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Republic of the Philippines presumption of law is, in our opinion, simply to say that it amounts to a statute of limitations;

SUPREME COURT and for a court to hold that the statute of limitations does not run against the Government as to
Manila its public agricultural lands, and at the same time to hold that if a person has been in
possession of such lands for thirty years it is conclusively presumed that the Government has
EN BANC given him a deed therefor, would be to make two rulings directly inconsistent with each other.

G.R. No. L-2746 December 6, 1906 Considered as a presumption of fact, the contention could not be sustained in this particular
case. Here the surrounding circumstances are incompatible with the existence of a grant, It is
known that for nearly three hundred years all attempts to convert the Igorots of the Province of
MATEO CARIÑO, petitioner-appellant, Benguet to the Christian religion completely failed, and that during that time they remained
vs. practically in the same condition as they were when the Islands were first occupied by the
THE INSULAR GOVERNMENT, respondent-appellee. Spaniards. To presume as a matter of fact that during that time, and down to at least 1880, the
provisions of the laws relating to the grant, adjustment, and sale of public were taken
Coudert Brothers for appellant. advantage of by these deeds from the Government for these lands would be to presume
something which did not exist. The appellant says in his brief (p.10):
Attorney-General Wilfley for appellee.
The Igorot, no less than the American Indian, is an aborigine, and is equally ignorant
of the forms of law and procedure necessary to protect his interests.

There is, moreover, in the case evidence that in 1894 the petitioner sought to obtain title from
the Government in accordance with the laws then in force. In 1901 he made a contract with
WILLARD, J.:
Metalcalf A. Clarke, by the terms of which he agreed to sell the land to Clarke for 6,000 pesos
when he obtained title thereto from the Government, and this contract he does not say that he
The appellant, on the 23d of June, 1903, by his attorney in fact, Metcalf A. Clarke, filed a is the owner, but simply that he is in possession thereof. The court below found that the land is
petition in the Court of Land Registration asking that he be inscribed as the owner of a tract of now worth upwards of P50,000.
land in the municipality of Baguio, in the province of Benguet, containing 146 hectares. The
Government of the Philippine Islands, appeared in the Court of Land Registration and opposed
The possession of the land has not been of such a character as to require the presumption of a
the petition. The Government of the United States that the land was part of the military
grant. No one has lived upon it for many years. It was never used for anything but pasturage of
reservation of Baguio. Judgment was entered in the Court of Land Registration in favor of the
animals, except insignificant portions thereof, and since the insurrection against Spain it has
petitioner, from which judgment the respondents appealed in accordance with the law then in
force to the Court of First Instance of the province of Benguet. The case was therein tried de apparently not been used by the petitioner for any purpose.
novo, and judgment was entered dismissing the petition. The petitioner has brought the case
here by bill of exceptions. The petitioner relies upon the case of the United States vs. Chaves (159 U.S., 452) and the
case of The United States vs. Chaves (175 U.S., 509). In the case of Hays vs. The United
States (175 U.S. 248) the court said at page 261;
The petitioner presented no documentary evidence of title, except a possessory information
obtained in 1901. By the provisions of the Mortgage Law, under which this possessory
information was obtained (art. 394), it produced only those effects which the laws give to But this presumption is subject to the limitation that where title is claimed from a
mere possession. deed which is shown to be void, it will not be presumed that there was an
independent grant (Smith vs. Highbee, 12 Vermont,. 113), or where surrounding
circumstances are inconsistent with the theory of a grant. (Townsend vs. Downer, 32
The petition not having shown any title from the Government, and the land being agricultural,
Vermont, 183).
the case is governed by the decisions of this court in the cases of Valenton et al. vs.
Murciano 1 (2 Off. Gaz., 434); Cansino et al. vs. Valdez et al. 2 (4 Off. Gaz., 488);
and Tiglao vs. The Insular Government 3 (4 Off. Gaz., 747). In these cases it was held that The substance of this doctrine is that lapse of time any be treated as helping out the
the mere possession of land such as that in controversy in this case would give the presumption of a grant, but where a void grant is shown, it affords no presumption
possessor and title thereto as against the Government; in other words, that the statute of that another valid grant was made. Nor does such presumption arise if the
limitations did not run against the State in reference to its agricultural lands.lawphil.net surrounding circumstances are incompatible with the existence of a grant. In this
case under consideration we can not find any evidence which justifies us in
believing that a legal grant can have been made, and under those circumstances we
The petitioner, however, insists that although the statute of limitations as such did not run
can not consider possession since the date of the treaty as dispensing with the
against the Government of Spain in the Philippine Islands, yet a grant is to be conclusively
requirement that the title, if not perfect at that time, was one which the claimant
presumed from immemorial use and occupation. To say that the presumption of a grant is
would have a lawful right to make perfect had the territory not been acquired by the While the State has always recognized the right of the occupant to a deed if he
United States. proves a possession for a sufficient length of time, yet it has always insisted that he
must make that proof before the proper administrative officers, and obtain from
In the case of Chaves vs. The United States (175 U.S., 552) the court made the following them his deed, and until he did the State remained the absolute owner.
statement at page 562:
But in any event, and whatever the law may be elsewhere, it seems clear that this doctrine of
Finally, it distinctly appears that the possession of the parties is insufficient in length presumptive grant can not apply to the Philippines in view of the Spanish legislation for the
of time to prove a valid title. In United States vs. Chaves (159 U.S., 452) the Indies. From time to time there were promulgated laws which required the person in
possession was under the claim of a grant made by the governor of New Mexico to possession of public lands to exhibit their titles or grants thereto. If these titles or grants were
the alleged grantees. The grant had been lost, but it had been seen and read by found to be good, they were confirmed, but if they were not, or if the persons had no grants or
witnesses, and its existence had been proved by evidence sufficient, as we stated in titles at all, they were evicted from the land.
the opinion (p. 460), to warrant 'the finding of the court below that the complainant's
title was derived from the Republic of Mexico, and was complete and perfect at the For example, in Law 14, title 12, 4, Recompilation of the Laws of the Indies, it is stated:
date when the United States acquired sovereignty in the territory of New Mexico,
within which the land was situated. We do not question the correctness to the We therefore order and command that all viceroys and presidents of pretrial courts
remarks made by Mr. Justice Shiras in regard to evidence of possession and the designate, at such times as shall to them most expedient, a suitable period within
presumptions which may under certain circumstances drawn as to the existence of a which all possessors of tracts, farms, plantations, and estates shall exhibit to them
grant. and to the court officers appointed by them for this purpose their title deeds thereto.
And those who are in possession by virtue of proper deeds and receipts or by virtue
We do not deny the right of the duty of a court to presume its existence in a proper of just prescriptive rights shall be protected, and all the rest shall be restored to us to
case, in order to quiet a title and to give to long continued possession the quality of a be disposed of at our will.
rightful possession under a legal right. We recognized and enforced such a rule in
the case of United States vs. Chaves decided at this term. in which the question is In the Royal Cedula of October 15, 1754, it was provided —
involved. We simply say in this case that the possession was not a duration long
enough to justify any such inference.
that any and all persons who, since the year 1700, and up to the date of promulgation
and publication of said order, shall have occupied royal lands, whether or not the
There is no proof of any valid grant, but on the contrary the evidence offered by the same shall be cultivated or tenanted, may, either in person or through their attorneys
plaintiff himself and upon which the bases the title that he asks the court to confirm, or representatives, appear and exhibit to said subdelegates the titles and patents by
shows the existence of a grant from a body which had no legal power to make it, and virtue of which said lands are occupied. Said subdelegates will designate as the
which, therefore, conveyed no title whatever to its grantee, and the evidence is, as period within which documents must be presented a term sufficient in length and
given by the plaintiff himself, that it was under this grant alone that possession of proportionate to the distance the interested party may have to travel for the purpose
the lands was taken. We can not presume (within the time involved in this case) that of making the presentation. Said subdelegates will at the same time warn the parties
any other and valid grant was ever made. The possession of the plaintiff and of his interested that in term designated, without a just and valid reason therefor, they will
grantors up to the time of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in 1848, had not been be deprived of and evicted from their lands, and they will be granted to others.
long enough to presume a grant. (Crispin vs. United States, 168 U.S., 208;
Hayes vs. United States, 170 U.S., 637, 649, 653; Hays vs. The United States, ante
248.) The possession subsequently existing, we can not notice. Same authorities. In the regulations of June 25, 1880, it was provided as follows:

As we understand it, it is well settled in the United States that prescription does not run against ART. 8. If the interested parties shall not ask an adjustment of the lands whose
the Government as to its public lands — in other words, that if a person desires to obtain title possession they are unlawfully enjoining within the time of one year, or, the
to the public lands of the United States situated within the boundaries of the States, he must do adjustment having been granted by the authorities, they shall fail to fulfill their
so in the way pointed out by the law. We do not understand that a person in possession of obligation in connection with the compromise, by paying the proper sum into the
unsurveyed public lands in the State of Minnesota, for example, whose ancestors had occupied treasury, the latter will, by virtue of the authority vested in it, reassert the ownership
that the land for fortyh years, could maintain in court a claim that he was the legal owner of of the Stated over the lands, and will, after fixing the whole thereof, proceed to sell
the lands by granted the land to his ancestors, a presumption founded not upon any at public auction that part of the same which, either because it may have been
proceedings taken in the General Land Office to acquire a patent thereto, but upon the mere reduced to cultivation or is not located within the forest zone, is not deemed
possession for that length of time. advisable to preserve as State forest reservations. 4

The same is true of the public lands of Spain in the Philippine Islands. In the case of Valenton In the royal decree of the 13th of February, 1894, published in the Official Gazzette of Manila
et al. vs. Marciano it was said: of the 17th of April, 01894, it is provided in article 4 as follows:
ART. 4. The title to all agricultural lands which were capable of adjustment
(composicion) under the royal decree of the 25th of June, 1880, but the adjustments
of which decree in the Gaceta de Manila, will revert to the State. Any claim to such
lands by those who might have applied for the adjustment of the same, but who have
not done so as the above mentioned date, will not avail them in any way or at any
time.

In view of these provisions of the law, it seems to us impossible to say that as to the public
agricultural lands in the Philippines there existed a conclusive presumption after a lapse of
thirty or any other number of years that the Government of Spain had granted to the possessor
thereof a legal title thereto.

The plaintiff is not entitled to the benefits of paragraph 6 of section 54 of Act No. 926, the
Public Land Act, for the reason that act is not applicable to the Province of Benguet. The
judgment of the court below is affirmed, with the costs of this instance against the appellant.

After the expiration of twenty days let judgment be entered accordingly and ten days thereafter
the case be returned to the court below for execution. So ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Torres, Carson and Tracey, JJ., concur.

Mapa, J., concurs in the result.


Republic of the Philippines Only thereafter did petitioner proceed to levy on execution Lot 13713, and the public auction
SUPREME COURT sale of the same was scheduled on 14 May 2002. Sometime in May 2002, before the scheduled
Manila public auction sale, petitioner learned that Lot 13713 was inside the Summit Point Golf and
Country Club Subdivision owned by Summit Point Realty and Development Corporation
THIRD DIVISION (Summit Realty). She immediately went to the Makati City office of Summit Realty to meet
with its Vice President, Orense. However, she claimed that Orense did not show her any
document to prove ownership of Lot 13713 by Summit Realty, and even threatened her that
G.R. No. 171056 March 13, 2009 the owners of Summit Realty, the Leviste family, was too powerful and influential for
petitioner to tangle with.
DINAH C. CASTILLO, Petitioner,
vs. The public auction sale pushed through on 14 May 2002, and petitioner bought Raquel’s 1/3
ANTONIO M. ESCUTIN, AQUILINA A. MISTAS, MARIETTA L. LINATOC, AND pro-indiviso share in Lot 13713.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, Respondents.
On 4 June 2002, petitioner had the following documents, on her acquisition of Raquel’s 1/3
DECISION pro-indiviso share in Lot 13713, recorded in the Primary Entry Book and Registration Book of
the Register of Deeds of Lipa City in accordance with Act No. 334410: (a) Notice of
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.: Levy;11 (b) Certificate of Sale;12 (c) Affidavit of Publication;13 and (d) Writ of Execution.14

Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari 1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court Subsequently, petitioner was issued by the City Assessor of Lipa City Tax Declaration No.
filed by petitioner Dinah C. Castillo seeking the reversal and setting aside of the 00942-A,15 indicating that she owned 5,000 square meters of Lot 13713, while Urbana and
Decision,2 dated 18 October 2005, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 90533, as well Perla owned the other 10,000 square meters.
as the Resolution,3 dated 11 January 2006 of the same court denying reconsideration of its
afore-mentioned Decision. The Court of Appeals, in its assailed Decision, affirmed the Joint When petitioner attempted to pay real estate taxes for her 5,000-square-meter share in Lot
Resolution4 dated 28 April 2004 and Joint Order5 dated 20 June 2005 of the Office of the 13713, she was shocked to find out that, without giving her notice, her Tax Declaration No.
Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon in OMB-L-A-03-0573-F and OMB-L-C-03-0728-F, 00942-A was cancelled. Lot 13713 was said to be encompassed in and overlapping with the
dismissing petitioner Dinah C. Castillo’s complaint for grave misconduct and violation of 105,648 square meter parcel of land known as Lot 1-B, covered by Transfer Certificate of
Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, as amended, Title (TCT) No. 12964216 and Tax Declaration No. 00949-A,17 both in the name of Francisco
against respondent public officers Antonio M. Escutin (Escutin), Aquilina A. Mistas (Mistas) Catigbac (Catigbac). The reverse side of TCT No. 129642 bore three entries, reflecting the
and Marietta L. Linatoc (Linatoc), together with private individuals Lauro S. Leviste II supposed sale of Lot 1-B to Summit Realty, to wit:
(Leviste) and Benedicto L. Orense (Orense).
ENTRY NO. 184894: SPECIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY: In favor of
Petitioner is a judgment creditor of a certain Raquel K. Moratilla (Raquel), married to Roel LEONARDO YAGIN: For purposes more particularly stipulated in the contract
Buenaventura. In the course of her search for properties to satisfy the judgment in her favor, ratified before Atty. Ernesto M. Vergara of Lipa City as per Doc. No. 639; Page No.
petitioner discovered that Raquel, her mother Urbana Kalaw (Urbana), and sister Perla K. 29; Book No. LXXVI; Series of 1976.
Moratilla (Perla), co-owned Lot 13713, a parcel of land consisting of 15,000 square meters,
situated at Brgy. Bugtongnapulo, Lipa City, Batangas, and covered by Tax Declaration No.
00449. Date of instrument – 2-6-1976

Petitioner set about verifying the ownership of Lot 13713. She was able to secure an Date of inscription – 6-26-2002 at 11:20 a.m.
Order6 dated 4 March 1999 issued by Secretary Horacio R. Morales, Jr. of the Department of
Agrarian Reform (DAR) approving the application of Summit Point Golf & Country Club, ENTRY NO. 185833: SALE IN FAVOR OF SUMMIT POINT REALTY &
Inc. for conversion of several agricultural landholdings, including Lot 13713 owned by "Perla DEVELOPMENT CORP: –
K. Mortilla, et al." and covered by Tax Declaration No. 00449, to residential, commercial, and
recreational uses. She was also able to get from the Office of the City Assessor, Lipa City, a
ENTRY NO. 185834: BIR CLEARANCE: – Of the parcel of land described in this
Certification7 stating that Lot 13713, covered by Tax Declaration No. 00554-A, was in the cert. of title is hereby sold and cancelled TCT No. 134609(SN-6672938) Vol. 671-
name of co-owners Raquel, Urbana, and Perla; and a certified true copy of Tax Declaration A, having been issued by virtue of the aforesaid instrument ratified before Perfecto
No. 00554-A itself.8 Lastly, the Register of Deeds of Lipa City issued a Certification9 attesting L. Dimayuga, Notary Public for Makati City as per Doc. No. 148; Page 31, Book
that Lot 13713 in the name of co-owners Raquel, Urbana, and Perla, was not covered by a No. LXVII, Series of 2002.
certificate of title, whether judicial or patent, or subject to the issuance of a Certificate of Land
Ownership Award or patent under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
Date of instrument: July 22, 2002 surfaced, but it was executed only on 30 July 2002, five days after TCT No. T-134609 in the
name of Summit Realty was already issued.
Date of inscription: July 25, 2002 at 2:30 P.M.18
The Deed of Absolute Sale was presented before and recorded by the Register of Deeds of
On 25 July 2002, at 2:30 p.m., TCT No. 129642 in the name of Catigbac was cancelled and Lipa City on 25 July 2002 at 2:30 p.m., at exactly the same date and time TCT No. T-134609
TCT No. T-134609 in the name of Summit Realty was issued in its place. was issued to Summit Realty. Petitioner theorizes that for this to happen, TCT No. T-134609
was already prepared and ready even before the presentation for recording of the Deed of
Absolute Sale before the Register of Deeds.
The foregoing incidents prompted petitioner to file a Complaint Affidavit19 before the Office
of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon charging several public officers and private individuals
as follows: Moreover, Catigbac had long been dead and buried. The agency Catigbac supposedly executed
in favor of Yagin was extinguished by Catigbac’s death. Thus, petitioner argued, Yagin no
longer had authority to execute on 22 July 2002 the Deed of Absolute Sale of Lot 1-B in favor
32. I respectfully charge that on or about the months of June 2002 and July 2002 and onwards of Summit Realty, making the said Deed null and void ab initio.
in Lipa City, Atty. Antonio M. [Escutin], the Register of Deeds of Lipa City[;] Aquilina A.
Mistas, the Local Assessment Operations Officer III of the City Assessor’s Office of Lipa
City[;] Marietta Linatoc, Records Clerk, Office of the City Assessor of Lipa City, who are Petitioner asserted that Summit Realty was well-aware of Catigbac’s death, having
public officers and acting in concert and conspiring with Lauro S. Leviste II and Benedicto L. acknowledged the same in LRC Case No. 00-0376, the Petition for Issuance of New Owner’s
Orense, Executive Vice-President and Vice-President, respectively[,] of Summit Point Realty Duplicate of TCT No. 181 In Lieu of Lost One, filed by Summit Realty before the Regional
and Development Corporation x x x while in the discharge of their administrative functions Trial Court (RTC) of Lipa City. During the ex parte presentation of evidence in the latter part
did then and there unlawfully, through evident bad faith, gross inexcusable negligence and of 2000, Orense testified on behalf of Summit Realty that Catigbac’s property used to form
with manifest partiality towards Summit caused me injury in the sum of P20,000,000.00 by part of a bigger parcel of land, Lot 1 of Plan Psu-12014, measuring 132,975 square meters,
cancelling my TD #00942-A in the Office of the City Assessor of Lipa City and instead covered by TCT No. 181 in the name of Catigbac; after Catigbac’s death, Lot 1 was
issuing in the name of Francisco Catigbac TC #00949-A when aforesaid personalities well informally subdivided into several parts among his heirs and/or successors-in-interest, some of
knew that TCT No. 129642 was already cancelled and therefore not legally entitled to a new whom again transferred their shares to other persons; Summit Realty separately bought
tax declaration thereby manifestly favoring Summit Point Realty and Development subdivided parts of Lot 181 from their respective owners, with a consolidated area of 105,648
Corporation who now appears to be the successor-in-interest of Francisco Catigbac, all to my square meters, and identified as Lot 1-B after survey; despite the subdivision and transfer of
ownership of Lot 1, TCT No. 181 covering the same was never cancelled; and the owner’s
damage and prejudice.20 (Emphasis ours.)
duplicate of TCT No. 181 was lost and the fact of such loss was annotated at the back of the
original copy of TCT No. 181 with the Registry of Deeds. Subsequently, in an Order21 dated 3
Petitioner’s Complaint Affidavit gave rise to simultaneous administrative and preliminary January 2001, the RTC granted the Petition in LRC Case No. 00-0376 and directed the
(criminal) investigations, docketed as OMB-L-A-03-0573-F and OMB-L-C-03-0728-F, issuance of a new owner’s duplicate of TCT No. 181 in the name of Catigbac, under the same
respectively. terms and condition as in its original form.

Petitioner pointed out several irregularities in the circumstances surrounding the alleged sale Petitioner further cast doubt on the acts undertaken by Summit Realty in connection with
of Lot 1-B to Summit Realty and in the documents evidencing the same. Catigbac’s property, purportedly without legal personality and capacity. The Special Power of
Attorney dated 6 February 1976 granted Yagin the right to sue on behalf of Catigbac, yet it
The supposed Deed of Absolute Sale in favor of Summit Realty executed on 22 July 2002 by was Summit Realty which instituted LRC Case No. 00-0376, and Yagin had no participation
Leonardo Yagin (Yagin), as Catigbac’s attorney-in-fact, appeared to be a "one-way street." It at all in said case. Likewise, it was not Yagin, but Orense, who, through a letter22dated 27 June
did not express the desire of Summit Realty, as vendee, to purchase Lot 1-B or indicate its 2001, requested the cancellation of TCT No. 181 covering Lot 1 and the issuance of a new
consent and conformity to the terms of the Deed. No representative of Summit Realty signed certificate of title for Lot 1-B. Hence, it was Orense’s request which resulted in the issuance of
the left margin of each and every page of said Deed. It also did not appear from the Deed that TCT No. 129642 in the name of Catigbac, later cancelled and replaced by TCT No. T-134609
a representative of Summit Realty presented himself before the Notary Public who notarized in the name of Summit Realty.
the said document. The Tax Identification Numbers of Yagin, as vendor, and Summit Realty,
as vendee, were not stated in the Deed. Lastly, petitioner questioned why, despite the cancellation of TCT No. 129642 in the name of
Catigbac and the issuance in its place of TCT No. T-134609 in the name of Summit Realty, it
Petitioner also averred that, being a corporation, Summit Realty could only act through its was the former cancelled title which was used as basis for canceling petitioner’s Tax
Board of Directors. However, when the Deed of Absolute Sale of Lot 1-B was presented for Declaration No. 00942-A. Tax Declaration No. 00949-A was thus still issued in the name of
recording before the Register of Deeds, it was not accompanied by a Secretary’s Certificate Catigbac, instead of Summit Realty.
attesting to the existence of a Board Resolution which authorized said purchase by Summit
Realty. There was no entry regarding such a Secretary’s Certificate and/or Board Resolution, Piecing everything together, petitioner recounted in her Complaint Affidavit the alleged
whether on TCT No. 129642 or TCT No. T-134609. A Secretary’s Certificate eventually scheme perpetrated against her and the involvement therein of each of the conspirators:
28. Summit Point Realty and Development Corporation went into action right after I paid already appear to be the owners of the subject parcel of land, the new tax declaration should
Orense a visit sometime May 2002. Summit resurrected from the grave. (sic) Francisco bear their name instead. Mistas and Linatoc indeed conspired with Summit in the illegal and
Catigbac whom they knew to be long dead to face possible litigation. This is the height of unwarranted cancellation of my TD and in covering up the behind-the-scenes activities of
malice and bad faith on the part of Summit through its Lauro Leviste II, the Executive Vice Summit by making it appear that it was Francisco Catigbac who caused the cancellation. Even
President and Benedicto Orense, the Vice President. I had only in my favor a tax declaration to Leonardo Yagin, the alleged attorney-in-fact did not appear before Mistas and Linatoc. Yagin
show my interest and ownership over the 5, 000 sq.m. of the subject parcel of land. Evidently, could not have appeared because he is rumored to be long dead. The aforementioned acts of
Leviste and Orense came to the desperate conclusion that they needed a TCT which is a far the two benefitted (sic) Summit through their manifest partiality, evident bad faith and/or
better title than any tax declaration. gross inexcusable negligence. Perhaps, there is some truth to the rumor that Yagin is dead
because he does not even have a TIN in the questioned Deed of Absolute Sale. If indeed Yagin
Both then methodically commenced their evil and illegal scheme by causing on June 26, 2002 is already dead or inexistent[,] the allged payment of the purchase price of P5,282,400.00 on
at 11:20 a.m. the inscription with the Register of Deeds of Lipa City of a purported Special July 25, 2002 is a mere product of the fertile imagination of Orense and
Power of Attorney in favor of Leonardo Yagin (Annex "I"). Next, the Deed of Absolute Sale Leviste.1avvphi1.zw+ To dispute this assertion[,] the live body of Leonardo Yagin must be
(Annex "J") was made the following month in order to make it appear that presented by Orense and Leviste.23
Yagin unilaterally sold to Summit the subject parcel of land purportedly belonging to
Francisco Catigbac. Since the latter was already dead and realizing that the agency was After filing her Affidavit Complaint, petitioner attempted to have the Sheriff’s Deed of Final
already extinguished, Annex "J" was not signed or executed by Leviste or Orense. This fact Sale/Conveyance of her 5,000 square meter pro-indiviso share in Lot 13713 registered with
however did not deter the two from securing a BIR clearance on July 25, 2002. Also, on this the Register of Deeds of Lipa City. She also sought the annotation of her Affidavit of Adverse
same day, July 25, 2002, Annex "J" was presented to Atty. [Escutin] at 2:30 p.m. Claim on the said 5,000 square meters on TCT No. T-134609 of Summit Realty.
simultaneously, at exactly the same time of 2:30 p.m. TCT No. T-134609 in Summit’s name
was issued by Atty. [Escutin] WITHOUT benefit of the submission of the necessary Escutin, the Register of Deeds of Lipa City, relying on the finding of Examiner Juanita H. Sta.
documentation such as the Board Resolution, DAR Clearance, Revenue Tax Receipts for Ana (Sta. Ana), refused to have the Sheriff’s Deed of Final Sale/Conveyance registered, since:
documentary stamps, real property tax clearance, proof of payment of transfer tax, tax
declaration, articles of incorporation, SEC certification, license to sell and/or certificate of
registration by HLURB, etc. Without the total and lightning speed cooperation of Atty. The Sheriff’s Deed of Final Sale/Conveyance is a Mode of Transfers (sic) ownership in favor
[Escutin] to close his eyes to the total absence of said vital documents, the desperately needed of the Plaintiff, [Dinah] C. Castillo, (sic) However[,] it happen (sic) that the presented Tax
TCT to erase my interest and ownership would not have come into existence. Atty. [Escutin] Declaration [No.] 00942-A is already transfer (sic) in the name of the said [Dinah] C. Castillo,
had indeed acted in concert and in conspiracy with Leviste and Orense in producing Annex therefore[,] the registration of Sheriff (sic) Final Sale is no longer necessary.24
"H" and Annex "K".
Escutin likewise denied petitioner’s request to have her Affidavit of Adverse Claim annotated
29. Thereafter, Leviste and Orense utilized the already cancelled TCT No. 129642 in the name on TCT No. T-134609 on the following grounds:
of Francisco Catigbac to be the basis in seeking the cancellation of TD #00942A in my name
(Annex "F"). The Tax Mapping Division of the Office of City Assessor of Lipa City opined 1. The claimants (sic) rights or interest is not adverse to the registered owner. The
that my 5,000 sq.m. was (sic) part and parcel of the 105,648 sq.m. covered by TCT No. registered owner is Summit Point Realty and Development Corporation under
129642. A photocopy of the Certification from said division is hereto marked and attached as Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-134609 of the Registry of Deeds for Lipa City.
Annex "P", hereof. Aquilina Mistas, the Local Assessment Operations Officer III of the Office
of the City Assessor of Lipa City then conveniently caused the disappearance of my Notice of
2. The records of the Registry reveals that the source of the rights or interest of the
Levy and other supporting documents which she had personally received from me on March
adverse claimant is by virtue of a Levy on Execution by the Regional Trial Court
13, 2002. For her part of the conspiracy likewise, Marietta Linatoc, Records Clerk, forthwith
Fourth Judicial Region, Branch 30, San Pablo City, in Civil Case No. SP-4489
cancelled by TD#00942-A and in lieu thereof she issued TD #00949-A in the name of (1996), [Dinah] C. Castillo vs. Raquel Buenaventura. The registered owner, Summit
Francisco Catigbac. I dare say so because Mistas and Linatoc were presented a cancelled TCT Point Realty and Development Corporation nor its predecessor-in-interest are not the
as basis for obliterating my 5,000 sq.m. The fact of cancellation is clearly stated on the judgment debtor or a party in the said case. Simply stated, there is no privity of
posterior side of TCT No. 129642. Both can read. But the two nevertheless proceeded with contract between them (Consulta No. 1044 and 1119). If ever, her adverse claim is
dispatch in canceling my TD, though they had ample time and opportunity to reject the request against Raquel Buenaventura, the judgment debtor who holds no title over the
of Summit who is not even the registered owner appearing on TCT No. 129642. Francisco
property.25
Catigbac could not have been in front of Mistas and Linatoc because he was already six feet
below the ground. Mistas and Linatoc could have demanded presentation of the document
authorizing Summit in requesting for the cancellation of my TD. Also, they could have Escutin did mention, however, that petitioner may elevate en consulta to the Land Registration
demanded from Summit any document transferring my interest and ownership in favor of a Authority (LRA) the denial of her request for registration of the Sheriff’s Deed of Final
third party. Or, at least, they could have annotated in Tax Declaration No. 00949-A the fact Sale/Conveyance and annotation of her adverse claim on TCT No. T-134609. This petitioner
that I bought my 5,000 sq.m. from a public auction sale duly conducted by the court sheriff. did on 3 July 2003.
Alternatively, Linatoc and Mistas should have advised Summit to the effect that since they
While her Consulta was pending before the LRA, petitioner filed a Supplemental Complaint control and management of all phases of administrative matters and support. She had no hand
Affidavit26 and a Second Supplemental Complaint Affidavit27 with the Office of the Deputy in the cancellation of petitioner’s Tax Declaration No. 00942-A, and the issuance of
Ombudsman for Luzon, bringing to its attention the aforementioned developments. In her Catigbac’s Tax Declaration No. 00949-A for such function pertained to another division over
Second Supplemental Complaint Affidavit, petitioner prayed that Sta. Ana be included as a which she did not exercise authority. Thus, it was also not within her function or authority to
co-respondent in OMB-L-A-03-0573-F and OMB-L-C-03-0728-F, averring that the latter’s demand the presentation of certain documents to support the cancellation of petitioner’s Tax
actuation deprived petitioner of a factual basis for securing a new title in her favor over her Declaration No. 00942-A or to cause the annotation of petitioner’s interest on Catigbac’s Tax
5,000 square meter pro-indiviso share in Lot 13713, because the public auction sale of the said Declaration No. 00949-A.
property to her could never become final without the registration of the Sheriff’s Deed.
Respondent Linatoc averred that as Local Assessment Operation Officer II of the Office of the
The persons charged in OMB-L-A-03-0573-F and OMB-L-C-03-0728-F filed their respective City Assessor, Lipa City, she was in charge of safekeeping and updating the North District
Counter-Affidavits. Records. With respect to the transfer of a tax declaration from one name to another, her duty
was limited only to the act of preparing the new tax declaration and assigning it a number, in
Respondent Escutin clarified in his Counter Affidavit that TCT No. T-134609 reflected the lieu of the cancelled tax declaration. It was a purely ministerial duty. She had no authority to
same date and time of entry of the Deed of Absolute Sale between Yagin (as Catigbac’s demand the presentation of any document or question the validity of the transfer. Neither was
attorney-in-fact) and Summit Realty, i.e., 25 July 2002 at 2:30 p.m., in accordance with it within her jurisdiction to determine whether petitioner’s interest should have been annotated
Section 5628 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration on Catigbac’s Tax Declaration No. 00949-A. Examining the documents presented in support
Decree. He emphasized that his duty as Register of Deeds to register the Deed of Absolute of the transfer of the tax declaration to another’s name was a function belonging to other
Sale presented before him was purely ministerial. If the document was legal and in due form, divisions of the Office of the City Assessors. The flow of work, the same as in any other
and there was nothing mutilated or irregular on its face, the Register of Deeds had no authority ordinary transaction, mandated her to cancel petitioner’s Tax Declaration No. 00942-A, and to
to inquire into its intrinsic validity based upon proofs aliunde. It was not true that he allowed prepare and release Catigbac’s Tax Declaration No. 00949-A after the transfer had been
the registration of the Deed of Absolute Sale notwithstanding the absence of the required reviewed and approved by other divisions of the Office. It was also not true that TCT No.
documents supporting the application for registration thereof. On the contrary, all the required 129642 in the name of Catigbac was already cancelled when it was presented before the
documents such as the DAR Clearance, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Certificate Office of the City Assessors; the photocopy of said certificate of title with the Office bore no
Authorizing Registration (CAR), Real Property Tax, Transfer Tax, Secretary’s Certificate and mark of cancellation.
Articles of Incorporation of Summit Realty were submitted. While it was true that the
Secretary’s Certificate did not accompany the Deed of Absolute Sale upon the presentation of Leviste and Orense, the private individuals charged with the respondent public officers,
the latter for registration, Section 117 of the Property Registration Decree gives the party admitted that they were corporate officers of Summit Realty. They related that Summit Realty
seeking registration five days to comply with the rest of the requirements; and only if the party bought a parcel of land measuring 105,648 square meters, later identified as Lot 1-B,
should still fail to submit the same would it result in the denial of the registration. The License previously included in TCT No. 181, then specifically covered by TCT No. 129642, both in
to Sell and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board Registration of Summit Realty are the name of Catigbac. As a result of such purchase, ownership of Lot 1-B was transferred from
only required when a subdivision project is presented for registration. The use of TINs in Catigbac to Summit Realty. Summit Realty had every reason to believe in good faith that said
certain documents is a BIR requirement. The BIR itself did not require from Yagin as vendor property was indeed owned by Catigbac on the basis of the latter’s certificate of title over the
his TIN in the Deed of Absolute Sale, and issued the CAR even in the absence thereof. The same. Catigbac’s right as registered owner of Lot 1-B under TCT No. 181/No. 129642, was
Register of Deeds, therefore, was only bound by the CAR. As to the Certification earlier superior to petitioner’s, which was based on a mere tax declaration. Leviste and Orense
issued by the Register of Deeds of Lipa City attesting that Lot 13713 in the name of co-owners rebutted petitioner’s assertion that the Deed of Absolute Sale between Yagin, as Catigbac’s
Raquel, Urbana, and Perla, was not covered by any certificate of title, Escutin explained that attorney-in-fact, and Summit Realty was a "one-way street." The Deed was actually signed on
the Register of Deeds was not technically equipped to determine whether a cadastral lot the left margin by both Yagin and the representative of Summit Realty. The inadvertent failure
number was within a titled property or not. Lastly, Escutin denied conspiring or participating of the representative of Summit Realty to sign the last page of the Deed and of both parties to
in the cancellation of petitioner’s Tax Declaration No. 00942-A for, as Register of Deeds, he indicate their TINs therein did not invalidate the sale, especially since the Deed was signed by
was not concerned with the issuance (or cancellation) of tax declarations. witnesses attesting to its due execution. Questions as regards the scope of Catigbac’s Special
Power of Attorney in favor of Yagin and the effectivity of the same after Catigbac’s death can
Respondent Mistas, the Assistant City Assessor for Administration of the Office of the City only be raised in an action directly attacking the title of Summit Realty over Lot 1-B, and not
Assessor, Lipa City, disputed petitioner’s allegations that she personally received from in an administrative case and/or preliminary investigation before the Ombudsman, which
petitioner copies of the Notice of Levy and other supporting documents, and that she caused constituted a collateral attack against said title. Leviste and Orense further explained that since
the disappearance thereof. Although she admitted that said documents were shown to her by the owner’s duplicate of TCT No. 181 was lost and was judicially ordered replaced only on 3
petitioner, she referred petitioner to the Receiving Clerk, Lynie Reyes, who accordingly January 2001, entries/inscriptions were necessarily made thereon after said date. As to
received the same. Mistas maintained that she was not the custodian of records of the Office Orense’s failure to show petitioner any document proving ownership of Lot 1-B by Summit
and she should not be held responsible for the missing documents. She opined that petitioner’s Realty when the latter paid him a visit, it was not due to the lack of such documents, but
documents could have been among those misplaced or destroyed when the Office of the City because of petitioner’s failure to establish her right to peruse the same. Orense also denied
Assessor was flooded with water leaking from the toilet of the Office of the City Mayor. As ever threatening petitioner during their meeting. Finally, according to Leviste and Orense,
Assistant City Assessor for Administration, Mistas identified her main function to be the petitioner’s allegations were based on mere conjectures and unsupported by evidence. That
particular acts were done or not done by certain public officials was already beyond the favor, she did not present her receiving copy thereof showing that it was Mistas who received
control of Leviste and Orense, and just because they benefited from these acts did not mean said documents from her. Neither did she show that Mistas is the employee responsible for
that they had a hand in the commission or omission of said public officials. record safekeeping.

After more exchange of pleadings, OMB-L-A-03-0573-F and OMB-L-C-03-0728-F were Next, we find, as convincingly answered, the allegation that respondent Marietta Linatoc
finally submitted for resolution. cancelled Tax Declaration No. 00942-A and issued Tax Declaration 00949-Q (sic) on the basis
of a cancelled Transfer Certificate of Title upon the behest of Summit [Realty], which was not
In a Joint Resolution29 dated 28 April 2004, the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon the registered owner of the property.
gave more credence to respondent Escutin’s defenses, as opposed to petitioner’s charges
against him: Respondent Linatoc, meeting squarely [petitioner’s] allegation, admits having physically
cancelled Tax Declaration No. 00942-A and having prepared a new declaration covering the
Going to the charges against respondent Escutin, he convincingly explained that he allowed same property in Catigbac’s [name], as mandated by the flow of work in the City Assessor’s
the registration of the allegedly defective Deed of Sale because he, as Register of Deeds, has Office. However, she denies having the authority or discretion to evaluate the correctness and
no power to look into the intrinsic validity [of] the contract presented to him for registration, sufficiency of the documents supporting the application for the issuance of the Tax
owing to the ministerial character of his function. Moreover, as sufficiently explained by said Declaration, arguing that her official function is limited to the physical preparation of a new
respondent, all the documents required for the registration of the Deed of Sale were submitted tax declaration, the assignment of a new tax declaration number and the cancellation of the old
by the applicant. tax declaration, after the application had passed the other divisions of the City Assessor’s
Office.
We likewise find said respondent’s explanation satisfactory that Section 56 of P.D. 1529
mandates that the TCT bear the date of registration of the instrument on which the said TCT’s Verily, [petitioner] failed to establish that respondent Mistas and Linatoc, are the ones
issuance was based. It is for this reason that TCT 134609 bears the same date and time as the officially designated to receive applications for issuance of Tax Declaration, evaluate the
registration of the Deed of Absolute Sale, which deed served as basis for its issuance. sufficiency of the documents supporting such applications, and on the basis of the foregoing
recommend or order the cancellation of an existing Tax Declaration and direct the annotation
of any fact affecting the property and direct the issuance of a new tax declaration covering the
As to his denial to register [herein petitioner’s] Affidavit of Adverse Claim and Sheriff’s same property.
Certificate of Final Sale, through the issuance by the Registry of Deeds Examiner Juanita H.
Sta. Ana, of the 29 June 2003 Order denying registration thereof, such matter had been raised
by herein [petitioner] in a letter-consulta to the Administrator of the Land Registration In fact, there is even a discrepancy as to the official designation of said respondents. While
Authority (LRA) on 03 July 2003. As the criminal and administrative charges respecting this [petitioner] impleads Mistas, in her capacity as Local Assessment Officer, and Linatoc, in her
issue is premised, in part, on a matter still pending with the LRA, we find it premature to make capacity as Records Clerk, Mistas, in her counter-affidavit, alleges a different designation, i.e.,
a finding on the same. Assistant City Assessor for Administration, while Linatoc claims to be the Local Assessment
Operation Officer II of the City Assessor’s Office.
It is for the same reason that we deny the motion contained in the Second Supplemental
Complaint Affidavit praying for the inclusion, as additional respondent, of Juanita H. Sta. With the scope of work of said respondents not having been neatly defined by [petitioner], this
Ana, who is impleaded solely on the basis of having signed, by authority of Escutin, the 29 Office cannot make a definitive determination of their liability for Grave Misconduct and
violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019, which charges both relate to the performance or
July 2003 Order of denial of [petitioner’s] application for registration.
discharge of Mistas’ and Linatoc’s official duties.31
Finally, respondent Escutin was able to successfully demonstrate, through Consulta 2103
dated 25 July 1994, wherein the denial of registration by the Examiner of the Registry of Neither did the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon find any probable cause to
Deeds of Quezon City was upheld by the LRA Administrator, that the (sic) it was practice in criminally charge private individuals Leviste and Orense for the following reasons:
the different Registries that Examiners are given authority by the Register to sign letters of
denial.30 Anent private respondents, with the alleged conspiracy to unlawfully cause the transfer of the
title of [herein petitioner’s] property to Summit sufficiently explained by respondent Register
The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon declared in the same Joint Resolution that of Deeds, such allegation against private respondents loses a legal leg to stand on.1avvphi.zw+
there was no basis to hold respondents Mistas and Linatoc administratively or criminally
liable: Inasmuch as [petitioner] was not able to sufficiently outline the official functions of
respondents Mistas and Linatoc to pin down their specific accountabilities, the imputation that
private respondent (sic) conspired with said public respondents respecting the cancellation of
In this respect, this Office notes that while [herein petitioner] alleges that Aquilina Mistas
caused the disappearance of the Notice of Levy and other supporting documents received from Tax Declaration No. 00942-A is likewise stripped of any factual and legal bases.32
[petitioner] on 13 March 2003 when she applied for the issuance of a Tax Declaration in her
As to whether petitioner was indeed unlawfully deprived of her 5,000 square meter property, Without evidence showing that respondents received any gift, money or other pay-off or that
which issue comprised the very premise of OMB-L-A-03-0573-F and OMB-L-C-03-0728-F, they were induced by offers of such, the Court cannot impute any taint of direct corruption in
the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon ruled that such matter was not within its the questioned acts of respondents. Thus, any indication of intent to violate the laws or of
jurisdiction and should be raised in a civil action before the courts of justice. flagrant disregard of established rule may be negated by respondents’ honest belief that their
acts were sanctioned under the provisions of existing law and regulations. Such is the situation
In the end, the Office of the Ombudsman decreed: in the case at bar. Respondent Register of Deeds acted in the honest belief that the agency
recognized by the court in LRC Case No. 00-0376 between the registered owner Francisco
Catigbac and Leonardo Yagin subsisted with respect to the conveyance or sale of Lot 1 to
WHEREFORE premises considered, it is respectfully recommended that : (1) the Summit as the vendee, and that the Special Power of Attorney and Deed of Absolute Sale
administrative case against public respondents ANTONIO M. ESCUTIN, AQUILINA A. presented as evidence during said proceedings are valid and binding. Hence, respondent
MISTAS and MARIETA L. LINATOC be DISMISSED, for lack of substantial evidence; and Escutin was justified in believing that there is no legal infirmity or defect in registering the
(2) the criminal case against the same respondents including private respondent LAURO S. documents and proceeding with the transfer of title of Lot 1 in the name of the new owner
LEVISTE II and BENEDICTO L. ORENSE, be DISMISSED, for lack of probable cause.33 Summit. On the other hand, respondent Linatoc could not be held administratively liable for
effecting the cancellation in the course of ordinary flow of work in the City Assessor’s Office
In a Joint Order34 dated 20 June 2005, the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon denied after the documents have undergone the necessary evaluation and verification by her
petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration. superiors.37

The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, in its Joint Order, took notice of the The Court of Appeals referred to the consistent policy of the Supreme Court not to interfere
Resolution dated 17 December 2002 of the LRA in Consulta No. 3483, which involved with the exercise by the Ombudsman of his investigatory power. If the Ombudsman, using
circumstances similar to those in petitioner’s case. The LRA distinguished between two professional judgment, finds the case dismissible, the Court shall respect such findings, unless
systems of land registration: one is the Torrens system for registered lands under the Property clothed with grave abuse of discretion. The appellate court pronounced that there was no grave
Registration Decree, and the other is the system of registration for unregistered land under Act abuse of discretion on the part of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon in
No. 3344 (now Section 113 of the Property Registration Decree). These systems are separate dismissing petitioner’s Complaint Affidavit against respondents.
and distinct from each other. For documents involving registered lands, the same should be
recorded under the Property Registration Decree. The registration, therefore, of an instrument Hence, the dispositive portion of the Decision of the Court of Appeals reads:
under the wrong system produces no legal effect. Since it appeared that in Consulta No. 3483,
the registration of the Kasulatan ng Sanglaan, the Certificate of Sale and the Affidavit of
Consolidation was made under Act No. 3344, it did not produce any legal effect on the WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present petition is hereby DISMISSED for lack of
disputed property, because the said property was already titled when the aforementioned merit. The challenged Joint Resolution dated April 28, 2004 and Joint Order dated June 20,
documents were executed and presented for registration, and their registration should have 2005 in OMB-L-A-03-0573-F and OMB-L-C-03-0728-F are hereby AFFIRMED.38
been made under the Property Registration Decree.
In its Resolution dated 11 January 2006, the Court of Appeals denied petitioner’s Motion for
Furthermore, the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, in the same Joint Order, took Reconsideration for failing to present new matter which the appellate court had not already
into account petitioner’s withdrawal of her appeal en consulta before the LRA of the denial by considered in its earlier Decision.
the Register of Deeds of her request for registration of the Sheriff’s Deed of Final
Sale/Conveyance and Affidavit of Adverse Claim, which prompted the LRA Administrator to Petitioner now comes before this Court via the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari, with
declare the consulta moot and academic. For want of a categorical declaration on the the following assignment of errors:
registerability of petitioner’s documents from the LRA, the competent authority to rule on the
said matter, there could be no basis for a finding that respondent public officers could be held I.
administratively or criminally liable for the acts imputed to them.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS PATENTLY ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE
Petitioner sought recourse from the Court of Appeals by filing a Petition for Review under CANCELLATION OF THE TAX DECLARATION 00942 OF PETITIONER IN
Rule 43 of the Rules of Court challenging the 28 April 2004 Joint Resolution and 20 June VIOLATION OF SECTION 109 OF PRESIDENTIAL DECREE 1529, OTHERWISE
2005 Joint Order of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon.35 The appeal was KNOWN AS THE PROPERTY REGISTRATION ACT (sic);
docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 90533.1avvphi1
II.
The Court of Appeals promulgated its Decision36 on 18 October 2005, also finding no reason
to administratively or criminally charge respondents. Essentially, the appellate court adjudged
that petitioner can not impute corrupt motives to respondents’ acts: THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS PATENTLY ERRED IN RULING THAT
RESPONDENTS COULD NOT BE HELD ADMINISTRATIVELY LIABLE FOR
UNDULY FAVORING SUMMIT TO THE DAMAGE AND PREJUDICE OF accordingly register thereon the sale in its favor of a substantial portion of Lot 1 covered by
PETITIONER.39 said certificate, later identified as Lot 1-B. Catigbac’s title to Lot 1-B passed on by sale to
Summit Realty, giving the latter the right to seek the separation of the said portion from the
The Petition at bar is without merit. rest of Lot 1 and the issuance of a certificate of title specifically covering the same. This
resulted in the issuance of TCT No. 129642 in the name of Catigbac, covering Lot 1-B, which
was subsequently cancelled and replaced by TCT No. T-134609 in the name of Summit
As to the first issue, petitioner invokes Section 109 of the Property, Registration Decree which Realty.
provides:
Petitioner’s reliance on Section 109 of the Property Registration Decree is totally misplaced. It
SEC. 109. Notice and replacement of lost duplicate certificate. – In case of loss or theft of an provides for the requirements for the issuance of a lost duplicate certificate of title. It cannot,
owner’s duplicate certificate of title, due notice under oath shall be sent by the owner or by in any way, be related to the cancellation of petitioner’s tax declaration.
someone in his behalf to the Register of Deeds of the province or city where the land lies as
soon as the loss or theft is discovered. If a duplicate certificate is lost or destroyed, or cannot
be produced by a person applying for the entry of a new certificate to him or for the The cancellation of petitioner’s Tax Declaration No. 00942-A was not because of the issuance
registration of any new instrument, a sworn statement of the fact of such loss or destruction of a new owner’s duplicate of TCT No. 181, but of the fact that Lot 1-B, which encompassed
may be filed by the registered owner or other person in interest and registered. the 5,000 square meters petitioner lays claim to, was already covered by TCT No. 181 (and
subsequently by TCT No. 129642) in the name of Catigbac. A certificate of title issued is an
absolute and indefeasible evidence of ownership of the property in favor of the person whose
Upon the petition of the registered owner or other person in interest, the court may, after name appears therein. It is binding and conclusive upon the whole world.43 All persons must
notice and due hearing, direct the issuance of a new duplicate certificate, which shall contain a take notice, and no one can plead ignorance of the registration.44 Therefore, upon presentation
memorandum of the fact that it is issued in place of the lost duplicate certificate, but shall in of TCT No. 129642, the Office of the City Assessor must recognize the ownership of Lot 1-B
all respects be entitled to like faith and credit as the original duplicate, and shall thereafter be by Catigbac and issue in his name a tax declaration for the said property. And since Lot 1-B is
regarded as such for all purposes of this decree. already covered by a tax declaration in the name of Catigbac, accordingly, any other tax
declaration for the same property or portion thereof in the name of another person, not
Petitioner argues that the RTC, in LRC Case No. 00-0376, only ordered the issuance of a new supported by any certificate of title, such that of petitioner, must be cancelled; otherwise, the
owner’s duplicate of TCT No. 181 in lieu of the lost one. However, respondents did not only City Assessor would be twice collecting a realty tax from different persons on one and the
issue a new owner’s duplicate of TCT No. 181, but also cancelled petitioner’s Tax Declaration same property.
No. 00942-A and issued in its place Tax Declaration No. 00949-A in the name of Catigbac.
Respondents did not even annotate petitioner’s existing right over 5,000 square meters of Lot As between Catigbac’s title, covered by a certificate of title, and petitioner’s title, evidenced
1-B or notify petitioner of the cancellation of her Tax Declaration No. 00942-A. Petitioner only by a tax declaration, the former is evidently far superior and is, in the absence of any
maintains that a new owner’s duplicate of title is not a mode of acquiring ownership, nor is it a other certificate of title to the same property, conclusive and indefeasible as to Catigbac’s
mode of losing one. Under Section 109 of the Property Registration Decree, the new duplicate ownership of Lot 1-B. Catigbac’s certificate of title is binding upon the whole world,
of title was issued only to replace the old; it cannot cancel existing titles. including respondent public officers and even petitioner herself. Time and again, the Court has
ruled that tax declarations and corresponding tax receipts cannot be used to prove title to or
Petitioner’s position on this issue rests on extremely tenuous arguments and befuddled ownership of a real property inasmuch as they are not conclusive evidence of the
reasoning. same.45 Petitioner acquired her title to the 5,000 square meter property from Raquel, her
judgment debtor who, it is important to note, likewise only had a tax declaration to evidence
her title. In addition, the Court of Appeals aptly observed that, "[c]uriously, as to how and
Before anything else, the Court must clarify that a title is different from a certificate of title.
Title is generally defined as the lawful cause or ground of possessing that which is ours. It is when petitioner’s alleged predecessor-in-interest, Raquel K. Moratilla and her supposed co-
owners acquired portions of Lot 1 described as Lot 13713 stated in TD No. 00449, petitioner
that which is the foundation of ownership of property, real or personal.40 Title, therefore, may
be defined briefly as that which constitutes a just cause of exclusive possession, or which is had so far remained utterly silent."46
the foundation of ownership of property.41 Certificate of title, on the other hand, is a mere
evidence of ownership; it is not the title to the land itself.42 Under the Torrens system, a Petitioner’s allegations of defects or irregularities in the sale of Lot 1-B to Summit Realty by
certificate of title may be an Original Certificate of Title, which constitutes a true copy of the Yagin, as Catigbac’s attorney-in-fact, are beyond the jurisdiction of the Office of the Deputy
decree of registration; or a Transfer Certificate of Title, issued subsequent to the original Ombudsman for Luzon to consider. It must be remembered that Summit Realty had already
registration. acquired a certificate of title, TCT No. T-134609, in its name over Lot 1-B, which constitutes
conclusive and indefeasible evidence of its ownership of the said property and, thus, cannot be
collaterally attacked in the administrative and preliminary investigations conducted by the
Summit Realty acquired its title to Lot 1-B, not from the issuance of the new owner’s
Office of the Ombudsman for Luzon. Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree
duplicate of TCT No. 181, but from its purchase of the same from Yagin, the attorney-in-fact
categorically provides that a certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It
of Catigbac, the registered owner of the said property. Summit Realty merely sought the
cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law.
issuance of a new owner’s duplicate of TCT No. 181 in the name of Catigbac so that it could
For this same reason, the Court has no jurisdiction to grant petitioner’s prayer in the instant persistent disregard of well-known legal rules. Both the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for
Petition for the cancellation of TCT No. T-134609 in the name of Summit Realty. Luzon and the Court of Appeals found that there was no sufficient evidence to substantiate
petitioner’s charge of grave misconduct against respondents. For this Court to reverse the
Which now brings the Court to the second issue raised by petitioner on the administrative rulings of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon and the Court of Appeals, it must
liability of respondents. necessarily review the evidence presented by the parties and decide on a question of fact. Once
it is clear that the issue invites a review of the evidence presented, the question posed is one of
fact.50
Before the Court proceeds to tackle this issue, it establishes that petitioner’s Complaint
Affidavit before the Office of the Ombudsman for Luzon gave rise to two charges: (1) OMB-
L-A-03-0573-F involved the administrative charge for Gross Misconduct against respondent Factual issues are not cognizable by this Court in a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the
public officers; and (2) OMB-L-C-03-0728-F concerned the criminal charge for violation of Rules of Court. In order to resolve this issue, the Court would necessarily have to look into the
Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act47 against respondent public officers probative value of the evidence presented in the proceedings below. It is not the function of
and private individuals Leviste and Orense. The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, the Court to reexamine or reevaluate the evidence all over again. This Court is not a trier of
affirmed by the Court of Appeals, dismissed both charges. In the Petition at bar, petitioner facts, its jurisdiction in these cases being limited to reviewing only errors of law that may have
only assails the dismissal of the administrative charge for grave misconduct against respondent been committed by the lower courts or administrative bodies performing quasi-judicial
public officers. Since petitioner did not raise as an issue herein the dismissal by the Office of functions. It should be emphasized that findings made by an administrative body, which has
the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, affirmed by the Court of Appeals, of the criminal charge acquired expertise, are accorded not only respect but even finality by the Court. In
against respondent public officers for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt administrative proceedings, the quantum of evidence required is only substantial.51
Practices Act, the same became final and executory.48
Absent a clear showing of grave abuse of discretion, the Court shall not disturb findings of
In Domingo v. Quimson,49 the Court adopted the well-written report and recommendation of fact. The Court cannot weigh once more the evidence submitted, not only before the
its Clerk of Court on the administrative matter then pending and involving the charge of gross Ombudsman, but also before the Court of Appeals. Under Section 27 of Republic Act No.
or serious misconduct: 6770, findings of fact by the Ombudsman are conclusive, as long as they are supported by
substantial evidence.52 Substantial evidence is the amount of relevant evidence which a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion.53
"Under Section 36, par. (b) [1] of PD No. 807, otherwise known as the Civil Service Decree of
the Philippines, 'misconduct' is a ground for disciplinary action. And under MC No. 8, S.
1970, issued by the Civil Service Commission on July 28, 1970, which sets the 'Guidelines in The Court finds no reason to disturb the finding of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for
the Application of Penalties in Administrative Cases and other Matters Relative Thereto,' the Luzon and the Court of Appeals that respondents did not commit gross misconduct. Evident
administrative offense of 'grave misconduct' carries with it the maximum penalty of dismissal from the 28 April 2004 Joint Resolution of the former and the 18 October 2005 Decision of
from the service (Sec. IV-C[3], MC No. 8, S. 1970). But the term 'misconduct' as an the latter is that they arrived at such findings only after a meticulous consideration of the
administrative offense has a well defined meaning. It was defined in Amosco vs. Judge evidence submitted by the parties.
Magno, Adm. Mat. No. 439-MJ, Res. September 30, 1976, as referring 'to a transgression of
some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross Respondents were able to clearly describe their official functions and to convincingly explain
negligence by the public officer.' It is a misconduct 'such as affects the performance of his that they had only acted in accordance therewith in their dealings with petitioner and/or her
duties as an officer and not such only as effects his character as a private individual.' In the documents. Respondents also enjoy in their favor the presumption of regularity in the
recent case of Oao vs. Pabato, etc., Adm. Mat. No. 782-MJ, Res. July 29, 1977, the Court performance of their official duty. The burden of proving otherwise by substantial evidence
defined 'serious misconduct' as follows: falls on petitioner, who failed to discharge the same.

‘Hence, even assuming that the dismissal of the case is erroneous, this would be merely an From the very beginning, petitioner was unable to identify correctly the positions held by
error of judgment and not serious misconduct. The term `serious misconduct’ is a respondents Mistas and Linatoc at the Office of the City Assessor. How then could she even
transgression of some established and definite rule of action more particularly, unlawful assert that a particular action was within or without their jurisdiction to perform? While it may
behavior of gross negligence by the magistrate. It implies a wrongful intention and not a mere be true that petitioner should have at least been notified that her Tax Declaration No. 00942-A
error of judgment. For serious misconduct to exist, there must be reliable evidence showing was being cancelled, she was not able to establish that such would be the responsibility of
that the judicial acts complained of were corrupt or inspired by intention to violate the law, or respondents Mistas or Linatoc. Moreover, petitioner did not present statutory, regulatory, or
were a persistent disregard of well-known legal rules. We have previously ruled that procedural basis for her insistence that respondents should have done or not done a particular
negligence and ignorance on the part of a judge are inexcusable if they imply a manifest act. A perfect example was her assertion that respondents Mistas and Linatoc should have
injustice which cannot be explained by a reasonable interpretation. This is not so in the case at annotated her interest on Tax Declaration No. 00949-A in the name of Catigbac. However, she
bar.’" (Italics supplied.) failed to cite any law or rule which authorizes or recognizes the annotation of an adverse
interest on a tax declaration. Finally, absent any reliable evidence, petitioner’s charge that
To reiterate, for grave misconduct to exist, there must be reliable evidence showing that the respondents conspired with one another and with corporate officers of Summit Realty is
acts complained of were corrupt or inspired by an intention to violate the law, or were a nothing more than speculation, surmise, or conjecture. Just because the acts of respondents
were consistently favorable to Summit Realty does not mean that there was a concerted effort
to cause petitioner prejudice. Respondents’ actions were only consistent with the recognition
of the title of Catigbac over Lot 1-B, transferred by sale to Summit Realty, registered under
the Torrens system, and accordingly evidenced by certificates of title.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Petition for Review is hereby DENIED. The
Decision dated 18 October 2005 and Resolution dated 11 January 2006 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 90533 are hereby AFFIRMED in toto. Costs against the petitioner
Dinah C. Castillo.

SO ORDERED.

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice
Republic of the Philippines Presidential Decree No. 1594. All the financing required for such works shall be
SUPREME COURT provided by PEA.
Manila
xxx
EN BANC
(iii) x x x CDCP shall give up all its development rights and hereby agrees to cede
G.R. No. 133250 July 9, 2002 and transfer in favor of PEA, all of the rights, title, interest and participation of
CDCP in and to all the areas of land reclaimed by CDCP in the MCCRRP as of
FRANCISCO I. CHAVEZ, petitioner, December 30, 1981 which have not yet been sold, transferred or otherwise disposed
vs. of by CDCP as of said date, which areas consist of approximately Ninety-Nine
Thousand Four Hundred Seventy Three (99,473) square meters in the Financial
PUBLIC ESTATES AUTHORITY and AMARI COASTAL BAY DEVELOPMENT
CORPORATION, respondents. Center Area covered by land pledge No. 5 and approximately Three Million Three
Hundred Eighty Two Thousand Eight Hundred Eighty Eight (3,382,888) square
meters of reclaimed areas at varying elevations above Mean Low Water Level
CARPIO, J.: located outside the Financial Center Area and the First Neighborhood Unit."3

This is an original Petition for Mandamus with prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction and On January 19, 1988, then President Corazon C. Aquino issued Special Patent No. 3517,
a temporary restraining order. The petition seeks to compel the Public Estates Authority granting and transferring to PEA "the parcels of land so reclaimed under the Manila-Cavite
("PEA" for brevity) to disclose all facts on PEA's then on-going renegotiations with Amari Coastal Road and Reclamation Project (MCCRRP) containing a total area of one million nine
Coastal Bay and Development Corporation ("AMARI" for brevity) to reclaim portions of hundred fifteen thousand eight hundred ninety four (1,915,894) square meters." Subsequently,
Manila Bay. The petition further seeks to enjoin PEA from signing a new agreement with on April 9, 1988, the Register of Deeds of the Municipality of Parañaque issued Transfer
AMARI involving such reclamation. Certificates of Title Nos. 7309, 7311, and 7312, in the name of PEA, covering the three
reclaimed islands known as the "Freedom Islands" located at the southern portion of the
The Facts Manila-Cavite Coastal Road, Parañaque City. The Freedom Islands have a total land area of
One Million Five Hundred Seventy Eight Thousand Four Hundred and Forty One (1,578,441)
square meters or 157.841 hectares.
On November 20, 1973, the government, through the Commissioner of Public Highways,
signed a contract with the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines
("CDCP" for brevity) to reclaim certain foreshore and offshore areas of Manila Bay. The On April 25, 1995, PEA entered into a Joint Venture Agreement ("JVA" for brevity) with
contract also included the construction of Phases I and II of the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road. AMARI, a private corporation, to develop the Freedom Islands. The JVA also required the
CDCP obligated itself to carry out all the works in consideration of fifty percent of the total reclamation of an additional 250 hectares of submerged areas surrounding these islands to
reclaimed land. complete the configuration in the Master Development Plan of the Southern Reclamation
Project-MCCRRP. PEA and AMARI entered into the JVA through negotiation without public
bidding.4 On April 28, 1995, the Board of Directors of PEA, in its Resolution No. 1245,
On February 4, 1977, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1084
confirmed the JVA.5On June 8, 1995, then President Fidel V. Ramos, through then Executive
creating PEA. PD No. 1084 tasked PEA "to reclaim land, including foreshore and submerged
Secretary Ruben Torres, approved the JVA.6
areas," and "to develop, improve, acquire, x x x lease and sell any and all kinds of lands."1 On
the same date, then President Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1085 transferring to PEA
the "lands reclaimed in the foreshore and offshore of the Manila Bay"2 under the Manila- On November 29, 1996, then Senate President Ernesto Maceda delivered a privilege speech in
Cavite Coastal Road and Reclamation Project (MCCRRP). the Senate and denounced the JVA as the "grandmother of all scams." As a result, the Senate
Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, and the Committee on
On December 29, 1981, then President Marcos issued a memorandum directing PEA to amend Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, conducted a joint investigation. The
its contract with CDCP, so that "[A]ll future works in MCCRRP x x x shall be funded and Senate Committees reported the results of their investigation in Senate Committee Report No.
owned by PEA." Accordingly, PEA and CDCP executed a Memorandum of Agreement dated 560 dated September 16, 1997.7 Among the conclusions of their report are: (1) the reclaimed
December 29, 1981, which stated: lands PEA seeks to transfer to AMARI under the JVA are lands of the public domain which
the government has not classified as alienable lands and therefore PEA cannot alienate these
lands; (2) the certificates of title covering the Freedom Islands are thus void, and (3) the JVA
"(i) CDCP shall undertake all reclamation, construction, and such other works in the itself is illegal.
MCCRRP as may be agreed upon by the parties, to be paid according to progress of
works on a unit price/lump sum basis for items of work to be agreed upon, subject to
price escalation, retention and other terms and conditions provided for in On December 5, 1997, then President Fidel V. Ramos issued Presidential Administrative
Order No. 365 creating a Legal Task Force to conduct a study on the legality of the JVA in
view of Senate Committee Report No. 560. The members of the Legal Task Force were the
Secretary of Justice,8 the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel,9 and the Government Corporate I. WHETHER THE PRINCIPAL RELIEFS PRAYED FOR IN THE PETITION
Counsel.10 The Legal Task Force upheld the legality of the JVA, contrary to the conclusions ARE MOOT AND ACADEMIC BECAUSE OF SUBSEQUENT EVENTS;
reached by the Senate Committees.11
II. WHETHER THE PETITION MERITS DISMISSAL FOR FAILING TO
On April 4 and 5, 1998, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Today published reports that there OBSERVE THE PRINCIPLE GOVERNING THE HIERARCHY OF COURTS;
were on-going renegotiations between PEA and AMARI under an order issued by then
President Fidel V. Ramos. According to these reports, PEA Director Nestor Kalaw, PEA III. WHETHER THE PETITION MERITS DISMISSAL FOR NON-
Chairman Arsenio Yulo and retired Navy Officer Sergio Cruz composed the negotiating panel EXHAUSTION OF ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES;
of PEA.
IV. WHETHER PETITIONER HAS LOCUS STANDI TO BRING THIS SUIT;
On April 13, 1998, Antonio M. Zulueta filed before the Court a Petition for Prohibition with
Application for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary
Injunction docketed as G.R. No. 132994 seeking to nullify the JVA. The Court dismissed the V. WHETHER THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO INFORMATION
petition "for unwarranted disregard of judicial hierarchy, without prejudice to the refiling of INCLUDES OFFICIAL INFORMATION ON ON-GOING NEGOTIATIONS
the case before the proper court."12 BEFORE A FINAL AGREEMENT;

On April 27, 1998, petitioner Frank I. Chavez ("Petitioner" for brevity) as a taxpayer, filed the VI. WHETHER THE STIPULATIONS IN THE AMENDED JOINT VENTURE
instant Petition for Mandamus with Prayer for the Issuance of a Writ of Preliminary AGREEMENT FOR THE TRANSFER TO AMARI OF CERTAIN LANDS,
Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order. Petitioner contends the government stands to RECLAIMED AND STILL TO BE RECLAIMED, VIOLATE THE 1987
lose billions of pesos in the sale by PEA of the reclaimed lands to AMARI. Petitioner prays CONSTITUTION; AND
that PEA publicly disclose the terms of any renegotiation of the JVA, invoking Section 28,
Article II, and Section 7, Article III, of the 1987 Constitution on the right of the people to VII. WHETHER THE COURT IS THE PROPER FORUM FOR RAISING THE
information on matters of public concern. Petitioner assails the sale to AMARI of lands of the ISSUE OF WHETHER THE AMENDED JOINT VENTURE AGREEMENT IS
public domain as a blatant violation of Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution GROSSLY DISADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT.
prohibiting the sale of alienable lands of the public domain to private corporations. Finally,
petitioner asserts that he seeks to enjoin the loss of billions of pesos in properties of the State
The Court's Ruling
that are of public dominion.

First issue: whether the principal reliefs prayed for in the petition are moot and academic
After several motions for extension of time,13 PEA and AMARI filed their Comments on
because of subsequent events.
October 19, 1998 and June 25, 1998, respectively. Meanwhile, on December 28, 1998,
petitioner filed an Omnibus Motion: (a) to require PEA to submit the terms of the renegotiated
PEA-AMARI contract; (b) for issuance of a temporary restraining order; and (c) to set the case The petition prays that PEA publicly disclose the "terms and conditions of the on-going
for hearing on oral argument. Petitioner filed a Reiterative Motion for Issuance of a TRO negotiations for a new agreement." The petition also prays that the Court enjoin PEA from
dated May 26, 1999, which the Court denied in a Resolution dated June 22, 1999. "privately entering into, perfecting and/or executing any new agreement with AMARI."

In a Resolution dated March 23, 1999, the Court gave due course to the petition and required PEA and AMARI claim the petition is now moot and academic because AMARI furnished
the parties to file their respective memoranda. petitioner on June 21, 1999 a copy of the signed Amended JVA containing the terms and
conditions agreed upon in the renegotiations. Thus, PEA has satisfied petitioner's prayer for a
public disclosure of the renegotiations. Likewise, petitioner's prayer to enjoin the signing of
On March 30, 1999, PEA and AMARI signed the Amended Joint Venture Agreement the Amended JVA is now moot because PEA and AMARI have already signed the Amended
("Amended JVA," for brevity). On May 28, 1999, the Office of the President under the JVA on March 30, 1999. Moreover, the Office of the President has approved the Amended
administration of then President Joseph E. Estrada approved the Amended JVA. JVA on May 28, 1999.

Due to the approval of the Amended JVA by the Office of the President, petitioner now prays Petitioner counters that PEA and AMARI cannot avoid the constitutional issue by simply fast-
that on "constitutional and statutory grounds the renegotiated contract be declared null and tracking the signing and approval of the Amended JVA before the Court could act on the
void."14 issue. Presidential approval does not resolve the constitutional issue or remove it from the
ambit of judicial review.
The Issues

The issues raised by petitioner, PEA15 and AMARI16 are as follows:


We rule that the signing of the Amended JVA by PEA and AMARI and its approval by the PEA and AMARI claim petitioner ignored the judicial hierarchy by seeking relief directly
President cannot operate to moot the petition and divest the Court of its jurisdiction. PEA and from the Court. The principle of hierarchy of courts applies generally to cases involving
AMARI have still to implement the Amended JVA. The prayer to enjoin the signing of the factual questions. As it is not a trier of facts, the Court cannot entertain cases involving factual
Amended JVA on constitutional grounds necessarily includes preventing its implementation if issues. The instant case, however, raises constitutional issues of transcendental importance to
in the meantime PEA and AMARI have signed one in violation of the Constitution. the public.22 The Court can resolve this case without determining any factual issue related to
Petitioner's principal basis in assailing the renegotiation of the JVA is its violation of Section the case. Also, the instant case is a petition for mandamus which falls under the original
3, Article XII of the Constitution, which prohibits the government from alienating lands of the jurisdiction of the Court under Section 5, Article VIII of the Constitution. We resolve to
public domain to private corporations. If the Amended JVA indeed violates the Constitution, it exercise primary jurisdiction over the instant case.
is the duty of the Court to enjoin its implementation, and if already implemented, to annul the
effects of such unconstitutional contract. Third issue: whether the petition merits dismissal for non-exhaustion of administrative
remedies.
The Amended JVA is not an ordinary commercial contract but one which seeks to transfer
title and ownership to 367.5 hectares of reclaimed lands and submerged areas of Manila PEA faults petitioner for seeking judicial intervention in compelling PEA to disclose publicly
Bay to a single private corporation. It now becomes more compelling for the Court to resolve certain information without first asking PEA the needed information. PEA claims petitioner's
the issue to insure the government itself does not violate a provision of the Constitution direct resort to the Court violates the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies. It
intended to safeguard the national patrimony. Supervening events, whether intended or also violates the rule that mandamus may issue only if there is no other plain, speedy and
accidental, cannot prevent the Court from rendering a decision if there is a grave violation of adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.
the Constitution. In the instant case, if the Amended JVA runs counter to the Constitution, the
Court can still prevent the transfer of title and ownership of alienable lands of the public
domain in the name of AMARI. Even in cases where supervening events had made the cases PEA distinguishes the instant case from Tañada v. Tuvera23 where the Court granted the
moot, the Court did not hesitate to resolve the legal or constitutional issues raised to formulate petition for mandamus even if the petitioners there did not initially demand from the Office of
controlling principles to guide the bench, bar, and the public.17 the President the publication of the presidential decrees. PEA points out that in Tañada, the
Executive Department had an affirmative statutory duty under Article 2 of the Civil
Code24 and Section 1 of Commonwealth Act No. 63825 to publish the presidential decrees.
Also, the instant petition is a case of first impression. All previous decisions of the Court There was, therefore, no need for the petitioners in Tañada to make an initial demand from the
involving Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, or its counterpart provision in the Office of the President. In the instant case, PEA claims it has no affirmative statutory duty to
1973 Constitution,18 covered agricultural landssold to private corporations which acquired disclose publicly information about its renegotiation of the JVA. Thus, PEA asserts that the
the lands from private parties. The transferors of the private corporations claimed or could Court must apply the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies to the instant case in
claim the right to judicial confirmation of their imperfect titles19 under Title II of view of the failure of petitioner here to demand initially from PEA the needed information.
Commonwealth Act. 141 ("CA No. 141" for brevity). In the instant case, AMARI seeks to
acquire from PEA, a public corporation, reclaimed lands and submerged areas for non-
agricultural purposes by purchase under PD No. 1084 (charter of PEA) and Title III of CA The original JVA sought to dispose to AMARI public lands held by PEA, a government
No. 141. Certain undertakings by AMARI under the Amended JVA constitute the corporation. Under Section 79 of the Government Auditing Code,26 the disposition of
consideration for the purchase. Neither AMARI nor PEA can claim judicial confirmation of government lands to private parties requires public bidding. PEA was under a positive legal
their titles because the lands covered by the Amended JVA are newly reclaimed or still to be duty to disclose to the public the terms and conditions for the sale of its lands. The law
reclaimed. Judicial confirmation of imperfect title requires open, continuous, exclusive and obligated PEA to make this public disclosure even without demand from petitioner or from
notorious occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain for at least thirty years since anyone. PEA failed to make this public disclosure because the original JVA, like the Amended
June 12, 1945 or earlier. Besides, the deadline for filing applications for judicial confirmation JVA, was the result of a negotiated contract, not of a public bidding. Considering that PEA
of imperfect title expired on December 31, 1987.20 had an affirmative statutory duty to make the public disclosure, and was even in breach of this
legal duty, petitioner had the right to seek direct judicial intervention.
Lastly, there is a need to resolve immediately the constitutional issue raised in this petition
because of the possible transfer at any time by PEA to AMARI of title and ownership to Moreover, and this alone is determinative of this issue, the principle of exhaustion of
portions of the reclaimed lands. Under the Amended JVA, PEA is obligated to transfer to administrative remedies does not apply when the issue involved is a purely legal or
AMARI the latter's seventy percent proportionate share in the reclaimed areas as the constitutional question.27 The principal issue in the instant case is the capacity of AMARI to
reclamation progresses. The Amended JVA even allows AMARI to mortgage at any time acquire lands held by PEA in view of the constitutional ban prohibiting the alienation of lands
the entire reclaimed area to raise financing for the reclamation project.21 of the public domain to private corporations. We rule that the principle of exhaustion of
administrative remedies does not apply in the instant case.
Second issue: whether the petition merits dismissal for failing to observe the principle
governing the hierarchy of courts. Fourth issue: whether petitioner has locus standi to bring this suit
PEA argues that petitioner has no standing to institute mandamus proceedings to enforce his Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, while reiterating Tañada, further declared that
constitutional right to information without a showing that PEA refused to perform an 'when a mandamus proceeding involves the assertion of a public right, the
affirmative duty imposed on PEA by the Constitution. PEA also claims that petitioner has not requirement of personal interest is satisfied by the mere fact that petitioner is a
shown that he will suffer any concrete injury because of the signing or implementation of the citizen and, therefore, part of the general 'public' which possesses the right.'
Amended JVA. Thus, there is no actual controversy requiring the exercise of the power of
judicial review. Further, in Albano v. Reyes, we said that while expenditure of public funds may not
have been involved under the questioned contract for the development, management
The petitioner has standing to bring this taxpayer's suit because the petition seeks to compel and operation of the Manila International Container Terminal, 'public interest [was]
PEA to comply with its constitutional duties. There are two constitutional issues involved definitely involved considering the important role [of the subject contract] . . . in the
here. First is the right of citizens to information on matters of public concern. Second is the economic development of the country and the magnitude of the financial
application of a constitutional provision intended to insure the equitable distribution of consideration involved.' We concluded that, as a consequence, the disclosure
alienable lands of the public domain among Filipino citizens. The thrust of the first issue is to provision in the Constitution would constitute sufficient authority for upholding the
compel PEA to disclose publicly information on the sale of government lands worth billions of petitioner's standing.
pesos, information which the Constitution and statutory law mandate PEA to disclose. The
thrust of the second issue is to prevent PEA from alienating hundreds of hectares of alienable Similarly, the instant petition is anchored on the right of the people to information
lands of the public domain in violation of the Constitution, compelling PEA to comply with a and access to official records, documents and papers — a right guaranteed under
constitutional duty to the nation. Section 7, Article III of the 1987 Constitution. Petitioner, a former solicitor general,
is a Filipino citizen. Because of the satisfaction of the two basic requisites laid down
Moreover, the petition raises matters of transcendental importance to the public. In Chavez v. by decisional law to sustain petitioner's legal standing, i.e. (1) the enforcement of a
PCGG,28 the Court upheld the right of a citizen to bring a taxpayer's suit on matters of public right (2) espoused by a Filipino citizen, we rule that the petition at bar should
transcendental importance to the public, thus - be allowed."

"Besides, petitioner emphasizes, the matter of recovering the ill-gotten wealth of the We rule that since the instant petition, brought by a citizen, involves the enforcement of
Marcoses is an issue of 'transcendental importance to the public.' He asserts that constitutional rights - to information and to the equitable diffusion of natural resources -
ordinary taxpayers have a right to initiate and prosecute actions questioning the matters of transcendental public importance, the petitioner has the requisite locus standi.
validity of acts or orders of government agencies or instrumentalities, if the issues
raised are of 'paramount public interest,' and if they 'immediately affect the social, Fifth issue: whether the constitutional right to information includes official information on
economic and moral well being of the people.' on-going negotiations before a final agreement.

Moreover, the mere fact that he is a citizen satisfies the requirement of personal Section 7, Article III of the Constitution explains the people's right to information on matters
interest, when the proceeding involves the assertion of a public right, such as in this of public concern in this manner:
case. He invokes several decisions of this Court which have set aside the procedural
matter of locus standi, when the subject of the case involved public interest.
"Sec. 7. The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be
recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to
xxx official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used
as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such
In Tañada v. Tuvera, the Court asserted that when the issue concerns a public right limitations as may be provided by law." (Emphasis supplied)
and the object of mandamus is to obtain the enforcement of a public duty, the people
are regarded as the real parties in interest; and because it is sufficient that petitioner The State policy of full transparency in all transactions involving public interest reinforces the
is a citizen and as such is interested in the execution of the laws, he need not show people's right to information on matters of public concern. This State policy is expressed in
that he has any legal or special interest in the result of the action. In the aforesaid Section 28, Article II of the Constitution, thus:
case, the petitioners sought to enforce their right to be informed on matters of public
concern, a right then recognized in Section 6, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution, in
connection with the rule that laws in order to be valid and enforceable must be "Sec. 28. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and
published in the Official Gazette or otherwise effectively promulgated. In ruling for implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public
the petitioners' legal standing, the Court declared that the right they sought to be interest." (Emphasis supplied)
enforced 'is a public right recognized by no less than the fundamental law of the
land.' These twin provisions of the Constitution seek to promote transparency in policy-making and
in the operations of the government, as well as provide the people sufficient information to
exercise effectively other constitutional rights. These twin provisions are essential to the
exercise of freedom of expression. If the government does not disclose its official acts, We must first distinguish between information the law on public bidding requires PEA to
transactions and decisions to citizens, whatever citizens say, even if expressed without any disclose publicly, and information the constitutional right to information requires PEA to
restraint, will be speculative and amount to nothing. These twin provisions are also essential to release to the public. Before the consummation of the contract, PEA must, on its own and
hold public officials "at all times x x x accountable to the people,"29 for unless citizens have without demand from anyone, disclose to the public matters relating to the disposition of its
the proper information, they cannot hold public officials accountable for anything. Armed with property. These include the size, location, technical description and nature of the property
the right information, citizens can participate in public discussions leading to the formulation being disposed of, the terms and conditions of the disposition, the parties qualified to bid, the
of government policies and their effective implementation. An informed citizenry is essential minimum price and similar information. PEA must prepare all these data and disclose them to
to the existence and proper functioning of any democracy. As explained by the Court the public at the start of the disposition process, long before the consummation of the contract,
in Valmonte v. Belmonte, Jr.30 – because the Government Auditing Code requires public bidding. If PEA fails to make this
disclosure, any citizen can demand from PEA this information at any time during the bidding
"An essential element of these freedoms is to keep open a continuing dialogue or process.
process of communication between the government and the people. It is in the
interest of the State that the channels for free political discussion be maintained to Information, however, on on-going evaluation or review of bids or proposals being
the end that the government may perceive and be responsive to the people's will. undertaken by the bidding or review committee is not immediately accessible under the right
Yet, this open dialogue can be effective only to the extent that the citizenry is to information. While the evaluation or review is still on-going, there are no "official acts,
informed and thus able to formulate its will intelligently. Only when the participants transactions, or decisions" on the bids or proposals. However, once the committee makes
in the discussion are aware of the issues and have access to information relating its official recommendation, there arises a "definite proposition" on the part of the
thereto can such bear fruit." government. From this moment, the public's right to information attaches, and any citizen can
access all the non-proprietary information leading to such definite proposition. In Chavez v.
PEA asserts, citing Chavez v. PCGG,31 that in cases of on-going negotiations the right to PCGG,33 the Court ruled as follows:
information is limited to "definite propositions of the government." PEA maintains the right
does not include access to "intra-agency or inter-agency recommendations or communications "Considering the intent of the framers of the Constitution, we believe that it is
during the stage when common assertions are still in the process of being formulated or are in incumbent upon the PCGG and its officers, as well as other government
the 'exploratory stage'." representatives, to disclose sufficient public information on any proposed settlement
they have decided to take up with the ostensible owners and holders of ill-gotten
Also, AMARI contends that petitioner cannot invoke the right at the pre-decisional stage or wealth. Such information, though, must pertain to definite propositions of the
before the closing of the transaction. To support its contention, AMARI cites the following government, not necessarily to intra-agency or inter-agency recommendations or
discussion in the 1986 Constitutional Commission: communications during the stage when common assertions are still in the process of
being formulated or are in the "exploratory" stage. There is need, of course, to
observe the same restrictions on disclosure of information in general, as discussed
"Mr. Suarez. And when we say 'transactions' which should be distinguished from earlier – such as on matters involving national security, diplomatic or foreign
contracts, agreements, or treaties or whatever, does the Gentleman refer to the steps relations, intelligence and other classified information." (Emphasis supplied)
leading to the consummation of the contract, or does he refer to the contract itself?
Contrary to AMARI's contention, the commissioners of the 1986 Constitutional Commission
Mr. Ople: The 'transactions' used here, I suppose is generic and therefore, it can understood that the right to information "contemplates inclusion of negotiations leading to
cover both steps leading to a contract and already a consummated contract, Mr. the consummation of the transaction." Certainly, a consummated contract is not a
Presiding Officer. requirement for the exercise of the right to information. Otherwise, the people can never
exercise the right if no contract is consummated, and if one is consummated, it may be too late
Mr. Suarez: This contemplates inclusion of negotiations leading to the for the public to expose its defects.1âwphi1.nêt
consummation of the transaction.
Requiring a consummated contract will keep the public in the dark until the contract, which
Mr. Ople: Yes, subject only to reasonable safeguards on the national interest. may be grossly disadvantageous to the government or even illegal, becomes a fait accompli.
This negates the State policy of full transparency on matters of public concern, a situation
which the framers of the Constitution could not have intended. Such a requirement will
Mr. Suarez: Thank you."32 (Emphasis supplied)
prevent the citizenry from participating in the public discussion of any proposedcontract,
effectively truncating a basic right enshrined in the Bill of Rights. We can allow neither an
AMARI argues there must first be a consummated contract before petitioner can invoke the emasculation of a constitutional right, nor a retreat by the State of its avowed "policy of full
right. Requiring government officials to reveal their deliberations at the pre-decisional stage disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest."
will degrade the quality of decision-making in government agencies. Government officials
will hesitate to express their real sentiments during deliberations if there is immediate public
dissemination of their discussions, putting them under all kinds of pressure before they decide.
The right covers three categories of information which are "matters of public concern," The ownership of lands reclaimed from foreshore and submerged areas is rooted in the
namely: (1) official records; (2) documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions Regalian doctrine which holds that the State owns all lands and waters of the public domain.
and decisions; and (3) government research data used in formulating policies. The first Upon the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, ownership of all "lands, territories and
category refers to any document that is part of the public records in the custody of government possessions" in the Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown.42The King, as the sovereign ruler
agencies or officials. The second category refers to documents and papers recording, and representative of the people, acquired and owned all lands and territories in the
evidencing, establishing, confirming, supporting, justifying or explaining official acts, Philippines except those he disposed of by grant or sale to private individuals.
transactions or decisions of government agencies or officials. The third category refers to
research data, whether raw, collated or processed, owned by the government and used in The 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions adopted the Regalian doctrine substituting, however,
formulating government policies. the State, in lieu of the King, as the owner of all lands and waters of the public domain. The
Regalian doctrine is the foundation of the time-honored principle of land ownership that "all
The information that petitioner may access on the renegotiation of the JVA includes lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to
evaluation reports, recommendations, legal and expert opinions, minutes of meetings, terms of the public domain."43 Article 339 of the Civil Code of 1889, which is now Article 420 of the
reference and other documents attached to such reports or minutes, all relating to the JVA. Civil Code of 1950, incorporated the Regalian doctrine.
However, the right to information does not compel PEA to prepare lists, abstracts, summaries
and the like relating to the renegotiation of the JVA.34 The right only affords access to records, Ownership and Disposition of Reclaimed Lands
documents and papers, which means the opportunity to inspect and copy them. One who
exercises the right must copy the records, documents and papers at his expense. The exercise
of the right is also subject to reasonable regulations to protect the integrity of the public The Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 was the first statutory law governing the ownership and
records and to minimize disruption to government operations, like rules specifying when and disposition of reclaimed lands in the Philippines. On May 18, 1907, the Philippine
how to conduct the inspection and copying.35 Commission enacted Act No. 1654 which provided for the lease, but not the sale, of
reclaimed lands of the government to corporations and individuals. Later, on November 29,
1919, the Philippine Legislature approved Act No. 2874, the Public Land Act, which
The right to information, however, does not extend to matters recognized as privileged authorized the lease, but not the sale, of reclaimed lands of the government to corporations
information under the separation of powers.36 The right does not also apply to information on and individuals. On November 7, 1936, the National Assembly passed Commonwealth Act
military and diplomatic secrets, information affecting national security, and information on No. 141, also known as the Public Land Act, which authorized the lease, but not the sale, of
investigations of crimes by law enforcement agencies before the prosecution of the accused, reclaimed lands of the government to corporations and individuals. CA No. 141 continues to
which courts have long recognized as confidential.37 The right may also be subject to other this day as the general law governing the classification and disposition of lands of the public
limitations that Congress may impose by law. domain.

There is no claim by PEA that the information demanded by petitioner is privileged The Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 and the Civil Code of 1889
information rooted in the separation of powers. The information does not cover Presidential
conversations, correspondences, or discussions during closed-door Cabinet meetings which,
like internal deliberations of the Supreme Court and other collegiate courts, or executive Under the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866, the shores, bays, coves, inlets and all waters within
sessions of either house of Congress,38 are recognized as confidential. This kind of the maritime zone of the Spanish territory belonged to the public domain for public use.44 The
information cannot be pried open by a co-equal branch of government. A frank exchange of Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 allowed the reclamation of the sea under Article 5, which
exploratory ideas and assessments, free from the glare of publicity and pressure by interested provided as follows:
parties, is essential to protect the independence of decision-making of those tasked to exercise
Presidential, Legislative and Judicial power.39This is not the situation in the instant case. "Article 5. Lands reclaimed from the sea in consequence of works constructed by
the State, or by the provinces, pueblos or private persons, with proper permission,
We rule, therefore, that the constitutional right to information includes official information shall become the property of the party constructing such works, unless otherwise
on on-going negotiations before a final contract. The information, however, must constitute provided by the terms of the grant of authority."
definite propositions by the government and should not cover recognized exceptions like
privileged information, military and diplomatic secrets and similar matters affecting national Under the Spanish Law of Waters, land reclaimed from the sea belonged to the party
security and public order.40 Congress has also prescribed other limitations on the right to undertaking the reclamation, provided the government issued the necessary permit and did not
information in several legislations.41 reserve ownership of the reclaimed land to the State.

Sixth issue: whether stipulations in the Amended JVA for the transfer to AMARI of lands, Article 339 of the Civil Code of 1889 defined property of public dominion as follows:
reclaimed or to be reclaimed, violate the Constitution.
"Art. 339. Property of public dominion is –
The Regalian Doctrine
1. That devoted to public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and xxx
bridges constructed by the State, riverbanks, shores, roadsteads, and that of a similar
character; (e) The leases above provided for shall be disposed of to the highest and best
bidder therefore, subject to such regulations and safeguards as the Governor-General
2. That belonging exclusively to the State which, without being of general public may by executive order prescribe." (Emphasis supplied)
use, is employed in some public service, or in the development of the national
wealth, such as walls, fortresses, and other works for the defense of the territory, and Act No. 1654 mandated that the government should retain title to all lands reclaimed by the
mines, until granted to private individuals." government. The Act also vested in the government control and disposition of foreshore lands.
Private parties could lease lands reclaimed by the government only if these lands were no
Property devoted to public use referred to property open for use by the public. In contrast, longer needed for public purpose. Act No. 1654 mandated public bidding in the lease of
property devoted to public service referred to property used for some specific public service government reclaimed lands. Act No. 1654 made government reclaimed lands sui generis in
and open only to those authorized to use the property. that unlike other public lands which the government could sell to private parties, these
reclaimed lands were available only for lease to private parties.
Property of public dominion referred not only to property devoted to public use, but also to
property not so used but employed to develop the national wealth. This class of property Act No. 1654, however, did not repeal Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. Act
constituted property of public dominion although employed for some economic or commercial No. 1654 did not prohibit private parties from reclaiming parts of the sea under Section 5 of
activity to increase the national wealth. the Spanish Law of Waters. Lands reclaimed from the sea by private parties with government
permission remained private lands.
Article 341 of the Civil Code of 1889 governed the re-classification of property of public
dominion into private property, to wit: Act No. 2874 of the Philippine Legislature

"Art. 341. Property of public dominion, when no longer devoted to public use or to On November 29, 1919, the Philippine Legislature enacted Act No. 2874, the Public Land
the defense of the territory, shall become a part of the private property of the State." Act.46 The salient provisions of Act No. 2874, on reclaimed lands, were as follows:

This provision, however, was not self-executing. The legislature, or the executive department "Sec. 6. The Governor-General, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of
pursuant to law, must declare the property no longer needed for public use or territorial Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time classify the lands of
defense before the government could lease or alienate the property to private parties.45 the public domain into –

Act No. 1654 of the Philippine Commission (a) Alienable or disposable,

On May 8, 1907, the Philippine Commission enacted Act No. 1654 which regulated the lease (b) Timber, and
of reclaimed and foreshore lands. The salient provisions of this law were as follows:
(c) Mineral lands, x x x.
"Section 1. The control and disposition of the foreshore as defined in existing law,
and the title to all Government or public lands made or reclaimed by the Sec. 7. For the purposes of the government and disposition of alienable or
Government by dredging or filling or otherwise throughout the Philippine disposable public lands, the Governor-General, upon recommendation by the
Islands, shall be retained by the Government without prejudice to vested rights and Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time declare
without prejudice to rights conceded to the City of Manila in the Luneta Extension. what lands are open to disposition or concession under this Act."

Section 2. (a) The Secretary of the Interior shall cause all Government or public Sec. 8. Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or concession which
lands made or reclaimed by the Government by dredging or filling or otherwise to have been officially delimited or classified x x x.
be divided into lots or blocks, with the necessary streets and alleyways located
thereon, and shall cause plats and plans of such surveys to be prepared and filed with
the Bureau of Lands. xxx

(b) Upon completion of such plats and plans the Governor-General shall give notice Sec. 55. Any tract of land of the public domain which, being neither timber nor
to the public that such parts of the lands so made or reclaimed as are not needed mineral land, shall be classified as suitable for residential purposes or for
for public purposes will be leased for commercial and business purposes, x x x. commercial, industrial, or other productive purposes other than agricultural
purposes, and shall be open to disposition or concession, shall be disposed of under remained sui generis, as the only alienable or disposable lands of the public domain that the
the provisions of this chapter, and not otherwise. government could not sell to private parties.

Sec. 56. The lands disposable under this title shall be classified as follows: The rationale behind this State policy is obvious. Government reclaimed, foreshore and
marshy public lands for non-agricultural purposes retain their inherent potential as areas for
(a) Lands reclaimed by the Government by dredging, filling, or other public service. This is the reason the government prohibited the sale, and only allowed the
means; lease, of these lands to private parties. The State always reserved these lands for some future
public service.

(b) Foreshore;
Act No. 2874 did not authorize the reclassification of government reclaimed, foreshore and
marshy lands into other non-agricultural lands under Section 56 (d). Lands falling under
(c) Marshy lands or lands covered with water bordering upon the shores Section 56 (d) were the only lands for non-agricultural purposes the government could sell to
or banks of navigable lakes or rivers; private parties. Thus, under Act No. 2874, the government could not sell government
reclaimed, foreshore and marshy lands to private parties, unless the legislature passed a law
(d) Lands not included in any of the foregoing classes. allowing their sale.49

x x x. Act No. 2874 did not prohibit private parties from reclaiming parts of the sea pursuant to
Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. Lands reclaimed from the sea by private
parties with government permission remained private lands.
Sec. 58. The lands comprised in classes (a), (b), and (c) of section fifty-six shall be
disposed of to private parties by lease only and not otherwise, as soon as the
Governor-General, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Dispositions under the 1935 Constitution
Natural Resources, shall declare that the same are not necessary for the public
service and are open to disposition under this chapter. The lands included in class On May 14, 1935, the 1935 Constitution took effect upon its ratification by the Filipino
(d) may be disposed of by sale or lease under the provisions of this Act." (Emphasis people. The 1935 Constitution, in adopting the Regalian doctrine, declared in Section 1,
supplied) Article XIII, that –

Section 6 of Act No. 2874 authorized the Governor-General to "classify lands of the public "Section 1. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, waters,
domain into x x x alienable or disposable"47 lands. Section 7 of the Act empowered the minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy and
Governor-General to "declare what lands are open to disposition or concession." Section 8 of other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State, and their disposition,
the Act limited alienable or disposable lands only to those lands which have been "officially exploitation, development, or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the
delimited and classified." Philippines or to corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the capital
of which is owned by such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant, lease, or
Section 56 of Act No. 2874 stated that lands "disposable under this title48 shall be classified" as concession at the time of the inauguration of the Government established under this
government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy lands, as well as other lands. All these lands, Constitution. Natural resources, with the exception of public agricultural land,
however, must be suitable for residential, commercial, industrial or other productive non- shall not be alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the exploitation,
agricultural purposes. These provisions vested upon the Governor-General the power to development, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a
classify inalienable lands of the public domain into disposable lands of the public domain. period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for another twenty-five years, except
These provisions also empowered the Governor-General to classify further such disposable as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than
lands of the public domain into government reclaimed, foreshore or marshy lands of the public the development of water power, in which cases beneficial use may be the measure
domain, as well as other non-agricultural lands. and limit of the grant." (Emphasis supplied)

Section 58 of Act No. 2874 categorically mandated that disposable lands of the public domain The 1935 Constitution barred the alienation of all natural resources except public agricultural
classified as government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy lands "shall be disposed of to lands, which were the only natural resources the State could alienate. Thus, foreshore lands,
private parties by lease only and not otherwise." The Governor-General, before allowing the considered part of the State's natural resources, became inalienable by constitutional fiat,
lease of these lands to private parties, must formally declare that the lands were "not necessary available only for lease for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years. The government could
for the public service." Act No. 2874 reiterated the State policy to lease and not to sell alienate foreshore lands only after these lands were reclaimed and classified as alienable
government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy lands of the public domain, a policy first agricultural lands of the public domain. Government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public
enunciated in 1907 in Act No. 1654. Government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy lands domain, being neither timber nor mineral lands, fell under the classification of public
agricultural lands.50 However, government reclaimed and marshy lands, although subject to
classification as disposable public agricultural lands, could only be leased and not sold to and may at any time and in like manner transfer such lands from one class to
private parties because of Act No. 2874. another,53 for the purpose of their administration and disposition.

The prohibition on private parties from acquiring ownership of government reclaimed and Sec. 7. For the purposes of the administration and disposition of alienable or
marshy lands of the public domain was only a statutory prohibition and the legislature could disposable public lands, the President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of
therefore remove such prohibition. The 1935 Constitution did not prohibit individuals and Agriculture and Commerce, shall from time to time declare what lands are open to
corporations from acquiring government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain that disposition or concession under this Act.
were classified as agricultural lands under existing public land laws. Section 2, Article XIII of
the 1935 Constitution provided as follows: Sec. 8. Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or concession which
have been officially delimited and classified and, when practicable, surveyed, and
"Section 2. No private corporation or association may acquire, lease, or hold which have not been reserved for public or quasi-public uses, nor appropriated by
public agricultural lands in excess of one thousand and twenty four hectares, nor the Government, nor in any manner become private property, nor those on which a
may any individual acquire such lands by purchase in excess of one hundred and private right authorized and recognized by this Act or any other valid law may be
forty hectares, or by lease in excess of one thousand and twenty-four hectares, or claimed, or which, having been reserved or appropriated, have ceased to be so. x x
by homestead in excess of twenty-four hectares. Lands adapted to grazing, not x."
exceeding two thousand hectares, may be leased to an individual, private
corporation, or association." (Emphasis supplied) Thus, before the government could alienate or dispose of lands of the public domain, the
President must first officially classify these lands as alienable or disposable, and then declare
Still, after the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution, the legislature did not repeal Section 58 of them open to disposition or concession. There must be no law reserving these lands for public
Act No. 2874 to open for sale to private parties government reclaimed and marshy lands of the or quasi-public uses.
public domain. On the contrary, the legislature continued the long established State policy of
retaining for the government title and ownership of government reclaimed and marshy lands The salient provisions of CA No. 141, on government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy lands
of the public domain. of the public domain, are as follows:

Commonwealth Act No. 141 of the Philippine National Assembly "Sec. 58. Any tract of land of the public domain which, being neither timber nor
mineral land, is intended to be used for residential purposes or for commercial,
On November 7, 1936, the National Assembly approved Commonwealth Act No. 141, also industrial, or other productive purposes other than agricultural, and is open to
known as the Public Land Act, which compiled the then existing laws on lands of the public disposition or concession, shall be disposed of under the provisions of this chapter
domain. CA No. 141, as amended, remains to this day the existing general law governing the and not otherwise.
classification and disposition of lands of the public domain other than timber and mineral
lands.51 Sec. 59. The lands disposable under this title shall be classified as follows:

Section 6 of CA No. 141 empowers the President to classify lands of the public domain into (a) Lands reclaimed by the Government by dredging, filling, or other
"alienable or disposable"52 lands of the public domain, which prior to such classification are means;
inalienable and outside the commerce of man. Section 7 of CA No. 141 authorizes the
President to "declare what lands are open to disposition or concession." Section 8 of CA No.
141 states that the government can declare open for disposition or concession only lands that (b) Foreshore;
are "officially delimited and classified." Sections 6, 7 and 8 of CA No. 141 read as follows:
(c) Marshy lands or lands covered with water bordering upon the shores
"Sec. 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture or banks of navigable lakes or rivers;
and Commerce, shall from time to time classify the lands of the public domain
into – (d) Lands not included in any of the foregoing classes.

(a) Alienable or disposable, Sec. 60. Any tract of land comprised under this title may be leased or sold, as the
case may be, to any person, corporation, or association authorized to purchase or
(b) Timber, and lease public lands for agricultural purposes. x x x.

(c) Mineral lands,


Sec. 61. The lands comprised in classes (a), (b), and (c) of section fifty-nine shall became inalienable as natural resources of the State, unless reclaimed by the government and
be disposed of to private parties by lease only and not otherwise, as soon as the classified as agricultural lands of the public domain, in which case they would fall under the
President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture, shall declare that classification of government reclaimed lands.
the same are not necessary for the public service and are open to disposition under
this chapter. The lands included in class (d) may be disposed of by sale or lease After the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution, government reclaimed and marshy disposable
under the provisions of this Act." (Emphasis supplied) lands of the public domain continued to be only leased and not sold to private parties.56 These
lands remained sui generis, as the only alienable or disposable lands of the public domain the
Section 61 of CA No. 141 readopted, after the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution, Section 58 government could not sell to private parties.
of Act No. 2874 prohibiting the sale of government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy
disposable lands of the public domain. All these lands are intended for residential, Since then and until now, the only way the government can sell to private parties government
commercial, industrial or other non-agricultural purposes. As before, Section 61 allowed only reclaimed and marshy disposable lands of the public domain is for the legislature to pass a law
the lease of such lands to private parties. The government could sell to private parties only authorizing such sale. CA No. 141 does not authorize the President to reclassify government
lands falling under Section 59 (d) of CA No. 141, or those lands for non-agricultural purposes reclaimed and marshy lands into other non-agricultural lands under Section 59 (d). Lands
not classified as government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy disposable lands of the public classified under Section 59 (d) are the only alienable or disposable lands for non-agricultural
domain. Foreshore lands, however, became inalienable under the 1935 Constitution which purposes that the government could sell to private parties.
only allowed the lease of these lands to qualified private parties.
Moreover, Section 60 of CA No. 141 expressly requires congressional authority before lands
Section 58 of CA No. 141 expressly states that disposable lands of the public domain intended under Section 59 that the government previously transferred to government units or entities
for residential, commercial, industrial or other productive purposes other than agricultural could be sold to private parties. Section 60 of CA No. 141 declares that –
"shall be disposed of under the provisions of this chapter and not otherwise." Under Section
10 of CA No. 141, the term "disposition" includes lease of the land. Any disposition of
government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy disposable lands for non-agricultural purposes "Sec. 60. x x x The area so leased or sold shall be such as shall, in the judgment of
must comply with Chapter IX, Title III of CA No. 141,54 unless a subsequent law amended or the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, be reasonably necessary for the
repealed these provisions. purposes for which such sale or lease is requested, and shall not exceed one hundred
and forty-four hectares: Provided, however, That this limitation shall not apply to
grants, donations, or transfers made to a province, municipality or branch or
In his concurring opinion in the landmark case of Republic Real Estate Corporation v. Court subdivision of the Government for the purposes deemed by said entities conducive
of Appeals,55Justice Reynato S. Puno summarized succinctly the law on this matter, as to the public interest;but the land so granted, donated, or transferred to a province,
follows: municipality or branch or subdivision of the Government shall not be alienated,
encumbered, or otherwise disposed of in a manner affecting its title, except when
"Foreshore lands are lands of public dominion intended for public use. So too are authorized by Congress: x x x." (Emphasis supplied)
lands reclaimed by the government by dredging, filling, or other means. Act 1654
mandated that the control and disposition of the foreshore and lands under water The congressional authority required in Section 60 of CA No. 141 mirrors the legislative
remained in the national government. Said law allowed only the 'leasing' of authority required in Section 56 of Act No. 2874.
reclaimed land. The Public Land Acts of 1919 and 1936 also declared that the
foreshore and lands reclaimed by the government were to be "disposed of to private
parties by lease only and not otherwise." Before leasing, however, the Governor- One reason for the congressional authority is that Section 60 of CA No. 141 exempted
General, upon recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural government units and entities from the maximum area of public lands that could be acquired
Resources, had first to determine that the land reclaimed was not necessary for the from the State. These government units and entities should not just turn around and sell these
public service. This requisite must have been met before the land could be disposed lands to private parties in violation of constitutional or statutory limitations. Otherwise, the
of. But even then, the foreshore and lands under water were not to be alienated transfer of lands for non-agricultural purposes to government units and entities could be used
and sold to private parties. The disposition of the reclaimed land was only by lease. to circumvent constitutional limitations on ownership of alienable or disposable lands of the
The land remained property of the State." (Emphasis supplied) public domain. In the same manner, such transfers could also be used to evade the statutory
prohibition in CA No. 141 on the sale of government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public
domain to private parties. Section 60 of CA No. 141 constitutes by operation of law a lien on
As observed by Justice Puno in his concurring opinion, "Commonwealth Act No. 141 has these lands.57
remained in effect at present."
In case of sale or lease of disposable lands of the public domain falling under Section 59 of
The State policy prohibiting the sale to private parties of government reclaimed, foreshore and CA No. 141, Sections 63 and 67 require a public bidding. Sections 63 and 67 of CA No. 141
marshy alienable lands of the public domain, first implemented in 1907 was thus reaffirmed in provide as follows:
CA No. 141 after the 1935 Constitution took effect. The prohibition on the sale of foreshore
lands, however, became a constitutional edict under the 1935 Constitution. Foreshore lands
"Sec. 63. Whenever it is decided that lands covered by this chapter are not needed service or the "development of the national wealth." Thus, government reclaimed and marshy
for public purposes, the Director of Lands shall ask the Secretary of Agriculture and lands of the State, even if not employed for public use or public service, if developed to
Commerce (now the Secretary of Natural Resources) for authority to dispose of the enhance the national wealth, are classified as property of public dominion.
same. Upon receipt of such authority, the Director of Lands shall give notice by
public advertisement in the same manner as in the case of leases or sales of Dispositions under the 1973 Constitution
agricultural public land, x x x.
The 1973 Constitution, which took effect on January 17, 1973, likewise adopted the Regalian
Sec. 67. The lease or sale shall be made by oral bidding; and adjudication shall be doctrine. Section 8, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution stated that –
made to the highest bidder. x x x." (Emphasis supplied)
"Sec. 8. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other
Thus, CA No. 141 mandates the Government to put to public auction all leases or sales of mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, wildlife, and other natural
alienable or disposable lands of the public domain.58 resources of the Philippines belong to the State. With the exception of agricultural,
industrial or commercial, residential, and resettlement lands of the public domain,
Like Act No. 1654 and Act No. 2874 before it, CA No. 141 did not repeal Section 5 of the natural resources shall not be alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the
Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. Private parties could still reclaim portions of the sea with exploration, development, exploitation, or utilization of any of the natural resources
government permission. However, thereclaimed land could become private land only if shall be granted for a period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more
classified as alienable agricultural land of the public domain open to disposition under CA than twenty-five years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply,
No. 141. The 1935 Constitution prohibited the alienation of all natural resources except public fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, in which
agricultural lands. cases, beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant." (Emphasis
supplied)
The Civil Code of 1950
The 1973 Constitution prohibited the alienation of all natural resources with the exception of
The Civil Code of 1950 readopted substantially the definition of property of public dominion "agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential, and resettlement lands of the public
found in the Civil Code of 1889. Articles 420 and 422 of the Civil Code of 1950 state that – domain." In contrast, the 1935 Constitution barred the alienation of all natural resources
except "public agricultural lands." However, the term "public agricultural lands" in the 1935
Constitution encompassed industrial, commercial, residential and resettlement lands of the
"Art. 420. The following things are property of public dominion: public domain.60 If the land of public domain were neither timber nor mineral land, it would
fall under the classification of agricultural land of the public domain. Both the 1935 and 1973
(1) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and Constitutions, therefore, prohibited the alienation of all natural resources except
bridges constructed by the State, banks, shores, roadsteads, and others of similar agricultural lands of the public domain.
character;
The 1973 Constitution, however, limited the alienation of lands of the public domain to
(2) Those which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended individuals who were citizens of the Philippines. Private corporations, even if wholly owned
for some public service or for the development of the national wealth. by Philippine citizens, were no longer allowed to acquire alienable lands of the public domain
unlike in the 1935 Constitution. Section 11, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution declared that

x x x.

"Sec. 11. The Batasang Pambansa, taking into account conservation, ecological, and
Art. 422. Property of public dominion, when no longer intended for public use or for
development requirements of the natural resources, shall determine by law the size
public service, shall form part of the patrimonial property of the State."
of land of the public domain which may be developed, held or acquired by, or leased
to, any qualified individual, corporation, or association, and the conditions
Again, the government must formally declare that the property of public dominion is no longer therefor. No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the
needed for public use or public service, before the same could be classified as patrimonial public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area nor may
property of the State.59 In the case of government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public any citizen hold such lands by lease in excess of five hundred hectares or acquire by
domain, the declaration of their being disposable, as well as the manner of their disposition, is purchase, homestead or grant, in excess of twenty-four hectares. No private
governed by the applicable provisions of CA No. 141. corporation or association may hold by lease, concession, license or permit, timber
or forest lands and other timber or forest resources in excess of one hundred
Like the Civil Code of 1889, the Civil Code of 1950 included as property of public dominion thousand hectares. However, such area may be increased by the Batasang Pambansa
those properties of the State which, without being for public use, are intended for public upon recommendation of the National Economic and Development Authority."
(Emphasis supplied)
Thus, under the 1973 Constitution, private corporations could hold alienable lands of the inalienable unless reclaimed, classified as alienable lands open to disposition, and further
public domain only through lease. Only individuals could now acquire alienable lands of the declared no longer needed for public service.
public domain, and private corporations became absolutely barred from acquiring any kind
of alienable land of the public domain. The constitutional ban extended to all kinds of The ban in the 1973 Constitution on private corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the
alienable lands of the public domain, while the statutory ban under CA No. 141 applied only public domain did not apply to PEA since it was then, and until today, a fully owned
to government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy alienable lands of the public domain. government corporation. The constitutional ban applied then, as it still applies now, only to
"private corporations and associations." PD No. 1084 expressly empowers PEA "to hold
PD No. 1084 Creating the Public Estates Authority lands of the public domain" even "in excess of the area permitted to private corporations by
statute." Thus, PEA can hold title to private lands, as well as title to lands of the public
On February 4, 1977, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1084 domain.
creating PEA, a wholly government owned and controlled corporation with a special charter.
Sections 4 and 8 of PD No. 1084, vests PEA with the following purposes and powers: In order for PEA to sell its reclaimed foreshore and submerged alienable lands of the public
domain, there must be legislative authority empowering PEA to sell these lands. This
"Sec. 4. Purpose. The Authority is hereby created for the following purposes: legislative authority is necessary in view of Section 60 of CA No.141, which states –

(a) To reclaim land, including foreshore and submerged areas, by dredging, filling "Sec. 60. x x x; but the land so granted, donated or transferred to a province,
or other means, or to acquire reclaimed land; municipality, or branch or subdivision of the Government shall not be alienated,
encumbered or otherwise disposed of in a manner affecting its title, except when
authorized by Congress; x x x." (Emphasis supplied)
(b) To develop, improve, acquire, administer, deal in, subdivide, dispose, lease and
sell any and all kinds of lands, buildings, estates and other forms of real property,
owned, managed, controlled and/or operated by the government; Without such legislative authority, PEA could not sell but only lease its reclaimed foreshore
and submerged alienable lands of the public domain. Nevertheless, any legislative authority
granted to PEA to sell its reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain would be subject to
(c) To provide for, operate or administer such service as may be necessary for the the constitutional ban on private corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the public
efficient, economical and beneficial utilization of the above properties. domain. Hence, such legislative authority could only benefit private individuals.

Sec. 5. Powers and functions of the Authority. The Authority shall, in carrying out Dispositions under the 1987 Constitution
the purposes for which it is created, have the following powers and functions:
The 1987 Constitution, like the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions before it, has adopted the
(a)To prescribe its by-laws. Regalian doctrine. The 1987 Constitution declares that all natural resources are "owned by the
State," and except for alienable agricultural lands of the public domain, natural resources
xxx cannot be alienated. Sections 2 and 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution state that –

(i) To hold lands of the public domain in excess of the area permitted to private "Section 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and
corporations by statute. 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. With the
exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated.
(j) To reclaim lands and to construct work across, or otherwise, any stream,
The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the
watercourse, canal, ditch, flume x x x.
full control and supervision of the State. x x x.

xxx
Section 3. Lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural, forest or
timber, mineral lands, and national parks. Agricultural lands of the public domain
(o) To perform such acts and exercise such functions as may be necessary for the may be further classified by law according to the uses which they may be
attainment of the purposes and objectives herein specified." (Emphasis supplied) devoted. Alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to agricultural
lands. Private corporations or associations may not hold such alienable lands of
PD No. 1084 authorizes PEA to reclaim both foreshore and submerged areas of the public the public domain except by lease, for a period not exceeding twenty-five years,
domain. Foreshore areas are those covered and uncovered by the ebb and flow of the renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and not to exceed one thousand
tide.61 Submerged areas are those permanently under water regardless of the ebb and flow of hectares in area. Citizens of the Philippines may lease not more than five hundred
the tide.62 Foreshore and submerged areas indisputably belong to the public domain63 and are
hectares, or acquire not more than twelve hectares thereof by purchase, homestead, recurrence of cases like the instant case. Huge landholdings by corporations or
or grant. private persons had spawned social unrest."

Taking into account the requirements of conservation, ecology, and development, However, if the constitutional intent is to prevent huge landholdings, the Constitution could
and subject to the requirements of agrarian reform, the Congress shall determine, by have simply limited the size of alienable lands of the public domain that corporations could
law, the size of lands of the public domain which may be acquired, developed, held, acquire. The Constitution could have followed the limitations on individuals, who could
or leased and the conditions therefor." (Emphasis supplied) acquire not more than 24 hectares of alienable lands of the public domain under the 1973
Constitution, and not more than 12 hectares under the 1987 Constitution.
The 1987 Constitution continues the State policy in the 1973 Constitution banning private
corporations fromacquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain. Like the 1973 If the constitutional intent is to encourage economic family-size farms, placing the land in the
Constitution, the 1987 Constitution allows private corporations to hold alienable lands of the name of a corporation would be more effective in preventing the break-up of farmlands. If the
public domain only through lease. As in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, the general law farmland is registered in the name of a corporation, upon the death of the owner, his heirs
governing the lease to private corporations of reclaimed, foreshore and marshy alienable lands would inherit shares in the corporation instead of subdivided parcels of the farmland. This
of the public domain is still CA No. 141. would prevent the continuing break-up of farmlands into smaller and smaller plots from one
generation to the next.
The Rationale behind the Constitutional Ban
In actual practice, the constitutional ban strengthens the constitutional limitation on
The rationale behind the constitutional ban on corporations from acquiring, except through individuals from acquiring more than the allowed area of alienable lands of the public domain.
lease, alienable lands of the public domain is not well understood. During the deliberations of Without the constitutional ban, individuals who already acquired the maximum area of
the 1986 Constitutional Commission, the commissioners probed the rationale behind this ban, alienable lands of the public domain could easily set up corporations to acquire more alienable
thus: public lands. An individual could own as many corporations as his means would allow him.
An individual could even hide his ownership of a corporation by putting his nominees as
stockholders of the corporation. The corporation is a convenient vehicle to circumvent the
"FR. BERNAS: Mr. Vice-President, my questions have reference to page 3, line 5 constitutional limitation on acquisition by individuals of alienable lands of the public domain.
which says:
The constitutional intent, under the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions, is to transfer ownership of
`No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain only a limited area of alienable land of the public domain to a qualified individual. This
except by lease, not to exceed one thousand hectares in area.' constitutional intent is safeguarded by the provision prohibiting corporations from acquiring
alienable lands of the public domain, since the vehicle to circumvent the constitutional intent
If we recall, this provision did not exist under the 1935 Constitution, but this was is removed. The available alienable public lands are gradually decreasing in the face of an
introduced in the 1973 Constitution. In effect, it prohibits private corporations from ever-growing population. The most effective way to insure faithful adherence to this
acquiring alienable public lands. But it has not been very clear in jurisprudence constitutional intent is to grant or sell alienable lands of the public domain only to individuals.
what the reason for this is. In some of the cases decided in 1982 and 1983, it was This, it would seem, is the practical benefit arising from the constitutional ban.
indicated that the purpose of this is to prevent large landholdings. Is that the intent
of this provision? The Amended Joint Venture Agreement

MR. VILLEGAS: I think that is the spirit of the provision. The subject matter of the Amended JVA, as stated in its second Whereas clause, consists of
three properties, namely:
FR. BERNAS: In existing decisions involving the Iglesia ni Cristo, there were
instances where the Iglesia ni Cristo was not allowed to acquire a mere 313-square 1. "[T]hree partially reclaimed and substantially eroded islands along Emilio
meter land where a chapel stood because the Supreme Court said it would be in Aguinaldo Boulevard in Paranaque and Las Pinas, Metro Manila, with a combined
violation of this." (Emphasis supplied) titled area of 1,578,441 square meters;"

In Ayog v. Cusi,64 the Court explained the rationale behind this constitutional ban in this way: 2. "[A]nother area of 2,421,559 square meters contiguous to the three islands;" and

"Indeed, one purpose of the constitutional prohibition against purchases of public 3. "[A]t AMARI's option as approved by PEA, an additional 350 hectares more or
agricultural lands by private corporations is to equitably diffuse land ownership or to less to regularize the configuration of the reclaimed area."65
encourage 'owner-cultivatorship and the economic family-size farm' and to prevent a
PEA confirms that the Amended JVA involves "the development of the Freedom Islands and "Section 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and
further reclamation of about 250 hectares x x x," plus an option "granted to AMARI to other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife,
subsequently reclaim another 350 hectares x x x."66 flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the
exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated.
In short, the Amended JVA covers a reclamation area of 750 hectares. Only 157.84 hectares x x x.
of the 750-hectare reclamation project have been reclaimed, and the rest of the 592.15
hectares are still submerged areas forming part of Manila Bay. xxx

Under the Amended JVA, AMARI will reimburse PEA the sum of P1,894,129,200.00 for Section 3. x x x Alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to agricultural
PEA's "actual cost" in partially reclaiming the Freedom Islands. AMARI will also complete, at lands. Private corporations or associations may not hold such alienable lands of
its own expense, the reclamation of the Freedom Islands. AMARI will further shoulder all the the public domain except by lease, x x x."(Emphasis supplied)
reclamation costs of all the other areas, totaling 592.15 hectares, still to be reclaimed. AMARI
and PEA will share, in the proportion of 70 percent and 30 percent, respectively, the total net
Classification of Reclaimed Foreshore and Submerged Areas
usable area which is defined in the Amended JVA as the total reclaimed area less 30 percent
earmarked for common areas. Title to AMARI's share in the net usable area, totaling 367.5
hectares, will be issued in the name of AMARI. Section 5.2 (c) of the Amended JVA provides PEA readily concedes that lands reclaimed from foreshore or submerged areas of Manila Bay
that – are alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. In its Memorandum,67 PEA admits that

"x x x, PEA shall have the duty to execute without delay the necessary deed of
transfer or conveyance of the title pertaining to AMARI's Land share based on the "Under the Public Land Act (CA 141, as amended), reclaimed lands are classified
Land Allocation Plan. PEA, when requested in writing by AMARI, shall then as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain:
cause the issuance and delivery of the proper certificates of title covering
AMARI's Land Share in the name of AMARI, x x x; provided, that if more than 'Sec. 59. The lands disposable under this title shall be classified as
seventy percent (70%) of the titled area at any given time pertains to AMARI, PEA follows:
shall deliver to AMARI only seventy percent (70%) of the titles pertaining to
AMARI, until such time when a corresponding proportionate area of additional land
(a) Lands reclaimed by the government by dredging, filling, or other
pertaining to PEA has been titled." (Emphasis supplied)
means;

Indisputably, under the Amended JVA AMARI will acquire and own a maximum of 367.5 x x x.'" (Emphasis supplied)
hectares of reclaimed land which will be titled in its name.
Likewise, the Legal Task Force68 constituted under Presidential Administrative Order No. 365
To implement the Amended JVA, PEA delegated to the unincorporated PEA-AMARI joint admitted in its Report and Recommendation to then President Fidel V. Ramos, "[R]eclaimed
venture PEA's statutory authority, rights and privileges to reclaim foreshore and submerged lands are classified as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain."69 The Legal
areas in Manila Bay. Section 3.2.a of the Amended JVA states that – Task Force concluded that –

"PEA hereby contributes to the joint venture its rights and privileges to perform "D. Conclusion
Rawland Reclamation and Horizontal Development as well as own the Reclamation
Area, thereby granting the Joint Venture the full and exclusive right, authority and
privilege to undertake the Project in accordance with the Master Development Plan." Reclaimed lands are lands of the public domain. However, by statutory authority,
the rights of ownership and disposition over reclaimed lands have been transferred
to PEA, by virtue of which PEA, as owner, may validly convey the same to any
The Amended JVA is the product of a renegotiation of the original JVA dated April 25, 1995 qualified person without violating the Constitution or any statute.
and its supplemental agreement dated August 9, 1995.

The constitutional provision prohibiting private corporations from holding public


The Threshold Issue
land, except by lease (Sec. 3, Art. XVII,70 1987 Constitution), does not apply to
reclaimed lands whose ownership has passed on to PEA by statutory grant."
The threshold issue is whether AMARI, a private corporation, can acquire and own under the
Amended JVA 367.5 hectares of reclaimed foreshore and submerged areas in Manila Bay in
Under Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, the foreshore and submerged areas of
view of Sections 2 and 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which state that:
Manila Bay are part of the "lands of the public domain, waters x x x and other natural
resources" and consequently "owned by the State." As such, foreshore and submerged areas reclaimed Freedom Islands necessarily fall under the classification of agricultural lands of the
"shall not be alienated," unless they are classified as "agricultural lands" of the public domain. public domain. Under the 1987 Constitution, agricultural lands of the public domain are the
The mere reclamation of these areas by PEA does not convert these inalienable natural only natural resources that the State may alienate to qualified private parties. All other natural
resources of the State into alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. There must be a resources, such as the seas or bays, are "waters x x x owned by the State" forming part of the
law or presidential proclamation officially classifying these reclaimed lands as alienable or public domain, and are inalienable pursuant to Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
disposable and open to disposition or concession. Moreover, these reclaimed lands cannot be
classified as alienable or disposable if the law has reserved them for some public or quasi-
AMARI claims that the Freedom Islands are private lands because CDCP, then a private
public use.71 corporation, reclaimed the islands under a contract dated November 20, 1973 with the
Commissioner of Public Highways. AMARI, citing Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of
Section 8 of CA No. 141 provides that "only those lands shall be declared open to disposition 1866, argues that "if the ownership of reclaimed lands may be given to the party constructing
or concession which have been officially delimited and classified."72 The President has the the works, then it cannot be said that reclaimed lands are lands of the public domain which the
authority to classify inalienable lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable lands State may not alienate."75 Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters reads as follows:
of the public domain, pursuant to Section 6 of CA No. 141. In Laurel vs. Garcia,73 the
Executive Department attempted to sell the Roppongi property in Tokyo, Japan, which was "Article 5. Lands reclaimed from the sea in consequence of works constructed by
acquired by the Philippine Government for use as the Chancery of the Philippine Embassy. the State, or by the provinces, pueblos or private persons, with proper permission,
Although the Chancery had transferred to another location thirteen years earlier, the Court still shall become the property of the party constructing such works, unless otherwise
ruled that, under Article 42274of the Civil Code, a property of public dominion retains such provided by the terms of the grant of authority." (Emphasis supplied)
character until formally declared otherwise. The Court ruled that –
Under Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866, private parties could reclaim from the
"The fact that the Roppongi site has not been used for a long time for actual sea only with "proper permission" from the State. Private parties could own the reclaimed land
Embassy service does not automatically convert it to patrimonial property. Any such only if not "otherwise provided by the terms of the grant of authority." This clearly meant that
conversion happens only if the property is withdrawn from public use (Cebu Oxygen no one could reclaim from the sea without permission from the State because the sea is
and Acetylene Co. v. Bercilles, 66 SCRA 481 [1975]. A property continues to be property of public dominion. It also meant that the State could grant or withhold ownership of
part of the public domain, not available for private appropriation or ownership the reclaimed land because any reclaimed land, like the sea from which it emerged, belonged
'until there is a formal declaration on the part of the government to withdraw it to the State. Thus, a private person reclaiming from the sea without permission from the State
from being such'(Ignacio v. Director of Lands, 108 Phil. 335 [1960]." (Emphasis could not acquire ownership of the reclaimed land which would remain property of public
supplied) dominion like the sea it replaced.76 Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 adopted
the time-honored principle of land ownership that "all lands that were not acquired from the
PD No. 1085, issued on February 4, 1977, authorized the issuance of special land patents for government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain."77
lands reclaimed by PEA from the foreshore or submerged areas of Manila Bay. On January
19, 1988 then President Corazon C. Aquino issued Special Patent No. 3517 in the name of Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters must be read together with laws subsequently enacted
PEA for the 157.84 hectares comprising the partially reclaimed Freedom Islands. on the disposition of public lands. In particular, CA No. 141 requires that lands of the public
Subsequently, on April 9, 1999 the Register of Deeds of the Municipality of Paranaque issued domain must first be classified as alienable or disposable before the government can alienate
TCT Nos. 7309, 7311 and 7312 in the name of PEA pursuant to Section 103 of PD No. 1529 them. These lands must not be reserved for public or quasi-public purposes.78 Moreover, the
authorizing the issuance of certificates of title corresponding to land patents. To this day, these contract between CDCP and the government was executed after the effectivity of the 1973
certificates of title are still in the name of PEA. Constitution which barred private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of
the public domain. This contract could not have converted the Freedom Islands into private
PD No. 1085, coupled with President Aquino's actual issuance of a special patent covering the lands of a private corporation.
Freedom Islands, is equivalent to an official proclamation classifying the Freedom Islands as
alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. PD No. 1085 and President Aquino's Presidential Decree No. 3-A, issued on January 11, 1973, revoked all laws authorizing the
issuance of a land patent also constitute a declaration that the Freedom Islands are no longer reclamation of areas under water and revested solely in the National Government the power to
needed for public service. The Freedom Islands are thus alienable or disposable lands of the reclaim lands. Section 1 of PD No. 3-A declared that –
public domain, open to disposition or concession to qualified parties.
"The provisions of any law to the contrary notwithstanding, the reclamation of
At the time then President Aquino issued Special Patent No. 3517, PEA had already reclaimed areas under water, whether foreshore or inland, shall be limited to the National
the Freedom Islands although subsequently there were partial erosions on some areas. The Government or any person authorized by it under a proper contract. (Emphasis
government had also completed the necessary surveys on these islands. Thus, the Freedom supplied)
Islands were no longer part of Manila Bay but part of the land mass. Section 3, Article XII of
the 1987 Constitution classifies lands of the public domain into "agricultural, forest or timber,
mineral lands, and national parks." Being neither timber, mineral, nor national park lands, the x x x."
PD No. 3-A repealed Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 because reclamation of x x." Thus, under EO No. 525, in relation to PD No. 3-A and PD No.1084, PEA became the
areas under water could now be undertaken only by the National Government or by a person primary implementing agency of the National Government to reclaim foreshore and
contracted by the National Government. Private parties may reclaim from the sea only under a submerged lands of the public domain. EO No. 525 recognized PEA as the government entity
contract with the National Government, and no longer by grant or permission as provided in "to undertake the reclamation of lands and ensure their maximum utilization in promoting
Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. public welfare and interests."79 Since large portions of these reclaimed lands would obviously
be needed for public service, there must be a formal declaration segregating reclaimed lands
Executive Order No. 525, issued on February 14, 1979, designated PEA as the National no longer needed for public service from those still needed for public service.1âwphi1.nêt
Government's implementing arm to undertake "all reclamation projects of the government,"
which "shall be undertaken by the PEA or through a proper contract executed by it with any Section 3 of EO No. 525, by declaring that all lands reclaimed by PEA "shall belong to or be
person or entity." Under such contract, a private party receives compensation for reclamation owned by the PEA," could not automatically operate to classify inalienable lands into
services rendered to PEA. Payment to the contractor may be in cash, or in kind consisting of alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. Otherwise, reclaimed foreshore and
portions of the reclaimed land, subject to the constitutional ban on private corporations from submerged lands of the public domain would automatically become alienable once reclaimed
acquiring alienable lands of the public domain. The reclaimed land can be used as payment in by PEA, whether or not classified as alienable or disposable.
kind only if the reclaimed land is first classified as alienable or disposable land open to
disposition, and then declared no longer needed for public service. The Revised Administrative Code of 1987, a later law than either PD No. 1084 or EO No.
525, vests in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources ("DENR" for brevity) the
The Amended JVA covers not only the Freedom Islands, but also an additional 592.15 following powers and functions:
hectares which are still submerged and forming part of Manila Bay. There is no legislative or
Presidential act classifying these submerged areas as alienable or disposable lands of the "Sec. 4. Powers and Functions. The Department shall:
public domain open to disposition. These submerged areas are not covered by any patent or
certificate of title. There can be no dispute that these submerged areas form part of the public
domain, and in their present state are inalienable and outside the commerce of man. Until (1) x x x
reclaimed from the sea, these submerged areas are, under the Constitution, "waters x x x
owned by the State," forming part of the public domain and consequently inalienable. Only xxx
when actually reclaimed from the sea can these submerged areas be classified as public
agricultural lands, which under the Constitution are the only natural resources that the State (4) Exercise supervision and control over forest lands, alienable and disposable
may alienate. Once reclaimed and transformed into public agricultural lands, the government
public lands, mineral resources and, in the process of exercising such control,
may then officially classify these lands as alienable or disposable lands open to disposition.
impose appropriate taxes, fees, charges, rentals and any such form of levy and
Thereafter, the government may declare these lands no longer needed for public service. Only
collect such revenues for the exploration, development, utilization or gathering of
then can these reclaimed lands be considered alienable or disposable lands of the public such resources;
domain and within the commerce of man.

xxx
The classification of PEA's reclaimed foreshore and submerged lands into alienable or
disposable lands open to disposition is necessary because PEA is tasked under its charter to
undertake public services that require the use of lands of the public domain. Under Section 5 (14) Promulgate rules, regulations and guidelines on the issuance of licenses,
of PD No. 1084, the functions of PEA include the following: "[T]o own or operate railroads, permits, concessions, lease agreements and such other privileges concerning the
tramways and other kinds of land transportation, x x x; [T]o construct, maintain and operate development, exploration and utilization of the country's marine, freshwater, and
such systems of sanitary sewers as may be necessary; [T]o construct, maintain and operate brackish water and over all aquatic resources of the country and shall continue to
such storm drains as may be necessary." PEA is empowered to issue "rules and regulations as oversee, supervise and police our natural resources; cancel or cause to cancel such
may be necessary for the proper use by private parties of any or all of the highways, roads, privileges upon failure, non-compliance or violations of any regulation, order, and
utilities, buildings and/or any of its properties and to impose or collect fees or tolls for their for all other causes which are in furtherance of the conservation of natural resources
use." Thus, part of the reclaimed foreshore and submerged lands held by the PEA would and supportive of the national interest;
actually be needed for public use or service since many of the functions imposed on PEA by
its charter constitute essential public services. (15) Exercise exclusive jurisdiction on the management and disposition of all
lands of the public domain and serve as the sole agency responsible for
Moreover, Section 1 of Executive Order No. 525 provides that PEA "shall be primarily classification, sub-classification, surveying and titling of lands in consultation with
responsible for integrating, directing, and coordinating all reclamation projects for and on appropriate agencies."80 (Emphasis supplied)
behalf of the National Government." The same section also states that "[A]ll reclamation
projects shall be approved by the President upon recommendation of the PEA, and shall be As manager, conservator and overseer of the natural resources of the State, DENR exercises
undertaken by the PEA or through a proper contract executed by it with any person or entity; x "supervision and control over alienable and disposable public lands." DENR also exercises
"exclusive jurisdiction on the management and disposition of all lands of the public domain." Thus, the Court concluded that a law is needed to convey any real property belonging to the
Thus, DENR decides whether areas under water, like foreshore or submerged areas of Manila Government. The Court declared that -
Bay, should be reclaimed or not. This means that PEA needs authorization from DENR before
PEA can undertake reclamation projects in Manila Bay, or in any part of the country. "It is not for the President to convey real property of the government on his or her
own sole will. Any such conveyance must be authorized and approved by a law
DENR also exercises exclusive jurisdiction over the disposition of all lands of the public enacted by the Congress. It requires executive and legislative concurrence."
domain. Hence, DENR decides whether reclaimed lands of PEA should be classified as (Emphasis supplied)
alienable under Sections 681 and 782 of CA No. 141. Once DENR decides that the reclaimed
lands should be so classified, it then recommends to the President the issuance of a PEA contends that PD No. 1085 and EO No. 525 constitute the legislative authority allowing
proclamation classifying the lands as alienable or disposable lands of the public domain open PEA to sell its reclaimed lands. PD No. 1085, issued on February 4, 1977, provides that –
to disposition. We note that then DENR Secretary Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr. countersigned
Special Patent No. 3517 in compliance with the Revised Administrative Code and Sections 6
and 7 of CA No. 141. "The land reclaimed in the foreshore and offshore area of Manila Bay pursuant to
the contract for the reclamation and construction of the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road
Project between the Republic of the Philippines and the Construction and
In short, DENR is vested with the power to authorize the reclamation of areas under water, Development Corporation of the Philippines dated November 20, 1973 and/or any
while PEA is vested with the power to undertake the physical reclamation of areas under other contract or reclamation covering the same area is hereby transferred,
water, whether directly or through private contractors. DENR is also empowered to classify conveyed and assigned to the ownership and administration of the Public Estates
lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable lands subject to the approval of the Authority established pursuant to PD No. 1084; Provided, however, That the rights
President. On the other hand, PEA is tasked to develop, sell or lease the reclaimed alienable and interests of the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines
lands of the public domain. pursuant to the aforesaid contract shall be recognized and respected.

Clearly, the mere physical act of reclamation by PEA of foreshore or submerged areas does not Henceforth, the Public Estates Authority shall exercise the rights and assume the
make the reclaimed lands alienable or disposable lands of the public domain, much less obligations of the Republic of the Philippines (Department of Public Highways)
patrimonial lands of PEA. Likewise, the mere transfer by the National Government of lands of arising from, or incident to, the aforesaid contract between the Republic of the
the public domain to PEA does not make the lands alienable or disposable lands of the public Philippines and the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines.
domain, much less patrimonial lands of PEA.
In consideration of the foregoing transfer and assignment, the Public Estates
Absent two official acts – a classification that these lands are alienable or disposable and open Authority shall issue in favor of the Republic of the Philippines the corresponding
to disposition and a declaration that these lands are not needed for public service, lands shares of stock in said entity with an issued value of said shares of stock (which)
reclaimed by PEA remain inalienable lands of the public domain. Only such an official
shall be deemed fully paid and non-assessable.
classification and formal declaration can convert reclaimed lands into alienable or disposable
lands of the public domain, open to disposition under the Constitution, Title I and Title III83of
CA No. 141 and other applicable laws.84 The Secretary of Public Highways and the General Manager of the Public Estates
Authority shall execute such contracts or agreements, including appropriate
agreements with the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines,
PEA's Authority to Sell Reclaimed Lands as may be necessary to implement the above.

PEA, like the Legal Task Force, argues that as alienable or disposable lands of the public Special land patent/patents shall be issued by the Secretary of Natural Resources
domain, the reclaimed lands shall be disposed of in accordance with CA No. 141, the Public in favor of the Public Estates Authority without prejudice to the subsequent
Land Act. PEA, citing Section 60 of CA No. 141, admits that reclaimed lands transferred to a transfer to the contractor or his assignees of such portion or portions of the land
branch or subdivision of the government "shall not be alienated, encumbered, or otherwise reclaimed or to be reclaimed as provided for in the above-mentioned contract. On
disposed of in a manner affecting its title, except when authorized by Congress: x x the basis of such patents, the Land Registration Commission shall issue the
x."85 (Emphasis by PEA) corresponding certificate of title." (Emphasis supplied)

In Laurel vs. Garcia,86 the Court cited Section 48 of the Revised Administrative Code of On the other hand, Section 3 of EO No. 525, issued on February 14, 1979, provides that -
1987, which states that –
"Sec. 3. All lands reclaimed by PEA shall belong to or be owned by the PEA which
"Sec. 48. Official Authorized to Convey Real Property. Whenever real property of shall be responsible for its administration, development, utilization or disposition in
the Government is authorized by law to be conveyed, the deed of conveyance shall accordance with the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1084. Any and all income
be executed in behalf of the government by the following: x x x."
that the PEA may derive from the sale, lease or use of reclaimed lands shall be used Moreover, under Section 79 of PD No. 1445, otherwise known as the Government Auditing
in accordance with the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1084." Code, the government is required to sell valuable government property through public bidding.
Section 79 of PD No. 1445 mandates that –
There is no express authority under either PD No. 1085 or EO No. 525 for PEA to sell its
reclaimed lands. PD No. 1085 merely transferred "ownership and administration" of lands "Section 79. When government property has become unserviceable for any cause, or
reclaimed from Manila Bay to PEA, while EO No. 525 declared that lands reclaimed by PEA is no longer needed, it shall, upon application of the officer accountable therefor, be
"shall belong to or be owned by PEA." EO No. 525 expressly states that PEA should dispose inspected by the head of the agency or his duly authorized representative in the
of its reclaimed lands "in accordance with the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1084," the presence of the auditor concerned and, if found to be valueless or unsaleable, it may
charter of PEA. be destroyed in their presence. If found to be valuable, it may be sold at public
auction to the highest bidder under the supervision of the proper committee on
PEA's charter, however, expressly tasks PEA "to develop, improve, acquire, administer, deal award or similar body in the presence of the auditor concerned or other authorized
in, subdivide, dispose, lease and sell any and all kinds of lands x x x owned, managed, representative of the Commission, after advertising by printed notice in the Official
controlled and/or operated by the government."87 (Emphasis supplied) There is, therefore, Gazette, or for not less than three consecutive days in any newspaper of general
legislative authority granted to PEA to sell its lands, whether patrimonial or alienable lands circulation, or where the value of the property does not warrant the expense of
of the public domain. PEA may sell to private parties itspatrimonial properties in accordance publication, by notices posted for a like period in at least three public places in the
with the PEA charter free from constitutional limitations. The constitutional ban on private locality where the property is to be sold. In the event that the public auction fails,
corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the public domain does not apply to the sale of the property may be sold at a private sale at such price as may be fixed by the same
PEA's patrimonial lands. committee or body concerned and approved by the Commission."

PEA may also sell its alienable or disposable lands of the public domain to private It is only when the public auction fails that a negotiated sale is allowed, in which case the
individuals since, with the legislative authority, there is no longer any statutory prohibition Commission on Audit must approve the selling price.90 The Commission on Audit implements
against such sales and the constitutional ban does not apply to individuals. PEA, however, Section 79 of the Government Auditing Code through Circular No. 89-29691 dated January 27,
cannot sell any of its alienable or disposable lands of the public domain to private corporations 1989. This circular emphasizes that government assets must be disposed of only through
since Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution expressly prohibits such sales. The public auction, and a negotiated sale can be resorted to only in case of "failure of public
legislative authority benefits only individuals. Private corporations remain barred from auction."
acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain, including government reclaimed
lands. At the public auction sale, only Philippine citizens are qualified to bid for PEA's reclaimed
foreshore and submerged alienable lands of the public domain. Private corporations are barred
The provision in PD No. 1085 stating that portions of the reclaimed lands could be transferred from bidding at the auction sale of any kind of alienable land of the public domain.
by PEA to the "contractor or his assignees" (Emphasis supplied) would not apply to private
corporations but only to individuals because of the constitutional ban. Otherwise, the PEA originally scheduled a public bidding for the Freedom Islands on December 10, 1991.
provisions of PD No. 1085 would violate both the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions. PEA imposed a condition that the winning bidder should reclaim another 250 hectares of
submerged areas to regularize the shape of the Freedom Islands, under a 60-40 sharing of the
The requirement of public auction in the sale of reclaimed lands additional reclaimed areas in favor of the winning bidder.92 No one, however, submitted a bid.
On December 23, 1994, the Government Corporate Counsel advised PEA it could sell the
Freedom Islands through negotiation, without need of another public bidding, because of the
Assuming the reclaimed lands of PEA are classified as alienable or disposable lands open to failure of the public bidding on December 10, 1991.93
disposition, and further declared no longer needed for public service, PEA would have to
conduct a public bidding in selling or leasing these lands. PEA must observe the provisions of
Sections 63 and 67 of CA No. 141 requiring public auction, in the absence of a law exempting However, the original JVA dated April 25, 1995 covered not only the Freedom Islands and the
PEA from holding a public auction.88 Special Patent No. 3517 expressly states that the patent additional 250 hectares still to be reclaimed, it also granted an option to AMARI to reclaim
is issued by authority of the Constitution and PD No. 1084, "supplemented by Commonwealth another 350 hectares. The original JVA, a negotiated contract, enlarged the reclamation area
Act No. 141, as amended." This is an acknowledgment that the provisions of CA No. 141 to 750 hectares.94 The failure of public bidding on December 10, 1991, involving only 407.84
apply to the disposition of reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain unless otherwise hectares,95 is not a valid justification for a negotiated sale of 750 hectares, almost double the
provided by law. Executive Order No. 654,89 which authorizes PEA "to determine the kind area publicly auctioned. Besides, the failure of public bidding happened on December 10,
and manner of payment for the transfer" of its assets and properties, does not exempt PEA 1991, more than three years before the signing of the original JVA on April 25, 1995. The
from the requirement of public auction. EO No. 654 merely authorizes PEA to decide the economic situation in the country had greatly improved during the intervening period.
mode of payment, whether in kind and in installment, but does not authorize PEA to dispense
with public auction. Reclamation under the BOT Law and the Local Government Code
The constitutional prohibition in Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution is absolute theory is echoed by AMARI which maintains that the "issuance of the special patent leading to
and clear: "Private corporations or associations may not hold such alienable lands of the public the eventual issuance of title takes the subject land away from the land of public domain and
domain except by lease, x x x." Even Republic Act No. 6957 ("BOT Law," for brevity), cited converts the property into patrimonial or private property." In short, PEA and AMARI contend
by PEA and AMARI as legislative authority to sell reclaimed lands to private parties, that with the issuance of Special Patent No. 3517 and the corresponding certificates of titles,
recognizes the constitutional ban. Section 6 of RA No. 6957 states – the 157.84 hectares comprising the Freedom Islands have become private lands of PEA. In
support of their theory, PEA and AMARI cite the following rulings of the Court:
"Sec. 6. Repayment Scheme. - For the financing, construction, operation and
maintenance of any infrastructure projects undertaken through the build-operate- 1. Sumail v. Judge of CFI of Cotabato,97 where the Court held –
and-transfer arrangement or any of its variations pursuant to the provisions of this
Act, the project proponent x x x may likewise be repaid in the form of a share in the "Once the patent was granted and the corresponding certificate of title was issued,
revenue of the project or other non-monetary payments, such as, but not limited to, the land ceased to be part of the public domain and became private property over
the grant of a portion or percentage of the reclaimed land, subject to the which the Director of Lands has neither control nor jurisdiction."
constitutional requirements with respect to the ownership of the land: x x x."
(Emphasis supplied)
2. Lee Hong Hok v. David,98 where the Court declared -
A private corporation, even one that undertakes the physical reclamation of a government
BOT project, cannot acquire reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain in view of the "After the registration and issuance of the certificate and duplicate certificate of title
constitutional ban. based on a public land patent, the land covered thereby automatically comes under
the operation of Republic Act 496 subject to all the safeguards provided
therein."3. Heirs of Gregorio Tengco v. Heirs of Jose Aliwalas,99 where the Court
Section 302 of the Local Government Code, also mentioned by PEA and AMARI, authorizes ruled -
local governments in land reclamation projects to pay the contractor or developer in kind
consisting of a percentage of the reclaimed land, to wit:
"While the Director of Lands has the power to review homestead patents, he may do
so only so long as the land remains part of the public domain and continues to be
"Section 302. Financing, Construction, Maintenance, Operation, and Management of under his exclusive control; but once the patent is registered and a certificate of title
Infrastructure Projects by the Private Sector. x x x is issued, the land ceases to be part of the public domain and becomes private
property over which the Director of Lands has neither control nor jurisdiction."
xxx
4. Manalo v. Intermediate Appellate Court,100 where the Court held –
In case of land reclamation or construction of industrial estates, the repayment plan
may consist of the grant of a portion or percentage of the reclaimed land or the "When the lots in dispute were certified as disposable on May 19, 1971, and free
industrial estate constructed." patents were issued covering the same in favor of the private respondents, the said
lots ceased to be part of the public domain and, therefore, the Director of Lands lost
Although Section 302 of the Local Government Code does not contain a proviso similar to jurisdiction over the same."
that of the BOT Law, the constitutional restrictions on land ownership automatically apply
even though not expressly mentioned in the Local Government Code. 5.Republic v. Court of Appeals,101 where the Court stated –

Thus, under either the BOT Law or the Local Government Code, the contractor or developer, "Proclamation No. 350, dated October 9, 1956, of President Magsaysay legally
if a corporate entity, can only be paid with leaseholds on portions of the reclaimed land. If the effected a land grant to the Mindanao Medical Center, Bureau of Medical Services,
contractor or developer is an individual, portions of the reclaimed land, not exceeding 12 Department of Health, of the whole lot, validly sufficient for initial registration
hectares96 of non-agricultural lands, may be conveyed to him in ownership in view of the under the Land Registration Act. Such land grant is constitutive of a 'fee simple' title
legislative authority allowing such conveyance. This is the only way these provisions of the or absolute title in favor of petitioner Mindanao Medical Center. Thus, Section 122
BOT Law and the Local Government Code can avoid a direct collision with Section 3, Article of the Act, which governs the registration of grants or patents involving public
XII of the 1987 Constitution. lands, provides that 'Whenever public lands in the Philippine Islands belonging to
the Government of the United States or to the Government of the Philippines are
Registration of lands of the public domain alienated, granted or conveyed to persons or to public or private corporations, the
same shall be brought forthwith under the operation of this Act (Land Registration
Finally, PEA theorizes that the "act of conveying the ownership of the reclaimed lands to Act, Act 496) and shall become registered lands.'"
public respondent PEA transformed such lands of the public domain to private lands." This
The first four cases cited involve petitions to cancel the land patents and the corresponding sale to private corporations of reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain because of the
certificates of titlesissued to private parties. These four cases uniformly hold that the Director constitutional ban. Only individuals can benefit from such law.
of Lands has no jurisdiction over private lands or that upon issuance of the certificate of title
the land automatically comes under the Torrens System. The fifth case cited involves the The grant of legislative authority to sell public lands in accordance with Section 60 of CA No.
registration under the Torrens System of a 12.8-hectare public land granted by the National 141 does not automatically convert alienable lands of the public domain into private or
Government to Mindanao Medical Center, a government unit under the Department of Health. patrimonial lands. The alienable lands of the public domain must be transferred to qualified
The National Government transferred the 12.8-hectare public land to serve as the site for the private parties, or to government entities not tasked to dispose of public lands, before these
hospital buildings and other facilities of Mindanao Medical Center, which performed a public lands can become private or patrimonial lands. Otherwise, the constitutional ban will become
service. The Court affirmed the registration of the 12.8-hectare public land in the name of illusory if Congress can declare lands of the public domain as private or patrimonial lands in
Mindanao Medical Center under Section 122 of Act No. 496. This fifth case is an example of the hands of a government agency tasked to dispose of public lands. This will allow private
a public land being registered under Act No. 496 without the land losing its character as a corporations to acquire directly from government agencies limitless areas of lands which, prior
property of public dominion. to such law, are concededly public lands.

In the instant case, the only patent and certificates of title issued are those in the name of PEA, Under EO No. 525, PEA became the central implementing agency of the National
a wholly government owned corporation performing public as well as proprietary functions. Government to reclaim foreshore and submerged areas of the public domain. Thus, EO No.
No patent or certificate of title has been issued to any private party. No one is asking the 525 declares that –
Director of Lands to cancel PEA's patent or certificates of title. In fact, the thrust of the instant
petition is that PEA's certificates of title should remain with PEA, and the land covered by
these certificates, being alienable lands of the public domain, should not be sold to a private "EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 525
corporation.
Designating the Public Estates Authority as the Agency Primarily Responsible for
Registration of land under Act No. 496 or PD No. 1529 does not vest in the registrant private all Reclamation Projects
or public ownership of the land. Registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership but is
merely evidence of ownership previously conferred by any of the recognized modes of Whereas, there are several reclamation projects which are ongoing or being
acquiring ownership. Registration does not give the registrant a better right than what the proposed to be undertaken in various parts of the country which need to be evaluated
registrant had prior to the registration.102 The registration of lands of the public domain under for consistency with national programs;
the Torrens system, by itself, cannot convert public lands into private lands.103
Whereas, there is a need to give further institutional support to the Government's
Jurisprudence holding that upon the grant of the patent or issuance of the certificate of title the declared policy to provide for a coordinated, economical and efficient reclamation of
alienable land of the public domain automatically becomes private land cannot apply to lands;
government units and entities like PEA. The transfer of the Freedom Islands to PEA was made
subject to the provisions of CA No. 141 as expressly stated in Special Patent No. 3517 issued Whereas, Presidential Decree No. 3-A requires that all reclamation of areas shall be
by then President Aquino, to wit: limited to the National Government or any person authorized by it under proper
contract;
"NOW, THEREFORE, KNOW YE, that by authority of the Constitution of the
Philippines and in conformity with the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1084, Whereas, a central authority is needed to act on behalf of the National
supplemented by Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, there are hereby
Government which shall ensure a coordinated and integrated approach in the
granted and conveyed unto the Public Estates Authority the aforesaid tracts of land
reclamation of lands;
containing a total area of one million nine hundred fifteen thousand eight hundred
ninety four (1,915,894) square meters; the technical description of which are hereto
attached and made an integral part hereof." (Emphasis supplied) Whereas, Presidential Decree No. 1084 creates the Public Estates Authority as a
government corporation to undertake reclamation of lands and ensure their
maximum utilization in promoting public welfare and interests; and
Thus, the provisions of CA No. 141 apply to the Freedom Islands on matters not covered by
PD No. 1084. Section 60 of CA No. 141 prohibits, "except when authorized by Congress," the
sale of alienable lands of the public domain that are transferred to government units or entities. Whereas, Presidential Decree No. 1416 provides the President with continuing
Section 60 of CA No. 141 constitutes, under Section 44 of PD No. 1529, a "statutory lien authority to reorganize the national government including the transfer, abolition, or
affecting title" of the registered land even if not annotated on the certificate of merger of functions and offices.
title.104 Alienable lands of the public domain held by government entities under Section 60 of
CA No. 141 remain public lands because they cannot be alienated or encumbered unless
Congress passes a law authorizing their disposition. Congress, however, cannot authorize the
NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, The contention of PEA and AMARI that public lands, once registered under Act No. 496 or
by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution and pursuant to Presidential PD No. 1529, automatically become private lands is contrary to existing laws. Several laws
Decree No. 1416, do hereby order and direct the following: authorize lands of the public domain to be registered under the Torrens System or Act No.
496, now PD No. 1529, without losing their character as public lands. Section 122 of Act No.
Section 1. The Public Estates Authority (PEA) shall be primarily responsible for 496, and Section 103 of PD No. 1529, respectively, provide as follows:
integrating, directing, and coordinating all reclamation projects for and on behalf
of the National Government. All reclamation projects shall be approved by the Act No. 496
President upon recommendation of the PEA, and shall be undertaken by the PEA or
through a proper contract executed by it with any person or entity; Provided, that, "Sec. 122. Whenever public lands in the Philippine Islands belonging to the x x x
reclamation projects of any national government agency or entity authorized under Government of the Philippine Islands are alienated, granted, or conveyed to persons
its charter shall be undertaken in consultation with the PEA upon approval of the or the public or private corporations, the same shall be brought forthwith under the
President.
operation of this Act and shall become registered lands."

x x x ." PD No. 1529

As the central implementing agency tasked to undertake reclamation projects nationwide, with "Sec. 103. Certificate of Title to Patents. Whenever public land is by the
authority to sell reclaimed lands, PEA took the place of DENR as the government agency Government alienated, granted or conveyed to any person, the same shall be
charged with leasing or selling reclaimed lands of the public domain. The reclaimed lands brought forthwith under the operation of this Decree." (Emphasis supplied)
being leased or sold by PEA are not private lands, in the same manner that DENR, when it
disposes of other alienable lands, does not dispose of private lands but alienable lands of the
public domain. Only when qualified private parties acquire these lands will the lands become Based on its legislative history, the phrase "conveyed to any person" in Section 103 of PD No.
private lands. In the hands of the government agency tasked and authorized to dispose of 1529 includes conveyances of public lands to public corporations.
alienable of disposable lands of the public domain, these lands are still public, not private
lands. Alienable lands of the public domain "granted, donated, or transferred to a province,
municipality, or branch or subdivision of the Government," as provided in Section 60 of CA
Furthermore, PEA's charter expressly states that PEA "shall hold lands of the public domain" No. 141, may be registered under the Torrens System pursuant to Section 103 of PD No. 1529.
as well as "any and all kinds of lands." PEA can hold both lands of the public domain and Such registration, however, is expressly subject to the condition in Section 60 of CA No. 141
private lands. Thus, the mere fact that alienable lands of the public domain like the Freedom that the land "shall not be alienated, encumbered or otherwise disposed of in a manner
Islands are transferred to PEA and issued land patents or certificates of title in PEA's name affecting its title, except when authorized by Congress." This provision refers to government
does not automatically make such lands private. reclaimed, foreshore and marshy lands of the public domain that have been titled but still
cannot be alienated or encumbered unless expressly authorized by Congress. The need for
legislative authority prevents the registered land of the public domain from becoming private
To allow vast areas of reclaimed lands of the public domain to be transferred to PEA as land that can be disposed of to qualified private parties.
private lands will sanction a gross violation of the constitutional ban on private corporations
from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain. PEA will simply turn
around, as PEA has now done under the Amended JVA, and transfer several hundreds of The Revised Administrative Code of 1987 also recognizes that lands of the public domain may
hectares of these reclaimed and still to be reclaimed lands to a single private corporation in be registered under the Torrens System. Section 48, Chapter 12, Book I of the Code states –
only one transaction. This scheme will effectively nullify the constitutional ban in Section 3,
Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which was intended to diffuse equitably the ownership of "Sec. 48. Official Authorized to Convey Real Property. Whenever real property of
alienable lands of the public domain among Filipinos, now numbering over 80 million strong. the Government is authorized by law to be conveyed, the deed of conveyance shall
be executed in behalf of the government by the following:
This scheme, if allowed, can even be applied to alienable agricultural lands of the public
domain since PEA can "acquire x x x any and all kinds of lands." This will open the (1) x x x
floodgates to corporations and even individuals acquiring hundreds of hectares of alienable
lands of the public domain under the guise that in the hands of PEA these lands are private
(2) For property belonging to the Republic of the Philippines, but titled in the
lands. This will result in corporations amassing huge landholdings never before seen in this
name of any political subdivision or of any corporate agency or instrumentality,
country - creating the very evil that the constitutional ban was designed to prevent. This will
by the executive head of the agency or instrumentality." (Emphasis supplied)
completely reverse the clear direction of constitutional development in this country. The 1935
Constitution allowed private corporations to acquire not more than 1,024 hectares of public
lands.105 The 1973 Constitution prohibited private corporations from acquiring any kind of Thus, private property purchased by the National Government for expansion of a public wharf
public land, and the 1987 Constitution has unequivocally reiterated this prohibition. may be titled in the name of a government corporation regulating port operations in the
country. Private property purchased by the National Government for expansion of an airport submerged areas also form part of the public domain and are also inalienable, unless converted
may also be titled in the name of the government agency tasked to administer the airport. pursuant to law into alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. Historically, lands
Private property donated to a municipality for use as a town plaza or public school site may reclaimed by the government are sui generis, not available for sale to private parties unlike
likewise be titled in the name of the municipality.106 All these properties become properties of other alienable public lands. Reclaimed lands retain their inherent potential as areas for public
the public domain, and if already registered under Act No. 496 or PD No. 1529, remain use or public service. Alienable lands of the public domain, increasingly becoming scarce
registered land. There is no requirement or provision in any existing law for the de-registration natural resources, are to be distributed equitably among our ever-growing population. To
of land from the Torrens System. insure such equitable distribution, the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions have barred private
corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain. Those who
Private lands taken by the Government for public use under its power of eminent domain attempt to dispose of inalienable natural resources of the State, or seek to circumvent the
become unquestionably part of the public domain. Nevertheless, Section 85 of PD No. 1529 constitutional ban on alienation of lands of the public domain to private corporations, do so at
authorizes the Register of Deeds to issue in the name of the National Government new their own risk.
certificates of title covering such expropriated lands. Section 85 of PD No. 1529 states –
We can now summarize our conclusions as follows:
"Sec. 85. Land taken by eminent domain. Whenever any registered land, or interest
therein, is expropriated or taken by eminent domain, the National Government, 1. The 157.84 hectares of reclaimed lands comprising the Freedom Islands, now
province, city or municipality, or any other agency or instrumentality exercising covered by certificates of title in the name of PEA, are alienable lands of the public
such right shall file for registration in the proper Registry a certified copy of the domain. PEA may lease these lands to private corporations but may not sell or
judgment which shall state definitely by an adequate description, the particular transfer ownership of these lands to private corporations. PEA may only sell these
property or interest expropriated, the number of the certificate of title, and the nature lands to Philippine citizens, subject to the ownership limitations in the 1987
of the public use. A memorandum of the right or interest taken shall be made on Constitution and existing laws.
each certificate of title by the Register of Deeds, and where the fee simple is taken, a
new certificate shall be issued in favor of the National Government, province, city, 2. The 592.15 hectares of submerged areas of Manila Bay remain inalienable natural
municipality, or any other agency or instrumentality exercising such right for the resources of the public domain until classified as alienable or disposable lands open
land so taken. The legal expenses incident to the memorandum of registration or to disposition and declared no longer needed for public service. The government can
issuance of a new certificate of title shall be for the account of the authority taking make such classification and declaration only after PEA has reclaimed these
the land or interest therein." (Emphasis supplied) submerged areas. Only then can these lands qualify as agricultural lands of the
public domain, which are the only natural resources the government can alienate. In
Consequently, lands registered under Act No. 496 or PD No. 1529 are not exclusively private their present state, the 592.15 hectares of submerged areas are inalienable and
or patrimonial lands. Lands of the public domain may also be registered pursuant to existing outside the commerce of man.
laws.
3. Since the Amended JVA seeks to transfer to AMARI, a private corporation,
AMARI makes a parting shot that the Amended JVA is not a sale to AMARI of the Freedom ownership of 77.34 hectares110 of the Freedom Islands, such transfer is void for
Islands or of the lands to be reclaimed from submerged areas of Manila Bay. In the words of being contrary to Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which prohibits
AMARI, the Amended JVA "is not a sale but a joint venture with a stipulation for private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain.
reimbursement of the original cost incurred by PEA for the earlier reclamation and
construction works performed by the CDCP under its 1973 contract with the Republic." 4. Since the Amended JVA also seeks to transfer to AMARI ownership of 290.156
Whether the Amended JVA is a sale or a joint venture, the fact remains that the Amended JVA
hectares111 of still submerged areas of Manila Bay, such transfer is void for being
requires PEA to "cause the issuance and delivery of the certificates of title conveying contrary to Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which prohibits the
AMARI's Land Share in the name of AMARI."107
alienation of natural resources other than agricultural lands of the public domain.
PEA may reclaim these submerged areas. Thereafter, the government can classify
This stipulation still contravenes Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which the reclaimed lands as alienable or disposable, and further declare them no longer
provides that private corporations "shall not hold such alienable lands of the public domain needed for public service. Still, the transfer of such reclaimed alienable lands of the
except by lease." The transfer of title and ownership to AMARI clearly means that AMARI public domain to AMARI will be void in view of Section 3, Article XII of the 1987
will "hold" the reclaimed lands other than by lease. The transfer of title and ownership is a Constitution which prohibits private corporations from acquiring any kind of
"disposition" of the reclaimed lands, a transaction considered a sale or alienation under CA alienable land of the public domain.
No. 141,108 the Government Auditing Code,109 and Section 3, Article XII of the 1987
Constitution.
Clearly, the Amended JVA violates glaringly Sections 2 and 3, Article XII of the 1987
Constitution. Under Article 1409112 of the Civil Code, contracts whose "object or purpose is
The Regalian doctrine is deeply implanted in our legal system. Foreshore and submerged areas contrary to law," or whose "object is outside the commerce of men," are "inexistent and void
form part of the public domain and are inalienable. Lands reclaimed from foreshore and
from the beginning." The Court must perform its duty to defend and uphold the Constitution,
and therefore declares the Amended JVA null and void ab initio.

Seventh issue: whether the Court is the proper forum to raise the issue of whether the
Amended JVA is grossly disadvantageous to the government.

Considering that the Amended JVA is null and void ab initio, there is no necessity to rule on
this last issue. Besides, the Court is not a trier of facts, and this last issue involves a
determination of factual matters.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Public Estates Authority and Amari Coastal
Bay Development Corporation are PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from implementing the
Amended Joint Venture Agreement which is hereby declared NULL and VOID ab initio.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing,
Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Austria-Martinez, and Corona, JJ., concur.
Republic of the Philippines By virtue of a sale to Ching Leng with postal address at No. 44 Libertad Street, Pasay City,
SUPREME COURT Transfer Certificate of Title No. 91137 was issued on September 18, 1961 and T.C.T. No.
Manila 78633 was deemed cancelled. (Exhibit "5-2", pp. 76-77 and 83, Ibid.).

SECOND DIVISION On October 19, 1965, Ching Leng died in Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
His legitimate son Alfredo Ching filed with the Court of First Instance of Rizal (now RTC)
Branch III, Pasay City a petition for administration of the estate of deceased Ching Leng
docketed as Sp. Proc. No. 1956-P. Notice of hearing on the petition was duly published in the
"Daily Mirror", a newspaper of general circulation on November 23 and 30 and December 7,
G.R. No. L-59731 January 11, 1990 1965. No oppositors appeared at the hearing on December 16, 1965, consequently after
presentation of evidence petitioner Alfredo Ching was appointed administrator of Ching
ALFREDO CHING, petitioner, Leng's estate on December 28, 1965 and letters of administration issued on January 3, 1966
vs. (pp. 51-53, Rollo). The land covered by T.C.T. No. 91137 was among those included in the
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS & PEDRO ASEDILLO, respondents. inventory submitted to the court (p. 75, Ibid.).

Joaquin E. Chipeco & Lorenzo D. Fuggan for petitioners. Thirteen (13) years after Ching Leng's death, a suit against him was commenced on December
27, 1978 by private respondent Pedro Asedillo with the Court of First Instance of Rizal (now
Edgardo Salandanan for private respondent. RTC), Branch XXVII, Pasay City docketed as Civil Case No. 6888-P for reconveyance of the
abovesaid property and cancellation of T.C.T. No. 91137 in his favor based on possession (p.
33, Ibid.). Ching Leng's last known address is No. 44 Libertad Street, Pasay City which
appears on the face of T.C.T. No. 91137 (not No. 441 Libertad Street, Pasay City, as alleged in
private respondent's complaint). (Order dated May 29, 1980, p. 55, Ibid.). An amended
PARAS, J.: complaint was filed by private respondent against Ching Leng and/or Estate of Ching Leng on
January 30, 1979 alleging "That on account of the fact that the defendant has been residing
abroad up to the present, and it is not known whether the defendant is still alive or dead, he or
This is a petition for review on certiorari which seeks to nullify the decision of respondent
his estate may be served by summons and other processes only by publication;" (p. 38, Ibid.).
Court of Appeals (penned by Hon. Rodolfo A. Nocon with the concurrence of Hon. Crisolito
Summons by publication to Ching Leng and/or his estate was directed by the trial court in its
Pascual and Juan A. Sison) in CA-G.R. No. 12358-SP entitled Alfredo Ching v. Hon. M. V.
order dated February 7, 1979. The summons and the complaint were published in the
Romillo, et al. which in effect affirmed the decision of the Court of First Instance of Rizal,
"Economic Monitor", a newspaper of general circulation in the province of Rizal including
now Regional Trial Court (penned by Judge Manuel V. Romillo, Jr. then District Judge,
Pasay City on March 5, 12 and 19, 1979. Despite the lapse of the sixty (60) day period within
Branch XXVII Pasay City) granting ex-parte the cancellation of title registered in the name of
which to answer defendant failed to file a responsive pleading and on motion of counsel for
Ching Leng in favor of Pedro Asedillo in Civil Case No. 6888-P entitled Pedro Asedillo v.
the private respondent, the court a quo in its order dated May 25, 1979, allowed the
Ching Leng and/or Estate of Ching Leng.
presentation of evidence ex-parte. A judgment by default was rendered on June 15, 1979, the
decretal portion of which reads:
The facts as culled from the records disclose that:
WHEREFORE, finding plaintiffs causes of action in the complaint to be
In May 1960, Decree No. N-78716 was issued to spouses Maximo Nofuente and Dominga duly substantiated by the evidence, judgment is hereby rendered in favor
Lumandan in Land Registration Case No. N-2579 of the Court of First Instance of Rizal and of the plaintiff and against the defendant declaring the former (Pedro
Original Certificate of Title No. 2433 correspondingly given by the Register of Deeds for the Asedillo) to be the true and absolute owner of the property covered by
Province of Rizal covering a parcel of land situated at Sitio of Kay-Biga Barrio of San T.C.T. No. 91137; ordering the defendant to reconvey the said property in
Dionisio, Municipality of Paranaque, Province of Rizal, with an area of 51,852 square meters favor of the plaintiff; sentencing the defendant Ching Leng and/or the
(Exhibit "7", p. 80, CA, Rollo). administrator of his estate to surrender to the Register of Deeds of the
Province of Rizal the owner's copy of T.C.T. No. 91137 so that the same
In August 1960, 5/6 portion of the property was reconveyed by said spouses to Francisco, may be cancelled failing in which the said T.C.T. No. 91137 is hereby
Regina, Perfects, Constancio and Matilde all surnamed Nofuente and Transfer Certificate of cancelled and the Register of Deeds of the Province of Rizal is hereby
Title No. 78633 was issued on August 10, 1960 accordingly (Exhibit "8", pp. 81 and ordered to issue, in lieu thereof, a new transfer certificate of title over the
82, Ibid.). said property in the name of the plaintiff Pedro Asedillo of legal age, and a
resident of Estrella Street, Makati, Metro Manila, upon payment of the
fees that may be required therefor, including the realty taxes due the
Government.
IT IS SO ORDERED. (pp. 42-44, Ibid.) WHETHER OR NOT AN ACTION FOR RECONVEYANCE OF
PROPERTY AND CANCELLATION OF TITLE IS IN PERSONAM,
Said decision was likewise served by publication on July 2, 9 and 16, 1979 pursuant to Section AND IF SO, WOULD A DEAD MAN AND/OR HIS ESTATE BE
7 of Rule 13 of the Revised Rules of Court (CA Decision, pp. 83-84, Ibid.). The title over the BOUND BY SERVICE OF SUMMONS AND DECISION BY
property in the name of Ching Leng was cancelled and a new Transfer Certificate of Title was PUBLICATION.
issued in favor of Pedro Asedillo (p. 77, CA Rollo) who subsequently sold the property to
Villa Esperanza Development, Inc. on September 3, 1979 (pp. 125-126, Ibid.). III

On October 29, 1979 petitioner Alfredo Ching learned of the abovestated decision. He filed a WHETHER OR NOT THE PROCEEDINGS FOR RECONVEYANCE
verified petition on November 10, 1979 to set it aside as null and void for lack of jurisdiction AND CANCELLATION OF TITLE CAN BE HELD EX-PARTE.
which was granted by the court on May 29, 1980 (penned by Hon. Florentino de la Pena,
Vacation Judge, pp. 54-59, Rollo). IV

On motion of counsel for private respondent the said order of May 29, 1980 was reconsidered WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL COURT ACQUIRED
and set aside, the decision dated June 15, 1979 aforequoted reinstated in the order dated JURISDICTION OVER THE SUBJECT MATTER AND THE PARTIES.
September 2, 1980. (pp. 60-63, Ibid.)
V
On October 30, 1980, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the said latter order but
the same was denied by the trial court on April 12, 1981 (pp. 77-79, Ibid.)
WHETHER OR NOT PRIVATE RESPONDENT IS GUILTY OF
LACHES IN INSTITUTING THE ACTION FOR RECONVEYANCE
Petitioner filed an original petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals but the same was AFTER THE LAPSE OF 19 YEARS FROM THE TIME THE DECREE
dismissed on September 30, 1981. His motion for reconsideration was likewise denied on OF REGISTRATION WAS ISSUED.
February 10, 1982 (pp. 81-90, Ibid.)
Petitioner's appeal hinges on whether or not the Court of Appeals has decided a question of
Private respondent Pedro Asedillo died on June 7, 1981 at Makati, Metro Manila during the substance in a way probably not in accord with law or with the applicable decisions of the
pendency of the case with the Court of Appeals (p. 106, CA Rollo). Supreme Court.

Hence, the instant petition. Petitioner avers that an action for reconveyance and cancellation of title is in personam and
the court a quo never acquired jurisdiction over the deceased Ching Leng and/or his estate by
Private respondent's comment was filed on June 1, 1982 (p. 117, Ibid.) in compliance with the means of service of summons by publication in accordance with the ruling laid down in Ang
resolution dated April 26, 1982 (p. 109, Ibid.) Petitioner filed a reply to comment on June 18, Lam v. Rosillosa et al., 86 Phil. 448 [1950].
1982 (p. 159, Ibid ), and the Court gave due course to the petition in the resolution of June 28,
1982 (p. 191, Ibid.) On the other hand, private respondent argues that an action for cancellation of title is quasi in
rem, for while the judgment that may be rendered therein is not strictly a judgment in in rem, it
Petitioner raised the following: fixes and settles the title to the property in controversy and to that extent partakes of the nature
of the judgment in rem, hence, service of summons by publication may be allowed unto Ching
ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR Leng who on the face of the complaint was a non-resident of the Philippines in line with the
doctrine enunciated in Perkins v. Dizon, 69 Phil. 186 [1939].
I
The petition is impressed with merit.

WHETHER OR NOT A DEAD MAN CHING LENG AND/OR HIS


ESTATE MAY BE VALIDLY SERVED WITH SUMMONS AND An action to redeem, or to recover title to or possession of, real property is not an action in
DECISION BY PUBLICATION. rem or an action against the whole world, like a land registration proceeding or the probate of
a will; it is an action in personam, so much so that a judgment therein is binding only upon the
parties properly impleaded and duly heard or given an opportunity to be heard. Actions in
II personam and actions in rem differ in that the former are directed against specific persons and
seek personal judgments, while the latter are directed against the thing or property or status of
a person and seek judgments with respect thereto as against the whole world. An action to
recover a parcel of land is a real action but it is an action in personam, for it binds a particular the hands of an innocent purchaser for value (Sy, Sr. v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R.
individual only although it concerns the right to a tangible thing (Ang Lam v. No. 66742; Teoville Development Corporation v. IAC, et al., G.R. No. 75011, June 16, 1988).
Rosillosa, supra).
Failure to take steps to assert any rights over a disputed land for 19 years from the date of
Private respondent's action for reconveyance and cancellation of title being in personam, the registration of title is fatal to the private respondent's cause of action on the ground of laches.
judgment in question is null and void for lack of jurisdiction over the person of the deceased Laches is the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable length of time to do that which by
defendant Ching Leng. Verily, the action was commenced thirteen (13) years after the latter's exercising due diligence could or should have been done, earlier; it is negligence or omission
death. As ruled by this Court in Dumlao v. Quality Plastic Products, Inc. (70 SCRA 475 to assert a right within a reasonable time warranting a presumption that the party entitled to
[1976]) the decision of the lower court insofar as the deceased is concerned, is void for lack of assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it (Bailon-Casilao v. Court of Appeals,
jurisdiction over his person. He was not, and he could not have been validly served with G.R. No. 78178, April 15, 1988; Villamor v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 41508, June 27,
summons. He had no more civil personality. His juridical personality, that is fitness to be 1988).
subject of legal relations, was lost through death (Arts. 37 and 42 Civil Code).
The real purpose of the Torrens system is to quiet title to land and to stop forever any question
The same conclusion would still inevitably be reached notwithstanding joinder of Ching as to its legality. Once a title is registered, the owner may rest secure, without the necessity of
Leng's estate as co-defendant. it is a well-settled rule that an estate can sue or be sued through waiting in the portals of the court, or sitting on the "mirador su casa," to avoid the possibility
an executor or administrator in his representative capacity (21 Am. Jr. 872). Contrary to of losing his land (National Grains Authority v. IAC, 157 SCRA 388 [1988]).
private respondent's claims, deceased Ching Leng is a resident of 44 Libertad Street, Pasay
City as shown in his death certificate and T. C. T. No. 91137 and there is an on-going intestate A Torrens title is generally a conclusive evidence of the ownership of the land referred to
proceedings in the same court, Branch III commenced in 1965, and notice of hearing thereof therein (Section 49, Act 496). A strong presumption exists that Torrens titles are regularly
duly published in the same year. Such misleading and misstatement of facts demonstrate lack issued and that they are valid. A Torrens title is incontrovertible against any "information
of candor on the part of private respondent and his counsel, which is censurable. possessoria" or title existing prior to the issuance thereof not annotated on the title (Salamat
Vda. de Medina v. Cruz, G.R. No. 39272, May 4, 1988).
The complaint for cancellation of Ching Leng's Torrens Title must be filed in the original land
registration case, RTC, Pasig, Rizal, sitting as a land registration court in accordance with PREMISES CONSIDERED, (1) the instant petition is hereby GRANTED; (2) the appealed
Section 112 of the Land Registration Act (Act No. 496, as amended) not in CFI Pasay City in decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE; (3) the trial court's
connection with, or as a mere incident in Civil Case No. 6888-P (Estanislao v. Honrado, 114 decision dated June 15, 1979 and the Order dated September 2, 1980 reinstating the same are
SCRA 748 [1982]). hereby declared NULL and VOID for lack of jurisdiction and (4) the complaint in Civil Case
No. 6888-P is hereby DISMISSED.
Section 112 of the same law requires "notice to all parties in interest." Since Ching Leng was
already in the other world when the summons was published he could not have been notified SO ORDERED.
at all and the trial court never acquired jurisdiction over his person. The ex-parte proceedings
for cancellation of title could not have been held (Estanislao v. Honrado, supra).
Melencio-Herrera, Sarmiento and Regalado, JJ., concur.
The cited case of Perkins v. Dizon, supra is inapplicable to the case at bar since petitioner
Perkins was a non-resident defendant sued in Philippine courts and sought to be excluded from Padilla, J., took no part.
whatever interest she has in 52,874 shares of stocks with Benguet Consolidated Mining
Company. The action being a quasi in rem summons by publication satisfied the constitutional
requirement of due process.

The petition to set aside the judgment for lack of jurisdiction should have been granted and the
amended complaint of private respondent based on possession and filed only in 1978
dismissed outrightly. Ching Leng is an innocent purchaser for value as shown by the evidence
adduced in his behalf by petitioner herein, tracing back the roots of his title since 1960, from
the time the decree of registration was issued.

The sole remedy of the landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously
registered in another's name—after one year from the date of the decree—is not to set aside
the decree, but respecting the decree as incontrovertible and no longer open to review, to bring
an ordinary action in the ordinary court of justice for damages if the property has passed unto
Republic of the Philippines IKALAHAN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE and HARIBON FOUNDATION FOR THE
SUPREME COURT CONSERVATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES, INC., intervenor.
Manila
RESOLUTION
EN BANC
PER CURIAM:
G.R. No. 135385 December 6, 2000
Petitioners Isagani Cruz and Cesar Europa brought this suit for prohibition and mandamus as
ISAGANI CRUZ and CESAR EUROPA, petitioners, citizens and taxpayers, assailing the constitutionality of certain provisions of Republic Act No.
vs. 8371 (R.A. 8371), otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA),
SECRETARY OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, SECRETARY and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (Implementing Rules).
OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT and CHAIRMAN and COMMISSIONERS OF
THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, respondents. In its resolution of September 29, 1998, the Court required respondents to comment.1 In
HON. JUAN M .FLAVIER, HON. PONCIANO BENNAGEN, BAYANI ASCARRAGA, compliance, respondents Chairperson and Commissioners of the National Commission on
EDTAMI MANSAYANGAN, BASILIO WANDAG, EVELYN DUNUAN, YAOM Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the government agency created under the IPRA to implement its
TUGAS, ALFREMO CARPIANO, LIBERATO A. GABIN, MATERNIDAD M. provisions, filed on October 13, 1998 their Comment to the Petition, in which they defend the
COLAS, NARCISA M. DALUPINES, BAI KIRAM-CONNIE SATURNO, BAE constitutionality of the IPRA and pray that the petition be dismissed for lack of merit.
MLOMO-BEATRIZ T. ABASALA, DATU BALITUNGTUNG-ANTONIO D.
LUMANDONG, DATU MANTUMUKAW TEOFISTO SABASALES, DATU
EDUAARDO BANDA, DATU JOEL UNAD, DATU RAMON BAYAAN, TIMUAY On October 19, 1998, respondents Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural
JOSE ANOY, TIMUAY MACARIO D. SALACAO, TIMUAY EDWIN B. ENDING, Resources (DENR) and Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) filed
DATU SAHAMPONG MALANAW VI, DATU BEN PENDAO CABIGON, BAI through the Solicitor General a consolidated Comment. The Solicitor General is of the view
NANAPNAY-LIZA SAWAY, BAY INAY DAYA-MELINDA S. REYMUNDO, BAI that the IPRA is partly unconstitutional on the ground that it grants ownership over natural
TINANGHAGA HELINITA T. PANGAN, DATU MAKAPUKAW ADOLINO L. resources to indigenous peoples and prays that the petition be granted in part.
SAWAY, DATU MAUDAYAW-CRISPEN SAWAY, VICKY MAKAY, LOURDES D.
AMOS, GILBERT P. HOGGANG, TERESA GASPAR, MANUEL S. ONALAN, MIA On November 10, 1998, a group of intervenors, composed of Sen. Juan Flavier, one of the
GRACE L. GIRON, ROSEMARIE G. PE, BENITO CARINO, JOSEPH JUDE authors of the IPRA, Mr. Ponciano Bennagen, a member of the 1986 Constitutional
CARANTES, LYNETTE CARANTES-VIVAL, LANGLEY SEGUNDO, SATUR S. Commission, and the leaders and members of 112 groups of indigenous peoples (Flavier, et.
BUGNAY, CARLING DOMULOT, ANDRES MENDIOGRIN, LEOPOLDO ABUGAN, al), filed their Motion for Leave to Intervene. They join the NCIP in defending the
VIRGILIO CAYETANO, CONCHITA G. DESCAGA, LEVY ESTEVES, ODETTE G. constitutionality of IPRA and praying for the dismissal of the petition.
ESTEVEZ, RODOLFO C. AGUILAR, MAURO VALONES, PEPE H. ATONG,
OFELIA T. DAVI, PERFECTO B. GUINOSAO, WALTER N. TIMOL, MANUEL T. On March 22, 1999, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) likewise filed a Motion to
SELEN, OSCAR DALUNHAY, RICO O. SULATAN, RAFFY MALINDA, ALFREDO Intervene and/or to Appear as Amicus Curiae. The CHR asserts that IPRA is an expression of
ABILLANOS, JESSIE ANDILAB, MIRLANDO H. MANGKULINTAS, SAMIE the principle of parens patriae and that the State has the responsibility to protect and guarantee
SATURNO, ROMEO A. LINDAHAY, ROEL S. MANSANG-CAGAN, PAQUITO S. the rights of those who are at a serious disadvantage like indigenous peoples. For this reason it
LIESES, FILIPE G. SAWAY, HERMINIA S. SAWAY, JULIUS S. SAWAY, prays that the petition be dismissed.
LEONARDA SAWAY, JIMMY UGYUB, SALVADOR TIONGSON, VENANCIO
APANG, MADION MALID, SUKIM MALID, NENENG MALID, MANGKATADONG
AUGUSTO DIANO, JOSEPHINE M. ALBESO, MORENO MALID, MARIO On March 23, 1999, another group, composed of the Ikalahan Indigenous People and the
MANGCAL, FELAY DIAMILING, SALOME P. SARZA, FELIPE P. BAGON, Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, Inc. (Haribon, et al.), filed a
SAMMY SALNUNGAN, ANTONIO D. EMBA, NORMA MAPANSAGONOS, ROMEO motion to Intervene with attached Comment-in-Intervention. They agree with the NCIP and
SALIGA, SR., JERSON P. GERADA, RENATO T. BAGON, JR., SARING Flavier, et al. that IPRA is consistent with the Constitution and pray that the petition for
MASALONG, SOLEDAD M. GERARDA, ELIZABETH L. MENDI, MORANTE S. prohibition and mandamus be dismissed.
TIWAN, DANILO M. MALUDAO, MINORS MARICEL MALID, represented by her
father CORNELIO MALID, MARCELINO M. LADRA, represented by her father The motions for intervention of the aforesaid groups and organizations were granted.
MONICO D. LADRA, JENNYLYN MALID, represented by her father TONY MALID,
ARIEL M. EVANGELISTA, represented by her mother LINAY BALBUENA,
Oral arguments were heard on April 13, 1999. Thereafter, the parties and intervenors filed
EDWARD M. EMUY, SR., SUSAN BOLANIO, OND, PULA BATO B'LAAN TRIBAL
their respective memoranda in which they reiterate the arguments adduced in their earlier
FARMER'S ASSOCIATION, INTER-PEOPLE'S EXCHANGE, INC. and GREEN
pleadings and during the hearing.
FORUM-WESTERN VISAYAS, intervenors.
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, intervenor.
Petitioners assail the constitutionality of the following provisions of the IPRA and its "(2) Section 52[i] which provides that upon certification by the NCIP that a
Implementing Rules on the ground that they amount to an unlawful deprivation of the State’s particular area is an ancestral domain and upon notification to the following
ownership over lands of the public domain as well as minerals and other natural resources officials, namely, the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Secretary of
therein, in violation of the regalian doctrine embodied in Section 2, Article XII of the Interior and Local Governments, Secretary of Justice and Commissioner of the
Constitution: National Development Corporation, the jurisdiction of said officials over said area
terminates;
"(1) Section 3(a) which defines the extent and coverage of ancestral domains, and Section 3(b)
which, in turn, defines ancestral lands; "(3) Section 63 which provides the customary law, traditions and practices of
indigenous peoples shall be applied first with respect to property rights, claims of
"(2) Section 5, in relation to section 3(a), which provides that ancestral domains including ownership, hereditary succession and settlement of land disputes, and that any doubt
inalienable public lands, bodies of water, mineral and other resources found within ancestral or ambiguity in the interpretation thereof shall be resolved in favor of the indigenous
domains are private but community property of the indigenous peoples; peoples;

"(3) Section 6 in relation to section 3(a) and 3(b) which defines the composition of ancestral "(4) Section 65 which states that customary laws and practices shall be used to
domains and ancestral lands; resolve disputes involving indigenous peoples; and

"(4) Section 7 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous peoples over the "(5) Section 66 which vests on the NCIP the jurisdiction over all claims and disputes
ancestral domains; involving rights of the indigenous peoples."5

(5) Section 8 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous peoples over the Finally, petitioners assail the validity of Rule VII, Part II, Section 1 of the NCIP
ancestral lands; Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, which provides that "the administrative
relationship of the NCIP to the Office of the President is characterized as a lateral but
autonomous relationship for purposes of policy and program coordination." They contend that
"(6) Section 57 which provides for priority rights of the indigenous peoples in the harvesting, said Rule infringes upon the President’s power of control over executive departments under
extraction, development or exploration of minerals and other natural resources within the areas Section 17, Article VII of the Constitution.6
claimed to be their ancestral domains, and the right to enter into agreements with
nonindigenous peoples for the development and utilization of natural resources therein for a
period not exceeding 25 years, renewable for not more than 25 years; and Petitioners pray for the following:

"(7) Section 58 which gives the indigenous peoples the responsibility to maintain, develop, "(1) A declaration that Sections 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 52[I], 57, 58, 59, 63, 65 and 66 and
protect and conserve the ancestral domains and portions thereof which are found to be other related provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional and invalid;
necessary for critical watersheds, mangroves, wildlife sanctuaries, wilderness, protected areas,
forest cover or reforestation."2 "(2) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Chairperson and
Commissioners of the NCIP to cease and desist from implementing the assailed
Petitioners also content that, by providing for an all-encompassing definition of "ancestral provisions of R.A. 8371 and its Implementing Rules;
domains" and "ancestral lands" which might even include private lands found within said
areas, Sections 3(a) and 3(b) violate the rights of private landowners.3 "(3) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of the Department
of Environment and Natural Resources to cease and desist from implementing
In addition, petitioners question the provisions of the IPRA defining the powers and Department of Environment and Natural Resources Circular No. 2, series of 1998;
jurisdiction of the NCIP and making customary law applicable to the settlement of disputes
involving ancestral domains and ancestral lands on the ground that these provisions violate the "(4) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of Budget and
due process clause of the Constitution.4 Management to cease and desist from disbursing public funds for the
implementation of the assailed provisions of R.A. 8371; and
These provisions are:
"(5) The issuance of a writ of mandamus commanding the Secretary of Environment
"(1) sections 51 to 53 and 59 which detail the process of delineation and recognition and Natural Resources to comply with his duty of carrying out the State’s
of ancestral domains and which vest on the NCIP the sole authority to delineate constitutional mandate to control and supervise the exploration, development,
ancestral domains and ancestral lands; utilization and conservation of Philippine natural resources."7
4
After due deliberation on the petition, the members of the Court voted as follows: Section 1, Article III of the Constitution states: "No person shall be deprived of
life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied
Seven (7) voted to dismiss the petition. Justice Kapunan filed an opinion, which the Chief the equal protection of the laws."
Justice and Justices Bellosillo, Quisumbing, and Santiago join, sustaining the validity of the
5
challenged provisions of R.A. 8371. Justice Puno also filed a separate opinion sustaining all Rollo, pp. 25-27.
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 6
Id. at 27-28.
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, 7
Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. On the other hand, Justice Mendoza voted to dismiss the Transcript of Stenographic Notes of the hearing held on April 13, 1999, pp. 5-6.
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.
The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation
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 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
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 PUNO, J.:
separate opinions of Justices Panganiban and Vitug.
PRECIS
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 A classic essay on the utility of history was written in 1874 by Friedrich Nietzsche entitled
DISMISSED. "On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life." Expounding on Nietzsche's essay, Judge
Richard Posner1 wrote:2
Attached hereto and made integral parts thereof are the separate opinions of Justices Puno,
Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, and Panganiban. "Law is the most historically oriented, or if you like the most backward-looking, the most
'past-dependent,' of the professions. It venerates tradition, precedent, pedigree, ritual, custom,
ancient practices, ancient texts, archaic terminology, maturity, wisdom, seniority,
SO ORDERED. gerontocracy, and interpretation conceived of as a method of recovering history. It is
suspicious of innovation, discontinuities, 'paradigm shifts,' and the energy and brashness of
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, Ynares- youth. These ingrained attitudes are obstacles to anyone who wants to re-orient law in a more
Santiago, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur. pragmatic direction. But, by the same token, pragmatic jurisprudence must come to terms
Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza and Panganiban JJ., see separate opinion with history."

When Congress enacted the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), it


introduced radical concepts into the Philippine legal system which appear to collide with
settled constitutional and jural precepts on state ownership of land and other natural resources.
Footnotes The sense and subtleties of this law cannot be appreciated without considering its distinct
sociology and the labyrinths of its history. This Opinion attempts to interpret IPRA by
1
discovering its soul shrouded by the mist of our history. After all, the IPRA was enacted by
Rollo, p. 114. Congress not only to fulfill the constitutional mandate of protecting the indigenous cultural
communities' right to their ancestral land but more importantly, to correct a grave historical
2
Petition, Rollo, pp. 16-23. injustice to our indigenous people.

3
Id. at 23-25. This Opinion discusses the following:
I. The Development of the Regalian Doctrine in the Philippine Legal System. C. Sections 7 (a), 7 (b) and 57 of the IPRA do not violate the Regalian Doctrine
enshrined in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
A. The Laws of the Indies
1. The rights of ICCs/IPs over their ancestral domains and lands
B. Valenton v. Murciano
2. The right of ICCs/IPs to develop lands and natural resources within the
C. The Public Land Acts and the Torrens System ancestral domains does not deprive the State of ownership over the natural
resources, control and supervision in their development and exploitation.
D. The Philippine Constitutions
(a) Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules goes
beyond the parameters of Section 7(a) of the law on ownership
II. The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA). of ancestral domains and is ultra vires.

A. Indigenous Peoples (b) The small-scale utilization of natural resources in Section 7


(b) of the IPRA is allowed under Paragraph 3, Section 2, Article
1. Indigenous Peoples: Their History XII of the 1987 Consitution.

2. Their Concept of Land (c) The large-scale utilization of natural resources in Section 57
of the IPRA may be harmonized with Paragraphs 1 and 4,
Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
III. The IPRA is a Novel Piece of Legislation.

A. Legislative History V. The IPRA is a Recognition of Our Active Participation in the International Indigenous
Movement.

IV. The Provisions of the IPRA Do Not Contravene the Constitution.


DISCUSSION

A. Ancestral domains and ancestral lands are the private property of indigenous
peoples and do not constitute part of the land of the public domain. I. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE REGALIAN DOCTRINE IN THE PHILIPPINE LEGAL
SYSTEM.

1. The right to ancestral domains and ancestral lands: how acquired


A. The Laws of the Indies
2. The concept of native title
The capacity of the State to own or acquire property is the state's power of dominium.3 This
was the foundation for the early Spanish decrees embracing the feudal theory of jura regalia.
(a) Cariño v. Insular Government The "Regalian Doctrine" or jura regaliais a Western legal concept that was first introduced
by the Spaniards into the country through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas.
(b) Indian Title to land The Laws of the Indies, i.e., more specifically, Law 14, Title 12, Book 4 of the Novisima
Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, set the policy of the Spanish Crown with respect to the
Philippine Islands in the following manner:
(c) Why the Cariño doctrine is unique

"We, having acquired full sovereignty over the Indies, and all lands, territories, and
3. The option of securing a torrens title to the ancestral land
possessions not heretofore ceded away by our royal predecessors, or by us, or in our name,
still pertaining to the royal crown and patrimony, it is our will that all lands which are held
B. The right of ownership and possession by the ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains without proper and true deeds of grant be restored to us as they belong to us, in order that after
is a limited form of ownership and does not include the right to alienate the same. reserving before all what to us or to our viceroys, audiencias, and governors may seem
necessary for public squares, ways, pastures, and commons in those places which are peopled,
1. The indigenous concept of ownership and customary law taking into consideration not only their present condition, but also their future and their
probable increase, and after distributing to the natives what may be necessary for tillage and
pasturage, confirming them in what they now have and giving them more if necessary, all the Prior to 1880, the Court said, there were no laws specifically providing for the disposition of
rest of said lands may remain free and unencumbered for us to dispose of as we may wish. land in the Philippines. However, it was understood that in the absence of any special law to
govern a specific colony, the Laws of the Indies would be followed. Indeed, in the Royal
We therefore order and command that all viceroys and presidents of pretorial courts designate Order of July 5, 1862, it was decreed that until regulations on the subject could be prepared,
at such time as shall to them seem most expedient, a suitable period within which all the authorities of the Philippine Islands should follow strictly the Laws of the Indies,
possessors of tracts, farms, plantations, and estates shall exhibit to them and to the court theOrdenanza of the Intendentes of 1786, and the Royal Cedula of 1754.11
officers appointed by them for this purpose, their title deeds thereto. And those who are in
possession by virtue of proper deeds and receipts, or by virtue of just prescriptive right shall Quoting the preamble of Law 14, Title 12, Book 4 of the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias,
be protected, and all the rest shall be restored to us to be disposed of at our will."4 the court interpreted it as follows:

The Philippines passed to Spain by virtue of "discovery" and conquest. Consequently, all "In the preamble of this law there is, as is seen, a distinct statement that all those lands belong
lands became the exclusive patrimony and dominion of the Spanish Crown. The Spanish to the Crown which have not been granted by Philip, or in his name, or by the kings who
Government took charge of distributing the lands by issuing royal grants and concessions to preceded him. This statement excludes the idea that there might be lands not so granted,
Spaniards, both military and civilian.5 Private land titles could only be acquired from the that did not belong to the king. It excludes the idea that the king was not still the owner
government either by purchase or by the various modes of land grant from the Crown.6 of all ungranted lands, because some private person had been in the adverse occupation of
them. By the mandatory part of the law all the occupants of the public lands are required to
The Laws of the Indies were followed by the Ley Hipotecaria, or the Mortgage Law of produce before the authorities named, and within a time to be fixed by them, their title papers.
1893.7 The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic registration of titles and deeds And those who had good title or showed prescription were to be protected in their holdings. It
as well as possessory claims. The law sought to register and tax lands pursuant to the Royal is apparent that it was not the intention of the law that mere possession for a length of time
Decree of 1880. The Royal Decree of 1894, or the "Maura Law," was partly an amendment of should make the possessors the owners of the land possessed by them without any action on
the Mortgage Law as well as the Laws of the Indies, as already amended by previous orders the part of the authorities."12
and decrees.8 This was the last Spanish land law promulgated in the Philippines. It required
the "adjustment" or registration of all agricultural lands, otherwise the lands shall revert to the The preamble stated that all those lands which had not been granted by Philip, or in his name,
state. or by the kings who preceded him, belonged to the Crown.13 For those lands granted by the
king, the decree provided for a system of assignment of such lands. It also ordered that all
Four years later, by the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, Spain ceded to the possessors of agricultural land should exhibit their title deed, otherwise, the land would be
government of the United States all rights, interests and claims over the national territory of restored to the Crown.14
the Philippine Islands. In 1903, the United States colonial government, through the Philippine
Commission, passed Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act. The Royal Cedula of October 15, 1754 reinforced the Recopilacion when it ordered the
Crown's principal subdelegate to issue a general order directing the publication of the Crown's
B. Valenton v. Murciano instructions:

In 1904, under the American regime, this Court decided the case of Valenton v. Murciano.9 "x x x to the end that any and all persons who, since the year 1700, and up to the date of the
promulgation and publication of said order, shall have occupied royal lands, whether or not x
x x cultivated or tenanted, may x x x appear and exhibit to said subdelegates the titles and
Valenton resolved the question of which is the better basis for ownership of land: long-time patents by virtue of which said lands are occupied. x x x. Said subdelegates will at the same
occupation or paper title. Plaintiffs had entered into peaceful occupation of the subject land in time warn the parties interested that in case of their failure to present their title deeds within
1860. Defendant's predecessor-in-interest, on the other hand, purchased the land from the the term designated, without a just and valid reason therefor, they will be deprived of and
provincial treasurer of Tarlac in 1892. The lower court ruled against the plaintiffs on the evicted from their lands, and they will be granted to others."15
ground that they had lost all rights to the land by not objecting to the administrative sale.
Plaintiffs appealed the judgment, asserting that their 30-year adverse possession, as an
extraordinary period of prescription in the Partidas and the Civil Code, had given them title to On June 25, 1880, the Crown adopted regulations for the adjustment of lands "wrongfully
the land as against everyone, including the State; and that the State, not owning the land, could occupied" by private individuals in the Philippine Islands. Valenton construed these
not validly transmit it. regulations together with contemporaneous legislative and executive interpretations of the law,
and concluded that plaintiffs' case fared no better under the 1880 decree and other laws which
followed it, than it did under the earlier ones. Thus as a general doctrine, the Court stated:
The Court, speaking through Justice Willard, decided the case on the basis of "those special
laws which from earliest time have regulated the disposition of the public lands in the
colonies."10 The question posed by the Court was: "Did these special laws recognize any right "While the State has always recognized the right of the occupant to a deed if he proves a
of prescription as against the State as to these lands; and if so, to what extent was it possession for a sufficient length of time, yet it has always insisted that he must make that
recognized?"
proof before the proper administrative officers, and obtain from them his deed, and until and encumbrances as thereon noted or the law warrants or reserves.26 The certificate of title is
he did that the State remained the absolute owner."16 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.27
In conclusion, the Court ruled: "We hold that from 1860 to 1892 there was no law in force in
these Islands by which the plaintiffs could obtain the ownership of these lands by prescription, D. The Philippine Constitutions
without any action by the State."17Valenton had no rights other than those which accrued to
mere possession. Murciano, on the other hand, was deemed to be the owner of the land by The Regalian doctrine was enshrined in the 1935 Constitution. One of the fixed and
virtue of the grant by the provincial secretary. In effect, Valenton upheld the Spanish concept dominating objectives of the 1935 Constitutional Convention was the nationalization and
of state ownership of public land. conservation of the natural resources of the country.28 There was an overwhelming
sentiment in the Convention in favor of the principle of state ownership of natural
As a fitting observation, the Court added that "[t]he policy pursued by the Spanish resources and the adoption of the Regalian doctrine.29 State ownership of natural resources
Government from earliest times, requiring settlers on the public lands to obtain title was seen as a necessary starting point to secure recognition of the state's power to control their
deeds therefor from the State, has been continued by the American Government in Act disposition, exploitation, development, or utilization.30 The delegates to the Constitutional
No. 926."18 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
C. The Public Land Acts and the Torrens System
Constitution affirming the Regalian doctrine.31
Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was passed in pursuance of the provisions of the the
Philippine Bill of 1902. The law governed the disposition of lands of the public domain. It Thus, the 1935 Constitution, in Section 1 of Article XIII on "Conservation and Utilization of
prescribed rules and regulations for the homesteading, selling, and leasing of portions of the Natural Resources," reads as follows:
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 "Sec. 1. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, waters,
patents to certain native settlers upon public lands," for the establishment of town sites and minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, and other
sale of lots therein, for the completion of imperfect titles, and for the cancellation or natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State, and their disposition,
confirmation of Spanish concessions and grants in the Islands." In short, the Public Land Act exploitation, development, or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or
operated on the assumption that title to public lands in the Philippine Islands remained in the to corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned
government;19 and that the government's title to public land sprung from the Treaty of Paris by such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant, lease, or concession at the time of
and other subsequent treaties between Spain and the United States.20 The term "public land" the inauguration of the Government established under this Constitution. Natural
referred to all lands of the public domain whose title still remained in the government and are resources, with the exception of public agricultural land, shall not be alienated, and no
thrown open to private appropriation and settlement,21 and excluded the patrimonial property license, concession, or lease for the exploitation, development, or utilization of any of the
of the government and the friar lands.22 natural resources shall be granted for a period exceeding twenty-five years, except as to water
rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of
Act No. 926 was superseded in 1919 by Act 2874, the second Public Land Act. This new water power, in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant."
law was passed under the Jones Law. It was more comprehensive in scope but limited the
exploitation of agricultural lands to Filipinos and Americans and citizens of other countries The 1973 Constitution reiterated the Regalian doctrine in Section 8, Article XIV on the
which gave Filipinos the same privileges.23 After the passage of the 1935 Constitution, Act "National Economy and the Patrimony of the Nation," to wit:
2874 was amended in 1936 by Commonwealth Act No. 141. Commonwealth Act No. 141
remains the present Public Land Law and it is essentially the same as Act 2874. The main "Sec. 8. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other
difference between the two relates to the transitory provisions on the rights of American
mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, wildlife, and other natural resources
citizens and corporations during the Commonwealth period at par with Filipino citizens and
of the Philippines belong to the State. With the exception of agricultural, industrial or
corporations.24 commercial, residential, and resettlement lands of the public domain, natural resources
shall not be alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the exploration,
Grants of public land were brought under the operation of the Torrens system under Act development, exploitation, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted
496, or the Land Registration Law of 1903. Enacted by the Philippine Commission, Act 496 for a period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five
placed all public and private lands in the Philippines under the Torrens system. The law is said years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other
to be almost a verbatim copy of the Massachussetts Land Registration Act of 1898,25 which, in than the development of water power, in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and
turn, followed the principles and procedure of the Torrens system of registration formulated by the limit of the grant."
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
The 1987 Constitution reaffirmed the Regalian doctrine in Section 2 of Article XII on - the right to claim parts of reservations;
"National Economy and Patrimony," to wit:
- the right to resolve conflict;32
"Sec. 2. 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 - the right to ancestral lands which include
fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of
agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration,
development and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and a. the right to transfer land/property to/among members of the same
supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities or it may enter ICCs/IPs, subject to customary laws and traditions of the community
into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino concerned;
citizens, or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is
owned by such citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five b. the right to redemption for a period not exceeding 15 years from date of
years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms and conditions as transfer, if the transfer is to a non-member of the ICC/IP and is tainted by
may be provided by law. In cases of water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or vitiated consent of the ICC/IP, or if the transfer is for an unconscionable
industrial uses other than the development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure consideration.33
and limit of the grant.
Within their ancestral domains and ancestral lands, the ICCs/IPs are given the right to self-
x x x." governance and empowerment,34 social justice and human rights,35 the right to preserve and
protect their culture, traditions, institutions and community intellectual rights, and the right to
Simply stated, all lands of the public domain as well as all natural resources enumerated develop their own sciences and technologies.36
therein, whether on public or private land, belong to the State. It is this concept of State
ownership that petitioners claim is being violated by the IPRA. To carry out the policies of the Act, the law created the National Commission on Indigenous
Peoples (NCIP). The NCIP is an independent agency under the Office of the President and is
II. THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES RIGHTS ACT. composed of seven (7) Commissioners belonging to ICCs/IPs from each of the ethnographic
areas- Region I and the Cordilleras; Region II; the rest of Luzon; Island groups including
Mindoro, Palawan, Romblon, Panay and the rest of the Visayas; Northern and Western
Republic Act No. 8371 is entitled "An Act to Recognize, Protect and Promote the Rights of Mindanao; Southern and Eastern Mindanao; and Central Mindanao.37 The NCIP took over the
Indigenous Cultural Communities/ Indigenous Peoples, Creating a National Commission on functions of the Office for Northern Cultural Communities and the Office for Southern
Indigenous Peoples, Establishing Implementing Mechanisms, Appropriating Funds Therefor, Cultural Communities created by former President Corazon Aquino which were merged under
and for Other Purposes." It is simply known as "The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of a revitalized structure.38
1997" or the IPRA.
Disputes involving ICCs/IPs are to be resolved under customary laws and
The IPRA recognizes the existence of the indigenous cultural communities or indigenous practices. When still unresolved, the matter may be brought to the NCIP, which is granted
peoples (ICCs/IPs) as a distinct sector in Philippine society. It grants these people the quasi-judicial powers.39 The NCIP's decisions may be appealed to the Court of Appeals by a
ownership and possession of their ancestral domains and ancestral lands, and defines the petition for review.
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.
Any person who violates any of the provisions of the Act such as, but not limited to,
unauthorized and/or unlawful intrusion upon ancestral lands and domains shall be punished in
Other rights are also granted the ICCs/IPs, and these are: accordance with customary laws or imprisoned from 9 months to 12 years and/or fined
from P100,000.00 to P500,000.00 and obliged to pay damages.40
- the right to develop lands and natural resources;
A. Indigenous Peoples
- the right to stay in the territories;
The IPRA is a law dealing with a specific group of people, i.e., the Indigenous Cultural
- the right in case of displacement; Communities (ICCs) or the Indigenous Peoples (IPs). The term "ICCs" is used in the 1987
Constitution while that of "IPs" is the contemporary international language in the International
- the right to safe and clean air and water; Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 16941 and the United Nations (UN) Draft Declaration
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.42
ICCs/IPs are defined by the IPRA as: 4. In Region V- Aeta of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur; Aeta-Abiyan, Isarog,
and Kabihug of Camarines Norte; Agta, and Mayon of Camarines Sur; Itom of
"Sec. 3 [h]. Indigenous Cultural Communities/ Indigenous Peoples- refer to a group of people Albay, Cimaron of Sorsogon; and the Pullon of Masbate and Camarines Sur.
or homogeneous societies identified by self-ascription and ascription by others, who have
continuously lived as organized community on communally bounded and defined territory, 5. In Region VI- Ati of Negros Occidental, Iloilo and Antique, Capiz; the Magahat
and who have, under claims of ownership since time immemorial, occupied, possessed and of Negros Occidental; the Corolano and Sulod.
utilized such territories, sharing common bonds of language, customs, traditions and other
distinctive cultural traits, or who have, through resistance to political, social and cultural 6. In Region VII- Magahat of Negros Oriental and Eskaya of Bohol.
inroads of colonization, non-indigenous religions and cultures, became historically
differentiated from the majority of Filipinos. ICCs/IPs shall likewise include peoples who are
regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the 7. In Region IX- the Badjao numbering about 192,000 in Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga
country, at the time of conquest or colonization, or at the time of inroads of non-indigenous del Sur; the Kalibugan of Basilan, the Samal, Subanon and Yakat.
religions and cultures, or the establishment of present state boundaries, who retain some or all
of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions, but who may have been 8. Region X- Numbering 1.6 million in Region X alone, the IPs are: the Banwaon,
displaced from their traditional domains or who may have resettled outside their ancestral Bukidnon, Matigsalog, Talaanding of Bukidnon; the Camiguin of Camiguin Island;
domains." the Higa-unon of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon and Misamis
Occidental; the Tigwahanon of Agusan del Sur, Misamis Oriental and and Misamis
Indigenous Cultural Communities or Indigenous Peoples refer to a group of people or Occidental, the Manobo of the Agusan provinces, and the Umayamnon of Agusan
homogeneous societies who have continuously lived as an organized community on and Bukidnon.
communally bounded and defined territory. These groups of people have actually
occupied, possessed and utilized their territories under claim of ownership since time 9. In Region XI- There are about 1,774,065 IPs in Region XI. They are tribes of the
immemorial. They share common bonds of language, customs, traditions and other distinctive Dibabaon, Mansaka of Davao del Norte; B'laan, Kalagan, Langilad, T'boli and
cultural traits, or, they, by their resistance to political, social and cultural inroads of Talaingod of Davao del Sur; Mamamanua of Surigao del Sur; Mandaya of the
colonization, non-indigenous religions and cultures, became historically differentiated from Surigao provinces and Davao Oriental; Manobo Blit of South Cotabato; the
the Filipino majority. ICCs/IPs also include descendants of ICCs/IPs who inhabited the Mangguangon of Davao and South Cotabato; Matigsalog of Davao del Norte and
country at the time of conquest or colonization, who retain some or all of their own social, Del Sur; Tagakaolo, Tasaday and Ubo of South Cotabato; and Bagobo of Davao del
economic, cultural and political institutions but who may have been displaced from their sur and South Cotabato.
traditional territories or who may have resettled outside their ancestral domains.
10. In Region XII- Ilianen, Tiruray, Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug, Yakan/Samal,
1. Indigenous Peoples: Their History and Iranon.43

Presently, Philippine indigenous peoples inhabit the interiors and mountains of Luzon, How these indigenous peoples came to live in the Philippines goes back to as early as
Mindanao, Mindoro, Negros, Samar, Leyte, and the Palawan and Sulu group of islands. They 25,000 to 30,000 B.C.
are composed of 110 tribes and are as follows:
Before the time of Western contact, the Philippine archipelago was peopled largely by the
1. In the Cordillera Autonomous Region- Kankaney, Ibaloi, Bontoc, Tinggian or Negritos, Indonesians and Malays.44 The strains from these groups eventually gave rise to
Itneg, Ifugao, Kalinga, Yapayao, Aeta or Agta or Pugot, and Bago of Ilocos Norte common cultural features which became the dominant influence in ethnic reformulation in the
and Pangasinan; Ibanag of Isabela, Cagayan; Ilongot of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya; archipelago. Influences from the Chinese and Indian civilizations in the third or fourth
Gaddang of Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Itawis of Cagayan; Ivatan of Batanes, Aeta of millenium B.C. augmented these ethnic strains. Chinese economic and socio-cultural
Cagayan, Quirino and Isabela. influences came by way of Chinese porcelain, silk and traders. Indian influence found their
way into the religious-cultural aspect of pre-colonial society.45
2. In Region III- Aetas.
The ancient Filipinos settled beside bodies of water. Hunting and food gathering became
3. In Region IV- Dumagats of Aurora, Rizal; Remontado of Aurora, Rizal, Quezon; supplementary activities as reliance on them was reduced by fishing and the cultivation of the
Alangan or Mangyan, Batangan, Buid or Buhid, Hanunuo and Iraya of Oriental and soil.46 From the hinterland, coastal, and riverine communities, our ancestors evolved an
Occidental Mindoro; Tadyawan of Occidental Mindoro; Cuyonon, Palawanon, essentially homogeneous culture, a basically common way of life where nature was a
Tagbanua and Tao't bato of Palawan. primary factor. Community life throughout the archipelago was influenced by, and
responded to, common ecology. The generally benign tropical climate and the largely uniform
flora and fauna favored similarities, not differences.47 Life was essentially subsistence but not
harsh.48
The early Filipinos had a culture that was basically Malayan in structure and form. They had areas represented today by Tawi-tawi, Sulu, Palawan, Basilan and Zamboanga. Four ethnic
languages that traced their origin to the Austronesian parent-stock and used them not only as groups were within this jurisdiction: Sama, Tausug, Yakan and Subanon.62 The Sultanate of
media of daily communication but also as vehicles for the expression of their literary Maguindanao spread out from Cotabato toward Maranao territory, now Lanao del Norte and
moods.49 They fashioned concepts and beliefs about the world that they could not see, but Lanao del Sur.63
which they sensed to be part of their lives.50 They had their own religion and religious beliefs.
They believed in the immortality of the soul and life after death. Their rituals were based on The Muslim societies evolved an Asiatic form of feudalism where land was still held in
beliefs in a ranking deity whom they called Bathalang Maykapal, and a host of other deities, in common but was private in use. This is clearly indicated in the Muslim Code of Luwaran.
the environmental spirits and in soul spirits. The early Filipinos adored the sun, the moon, the The Code contains a provision on the lease of cultivated lands. It, however, has no provision
animals and birds, for they seemed to consider the objects of Nature as something to be for the acquisition, transfer, cession or sale of land.64
respected. They venerated almost any object that was close to their daily life, indicating the
importance of the relationship between man and the object of nature.51
The societies encountered by Magellan and Legaspi therefore were primitive economies
where most production was geared to the use of the producers and to the fulfillment of kinship
The unit of government was the "barangay," a term that derived its meaning from the Malay obligations. They were not economies geared to exchange and profit.65 Moreover, the family
word "balangay," meaning, a boat, which transported them to these shores.52 The barangay basis of barangay membership as well as of leadership and governance worked to splinter the
was basically a family-based community and consisted of thirty to one hundred families. Each population of the islands into numerous small and separate communities.66
barangay was different and ruled by a chieftain called a "dato." It was the chieftain's duty to
rule and govern his subjects and promote their welfare and interests. A chieftain had wide
powers for he exercised all the functions of government. He was the executive, legislator and When the Spaniards settled permanently in the Philippines in 1565, they found the
judge and was the supreme commander in time of war.53 Filipinos living in barangay settlements scattered along water routes and river
banks. One of the first tasks imposed on the missionaries and the encomenderos was to collect
all scattered Filipinos together in a reduccion.67 As early as 1551, the Spanish government
Laws were either customary or written. Customary laws were handed down orally from assumed an unvarying solicitous attitude towards the natives.68 The Spaniards regarded it a
generation to generation and constituted the bulk of the laws of the barangay. They were
sacred "duty to conscience and humanity to civilize these less fortunate people living in the
preserved in songs and chants and in the memory of the elder persons in the community.54 The obscurity of ignorance" and to accord them the "moral and material advantages" of community
written laws were those that the chieftain and his elders promulgated from time to time as the life and the "protection and vigilance afforded them by the same laws."69
necessity arose.55 The oldest known written body of laws was the Maragtas Code by Datu
Sumakwel at about 1250 A.D. Other old codes are the Muslim Code of Luwaran and the
Principal Code of Sulu.56 Whether customary or written, the laws dealt with various subjects, The Spanish missionaries were ordered to establish pueblos where the church and convent
such as inheritance, divorce, usury, loans, partnership, crime and punishment, property rights, would be constructed. All the new Christian converts were required to construct their houses
family relations and adoption. Whenever disputes arose, these were decided peacefully around the church and the unbaptized were invited to do the same.70 With the reduccion, the
through a court composed by the chieftain as "judge" and the barangay elders as "jury." Spaniards attempted to "tame" the reluctant Filipinos through Christian indoctrination using
Conflicts arising between subjects of different barangays were resolved by arbitration in which the convento/casa real/plaza complex as focal point. Thereduccion, to the Spaniards, was a
a board composed of elders from neutral barangays acted as arbiters.57 "civilizing" device to make the Filipinos law-abiding citizens of the Spanish Crown, and in the
long run, to make them ultimately adopt Hispanic culture and civilization.71
Baranganic society had a distinguishing feature: the absence of private property in
land. The chiefs merely administered the lands in the name of the barangay. The social order All lands lost by the old barangays in the process of pueblo organization as well as all
was an extension of the family with chiefs embodying the higher unity of the community. lands not assigned to them and the pueblos, were now declared to be crown lands
Each individual, therefore, participated in the community ownership of the soil and the or realengas, belonging to the Spanish king. It was from the realengas that land grants
instruments of production as a member of the barangay.58 This ancient communalism was were made to non-Filipinos.72
practiced in accordance with the concept of mutual sharing of resources so that no individual,
regardless of status, was without sustenance. Ownership of land was non-existent or The abrogation of the Filipinos' ancestral rights in land and the introduction of the
unimportant and the right of usufruct was what regulated the development of concept of public domain were the most immediate fundamental results of Spanish
lands.59 Marine resources and fishing grounds were likewise free to all. Coastal communities colonial theory and law.73 The concept that the Spanish king was the owner of everything
depended for their economic welfare on the kind of fishing sharing concept similar to those in of value in the Indies or colonies was imposed on the natives, and the natives were
land communities.60 Recognized leaders, such as the chieftains and elders, by virtue of their stripped of their ancestral rights to land.74
positions of importance, enjoyed some economic privileges and benefits. But their rights,
related to either land and sea, were subject to their responsibility to protect the communities
Increasing their foothold in the Philippines, the Spanish colonialists, civil and religious,
from danger and to provide them with the leadership and means of survival.61
classified the Filipinos according to their religious practices and beliefs, and divided them into
three types . First were the Indios, the Christianized Filipinos, who generally came from the
Sometime in the 13th century, Islam was introduced to the archipelago in lowland populations. Second, were the Moros or the Muslim communities, and third, were
Maguindanao. The Sultanate of Sulu was established and claimed jurisdiction over territorial the infieles or the indigenous communities.75
The Indio was a product of the advent of Spanish culture. This class was favored by the The 1935 Constitution did not carry any policy on the non-Christian Filipinos. The
Spaniards and was allowed certain status although below the Spaniards. raging issue then was the conservation of the national patrimony for the Filipinos.
The Moros and infieles were regarded as the lowest classes.76
In 1957, the Philippine Congress passed R.A. No. 1888, an "Act to effectuate in a more rapid
The Moros and infieles resisted Spanish rule and Christianity. The Moros were driven and complete manner the economic, social, moral and political advancement of the non-
from Manila and the Visayas to Mindanao; while the infieles, to the hinterlands. The Christian Filipinos or national cultural minorities and to render real, complete, and permanent
Spaniards did not pursue them into the deep interior. The upland societies were naturally the integration of all said national cultural minorities into the body politic, creating
outside the immediate concern of Spanish interest, and the cliffs and forests of the hinterlands the Commission on National Integration charged with said functions." The law called for
were difficult and inaccessible, allowing the infieles, in effect, relative security.77 Thus, a policy of integration of indigenous peoples into the Philippine mainstream and for this
the infieles, which were peripheral to colonial administration, were not only able to preserve purpose created theCommission on National Integration (CNI).84 The CNI was given, more
their own culture but also thwarted the Christianization process, separating themselves from or less, the same task as the BNCT during the American regime. The post-independence
the newly evolved Christian community.78Their own political, economic and social systems policy of integration was like the colonial policy of assimilation understood in the context
were kept constantly alive and vibrant. of a guardian-ward relationship.85

The pro-Christian or pro-Indio attitude of colonialism brought about a generally mutual The policy of assimilation and integration did not yield the desired result. Like the Spaniards
feeling of suspicion, fear, and hostility between the Christians on the one hand and the non- and Americans, government attempts at integration met with fierce resistance. Since
Christians on the other. Colonialism tended to divide and rule an otherwise culturally and World War II, a tidal wave of Christian settlers from the lowlands of Luzon and the Visayas
historically related populace through a colonial system that exploited both the virtues and swamped the highlands and wide open spaces in Mindanao.86 Knowledge by the settlers of
vices of the Filipinos.79 the Public Land Acts and the Torrens system resulted in the titling of several ancestral
lands in the settlers' names. With government initiative and participation, this titling
displaced several indigenous peoples from their lands. Worse, these peoples were also
President McKinley, in his instructions to the Philippine Commission of April 7, 1900,
displaced by projects undertaken by the national government in the name of national
addressed the existence of the infieles:
development.87

"In dealing with the uncivilized tribes of the Islands, the Commission should adopt the
same course followed by Congress in permitting the tribes of our North American It was in the 1973 Constitution that the State adopted the following provision:
Indians to maintain their tribal organization and government, and under which many of
those tribes are now living in peace and contentment, surrounded by civilization to which they "The State shall consider the customs, traditions, beliefs, and interests of national cultural
are unable or unwilling to conform. Such tribal government should, however, be subjected to communities in the formulation and implementation of State policies."88
wise and firm regulation; and, without undue or petty interference, constant and active effort
should be exercised to prevent barbarous practices and introduce civilized customs."80 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
Placed in an alternative of either letting the natives alone or guiding them in the path of as "cultural communities." More importantly this time, their "uncivilized" culture was given
civilization, the American government chose "to adopt the latter measure as one more in some recognition and their "customs, traditions, beliefs and interests" were to be considered
accord with humanity and with the national conscience."81 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
The Americans classified the Filipinos into two: the Christian Filipinos and the non- National Minorities (PANAMIN). The PANAMIN was tasked to integrate the ethnic groups
Christian Filipinos. The term "non-Christian" referred not to religious belief, but to a that sought full integration into the larger community, and at the same time "protect the rights
geographical area, and more directly, "to natives of the Philippine Islands of a low grade of of those who wish to preserve their original lifeways beside the larger community."89 In short,
civilization, usually living in tribal relationship apart from settled communities."82 while still adopting the integration policy, the decree recognized the right of tribal
Filipinos to preserve their way of life.90
Like the Spaniards, the Americans pursued a policy of assimilation. In 1903, they passed
Act No. 253 creating the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes (BNCT). Under the In 1974, President Marcos promulgated P.D. No. 410, otherwise known as the Ancestral
Department of the Interior, the BNCT's primary task was to conduct ethnographic research Lands Decree. The decree provided for the issuance of land occupancy certificates to
among unhispanized Filipinos, including those in Muslim Mindanao, with a "special view to members of the national cultural communities who were given up to 1984 to register their
determining the most practicable means for bringing about their advancement in civilization claims.91 In 1979, the Commission on the Settlement of Land Problems was created under
and prosperity." The BNCT was modeled after the bureau dealing with American E.O. No. 561 which provided a mechanism for the expeditious resolution of land problems
Indians. The agency took a keen anthropological interest in Philippine cultural minorities and involving small settlers, landowners, and tribal Filipinos.92
produced a wealth of valuable materials about them.83
Despite the promulgation of these laws, from 1974 to the early 1980's, some 100,000 Kalingas has a strong preference for communal ownership, which could either be ownership by a
and Bontoks of the Cordillera region were displaced by the Chico River dam project of the group of individuals or families who are related by blood or by marriage,101 or ownership by
National Power Corporation (NPC). The Manobos of Bukidnon saw their land bulldozed by residents of the same locality who may not be related by blood or marriage. The system of
the Bukidnon Sugar Industries Company (BUSCO). In Agusan del Sur, the National communal ownership under customary laws draws its meaning from the subsistence and
Development Company was authorized by law in 1979 to take approximately 40,550 hectares highly collectivized mode of economic production. The Kalingas, for instance, who are
of land that later became the NDC-Guthrie plantation in Agusan del Sur. Most of the land was engaged in team occupation like hunting, foraging for forest products, and swidden farming
possessed by the Agusan natives.93 Timber concessions, water projects, plantations, mining, found it natural that forest areas, swidden farms, orchards, pasture and burial grounds should
and cattle ranching and other projects of the national government led not only to the eviction be communally-owned.102 For the Kalingas, everybody has a common right to a common
of the indigenous peoples from their land but also to the reduction and destruction of their economic base. Thus, as a rule, rights and obligations to the land are shared in common.
natural environment.94
Although highly bent on communal ownership, customary law on land also sanctions
The Aquino government signified a total shift from the policy of integration to one of individual ownership. The residential lots and terrace rice farms are governed by a limited
preservation.Invoking her powers under the Freedom Constitution, President Aquino created system of individual ownership. It is limited because while the individual owner has the right
the Office of Muslim Affairs, Office for Northern Cultural Communities and the Office to use and dispose of the property, he does not possess all the rights of an exclusive and full
for Southern Cultural Communities all under the Office of the President.95 owner as defined under our Civil Code.103 Under Kalinga customary law, the alienation of
individually-owned land is strongly discouraged except in marriage and succession and except
to meet sudden financial needs due to sickness, death in the family, or loss of
The 1987 Constitution carries at least six (6) provisions which insure the right of tribal
Filipinos to preserve their way of life.96 This Constitution goes further than the 1973 crops.104Moreover, and to be alienated should first be offered to a clan-member before any
Constitution by expressly guaranteeing the rights of tribal Filipinos to their ancestral village-member can purchase it, and in no case may land be sold to a non-member of the ili.105
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 Land titles do not exist in the indigenous peoples' economic and social system. The
own. 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
2. Their Concept of Land indigenous claims to ancestral lands. Communal ownership is looked upon as inferior, if
not inexistent.106
Indigenous peoples share distinctive traits that set them apart from the Filipino mainstream.
They are non-Christians. They live in less accessible, marginal, mostly upland areas. They III. THE IPRA IS A NOVEL PIECE OF LEGISLATION.
have a system of self-government not dependent upon the laws of the central administration of
the Republic of the Philippines. They follow ways of life and customs that are perceived as A. The Legislative History of the IPRA
different from those of the rest of the population.97 The kind of response the indigenous
peoples chose to deal with colonial threat worked well to their advantage by making it difficult It was to address the centuries-old neglect of the Philippine indigenous peoples that the
for Western concepts and religion to erode their customs and traditions. The "infieles Tenth Congress of the Philippines, by their joint efforts, passed and approved R.A. No. 8371,
societies" which had become peripheral to colonial administration, represented, from a cultural the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997. The law was a consolidation of two
perspective, a much older base of archipelagic culture. The political systems were still Bills- Senate Bill No. 1728 and House Bill No. 9125.
structured on the patriarchal and kinship oriented arrangement of power and authority. The
economic activities were governed by the concepts of an ancient communalism and mutual
help. The social structure which emphasized division of labor and distinction of functions, not Principally sponsored by Senator Juan M. Flavier,107 Senate Bill No. 1728 was a
status, was maintained. The cultural styles and forms of life portraying the varieties of social consolidation of four proposed measures referred to the Committees on Cultural Communities,
courtesies and ecological adjustments were kept constantly vibrant.98 Environment and Natural Resources, Ways and Means, as well as Finance. It adopted almost
en toto the comprehensive version of Senate Bill Nos. 1476 and 1486 which was a result of six
regional consultations and one national consultation with indigenous peoples
Land is the central element of the indigenous peoples' existence. There is no traditional nationwide.108 At the Second Regular Session of the Tenth Congress, Senator Flavier, in his
concept of permanent, individual, land ownership. Among the Igorots, ownership of land more sponsorship speech, gave a background on the situation of indigenous peoples in the
accurately applies to the tribal right to use the land or to territorial control. The people are the Philippines, to wit:
secondary owners or stewards of the land and that if a member of the tribe ceases to work, he
loses his claim of ownership, and the land reverts to the beings of the spirit world who are its
true and primary owners. Under the concept of "trusteeship," the right to possess the land does "The Indigenous Cultural Communities, including the Bangsa Moro, have long suffered from
not only belong to the present generation but the future ones as well.99 the dominance and neglect of government controlled by the majority. Massive migration of
their Christian brothers to their homeland shrunk their territory and many of the tribal
Filipinos were pushed to the hinterlands. Resisting the intrusion, dispossessed of their
Customary law on land rests on the traditional belief that no one owns the land except the ancestral land and with the massive exploitation of their natural resources by the elite among
gods and spirits, and that those who work the land are its mere stewards.100 Customary law
the migrant population, they became marginalized. And the government has been an supreme power of the State and deeply embedded in Philippine legal tradition. This principle
indispensable party to this insidious conspiracy against the Indigenous Cultural Communities mandates that persons suffering from serious disadvantage or handicap, which places them in
(ICCs). It organized and supported the resettlement of people to their ancestral land, which a position of actual inequality in their relation or transaction with others, are entitled to the
was massive during the Commonwealth and early years of the Philippine Republic. Pursuant protection of the State.
to the Regalian Doctrine first introduced to our system by Spain through the Royal Decree of
13 February 1894 or the Maura Law, the government passed laws to legitimize the wholesale Senate Bill No. 1728 was passed on Third Reading by twenty-one (21) Senators voting in
landgrabbing and provide for easy titling or grant of lands to migrant homesteaders within the favor and none against, with no abstention.112
traditional areas of the ICCs."109
House Bill No. 9125 was sponsored by Rep. Zapata, Chairman of the Committee on Cultural
Senator Flavier further declared: Communities. It was originally authored and subsequently presented and defended on the floor
by Rep. Gregorio Andolana of North Cotabato.113
"The IPs are the offsprings and heirs of the peoples who have first inhabited and cared for the
land long before any central government was established. Their ancestors had territories over Rep. Andolana's sponsorhip speech reads as follows:
which they ruled themselves and related with other tribes. These territories- the land- include
people, their dwelling, the mountains, the water, the air, plants, forest and the animals. This is
their environment in its totality. Their existence as indigenous peoples is manifested in their "This Representation, as early as in the 8th Congress, filed a bill of similar implications that
own lives through political, economic, socio-cultural and spiritual practices. The IPs culture is would promote, recognize the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the framework
the living and irrefutable proof to this. of national unity and development.

Their survival depends on securing or acquiring land rights; asserting their rights to it; and Apart from this, Mr. Speaker, is our obligation, the government's obligation to assure and
depending on it. Otherwise, IPs shall cease to exist as distinct peoples."110 ascertain that these rights shall be well-preserved and the cultural traditions as well as the
indigenous laws that remained long before this Republic was established shall be preserved
and promoted. There is a need, Mr. Speaker, to look into these matters seriously and early
To recognize the rights of the indigenous peoples effectively, Senator Flavier proposed a bill approval of the substitute bill shall bring into reality the aspirations, the hope and the dreams
based on two postulates: (1) the concept of native title; and (2) the principle of parens of more than 12 million Filipinos that they be considered in the mainstream of the Philippine
patriae. society as we fashion for the year 2000." 114

According to Senator Flavier, "[w]hile our legal tradition subscribes to the Regalian Doctrine Rep. Andolana stressed that H.B. No. 9125 is based on the policy of preservation as mandated
reinstated in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution," our "decisional laws" and in the Constitution. He also emphasized that the rights of IPs to their land was enunciated
jurisprudence passed by the State have "made exception to the doctrine." This exception in Cariño v. Insular Government which recognized the fact that they had vested rights prior
was first laid down in the case of Cariño v. Insular Governmentwhere: to the establishment of the Spanish and American regimes.115

"x x x the court has recognized long occupancy of land by an indigenous member of the After exhaustive interpellation, House Bill No. 9125, and its corresponding amendments,
cultural communities as one of private ownership, which, in legal concept, is termed "native
was approved on Second Reading with no objections.
title." This ruling has not been overturned. In fact, it was affirmed in subsequent cases."111

IV. THE PROVISIONS OF THE IPRA DO NOT CONTRAVENE THE


Following Cariño, the State passed Act No. 926, Act No. 2874, C.A. No. 141, P.D. 705, P.D. CONSTITUTION.
410, P.D. 1529, R.A. 6734 (the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region of Muslim
Mindanao). These laws, explicitly or implicitly, and liberally or restrictively, recognized
"native title" or "private right" and the existence of ancestral lands and domains. Despite the A. Ancestral Domains and Ancestral Lands are the Private Property of Indigenous
passage of these laws, however, Senator Flavier continued: Peoples and Do Not Constitute Part of the Land of the Public Domain.

"x x x the executive department of government since the American occupation has not The IPRA grants to ICCs/IPs a distinct kind of ownership over ancestral domains and
implemented the policy. In fact, it was more honored in its breach than in its observance, its ancestral lands.Ancestral lands are not the same as ancestral domains. These are defined in
wanton disregard shown during the period unto the Commonwealth and the early years of the Section 3 [a] and [b] of the Indigenous Peoples Right Act, viz:
Philippine Republic when government organized and supported massive resettlement of the
people to the land of the ICCs." "Sec. 3 a) Ancestral Domains. - Subject to Section 56 hereof, refer to all areas generally
belonging to ICCs/IPs comprising lands, inland waters, coastal areas, and natural resources
Senate Bill No. 1728 seeks to genuinely recognize the IPs right to own and possess their therein, held under a claim of ownership, occupied or possessed by ICCs/IPs by themselves or
ancestral land. The bill was prepared also under the principle of parens patriae inherent in the through their ancestors, communally or individually since time immemorial, continuously to
the present except when interrupted by war, force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, have a decisive role in determining the boundaries of their domains and in all the activities
stealth or as a consequence of government projects or any other voluntary dealings entered pertinent thereto.121
into by government and private individuals/corporations, and which are necessary to ensure
their economic, social and cultural welfare. It shall include ancestral lands, forests, pasture, The procedure for the delineation and recognition of ancestral domains is set forth in
residential, agricultural, and other lands individually owned whether alienable and disposable Sections 51 and 52 of the IPRA. The identification, delineation and certification of ancestral
or otherwise, hunting grounds, burial grounds, worship areas, bodies of water, mineral and lands is in Section 53 of said law.
other natural resources, and 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; 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.122 The allocation
b) Ancestral Lands.- Subject to Section 56 hereof, refers to land occupied, possessed and of lands within the ancestral domain to any individual or indigenous corporate (family or
utilized by individuals, families and clans who are members of the ICCs/IPs since time clan) claimants is left to the ICCs/IPs concerned to decide in accordance with customs and
immemorial, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest, under claims of traditions.123 With respect to ancestral lands outside the ancestral domain, the NCIP issues a
individual or traditional group ownership, continuously, to the present except when interrupted Certificate of Ancestral Land Title (CALT).124
by war, force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, stealth, or as a consequence of
government projects and other voluntary dealings entered into by government and private
individuals/corporations, including, but not limited to, residential lots, rice terraces or paddies, CADT's and CALT's issued under the IPRA shall be registered by the NCIP before the
private forests, swidden farms and tree lots." Register of Deeds in the place where the property is situated.125

Ancestral domains are all areas belonging to ICCs/IPs held under a claim of ownership, (1) Right to Ancestral Domains and Ancestral Lands: How Acquired
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 The rights of the ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains and ancestral lands may be acquired in
by war, force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, stealth or as a consequence of two modes: (1) bynative title over both ancestral lands and domains; or (2) by torrens
government projects or any other voluntary dealings with government and/or private title under the Public Land Act and the Land Registration Act with respect to ancestral
individuals or corporations. Ancestral domains comprise lands, inland waters, coastal lands only.
areas, and natural resources therein and includes ancestral lands, forests, pasture,
residential, agricultural, and other lands individually owned whether alienable or not, (2) The Concept of Native Title
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 Native title is defined as:
activities, particularly the home ranges of ICCs/IPs who are still nomadic and/or shifting
cultivators.116 "Sec. 3 [l]. Native Title- refers to pre-conquest rights to lands and domains which, as far back
as memory reaches, have been held under a claim of private ownership by ICCs/IPs, have
Ancestral lands are lands held by the ICCs/IPs under the same conditions as ancestral never been public lands and are thusindisputably presumed to have been held that way since
domains except that these are limited to lands and that these lands are not merely occupied and before the Spanish Conquest."126
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, Native title refers to ICCs/IPs' preconquest rights to lands and domains held under a claim of
private forests, swidden farms and tree lots.117 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
The procedures for claiming ancestral domains and lands are similar to the procedures Spanish Conquest. The rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains (which also include
embodied in Department Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2, series of 1993, signed by then ancestral lands) by virtue of native title shall be recognized and respected.127 Formal
Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Angel recognition, when solicited by ICCs/IPs concerned, shall be embodied in a Certificate of
Alcala.118 DAO No. 2 allowed the delineation of ancestral domains by special task forces and Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), which shall recognize the title of the concerned ICCs/IPs
ensured the issuance of Certificates of Ancestral Land Claims (CALC's) and Certificates of over the territories identified and delineated.128
Ancestral Domain Claims (CADC's) to IPs.
Like a torrens title, a CADT is evidence of private ownership of land by native title. Native
The identification and delineation of these ancestral domains and lands is a power conferred title, however, is a right of private ownership peculiarly granted to ICCs/IPs over their
by the IPRA on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).119 The guiding ancestral lands and domains. The IPRA categorically declares ancestral lands and domains
principle in identification and delineation is self-delineation.120 This means that the ICCs/IPs 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 and are private.
(a) Cariño v. Insular Government129 strong mandate extended to the Islands via the Philippine Bill of 1902 that "No law shall be
enacted in said islands which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due
The concept of native title in the IPRA was taken from the 1909 case of Cariño v. Insular process of law, or deny to any person therein the equal protection of the laws." The court
Government.130Cariño firmly established a concept of private land title that existed declared:
irrespective of any royal grant from the State.
"The acquisition of the Philippines was not like the settlement of the white race in the United
In 1903, Don Mateo Cariño, an Ibaloi, sought to register with the land registration court 146 States. Whatever consideration may have been shown to the North American Indians, the
hectares of land in Baguio Municipality, Benguet Province. He claimed that this land had been dominant purpose of the whites in America was to occupy land. It is obvious that, however
possessed and occupied by his ancestors since time immemorial; that his grandfather built stated, the reason for our taking over the Philippines was different. No one, we suppose, would
fences around the property for the holding of cattle and that his father cultivated some parts of deny that, so far as consistent with paramount necessities, our first object in the internal
the land. Cariño inherited the land in accordance with Igorot custom. He tried to have the land administration of the islands is to do justice to the natives, not to exploit their country for
adjusted under the Spanish land laws, but no document issued from the Spanish Crown.131 In private gain. By the Organic Act of July 1, 1902, chapter 1369, section 12 (32 Statutes at
1901, Cariño obtained a possessory title to the land under the Spanish Mortgage Law.132 The Large, 691), all the property and rights acquired there by the United States are to be
North American colonial government, however, ignored his possessory title and built a public administered 'for the benefit of the inhabitants thereof.' It is reasonable to suppose that the
road on the land prompting him to seek a Torrens title to his property in the land registration attitude thus assumed by the United States with regard to what was unquestionably its own is
court. While his petition was pending, a U.S. military reservation133 was proclaimed over his also its attitude in deciding what it will claim for its own. The same statute made a bill of
land and, shortly thereafter, a military detachment was detailed on the property with orders to rights, embodying the safeguards of the Constitution, and, like the Constitution, extends those
keep cattle and trespassers, including Cariño, off the land.134 safeguards to all. It 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, or deny to any person
therein the equal protection of the laws.' In the light of the declaration that we have quoted
In 1904, the land registration court granted Cariño's application for absolute ownership to the from section 12, it is hard to believe that the United States was ready to declare in the next
land. Both the Government of the Philippine Islands and the U.S. Government appealed to the breath that "any person" did not embrace the inhabitants of Benguet, or that it meant by
C.F.I. of Benguet which reversed the land registration court and dismissed Cariño's "property" only that which had become such by ceremonies of which presumably a large part
application. The Philippine Supreme Court135 affirmed the C.F.I. by applying of the inhabitants never had heard, and that it proposed to treat as public land what they, by
the Valenton ruling. Cariño took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.136 On one hand, the native custom and by long association,- of the profoundest factors in human thought,-
Philippine government invoked the Regalian doctrine and contended that Cariño failed to regarded as their own."139
comply with the provisions of the Royal Decree of June 25, 1880, which required registration
of land claims within a limited period of time. Cariño, on the other, asserted that he was the
absolute owner of the land jure gentium, and that the land never formed part of the public The Court went further:
domain.
"Every presumption is and ought to be against the government in a case like the present. It
In a unanimous decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the U.S. Supreme Court might, perhaps, be proper and sufficient to say that when, as far back as testimony or
held: memory goes, the land has been held by individuals under a claim of private ownership,
it will be presumed to have been held in the same way from before the Spanish conquest,
and never to have been public land. Certainly in a case like this, if there is doubt or
"It is true that Spain, in its earlier decrees, embodied the universal feudal theory that all lands ambiguity in the Spanish law, we ought to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt."140
were held from the Crown, and perhaps the general attitude of conquering nations toward
people not recognized as entitled to the treatment accorded to those in the same zone of
civilization with themselves. It is true, also, that in legal theory, sovereignty is absolute, and The court thus laid down the presumption of a certain title held (1) as far back as testimony
that, as against foreign nations, the United States may assert, as Spain asserted, absolute or memory went, and (2) under a claim of private ownership. Land held by this title is
power. But it does not follow that, as against the inhabitants of the Philippines, the United presumed to "never have been public land."
States asserts that Spain had such power. When theory is left on one side, sovereignty is a
question of strength, and may vary in degree. How far a new sovereign shall insist upon the Against this presumption, the U.S. Supreme Court analyzed the Spanish decrees upheld in the
theoretical relation of the subjects to the head in the past, and how far it shall recognize actual 1904 decision ofValenton v. Murciano. The U.S. Supreme Court found no proof that the
facts, are matters for it to decide."137 Spanish decrees did not honor native title. On the contrary, the decrees discussed
in Valenton appeared to recognize that the natives owned some land, irrespective of any royal
The U.S. Supreme Court noted that it need not accept Spanish doctrines. The choice was with grant. The Regalian doctrine declared in the preamble of the Recopilacion was all "theory and
the new colonizer. Ultimately, the matter had to be decided under U.S. law. discourse" and it was observed that titles were admitted to exist beyond the powers of the
Crown, viz:

The Cariño decision largely rested on the North American constitutionalist's concept of "due
process" as well as the pronounced policy "to do justice to the natives."138 It was based on the "If the applicant's case is to be tried by the law of Spain, we do not discover such clear
proof that it was bad by that law as to satisfy us that he does not own the land. To begin
with, the older decrees and laws cited by the counsel for the plaintiff in error seem to Spain it does not follow that, in the view of the United States, he had lost all rights and was a
indicate pretty clearly that the natives were recognized as owning some lands, mere trespasser when the present government seized his land. The argument to that effect
irrespective of any royal grant. In other words, Spain did not assume to convert all the native seems to amount to a denial of native titles through an important part of the Island of Luzon,
inhabitants of the Philippines into trespassers or even into tenants at will. For instance, Book at least, for the want of ceremonies which the Spaniards would not have permitted and had not
4, title 12, Law 14 of the the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, cited for a contrary the power to enforce."145
conclusion in Valenton v. Murciano, 3 Philippine 537, while it commands viceroys and others,
when it seems proper, to call for the exhibition of grants, directs them to confirm those who This is the only instance when Justice Holmes used the term "native title" in the entire length
hold by good grants or justa prescripcion. It is true that it begins by the characteristic of the Cariñodecision. It is observed that the widespread use of the term "native title" may be
assertion of feudal overlordship and the origin of all titles in the King or his traced to Professor Owen James Lynch, Jr., a Visiting Professor at the University of the
predecessors. That was theory and discourse. The fact was that titles were admitted to Philippines College of Law from the Yale University Law School. In 1982, Prof. Lynch
exist that owed nothing to the powers of Spain beyond this recognition in their published an article in the Philippine Law Journal entitled Native Title, Private Right and
books." (Emphasis supplied).141 Tribal Land Law.146 This article was made after Professor Lynch visited over thirty tribal
communities throughout the country and studied the origin and development of Philippine
The court further stated that the Spanish "adjustment" proceedings never held sway over land laws.147 He discussed Cariñoextensively and used the term "native title" to refer to
unconquered territories. The wording of the Spanish laws were not framed in a manner as to Cariño's title as discussed and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in said case.
convey to the natives that failure to register what to them has always been their own would
mean loss of such land. The registration requirement was "not to confer title, but simply to (b) Indian Title
establish it;" 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."
In a footnote in the same article, Professor Lynch stated that the concept of "native title" as
defined by Justice Holmes in Cariño "is conceptually similar to "aboriginal title" of the
By recognizing this kind of title, the court clearly repudiated the doctrine of Valenton. It was American Indians.148 This is not surprising, according to Prof. Lynch, considering that during
frank enough, however, to admit the possibility that the applicant might have been deprived of the American regime, government policy towards ICCs/IPs was consistently made in reference
his land under Spanish law because of the inherent ambiguity of the decrees and to native Americans.149 This was clearly demonstrated in the case of Rubi v. Provincial Board
concomitantly, the various interpretations which may be given them. But precisely because of of Mindoro.150
the ambiguity and of the strong "due process mandate" of the Constitution, the court
validated this kind of title.142 This title was sufficient, even without government
administrative action, and entitled the holder to a Torrens certificate. Justice Holmes In Rubi, the Provincial Board of Mindoro adopted a Resolution authorizing the provincial
explained: governor to remove the Mangyans from their domains and place them in a permanent
reservation in Sitio Tigbao, Lake Naujan. Any Mangyan who refused to comply was to be
imprisoned. Rubi and some Mangyans, including one who was imprisoned for trying to escape
"It will be perceived that the rights of the applicant under the Spanish law present a problem from the reservation, filed for habeas corpus claiming deprivation of liberty under the Board
not without difficulties for courts of a legal tradition. We have deemed it proper on that Resolution. This Court denied the petition on the ground of police power. It upheld
account to notice the possible effect of the change of sovereignty and the act of Congress government policy promoting the idea that a permanent settlement was the only successful
establishing the fundamental principles now to be observed. Upon a consideration of the method for educating the Mangyans, introducing civilized customs, improving their health and
whole case we are of the opinion that law and justice require that the applicant should be
morals, and protecting the public forests in which they roamed.151 Speaking through Justice
granted what he seeks, and should not be deprived of what, by the practice and belief of those
Malcolm, the court said:
among whom he lived, was his property, through a refined interpretation of an almost
forgotten law of Spain."143
"Reference was made in the President's instructions to the Commission to the policy adopted
by the United States for the Indian Tribes. The methods followed by the Government of the
Thus, the court ruled in favor of Cariño and ordered the registration of the 148 hectares Philippine Islands in its dealings with the so-called non-Christian people is said, on argument,
in Baguio Municipality in his name.144 to be practically identical with that followed by the United States Government in its dealings
with the Indian tribes. Valuable lessons, it is insisted, can be derived by an investigation of the
Examining Cariño closer, the U.S. Supreme Court did not categorically refer to the title it American-Indian policy.
upheld as "native title." It simply said:
From the beginning of the United States, and even before, the Indians have been treated as "in
"The Province of Benguet was inhabited by a tribe that the Solicitor-General, in his a state of pupilage." The recognized relation between the Government of the United States and
argument, characterized as a savage tribe that never was brought under the civil or the Indians may be described as that of guardian and ward. It is for the Congress to determine
military government of the Spanish Crown. It seems probable, if not certain, that the when and how the guardianship shall be terminated. The Indians are always subject to the
Spanish officials would not have granted to anyone in that province the registration to plenary authority of the United States.152
which formerly the plaintiff was entitled by the Spanish Laws, and which would have
made his title beyond question good. Whatever may have been the technical position of
x x x. In the establishment of these relations, the rights of the original inhabitants were, in no
instance, entirely disregarded; but were necessarily, to a considerable extent, impaired. They
As to the second point, the facts in the Standing Bear case and the Rubi case are not exactly were admitted to be the rightful occupants of the soil, with a legal as well as just claim to
identical. But even admitting similarity of facts, yet it is known to all that Indian reservations retain possession of it, and to use it according to their own discretion; but their rights to
do exist in the United States, that Indians have been taken from different parts of the country complete sovereignty, as independent nations, were necessarily diminished, and their power to
and placed on these reservations, without any previous consultation as to their own wishes, dispose of the soil at their own will, to whomsoever they pleased, was denied by the
and that, when once so located, they have been made to remain on the reservation for their fundamental principle that discovery gave exclusive title to those who made it.
own good and for the general good of the country. If any lesson can be drawn from the Indian
policy of the United States, it is that the determination of this policy is for the legislative and While the different nations of Europe respected the right of the natives as occupants,
executive branches of the government and that when once so decided upon, the courts should they asserted the ultimate dominion to be in themselves; and claimed and exercised, as a
not interfere to upset a carefully planned governmental system. Perhaps, just as many forceful consequence of this ultimate dominion, a power to grant the soil, while yet in possession
reasons exist for the segregation of the Manguianes in Mindoro as existed for the segregation of the natives. These grants have been understood by all to convey a title to the grantees,
of the different Indian tribes in the United States."153 subject only to the Indian right of occupancy."161

Rubi applied the concept of Indian land grants or reservations in the Philippines. An Indian Thus, the discoverer of new territory was deemed to have obtained the exclusive right to
reservation is a part of the public domain set apart by proper authority for the use and acquire Indian land and extinguish Indian titles. Only to the discoverer- whether to England,
occupation of a tribe or tribes of Indians.154 It may be set apart by an act of Congress, by France, Spain or Holland- did this right belong and not to any other nation or private person.
treaty, or by executive order, but it cannot be established by custom and prescription.155 The mere acquisition of the right nonetheless did not extinguish Indian claims to land. Rather,
until the discoverer, by purchase or conquest, exercised its right, the concerned Indians were
recognized as the "rightful occupants of the soil, with a legal as well as just claim to retain
Indian title to land, however, is not limited to land grants or reservations. It also covers
possession of it." Grants made by the discoverer to her subjects of lands occupied by the
the "aboriginal right of possession or occupancy."156 The aboriginal right of possession
depends on the actual occupancy of the lands in question by the tribe or nation as their Indians were held to convey a title to the grantees, subject only to the Indian right of
ancestral home, in the sense that such lands constitute definable territory occupied exclusively occupancy. Once the discoverer purchased the land from the Indians or conquered them, it was
by the particular tribe or nation.157 It is a right which exists apart from any treaty, statute, or only then that the discoverer gained an absolute title unrestricted by Indian rights.
other governmental action, although in numerous instances treaties have been negotiated with
Indian tribes, recognizing their aboriginal possession and delimiting their occupancy rights or The court concluded, in essence, that a grant of Indian lands by Indians could not convey a
settling and adjusting their boundaries.158 title paramount to the title of the United States itself to other parties, saying:

American jurisprudence recognizes the Indians' or native Americans' rights to land they "It has never been contended that the Indian title amounted to nothing. Their right of
have held and occupied before the "discovery" of the Americas by the Europeans. The possession has never been questioned. The claim of government extends to the complete
earliest definitive statement by the U.S. Supreme Court on the nature of aboriginal title ultimate title, charged with this right of possession, and to the exclusive power of
was made in 1823 in Johnson & Graham's Lessee v. M'Intosh.159 acquiring that right."162

In Johnson, the plaintiffs claimed the land in question under two (2) grants made by the chiefs It has been said that the history of America, from its discovery to the present day, proves the
of two (2) Indian tribes. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to recognize this conveyance, the universal recognition of this principle.163
plaintiffs being private persons. The only conveyance that was recognized was that made by
the Indians to the government of the European discoverer. Speaking for the court, Chief The Johnson doctrine was a compromise. It protected Indian rights and their native lands
Justice Marshall pointed out that the potentates of the old world believed that they had made without having to invalidate conveyances made by the government to many U.S. citizens.164
ample compensation to the inhabitants of the new world by bestowing civilization and
Christianity upon them; but in addition, said the court, they found it necessary, in order to
avoid conflicting settlements and consequent war, to establish the principle that discovery Johnson was reiterated in the case of Worcester v. Georgia.165 In this case, the State of
gives title to the government by whose subjects, or by whose authority, the discovery was Georgia enacted a law requiring all white persons residing within the Cherokee nation to
made, against all other European governments, which title might be consummated by obtain a license or permit from the Governor of Georgia; and any violation of the law was
possession.160 The exclusion of all other Europeans gave to the nation making the discovery deemed a high misdemeanor. The plaintiffs, who were white missionaries, did not obtain said
the sole right of acquiring the soil from the natives and establishing settlements upon it. As license and were thus charged with a violation of the Act.
regards the natives, the court further stated that:
The U.S. Supreme Court declared the Act as unconstitutional for interfering with the treaties
"Those relations which were to exist between the discoverer and the natives were to be established between the United States and the Cherokee nation as well as the Acts of Congress
regulated by themselves. The rights thus acquired being exclusive, no other power could regulating intercourse with them. It characterized the relationship between the United States
interpose between them. government and the Indians as:
"The Indian nations were, from their situation, necessarily dependent on some foreign it alone asserted ultimate dominion in itself. Thus, while the different nations of Europe
potentate for the supply of their essential wants, and for their protection from lawless and respected the rights of the natives as occupants, they all asserted the ultimate dominion and
injurious intrusions into their country. That power was naturally termed their protector. They title to be in themselves.170
had been arranged under the protection of Great Britain; but the extinguishment of the British
power in their neighborhood, and the establishment of that of the United States in its place, led As early as the 19th century, it became accepted doctrine that although fee title to the
naturally to the declaration, on the part of the Cherokees, that they were under the protection lands occupied by the Indians when the colonists arrived became vested in the sovereign-
of the United States, and of no other power. They assumed the relation with the United States first the discovering European nation and later the original 13 States and the United
which had before subsisted with Great Britain. States- a right of occupancy in the Indian tribes was nevertheless recognized. The Federal
Government continued the policy of respecting the Indian right of occupancy, sometimes
This relation was that of a nation claiming and receiving the protection of one more powerful, called Indian title, which it accorded the protection of complete ownership.171 But this
not that of individuals abandoning their national character, and submitting as subjects to the aboriginal Indian interest simply constitutes "permission" from the whites to occupy the land,
laws of a master."166 and means mere possession not specifically recognized as ownership by Congress.172 It is clear
that this right of occupancy based upon aboriginal possession is not a property right.173 It is
It was the policy of the U.S. government to treat the Indians as nations with distinct territorial vulnerable to affirmative action by the federal government who, as sovereign, possessed
boundaries and recognize their right of occupancy over all the lands within their domains. exclusive power to extinguish the right of occupancy at will.174 Thus, aboriginal title is not
Thus: the same as legal title. Aboriginal title rests on actual, exclusive and continuous use and
occupancy for a long time.175 It entails that land owned by Indian title must be used within the
tribe, subject to its laws and customs, and cannot be sold to another sovereign government nor
"From the commencement of our government Congress has passed acts to regulate trade and to any citizen.176 Such title as Indians have to possess and occupy land is in the tribe, and not
intercourse with the Indians; which treat them as nations, respect their rights, and manifest a in the individual Indian; the right of individual Indians to share in the tribal property usually
firm purpose to afford that protection which treaties stipulate. All these acts, and especially depends upon tribal membership, the property of the tribe generally being held in communal
that of 1802, which is still in force, manifestly consider the several Indian nations as distinct ownership.177
political communities, having territorial boundaries, within which their authority is
exclusive, and having a right to all the lands within those boundaries, which is not only
As a rule, Indian lands are not included in the term "public lands," which is ordinarily used to
acknowledged, but guaranteed by the United States.
designate such lands as are subject to sale or other disposal under general laws.178 Indian land
which has been abandoned is deemed to fall into the public domain.179 On the other hand, an
x x x. Indian reservation is a part of the public domain set apart for the use and occupation of a tribe
of Indians.180 Once set apart by proper authority, the reservation ceases to be public land, and
"The Indian nations had always been considered as distinct, independent political until the Indian title is extinguished, no one but Congress can initiate any preferential right on,
communities, retaining their original natural rights, as the undisputed possessors of the or restrict the nation's power to dispose of, them.181
soil from time immemorial,with the single exception of that imposed by irresistible power,
which excluded them from intercourse with any other European potentate than the first The American judiciary struggled for more than 200 years with the ancestral land claims
discoverer of the coast of the particular region claimed: and this was a restriction which those of indigenous Americans.182 And two things are clear. First, aboriginal title is
European potentates imposed on themselves, as well as on the Indians. The very term recognized. Second, indigenous property systems are also recognized. From a legal point of
"nation," so generally applied to them, means "a people distinct from others." x x x.167 view, certain benefits can be drawn from a comparison of Philippine IPs to native
Americans.183 Despite the similarities between native title and aboriginal title, however, there
The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community, occupying its own territory, with are at present some misgivings on whether jurisprudence on American Indians may be cited
boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which authoritatively in the Philippines. The U.S. recognizes the possessory rights of the Indians
the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves over their land; title to the land, however, is deemed to have passed to the U.S. as successor of
or in conformity with treaties and with the acts of Congress. The whole intercourse between the discoverer. The aboriginal title of ownership is not specifically recognized as ownership by
the United States and this nation is, by our Constitution and laws, vested in the government of action authorized by Congress.184 The protection of aboriginal title merely guards against
the United States."168 encroachment by persons other than the Federal Government.185 Although there are criticisms
against the refusal to recognize the native Americans' ownership of these lands,186 the power
The discovery of the American continent gave title to the government of the discoverer as of the State to extinguish these titles has remained firmly entrenched.187
against all other European governments. Designated as the naked fee,169 this title was to be
consummated by possession and was subject to the Indian title of occupancy. The discoverer Under the IPRA, the Philippine State is not barred form asserting sovereignty over the
acknowledged the Indians' legal and just claim to retain possession of the land, the Indians ancestral domains and ancestral lands.188 The IPRA, however, is still in its infancy and any
being the original inhabitants of the land. The discoverer nonetheless asserted the exclusive similarities between its application in the Philippines vis-à-vis American Jurisprudence on
right to acquire the Indians' land- either by purchase, "defensive" conquest, or cession- and in aboriginal title will depend on the peculiar facts of each case.
so doing, extinguish the Indian title. Only the discoverer could extinguish Indian title because
(c) Why the Cariño doctrine is unique For this purpose, said individually-owned ancestral lands, which are agricultural in character
and actually used for agricultural, residential, pasture, and tree farming purposes, including
In the Philippines, the concept of native title first upheld in Cariño and enshrined in the IPRA those with a slope of eighteen percent (18%) or more, are hereby classified as alienable and
grants ownership, albeit in limited form, of the land to the ICCs/IPs. Native title presumes that disposable agricultural lands.
the land is private and was never public. Cariño is the only case that specifically and
categorically recognizes native title. The long line of cases citing Cariño did not touch on The option granted under this section shall be exercised within twenty (20) years from the
native title and the private character of ancestral domains and lands. Cariño was cited by approval of this Act."196
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 ICCs/IPs are given the option to secure a torrens certificate of title over their individually-
be registered must be public agricultural land. When the conditions specified in Section 48 owned ancestral lands. This option is limited to ancestral lands only, not domains, and such
[b] of the Public Land Act are complied with, the possessor of the land is deemed to have lands must be individually, not communally, owned.
acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant of the land.189 The land ceases to be part of the
public domain,190 ipso jure,191 and is converted to private property by the mere lapse or
completion of the prescribed statutory period. Ancestral lands that are owned by individual members of ICCs/IPs who, by themselves or
through their predecessors-in-interest, have been in continuous possession and occupation of
the same in the concept of owner since time immemorial 197 or for a period of not less than 30
It was only in the case of Oh Cho v. Director of Lands192 that the court declared that the rule years, which claims are uncontested by the members of the same ICCs/IPs, may be registered
that all lands that were not acquired from the government, either by purchase or grant, belong under C.A. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land Act, or Act 496, the Land Registration
to the public domain has an exception. This exception would be any land that should have Act. For purposes of registration, the individually-owned ancestral lands are classified as
been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors-in-interest since time alienable and disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, provided, they are
immemorial. It is this kind of possession that would justify the presumption that the land had agricultural in character and are actually used for agricultural, residential, pasture and tree
never been part of the public domain or that it had been private property even before the farming purposes. These lands shall be classified as public agricultural lands regardless of
Spanish conquest.193 Oh Cho, however, was decided under the provisions of the Public Land whether they have a slope of 18% or more.
Act and Cariñowas cited to support the applicant's claim of acquisitive prescription under the
said Act.
The classification of ancestral land as public agricultural land is in compliance with the
requirements of the Public Land Act and the Land Registration Act. C.A. 141, the Public Land
All these years, Cariño had been quoted out of context simply to justify long, continuous, Act, deals specifically with lands of the public domain.198 Its provisions apply to those lands
open and adverse possession in the concept of owner of public agricultural land. It is this long, "declared open to disposition or concession" x x x "which have not been reserved for public or
continuous, open and adverse possession in the concept of owner of thirty years both for quasi-public purposes, nor appropriated by the Government, nor in any manner become
ordinary citizens194 and members of the national cultural minorities195 that converts the land private property, nor those on which a private right authorized and recognized by this Act or
from public into private and entitles the registrant to a torrens certificate of title. any other valid law x x x or which having been reserved or appropriated, have ceased to be
so."199 Act 496, the Land Registration Act, allows registration only of private lands and public
(3) The Option of Securing a Torrens Title to the Ancestral Land Indicates that the Land agricultural lands. Since ancestral domains and lands are private, if the ICC/IP wants to
is Private. avail of the benefits of C.A. 141 and Act 496, the IPRA itself converts his ancestral land,
regardless of whether the land has a slope of eighteen per cent (18%) or over,200 from
The private character of ancestral lands and domains as laid down in the IPRA is private to public agricultural land for proper disposition.
further strengthened by the option given to individual ICCs/IPs over their individually-owned
ancestral lands. For purposes of registration under the Public Land Act and the Land The option to register land under the Public Land Act and the Land Registration Act has
Registration Act, the IPRA expressly converts ancestral land into public agricultural nonetheless a limited period. This option must be exercised within twenty (20) years from
land which may be disposed of by the State. The necessary implication is thatancestral October 29, 1997, the date of approval of the IPRA.
land is private. It, however, has to be first converted to public agricultural land simply for
registration purposes. To wit: 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
"Sec. 12. Option to Secure Certificate of Title Under Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, or Economy and Patrimony of the 1987 Constitution classifies lands of the public domain into
the Land Registration Act 496- Individual members of cultural communities, with respect to four categories: (a) agricultural, (b) forest or timber, (c) mineral lands, and (d) national
their individually-owned ancestral lands who, by themselves or through their predecessors-in- parks. Section 5 of the same Article XII mentions ancestral lands and ancestral domains but it
interest, have been in continuous possession and occupation of the same in the concept of does not classify them under any of the said four categories. To classify them as public lands
owner since time immemorial or for a period of not less than thirty (30) years immediately under any one of the four classes will render the entire IPRA law a nullity. The spirit of
preceding the approval of this Act and uncontested by the members of the same ICCs/IPs shall the IPRA lies in the distinct concept of ancestral domains and ancestral lands. The IPRA
have the option to secure title to their ancestral lands under the provisions of Commonwealth addresses the major problem of the ICCs/IPs which is loss of land. Land and space are of vital
Act 141, as amended, or the Land Registration Act 496. concern in terms of sheer survival of the ICCs/IPs.201
The 1987 Constitution mandates the State to "protect the rights of indigenous cultural (c) Members of the national cultural minorities who by themselves or through
communities to their ancestral lands" and that "Congress provide for the applicability of their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
customary laws x x x in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domain."202 It notorious possession and occupation of lands of the public domain suitable to
is the recognition of the ICCs/IPs distinct rights of ownership over their ancestral agriculture, whether disposable or not, under a bona fide claim of ownership
domains and lands that breathes life into this constitutional mandate. for at least 30 years shall be entitled to the rights granted in sub-section (b)
hereof."204
B. The right of ownership and possession by the ICCs/IPs of their ancestral domains is a
limited form of ownership and does not include the right to alienate the same. Registration under the foregoing provisions presumes that the land was originally public
agricultural land but because of adverse possession since July 4, 1955 (free patent) or at least
Registration under the Public Land Act and Land Registration Act recognizes the concept of thirty years (judicial confirmation), the land has become private. Open, adverse, public and
ownership under thecivil law. This ownership is based on adverse possession for a specified continuous possession is sufficient, provided, the possessor makes proper application therefor.
period, and harkens to Section 44 of the Public Land Act on administrative legalization (free The possession has to be confirmed judicially or administratively after which a torrens title is
patent) of imperfect or incomplete titles and Section 48 (b) and (c) of the same Act on the issued.
judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles. Thus:
A torrens title recognizes the owner whose name appears in the certificate as entitled to all the
"Sec. 44. Any natural-born citizen of the Philippines who is not the owner of more than rights of ownership under the civil law. The Civil Code of the Philippines defines ownership
twenty-four hectares and who since July fourth, 1926 or prior thereto, has continuously in Articles 427, 428 and 429. This concept is based on Roman Law which the Spaniards
occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, a tract or introduced to the Philippines through the Civil Code of 1889. Ownership, under Roman Law,
tracts of agricultural public lands subject to disposition, or who shall have paid the real estate may be exercised over things or rights. It primarily includes the right of the owner to enjoy
tax thereon while the same has not been occupied by any person shall be entitled, under the and dispose of the thing owned. And the right to enjoy and dispose of the thing includes the
provisions of this chapter, to have a free patent issued to him for such tract or tracts of such right to receive from the thing what it produces,205 the right to consume the thing by its
land not to exceed twenty-four hectares. use,206 the right to alienate, encumber, transform or even destroy the thing owned,207 and the
right to exclude from the possession of the thing owned by any other person to whom the
owner has not transmitted such thing.208
A member of the national cultural minorities who has continuously occupied and
cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, a tract or tracts of
land, whether disposable or not since July 4, 1955, shall be entitled to the right granted 1. The Indigenous Concept of Ownership and Customary Law.
in the preceding paragraph of this section: Provided, That at the time he files his free
patent application he is not the owner of any real property secured or disposable under Ownership of ancestral domains by native title does not entitle the ICC/IP to a torrens title but
the provision of the Public Land Law.203 to a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). The CADT formally recognizes
the indigenous concept of ownership of the ICCs/IPs over their ancestral domain. Thus:
x x x.
"Sec. 5. Indigenous concept of ownership.- Indigenous concept of ownership sustains the view
"Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public that ancestral domains and all resources found therein shall serve as the material bases of their
domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not cultural integrity. The indigenous concept of ownership generally holds that ancestral domains
been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where are the ICCs/IPs private but community property which belongs to all generations and
the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefore cannot be sold, disposed or destroyed. It likewise covers sustainable traditional
therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit: resource rights."

(a) [perfection of Spanish titles] xxx. 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
ancestral domains are the ICCs/IPs private but community property. It is private simply
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in because it is not part of the public domain. But its private character ends there. The
open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural ancestral domain is owned in common by the ICCs/IPs and not by one particular
lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, for person. The IPRA itself provides that areas within the ancestral domains, whether delineated
at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for or not, are presumed to be communally held.209 These communal rights, however, are not
confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be
exactly the same as co-ownership rights under the Civil Code.210 Co-ownership gives any
conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a co-owner the right to demand partition of the property held in common. The Civil Code
Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of expressly provides that "no co-owner shall be obliged to remain in the co-ownership." Each
this Chapter. co-owner may demand at any time the partition of the thing in common, insofar as his share is
concerned.211 To allow such a right over ancestral domains may be destructive not only of The moral import of ancestral domain, native land or being native is "belongingness" to the
customary law of the community but of the very community itself.212 land, being people of the land- by sheer force of having sprung from the land since time
beyond recall, and the faithful nurture of the land by the sweat of one's brow. This is fidelity
Communal rights over land are not the same as corporate rights over real property, of usufructuary relation to the land- the possession of stewardship through perduring, intimate
much less corporate condominium rights. A corporation can exist only for a maximum of tillage, and the mutuality of blessings between man and land; from man, care for land; from
fifty (50) years subject to an extension of another fifty years in any single instance.213 Every the land, sustenance for man.222
stockholder has the right to disassociate himself from the corporation.214 Moreover, the
corporation itself may be dissolved voluntarily or involuntarily.215 C. Sections 7 (a), 7 (b) and 57 of the IPRA Do Not Violate the Regalian Doctrine
Enshrined in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
Communal rights to the land are held not only by the present possessors of the land but
extends to all generations of the ICCs/IPs, past, present and future, to the domain. This is 1. The Rights of ICCs/IPs Over Their Ancestral Domains and Lands
the reason why the ancestral domain must be kept within the ICCs/IPs themselves. The
domain cannot be transferred, sold or conveyed to other persons. It belongs to the ICCs/IPs as The IPRA grants the ICCs/IPs several rights over their ancestral domains and ancestral lands.
a community. Section 7 provides for the rights over ancestral domains:

Ancestral lands are also held under the indigenous concept of ownership. The lands are "Sec. 7. Rights to Ancestral Domains.- The rights of ownership and possession of ICCs/IPs to
communal. These lands, however, may be transferred subject to the following limitations: (a) their ancestral domains shall be recognized and protected. Such rights include:
only to the members of the same ICCs/IPs; (b) in accord with customary laws and traditions;
and (c) subject to the right of redemption of the ICCs/IPs for a period of 15 years if the land
was transferred to a non-member of the ICCs/IPs. a) Right of Ownership.- 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
Following the constitutional mandate that "customary law govern property rights or relations within the domains;
in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domains,"216 the IPRA, by legislative
fiat, introduces a new concept of ownership. This is a concept that has long existed under
customary law.217 b) Right to Develop Lands and Natural Resources.- Subject to Section 56 hereof,
the right to develop, control and use lands and territories traditionally
occupied, owned, or used; to manage and conserve natural resources within the
Custom, from which customary law is derived, is also recognized under the Civil Code as territories and uphold the responsibilities for future generations; to benefit and
a source of law.218 Some articles of the Civil Code expressly provide that custom should be share the profits from allocation and utilization of the natural resources found
applied in cases where no codal provision is applicable.219 In other words, in the absence of therein; the right to negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of
any applicable provision in the Civil Code, custom, when duly proven, can define rights and natural resources in the areas for the purpose of ensuring ecological,
liabilities.220 environmental protection and the conservation measures, pursuant to national
and customary laws; the right to an informed and intelligent participation in the
Customary law is a primary, not secondary, source of rights under the IPRA and uniquely formulation and implementation of any project, government or private, that will
applies to ICCs/IPs.Its recognition does not depend on the absence of a specific provision affect or impact upon the ancestral domains and to receive just and fair
in the civil law. The indigenous concept of ownership under customary law is specifically compensation for any damages which they may sustain as a result of the project; and
acknowledged and recognized, and coexists with the civil law concept and the laws on land the right to effective measures by the government to prevent any interference with,
titling and land registration.221 alienation and encroachment upon these rights;"

To be sure, the indigenous concept of ownership exists even without a paper title. The c) Right to Stay in the Territories.- The right to stay in the territory and not to be
CADT is merely a "formal recognition" of native title. This is clear from Section 11 of the removed therefrom. No ICCs/IPs will be relocated without their free and prior
IPRA, to wit: informed consent, nor through any means other than eminent domain. x x x;

"Sec. 11. Recognition of Ancestral Domain Rights.- The rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral d) Right in Case of Displacement.- In case displacement occurs as a result of natural
domains by virtue of Native Title shall be recognized and respected. Formal recognition, when catastrophes, the State shall endeavor to resettle the displaced ICCs/IPs in suitable
solicited by ICCs/IPs concerned shall be embodied in a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title, areas where they can have temporary life support systems: x x x;
which shall recognize the title of the concerned ICCs/IPs over the territories identified and
delineated." e) Right to Regulate the Entry of Migrants.- Right to regulate the entry of migrant
settlers and organizations into their domains;
f) Right to Safe and Clean Air and Water.-For this purpose, the ICCs/IPs shall have The Regalian doctrine on the ownership, management and utilization of natural resources is
access to integrated systems for the management of their inland waters and air declared in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, viz:
space;
"Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other
g) Right to Claim Parts of Reservations.- The right to claim parts of the ancestral mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and
domains which have been reserved for various purposes, except those reserved and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of
intended for common and public welfare and service; agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated.The exploration,
development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and
h) Right to Resolve Conflict.- Right to resolve land conflicts in accordance with supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or, it may
customary laws of the area where the land is located, and only in default thereof enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino
shall the complaints be submitted to amicable settlement and to the Courts of Justice citizens, or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is
whenever necessary." owned by such citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five
years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms and conditions as
may be provided by law. In cases of water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, water
Section 8 provides for the rights over ancestral lands: supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, beneficial use
may be the measure and limit of the grant.
"Sec. 8. Rights to Ancestral Lands.- The right of ownership and possession of the ICCs/IPs to
their ancestral lands shall be recognized and protected. The State shall protect the nation's marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and
exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.
a) Right to transfer land/property.- Such right shall include the right to transfer land
or property rights to/among members of the same ICCs/IPs, subject to customary The Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino
laws and traditions of the community concerned. citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming, with priority to subsistence fishermen and
fishworkers in rivers, lakes, bays, and lagoons.
b) Right to Redemption.- In cases where it is shown that the transfer of land/property
rights by virtue of any agreement or devise, to a non-member of the concerned The President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving either
ICCs/IPs is tainted by the vitiated consent of the ICCs/IPs, or is transferred for an technical or financial assistance for large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of
unconscionable consideration or price, the transferor ICC/IP shall have the right to minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils according to the general terms and conditions
redeem the same within a period not exceeding fifteen (15) years from the date of provided by law, based on real contributions to the economic growth and general welfare of
transfer." the country. In such agreements, the state shall promote the development and use of local
scientific and technical resources.
Section 7 (a) defines the ICCs/IPs the right of ownership over their ancestral domains which
covers (a) lands, (b) bodies of water traditionally and actually occupied by the ICCs/IPs, (c) The President shall notify the Congress of every contract entered into in accordance with this
sacred places, (d) traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and (e) all improvements made by provision, within thirty days from its execution."223
them at any time within the domains. The right of ownership includes the following rights:
(1) the right to develop lands and natural resources; (b) the right to stay in the territories; (c)
the right to resettlement in case of displacement; (d) the right to regulate the entry of migrants; All lands of the public domain and all natural resources- waters, minerals, coal, petroleum,
(e) the right to safe and clean air and water; (f) the right to claim parts of the ancestral domains and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora
as reservations; and (g) the right to resolve conflict in accordance with customary laws. and fauna, and other natural resources- are owned by the State. The Constitution provides
that in the exploration, development and utilization of these natural resources, the State
exercises full control and supervision, and may undertake the same in four (4) modes:
Section 8 governs their rights to ancestral lands. Unlike ownership over the ancestral domains,
Section 8 gives the ICCs/IPs also the right to transfer the land or property rights to members of
the same ICCs/IPs or non-members thereof. This is in keeping with the option given to 1. The State may directly undertake such activities; or
ICCs/IPs to secure a torrens title over the ancestrallands, but not to domains.
2. The State may enter into co-production, joint venture or production-sharing
2. The Right of ICCs/IPs to Develop Lands and Natural Resources Within the Ancestral agreements with Filipino citizens or qualified corporations;
Domains Does Not Deprive the State of Ownership Over the Natural Resources and Control
and Supervision in their Development and Exploitation. 3. Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by
Filipino citizens;
4. For the large-scale exploration, development and utilization of minerals, "Section 1. Rights of Ownership. ICCs/IPs have rights of ownership over lands, waters, and
petroleum and other mineral oils, the President may enter into agreements with natural resources and all improvements made by them at any time within the ancestral
foreign-owned corporations involving technical or financial assistance. domains/ lands. These rights shall include, but not limited to, the right over the fruits, the right
to possess, the right to use, right to consume, right to exclude and right to recover ownership,
As owner of the natural resources, the State is accorded primary power and and the rights or interests over land and natural resources. The right to recover shall be
responsibility in the exploration, development and utilization of these natural resources. particularly applied to lands lost through fraud or any form or vitiated consent or transferred
The State may directly undertake the exploitation and development by itself, or, it may allow for an unconscionable price."
participation by the private sector through co-production,224 joint venture,225 or production-
sharing agreements.226 These agreements may be for a period of 25 years, renewable for Section 1 of the Implementing Rules gives the ICCs/IPs rights of ownership over "lands,
another 25 years. The State, through Congress, may allow the small-scale utilization of natural waters and natural resources." The term "natural resources" is not one of those expressly
resources by Filipino citizens. For the large-scale exploration of these resources, specifically mentioned in Section 7 (a) of the law. Our Constitution and jurisprudence clearly declare that
minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils, the State, through the President, may enter into the right to claim ownership over land does not necessarily include the right to claim
technical and financial assistance agreements with foreign-owned corporations. ownership over the natural resources found on or under the land.231 The IPRA itself makes a
distinction between land and natural resources. Section 7 (a) speaks of the right of
Under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, (R.A. 7942) and the People's Small-Scale Mining ownership only over the land within the ancestral domain. It is Sections 7 (b) and 57 of
Act of 1991 (R.A. 7076) the three types of agreements, i.e., co-production, joint venture or the law that speak of natural resources, and these provisions, as shall be discussed later,
production-sharing, may apply to both large-scale227 and small-scale mining.228 "Small-scale do not give the ICCs/IPs the right of ownership over these resources.
mining" refers to "mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple
implements and methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment."229 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
Examining the IPRA, there is nothing in the law that grants to the ICCs/IPs ownership constitutionality of the Implementing Rules in general.232Nevertheless, to avoid any confusion
over the natural resources within their ancestral domains. The right of ICCs/IPs in their in the implementation of the law, it is necessary to declare that the inclusion of "natural
ancestral domains includesownership, but this "ownership" is expressly defined and resources" in Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules goes beyond the
limited in Section 7 (a) as: parameters of Section 7 (b) of the law and is contrary to Section 2, Article XII of the 1987
Constitution.
"Sec. 7. a) Right of ownership- The right to claim ownership over lands, bodies of water
traditionally and actually occupied by ICCs/IPs, sacred places, traditional hunting and fishing (b) The Small-Scale Utilization of Natural Resources In Sec. 7 (b) of the IPRA Is Allowed
grounds, and all improvements made by them at any time within the domains;" Under Paragraph 3, Section 2 of Article XII of the Constitution.

The ICCs/IPs are given the right to claim ownership over "lands, bodies of water traditionally Ownership over natural resources remain with the State and the IPRA in Section 7 (b) merely
and actually occupied by ICCs/IPs, sacred places, traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and grants the ICCs/IPs the right to manage them, viz:
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 "Sec. 7 (b) Right to Develop Lands and Natural Resources.- Subject to Section 56 hereof, right
ICCs/IPs, minerals, coal, wildlife, flora and fauna in the traditional hunting grounds, fish in to develop, control and use lands and territories traditionally occupied, owned, or used; to
the traditional fishing grounds, forests or timber in the sacred places, etc. and all other natural manage and conserve natural resourceswithin the territories and uphold the responsibilities for
resources found within the ancestral domains. Indeed, the right of ownership under Section future generations; to benefit and share the profits from allocation and utilization of the natural
7 (a) does not cover "waters,minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces resources found therein; the right to negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of
of potential energy, fisheries, forests ortimber, wildlife, flora and fauna and all other natural resources in the areas for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental protection
natural resources" enumerated in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution as and the conservation measures, pursuant to national and customary laws; the right to an
belonging to the State. informed and intelligent participation in the formulation and implementation of any project,
government or private, that will affect or impact upon the ancestral domains and to receive just
The non-inclusion of ownership by the ICCs/IPs over the natural resources in Section 7(a) and fair compensation for any damages which they may sustain as a result of the project;
complies with the Regalian doctrine. and the right to effective measures by the government to prevent any interference with,
alienation and encroachment upon these rights;"
(a) Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules Goes Beyond the Parameters of
Sec. 7 (a) of the IPRA And is Unconstitutional. The right to develop lands and natural resources under Section 7 (b) of the IPRA
enumerates the following rights:
The Rules Implementing the IPRA230 in Section 1, Part II, Rule III reads:
a) the right to develop, control and use lands and territories traditionally occupied;
b) the right to manage and conserve natural resources within the territories and "Sec. 57. Natural Resources within Ancestral Domains.- The ICCs/IPs shall have priority
uphold the responsibilities for future generations; rights in theharvesting, extraction, development or exploitation of any natural resources
within the ancestral domains. A non-member of the ICCs/IPs concerned may be allowed to
c) the right to benefit and share the profits from the allocation and utilization of take part in the development and utilization of the natural resources for a period of not
the natural resources found therein; exceeding twenty-five (25) years renewable for not more than twenty-five (25)
years: Provided, That a formal and written agreement is entered into with the ICCs/IPs
concerned or that the community, pursuant to its own decision-making process, has agreed to
d) the right to negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of natural allow such operation: Provided finally, That the NCIP may exercise visitorial powers and take
resources for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental protection and the appropriate action to safeguard the rights of the ICCs/IPs under the same contract."
conservation measures, pursuant to national and customary laws;
Section 57 speaks of the "harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation of natural
e) the right to an informed and intelligent participation in the formulation and resources within ancestral domains" and "gives the ICCs/IPs 'priority rights' therein." The
implementation of any project, government or private, that will affect or impact terms "harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation" of any natural resources
upon the ancestral domains and to receive just and fair compensation for any within the ancestral domains obviously refer to large-scale utilization. It is utilization not
damages which they may sustain as a result of the project; merely for subsistence but for commercial or other extensive use that require technology other
than manual labor.236 The law recognizes the probability of requiring a non-member of the
f) the right to effective measures by the government to prevent any interference ICCs/IPs to participate in the development and utilization of the natural resources and thereby
with, alienation and encroachment upon these rights.233 allows such participation for a period of not more than 25 years, renewable for another 25
years. This may be done on condition that a formal written agreement be entered into by the
non-member and members of the ICCs/IPs.
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, Section 57 of the IPRA does not give the ICCs/IPs the right to "manage and conserve" the
and "negotiate the terms and conditions for their exploration" for the purpose of natural resources. Instead, the law only grants the ICCs/IPs "priority rights" in the
"ensuring ecological and environmental protection and conservation measures." It must development or exploitation thereof. Priority means giving preference. Having priority rights
be noted that the right to negotiate the terms and conditions over the natural resources covers over the natural resources does not necessarily mean ownership rights. The grant of priority
only their exploration which must be for the purpose of ensuring ecological and environmental rights implies that there is a superior entity that owns these resources and this entity has the
protection of, and conservation measures in the ancestral domain. It does not extend to the power to grant preferential rights over the resources to whosoever itself chooses.
exploitation and development of natural resources.
Section 57 is not a repudiation of the Regalian doctrine. Rather, it is an affirmation of the said
Simply stated, the ICCs/IPs' rights over the natural resources take the form of doctrine that all natural resources found within the ancestral domains belong to the State. It
management or stewardship. For the ICCs/IPs may use these resources and share in the incorporates by implication the Regalian doctrine, hence, requires that the provision be read in
profits of their utilization or negotiate the terms for their exploration. At the same time, the light of Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. Interpreting Section 2, Article
however, the ICCs/IPs must ensure that the natural resources within their ancestral domains XII of the 1987 Constitution237 in relation to Section 57 of IPRA, the State, as owner of
are conserved for future generations and that the "utilization" of these resources must not harm these natural resources, may directly undertake the development and exploitation of the
the ecology and environment pursuant to national and customary laws.234 natural resources by itself, or in the alternative, it may recognize the priority rights of
the ICCs/IPs as owners of the land on which the natural resources are found by entering
The limited rights of "management and use" in Section 7 (b) must be taken to into a co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreement with them. The
contemplate small-scale utilization of natural resources as distinguished from large-scale. State may likewise enter into any of said agreements with a non-member of the ICCs/IPs,
Small-scale utilization of natural resources is expressly allowed in the third paragraph of whether natural or juridical, or enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations
Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution "in recognition of the plight of forest dwellers, involving either technical or financial assistance for the large-scale exploration,
gold panners, marginal fishermen and others similarly situated who exploit our natural development and utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils, or allow such
non-member to participate in its agreement with the ICCs/IPs. If the State decides to enter
resources for their daily sustenance and survival."235 Section 7 (b) also expressly mandates the
into an agreement with a non-ICC/IP member, the National Commission on Indigenous
ICCs/IPs to manage and conserve these resources and ensure environmental and ecological
Peoples (NCIP) shall ensure that the rights of the ICCs/IPs under the agreement shall be
protection within the domains, which duties, by their very nature, necessarily reject utilization
in a large-scale. protected. The agreement shall be for a period of 25 years, renewable for another 25 years.

To reiterate, in the large-scale utilization of natural resources within the ancestral domains, the
(c) The Large-Scale Utilization of Natural Resources In Section 57 of the IPRA Is
State, as owner of these resources, has four (4) options: (1) it may, of and by itself, directly
Allowed Under Paragraphs 1 and 4, Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
undertake the development and exploitation of the natural resources; or (2) it may recognize
the priority rights of the ICCs/IPs by entering into an agreement with them for such
Section 57 of the IPRA provides:
development and exploitation; or (3) it may enter into an agreement with a non-member of the natural resources that do not necessarily lie within the ancestral domains. For those that are
ICCs/IPs, whether natural or juridical, local or foreign; or (4) it may allow such non-member found within the said domains, Sections 7(b) and 57 of the IPRA apply.
to participate in the agreement with the ICCs/IPs.
V. THE IPRA IS A RECOGNITION OF OUR ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN THE
The rights granted by the IPRA to the ICCs/IPs over the natural resources in their INDIGENOUS INTERNATIONAL MOVEMENT.
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, The indigenous movement can be seen as the heir to a history of anti-imperialism stretching
and at the same time, a priority in their large-scale development and back to prehistoric times. The movement received a massive impetus during the 1960's from
exploitation. Section 57 does not mandate the State to automatically give priority to the two sources. First, the decolonization of Asia and Africa brought into the limelight the
ICCs/IPs. The State has several options and it is within its discretion to choose which possibility of peoples controlling their own destinies. Second, the right of self-determination
option to pursue. Moreover, there is nothing in the law that gives the ICCs/IPs the right to was enshrined in the UN Declaration on Human Rights.238 The rise of the civil rights
solely undertake the large-scale development of the natural resources within their domains. movement and anti-racism brought to the attention of North American Indians, Aborigines in
The ICCs/IPs must undertake such endeavour alwaysunder State supervision or control. This Australia, and Maori in New Zealand the possibility of fighting for fundamental rights and
indicates that the State does not lose control and ownership over the resources even in their freedoms.
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. In 1974 and 1975, international indigenous organizations were founded,239 and during the
1980's, indigenous affairs were on the international agenda. The people of the Philippine
Cordillera were the first Asians to take part in the international indigenous movement. It was
Neither is the State stripped of ownership and control of the natural resources by the following the Cordillera People's Alliance that carried out successful campaigns against the building of
provision: the Chico River Dam in 1981-82 and they have since become one of the best-organized
indigenous bodies in the world.240
"Section 59. Certification Precondition.- All departments and other governmental agencies
shall henceforth be strictly enjoined from issuing, renewing or granting any concession, Presently, there is a growing concern for indigenous rights in the international scene. This
license or lease, or entering into any production-sharing agreement. without prior certification came as a result of the increased publicity focused on the continuing disrespect for indigenous
from the NCIP that the area affected does not overlap with any ancestral domain. Such human rights and the destruction of the indigenous peoples' environment, together with the
certification shall only be issued after a field-based investigation is conducted by the Ancestral national governments' inability to deal with the situation.241Indigenous rights came as a result
Domains Office of the area concerned: Provided, That no certification shall be issued by the of both human rights and environmental protection, and have become a part of today's
NCIP without the free and prior informed and written consent of the ICCs/IPs priorities for the international agenda.242
concerned: Provided, further, That no department, government agency or government-owned
or -controlled corporation may issue new concession, license, lease, or production sharing
agreement while there is a pending application for a CADT: Provided, finally, That the International institutions and bodies have realized the necessity of applying policies, programs
ICCs/IPs shall have the right to stop or suspend, in accordance with this Act, any project that and specific rules concerning IPs in some nations. The World Bank, for example, first adopted
has not satisfied the requirement of this consultation process." a policy on IPs as a result of the dismal experience of projects in Latin America.243 The World
Bank now seeks to apply its current policy on IPs to some of its projects in Asia. This policy
has provided an influential model for the projects of the Asian Development Bank.244
Concessions, licenses, lease or production-sharing agreements for the exploitation of natural
resources shall not be issued, renewed or granted by all departments and government agencies
without prior certification from the NCIP that the area subject of the agreement does not The 1987 Philippine Constitution formally recognizes the existence of ICCs/IPs and declares as
overlap with any ancestral domain. The NCIP certification shall be issued only after a field- a State policy the promotion of their rights within the framework of national unity and
based investigation shall have been conducted and the free and prior informed written consent development.245 The IPRA amalgamates the Philippine category of ICCs with the international
of the ICCs/IPs obtained. Non-compliance with the consultation requirement gives the category of IPs,246 and is heavily influenced by both the International Labor Organization
ICCs/IPs the right to stop or suspend any project granted by any department or government (ILO) Convention 169 and the United Nations (UN) Draft Declaration on the Rights of
agency. Indigenous Peoples.247

As its subtitle suggests, this provision requires as a precondition for the issuance of any ILO Convention No. 169 is entitled the "Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal
concession, license or agreement over natural resources, that a certification be issued by the Peoples in Independent Countries"248 and was adopted on June 27, 1989. It is based on the
NCIP that the area subject of the agreement does not lie within any ancestral domain. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
provision does not vest the NCIP with power over the other agencies of the State as to Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and many other
determine whether to grant or deny any concession or license or agreement. It merely gives the international instruments on the prevention of discrimination.249 ILO Convention No. 169
NCIP the authority to ensure that the ICCs/IPs have been informed of the agreement and that revised the "Convention Concerning the Protection and Integration of Indigenous and Other
their consent thereto has been obtained. Note that the certification applies to agreements over Tribal and Semi-Tribal Populations in Independent Countries" (ILO No. 107) passed on June
26, 1957. Developments in international law made it appropriate to adopt new international
standards on indigenous peoples "with a view to removing the assimilationist orientation of
the earlier standards," and recognizing the aspirations of these peoples to exercise control over
their own institutions, ways of life and economic development."250

CONCLUSION

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.251 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.252 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,253 it is this Court's
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.

With the foregoing disquisitions, I vote to uphold the constitutionality of the Indigenous
Peoples Rights Act of 1997.
Republic of the Philippines After trial, on December 3, 2002, the RTC rendered judgment granting Malabanan’s
SUPREME COURT application for land registration, disposing thusly:
Manila
WHEREFORE, this Court hereby approves this application for registration and thus places
EN BANC 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
G.R. No. 179987 September 3, 2013 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,
HEIRS OF MARIO MALABANAN, (Represented by Sally A. Malabanan), Petitioners, widower, and with residence at Munting Ilog, Silang, Cavite.
vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
Once this Decision becomes final and executory, the corresponding decree of registration shall
forthwith issue.
RESOLUTION
SO ORDERED.3
BERSAMIN, J.:
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) appealed the judgment to the CA, arguing that
For our consideration and resolution are the motions for reconsideration of the parties who Malabanan had failed to prove that the property belonged to the alienable and disposable land
both assail the decision promulgated on April 29, 2009, whereby we upheld the ruling of the of the public domain, and that the RTC erred in finding that he had been in possession of the
Court of Appeals (CA) denying the application of the petitioners for the registration of a property in the manner and for the length of time required by law for confirmation of
parcel of land situated in Barangay Tibig, Silang, Cavite on the ground that they had not imperfect title.
established by sufficient evidence their right to the registration in accordance with either
Section 14(1) or Section 14(2) of Presidential Decree No. 1529 (Property Registration
Decree). On February 23, 2007, the CA promulgated its decision reversing the RTC and dismissing the
application for registration of Malabanan. Citing the ruling in Republic v. Herbieto
(Herbieto),4 the CA declared that under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, any
Antecedents period of possession prior to the classification of the land as alienable and disposable was
inconsequential and should be excluded from the computation of the period of possession.
The property subject of the application for registration is a parcel of land situated in Barangay Noting that the CENRO-DENR certification stated that the property had been declared
Tibig, Silang Cavite, more particularly identified as Lot 9864-A, Cad-452-D, with an area of alienable and disposable only on March 15, 1982, Velazco’s possession prior to March 15,
71,324-square meters. On February 20, 1998, applicant Mario Malabanan, who had purchased 1982 could not be tacked for purposes of computing Malabanan’s period of possession.
the property from Eduardo Velazco, filed an application for land registration covering the
property in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Tagaytay City, Cavite, claiming that the Due to Malabanan’s intervening demise during the appeal in the CA, his heirs elevated the
property formed part of the alienable and disposable land of the public domain, and that he CA’s decision of February 23, 2007 to this Court through a petition for review on certiorari.
and his predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, uninterrupted, public and
adverse possession and occupation of the land for more than 30 years, thereby entitling him to
the judicial confirmation of his title.1 The petitioners assert that the ruling in Republic v. Court of Appeals and Corazon Naguit5
(Naguit) remains the controlling doctrine especially if the property involved is agricultural
land. In this regard, Naguit ruled that any possession of agricultural land prior to its
To prove that the property was an alienable and disposable land of the public domain, declaration as alienable and disposable could be counted in the reckoning of the period of
Malabanan presented during trial a certification dated June 11, 2001 issued by the Community possession to perfect title under the Public Land Act (Commonwealth Act No. 141) and the
Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the Department of Environment and Property Registration Decree. They point out that the ruling in Herbieto, to the effect that the
Natural Resources (DENR), which reads: declaration of the land subject of the application for registration as alienable and disposable
should also date back to June 12, 1945 or earlier, was a mere obiter dictum considering that
This is to certify that the parcel of land designated as Lot No. 9864 Cad 452-D, Silang the land registration proceedings therein were in fact found and declared void ab initio for lack
Cadastre as surveyed for Mr. Virgilio Velasco located at Barangay Tibig, Silang, Cavite of publication of the notice of initial hearing.
containing an area of 249,734 sq. meters as shown and described on the Plan Ap-04-00952 is
verified to be within the Alienable or Disposable land per Land Classification Map No. 3013 The petitioners also rely on the ruling in Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.6 to support their
established under Project No. 20-A and approved as such under FAO 4-1656 on March 15, argument that the property had been ipso jure converted into private property by reason of the
1982.2 open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession by their predecessors-in-interest of an
alienable land of the public domain for more than 30 years. According to them, what was
essential was that the property had been "converted" into private property through prescription public service or for the development of the national wealth.12 Land belonging to the State that
at the time of the application without regard to whether the property sought to be registered is not of such character, or although of such character but no longer intended for public use or
was previously classified as agricultural land of the public domain. for public service forms part of the patrimonial property of the State.13 Land that is other than
part of the patrimonial property of the State, provinces, cities and municipalities is of private
As earlier stated, we denied the petition for review on certiorari because Malabanan failed to ownership if it belongs to a private individual.
establish by sufficient evidence possession and occupation of the property on his part and on
the part of his predecessors-in interest since June 12, 1945, or earlier. Pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine (Jura Regalia), a legal concept first introduced into the
country from the West by Spain through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas,14 all
Petitioners’ Motion for Reconsideration lands of the public domain belong to the State.15 This means that the State is the source of any
asserted right to ownership of land, and is charged with the conservation of such patrimony.16
In their motion for reconsideration, the petitioners submit that the mere classification of the
land as alienable or disposable should be deemed sufficient to convert it into patrimonial All lands not appearing to be clearly under private ownership are presumed to belong to the
State. Also, public lands remain part of the inalienable land of the public domain unless the
property of the State. Relying on the rulings in Spouses De Ocampo v. Arlos,7 Menguito v.
State is shown to have reclassified or alienated them to private persons.17
Republic8 and Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,9 they argue that the reclassification of the
land as alienable or disposable opened it to acquisitive prescription under the Civil Code; that
Malabanan had purchased the property from Eduardo Velazco believing in good faith that Classifications of public lands
Velazco and his predecessors-in-interest had been the real owners of the land with the right to according to alienability
validly transmit title and ownership thereof; that consequently, the ten-year period prescribed
by Article 1134 of the Civil Code, in relation to Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Whether or not land of the public domain is alienable and disposable primarily rests on the
Decree, applied in their favor; and that when Malabanan filed the application for registration classification of public lands made under the Constitution. Under the 1935
on February 20, 1998, he had already been in possession of the land for almost 16 years Constitution,18 lands of the public domain were classified into three, namely, agricultural,
reckoned from 1982, the time when the land was declared alienable and disposable by the timber and mineral.19 Section 10, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution classified lands of the
State. public domain into seven, specifically, agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential,
resettlement, mineral, timber or forest, and grazing land, with the reservation that the law
The Republic’s Motion for Partial Reconsideration might provide other classifications. The 1987 Constitution adopted the classification under the
1935 Constitution into agricultural, forest or timber, and mineral, but added national
The Republic seeks the partial reconsideration in order to obtain a clarification with reference parks.20 Agricultural lands may be further classified by law according to the uses to which
to the application of the rulings in Naguit and Herbieto. they may be devoted.21 The identification of lands according to their legal classification is
done exclusively by and through a positive act of the Executive Department.22
Chiefly citing the dissents, the Republic contends that the decision has enlarged, by
implication, the interpretation of Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree through Based on the foregoing, the Constitution places a limit on the type of public land that may be
judicial legislation. It reiterates its view that an applicant is entitled to registration only when alienated. Under Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, only agricultural lands of the
the land subject of the application had been declared alienable and disposable since June 12, public domain may be alienated; all other natural resources may not be.
1945 or earlier.
Alienable and disposable lands of the State fall into two categories, to wit: (a) patrimonial
Ruling lands of the State, or those classified as lands of private ownership under Article 425 of the
Civil Code,23 without limitation; and (b) lands of the public domain, or the public lands as
provided by the Constitution, but with the limitation that the lands must only be agricultural.
We deny the motions for reconsideration. Consequently, lands classified as forest or timber, mineral, or national parks are not
susceptible of alienation or disposition unless they are reclassified as agricultural.24 A positive
In reviewing the assailed decision, we consider to be imperative to discuss the different act of the Government is necessary to enable such reclassification,25 and the exclusive
classifications of land in relation to the existing applicable land registration laws of the prerogative to classify public lands under existing laws is vested in the Executive Department,
Philippines. not in the courts.26 If, however, public land will be classified as neither agricultural, forest or
timber, mineral or national park, or when public land is no longer intended for public service
Classifications of land according to ownership or for the development of the national wealth, thereby effectively removing the land from the
ambit of public dominion, a declaration of such conversion must be made in the form of a law
duly enacted by Congress or by a Presidential proclamation in cases where the President is
Land, which is an immovable property,10 may be classified as either of public dominion or of duly authorized by law to that effect.27 Thus, until the Executive Department exercises its
private ownership.11Land is considered of public dominion if it either: (a) is intended for prerogative to classify or reclassify lands, or until Congress or the President declares that the
public use; or (b) belongs to the State, without being for public use, and is intended for some
State no longer intends the land to be used for public service or for the development of excludes. The use of the descriptive phrase "alienable and disposable" further limits the
national wealth, the Regalian Doctrine is applicable. coverage of Section 48(b) to only the agricultural lands of the public domain as set forth in
Article XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution. Bearing in mind such limitations under the
Disposition of alienable public lands Public Land Act, the applicant must satisfy the following requirements in order for his
application to come under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree,28 to wit:
Section 11 of the Public Land Act (CA No. 141) provides the manner by which alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain, i.e., agricultural lands, can be disposed of, to wit: 1. The applicant, by himself or through his predecessor-in-interest, has been in
possession and occupation of the property subject of the application;
Section 11. Public lands suitable for agricultural purposes can be disposed of only as follows,
and not otherwise: 2. The possession and occupation must be open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious;
(1) For homestead settlement;
3. The possession and occupation must be under a bona fide claim of acquisition of
ownership;
(2) By sale;
4. The possession and occupation must have taken place since June 12, 1945, or
(3) By lease; and earlier; and

(4) By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles; 5. The property subject of the application must be an agricultural land of the public
domain.
(a) By judicial legalization; or
Taking into consideration that the Executive Department is vested with the authority to
(b) By administrative legalization (free patent). classify lands of the public domain, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, in relation to
Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, presupposes that the land subject of the
application for registration must have been already classified as agricultural land of the public
The core of the controversy herein lies in the proper interpretation of Section 11(4), in relation
domain in order for the provision to apply. Thus, absent proof that the land is already
to Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, which expressly requires possession by a Filipino
classified as agricultural land of the public domain, the Regalian Doctrine applies, and
citizen of the land since June 12, 1945, or earlier, viz:
overcomes the presumption that the land is alienable and disposable as laid down in Section
48(b) of the Public Land Act. However, emphasis is placed on the requirement that the
Section 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public classification required by Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is classification or
domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not reclassification of a public land as agricultural.
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
The dissent stresses that the classification or reclassification of the land as alienable and
thereafter, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
disposable agricultural land should likewise have been made on June 12, 1945 or earlier,
because any possession of the land prior to such classification or reclassification produced no
xxxx legal effects. It observes that the fixed date of June 12, 1945 could not be minimized or
glossed over by mere judicial interpretation or by judicial social policy concerns, and insisted
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, that the full legislative intent be respected.
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, We find, however, that the choice of June 12, 1945 as the reckoning point of the requisite
1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the applications for confirmation of title, possession and occupation was the sole prerogative of Congress, the determination of which
except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have should best be left to the wisdom of the lawmakers. Except that said date qualified the period
performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a of possession and occupation, no other legislative intent appears to be associated with the
certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. (Bold emphasis supplied) fixing of the date of June 12, 1945. Accordingly, the Court should interpret only the plain and
literal meaning of the law as written by the legislators.
Note that Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act used the words "lands of the public domain" or
"alienable and disposable lands of the public domain" to clearly signify that lands otherwise Moreover, an examination of Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act indicates that Congress
classified, i.e., mineral, forest or timber, or national parks, and lands of patrimonial or private prescribed no requirement that the land subject of the registration should have been classified
ownership, are outside the coverage of the Public Land Act. What the law does not include, it as agricultural since June 12, 1945, or earlier. As such, the applicant’s imperfect or incomplete
title is derived only from possession and occupation since June 12, 1945, or earlier. This (1) As a general rule and pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine, all lands of the public
means that the character of the property subject of the application as alienable and disposable domain belong to the State and are inalienable. Lands that are not clearly under
agricultural land of the public domain determines its eligibility for land registration, not the private ownership are also presumed to belong to the State and, therefore, may not
ownership or title over it. be alienated or disposed;

Alienable public land held by a possessor, either personally or through his predecessors-in- (2) The following are excepted from the general rule, to wit:
interest, openly, continuously and exclusively during the prescribed statutory period is
converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of the period.29 In fact, by virtue (a) Agricultural lands of the public domain are rendered alienable and
of this doctrine, corporations may now acquire lands of the public domain for as long as the disposable through any of the exclusive modes enumerated under Section
lands were already converted to private ownership, by operation of law, as a result of 11 of the Public Land Act. If the mode is judicial confirmation of
satisfying the requisite period of possession prescribed by the Public Land Act.30 It is for this imperfect title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, the agricultural
reason that the property subject of the application of Malabanan need not be classified as land subject of the application needs only to be classified as alienable and
alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain for the entire duration of the disposable as of the time of the application, provided the applicant’s
requisite period of possession. possession and occupation of the land dated back to June 12, 1945, or
earlier. Thereby, a conclusive presumption that the applicant has
To be clear, then, the requirement that the land should have been classified as alienable and performed all the conditions essential to a government grant arises,36 and
disposable agricultural land at the time of the application for registration is necessary only to the applicant becomes the owner of the land by virtue of an imperfect or
dispute the presumption that the land is inalienable. incomplete title. By legal fiction, the land has already ceased to be part of
the public domain and has become private property.37
The declaration that land is alienable and disposable also serves to determine the point at
which prescription may run against the State. The imperfect or incomplete title being (b) Lands of the public domain subsequently classified or declared as no
confirmed under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is title that is acquired by reason of the longer intended for public use or for the development of national wealth
applicant’s possession and occupation of the alienable and disposable agricultural land of the are removed from the sphere of public dominion and are considered
public domain. Where all the necessary requirements for a grant by the Government are converted into patrimonial lands or lands of private ownership that may be
complied with through actual physical, open, continuous, exclusive and public possession of alienated or disposed through any of the modes of acquiring ownership
an alienable and disposable land of the public domain, the possessor is deemed to have under the Civil Code. If the mode of acquisition is prescription, whether
acquired by operation of law not only a right to a grant, but a grant by the Government, ordinary or extraordinary, proof that the land has been already converted
because it is not necessary that a certificate of title be issued in order that such a grant be to private ownership prior to the requisite acquisitive prescriptive period is
sanctioned by the courts.31 a condition sine qua non in observance of the law (Article 1113, Civil
Code) that property of the State not patrimonial in character shall not be
If one follows the dissent, the clear objective of the Public Land Act to adjudicate and quiet the object of prescription.
titles to unregistered lands in favor of qualified Filipino citizens by reason of their occupation
and cultivation thereof for the number of years prescribed by law32 will be defeated. Indeed, To reiterate, then, the petitioners failed to present sufficient evidence to establish that they and
we should always bear in mind that such objective still prevails, as a fairly recent legislative their predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the land since June 12, 1945. Without
development bears out, when Congress enacted legislation (Republic Act No. 10023)33 in satisfying the requisite character and period of possession - possession and occupation that is
order to liberalize stringent requirements and procedures in the adjudication of alienable open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious since June 12, 1945, or earlier - the land cannot be
public land to qualified applicants, particularly residential lands, subject to area limitations.34 considered ipso jure converted to private property even upon the subsequent declaration of it
as alienable and disposable. Prescription never began to run against the State, such that the
On the other hand, if a public land is classified as no longer intended for public use or for the land has remained ineligible for registration under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration
development of national wealth by declaration of Congress or the President, thereby Decree. Likewise, the land continues to be ineligible for land registration under Section 14(2)
converting such land into patrimonial or private land of the State, the applicable provision of the Property Registration Decree unless Congress enacts a law or the President issues a
concerning disposition and registration is no longer Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act but proclamation declaring the land as no longer intended for public service or for the
the Civil Code, in conjunction with Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree.35 As development of the national wealth.1âwphi1
such, prescription can now run against the State.
WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration and the
To sum up, we now observe the following rules relative to the disposition of public land or respondent's Partial Motion for Reconsideration for their lack of merit.
lands of the public domain, namely:
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, et al., 212 SCRA 360 [1992]; NAPOCOR v. Court of Appeals, et al., 144
SUPREME COURT SCRA 318 [1986]; Republic v. Court of Appeals, et al., 135 SCRA 156 [1985]; and Director
Manila of lands v. Tesalona, 236 SCRA 336 [1994] 4 terminated the controversy as to ownership of
lands covered by Spanish Land Titles, for it is the rule that, once this Court, as the highest
EN BANC Tribunal of the land, has spoken, there the matter must rest:

G.R. No. 103727 December 18, 1996 It is withal of the essence of the judicial function that at some point,
litigation must end, Hence, after the procedures and processes for lawsuits
have been undergone, and the modes of review set by law have been
INTESTATE ESTATE OF THE LATE DON MARIANO SAN PEDRO Y ESTEBAN, exhausted, or terminated, no further ventilation of the same subject matter
represented by its HEIR-JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATOR, ENGRACIO F. SAN is allowed. To be sure, there may be, on the part of the losing parties,
PEDRO, petitioner-appellant, continuing disagreement with the verdict, and the conclusions therein
vs. embodied. This is of no moment, indeed, is to be expected; but, it is not
COURT OF APPEALS (Second Division) AURELIO OCAMPO, DOMINADOR D. their will, but the Court's, which must prevail; and, to repeat, public policy
BUHAIN, TERESA C. DELA CRUZ, respondents-appellees. demands that at some definite time, the issues must be laid to rest and the
court's dispositions thereon accorded absolute finality. 5 [Cited cases
G.R. No. 106496 December 18, 1996 omitted]

ENGRACIO SAN PEDRO, CANDIDO GENER, ROSA PANTALEON, VICENTE It is, therefore, to the best interest of the people and the Government that we render judgment
PANTALEON, ELEUTERIO PANTALEON, TRINIDAD SAN PEDRO, RODRIGO herein writing finisto these controversies by laying to rest the issue of validity of the basis of
SAN PEDRO, RICARDO NICOLAS, FELISA NICOLAS, and LEONA SAN the estate's claim of ownership over this vast expanse of real property.
PEDRO, petitioners,
vs. The following facts are pertinent in the resolution of these long drawn-out cases:
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, (Sixteenth Division) and REPUBLIC OF
THE PHILIPPINES,respondents.
G.R. NO. 103727

G.R No. 103727, an appeal by certiorari, arose out of a complaint 6 for recovery of possession
and/or damages with a prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction. This was dismissed by the
HERMOSISIMA, JR., J.:p Regional Trial Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Branch 104, Quezon City in its
decision 7 dated July 7, 1989, the dispositive portion 8 of which reads:
The most fantastic land claim in the history of the Philippines is the subject of controversy in
these two consolidated cases. The heirs of the late Mariano San Pedro y Esteban laid claim WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered, dismissing the complaint
and have been laying claim to the ownership of, against third persons and the Government against the defendants Aurelio Ocampo, Dominador Buhain and Teresa
itself, a total land area of approximately 173,000 hectares or "214,047 quiniones," 1 on the dela Cruz and ordering plaintiff to pay each of the herein defendants, the
basis of a Spanish title, entitled "Titulo de Propriedad Numero 4136" dated April 25, 1894. sum of FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (P5,000.00) as and for attorney's fees,
The claim, according to the San Pedro heirs, appears to cover lands in the provinces of Nueva and to pay the costs of suit.
Ecija, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Quezon; and such Metro Manila cities as Quezon City,
Caloocan City, Pasay City, City of Pasig and City of Manila, thus affecting in general lands
extending from Malolos, Bulacan to the City Hall of Quezon City and the land area between The said complaint for recovery of possession of real property and/or reconveyance with
Dingalan Bay in the north and Tayabas Bay in the south. 2 damages and with a prayer for preliminary injunction was filed on August 15, 1988 by
Engracio San Pedro as heir-judicial administrator of the "Intestate Estate of Don Mariano San
Pedro y Esteban" against Jose G. De Ocampo, Aurelio Ocampo, MARECO, Inc., Rey Antonio
Considering the vastness of the land claim, innumerable disputes cropped up and land Noguera, Teresa C. dela Cruz, Gaudencio R Soliven, Diomedes Millan, Carmen Rayasco,
swindles and rackets proliferated resulting in tedious litigation in various trial courts, in the Dominador D. Buhain, Mario D. Buhain, Jose D. Buhain, Arestedes S. Cauntay, Manuel
appellate court and in the Supreme Court, 3in connection therewith. Chung and Victoria Chung Tiu (El Mavic Investment & Development Corporation), Capitol
Hills Realty Corporation and Jose F. Castro. The complaint was docketed as Civil Case No. Q-
We have had the impression that our decisions in Director of Forestry, et al. v. Muñoz, 23 88-447 in Branch 104, Regional Trial Court of Quezon City.
SCRA 1183 [1968];Antonio, et al. v. Barroga, et al., 23 SCRA 357 [1968]; Carabot, et
al. v. Court of Appeals, et al., 145 SCRA 368 [1986]; Republic v. Intermediate Appellate In the complaint, it was alleged, among others: (1) that Engracio San Pedro discovered that the
Court, et al., 186 SCRA 88 [1990]; Widows and Orphans Association, Inc. (WIDORA) aforenamed defendants were able to secure from the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City titles
to portions of the subject estate, particularly Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. 1386, 8982, (3) the CFI decision invoked by petitioner estate in its favor expressly
951975-951977, 313624, 279067, 1412, 353054, 372592, 149120, 86404, 17874-17875, all excluded from the Titulo titled lands of private individuals;
emanating from Original Certificate of Title No. 614 9 and Transfer Certificates of Title Nos.
255544 and 264124, both derivatives of Original Certificate of Title No. 333; (2) that the (4) the Titulo is inferior to that of the registered titles of Ocampo, Buhain
aforesaid defendants were able to acquire exclusive ownership and possession of certain and Dela Cruz as correctly ruled by the lower court;
portions of the subject estate in their names through deceit, fraud, bad faith and
misrepresentation; (3) that Original Certificates of Title Nos. 614 and 333 had been cancelled
by and through a final and executory decision dated March 21, 1988 in relation to letter (5) there is no evidence showing that OCT No. 614 from which titles of
recommendations by the Bureau of Lands, Bureau of Forest Development and the Office of Ocampo, Buhain and Dela Cruz originated was already cancelled, hence,
the Solicitor General and also in relation to Central Bank Circulars dated April 7, 1971, April the lower court did not err in not declaring the same as null and
23, 1971, September 12, 1972 and June 10, 1980; and (4) that the issue of the existence, void. 16
validity and genuineness of Titulo Propriedad No. 4136 dated April 25, 1894 which covers the
subject estate had been resolved in favor of the petitioner estate in a decision dated April 25, Not having obtained a favorable judgment on appeal, the petitioner estate, on March 16, 1992,
1978 by the defunct Court of First Instance, Branch 1 of Baliwag, Bulacan pertaining to a case filed the present petition 17 docketed as G.R. No. 103727.
docketed as Special Proceeding No. 312-B. 10
G.R. NO. 106496
Summons were served on only five of the aforementioned defendants, namely, Aurelio
Ocampo, MARECO, Inc., Teresita G. dela Cruz, Dominador Buhain and Manuel Chung and G.R. No. 106496, a petition for review on certiorari, began as a
Victoria Chung Tiu. 11 petition 18 for letters of administration over the intestate estate of the late Mariano San Pedro y
Esteban which eventually resulted to an Order 19 dated November 17, 1978 declaring inter
On February 7, 1989, the lower court ordered the dismissal of the complaint against Mareco, alia, Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 as null and void and of no legal force and effect.
Inc. for improper service of summons and against Manuel Chung and Victoria Chung Tiu for
lack of cause of action considering that the registered owner of the parcel of land covered by The dispositive portion 20 of the said Order reads:
TCT No. 86404 is El Mavic Investment and Development Co., Inc., not Manuel Chung and
Victoria Chung Tiu. 12
WHEREFORE, this Court so orders that:
Trial on the merits proceeded against the private respondents Ocampo, Buhain and Dela Cruz.
1) The Decision dated April 25, 1978 is reconsidered and set aside.
On July 7, 1989, the lower court rendered judgment dismissing the complaint based on the
following grounds: (a) Ocampo, Buhain and Dela Cruz are already the registered owners of the 2) Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 is declared null and void and of no legal
parcels of land covered by Torrens titles which cannot be defeated by the alleged Spanish title, force and effect and that therefore no rights could be derived therefrom.
Titulo Propriedad No. 4136, covering the subject estate; and (b) the decision of the Court of
First Instance of Bulacan entitled "In the Matter of the Intestate Estate of the late Don Mariano 3) All orders approving the sales, conveyances, donations or any other
San Pedro y Esteban" specifically stated in its dispositive portion that all lands which have transactions involving the lands covered by Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136
already been legally and validly titled under the Torrens System by private persons shall be are declared invalidated, void and of no force and effect.
excluded from the coverage of Titulo Propriedad No. 4136. 13
4) All lands covered by Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 are excluded from
The motion for reconsideration thereof was denied, 14 and so, the petitioner estate interposed the inventory of the estate of the late Mariano San Pedro y Esteban.
an appeal with the Court of Appeals. On January 20, 1992, the appeal was dismissed 15 for
being unmeritorious and the lower court's decision was affirmed with costs against the 5) The heirs, agents, privies or anyone acting for and in behalf of the estate
petitioner estate. The appellate court ratiocinated: of the late Mariano San Pedro y Esteban are enjoined from representing or
exercising any acts of possession or ownership or from disposing in any
(1) neither the Titulo Propriedad No. 4136 nor a genuine copy thereof was manner portions of all the lands covered by Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136
presented in the proceeding below; and to immediately vacate the same.

(2) the illegible copy of the Titulo presented in court was not registered 6) Engracio San Pedro and Justino Benito as co-administrators submit in
under the Torrens system hence, it cannot be used as evidence of land Court within twenty days their final accounting and inventory of all real
ownership; and personal properties of the estate which had come into their possession
or knowledge under oath.
7) This case is hereby re-opened, to allow movants-intervenors to continue (i) The PAHRRA Quezon Boulevard, Quezon City
with the presentation of their evidence in order to rest their case.
(j) The Municipal Treasurers of the various municipalities in which
The consideration and approval of the administrator's final accounting and properties of the estate are located; and
inventory of the presentation of movants-intervenors' evidence as well as
the consideration of all other incidents are hereby set on December 22, (k) Office of Civil Relations, Camp Crame, Quezon City and Camp
1978 at 8:30 a.m. Aguinaldo, Quezon City. 24

The aforementioned petition for letters of administration over the intestate estate of the late The above Order was issued so as to protect the general public from any confusion brought
Mariano San Pedro y Esteban was filed on December 29, 1971 with the defunct Court of First about by various persons who had been misrepresenting themselves as having been legally
Instance of Bulacan, Fifth Judicial District, Branch IV, Baliuag, Bulacan. The petition authorized to act for the subject estate and to sell its properties by virtue thereof.
docketed as Sp. Proc. No. 312-B was initiated by Engracio San Pedro and Justino Z. Benito
who sought to be appointed as administrator and co-administrator, respectively.
On August 30, 1976, a Motion for Intervention and an Opposition to the Petition was filed by
the Republic of the Philippines alleging, inter alia:
On February 29, 1972, after the jurisdictional facts were established, evidence for the
petitioners was received by the lower court without any opposition. 21
4. That under Presidential Decree No. 892, dated February 16, 1976,
Spanish titles like the TITULO is absolutely inadmissible and ineffective
On March 2, 1972, then Presiding Judge Juan F. Echiverri issued an Order appointing as proof of ownership in court proceedings, except where the holder
Engracio San Pedro as Administrator of the subject estate. 22 thereof applies for land registration under Act 496, which is not true in the
proceedings at bar;
On March 11, 1972, the Court issued letters of administration in favor of Engracio San Pedro
upon posting of a bond in the sum of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00). 23 5. That no less than the Supreme Court had declared TITULO DE
PROPIEDAD NO. 4136 as invalid;
On February 7, 1974, Administrator Engracio San Pedro was ordered to furnish copies of the
letters of administration and other pertinent orders approving certain dispositions of the 6. That, moreover, the late Don Mariano San Pedro y Esteban and/or his
properties of the estate to the following entities: supposed heirs have lost whatever rights of ownership they might have
had to the so-called Estate on the ground of inaction, laches and/or
(a) The Commanding General prescription;
Philippine Constabulary
Camp Crame, Quezon City 7. That, accordingly, there is no estate or property to be administered for
purposes of inventory, settlement or distribution in accordance with law,
(b) The Solicitor General and all the inventories so far submitted, insofar as they embraced lands
Manila within the TITULO, are deemed ineffective and cannot be legally
considered; and
(c) The Government Corporate Counsel
A. Mabini St., Manila 8. That the Republic of the Philippines has a legal interest in the land
subject matter of the petition considering that, except such portions thereof
(d) The City Mayors of Quezon City & Caloocan had been (sic) already the subject of valid adjudication or disposition in
accordance with law, the same belong in State ownership. 25
(e) The Governors of Rizal, Quezon and Bulacan
On February 15, 1977, the Republic filed a Motion to Suspend
Proceedings. 26
(f) The City Treasurers of Quezon City and Caloocan
On February 16, 1977, the Republic's Opposition to the Petition for Letters of Administration
(g) The Provincial Treasurers of Quezon, Bulacan and Rizal was dismissed by means of the following Order issued by Judge Benigno Puno:

(h) The PHHC, Diliman, Quezon City


WHEREFORE, for lack of jurisdiction to determine the legal issues Justino Z. Benito is hereby ordered to render his final accounting of his
raised, the Court hereby DISMISSES the "Opposition" dated August 30, co-administration of the Estate, within thirty (30) days from receipt of
1976, filed by the Office of the Solicitor General; likewise, for lack of copy hereof;
merit, the Motion to Suspend Proceedings dated February 15, 1977, filed
by the Office of the Solicitor General is DENIED. (d) The Co-Heir-Administrator, Engracio San Pedro is hereby ordered to
amass, collate, consolidate and take possession of all the net estate of the
The administrator Engracio San Pedro and the Co-administrator Justino Z. deceased Don Marino San Pedro y Esteban, as well as all other sets and
Benito are ordered to furnish the office of the Solicitor General all copies credits lawfully belonging to the estate and/or to take appropriate legal
of inventories already filed in Court within ten (10) days from notice action to recover the same in the proper Courts of Justice, government
hereof. 27 offices or any appropriate forum; and to pay all taxes or charges due from
the estate to the Government, and all indebtedness of the estate, and
On March 9, 1977, a motion for reconsideration was filed by the thereafter, to submit a project of partition of the estate among the lawful
Republic. 28 heirs as herein recognized and declared.

On April 25, 1978, the lower court then presided over by Judge Agustin C. Bagasao, rendered It is, however, strongly recommended to His Excellency, President
a 52-page decision, the dispositive portion of which reads: Ferdinand E. Marcos that, to avoid the concentration of too much land to a
few persons and in line with the projected urban land reform program of
the government, corollary to the agricultural land reform program of the
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered: New Society, the above intestate estate of the late Don Mariano San Pedro
y Esteban should be expropriated or purchased by negotiated sale by the
(a) Declaring the existence, genuineness and authenticity of Titulo de government to be used in its human settlements and low cost housing
Propriedad No. 4136 of the Registry of Deeds of Bulacan, issued on April projects.
29, 1984, in the name of the deceased Don Mariano San Pedro y Esteban,
covering a total area of approximately 214,047 quiniones or 173,000 No Costs.
hectares, situated in the Provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Quezon, Quezon City
and Caloocan City;
SO ORDERED. 29
(b) Declaring Engracio San Pedro, Candido Gener, Santiago Gener, Rosa
Pantaleon, Vicente Pantaleon, Eleuterio Pantaleon, Trinidad San Pedro, On May 17, 1978, the Republic moved for a reconsideration of the above decision. 30
Rodrigo San Pedro, Ricardo Nicolas, and Teresa Nicolas, as the true and
lawful heirs of the deceased Don Mariano San Pedro y Esteban and On June 5, 1978, administrator Engracio San Pedro filed a Manifestation and Petition for the
entitled to inherit the intestate estate left by the said deceased, consisting Inhibition of the then newly appointed Presiding Judge Oscar Fernandez. On July 12, 1978,
of the above-mentioned tract of private land covered and described by said after the Republic filed its Reply to the Petition for Inhibition, Judge Fernandez denied the
above-mentioned Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 of the Registry of Deeds said petition. 31
of Bulacan, excluding therefrom: (a) all lands which have already been
legally and validly titled under the Torrens System, by private persons, or After hearings were conducted on the Republic's Motion for Reconsideration, Judge
the Republic of the Philippines, or any of its instrumentalities or agencies; Fernandez issued the aforestated Order 32 dated November 17, 1978 which, in essence, set
(b) all lands declared by the government as reservations for public use and aside Judge Bagasao's decision dated April 25, 1978 by declaring Titulo de Propriedad No.
purposes; (c) all lands belonging to the public domain; and, (d) all portions 4136 as null and void and of no legal force and effect, thus, excluding all lands covered by
thereof which had been sold, quitclaimed and/or previously excluded by Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 from the inventory of the estate of the late Mariano San Pedro
the Administrator and duly approved by a final order of the Court, except y Esteban.
those which may hereafter be set aside, after due consideration on a case
to case basis, of various motions to set aside the said Court order which
approved the said sales, quit-claims, and/or exclusions; The petitioners-heirs of the late Mariano San Pedro y Esteban appealed to the Court of
Appeals and alleged that the lower court did not act with impartiality when it granted the
Republic's motion for reconsideration which was merely pro forma, thereby overturning a
(c) The designation of Atty. Justino Z. Benito as co- administrator, is prior declaration by the same court of the existence, genuineness and authenticity of Titulo de
hereby revoked to take effect immediately, to obviate any confusion in the Propriedad No. 4136 in the name of the deceased Mariano San Pedro. 33
administration of the Estate, and to fix the responsibilities of
administration to the co-heir Administrator, Engracio San Pedro, whose
appointment as such is hereby confirmed. The said co-administrator On March 11, 1992, the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal of the petitioners-heirs. 34 In
affirming the assailed Order dated November 17, 1978, the appellate court focused its
discussion solely on the issue of whether or not the lower court erred in declaring Titulo de Judge Puno and the decision of Judge Bagasao, both of which were
Priopriedad No. 4136 null and void. The appellate court ruled that the petitioners-heirs failed already final. 41
to controvert the Republic's claim that Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 is invalid on the
following bases; (a) non-production of the original of the subject title; (b) inadmissibility of Fourth. Respondent Court of Appeals was unmindful of the fact that Judge
the photostat copies of the said title; and (c) non-registration of the subject Spanish title under Fernandez was appointed by President Marcos to reverse Judge Bagasao,
Act No. 496 (Land Registration Act) as required by Presidential Decree No. 892 regardless of the evidence, thereby unmindful that petitioners were denied
(Discontinuance of the Spanish Mortgage System of Registration and of the Use of Spanish the cold neutrality of an impartial tribunal. 42
Titles as Evidence in Land Registration Proceedings).
Fifth. Respondent Court of Appeals erred in not considering the evidence
The petitioners-heirs moved for a reconsideration of the Court of Appeals' decision by presented before Judges Echiverri, Puno and Bagasao and merely adopted
invoking certain cases wherein the validity of Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 had been the order of Judge Fernandez who never received a single piece of
allegedly recognized. The Court of Appeals refused to be swayed and denied the motion for evidence, notwithstanding the 1906 Guide title over Hacienda Angono in
reconsideration for lack of merit. 35 Binangonan, Rizal, the boundary owner stated therein being Don Mariano
San Pedro y Esteban, and the November 1991 en banc decision of the
Hence, the herein petition, 36 docketed as G. R. No. 106496, was filed on September 18, 1992. Supreme Court upholding the Guido title. 43

After the parties filed their respective pleadings in G.R. Nos. 103727 and 106496, this Court Of paramount importance over and above the central issue of the probative value of the
resolved to consolidate both cases on September 15, petitioners' Spanish title in these cases is the propriety of the lower court's resolution of the
1994. 37 question of ownership of the subject San Pedro estate in the special proceedings case. Thus,
before we address ourselves to the issue of whether or not petitioners' Titulo de Propriedad
While these cases were pending before us, several parties filed separate motions for No. 4136 is null and void and of no legal force and effect, it is best that we first determine
intervention which we denied on different occasions for lack of merit. whether or not the lower court, acting as a probate court, in the petition for letters of
administration, committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in
settling the issue of ownership of the San Pedro estate covered by Titulo Propriedad No. 4136.
In G.R No. 103727, the grounds relied upon for the grant of the petition are as follows:
Petitioners-heirs, in G.R No. 106496, on the one hand, contend that the lower court, then CFI,
I. That petitioner-appellant as plaintiff in Civil Case No. Q-88-447, RTC, Bulacan, Branch IV, had no jurisdiction as an "intestate court" 44 to resolve the question of
Branch 104 was denied due process of law due to gross negligence of title or ownership raised by the public respondent Republic of the Philippines, through the
lawyer, which respondent court grossly failed to take cognizance of. Office of the Solicitor General in the intestate proceedings of the estate of Mariano San Pedro
y Esteban. 45
II. That the respondent court committed grave abuse of discretion
tantamount to lack of jurisdiction in not remanding the case for trial and in The public respondent, on the other hand, invoking its sovereign capacity as parens patriae,
affirming the lower court's null and void judgment. 38 argues that petitioners' contention is misplaced considering that when the Republic questioned
the existence of the estate of Mariano San Pedro y Esteban, the lower court became duty-
In G.R No. 106496, the petitioners-heirs present the following assignment of errors, to wit: bound to rule on the genuineness and validity of Titulo de Propriedad 4136 which purportedly
covers the said estate, otherwise, the lower court in the intestate proceedings would be
mistakenly dealing with properties that are proven to be part of the State's patrimony or
First. Respondent Court of Appeals affirmed the appealed order which
resolved a question of title or ownership over which the lower court as an improperly included as belonging to the estate of the deceased. 46
intestate court has no jurisdiction and over the vigorous and repeated
objections of the petitioners. 39 A probate court's jurisdiction is not limited to the determination of who the heirs are and what
shares are due them as regards the estate of a deceased person. Neither is it confined to the
Second. Respondent Court of Appeals erred in upholding the order of issue of the validity of wills. We held in the case of Maniñgat v. Castillo, 47 that "the main
Judge Fernandez setting aside the order and decision of Judge Puno and function of a probate court is to settle and liquidate the estates of deceased persons either
Bagasao; Judge Fernandez thereby acted as an appellate court reviewing, summarily or through the process of administration." Thus, its function necessarily includes
revising, amending or setting aside the order and decision of Judges of theexamination of the properties, rights and credits of the deceased so as to rule on whether
equal rank. 40 or not the inventory of the estate properly included them for purposes of distribution of the net
assets of the estate of the deceased to the lawful heirs.

Third. Respondent Court of Appeals has no jurisdiction to uphold the


order of Judge Fernandez who without jurisdiction, set aside the order of In the case of Trinidad v. Court of Appeals, 48 we stated, thus:
. . . questions of title to any property apparently still belonging to estate of bespeaks of a knowledgeable and analytical discussion of the rationale for reconsidering and
the deceased maybe passed upon in the Probate Court, with the consent of setting aside Judge Bagasao's Decision dated April 25, 1978.
all the parties, without prejudice to third persons . . .
Considering the definiteness of our holding in regard to the correctness of Judge Fernandez'
Parenthetically, questions of title pertaining to the determination prima facie of whether disposition of the case, i.e., the issuance by the lower court of the assailed Order of November
certain properties ought to be included or excluded from the inventory and accounting of the 17, 1978, we now focus on the core issue of whether or not the lower court in G.R No. 106496
estate subject of a petition for letters of administration, as in the intestate proceedings of the committed reversible error in excluding from the inventory of the estate of the deceased
estate of the late Mariano San Pedro y Esteban, maybe resolved by the probate court. In this Mariano San Pedro y Esteban all lands covered by Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 primarily on
light, we echo our pronouncement in the case of Garcia v. Garcia 49 that: the ground that the said title is null and void and of no legal force and effect. Juxtaposed with
this is the issue of whether or not the appellate court, in both cases, G.R. Nos. 103727 and
. . . The court which acquired jurisdiction over the properties of a deceased 106496, erred in not recognizing Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 as evidence to prove
person through the filing of the corresponding proceedings, has ownership by the Late Mariano San Pedro of the lands covered thereby.
supervision and control over the said properties, and under the said power,
it is its inherent duty to see that the inventory submitted by the It is settled that by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 892 which took effect on February 16,
administrator appointed by it contains all the properties, rights and credits 1976, the system of registration under the Spanish Mortgage Law was abolished and all
which the law requires the administrator to set out in his inventory. In holders of Spanish titles or grants should cause their lands covered thereby to be registered
compliance with this duty, the court has also inherent power to determine under the Land Registration Act 53 within six (6) months from the date of effectivity of the
what properties, rights and credits of the deceased should be included in or said Decree or until August 16, 1976. 54 Otherwise, non-compliance therewith will result in a
excluded from the inventory. Should an heir or person interested in the re-classification of their lands. 55 Spanish titles can no longer be countenanced as indubitable
properties of a deceased person duly call the court's attention to the fact evidence of land ownership. 56
that certain properties, rights or credits have been left out in the inventory,
it is likewise the court's duty to hear the observations, with power to Section 1 of the said Decree provides:
determine if such observations should be attended to or not and if the
properties referred to therein belong prima facieto the intestate, but no
such determination is final and ultimate in nature as to the ownership of Sec. 1. The system of registration under the Spanish Mortgage Law is
the said properties. 50 [Emphasis Supplied] discontinued, and all lands recorded under said system which are not yet
covered by Torrens title shall be considered as unregistered lands.
In view of these disquisitions of this Court, we hold that the lower court did not commit any
reversible error when it issued the Order dated November 17, 1978 which set aside Judge All holders of Spanish titles or grants should apply for registration of their
Bagasao's decision dated April 25, 1978 and declared Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 as null lands under Act No. 496, otherwise known as the Land Registration Act,
and void, consequently excluding all lands covered by the said title from the inventory of the within six (6) months from the effectivity of this decree. Thereafter,
estate of the late Mariano San Pedro y Esteban. Spanish titles cannot be used as evidence of land ownership in any
registration proceedings under the Torrens system.
A corollary issue sought to be ventilated by the petitioners-heirs as regards the assailed Order
of November 17, 1978 is the impropriety of Judge Fernandez' act of granting the motion for Hereafter, all instruments affecting lands originally registered under the
reconsideration filed by the public respondent Republic since, Judge Fernandez did not Spanish Mortgage Law may be recorded under Section 194 of the Revised
personally hear the intestate case. Petitioners thus dubbed him as a "reviewing judge." By Administrative Code, as amended by Act. 3344.
setting aside the Decision dated April 25, 1978 of his predecessors in CFI, Branch IV,
Baliuag, Bulacan, namely, Judge Benigno Puno and Judge Agustin C. Bagasao, respectively, The Whereas clauses of the aforesaid Decree specify the underlying policies for its passage, to
Judge Fernandez, acting as a "reviewing judge," proceeded without authority and/or wit:
jurisdiction. 51
WHEREAS, fraudulent sales, transfers, and other forms of conveyances of
There is no question that, barring any serious doubts as to whether the decision arrived at is fair large tracts of public and private lands to unsuspecting and unwary buyers
and just, a newly appointed judge who did not try the case can decide the same as long as the appear to have been perpetrated by unscrupulous persons claiming
record and the evidence are all available to him and that the same were taken into ownership under Spanish titles or grants of dubious origin;
consideration and thoroughly studied. The "reviewing judge" argument of the petitioners-heirs
has no leg to stand on considering that "the fact that the judge who penned the decision did not
WHEREAS, these fraudulent transactions have often resulted in
hear a certain case in its entirety is not a compelling reason to jettison his findings and
conflicting claims and litigations between legitimate title holders, bona
conclusion inasmuch as the full record was available to him for his perusal." 52 In the case at
fide occupants or applicants of public lands, on the one hand, and the
bar, it is evident that the 41-page Order dated November 17, 1978 of Judge Fernandez
holders of, or person claiming rights under the said Spanish titles or
grants, on the other, thus creating confusion and instability in property and/or reconveyance with damages in G.R No. 103727 on August 15, 1988 invoked Judge
ownership and threatening the peace and order renditions in the areas Bagasao's Decision of April 25, 1978 in support of the Titulo's validity notwithstanding the
affected; fact that, by then, the said Decision had already been set aside by Judge Fernandez' Order of
November 17, 1978. We are in accord with the appellate courts' holding in G.R No. 103727
WHEREAS, statistics in the Land Registration Commission show that insofar as it concludes that since the Titulo was not registered under Act No. 496, otherwise
recording in the system of registration under the Spanish Mortgage Law is known as the Land Registration Act, said Titulo is inferior to the registered titles of the private
practically nil and that this system has become obsolete; respondents Ocampo, Buhain and Dela Cruz.

WHEREAS, Spanish titles to lands which have not yet been brought under This Court can only surmise that the reason for the non-registration of the Titulo under the
the operation of the Torrens system, being subject to prescription, are now Torrens system is the lack of the necessary documents to be presented in order to comply with
ineffective to prove ownership unless accompanied by proof of actual the provisions of P.D. 892. We do not discount the possibility that the Spanish title in question
possession; is not genuine, especially since its genuineness and due execution have not been proven. In
both cases, the petitioners heirs were not able to present the original of Titulo de Propriedad
No. 4136 nor a genuine copy thereof. In the special proceedings case, the petitioners-heirs
WHEREAS, there is an imperative need to discontinue the System of failed to produce the Titulo despite a subpoena duces tecum (Exh. "Q-RP") to produce it as
registration under the Spanish Mortgage Law and the use of Spanish titles requested by the Republic from the then administrators of the subject intestate estate, Engracio
as evidence in registration proceedings under the Torrens system; San Pedro and Justino Benito, and the other interested parties. As an alternative to prove their
claim of the subject intestate estate, the petitioners referred to a document known as
In the case of Director of Lands v. Heirs of Isabel Tesalona, et al., 57 we took cognizance of "hypoteca" (the Spanish term is 'hipoteca') allegedly appended to the Titulo. However, the said
this Decree and thus held that caution and care must be exercised in the acceptance and hypoteca was neither properly identified nor presented as evidence. Likewise, in the action for
admission of Spanish titles taking into account the numerous fake titles that have been recovery of possession and/or reconveyance with damages, the petitioners-heirs did not submit
discovered after their supposed reconstitution subsequent to World War II. the Titulo as part of their evidence. Instead, only an alleged illegible copy of the Titulo was
presented. (Exhs. "C-9" to "C-19").
In both cases, petitioners-heirs did not adduce evidence to show that Titulo de Propriedad
4136 was brought under the operation of P.D. 892 despite their allegation that they did so on The Best Evidence Rule as provided under Rule 130, section 2 of the Rules of Court is stated
August 13, 1976. 58 Time and again we have held that a mere allegation is not evidence and in unequivocal terms. Subparagraphs (a) and (b) of the said Rule read:
the party who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it. 59 Proof of compliance with P.D. 892
should be the Certificate of Title covering the land registered. Sec. 2. Original writing must be produced; exceptions. — There can be no
evidence of a writing the contents of which is the subject of inquiry, other
In the petition for letters of administration, it was a glaring error on the part of Judge Bagasao than the original writing itself, except in the following cases:
who rendered the reconsidered Decision dated April 25, 1978 to have declared the existence,
genuineness and authenticity of Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 in the name of the deceased (a) When the original has been lost, destroyed, or cannot be produced in
Mariano San Pedro y Esteban despite the effectivity of P.D. No. 892. Judge Fernandez, in court;
setting aside Judge Bagasao's decision, emphasized that Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136, under
P.D. 892, is inadmissible and ineffective as evidence of private ownership in the special
proceedings case. He made the following observations as regards the Titulo, to wit: (b) When the original is in the possession of the party against whom the
evidence is offered, and the latter fails to produce it after reasonable
notice;
The Solicitor General, articulating on the dire consequences of
recognizing the nebulous titulo as an evidence of ownership underscored
the fact that during the pendency of this case, smart speculators and wise xxx xxx xxx
alecks had inveigled innocent parties into buying portions of the so-called
estate with considerations running into millions of pesos. Sections 3 and 4 of the same Rule further read:

Some, under the guise of being benign heroes even feigned donations to Sec 4. Secondary evidence when original is lost or destroyed — When the
charitable and religious organizations, including veterans' organizations as original writing has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced in court,
smoke screen to the gargantuan fraud they have committed and to hood upon proof of its execution and loss or destruction or unavailability, its
wink further other gullible and unsuspecting victims. 60 contents may be proved by a copy, or by a recital of its contents in some
authentic document, or by the recollection of witnesses.
In the same light, it does not escape this Court's onomatopoeic observation that the then heir-
judicial administrator Engracio San Pedro who filed the complaint for recovery of possession
Sec. 5. Secondary evidence when original is in adverse party's custody. — COURT:
If the writing be in the custody of the adverse party, he must have
reasonable notice to produce it. If after such notice and after satisfactory Would you comment on that Solicitor Agcaoili?
proof of its existence, he fails to produce the writing, the contents thereof
may be proved as in the case of its loss. But the notice to produce it is not
necessary where the writing is itself a notice, or where it has been ATTY. AGCAOILI:
wrongfully obtained or withheld by the adverse party.
We are precisely impugning the titulo and I think the
Thus, the court shall not receive any evidence that is merely substitutionary in its question of counsel is already answered by witness.
nature, such as photocopies, as long as the original evidence can be had. In the The parties have not yet established the due existence
absence of a clear showing that the original writing has been lost or destroyed or of the titulo.
cannot be produced in court, the photocopy submitted, in lieu thereof, must be
disregarded, being unworthy of any probative value and being an inadmissible piece ATTY. BRINGAS:
of evidence. 61
We are constrained to ask this matter in order to be
Hence, we conclude that petitioners-heirs failed to establish by competent proof the existence candid about the question. The witness is a witness for
and due execution of the Titulo. Their explanation as to why the original copy of the Titulo the government, so with the testimony of this witness
could not be produced was not satisfactory. The alleged contents thereof which should have for the government to the effect that there is actually
resolved the issue as to the exact extent of the subject intestate estate of the late Mariano San in existence titulo propiedad 4136; we are asking the
Pedro were not distinctly proved. In the case of Ong Ching Po v.Court of Appeals, 62 we question candidly to the government counsel whether
pointed out that: he is prepared to state that there is really in existence
such titulo propiedad 4136.
Secondary evidence is admissible when the original documents were
actually lost or destroyed. But prior to the introduction of such secondary ATTY. AGCAOILI:
evidence, the proponent must establish the former existence of the
document. The correct order of proof is as follows: existence; execution;
loss; contents. This order may be changed if necessary in the discretion of We are now stating before this court that there was
such a document examined by the NBI insofar as the
the court. 63
signatures of Alejandro Garcia and Manuel Lopez
Delgado are concerned and they are found to be
In upholding the genuineness and authenticity of Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136, Judge authentic. 64
Bagasao, in his decision, relied on: (1) the testimony of the NBI expert, Mr. Segundo
Tabayoyong, pertaining to a report dated January 28, 1963 denominated as "Questioned
The following significant findings of Judge Fernandez further lend credence to our
Documents Report No. 230-163"; (2) a photostat copy of the original of the Titulo duly
pronouncement that the Titulo is of dubious validity:
certified by the then Clerk of Court of the defunct Court of First Instance of Manila; and (3)
the hipotecaRegistered in the Register of Deeds of Bulacan on December 4, 1894.
. . . the NBI in its Questioned Document Report No. 448-977 dated
September 2, 1977 (Exhibit "O-RP") concluded that the document
Judge Fernandez, in his November 1978 Order which set aside Judge Bagasao's April 1978
contained material alterations as follows:
decision correctly clarified that the NBI report aforementioned was limited to the genuineness
of the two signatures of Alejandro Garcia and Mariano Lopez Delgado appearing on the last
page of the Titulo, not the Titulo itself. When asked by the counsel of the petitioners-heirs to a) On line 15 of "p, 1, Title" and on line 5 of "p. 2, Title," the word
admit the existence and due execution of the Titulo, the handling Solicitor testified: "Pinagcamaligan" was written after "Pulo;"

xxx xxx xxx b) On line 16, "p. 1, Title," "un" was converted to "mil;"

ATTY. BRINGAS: c) On Line 18, "p. 1, Title," "mil" was written at the end of "tres" in "tres
mil;"
With the testimony of this witness, I would like to call
the distinguished counsel for the government whether d) On line 19 of "p. 1, Title," a semblance of "mil" was written after
he admits that there is actually a titulo propiedad 4136. "setentay tres;"
e) On line 6, "p. 2, Title," "un" was formed to a semblance of "uni;" and As regards the hipoteca which allegedly defines the metes and bounds of the subject intestate
estate, the petitioners-heirs have not established the conditions required by law for their
admissibility as secondary evidence to prove that there exists a document designated as Titulo
f) On line 8, "p. 2, Title," "un" was formed to "mil."
de Propriedad No. 4136. Hence, the same acquires no probative value. 68

The plain and evident purpose was definitely to enlarge the area of the
titulo. According to Mr. Tabayoyong of the NBI, there are still "pieces of At this juncture, our decision dated June 28, 1968 in Director of Forestry, et
black ashes around the rings of the portions which are indications of al. v. Hon. Emmanuel M. Muñoz, as Judge of the Court of First Instance of Bulacan, Branch
burnings". The burnings were made on the very portions where there were I, et al. 69 is enlightening. In said case, private respondent, Pinaycamaligan Indo-Agro
previous erasures, alterations and intercalations. Understandably, the Development Corporation, Inc., (PIADECO), claimed to be the owner of some 72,000
burnings were done to erase traces of the criminal act. 65 hectares of land located in the municipalities of Angat, Norzagaray and San Jose del Monte,
province of Bulacan, and in Antipolo and Montalban, province of Rizal. To prove its
ownership Piadeco relied on Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 dated April 28, 1894. Scholarly
In the case of National Power Corporation v. Court of Appeals, et a1. 66 Justice Ameurfina opining that the Titulo is of doubtful validity, 70 Justice Conrado V. Sanchez, speaking for the
Melencio-Herrera, in reinstating the trial court's judgment therein, sustained the finding that: Court, stated that:

. . . The photostatic copy (in lieu of the lost original) of the Spanish title in But an important moiety here is the deeply disturbing intertwine of two
the name of Mariano San Pedro shows obvious alterations and undisputed facts. First. The Title embraces land "located in the Provinces
intercalations in an attempt to vastly increase the area and change the of Bulacan, Rizal, Quezon, and Quezon City." Second. The title was
location of the land described in the original title . . . signed only by the provincial officials of Bulacan, and inscribed only in
the Land Registry of Bulacan. Why? The situation, indeed, cries
Anent the inadmissibility as evidence of the photostat copy of the Titulo, we sustain the lower desperately for a plausible answer.
court's analysis, as affirmed by the appellate court, viz:
To be underscored at this point is the well-embedded principle that private
To begin with, the original of Titulo de Propiedad No. 4136 was never ownership of land must be proved not only through the genuineness of
presented in Court. Upon request of the Government, a subpoena duces title but also with a clear identity of the land claimed. (Oligan v. Mejia, 17
tecum (Exhibit "Q-RP") was issued to the two administrators, Engracio Phil. 494, 496; Villa Abrille v. Banuelos, 20 Phil. 1, 8, citing Sison v.
San Pedro and Justino Benito as well as to other interested parties to Ramos, 13 Phil. 54 and Belen v. Belen, 13 Phil. 202; Licad v. Bacani, 51
produce the original of Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136. But no one Phil. 51, 54-56; Lasam v. Director, 65 Phil. 367, 371. This Court ruled in a
produced the titulo. What the parties did was to pass the buck to one case involving a Spanish title acquired by purchase that the land must be
another. concretely measured per hectare or per quinon, not in mass (cuerpos
ciertos), (Valdez v. Director, 62 Phil. 362, 373, 375). The fact that the
Royal Decree of August 31, 1888 used 30 hectares as a basis for
Without any plausible explanation at all on as to why the original could
classifying lands strongly suggests that the land applied for must be
not be produced, the Court cannot take cognizance of any secondary
measured per hectare.
evidence.

Here, no definite area seems to have been mentioned in the title. In


It was explained that the titulo after changing hands, finally fell into the
Piadeco's "Rejoinder to Opposition" dated April 28, 1964 filed in Civil
hands of a certain Moon Park of Korea but who later disappeared and that
Case 3035-M, it specified that area covered by its Titulo de Propiedad as
his present whereabouts could not be known.
74,000 hectares (Rollo in L-24796, p. 36). In its "Opposition" of May 13,
1964 in the same case, it described the land as containing 72,000 hectares
Strangely enough, despite the significance of the titulo, no serious efforts (Id., p. 48). Which is which? This but accentuates the nebulous identity of
on the part of the claimants-heirs were exerted to retrieve this document of Piadeco's land, Piadeco's ownership thereof then equally suffers from
vital importance despite the Court order to produce it in order to determine vagueness, fatal at least in these proceedings.
its authenticity.
Piadeco asserts that Don Mariano San Pedro y Esteban, the original owner
It would not be enough to simply say that Moon Park's whereabouts are appearing on the title, acquired his rights over the property by prescription
unknown or that there are not enough funds to locate him. The only logical under Articles 4 and 5 of the Royal Decree of June 25, 1880, (Rollo of L-
conclusion would be that the original would be adverse if 24796, p. 184) the basic decree that authorized adjustment of lands. By
produced. 67 this decree, applications for adjustment — showing the location,
boundaries and area of land applied for — were to be filed with
the Direccion General de Administration Civil, which then ordered amount of Piadeco shares. Thereafter, Trinidad B. Estrada assigned the
theclassification and survey of the land with the assistance of the land to Piadeco. Then came to the scene a certain Fabian Castillo,
interested party or his legal representative (Ponce, op. cit., p. 22). appearing as sole heir of Don Mariano, the original owner of the land.
Castillo also executed an affidavit of adjudication to himself over the same
The Royal Decree of June 5, 1880 also fixed the period for filing land, and then sold the same to Piadeco. Consideration therefor was paid
applications for adjustment at one year from the date of publication of the partially by Piadeco, pending the registration of the land under Act 496.
decree in the Gaceta de Manila on September 10, 1880, extended for
another year by the Royal Order of July 15, 1881 (Ibid.). If Don Mariano The question may well be asked: Why was full payment of the
sought adjustment within the time prescribed, as he should have, then, consideration to Fabian Castillo made to depend on the registration of the
seriously to be considered here are the Royal Orders of November 25, land under the Torrens system, if Piadeco was sure of the validity of Titulo
1880 and of October 26, 1881, which limited adjustment to 1,000 hectares de Propiedad 4136? This, and other factors herein pointed out, cast great
of arids lands, 500 hectares of land with trees and 100 hectares of irrigable clouds of doubt that hang most conspicuously over Piadeco's title.
lands (See: Government v. Avila, 46 Phil. 146, 154; Bayot v. Director of
Lands, 98 Phil. 935, 941. Article 15 of the Royal Decree of January 26, Moreover, in the case of Widows & Orphans Association, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 71 we
1889 limited the area that may be acquired by purchase to 2,500 hectares, categorically enunciated that the alleged Spanish title, Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136, had
with allowable error up to 5%. Ponce, op cit., p. 19). And, at the risk of become bereft of any probative value as evidence of land ownership by virtue of P.D. 892 as
repetition, it should be stated again that Piadeco's Titulo is held out to contained in our Resolution dated February 6, 1985 in a related case entitled Benito and
embrace 72,000 or 74,000 hectares of land. WIDORA v. Ortigas docketed as G.R No. 69343. On March 29, 1985, an entry of final
judgment was made respecting G.R. No. 69343.
But if more were needed, we have the Maura Law (Royal Decree of
February 13, 1894), published in the Gaceta de Manila on April 17, 1894 Under the doctrine of conclusiveness of judgment, the prior declarations by this Court relating
(Ibid., p. 26; Venture, op. cit., p. 28). That decree required a second to the issue of the validity of Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 preclude us from adjudicating
petition for adjustment within six months from publication, for those who otherwise. In the Muñoz case, we had cast doubt on the Titulo's validity. In the WIDORA case,
had not yet secured their titles at the time of the publication of the law the Titulo's nullification was definitive. In both cases, the Republic and the estate of Mariano
(Ibid.). Said law also abolished the provincial boards for the adjustment of San Pedro y Esteban were on opposite ends before this bench. In the case en banc of Calalang
lands established by Royal Decree of December 26, 1884, and confirmed v. Register of Deeds of Quezon City, 72 the Court explained the concept of conclusiveness of
by Royal Decree of August 31, 1888, which boards were directed to judgment, viz:
deliver to their successors, the provincial boards established by Decree on
Municipal Organization issued on May 19, 1893, all records and
documents which they may hold in their possession (Ramirez v. Director . . . conclusiveness of judgment — states that a fact or question which was
of Land, supra, at p. 124). in issue in a former suit and was there judicially passed upon and
determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, is conclusively settled by
the judgment therein as far as the parties to that action and persons in
Doubt on Piadeco's title here supervenes when we come to consider that privity with them are concerned and cannot be again litigated in any future
title was either dated April 29 or April 25, 1894, twelve or eight days after action between such parties or their privies, in the same court or any other
the publication of the Maura Law. court of concurrent jurisdiction on either the same or different cause of
action, while the judgment remains unreversed by proper authority. It has
Let us now take a look, as near as the record allows, at how Piadeco been held that in order that a judgment in one action can be conclusive as
exactly acquired its rights under the Titulo. The original owner appearing to a particular matter in another action between the same parties or their
thereon was Don Mariano San Pedro y Esteban. From privies, it is essential that the issue be identical. If a particular point or
Piadeco's explanation — not its evidence (Rollo of L-24796, pp. 179-188) question is in issue in the second action, and the judgment will depend on
we cull the following: On December 3, 1894, Don Mariano mortgaged the the determination of that particular point or question, a former judgment
land under pacto de retro, redeemable within 10 years, for P8,000.00 to between the same parties or their privies will be final and conclusive in the
one Don Ignacio Conrado. This transaction was said to have been second if that same point or question was in issue and adjudicated in the
registered or inscribed on December 4, 1894. Don Mariano Ignacio died, first suit (Nabus v. Court of Appeals, 193 SCRA 732 [1991]). Identity of
his daughter, Maria Socorro Conrado, his only heir, adjudicated the land to cause of action is not required by merely identity of issues.
herself. At about the same time, Piadeco was organized. Its certificate of
registration was issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission on The issue, whether Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 is valid or not, must now be laid
June 27, 1932. Later, Maria Socorro, heir of Don Ignacio, became a to rest. The Titulo cannot be relied upon by the petitioners-heirs or their privies as
shareholder of Piadeco when she conveyed the land to Piadeco's treasurer evidence of ownership. In the petition for letters of administration the inventory
and an incorporator, Trinidad B. Estrada, in consideration of a certain submitted before the probate court consisted solely of lands covered by the Titulo.
Hence, there can be no "net estate" to speak of after the Titulo's exclusion from the Torrens titles of those who have acquired ownership of such portions of land that rightfully
intestate proceedings of the estate of the late Mariano San Pedro. belong to the State.

In G.R No. 103727, the Titulo cannot be superior to the Torrens Titles of private respondents In fine, the release of the matured Land Bank Capital Bonds issued in favor of Mariano San
Buhain, Ocampo and Dela Cruz, namely TCT No. 372592 (Exh. "2", Buhain), TCT No. 8982 Pedro y Esteban on August 13, 1968 sought by one Catalino San Pedro, alleged heir, legal
(Exh. "2" — De Ocampo) and TCT No. 269707 (Exh. "2" — Dela Cruz). 73 Under the Torrens holder and owner of Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 is a matter not ripe for adjudication in
system of registration, the titles of private respondents became indefeasible and these cases. Firstly, Catalino San Pedro is not a party in any of the two cases before us for
incontrovertible one year from its final decree. 74 More importantly, TCT Nos. 372592, 8982, review, hence, this Court in a Resolution dated May 10, 1993, 78 denied Catalino's motion for
269707, having been issued under the Torrens system, enjoy the conclusive presumption of leave to reopen and/or new trial. And, secondly, the aforementioned bonds were not included
validity. 75 As a last hurrah to champion their claim to the vast estate covered by the subject in the inventory of the subject estate submitted by then administrators, Engracio San Pedro
Spanish title, the petitioners-heirs imputed fraud and bad faith which they failed to prove on and Justino Benito before the probate court.
the part of the private respondents as regards their Torrens titles and accused their own
counsel of gross negligence for having failed to call the proper witnesses from the Bureau of WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the petitions in G.R Nos. 103727 and 106496 are
Forestry to substantiate the petitioners-heirs' claim that OCT No. 614 from which private hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit.
respondents were derived is null and void. It is an elementary legal principle that the
negligence of counsel binds the client. 76 The records show that the petitioners-heirs were not
at all prejudiced by the non-presentation of evidence to prove that OCT No. 614 is a nullity Consequently, in G.R No. 103727, the decision of the Court of Appeals dated January 20,
considering that their ownership itself of the lands being claimed was not duly proved. In the 1992 is hereby AFFIRMED.
case of Villa Rhecar Bus v. Dela Cruz, et al., 77 we held:
In G.R No. 106496, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:
It is unfortunate that the lawyer of the petitioner neglected his
responsibilities to his client. This negligence ultimately resulted in a (1) Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 is declared null and void and, therefore,
judgment adverse to the client. Be that as it may, such mistake binds the no rights could be derived therefrom;
client, the herein petitioner. As a general rule, a client is bound by the
mistakes of his counsel. (Que v. Court of Appeals, 101 SCRA 13 [1980]
(2) All lands covered by Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136 are excluded from
Only when the application of the general rule would result in serious
the inventory of the estate of the late Mariano San Pedro y Esteban;
injustice should an exception thereto be called for. Under the
circumstances obtaining in this case, no undue prejudice against the
petitioner has been satisfactorily demonstrated. At most, there is only an (3) The petition for letters of administration, docketed as Special
unsupported claim that the petitioner bad been prejudiced by the Proceedings No. 312-B, should be, as it is, hereby closed and terminated.
negligence of its counsel, without an explanation to that effect.
(4) The heirs, agents, privies and/or anyone acting for and in behalf of the
Sans preponderance of evidence in support of the contention that the petitioners- estate of the late Mariano San Pedro y Esteban are hereby disallowed to
heirs were denied due process on account of the negligence of their counsel, the writ exercise any act of possession or ownership or to otherwise, dispose of in
of certiorari is unavailing. any manner the whole or any portion of the estate covered by Titulo de
Propriedad No. 4136; and they are hereby ordered to immediately vacate
the same, if they or any of them are in possession thereof.
It bears repeating that the heirs or successors-in-interest of Mariano San Pedro y Esteban are
not without recourse. Presidential Decree No. 892, quoted hereinabove, grants all holders of
Spanish Titles the right to apply for registration of their lands under Act No. 496, otherwise This judgment is IMMEDIATELY EXECUTORY.
known as the Land Registration Act, within six (6) months from the effectivity of the Decree.
Thereafter, however, any Spanish Title, if utilized as evidence of possession, cannot be used as SO ORDERED.
evidence of ownership in any land registration proceedings under the Torrens system.
Narvasa, C.J., Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Puno, Panganiban and
All instruments affecting lands originally registered under the Spanish Mortgage Law may be Torres, Jr., JJ., concur.
recorded under Section 194 of the Revised Administrative Code, as amended by Act 3344.
Melo, Kapunan, Mendoza and Francisco, JJ., took no part.
In view hereof, this is as good a time as any, to remind the Solicitor General to be more
vigilant in handling land registration cases and intestate proceedings involving portions of the
subject estate. It is not too late in the day for the Office of the Solicitor General to contest the Vitug, J., is on leave.
Republic of the Philippines Sixth. That the land occupied by t he wall is registered in the name of each of the owners of
SUPREME COURT the adjoining lots. The wall is not a joint wall.
Manila
Under these facts, who is the owner of the wall and the land occupied by it?
EN BANC
The decision of the lower court is based upon the theory that the action for the registration of
G.R. No. L-8936 October 2, 1915 the lot of the defendant was a judicial proceeding and that the judgment or decree was binding
upon all parties who did not appear and oppose it. In other words, by reason of the fact that the
CONSUELO LEGARDA, with her husband MAURO PRIETO, plaintiffs-appellants, plaintiffs had not opposed the registration of that part of the lot on which the wall was situate
vs. they had lost it, even though it had been theretofore registered in their name. Granting that
N.M. SALEEBY, defendant-appellee. theory to be correct one, and granting even that the wall and the land occupied by it, in fact,
belonged to the defendant and his predecessors, then the same theory should be applied to the
defendant himself. Applying that theory to him, he had already lost whatever right he had
Singson, Ledesma and Lim for appellants. therein, by permitting the plaintiffs to have the same registered in their name, more than six
D.R. Williams for appellee. years before. Having thus lost hid right, may he be permitted to regain it by simply including it
in a petition for registration? The plaintiffs having secured the registration of their lot,
including the wall, were they obliged to constantly be on the alert and to watch all the
proceedings in the land court to see that some one else was not having all, or a portion of the
same, registered? If that question is to be answered in the affirmative, then the whole scheme
JOHNSON, J.:
and purpose of the torrens system of land registration must fail. The real purpose of that
system is to quiet title to land; to put a stop forever to any question of the legality of the title,
From the record the following facts appear: except claims which were noted at the time of registration, in the certificate, or which may
arise subsequent thereto. That being the purpose of the law, it would seem that once a title is
First. That the plaintiffs and the defendant occupy, as owners, adjoining lots in the district of registered the owner may rest secure, without the necessity of waiting in the portals of the
Ermita in the city of Manila. court, or sitting in the "mirador de su casa," to avoid the possibility of losing his land. Of
course, it can not be denied that the proceeding for the registration of land under the torrens
system is judicial (Escueta vs. .Director of Lands, 16 Phil. Rep., 482). It is clothed with all the
Second. That there exists and has existed a number of years a stone wall between the said lots.
forms of an action and the result is final and binding upon all the world. It is an action in rem.
Said wall is located on the lot of the plaintiffs.
(Escueta vs. Director of Lands (supra); Grey Alba vs. De la Cruz, 17 Phil. rep., 49
Roxas vs. Enriquez, 29 Phil. Rep., 31; Tyler vs. Judges, 175 Mass., 51 American Land
Third. That the plaintiffs, on the 2d day of March, 1906, presented a petition in the Court of Co. vs. Zeiss, 219 U.S., 47.)
Land Registration for the registration of their lot. After a consideration of said petition the
court, on the 25th day of October, 1906, decreed that the title of the plaintiffs should be
While the proceeding is judicial, it involves more in its consequences than does an ordinary
registered and issued to them the original certificate provided for under the torrens system.
action. All the world are parties, including the government. After the registration is complete
Said registration and certificate included the wall.
and final and there exists no fraud, there are no innocent third parties who may claim an
interest. The rights of all the world are foreclosed by the decree of registration. The
Fourth. Later the predecessor of the defendant presented a petition in the Court of Land government itself assumes the burden of giving notice to all parties. To permit persons who
Registration for the registration of the lot now occupied by him. On the 25th day of March, are parties in the registration proceeding (and they are all the world) to again litigate the same
1912, the court decreed the registration of said title and issued the original certificate provided questions, and to again cast doubt upon the validity of the registered title, would destroy the
for under the torrens system. The description of the lot given in the petition of the defendant very purpose and intent of the law. The registration, under the torrens system, does not give
also included said wall. the owner any better title than he had. If he does not already have a perfect title, he can not
have it registered. Fee simple titles only may be registered. The certificate of registration
Fifth. Several months later (the 13th day of December, 1912) the plaintiffs discovered that the accumulates in open document a precise and correct statement of the exact status of the fee
wall which had been included in the certificate granted to them had also been included in the held by its owner. The certificate, in the absence of fraud, is the evidence of title and shows
certificate granted to the defendant .They immediately presented a petition in the Court of exactly the real interest of its owner. The title once registered, with very few exceptions,
Land Registration for an adjustment and correction of the error committed by including said should not thereafter be impugned, altered, changed, modified, enlarged, or diminished, except
wall in the registered title of each of said parties. The lower court however, without notice to in some direct proceeding permitted by law. Otherwise all security in registered titles would
the defendant, denied said petition upon the theory that, during the pendency of the petition for be lost. A registered title can not be altered, modified, enlarged, or diminished in
the registration of the defendant's land, they failed to make any objection to the registration of acollateral proceeding and not even by a direct proceeding, after the lapse of the period
said lot, including the wall, in the name of the defendant. prescribed by law.
For the difficulty involved in the present case the Act (No. 496) providing for the registration entry of the decree (of registration), provided no innocent purchaser for value has acquired an
of titles under the torrens system affords us no remedy. There is no provision in said Act interest.
giving the parties relief under conditions like the present. There is nothing in the Act which
indicates who should be the owner of land which has been registered in the name of two It will be noted, from said section, that the "decree of registration" shall not be opened,
different persons. for any reason, in any court, except for fraud, and not even for fraud, after the lapse of one
year. If then the decree of registration can not be opened for any reason, except for fraud, in a
The rule, we think, is well settled that the decree ordering the registration of a particular parcel direct proceeding for that purpose, may such decree be opened or set aside in a collateral
of land is a bar to future litigation over the same between the same parties .In view of the fact proceeding by including a portion of the land in a subsequent certificate or decree of
that all the world are parties, it must follow that future litigation over the title is forever barred; registration? We do not believe the law contemplated that a person could be deprived of his
there can be no persons who are not parties to the action. This, we think, is the rule, except as registered title in that way.
to rights which are noted in the certificate or which arise subsequently, and with certain other
exceptions which need not be dismissed at present. A title once registered can not be defeated, We have in this jurisdiction a general statutory provision which governs the right of the
even by an adverse, open, and notorious possession. Registered title under the torrens system ownership of land when the same is registered in the ordinary registry in the name of two
can not be defeated by prescription (section 46, Act No. 496). The title, once registered, is persons. Article 1473 of the Civil Code provides, among other things, that when one piece of
notice to the world. All persons must take notice. No one can plead ignorance of the real property had been sold to two different persons it shall belong to the person acquiring it,
registration. who first inscribes it in the registry. This rule, of course, presupposes that each of the vendees
or purchasers has acquired title to the land. The real ownership in such a case depends upon
The question, who is the owner of land registered in the name of two different persons, has priority of registration. While we do not now decide that the general provisions of the Civil
been presented to the courts in other jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions, where the "torrens" Code are applicable to the Land Registration Act, even though we see no objection thereto, yet
system has been adopted, the difficulty has been settled by express statutory provision. In we think, in the absence of other express provisions, they should have a persuasive influence
others it has been settled by the courts. Hogg, in his excellent discussion of the "Australian in adopting a rule for governing the effect of a double registration under said Act. Adopting
Torrens System," at page 823, says: "The general rule is that in the case of two certificates of the rule which we believe to be more in consonance with the purposes and the real intent of
title, purporting to include the same land, the earlier in date prevails, whether the land the torrens system, we are of the opinion and so decree that in case land has been registered
comprised in the latter certificate be wholly, or only in part, comprised in the earlier under the Land Registration Act in the name of two different persons, the earlier in date shall
certificate. (Oelkers vs. Merry, 2 Q.S.C.R., 193; Miller vs. Davy, 7 N.Z.R., 155; prevail.
Lloyd vs. Myfield, 7 A.L.T. (V.) 48; Stevens vs. Williams, 12 V.L. R., 152; Register of Titles,
vs. Esperance Land Co., 1 W.A.R., 118.)" Hogg adds however that, "if it can be very clearly In reaching the above conclusion, we have not overlooked the forceful argument of the
ascertained by the ordinary rules of construction relating to written documents, that the appellee. He says, among other things; "When Prieto et al. were served with notice of the
inclusion of the land in the certificate of title of prior date is a mistake, the mistake may be application of Teus (the predecessor of the defendant) they became defendants in a proceeding
rectified by holding the latter of the two certificates of title to be conclusive." (See Hogg on wherein he, Teus, was seeking to foreclose their right, and that of orders, to the parcel of land
the "Australian torrens System," supra, and cases cited. See also the excellent work of Niblack described in his application. Through their failure to appear and contest his right thereto, and
in his "Analysis of the Torrens System," page 99.) Niblack, in discussing the general question, the subsequent entry of a default judgment against them, they became irrevocably bound by
said: "Where two certificates purport to include the same land the earlier in date prevails. ... In the decree adjudicating such land to Teus. They had their day in court and can not set up their
successive registrations, where more than one certificate is issued in respect of a particular own omission as ground for impugning the validity of a judgment duly entered by a court of
estate or interest in land, the person claiming under the prior certificates is entitled to the estate competent jurisdiction. To decide otherwise would be to hold that lands with torrens titles are
or interest; and that person is deemed to hold under the prior certificate who is the holder of, above the law and beyond the jurisdiction of the courts".
or whose claim is derived directly or indirectly from the person who was the holder of the
earliest certificate issued in respect thereof. While the acts in this country do not expressly
cover the case of the issue of two certificates for the same land, they provide that a registered As was said above, the primary and fundamental purpose of the torrens system is to quiet title.
owner shall hold the title, and the effect of this undoubtedly is that where two certificates If the holder of a certificate cannot rest secure in this registered title then the purpose of the
purport to include the same registered land, the holder of the earlier one continues to hold the law is defeated. If those dealing with registered land cannot rely upon the certificate, then
title" (p. 237). nothing has been gained by the registration and the expense incurred thereby has been in vain.
If the holder may lose a strip of his registered land by the method adopted in the present case,
he may lose it all. Suppose within the six years which elapsed after the plaintiff had secured
Section 38 of Act No. 496, provides that; "It (the decree of registration) shall be conclusive their title, they had mortgaged or sold their right, what would be the position or right of the
upon and against all persons, including the Insular Government and all the branches thereof, mortgagee or vendee? That mistakes are bound to occur cannot be denied, and sometimes the
whether mentioned by name in the application, notice, or citation, or included in the general damage done thereby is irreparable. It is the duty of the courts to adjust the rights of the parties
description "To all whom it may concern." Such decree shall not be opened by reason of the under such circumstances so as to minimize such damages, taking into consideration al of the
absence, infancy, or other disability of any person affected thereby, nor by any proceeding in conditions and the diligence of the respective parties to avoid them. In the present case, the
any court for reversing judgments or decrees; subject, however, to the right of any person appellee was the first negligent (granting that he was the real owner, and if he was not the real
deprived of land or of any estate or interest therein by decree of registration obtained owner he can not complain) in not opposing the registration in the name of the appellants. He
by fraud to file in the Court of Land Registration a petition for review within one year after
was a party-defendant in an action for the registration of the lot in question, in the name of the When a conveyance has been properly recorded such record is constructive notice of its
appellants, in 1906. "Through his failure to appear and to oppose such registration, and the contents and all interests, legal and equitable, included therein. (Grandin vs. Anderson, 15
subsequent entry of a default judgment against him, he became irrevocably bound by the Ohio State, 286, 289; Orvis vs. Newell, 17 Conn., 97; Buchanan vs. Intentional Bank, 78 Ill.,
decree adjudicating such land to the appellants. He had his day in court and should not be 500; Youngs vs. Wilson, 27 N.Y., 351; McCabe vs. Grey, 20 Cal., 509;
permitted to set up his own omissions as the ground for impugning the validity of a judgment Montefiore vs. Browne, 7 House of Lords Cases, 341.)
duly entered by a court of competent jurisdiction." Granting that he was the owner of the land
upon which the wall is located, his failure to oppose the registration of the same in the name of Under the rule of notice, it is presumed that the purchaser has examined every instrument of
the appellants, in the absence of fraud, forever closes his mouth against impugning the validity record affecting the title. Such presumption is irrebutable. He is charged with notice of every
of that judgment. There is no more reason why the doctrine invoked by the appellee should be fact shown by the record and is presumed to know every fact which an examination of the
applied to the appellants than to him. record would have disclosed. This presumption cannot be overcome by proof of innocence or
good faith. Otherwise the very purpose and object of the law requiring a record would be
We have decided, in case of double registration under the Land Registration Act, that the destroyed. Such presumption cannot be defeated by proof of want of knowledge of what the
owner of the earliest certificate is the owner of the land. That is the rule between original record contains any more than one may be permitted to show that he was ignorant of the
parties. May this rule be applied to successive vendees of the owners of such certificates? provisions of the law. The rule that all persons must take notice of the facts which the public
Suppose that one or the other of the parties, before the error is discovered, transfers his record contains is a rule of law. The rule must be absolute. Any variation would lead to
original certificate to an "innocent purchaser." The general rule is that the vendee of land has endless confusion and useless litigation.
no greater right, title, or interest than his vendor; that he acquires the right which his vendor
had, only. Under that rule the vendee of the earlier certificate would be the owner as against While there is no statutory provision in force here requiring that original deeds of conveyance
the vendee of the owner of the later certificate. of real property be recorded, yet there is a rule requiring mortgages to be recorded. (Arts. 1875
and 606 of the Civil Code.) The record of a mortgage is indispensable to its validity. (Art
We find statutory provisions which, upon first reading, seem to cast some doubt upon the rule .1875.) In the face of that statute would the courts allow a mortgage to be valid which had not
that the vendee acquires the interest of the vendor only. Sections 38, 55, and 112 of Act No. been recorded, upon the plea of ignorance of the statutory provision, when third parties were
496 indicate that the vendee may acquire rights and be protected against defenses which the interested? May a purchaser of land, subsequent to the recorded mortgage, plead ignorance of
vendor would not. Said sections speak of available rights in favor of third parties which are cut its existence, and by reason of such ignorance have the land released from such lien? Could a
off by virtue of the sale of the land to an "innocent purchaser." That is to say, persons who had purchaser of land, after the recorded mortgage, be relieved from the mortgage lien by the plea
had a right or interest in land wrongfully included in an original certificate would be unable to that he was a bona fide purchaser? May there be a bona fide purchaser of said land, bona
enforce such rights against an "innocent purchaser," by virtue of the provisions of said fide in the sense that he had no knowledge of the existence of the mortgage? We believe the
sections. In the present case Teus had his land, including the wall, registered in his name. He rule that all persons must take notice of what the public record contains in just as obligatory
subsequently sold the same to the appellee. Is the appellee an "innocent purchaser," as that upon all persons as the rule that all men must know the law; that no one can plead ignorance
phrase is used in said sections? May those who have been deprived of their land by reason of a of the law. The fact that all men know the law is contrary to the presumption. The conduct of
mistake in the original certificate in favor of Teus be deprived of their right to the same, by men, at times, shows clearly that they do not know the law. The rule, however, is mandatory
virtue of the sale by him to the appellee? Suppose the appellants had sold their lot, including and obligatory, notwithstanding. It would be just as logical to allow the defense of ignorance
the wall, to an "innocent purchaser," would such purchaser be included in the phrase "innocent of the existence and contents of a public record.
purchaser," as the same is used in said sections? Under these examples there would be two
innocent purchasers of the same land, is said sections are to be applied .Which of the two In view, therefore, of the foregoing rules of law, may the purchaser of land from the owner of
innocent purchasers, if they are both to be regarded as innocent purchasers, should be the second original certificate be an "innocent purchaser," when a part or all of such land had
protected under the provisions of said sections? These questions indicate the difficulty with theretofore been registered in the name of another, not the vendor? We are of the opinion that
which we are met in giving meaning and effect to the phrase "innocent purchaser," in said said sections 38, 55, and 112 should not be applied to such purchasers. We do not believe that
sections. the phrase "innocent purchaser should be applied to such a purchaser. He cannot be regarded
as an "innocent purchaser" because of the facts contained in the record of the first original
May the purchaser of land which has been included in a "second original certificate" ever be certificate. The rule should not be applied to the purchaser of a parcel of land the vendor of
regarded as an "innocent purchaser," as against the rights or interest of the owner of the first which is not the owner of the original certificate, or his successors. He, in nonsense, can be an
original certificate, his heirs, assigns, or vendee? The first original certificate is recorded in the "innocent purchaser" of the portion of the land included in another earlier original certificate.
public registry. It is never issued until it is recorded. The record notice to all the world. All The rule of notice of what the record contains precludes the idea of innocence. By reason of
persons are charged with the knowledge of what it contains. All persons dealing with the land the prior registry there cannot be an innocent purchaser of land included in a prior original
so recorded, or any portion of it, must be charged with notice of whatever it contains. The certificate and in a name other than that of the vendor, or his successors. In order to minimize
purchaser is charged with notice of every fact shown by the record and is presumed to know the difficulties we think this is the safe rule to establish. We believe the phrase "innocent
every fact which the record discloses .This rule is so well established that it is scarcely purchaser," used in said sections, should be limited only to cases where unregistered land has
necessary to cite authorities in its support (Northwestern National Bank vs. Freeman, 171 U.S., been wrongfully included in a certificate under the torrens system. When land is once brought
620, 629; Delvin on Real Estate, sections 710, 710 [a]). under the torrens system, the record of the original certificate and all subsequent transfers
thereof is notice to all the world. That being the rule, could Teus even regarded as the holder
in good fifth of that part of the land included in his certificate of the appellants? We think not.
Suppose, for example, that Teus had never had his lot registered under the torrens system.
Suppose he had sold his lot to the appellee and had included in his deed of transfer the very
strip of land now in question. Could his vendee be regarded as an "innocent purchaser" of said
strip? Would his vendee be an "innocent purchaser" of said strip? Certainly not. The record of
the original certificate of the appellants precludes the possibility. Has the appellee gained any
right by reason of the registration of the strip of land in the name of his vendor? Applying the
rule of notice resulting from the record of the title of the appellants, the question must be
answered in the negative. We are of the opinion that these rules are more in harmony with the
purpose of Act No. 496 than the rule contended for by the appellee. We believe that the
purchaser from the owner of the later certificate, and his successors, should be required to
resort to his vendor for damages, in case of a mistake like the present, rather than to molest the
holder of the first certificate who has been guilty of no negligence. The holder of the first
original certificate and his successors should be permitted to rest secure in their title, against
one who had acquired rights in conflict therewith and who had full and complete knowledge
of their rights. The purchaser of land included in the second original certificate, by reason of
the facts contained in the public record and the knowledge with which he is charged and by
reason of his negligence, should suffer the loss, if any, resulting from such purchase, rather
than he who has obtained the first certificate and who was innocent of any act of negligence.

The foregoing decision does not solve, nor pretend to solve, all the difficulties resulting from
double registration under the torrens system and the subsequent transfer of the land. Neither
do we now attempt to decide the effect of the former registration in the ordinary registry upon
the registration under the torrens system. We are inclined to the view, without deciding it, that
the record under the torrens system, supersede all other registries. If that view is correct then it
will be sufficient, in dealing with land registered and recorded alone. Once land is registered
and recorded under the torrens system, that record alone can be examined for the purpose of
ascertaining the real status of the title to the land.

It would be seen to a just and equitable rule, when two persons have acquired equal rights in
the same thing, to hold that the one who acquired it first and who has complied with all the
requirements of the law should be protected.

In view of our conclusions, above stated, the judgment of the lower court should be and is
hereby revoked. The record is hereby returned to the court now having and exercising the
jurisdiction heretofore exercised by the land court, with direction to make such orders and
decrees in the premises as may correct the error heretofore made in including the land in the
second original certificate issued in favor of the predecessor of the appellee, as well as in all
other duplicate certificates issued.

Without any findings as to costs, it is so ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Torrens, and Araullo, JJ., concur.


Republic of the Philippines Petitioner Republic of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG),
SUPREME COURT opposed the application on the following grounds: (a) neither the respondents nor their
Manila predecessors-in-interest possess sufficient title to the property or have been in open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the land in question since
FIRST DIVISION 1945 or prior thereto; (b) the muniments of title, i.e., tax declaration and tax receipts,
presented by the respondents do not constitute competent and sufficient evidence of a bona
fide right to registration of the land under Section 48(b), Commonwealth Act No. 141,
G.R. No. 155012 April 14, 2004 otherwise known as The Public Land Act,6 as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073; (c)
the claim of ownership in fee simple on the basis of a Spanish title or grant can no longer be
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, availed of by the respondents; and (d) the land is part of the public domain belonging to the
vs. Republic of the Philippines.7
CARMENCITA M. ALCONABA; LUISITO B. MELENDEZ; CONCEPCION M.
LAZARO; MAURICIO B. MELENDEZ, JR.; and MYRNA M. GALVEZ, represented At the trial on the merits, respondents Mauricio B. Melendez, Jr., and Carmencita M.
by CONCEPCION M. LAZARO, respondents. Alconaba testified to establish their claim over the subject lots. Mauricio claimed that he and
his co-respondents acquired by inheritance from their deceased parents Lot 2111 of Cad-455,
DECISION which is an agricultural land. Their parents had been in possession of the said land since 1949
and had been religiously paying the taxes due thereon. When their parents died, he and his
siblings immediately took possession of said property in the concept of an owner, paid taxes,
DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:
and continued to plant rice thereon. On 24 June 1996, he and his co-heirs executed an
Extrajudicial Settlement with Partition over the said lot and subdivided it into five lots.8
To serve the ends of social justice, which is the heart of the 1987 Constitution, the State
promotes an equitable distribution of alienable agricultural lands of the public domain to
deserving citizens, especially the underprivileged. A land registration court must, therefore, For her part, Carmencita testified that Lot 2111 of Cad-455 had been in the possession of their
exercise extreme caution and prudent care in deciding an application for judicial confirmation parents since 1940 and that after the death of their parents she and her siblings immediately
of an imperfect title over such lands so that the public domain may not be raided by took possession of it and religiously paid the taxes thereon. The land is being cultivated by
Julia Garal, their tenant. She admitted that no improvements have been introduced by their
unscrupulous land speculators.1
family on the lot. On cross examination, she admitted that plans to sell the property were at
hand.9
At bar is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure seeking to set
aside the decision2 of the Court of Appeals of 26 August 2002 in CA-G.R. CV No. 64323,
In its decision of 1 September 1998, the trial court found that the respondents have sufficiently
which affirmed the decision3 of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Cabuyao, Laguna,4 of 1
September 1998 in MTC LRC Case No. 06 ordering the registration in favor of the established their family's actual, continuous, adverse, and notorious possession of the subject
respondents of parcels of land situated at Barangay Sala, Cabuyao, Laguna, designated as Lot property for more than fifty-seven years, commencing from the possession of their
2111-A, 2111-B, 2111-C, 2111-D, and 2111-E. predecessors-in-interest in 1940, and that such possession was in an adverse and public
manner. Likewise, it found that the land in question is alienable and disposable and is not
within any reservation or forest zone. Thus, it confirmed the title of the respondents over the
The pertinent facts are as follows: said lots; directed the Register of Deeds of Laguna, Calamba Branch, to cause the registration
of said parcels of land in the name of the respondents upon payment of fees; and ordered the
On 14 November 1996, the respondents filed before the MTC of Cabuyao, Laguna, issuance of a Decree of Registration once the decision becomes final and executory.
an application5 for registration of title over five parcels of land, each with an area of
5,220 square meters, situated in Barangay Sala, Cabuyao, Laguna. In their Upon appeal10 by the petitioner, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court.
application, they stated, among other things, that they are the sole heirs of Spouses Hence, this petition.
Melencio E. Melendez, Sr., and Luz Batallones Melendez, original owners of Lot
2111 of CAD-455, with an area of 2.6 hectares. Their parents had been in possession
of the said property since 1949, more or less. After the death of their mother and The OSG argues that both the trial court and the Court of Appeals erred in (a) giving weight to
father on 19 February 1967 and 5 May 1976, respectively, they partitioned the the self-serving testimonies of Mauricio and Carmencita that the respondents and their
property among themselves and subdivided it into five lots, namely, Lots 2111-A, predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, and adverse possession of the lots in
2111-B, 2111-C, 2111-D, and 2111-E. Since then they have been in actual question in the concept of an owner for at least thirty years; and (b) holding that respondents'
possession of the property in the concept of owners and in a public and peaceful tax declaration is sufficient proof that they and their parents have been in possession of the
manner. property for at least thirty years, despite the fact that the said tax declaration was only for the
year 1994 and the property tax receipts presented by the respondents were all of recent dates,
i.e., 1990, 1991,1992, 1994, 1996, and 1997. Finally, the OSG states that even granting for the
sake of argument that the respondents have been in possession of the property since 1940,
their adverse possession should be reckoned only from 28 September 1981 when the property (1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest
was declared to be within alienable and disposable zone. have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under
The petition is meritorious. a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
(Emphasis supplied).
While the rule is well settled that the findings of fact of appellate courts are conclusive upon
us,11 there are recognized exceptions thereto, among which is where the findings of fact are Applicants for confirmation of imperfect title must, therefore, prove the following: (a) that the
not supported by the record or are so glaringly erroneous as to constitute a serious abuse of land forms part of the disposable and alienable agricultural lands of the public domain; and (b)
discretion.12 This exception is present in this case. that they have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation
of the same under a bona fide claim of ownership either since time immemorial or since 12
June 1945.
Section 48(b) of C.A. No. 141, as amended by Republic Act No. 1942,13 reads as follows:
There is no doubt that the subject property is part of the disposable and alienable agricultural
Section 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of lands of the public domain. But it is not clear as to when it was classified as alienable and
the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but disposable by proper authorities.
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 We do not find merit in OSG's claim that the subject property was classified as within the
wit: alienable and disposable zone only on 28 September 1981, and hence, possession by
respondents' predecessors-in-interest before that date cannot be considered. In support of this
claim, the OSG relies on a statement appearing in the survey plan marked as Exhibit "Q,"
… which reads:

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest This survey is inside alienable and disposable area as per Project No. 23-A L.C.
have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and Map No. 004 certified on September 28, 1981 and is outside any civil or military
occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide reservation.
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 As postulated by the respondents, the phrase "certified on September 28, 1981" could not have
presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government meant that Lot 2111 became alienable and disposable only on 28 September 1981. That date
grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of obviously refers to the time thatProject No. 23-A L.C. Map No. 004 was certified.
this chapter.
Neither can we give weight to the contention of the respondents that since Project No. 23-A
14
This provision was further amended by P.D. No. 1073 by substituting the phrase "for at least L.C. Map No. 004 of which Lot 2111 forms part was approved on 31 December 1925 by the
thirty years" with "since June 12, 1945"; thus: then Bureau of Forestry, Lot 2111 must have been disposable and alienable as early as of that
date. There is nothing to support their claim that 31 December 1925 is the date of the approval
of such project or the date of the classification of the subject property as disposable and
SEC. 4. The provisions of Section 48(b) and Section 48(c), Chapter VIII, of the alienable public land. It is settled that a person who seeks registration of title to a piece of land
Public Land Act are hereby amended in the sense that these provisions shall apply must prove his claim by clear and convincing evidence.16 The respondents have failed to
only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain which have been in discharge the burden of showing that Lot 2111 was classified as part of the disposable and
open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by the alienable agricultural lands of public domain as of 12 June 1945 or earlier.
applicant himself or through his predecessor-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945.
Likewise, the respondent have miserably failed to prove that they and their predecessors-in-
interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of
The date "12 June 1945" was reiterated in Section 14(1) of P. D. No. 1529,15 otherwise known the subject property under a bona fide claim of ownership either since time immemorial or
as the Property Registration Decree, provides: since 12 June 1945.1awphil.net

SEC. 14. Who may apply. – The following persons may file in the proper Court of The trial court and the Court of Appeals based the finding of fifty-seven years of possession
First Instance [now Regional Trial Court] an application for registration of title to by the respondents and their predecessors-in-interest on the testimonies of Carmencita and
land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives: Mauricio. The two were aged 6217 and 60,18 respectively, when they testified in 1997. Thus,
they must have been born in 1935 and 1937, respectively. If the asserted possession lasted for
a period of fifty-seven years at the time they testified, the same must have commenced 1992, 1994, 1996, and 1997. Being of recent dates, we cannot trust the assertion of the
sometime in 1940, or at the time that Carmencita was just 5 years old and Mauricio, about 3 respondents that they immediately took possession of the property in the concept of an owner
years old. It is quite impossible that they could fully grasp, before coming to the age of reason, after the death of their parents. While belated declaration of a property for taxation purposes
the concept of possession of such a big tract of land and testify thereon nearly six decades does not necessarily negate the fact of possession,28 tax declarations or realty tax payments of
later. In short their testimonies could not be relied upon to prove the adverse possession of the property are, nevertheless, good indicia of possession in the concept of an owner, for no one in
subject parcel of land by their parents. his right mind would be paying taxes for a property that is not in his actual or, at least,
constructive possession.29
In any case, respondents' bare assertions of possession and occupation by their predecessors-
in-interest since 1940 (as testified to by Carmencita19) or since 1949 (as testified to by Likewise, it is noteworthy that none of the respondents reside on the subject property.
Mauricio20 and declared in respondents' application for registration) are hardly "the well-nigh Carmencita even admitted that plans of selling the property were at hand. Thus, it would be
incontrovertible" evidence required in cases of this nature. Proof of specific acts of ownership rational to conclude that this move for registration is just but a camouflage by smart land
must be presented to substantiate their claim. They cannot just offer general statements which speculators who saw in the land applied for expected profits from its existence.
are mere conclusions of law than factual evidence of possession.21 Even granting that the
possession by the respondents' parents commenced in 1940, still they failed to prove that their In a nutshell, the respondents did not have in their favor an imperfect title over the land subject
predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and of the application at the time MTC LRC Case No. 06 was filed with the trial court. They failed
occupation of the subject land under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership. to prove that (1) Lot 2111 was classified as part of the disposable and alienable agricultural
lands of public domain as of 12 June 1945 or earlier; (2) they and their predecessors-in-
The law speaks of possession and occupation. Since these words are separated by the interest have been in continuous, exclusive, and adverse possession and occupation thereof in
conjunction and, the clear intention of the law is not to make one synonymous with the other. the concept of owners from 12 June 1945 or earlier.
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
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED, and the decisions of the Court of Appeals of 26
constructive possession. Taken together with the words open, continuous, exclusive and
August 2002 in CA-G.R. CV No. 64323 and of the Municipal Trial Court of Cabuyao,
notorious, the word occupation serves to highlight the fact that for an applicant to qualify, his
Laguna, of 1 September 1998 in MTC LRC Case No. 06 are hereby REVERSED and SET
possession must not be a mere fiction.22 Actual possession of a land consists in the ASIDE. The land registration case MTC LRC Case No. 06 is hereby orderedDISMISSED.
manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such a nature as a party would naturally exercise
over his own property.23
Costs de oficio.
No evidence on record shows that Spouses Mauricio and Luz Melendez cultivated, had control
over, or used the whole or even a greater portion of the tract of land for agricultural SO ORDERED.
purposes.24 Moreover, only one tenant worked on the land, and there is no evidence as to how
big was the portion occupied by the tenant. Moreover, there is no competent proof that the Panganiban, Ynares-Santiago, Carpio, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
Melendez Spouses declared the land in their name for taxation purposes or paid its taxes.
While tax receipts and declarations are not incontrovertible evidence of ownership, they
constitute, at the least, proof that the holder has a claim of title over the property.25 The
voluntary declaration of a piece of property for taxation purposes not only manifests one's
sincere and honest desire to obtain title to the property, but also announces an adverse claim
against the State and all other interested parties with an intention to contribute needed
revenues to the government. Such an act strengthens one's bona fide claim of acquisition of
ownership.26

The respondents claim that they immediately took possession of the subject land upon the
death of their parents, Mauricio and Luz Melendez, who died on 5 May 1976 and 19 February
1967, respectively, and that they had been religiously paying the taxes thereon. If that were so,
why had they not themselves introduced any improvement on the land?27 We even find
unsubstantiated the claim of Carmencita that they had a tenant on the land. They did not
present any tenant. In any case, we wonder how one tenant could have cultivated such a vast
tract of land with an area of 2.6 hectares.

The records also reveal that the subject property was declared for taxation purposes by the
respondents only for the year 1994. They paid the taxes thereon only for the years 1990, 1991,
Republic of the Philippines the said applicant, Eugenio de jesus, at P100.50 per hectare or P2,211.00
SUPREME COURT for the whole tract.
Manila
This application should be entered in the records of this office as Sales
FIRST DIVISION Application No. 3231,covering the tract herein awarded, which is more
particularly described as follows:
G.R. No. L-40912 September 30, 1976
Location: Central, Davao,ñé+.£ªwph!1
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the MINDANAO MEDICAL
CENTER, petioner, Davao
vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS and ALEJANDRO Y DE JESUS, respondents. Area: 22 hectares

Office of the Solicitor for petitioner. Boundaries:ñé+.£ªwph!1

Ananias C. Ona for private respondent. N—Maria Villa Abrille and Arenio Suazo;

SE—Provincial Road and Mary Gohn;

MARTIN, J.:têñ.£îhqw⣠SW—Public Land;

This is an appeal by certiorari from the decision of the Court of Apiwals in its CA-G.R. No. W—Municipal Road;
39577-R, raising the question of whether or not petitioner Mindanao Medical Center has
registerable title over a full 12.8081-hectare land by virtue of an executive proclamation in
1956 reserving the area for medical center site purposes. Because the area conveyed had not been actually surveyed at the time Eugenio de Jesus filed
his Sales Application, the Bureau of Lands conducted a survey under Plan Bsd-1514. On July
29, 1936, the plan was approved and the land awarded to Eugenio de Jesus was designated as
On January 22, 1921, Eugenio de Jesus, the father of respondent Alejandro de Jesus, applied Lot Nos. 1176-A, 1176-B-1-A and 1176-B-1-B with an aggregate area of 20.6400 hectares,
with the Bureau of Lands for Sales Patent (Sales Application No. 5436) of a 33-hectare
Bsd-10153, City of Davao.
situated in barrio Libaron, Municipality of Davao (now Davao City). 1 The property applied
for was a portion of what was then known as Lot 522 of the Davao Cadastre.
On August 28, 1936, the Director of Lands ordered an amendment of the Sales Application of
Eugenio de Jesus stating that "a portion of the land covered by Sales Application No. 5436 (E-
On January 23, 1934, the Bureau of Lands, through its Davao District Land Officer, accepted 3231) of Eugenio de Jesus is needed by the Philippine Army for military camp site purposes,
sealed bids for the purchase of the subject land. One Irineo Jose bidded for P20.00 per hectare, the said application is amended so as to exclude therefrom portion "A" as shown in the sketch
while a certain Dr. Josc Ebro submitted a bid of P100.50 per hectare The Director of Lands, on the back thereof, and as thus amended, it will continue to be given due course." The area
however, annulled the auction sale for the reason that the sales applicant, Eugenio de Jesus, excluded was Identified as Lot 1176-B-2, the very land in question, consisting of 12.8081
failed to participate in the bidding for non-service of notice on him of the scheduled bidding. hectares.

In lieu of that sale, another bidding was held on October 4, 1934. Sales applicant Eugenio de On September 7, 1936, President Manuel L. Quezon issued Proclaimation No. 85 withdrawing
Jesus was the lone bidder. He equalled the bid previously submitted by Dr. Jose Ebro and Lot No. 1176-B-2 from sale and settlement and reserving the same for military purposes,
made a deposit of P221.00 representing 10% of the price of the land at P100.50 per hectare. under the administration of the Chief of Staff, Philippine Army.

On November 23, 1934, the Director of Lands issued to Eugenio de Jesus an Order of Award, On November 29, 1939, Eugenio de Jesus paid P660.45 covering the 8th and 10th installment
the dispositive portion of which reads: 2ñé+.£ªwph!1 for 20.6400 hectares, the remaining area after his Sales Application was amended. This
payment did not include the military camp site (Lot No. 1176-B-2) as the same had already
In view of the foregoing, and it appearing that the proceedings had in been excluded from the Sales Application at the time the payment was made. 3 Thereafter, or
connection with the Sales Application No. 5436 were in accordance with on May 15, 1948, then Director of Lands Jose P. Dans ordered the issuance of patent to
law and existing regulations, the land covered thereby is herebyawarded to Eugenio de Jesus, pursuant to his Sales Application for "a tract of land having an area of
20.6400 hectares, situated in the barrio of Poblacion, City of Davao. 4 On the same date, then Forthwith, petitioner Mindanao Medical Center elevated the matter to Us thru the present
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources Mariano Garchitorena granted a Sales Patent appeal.
to Eugenio de Jesus for "a tract of agricultural public land situated in the City of Davao, Island
of Mindanao, Philippines, containing an area of 20 hectares, 64 ares, and 00 centares. 5 We find petitioner's appeal to b meritorious.

On August 11, 1956, President Ramon Magsaysay revoked Proclamation No. 85 and declared 1. Petitioner Mindanao Medical Center has registerable title over the whole contested area of
the disputed Lot 1176-B-2 open to disposition under the provisions of the Public land Act for 12.8081 hectares, designated Lot No. 1176-B-2, and not only on a portion thereof occupied by
resettlement of the squatters in the Piapi Beach, Davao City. 6 In the following October 9, the Medical Center, its nervous disease pavilion and their reasonable appurtenances.
President Magsaysay revoked this Proclamation No. 328 and reserved the same Lot No. 1176- Proclamation No. 350, dated October 9, 1956, of President Magsaysay legally effected a land
B-2 for medical center site purposes under the administration of the Director of Hospital. 7 grant to the Mindanao Medical Center, Bureau of Medical Services, Department of Health, of
the whole lot, validity sufficient for initial registration under the Land Registration Act. Such
Whereupon, on December 6, 1969, petitioner Mindanao Medical Center applied for the land grant is constitutive of a "fee simple" tile or absolute title in favor of petitioner Mindanao
Torrens registration of the 12.8081-hectare Lot 1176-B-2 with the Court of First Instance of Medical Center. Thus, Section 122 of the Act, which governs the registration of grants or
Davao. The Medical Center claimed "fee simple" title to the land on the strength of patents involving public lands, provides that "Whenever public lands in the Philippine Islands
proclamation No. 350 reserving the area for medical center site purposes. belonging to the Government of the Philippines arealienated, granted, or conveyed to persons
or to public or private corporations, the same shall be brought forthwith under the operation
Respondent Alejandro de Jesus, the son and successor-in-interest of sale applicant Eugenio de of this Act [Land Registration Act, Act 496] and shall become registered lands." 9 It would be
Jesus, opposed the registration oil the ground that his father, Eugenio de Jesus, had aquired a completely absurd to rule that, on the basis of Proclamation No. 350, the Medical Center has
vested right on the subject lot by virtue of the Order of Award issued to him by the Director of registerable title on the portion occupied by it, its nervous disease pavilion and the reasonable
Lands. appurtenances, and not on the full extent of the reservation, when the proclamation explicitly
reserved the entire Lot 1176-B-2 of 12.8081 hectares to the Center.
A certain Arsenio Suazo likewise filed his opposition to the registration on the claim that the
2-hectare portion on the northeastern part of Lot 1176-B-2 belongs to him. Certainly, proclamation no. 350 is free of any legal infirmity. It proceeds from the recognized
competence of the president to reserve by executive proclamation alienable lands of the public
domain for a specific public use or service. 10 section 64 (e) of the Revised Administrative
After due hearing, the Court of First Instance of Davao rendered judgment on September 2, Code empowers the president "(t)o reserve from sale oe other disposition and for specific
1966, directing "the registration of the title to Lot No. 1176-B-2 of Subdivision Plan Bsd- public uses for service, any land belonging to the private domain of the Government of the
5134, shown on Plan Ap-6512, situated in the Barrio of Central, City of Davao, and containing Philippines, the use of which is not otherwise directed by law. the land reserved "shall be used
an area of 128,081 square meters in the name of the Mindanao Medical Center, Bureau of for the specific purposes directed by such executive order until otherwise provided by law."
Medical Services, Department of Health. Similarly, Section 83 of the Public Land Act (CA 141) authorizes the President to "designate
by proclamation any tract or tracts of land of the public domain as reservations for the use
The two oppositors, Alejandro de Jesus and Arsenio Suazo, excepted from this judgment of ofthe commonwealth of the Philippines or of any of its branches, or of the inhabitants thereof,
the trial court and appealed the case to the respondent Court of Appeals. ... or for quasi-public uses or purposes when the public interest requires it, including
reservations for ... other improvements for the public benefit.
On July 2, 1974, the Appellate Court held: ñé+.£ªwph!1
2. Respondent Appellate Court erroneously ruled that Alejabdro's father, Eugenio de jesus,
WHEREFORE, the appealed judgment is hereby modified insofar as it had acquired ownership over the whole 12.8081-hectare Lot 1176-B-2 because the Sales
denies the claim of appellant Arsenio Suazo, the same is hereby affirmed, Award issued to him on November 23, 1934 by then Director of Lands Simeon Ramos
in regard the appeal of appellant Alejandro Y. de Jesus, registration Lot covered the 33 hectares applied for, including the 12.8081 hectares. We fail to see any
1176-B-2, situated in Barrio Central, Davao City, and containing an area reasonable basis on record for the Appellate Court to draw such conclusion. On the contrary,
of 12.8081 square meters, is hereby decreed in the name of said the very Sales Award describes the tract awarded as located in Central, Davao, Davao, with an
appellants, but said appellant is hereby ordered to relinquish to the area of22 hectares, and bounded on the north by Maria Villa Abrille and Arsenio Suazo; on
appellee that portion of Lot 1176-B-2 which is occupied by the medical the southeast by a provincial road and Mary Gohn; on the southwest by a public land; and on
center and nervous disease pavilion and their reasonable appartenances, the west by a municipal road. 11 This area of 22 hectares was even reduced to 20.6400 hectares
no costs. upon actual survey made by the Bureau of Lands. The same area was reckoned with by then
Lands Director Jose P. Dans when he directed the issuance of a patent to Eugenio de Jesus on
May 15, 1948 for his application filed on January 22, 1921 covering "a tract of land having an
On July 5, 1974, petitioner Mindanao Medical Center moved for reconsideration, maintaining area of 20.6400 hectares, situated in the barrio of Poblacion, City of Davao." 12 In like
ownership over the entire area of 12.8081 hectares, but the Appellate Court in a Special manner, the Sales Patent issued to Eugenio de Jesus on the same date, May 15, 1948, by then
Division of Five denied the motion on June 17, 1975. 8 Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources Mariano Garchitorena indicated therein the
sale to Eugenio de Jesus of "a tract of agricultural public land situated in the City of Davao, land conveyed. 20 And courts do not usually go beyond a description of a tract in a patent and
Island of Mindanao, Philippines,containing an area of 20 hectares 64, ares 00 centares." Seen determine the tract and quantity of land apart from the patent itself. 21
in the light of Patent, and Sales Order for Issuance of Patent, and Sales Patent, invariably
bearing the area awarded to sales applicant Eugenio de Jesusas 20.6400 hectares, it becomes 4. We cannot share the view of respondent Appellate Court that eugenio de jesus's alleged
imperative to conclude that what was really awarded to Eugenio de jesus was only 20.6400 occupation, cultivation and improvement of the 33-hectare land (including the 12-hectare
hectares and not 33 hectares as applied for by him. camp site) since 1916 vested in him a right of preference or pre-empive right in the acquisition
of the land, which right was controverted into "a special propriety right" when the Sales
However, We observe that in the public bidding of october 4, 1934, the succesful bidder, Award was issued to him in 1934. Not only for the earlier reasons that the Sales Award was
submitted a bid of 100.50 per hectare and made a cash deposit of only P221.00, which amount only for 22 hectares (later found to be 20,6400 fectares upon actual survey) and not for 33
represents 10% of the purchase price of the land. 13 At P100.50 per hectare, the purchase hectares, the privilege of occupying public lands a view to preemption confers np contractual
would be P2,221.00 for 22 hectares, 10% deposit of which amounts to P221.00. For 33 or vested right in the lands occupied and the authority of the President to withdraw suchlands
hectares, the total purchase price would be P3,316.50 at P100.50 per hectare and the 10% for sale or acquisition by the public, or to reserve them for public use, prior to the divesting by
deposit would be P331.65, not P221.00, as what was actually deposited by sales applicant the government of title threof stands, even though this may defeat the imperfect right of a
Eugenio de Jesus. Withal, if Eugenio de Jesus was really awarded 33 hectares in that public settler. 22 Lands covered by reservation are not subject to entry, and no lawful settlement on
bidding, he should have made the required 10% deposit of P331.65. That he merely deposited them can be acquired. 23 The claims o0f persons who have settled on occupied, and improved
P221.00 strongly suggests that what was bidden for and awarded to him was only 22 hectares a parcel of public land which is later included in a reservation are considered worthy of
and not 33 hectares as applied for. As a matter of fact, his last payment of P660.45 on protection and are usually respected, but where the President, as authorized by law, issuesa
November 29, 1939 for the 8th te 10th installment intended only to cover 20.6400 hectares, proclamation reserving certain lands and warning all persons to depart therefrom, this
the remaining area after the amendment of the Sales Application on August 28, 1936, terminates any rights previously avquired in such lands by a person who was settled thereon in
excluding "the military camp site [Lot 1176B-2 of 12.8081 hectares] for the reason that the order to obtain a preferential right of purchase. 24 And patents for lands which have been
said site, at the time of last installment was already excluded from Sale Application SA-5436 previously granted, reserved from sale, or appropriate, are void. 25
of Eugenio de Jesus, as ordered ... by the Director of Lands." 14
It is true that Proclamation No. 350 states that the same is subject to "privilege rights, if any
But, respondent Appellate Court reasons out that if the area bidden for and awarded in 1934 there be," but Eugenio de Jesus or his son Alejandro de Jesus failed to prove any private rights
ws only 22 hectares and since two years thereafter the Director of Lands ordered an over the property reserved. Wee-settled is the rule that unless the applicant has shown by clear
amendment excluding the military camp site of 12.8081 hectares, then only 10 hectares, then and convincing evidence that a certain portion of the public domain was acquired by him or
would have been left to applicant Eugenio de Jesus and not 20.6400 hectares would have been his ancestors either by composition title from the Spanish Government or by possessory
left in the Sales Patent. The Appellate Court's reasoning is premised on wrong assumption. information title, or any other means for the acquisition of public lands, such as grants or
What was ordered amended was the Sales Application for 33 hectares and not the Order of 22 patents, the property must be held to be part of the public domain. 26 Nor could respondent
hectares or 20.6400 hectares. The Order states: "Order: Amendment of Application." Alejandro de Jesus legetimately claim to have obtained title by prescription over the disputed
Necessarily so, because the amendment was already reflected in the Order of Award, since 12.8081 hectares, inasmuch as by applying for the sale thereof (assuming hypothetically that
only an area of 22 hectares was awarded. the 12.8081-hectare lot was included in the original sales application for 33 hectares), his
father, Eugenio de Jesus, necessarily admits that the portions applied for are part of the public
3. The phrase "whole tract" in the Sales Award 15 cannot be licitly seized upon as basis for the domain, against which no acquisitive prescription may lie 27 except as provided in Section
conclusion that the area awarded to applicant Eugenio de Jesus was the applied area of 33 48(b) of C.A. 141, as amended.
hectares. Such general description of "whole tract" cannot prevail over the specific description
delineating the area in quantity and in boundaries. Thus, the Sales Award specifies the area 5. Respondent Appellate Court mistakenly sustained Eugenio de Jesus's pretense that the
awarded as 22 hectares, located at Central, Davao, Davao, and bounded on the north by the military "camp site" (Lot 176-B-2) had been donated by him to the Philippine Army, thru
property of Maria Villa Abrille and Arsenio Suazo; on the southwest by a provincial road and Secretary Serafin Marabut of the Department of National Defense, sometime in 1936 subject
the property by Mary Gohn on the southwest by a public land; and on the west by a municipal to the condition that it would be returned to him when the Philippine Army would no longer
road. 16 Specific description is ordinarily preferred to general description, or that which is need it. As found by the trial court in 1936, the Department of National Defense was not yet in
more certain to what which is less certain. 17 More so, when it is considered that the series of existence, so that no Defense Secretary by the name of Serafin Marabut could have entered
executive proclamations (Proclamation Nos. 85, 328, 350) continuously maintained the intent into a deed of donation with Eugenio de Jesus over Lot 1176-B-2 consisting of 12.8081
of the Government to reserve the subject land for a specific purpose or service. hectares. The Department of National Defense was only organized in 1939. Nonetheless,
respondent Alejandro de Jesus, would prove by secondary evidence the existence of such
Besides, patents and land grants are construed favorably to the Governement, and most donation thru the testimony of persons who supposedly saw it. In this regard, the Rules
strongly against the grantee. 18 Any doubt as to the intention or extent of the grant, or the provides that before the terms of a transaction in realty may be established by secondary
intention of the Government, is to be resolved in its favor. 19 In general, the quantity of the evidence, it is n that the due execution and subsequent loss of the original instrument
land granted must be ascertained from the description in the patent is exclusive evidence of the evidencing the transaction be proved. For it is the due execution of the document and its
subsequent loss that would constitute the foundation for the introduction of secondary
evidence to prove the contents of such document. And the due of the execution of the
document would be proved through the testimony of (1) the person or persons who executed it; In fact, even if We were to assume in gratia argumenti that the 12.8081-hectare lot was
(2) the person before whom its execution was acknowledged, or (3) any who was present and included in the Sales Award, still the same may not be the subject of donation. In Sales
saw it executed and delivered, or who, after its execution and delivery, saw it and recognized Award, what is conferred on the applicant is merely the right "to take possession of the land so
the signatures, or by a person to whom the parties to the instrument had previously confessed that he could comply with the requirements prescribed by law." 34 In other words, the right
the execution thereof. 28 None of these modes of proof was ever followed by respondent granted to the sales awardee is only "possessory right" as distinguished from "proprietary
Alejandro de Jesus. His predecessor- in-interest, Eugenio de Jesus, merely made a broad right," for the fundamental reason that prior to the issuance of the sales patent and registration
statement that he executed a deed f donation in 1936 with Defense Secretary Marabut when at thereof, title to the land is retained by the State. 35 Admittedly, the land applied for may be
hat time the Defense Department was not yet in existence. The notary public who considered "disposed of by the Government" upon the issuance of the Sales Award, but this
presumptively acknowledged the donation or the witnesses to the instrument were never has the singular effect of withdrawing the land from the public domian that is "disposable" by
presented. It has been ruled that the failure of the party to present the notary Public and thore s the Director of Lands under the Public Land Act. Moreover, the dsiposition is merely
who must have seen the signing of the document as witnesses to testify on its execution provisional because the applicant has still to comply with the requirements of the law before
interdicts the admission of a secondary evidence of the terms of the deed. 29 This is especially any patent is issued. It is only after compliance with such requirements to the satisfaction of
true in realty donations where Art. 748 of the new Civil Code requires the accomplishment the Director of Lands, that the patent is issued and the land applied for considered
thereof in a public document in order to be valid. The testimony of Marcelo Belendres that "permanently disposed of by the Government." This again is a circumstance that demeans the
Sesinando de jesus, brother of Eugenio de Jesus showed him a copy of the "paper" signed by irrevocable nature donation, because the mere desistance of the sales applicant to pursue the
Secretary Marabut and Eugenio de Jesus; of Jose Tinio, Acting Register of Deeds of Davao, requirements called for would cause the virtual revocation of the donation.
that in May or June 1937, Col. Simeon de jesus went to his office to register a document"
executed by Eugenio de Jesus and Secretary Marabut; of former Secretary Brigido Valencia ACCORDINGLY, the appealed judgement of the Court of Appeals, promulgated on July 2,
that Col. Simeon de Jesus showed him a deed of donation signed by Eugenio de Jesus and 1974, and its resolution of Jane 17, 1975, denying petitioner's motion for reconsiderations, are
Serafin Marabut. hardly suffer to satisfy the requisites of the Rules, as to which very strict hereby reversed and set aside. The disputed Lot 1176-B-2, Plan Bsd-1514 of Davao Cadastre
compliance is imposed because of the importance of the document involved. 30 First none of and containing an area of 12.8081 hectares, is hereby adjudicated in favor of petitioner
these persons was a witness to the instrument, nor any of them saw the document after its Mindanao Medical Center. The urgent motion of the petitioner for leave to construct essential
execution and delivery ind recognized the signatures of the parties nor to whom the parties to hospitawl buildings, namely: (a) communicable and contagious diseas pavilion; (b) hospital
the instrument had previously confessed the execution; second, the reference to a "paper" or motorpool; and (c) physician's quarters, is hereby granted. With costs against private
"document" ambigous as to be synonymous with a "deed of donation;" and third, the persons respondent.
who showed the deed, Sesinando de Jesus and Col. Simeon de Jesus were not parties to the
instrument. Respondent Alejandro de Jesus's narration of the existence and loss of the
document equally deserves no credence. As found by the trial court, he testified that the copy SO ORDERED.
of the deed which his father kept was sent to him in Manila thru his uncle, Sesinando de Jesus
in July 1942, while his father himself, Eugenio de Jesus, declared that his copy of the deed Teehankee (Chairman), Makasiar, Muñoz Palma and Concepcion, Jr., JJ.,
was burned in Davao during the Japanese occupation. The replies of the Undersecretary of concur.1äwphï1.ñët
Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Acting Executive Secretary that the property was
"still needed for military purposes" and may not therefore be released from the reservation
cannot substitute the proof so required. These replies are not confirmatory of the existence of
such donation much less official admissions thereof.

Even on the gratuitous assumption that a donation of the military "camp site" was executed
between Eugenior de jesus and Serafin Marabut, such donation would anyway be void,
because Eugenior de jesus held no dominical rights over the site when it was allegedly
donated by him in 1936. In that year, proclamation No. 85 of President Quezon already
withrew the area from sale or settlement and reserved it for military purposes. Respondent
Appellate Court, however, rationalizes that the subject of the donation was not the land itself
but "the possessory and special proprietary rights" of Eugenio de jesus over it. We disagree. It
is true that the gratiuitous disposal in donation may consist of a thing or right. 31 But the term
"right" must be understood in a "propriety" sense, over which the processor has the jus
disponendi. 32 This is because, in true donations, there results a consequent impoverishment of
the donor or diminution of his assets. 33 Eugenio de Jesus cannot be said to be possessed of
that "proprietary " right over the whole 33 hectares in 1936 including the disputed 12.8081
hectares for at that time this 12.8081-hectare lot had already been severed from the mass of
disposable public lands by Proclamation No. 85 and excluded in the Sales Award.
Impoverishment of Eugenio's assets as a consequence of such donation is therefore farfetehed.
Republic of the Philippines Opol National School's motion for reconsideration of said decision having been denied by the
SUPREME COURT Court of Appeals in its resolution of March 5, 1998, Opol National School elevated its case to
Manila this Court, claiming that the Court of Appeals erred on a question of law when it held,
contrary to the evidence on record, that respondent had been in open, continuous, notorious
THIRD DIVISION and exclusive possession of the land in dispute for thirty-two years.

The petition is meritorious.

G.R. No. 132963 September 10, 1998 In ruling in Doldol's favor, the Court of Appeals grounded its decision on Section 48 of
Commonwealth Act No. 141 (otherwise known as the Public Land Act). Said provision, as
amended by Republic Act No. 1942, provides as follows:
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, (represented by Opol National Secondary
Technical School), petitioner,
vs. Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying
NICANOR DOLDOL, respondent. lands of the public domain or claiming interest therein, but whose titles
have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First
Instance (now Regional Trial Court) of the province where the land is
located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certification
of title therefor under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
ROMERO, J.:
xxx xxx xxx
Before us is a petition for review of the decision of the Court of Appeals dated October 27,
1997, reversing the decision of the Regional Trial Court and dismissing herein petitioner's (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest
complaint, as well as its resolution of March 5, 1998, denying petitioner's motion for have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
reconsideration. occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide
claim of acquisition or ownership for at least thirty years immediately
The facts are as follows: preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title, except
when prevented by wars or force majeure. Those shall be conclusively
Sometime in 1959, respondent Nicanor Doldol occupied a portion of land in Barrio Pontacan, presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government
Municipality of Opol, Misamis Oriental. On October 23, 1963, he filed an application for grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of
saltwork purposes for the said area with the Bureau of Forest Development. The Director of this chapter. (Emphasis ours)
Forestry, however, rejected the same on April 1, 1968. Meanwhile, the Provincial Board of
Misamis Oriental passed a resolution in 1965 reserving Lot 4932, Cad-237, Opol Cadastre as a In accordance with the above provision, the appellate court averred that a citizen of the
school site. This reserved lot unfortunately included the area occupied by Doldol. Philippines may acquire alienable land of the public domain if he has possessed the same for
thirty years. Finding Doldol to have occupied the disputed lot for thirty-two years, it ruled that
In accordance with said resolution, the Opol High School transferred to the site in 1970. the former had acquired ownership of the same, thereby negating Opol National School's
Seventeen years later, on November 2, 1987, then President Corazon Aquino issued claim over the questioned area.
Proclamation No. 180 reserving the area, including the portion in dispute, for the Opol High
School, now renamed the Opol National Secondary Technical School (hereafter Opol National To further bolster its argument, the appellate court cited Republic vs.
School). Needing the area occupied by Doldol for its intended projects, the school made CA 1 where this Court, citing Director of Lands vs. Iglesia ni Cristo, 200 SCRA 606 (1991)
several demands for him to vacate said portion, but he refused to move. declared that:

In view of Doldol's refusal to vacate, Opol National School filed in 1991 a complaint The weight of authority is that open, exclusive and undisputed possession
for accion possessoria with the Regional Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro. The trial court ruled of alienable public land for the period prescribed by law creates the legal
in the school's favor and ordered Doldol to vacate the land. On appeal, the Court of Appeals fiction whereby the land upon completion of the requisite period ipso
reversed the decision of the court a quo, ruling that Doldol was entitled to the portion he jure and without the need of judicial or other sanction, ceases to be public
occupied, he having possessed the same for thirty-two years, from 1959 up to the time of the land and becomes private property.
filing of the complaint in 1991.
xxx xxx xxx
. . . with the latter's proven occupation and cultivation for more than 30 The parties, however, stipulated during the pre-trial hearing that Doldol had been occupying
years since 1914, by himself and by his predecessors-in-interest, title over the portion reserved for the school site only since 1959. The law, as presently phrased,
the land has vested on petitioner so as to segregate the land from the mass requires that possession of lands of the pubic domain must be from June 12, 1945 or earlier,
of public land. for the same to be acquired through judicial confirmation of imperfect title.

xxx xxx xxx Consequently, Doldol could not have acquired an imperfect title to the disputed lot since his
occupation of the same started only in 1959, much later than June 12, 1945. Not having
As interpreted in several cases, when the conditions as specified in the complied with the conditions set by law, Doldol cannot be said to have acquired a right to the
foregoing provision are complied with, the possessor is deemed to have land in question as to segregate the same from the public domain. Doldol cannot, therefore,
acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, a government grant, assert a right superior to the school, given that then President Corazon Aquino had reserved
without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The land, the lot for Opol National School. As correctly pointed out by the Solicitor General:
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 (T)he privilege of occupying public lands with a view of preemption
mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of confers no contractual or vested right in the lands occupied and the
the title as would he evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be authority of the President to withdraw such lands for sale or acquisition by
issued upon the strength of