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147379, 2002-02-27
On 19 December 1995 private respondents filed a complaint for declaration of nullity of
titles, reconveyance and damages against petitioners, docketed as Civil Case No. 95-
312 Of the Regional Trial Court of Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. This complaint involved
two (2) parcels of... land
In support of their causes of action for declaration of nullity of titles and reconveyance,
private respondents claimed absolute ownership of Lot 1015 and 1017 even prior to the
issuance of the corresponding free patents and certificates of title. They further alleged
in their... complaint
The complaint was accompanied by a verification and certificate of non-forum shopping
which affirmed under oath
On 7 February 1996 petitioners filed their answer to the complaint and asserted the
following affirmative defenses
Petitioners set for hearing their affirmative defenses. After the hearing, or on 3
December 1996 the trial court dismissed the complaint on the ground that the cause of
action of private respondents was truly for reversion so that only the Director of Lands
could have filed the... complaint, and that the certificate of non-forum shopping
accompanying the complaint did not comply with the standard form for such
undertaking.[1] On 23 December 1996 private respondents moved for reconsideration
of the order of dismissal but on 3 June
1997 the motion was denied by the trial court.
On 7 June 1997 private respondents appealed the order of dismissal to the Court of
Appeals. On 15 February 2000 the appellate court promulgated its assailed Decision
reversing the order of dismissal.
On 7 March 2000 petitioners moved for reconsideration of the CA Decision. On 22
January 2001 the appellate court denied the motion for lack of merit, hence this petition
for review.
a disseisin and its continuance by the defendant
Plaintiff was not required and did not allege the source and kind of title under which it
claimed, and under the complaint, it was at liberty to introduce proof of any legal title
which it possessed.
petitioner's failure to state in the certificate of non-forum shopping that he undertakes to
inform the Court of any petition which might be filed,
WHEREFORE, the instant Petition for Review is DENIED for lack of merit. The Decision
of the Court of Appeals dated 15 February 2000 reversing the Order dismissing the
Complaint in Civil Case No. 95-312 entitled Heirs of Honorio Dacut, namely, Visaminda
Orevillo,... Violeta Dacut, Josephine Dacut and Elizabeth Dacut v. Heirs of Ambrocio
Kionisala, namely, Ana, Isabel, Grace, Ophelia, Joven and Camilo, all surnamed
Kionisala, and Isabel Kionisala is AFFIRMED with the understanding that private
respondents Heirs of Honorio Dacut as... plaintiffs therein may proceed on the basis of
their causes of action of declaration of nullity of free patents and certificates of titles
and/or reconveyance based on an implied trust, with claim for damages. The
proceedings in the trial court shall commence forthwith within... thirty (30) days from
notice of the finality of this Decision without unnecessary delay.

Republic vs. Roxas Digest

G.R. No. 157988 : December 11, 2013


On February 5, 1941, then President Manuel L. Quezon (Quezon) issued Proclamation

No. 678 converting forest land measuring around 928 hectares, situated in San
Teodoro, Oriental Mindoro, described on Bureau of Forestry Map No. F. R.-110, as
Matchwood Forest Reserve. The Matchwood Forest Reserve was placed under the
administration and control of the Bureau of Forestry, which shall have the authority to
regulate the use and occupancy of this reserve, and the cutting, collection and removal
of timber and other forest products therein in accordance with the Forest Law and
Regulations. For the foregoing purpose, President Quezon withdrew the 928 hectares of
forest land constituting the Matchwood Forest Reserve from entry, sale, or settlement,
subject to private rights, if there be any.

Petitioner Republic, through the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources

(DANR), entered into Matchwood Plantation Lease Agreement No. 1 with petitioner
PTFI on May 12, 1965, wherein petitioner Republic leased the entire Matchwood Forest
Reserve to petitioner PTFI for a period of 25 years, which would expire on June 30,

In the meantime, respondent Roxas filed with the Bureau of Lands on December 29,
1959 Homestead Application No. 9-5122, covering a parcel of land he initially identified
as Lot No. 4, SA-22657, located at Paspasin, San Teodoro, Oriental Mindoro. Following
the report and recommendation 8 of Land Inspector (LI) Domingo Q. Fernandez
(Fernandez), Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Jesus B. Toledo (Toledo), for and by the authority
of the Director of Lands, issued an Order dated September 20, 1961 amending
respondent Roxass Homestead.

OIC Toledo subsequently issued another Order dated September 27, 1961 which
approved respondent Roxass Homestead Application No. 95122 and recorded the
same as Homestead Entry No. 9-4143.10 Thereafter, respondent Roxas executed a
Notice of Intention to Make Final Proof, which was posted on September 23, 1963.11
Respondent Roxas personally testified before LI Fernandez on October 25, 1963 to
finally prove his residence and cultivation of the subject property.

The Director of Lands issued Homestead Patent No. 111598 14 to respondent Roxas
on July 19, 1965, on the basis of which, respondent ROD issued OCT No. P-5885 in
respondent Roxas name on said date.

On May 2, 1978, petitioner Republic, represented by the BFD, filed with the RTC a
Complaint for Cancellation of Title and/or Reversion against respondents Roxas and the
ROD over the subject property, docketed as Civil Case No. R-3110.17 Petitioner
Republic alleged that the subject property was within the Matchwood Forest Reserve
and could not be the subject of private appropriation and ownership; and possession of
said property, no matter how long would not convert the same into private property.

Petitioner Republic additionally mentioned that the subject property, as part of the
Matchwood Forest Reserve, was included in the lease agreement of petitioner Republic
with petitioner PTFI.

In his Answer, respondent Roxas admitted applying for and acquiring a homestead
patent over the subject property. Respondent Roxas, however, denied that the subject
property was within the Matchwood Forest Reserve. To the contrary, the subject
property was part and parcel of the Paspasin Group Settlement Subdivision, SA-22657,
and had been the subject of investigation in accordance with law, rules, and regulations,
as established by documentary evidence.

Respondent Roxas maintained that OCT No. P-5885 had been legally and validly
issued to him and that he had been in actual, open, and continuous possession of the
subject property in the concept of an owner since 1959.

Petitioner PTFI eventually filed a Complaint for Intervention on the ground that it was
leasing the entire Matchwood Forest Reserve from petitioner Republic under
Matchwood Plantation Lease Agreement No. 1 for a period of 25 years that would
expire on June 30, 1990.

The RTC granted the intervention of petitioner PTFI in an Order dated August 10, 1979.

To determine whether or not the subject property was within the Matchwood Forest
Reserve the RTC issued an order dated March 15, 1984, creating a relocation survey
committee composed of District Forester Gregorio O. Nisperos (Nisperos) as team
leader, with representatives of the District Land Office, respondent Roxas, and
petitioner PTFI as members. The committee submitted to the RTC a Memorandum
dated May 11, 1984, prepared by Engr. Mendoza, the representative of the Bureau of
Lands, and countersigned by District Forester Nisperos, the team leader, presenting the
results of the ocular inspection/survey work conducted by the committee from April 23 to
29, 1984 and the recommendations of the committee.

Petitioner Roxas contested the results of the relocation survey conducted by the
committee, hence, in an Order dated August 6, 1984, the RTC directed the Clerk of
Court to issue a subpoena to committee members Engr. Mendoza of the Bureau of
Lands and Mr. Reynaldo Labay (Labay) of the BFD .Engr. Mendoza attested that
pursuant to the RTC Order dated March 15, 1984, he conducted a relocation survey of
the subject property which showed that Lot 1 owned by respondent Roxas was found
inside the forest zone.

The RTC rendered a Decision on February 10, 1994, in respondent Roxass favor. The
RTC declared that petitioner PTFI had no right whatsoever to the subject property since
the latters lease agreement with petitioner Republic had already expired on June 30,
1990. It also held that the preponderance of evidence showed that the subject property
was outside the forest reserve and part of the alienable and disposable lands of the
public domain; and that there was no proof at all of fraud or misrepresentation on
respondent Roxas part in procuring OCT No. P-5885.

In its Decision dated April 21, 2003, the Court of Appeals sustained the appreciation of
evidence by the RTC, thus:

Before Roxas could be issued his corresponding homestead patent, the Bureau of
Forestry of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources declared that the
said land is no longer within the administrative jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forestry,
hence its disposition in accordance with the Public Land Law does not adversely affect
forestry interest anymore.

Not only does this letter prove that Lot 1-GSS-569, the area occupied and titled in the
name of Roxas, is alienable and disposable but so does the 1959 Survey Plan, which
with its dotted lines confirm that the land of Roxas is outside the Matchwood Forest

Even the 1984 Relocation Survey conducted by Cresente Mendoza on the subject
property showed it to be on the same location.

The court a quo was correct when it did not give credence to the testimony of Cresente
Mendoza that the subject lot is within the Matchwood Forest Reserve area because
despite having performed a relocation survey in the area, he admitted that he does not
know the actual area of the forest reserve.

The Court of Appeals also ruled that respondent Roxass compliance with substantive
and procedural requirements for acquisition of public lands belied the allegation that
respondent Roxas obtained grant and title over the subject property through fraud and
misrepresentation. The appellate court further pronounced that once a patent had been
registered and the corresponding certificate of title had been issued, the land covered
by them ceased to be part of the public domain and became private property; and the
Torrens title issued pursuant to the patent became indefeasible upon the expiration of
one year from the date of the issuance of the patent. The Court of Appeals, however,
disagreed with the RTC in awarding attorneys fees, expenses of litigation, and costs of
suit to respondent Roxas, finding no basis for such awards.

Ultimately, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision.

Meanwhile, petitioner PTFI first filed a Motion for Reconsideration with the Court of
Appeals. After the appellate court denied said Motion in a Resolution dated October 30,
2003, petitioner PTFI likewise sought recourse from us through a Petition for Review on
Certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 160640, assailing the Court of Appeals judgment.

In a Resolution dated December 8, 2004, we consolidated G.R. No. 160640 with G.R.
No. 157988.


1. Whether or not the subject property is forest land or alienable and disposable
agricultural land?
2. Whether or not respondent Roxas procured OCT No. P-5885 through fraud and
3. Whether or not petitioner Republic is barred by estoppel and prescription from
seeking the cancellation of OCT No. P-5885 and/or reversion of the subject property?


1. Subject property is within the Matchwood Forest Reserve and, thus, inalienable and
not subject to disposition.

Under the Regalian doctrine, which is embodied in Article XII, Section 2 of our
Constitution, all lands of the public domain belong to the State, which is the source of
any asserted right to any ownership of land. All lands not appearing to be clearly within
private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Accordingly, public lands not
shown to have been reclassified or released as alienable agricultural land or alienated
to a private person by the State remain part of the inalienable public domain.

Commonwealth Act No. 141, also known as the Public Land Act, as amended by
Presidential Decree No. 1073, remains to this day the existing general law governing
the classification and disposition of lands of the public domain, other than timber and
mineral lands. The following provisions under Title I, Chapter II of the Public Land Act,
as amended, is very specific on how lands of the public domain become alienable or

2. Although there is no evidence of fraud by respondent Roxas, there is still reason to

cancel OCT No. P5885 and revert the subject property to the State.

We do not find evidence indicating that respondent Roxas committed fraud when he
applied for homestead patent over the subject property. It does not appear that he
knowingly and intentionally misrepresented in his application that the subject property
was alienable and disposable agricultural land.

3. Petitioner Republic is not barred by prescription and estoppel from seeking the
cancellation of respondent Roxas title and reversion of the subject property.

It is true that once a homestead patent granted in accordance with the Public Land Act
is registered pursuant to Act 496, otherwise known as The Land Registration Act, or
Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as The Property Registration Decree,
the certificate of title issued by virtue of said patent has the force and effect of a Torrens
title issued under said registration laws. The certificate of title serves as evidence of an
indefeasible title to the property in favor of the person whose name appears therein.
After the expiration of the one (1) year period from the issuance of the decree of
registration upon which it is based, it becomes incontrovertible. The settled rule is that a
decree of registration and the certificate of title issued pursuant thereto may be attacked
on the ground of actual fraud within one (1) year from the date of its entry and such an
attack must be direct and not by a collateral proceeding. The validity of the certificate of
title in this regard can be threshed out only in an action expressly filed for the purpose.

It must be emphasized that a certificate of title issued under an administrative

proceeding pursuant to a homestead patent, as in the instant case, is as indefeasible as
a certificate of title issued under a judicial registration proceeding, provided the land
covered by said certificate is a disposable public land within the contemplation of the
Public Land Law.