed and open possession of public lands for the required statutory thirtyyear period, tacking on
their predecessors'-in-interest possession is that only natural persons, to the exclusion of juridical
persons such as corporations, can actually, physically and in reality possess public lands for the required
statutory 30-year period. That juridical persons or corporations cannot do so is obvious. But when the
natural persons have fulfilled the required statutory period of possession, the Act confers on them a
legally sufficient and transferable title. It is preferable to follow the letter of the law that they file the
applications for confirmation of their title, although they have lawfuly transf erred their title to the
land. But such procedural failure cannot and should not defeat the substance of the law, as stressed in
the above-cited opinions, that the lands are already private lands because of acquisitive prescription by
the corporation's predecessors and the realistic solution would be to consider the application for
confirmation as filed by the natural persons-transferors, and in accordance with the evidence, confirm
their title to the private lands so converted by operation of law and lawfully transferred by them to the
corporation. The law, after all, recognizes the validity of the transfer and sale of the private land to the
corporation. It should not be necessary to go in a round-about way and have the corporation reassign its
rights to the private land to natural persons(as I under-

Land Registration; The effect of the majority opinion is to nullify the statutory provision that only
natural persons can apply for a Torrens Title.The effect is that the majority opinion now nullifies the
statutory provision that only citizens (natural persons) can apply for certificates of title under Section
48(b) of the Public Land Act, as well as the constitutional provision (Article XIV, Section 11) which
prohibits corporations from acquiring title to lands of the public domain. That interpretation or
construction adopted by the majority cannot be justified. "A construction adopted should not be such as
to nullify, destroy or defeat the intention of the legislature."
Same; The court should promote, not defeat statutory policy.The statutory provision and the
constitutional prohibition express a public policy. The proper course for the Court to take is to promote
in the fullest manner the policy thus laid down and to avoid a construction which would alter or defeat
that policy.
APPEAL by certiorari to review the judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
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
514

513
514

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

515

VOL. 146, DECEMBER 29, 1986

515

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court


Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court
the findings of the trial court in said proceedings in this wise:
1. 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 lnfiels 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-1'), during their special session on November 22. 1979."

1. "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. 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-1');
3. 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. 4.That the constitution of the Republic of the Philippines of 1935 is applicable as the sale
took place on October 29,1962;
5. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.,

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:
x

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-ininterest 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
516

516

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

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 disputeindeed, 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
Courtthe 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 pro ceedings 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-ininterest, 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:
"x x x, 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.
x x x x.
"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 an 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 Cario in
19092 thru Susi in
________________

________________
1

114 SCRA 799.

Cario vs. Insular Government, 41 Phil. 935, 944.

518

517
518
VOL. 146, DECEMBER 29, 1986

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

517
Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

19253 down to Herico in 1980,4 which developed, affirmed and reaffirmed the doctrine that open,
exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public land f or 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 betterand, 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 Cario,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. x x x."
That ruling assumed a more doctrinal character because expressed in more categorical language,
in Susi:

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 therefor 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, likeLacaste vs. Director of Lands,7 Mesina vs.
Vda. de Sonza,8Manarpac vs. Cabanatuan,9 Miguel vs. Court of Appeals 10 andHerico 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
"x x x. 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-ininterest, 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. x x x.
x

"x x x. 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,
________________
3

Susi vs. Razon, 48 Phil. 424.


Herico vs. Dar, 95 SCRA 437.
Of said Decree/Regulations of June 25, 1880.

519

519

As interpreted in several cases, when the conditions as specified


________________
6

underscoring supplied.

63 Phil. 654.

108 Phil. 251.

21 SCRA 743.

10

VOL. 146, DECEMBER 29, 1986

29 SCRA 760.

11
There was withal a later attempt by the ponente in Herico (Castro, J.) to somewhat soften the
import of the doctrine, in his concurrence in Meralco (114 SCRA 799, 810-813)

520
Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court
520

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


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.

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

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) "x x x shall be conclusively
presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to
a certificate of title x x x." 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 Cario, "x x x (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 acceptedas it must bethat 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

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 Acme's 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 Bian 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.
*

14

Underscoring supplied; the provision referred to is Section 48(b) of C.A. No. 141.

13

Sec. 48(b).

Referring, precisely, to Article XIV, Section 11, of the 1973 Constitution.

522

522

521

VOL. 146, DECEMBER 29, 1986

________________

________________
12

521

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

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).
*

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). "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.
_______________
15

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 in 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
524

524

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Ayog vs. Cusi, Jr., 118 SCRA 492.


Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

523

VOL. 146, DECEMBER 29, 1986

523

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

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

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 re-established, 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.

Under the express text and mandate of the cited Act, such possessors "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."
The Court thus held in Susi that under the presumption juris et de jure established in the Act, the
rightful possessor of the public land for the statutory period "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
________________
1
Meralco vs. Castro-Bartolome, 114 SCRA 799, and Republic vs. Villanueva and Iglesia ni
Cristo, 114 SCRA 875, respectively.

Feria, Yap, Fernan, Alampay, Cruz, Paras and Feliciano, JJ.,concur.


Teehankee, C.J., files a concurring opinion.

Cario vs. Insular Government, 212 U.S. 449, 53 L. ed. 594, 41 Phil. 935 and 7 Phil. 132.

Susi vs. Razon, 48 Phil. 424.

Herico vs. Dar, 95 SCRA 437.

TEEHANKEE, C.J., concurring:

For the text of the Act, as amended, see page 3 of the main opinion.

I am honored by my brethren's judgment at bar that my dissenting opinion in the June, 1982 Meralco
and lglesia ni Cristo

526

Melencio-Herrera, J., please see dissent.


Gutierrez, Jr., J., I reiterate my concurrence in Meralco v. Castro-Bartolome, and, therefore,
dissent here.

525
526

VOL. 146, DECEMBER 29, 1986

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

525
Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

cases,1 which is herein upheld, "expressed what is the better .... and indeed the correct view." My dissent
was anchored on the landmark 1909 case of Cario2 through the 1925 case of Susi3 and the long line of
cases cited therein to the latest 1980 case of Herico4 that "it is established doctrine .... that an open,
continuous, adverse and public possession of a land of the public domain for the period provided in the
Public Land Act provision in force at the time (from July 26, 1894 in Susi under the old law [this period
was reduced to 'at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation
of title' by amendment of Commonwealth Act No. 141, equivalent to the period of acquisitive
prescription5]) by a private individual personally and through his predecessors confers an effective title
on said possessor, whereby the land ceases to be land of the public domain and becomes private
property." I hereby reproduce the same by reference for brevity's sake. But since we are reverting to the
old above-cited established doctrine and precedents and discarding the Meralco and Iglesia ni
Cristo cases which departed therefrom in the recent past, I feel constrained to write this concurrence in
amplification of my views and ratio decidendi.

should be issued an order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts, an application therefor is
sufficient....// 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 [and beyond his authority to sell to any
other person]."6
The root of the doctrine goes back to the pronouncement of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes for the
U.S. Supreme Court in the 1909 case of Cario (the Igorot chief who would have been deprived of
ancestral family lands by the dismissal of his application for registration) which reversed the dismissal
of the registration court (as affirmed by the Supreme Court) and adopted the liberal view that under the
decree and regulations of June 25, 1880, "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, whenever made, was not to confer
title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law."

The Court's decision at bar now expressly overturns the Meralcoand related cases subsequent
thereto which failed to adhere to the aforecited established doctrine dating back to 1909 and was
consistently applied up to June 29, 1982 (when the Meralco decision was promulgated). We reaffirm the
established doctrine that such acquisitive prescription of alienable public lands takes place ipso jure or
by operation of law without the necessity of a prior issuance of a certificate of title. The land ipso
jure ceases to be of the public domain and becomes private property, which may be lawfully sold to and
acquired by qualified corporations such as respondent corporation. (As stressed in Herico, supra, "the
application for confirmation is a mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of
the title.")

expressly reiterate that it has always been the "policy of the State to hasten the settlement, adjudication
and quieting of titles to [such] unregistered lands," i.e. to recognize that such lands publicly and
notoriously occupied and cultivated under bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership have ipso
jure been converted into private property and grant the possessors the opportunity to establish and
record such fact. Thus, the deadline for the filing of such ap-

Such ipso jure conversion into private property of public lands publicly held under a bona fide claim
of acquisition or

528

528

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

________________
Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court
6

Note in brackets supplied.


plication which would have originally expired first on December 31, 1938 was successively extended to
December 31, 1941, then extended to December 31, 1957, then to December 31, 1968, further extended
to December 31, 1976 and lastly extended to December 31, 1987. 7

527

VOL. 146, DECEMBER 29, 1986

527

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

ownership is the public policy of the Act and is so expressly stated therein. By virtue of such conversion
into private property, qualified corporations may lawfully acquire them and there is no "alteration or
defeating" of the 1973 Constitution's prohibition against corporations holding or acquiring title to lands
of the public domain, as claimed in the dissenting opinion, for the simple reason that no public lands are
involved.
It should be noted that respondent corporation purchased the land from the Infiels on October
16,1962 under the aegis of the 1935 Constitution which contained no prohibition against corporations
holding public lands (except a limit of 1,024 hectares) unlike the later 1973 Constitution which imposed
an absolute prohibition. Even on the erroneous assumption that the land remained public land despite
the Infiels' open possession thereof as owners from time immemorial, respondent corporation's lawful
purchase from them of the land in 1962 and P45million investments redounding presumably to the
welfare and progress of the community, particularly the municipality of Maconacon, Isabela to which it
donated part of the land for the townsite created a vested right which could not be impaired by the
prohibition adopted eleven years later. But as sufficiently stressed, the land of the Infiels had been ipso
jureconverted into private land and they had a legally sufficient and transferable title conferred by the
conclusive presumption of the Public Land Act (which needed only to be established in confirmation of
title proceedings for formalization and issuance of the certificate of title) which they lawfully and validly
transferred to respondent corporation.
In fact, the many amendments to the Act extending the period for the filing of such applications for
judicial confirmation of imperfect and incomplete titles to alienable and disposable public lands

The cited Act's provision that only natural persons may apply thereunder for confirmation of title is
in effect a technicality of procedure and not of substance. My submittal in Meralco, mutatis mutandis, is
properly applicable: "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."8 Indeed, then Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando likewise dissented along the same line
from the majority ruling therein and held: "I dissent insofar as the opinion of the Court would
characterize such jurisdictional defect that the applicant was Meralco, a juridical person rather than the
natural persons-transferors, under the particular circumstances of this case, as an insurmountable
obstacle to the relief sought. I would apply by analogy, although the facts could be distinguished, the
approach followed by us in Francisco v. City of Davao, where the legal question raised, instead of being
deferred and possibly taken up in another case, was resolved. By legal fiction and in the exercise of our
equitable jurisdiction, I feel that the realistic solution would be to decide the matter as if the application
under Section 48(b) were filed by the Piguing spouses, who I assume suffer from no such
disability."9 Justice Vicente Abad Santos,
________________
7
Under CA 292 approved June 9, 1938; R.A. 107, approved June 2, 1947; R.A. 2061, approved June
13, 1958; R.A. 6236, approved June 19, 1971; and P.D. 1073 issued January 25, 1977.

114 SCRA at pp. 823-824.

Idem, at pp. 809-810.

529

in the Meralco and Iglesia ni Cristo cases) just for the purpose of complying on paper with the
technicality of having natural persons file the application for confirmation of title to the private land.
VOL. 146, DECEMBER 29, 1986

529
MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., dissenting:

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

now retired, while concurring in the procedural result, likewise, in effect dissented from the therein
majority ruling on the question of substance, and stated his opinion that "the lots which are sought to be
registered have ceased to be lands of the public domain at the time they were acquired by the petitioner
corporation. They are already private lands because of acquisitive prescription by the predecessors of
the petitioner and all that is needed is the confirmation of the title. Accordingly, the constitutional
provision that no private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain is
inapplicable."10
To my mind, the reason why the Act limits the filing of such applications to natural citizens who
may prove their undisputed and open possession of public lands for the required statutory thirty-year
period, tacking on their predecessors'-ininterest possession is that only natural persons, to the exclusion
of juridical persons such as corporations, can actually, physically and in reality possess public lands for
the required statutory 30-year period. That juridical persons or corporations cannot do so is obvious.
But when the natural persons have fulfilled the required statutory period of possession, the Act confers
on them a legally sufficient and transferable title. It is preferable to follow the letter of the law
thatthey file the applications for confirmation of their title, although they have lawfully transferred their
title to the land. But such proceduralfailure cannot and should not defeat the substance of the law, as
stressed in the above-cited opinions, that the lands are alreadyprivate lands because of acquisitive
prescription by the corporation's predecessors and the realistic solution would be to consider the
application for confirmation as filed by the natural persons-transferors, and in accordance with the
evidence, confirm their title to the private lands so converted by operation of law and lawfully
transferred by them to the corporation, The law, after all, recognizes the validity of the transfer and sale
of the private land to the corporation. It should not be necessary to go in a round-about way and have
the corporation reassign its rights to the private land to natural persons(as I understand), was done
after the decision
________________
10

Section 48 of the Public Land Act, in part, provides:


"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:
1. (a)xxx

xxx

xxx

2. (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.
3. (c)xxx

xxx

xxx

Article XIV, Section 11, of the 1973 Constitution, in part, provides:


"SEC. 11. xxx. No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain
except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area; nor may any citizen hold such lands by
lease in excess of five hundred hectares x x x."
It has to be conceded that, literally, statutory law and constitutional provision prevent a corporation
from directly applying to the Courts for the issuance of Original Certificates of Title to lands of the
public domain (Manila Electric Company vs. Castro-Bartolome, 114 SCRA 799; Republic vs. Villanueva,
531

Idem, at p. 810.

530
VOL. 146, DECEMBER 29, 1986

530

531

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court


114 SCRA 875; Republic vs. Court of Appeals, 119 SCRA 449;Iglesia ni Cristo vs. Hon. Judge, CFI of
Nueva Ecija, Br. 1). It is my opinion that the literalism should be adhered to in this case.

The reasoning of the majority can be restated in simple terms as follows:


1. (a)The INFIELS can successfully file an application for a certificate of title over the land
involved in the case.
2. (b)After the INFIELS secure a certificate of title, they can sell the land to ACME.
3. (c)As ACME can eventually own the certificate of title, it should be allowed to directly apply
to the Courts for the Certificate of Title, thus avoiding the circuituous "literal" requirement
that the INFIELS should first apply to the courts for the titles, and afterwards transfer the
title to ACME.
The majority opinion, in effect, adopted the following excerpt from a dissent in Manila Electric Company
vs. CastroBartolome (114 SCRA 799, 823 [1982].
"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 in 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.

legislature" (New York State Dept. of Social Services v. Dublino [UST 37 L. Ed 2d 688, 93 S Ct
2507; United States v. Alpers, 338 US 680, 94 L Ed 457, 70 S Ct 352; cited in 73 Am. Jur. 2nd., p. 351).
It has also been said that:
"In the construction of statutes, the courts start with the assumption that the legislature intended to
enact an effective law, and the legislature is not to be presumed to have done a vain thing in the
enactment of a statute. Hence, it is a general principle that the courts should, if reasonably possible to
do so interpret the statute, or the provision being construed, so as to give it efficient operation and effect
as a whole. An interpretation should, if possible, be avoided, under which the statute or provision being
construed is defeated, or as otherwise expressed, nullified, destroyed, emasculated, repealed, explained
away, or rendered insignificant, meaningless, inoperative, or nugatory. If a statute is fairly susceptible of
two constructions, one of which will give effect to the act, while the other will defeat it, the former
construction is preferred. One part of a statute may not be construed so as to render another part
nugatory, or of no effect. Moreover, notwithstanding the general rule against the enlargement of
extension of a statute by construction, the meaning of a statute may be extended beyond the precise
words used in the law, and words or phrases may be altered or supplied, where this is necessary to
prevent a law from becoming a nullity. Wherever the provision of a statute is general, everything which
is necessary to make such provision effectual is supplied by implication." (Pliakos vs. Illinois Liquor
Control Com. 11 III 2d 456, 143 NE2d 47; cited in 73 Am. Jur. 2d pp. 422-423)
The statutory provision and the constitutional prohibition express a public policy. The proper course for
the Court to take is to promote in the fullest manner the policy thus laid down and to avoid a
construction which would alter or defeat that
533

VOL. 146, DECEMBER 29, 1986

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." (Paragraphing supplied)

533

Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

532

policy.
532

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


In fine, I confirm my adherence to the ruling of this Court in Meralco vs. Hon. Castro-Bartolome,
114 SCRA 799 [1982] and related cases.
Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court

The effect is that the majority opinion now nullifies the statutory provision that only citizens (natural
persons) can apply for certificates of title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as well as the
constitutional provision (Article XIV, Section 11) which prohibits corporations from acquiring title to
lands of the public domain. That interpretation or construction adopted by the majority cannot be
justified. " A construction adopted should not be such as to nullify, destroy or defeat the intention of the

Judgment affirmed.
Notes.Where property was in the adverse, continuous, uninterrupted and notorious possession of
the buyer in the concept of owner for more than half a century, the claim over such property has already
prescribed. (Godinex vs. Court of Appeals, 135 SCRA 351.)

Having been registered owners to lot f or more than 40 years and had possessed it during said
period, their title had become indefeasible and their possession could not be disturbed. (Sinaon vs.
Sorongan, 136 SCRA 407.)
o0o
534
Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

>AGUILAR

128

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Menguito vs. Republic

G.R. No. 134308. December 14, 2000.*


SUSANA MENGUITO, EMELITA MENGUITO-MANALILI, HELEN MARTA MENGUITO-LUNA,
RENATO MENGUITO, BERSAMIN MENGUITO, FROILAN MENGUITO and GENEROSO
MENGUITO, petitioners, vs. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.
Land Registration; Public Land Act (CA No. 141); Section 48 of Commonwealth Act (CA) No. 141
provides for the registration of imperfect titles to lands of the public domain; The applicants for
registration of imperfect titles are duty-bound to prove that (1) the land applied for was alienable and
disposable, and (2) the applicants and their predecessors-in-interest had occupied and possessed the land

openly, continuously, exclusively, and adversely since June 12, 1945.Section 48 of Commonwealth Act
(CA) No. 141, as amended, provides for the registration of imperfect titles to lands of the public domain
in this wise: x x x Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1073 clarified paragraph b of the said provision by
specifically declaring that it applied only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. Hence,
as observed by the appellate court, petitioners were duty-bound to prove two legal requirements: (1) the
land applied for was alienable and disposable; and (2) the applicants and their predecessors-in-interest
had occupied and possessed the land openly, continuously, exclusively, and adversely since June 12,
1945.
Same; Same; Regalian Doctrine; Unless public land is shown to have been reclassified or
alienated to a private person by the State, it remains part of the inalienable public domain.For the
original registration of title, the applicant (petitioners in this case) must overcome the presumption that
the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain. Unless public land is shown to have
been reclassified or alienated to a private person by the State, it remains part of the inalienable public
domain. Indeed, occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long, cannot ripen into
ownership and be registered as a title. To overcome such presumption, incontrovertible evidence must
be shown by the applicant. Absent such evidence, the land sought to be registered remains inalienable.

Same; Same; Social Justice; Much as the Supreme Court wants to conform to the States policy of
encouraging and promoting the distribution of alienable public lands to spur economic growth and
remain true to the ideal of social justice, its hands are tied by the laws stringent safeguards against
registering imperfect titles.Because the factual findings of the trial and the appellate courts were
contrary to each other, we waded into the records, but found no reason to modify the assailed CA
Decision. Much as we want to conform to the States policy of encouraging and promoting the
distribution of alienable public lands to spur economic growth and remain true to the ideal of social
justice, our hands are tied by the laws stringent safeguards against registering imperfect titles. In this
case, we agree with the CA that petitioners have not presented sufficient proof of their compliance with
the legal requirements for registration of imperfect titles.
PETITION for review on certiorari of a decision of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
130

_______________
130
*

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

THIRD DIVISION.

129
Menguito vs. Republic

VOL. 348, DECEMBER 14, 2000

129

Dennis E. Angeles for petitioners.


The Solicitor General for the Republic.

Menguito vs. Republic


PANGANIBAN, J.:
Same; Same; Same; Surveyors; A notation by a surveyor-geodetic engineer in the Survey Plan that
the survey was inside alienable and disposable land does not constitute a positive government act validly
changing the classification of landa mere surveyor has no authority to reclassify lands of the public
domain.In the present case, petitioners cite a surveyor-geodetic engineers notation in Exhibit E
indicating that the survey was inside alienable and disposable land. Such notation does not constitute a
positive government act validly changing the classification of the land in question. Verily, a mere
surveyor has no authority to reclassify lands of the public domain. By relying solely on the said
surveyors assertion, petitioners have not sufficiently proven that the land in question has been declared
alienable.
Same; Same; General statements, which are mere conclusions of law and not proofs of possession,
are unavailing and cannot suffice.Petitioners presented evidence that they had been paying real estate
taxes since 1974. Their predecessors-in-interest, they claimed, have also been paying taxes on the land
for several years before them, and Cirilo Menguito had declared the land for tax purposes in 1943.
However, they did not present any documents or any other satisfactory proof to substantiate this claim.
General statements, which are mere conclusions of law and not proofs of possession, are unavailing and
cannot suffice.

Unless a piece of public land is shown to have been classified as alienable and disposable, it remains
part of the inalienable public domain. Even assuming that such land has been classified as alienable,
title thereto can be registered only upon presentation of incontrovertible proof of adverse, notorious and
open possession in the concept of owner for a period of thirty years.

The Case
Before us is a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the September 30, 1997
decision1 and the June 23, 1998 Resolution 2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-GR CV No. 39638. The
decretal portion of said Decision reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, the
appellees application for registration is herebyDISMISSED.3
The Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City (Branch 157), 4 which was reversed by the
appellate court, granted petitioners application for registration in this wise: 5

WHEREFORE, the order of general default against the whole world heretofore entered in this case is
affirmed, and judgment is hereby rendered confirming the registerable title of the applicants to the land
described in their application under plan Swo-13-000227 and its technical descriptions, situated in the
Barrio of Ususan, Municipality of Taguig,

6. 6.For Lot 6046-1in the name of Froilan Menguito, of legal age, Filipino citizen, married to
Zenaida Carag, with residence and postal address at T. Sulit St., Pateros, Metro Manila;
7. 7.For Lot 6045-Jin the name of Emelita Menguito, of legal age, Filipino citizen, married to
Luciano Manalili, with residence and postal address at T. Sulit St., Pateros, Metro Manila;
and

_______________
1

Rollo, pp. 20-34. It was penned by Justice Cancio C. Garcia (Division chairman), with the
concurrence of Justices Delilah Villallon-Magtolis and Marina L. Buzon (members).
2

Rollo, p. 36.
Upon the finality of this Decision, let an Order be issued to the Commissioner of Land Registration
Authority for the issuance of the decree of registration and the corresponding certificates of title in favor
of the applicants pursuant to Section 39 of PD No. 1529.

CA Decision, p. 15; rollo, p. 34.

Penned by Judge Domingo R. Garcia.

8. 8.For Lot 6045-Kin the name of Generoso Menguito, of legal age, Filipino citizen, married
to Luciano Manalili; and Froilan Menguito, of legal age, Filipino citizen, married to
Zenaida Carag, all with residence and postal address at T. Sulit St., Pateros, Metro Manila.

SO ORDERED.

RTC Decision, pp. 4-5.


The Facts

131
The antecedents of the case are adequately summarized by the Court of Appeals as follows:

VOL. 348, DECEMBER 14, 2000

132

131

132

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Menguito vs. Republic

Metro Manila, and containing an aggregate area of 2,112 square meters; and individual and separate
certificates of titles to the lots comprising the said land are hereby ordered registered in the names of
the applicants, as follows:
1. 1.For lots 6045-A, 6045-B, 6045-C, and 6045-D in the name of Susana Menguito, of legal age,
widow, Filipino citizen, with residence and postal address at T. Sulit St., Pater[o]s, Metro
Manila;
2. 2.For Lot 6045-Ein the name of Renato Menguito, of legal age, married to Irene Toledo,
Filipino citizen, with residence and postal address at T. Sulit, St, Pateros, Metro Manila;
3. 3.For Lot 6045-Fin the name of Bersamin Menguito, of legal age, Filipino citizen, single,
with residence and postal address at T. Sulit St., Pateros, Metro Manila;
4. 4.For Lot 6045-Gin the name of Generoso Menguito, of legal age, Filipino citizen, single,
with residence and postal address at T. Sulit St., Pateros, Metro Manila;
5. 5.For Lot 6045-Hin the name of Helen Marta Menguito, of legal age, Filipino citizen,
single, with residence and postal address at T. Sulit St., Pateros, Metro Manila;

Menguito vs. Republic

On November 10, 1987, in the Regional Trial Court at Pasig, Metro Manila an Application for
Registration of Title was filed by the following successors-in-interest of the deceased spouses Cirilo
Menguito and Juana Manalo-Menguito, namely: SUSANA MENGUITO, EMELITA MENGUITOMANALILI, HELEN MARTA MENGUITO-LUNA, RENATO MENGUITO, BERSAMIN MENGUITO,
FROILAN MENGUITO and GENEROSO MENGUITO. Docketed in the said court as LRC Case No. N10938, the application reads:
APPLICATION FOR REGISTRATION
OF TITLE
The above-named applicants hereby apply to have the land hereinafter described brought under the
operation of the Land Registration Act as amended by the Property Registration Decree No. 1529 and to
have their title thereto registered and confirmed,
AND DECLARE:

1. 1.That the applicants are the owners in fee simple of eleven (11) parcels of land situated in
the Barrio of Ususan, Municipality of Taguig, Metro Manila, and are bounded and
described as shown on plan Swo-13-000227 (lot Nos. 6045-A, 6045-B, 6045-C, 6045-D,
6045-E, 6045-F, 6045-G, 6045-H, 6045-1, 6045-J and 6045-K) and corresponding technical
descriptions, x x x;

b)

Andres Filemon

Pateros-Taguig Road

2. 2.That said parcels of land are assessed for taxation for the current year at P5,910.00 as per
Tax Declaration No. B-11-01351 of the land record of Taguig, Metro Manila;
3. 3.That to the best of applicants knowledge and belief, there is no mortgage or encumbrance
of any kind whatsoever affecting the said land nor any other persons having any estate or
interest therein, legal or equitable, in possession, remainder, reversion or expectancy;

Ususan, Taguig

4. 4.That the applicants acquired the said parcels of land by inheritance;

Metro Manila

5. 5.That said parcels of land are occupied by the applicants and their predecessors-in-interest
have been in actual, open, peaceful, continuous, and adverse possession, in the concept of
owners, of said parcels of land for more than thirty years;

c)

6. 6.That the names in full and addresses as far known to the undersigned, of the owners of all
adjoining properties are as follows:

Beatriz Dumagat

Pateros-Taguig Road

133

Ususan, Taguig
VOL. 348, DECEMBER 14, 2000

133

Metro Manila
Menguito vs. Republic
d)
(a)

Maura Cabanatan

Pilar Menguito
Pateros-Taguig Road
Pateros-Taguig Road
Ususan, Taguig
Ususan, Taguig
Metro Manila
Metro Manila
e)

Pateros-Taguig Road

c/o The District Engineer

134

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Pasig, Metro Manila

Menguito vs. Republic

1. 7.That the applicants full name, age, citizenship, residence, and postal address, are as
follows:

Lot 6045-D

SUSAN MENGUITO, widow; EMELITA M. MANALILI, married to Luciano Manalili; HELEN MARTA
M. LUNA, married to Benjamin Luna, Jr.; RENATO MENGUITO, married to Irene Toledo; BERSAMIN
MENGUITO, married to Elvira Salvacion; FROILAN MENGUITO, married to Zenaida Carag; and
GENEROSO MENGUITO, single; all of legal age, Filipinos, and with residence and postal address at T.
Sulit St., Pateros, Metro Manila.

Lot 6045-E

Lot 6045-F

1. 8.That should the Land Registration Act invoked be not applicable in the instant case, the
applicants hereby apply for the benefit of Chapter VIII of Commonwealth Act No. 141 as
amended;

Lot 6045-G
2. 9.That the following documents attached hereto and made part hereof:

Lot 6045-H
(a)

Tracing cloth plan of Swo-13-000227

(b)

Two (2) print copies of said plan Swo-13-000227

(c)

Three (3) copies each of the Technical Description of:

Lot 6045-I

Lot 6045-J

Lot 6045-K
Lot 6045-A

(d)

Three (3) copies of Engineers Certificate

(e)

Four (4) copies of Tax Declaration No. B-011-01351

Lot 6045-B

Lot 6045-C

134

xxx

xxx

xxx

2. 3.That the claim of ownership in fee simple on the basis of Spanish title or grant can no
longer be availed of by the applicant who has failed to file an appropriate application for
registration within the period of six (6) months from February 16, 1976 as required by
Presidential Decree No. 892. From the records, it appears that the instant application was
filed on July 31, 1990.
(Amended Record on Appeal, pp. 1-5).

3. 4.That the parcel applied is part of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the
Philippines not subject to private appropriation (Amended Record on Appeal, pp. 5-6).

Acting on the foregoing application, the lower court issued a Notice of Initial Hearing addressed to: the
Solicitor General, the Director of the Land Management Bureau, the Secretary of the Department of
Public Works and Highways, the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, the Director of the
Bureau of Forest Development, and the owners of the adjacent properties as mentioned in the
application, informing them that the application is scheduled for initial hearing on April 25, 1989. The
addressees were then ordered to present such claims as you may have to said lands or any portion
thereof, and to submit evidence in support of such claims and unless you appear at said court at the
time and place aforesaid, your default will be recorded and the title to the lands will be adjudicated and
determined in accordance with law and the evidence before the Court, and thereafter, you will forever be
barred from contesting said application or any decree entered thereon (Exhibit A).
Said notice of initial hearing was published in the April 5, 1989 issue of Abante, a daily tabloid
(Exhs. C, C-1 C-1-A).
Earlier, or on March 30, 1989, the Republic of the Philippines, through the Solicitor General, filed
its Opposition to the application for registration contending:
1. 1.That neither the applicant nor his predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the land in question since June 12,
1945 or prior thereto (Sec. 48 [b], CA. 141, as amended by P.D. 1073).
2. 2.That the muniments of title and tax payment receipts of applicant, if any, attached to or
alleged in the application, do not constitute competent and sufficient evidence of a bona
fide acquisition of the lands applied for or his open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation thereof in the concept of owner,

The Solicitor General therefore prayed for the denial of the application for registration and for the
declaration of the properties subject thereof as part of the public domain belonging to the Republic of
the Philippines.
At the scheduled initial hearing of the case on April 25, 1989, a certain Jose Tangco, Jr. appeared
and registered a verbal opposition to the application. On motion of counsel for the applicants, the court
issued an Order of General Default against the whole world, except as against the oppositors Republic of
the Philippines and Jose Tangco, Jr., who was directed to file his written opposition but never did.
Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued.
On June 13, 1990, the applicants filed their Formal Offer of Evidence submitting therewith the
following documentary exhibits: (1) Plan Swo-13-000227 (Exh. T); (2) technical descriptions of Lot Nos.
6045-A to 6045-J, inclusive (Exhs. F to F-10 inclusive); (3) Engineers Certificate (Exh. G); (4) Extrajudicial Settlement and Partition executed by the applicants dated December 12, 1985 (Exh. H); (5)
description of the land and the apportionment thereof among the applicants (Exhs. H-F and H-2
respectively); (6) Tax Declarations (Exhs. I, J, K, V M, W and O); (7) Tax Receipts (Exhs. O, O-1,
P, P-I, Q and R); (8) Kasulatan ng Pagkakaloob dated May 7, 1969 executed by Cirilo Menguito in
favor of Pedro Menguito (Exh. S); and (9) Deed of Partition dated November 7, 1990 executed by the
applicants (Exh. T).
On September 12, 1990, the oppositor Republic filed its Manifestation and Opposition to
applicants formal offer of evidence. The said manifestation reads:
It interposes no objection to the admission of Exhibits A, B, C D, relative to jurisdictional
requirements. It has no objection to

135

136

VOL. 348, DECEMBER 14, 2000

135

Menguito vs. Republic

1. since June 12, 1945, or prior thereto. Said muniments of title do not appear to be genuine
and indicate the pretended possession of applicant to be of recent vintage.

136

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Menguito vs. Republic

Exhibits E, F, F-1 to F-10 relating to the plan and the technical description of the lots being applied
for and Exhibit G which is the Engineers certificate.

It objects to Exhibits H, H-1 to H-2 the extrajudicial settlement and partition dated December
12, 1985 for being self serving. It objects to Exhibits I, J, K, L, M and N for being incompetent and
insufficient proof of possession of the lot in question by applicants or their predecessors-in interest. In
fact the said tax declarations do not date back to at least June 12, 1945. It objects to Exhibits 0, T, Q,
and R, the same being incompetent and insufficient to prove possession since June 12, 1945. It objects
to Exhibits 0 T Q, and R, the same being incompetent and insufficient to prove possession since June
12, 1945. It objects to Exhibit S as being self-serving being a mere photocopy of the alleged Kasulatan
ng Pagkakaloob dated May 7, 1989 executed by Cirilo Menguito the same cannot be accepted in
evidence, applicants not having first laid the basis for the presentation of secondary evidence. It objects
to the first page of Exhibit T, being self-serving and a mere photocopy. Furthermore, page 2 of said
exhibit, where the supposed acknowledgment of the instrument appears, refers to different parcels of
land other than those being applied for.

question had been classified as alienable or disposable and that petitioners or their predecessors-ininterest had been in possession of it since June 12, 1945.

WHEREFORE, considering that the applicants have failed to prove their title to the lands applied
for, it is respectfully prayed that the application for registration be denied and that the land applied for
be declared as part of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines.

In fine, the Court will resolve whether the CA erred in rejecting petitioners application for the
registration of their respective titles.

Considering the above, oppositor respectfully manifests that there is no need for it to submit
evidence in support of its opposition. (Amended Record on Appeal, pp. 11-13).
On May 15, 1991, the lower court rendered its decision disposing as follows:

Hence, this Petition.7

The Issue
In their Memorandum, petitioners submit a single issue for our consideration:
Whether or not the court a quo erred in reversing the findings of facts of the trial court. 8

The Courts Ruling


The Petition is devoid of merit.
_______________

WHEREFORE, the order of general default against the whole world heretofore entered in this case is
affirmed, and judgment is hereby rendered confirming the registerable title of the applicants x x x
On June 11, 1991, the oppositor Republic, through the Solicitor General, moved for a
reconsideration of the aforequoted decision, to which a written opposition was interposed by the
applicants.

CA Decision, pp. 1-9; rollo, pp. 20-28.

The case was deemed submitted for decision on January 13, 2000, upon the Courts receipt of
respondents Memorandum, signed by Sol. Gen. Ricardo P. Galvez, Asst. Sol. Gen. Karl B. Miranda, and
Sol. Alma Valerie C. Soriano. Filed earlier was petitioners Memorandum, signed by Atty. Dennis E.
Angeleb.

137

Petitioners Memorandum, p. 6; rollo, p. 99.

138
VOL. 348, DECEMBER 14, 2000

137

138

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Menguito vs. Republic

On July 8, 1991, the lower court issued an order denying the motion for reconsideration for lack of
merit.6

Ruling of the Court of Appeals


The Court of Appeals agreed with respondent that the lower court had failed to consider the legal
requirements for registration of imperfect titles; namely: (1) the land is alienable and disposable; and (2)
the applicants and their predecessors-in-interest have occupied and possessed the land openly,
continuously, exclusively, and adversely since June 12, 1945. It was not convinced that the land in

Menguito vs. Republic

Sole

Issue:

Registration of Petitioners Titles


Section 48 of Commonwealth Act (CA) No. 141,9 as amended, provides for the registration of imperfect
titles to lands of the public domain in this wise:

SECTION 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of public domain or
claiming to own any such lands or an interest thereon, 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 predecessor 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. They 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.
Presidential Decree (PD) No. 107310 clarified paragraph b of the said provision by specifically declaring
that it applied only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. 11
Hence, as observed by the appellate court, petitioners were duty-bound to prove two legal
requirements: (1) the land applied for was

This proof is not sufficient. Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, provides: All lands of
the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential
energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by
the State, x x x. (Emphasis supplied.)
For the original registration of title, the applicant (petitioners in this case) must overcome the
presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain. 12 Unless public land
is shown to have been reclassified or alienated to a private person by the State, it remains part of the
inalienable public domain. Indeed, occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long,
cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. 13 To overcome such presumption,
incontrovertible evidence must be shown by the applicant. 14 Absent such evidence, the land sought to be
registered remains inalienable.

12
Republic v. Register of Deeds of Quezon, 244 SCRA 537, 546, May 31, 1995;Director of Lands v.
Aquino, 192 SCRA 296, 303, December 17, 1990; Director of Lands v. Funtilar, 142 SCRA 57, May 23,
1986; Director of Lands v. CA, 129 SCRA 689, 692, June 22, 1984.

Public Land Act. The application of the statute to the present case is not disputed.

10

To prove that the land in question formed part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public
domain, petitioners relied on the printed words which read: This survey plan is inside Alienable and
Disposable Land Area, Project No. 27-B as per L.C. Map No. 2623, certified by the Bureau of Forestry on
January 3, 1968, appearing on Exhibit E (Survey Plan No. Swo-13-000227).

_______________

_______________
9

Classification of the Land

Promulgated on January 25, 1977.


13

De Ocampo v. Arlos, GR No. 135527, October 19, 2000, 343 SCRA 716, per Panganiban, J.

14

Santiago v. De Los Santos, 61 SCRA 146, 152, November 22, 1974.

11

4 thereof reads as follows: 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.

140

139
140

VOL. 348, DECEMBER 14, 2000

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

139
Menguito vs. Republic

Menguito vs. Republic

alienable and disposable; and (2) the applicants and their predecessors-in-interest had occupied and
possessed the land openly, continuously, exclusively, and adversely since June 12, 1945.
The records show that petitioners failed to establish these two requisites.

In the present case, petitioners cite a surveyor-geodetic engineers notation in Exhibit E indicating
that the survey was inside alienable and disposable land. Such notation does not constitute a positive
government act validly changing the classification of the land in question. Verily, a mere surveyor has no
authority to reclassify lands of the public domain. By relying solely on the said surveyors assertion,
petitioners have not sufficiently proven that the land in question has been declared alienable.

Period of Possession
Even assuming arguendo that petitioners have been able to prove that the land is alienable, their
Petition for confirmation of their imperfect titles and registration thereof under the law will still be
denied. The reason is that they have failed to establish possession of the lots in questionopenly,
continuously, exclusively and adverselyin the concept of owner for at least 30 years, since June 12,
1945.
Petitioners do not claim that they are the original possessors of the lots in question, which had
allegedly belonged to Cirilo Menguito before he donated it to his son Pedro. When Pedro died in 1978,
these lots allegedly passed down to petitioners.

supposed claim. Instead, petitioners presented only Raymunda Bautista, the alleged tenant of Cirilo
Menguito, who had tilled the land before petitioners built their houses thereon. Neither Cirilos children
nor the documents that they might have had in their possession were presented.
Furthermore, serious doubts are cast on petitioners claim that their predecessors-in-interest have
been in open, continuous, exclusive and adverse possession and occupation of the land. Because they are
of recent vintage, the tax declarations (Exhs. I to N), tax receipts (Exhs. O, O-1, P, and P-1)
and the Municipal Treasurers certifications of tax payments (Exhs. Q and R) presented in evidence
are incompetent and insufficient to prove petitioners and their predecessors-in-interests possession of
the lots in question.

Although petitioners can trace their possession of the land from as far back as 1968 only, they
would tack it to that of their predecessors, who had supposedly been in possession thereof even before
the Second World War. There is not enough convincing proof, however, to support such claim.

Because the factual findings of the trial and the appellate courts were contrary to each other, we
waded into the records, 18 but found no reason to modify the assailed CA Decision. Much as we want to
conform to the States policy of encouraging and promoting the distribution of alienable public lands to
spur economic growth and remain true to the ideal of social justice, our hands are tied by the laws
stringent safeguards against registering imperfect titles. In this case, we agree with the CA that
petitioners have not presented

Petitioners presented evidence that they had been paying real estate taxes since 1974. 15 Their
predecessors-in-interest, they claimed, have also been paying taxes on the land for several years before
them, and Cirilo Menguito had declared the land for tax purposes in 1943. 16 However, they did not
present any documents or any other satisfactory proof to substantiate this claim. General

_______________
17

The Director, Lands Management Bureau v. CA, G.R. No. 112567, February 7, 2000, 324 SCRA

757.

_______________

18

15

TSN, November 27, 1984, p. 19.

16

Ibid., p. 14.

See Fuentes v. Court of Appeals, 268 SCRA 703, February 26, 1997; Solid Homes, Inc. v. Court of
Appeals, 275 SCRA 267, 279, July 8, 1997.
142

141
142
VOL. 348, DECEMBER 14, 2000

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

141
Menguito vs. Republic

Menguito vs. Republic


sufficient proof of their compliance with the legal requirements for registration of imperfect titles.
statements, which are mere conclusions of law and not proofs of possession, are unavailing and cannot
suffice.17
Cirilos six children were not presented as witnesses by petitioners during the hearing of their
application for registration of the lots in question. In fact, of the six children, only Pilar Menguito was
personally informed of petitioners application. Still, she was not presented as a witness.
There can be no question that Cirilos children were the best witnesses, because they could have
substantiated petitioners claim that indeed the lots in question had been donated to Pedro Menguito.
Moreover, they may even have in their possession documents that can adequately support their

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED and the assailed Decision AFFIRMED. Costs against
petitioners.
SO ORDERED.
Melo (Chairman), Vitug and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.
Petition denied, judgment affirmed.

Notes.It is in keeping with the oft-repeated axioms of social justice for the poor and the weak to
provide them ample opportunity for the proper ventilation of their causes, lest they give up on having
their disputes adjudicated under the rule of law. (Santos vs. Court of Appeals, 253 SCRA 632 [1996])
A survey is the act by which the quantity of a parcel of land is ascertained and also a paper
containing a statement of courses, distances, and quantity of land. A survey under a proprietary title is
not a conveyance. It is an instrument sui generis in the nature of a partition; a customary mode in which
a proprietor has set off to himself in severalty a party of the cominon estate. Therefore, a survey, not
being a conveyance, is not a mode of acquiring ownership. A fortiori, petitioner cannot found his claim
on the survey plan reflecting a subdivision of land because it is not conclusive as to ownership as it may
refer only to a delineation of possession. (Titong vs. Court of Appeals, 287 SCRA 102 [1998])
o0o
143
Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

>AREVALO

G.R. No. 186961.February 20, 2012.*


REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. EAST SILVERLANE REALTY DEVELOPMENT
CORPORATION, respondent.
Remedial Law; Civil Procedure; Appeals; A petition for review should be confined to questions of
law and that the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts.Preliminarily, with respect to the infirmity
suffered by this petition from the standpoint of Rule 45, this Court agrees with the respondent that the
issue of whether the respondent had presented sufficient proof of the required possession under a bona
fide claim of ownership raises a question of fact, considering that it invites an evaluation of the
evidentiary record. However, that a petition for review should be confined to questions of law and that
this Court is not a trier of facts and bound by the factual findings of

occupied and cultivated said lands continuously since the filing of their applications. (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,
403

VOL. 666, FEBRUARY 20, 2012

403

_______________
Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation
* SECOND DIVISION.
402

402

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

whether disposable or not, under a bona fide claim of ownership for at least 30 years shall be
entitled to the rights granted in sub-section (b) hereof. Presidential Decree No. 1073 (P.D. No. 1073),
which was issued on January 25, 1977, deleted subsection (a) and amended subsection (b) as follows:
SECTION 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 thru himself or thru his predecessor-in-interest under a bona fide claim of
ownership since June 12, 1945.

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

the CA are not without exceptions. Among these exceptions, which obtain in this case, are: (a)
when the judgment of the CA is based on a misapprehension of facts or (b) when its findings are not
sustained by the evidence on record.
Civil Law; Property; Land Registration; Public Land Act; Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect
Title; Under Section 11 of the Public Land Act, one of the modes of disposing public lands suitable for
agricultural purposes is by confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles.The PLA governs the
classification and disposition of lands of the public domain. Under Section 11 thereof, one of the modes
of disposing public lands suitable for agricultural purposes is by confirmation of imperfect or
incomplete titles. On the other hand, Section 48 provides the grant to the qualified possessor of an
alienable and disposable public land. Thus: 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: (a) Those who prior to the transfer of sovereignty
from Spain to the United States have applied for the purchase, composition or other form of grant of
lands of the public domain under the laws and royal decrees then in force and have instituted and
prosecuted the proceedings in connection therewith, but have with or without default upon their part, or
for any other cause, not received title therefor, if such applicants or grantees and their heirs have

Same; Same; Same; Property Registration Decree (P.D. No. 1529); Persons Who May Apply for
Registration of Title to Land.P.D. No. 1529, which was enacted on June 11, 1978, codified all the laws
relative to the registration of property. Section 14 thereof partially 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 of private lands by prescription under the provision of existing laws. (3) Those who
have acquired ownership of private lands or abandoned river beds by right of accession or accretion
under the existing laws. (4) Those who have acquired ownership of land in any other manner provided
for by law.
Same; Same; Same; Article 420 of the Civil Code enumerates the properties belonging to the
public dominion, outside thereof are patrimonial property, hence, susceptible to acquisitive prescription.
Property is either part of the public domain or privately owned. Under Article 420 of the Civil Code,
the following properties are of public dominion: (a) 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; (b) 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. All other properties of the State,
which is not of the

404

404

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

character mentioned in Article 420 is patrimonial property, hence, susceptible to acquisitive


prescription.
Same; Same; Same; Without express declaration that the property is no longer intended for public
service or development of national wealth, the property, even if classified as alienable or disposable,
remains property of the State, and thus, may not be acquired by prescription.In Heirs of Malabanan,
this Court ruled that possession and occupation of an alienable and disposable public land for the
periods provided under the Civil Code do not automatically convert said property into private property
or release it from the public domain. There must be an express declaration that the property is no
longer intended for public service or development of national wealth. Without such express declaration,
the property, even if classified as alienable or disposable, remains property of the State, and thus, may
not be acquired by prescription.
Same; Same; Same; The possession and occupation required to acquire an imperfect title over an
alienable and disposable public land must be open, continuous, exclusive and notorious in character.
It is explicit under Section 14 (1) that the possession and occupation required to acquire an imperfect
title over an alienable and disposable public land must be open, continuous, exclusive and notorious in
character. In Republic of the Philippines v. Alconaba, 427 SCRA 611 (2004), this Court explained that
the intent behind the use of possession in conjunction with occupation is to emphasize the need for
actual and not just constructive or fictional possession. 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. (citations
omitted)405

Same; Same; Same; Possession; Acquisitive Prescription; Possession for purposes of prescription
must be in the concept of an owner, public, peaceful and uninterrupted.On the other hand, Section 14
(2) is silent as to the required nature of possession and occupation, thus, requiring a reference to the
relevant provisions of the Civil Code on prescription. And under Article 1118 thereof, possession for
purposes of prescription must be in the concept of an owner, public, peaceful and uninterrupted.
In Heirs of Marcelina Arzadon-Crisologo v. Raon, 532 SCRA 391 (2007), this Court expounded on the
nature of possession required for purposes of prescription: It is concerned with lapse of time in the
manner and under conditions laid down by law, namely, that the possession should be in the concept of
an owner, public, peaceful, uninterrupted and adverse. Possession is open when it is patent, visible,
apparent, notorious and not clandestine. It is continuous when uninterrupted, unbroken and not
intermittent or occasional; exclusive when the adverse possessor can show exclusive dominion over the
land and an appropriation of it to his own use and benefit; and notorious when it is so conspicuous that
it is generally known and talked of by the public or the people in the neighborhood. The party who
asserts ownership by adverse possession must prove the presence of the essential elements of
acquisitive prescription. (citations omitted)
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; A person who seeks the registration of title to a piece of land on
the basis of possession by himself and his predecessors-in-interest must prove his claim by clear and
convincing evidence.The phrase adverse, continuous, open, public, and in concept of owner, by which
the respondent describes its possession and that of its predecessors-in-interest is a conclusion of law.
The burden of proof is on the respondent to prove by clear, positive and convincing evidence that the
alleged possession of its predecessors-in-interest was of the nature and duration required by law. It is
therefore inconsequential if the petitioner failed to present evidence that would controvert the
allegations of the respondent. A person who seeks the registration of title to a piece of land on the basis
of possession by himself and his predecessors-in-interest must prove his claim by clear and convincing
evidence, i.e., he must prove his title and should not rely on the absence or weakness of the evidence of
the oppositors.
406

406

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

PETITION for review on certiorari of the decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
VOL. 666, FEBRUARY 20, 2012

405
Office of the Solicitor General for petitioner.

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

Jaime Y. Sindiong for respondent.


REYES,J.:

This Court is urged to review and set aside the July 31, 2008 Decision 1 and February 20, 2009
Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 00143. In its July 31, 2008 Decision, the CA
affirmed the August 27, 2004 Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 40 of Cagayan De Oro
City. The dispositive portion thereof states:
WHEREFORE, premises foregoing, the instant appeal is herebyDISMISSED for lack of merit.
The assailed Decision dated August 27, 2004 is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
SO ORDERED.3
In its February 20, 2009 Resolution, the CA denied the petitioners August 29, 2008 Motion for
Reconsideration.4
The Factual Antecedents
The respondent filed with the RTC an application for land registration, covering a parcel of land
identified as Lot 9039 of Cagayan Cadastre, situated in El Salvador, Misamis Oriental and with an area
of 9,794 square meters. The respondent purchased the portion of the subject property consisting of

After hearing the same on the merits, the RTC issued on August 27, 2004 a Decision, granting the
respondents petition for registration of the land in question, thus:
ACCORDINGLY, finding the application meritorious, and pursuant to applicable law and
jurisprudence on the matter, particularly the provisions of P.D. 1529, judgment is hereby rendered
granting the instant application. The Land Registration Authority is hereby ordered to issue a decree in
the name of the applicant East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation covering the parcel of land,
Lot 9039, Cad 237, having an area of 9,794 square meters covered by the two (2) tax declarations subject
of this petition. Based on the decree, the Register of Deeds for the Province of Misamis Oriental is
hereby directed to issue an original certificate of title in the name of the applicant covering the land
subject matter of this application.5
On appeal by the petitioner, the CA affirmed the RTCs August 27, 2004 Decision. In its July 31,
2008 Decision,6 the CA found no merit in the petitioners appeal, holding that:
It is a settled rule that an application for land registration must conform to three requisites: (1)
the land is alienable public land; (2) the applicants open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession
and occupation thereof must be since June 12, 1945, or earlier; and (3) it is a bona fideclaim of
ownership.

_______________

_______________

1 Penned by Associate Justice Rodrigo F. Lim, Jr., with Associate Justices Michael P. Elbinias and
Ruben C. Ayson, concurring; Rollo, pp. 43-54.

5 Id., at pp. 108-109.


6 Supra note 1.

2 Id., at p. 56.

408
3 Id., at p. 54.
4 Id., at pp. 57-61.

408

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

407

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation


VOL. 666, FEBRUARY 20, 2012

407

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

4,708 square meters (Area A) from Francisca Oco pursuant to a Deed of Absolute Sale dated November
27, 1990 and the remaining portion consisting of 5,086 square meters (Area B) from Rosario U. Tan Lim,
Nemesia Tan and Mariano U. Tan pursuant to a Deed of Partial Partition with Deed of Absolute Sale
dated April 11, 1991. It was claimed that the respondents predecessors-in-interest had been in open,
notorious, continuous and exclusive possession of the subject property since June 12, 1945.

In the case at bench, petitioner-appellee has met all the requirements. Anent the first requirement,
both the report and certification issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
(DENR) shows that the subject land was within the alienable and disposable zone classified under BF
Project [N]o. 8 Blk. I, L.C. Map [N]o. 585 and was released and certified as such on December 31, 1925.
Indubitably, both the DENR certification and report constitute a positive government act, an
administrative action, validly classifying the land in question. It is a settled rule that the classification
or re-classification of public lands into alienable or disposable, mineral or forest land is now a
prerogative of the Executive Department of the government. Accordingly, the certification enjoys a
presumption of regularity in the absence of contradictory evidence. As it is, the said certification
remains uncontested and even oppositor-appellant Republic itself did not present any evidence to refute
the contents of the said certification. Thus, the alienable and disposable character of the subject land

certified as such as early as December 31, 1925 has been clearly established by the evidence of the
petitioner-appellee.
Anent the second and third requirements, the applicant is required to prove his open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land under a bona fide claim of
ownership either since time immemorial or since June 12, 1945.
xxxx
In the case at bench, ESRDC tacked its possession and occupation over the subject land to that of
its predecessors-in-interest. Copies of the tax declarations and real property historical ownership
pertaining thereto were presented in court. A perusal of the records shows that in 1948, a portion of the
subject land was declared under the name of Agapito Claudel. Subsequently, in 1957 until 1991 the
same was declared under the name of Francisca Oco. Thereafter, the same was declared under the
name of ESRDC. A certification was likewise issued by the Provincial Assessor of Misamis Oriental that
previous tax declarations pertaining to the said portion under the name of Agapita Claudel could no
longer be located as the files were deemed lost or destroyed before World War II.
On the other hand, the remaining portion of the said land was previously declared in 1948 under
the name of Jacinto Tan Lay Cho. Subsequently, in 1969 until 1990, the same was declared under the

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 fideclaim of acquisition of ownership.
Finally, it bears stressing that the pieces of evidence submitted by petitioner-appellee are
incontrovertible. Not one, not even oppositor-appellant Republic, presented any countervailing evidence
to contradict the claims of the petitioners that they are in possession of the subject property and their
possession of the same is open, continuous and exclusive in the concept of an owner for over 30 years.
Verily, from 1948 when the subject land was declared for taxation purposes until ESRDC filed an
application for land registration in 1995, ESRDC have been in possession over the subject land in the
concept of an owner tacking its possession to that its predecessors-in-interest for forty seven (47) years
already. Thus, ESRDC was able to prove sufficiently that it has been in possession of the subject
property for more than 30 years, which possession is characterized
410

410

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

409
Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

VOL. 666, FEBRUARY 20, 2012

409
as open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious in the concept of an owner. 7(citations omitted)

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

name of Jacinto Tan. Thereafter, the same was declared under the name of ESRDC. A certification was
likewise issued by the Provincial Assessor that the files of previous tax declarations under the name of
Jacinto Tan Lay Cho were deemed lost or destroyed again before World War II.
In 1991 or upon ESRDCs acquisition of the subject property, the latter took possession thereto.
Albeit it has presently leased the said land to Asia Brewery, Inc., where the latter built its brewery
plant, nonetheless, ESRDC has its branch office located at the plant compound of Asia Brewery, Inc.
Corollarily, oppositor-appellants contentions that the court a quo erred in considering the tax
declarations as evidence of ESRDCs possession of the subject land as the latters predecessors-ininterest declared the same sporadically, is untenable.
It is a settled rule that albeit 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

The petitioner assails the foregoing, alleging that the respondent failed to prove that its
predecessors-in-interest possessed the subject property in the manner and for the length of time
required under Section 48 (b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land Act
(PLA), and Section 14 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration
Decree (P.D. No. 1529). According to the petitioner, the respondent did not present a credible and
competent witness to testify on the specific acts of ownership performed by its predecessors-in-interest
on the subject property. The respondents sole witness, Vicente Oco, can hardly be considered a credible
and competent witness as he is the respondents liaison officer and he is not related in any way to the
respondents predecessors-in-interest. That coconut trees were planted on the subject property only
shows casual or occasional cultivation and does not qualify as possession under a claim of ownership.
Issue
This Court is confronted with the sole issue of whether the respondent has proven itself entitled to
the benefits of the PLA and P.D. No. 1529 on confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles.
Our Ruling
This Court resolves to GRANT the petition.

Preliminarily, with respect to the infirmity suffered by this petition from the standpoint of Rule 45,
this Court agrees with the respondent that the issue of whether the respondent had presented sufficient
proof of the required possession un-

(3)By lease;
(4)By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles;

_______________

(a)By judicial legalization;

7 Rollo, pp. 48-54.

(b)By administrative legalization (free patent).

411

412

VOL. 666, FEBRUARY 20, 2012

411

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

der a bona fide claim of ownership raises a question of fact, considering that it invites an evaluation of
the evidentiary record.8However, that a petition for review should be confined to questions of law and
that this Court is not a trier of facts and bound by the factual findings of the CA are not without
exceptions. Among these exceptions, which obtain in this case, are: (a) when the judgment of the CA is
based on a misapprehension of facts or (b) when its findings are not sustained by the evidence on record.
This Courts review of the records of this case reveals that the evidence submitted by the
respondent fell short of proving that it has acquired an imperfect title over the subject property under
Section 48 (b) of the PLA. The respondent cannot register the subject property in its name on the basis
of either Section 14 (1) or Section 14 (2) of P.D. No. 1529. It was not established by the required
quantum of evidence that the respondent and its predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession of the subject property for the prescribed statutory period.
The PLA governs the classification and disposition of lands of the public domain. Under Section 11
thereof, one of the modes of disposing public lands suitable for agricultural purposes is by confirmation
of imperfect or incomplete titles. 9 On the other hand, Section 48 provides the grant to the qualified
possessor of an alienable and disposable public land. Thus:
_______________
8 Republic of the Philippines v. Manna Properties, Inc., 490 Phil. 654, 665; 450 SCRA 247, 258
(2005).
9 Sec.11.Public lands suitable for agricultural purposes can be disposed of only as follows, and
not otherwise:
(1)For homestead settlement;
(2)By sale;

412

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

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:
(a)Those who prior to the transfer of sovereignty from Spain to the United States have applied for
the purchase, composition or other form of grant of lands of the public domain under the laws and royal
decrees then in force and have instituted and prosecuted the proceedings in connection therewith, but
have with or without default upon their part, or for any other cause, not received title therefor, if such
applicants or grantees and their heirs have occupied and cultivated said lands continuously since the
filing of their applications.
(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 predecessorsin-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 sub-section (b) hereof.
Presidential Decree No. 1073 (P.D. No. 1073), which was issued on January 25, 1977, deleted
subsection (a) and amended subsection (b) as follows:

SECTION4.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,

414

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

413
Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation
VOL. 666, FEBRUARY 20, 2012

413
pines,10 the distinction between the two provisions lies with the inapplicability of prescription to
alienable and disposable lands. Specifically:

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

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). 11

exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by the applicant thru himself or thru his predecessorin-interest under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945.

roperty is either part of the public domain or privately owned. 12Under Article 420 of the Civil Code,
the following properties are of public dominion:

Notably, the first PLA, or Act No. 926, required a possession and occupation for a period of ten (10)
years prior to the effectivity of Act No. 2096 on July 26, 1904 or on July 26, 1894. This was adopted in
the PLA until it was amended by Republic Act No. 1942 on June 22, 1957, which provided for a period of
thirty (30) years. It was only with the enactment of P.D. No. 1073 on January 25, 1977 that it was
required that possession and occupation should commence on June 12, 1945.

(a)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;

P.D. No. 1529, which was enacted on June 11, 1978, codified all the laws relative to the registration
of property. Section 14 thereof partially provides:
Section14.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 of private lands by prescription under the provision of
existing laws.
(3) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands or abandoned river beds by right of
accession or accretion under the existing laws.
(4)Those who have acquired ownership of land in any other manner provided for by law.
Section 14 (1) and Section 14 (2) are clearly different. Section 14 (1) covers alienable and
disposable land while Section 14 (2) covers private property. As this Court categorically stated
in Heirs of Malabanan v. Republic of the Philip414

(b)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.
All other properties of the State, which is not of the character mentioned in Article 420 is
patrimonial property,13 hence, susceptible to acquisitive prescription.14
In Heirs of Malabanan, this Court ruled that possession and occupation of an alienable and
disposable public land for the periods provided under the Civil Code do not automatically convert said
property into private property or release it from the public domain. There must be an express
declaration that the property is no longer intended for public service or development of national wealth.
Without such express declaration, the property, even if classified as alienable or disposable, remains
property of the State, and thus, may not be acquired by prescription.
_______________
10 G.R. No. 179987, April 29, 2009, 587 SCRA 172.
11 Id., at p. 201.
12 Article 419, Civil Code.
13 Article 421, Civil Code.
14 Supra note 10, at p. 202.
415

VOL. 666, FEBRUARY 20, 2012

415

To prove that its predecessors-in-interest were in possession of the subject property on or prior to
June 12, 1945 or had completed the prescriptive period of thirty (30) years, the respondent submitted
the following tax declarations:
a)Tax Declaration in the name of Agapita Claudel for the year 1948;

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

b)Tax Declarations in the name of Francisca Oco for the years 1957, 1963, 1969, 1973,
1974, 1980, 1987, 1989 and 1991;

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

c)Tax Declarations in the respondents name for the years 1991, 1992 and 1994;
d)Tax Declarations in the name of Jacinto Tan Lay Cho for the years 1948 and 1952;

service or for the development of the national wealth are public dominion property. For as long as the

e)Tax Declarations in the name of Jacinto Tan for the years 1969, 1973, 1974, 1980,
1989 and 1990; and

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. (emphasis supplied)

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.15

In other words, for one to invoke the provisions of Section 14 (2) and set up acquisitive prescription
against the State, it is primordial that the status of the property as patrimonial be first established.
Furthermore, the period of possession preceding the classification of the property as patrimonial cannot
be considered in determining the completion of the prescriptive period.

f)Tax Declarations in the respondents name for the years 1991, 1992 and 1994.
Pursuant to Agapita Claudels 1948 Tax Declaration, there were nineteen (19) coconut and ten (10)
banana trees planted on Area A. The coconut trees were supposedly four years old, hence, the
reasonable presumption that she had been in possession even before June 12, 1945. 16
The respondent also offered the following testimony of Vicente Oco:
Q Mr. Witness, If you know about what period your predecessor has started to possess this land
subject matter of this application?
A Per my personal knowledge, it was before the second world war but the Municipality of El
Salvador was created on June 15, 1948 by virtue of RA 268 and its started to officially function only on
August 2, 1948[.]
_______________

_______________

16 Rollo, p. 102.

15 Id., at p. 203.

417

416
VOL. 666, FEBRUARY 20, 2012

416

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation


Q From whom did you acquire this information?

417

A From the seller and the adjoining lot owners. 17


To prove that its predecessors-in-interest exercised acts of dominion over the subject property, the
respondent claimed that per Francisca Ocos Tax Declarations, the following improvements were
introduced in Area A: nineteen (19) coconut and ten (10) banana trees in Area A in 1957 and 1963;
thirty-three (33) coconut trees in 1969 and 1973; thirty-three (33) coconut trees, one (1) mango tree and
three (3) seguidillas vines in 1974; thirty-three (33) coconut trees in 1980; eighty-seven (87) coconut
trees in 1987; and fifteen (15) coconut trees in 1989. Per Jacinto Tans Tax Declarations, there were
fifty-seven (57) coconut trees in Area B in 1973, 1974, 1980, 1989 and 1990. 18
A reading of the CAs July 31, 2008 Decision shows that it affirmed the grant of the respondents
application given its supposed compliance with Section 14 (2) of P.D. No. 1529. It ruled that based on
the evidence submitted, the respondent is not qualified to register the subject property in its name
under Section 14 (1) as the possession and occupation of its predecessors-in-interest commenced after
June 12, 1945. Nonetheless, as the CA ruled, the respondent acquired title to the subject property by
prescription as its predecessors-in-interest had possessed the subject property for more than thirty (30)
years. Citing Buenaventura v. Republic of the Philippines,19 the CA held that even if possession
commenced after June 12, 1945, registration is still possible under Section 14 (2) and possession in the
concept of an owner effectively converts an alienable and disposable public land into private property.

agricultural to industrial only on October 16, 1990. 21 Also, it was only in 2000 that the Municipality of
El Salvador passed a Zoning Ordinance, including the subject property in the industrial
zone.22Therefore, it was only in 1990 that the subject property had been declared patrimonial and it is
only then that the prescriptive period began to run. The respondent cannot benefit from the alleged
possession of its predecessors-in-interest because prior to the withdrawal of the subject property from
the public domain, it may not be acquired by prescription.
On the premise that the application of the respondent is predicated on Section 14 (1), the same
would likewise not prosper. As shown by the tax declarations of the respondents predecessors-ininterest, the earliest that the respondent can trace back the possession of its predecessors-in-interest is
in 1948. That there were four-year old coconut trees in Area A as stated in Agapita Claudels 1948 Tax
Declaration cannot be considered a well-nigh controvertible evidence that she was in possession prior
to June 12, 1945 without any evidence that she planted and cultivated them. In the case of Jacinto Tan
Lay Cho, the earliest tax declaration in his name is dated 1948 and there is no evidence that he
occupied and possessed
_______________
20 Rollo, p. 142.

This Court, however, disagrees on the conclusion arrived at by the CA. On the premise that the
application for registra-

21 Id., at pp. 84, 133.


22 Id., at pp. 89-90, 138-140.

_______________
419

17 Id., at pp. 102-103.


18 Id., at pp. 99-101.

VOL. 666, FEBRUARY 20, 2012

419

19 G.R. No. 166865, March 2, 2007, 517 SCRA 271.


418

418

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

tion, which was filed in 1995, is based on Section 14 (2), it was not proven that the respondent and its
predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the subject property in the manner prescribed by law
and for the period necessary before acquisitive prescription may apply.
While the subject land was supposedly declared alienable and disposable on December 31, 1925 per
the April 18, 1997 Certification and July 1, 1997 Report of the Community Environment and Natural
Resources Office (CENRO),20 the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) converted the same from

Area B on or prior to June 12, 1945. Furthermore, the testimony of the respondents lone witness that
the respondents predecessors-in-interest were already in possession of the subject property as of June
12, 1945 lacks probative value for being hearsay.
It is explicit under Section 14 (1) that the possession and occupation required to acquire an
imperfect title over an alienable and disposable public land must be open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious in character. In Republic of the Philippines v. Alconaba,23this Court explained that the intent
behind the use of possession in conjunction with occupation is to emphasize the need for actual and
not just constructive or fictional possession.
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. 24 (citations omitted)

of intermittent and sporadic assertion of alleged ownership does not prove open,

continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation. In any event, in the absence of
other competent evidence, tax declarations do not conclusively estab_______________

On the other hand, Section 14 (2) is silent as to the required nature of possession and occupation,
thus, requiring a reference to the relevant provisions of the Civil Code on prescription. And under
Article 1118 thereof, possession for purposes of prescription must be in the concept of an owner, public,
peaceful and uninterrupted. InHeirs of Marcelina

25 G.R. No. 171068, September 5, 2007, 532 SCRA 391.


26 Id., at p. 404.

_______________

27 G.R. No. 177384, December 8, 2009, 608 SCRA 72.

23 471 Phil. 607; 427 SCRA 611 (2004).

421

24 Id., at p. 620; pp. 619-620.


420

420

VOL. 666, FEBRUARY 20, 2012

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

Arzadon-Crisologo v. Raon,25 this Court expounded on the nature of possession required for purposes of
prescription:
It is concerned with lapse of time in the manner and under conditions laid down by law, namely, that
the possession should be in the concept of an owner, public, peaceful, uninterrupted and adverse.
Possession is open when it is patent, visible, apparent, notorious and not clandestine. It is continuous
when uninterrupted, unbroken and not intermittent or occasional; exclusive when the adverse possessor
can show exclusive dominion over the land and an appropriation of it to his own use and benefit; and
notorious when it is so conspicuous that it is generally known and talked of by the public or the people
in the neighborhood. The party who asserts ownership by adverse possession must prove the presence of
the essential elements of acquisitive prescription.26 (citations omitted)
This Court is not satisfied with the evidence presented by the respondent to prove compliance with
the possession required either under Section 14 (1) or Section 14 (2).
First, the twelve (12) Tax Declarations covering Area A and the eleven (11) Tax Declarations
covering Area B for a claimed possession of more than forty-six (46) years (1948-1994) do not qualify as
competent evidence of actual possession and occupation. As this Court ruled in Wee v. Republic of the
Philippines:27
It bears stressing that petitioner presented only five tax declarations (for the years 1957, 1961, 1967,
1980 and 1985) for a claimed possession and occupation of more than 45 years (1945-1993). This type

421

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

lish either possession or declarants right to registration of title. 28(emphasis supplied and citation
omitted)
The phrase adverse, continuous, open, public, and in concept of owner, by which the respondent
describes its possession and that of its predecessors-in-interest is a conclusion of law. The burden of
proof is on the respondent to prove by clear, positive and convincing evidence that the alleged possession
of its predecessors-in-interest was of the nature and duration required by law. 29 It is therefore
inconsequential if the petitioner failed to present evidence that would controvert the allegations of the
respondent. A person who seeks the registration of title to a piece of land on the basis of possession by
himself and his predecessors-in-interest must prove his claim by clear and convincing evidence, i.e., he
must prove his title and should not rely on the absence or weakness of the evidence of the oppositors. 30
The respondents claim of ownership will not prosper on the basis of the tax declarations alone.
In Cequea v. Bolante,31 this Court ruled that it is only when these tax declarations are coupled with
proof of actual possession of the property that they may become the basis of a claim of ownership. 32 In
the absence of actual public and adverse possession, the declaration of the land for tax purposes does
not prove ownership.33
Second, that the nineteen (19) coconut trees supposedly found on Area A were four years old at the
time Agapita Claudel filed a Tax Declaration in 1948 will not suffice as
_______________
28 Id., at p. 83.

29 See The Director, Lands Mgt. Bureau v. Court of Appeals, 381 Phil. 761, 772; 324 SCRA 757, 767
(2000).

34 Supra note 27, at p. 84.


423

30 Arbias v. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 173808, September 17, 2008, 565 SCRA 582, 597.
31 386 Phil. 419; 330 SCRA 216 (2000).

VOL. 666, FEBRUARY 20, 2012

423

32 Id., at p. 430.
33 Id., at p. 431; p. 228.

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

422
not factual proof of possession, and therefore unavailing and cannot suffice. 35 Evidence of this nature
should have been received with suspicion, if not dismissed as tenuous and unreliable.
422

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

evidence that her possession commenced prior to June 12, 1945, in the absence of evidence that she
planted and cultivated them. Alternatively, assuming that Agapita Claudel planted and maintained
these trees, such can only be considered casual cultivation considering the size of Area A. On the other
hand, that Jacinto Tan Lay Cho possessed Area B in the concept of an owner on or prior to June 12,
1945 cannot be assumed from his 1948 Tax Declaration.
Third, that plants were on the subject property without any evidence that it was the respondents
predecessors-in-interest who planted them and that actual cultivation or harvesting was made does not
constitute well-nigh incontrovertible evidence of actual possession and occupation. As this Court ruled
in Wee:
We are, therefore, constrained to conclude that the mere existence of an unspecified number of
coffee plants, sans any evidence as to who planted them, when they were planted, whether cultivation or
harvesting was made or what other acts of occupation and ownership were undertaken, is not sufficient
to demonstrate petitioners right to the registration of title in her favor. 34
Fourth, Vicente Ocos testimony deserves scant consideration and will not supplement the
inherent inadequacy of the tax declarations. Apart from being self-serving, it is undoubtedly hearsay.
Vicente Oco lacks personal knowledge as to when the predecessors-in-interest of the respondent started
to occupy the subject property and admitted that his testimony was based on what he allegedly gathered
from the respondents predecessors-in-interest and the owners of adjoining lot. Moreover, Vicente Oco
did not testify as to what specific acts of dominion or ownership were performed by the respondents
predecessors-in-interest and if indeed they did. He merely made a general claim that they came into
possession before World War II, which is a mere conclusion of law and
_______________

Finally, that the respondents application was filed after only four years from the time the subject
property may be considered patrimonial by reason of the DARs October 26, 1990 Order shows lack of
possession whether for ordinary or extraordinary prescriptive period. The principle enunciated in Heirs
of Malabanan cited above was reiterated and applied in Republic of the Philippines v. Rizalvo:36
On this basis, respondent would have been eligible for application for registration because his
claim of ownership and possession over the subject property even exceeds thirty (30) years. However, it
is jurisprudentially clear that the thirty (30)-year period of prescription for purposes of acquiring
ownership and registration of public land under Section 14 (2) of P.D. No. 1529 only begins from the
moment the State expressly declares 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.37
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is GRANTED. The July 31, 2008 Decision
and February 20, 2009 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 00143 are REVERSED
and SET ASIDE and the respondents application for registration of title over Lot 9039 of Cagayan
Cadastre is hereby DENIED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.
Carpio, Villarama, Jr.,** Perez and Sereno, JJ., concur.
_______________
35 Supra note 29, at p. 770; p. 765.
36 G.R. No. 172011, March 7, 2011, 644 SCRA 516.
37 Id.
424

424

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation

Petition granted, judgment and resolution reversed and set aside.


Notes.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.
(Republic vs. Ching, 634 SCRA 415 [2010])
An applicant for judicial confirmation of imperfect title must prove compliance with Section 14 of
Presidential Decree No. 1529 or the Property Registration Decree. (Republic vs. Rizalvo, Jr., 644 SCRA
516 [2011])
o0o
_______________
** Additional Member in lieu of Associate Justice Arturo D. Brion per Special Order No. 1195
dated February 15, 2012.
Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

500

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Tan vs. Republic

(P.D. No. 1529), otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, is a codification of all
the laws relative to the registration of property and Section 14 thereof specifies those who are qualified
to register their incomplete title over an alienable and disposable public land under the Torrens system.

>BRIZO
G.R. No. 193443.April 16, 2012.*
JEAN TAN, ROSELLER C. ANACINTO, CARLO LOILO ESPINEDA and DAISY ALIADO MANAOIS,
represented in this act by their Attorney-in-Fact, MA. WILHELMINA E. TOBIAS, petitioners, vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.
Civil Law; Land Registration; Public Land Act (C.A. No. 141); Section 11 of the Public Land Act
provides that one of the modes of disposing public lands suitable for agricultural purposes is by
confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles.Commonwealth Act No. 141, otherwise known as the
Public Land Act governs the classification and disposition of lands forming part of the public domain.
Section 11 thereof provides that one of the modes of disposing public lands suitable for agricultural
purposes is by confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles. Section 48 thereof enumerates those who
are considered to have acquired an imperfect or incomplete title over an alienable and disposable public
land.
Same; Same; Property Registration Decree (P.D. No. 1529); Presidential Decree No. 1529 (P.D. No.
1529), otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, is a codification of all the laws relative to
the registration of property.Presidential Decree No. 1529
_______________

Same; Same; Same; For ones possession and occupation of an alienable and disposable public
land to give rise to an imperfect title, the same should have commenced on June 12, 1945 or earlier. On
the other, for one to claim that his possession and occupation of private property has ripened to imperfect
title, the same should have been for the prescriptive period provided under the Civil Code.As this Court
clarified in Heirs of Malabanan v. Republic of the Philippines, 587 SCRA 172 (2009), andRepublic of the
Philippines v. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation, 666 SCRA 401 (2012), Section 14(1)
covers alienable and disposable lands while Section 14(2) covers private property. Thus, for ones
possession and occupation of an alienable and disposable public land to give rise to an imperfect title,
the same should have commenced on June 12, 1945 or earlier. On the other, for one to claim that his
possession and occupation of private property has ripened to imperfect title, the same should have been
for the prescriptive period provided under the Civil Code. Without need for an extensive extrapolation,
the private property contemplated in Section 14(2) is patrimonial property as defined in Article 421 in
relation to Articles 420 and 422 of the Civil Code.
Same; Same; Same; Possession and occupation of an alienable and disposable public land for the
periods provided under the Civil Code will not convert it to patrimonial or private property. There must
be an express declaration that the property is no longer intended for public service or the development of
national wealth.It was explained in Heirs of Malabananand East Silverlane, that possession and
occupation of an alienable and disposable public land for the periods provided under the Civil Code will
not convert it to patrimonial or private property. There must be an express declaration that the property
is no longer intended for public service or the development of national wealth. In the absence thereof,
the property remains to be alienable and disposable and may not be acquired by prescription under
Section 14(2) of P.D. No. 1529.
501

VOL. 669, APRIL 16, 2012

Tan vs. Republic

* SECOND DIVISION.
PETITION for review on certiorari of the decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals.
500

501

The facts are stated in the resolution of the Court.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, this Court confirming its previous Order of general
default, decrees and adjudges Lot No. 9972 consisting of 6,920 square meters, Cad. 459-D, Indang
Cadastre and its technical description as herein above-described situated in Brgy. Bancod, Indang,
Cavite, pursuant to the provisions of Act 496 as amended by P.D. 1529, as it is hereby decreed and
adjudged to be confirmed and registered in the names of Jean Tan, of legal age, Filipino, single, with
postal address at Room 54 T. Pinpin St., Binondo, Manila; Roseller C. Anaci[n]to, of legal age, Filipino,
single, with postal address at Moncario Villag[e], Ampid-1, San Mateo, Rizal; Carlo Loilo Espineda, of
legal age, Filipino, with postal address at Cluster F. Cogeo, Antipolo, Rizal and Daisy Aliado Manaois, of
legal age, Filipino and resident of Panghulo Road, Malabon, Metro Manila.

Kapunan, Tamano, Javier & Associates for petitioners.


Office of the Solicitor General for respondent.
RESOLUTION
REYES,J.:
1

This is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Decision dated July 6, 2009 and
Resolution2 dated August 12, 2010 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 88995. The facts
leading to its filing are as follows:
On June 14, 2001, the petitioners filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Naic, Cavite, an
application for land registration covering a parcel of land identified as Lot 9972, Cad-459-D of Indang
Cadastre, situated in Barangay Bancod, Indang, Cavite and with an area of 6,920 square meters. 3 The
petitioners alleged that they acquired the subject property from Gregonio Gatdula pursuant to a Deed of
Absolute Sale dated April 25, 1996; and they and their predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
continuous and exclusive possession of the subject property in the concept of an owner for more than 30
years.4
After trial and hearing, the RTC issued a Decision on July 29, 2006, granting the petitioners
application, thus:
_______________
1 Penned by Associate Justice Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa, with Associate Justices Mariano C. Del
Castillo (now a member of this Court) and Priscilla J. Baltazar-Padilla, concurring; Rollo, pp. 52-65.

Once this decision becomes final, let the corresponding decree of registration be issued by the
Administrator, Land Registration Authority.
SO ORDERED.5
The CA gave due course to the appeal filed by the Republic of the Philippines. By way of the
assailed Decision, the CA ruled that the petitioners failed to prove that they and their predecessors-ininterest have been in possession of the subject property for the requisite period of 30 years. The CA
posit:
We now determine if appellees have the right to register their title on such land despite the fact
that their possession commenced only after 12 June 1945. Records show that the appellees possession
over the subject property can be reckoned only from 21 June 1983, the date when according to evidence,
the subject property became alienable and disposable. From said date up to the filing of the application
for registration of title over the subject property on 14 June 2001, only eighteen (18) years had lapsed.
Thus, appellees possession of the subject property fell short of the requirement of open, continuous and
exclusive possession of at least 30 years.
Moreover, there was no adequate evidence which would show that appellees and their predecessorsin-interest exercised acts of
_______________

2 Penned by Priscilla J. Baltazar-Padilla, with Associate Justices Magdangal M. De Leon and


Michael P. Elbinias, concurring; id., at pp. 66-68.

5 Id., at p. 57.
3 LRC Case No. NC-2001-1205.
503
4 Rollo, p. 53.
502

502

VOL. 669, APRIL 16, 2012

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Tan vs. Republic

503

Tan vs. Republic

dominion over the subject land as to indicate possession in the concept of owner. The testimonies of
appellees witnesses regarding actual possession are belied by the absence of evidence on actual use of
or improvements on the subject property. Appellees presented only various tax declarations to prove

possession. However, except for the Certification, showing payment of tax due on tax declaration for the
year 2003, there are no other evidence showing that all the taxes due corresponding to the rest of the
tax declarations were in fact paid by appellees or their predecessors-in-interest.

iii.the petitioners predecessors-in-interest, Victorio Garcia, Felipe Gatdula and Gregonio


Gatdula, had been in possession of the subject property for more than 30 years and
had religiously paid the taxes due thereon; and

In sum, appellees were unable to prove that they or their predecessors-in-interest have been in
possession of the subject property for more than 30 years, which possession is characterized as open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious, in the concept of an owner. Appellees failed to discharge their duty
of substantiating possession and title to the subject land.

iv.the subject property is agricultural, alienable and disposable;


b.the testimony of the caretaker of the subject property, Margarito Pena, stating that:
i.he resides near the subject property;

WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby GRANTED and the Decision dated 29 July 2006 of the

Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Naic, Cavite, Branch 15 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE.

ii.he witnessed the execution of the deed of sale that petitioners entered into with Gregonio
Gatdula; and

SO ORDERED. (citation omitted)


6

iii.the petitioners and predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the subject


property for more than 30 years;

The petitioners moved for reconsideration but this was denied by the CA in its August 12, 2010
Resolution.7
The petitioners question the conclusion arrived at by the CA, alleging that the evidence they
presented prove that they and their predecessors-in-interest have been in possession and occupation of
the subject property for more than 30 years. The petitioners claim that the following sufficed to
demonstrate that they acquired title over the subject property by prescription:

c.the testimony of Ferdinand Encarnacion, a clerk in the Docket Division of the Land Registration
Authority (LRA), stating that:
i.no opposition to the petitioners application was filed before the LRA;
ii.an examiner of the LRA found nothing wrong with the petitioners application; and

a.the testimony of their attorney-in-fact, Ma. Wilhelmina Tobias, stating that:


i.the petitioners have been in actual, notorious and open possession of the subject property
since the time they purchased the same in 1996;
_______________

iii.no title covering the subject property was previously issued;


d.Tax Declaration Nos. 2935, 2405 and 1823 for the years 1961, 1967 and 1974 in the name of
Victorio Garcia;8
e.Tax Declaration Nos. 1534 and 3850 for the years 1980 and 1985 in the name of Felipe Gatdula; 9

6 Id., at pp. 63-64.

f.Tax Declaration Nos. 22453-A and 2925 for the years 1991 and 1994 in the name of Gregonio
Gatdula;10

7 Supra note 2.
504

_______________
8 Id., at p. 20.

504

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


9 Id.

Tan vs. Republic

10 Id.
505

ii.the petitioners have regularly paid the taxes due on the subject property;
VOL. 669, APRIL 16, 2012

505

Tan vs. Republic

g.Tax Declaration Nos. 21956-A, 22096-A, 22097-A and 97-05078 in the name of the petitioners; 11
h.Resolution No. 69, Series of 1998, of the Sangguniang Bayan of Indang, Cavite, which approved
the reclassification of several lots, including the subject property, from agricultural to
residential/commercial;12
i.DARCO Conversion Order No. 040210005-(340)-99, Series of 2000, issued by the Department of
Agrarian Reform on July 13, 2000, which converted several parcels of land, including the
subject property, from agricultural to residential/commercial;13
j.Certification issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
CALABARZON dated October 29, 2002, stating that the subject area falls within the
Alienable and Disposable Land Project No. 13-A of Indang, Cavite per LC Map 3091 certified
on June 21, 1983.14
Issue
This Court is faced with the lone issue of whether the petitioners have proven themselves qualified
to the benefits under the relevant laws on the confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles.
Our Ruling
Commonwealth Act No. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land Act governs the classification
and disposition of lands forming part of the public domain. Section 11 thereof provides that one of the
modes of disposing public lands suitable for agricultural purposes is by confirmation of imperfect or
incomplete titles. Section 48 thereof enumerates those
_______________

Tan vs. Republic

who are considered to have acquired an imperfect or incomplete title over an alienable and disposable
public land.
Presidential Decree No. 1529 (P.D. No. 1529), otherwise known as the Property Registration
Decree, is a codification of all the laws relative to the registration of property and Section 14 thereof
specifies those who are qualified to register their incomplete title over an alienable and disposable
public land under the Torrens system. Particularly:
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 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 of private lands by prescription under the provision of
existing laws.
(3) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands or abandoned river beds by right of
accession or accretion under the existing laws.
(4)Those who have acquired ownership of land in any other manner provided for by law.
As this Court clarified in Heirs of Malabanan v. Republic of the Philippines,15 and Republic of the
Philippines v. East Silverlane Realty Development Corporation,16 Section 14(1) covers alienable and
disposable lands while Section 14(2) covers private property. Thus, for ones possession and
occupation of an alienable and disposable public land to give rise to an imperfect title, the same should
have commenced on June 12, 1945 or earlier. On the other, for one to claim that

11 Id., at p. 21.
12 Id.
13 Id., at p. 22.

_______________

14 Id., at p. 60.

15 G.R. No. 179987, April 29, 2009, 587 SCRA 172.

506

16 G.R. No. 186961, February 20, 2012, 666 SCRA 401.


507

506

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Accordingly, there must be an express declaration by the State that the public

VOL. 669, APRIL 16, 2012

dominion property is no longer intended for public service or the development of

507

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

Tan vs. Republic

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

his possession and occupation of private property has ripened to imperfect title, the same should have
been for the prescriptive period provided under the Civil Code. Without need for an extensive
extrapolation, the private property contemplated in Section 14(2) is patrimonial property as defined in
Article 421 in relation to Articles 420 and 422 of the Civil Code.
Going further, it was explained in Heirs of Malabanan and East Silverlane, that possession and
occupation of an alienable and disposable public land for the periods provided under the Civil Code will
not convert it to patrimonial or private property. There must be an express declaration that the property
is no longer intended for public service or the development of national wealth. In the absence thereof,
the property remains to be alienable and disposable and may not be acquired by prescription under
Section 14(2) of P.D. No. 1529. Thus:
In Heirs of Malabanan, this Court ruled that possession and occupation of an alienable and
disposable public land for the periods provided under the Civil Code do not automatically convert said
property into private property or release it from the public domain. There must be an express
declaration that the property is no longer intended for public service or development of national wealth.
Without such express declaration, the property, even if classified as alienable or disposable, remains
property of the State, and thus, may not 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

law duly enacted by Congress or a Presidential Proclamation in cases where the


President is duly authorized by law.
In other words, for one to invoke the provisions of Section 14(2) and set up acquisitive prescription
against the State, it is primordial that the status of the property as patrimonial be first established.
Furthermore, the period of possession preceding the classification of the property as patrimonial cannot
be considered in determining the completion of the prescriptive period. 17
The petitioners application is obviously anchored on Section 14(2) of P.D. No. 1529 as they do not
claim to have possessed, by themselves or their predecessors-in-interest, the subject property since June
12, 1945 or earlier. That it was thru prescription that they had acquired an imperfect title over the
subject property is the foundation upon which the petitioners rest their application.
Unfortunately, this Court finds the evidence presented by the petitioners to be wanting. The
petitioners failed to demonstrate that they and their predecessors-in-interest pos_______________
17 Supra note at 16, at pp. 414-415.
509

VOL. 669, APRIL 16, 2012

509

already classified as alienable or disposable, it remains property of the public


dominion if when it is intended for some

Tan vs. Republic

508

508

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Tan vs. Republic

public service or for the development of the national wealth.(emphasis supplied)

sessed the property in the requisite manner, which this Court explained as follows:
It is concerned with lapse of time in the manner and under conditions laid down by law, namely,
that the possession should be in the concept of an owner, public, peaceful, uninterrupted and adverse.
Possession is open when it is patent, visible, apparent, notorious and not clandestine. It is continuous
when uninterrupted, unbroken and not intermittent or occasional; exclusive when the adverse possessor
can show exclusive dominion over the land and an appropriation of it to his own use and benefit; and
notorious when it is so conspicuous that it is generally known and talked of by the public or the people

in the neighborhood. The party who asserts ownership by adverse possession must prove the presence of
the essential elements of acquisitive prescription.18
Tax declarations per se do not qualify as competent evidence of actual possession for purposes of
prescription. More so, if the payment of the taxes due on the property is episodic, irregular and random
such as in this case. Indeed, how can the petitioners claim of possession for the entire prescriptive
period be ascribed any ounce of credibility when taxes were paid only on eleven (11) occasions within the
40-year period from 1961 to 2001? In Wee v. Republic of the Philippines,19 this Court stated that:
It bears stressing that petitioner presented only five tax declarations (for the years 1957, 1961, 1967,

Furthermore, the petitioners application was filed after only (1) year from the time the subject
property may be considered patrimonial. DARCO Conversion Order No. 040210005-(340)-99, Series of
2000, was issued by the DAR only on July 13, 2000, which means that the counting of the thirty (30)year prescriptive period for purposes of acquiring ownership of a public land under Section 14(2) can
only start from such date. Before the property was declared patrimonial by virtue of such conversion
order, it cannot be acquired by prescription. This is clear from the pronouncements of this Court in
Heirs of Malabanan quoted above and in Republic of the Philippines v. Rizalvo,22 which states:
On this basis, respondent would have been eligible for application for registration because his claim of
ownership and possession over

1980 and 1985) for a claimed possession and occupation of more than 45 years (1945-1993). This type

_______________

of intermittent and sporadic assertion of alleged ownership does not prove open,

continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation. In any event, in the absence of
other competent evidence, tax declarations do not conclusively establish either possession or declarants
right to registration of title.20 (emphasis supplied and citation omitted)

21 Supra note at 16, at p. 421.


22 G.R. No. 172011, March 7, 2011, 644 SCRA 516.

_______________
18 Heirs of Marcelina Arzadon-Crisologo v. Raon, G.R. No. 171068, September 5, 2007, 391 SCRA
411, 404.

511

19 G.R. No. 177384, December 8, 2009, 608 SCRA 72.

VOL. 669, APRIL 16, 2012

511

20 Id., at p. 83.
Tan vs. Republic

510

510

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

the subject property even exceeds thirty (30) years. However, it is jurisprudentially clear that the thirty
(30)-year period of prescription for purposes of acquiring ownership and registration of public land
under Section 14 (2) of P.D. No. 1529 only begins from the moment the State expressly declares 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.23

Tan vs. Republic


WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The July 6,
2009 Decision and August 12, 2010 Resolution of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED.
In East Silverlane, it was emphasized that adverse, continuous, open, public possession in the
concept of an owner is a conclusion of law and the burden to prove it by clear, positive and convincing
evidence is on the applicant. A claim of ownership will not proper on the basis of tax declarations if
unaccompanied by proof of actual possession.21
While there was an attempt to supplement the tax declaration by testimonial evidence, the same is
futile and frivolous. The testimonies of Margarito Pena and Ma. Wilhelmina Tobias do not merit
consideration and do not make up for the inherent inadequacy of the eleven (11) tax declarations
submitted by the petitioners. Such witnesses did not state what specific acts of ownership or dominion
were performed by the petitioners and predecessors-in-interest and simply made that general assertion
that the latter possessed and occupied the subject property for more than thirty (30) years, which, by all
means, is a mere conclusion of law. The RTC should have tackled evidence of such nature with a
disposition to incredulity, if not with an outright rejection.

SO ORDERED.
Carpio, Brion, Perez and Sereno, JJ., concur.
Petition denied, judgment and resolution affirmed.
Notes.For a piece of land to be qualified for registration under paragraph (2) of Section 14, P.D.
No. 1529, the applicant must conclusively prove that the land is private and not part of the public
domain; All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to
belong to the State. (Republic vs. Imperial Credit Corporation, 555 SCRA 314 [2008]).

Tax declarations are good indicia of 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 constructive possession; What is
categorically required by law is open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation
under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier. (Republic vs. Rizalvo, Jr.,644 SCRA
516 [2011]).
o0o
_______________
23 Id., at p. 526.
Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

>DE LEON
VOL. 10, MARCH 25, 1908

567

CORTES VS. CITY OF MANILA.


[No. 4012. March 25, 1908.]
MAXIMO CORTES y PROSPERO, petitioner and appellant, vs.THE CITY OF MANILA, respondent
and appellee.
1. 1.REALTY; ACCRETION.If estates bordering on rivers are exposed to floods and other
evils produced by the destructive force of the waterSj and if by virtue of lawful provisions
said esta-tes are subject to incumbrances and various kinds of easements, it is proper that
the risk or danger which may prejudice the owners thereof should be compensated by the
right of accretion acknowledged by article 84 of the Law of Waters of the 3d of August,
1866, extended to the Philippines by the royal decree of April 8, 1873, and by article 366 of
the Civil Code.
1. 2.ID. ; ID. ; ACTS OF POSSESSION.Acts of possession exercised by the owner over his
estate or land bordering on the banks of rivers are always understood legally to cover that
portion added thereto by accretion, by the effect of the current of the waters.
APPEAL from a judgment of the Court of Land Registration.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.
J. R. Serra, for appellant.
M'. Reyes, for appellee.
568

568

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED


CORTES VS. CITY OF MANILA.

TORRES, J.:
On the 26th of September, 1906, Maximo CoTtes filed a written application for the registration of a
parcel of land owned by him, free of all incumbrances, situated in Calle Aguilar, corner of Calle Cecilia
in the district o Binondo, this city, together with the buildings erected thereon, which land has an area
of 1,172.21 square meters, its boundaries being stated in the application. The land Avas acquired by the
applicant by purchase from Higinio Francisco y Prospero, according to a deed of sale dated July 3, 1894,
recorded in the registry of property, no other person having any title to or interest therein, and the
property was assessed, for the purpose of taxation of the last flscal year, at f 1,444, United States
currency. The buildings erected thereon were paid for by the applicant \vith his own money, and the
application is accompanied by the deed of sale, plan, and technical description of the land.
The examiner ol titles reported, in due course, that tlie said building lot was attached by reason of
certain pro: ceedings instituted against the applicant fo'r treason and rebellion, yet, inasmuch as the
land was acquired by him more "than ten years previously, he could be considered the real owner thereof
by prescription; but that, in order to obtain title, it was necessaiy for him lo show that said attachment
had been discharged or canceled, for whicli reason he considered the title of the applicant to be defective
and that it could not be registered.
Against the claim of the applicant the attorney for the city of Manila objected and reproduced tlie
verbal opposition offered in the case, alleging that both the plan and the technical description exhibited
contained errors; that there was an excess in the measurement which affected the interests of the city,
and tliat, should the application be granted, an area of 33.40 square meters of the Meisic Creek would
become the property of Maximo Cortes, when, as a matter of fact, the said creek was one of public use
and belonged to the city of Manila. B'or these reasons he asked that the registration applied for be
denied in so far
569
VOL. 10, MARCH 25, 1908

569

CORTES VS. CITY OF MANILA.


as it affected the Meisic Creek, with costs against the applicant.
Upon an examination of the evidence adduced, the judge rendered his decision on the lltli of March,
sustaining the opposition of the city of Manila, and 'ordering that the said land, including its walls, be
adjudicated and registered in t'avor of the applicant upon presentation of an amended description,
showing the measurements of the property, including its walls but excluding therefrom the rest of the
land shcnvn in Exhibit A.
The applicant asked that the case be reopened on account of his having discovered very important
proof; to this end he filed an affidavit stating that he had learned the whereabouts of the original owner
of tbe land, who was better informed with respect to its conditions and location; but, as said motion was
overruled, he excepted to the judgment and also moved for a new trial on the ground that the decision of
the court was contrary to law and to the weight of the evidence. This motion was likewise denied and
exception taken.
The dominion of the applicant, Maximo Cortes, oyer the land or building lot acquired by liira from
Higinio Francisco y Prospero, according to the public deed executed before a notary on the 3d of July,
1894, registered in the registry of property, is unquestionable and has been fully 'proven; and, in view of
the validity of his title, the city attorney had to limit his opposition to the registration simply to its effect
upon the Meisic Creek. The court, upon previous declaration of general default, then ordered the
adjudication and registration of the title of the applicant, Cortes, to said building lot upon subinitting
an amended description of the land.
It having been satisfactorily shown that the portion of laud included in the techaical description
presented by the applicant, situated between the lot to which said'instrument refers and the bed of tlie

Meisic Creek, has been gradually formed by alluvion, as the result of the current in the said stream, it
can not be denied that said portion of land, with an area of 33.40 square meters, belongs by
570
570

PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED

CORTES VS. CITY OF MANILA.


right of accretion to the owner of the land referred to in the instrument of tlie 3d of July, 1894, exhibited
by the applicant.
The Law of Waters, promulgated by royal decree of the 3d of August, 1866, and extended to these
Islands by a royal decree dated April 8, 1873, provides in article 84 that
"The accretion resulting from the gradual deposit by or sedimentation from the waters belongs to the
owners of land bordering on streams, torrents, lakes, and rivers."
Article 366 of the Civil Code provides that
"The accretions which banks of rivers may gradually receive from the effects of the currents belong to
the owners of the estates bordering thereon."
There is no evidence whatever to prove that the addition to the said property was made artificially by
the owner; therefore, the facts alleged and proven in the proceedings must stand. The increase or
accretion which in a latent, incessant, and spontaneous manner is received by the land from the effects
of "the current depositing, in the course of time, sediment and alluvial matter aLong the shore, is
undeniably the work of nature and lawfully belongs to the owner of the property; and from the fact that
all or almost the whole area of said increased portion is soft and unsettled, one is naturally convinced
that it was formed by alluvion, and that for such reason it appertains to the owner of the land boi-dering
thereon, by virtue of the right of accretion recognized by the law.
The reason therefore is quite evident because, if lands bordering on streams are exposed to floods
and, other damage due to the destructive force of the waters, and if by virtue of law they are subject to
incumbrances and various kinds of easements, it is only just that such risks or dangers as may prejudice
the owners thereof should in some way be compensated by the right of accretion.
And, although the acts of possession exercised over the bordering land are always understood
legally to cover that portion added to the property by accretion, in this case shrubs have been planted
there, which furnish additional
571
VOL. 10, MARCH 25, 1908

571

UNITED STATES VS. MARIO EX AL.


proof that Maximo Cortes has exercised rights of ownership and possession over the whole area of the
property the registration of which he requests.
For the reasons above set forth it is our opinion that the judgment appealed from should be
reversed, as we do hereby reverse the same, and that the court below should direct that the land to
which the appellant refers be recorded in the registry of property, in accordance with the law, including
that portion of tlie same added by accretion up to the water line of the Meisic Eiver, without any special
ruling as to costs. So ordered.
Arellano, C. J., Mapa, Johnson, Carson, Willard, andTracey, JJ., concur.
Judgment reversedj registration ordered.

>EDQUILAG

514

Republic vs. Court of Appeals

No. L-61647. October 12, 1984.*


REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (DIRECTOR OF LANDS), petitioner, vs. THE HON. COURT OF
APPEALS, BENJAMIN TANCINCO, AZUCENA TANCINCO REYES, MARINA TANCINCO
IMPERIAL and MARIO C. TANCINCO, respondents.
Appeals; Exceptions to binding effect of lower court factual findings.The rule that the findings
of fact of the trial court and the Court of Appeals are binding upon this Court admits of certain
exceptions. Thus inCarolina Industries Inc. v. CMS Stock Brokerage, Inc. (97 SCRA 734) we held that
this Court retains the power to review and rectify the findings of fact of said courts when (1) the
conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculations, surmises and conjectures; (2) when the
inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd, and impossible; (3) where there is grave abuse of
discretion; (4) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; and (5) when the court, in
making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same are contrary to the admissions of
both appellant and appellee.
Property; Land Registration; Requisites for land accretion to take place for benefit of riparian
owner.The above-quoted article requires the concurrence of three requisites before an accretion
covered by this particular provision is said to have taken place. They are (1) that the deposit be gradual
and imperceptible; (2) that it be made through the effects of the current of the water; and (3) that the
land where accretion takes place is adjacent to the banks of rivers.
Same; Same; For accretion or alluvion to form part of registered land of riparian owner, the
gradual alluvial deposits must be due to the effects of the rivers current. Deposits made by human
intervention are excluded.The requirement that the deposit should be due to the effect of the current
of the river is indispensable. This excludes from Art. 457 of the New Civil Code all deposits caused by
human intervention. Alluvion must be the exclusive work of nature. In the instant case, there is no
evidence whatsoever to prove that the addition to the said property was made gradually through the
effects of the current of the Meycauayan and Bocaue rivers. We agree with the
_______________
*

FIRST DIVISION.

515

VOL. 132, OCTOBER 12, 1984

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Republic vs. Court of Appeals

515

observation of the Solicitor General that it is preposterous to believe that almost four (4)
hectares of land came into being because of the effects of the Meycauayan and Bocaue rivers. The lone
witness of the private respondents who happens to be their overseer and whose husband was first
cousin of their father noticed the four hectare accretion to the twelve hectare fishpond only in 1939. The
respondents claim that at this point in time, accretion had already taken place. If so, their witness was
incompetent to testify to a gradual and imperceptible increase to their land in the years before 1939.
Same; Same; Evidence; In the case at bar there is evidence that alleged alluvial deposits were
man-made.However, the witness testified that in that year, she observed an increase in the area of the
original fishpond which is now the land in question. If she was telling the truth, the accretion was
sudden. However, there is evidence that the alleged alluvial deposits were artificial and man-made and
not the exclusive result of the current of the Meycauayan and Bocaue rivers. The alleged alluvial
deposits came into being not because of the sole effect of the current of the rivers but as a result of the
transfer of the dike towards the river and encroaching upon it. The land sought to be registered is not
even dry land cast imperceptibly and gradually by the rivers current on the fishpond adjoining it. It is
under two meters of water. The private respondents own evidence shows that the water in the fishpond
is two meters deep on the side of the pilapil facing the fishpond and only one meter deep on the side of
the pilapil facing the river.
Same; Same; A riparian owner cannot register accretions to his land arising from special works
or man-made dikes constructed for reclamation purposes.The reason behind the law giving the
riparian owner the right to any land or alluvion deposited by a river is to compensate him for the danger
of loss that he suffers because of the location of his land. If estates bordering on rivers are exposed to
floods and other evils produced by the destructive force of the waters and if by virtue of lawful
provisions, said estates are subject to incumbrances and various kinds of easements, it is proper that
the risk or danger which may prejudice the owners thereof should be compensated by the right of
accretion. (Cortes v. City of Manila, 10 Phil. 567). Hence, the riparian owner does not acquire the
additions to his land caused by special works expressly intended or designed to bring about accretion.
When the private respondents transferred their dikes towards the river bed, the dikes were meant for
reclamation purposes and not to protect their property from the destructive force of the waters of the
river.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.


The Solicitor General for petitioner.
Martin B. Laurea for respondents.
GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:
This is a petition for certiorari to set aside the decision of the respondent Court of Appeals (now
Intermediate Appellate Court) affirming the decision of the Court of First Instance of Bulacan, Fifth
Judicial District, Branch VIII, which found that Lots 1 and 2 of Plan Psu-131892 are accretion to the
land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 89709 and ordered their registration in the names of
the private respondents.
Respondents Benjamin Tancinco, Azucena Tancinco Reyes, Marina (should be Maria) Tancinco
Imperial and Mario C. Tancinco are registered owners of a parcel of land covered by Transfer Certificate
of Title No. T-89709 situated at Barrio Ubihan, Meycauayan, Bulacan bordering on the Meycauayan and
Bocaue rivers.
On June 24, 1973, the private respondents filed an application for the registration of three lots
adjacent to their fishpond property and particularly described as follows:
Lot 1-Psu-131892
(Maria C. Tancinco)
A parcel of land (lot 1 as shown on plan Psu-131892), situated
517

516

516

PETITION for certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeals.

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. Court of Appeals

Same; Same; Same; Public Lands; Beds of rivers are non-registerable portions of the public
domain.The lower court cannot validly order the registration of Lots 1 & 2 in the names of the private
respondents. These lots were portions of the bed of the Meycauayan river and are therefore classified as
property of the public domain under Article 420 paragraph 1 and Article 502, paragraph 1 of the Civil
Code of the Philippines. They are not open to registration under the Land Registration Act. The
adjudication of the lands in question as private property in the names of the private respondents is null
and void.

VOL. 132, OCTOBER 12, 1984

517

Republic vs. Court of Appeals

in the Barrio of Ubihan, Municipality of Meycauayan, Province of Bulacan. Bounded on the NE., along
line 1-2, by Lot 3 of plan Psu-131892; on the SE., along lines 2-3-4, by Meycauayan River; on the S.W.,
along lines 4-5-6-7-8-9, by Bocaue River; on the NE., along line 9-10, by property of Joaquina Santiago;
on the E., NE., and NW., along lines 10-11-12-1, by property of Mariano Tancinco (Lot 2, Psu-111877). x
x x containing an area of THIRTY THREE THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED THIRTY SEVEN (33,937)
SQUARE METERS. x x x

Lot 2-Psu-131892
(Maria C. Tancinco)
A parcel of land (Lot 2 as shown on plan Psu-131892), situated in the Barrio of Ubihan,
Municipality of Meycauayan, Province of Bulacan. Bounded on the E., along line 1-2, by property of
Rafael Singson; on the S., along line 2-3, by Meycauayan River; on the SW., along line 3-4, by Lot 3 of
plan Psu-131892; and on the N., along line 4-1, by property of Mariano Tancinco (Lot 1, Psu-111877). x x
x containing an area of FIVE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED FIFTY THREE (5,453) SQUARE
METERS. x x x

of Ubihan, municipality of Meycauayan, province of Bulacan, and more particularly described in plan
Psu-131892 (Exh. H) and their accompanying technical descriptions (Exhs. E, E-1) in favor of Benjamin
Tancinco, married to Alma Fernandez and residing at 3662 Heatherdown, Toledo, Ohio 43614 U.S.A.;
Azucena Tancinco Reyes, married to Alex Reyes, Jr., residing at 4th St., New Manila, Quezon City;
Marina Tancinco Imperial, married to Juan Imperial, residing at Pasay Road, Dasmarias Village,
Makati, Rizal; and Mario C. Tancinco, married to Leticia Regidor, residing at 1616 Cypress St.,
Dasmarias Village, Makati, Rizal, all of legal age, all Filipino citizens.
On July 30, 1976, the petitioner Republic appealed to the respondent Court of Appeals.

Lot 3-Psu-131892
(Maria C. Tancinco)

On August 19, 1982, the respondent Court rendered a decision affirming in toto the decision of the
lower court. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:

A parcel of land (Lot 3 as shown on plan Psu-131892), situated in the Barrio of Ubihan,
Municipality of Meycauayan, Province of Bulacan. Bounded on the NE., along line 1-2, by property of
Mariano Tancinco (Lot 1, Psu-111877); and along line 2-3, by Lot 2 of plan Psu-131892; on the S., along
line 3-4, by Meycauayan River, on the SW., along line 4-5, by Lot 1 of plan Psu-131892; and along line 56 by property of Mariano Tancinco (Lot 2, Psu-111877), and on the NW., along line 6-1, by property of
Joaquina Santiago, x x x containing an area of ONE THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED EIGHTY FIVE
(1,985) SQUARE METERS. x x x

DAHIL DITO, ang hatol na iniakyat ay sinasangayunan at pinagtitibay sa kanyang kabuuan nang
walang bayad.

On April 5, 1974, Assistant Provincial Fiscal Amando C. Vicente, in representation of the Bureau of
Lands filed a written opposition to the application for registration.
On March 6, 1975, the private respondents filed a partial withdrawal of the application for
registration with respect to Lot 3 of Plan Psu-131892 in line with the recommendation of the
Commissioner appointed by the Court.

The rule that the findings of fact of the trial court and the Court of Appeals are binding upon this Court
admits of certain exceptions. Thus in Carolina Industries Inc. v. CMS Stock Brokerage, Inc. (97 SCRA
734) we held that this Court retains the power to review and rectify the findings of fact of said courts
when (1) the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on
519

VOL. 132, OCTOBER 12, 1984

519

518
Republic vs. Court of Appeals

518

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. Court of Appeals

On March 7, 1975, Lot 3 was ordered withdrawn from the application and trial proceeded only with
respect to Lots 1 and 2 covered by Plan Psu-131892.
On June 26, 1976, the lower court rendered a decision granting the application on the finding that
the lands in question are accretions to the private respondents fishponds covered by Transfer
Certificate of Title No. 89709. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, it appearing that Lots 1 & 2 of plan Psu-131892 (Exh. H) are accretions to the land
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 89709 of the Register of Deeds of Bulacan, they belong to the
owner of said property. The Court, therefore, orders the registration of Lots 1 & 2 situated in the barrio

speculations, surmises and conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd,
and impossible; (3) where there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the judgment is based on a
misapprehension of facts; and (5) when the court, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the
case and the same are contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee.
There are facts and circumstances in the record which render untenable the findings of the trial
court and the Court of Appeals that the lands in question are accretions to the private respondents
fishponds.
The petitioner submits that there is no accretion to speak of under Article 457 of the New Civil
Code because what actually happened is that the private respondents simply transferred their dikes
further down the river bed of the Meycauayan River, and thus, if there is any accretion to speak of, it is
manmade and artificial and not the result of the gradual and imperceptible sedimentation by the waters
of the river.
On the other hand, the private respondents rely on the testimony of Mrs. Virginia Acua to the
effect that:

xxx

xxx

xxx

x x x when witness first saw the land, namely, Lots 1 & 2, they were already dry almost at the
level of the Pilapil of the property of Dr. Tancinco, and that from the boundaries of the lots, for about
two (2) arms length the land was still dry up to the edge of the river; that sometime in 1951, a new
Pilapil was established on the boundaries of Lots 1 & 2 and soil from the old Pilapil was transferred to
the new Pilapil and this was done sometime in 1951; that the new lots were then converted into
fishpond, and water in this fishpond was two (2) meters deep on the side of the Pilapil facing the
fishpond x x x.

and Bocaue rivers. The alleged alluvial deposits came into being not because of the sole effect of the
current of the rivers but as a result of the transfer of the dike towards the river and encroaching upon it.
The land sought to be registered is not even dry land cast imperceptibly and gradually by the rivers
current on the fishpond adjoining it. It is under two meters of water. The private respondents own
evidence shows
521

VOL. 132, OCTOBER 12, 1984

The private respondents submit that the foregoing evidence establishes the fact of accretion without
human intervention because the transfer of the dike occurred after the accretion was complete.
We agree with the petitioner.

521

Republic vs. Court of Appeals

Article 457 of the New Civil Code provides:


that the water in the fishpond is two meters deep on the side of the pilapil facing the fishpond and only
one meter deep on the side of the pilapil facing the river

520

520

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. Court of Appeals

To the owners of lands adjoining the banks of rivers belong the accretion which they gradually receive
from the effects of the current of the waters.
The above-quoted article requires the concurrence of three requisites before an accretion covered by this
particular provision is said to have taken place. They are (1) that the deposit be gradual and
imperceptible; (2) that it be made through the effects of the current of the water; and (3) that the land
where accretion takes place is adjacent to the banks of rivers.
The requirement that the deposit should be due to the effect of the current of the river is
indispensable. This excludes from Art. 457 of the New Civil Code all deposits caused by human
intervention. Alluvion must be the exclusive work of nature. In the instant case, there is no evidence
whatsoever to prove that the addition to the said property was made gradually through the effects of the
current of the Meycauayan and Bocaue rivers. We agree with the observation of the Solicitor General
that it is preposterous to believe that almost four (4) hectares of land came into being because of the
effects of the Meycauayan and Bocaue rivers. The lone witness of the private respondents who happens
to be their overseer and whose husband was first cousin of their father noticed the four hectare accretion
to the twelve hectare fishpond only in 1939. The respondents claim that at this point in time, accretion
had already taken place. If so, their witness was incompetent to testify to a gradual and imperceptible
increase to their land in the years before 1939. However, the witness testified that in that
year, she observed an increase in the area of the original fishpond which is now the land in question. If
she was telling the truth, the accretion was sudden. However, there is evidence that the alleged alluvial
deposits were artificial and man-made and not the exclusive result of the current of the Meycauayan

The reason behind the law giving the riparian owner the right to any land or alluvion deposited by
a river is to compensate him for the danger of loss that he suffers because of the location of his land. If
estates bordering on rivers are exposed to floods and other evils produced by the destructive force of the
waters and if by virtue of lawful provisions, said estates are subject to incumbrances and various kinds
of easements, it is proper that the risk or danger which may prejudice the owners thereof should be
compensated by the right of accretion. (Cortes v. City of Manila, 10 Phil. 567). Hence, the riparian owner
does not acquire the additions to his land caused by special works expressly intended or designed to
bring about accretion. When the private respondents transferred their dikes towards the river bed, the
dikes were meant for reclamation purposes and not to protect their property from the destructive force
of the waters of the river.
We agree with the submission of the Solicitor General that the testimony of the private
respondents lone witness to the effect that as early as 1939 there already existed such alleged alluvial
deposits, deserves no merit. It should be noted that the lots in question were not included in the survey
of their adjacent property conducted on May 10, 1940 and in the Cadastral Survey of the entire
Municipality of Meycauayan conducted between the years 1958 to 1960. The alleged accretion was
declared for taxation purposes only in 1972 or 33 years after it had supposedly permanently formed. The
only valid conclusion therefore is that the said areas could not have been there in 1939. They existed
only after the private respondents transferred their dikes towards the bed of the Meycauayan river in
1951. What private respondents claim as accretion is really an encroachment of a portion of the
Meycauayan river by reclamation.
The lower court cannot validly order the registration of Lots 1 & 2 in the names of the private
respondents. These lots were portions of the bed of the Meycauayan river and are therefore classified as
property of the public domain under Article 420
522

522

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. Court of Appeals

paragraph 1 and Article 502, paragraph 1 of the Civil Code of the Philippines. They are not open to
registration under the Land Registration Act. The adjudication of the lands in question as private
property in the names of the private respondents is null and void.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The decision appealed from is hereby
REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The private respondents are ordered to move back the dikes of their
fishponds to their original location and return the disputed property to the river to which it belongs.
SO ORDERED.
Teehankee, Actg. C.J., Melencio-Herrera, Plana, Relova andDe la Fuente, JJ., concur.
Petition granted. Decision reversed and set aside.
Notes.Where the alluvial property was never registered, the increment therein never became
registered property, and hence is not entitled or subject to the protection of imprescriptibility enjoyed by
registered property under the Torrens system. (Grande vs. Court of Appeals, 5 SCRA 524.)
The right of riparian owner over an accretion due to the effect of water current is not necessarily
affected by erection of fish traps in the creek. (Zapata vs. Director of Lands, 6 SCRA 335.)
River banks are of public ownership. (Hilario vs. City of Manila,19 SCRA 931.)
o0o
523

* FIRST DIVISION.
52

52

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. Santos III

by which is meant such evidence that is of greater weight, or more convincing than that offered
in opposition to it. They would be held entitled to claim the property as their own and apply for its
registration under the Torrens system only if they established that, indeed, the property was an
accretion to their land.
Same; Property; Accretion; Words and Phrases; Accretion is the process whereby the soil is
deposited along the banks of rivers.Accretion is the process whereby the soil is deposited along the
banks of rivers. The deposit of soil, to be considered accretion, must be: ( a) gradual and imperceptible;
(b) made through the effects of the current of the water; and (c) taking place on land adjacent to the
banks of rivers. Accordingly, respondents should establish the concurrence of the elements of accretion
to warrant the grant of their application for land registration.
Same; Same; River Beds; River beds that dry up continue to belong to the State as its property of
public dominion, unless there is an express law that provides that the dried-up river beds should belong
to some other person.Article 502 of the Civil Code expressly declares that rivers and their natural beds
are public dominion of the State. It follows that the river beds that dry up, like Lot 4998-B, continue to
belong to the State as its property of public dominion, unless there is an express law that provides that
the dried-up river beds should belong to some other person.

>SANTOS

G.R. No. 160453.November 12, 2012.*


REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. ARCADIO IVAN A. SANTOS III and ARCADIO C.
SANTOS, JR., respondents.
Civil Law; Land Registration; Preponderance of Evidence; The applicants for land registration
carry the burden of proof to establish the merits of their application by a preponderance of evidence, by
which is meant such evidence that is of greater weight, or more convincing than that offered in opposition
to it.Respondents as the applicants for land registration carried the burden of proof to establish the
merits of their application by a preponderance of evidence,
_______________

Remedial Law; Civil Procedure; Appeals; Although it is well settled that the findings of fact of the
trial court, especially when affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are accorded the highest degree of respect,
and generally will not be disturbed on appeal, with such findings being binding and conclusive on the
Court, the Court has consistently recognized exceptions to this rule.Although it is well settled that the
findings of fact of the trial court, especially when affirmed by the CA, are accorded the highest degree of
respect, and generally will not be disturbed on appeal, with such findings being binding and conclusive
on the Court, the Court has consistently recognized exceptions to this rule, including the following, to
wit: (a) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises, or conjectures; ( b) when the
inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd, or impossible; (c) when there is grave abuse of
discretion; (d) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (e) when
53

VOL. 685, NOVEMBER 12, 2012

53

PETITION for review on certiorari of a decision of the Court of Appeals.


Republic vs. Santos III

the findings of fact are conflicting; (f) when in making its findings the CA went beyond the issues
of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee; ( g)
when the findings are contrary to those of the trial court; ( h) when the findings are conclusions without
citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (i) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as
in the petitioners main and reply briefs are not disputed by respondent; and (j) when the findings of fact
are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record.
Civil Law; Property; Alluvium; The principle that the riparian owner whose land receives the
gradual deposits of soil does not need to make an express act of possession, and that no acts of possession
are necessary in that instance because it is the law itself that pronounces the alluvium to belong to the
riparian owner from the time that the deposit created by the current of the water becomes manifest.The
principle that the riparian owner whose land receives the gradual deposits of soil does not need to make
an express act of possession, and that no acts of possession are necessary in that instance because it is
the law itself that pronounces the alluvium to belong to the riparian owner from the time that the
deposit created by the current of the water becomes manifest has no applicability herein. This is simply
because Lot 4998-B was not formed through accretion.
Same; Same; River Beds; Article 502 of the Civil Code declares that rivers and their natural beds
are of public dominion.Article 419 of theCivil Code distinguishes property as being either of public
dominion or of private ownership. Article 420 of the Civil Code lists the properties considered as part of
public dominion, namely: (a) 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; and (b)
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. As earlier mentioned, Article 502 of the Civil
Code declares thatrivers and their natural beds are of public dominion.
Same; Same; Regalian Doctrine; Under the Regalian doctrine, all lands not otherwise appearing
to be clearly within private owner-

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.


The Solicitor General for petitioner.
Orosa, Blanco, Dime and Ortiz Law Offices for respondents.
BERSAMIN,J.:
By law, accretionthe gradual and imperceptible deposit made through the effects of the current of
the waterbelongs to the owner of the land adjacent to the banks of rivers where it forms. The drying
up of the river is not accretion. Hence, the dried-up river bed belongs to the State as property of public
dominion, not to the riparian owner, unless a law vests the ownership in some other person.
Antecedents
Alleging continuous and adverse possession of more than ten years, respondent Arcadio Ivan A.
Santos III (Arcadio Ivan) applied on March 7, 1997 for the registration of Lot 4998-B (the property) in
the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Paraaque City. The property, which had an area of 1,045 square
meters, more or less, was located in Barangay San Dionisio, Paraaque City, and was bounded in the
Northeast by Lot 4079 belonging to respondent Arcadio C. Santos, Jr.
55

VOL. 685, NOVEMBER 12, 2012

55

Republic vs. Santos III

54
(Arcadio, Jr.), in the Southeast by the Paraaque River, in the Southwest by an abandoned road, and in
the Northwest by Lot 4998-A also owned by Arcadio Ivan.1
54

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. Santos III

ship are presumed to belong to the State.Under the Regalian doctrine, all lands not otherwise
appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. No public land
can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the Government. It is
indispensable, therefore, that there is a showing of a title from the State. Occupation of public land in
the concept of owner, no matter how long, cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title.

On May 21, 1998, Arcadio Ivan amended his application for land registration to include Arcadio, Jr.
as his co-applicant because of the latters co-ownership of the property. He alleged that the property had
been formed through accretion and had been in their joint open, notorious, public, continuous and
adverse possession for more than 30 years.2
The City of Paraaque (the City) opposed the application for land registration, stating that it
needed the property for its flood control program; that the property was within the legal easement of 20
meters from the river bank; and that assuming that the property was not covered by the legal easement,
title to the property could not be registered in favor of the applicants for the reason that the property
was an orchard that had dried up and had not resulted from accretion.3

Ruling of the RTC


On May 10, 2000,4 the RTC granted the application for land registration, disposing:
WHEREFORE, the Court hereby declares the applicants, ARCADIO IVAN A. SANTOS, III and
ARCADIO C. SANTOS, JR., both Filipinos and of legal age, as the TRUE and ABSOLUTE OWNERS of
the land being applied for which is situated in the Barangay of San Dionisio, City of Paraaque with an
area of one thousand forty five (1045) square meters more or less and covered by Subdivision Plan Csd00-000343, being a portion of Lot 4998, Cad. 299, Case 4, Paraaque Cadastre, LRC Rec. No. and orders
the registration of Lot

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT THE PROPERTY SOUGHT TO BE REGISTERED IS
AN ACCRETION TO THE ADJOINING PROPERTY OWNED BY APPELLEES DESPITE THE
ADMISSION OF APPELLEE ARCADIO C. SANTOS JR. THAT THE SAID PROPERTY WAS NOT
FORMED AS A RESULT OF THE GRADUAL FILLING UP OF SOIL THROUGH THE CURRENT OF
THE RIVER.
II
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING THE APPLICATION FOR LAND REGISTRATION
DESPITE APPELLEES FAILURE TO FORMALLY OFFER IN EVIDENCE AN OFFICIAL
CERTIFICATION THAT THE SUBJECT PARCEL OF LAND IS ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE.

_______________
1 Records, Vol. I, pp. 13-15.

III

2 Id., at pp. 138-142.

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT APPELLEES HAD SUFFICIENTLY ESTABLISHED
THEIR CONTINUOUS, OPEN, PUBLIC AND ADVERSE OCCUPATION OF THE SUBJECT

3 Id., at pp. 255-258.

_______________

4 Records, Vol. II, pp. 519-523.

5 CA Rollo, p. 26.

56
57
56

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


VOL. 685, NOVEMBER 12, 2012

57

Republic vs. Santos III


Republic vs. Santos III
4998-B in their names with the following technical description, to wit:
PROPERTY FOR A PERIOD OF MORE THAN THIRTY (30) YEARS.

xxxx
Once this Decision became (sic) final and executory, let the corresponding Order for the Issuance of
the Decree be issued.

On May 27, 2003, the CA affirmed the RTC.6The Republic filed a motion for reconsideration, but the
CA denied the motion on October 20, 2003.7
Issues

SO ORDERED.
The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), appealed.
Ruling of the CA
In its appeal, the Republic ascribed the following errors to the RTC,5 to wit:

Hence, this appeal, in which the Republic urges that: 8


I

RESPONDENTS CLAIM THAT THE SUBJECT PROPERTY IS AN ACCRETION TO THEIR


ADJOINING LAND THAT WOULD ENTITLE THEM TO REGISTER IT UNDER ARTICLE 457 OF
THE NEW CIVIL CODE IS CONTRADICTED BY THEIR OWN EVIDENCE.
II
ASSUMING THAT THE LAND SOUGHT TO BE REGISTERED WAS PREVIOUSLY A PART OF THE
PARAAQUE RIVER WHICH BECAME AN ORCHARD AFTER IT DRIED UP, THE
REGISTRATION OF SAID PROPERTY IN FAVOR OF RESPONDENTS CANNOT BE
ALTERNATIVELY JUSTIFIED UNDER ARTICLE 461 OF THE CIVIL CODE.
III
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT RULING THAT THE
FAILURE OF RESPONDENTS TO FORMALLY OFFER IN EVIDENCE AN OFFICIAL
CERTIFICATION THAT THE SUBJECT PROPERTY IS ALIENABLE AND
_______________
6 Id., at pp. 99-107, penned by Associate Justice B.A. Adefuin-De la Cruz (retired), concurred by
Associate Justice Jose L. Sabio, Jr. (retired/deceased) and Associate Justice Hakim S. Abdulwahid.

Ruling
The appeal is meritorious.
I.
The CA grossly erred in applying Article 457
of the Civil Code to respondents benefit
Article 457 of the Civil Code provides that (t)o the owners of lands adjoining the banks of rivers
belong the accretion which they gradually receive from the effects of the currents of the waters.
In ruling for respondents, the RTC pronounced as follows:
On the basis of the evidence presented by the applicants, the Court finds that Arcadio Ivan A.
Santos III and Arcadio C. Santos, Jr., are the owners of the land subject of this application which was
previously a part of the Paraaque River which became an orchard after it dried up and further
considering that Lot 4 which adjoins the same property is owned by applicant, Arcadio C. Santos, Jr.,
after it was obtained by him through inheritance from his mother, Concepcion Cruz, now deceased.59

7 Id., at p. 155.
VOL. 685, NOVEMBER 12, 2012

59

8 Rollo, pp. 21-22.


58
Republic vs. Santos III

58

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. Santos III

Conformably with Art. 457 of the New Civil Code, it is provided that:
Article 457.To the owners of the lands adjoining the bank of rivers belong the
accretion which they gradually receive from the effects of the current of the waters. 9
The CA upheld the RTCs pronouncement, holding:

DISPOSABLE IS FATAL TO THEIR APPLICATION FOR LAND REGISTRATION.


IV
THE FINDING OF THE COURT OF APPEALS THAT RESPONDENTS HAVE CONTINUOUSLY,
OPENLY, PUBLICLY AND ADVERSELY OCCUPIED THE SUBJECT PROPERTY FOR MORE THAN
THIRTY (30) YEARS IS NOT SUPPORTED BY WELL-NIGH INCONTROVERTIBLE EVIDENCE.
To be resolved are whether or not Article 457 of the Civil Codewas applicable herein; and whether
or not respondents could claim the property by virtue of acquisitive prescription pursuant to Section
14(1) of Presidential Decree No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree).

It could not be denied that to the owners of the lands adjoining the banks of rivers belong the
accretion which they gradually receive from the effects of the current of the waters (Article 457 New
Civil Code) as in this case, Arcadio Ivan Santos III and Arcadio Santos, Jr., are the owners of the land
which was previously part of the Paraaque River which became an orchard after it dried up and
considering that Lot 4 which adjoins the same property is owned by the applicant which was obtained
by the latter from his mother (Decision, p. 3; p. 38, Rollo).10
The Republic submits, however, that the application by both lower courts of Article 457 of the Civil
Code was erroneous in the face of the fact that respondents evidence did not establish accretion, but
instead the drying up of the Paraaque River.

The Republics submission is correct.


Respondents as the applicants for land registration carried the burden of proof to establish the
merits of their application by a preponderance of evidence, by which is meant such evidence that is of
greater weight, or more convincing than that offered in opposition to it. 11 They would be held entitled to
claim the property as their own and apply for its registration under the Torrens system only if they
established that, indeed, the property was an accretion to their land.

_______________
12 Heirs of Emiliano Navarro v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 68166, February 12, 1997,
268 SCRA 74, 85.
13 Republic v. Court of Appeals, No. L-61647, October 12, 1984, 132 SCRA 514, 520.
61

_______________
9 Records, Vol. II, pp. 521-522.

VOL. 685, NOVEMBER 12, 2012

61

10 CA Rollo, p. 105.
11 Rivera v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 115625, January 23, 1998, 284 SCRA 673, 681.

Republic vs. Santos III

60

60

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. Santos III

Accretion is the process whereby the soil is deposited along the banks of rivers. 12 The deposit of soil,
to be considered accretion, must be: (a) gradual and imperceptible; (b) made through the effects of the
current of the water; and (c) taking place on land adjacent to the banks of rivers. 13 Accordingly,
respondents should establish the concurrence of the elements of accretion to warrant the grant of their
application for land registration.
However, respondents did not discharge their burden of proof. They did not show that the gradual
and imperceptible deposition of soil through the effects of the current of the river had formed Lot 4998B. Instead, their evidence revealed that the property was the dried-up river bed of the Paraaque River,
leading both the RTC and the CA to themselves hold that Lot 4998-B was the land which was
previously part of the Paraaque River xxx (and) became an orchard after it dried up.

other words, respondents did not establish at all that the increment of land had formed from the
gradual and imperceptible deposit of soil by the effects of the current. Also, it seems to be highly
improbable that the large volume of soil that ultimately comprised the dry land with an area of 1,045
square meters had been deposited in a gradual and imperceptible manner by the current of the river in
the span of about 20 to 30 yearsthe span of time intervening between 1920, when Lot 4 was registered
in the name of their deceased parent (at which time Lot 4998-B was not yet in existence) and the early
1950s (which respondents witness Rufino Allanigue alleged to be the time when he knew them to have
occupied Lot 4988-B). The only plausible explanation for the substantial increment was that Lot 4988-B
was the dried-up bed of the Paraaque River. Confirming this explanation was Arcadio, Jr.s own
testimony to the effect that the property was previously a part of the Paraaque River that had dried up
and become an orchard.
We observe in this connection that even Arcadio, Jr.s own Transfer Certificate of Title No. 44687
confirmed the uniform conclusion of the RTC and the CA that Lot 4998-B had been formed by the drying
up of the Paraaque River. Transfer Certificate of Title No. 44687 recited that Lot 4 of the consolidated
subdivision plan Pcs-13-002563, the lot therein described, was bounded on the SW along line 5-1 by
Dried River Bed.14 That boundary line of SW along line 5-1 corresponded with the location of Lot
4998-B, which was described as bounded by Lot 4079 Cad. 299, (Lot 1, Psu-10676), in the name of
respondent Arcadio Santos, Jr. (Now Lot 4, Psd-13-002563) in the Northeast. 15
The RTC and the CA grossly erred in treating the dried-up river bed as an accretion that became
respondents property

Still, respondents argue that considering that Lot 4998-B did not yet exist when the original title of
Lot 4 was issued in their mothers name in 1920, and that Lot 4998-B came about only thereafter as the
land formed between Lot 4 and the Paraaque River, the unavoidable conclusion should then be that
soil and sediments had meanwhile been deposited near Lot 4 by the current of the Paraaque River,
resulting in the formation of Lot 4998-B.
The argument is legally and factually groundless. For one, respondents thereby ignore that the
effects of the current of the river are not the only cause of the formation of land along a river bank.
There are several other causes, including the drying up of the river bed. The drying up of the river bed
was, in fact, the uniform conclusion of both lower courts herein. In

_______________
14 Records, Vol. 2, p. 428 (Transfer Certificate of Title No. 44687).
15 Records, Vol. 1, pp. 138-139.
62

62

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

VOL. 685, NOVEMBER 12, 2012

Republic vs. Santos III

pursuant to Article 457 of the Civil Code. That land was definitely not an accretion. The process of
drying up of a river to form dry land involved the recession of the water level from the river banks, and
the dried-up land did not equate to accretion, which was the gradual and imperceptible deposition of soil
on the river banks through the effects of the current. In accretion, the water level did not recede and
was more or less maintained. Hence, respondents as the riparian owners had no legal right to claim
ownership of Lot 4998-B. Considering that the clear and categorical language of Article 457 of the Civil
Code has confined the provision only to accretion, we should apply the provision as its clear and
categorical language tells us to. Axiomatic it is, indeed, that where the language of the law is clear and
categorical, there is no room for interpretation; there is only room for application. 16 The first and
fundamental duty of courts is then to apply the law. 17
The State exclusively owned Lot 4998-B and may not be divested of its right of ownership. Article
502 of the Civil Codeexpressly declares that rivers and their natural beds are public dominion of the
State.18 It follows that the river beds that dry up, like Lot 4998-B, continue to belong to the State as its
property of public dominion, unless there is an express law that provides that the dried-up river beds
should belong to some other person.19
_______________
16 Cebu Portland Cement Company v. Municipality of Naga, Cebu, Nos. 24116-17, August 22, 1968,
24 SCRA 708, 712.
17 Quijano v. Development Bank of the Philippines, No. L-26419, October 16, 1970, 35 SCRA 270,

63

Republic vs. Santos III

II
Acquisitive prescription was
not applicable in favor of respondents
The RTC favored respondents application for land registration covering Lot 4998-B also because
they had taken possession of the property continuously, openly, publicly and adversely for more than 30
years based on their predecessor-in-interest being the adjoining owner of the parcel of land along the
river bank. It rendered the following ratiocination, viz.:20
In this regard, the Court found that from the time the applicants became the owners thereof, they
took possession of the same property continuously, openly, publicly and adversely for more than thirty
(30) years because their predecessors-in-interest are the adjoining owners of the subject parcel of land
along the river bank. Furthermore, the fact that applicants paid its realty taxes, had it surveyed per
subdivision plan Csd-00-000343 (Exh. L) which was duly approved by the Land Management Services
and the fact that Engr. Chito B. Cainglet, OICChief, Surveys Division Land Registration Authority,
made a Report that the subject property is not a portion of the Paraaque River and that it does not fall
nor overlap with Lot 5000, thus, the Court opts to grant the application.
Finally, in the light of the evidence adduced by the applicants in this case and in view of the
foregoing reports of the Department of

277.

_______________
18 The Civil Code states:
Article502.The following are of public dominion:

the course of the river, which opens up a new bed. It has no reference to a case where the river
simply dries up. In fact, it cannot be applied at all to the drying up of the river, because there are no
persons whose lands are occupied by the waters of the river. Who shall own the river bed thus left
dry? We believe that in such case, the river bed will continue to remain property of public

(1)Rivers and their natural beds;

dominion. Under article 502 of the Code, rivers and their natural beds are property of public

dominion. In the absence of any provision vesting the ownership of the dried up river bed in

xxx

some other person, it must continue to belong to the State.

19 II Tolentino, Commentaries and Jurisprudence on the Civil Code of the Philippines, 1994, pp.
137-138, opines:

20 Records, Vol. II, p. 522.


64

When River Dries Up.The present article contemplates a case where a river bed is abandoned by
a natural change in
63

64

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

VOL. 685, NOVEMBER 12, 2012

Republic vs. Santos III

Agrarian Reforms, Land Registration Authority and the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources, the Court finds and so holds that the applicants have satisfied all the requirements of law
which are essential to a government grant and is, therefore, entitled to the issuance of a certificate of
title in their favor. So also, oppositor failed to prove that the applicants are not entitled thereto, not
having presented any witness.
In fine, the application is GRANTED.
As already mentioned, the CA affirmed the RTC.
Both lower courts erred.
The relevant legal provision is Section 14(1) of Presidential Decree No. 1529 (Property Registration
Decree), which pertinently states:
Section14.Who may apply.The following persons may file in the proper [Regional Trial Court]
an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized
representatives:

65

Republic vs. Santos III

The Republic assails the findings by the lower courts that respondents took possession of the same
property continuously, openly, publicly and adversely for more than thirty (30) years. 22
Although it is well settled that the findings of fact of the trial court, especially when affirmed by the
CA, are accorded the highest degree of respect, and generally will not be disturbed on appeal, with such
findings being binding and conclusive on the Court, 23 the Court has consistently recognized exceptions to
this rule, including the following, to wit: (a) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculation,
surmises, or conjectures; (b) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd, or impossible; (c)
when there is grave abuse of discretion; (d) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts;
(e) when the findings of fact are conflicting; (f) when in making its findings the CA went beyond the
issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee;
(g) when the findings are contrary to those of the trial court; (h) when the findings are conclusions
without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (i) when the facts set forth in the petition
as well as in the petitioners main and reply briefs are not disputed by respondent; and ( j) when the
findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on
record.24
Here, the findings of the RTC were obviously grounded on speculation, surmises, or conjectures;
and that the inference made by the RTC and the CA was manifestly mistaken, absurd, or impossible.
Hence, the Court should now review the findings.

(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.

22 Rollo, pp. 32-36.


xxxx
23 Bulos, Jr. v. Yasuma, G.R. No. 164159, July 17, 2007, 527 SCRA 727, 737.
Under Section 14(1), then, applicants for confirmation of imperfect title must prove the following,
namely: (a) that the land forms part of the disposable and alienable agricultural lands of the public
domain; and (b) that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
occupation of the land under a bona fide claim of ownership either since time immemorial or since June
12, 1945.21

24 Citibank, N.A. (formerly First National City Bank) v. Sabeniano, G.R. No. 156132, October 16,
2006, 504 SCRA 378, 409.
66

_______________
21 Republic v. Alconaba, G.R. No. 155012, April 14, 2004, 427 SCRA 611, 617.

66

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

65
Republic vs. Santos III

In finding that respondents had been in continuous, open, public and adverse possession of the
land for more than 30 years, the RTC declared:

adjacent to the river bank by respondents predecessor-in-interest did not translate to possession of Lot
4998-B that would ripen to acquisitive prescription in relation to Lot 4998-B.

In this regard, the Court found that from the time the applicant became the owners thereof, they
took possession of the same property continuously, openly, publicly and adversely for more than thirty
years because their predecessor in interest are the adjoining owners of the subject parcel of land along
the river banks. Furthermore, the fact that the applicant paid its realty taxes, had it surveyed per
subdivision plan Csd-00-000343 (Exh. L) which was duly approved by the Land Management Services
and the fact that Engr. Chito B. Cainglet, OICChief, Surveys Division Land Registration Authority,
made a Report that the subject property is not a portion of the Paraaque River and that it does not fall
nor overlap with Lot 5000, thus, the Court opts to grant the application.

On the other hand, the claim of thirty years of continuous, open, public and adverse possession of
Lot 4998-B was not even validated or preponderantly established. The admission of respondents
themselves that they declared the property for taxation purposes only in 1997 and paid realty taxes only
from 199928 signified that their alleged possession would at most be for only nine years as of the filing of
their application for land registration on March 7, 1997.

The RTC apparently reckoned respondents period of supposed possession to be more than thirty
years from the fact that their predecessors in interest are the adjoining owners of the subject parcel of
land. Yet, its decision nowhere indicated what acts respondents had performed showing their
possession of the property continuously, openly, publicly and adversely in that length of time. The
decision mentioned only that they had paid realty taxes and had caused the survey of the property to be
made. That, to us, was not enough to justify the foregoing findings, because, firstly, the payment of
realty taxes did not conclusively prove the payors ownership of the land the taxes were paid for, 25 the
tax declarations and payments being mere indicia of a claim of ownership;26 and,sec-

Yet, even conceding, for the sake of argument, that respondents possessed Lot 4998-B for more than
thirty years in the character they claimed, they did not thereby acquire the land by prescription or by
other means without any competent proof that the land was already declared as alienable and
_______________
May 22, 1995, 244 SCRA 218, 222; Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No.
73246, March 2, 1993, 219 SCRA 339, 348; San Miguel Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 57667,
May 28, 1990, 185 SCRA 722, 725.
27 I Tolentino, Commentaries and Jurisprudence on the Civil Code of the Philippines, 1994, p. 28.

_______________
28 Rollo, p. 88.
25 Ebreo v. Ebreo, G.R. No. 160065, February 28, 2006, 483 SCRA 583, 594; Seria v. Caballero,
G.R. No. 127382, August 17, 2004, 436 SCRA 593, 604; Del Rosario v. Republic, G.R. No. 148338, June
6, 2002, 383 SCRA 262, 274; Bartolome v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 76792, March 12,
1990, 183 SCRA 102, 112.
26 Ebreo v. Ebreo, supra; Heirs of Mariano, Juan, Tarcela and Josefa Brusas v. Court of Appeals ,
G.R. No. 126875, August 26, 1999, 313 SCRA 176, 184; Rivera v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 107903,
67

68

68

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. Santos III

VOL. 685, NOVEMBER 12, 2012

67

Republic vs. Santos III

disposable by the Government. Absent that declaration, the land still belonged to the State as part of its
public dominion.
Article 419 of the Civil Code distinguishes property as being either of public dominion or of private
ownership. Article 420 of theCivil Code lists the properties considered as part of public dominion,
namely: (a) those intended for public use, such as roads, canals,rivers, torrents, ports and bridges

ondly, the causing of surveys of the property involved was not itself an of continuous, open, public and
adverse possession.

constructed by the State, banks, shores, roadsteads, and others of similar character; and (b) 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. As earlier mentioned, Article 502 of the Civil Codedeclares
that rivers and their natural beds are of public dominion.

The principle that the riparian owner whose land receives the gradual deposits of soil does not need
to make an express act of possession, and that no acts of possession are necessary in that instance
because it is the law itself that pronounces the alluvium to belong to the riparian owner from the time
that the deposit created by the current of the water becomes manifest 27 has no applicability herein. This
is simply because Lot 4998-B was not formed through accretion. Hence, the ownership of the land

Whether the dried-up river bed may be susceptible to acquisitive prescription or not was a question
that the Court resolved in favor of the State in Celestial v. Cachopero,29 a case involving the registration
of land found to be part of a dried-up portion of the natural bed of a creek. There the Court held:

As for petitioners claim of ownership over the subject land, admittedly a dried-up bed of the
Salunayan Creek, based on (1) her alleged long term adverse possession and that of her predecessor-ininterest, Marcelina Basadre, even prior to October 22, 1966, when she purchased the adjoining property
from the latter, and (2) the right of accession under Art. 370 of the Spanish Civil Code of 1889 and/or
Article 461 of the Civil Code, the same must fail.

Director, the subject land became dry as a result of the construction an irrigation canal by the National
Irrigation Administration. Thus, in Ronquillo v. Court of Appeals, this Court held:
The law is clear and unambiguous. It leaves no room for interpretation. Article 370

applies only if there is a natural change in the course of the waters. The rules on

alluvion do not apply to man-made or artificial accretions nor to accretions to lands

Since property of public dominion is outside the commerce of man and not susceptible to

that adjoin canals or esteros or artificial drainage systems. Considering our earlier finding

private appropriation and acquisitive prescription, the adverse possession which may be the

that the dried-up portion of Estero Calubcub was actually caused by the active

basis of a grant of title in the confirmation of an imperfect title refers only to alienable or

intervention of man, it follows that Article 370 does not apply to the case at bar and,

disposable portions of the public domain. It is only after the Government has declared the land to

hence, the Del Rosarios cannot be entitled thereto supposedly as riparian owners.70

be alienable and disposable agricultural land that the


_______________
70

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

29 G.R. No. 142595, October 15, 2003, 413 SCRA 469, 485-489.
69

Republic vs. Santos III

VOL. 685, NOVEMBER 12, 2012

69

The dried-up portion of Estero Calubcub should thus be considered as forming


part of the land of the public domain which cannot be subject to acquisition by
private ownership. xxx (Emphasis supplied)

Republic vs. Santos III

Furthermore, both provisions pertain to situations where there has been a change in the

course of a river, not where the river simply dries up. In the instant Petition, it is not even
alleged that the Salunayan Creek changed its course. In such a situation, commentators are of the
year of entry, cultivation and exclusive and adverse possession can be counted for purposes of an
imperfect title.
A creek, like the Salunayan Creek, is a recess or arm extending from a river and participating in
the ebb and flow of the sea. As such, under Articles 420(1) and 502(1) of the Civil Code, the
Salunayan Creek, including its natural bed, is property of the public domain which is not
susceptible

to

private

appropriation

and

acquisitive

prescription. And,absent

any

opinion that the dry river bed remains property of public dominion. (Bold emphases supplied)

Indeed, under the Regalian doctrine, all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private
ownership are presumed to belong to the State. 30 No public land can be acquired by private persons
without any grant, express or implied, from the Government. It is indispensable, therefore, that there is
a showing of a title from the State.31 Occupation of public land in the concept of owner, no matter how
long, cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title.32

declaration by the government, that a portion of the creek has dried-up does not, by itself,
alter its inalienable character.
xxxx

Had the disputed portion of the Salunayan Creek dried up after the present Civil Code took effect,
the subject land would clearly not belong to petitioner or her predecessor-in-interest since under the
aforementioned provision of Article 461, river beds which are abandoned through the natural change in
the course of the waters ipso facto belong to the owners of the land occupied by the new course, and the
owners of the adjoining lots have the right to acquire them only after paying their value.
And both Article 370 of the Old Code and Article 461 of the present Civil Code are applicable only
when [r]iver beds are abandoned through the natural change in the course of the waters. It is
uncontroverted, however, that, as found by both the Bureau of Lands and the DENR Regional Executive

Subject to the exceptions defined in Article 461 of the Civil Code(which declares river beds that are
abandoned through the natural change in the course of the waters as ipso facto belonging to the owners
of the land occupied by the new course, and which gives to the owners of the adjoining lots the right to
acquire only the abandoned river beds not ipso facto belonging to the owners of the land affected by the
natural change of course of the waters only after paying their value), all river beds remain property of
public dominion and cannot be acquired by acquisitive prescription unless previously declared by the
Government to be alienable and disposable.
_______________
30 Republic v. Sayo, G.R. No. 60413, October 31, 1990, 191 SCRA 71, 74.
31 Gordula v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 127296, January 22, 1998, 284 SCRA 617, 630.

32 Pagkatipunan v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 129682, March 21, 2002, 379 SCRA 621, 627.

33 Rollo, pp. 80-81.

71

72

VOL. 685, NOVEMBER 12, 2012

71

72

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. Santos III

Considering that Lot 4998-B was not shown to be already declared to be alienable and disposable,
respondents could not be deemed to have acquired the property through prescription.
Nonetheless, respondents insist that the property was already classified as alienable and
disposable by the Government. They cite as proof of the classification as alienable and disposable the
following notation found on the survey plan, to wit: 33
NOTE

Republic vs. Santos III

tor, or a legislative act or statute. Until then, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply.
As to the proofs that are admissible to establish the alienability and disposability of public land, we
said in Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources v. Yap 34 that:
The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of the lands of

the public domain is on the person applying for registration (or claiming ownership), who must
prove that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable. To overcome this
presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be established that the land subject of the

ALL CORNERS NOT OTHERWISE DESCRIBED ARE OLD BL CYL. CONC. MONS 15 X 60CM
All corners marked PS are cyl. conc. mons 15 x 60 cm
Surveyed in accordance with Survey Authority No. 007604-48 of the Regional Executive Director
issued by the CENR-OFFICER dated Dec. 2, 1996.
This survey is inside L.C. Map No. 2623, Proj. No. 25 classified as alienable/disposable by

the Bureau of Forest Devt. on Jan. 3, 1968.


Lot 4998-A = Lot 5883} Cad 299

Lot 4998-B = Lot 5884} Paraaque Cadastre.


Was the notation on the survey plan to the effect that Lot 4998-B was inside the map classified
as alienable/disposable by the Bureau of Forest Development on 03 Jan. 1968 sufficient proof of the
propertys nature as alienable and disposable public land?
To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, an applicant must
conclusively establish the existence of a positive act of the Government, such as a presidential
proclamation, executive order, administrative action, investigation reports of the Bureau of Lands
investiga-

application (or claim) is alienable or disposable. There must still be a positive act declaring land
of the public domain as alienable and disposable. To prove that the land subject of an application
for registration is alienable, the 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. The applicant may also secure a certification from the

government that the land claimed to have been possessed for the required number of years
is alienable and disposable.
In the case at bar, no such proclamation, executive order, administrative action, report,
statute, or certification was presented to the Court. The records are bereft of evidence showing
that, prior to 2006, the portions of Boracay occupied by private claimants were subject of a government
proclamation that the land is alienable and disposable. Absent such well-nigh incontrovertible
evidence, the Court cannot accept the submission that lands occupied by private claimants
were

already

open

to

disposition

before

2006.

Matters

of

land

classification

or

reclassification cannot be assumed. They call for proof. (Emphasis supplied)


_______________
34 G.R. No. 167707 and G.R. No. 173775, October 8, 2008, 568 SCRA 164, 192-193.
73

_______________
VOL. 685, NOVEMBER 12, 2012

73

Republic vs. Santos III

In Menguito v. Republic,35 which we reiterated in Republic v. Sarmiento,36 we specifically resolved


the issue of whether the notation on the survey plan was sufficient evidence to establish the alienability
and disposability of public land, to wit:

Republic vs. Santos III

sufficiently proven that the land in question has been declared alienable. (Emphasis supplied)

To prove that the land in question formed part of the alienable and disposable lands of

In Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,37 we dealt with the sufficiency of the certification by the
Provincial Environmental Officer (PENRO) or Community Environmental Officer (CENRO) to the effect
that a piece of public land was alienable and disposable in the following manner, viz.:

inside Alienable and Disposable Land Area, Project No. 27-B as per L.C. Map No. 2623, certified

x x x it is not enough for the PENRO or CENRO to certify that a land is alienable and

the public domain, petitioners relied on the printed words which read: This survey plan is

by the Bureau of Forestry on January 3, 1968, appearing on Exhibit E(Survey Plan No. Swo13-000227).

disposable. The 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

This proof is not sufficient. Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, provides: All lands of
the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential
energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by
the State. x x x.

disposable, and that the land subject of the application for registration falls within the

approved area per verification through survey by the PENRO or CENRO. In addition, the
applicant for land registration must present a copy of the original classification approved by the DENR
Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of the official records. These facts must be
established to prove that the land is alienable and disposable. Respondent failed to do so because the
certifications presented by respondent do not, by themselves, prove that the land is alienable

For the original registration of title, the applicant (petitioners in this case) must overcome

and disposable.

the presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public

domain. Unless public land is shown to have been reclassified or alienated to a private person by the
State, it remains part of the inalienable public domain. Indeed, occupation thereof in the concept of
owner, no matter how long, cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. To overcome such
presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be shown by the applicant. Absent such evidence, the land
sought to be registered remains inalienable.

Only Torres, respondents Operations Manager, identified the certifications submitted by


respondent. The government officials who issued the certifications were not presented before the trial
court to testify on their contents. The trial court should not have accepted the contents of the
certifications as proof of the facts stated therein. Even if the certifications are presumed duly issued and
admissible in evidence, they have no probative value in establishing that the land is alienable and
disposable.

In the present case, petitioners cite a surveyor-geodetic engineers notation in Exhibit E


indicating that the survey was inside alienable and disposable land. Such notation does not

xxxx

constitute a positive government act validly changing the classification of the land in

question. Verily, a mere surveyor has no authority to reclassify lands of the public domain.
By relying solely on the said surveyors assertion, petitioners have not
_______________
35 G.R. No. 134308, December 14, 2000, 348 SCRA 128, 139-140.

_______________

36 G.R. No. 169397, March 13, 2007, 518 SCRA 250, 259-260.

37 G.R. No. 154953, June 26, 2008, 555 SCRA 477, 489-491.
75

74

74

The CENRO and Regional Technical Director, FMS-DENR, certifications do not prove that Lot
10705-B falls within the alienable and disposable land as proclaimed by the DENR Secretary. Such
government certifications do not, by their mere issuance, prove the facts stated therein. Such
government certifications may fall under

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

VOL. 685, NOVEMBER 12, 2012

75

owner for the diminutions which his land suffers by reason of the destructive force of the watersin the
case of littoral lands, he who loses by the encroachments of the sea should gain by its recession.
(Cantoja vs. Lim, 617 SCRA 44 [2010])

Republic vs. Santos III

All lands not appearing to be clearly of private dominion presumptively belong to the State. ( DCD
Construction, Inc. vs. Republic, 656 SCRA 560 [2012])
o0o

the class of documents contemplated in the second sentence of Section 23 of Rule 132. As such, the
certifications are prima facie evidence of their due execution and date of issuance but they do not
constitute prima facieevidence of the facts stated therein. (Emphasis supplied)
These rulings of the Court indicate that the notation on the survey plan of Lot 4998-B, Cad-00000343 to the effect that the survey is inside a map classified as alienable/disposable by the Bureau of
Forest Devt did not prove that Lot 4998-B was already classified as alienable and disposable.
Accordingly, respondents could not validly assert acquisitive prescription of Lot 4988-B.
WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the decision of the Court of Appeals
promulgated on May 27, 2003; DISMISSES the application for registration of Arcadio C. Santos, Jr. and
Arcadio Ivan S. Santos III respecting Lot 4998-B with a total area of 1,045 square meters, more or less,
situated in Barangay San Dionisio, Paraaque City, Metro Manila; and DECLARES Lot 4998-B as
exclusively belonging to the State for being part of the dried-up bed of the Paraaque River.
Respondents shall pay the costs of suit.
SO ORDERED.
Sereno (C.J.), Leonardo-De Castro, Villarama, Jr. and Reyes, JJ., concur.
Judgment reversed and set aside.
Notes.Accretion as a mode of acquiring property under Article 457 of the Civil Code requires the
concurrence of the following requisites: (1) that the deposition of soil or sediment be gradual and
imperceptible; (2) that it be the result of the action of the waters of the river; and (3) that the land
where accretion takes place is adjacent to the banks of rivers. (New Regent Sources, Inc. vs. Tanjuatco,
Jr., 585 SCRA 329 [2009])76

76

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Republic vs. Santos III

The reason for the grant of preferential right to the riparian or littoral owner is the same as the
justification for giving accretions to the riparian owner, which is that accretion compensates the riparian

as shown by Original Certificate of Title No. 2982, issued on June 9, 1934). Said property is identified as
Lot No. 1, Plan PSU-83342. When it was surveyed for purposes of registration sometime in 1930, its
northeastern boundary was the Cagayan River (the same boundary stated in the title). Since then, and
for many years thereafter, a gradual accretion on the northeastern side took place, by action of the
current of the Cagayan River, so
526
526

>LAYGO
524

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Grande vs. Court of Appeals

No. L-17652. June 30, 1962.


IGNACIO GRANDE, ET AL., petitioners, vs. HON.COURT OF APPEALS, DOMINGO CALALUNG,
and ESTEBAN CALALUNG, respondents.
Property; Accretion; Alluvial deposits on registered land; Increment not automatically registered.
An accretion does not automatically become registered land, just because the lot which receives such
accretion is covered by a Torrens title.
525
VOL. 5, JUNE 30, 1962

525

Grande vs. Court of Appeals


Ownership of a piece of land is one thing; registration under the Torrens system of that
ownership is another. Ownership over the accretion received by the land adjoining a river is governed by
the Civil Code. Imprescriptibility of registered land is provided in the registration law. Registration
under the Land Registration and Cadastral Acts does not vest or give title to the land, but merely
confirms and, thereafter, protects the title already possessed by the owner, making it imprescriptible by
occupation of third parties. But to obtain this protection, the land must be placed under the operation of
the registration laws, wherein certain judicial procedures have been provided.
APPEAL from a decision of the Court of Appeals.

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Grande vs. Court of Appeals


much so, that by 1958, the bank thereof had receded to a distance of about 105 meters from its original
site, and an alluvial deposit of 19,964 square meters (1.9964 hectares), more or less, had been added to
the registered area (Exh. C-1).
On January 25, 1958, petitioners instituted the present action in the Court of First Instance of
Isabela against respondents, to quiet title to said portion (19,964 square meters) formed by accretion,
alleging in their complaint (docketed as Civil Case No. 1171) that they and their predecessors-ininterest, were formerly in peaceful and continuous possession thereof, until September, 1948, when
respondents entered upon the land under claim of ownership. Petitioners also asked for damages
corresponding to the value of the fruits of the land as well as attorney's fees and costs. In their answer
(dated February 18, 1958), respondents claim ownership in themselves, asserting that they have been in
continuous, open, and undisturbed possession of said portion, since prior to the year 1933 to the
present.
After trial, the Court of First Instance of Isabela, on May 4, 1959, rendered a decision adjudging
the ownership of the portion in question to petitioners, and ordering respondents to vacate the premises
and deliver possession thereof to petitioners, and to pay to the latter P250.-00 as damages and costs.
Said decision, in part, reads:
"It is admitted by the parties that the land involved in this action was formed by the gradual deposit of
alluvium brought about by the action of the Cagayan River, a navigable river. We are inclined to believe
that the accretion was formed on the northeastern side of the land covered by Original Certificate of
Titie No. 2982 after the survey of the registered land in 1931, because the surveyors found out that the
northeastern boundary of the land surveyed by them was the Cagayan River, and not the land in
question. Which is indicative of the fact that the accretion has not yet started or begun in 1931. And, as
declared by Pedro Laman, defendants' witness and the boundary owner on the northwest of the
registered land of the plaintiffs, the accretion was a little more than one hectare, including the stony
portion, in 1940 or 1941. Therefore, the declarations of the defendant Domingo Calalung and his
witness, Vicente C. Bacani, to the effect that the land in question was formed by accretion since 1933 do
not only contradict
527
VOL. 5, JUNE 30, 1962

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.


Bartolome Guirao and Antonio M. Orara for petitioners.
Gonzales & Fernandez for respondents.
BARRERA,.J.:
This is an appeal taken by petitioners Ignacio, Eulogia, Alfonso, Eulalia, and Sofia Grande, from the
decision of the Court of Appeals (CA-G.R. No. 25169-R) reversing that of the Court of First Instance of
Isabela (Civil Case No. 1171), and dismissing petitioners' action against respondents Domingo and
Esteban Calalung, to quiet title to and recover possession of a parcel of land allegedly occupied by the
latter without petitioners' consent.
The facts of the case, which are undisputed, briefly are: Petitioners are the owners of a parcel of
land, with an area of 3.5032 hectares, located at barrio Ragan, municipality of Magsaysay (formerly
Tumauini), province of Isabela, by inheritance from their deceased mother Patricia Angui (who
inherited it from her parents Isidro Angui and Ana Lopez, in whose name said land appears registered,

527

Grande vs. Court of Appeals


the testimony of defendants' witness Pedro Laman, but could not overthrow the incontestable fact that
the accretion with an area of 4 hectares, more or less, was formed in 1948, reason for which, it was only
declared in that same year for taxation purposes by the defendants under Tax Dec. No. 257 (Exh. '2')
when they entered upon the land. We could not give credence to defendants' assertion that Tax Dec. No.
257 (Exh. '2') cancelled Tax Dec. No. 28226 (Exh. '1'), because Exh. '2' says that 'tax under this
declaration begins with the year 1948. But, the fact that defendants declared the land for taxation
purposes since 1948, does not mean that they become the owner of the land by mere occupancy, for it is
a new provision of the New Civil Code that ownership of a piece of land cannot be acquired by
occupation (Art. 714, New Civil Code). The land in question being an accretion to the mother or
registered land of the plaintiffs, the accretion belongs to the plaintiffs (Art. 457, New Civil Code; Art.
366, Old Civil Code). Assuming arguendo,that the accretion has been occupied by the defendants since
1948, or earlier, is of no moment, because the law does not require any act of possession on the part of
the owner of the riparian owner, from the moment the deposit becomes manifest (Roxas v. Tuason, 9
Phil. 408; Cortez v. City of Manila, 10 Phil. 567). Further, no act of appropriation on the part of the

reparian owner is necessary, in order to acquire ownership of the alluvial formation, as the law does not
require the same (3 Manresa, C.C., pp. 321-326).
'This brings us now to the determination of whether the defendants, granting that they have been
in possession of the alluvium since 1948, could have acquired the property by prescription. Assuming
that they occupied the land in September, 1948, but considering that the action was commenced on
January 25, 1958, they have not been in possession of the land for ten (10) years; hence, they could not
have acquired the land by ordinary prescription (Arts. 1134 and 1138, New Civil Code). Moreover, as the
alluvium is, by law, part and parcel of the registered property, the same may be considered as registered
property, within the meaning of Section 46 of Act No. 496; and, therefore, it could not be acquired by
prescription or adverse possession by another person."
Unsatisfied, respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals, which rendered, on September 14, 1960, the
decision adverted to at the beginning of this opinion, partly stating:
"That the area in controversy has been formed through a gradual process of alluvium, which started in
the early thirties, is a fact conclusively established by the evidence for both parties. By law, therefore,
unless some superior title has super528
528

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Grande vs. Court of Appeals


vened, it should properly belong to the riparian owners, specifically in accordance with the rule of
natural accession in Article 366 of the old Civil Code (now Article 457), which provides that 'to the
owner of lands adjoining the banks of rivers, belongs the accretion which they gradually receive from
the effects of the current of the waters.' The defendants, however, contend that they have acquired
ownership through prescription. This contention poses the real issue in this case. The Court a quo,has
resolved it in favor of the plaintiffs, on two grounds: First, since by accession, the land in question
pertains to the original estate, and since in this instance the original estate is registered, the accretion,
consequently, falls within the purview of Section 46 of Act No. 496, which states that 'no title to
registered land in derogation to that of the registered owner shall be acquired by prescription or adverse
possession'; and, second, the adverse possession of the defendant began only in the month of September,
1948, or less than the 10-year period required for prescription before the present action was instituted.
"As a legal proposition, the first ground relied upon by the trial court, is not quite correct. An
accretion to registered land, while declared by specific provision of the Civil Code to belong to the owner
of the land as a natural accession thereof, does not ipso jure become entitled to the protection of the rule
of imprescriptibility of title established by the Land Registration Act. Such protection does not extend
beyond the area given and described in the certificate. To hold otherwise, would be productive of
confusion. It would virtually deprive the title, and the technical description of the land given therein, of
their character of conclusiveness as to the identity and area of the land that is registered. Just as the
Supreme Court, albeit in a negative manner, has stated that registration does not protect the riparian
owner against the erosion of the area of his land through gradual changes in the course of the adjoining
stream (Payatas Estate Development Co. v. Tuason,53 Phil. 55), so registration does not entitle him to
all the rights conferred by the Land Registration Act, in so far as the area added by accretion is
concerned. What rights he has, are declared not by said Act, but by the provisions of the Civil Code on
accession; and these provisions do not preclude acquisition of the additional area by another person
through prescription. This Court has held as much in the case of Galindez, et al. v. Baguisa, et al., CAG.R. No. 19249-R, July 17, 1959.
"We now proposed to review the second ground relied upon by the trial court, regarding the length
of time that the defendants have been in possession. Domingo Calalung testified that he occupied the
land in question for the first time in 1934, not in 1948 as claimed by the plaintiffs. The area under
occupancy gradually increased as the years went by. In 1946, he declared the land for purposes of
taxation (Exhibit 1). This tax declara529
VOL. 5, JUNE 30, 1962
Grande vs. Court of Appeals

529

tion was superseded in 1948 by another (Exhibit 2), after the name of the municipality wherein it is
located was changed from Tumauini to Magsaysay. Calalung's testimony is corroborated by two
witnesses, both owners of properties nearby. Pedro Laman, 72 years of age, who was Municipal
president of Tumauini for three terms, said that the land in question adjoins his own on the south, and
that since 1940 or 1951, he has always known it to be in the peaceful possession of the defendants.
Vicente C. Bacani testified to the same effect, although, he said that the defendants' possession started
sometime in 1933 or 1934. The area thereof, he said, was then less than one hectare.
"We find the testimony of the said witnesses entitled to much greater weight and credence than
that of the plaintiff Pedro Grande and his lone witness, Laureana Rodriguez. The first stated that the
defendants occupied the land in question only in 1948; that he called the latter's attention to the fact
that the land was his, but the defendants, in turn, claimed that they were the owners, that the plaintiffs
did not file an action until 1958, because it was only then that they were able to obtain the certificate of
title from the surveyor, Domingo Parlan; and that they never declared the land in question for taxation
purposes or paid the taxes hereon. Pedro Grande admitted that the defendants had the said land
surveyed in April, 1958, and that he tried to stop it, not because he claimed the accretion for himself and
his co-plaintiffs, but because the survey included a portion of the property covered by their title. This
last fact is conceded by the defendants who, accordingly, relinquished their possession to the part thus
included, containing an area of some 458 square meters.
"The oral evidence for the defendants concerning the period of their possessionfrom 1933 to 1958
is not only preponderant in itself, but is, moreover, supported by the fact that it is they and not the
plaintiffs who declared the disputed property for taxation, and by the additional circumstance that if the
plaintiffs had really been in prior possession and were deprived thereof in 1948, they would have
immediately taken steps to recover the same. The excuse they gave for not doing so, namely, that they
did not receive their copy of the certificate of title to their property until 1958 for lack of funds to pay the
fees of the surveyor Domingo Parian, is too flimsy to merit any serious consideration. The payment of
the surveyor's fees had nothing to do with their right to obtain a copy of the certificate. Besides, it was
not necessary for them to have it in their hands, in order to file an action to recover the land which was
legally theirs by accession and of which, as they allege, they had been illegally deprived by the
defendants. We are convinced, upon consideration of the evidence, that the latter, were really in
possession since 1934, immediately after the process of alluvion started, and that the plaintiffs woke up
to their rights only when they
530
530

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Grande vs. Court of Appeals


received their copy of the title in 1958. By then, however, prescription had already supervened in favor
of the defendants."
It is this decision of the Court of Appeals which petitioners seek to be reviewed by us.
The sole issue for resolution in this case is whether respondents have acquired the alluvial
property in question through prescription.
There can be no dispute that both under Article 457 of the New Civil Code and Article 366 of the
old, petitioners are the lawful owners of said alluvial property, as they are the registered owners of the
land which it adjoins. The question is whether the accretion becomes automatically registered land just
because the lot which receives it is covered by a Torrens title thereby making the alluvial property
imprescriptible. We agree with the Court of Appeals that it does not, just as an unregistered land
purchased by the registered owner of the adjoining land does not, by extension, become ipso facto
registered land. Ownership of a piece of land is one thing, and registration under the Torrens system of
that ownership is quite another. Ownership over the accretion received by the land adjoining a river is
governed by the Civil Code. lmprescriptibility of registered land is provided in the registration law.
Registration under the Land Registration and Cadastral Acts does not vest or give title to the land, but
merely confirms and thereafter protects the title already possessed by the owner, making it
imprescriptible by occupation of third parties. But to obtain this protection, the land must be placed
under the operation of the registration laws wherein certain judicial procedures have been provided.

The fact remain, however, that petitioners never sought registration of said alluvial property (which was
formed sometime after petitioners' property covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 2982 was
registered on June 9, 1934) up to the time they instituted the present action in the Court of First
Instance of Isabela in 1958. The increment, therefore, never became registered property, and hence is
not entitled or subject to the protection of imprescriptibility enjoyed by registered property under the
Torrens system. Consequently, it was sub531
VOL. 5, JUNE 30, 1962

Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved.

128

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

531

Valderrama Lumber Mfrs. Co., Inc. vs. Administrator


ject to acquisition through prescription by third persons. The next issue is, did respondents acquire said
alluvial property through acquisitive prescription? This is a question which requires determination of
facts: physical possession and dates or duration of such possession. The Court of Appeals, after
analyzing the evidence, found that respondents-appellees were in possession of the alluvial lot since
1933 or 1934, openly, continuously and adversely, under a claim of ownership up to the filing of the
action in 1958. This finding of the existence of these facts, arrived at by the Court of Appeals after an
examination of the evidence presented by the parties, is conclusive as to them and can not be reviewed
by us.
The law on prescription applicable to the case is that provided in Act 190 and not the provisions of
the Civil Code, since the possession started in 1933 or 1934 when the pertinent articles of the old Civil
Code were not in force and before the effectivity of the new Civil Code in 1950. Hence, the conclusion of
the Court of Appeals that the respondents acquired alluvial lot in question by acquisitive prescription is
in accordance with law.
The decision of the Court of Appeals under review is hereby affirmed, with costs against the
petitioners. So ordered.
Bengzon,
C.J., Padilla, Bautista
Angelo, Labrador,Concepcion, Paredes and Dizon,
JJ., concur.
Reyes, J.B.L., Regala and Makalintal, JJ., took no part.
Decision affirmed.
_____________

>RAMOS

Cruz vs. Secretaryof Environmentand Natural Resources

G.R. No. 135385. December 6, 2000.*


ISAGANI CRUZ and CESAR EUROPA, petitioners, vs.SECRETARY OF ENVIRONMENT AND
NATURAL RESOURCES, SECRETARY OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT and CHAIRMAN and
COMMISSIONERS OF THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES,respondents.
x
----------------------------------------------------------------------x
HON. JUAN M. FLAVIER, HON. PONCIANO BENNAGEN, BAYANI ASCARRAGA, EDTAMI
MANSAYANGAN, BASILIO WANDAG, EVELYN DUNUAN, YAOM TUGAS, ALFREMO CARPIANO,
LIBERATO A. GABIN, MATERNIDAD M. COLAS, NARCISA M. DALUPINES, BAI KIRAM-CONNIE
SATURNO, BAE MALOMO-BEATRIZ T. ABASALA, DATU BALITUNGTUNG-ANTONIO D.
LUMANDONG, DATU MANTUMUKAW TEOFISTO SABASALES, DATU EDUARDO BANDA, DATU
JOEL UNAD, DATU RAMON BAYAAN, TIMUAY JOSE ANOY, TIMUAY MACARIO D. SALACAO,
TIMUAY EDWIN B. ENDING, DATU SAHAMPONG MALANAW VI, DATU BEN PENDAO CABIGON,
BAI NANAPNAY-LIZA SAWAY, BAI INAY DAYA-MELINDA S. REYMUNDO, BAI TINANGHAGA
HELINITA T. PANGAN, DATU MAKAPUKAW ADOLINO L. SAWAY, DATU MAUDAYAW-CRISPEN
SAWAY, VICKY MAKAY, LOURDES D. AMOS, GILBERT P. HOGGANG, TERESA GASPAR,
MANUEL S. ONALAN, MIA GRACE L. GIRON, ROSEMARIE G. PE, BENITO CARINO, JOSEPH
JUDE CARANTES, LYNETTE CARANTES-VIVAL, LANGLEY SEGUNDO, SATUR S. BUGNAY,
CARLING DOMULOT, ANDRES MENDIGORIN, LEOPOLDO ABUGAN,
_______________
*

EN BANC.

129

VOL. 347, DECEMBER 6, 2000

Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

129

VIRGILIO CAYETANO, CONCHITA G. DESCAGA, LEVY ESTEVES, ODETTE G. ESTEVEZ,


RODOLFO C. AGUILAR, MAURO VALONES, PEPE H. ATONG, OFELIA T. DAVI, PERFECTO B.
GUINOSAO, WALTER N. TIMOL, MANUEL T. SELEN, OSCAR DALUNHAY, RICO O. SULATAN,
RAFFY MALINDA, ALFREDO ABILLANOS, JESSIE ANDILAB, MIRLANDO H. MANGKULINTAS,
SAMIE SATURNO, ROMEO A. LINDAHAY, ROEL S. MANSANGCAGAN, PAQUITO S. LIESES,
FILIPE G. SAWAY, HERMINIA S. SAWAY, JULIUS S. SAWAY, LEONARDA SAWAY, JIMMY UGYUB,
SALVADOR TIONGSON, VENANCIO APANG, MADION MALID, SUKIM MALID, NENENG MALID,
MANGKATADONG AUGUSTO DIANO, JOSEPHINE M. ALBESO, MORENO MALID, MARIO
MANGCAL, FELAY DIAMILING, SALOME P. SARZA, FELIFE P. BAGON, SAMMY SALNUNGAN,
ANTONIO D. EMBA, NORMA MAPANSA GONOS, ROMEO SALIGA, SR., JERSON P. GERADA,
RENATO T. BAGON, JR., SARING MASALONG, SOLEDAD M. GERARDA, ELIZABETH L. MENDI,
MORANTE S. TIWAN, DANILO M. MALUDAO, MINORS MARICEL MALID, represented by her
father CORNELIO MALID, MARCELINO M. LADRA, represented by her father MONICO D. LADRA,
JENNYLYN MALID, represented by her father TONY MALID, ARIEL M. EVANGELISTA, represented
by her mother LINAY BALBUENA, EDWARD M. EMUY, SR., SUSAN BOLANIO, OND, PULA BATO
BLAAN TRIBAL FARMERS ASSOCIATION, INTER-PEOPLES EXCHANGE, INC. and GREEN
FORUM-WESTERN
VISAYAS,
intervenor.
x
----------------------------------------------------------------------x
COMMISSION
ON
HUMAN
RIGHTS,
intervenor.
x
----------------------------------------------------------------------x
IKALAHAN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE and HARIBON FOUNDATION FOR THE CONSERVATION OF
NATURAL RESOURCES, INC., intervenor.
Supreme Court; Judgments; Judicial Review; Where the votes in the Court en banc are equally
divided and the necessary majority is not obtained, the case is redeliberated upon, but if after
deliberation, the voting
130

130

reserves judgment on the constitutionality of Sections 58, 59, 65, and 66 of the law, which he believes
must await the filing of specific cases by those whose rights may have been violated by the IPRA. Justice
Vitug also filed a separate opinion expressing the view that Sections 3(a), 7, and 57 of R.A. 8371 are
unconstitutional. Justices Melo, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and De Leon join in the separate
opinions of Justices Panganiban and Vitug. As the votes were equally divided (7 to 7) and the necessary
majority was not obtained, the case was redeliberated upon. However, after redeliberation, the voting
remained the same. Accordingly, pursuant to Rule 56, Section 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the
petition is DISMISSED.
PUNO, J.,Separate Opinion:
National Patrimony; Regalian Doctrine; Natural Resources; Public Lands; The Regalian
Doctrine or jura regalia is a Western legal concept that was first introduced by the Spaniards into the
country through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas.The capacity of the State to own or
acquire property is the states power of dominium. This was the foundation for the early Spanish
decrees embracing the feudal theory of jura regalia. The Regalian Doctrine or jura regalia is a
Western legal concept that was first introduced by the Spaniards into the country through the Laws of
the Indies and the Royal Cedulas.
131

VOL. 347, DECEMBER 6, 2000

131

Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

remains the same, the petition is dismissed pursuant to Rule 56, Section 7 of the Rules of Civil
Procedure.After due deliberation on the petition, the members of the Court voted as follows: Seven (7)
voted to dismiss the petition. Justice Kapunan filed an opinion, which the Chief Justice and Justices
Bellosillo, Quisumbing, and Santiago join, sustaining the validity of the challenged provisions of R.A.
8371. Justice Puno also filed a separate opinion sustaining all challenged provisions of the law with the
exception of Section 1, Part II, Rule III of NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, the Rules
and Regulations Implementing the IPRA, and Section 57 of the IPRA which he contends should be
interpreted as dealing with the large-scale exploitation of natural resources and should be read in
conjunction with Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. On the other hand, Justice Mendoza
voted to dismiss the petition solely on the ground that it does not raise a justiciable controversy and
petitioners do not have standing to question the constitutionality of R.A. 8371. Seven (7) other members
of the Court voted to grant the petition. Justice Panganiban filed a separate opinion expressing the view
that Sections 3 (a)(b), 5, 6, 7 (a)(b), 8, and related provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. He

Same; Same; Same; Same; Words and Phrases; The Public Land Act (Act No. 926) operated on
the assumption that title to public lands in the Philippine Islands remained in the government, and that
the governments title to public land sprung from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent treaties
between Spain and the United States; The term public land referred to all lands of the public domain
whose title still remained in the government and are thrown open to private appropriation and
settlement, and excluded the patrimonial property of the government and the friar lands. Act No. 926,
the first Public Land Act, was passed in pursuance of the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902. The
law governed the disposition of lands of the public domain. It prescribed rules and regulations for the
homesteading, selling, and leasing of portions of the public domain of the Philippine Islands, and
prescribed the terms and conditions to enable persons to perfect their titles to public lands in the
Islands. It also provided for the issuance of patents to certain native settlers upon public lands, for the
establishment of town sites and sale of lots therein, for the completion of imperfect titles, and for the
cancellation or confirmation of Spanish concessions and grants in the Islands. In short, the Public
Land Act operated on the assumption that title to public lands in the Philippine Islands remained in the
government; and that the governments title to public land sprung from the Treaty of Paris and other
subsequent treaties between Spain and the United States. The term public land referred to all lands of
the public domain whose title still remained in the government and are thrown open to private
appropriation and settlement, and excluded the patrimonial property of the government and the friar
lands.

Same; Same; Same; Same; Land Titles; Enacted by the Philippine Commission, Act 496 placed
all public and private lands in the Philippines under the Torrens system.Grants of public land were
brought under the operation of the Torrens system under Act 496, or the Land Registration Law of
1903. Enacted by the Philippine Commission, Act 496 placed all public and private lands in the
Philippines under the Torrens system. The law is said to be almost a verbatim copy of the
Massachusetts Land Registration Act of 1898, which, in turn, followed the principles and procedure of
the Torrens system of registration formulated by Sir Robert Torrens who patterned it after the
Merchant Shipping Acts in South Australia. The Torrens system requires that the government issue an
official certificate of title attesting to the fact that the person named is the owner of the property
described therein, subject to such liens and encumbrances as thereon noted or the law warrants or
reserves. The certificate of title is indefeasible and imprescriptible and all claims to the parcel of land
are quieted upon issuance of said certificate. This system highly facilitates land conveyance and
negotiation.

lands, and defines the extent of these lands and domains. The ownership given is the indigenous concept
of ownership under customary law which traces its origin to native title.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Words and Phrases; Indigenous Cultural Communities or Indigenous
Peoples refer to a group of people or homogeneous societies who have continuously lived as an organized
community on communally bounded and defined territory.Indigenous Cultural Com133

VOL. 347, DECEMBER 6, 2000

133

132
Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

132

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

Same; Same; Same; Same; The delegates to the 1935 Constitutional Convention very well knew
that the concept of State ownership of land and natural resources was introduced by the Spaniards,
however, they were not certain whether it was continued and applied by the Americans, so to remove all
doubts, the Convention approved the provision in the Constitution affirming the Regalian doctrine .The
Regalian doctrine was enshrined in the 1935 Constitution. One of the fixed and dominating objectives of
the 1935 Constitutional Convention was the nationalization and conservation of the natural resources of
the country. There was an overwhelming sentiment in the Convention in favor of the principle of state
ownership of natural resources and the adoption of the Regalian doctrine. State ownership of natural
resources was seen as a necessary starting point to secure recognition of the states power to control
their disposition, exploitation, development, or utilization. The delegates to the Constitutional
Convention very well knew that the concept of State ownership of land and natural resources was
introduced by the Spaniards, however, they were not certain whether it was continued and applied by
the Americans. To remove all doubts, the Convention approved the provision in the Constitution
affirming the Regalian doctrine.
Same; Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (RA. No. 8371); Ancestral Domains: Ancestral
Lands; Customary Laws; The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) grants the indigenous cultural
communities or indigenous peoples (ICCs/IPs) the ownership and possession of their ancestral domains
and ancestral lands, and defines the extent of these lands and domains, and the ownership given is the
indigenous concept of ownership under customary law which traces its origin to native title.Republic
Act No. 8371 is entitled An Act to Recognize, Protect and Promote the Rights of Indigenous Cultural
Communities/Indigenous Peoples, Creating a National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Establishing
Implementing Mechanisms, Appropriating Funds Therefor, and for Other Purposes. It is simply known
as The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 or the IPRA.The IPRA recognizes the existence of the
indigenous cultural communities or indigenous peoples (ICCs/IPs) as a distinct sector in Philippine
society. It grants these people the ownership and possession of their ancestral domains and ancestral

munities or Indigenous Peoples refer to a group of people or homogeneous societies who have
continuously lived as an organized community on communally bounded and defined territory. These
groups of people have actually occupied, possessed and utilized their territories under claim of
ownership since time immemorial. They share common bonds of language, customs, traditions and other
distinctive cultural traits, or, they, by their resistance to political, social and cultural inroads of
colonization, non-indigenous religions and cultures, became historically differentiated from the Filipino
majority. ICCs/IPs also include descendants of ICCs/IPs who inhabited the country at the time of
conquest or colonization, who retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political
institutions but who may have been displaced from their traditional territories or who may have
resettled outside their ancestral domains.
Same; Same; Same; Same; The abrogation of the Filipinos ancestral rights in land and the
introduction of the concept of public domain were the most immediate fundamental results of Spanish
colonial theory and law.All lands lost by the old barangays in the process of pueblo organization as
well as all lands not assigned to them and the pueblos, were now declared to be crown lands
or realengas, belonging to the Spanish king. It was from the realengas that land grants were made to
non-Filipinos. The abrogation of the Filipinos ancestral rights in land and the introduction of the
concept of public domain were the most immediate fundamental results of Spanish colonial theory and
law. The concept that the Spanish king was the owner of everything of value in the Indies or colonies
was imposed on the natives, and the natives were stripped of their ancestral rights to land.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Colonialism tended to divide and rule an otherwise culturally and
historically related populace through a colonial system that exploited both the virtues and vices of the
Filipinos.The Moros and infieles resisted Spanish rule and Christianity. The Moros were driven from
Manila and the Visayas to Mindanao; while the infieles, to the hinterlands. The Spaniards did not
pursue them into the deep interior. The upland societies were naturally outside the immediate concern
of Spanish interest, and the cliffs and forests of the hinterlands were difficult and inaccessible, allowing
the infieles, in effect, relative security. Thus, the infieles, which were peripheral to colonial
administration, were not only able to preserve their own culture but also thwarted the Christianization
process, separating themselves from the newly evolved Christian community. Their own political,
economic and social systems were kept constantly alive and vibrant. The pro-Christian or pro-Indio
attitude of colonialism brought about a generally mutual feeling of suspicion, fear, and hostility between
the Christians on the one hand and the non-

134
Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources
13

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Same; Same; Same; Same; Land Titles; Land titles do not exist in the indigenous peoples
economic and social systemthe concept of individual land ownership under the civil law is alien to
them.Land titles do not exist in the indigenous peoples' economic and social system. The concept of
individual land ownership under the civil law is alien to them. Inherently colonial in origin, our national
land laws and governmental policies frown upon indigenous claims to ancestral lands. Communal
ownership is looked upon as inferior, if not inexistent.

Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

Christians on the other. Colonialism tended to divide and rule an otherwise culturally and
historically related populace through a colonial system that exploited both the virtues and vices of the
Filipinos.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Under the 1973 Constitution, for the first time in Philippine history,
the non-Christian tribes or the cultural minorities were addressed by the highest law of the Republic,
and they were referred to as cultural communities.It was in the 1973 Constitution that the State
adopted the following provision: The State shall consider the customs, traditions, beliefs, and interests
of national cultural communities in the formulation and implementation of State policies. For the first
time in Philippine history, the non-Christian tribes or the cultural minorities were addressed by the
highest law of the Republic, and they were referred to as cultural communities. More importantly this
time, their uncivilized culture was given some recognition and their customs, traditions, beliefs and
interests were to be considered by the State in the formulation and implementation of State policies.
President Marcos abolished the CNI and transferred its functions to the Presidential Adviser on
National Minorities (PANAMIN). The PANAMIN was tasked to integrate the ethnic groups that sought
full integration into the larger community, and at the same time protect the rights of those who wish to
preserve their original lifeways beside the larger community. In short, while still adopting the
integration policy, the decree recognized the right of tribal Filipinos to preserve their way of life.
Same; Same; Same; Same; The Aquino government signified a total shift from the policy of
integration to one of preservation.The Aquino government signified a total shift from the policy of
integration to one of preservation. Invoking her powers under the Freedom Constitution, President
Aquino created the Office of Muslim Affairs, Office for Northern Cultural Communities and the Office
for Southern Cultural Communities all under the Office of the President.
Same; Same; Same; Same; The State, by recognizing the right of tribal Filipinos to their ancestral
lands and domains, has effectively upheld their right to live in a culture distinctly their own.The 1987
Constitution carries at least six (6) provisions which insure the right of tribal Filipinos to preserve their
way of life. This Constitution goes further than the 1973 Constitution by expressly guaranteeing the
rights of tribal Filipinos to their ancestral domains and ancestral lands. By recognizing their right to
their ancestral lands and domains, the State has effectively upheld their right to live in a culture
distinctly their own.

Same; Same; Same; Same; It was to address the centuries-old neglect of the Philippine
indigenous peoples that the Tenth Congress passed and approved the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act
(IPRA) of 1997.It was to address the centuries-old neglect of the Philippine indigenous peoples that
the Tenth Congress of the Philippines, by their joint efforts, passed and approved R.A. No. 8371, the
Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997. The law was a consolidation of two BillsSenate Bill No.
1728 and House Bill No. 9125.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Words and Phrases; Ancestral Domains, Explained.Ancestral
domains are all areas belonging to ICCs/IPs held under a claim of ownership, occupied or possessed by
ICCs/IPs by themselves or through their ancestors, communally or individually since time immemorial,
continuously until the present, except when interrupted by war, force majeure or displacement by force,
deceit, stealth or as a consequence of government projects or any other voluntary dealings with
government and/or private individuals or corporations. Ancestral domains comprise lands, inland
waters, coastal areas, and natural resources therein and includes ancestral lands, forests, pasture,
residential, agricultural, and other lands individually owned whether alienable or not, hunting grounds,
burial grounds, worship areas, bodies of water, mineral and other natural resources. They also include
lands which may no longer be exclusively occupied by ICCs/IPs but from which they traditionally had
access to for their subsistence and traditional activities, particularly the home ranges of ICCs/IPs who
are still nomadic and/or shifting cultivators.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Ancestral Lands, Explained.Ancestral lands are lands held
by the ICCs/IPs under the same conditions as ancestral domains except that these are limited to lands
and that these lands are not merely occupied and possessed but are also utilized by the ICCs/IPs under
claims of individual or traditional group ownership. These lands include but are not limited to
residential lots, rice terraces or paddies, private forests, swidden farms and tree lots.
136

136

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

135
Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources
VOL. 347, DECEMBER 6, 2000

135

Same; Same; Same; Same; Land Titles; Customary Laws; The National Commission on
Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issues a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) in the name of the
community concerned, leaving the allocation of lands within the ancestral domain to any individual or
indigenous corporate (family or clan) claimants to the ICCs/IPs concerned to decide in accordance with
customs and traditions while with respect to ancestral lands outside the ancestral domains, the NICP
issues a Certificate of Ancestral Land Title (CALT).Upon due application and compliance with the
procedure provided under the law and upon finding by the NCIP that the application is meritorious, the
NCIP shall issue a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) in the name of the community
concerned. The allocation of lands within the ancestral domain to any individual or indigenous
corporate (family or clan) claimants is left to the ICCs/IPs concerned to decide in accordance with
customs and traditions. With respect to ancestral lands outside the ancestral domain, the NCIP issues a
Certificate of Ancestral Land Title (CALT). CADTs and CALTs issued under the IPRA shall be
registered by the NCIP before the Register of Deeds in the place where the property is situated.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; The IPRA categorically declares ancestral lands and domains
held by native title as never to have been public landdomains and lands held under native title are,
therefore, indisputably presumed to have never been public lands and are private.Native title refers to
ICCs/IPs preconquest rights to lands and domains held under a claim of private ownership as far back
as memory reaches. These lands are deemed never to have been public lands and are indisputably
presumed to have been held that way since before the Spanish Conquest. The rights of ICCs/IPs to their
ancestral domains (which also include ancestral lands) by virtue of native title shall be recognized and
respected. Formal recognition, when solicited by ICCs/IPs concerned, shall be embodied in a Certificate
of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), which shall recognize the title of the concerned ICCs/IPs over the
territories identified and delineated. Like a Torrens title, a CADT is evidence of private ownership of
land by native title. Native title, however, is a right of private ownership peculiarly granted to ICCs/IPs
over their ancestral lands and domains. The IPRA categorically declares ancestral lands and domains
held by native title as never to have been public land. Domains and lands held under native title are,
therefore, indisputably presumed to have never been public lands andare private.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; The concept of native title first upheld in Cario v. Insular
Government, 41 Phil 935 (1909), 212 US. 449, 53 L.Ed. 594, and enshrined in the IPRA grants
ownership, albeit in limited

agricultural land. When the conditions specified in Section 48 [b] of the Public Land Act are complied
with, the possessor of the land is deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant of the
land. The land ceases to be part of the public domain, ipso jure, and is converted to private property by
the mere lapse or completion of the prescribed statutory period.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Ancestral lands and ancestral domains are not part of the
lands of the public domain; they are private and belong to the ICCs/IPs.Thus, ancestral lands and
ancestral domains are not part of the lands of the public domain. They are private and belong to the
ICCs/IPs. Section 3 of Article XII on National Economy and Patrimony of the 1987 Constitution
classifies lands of the public domain into four categories: (a) agricultural, (b) forest or timber, (c) mineral
lands, and (d) national parks. Section 5 of the same Article XII mentions ancestral lands and ancestral
domains but it does not classify them under any of the said four categories. To classify them as public
lands under any one of the four classes will render the entire IPRA law a nullity. The spirit of the IPRA
lies in the distinct concept of ancestral domains and ancestral lands. The IPRA addresses the major
problem of the ICCs/IPs which is loss of land. Land and space are of vital concern in terms of sheer
survival of the ICCs/IPs. The 1987 Constitution mandates the State to protect the rights of indigenous
cultural communities to their ancestral lands and that Congress provide for the applicability of
customary laws x x x in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domain. It is the recognition
of the ICCs/IPs distinct rights of ownership over their ancestral domains and lands that breathes life
into this constitutional mandate.
Same; Same; Same; Same; The right of ownership and possession of the ICCs/IPs to their
ancestral domains is held under the indigenous concept of ownership which maintains the view that
ancestral domains are the ICCs/IPs private but community property.The right of ownership and
possession of the ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains is held under the indigenous concept of ownership.
This concept maintains the view that
138

138

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

137
Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources
VOL. 347, DECEMBER 6, 2000

137

Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

form, of the land to the ICCs/IPs.In the Philippines, the concept of native title first upheld
in Cario and enshrined in the IPRA grants ownership, albeit in limited form, of the land to the
ICCs/IPs. Native title presumes that the land is private and was never public. Cario is the only case
that specifically and categorically recognizes native title. The long line of cases citing Cario did not
touch on native title and the private character of ancestral domains and lands. Cario was cited by the
succeeding cases to support the concept of acquisitive prescription under the Public Land Act which is a
different matter altogether. Under the Public Land Act, land sought to be registered must be public

ancestral domains are the ICCs/IPs private but community property. It is private simply because
it is not part of the public domain. But its private character ends there. The ancestral domain is owned
in common by the ICCs/IPs and not by one particular person. The IPRA itself provides that areas within
the ancestral domains, whether delineated or not, are presumed to be communally held. These
communal rights, however, are not exactly the same as co-ownership rights under the Civil Code. Coownership gives any co-owner the right to demand partition of the property held in common. The Civil
Code expressly provides that [n]o co-owner shall be obliged to remain in the co-ownership. Each coowner may demand at any time the partition of the thing in common, insofar as his share is concerned.
To allow such a right over ancestral domains may be destructive not only of customary law of the
community but of the very community itself.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Customary Laws; The IPRA, by legislative fiat, introduces a new
concept of ownership, a concept that has long existed under customary law.Following the constitutional

mandate that customary law govern property rights or relations in determining the ownership and
extent of ancestral domains, the IPRA, by legislative flat, introduces a new concept of ownership. This
is a concept that has long existed under customary law.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Customary law is a primary, not secondary, source of rights
under the IPRA and uniquely applies to ICCs/IPs, and its recognition does not depend on the absence of
a specific provision in the civil law.Custom, from which customary law is derived, is also recognized
under the Civil Code as a source of law. Some articles of the Civil Code expressly provide that custom
should be applied in cases where no codal provision is applicable. In other words, in the absence of any
applicable provision in the Civil Code, custom, when duly proven, can define rights and liabilities.
Customary law is a primary, not secondary, source of rights under the IPRA and uniquely applies to
ICCs/IPs. Its recognition does not depend on the absence of a specific provision in the civil law. The
indigenous concept of ownership under customary law is specifically acknowledged and recognized, and
coexists with the civil law concept and the laws on land titling and land registration.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Natural Resources; There is nothing in IPRA that grants to the
ICCs/IPs ownership over the natural resources within their ancestral domains.Examining the IPRA,
there is nothing in the law that grants to the ICCs/IPs ownership over the natural resources within
their ancestral domains. The right of ICCs/IPs in their ancestral

Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules goes beyond the parameters of Section 7 (b) of the
law and is contrary to Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; The right to negotiate the terms and conditions over the natural
resources covers only their exploration which must be for the purpose of ensuring ecological and
environmental protection of, and conservation measures in the ancestral domainit does not extend to
the exploitation and development of natural resources.Ownership over the natural resources in the
ancestral domains remains with the State and the ICCs/IPs are merely granted the right to manage
and conserve them for future generations, benefit and share the profits from their allocation and
utilization, and negotiate the terms and conditions for their exploration for the purpose of ensuring
ecological and environmental protection and conservation measures. It must be noted that the right to
negotiate the terms and conditions over the natural re140

140

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

139
Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

VOL. 347, DECEMBER 6, 2000

139

Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

domains includes ownership, but this ownership is expressly defined and limited in Section 7
(a) as: Sec. 7. a) Right of ownershipThe right to claim ownership over lands, bodies of water
traditionally and actually occupied by ICCs/IPs, sacred places, traditional hunting and fishing grounds,
and all improvements made by them at any time within the domains; The ICCs/IPs are given the right
to claim ownership over lands, bodies of water traditionally and actually occupied by ICCs/IPs, sacred
places, traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and all improvements made by them at any time within
the domains. It will be noted that this enumeration does not mention bodies of water not occupied by
the ICCs/IPs, minerals, coal, wildlife, flora and fauna in the traditional hunting grounds, fish in the
traditional fishing grounds, forests or timber in the sacred places, etc. and all other natural resources
found within the ancestral domains. Indeed, the right of ownership under Section 7 (a) does not
coverwaters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries,
forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna and all other natural resources enumerated in Section 2,
Article XII of the 1987 Constitution as belonging to the State.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; The inclusion of natural resources in Section 1, Part II, Rule
III of the Implementing Rules goes beyond the parameters of Section 7 (b) of the law and is contrary to
Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.The constitutionality of Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the
Implementing Rules was not specifically and categorically challenged by petitioners. Petitioners actually
assail the constitutionality of the Implementing Rules in general. Nevertheless, to avoid any confusion
in the implementation of the law, it is necessary to declare that the inclusion of natural resources in

sources covers only their exploration which must be for the purpose of ensuring ecological and
environmental protection of, and conservation measures in the ancestral domain. It does not extend to
the exploitation and development of natural resources. Simply stated, the ICCs/IPs rights over the
natural resources take the form of management or stewardship. For the ICCs/IPs may use these
resources and share in the profits of their utilization or negotiate the terms for their exploration. At the
same time, however, the ICCs/IPs must ensure that the natural resources within their ancestral
domains are conserved for future generations and that the utilization of these resources must not
harm the ecology and environment pursuant to national and customary laws.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; The limited rights of management and use in Section 7 (b) of
the IPRA must be taken to contemplate small-scale utilization of natural resources as distinguished from
large-scale utilization.The limited rights of management and use in Section 7 (b) must be taken to
contemplate small-scale utilization of natural resources as distinguished from large-scale. Small-scale
utilization of natural resources is expressly allowed in the third paragraph of Section 2, Article XII of
the Constitution in recognition of the plight of forest dwellers, gold panners, marginal fishermen and
others similarly situated who exploit our natural resources for their daily sustenance and survival.
Section 7 (b) also expressly mandates the ICCs/IPs to manage and conserve these resources and ensure
environmental and ecological protection within the domains, which duties, by their very nature,
necessarily reject utilization in a large-scale.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; The rights granted by the IPRA to the ICCs/IPs over the
natural resources in their ancestral domains merely gives the ICCs/IPs, as owners and occupants of the
land on which the resources are found, the right to the small-scale utilization of these resources, and at
the same time, a priority in their large-scale development and exploitation.The rights granted by the
IPRA to the ICCs/IPs over the natural resources in their ancestral domains merely gives the ICCs/IPs,
as owners and occupants of the land on which the resources are found, the right to the small-scale
utilization of these resources, and at the same time, a priority in their large-scale development and

exploitation. Section 57 does not mandate the State to automatically give priority to the ICCs/IPs. The
State has several options and it is within its discretion to choose which option to pursue. Moreover,
there is nothing in the law that gives the ICCs/IPs the right to solely undertake the large-scale
development of the natural resources within their domains. The ICCs/IPs must undertake such
endeavour always under State supervision or control. This

142

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

141

VOL. 347, DECEMBER 6, 2000

141

Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

indicates that the State does not lose control and ownership over the resources even in their
exploitation. Sections 7 (b) and 57 of the law simply give due respect to the ICCs/IPs who, as actual
occupants of the land where the natural resources lie, have traditionally utilized these resources for
their subsistence and survival.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Ecology and Environment; Indigenous rights came as a result of both
human rights and environmental protection, and have become a part of todays priorities for the
international agenda.Presently, there is a growing concern for indigenous rights in the international
scene. This came as a result of the increased publicity focused on the continuing disrespect for
indigenous human rights and the destruction of the indigenous peoples environment, together with the
national governments inability to deal with the situation. Indigenous rights came as a result of both
human rights and environmental protection, and have become a part of todays priorities for the
international agenda.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Customary Laws; If the evolution of the Filipino people into a
democratic society is to truly proceed democratically, i.e., if the Filipinos as a whole are to participate
fully in the task of continuing democratization, it is the Supreme Courts duty to acknowledge the
presence of indigenous and customary laws in the country and affirm their co-existence with the land
laws in our national legal system.The struggle of the Filipinos throughout colonial history had been
plagued by ethnic and religious differences. These differences were carried over and magnified by the
Philippine government through the imposition of a national legal order that is mostly foreign in origin
or derivation. Largely unpopulist, the present legal system has resulted in the alienation of a large
sector of society, specifically, the indigenous peoples. The histories and cultures of the indigenes are
relevant to the evolution of Philippine culture and are vital to the understanding of contemporary
problems. It is through the IPRA that an attempt was made by our legislators to understand Filipino
society not in terms of myths and biases but through common experiences in the course of history. The
Philippines became a democracy a centennial ago and the decolonization process still continues. If the
evolution of the Filipino people into a democratic society is to truly proceed democratically,i.e., if the
Filipinos as a whole are to participate fully in the task of continuing democratization, it is this Courts
duty to acknowledge the presence of indigenous and customary laws in the country and affirm their coexistence with the land laws in our national legal system.

VITUG, J., Separate Opinion:


Supreme Court; Judicial Review; Procedural Rules and Technicalities;Until an exact balance is
struck, the Court must accept an eclectic notion that can free itself from the bondage of legal nicety and
hold trenchant technicalities subordinate to what may be considered to be of overriding concern.
Nevertheless, where a most compelling reason exists, such as when the matter is of transcendental
importance and paramount interest to the nation, the Court must take the liberal approach that
recognizes the legal standing of nontraditional plaintiffs, such as citizens and taxpayers, to raise
constitutional issues that affect them. This Court thus did so in a case that involves the conservation of
our forests for ecological needs. Until an exact balance is struck, the Court must accept an eclectic
notion that can free Itself from the bondage of legal nicety and hold trenchant technicalities subordinate
to what may be considered to be of overriding concern.
National Patrimony; Regalian Doctrine; Natural Resources;Indigenous Peoples Rights Act
(IPRA); The provisions Sections 7 and 57 of the IPRA, in their totality, are, in my view, beyond the
context of the fundamental law and virtually amount to an undue delegation, if not an unacceptable
abdication, of State authority over a significant area of the country and its patrimony.IPRA effectively
withdraws from the public domain the so-called ancestral domains covering literally millions of
hectares. The notion of community property would comprehend not only matters of proprietary interest
but also some forms of self-governance over the carved-out territory. This concept is elaborated in
Section 7 of the law which states that the rights of ownership and possession of ICCs/IPs to their
ancestral domains shall be recognized and protected, subsumed under which would encompass the
right of ownership (paragraph a); the right to develop, control and use lands and natural resources,
including the right to negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of natural resources in the
areas for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental protection and the conservation measures,
pursuant to national and customary laws; (par. b); the right to stay in the territories (par. c); the right
to return to their abandoned lands. In case of displacement (par. d); the right to regulate entry of
migrants (par. e); the right to claim parts of ancestral domains previously reserved (par. g); and the
right to resolve land conflicts. In accordance primarily with customary law (par. h). Concurrently,
Section 57 states that ICCs/IPs shall be given priority rights in the harvesting, extraction, development
or exploitation of any natural resources within the ancestral domains. These provisions of IPRA, in
their totality, are, in my view, beyond the context of the fun143

VOL. 347, DECEMBER 6, 2000

142
Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

143

customary laws, when specifically enacted to become part of statutory law, must first undergo
that publication to render them correspondingly binding and effective as such.
KAPUNAN, J., Separate Opinion:
damental law and virtually amount to an undue delegation, if not an unacceptable abdication, of
State authority over a significant area of the country and its patrimony.
Same; Same; Same; The decision of the United States Supreme Court in Cario v. Insular
Government, 41 Phil 935 (1910), holding that a parcel of land held since time immemorial by
individuals under a claim of private ownership is presumed never to have been public land and cited to
downgrade the application of the regalian doctrine, cannot override the collective will of the people
expressed in the Constitution.The decision of the United States Supreme Court in Cario vs.
Insular Government, holding that a parcel of land held since time immemorial by individuals under a
claim of private ownership is presumed never to have been public land and cited to downgrade the
application of the regalian doctrine, cannot override the collective will of the people expressed in the
Constitution. It is in them that sovereignty resides and from them that all government authority
emanates. It is not then for a court ruling or any piece of legislation to be conformed to by the
fundamental law, but it is for the former to adapt to the latter, and it is the sovereign act that must,
between them, stand inviolate.
Customary Laws; I do not see the statement in Section 5 of Article XII of the Constitution
allowing Congress to provide for the applicability of customary laws governing property rights or
relations in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domains as saying that Congress may
enact a law that would simply express that customary laws shall govern and end it there.The second
paragraph of Section 5 of Article XII of the Constitution allows Congress to provide for the applicability
of customary laws governing property rights or relations in determining the ownership and extent of
ancestral domains. I do not see this statement as saying that Congress may enact a law that would
simply express that customary laws shall govern and end it there. Had it been so, the Constitution
could have itself easily provided without having to still commission Congress to do it.
Same; Customary laws, when specifically enacted to become part of statutory law, must first
undergo that publication to render them correspondingly binding and effective as such .The
constitutional aim, it seems to me, is to get Congress to look closely into the customary laws and, with
specificity and by proper recitals, to hew them to, and make them part of, the stream of laws. The due
process clause, as I so understand it inTaada vs. Tuvera would require an apt publication of a
legislative enactment before it is permitted to take force and effect. So, also

Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA); Words and Phrases;International Law; In international
law, the definition of what constitutes indigenous peoples attains some degree of controversy.The term
indigenous traces its origin to the Old Latin word indu, meaning within. In the sense the term has
come to be used, it is nearer in meaning to the Latin word indigenus, which means native.
Indigenous refers to that which originated or has been produced naturally in a particular land, and
has not been introduced from the outside. In international law, the definition of what constitutes
indigenous peoples attains some degree of controversy. No definition of the term indigenous peoples
has been adopted by the United Nations (UN), although UN practice has been guided by a working
definition in the 1986 Report of UN Special Rapporteur Martinez Cobo.
Same; Same; In Philippine constitutional law, the term indigenous peoples pertains to those
groups of Filipinos who have retained a high degree of continuity from pre-Conquest culture.In
Philippine constitutional law, the term indigenous peoples pertains to those groups of Fili-pinos who
have retained a high degree of continuity from pre-Conquest culture. Philippine legal history, however,
has not been kind to the indigenous peoples, characterized them as uncivilized, backward people,
with barbarous practices and a low order of intelligence.
Same; Same; The extant Philippine national culture is the culture of the majority, its indigenous
roots were replaced by foreign cultural elements that are decidedly pronounced, if not dominant.
Though Filipinos today are essentially of the same stock as the indigenous peoples, our national culture
exhibits only the last vestiges of this native culture. Centuries of colonial rule and neocolonial
domination have created a discernible distinction between the cultural majority and the group of
cultural minorities. The extant Philippine national culture is the culture of the majority; its indigenous
roots were replaced by foreign cultural elements that are decidedly pronounced, if not dominant. While
the culture of the majority reoriented itself to Western influence, the culture of the minorities has
retained its essentially native character.
145

VOL. 347, DECEMBER 6, 2000

145

144
Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources
144

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

Supreme Court; Judicial Review; When the State machinery is set into motion to implement an
alleged unconstitutional statute, the Supreme Court possesses sufficient authority to resolve and prevent
imminent injury and violation of the constitutional process.In the case at bar, there exists a live
controversy involving a clash of legal rights. A law has been enacted, and the Implementing Rules and
Regulations approved. Money has been appropriated and the government agencies concerned have been
directed to implement the statute. It cannot be successfully maintained that we should await the
adverse consequences of the law in order to consider the controversy actual and ripe for judicial

resolution. It is precisely the contention of the petitioners that the law, on its face, constitutes an
unconstitutional abdication of State ownership over lands of the public domain and other natural
resources. Moreover, when the State machinery is set into motion to implement an alleged
unconstitutional statute, this Court possesses sufficient authority to resolve and prevent imminent
injury and violation of the constitutional process.
Same; Same; Parties; Locus Standi; Taxpayers Suits; Citizens Suits;In a sense, all citizens and
taxpayers suits are efforts to air generalized grievances about the conduct of government and the
allocation of power.In addition to the existence of an actual case or controversy, a person who assails
the validity of a statute must have a personal and substantial interest in the case, such that, he has
sustained, or will sustain, a direct injury as a result of its enforcement. Evidently, the rights asserted by
petitioners as citizens and taxpayers are held in common by all the citizens, the violation of which may
result only in a generalized grievance. Yet, in a sense, all citizens and taxpayers suits are efforts to
air generalized grievances about the conduct of government and the allocation of power.
Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; National Patrimony; The preservation of the integrity
and inviolability of the national patrimony is a proper subject of a citizens suit.Petitioners, as citizens,
possess the public right to ensure that the national patrimony is not alienated and diminished in
violation of the Constitution. Since the government, as the guardian of the national patrimony, holds it
for the benefit of all Filipinos without distinction as to ethnicity, it follows that a citizen has sufficient
interest to maintain a suit to ensure that any grant of concessions covering the national economy and
patrimony strictly complies with constitutional requirements. Thus, the preservation of the integrity
and inviolability of the national patrimony is a proper subject of a citizens suit.

147

VOL. 347, DECEMBER 6, 2000

147

Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

146

146

Same; Same; Natural Resources; The mere fact that Section 3(a) of IPRA defines ancestral
domains to include the natural resources, found therein does not ipso facto convert the character of such
natural resources as private property of the indigenous people.Section 3(a) merely defines the coverage
of ancestral domains, and describes the extent, limit and composition of ancestral domains by setting
forth the standards and guidelines in determining whether a particular area is to be considered as part
of and within the ancestral domains. In other words, Section 3(a) serves only as a yardstick which points
out what properties are within the ancestral domains. It does not confer or recognize any right of
ownership over the natural resources to the indigenous peoples. Its purpose is definitional and not
declarative of a right or title. The specification of what areas belong to the ancestral domains is, to our
mind, important to ensure that no unnecessary encroachment on private properties outside the
ancestral domains will result during the delineation process. The mere fact that Section 3(a) defines
ancestral domains to include the natural resources found therein does not ipso facto convert the
character of such natural resources as private property of the indigenous peoples. Similarly, Section 5 in
relation to Section 3(a) cannot be construed as a source of ownership rights of indigenous people over
the natural resources simply

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED

Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

National Patrimony; Regalian Doctrine; The theory of jura regalia was nothing more than a
natural fruit of conquest; The Regalian theory does not negate native title to lands held in private
ownership since time immemorial.Generally, under the concept of jura regalia, private title to land
must be traced to some grant, express or implied, from the Spanish Crown or its successors, the
American Colonial government, and thereafter, the Philippine Republic. The belief that the Spanish
Crown is the origin of all land titles in the Philippines has persisted because title to land must emanate
from some source for it cannot issue forth from nowhere. In its broad sense, the term jura regalia
refers to royal rights, or those rights which the King has by virtue of his prerogatives. In Spanish law, it
refers to a right which the sovereign has over anything in which a subject has a right of property
or propriedad. These were rights enjoyed during feudal times by the king as the sovereign. The theory of
the feudal system was that title to all lands was originally held by the King, and while the use of lands
was granted out to others who were permitted to hold them under certain conditions, the King
theoretically retained the title. By fiction of law, the King was regarded as the original proprietor of all
lands, and the true and only source of title, and from him all lands were held. The theory of jura
regalia was therefore nothing more than a natural fruit of conquest. The Regalian theory, however, does
not negate native title to lands held in private ownership since time immemorial.

because it recognizes ancestral domains as their private but community property.


Same; Same; Same; Words and Phrases; The phrase private but community property is merely
descriptive of the indigenous peoples concept of ownership as distinguished from that provided in the
Civil Code.The phrase private but community property is merely descriptive of the indigenous
peoples concept of ownership as distinguished from that provided in the Civil Code. In Civil Law,
ownership is the independent and general power of a person over a thing for purposes recognized by
law and within the limits established thereby. The civil law concept of ownership has the following
attributes: jus utendi or the right to receive from the thing that which it produces, jus abutendi or the
right to consume the thing by its use, jus disponendi or the power to alienate, encumber, transform and
even destroy that which is owned, and jus vindicandi or the right to exclude other persons from the
possession the thing owned. In contrast, the indigenous peoples concept of ownership emphasizes the
importance of communal or group ownership. By virtue of the communal character of ownership, the
property held in common cannot be sold, disposed or destroyed because it was meant to benefit the
whole indigenous community and not merelythe individual member.
Same; Same; Same; The concept of native title to natural resources, unlike native title to land,
has not been recognized in the Philippines.Finally, the concept of native title to natural resources,
unlike native title to land, has not been recognized in the Philippines. NCIP and Flavier, et al. invoke
the case of Reavies v. Fianza in support of their thesis that native title to natural resources has been
upheld in this jurisdiction. They insist that it is possible for rights over natural resources to vest on a
private (as opposed to a public) holder if these were held prior to the 1935 Constitution. However, a
judicious examination of Reavies reveals that, contrary to the position of NCIP and Flavier, et al., the

Court did not recognize native title to natural resources. Rather, it merely upheld the right of the
indigenous peoples to claim ownership of minerals under the Philippine Bill of 1902.
Same; Same; Same; Upon the certification of certain areas as ancestral domain following the
procedure outlined in Sections 51 to 53 of the IPRA, jurisdiction of the government agency or agencies
concerned over lands forming part thereof ceases but the jurisdiction of government agencies over the
natural resources within the ancestral domains does not terminate by such certification because said
agencies are mandated under existing laws to administer the natural resources for the State, which is the

resources. Clearly, Section 2, Article XII, when interpreted in view of the pro-Filipino, pro-poor
philosophy of our fundamental law, and in harmony with the other provisions of the Constitution rather
as a sequestered pronouncement, cannot be construed as a prohibition against any and all forms of
utilization of natural resources without the States direct participation.
Same; Same; Same; Land Titles; By the enactment of IPRA, Congress did not purport to annul
any and all Torrens titles within areas claimed as ancestral lands or ancestral domains.Further, by
the enactment of IPRA, Congress did not purport to annul any and all Torrens titles within areas
claimed as ancestral lands or ancestral domains. The statute im-

148
149

148

SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


VOL. 347, DECEMBER 6, 2000

149

Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources


Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources

owner thereof.Undoubtedly, certain areas that are claimed as ancestral domains may still be
under the administration of other agencies of the Government, such as the Department of Agrarian
Reform, with respect to agricultural lands, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
with respect to timber, forest and mineral lands. Upon the certification of these areas as ancestral
domain following the procedure outlined in Sections 51 to 53 of the IPRA, jurisdiction of the government
agency or agencies concerned over lands forming part thereof ceases. Nevertheless, the jurisdiction of
government agencies over the natural resources within the ancestral domains does not terminate by
such certification because said agencies are mandated under existing laws to administer the natural
resources for the State, which is the owner thereof. To construe Section 52[i] as divesting the State,
through the government agencies concerned, of jurisdiction over the natural resources within the
ancestral domains would be inconsistent with the established doctrine that all natural resources are
owned by the State.
Same; Same; Same; Clearly, Section 2, Article XII, when interpreted in view of the pro-Filipino,
pro-poor philosophy of our fundamental law, and in harmony with the other provisions of the
Constitution rather as a sequestered pronouncement, cannot be construed as a prohibition against any
and all forms of utilization of natural resources without the States direct participation. In addition to
the means of exploration, development and utilization of the countrys natural resources stated in
paragraph 1, Section 2 of Article XII, the Constitution itself states in the third paragraph of the same
section that Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by its citizens.
Further, Section 6, Article XIII, directs the State, in the disposition and utilization of natural resources,
to apply the principles of agrarian reform or stewardship. Similarly, Section 7, Article XIII mandates the
State to protect the rights of subsistence fishermen to thepreferential use of marine and fishing

poses strict procedural requirements for the proper delineation of ancestral lands and ancestral
domains as safeguards against the fraudulent deprivation of any landowner of his land, whether or not
he is member of an indigenous cultural community. In all proceedings for delineation of ancestral lands
and ancestral domains, the Director of Lands shall appear to represent the interest of the Republic of
the Philippines. With regard to ancestral domains, the following procedure is mandatory: first, petition
by an indigenous cultural community, or motu proprio by the NCIP; second, investigation and census by
the Ancestral domains Office (ADO) of the NCIP; third, preliminary report by the ADO; fourth, posting
and publication; and lastly, evaluation by the NCIP upon submission of the final report of the ADO.
With regard to ancestral lands, unless such lands are within an ancestral domain, the statute imposes
the
following
procedural
requirements: first, application; second, posting
and
publication; third,investigation and inspection by the ADO; fourth, delineation; lastly,evaluation by the
NCIP upon submission of a report by the ADO. Hence, we cannot sustain the arguments of the
petitioners that the law affords no protection to those who are not indigenous peoples.
Indigenous Peoples; Due Process; The fact that the NCIP is composed of members of the
indigenous peoples does not mean that it (the NCIP) is incapable, o