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G.R. No. 29040, Julian v. Apostol et al., 52 Phil.

422
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
December 14, 192
!"R" No" 29#4#
BONIFACIO JULIAN, plainti$%appellant,
&s"
SILVERIO APOSTOL, Secretary of Agriculture a! Natural Re"ouce", ET AL#, 'efen'ants%appellees"
Alejo Mabanag for appellant.
Attorney-General Jaranilla for appellees.
JO$NSON, J.:
(his action )as commence' on Ma* 19, 192+ in the Court of ,irst -nstance of Nue&a Eci.a, for the purpose of
reco&erin/ possession of t)o parcels of lan' situate' in the municipalit* of Muno0 of sai' pro&ince, 1no)n in the
recor' as lots 123+ an' 1233, to/ether )ith 'ama/es in the sum of P1#,###" (he plainti$ alle/e' that he )as a
homestea'er of sai' lots, )ith preferential ri/ht to the possession of the same" (he 'efen'ant Remi/ia 4uan )as
e5clu'e' from the complaint, b* stipulation of the parties, it ha&in/ been foun' that she ha' no interest in an* of sai'
lots" (he 'efen'ants 6il&erio Apostol, as 6ecretar* of A/riculture an' Natural Resources7 4or/e 8ar/as, as Director of
9an's7 An/el P" Mi/uel, Cesar Ben/son an' ,ran1 E" :ost, as members of the Boar' of -n&esti/ation an' 6ur&e*, ; )ere
inclu'e', on the /roun' that sai' 'efen'ants ha' unla)full* an' )ithout authorit* cancelle' the homestea'
application of the plainti$ for lots 123+ an' 1233, an' ha' unla)full* 'eclare' forfeit his ri/ht as a homestea'er"
All of the 'efen'ants ans)ere' b* a /eneral an' special 'efense" (he 'efen'ants ,ilemon 6aturno an' (omasa (omas
<le' a counterclaim for the sum of P12,###"
=pon the issue raise' b* the plea'in/s, the cause )as brou/ht on for trial" After hearin/ the e&i'ence a''uce' 'urin/
the trial of the cause, the >onorable E'uar'o !utierre0 Da&i', .u'/e, in a carefull* prepare' opinion, reache' the
conclusion that the plainti$, as homestea'er of lots 123+ an' 1233, ha' not complie' )ith the re?uirements of the
homestea' la) an' ha' forfeite' his ri/ht to sai' lots, an' ren'ere' a .u'/ment, absol&in/ the 'efen'ants from all
liabilit* un'er the complaint, )ith pronouncement as to costs" (he 'ispositi&e part of the .u'/ment rea's as follo)s@
En &irtu' 'e estas consi'eraciones, el 4u0/a'o es 'e opinion ?ue 'ebe fallar este asunto, en cuanto a la 'eman'a,
absol&ien'o 'e ella a los 'eman'a'os en to'as * ca'a una 'e sus peticiones, inclu*en'o la 'e la 'eman'a
enmen'a'a" En cuanto a la recon&encion 'e los 'eman'a'os ,ilemon 6aturno * (omasa (omas, se absuel&e 'e ella al
'eman'ante por improce'ente" 6in pronunciamiento en cuanto a las costas"
,rom that .u'/ment the plainti$ appeale'"
(he appellant no) conten's that the lo)er court committe' ei/ht errors, relatin/ to ?uestion of both fact an' la)" >is
principal contentions are@
A1B (hat the lo)er court erre' in <n'in/ that the plainti$ ha' aban'one' his possession of the lan' Alots 123+ an'
1233B, an' ha' not complie' )ith the re?uirements of the la)7
A2B (hat the lo)er court erre' in not 'eclarin/ that the Director of 9an's ha' no authorit* to create the Boar' of
-n&esti/ation an' 6ur&e*, an' that the 'ecision of sai' boar' is null an' &oi'7 an'
ACB (hat the lo)er court erre' in not 'eclarin/ that the homestea' applications of ,ilemon 6aturno an' Ra*mun'o
6aturno )ere null an' &oi' ab initio"
AN(ECEDEN( ,AC(6
A1B Dn 4anuar* 23, 1914, the plainti$ <le' a homestea' application for the lots in ?uestion, Nos" 123+ an' 1233, )hich
)as appo&e' b* the Director of 9an's on 6eptember 14, 1914 AE5hibits A an' A%1B"
A2B Dn ,ebruar* 23, 1914, the 'efen'ant ,ilemon 6aturno <le' a homestea' application, )hich )as appro&e' b* the
Director of 9an's on December 1, 1914, for a parcel of lan' )hich )as later foun' to inclu'e the northern portion of
the parcel co&ere' b* the application of the plainti$ AE5hibit + an' 3B" (his portion is no) 1no)n as lot 1233"
ACB Dn ,ebruar* 2C, 1914, one Macario 6antero <le' a homestea' application, )hich )as appro&e' b* the Director of
9an's on December 1#, 1914, for a parcel of lan', )hich )as later foun' to be the southern portion of the lan'
co&ere' b* the application of the plainti$" (his portion is no) 1no)n as lot 123+" Macario 6antero is the pre'essor of
the 'efen'ant (omasa (omas AE5hibits an' 9B"
A4B Dn No&ember 1C, 191, b* reason of complaints <le' )ith the Bureau of 9an's b* the plainti$, the Director of
9an's a''resse' letters to the 'efen'ants homestea'ers, a'&isin/ them not to interfere )ith the possession an'
culti&ation b* the plainti$ of the lan' co&ere' b* his homestea' application AE5hibits B an' CB"
A2B Dn No&ember 24, 1919, in repl* to a letter of the plainti$, the Director of 9an's a'&ise' him to <le an action
a/ainst the 'efen'ants homestea'ers in the court of the .ustice of the peace of the municipalit* of Muno0, for their
interference )ith his possession an' culti&ation of sai' lots 123+ an' 1233 AE5hibits E%2 an' E%CB"
A+B Dn Dctober 22, 1921, the 6ecretar* of A/riculture an' Natural Resources 'irecte' the Director of 9an's of establish
a branch oEce of the Bureau of 9an's in the Pro&ince of Nue&a Eci.a, in or'er to e5pe'ite the 'isposition an'
settlement of conFictin/ claims to public lan's in each municipalit* of sai' pro&ince" Accor'in/l*, a boar' compose' of
three members Athe 'efen'ants An/el P" Mi/uel, Cesar Ben/son an' ,ran1 D" :ostB )as create'" 6ai' boar' )as 1no)n
as G-n&esti/ation an' 6ur&e* Boar'G AE5hibits 1 an' 12B"
A3B Dn 4anuar* 2C, 1922, sai' boar' hear' the claims of the plainti$ an' the 'efen'ants 6aturno an' (omasa (omas"
Both si'es presente' )itnesses, an' )ere /i&en a full an' impartial hearin/ AE5hibit 11B"
AB Dn March 1#, 1922, sai' Boar' of -n&esti/ation an' 6ur&e* ren'ere' its 'ecision, base' on the facts 'isclose' at
the hearin/, an' hel' that the plainti$ Bonifacio 4ulian ha' forfeite' his ri/ht as homestea'er of lots 123+ an' 1233, on
the /roun' of aban'onment" (he pertinent part of sai' 'ecision rea's as follo)s@
-t thus appears that Bonifacio 4ulian ma* ri/htfull* claim priorit* in the <lin/ of the application" >o)e&er, it seems clear
that )hate&er ri/hts he has ac?uire' b* such priorit*, )ere lost because he has ne/lecte' the culti&ation of his
homestea' as is sho)n b* his o)n testimon* to the e$ect that he )or1e' in his homestea' onl* in 1912 an' in 1921"
>e himself testi<e' that 'urin/ the inter&enin/ perio' he )or1e' for other people to earn a li&in/" >e, ho)e&er,
asserts that he 'i' not culti&ate his lan' because he )as afrai' of the other claimants, namel* 6aturno an' 6antero,
but this e5cuse cannot a&ail him because he himself a'mitte' that 'urin/ that time he coul' clear the lan', an' if he
coul' clear it there is no reason )h* he coul' not ha&e culti&ate' the same"
555 555 555
-n &ie) of the fore/oin/, this Boar' <n's that Bonifacio 4ulian has forfeite' his ri/hts to lots 123+ an' 1233 )hich are
hereb* a'.u'icate' in fa&or to the heirs of Ra*mun'o 6aturno an' in fa&or of ,ilemon 6aturno, respecti&el*"
A9B Dn April 4, 1922, the Director of 9an's appro&e' sai' 'ecision, from )hich the plainti$ appeale' to the 6ecretar* of
A/riculture an' Natural Resources AE5hibits !%2 to !%2B"
A1#B Dn Au/ust 3, 192C, the 6ecretar* of A/riculture an' Natural Resources aErme' the 'ecision of the Boar', as
appro&e' b* the Director of 9an's AE5hibit 1CB"
(R-A9 D, (>E CA=6E ; ,AC(6
(he trial of the cause in the lo)er court )as substantiall* a repetition of the hearin/ ma'e b* the 6ur&e* an'
-n&esti/ation Boar' in 1922" (he same )itnesses testi<e' for the plainti$ Aplainti$ himself an' 4ose CabanatanB" (he
)itnesses for both partes testi<e' to the same facts co&ere' b* the testimon* of the )itnesses at the hearin/ before
the 6ur&e* an' -n&esti/ation Boar'"
A /reat prepon'erance of the e&i'ence a''uce' b* both parties sho)s that the plainti$ has not culti&ate' lots 123+
an' 1233 e5cept in 1912 an' 1921" (he conclusion of the lo)er court, that the plainti$ ha' aban'one' the lan' an'
that he ha' not complie' )ith the re?uisites of the homestea' la), is in conformit* )ith the facts pro&e' 'urin/ the
trial"
6ection 2 of Act No" 92+, )hich correspon's to section 1+ of Act No" 234, authori0es the Director of 9an's to cancel
an* homestea' entr*, upon satisfator* proof that the homestea'er has &oluntaril* aban'one' the lan' for more than
si5 months at an* one time, or has other)ise faile' to compl* )ith the re?uirements of the homestea' la)"
6ection 3# of Act No" 92+, )hich correspon's to section 4 of Act No" 234, pro&i'es that the 'ecisions of the Director of
9an's upon ?uestions of fact relatin/ to the sur&e*, classi<cation, lease, sale or an* other form of concession or
'isposition an' mana/ement of the lan's of the public 'omain, shall be conclusi&e )hen appo&e' b* the 6ecretar* of
A/riculture an' Natural Resources"
,rom the pro&isions of sai' section 2 of Act No" 92+ an' section 1+ of Act No" 234, it appears that the Director of
9an's )as .usti<e' in 'eclarin/ forfeite' the ri/ht of plainti$ as homestea'er of lots 123+ an' 1233, an' in cancellin/
his homestea' entr*, because of his failure to culti&ate sai' lots from 191+ to 192#" (he 6ur&e* an' -n&esti/ation
Boar', create' b* or'er of the 6ecretar* of A/riculture an' Natural Resources )as a la)full* or/ani0e' bo'* ; a
branch oEce of the Bureau of 9an's, establishe' in Nue&a Eci.a for the purpose of e5pe'itin/ the 'isposition an'
settlement of conFictin/ claims so public lan's in sai' pro&ince" At least there is nothin/ in the la) to sho) that sai'
boar' )as not la)full* or/ani0e'" -ts report on the in&esti/ation of plainti$Hs homestea', )as appro&e' b* the Director
of 9an's an' became his 'ecision" =pon appeal to the 6ecretar* of A/riculture an' Natural Resources, it )as aErme',
an' the fact therein 'eci'e' ; plainti$Hs failure to culti&ate the lan' an' his aban'onment of the same ; became <nal
an' conclusi&e, un'er the pro&isions of sai' section 3# of Act No" 92+, )hich correspon's to section 4 of Act No" 234"
(he 'ecision of the 6upreme Court of the =nite' 6tates ha&e consitentl* follo)e' the /eneral rule, that )hen the
oEcers of the lan' 'epartment 'eci'e contro&erte' ?uestions of fact, )hich fall )ithin the sope of their authorit*, their
'ecision on those ?uestion is <nal, e5cept as the* ma* be re&erse' on appeal in that 'epartment" AC*c" of the =" 6"
6upreme Court Reports, &ol" 1#, p" 242"B
-n the case of 8ance &s" Burban1 A1#1 =" 6", 219B, the 6upreme Court of the =nite' 6tates, spea1in/ throu/h Mr" Chief
4ustice Iaite, sai'@
6o far as this suit 'epen's on the ori/inal title of 9emuel 6cott, it is clear, un'er the )ell%settle' rules of 'ecision in
this court, that there can be no reco&er*" (he ?uestion in 'ispute is one of fact7 that is to sa*, )hether 6cott, )hen he
'eman'e' his patent certi<cate as a/ainst the other contestin/ claimants, ha' resi'e' on an' culti&ate' the lan's in
'ispute for four consecuti&e *ears, an' ha' other)ise conforme' to the re?uirements of the 'onation act" (his )as to
be 'etermine' b* the 9an' Departmnet, an' as there )as a contest, the conten'in/ parties )ere calle' on in the usual
)a* to ma1e their proofs" (he* appeare', an' full opportunit* )as /i&en 6cott to be hear'" >e presente' his e&i'ence
an' )as beaten, after ha&in/ ta1en the case throu/h, b* successi&e sta/es on appeal, to the 6ecretar* of the -nterior"
(his, in the absence of frau', is conclusi&e on all ?uestions of fact" Ie ha&e man* times so 'eci'e'" A4ohnson &s"
(o)sle*, 1C Iall", 327 Iarren &s" 8an Brunt, 19 Iall", +4+7 6heple* &s" Co)an, 91 =" 6", CC#7 Moore &s" Robbins, 9+ ="
6" 2C#7 Mar?ue0 &s" ,risbie, supra p" ##"B (he appropriate oEcers of the 9an' Department ha&e been constitute' a
special tribunal to 'eci'e such ?uestions, an' their 'ecisions are <nal to the same e5tent that those of other .u'icial of
?uasi%.u'icial tribunals are"
-n these procee'in/s, ho)e&er, the 'ecision of the Director of 9an's )as tacitl* consi'ere' open for re&ie) b* the
.u'icial 'epartment" Another opportunit* )as thus a$or'e' the plainti$ to pro&e his alle/e' ri/ht to the possession of
the lots in ?uestion" >o)e&er, the e&i'ence a''uce' 'urin/ the trial sho)e' that the plainti$ ha' reall* aban'one' the
lan' an' ha' faile' to culti&ate the same from 191+ to 192#, inclusi&e, in &iolation of the re?uirements of the
homestea' la)" (herefore, the cancellation of his homestea' entr* b* the Director of 9an's an' the forfeiture of his
ri/hts as homestea'er of lots 123+ an' 1233 are in accor'ance )ith the la) an' )ith the facts pro&e' 'urin/ the trial"
(he .u'/ment of the lo)er court, 'ismissin/ the complaint an' 'en*in/ plainti$Hs ri/ht to the possession of sai' lots is
correct an' shoul' be aErme'"
(he fore/oin/ 'iscussion of the facts an' the la) thereto applicable, 'isposes entirel* of the <rst t)o assi/nments of
error abo&e note'" (he other assi/nments of error nee' not be 'iscusse' for the purpose of this 'ecision" Ihether or
not the homestea' application of ,ilemon 6aturno an' Ra*mun'o 6aturno Ano) (omasa (omasB are null an' &oi' ab
initio, it is not necessar* for this court to 'etermine" (he onl* ?uestion for 'etermination is )hether or not plainti$ is
entitle' to the possession of the lots as a homestea'er, an' )e ha&e 'eci'e' that ?uestion in the ne/ati&e"
(herefore, the .u'/ment appeale' from is hereb* aErme', )ithout pronouncement as to costs" 6o or'ere'"
Avancea, C. J., Street, Malcolm, Villamor, stran!, "omual!e# an! Villa-"eal, JJ., concur.