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[G.R. No. 104296. March 29, 1996]
L*N), petitioner, vs. THE COURT OF *PPE*L, HEIR OF
IRENE BULLUNG*N, r!"r!#!$%!& '( h!r h+#'a$& )OMINGO
I*BEL*, respondents.
) E C I I O N
MEN)O,*, J.-
This is a petition for review of the decision
of the Court of !ppeals reversin" the
decision of the #e"ional Trial Court$ %ranch &I&$
Cauayan$ Isabela declarin" (ree
)atent No* V+,-,./ and Ori"inal Certificate of Title No* )+00 , in the na1e of Irene
%ullun"an null and void so far as the portion of 2ot No* $ )su+ 3/0/ involved in this
case is concerned*
The facts of this case are as follows4
On Septe1ber /$ 1955, Irene %ullun"an 5now deceased6 applied for a free patent
coverin" lots situated in (u"aru 5now San 7uiller1o6$ !n"adanan$ Isabela* The lots
included a portion of 2ot No* $ )su+3/0/$ between 2ot No* ,89 and 2ot No* ,8.$
consistin" of */. hectares$ which Vicente Carabbacan clai1ed* In her application$
Irene %ullun"an stated that the land applied for by her was not clai1ed or occupied by
any other person and that it was public land which had been continuously occupied and
cultivated by her since -'3*
:pon certification of !ssistant )ublic 2and Inspector ;ose <* Tel1o at Ila"an$
Isabela that Irene %ullun"an had been in actual$ continuous$ open$ notorious$ e=clusive
and adverse possession of the land since -'3$ the Director of 2ands approved
%ullun"an>s application on ;une .$ -3,* On Dece1ber '8$ -3,$ Ori"inal Certificate of
Title No* )+00, was issued in the na1e of Irene %ullun"an*
!lle"in" that a portion of 2ot No* $ )su+3/0/ covered by the free patent issued
to Irene %ullun"an overlapped the lot between 2ot No* ,89 and 2ot No* ,8.$ which he
was occupyin"$ Vicente Carrabacan filed a protest on Septe1ber ,$ -8* The District
2and Officer at Ila"an$ Isabela reco11ended the dis1issal of the protest on the "round
that the %ureau of 2ands no lon"er had ?urisdiction over the 1atter as a result of the
"rant of a free patent to Irene %ullun"an* %ut the Director of 2ands on <arch '9$
-0' ordered an investi"ation of the protest*
Vicente Carabbacan also brou"ht an action for the reconveyance of the portion of
2ot No* $ )su+3/0/ and the cancellation of free patent a"ainst Irene %ullun"an
on Septe1ber 5, -8$ althou"h this was dis1issed by the court without pre?udice*
The heirs of Irene %ullun"an in turn sou"ht to recover possession of the land in an
action which they brou"ht in the Court of (irst Instance of Isabela on !pril 9$ -,'* The
case was doc@eted as Civil Case No* %r* II+/'* On the other hand$ refusin" to "ive up
his clai1$ Vicente Carabbacan filed a case for reconveyance on !u"ust 15, -,'$ which
was doc@eted as Civil Case No* /0* The cases were thereafter tried ?ointly*
On Nove1ber ''$ -,' the court rendered a decision$ dis1issin" the co1plaint of
Vicente Carabbacan and orderin" hi1 to vacate the land$ even as it upheld the
ownership of Irene %ullun"an* Carabbacan$ who had been in possession of the land in
Auestion$ was finally ousted onDece1ber /$ -0*
!s already stated$ the Director of 2ands ordered on <arch '9$ -0' an investi"ation
of Carabbacan>s protest* The investi"ation was underta@en by Senior Special
Investi"ator Napoleon #* Dulay$ who found that Vicente Carabbacan had been in actual
cultivation of the land identified as 2ot No* ,89$ )ls+3-. since -.,$ havin" acAuired the
sa1e fro1 To1as Tarayao on <ay .$ -.,* In his report dated Septe1ber ,$ -03$
the land investi"ator stated that due to a bi" flood which occurred in Dece1ber -.,$
the Ca"ayan #iver chan"ed its course by 1ovin" north+east$ resultin" in the e1er"ence
of a piece of land$ which is the sub?ect of this dispute* Carrabacan too@ possession of
the land and cultivated it* Be was in the continuous$ peaceful$ open and adverse
occupation and cultivation of the land fro1 Dece1ber -., until -0 when he was
e?ected by virtue of the decision in Civil Cases No* /00 and /'*
%ased on these findin"s$ the Chief of the 2e"al Division of the %ureau of 2ands
reco11ended on <arch /$ -08 that steps be ta@en to see@ the a1end1ent of (ree
)atent No* V+,-,./ and Ori"inal Certificate of Title No* )+00, of the late Irene
%ullun"an so as to e=clude the disputed portion and for the reversion of the sa1e to the
On Nove1ber '0$ -08$ the Solicitor 7eneral filed in behalf of the #epublic of
the )hilippines a co1plaint for the cancellation of (ree )atent No* V+ ,-,./ and OCT
No* )+00, on the "round of fraud and 1isrepresentation in obtainin" the free
patent* The case was filed in the #e"ional Trial Court of Cauayan$ Isabela which$
on Septe1ber 25, -0-$ rendered a decision declarin" (ree )atent No* V+,-,./ and
OCT No* )+00, null and void insofar as the portion of 2ot No* $ )su+3/0/ between
2ot No* ,89 and 2ot No* ,8.$ is concerned* The lower court found that Irene %ullun"an
1ade 1isrepresentations by clai1in" in her application for a free patent that she was in
possession of the disputed portion of 2ot No* $ )su+3/0/$ when in fact Vicente
Carabbacan was occupyin" and cultivatin" the land* The court ?ustified the reversion of
the land in Auestion as an assertion of Ca "overn1ental ri"ht*D
On appeal$ however$ the Court of !ppeals reversed the lower court>s rulin" on the
"round that$ after the lapse of one year fro1 the date of issuance of the patent$ the
State could no lon"er brin" an action for reversion* The appellate court held that the
certificate of title issued in the na1e of Irene %ullun"an beca1e incontrovertible and
indefeasible upon the lapse of one year fro1 the issuance of the free patent*
The #epublic controverts the rulin" of the Court of !ppeals* It contends that the
doctrine of indefeasibility of Torrens Titles does not bar the filin" of an action for
cancellation of title and reversion of land even if 1ore than one year has elapsed fro1
the issuance of the free patent in case of fraud in obtainin" patents*
Ee a"ree with petitioner* To be"in with$ there is no Auestion that (ree )atent No*
,-,./ and Ori"inal Certificate of Title )+00, were obtained throu"h fraud* The trial
court found that Irene %ullun"an falsely stated in her application for a free patent that
2ot No* $ )su+3/0/ was not clai1ed or occupied by any other person* The trial court
found that a portion of the lot in Auestion had been in the possession and cultivation of
Vicente Carabbacan since Dece1ber -.,*
Indeed private respondents ad1it that
before Irene %ullun"an filed her application for a free patent$ she had filed a co1plaint
for forcible entry a"ainst Vicente Carrabacan* The co1plaint$ which was filed in the
;ustice of the )eace Court of !n"adanan$ Isabela$ was dis1issed precisely because the
court found that Carabbacan had been in possession of the land lon" before it was sold
to Irene %ullun"an by 2eonida Tarayao*
The Court of !ppeals did not disturb the trial court>s findin" in this case that Irene
%ullun"an co11itted fraud and 1isrepresentation* Its decision rests solely on the
"round that after the lapse of one year fro1 the date of issuance of a free patent an
action for the cancellation of patent and title on "round of fraud and 1isrepresentation
can no lon"er be 1aintained*
Ee thin@ that this is error* It is settled that once a patent is re"istered under !ct No*
.-8 5now )*D* No* 3'-6 and the correspondin" certificate of title is issued$ the land
ceases to be part of the public do1ain and beco1es private property over which the
Director of 2ands will no lon"er have either control or ?urisdiction*
The Torrens Title
issued on the basis of a free patent or ho1estead patent beco1es as indefeasible as
one which was ?udicially secured upon the e=piration of one year fro1 date of issuance
of patent as provided in )*D* No* 3'-$ F 9' 5for1erly !ct No* .-8$ F 906* Bowever$ as
held in Director of Lands v. De Luna,
even after the lapse of one year$ the State 1ay
still brin" an action under F /
of the )ublic 2and !ct for the reversion to the public
do1ain of lands which have been fraudulently "ranted to private individuals* This has
been the consistent rulin" of this Court*
The failure of Irene %ullun"an to disclose that Vicente Carrabacan was in
possession of the portion of land in dispute constitutes fraud and 1isrepresentation and
is a "round for annullin" her title*
Thus F - of the )ublic 2and !ct provides4
91. The statements made in the application shall be considered as essential
conditions and parts of any concession, title, or permit issued on the basis of such
application, and any false statement therein or omission of facts altering, changing, or
modifying the consideration of the facts set forth in such statements, and any
subsequent modification, alteration, or change of the material facts set forth in the
application shall ipso facto produce the cancellation of the concession, title, or permit
granted. It shall be the duty of the Director of Lands, from time to time and wheneer
he may deem it adisable, to ma!e the necessary inestigations for the purpose of
ascertaining whether the material facts set out in the application are true, or whether
they continue to e"ist and are maintained and presered in good faith, and for the
purpose of such inestigation, the Director of Lands is hereby empowered to
issue subpoenas and subpoenas duces tecum and, if necessary, to obtain compulsory
process from the courts. In eery inestigation made in accordance with this section,
the e"istence of bad faith, fraud, concealment, or fraudulent and illegal modification
of essential facts shall be presumed if the grantee or possessor of the land shall refuse
or fail to obey a subpoena or subpoena duces tecumlawfully issued by the Director of
Lands or his authori#ed delegates or agents, or shall refuse or fail. to gie direct and
specific answers to pertinent questions, and on the basis of such presumption, an order
of cancellation may issue out further proceedings.
The appellate court said in its decision4
$e are not, of course, unaware of cases where the patent and the certificate of title
issued pursuant thereto were declared null and oid notwithstanding the e"piration of
the aforementioned period of one %1& year simply because of false statement of
material and essential facts made in the application therefor. 'e it noted, howeer,
that in these cases the lots patented or granted were no longer part of the public
domain but priate ones segregated from the mass thereof. (onsequently, no right
whatsoeer was awarded in said cases for it is already settled that a free patent which
purports to coney land to which the goernment did not hae any title at the time of
its issuance does not est any title in the patentee as against the true owner
%)ua v. *entura, +, -... /, +th sup. 0ugust 12, 19+13 *ital v. 0nore, 9, 4hil. /553
Director of Lands v. 0banilla, ..6. 7o. L81921+, 0ugust 21, 19/2&. This does not
obtain in the present case for it is beyond dispute that the sub:ect land was still a part
of the public domain when the same was patented by the .oernment in faor of
appellants; predecessor in interest. 0ccordingly, there was indeed a title awarded such
that when the same was brought under operation of Land 6egistration 0ct in 1957, it
became incontroertible in 195/.
This is not so* Ehere public land is acAuired by an applicant throu"h fraud and
1isrepresentation$ as in the case at bar$ the State 1ay institute reversion proceedin"s
even after the lapse of the one+year period*
Nor is there 1erit in the clai1 of private respondents that the action ta@en by the
#epublic in this case is Cnot in @eepin" with the policy of State to foster fa1ilies as the
factors of society$ to "ive the1 a sense* of protection and per1anency in their
)ublic policy de1ands that one who obtains title to a public land throu"h
fraud should not be allowed to benefit therefro1* Vicente Carabbacan had been in
possession of the land even* before Irene %ullun"an bou"ht the possessory ri"hts to the
land* It was therefore a 1isrepresentation for her to state in her application for a free
patent that she had been in possession of the lot in Auestion when the fact is that
Carabbacan had been there ahead of her*
.HEREFORE$ the decision appealed fro1 is #EVE#SED and the decision
dated Septe1ber 25, -0- of the #e"ional Trial Court of Cauayan$ Isabela$ %ranch &I&
Regalado (Chairman), Romero, and Puno, ., concur.
!orres, r., ., on leave.
)enned by !ssociate ;ustice !ntonio <* <artineG$ Chair1an$ and concurred in by !ssociate ;ustices
!saali Isnani and #e"ina 7* OrdoHeG+%eniteG*
)resided over by ;ud"e !rte1io #* !livia*
Co1plaint$ #ecord$ p* .*
#e"ional Trial Court Decision$ #ecord$ p* 9-*
#ecord$ p* 90*
E=h* BB$ #ecord$ p* ,/*
Director of 2ands v. De 2una$ / )hil* '0 5-8/6*
This provision reads4
F /* !ll actions for reversion to the 7overn1ent of lands of the public do1ain or i1prove1ents thereon
shall be instituted by the Solicitor 7eneral or the officer actin" in his stead$ in the proper courts$ in
the na1e of the #epublic of the )hilippines*
#.g., #epublic v. !ni1as$ 38 SC#! .--5-,.6I )iHero v. Director of 2ands$ 3, SC#! 908 5-,.6I
Director of 2ands v. !banilla$ '. SC#! 930 5-096I #epublic v. <ina$ . SC#! -.3 5-0'64
#epublic v. Court of !ppeals$ 09 SC#! 8'/ 5--/6*
#epublic v. <ina$ . SC#! -.3 5-0'6$ citing Director of 2ands v. Court of !ppeals$ , SC#!
Rollo, p*9*
Rollo, p* ,-*