Sie sind auf Seite 1von 23

LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or

Incomplete Titles

Susi vs. Razon, G.R. No. 24066, December 9, 1925 2

Republic vs. IAC and ACME Plywood and Vencer Co. G.R. No. 73002, December 29, 1986 . 3

Republic vs. CA and Naguit, G.R. 144057, January 17, 2005 . 6

Republic vs. Herbieto, G.R. No. 156117, May 26, 2005 . 9

Heirs of Malabanan vs. Republic, G.R. No. 179987, September 3, 2013 . 13

Diaz vs. Republic, G.R. No. 181502, February 2, 2010 16

Sps. Fortuna vs. Republic, G.R. No. 173423, March 5, 2014 . 21

1|Page
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
G.R. No. L-24066 December 9, 1925 It clearly appears from the evidence that Valentin Susi has been in
possession of the land in question openly, continuously, adversely, and
publicly, personally and through his predecessors, since the year 1880,
VALENTIN SUSI, plaintiff-appellee, that is, for about forty-five years. While the judgment of the Court of
vs. First Instance of Pampanga against Angela Razon in the forcible entry
ANGELA RAZON and THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, defendants. THE case does not affect the Director of Lands, yet it is controlling as to
DIRECTOR OF LANDS, appellant. Angela Razon and rebuts her claim that she had been in possession
thereof. When on August 15, 1914, Angela Razon applied for the
purchase of said land, Valentin Susi had already been in possession
VILLA-REAL, J.:
thereof personally and through his predecessors for thirty-four years.
And if it is taken into account that Nemesio Pinlac had already made
This action was commenced in the Court of First Instance of Pampanga said land a fish pond when he sold it on December 18, 1880, it can
by a complaint filed by Valentin Susi against Angela Razon and the hardly be estimated when he began to possess and occupy it, the
Director of Lands, praying for judgment: (a) Declaring plaintiff the sole period of time being so long that it is beyond the reach of memory.
and absolute owner of the parcel of land described in the second These being the facts, the doctrine laid down by the Supreme Court of
paragraph of the complaint; (b) annulling the sale made by the the United States in the case of Cario vs. Government of the
Director of Lands in favor of Angela Razon, on the ground that the land Philippine Islands (212 U. S., 449 1), is applicable here. In favor of
is a private property; (c) ordering the cancellation of the certificate of Valentin Susi, there is, moreover, the presumption juris et de
title issued to said Angela Razon; and (d) sentencing the latter to pay jure established in paragraph (b) of section 45 of Act No. 2874,
plaintiff the sum of P500 as damages, with the costs. amending Act No. 926, that all the necessary requirements for a grant
by the Government were complied with, for he has been in actual and
physical possession, personally and through his predecessors, of an
For his answer to the complaint, the Director of Lands denied each and agricultural land of the public domain openly, continuously, exclusively
every allegation contained therein and, as special defense, alleged that and publicly since July 26, 1894, with a right to a certificate of title to
the land in question was a property of the Government of the United said land under the provisions of Chapter VIII of said Act. So that when
States under the administration and control of the Philippine Islands Angela Razon applied for the grant in her favor, Valentin Susi had
before its sale to Angela Razon, which was made in accordance with already acquired, by operation of law, not only a right to a grant, but a
law. grant of the Government, for it is not necessary that certificate of title
should be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the
courts, an application therefore is sufficient, under the provisions of
After trial, whereat evidence was introduced by both parties, the Court section 47 of Act No. 2874. If by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi had
of First Instance of Pampanga rendered judgment declaring the plaintiff acquired the land in question by a grant of the State, it had already
entitled to the possession of the land, annulling the sale made by the ceased to be the public domain and had become private property, at
Director of Lands in favor of Angela Razon, and ordering the least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the
cancellation of the certificate of title issued to her, with the costs Director of Lands. Consequently, in selling the land in question to
against Angela Razon. From this judgment the Director of Lands took Angela Razon, the Director of Lands disposed of a land over which he
this appeal, assigning thereto the following errors, to wit: (1) The had no longer any title or control, and the sale thus made was void and
holding that the judgment rendered in a prior case between the of no effect, and Angela Razon did not thereby acquire any right.
plaintiff and defendant Angela Razon on the parcel of land in question
is controlling in this action; (2) the holding that plaintiff is entitled to
recover the possession of said parcel of land; the annulment of the sale The Director of Lands contends that the land in question being of the
made by the Director of Lands to Angela Razon; and the ordering that public domain, the plaintiff-appellee cannot maintain an action to
the certificate of title issued by the register of deeds of the Province of recover possession thereof.lawphi1.net
Pampanga to Angela Razon by virtue of said sale be cancelled; and (3)
the denial of the motion for new trial filed by the Director of Lands.
If, as above stated, the land, the possession of which is in dispute, had
already become, by operation of law, private property of the plaintiff,
The evidence shows that on December 18, 1880, Nemesio Pinlac sold there lacking only the judicial sanction of his title, Valentin Susi has the
the land in question, then a fish pond, tho Apolonio Garcia and Basilio right to bring an action to recover possession thereof and hold it.
Mendoza for the sum of P12, reserving the right to repurchase the
same (Exhibit B). After having been in possession thereof for about
eight years, and the fish pond having been destroyed, Apolonio Garcia For the foregoing, and no error having been found in the judgment
and Basilio Mendoza, on September 5, 1899, sold it to Valentin Susi for appealed from, the same is hereby affirmed in all its parts, without
the sum of P12, reserving the right to repurchase it (Exhibit A). Before special pronouncement as to costs.
the execution of the deed of sale, Valentin Susi had already paid its
price and sown "bacawan" on said land, availing himself of the
So ordered.
firewood gathered thereon, with the proceeds of the sale of which he
had paid the price of the property. The possession and occupation of
the land in question, first, by Apolonio Garcia and Basilio Mendoza, and
then by Valentin Susi has been open, continuous, adverse and public,
without any interruption, except during the revolution, or disturbance,
except when Angela Razon, on September 13, 1913, commenced an
action in the Court of First Instance of Pampanga to recover the
possession of said land (Exhibit C), wherein after considering the
evidence introduced at the trial, the court rendered judgment in favor
of Valentin Susi and against Angela Razon, dismissing the complaint
(Exhibit E). Having failed in her attempt to obtain possession of the
land in question through the court, Angela Razon applied to the
Director of Lands for the purchase thereof on August 15, 1914 (Exhibit
C). Having learned of said application, Valentin Susi filed and
opposition thereto on December 6, 1915, asserting his possession of
the land for twenty-five years (Exhibit P). After making the proper
administrative investigation, the Director of Lands overruled the
opposition of Valentin Susi and sold the land to Angela Razon. By virtue
of said grant the register of deeds of Pampanga, on August 31, 1921,
issued the proper certificate of title to Angela Razon. Armed with said
document, Angela Razon required Valentin Susi to vacate the land in
question, and as he refused to do so, she brought and action for
forcible entry and detainer in the justice of the peace court of Guagua,
Pampanga, which was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, the case being
one of title to real property (Exhibit F and M). Valentin Susi then
brought this action.

With these facts in view, we shall proceed to consider the questions


raised by the appellant in his assignments of error.

2|Page
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
G.R. No. 73002 December 29, 1986 Maconacon Isabela (Exh. 'N') on November 15, 1979, and
which donation was accepted by the Municipal Government
of Maconacon, Isabela (Exh. 'N-l'), during their special
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner, session on November 22, 1979.
vs.
INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT and ACME PLYWOOD &
VENEER CO. INC., ETC., respondents. The Director of Lands takes no issue with any of these findings except
as to the applicability of the 1935 Constitution to the matter at hand.
Concerning this, he asserts that, the registration proceedings have
NARVASA, J.: been commenced only on July 17, 1981, or long after the 1973
Constitution had gone into effect, the latter is the correctly applicable
law; and since section 11 of its Article XIV prohibits private
The Director of Lands has brought this appeal by certiorari from a
corporations or associations from holding alienable lands of the public
judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court affirming a decision of
domain, except by lease not to exceed 1,000 hectares (a prohibition
the Court of First Instance of Isabela, which ordered registration in
not found in the 1935 Constitution which was in force in 1962 when
favor of Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc. of five parcels of land
Acme purchased the lands in question from the Infiels), it was
measuring 481, 390 square meters, more or less, acquired by it from
reversible error to decree registration in favor of Acme Section 48,
Mariano and Acer Infiel, members of the Dumagat tribe.
paragraphs (b) and (c), of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended,
reads:
The registration proceedings were for confirmation of title under
Section 48 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 (The Public Land Act). as
SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines,
amended: and the appealed judgment sums up the findings of the trial
occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any
court in said proceedings in this wise:
such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not
been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First
1. That Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., represented by Mr. Instance of the province where the land is located for
Rodolfo Nazario is a corporation duly organized in confirmation of their claims, and the issuance of a certificate
accordance with the laws of the Republic of the Philippines of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission
on December 23, 1959;
xxx xxx xxx

2. That Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., represented by Mr.


(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-
Rodolfo Nazario can acquire real properties pursuant to the
in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
provisions of the Articles of Incorporation particularly on the
notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of
provision of its secondary purposes (paragraph (9), Exhibit
the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or
'M-l');
ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding
the filing of the application for confirmation of title except
3. That the land subject of the Land Registration proceeding when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be
was ancestrally acquired by Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions
Inc., on October 29, 1962, from Mariano Infiel and Acer Infiel, essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a
both members of the Dumagat tribe and as such are cultural certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.
minorities;
(c) Members of the National Cultural minorities who by
4. That the constitution of the Republic of the Philippines of themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have
1935 is applicable as the sale took place on October 29, been in open. continuous, exclusive and notorious
1962; possession and occupation of lands of the public domain
suitable to agriculture, whether disposable or not, under a
bona fide claim of ownership for at least 30 years shall be
5. That the possession of the Infiels over the land entitled to the rights granted in subsection (b) hereof.
relinquished or sold to Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc.,
dates back before the Philippines was discovered by
Magellan as the ancestors of the Infiels have possessed and The Petition for Review does not dispute-indeed, in view of the quoted
occupied the land from generation to generation until the findings of the trial court which were cited and affirmed by the
same came into the possession of Mariano Infiel and Acer Intermediate Appellate Court, it can no longer controvert before this
Infiel; Court-the fact that Mariano and Acer Infiel, from whom Acme
purchased the lands in question on October 29, 1962, are members of
the national cultural minorities who had, by themselves and through
6. That the possession of the applicant Acme Plywood & their progenitors, possessed and occupied those lands since time
Veneer Co., Inc., is continuous, adverse and public from 1962 immemorial, or for more than the required 30-year period and were, by
to the present and tacking the possession of the Infiels who reason thereof, entitled to exercise the right granted in Section 48 of
were granted from whom the applicant bought said land on the Public Land Act to have their title judicially confirmed. Nor is there
October 29, 1962, hence the possession is already any pretension that Acme, as the successor-in-interest of the Infiels, is
considered from time immemorial. disqualified to acquire and register ownership of said lands under any
provisions of the 1973 Constitution other than Section 11 of its Article
XIV already referred to.
7. That the land sought to be registered is a private land
pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No. 3872 granting
absolute ownership to members of the non-Christian Tribes Given the foregoing, the question before this Court is whether or not
on land occupied by them or their ancestral lands, whether the title that the Infiels had transferred to Acme in 1962 could be
with the alienable or disposable public land or within the confirmed in favor of the latter in proceedings instituted by it in 1981
public domain; when the 1973 Constitution was already in effect, having in mind the
prohibition therein against private corporations holding lands of the
public domain except in lease not exceeding 1,000 hectares.
8. That applicant Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., has
introduced more than Forty-Five Million (P45,000,000.00)
Pesos worth of improvements, said improvements were seen The question turns upon a determination of the character of the lands
by the Court during its ocular investigation of the land at the time of institution of the registration proceedings in 1981. If they
sought to be registered on September 18, 1982; were then still part of the public domain, it must be answered in the
negative. If, on the other hand, they were then already private lands,
the constitutional prohibition against their acquisition by private
9. That the ownership and possession of the land sought to corporations or associations obviously does not apply.
be registered by the applicant was duly recognized by the
government when the Municipal Officials of Maconacon,
Isabela, have negotiated for the donation of the townsite In this regard, attention has been invited to Manila Electric Company
from Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., and this negotiation vs. Castro-Bartolome, et al, 1 where a similar set of facts prevailed. In
came to reality when the Board of Directors of the Acme that case, Manila Electric Company, a domestic corporation more than
Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., had donated a part of the land 60% of the capital stock of which is Filipino-owned, had purchased in
bought by the Company from the Infiels for the townsite of

3|Page
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
1947 two lots in Tanay, Rizal from the Piguing spouses. The lots had Chapter VIII of said Act. So that when Angela Razon applied
been possessed by the vendors and, before them, by their for the grant in her favor, Valentin Susi had already
predecessor-in-interest, Olimpia Ramos, since prior to the outbreak of acquired, by operation of law not only a right to a grant, but
the Pacific War in 1941. On December 1, 1976, Meralco applied to the a grant of the Government, for it is not necessary that a
Court of First Instance of Rizal, Makati Branch, for confirmation of title certificate of title should be issued in order that said grant
to said lots. The court, assuming that the lots were public land, may be sanctioned by the courts, an application therefore is
dismissed the application on the ground that Meralco, a juridical sufficient, under the provisions of section 47 of Act No. 2874.
person, was not qualified to apply for registration under Section 48(b) If by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi had acquired the land in
of the Public Land Act which allows only Filipino citizens or natural question by a grant of the State, it had already ceased to be
persons to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect titles to public of the public domain and had become private property, at
land. Meralco appealed, and a majority of this Court upheld the least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of
dismissal. It was held that: the Director of Lands. Consequently, in selling the land in
question of Angela Razon, the Director of Lands disposed of
a land over which he had no longer any title or control, and
..., the said land is still public land. It would cease to be the sale thus made was void and of no effect, and Angela
public land only upon the issuance of the certificate of title Razon did not thereby acquire any right. 6
to any Filipino citizen claiming it under section 48(b).
Because it is still public land and the Meralco, as a juridical
person, is disqualified to apply for its registration under Succeeding cases, of which only some need be mentioned,
section 48(b), Meralco's application cannot be given due likeof Lacaste vs. Director of Lands, 7 Mesina vs. Vda. de
course or has to be dismissed. Sonza, 8 Manarpac vs. Cabanatuan, 9 Miguel vs. Court of
Appeals 10 and Herico vs. Dar, supra, by invoking and affirming the Susi
doctrine have firmly rooted it in jurisprudence.
Finally, it may be observed that the constitutional prohibition
makes no distinction between (on the one hand) alienable
agricultural public lands as to which no occupant has an Herico, in particular, appears to be squarely affirmative: 11

imperfect title and (on the other hand) alienable lands of the
public domain as to which an occupant has on imperfect title
subject to judicial confirmation. .... Secondly, under the provisions of Republic Act No. 1942,
which the respondent Court held to be inapplicable to the
petitioner's case, with the latter's proven occupation and
Since section 11 of Article XIV does not distinguish, we cultivation for more than 30 years since 1914, by himself
should not make any distinction or qualification. The and by his predecessors-in-interest, title over the land has
prohibition applies to alienable public lands as to which a vested on petitioner so as to segregate the land from the
Torrens title may be secured under section 48(b). The mass of public land. Thereafter, it is no longer disposable
proceeding under section 48(b) 'presupposes that the land is under the Public Land Act as by free patent. ....
public' (Mindanao vs. Director of Lands, L-19535, July 30,
1967, 20 SCRA 641, 644).
xxx xxx xxx

The present Chief Justice entered a vigorous dissent, tracing the line of
cases beginning with Carino in 1909 2 thru Susi in 1925 3 down As interpreted in several cases, when the conditions as
to Herico in 1980, 4 which developed, affirmed and reaffirmed the specified in the foregoing provision are complied with, the
doctrine that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable possessor is deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a
public land for the period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction right to a grant, a government grant, without the necessity
whereby the land, upon completion of the requisite period ipso of a certificate of title being issued. The land, therefore,
jure and without the need of judicial or other sanction, ceases to be ceases to be of the public domain and beyond the authority
public land and becomes private property. That said dissent expressed of the Director of Lands to dispose of. The application for
what is the better and, indeed, the correct, view-becomes evident confirmation is mere formality, the lack of which does not
from a consideration of some of the principal rulings cited therein, affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced
by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued upon the
strength of said patent. 12
The main theme was given birth, so to speak, in Carino involving the
Decree/Regulations of June 25, 1880 for adjustment of royal lands
wrongfully occupied by private individuals in the Philippine Islands. It Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical inevitability of
was ruled that: considering possession of public land which is of the character and
duration prescribed by statute as the equivalent of an express grant
from the State than the dictum of the statute itself 13 that the
It is true that the language of articles 4 and 5 5 attributes possessor(s) "... shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all
title to those 'who may prove' possession for the necessary the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to
time and we do not overlook the argument that this means a certificate of title .... " No proof being admissible to overcome a
may prove in registration proceedings. It may be that an conclusive presumption, confirmation proceedings would, in truth be
English conveyancer would have recommended an little more than a formality, at the most limited to ascertaining whether
application under the foregoing decree, but certainly it was the possession claimed is of the required character and length of time;
not calculated to convey to the mind of an Igorot chief the and registration thereunder would not confer title, but simply recognize
notion that ancient family possessions were in danger, if he a title already vested. The proceedings would not originally convert the
had read every word of it. The words 'may prove' (acrediten) land from public to private land, but only confirm such a conversion
as well or better, in view of the other provisions, might be already affected by operation of law from the moment the required
taken to mean when called upon to do so in any litigation. period of possession became complete. As was so well put
There are indications that registration was expected from all in Carino, "... (T)here are indications that registration was expected
but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership
actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, wherever made,
wherever made, was not to confer title, but simply to was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred
establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by by the decree, if not by earlier law."
earlier law. ...

If it is accepted-as it must be-that the land was already private land to


That ruling assumed a more doctrinal character because expressed in which the Infiels had a legally sufficient and transferable title on
more categorical language, in Susi: October 29, 1962 when Acme acquired it from said owners, it must also
be conceded that Acme had a perfect right to make such acquisition,
there being nothing in the 1935 Constitution then in force (or, for that
.... In favor of Valentin Susi, there is, moreover, the matter, in the 1973 Constitution which came into effect later)
presumption juris et de jure established in paragraph (b) of prohibiting corporations from acquiring and owning private lands.
section 45 of Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926, that all
the necessary requirements for a grant by the Government
were complied with, for he has been in actual and physical Even on the proposition that the land remained technically "public"
possession, personally and through his predecessors, of an land, despite immemorial possession of the Infiels and their ancestors,
agricultural land of the public domain openly, continuously, until title in their favor was actually confirmed in appropriate
exclusively and publicly since July 26, 1984, with a right to a proceedings under the Public Land Act, there can be no serious
certificate of title to said land under the provisions of question of Acmes right to acquire the land at the time it did, there

4|Page
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
also being nothing in the 1935 Constitution that might be construed to 6. To uphold respondent judge's denial of Meralco's
prohibit corporations from purchasing or acquiring interests in public application on the technicality that the Public Land Act allows
land to which the vendor had already acquired that type of so-called only citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons to
"incomplete" or "imperfect" title. The only limitation then extant was apply for confirmation of their title would be impractical and
that corporations could not acquire, hold or lease public agricultural would just give rise to multiplicity of court actions. Assuming
lands in excess of 1,024 hectares. The purely accidental circumstance that there was a technical error not having filed the
that confirmation proceedings were brought under the aegis of the application for registration in the name of the Piguing
1973 Constitution which forbids corporations from owning lands of the spouses as the original owners and vendors, still it is
public domain cannot defeat a right already vested before that law conceded that there is no prohibition against their sale of the
came into effect, or invalidate transactions then perfectly valid and land to the applicant Meralco and neither is there any
proper. This Court has already held, in analogous circumstances, that prohibition against the application being refiled with
the Constitution cannot impair vested rights. retroactive effect in the name of the original owners and
vendors (as such natural persons) with the end result of their
application being granted, because of their indisputable
We hold that the said constitutional prohibition 14 has no acquisition of ownership by operation of law and the
retroactive application to the sales application of Binan conclusive presumption therein provided in their favor. It
Development Co., Inc. because it had already acquired a should not be necessary to go through all the rituals at the
vested right to the land applied for at the time the 1973 great cost of refiling of all such applications in their names
Constitution took effect. and adding to the overcrowded court dockets when the Court
can after all these years dispose of it here and now. (See
Francisco vs. City of Davao)
That vested right has to be respected. It could not be
abrogated by the new Constitution. Section 2, Article XIII of
the 1935 Constitution allows private corporations to The ends of justice would best be served, therefore, by
purchase public agricultural lands not exceeding one considering the applications for confirmation as amended to
thousand and twenty-four hectares. Petitioner' prohibition conform to the evidence, i.e. as filed in the names of the
action is barred by the doctrine of vested rights in original persons who as natural persons are duly qualified to
constitutional law. apply for formal confirmation of the title that they had
acquired by conclusive presumption and mandate of the
Public Land Act and who thereafter duly sold to the herein
xxx xxx xxx
corporations (both admittedly Filipino corporations duly
qualified to hold and own private lands) and granting the
The due process clause prohibits the annihilation of vested applications for confirmation of title to the private lands so
rights. 'A state may not impair vested rights by legislative acquired and sold or exchanged.
enactment, by the enactment or by the subsequent repeal of
a municipal ordinance, or by a change in the constitution of
There is also nothing to prevent Acme from reconveying the lands to
the State, except in a legitimate exercise of the police
the Infiels and the latter from themselves applying for confirmation of
power'(16 C.J.S. 1177-78).
title and, after issuance of the certificate/s of title in their names,
deeding the lands back to Acme. But this would be merely indulging in
xxx xxx xxx empty charades, whereas the same result is more efficaciously and
speedily obtained, with no prejudice to anyone, by a liberal application
of the rule on amendment to conform to the evidence suggested in the
In the instant case, it is incontestable that prior to the dissent in Meralco.
effectivity of the 1973 Constitution the right of the
corporation to purchase the land in question had become
fixed and established and was no longer open to doubt or While this opinion seemingly reverses an earlier ruling of
controversy. comparatively recent vintage, in a real sense, it breaks no precedent,
but only reaffirms and re-established, as it were, doctrines the
soundness of which has passed the test of searching examination and
Its compliance with the requirements of the Public Land Law inquiry in many past cases. Indeed, it is worth noting that the majority
for the issuance of a patent had the effect of segregating the opinion, as well as the concurring opinions of Chief Justice Fernando
said land from the public domain. The corporation's right to and Justice Abad Santos, in Meralco rested chiefly on the proposition
obtain a patent for the land is protected by law. It cannot be that the petitioner therein, a juridical person, was disqualified from
deprived of that right without due process (Director of Lands applying for confirmation of an imperfect title to public land under
vs. CA, 123 Phil. 919).<re||an1w> 15 Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. Reference to the 1973
Constitution and its Article XIV, Section 11, was only tangential limited
to a brief paragraph in the main opinion, and may, in that context, be
The fact, therefore, that the confirmation proceedings were instituted considered as essentially obiter. Meralco, in short, decided no
by Acme in its own name must be regarded as simply another constitutional question.
accidental circumstance, productive of a defect hardly more than
procedural and in nowise affecting the substance and merits of the
right of ownership sought to be confirmed in said proceedings, there WHEREFORE, there being no reversible error in the appealed judgment
being no doubt of Acme's entitlement to the land. As it is of the Intermediate Appellate Court, the same is hereby affirmed,
unquestionable that in the light of the undisputed facts, the Infiels, without costs in this instance.
under either the 1935 or the 1973 Constitution, could have had title in
themselves confirmed and registered, only a rigid subservience to the
letter of the law would deny the same benefit to their lawful successor- SO ORDERED.
in-interest by valid conveyance which violates no constitutional
mandate.

The Court, in the light of the foregoing, is of the view, and so holds,
that the majority ruling in Meralco must be reconsidered and no longer
deemed to be binding precedent. The correct rule, as enunciated in the
line of cases already referred to, is that alienable public land held by a
possessor, personally or through his predecessors-in-interest, openly,
continuously and exclusively for the prescribed statutory period (30
years under The Public Land Act, as amended) is converted to private
property by the mere lapse or completion of said period, ipso jure.
Following that rule and on the basis of the undisputed facts, the land
subject of this appeal was already private property at the time it was
acquired from the Infiels by Acme. Acme thereby acquired a registrable
title, there being at the time no prohibition against said corporation's
holding or owning private land. The objection that, as a juridical G.R. No. 144057 January 17, 2005
person, Acme is not qualified to apply for judicial confirmation of title
under section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is technical, rather than
substantial and, again, finds its answer in the dissent in Meralco:

5|Page
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, Hence, the present petition for review raising a pure question of law
vs. was filed by the Republic on September 4, 2000.10
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and CORAZON
NAGUIT, respondents.
The OSG assails the decision of the Court of Appeals contending that
the appellate court gravely erred in holding that there is no need for
TINGA, J.: the governments prior release of the subject lot from the public
domain before it can be considered alienable or disposable within the
meaning of P.D. No. 1529, and that Naguit had been in possession of
This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Lot No. 10049 in the concept of owner for the required period.11
Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking to review the Decision 1 of the Sixth
Division of the Court of Appeals dated July 12, 2000 in CA-G.R. SP No.
51921. The appellate court affirmed the decisions of both the Regional Hence, the central question for resolution is whether is necessary
Trial Court (RTC),2 Branch 8, of Kalibo, Aklan dated February 26, 1999, under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree that the
and the 7th Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) 3 of Ibajay-Nabas, Aklan subject land be first classified as alienable and disposable before the
dated February 18, 1998, which granted the application for registration applicants possession under a bona fide claim of ownership could
of a parcel of land of Corazon Naguit (Naguit), the respondent herein. even start.

The facts are as follows: The OSG invokes our holding in Director of Lands v. Intermediate
Appellate Court12 in arguing that the property which is in open,
continuous and exclusive possession must first be alienable. Since the
On January 5, 1993, Naguit, a Filipino citizen, of legal age and married subject land was declared alienable only on October 15, 1980, Naguit
to Manolito S. Naguit, filed with the MCTC of Ibajay-Nabas, Aklan, a could not have maintained a bona fide claim of ownership since June
petition for registration of title of a parcel of land situated in Brgy. 12, 1945, as required by Section 14 of the Property Registration
Union, Nabas, Aklan. The parcel of land is designated as Lot No. 10049, Decree, since prior to 1980, the land was not alienable or disposable,
Cad. 758-D, Nabas Cadastre, AP 060414-014779, and contains an the OSG argues.
area of 31,374 square meters. The application seeks judicial
confirmation of respondents imperfect title over the aforesaid land.
Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree, governing original
registration proceedings, bears close examination. It expressly
On February 20, 1995, the court held initial hearing on the application. provides:
The public prosecutor, appearing for the government, and Jose
Angeles, representing the heirs of Rustico Angeles, opposed the
petition. On a later date, however, the heirs of Rustico Angeles filed a SECTION 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the
formal opposition to the petition. Also on February 20, 1995, the court proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to
issued an order of general default against the whole world except as to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized
the heirs of Rustico Angeles and the government. representatives:

The evidence on record reveals that the subject parcel of land was (1) those who by themselves or through their predecessors-
originally declared for taxation purposes in the name of Ramon Urbano in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
(Urbano) in 1945 under Tax Declaration No. 3888 until 1991.4 On July 9, notorious possession and occupation of alienable and
1992, Urbano executed a Deed of Quitclaim in favor of the heirs of disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide
Honorato Maming (Maming), wherein he renounced all his rights to the claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
subject property and confirmed the sale made by his father to Maming
sometime in 1955 or 1956.5Subsequently, the heirs of Maming
executed a deed of absolute sale in favor of respondent Naguit who (2) Those who have acquired ownership over private lands
thereupon started occupying the same. She constituted Manuel Blanco, by prescription under the provisions of existing laws.
Jr. as her attorney-in-fact and administrator. The administrator
introduced improvements, planted trees, such as mahogany, coconut
....
and gemelina trees in addition to existing coconut trees which were
then 50 to 60 years old, and paid the corresponding taxes due on the
subject land. At present, there are parcels of land surrounding the There are three obvious requisites for the filing of an application for
subject land which have been issued titles by virtue of judicial decrees. registration of title under Section 14(1) that the property in question
Naguit and her predecessors-in-interest have occupied the land openly is alienable and disposable land of the public domain; that the
and in the concept of owner without any objection from any private applicants by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest
person or even the government until she filed her application for have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
registration. occupation, and; that such possession is under a bona fide claim of
ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier.
After the presentation of evidence for Naguit, the public prosecutor
manifested that the government did not intend to present any Petitioner suggests an interpretation that the alienable and disposable
evidence while oppositor Jose Angeles, as representative of the heirs of character of the land should have already been established since June
Rustico Angeles, failed to appear during the trial despite notice. On 12, 1945 or earlier. This is not borne out by the plain meaning of
September 27, 1997, the MCTC rendered a decision ordering that the Section 14(1). "Since June 12, 1945," as used in the provision, qualifies
subject parcel be brought under the operation of the Property its antecedent phrase "under a bonafide claim of ownership." Generally
Registration Decree or Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1529 and that the speaking, qualifying words restrict or modify only the words or phrases
title thereto registered and confirmed in the name of Naguit.6 to which they are immediately associated, and not those distantly or
remotely located.13 Ad proximum antecedents fiat relation nisi
impediatur sentencia.
The Republic of the Philippines (Republic), thru the Office of the
Solicitor General (OSG), filed a motion for reconsideration. The OSG
stressed that the land applied for was declared alienable and Besides, we are mindful of the absurdity that would result if we adopt
disposable only on October 15, 1980, per the certification from petitioners position. Absent a legislative amendment, the rule would
Regional Executive Director Raoul T. Geollegue of the Department of be, adopting the OSGs view, that all lands of the public domain which
Environment and Natural Resources, Region VI. 7 However, the court were not declared alienable or disposable before June 12, 1945 would
denied the motion for reconsideration in an order dated February 18, not be susceptible to original registration, no matter the length of
1998.81awphi1.nt unchallenged possession by the occupant. Such interpretation renders
paragraph (1) of Section 14 virtually inoperative and even precludes
the government from giving it effect even as it decides to reclassify
Thereafter, the Republic appealed the decision and the order of the public agricultural lands as alienable and disposable. The
MCTC to the RTC, Kalibo, Aklan, Branch 8. On February 26, 1999, the
unreasonableness of the situation would even be aggravated
RTC rendered its decision, dismissing the appeal.9 considering that before June 12, 1945, the Philippines was not yet even
considered an independent state.
Undaunted, the Republic elevated the case to the Court of Appeals via
Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. On July 12, 2000, the Instead, the more reasonable interpretation of Section 14(1) is that it
appellate court rendered a decision dismissing the petition filed by the
merely requires the property sought to be registered as already
Republic and affirmed in toto the assailed decision of the RTC. alienable and disposable at the time the application for registration of

6|Page
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
title is filed. If the State, at the time the application is made, has not agricultural lands of the public domain commenced from July 26, 1894.
yet deemed it proper to release the property for alienation or However, this period was amended by R.A. No. 1942, which provided
disposition, the presumption is that the government is still reserving that the bona fide claim of ownership must have been for at least thirty
the right to utilize the property; hence, the need to preserve its (30) years. Then in 1977, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act was
ownership in the State irrespective of the length of adverse possession again amended, this time by P.D. No. 1073, which pegged the
even if in good faith. However, if the property has already been reckoning date at June 12, 1945. This new starting point is concordant
classified as alienable and disposable, as it is in this case, then there is with Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree.
already an intention on the part of the State to abdicate its exclusive
prerogative over the property.
Indeed, there are no material differences between Section 14(1) of the
Property Registration Decree and Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act,
This reading aligns conformably with our holding in Republic v. Court of as amended. True, the Public Land Act does refer to "agricultural lands
Appeals .14 Therein, the Court noted that "to prove that the land of the public domain," while the Property Registration Decree uses the
subject of an application for registration is alienable, an applicant must term "alienable and disposable lands of the public domain." It must be
establish the existence of a positive act of the government such as a noted though that the Constitution declares that "alienable lands of the
presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative public domain shall be limited to agricultural lands." 24 Clearly, the
action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a subject lands under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act and Section
legislative act or a statute."15 In that case, the subject land had been 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree are of the same type.
certified by the DENR as alienable and disposable in 1980, thus the
Court concluded that the alienable status of the land, compounded by
the established fact that therein respondents had occupied the land Did the enactment of the Property Registration Decree and the
even before 1927, sufficed to allow the application for registration of amendatory P.D. No. 1073 preclude the application for registration of
the said property. In the case at bar, even the petitioner admits that alienable lands of the public domain, possession over which
the subject property was released and certified as within alienable and commenced only after June 12, 1945? It did not, considering Section
disposable zone in 1980 by the DENR.16 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, which governs and
authorizes the application of "those who have acquired ownership of
private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws."
This case is distinguishable from Bracewell v. Court of
Appeals,17 wherein the Court noted that while the claimant had been in
possession since 1908, it was only in 1972 that the lands in question Prescription is one of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil
were classified as alienable and disposable. Thus, the bid at Code.25 There is a consistent jurisprudential rule that properties
registration therein did not succeed. In Bracewell, the claimant had classified as alienable public land may be converted into private
filed his application in 1963, or nine (9) years before the property was property by reason of open, continuous and exclusive possession of at
declared alienable and disposable.1awphi1.nt Thus, in this case, least thirty (30) years.26 With such conversion, such property may now
where the application was made years after the property had been fall within the contemplation of "private lands" under Section 14(2),
certified as alienable and disposable, the Bracewell ruling does not and thus susceptible to registration by those who have acquired
apply. ownership through prescription. Thus, even if possession of the
alienable public land commenced on a date later than June 12, 1945,
and such possession being been open, continuous and exclusive, then
A different rule obtains for forest lands,18 such as those which form part the possessor may have the right to register the land by virtue of
of a reservation for provincial park purposes 19 the possession of which Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree.
cannot ripen into ownership.20 It is elementary in the law governing
natural resources that forest land cannot be owned by private persons.
As held in Palomo v. Court of Appeals,21 forest land is not registrable The land in question was found to be cocal in nature, it having been
and possession thereof, no matter how lengthy, cannot convert it into planted with coconut trees now over fifty years old.27 The inherent
private property, unless such lands are reclassified and considered nature of the land but confirms its certification in 1980 as alienable,
disposable and alienable.22 In the case at bar, the property in question hence agricultural. There is no impediment to the application of
was undisputedly classified as disposable and alienable; hence, the Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, as correctly
ruling in Palomo is inapplicable, as correctly held by the Court of accomplished by the lower courts.l^vvphi1.net
Appeals.23
The OSG posits that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that Naguit
It must be noted that the present case was decided by the lower courts had been in possession in the concept of owner for the required period.
on the basis of Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, which The argument begs the question. It is again hinged on the assertion
pertains to original registration through ordinary registration shown earlier to be unfoundedthat there could have been no bona
proceedings. The right to file the application for registration derives fide claim of ownership prior to 1980, when the subject land was
from a bona fide claim of ownership going back to June 12, 1945 or declared alienable or disposable.
earlier, by reason of the claimants open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession of alienable and disposable lands of the public
We find no reason to disturb the conclusion of both the RTC and the
domain. Court of Appeals that Naguit had the right to apply for registration
owing to the continuous possession by her and her predecessors-in-
A similar right is given under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, interest of the land since 1945. The basis of such conclusion is
which reads: primarily factual, and the Court generally respects the factual findings
made by lower courts. Notably, possession since 1945 was established
through proof of the existence of 50 to 60-year old trees at the time
Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying Naguit purchased the property as well as tax declarations executed by
lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such land or an Urbano in 1945. Although tax declarations and realty tax payment of
interest therein, but those titles have not been perfected or completed, property are not conclusive evidence of ownership, nevertheless, they
may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land are good indicia of the possession in the concept of owner for no one in
is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a his right mind would be paying taxes for a property that is not in his
certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit: actual or at least constructive possession. They constitute at least
proof that the holder has a claim of title over the property. The
voluntary declaration of a piece of property for taxation purposes
xxx xxx xxx manifests not only ones sincere and honest desire to obtain title to the
property and announces his adverse claim against the State and all
other interested parties, but also the intention to contribute needed
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest
revenues to the Government. Such an act strengthens ones bona
have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession
fide claim of acquisition of ownership.28
and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona
fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years
immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of Considering that the possession of the subject parcel of land by the
title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be respondent can be traced back to that of her predecessors-in-interest
conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential which commenced since 1945 or for almost fifty (50) years, it is indeed
to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title beyond any cloud of doubt that she has acquired title thereto which
under the provisions of this chapter. may be properly brought under the operation of the Torrens system.
That she has been in possession of the land in the concept of an
owner, open, continuous, peaceful and without any opposition from
When the Public Land Act was first promulgated in 1936, the period of
any private person and the government itself makes her right thereto
possession deemed necessary to vest the right to register their title to
undoubtedly settled and deserving of protection under the law.

7|Page
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the assailed Decision of
the Court of Appeals dated July 12, 2000 is hereby AFFIRMED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 156117 May 26, 2005

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,


vs.
JEREMIAS AND DAVID HERBIETO, respondents.

8|Page
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.: Lot No. 8422 and of respondent David over Lot No. 8423. It
subsequently issued an Order on 02 February 2000 declaring its
Judgment, dated 21 December 1999, final and executory, and directing
Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari, under Rule 45 of the Administrator of the Land Registration Authority (LRA) to issue a
the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking the reversal of the Decision decree of registration for the Subject Lots.18
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 67625, dated 22 November
2002,1 which affirmed the Judgment of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC)
of Consolacion, Cebu, dated 21 December 1999,2granting the Petitioner Republic appealed the MTC Judgment, dated 21 December
application for land registration of the respondents. 1999, to the Court of Appeals. 19 The Court of Appeals, in its Decision,
dated 22 November 2002, affirmed the appealed MTC Judgment
reasoning thus:
Respondents in the present Petition are the Herbieto brothers, Jeremias
and David, who filed with the MTC, on 23 September 1998, a single
application for registration of two parcels of land, Lots No. 8422 and In the case at bar, there can be no question that the land
8423, located in Cabangahan, Consolacion, Cebu (Subject Lots). They sought to be registered has been classified as within the
claimed to be owners in fee simple of the Subject Lots, which they alienable and disposable zone since June 25, 1963. Article
purchased from their parents, spouses Gregorio Herbieto and Isabel 1113 in relation to Article 1137 of the Civil Code,
Owatan, on 25 June 1976.3 Together with their application for respectively provides that "All things which are within the
registration, respondents submitted the following set of documents: commerce of men are susceptible of prescription, unless
otherwise provided. Property of the State or any of its
subdivisions of patrimonial character shall not be the object
(a) Advance Survey Plan of Lot No. 8422, in the name of of prescription" and that "Ownership and other real rights
respondent Jeremias; and Advance Survey Plan of Lot No. over immovables also prescribe through uninterrupted
8423, in the name of respondent David;4 adverse possession thereof for thirty years, without need of
title or of good faith."
(b) The technical descriptions of the Subject Lots;5
As testified to by the appellees in the case at bench, their
parents already acquired the subject parcels of lands,
(c) Certifications by the Department of Environment and
subject matter of this application, since 1950 and that they
Natural Resources (DENR) dispensing with the need for
cultivated the same and planted it with jackfruits, bamboos,
Surveyor's Certificates for the Subject Lots;6
coconuts, and other trees (Judgment dated December 21,
1999, p. 6). In short, it is undisputed that herein appellees or
(d) Certifications by the Register of Deeds of Cebu City on their predecessors-in-interest had occupied and possessed
the absence of certificates of title covering the Subject Lots; 7 the subject land openly, continuously, exclusively, and
adversely since 1950. Consequently, even assuming
arguendo that appellees' possession can be reckoned only
(e) Certifications by the Community Environment and Natural from June 25, 1963 or from the time the subject lots had
Resources Office (CENRO) of the DENR on its finding that the been classified as within the alienable and disposable zone,
Subject Lots are alienable and disposable, by virtue of still the argument of the appellant does not hold water.
Forestry Administrative Order No. 4-1063, dated 25 June
1963;8
As earlier stressed, the subject property, being alienable
since 1963 as shown by CENRO Report dated June 23, 1963,
(f) Certified True Copies of Assessment of Real Property (ARP) may now be the object of prescription, thus susceptible of
No. 941800301831, in the name of Jeremias, covering Lot private ownership. By express provision of Article 1137,
No. 8422, issued in 1994; and ARP No. 941800301833, in the appellees are, with much greater right, entitled to apply for
name of David, covering Lot No. 8423, also issued in its registration, as provided by Section 14(4) of P.D. 1529
1994;9 and which allows individuals to own land in any manner provided
by law. Again, even considering that possession of appelless
should only be reckoned from 1963, the year when CENRO
(g) Deed of Definite Sale executed on 25 June 1976 by declared the subject lands alienable, herein appellees have
spouses Gregorio Herbieto and Isabel Owatan selling the been possessing the subject parcels of land in open,
Subject Lots and the improvements thereon to their sons and continuous, and in the concept of an owner, for 35 years
respondents herein, Jeremias and David, for P1,000. Lot No. already when they filed the instant application for
8422 was sold to Jeremias, while Lot No. 8423 was sold to registration of title to the land in 1998. As such, this court
David.10 finds no reason to disturb the finding of the court a quo.20

On 11 December 1998, the petitioner Republic of the Philippines The Republic filed the present Petition for the review and reversal of
(Republic) filed an Opposition to the respondents' application for the Decision of the Court of Appeals, dated 22 November 2002, on the
registration of the Subject Lots arguing that: (1) Respondents failed to basis of the following arguments:
comply with the period of adverse possession of the Subject Lots
required by law; (2) Respondents' muniments of title were not genuine
and did not constitute competent and sufficient evidence of bona First, respondents failed to establish that they and their predecessors-
fide acquisition of the Subject Lots; and (3) The Subject Lots were part in-interest had been in open, continuous, and adverse possession of
of the public domain belonging to the Republic and were not subject to the Subject Lots in the concept of owners since 12 June 1945 or earlier.
private appropriation.11 According to the petitioner Republic, possession of the Subject Lots
prior to 25 June 1963 cannot be considered in determining compliance
with the periods of possession required by law. The Subject Lots were
The MTC set the initial hearing on 03 September 1999 at 8:30 a.m. 12 All classified as alienable and disposable only on 25 June 1963, per
owners of the land adjoining the Subject Lots were sent copies of the CENRO's certification. It also alleges that the Court of Appeals, in
Notice of Initial Hearing. 13 A copy of the Notice was also posted on 27 applying the 30-year acquisitive prescription period, had overlooked
July 1999 in a conspicuous place on the Subject Lots, as well as on the the ruling in Republic v. Doldol,21 where this Court declared that
bulletin board of the municipal building of Consolacion, Cebu, where Commonwealth Act No. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land Act,
the Subject Lots were located.14 Finally, the Notice was also published as amended and as it is presently phrased, requires that possession of
in the Official Gazette on 02 August 1999 15 and The Freeman Banat land of the public domain must be from 12 June 1945 or earlier, for the
News on 19 December 1999.16 same to be acquired through judicial confirmation of imperfect title.

During the initial hearing on 03 September 1999, the MTC issued an Second, the application for registration suffers from fatal infirmity as
Order of Special Default,17 with only petitioner Republic opposing the the subject of the application consisted of two parcels of land
application for registration of the Subject Lots. The respondents, individually and separately owned by two applicants. Petitioner
through their counsel, proceeded to offer and mark documentary Republic contends that it is implicit in the provisions of Presidential
evidence to prove jurisdictional facts. The MTC commissioned the Clerk Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration
of Court to receive further evidence from the respondents and to Decree, as amended, that the application for registration of title to land
submit a Report to the MTC after 30 days. shall be filed by a single applicant; multiple applicants may file a single
application only in case they are co-owners. While an application may
On 21 December 1999, the MTC promulgated its Judgment ordering the cover two parcels of land, it is allowed only when the subject parcels of
registration and confirmation of the title of respondent Jeremias over land belong to the same applicant or applicants (in case the subject

9|Page
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
parcels of land are co-owned) and are situated within the same an implied admission of the court's jurisdiction. It acknowledges the
province. Where the authority of the courts to proceed is conferred by power of the court, acting upon the motion of a party to the case or on
a statute and when the manner of obtaining jurisdiction is mandatory, its own initiative, to order the severance of the misjoined cause of
it must be strictly complied with or the proceedings will be utterly void. action, to be proceeded with separately (in case of misjoinder of
Since the respondents failed to comply with the procedure for land causes of action); and/or the dropping of a party and the severance of
registration under the Property Registration Decree, the proceedings any claim against said misjoined party, also to be proceeded with
held before the MTC is void, as the latter did not acquire jurisdiction separately (in case of misjoinder of parties).
over it.

The misjoinder of causes of action and parties in the present Petition


I may have been corrected by the MTC motu propio or on motion of the
petitioner Republic. It is regrettable, however, that the MTC failed to
detect the misjoinder when the application for registration was still
Jurisdiction pending before it; and more regrettable that the petitioner Republic did
not call the attention of the MTC to the fact by filing a motion for
severance of the causes of action and parties, raising the issue of
Addressing first the issue of jurisdiction, this Court finds that the MTC
misjoinder only before this Court.
had no jurisdiction to proceed with and hear the application for
registration filed by the respondents but for reasons different from
those presented by petitioner Republic. B. Respondents, however, failed to comply with the publication
requirements mandated by the Property Registration Decree, thus, the
MTC was not invested with jurisdiction as a land registration court.
A. The misjoinder of causes of action and parties does not affect the
jurisdiction of the MTC to hear and proceed with respondents'
application for registration. Although the misjoinder of causes of action and parties in the present
Petition did not affect the jurisdiction of the MTC over the land
registration proceeding, this Court, nonetheless, has discovered a
Respondents filed a single application for registration of the Subject
defect in the publication of the Notice of Initial Hearing, which bars the
Lots even though they were not co-owners. Respondents Jeremias and
MTC from assuming jurisdiction to hear and proceed with respondents'
David were actually seeking the individual and separate registration of
application for registration.
Lots No. 8422 and 8423, respectively.

A land registration case is a proceeding in rem,28 and jurisdiction in


Petitioner Republic believes that the procedural irregularity committed
rem cannot be acquired unless there be constructive seizure of the
by the respondents was fatal to their case, depriving the MTC of
land through publication and service of notice.29
jurisdiction to proceed with and hear their application for registration of
the Subject Lots, based on this Court's pronouncement in Director of
Lands v. Court of Appeals,22 to wit: Section 23 of the Property Registration Decree requires that the public
be given Notice of the Initial Hearing of the application for land
registration by means of (1) publication; (2) mailing; and (3) posting.
. . . In view of these multiple omissions which constitute non-
Publication of the Notice of Initial Hearing shall be made in the
compliance with the above-cited sections of the Act, We rule
following manner:
that said defects have not invested the Court with the
authority or jurisdiction to proceed with the case because
the manner or mode of obtaining jurisdiction as prescribed 1. By publication.
by the statute which is mandatory has not been strictly
followed, thereby rendering all proceedings utterly null and
void. Upon receipt of the order of the court setting the time for
initial hearing, the Commissioner of Land Registration shall
cause a notice of initial hearing to be published once in the
This Court, however, disagrees with petitioner Republic in this regard. Official Gazette and once in a newspaper of general
This procedural lapse committed by the respondents should not affect circulation in the Philippines: Provided, however, that the
the jurisdiction of the MTC to proceed with and hear their application publication in the Official Gazette shall be sufficient to confer
for registration of the Subject Lots. jurisdiction upon the court. Said notice shall be addressed to
all persons appearing to have an interest in the land involved
including the adjoining owners so far as known, and "to all
The Property Registration Decree23 recognizes and expressly allows the
whom it may concern." Said notice shall also require all
following situations: (1) the filing of a single application by several
persons concerned to appear in court at a certain date and
applicants for as long as they are co-owners of the parcel of land
time to show cause why the prayer of said application shall
sought to be registered; 24and (2) the filing of a single application for
not be granted.
registration of several parcels of land provided that the same are
located within the same province.25 The Property Registration Decree is
silent, however, as to the present situation wherein two applicants filed Even as this Court concedes that the aforequoted Section 23(1) of the
a single application for two parcels of land, but are seeking the Property Registration Decree expressly provides that publication in the
separate and individual registration of the parcels of land in their Official Gazette shall be sufficient to confer jurisdiction upon the land
respective names. registration court, it still affirms its declaration in Director of Lands v.
Court of Appeals30 that publication in a newspaper of general
circulation is mandatory for the land registration court to validly
Since the Property Registration Decree failed to provide for such a
confirm and register the title of the applicant or applicants. That
situation, then this Court refers to the Rules of Court to determine the
Section 23 of the Property Registration Decree enumerated and
proper course of action. Section 34 of the Property Registration Decree
described in detail the requirements of publication, mailing, and
itself provides that, "[t]he Rules of Court shall, insofar as not
posting of the Notice of Initial Hearing, then all such requirements,
inconsistent with the provisions of this Decree, be applicable to land
including publication of the Notice in a newspaper of general
registration and cadastral cases by analogy or in a suppletory
circulation, is essential and imperative, and must be strictly complied
character and whenever practicable and convenient."
with. In the same case, this Court expounded on the reason behind the
compulsory publication of the Notice of Initial Hearing in a newspaper
Considering every application for land registration filed in strict of general circulation, thus
accordance with the Property Registration Decree as a single cause of
action, then the defect in the joint application for registration filed by
It may be asked why publication in a newspaper of general
the respondents with the MTC constitutes a misjoinder of causes of
circulation should be deemed mandatory when the law
action and parties. Instead of a single or joint application for
already requires notice by publication in the Official Gazette
registration, respondents Jeremias and David, more appropriately,
as well as by mailing and posting, all of which have already
should have filed separate applications for registration of Lots No. 8422
been complied with in the case at hand. The reason is due
and 8423, respectively.
process and the reality that the Official Gazette is not as
widely read and circulated as newspaper and is oftentimes
Misjoinder of causes of action and parties do not involve a question of delayed in its circulation, such that the notices published
jurisdiction of the court to hear and proceed with the case. 26 They are therein may not reach the interested parties on time, if at all.
not even accepted grounds for dismissal thereof. 27 Instead, under the Additionally, such parties may not be owners of neighboring
Rules of Court, the misjoinder of causes of action and parties involve properties, and may in fact not own any other real estate. In

10 | P a g e
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
sum, the all encompassing in rem nature of land registration The Public Land Act, as amended, governs lands of the public domain,
cases, the consequences of default orders issued against the except timber and mineral lands, friar lands, and privately-owned lands
whole world and the objective of disseminating the notice in which reverted to the State.36 It explicitly enumerates the means by
as wide a manner as possible demand a mandatory which public lands may be disposed, as follows:
construction of the requirements for publication, mailing and
posting.31
(1) For homestead settlement;
(2) By sale;
In the instant Petition, the initial hearing was set by the MTC, and was (3) By lease;
in fact held, on 03 September 1999 at 8:30 a.m. While the Notice (4) By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles;
thereof was printed in the issue of the Official Gazette, dated 02 (a) By judicial legalization; or
August 1999, and officially released on 10 August 1999, it was (b) By administrative legalization (free patent).37
published in The Freeman Banat News, a daily newspaper printed in
Cebu City and circulated in the province and cities of Cebu and in the
rest of Visayas and Mindanao, only on 19 December 1999, more than Each mode of disposition is appropriately covered by separate chapters
three months after the initial hearing. of the Public Land Act because there are specific requirements and
application procedure for every mode.38 Since respondents herein filed
their application before the MTC, 39 then it can be reasonably inferred
Indubitably, such publication of the Notice, way after the date of the that they are seeking the judicial confirmation or legalization of their
initial hearing, would already be worthless and ineffective. Whoever imperfect or incomplete title over the Subject Lots.
read the Notice as it was published in The Freeman Banat News and
had a claim to the Subject Lots was deprived of due process for it was
already too late for him to appear before the MTC on the day of the Judicial confirmation or legalization of imperfect or incomplete title to
initial hearing to oppose respondents' application for registration, and land, not exceeding 144 hectares,40 may be availed of by persons
to present his claim and evidence in support of such claim. Worse, as identified under Section 48 of the Public Land Act, as amended by
the Notice itself states, should the claimant-oppositor fail to appear Presidential Decree No. 1073, which reads
before the MTC on the date of initial hearing, he would be in default
and would forever be barred from contesting respondents' application Section 48. The following-described citizens of the
for registration and even the registration decree that may be issued
Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming
pursuant thereto. In fact, the MTC did issue an Order of Special Default to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles
on 03 September 1999.
have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the
Court of First Instance of the province where the land is
The late publication of the Notice of Initial Hearing in the newspaper of located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a
general circulation is tantamount to no publication at all, having the certificate of title thereafter, under the Land Registration Act,
same ultimate result. Owing to such defect in the publication of the to wit:
Notice, the MTC failed to constructively seize the Subject Lots and to
acquire jurisdiction over respondents' application for registration (a) [Repealed by Presidential Decree No. 1073].
thereof. Therefore, the MTC Judgment, dated 21 December 1999,
ordering the registration and confirmation of the title of respondents
Jeremias and David over Lots No. 8422 and 8423, respectively; as well (b) Those who by themselves or through their
as the MTC Order, dated 02 February 2000, declaring its Judgment of predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
21 December 1999 final and executory, and directing the LRA continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession
Administrator to issue a decree of registration for the Subject Lots, are and occupation of agricultural lands of the public
both null and void for having been issued by the MTC without domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of
jurisdiction. ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier,
immediately preceding the filing of the
applications for confirmation of title, except when
II
prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be
conclusively presumed to have performed all the
Period of Possession conditions essential to a Government grant and
shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the
provisions of this chapter.
Respondents failed to comply with the required period of possession of
the Subject Lots for the judicial confirmation or legalization of
imperfect or incomplete title. (c) Members of the national cultural minorities who
by themselves or through their predecessors-in-
interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive
While this Court has already found that the MTC did not have and notorious possession and occupation of lands
jurisdiction to hear and proceed with respondents' application for of the public domain suitable to agriculture
registration, this Court nevertheless deems it necessary to resolve the whether disposable or not, under a bona fide claim
legal issue on the required period of possession for acquiring title to of ownership since June 12, 1945 shall be entitled
public land. to the rights granted in subsection (b) hereof.

Respondents' application filed with the MTC did not state the statutory Not being members of any national cultural minorities, respondents
basis for their title to the Subject Lots. They only alleged therein that may only be entitled to judicial confirmation or legalization of their
they obtained title to the Subject Lots by purchase from their parents, imperfect or incomplete title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land
spouses Gregorio Herbieto and Isabel Owatan, on 25 June 1976. Act, as amended. Section 48(b), as amended, now requires adverse
Respondent Jeremias, in his testimony, claimed that his parents had possession of the land since 12 June 1945 or earlier. In the present
been in possession of the Subject Lots in the concept of an owner since Petition, the Subject Lots became alienable and disposable only on 25
1950.32 June 1963. Any period of possession prior to the date when the Subject
Lots were classified as alienable and disposable is inconsequential and
should be excluded from the computation of the period of possession;
Yet, according to the DENR-CENRO Certification, submitted by such possession can never ripen into ownership and unless the land
respondents themselves, the Subject Lots are "within Alienable and had been classified as alienable and disposable, the rules on
Disposable, Block I, Project No. 28 per LC Map No. 2545 of Consolacion, confirmation of imperfect title shall not apply thereto. 41 It is very
Cebu certified under Forestry Administrative Order No. 4-1063, dated apparent then that respondents could not have complied with the
June 25, 1963. Likewise, it is outside Kotkot-Lusaran Mananga period of possession required by Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act,
Watershed Forest Reservation per Presidential Proclamation No. 932 as amended, to acquire imperfect or incomplete title to the Subject
dated June 29, 1992."33 The Subject Lots are thus clearly part of the Lots that may be judicially confirmed or legalized.
public domain, classified as alienable and disposable as of 25 June
1963.
The confirmation of respondents' title by the Court of Appeals was
based on the erroneous supposition that respondents were claiming
As already well-settled in jurisprudence, no public land can be acquired title to the Subject Lots under the Property Registration Decree.
by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the According to the Decision of the Court of Appeals, dated 22 November
government;34 and it is indispensable that the person claiming title to 2002, Section 14(4) of the Property Registration Decree allows
public land should show that his title was acquired from the State or individuals to own land in any other manner provided by law. It then
any other mode of acquisition recognized by law.35

11 | P a g e
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
ruled that the respondents, having possessed the Subject Lots, by
themselves and through their predecessors-in-interest, since 25 June
1963 to 23 September 1998, when they filed their application, have
acquired title to the Subject Lots by extraordinary prescription under
Article 1113, in relation to Article 1137, both of the Civil Code. 42

The Court of Appeals overlooked the difference between the Property


Registration Decree and the Public Land Act. Under the Property
Registration Decree, there already exists a title which is confirmed by
the court; while under the Public Land Act, the presumption always is
that the land applied for pertains to the State, and that the occupants
and possessors only claim an interest in the same by virtue of their
imperfect title or continuous, open, and notorious possession. 43 As
established by this Court in the preceding paragraphs, the Subject Lots
respondents wish to register are undoubtedly alienable and disposable
lands of the public domain and respondents may have acquired title
thereto only under the provisions of the Public Land Act.

However, it must be clarified herein that even though respondents may


acquire imperfect or incomplete title to the Subject Lots under the
Public Land Act, their application for judicial confirmation or
legalization thereof must be in accordance with the Property
Registration Decree, for Section 50 of the Public Land Act reads

SEC. 50. Any person or persons, or their legal


representatives or successors in right, claiming any lands or
interest in lands under the provisions of this chapter, must in
every case present an application to the proper Court of First
Instance, praying that the validity of the alleged title or claim
be inquired into and that a certificate of title be issued to
them under the provisions of the Land Registration Act.44

Hence, respondents' application for registration of the Subject Lots


must have complied with the substantial requirements under Section
48(b) of the Public Land Act and the procedural requirements under the
Property Registration Decree.

Moreover, provisions of the Civil Code on prescription of ownership and


other real rights apply in general to all types of land, while the Public
Land Act specifically governs lands of the public domain. Relative to
one another, the Public Land Act may be considered a special
law45 that must take precedence over the Civil Code, a general law. It is
an established rule of statutory construction that between a general
law and a special law, the special law prevails Generalia specialibus
non derogant.46

WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing, the instant Petition is


GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No.
67625, dated 22 November 2002, is REVERSED. The Judgment of the
MTC of Consolacion, Cebu in LRC Case No. N-75, dated 21 December
1999, and its Order, dated 02 February 2000 are declared NULL AND
VOID. Respondents' application for registration is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 179987 September 3, 2013

HEIRS OF MARIO MALABANAN, (Represented by Sally A.


Malabanan), Petitioners,
vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

BERSAMIN, J.:

12 | P a g e
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
For our consideration and resolution are the motions for The petitioners assert that the ruling in Republic v. Court of Appeals
reconsideration of the parties who both assail the decision and Corazon Naguit5 (Naguit) remains the controlling doctrine
promulgated on April 29, 2009, whereby we upheld the ruling of the especially if the property involved is agricultural land. In this regard,
Court of Appeals (CA) denying the application of the petitioners for the Naguit ruled that any possession of agricultural land prior to its
registration of a parcel of land situated in Barangay Tibig, Silang, declaration as alienable and disposable could be counted in the
Cavite on the ground that they had not established by sufficient reckoning of the period of possession to perfect title under the Public
evidence their right to the registration in accordance with either Land Act (Commonwealth Act No. 141) and the Property Registration
Section 14(1) or Section 14(2) of Presidential Decree No. 1529 Decree. They point out that the ruling in Herbieto, to the effect that the
(Property Registration Decree). 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 the land registration
Antecedents proceedings therein were in fact found and declared void ab initio for
lack of publication of the notice of initial hearing.
The property subject of the application for registration is a parcel of
land situated in Barangay Tibig, Silang Cavite, more particularly The petitioners also rely on the ruling in Republic v. T.A.N. Properties,
identified as Lot 9864-A, Cad-452-D, with an area of 71,324-square Inc.6 to support their argument that the property had been ipso jure
meters. On February 20, 1998, applicant Mario Malabanan, who had converted into private property by reason of the open, continuous,
purchased the property from Eduardo Velazco, filed an application for exclusive and notorious possession by their predecessors-in-interest of
land registration covering the property in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) an alienable land of the public domain for more than 30 years.
in Tagaytay City, Cavite, claiming that the property formed part of the According to them, what was essential was that the property had been
alienable and disposable land of the public domain, and that he and his "converted" into private property through prescription at the time of
predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, uninterrupted, the application without regard to whether the property sought to be
public and adverse possession and occupation of the land for more registered was previously classified as agricultural land of the public
than 30 years, thereby entitling him to the judicial confirmation of his domain.
title.1

As earlier stated, we denied the petition for review on certiorari


To prove that the property was an alienable and disposable land of the because Malabanan failed to establish by sufficient evidence
public domain, Malabanan presented during trial a certification dated possession and occupation of the property on his part and on the part
June 11, 2001 issued by the Community Environment and Natural of his predecessors-in interest since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
Resources Office (CENRO) of the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources (DENR), which reads:
Petitioners Motion for Reconsideration

This is to certify that the parcel of land designated as Lot No. 9864 Cad
452-D, Silang Cadastre as surveyed for Mr. Virgilio Velasco located at In their motion for reconsideration, the petitioners submit that the
Barangay Tibig, Silang, Cavite containing an area of 249,734 sq. mere classification of the land as alienable or disposable should be
meters as shown and described on the Plan Ap-04-00952 is verified to deemed sufficient to convert it into patrimonial property of the State.
be within the Alienable or Disposable land per Land Classification Map Relying on the rulings in Spouses De Ocampo v. Arlos, 7 Menguito v.
No. 3013 established under Project No. 20-A and approved as such Republic8 and Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc., 9 they argue that the
under FAO 4-1656 on March 15, 1982.2 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
After trial, on December 3, 2002, the RTC rendered judgment granting that Velazco and his predecessors-in-interest had been the real owners
Malabanans application for land registration, disposing thusly: of the land with the right to 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
WHEREFORE, this Court hereby approves this application for
Registration Decree, applied in their favor; and that when Malabanan
registration and thus places under the operation of Act 141, Act 496
filed the application for registration on February 20, 1998, he had
and/or P.D. 1529, otherwise known as Property Registration Law, the
already been in possession of the land for almost 16 years reckoned
lands described in Plan Csd-04-0173123-D, Lot 9864-A and containing
from 1982, the time when the land was declared alienable and
an area of Seventy One Thousand Three Hundred Twenty Four (71,324)
disposable by the State.
Square Meters, as supported by its technical description now forming
part of the record of this case, in addition to other proofs adduced in
the name of MARIO MALABANAN, who is of legal age, Filipino, widower, The Republics Motion for Partial Reconsideration
and with residence at Munting Ilog, Silang, Cavite.

The Republic seeks the partial reconsideration in order to obtain a


Once this Decision becomes final and executory, the corresponding clarification with reference to the application of the rulings in Naguit
decree of registration shall forthwith issue. and Herbieto.

SO ORDERED.3 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 judicial legislation. It reiterates its
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) appealed the judgment to the
view that an applicant is entitled to registration only when the land
CA, arguing that Malabanan had failed to prove that the property
subject of the application had been declared alienable and disposable
belonged to the alienable and disposable land of the public domain,
since June 12, 1945 or earlier.
and that the RTC erred in finding that he had been in possession of the
property in the manner and for the length of time required by law for
confirmation of imperfect title. Ruling

On February 23, 2007, the CA promulgated its decision reversing the We deny the motions for reconsideration.
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 period of In reviewing the assailed decision, we consider to be imperative to
possession prior to the classification of the land as alienable and discuss the different classifications of land in relation to the existing
disposable was inconsequential and should be excluded from the applicable land registration laws of the Philippines.
computation of the period of possession. Noting that the CENRO-DENR
certification stated that the property had been declared alienable and
disposable only on March 15, 1982, Velazcos possession prior to March Classifications of land according to ownership
15, 1982 could not be tacked for purposes of computing Malabanans
period of possession.
Land, which is an immovable property, 10 may be classified as either of
public dominion or of private ownership. 11Land is considered of public
Due to Malabanans intervening demise during the appeal in the CA, dominion if it either: (a) is intended for public use; or (b) belongs to the
his heirs elevated the CAs decision of February 23, 2007 to this Court State, without being for public use, and is intended for some public
through a petition for review on certiorari. service or for the development of the national wealth. 12 Land belonging
to the State that is not of such character, or although of such character

13 | P a g e
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
but no longer intended for public use or for public service forms part of The core of the controversy herein lies in the proper interpretation of
the patrimonial property of the State.13 Land that is other than part of Section 11(4), in relation to Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, which
the patrimonial property of the State, provinces, cities and expressly requires possession by a Filipino citizen of the land since June
municipalities is of private ownership if it belongs to a private 12, 1945, or earlier, viz:
individual.

Section 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines,


Pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine (Jura Regalia), a legal concept first occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such
introduced into the country from the West by Spain through the Laws lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected
of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas, 14 all lands of the public domain or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province
belong to the State.15This means that the State is the source of any where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the
asserted right to ownership of land, and is charged with the issuance of a certificate of title thereafter, under the Land Registration
conservation of such patrimony.16 Act, to wit:

All lands not appearing to be clearly under private ownership are xxxx
presumed to belong to the State. Also, public lands remain part of the
inalienable land of the public domain unless the State is shown to have
reclassified or alienated them to private persons.17 (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest
have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession
and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain,
Classifications of public lands under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12,
according to alienability 1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the applications for
confirmation of title, except when prevented by war or force majeure.
These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the
Whether or not land of the public domain is alienable and disposable conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a
primarily rests on the classification of public lands made under the certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. (Bold emphasis
Constitution. Under the 1935 Constitution, 18 lands of the public domain supplied)
were classified into three, namely, agricultural, timber and
mineral.19 Section 10, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution classified
lands of the public domain into seven, specifically, agricultural, Note that Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act used the words "lands of
industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, mineral, timber or the public domain" or "alienable and disposable lands of the public
forest, and grazing land, with the reservation that the law might domain" to clearly signify that lands otherwise classified, i.e., mineral,
provide other classifications. The 1987 Constitution adopted the forest or timber, or national parks, and lands of patrimonial or private
classification under the 1935 Constitution into agricultural, forest or ownership, are outside the coverage of the Public Land Act. What the
timber, and mineral, but added national parks. 20 Agricultural lands may law does not include, it excludes. The use of the descriptive phrase
be further classified by law according to the uses to which they may be "alienable and disposable" further limits the coverage of Section 48(b)
devoted.21 The identification of lands according to their legal to only the agricultural lands of the public domain as set forth in Article
classification is done exclusively by and through a positive act of the XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution. Bearing in mind such limitations
Executive Department.22 under the 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:
Based on the foregoing, the Constitution places a limit on the type of
public land that may be alienated. Under Section 2, Article XII of the
1987 Constitution, only agricultural lands of the public domain may be 1. The applicant, by himself or through his predecessor-in-
alienated; all other natural resources may not be. interest, has been in possession and occupation of the
property subject of the application;

Alienable and disposable lands of the State fall into two categories, to
wit: (a) patrimonial lands of the State, or those classified as lands of 2. The possession and occupation must be open, continuous,
private ownership under Article 425 of the Civil Code, 23 without exclusive, and notorious;
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. Consequently, lands classified as forest or 3. The possession and occupation must be under a bona fide
timber, mineral, or national parks are not susceptible of alienation or claim of acquisition of ownership;
disposition unless they are reclassified as agricultural.24 A positive act
of the Government is necessary to enable such reclassification, 25 and
4. The possession and occupation must have taken place
the exclusive prerogative to classify public lands under existing laws is since June 12, 1945, or earlier; and
vested in the Executive Department, 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 5. The property subject of the application must be an
public service or for the development of the national wealth, thereby agricultural land of the public domain.
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 Taking into consideration that the Executive Department is vested with
the President is duly authorized by law to that effect. 27 Thus, until the the authority to classify lands of the public domain, Section 48(b) of
Executive Department exercises its prerogative to classify or reclassify the Public Land Act, in relation to Section 14(1) of the Property
lands, or until Congress or the President declares that the State no Registration Decree, presupposes that the land subject of the
longer intends the land to be used for public service or for the application for registration must have been already classified as
development of national wealth, the Regalian Doctrine is applicable. agricultural land of the public domain in order for the provision to
apply. Thus, absent proof that the land is already classified as
agricultural land of the public domain, the Regalian Doctrine applies,
Disposition of alienable public lands and 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 classification
Section 11 of the Public Land Act (CA No. 141) provides the manner by required by Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is classification or
which alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, i.e.,
reclassification of a public land as agricultural.
agricultural lands, can be disposed of, to wit:

The dissent stresses that the classification or reclassification of the


Section 11. Public lands suitable for agricultural purposes can be
land as alienable and disposable agricultural land should likewise have
disposed of only as follows, and not otherwise: been made on June 12, 1945 or earlier, because any possession of the
land prior to such classification or reclassification produced no legal
(1) For homestead settlement; effects. It observes that the fixed date of June 12, 1945 could not be
(2) By sale; minimized or glossed over by mere judicial interpretation or by judicial
(3) By lease; and social policy concerns, and insisted that the full legislative intent be
(4) By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles; respected.
(a) By judicial legalization; or
(b) By administrative legalization (free patent).

14 | P a g e
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
We find, however, that the choice of June 12, 1945 as the reckoning (a) Agricultural lands of the public domain are
point of the requisite possession and occupation was the sole rendered alienable and disposable through any of
prerogative of Congress, the determination of which should best be left the exclusive modes enumerated under Section 11
to the wisdom of the lawmakers. Except that said date qualified the of the Public Land Act. If the mode is judicial
period of possession and occupation, no other legislative intent confirmation of imperfect title under Section 48(b)
appears to be associated with the fixing of the date of June 12, 1945. of the Public Land Act, the agricultural land subject
Accordingly, the Court should interpret only the plain and literal of the application needs only to be classified as
meaning of the law as written by the legislators. alienable and disposable as of the time of the
application, provided the applicants possession
and occupation of the land dated back to June 12,
Moreover, an examination of Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act 1945, or earlier. Thereby, a conclusive
indicates that Congress prescribed no requirement that the land presumption that the applicant has performed all
subject of the registration should have been classified as agricultural the conditions essential to a government grant
since June 12, 1945, or earlier. As such, the applicants imperfect or arises,36 and the applicant becomes the owner of
incomplete title is derived only from possession and occupation since the land by virtue of an imperfect or incomplete
June 12, 1945, or earlier. This means that the character of the property title. By legal fiction, the land has already ceased
subject of the application as alienable and disposable agricultural land to be part of the public domain and has become
of the public domain determines its eligibility for land registration, not private property.37
the ownership or title over it.

(b) Lands of the public domain subsequently


Alienable public land held by a possessor, either personally or through classified or declared as no longer intended for
his predecessors-in-interest, openly, continuously and exclusively public use or for the development of national
during the prescribed statutory period is converted to private property wealth are removed from the sphere of public
by the mere lapse or completion of the period. 29 In fact, by virtue of dominion and are considered converted into
this doctrine, corporations may now acquire lands of the public domain patrimonial lands or lands of private ownership
for as long as the lands were already converted to private ownership, that may be alienated or disposed through any of
by operation of law, as a result of satisfying the requisite period of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil
possession prescribed by the Public Land Act. 30 It is for this reason that Code. If the mode of acquisition is prescription,
the property subject of the application of Malabanan need not be whether ordinary or extraordinary, proof that the
classified as alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public land has been already converted to private
domain for the entire duration of the requisite period of possession. ownership prior to the requisite acquisitive
prescriptive period is a condition sine qua non in
observance of the law (Article 1113, Civil Code)
To be clear, then, the requirement that the land should have been
that property of the State not patrimonial in
classified as alienable and disposable agricultural land at the time of
character shall not be the object of prescription.
the application for registration is necessary only to dispute the
presumption that the land is inalienable.
To reiterate, then, the petitioners failed to present sufficient evidence
to establish that they and their predecessors-in-interest had been in
The declaration that land is alienable and disposable also serves to
possession of the land since June 12, 1945. Without satisfying the
determine the point at which prescription may run against the State.
requisite character and period of possession - possession and
The imperfect or incomplete title being confirmed under Section 48(b)
occupation that is open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious since
of the Public Land Act is title that is acquired by reason of the
June 12, 1945, or earlier - the land cannot be considered ipso jure
applicants possession and occupation of the alienable and disposable
converted to private property even upon the subsequent declaration of
agricultural land of the public domain. Where all the necessary
it as alienable and disposable. Prescription never began to run against
requirements for a grant by the Government are complied with through
the State, such that the land has remained ineligible for registration
actual physical, open, continuous, exclusive and public possession of
under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree. Likewise, the
an alienable and disposable land of the public domain, the possessor is
land continues to be ineligible for land registration under Section 14(2)
deemed to have acquired by operation of law not only a right to a
of the Property Registration Decree unless Congress enacts a law or
grant, but a grant by the Government, because it is not necessary that
the President issues a proclamation declaring the land as no longer
a certificate of title be issued in order that such a grant be sanctioned
intended for public service or for the development of the national
by the courts.31
wealth.1wphi1

If one follows the dissent, the clear objective of the Public Land Act to
WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petitioners' Motion for
adjudicate and quiet titles to unregistered lands in favor of qualified
Reconsideration and the respondent's Partial Motion for
Filipino citizens by reason of their occupation and cultivation thereof for
Reconsideration for their lack of merit.
the number of years prescribed by law 32 will be defeated. Indeed, we
should always bear in mind that such objective still prevails, as a fairly
recent legislative development bears out, when Congress enacted SO ORDERED.
legislation (Republic Act No. 10023)33in order to liberalize stringent
requirements and procedures in the adjudication of alienable public
land to qualified applicants, particularly residential lands, subject to
area limitations.34

On the other hand, if a public land is classified as no longer intended


for public use or for the development of national wealth by declaration
of Congress or the President, thereby converting such land into
patrimonial or private land of the State, the applicable provision
concerning disposition and registration is no longer Section 48(b) of the
Public Land Act but the Civil Code, in conjunction with Section 14(2) of G.R. No. 181502 February 2, 2010
the Property Registration Decree.35 As such, prescription can now run
against the State.
FLORENCIA G. DIAZ, Petitioner,
vs.
To sum up, we now observe the following rules relative to the REPUBLIC of the PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
disposition of public land or lands of the public domain, namely:
CORONA, J.:
(1) As a general rule and pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine,
all lands of the public domain belong to the State and are
This is a letter-motion praying for reconsideration (for the third time) of
inalienable. Lands that are not clearly under private
the June 16, 2008 resolution of this Court denying the petition for
ownership are also presumed to belong to the State and,
review filed by petitioner Florencia G. Diaz.
therefore, may not be alienated or disposed;

Petitioners late mother, Flora Garcia (Garcia), filed an application for


(2) The following are excepted from the general rule, to wit:
registration of a vast tract of land 1 located in Laur, Nueva Ecija and
Palayan City in the then Court of First Instance (CFI), Branch 1, Nueva

15 | P a g e
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
Ecija on August 12, 1976.2 She alleged that she possessed the land as (1) x x x x x x
owner and worked, developed and harvested the agricultural products (2) x x x x x x
and benefits of the same continuously, publicly and adversely for more (3) x x x x x x
or less 26 years. (4) x x x x x x
(5) x x x x x x

The Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Office of the


Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the application because the land in (6) REVERSE the Resolution dated June 30, 1999 of this
question was within the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR), Court approving the Amicable Settlement dated May 18,
established by virtue of Proclamation No. 237 (Proclamation 237) 3 in 1999 executed between the Office of the Solicitor General
1955. Thus, it was inalienable as it formed part of the public domain. and Florencia Garcia Diaz[;]

Significantly, on November 28, 1975, this Court already ruled (7) ANNUL and SET ASIDE the Amicable Settlement dated
in Director of Lands v. Reyes4 that the property subject of Garcias May 18, 1999 executed between the Office of the Solicitor
application was inalienable as it formed part of a military reservation. General and Florencia Garcia Diaz; the said Amicable
Moreover, the existence of Possessory Information Title No. 216 Settlement is hereby DECLARED to be without force and
(allegedly registered in the name of a certain Melecio Padilla on March effect;
5, 1895), on which therein respondent Paraaque Investment and
Development Corporation anchored its claim on the land, was not
proven. Accordingly, the decree of registration issued in its favor was (8) GRANT the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the Office
declared null and void. of the Solicitor General and, consequently, SET ASIDE the
Resolution dated January 12, 2000 which ordered, among
other matters, that a certificate of title be issued in the name
Reyes notwithstanding, the CFI ruled in Garcias favor in a of plaintiff-appellee Florencia Garcia Diaz over the portion of
decision5 dated July 1, 1981. the subject property in consonance with the Amicable
Settlement dated May 18, 1999 approved by the Court in its
Resolution dated June 30, 1999;
The Republic eventually appealed the decision of the CFI to the Court
of Appeals (CA). In its decision 6 dated February 26, 1992, penned by
Justice Vicente V. Mendoza (Mendoza decision),7 the appellate court (9) SET ASIDE the Resolution dated June 30, 1999
reversed and set aside the decision of the CFI. The CA found approving the May 18, 1999 Amicable Settlement and the
that Reyes was applicable to petitioners case as it involved the same Resolution dated September 20, 1999 amending the
property. aforesaid June 30, 1999 Resolution; and

The CA observed that Garcia also traced her ownership of the land in (10) REINSTATE the Decision dated February 26, 1992
question to Possessory Information Title No. 216. As Garcias right to dismissing applicant-appellee Diaz registration
the property was largely dependent on the existence and validity of the herein.
possessory information title the probative value of which had already
been passed upon by this Court in Reyes, and inasmuch as the land
was situated inside a military reservation, the CA concluded that she SO ORDERED.
did not validly acquire title thereto. (Emphasis supplied)

During the pendency of the case in the CA, Garcia passed away and Petitioner moved for reconsideration. For the first time, she assailed
was substituted by her heirs, one of whom was petitioner Florencia G. the validity of the Mendoza decision the February 26, 1992 decision
Diaz.81avvphi1 adverted to in the CAs amended resolution. She alleged that Justice
Mendoza was the assistant solicitor general during the initial stages of
the land registration proceedings in the trial court and therefore should
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the Mendoza decision. have inhibited himself when the case reached the CA. His failure to do
While the motion was pending in the CA, petitioner also filed a motion so, she laments, worked an injustice against her constitutional right to
for recall of the records from the former CFI. Without acting on the due process. Thus, the Mendoza decision should be declared null and
motion for reconsideration, the appellate court, with Justice Mendoza void. The motion was denied.14
as ponente, issued a resolution9 upholding petitioners right to recall
the records of the case.
Thereafter, petitioner filed a petition for review on certiorari 15 in this
Court. It was denied for raising factual issues. 16She moved for
Subsequently, however, the CA encouraged the parties to reach an reconsideration.17 This motion was denied with finality on the ground
amicable settlement on the matter and even gave the parties sufficient that there was no substantial argument warranting a modification of
time to draft and finalize the same. the Courts resolution. The Court then ordered that no further
pleadings would be entertained. Accordingly, we ordered entry of
judgment to be made in due course.18
The parties ultimately entered into a compromise agreement with the
Republic withdrawing its claim on the more or less 4,689 hectares
supposedly outside the FMMR. For her part, petitioner withdrew her Petitioner, however, insisted on filing a motion to lift entry of judgment
application for the portion of the property inside the military and motion for leave to file a second motion for reconsideration and to
reservation. They filed a motion for approval of the amicable refer the case to the Supreme Court en banc.19 The Court denied20 it
settlement in the CA.10 considering that a second motion for reconsideration is a prohibited
pleading.21 Furthermore, the motion to refer the case to the bancwas
likewise denied as the banc is not an appellate court to which decisions
On June 30, 1999, the appellate court approved the compromise or resolutions of the divisions may be appealed. 22 We reiterated our
agreement.11 On January 12, 2000, it directed the Land Registration directive that no further pleadings would be entertained and that entry
Administration to issue the corresponding decree of registration in of judgment be made in due course.
petitioners favor.12

Not one to be easily deterred, petitioner wrote identical letters, first


However, acting on a letter written by a certain Atty. Restituto S. addressed to Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing (then Acting Chief
Lazaro, the OSG filed a motion for reconsideration of the CA resolution Justice) and then to Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno himself. 23 The body of
ordering the issuance of the decree of registration. The OSG informed the letter, undoubtedly in the nature of a third motion for
the appellate court that the tract of land subject of the amicable reconsideration, is hereby reproduced in its entirety:
settlement was still within the military reservation.

This is in response to your call for "Moral Forces" in order to "redirect


On April 16, 2007, the CA issued an amended resolution (amended the destiny of our country which is suffering from moral decadence,"
resolution)13 annulling the compromise agreement entered into that to your mind, is the problem which confronts us. (Inquirer, January
between the parties. The relevant part of the dispositive portion of the 15, 2009, page 1)[.]
resolution read:

I recently lost my case with the Supreme Court, G.R. N[o]. 181502, and
ACCORDINGLY, the Court resolves to: my lawyer has done all that is humanly possible to convince the court

16 | P a g e
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
to take a second look at the miscarriage of justice that will result from (3) it must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction
the implementation of the DISMISSAL in a MINUTE RESOLUTION of our over the subject matter and parties; and
Petition for Review.

(4) there must be between the first and second actions,


Pending before your Division (First Division) is a last plea for identity of parties, of subject matter, and of causes of
justice so that the case may be elevated to the Supreme action. 24
Court en banc. I hope the Court exercises utmost prudence in
resolving the last plea. For ready reference, a copy of the
Motion is hereto attached as Annex "A". The first three requisites have undoubtedly been complied with.
However, petitioner takes exception to the fourth requisite, particularly
on the issue of identity of parties. In her petition for review filed in this
The issue that was brought before the Honorable Supreme Court Court, she contends that since the applicants in the two cases are
involves the Decision of then Justice Vicente Mendoza of the Court of different, the merits of the two cases should, accordingly, be
Appeals, which is NULL and VOID, ab initio. determined independently of each other.25

It is null and void because destiny placed Hon. Justice Vicente Mendoza This contention is erroneous.
in a position in which it became possible for him to discharge the
minimum requirement of due process, [i.e.] the ability of the court to
render "impartial justice," because Mr. Justice Mendoza became The facts obtaining in this case closely resemble those in Aquino v.
the ponente of the Court of Appeals Decision, reversing the findings of Director of Lands.26 In that case, Quintin Taedo endeavored to secure
the trial court, notwithstanding the fact that he, as Assistant Solicitor title to a considerable tract of land by virtue of his possession thereof
General, was the very person who appeared on behalf of the Republic, under CA 141. When the case eventually reached this Court, we
as the oppositor in the very same land registration proceedings in affirmed the trial courts decision to dismiss the proceedings as the
which he lost. property in question was part of the public domain. Quintins
successor-in-interest, Florencia Taedo, who despite knowledge of the
proceedings did not participate therein, thereafter sold the same
In other words, he discharged the duties of prosecutor and judge in the property to Benigno S. Aquino. The latter sought to have it registered
very same case. in his name. The question in that case, as well as in this one, was
whether our decision in the case in which another person was the
applicant constituted res judicata as against his successors-in-interest.
In the case of the "Alabang Boys[,]" the public was outraged by the
actions of Atty. Verano who admitted having prepared a simple
resolution to be signed by the Secretary of Justice. We ruled there, and we so rule now, that in registration cases filed
under the provisions of the Public Land Act for the judicial confirmation
of an incomplete and imperfect title, an order dismissing an application
In my case, the act complained of is the worst kind of violation of my for registration and declaring the land as part of the public domain
constitutional right. It is simply immoral, illegal and unconstitutional, constitutes res judicata, not only against the adverse claimant, but also
for the prosecutor to eventually act as the judge, and reverse the very against all persons.27
decision in which he had lost.

We also declared in Aquino that:


If leaked to the tri-media[,] my case will certainly evoke even greater
spite from the public, and put the Supreme Court in bad light. I must
confess that I was tempted to pursue such course of action. I however From another point of view, the decision in the first action has become
believe that such an action will do more harm than good, and even the "law of the case" or at least falls within the rule of stare decisis.
destroy the good name of Hon. Justice Mendoza. That adjudication should be followed unless manifestly erroneous. It
was taken and should be taken as the authoritative view of the highest
tribunal in the Philippines. It is indispensable to the due administration
I fully support your call for "moral force" that will slowly and eventually of justice especially by a court of last resort that a question once
lead our country to redirect its destiny and escape from this moral deliberately examined and decided should be considered as settled
decadence, in which we all find ourselves. and closed to further argument. x x x28

I am content with the fact that at least, the Chief Justice continues to Be that as it may, the fact is that, even before the CFI came out with its
fight the dark forces that surround us everyday. decision in favor of petitioner on July 1, 1981, this Court, in Reyes,
already made an earlier ruling on November 28, 1975 that the disputed
realty was inalienable as it formed part of a military reservation. Thus,
I only ask that the Supreme Court endeavor to ensure that cases such
petitioners argument that the findings of fact of the trial court on her
as mine do not happen again, so that the next person who seeks
registrable title are binding on us on the principle that findings of fact
justice will not experience the pain and frustration that I suffered under
of lower courts are accorded great respect and bind even this Court is
our judicial system.
untenable. Rather, it was incumbent upon the court a quo to respect
this Courts ruling in Reyes, and not the other way around.
Thank you, and more power to you, SIR. (Emphasis in the original).
However, despite having been apprised of the Court's findings
The language of petitioners letter/motion is unmistakable. It is a thinly in Reyes (which should have been a matter of judicial notice in the first
veiled threat precisely worded and calculated to intimidate this Court place), the trial court still insisted on its divergent finding and
into giving in to her demands to honor an otherwise legally infirm disregarded the Court's decision in Reyes, declaring the subject land as
compromise agreement, at the risk of being vilified in the media and forming part of a military reservation, and thus outside the commerce
by the public. of man.

This Court will not be cowed into submission. We deny petitioners By not applying our ruling in Reyes, the trial judge virtually nullified the
letter/third motion for reconsideration. decision of this Court and therefore acted with grave abuse of
discretion.29 Notably, a judgment rendered with grave abuse of
discretion is void and does not exist in legal contemplation. 30
APPLICABILITY OF REYES

All lower courts, especially the trial court concerned in this case, ought
The Court agrees with the Republics position that Reyes is applicable to be reminded that it is their duty to obey the decisions of the
to this case. Supreme Court. A conduct becoming of inferior courts demands a
conscious awareness of the position they occupy in the interrelation
and operation of our judicial system. As eloquently declared by Justice
To constitute res judicata, the following elements must concur: J.B. L. Reyes, "There is only one Supreme Court from whose decision all
other courts should take their bearings."31
(1) the former judgment or order must be final;
ACQUISITION OF PRIVATE RIGHTS
(2) the judgment or order must be on the merits;

17 | P a g e
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
Petitioner, however, argues that Proclamation 237 itself recognizes that xxx
its effectivity is "subject to private rights, if any there be."

A mere casual cultivation of portions of the land by the claimant, and


By way of a background, we recognized in Reyes that the property the raising thereon of cattle, do not constitute possession under claim
where the military reservation is situated is forest land. Thus: of ownership. In that sense, possession is not exclusive and notorious
as to give rise to a presumptive grant from the State. While grazing
livestock over land is of course to be considered with other acts of
Before the military reservation was established, the evidence is dominion to show possession, the mere occupancy of land by grazing
inconclusive as to possession, for it is shown by the evidence that the livestock upon it, without substantial inclosures, or other permanent
land involved is largely mountainous and forested. As a matter of improvements, is not sufficient to support a claim of title thru
fact, at the time of the hearing, it was conceded acquisitive prescription. The possession of public land, however long
that approximately 13,957 hectares of said land consist of public the period may have extended, never confers title thereto upon the
forest. x x x (Emphasis supplied)32 possessor because the statute of limitations with regard to public land
does not operate against the State unless the occupant can prove
possession and occupation of the same under claim of ownership for
Concomitantly, we stated therein, and we remind petitioner now, that
the required number of years to constitute a grant from the State. 38
forest lands are not registrable under CA 141.

xxx
[E]ven more important, Section 48[b] of CA No. 141, as amended,
applies exclusively to public agricultural land. Forest lands or area
covered with forest are excluded. It is well-settled that forest land Furthermore, the fact that the possessory information title on which
is incapable of registration; and its inclusion in a title, whether petitioner also bases her claim of ownership was found to be inexistent
such title be one issued using the Spanish sovereignty or in Reyes,39 thus rendering its probative value suspect, further militates
under the present Torrens system of registration, nullifies the against granting her application for registration.
title. (Emphasis supplied).33

NULLITY OF COMPROMISE AGREEMENT


However, it is true that forest lands may be registered when they have
been reclassified as alienable by the President in a clear and
categorical manner (upon the recommendation of the proper On the compromise agreement between the parties, we agree with the
department head who has the authority to classify the lands of the CA that the same was null and void.
public domain into alienable or disposable, timber and mineral
lands)34 coupled with possession by the claimant as well as that of her
predecessors-in-interest. Unfortunately for petitioner, she was not able An amicable settlement or a compromise agreement is in the nature of
to produce such evidence. Accordingly, her occupation thereof, and a contract and must necessarily comply with the provisions of Article
that of her predecessors-in-interest, could not have ripened into 1318 of the New Civil Code which provides:
ownership of the subject land. This is because prior to the conversion
of forest land as alienable land, any occupation or possession thereof Art. 1318. There is no contract unless the following requisites concur:
cannot be counted in reckoning compliance with the thirty-year
possession requirement under Commonwealth Act 141 (CA 141) or the
Public Land Act.35 This was our ruling in Almeda v. CA.36 The rules on (1) Consent of the contracting parties;
the confirmation of imperfect titles do not apply unless and until the
land classified as forest land is released through an official
proclamation to that effect. Then and only then will it form part of the (2) Object certain which is the subject matter of the contract;
disposable agricultural lands of the public domain.37
(3) Cause of the obligation which is established.
Coming now to petitioners contention that her "private rights" to the
property, meaning her and her predecessors possession
thereof prior to the establishment of the FMMR, must be respected, the Petitioner was not able to provide any proof that the consent of the
same is untenable. As earlier stated, we had already recognized the Republic, through the appropriate government agencies, i.e. the
same land to be public forest even before the FMMR was established. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Land Management
To reiterate: Bureau, Land Registration Authority, and the Office of the President,
was secured by the OSG when it executed the agreement with
her.40 The lack of authority on the part of the OSG rendered the
Before the military reservation was established, the evidence is compromise agreement between the parties null and void because
inconclusive as to possession, for it is shown by the evidence that the although it is the duty of the OSG to represent the State in cases
land involved is largely mountainous and forested. As a matter of fact, involving land registration proceedings, it must do so only within the
at the time of the hearing, it was conceded that approximately 13,957 scope of the authority granted to it by its principal, the Republic of the
hectares of said land consist of public forest. x x x Philippines.41

Therefore, even if possession was for more than 30 years, it could In this case, although the OSG was authorized to appear as counsel for
never ripen to ownership. respondent, it was never given the specific or special authority to enter
into a compromise agreement with petitioner. This is in violation of the
provisions of Rule 138 Section 23, of the Rules of Court which requires
But even assuming that the land in question was alienable land before "special authority" for attorneys to bind their clients.
it was established as a military reservation, there was nevertheless still
a dearth of evidence with respect to its occupation by petitioner and
her predecessors-in-interest for more than 30 years. In Reyes, we Section 23. Authority of attorneys to bind clients. Attorneys have
noted: authority to bind their clients in any case by any agreement in relation
thereto made in writing, and in taking appeals, and in all matters of
ordinary judicial procedure. But they cannot, without special
Evidently, Melecio Padilla, having died on February 9, 1900, barely five authority, compromise their clients litigation, or receive
(5) years after the inscription of the informacion possessoria, could not anything in discharge of a clients claim but the full amount in cash.
have converted the same into a record of ownership twenty (20) years (Emphasis supplied).
after such inscription, pursuant to Article 393 of the Spanish Mortgage
Law.
Moreover, the land in question could not have been a valid subject
matter of a contract because, being forest land, it was inalienable.
xxx Article 1347 of the Civil Code provides:

During the lifetime of Melecio Padilla, only a small portion thereof was Art. 1347. All things which are not outside the commerce of
cleared and cultivated under the kaingin system, while some portions men, including future things, may be the object of a
were used as grazing land. After his death, his daughter, Maria Padilla, contract. All rights which are not intransmissible may also be the
caused the planting of vegetables and had about forty (40) tenants for object of contracts.
the purpose. During the Japanese occupation, Maria Padilla died. x x x

18 | P a g e
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
No contract may be entered into upon future inheritance except in . . . endeavor to ensure that cases such as mine do not happen again,
cases expressly authorized by law. so that the next person who seeks justice will not experience the pain
and frustration that I suffered under our judicial system.

All services which are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public
order or public policy may likewise be the object of a contract. When required to show cause why she should not be cited for
(Emphasis supplied) contempt for her baseless charges and veiled threats, petitioner
answered:

Finally, the Court finds the cause or consideration of the obligation


contrary to law and against public policy. The agreement provided that, xxx
in consideration of petitioners withdrawal of her application for
registration of title from that portion of the property located within the
military reservation, respondent was withdrawing its claim on that part The Letter of January 26, 2009 is not a "veiled threat[.] It was written in
of the land situated outside said reservation. The Republic could not response to the call of the Chief Justice for a moral revolution.
validly enter into such undertaking as the subject matter of the Juxtaposed against the factual backdrop of the "Alabang Boys" case
agreement was outside the commerce of man. and the Meralco [c]ase, involving Mr. Justice Jose L. Sabio which also
enjoyed wide publicity over the tri-media, petitioner felt that the facts
of the said cases pale in comparison to the facts of her case where the
PETITIONERS CONTEMPT OF COURT lawyer of her opponent eventually became justice of the appellate
court and ended up reversing the very decision in which he lost, in
clear violation of her [c]onstitutional [r]ight to fundamental fair play
This Court, being the very institution that dispenses justice, cannot for no contestant in any litigation can ever serve as a judge without
reasonably be expected to just sit by and do nothing when it comes transgression of the due process clause. This is basic.
under attack.

Petitioner confesses that she may have been emotional in the delivery
That petitioners letter-motion constitutes an attack against the of her piece, because correctly or incorrectly[,] she believes they are
integrity of this Court cannot be denied. Petitioner started her letter irrefutable. If in the course of that emotional delivery, she has offended
innocently enough by stating: your honors sensibilities, she is ready for the punishment, and only
prays that his Court temper its strike with compassion as her letter to
the Chief Justice was never written with a view of threatening the
This is in response to your call for "Moral Forces" in order to "redirect
Court.
the destiny of our country which is suffering from moral decadence,"
that to your mind, is the problem which confronts us. (Inquirer, January
15, 2009, page 1)[.] xxx

It, however, quickly progressed into a barely concealed resentment for Petitioner wrote the Chief Justice in order to obtain redress and
what she perceived as this Courts failure to exercise "utmost correction of the inequity bestowed upon her by destiny. It was never
prudence" in rendering "impartial justice" in deciding her case. meant as a threat.
Petitioner recounted:

The Court now puts an end to petitioners irresponsible insinuations


I recently lost my case with the Supreme Court, G.R. N[o]. 181502, and and threats of "going public" with this case. We are not blind to
my lawyer has done all that is humanly possible to convince the court petitioners clever and foxy interplay of threats alternating with false
to take a second look at the miscarriage of justice that will result concern for the reputation of this Court.
from the implementation of the DISMISSAL in a MINUTE
RESOLUTION of our Petition for Review.
It is well to remind petitioner that the Court has consistently rendered
justice with neither fear nor favor. The disposition in this case was
Pending before your Division (First Division) is a last plea for arrived at after a careful and thorough deliberation of the facts of this
justice so that the case may be elevated to the Supreme case and all the matters pertaining thereto. The records of the case, in
Court en banc. I hope the Court exercises utmost prudence in fact, show that all the pertinent issues raised by petitioner were passed
resolving the last plea. For ready reference, a copy of the upon and sufficiently addressed by the appellate court and this Court
Motion is hereto attached as Annex "A". in their respective resolutions.

The issue that was brought before the Honorable Supreme Court As to petitioners complaint regarding this Courts denial of her petition
involves the Decision of then Justice Vicente Mendoza of the Court of through a mere minute resolution (which allegedly deprived her of due
Appeals, which is NULL and VOID, ab initio. process as the Court did not issue a full-blown decision stating the
facts and applicable jurisprudence), suffice it to say that the Court is
not duty-bound to issue decisions or resolutions signed by the justices
It is null and void because destiny placed Hon. Justice Vicente Mendoza
all the time. It has ample discretion to formulate ponencias, extended
in a position in which it became possible for him to discharge the
resolutions or even minute resolutions issued by or upon its authority,
minimum requirement of due process, [i.e.] the ability of the court to
depending on its evaluation of a case, as long as a legal basis exists.
render "impartial justice," because Mr. Justice Mendoza became
When a minute resolution (signed by the Clerk of Court upon orders of
the ponente of the Court of Appeals Decision, reversing the findings of
the Court) denies or dismisses a petition or motion for reconsideration
the trial court, notwithstanding the fact that he, as Assistant Solicitor
for lack of merit, it is understood that the assailed decision or order,
General, was the very person who appeared on behalf of the Republic,
together with all its findings of fact and legal conclusions, are deemed
as the oppositor in the very same land registration proceedings in
sustained.42
which he lost. (Emphasis supplied).

Furthermore, petitioner has doggedly pursued her case in this Court by


Petitioner then indirectly hints that, when push comes to shove, she
filing three successive motions for reconsideration, including the letter-
has no choice but to expose the irregularity concerning the Mendoza
motion subject of this resolution. This, despite our repeated warnings
decision to the media. This is evident in her arrogant declaration that:
that "no further pleadings shall be entertained in this case." Her
unreasonable persistence constitutes utter defiance of this Courts
If leaked to the tri-media[,] my case will certainly evoke even greater orders and an abuse of the rules of procedure. This, alongside her
spite from the public, and put the Supreme Court in bad light. thinly veiled threats to leak her case to the media to gain public
sympathy although the tone of petitioners compliance with our
show-cause resolution was decidedly subdued compared to her earlier
But she hastens to add in the same breath that: letters constitutes contempt of court.

I must confess that I was tempted to pursue such course of action. I In Republic v. Unimex,43 we held:
however believe that such an action will do more harm than good, and
even destroy the good name of Hon. Justice Mendoza.
A statement of this Court that no further pleadings would be
entertained is a declaration that the Court has already considered all
Petitioner ends her letter by taking this Court to task: issues presented by the parties and that it has adjudicated the case

19 | P a g e
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
with finality. It is a directive to the parties to desist from filing any
further pleadings or motions. Like all orders of this Court, it must be
strictly observed by the parties. It should not be circumvented by filing
motions ill-disguised as requests for clarification.

A FEW OBSERVATIONS

If petitioner was, as she adamantly insists, only guarding her


constitutional right to due process, then why did she question the
validity of the Mendoza decision late in the proceedings, that is, only
after her motion for reconsideration in the CA (for its subsequent
annulment of the compromise agreement) was denied? It is obvious
that it was only when her case became hopeless that her present
counsel frantically searched for some ground, any ground to
resuscitate his clients lost cause, subsequently raising the issue. This
is evident from a statement in her petition to this Court that:

It is this fresh discovery by the undersigned counsel of the


nullity of the proceedings of the Court of Appeals that places in
doubt the entire proceedings it previously conducted, which led to the
rendition of the February 26, 1992 Decision, a fact that escaped the
scrutiny of applicant for registration Flora L. Garcia, as well as
her lawyer, Atty. Cayetano Dante Diaz, who died in 1993, and the
late Justice Fernando A. Santiago, who stood as counsel
for Flora L. Garcias successor-in-interest, herein petitioner,
Florencia G. Garcia.44(Emphasis supplied).

The above cited statement does not help petitioners cause at all. If
anything, it only proves how desperate the case has become for
petitioner and her counsel.

WHEREFORE, the letter-motion dated January 26, 2009 of petitioner


is NOTED and is hereby treated as a third motion for reconsideration.
The motion is DENIED considering that a third motion for
reconsideration is a prohibited pleading and the plea utterly lacks
merit.

Petitioner is found GUILTY of contempt of court. Accordingly, a FINE of


Five Thousand Pesos is hereby imposed on her, payable within ten days
from receipt of this resolution. She is hereby WARNED that any
repetition hereof shall be dealt with more severely.

Treble costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 173423 March 5, 2014

SPS. ANTONIO FORTUNA and ERLINDA FORTUNA, Petitioners,


vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

BRION, J.:

Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari 1 filed by the


petitioners, spouses Antonio and Erlinda Fortuna, assailing the decision
dated May 16, 20052 and the resolution dated June 27, 2006 3 of the
Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 71143. The CA reversed and
set aside the decision dated May 7, 2001 4 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of San Fernando, La Union, Branch 66, in Land Registration Case
(LRC) No. 2372.

THE BACKGROUND FACTS

20 | P a g e
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
In December 1994, the spouses Fortuna filed an application for They allege that although Tax Declaration No. 8366 was made in 1948,
registration of a 2,597-square meter land identified as Lot No. 4457, this does not contradict that fact that Pastora possessed Lot No. 4457
situated in Bo. Canaoay, San Fernando, La Union. The application was before 1948. The failure to present documentary evidence proving
filed with the RTC and docketed as LRC No. 2372. possession earlier than 1948 was explained by Filma Salazar, Records
Officer of the Provincial Assessors Office, who testified that the records
were lost beyond recovery due to the outbreak of World War II.
The spouses Fortuna stated that Lot No. 4457 was originally owned by
Pastora Vendiola, upon whose death was succeeded by her children,
Clemente and Emeteria Nones. Through an affidavit of adjudication Notwithstanding the absence of documents executed earlier than
dated August 3, 1972, Emeteria renounced all her interest in Lot No. 1948, the spouses Fortuna contend that evidence exists indicating that
4457 in favor of Clemente. Clemente later sold the lot in favor of Pastora possessed the lot even before 1948. First, Tax Declaration No.
Rodolfo Cuenca on May 23, 1975. Rodolfo sold the same lot to the 8366 does not contain a statement that it is a new tax declaration.
spouses Fortuna through a deed of absolute sale dated May 4, 1984. Second, the annotation found at the back of Tax Declaration No. 8366
states that "this declaration cancels Tax Nos. 10543[.]" 14 Since Tax
Declaration No. 8366 was issued in 1948, the cancelled Tax Declaration
The spouses Fortuna claimed that they, through themselves and their No. 10543 was issued, at the latest, in 1947, indicating that there was
predecessors-in-interest, have been in quiet, peaceful, adverse and already an owner and possessor of the lot before 1948. Third, they rely
uninterrupted possession of Lot No. 4457 for more than 50 years, and on the testimony of one Macaria Flores in LRC No. 2373. LRC No. 2373
submitted as evidence the lots survey plan, technical description, and was also commenced by the spouses Fortuna to register Lot Nos. 4462,
certificate of assessment. 27066, and 27098,15 which were also originally owned by Pastora and
are adjacent to the subject Lot No. 4457. Macaria testified that she was
born in 1926 and resided in a place a few meters from the three lots.
Although the respondent, Republic of the Philippines (Republic),
She stated that she regularly passed by these lots on her way to school
opposed the application,5 it did not present any evidence in support of
since 1938. She knew the property was owned by Pastora because the
its opposition. Since no private opposition to the registration was filed,
latters family had constructed a house and planted fruit-bearing trees
the RTC issued an order of general default on November 11, 1996
thereon; they also cleaned the area. On the basis of Macarias
against the whole world, except the Republic.6
testimony and the other evidence presented in LRC No. 2373, the RTC
granted the spouses Fortunas application for registration of Lot Nos.
In its Decision dated May 7, 2001, 7 the RTC granted the application for 4462, 27066, and 27098 in its decision of January 3, 2005. 16 The RTCs
registration in favor of the spouses Fortuna. The RTC declared that decision has lapsed into finality unappealed.
"[the spouses Fortuna] have established [their] possession, including
that of their predecessors-in-interest of the land sought to be
The spouses Fortuna claim that Macarias testimony in LRC No. 2373
registered, has been open, continuous, peaceful, adverse against the
should be considered to prove Pastoras possession prior to 1948.
whole world and in the concept of an owner since 1948, or for a period
Although LRC No. 2373 is a separate registration proceeding, it
of over fifty (50) years."8
pertained to lots adjacent to the subject property, Lot No. 4457, and
belonged to the same predecessor-in-interest. Explaining their failure
The Republic appealed the RTC decision with the CA, arguing that the to present Macaria in the proceedings before the RTC in LRC No. 2372,
spouses Fortuna did not present an official proclamation from the the spouses Fortuna said "it was only after the reception of evidence x
government that the lot has been classified as alienable and x x that [they] were able to trace and establish the identity and
disposable agricultural land. It also claimed that the spouses Fortunas competency of Macaria[.]"17
evidence Tax Declaration No. 8366 showed that possession over the
lot dates back only to 1948, thus, failing to meet the June 12, 1945 cut-
Commenting on the spouses Fortunas petition, the Republic relied
off period provided under Section 14(1) of Presidential Decree (PD) No.
mostly on the CAs ruling which denied the registration of title and
1529 or the Property Registration Decree (PRD).
prayed for the dismissal of the petition.

In its decision dated May 16, 2005, 9 the CA reversed and set aside the
THE COURTS RULING
RTC decision. Although it found that the spouses Fortuna were able to
establish the alienable and disposable nature of the land, 10 they failed
to show that they complied with the length of possession that the law We deny the petition for failure of the spouses Fortuna to sufficiently
requires, i.e., since June 12, 1945. It agreed with the Republics prove their compliance with the requisites for the acquisition of title to
argument that Tax Declaration No. 8366 only showed that the spouses alienable lands of the public domain.
Fortunas predecessor-in-interest, Pastora, proved that she had been in
possession of the land only since 1948.
The nature of Lot No. 4457 as alienable and
disposable public land has not been sufficiently
The CA denied the spouses Fortunas motion for reconsideration of its established
decision in its resolution dated June 27, 2006.11

The Constitution declares that all lands of the public domain are owned
THE PARTIES ARGUMENTS by the State.18 Of the four classes of public land, i.e., agricultural lands,
forest or timber lands, mineral lands, and national parks, only
agricultural lands may be alienated. 19 Public land that has not been
Through the present petition, the spouses Fortuna seek a review of the
classified as alienable agricultural land remains part of the inalienable
CA rulings.
public domain. Thus, it is essential for any applicant for registration of
title to land derived through a public grant to establish foremost the
They contend that the applicable law is Section 48(b) of alienable and disposable nature of the land. The PLA provisions on the
Commonwealth Act No. 141 or the Public Land Act (PLA), as amended grant and disposition of alienable public lands, specifically, Sections 11
by Republic Act (RA) No. 1942. RA No. 1942 amended the PLA by and 48(b), will find application only from the time that a public land has
requiring 30 years of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious been classified as agricultural and declared as alienable and
possession to acquire imperfect title over an agricultural land of the disposable.
public domain. This 30-year period, however, was removed by PD No.
1073 and instead required that the possession should be since June 12,
Under Section 6 of the PLA, 20 the classification and the reclassification
1945. The amendment introduced by PD No. 1073 was carried in
of public lands are the prerogative of the Executive Department. The
Section 14(1) of the PRD.12
President, through a presidential proclamation or executive order, can
classify or reclassify a land to be included or excluded from the public
The spouses Fortuna point out that PD No. 1073 was issued on January domain. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources
25, 1977 and published on May 9, 1977; and the PRD was issued on (DENR) Secretary is likewise empowered by law to approve a land
June 11, 1978 and published on January 2, 1979. On the basis of the classification and declare such land as alienable and disposable.21
Courts ruling in Taada, et al. v. Hon. Tuvera, etc., et al., 13 they allege
that PD No. 1073 and the PRD should be deemed effective only on May
Accordingly, jurisprudence has required that an applicant for
24, 1977 and January 17, 1979, respectively. By these dates, they
registration of title acquired through a public land grant must present
claim to have already satisfied the 30-year requirement under the RA
incontrovertible evidence that the land subject of the application is
No. 1942 amendment because Pastoras possession dates back, at the
alienable or disposable by establishing the existence of a positive act
latest, to 1947.
of the government, such as a presidential proclamation or an executive

21 | P a g e
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
order; an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona
Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute. fide claim of acquisition or ownership, except as against the
Government, since July twenty-sixth, eighteen hundred and ninety-
four, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be
In this case, the CA declared that the alienable nature of the land was conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential
established by the notation in the survey plan,22 which states: to a government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title
under the provisions of this chapter. [emphasis supplied]
This survey is inside alienable and disposable area as per Project No.
13 L.C. Map No. 1395 certified August 7, 1940. It is outside any civil or On June 22, 1957, the cut-off date of July 26, 1894 was replaced by a
military reservation.23 30-year period of possession under RA No. 1942. Section 48(b) of the
PLA, as amended by RA No. 1942, read:
It also relied on the Certification dated July 19, 1999 from the DENR
Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) that (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest
"there is, per record, neither any public land application filed nor title have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
previously issued for the subject parcel[.]" 24 However, we find that occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide
neither of the above documents is evidence of a positive act from the claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years immediately
government reclassifying the lot as alienable and disposable preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title, except
agricultural land of the public domain. when prevented by war or force majeure. [emphasis and underscore
ours]
Mere notations appearing in survey plans are inadequate proof of the
covered properties alienable and disposable character. 25 These On January 25, 1977, PD No. 1073 replaced the 30-year period of
notations, at the very least, only establish that the land subject of the possession by requiring possession since June 12, 1945. Section 4 of
application for registration falls within the approved alienable and PD No. 1073 reads:
disposable area per verification through survey by the proper
government office. The applicant, however, must also present a copy
of the original classification of the land into alienable and disposable SEC. 4. The provisions of Section 48(b) and Section 48(c), Chapter VIII
land, as declared by the DENR Secretary or as proclaimed by the of the Public Land Act are hereby amended in the sense that these
President.26 In Republic v. Heirs of Juan Fabio,27 the Court ruled that provisions shall apply only to alienable and disposable lands of the
[t]he applicant for land registration must prove that the DENR public domain which have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
Secretary had approved the land classification and released the land of notorious possession and occupation by the applicant himself or thru
the public domain as alienable and disposable, and that the land his predecessor-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of
subject of the application for registration falls within the approved area ownership, since June 12, 1945. [emphasis supplied]
per verification through survey by the PENRO 28 or CENRO. In addition,
the applicant must present a copy of the original classification of the
land into alienable and disposable, as declared by the DENR Secretary, Under the PD No. 1073 amendment, possession of at least 32 years
or as proclaimed by the President. from 1945 up to its enactment in 1977 is required. This effectively
impairs the vested rights of applicants who had complied with the 30-
year possession required under the RA No. 1942 amendment, but
The survey plan and the DENR-CENRO certification are not proof that whose possession commenced only after the cut-off date of June 12,
the President or the DENR Secretary has reclassified and released the 1945 was established by the PD No. 1073 amendment. To remedy this,
public land as alienable and disposable. The offices that prepared the Court ruled in Abejaron v. Nabasa 30that "Filipino citizens who by
these documents are not the official repositories or legal custodian of themselves or their predecessors-in-interest have been, prior to the
the issuances of the President or the DENR Secretary declaring the effectivity of P.D. 1073 on January 25, 1977, in open, continuous,
public land as alienable and disposable.29 exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands
of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of
ownership, for at least 30 years, or at least since January 24, 1947 may
For failure to present incontrovertible evidence that Lot No. 4457 has apply for judicial confirmation of their imperfect or incomplete title
been reclassified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain under Sec. 48(b) of the [PLA]." January 24, 1947 was considered as the
though a positive act of the Executive Department, the spouses cut-off date as this was exactly 30 years counted backward from
Fortunas claim of title through a public land grant under the PLA January 25, 1977 the effectivity date of PD No. 1073.
should be denied.

It appears, however, that January 25, 1977 was the date PD No. 1073
In judicial confirmation of imperfect was enacted; based on the certification from the National Printing
or incomplete title, the period of Office,31 PD No. 1073 was published in Vol. 73, No. 19 of the Official
possession should commence, at the Gazette, months later than its enactment or on May 9, 1977. This
latest, as of May 9, 1947 uncontroverted fact materially affects the cut-off date for applications
for judicial confirmation of incomplete title under Section 48(b) of the
PLA.
Although the above finding that the spouses Fortuna failed to establish
the alienable and disposable character of Lot No. 4457 serves as
sufficient ground to deny the petition and terminate the case, we deem Although Section 6 of PD No. 1073 states that "[the] Decree shall take
it proper to continue to address the other important legal issues raised effect upon its promulgation," the Court has declared in Taada, et al.
in the petition. v. Hon. Tuvera, etc., et al.32 that the publication of laws is an
indispensable requirement for its effectivity. "[A]ll statutes, including
those of local application and private laws, shall be published as a
As mentioned, the PLA is the law that governs the grant and
condition for their effectivity, which shall begin fifteen days after
disposition of alienable agricultural lands. Under Section 11 of the PLA,
publication unless a different effectivity date is fixed by the
alienable lands of the public domain may be disposed of, among
legislature."33 Accordingly, Section 6 of PD No. 1073 should be
others, by judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title. This
understood to mean that the decree took effect only upon its
mode of acquisition of title is governed by Section 48(b) of the PLA, the
publication, or on May 9, 1977. This, therefore, moves the cut-off date
original version of which states:
for applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title
under Section 48(b) of the PLA to May 8, 1947. In other words,
Sec. 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying applicants must prove that they have been in open, continuous,
lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands
interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of
completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province ownership, for at least 30 years, or at least since May 8, 1947.
where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the
issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration
The spouses Fortuna were unable to prove
Act, to wit:
that they possessed Lot No. 4457 since May 8, 1947

xxxx
Even if the Court assumes that Lot No. 4457 is an alienable and
disposable agricultural land of the public domain, the spouses
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in- interest Fortunas application for registration of title would still not prosper for
have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession

22 | P a g e
LAND TITLES AND DEEDS Judicial Confirmation of Imperfect or
Incomplete Titles
failure to sufficiently prove that they possessed the land since May 8, scrutinize with care applications to private ownership of real estate. To
1947. be granted, they must be grounded in well-nigh incontrovertible
evidence. Where, as in this case, no such proof would be forthcoming,
there is no justification for viewing such claim with favor. It is a basic
The spouses Fortunas allegation that: (1) the absence of a notation assumption of our polity that lands of whatever classification belong to
that Tax Declaration No. 8366 was a new tax declaration and (2) the the state. Unless alienated in accordance with law, it retains its rights
notation stating that Tax Declaration No. 8366 cancels the earlier Tax over the same as do minus.
Declaration No. 10543 both indicate that Pastora possessed the land
prior to 1948 or, at the earliest, in 1947. We also observe that Tax
Declaration No. 8366 contains a sworn statement of the owner that WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The decision dated May 16, 2005
was subscribed on October 23, 1947.34 While these circumstances may and the resolution dated June 27, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-
indeed indicate possession as of 1947, none proves that it commenced G.R. CV No. 71143 are AFFIRMED insofar as these dismissed the
as of the cut-off date of May 8, 1947. Even if the tax declaration spouses Antonio and Erlinda Fortuna's application of registration of title
indicates possession since 1947, it does not show the nature of on the basis of the grounds discussed above. Costs against the
Pastoras possession. Notably, Section 48(b) of the PLA speaks of spouses Fortuna.
possession and occupation. "Since these words are separated by the
conjunction and, the clear intention of the law is not to make one
synonymous with the other. Possession is broader than occupation SO ORDERED.
because it includes constructive possession. When, therefore, the law
adds the word occupation, it seeks to delimit the all encompassing
effect of constructive possession. Taken together with the words open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious, the word occupation serves to
highlight the fact that for an applicant to qualify, his possession must
not be a mere fiction."35 Nothing in Tax Declaration No. 8366 shows
that Pastora exercised acts of possession and occupation such as
cultivation of or fencing off the land. Indeed, the lot was described as
"cogonal."36

The spouses Fortuna seeks to remedy the defects of Tax Declaration


No. 8366 by relying on Macarias testimony in a separate land
registration proceeding, LRC No. 2373. Macaria alleged that she passed
by Pastoras lots on her way to school, and she saw Pastoras family
construct a house, plant fruit-bearing trees, and clean the area.
However, the Court is not convinced that Macarias testimony
constituted as the "well-nigh incontrovertible evidence" required in
cases of this nature.

The records disclose that the spouses Fortuna acquired adjoining


parcels of land, all of which are claimed to have previously belonged to
Pastora. These parcels of land were covered by three separate
applications for registration, to wit:

a. LRC No. N-1278, involving Lot Nos. 1 and 2, with a total


area of 2,961 sq. m., commenced by Emeteria;

b. LRC No. 2373, involving Lot Nos. 4462, 27066, and 27098,
with a total area of 4,006 sq. m., commenced by the spouses
Fortuna; and

c. LRC No. 2372 (the subject case), involving Lot No. 4457,
with a total area of 2,597 sq. m.

As these cases involved different but adjoining lots that belonged to


the same predecessor-in-interest, the spouses Fortuna alleged that the
final rulings in LRC Nos. N-1278 and 2373, 37 upholding Pastoras
ownership, be taken into account in resolving the present case.

Notably, the total land area of the adjoining lots that are claimed to
have previously belonged to Pastora is 9,564 sq. m. This is too big an
area for the Court to consider that Pastoras claimed acts of possession
and occupation (as testified to by Macaria) encompassed the entirety
of the lots. Given the size of the lots, it is unlikely that Macaria (age 21
in 1947) could competently assess and declare that its entirety
belonged to Pastora because she saw acts of possession and
occupation in what must have been but a limited area. As mentioned,
Tax Declaration No. 8366 described Lot No. 4457 as "cogonal," thus,
Macaria could not have also been referring to Lot No. 4457 when she
said that Pastora planted fruit-bearing trees on her properties.

The lower courts' final rulings in LRC Nos. N-1278 and 2373, upholding
Pastora's possession, do not tie this Court's hands into ruling in favor of
the spouses Fortuna. Much to our dismay, the rulings in LRC Nos. N-
1278 and 2373 do not even show that the lots have been officially
reclassified as alienable lands of the public domain or that the nature
and duration of Pastora's occupation met the requirements of the PLA,
thus, failing to convince us to either disregard the rules of evidence or
consider their merits. In this regard, we reiterate our directive in
Santiago v. De las Santos:38

Both under the 193 5 and the present Constitutions, the conservation
no less than the utilization of the natural resources is ordained. There
would be a failure to abide by its command if the judiciary does not

23 | P a g e