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Law on NatRes (23-49) 1

ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KALIBO, AKLAN, represented by BISHOP JUAN N. NILMAR, vs. MUNICIPALITY OF
BURUANGA, AKLAN, represented by the HON. PROTACIO S. OBRIQUE; G.R. No. 149145; March 31, 2006; CALLEJO,
SR., J.:

Before the Court is the petition for review on certiorari filed by the Roman Catholic Bishop 1 of Kalibo, Aklan, seeking the partial
review of the Decision2 dated January 31, 2001 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 52626. Likewise sought to be
reviewed is the Resolution dated July 18, 2001 of the appellate court denying the petitioners motion for partial reconsideration.

Factual and Procedural Antecedents

Some time in 1990, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo, Aklan, filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) thereof a complaint
for declaration of ownership and quieting of title to land with prayer for preliminary injunction against the Municipality of
Buruanga, Aklan. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 4164 and raffled to Branch 1 of the said RTC.

The complaint alleged, among others, that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo is the lawful owner and possessor of a parcel
of residential and commercial land (Cadastral Lot No. 138) located at the poblacion of the Municipality of Buruanga, Aklan.
The said lot, with an area of 9,545 square meters, is a block bounded by four streets on all sides. It is more particularly
described as follows:

A parcel of commercial and residential land known as Cadastral Lot No. 138, GSS-06-00012, located at Poblacion, Buruanga,
Aklan, containing an area of NINE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED FORTY- FIVE (9,545) SQUARE METERS, more or less.
Bounded on the North by Viven Ostan Street; on the East by the Provincial Road; on the South by Nitoy Sualog Street; and on
the West by Emilio Ostan Street, and declared for taxation purposes in the name of the Roman Catholic Church, Buruanga,
Aklan, under Tax Declaration No. 6339 (1985) and assessed at P23,850.00, including the improvements thereon. 3

In 1894, the Roman Catholic Church was built in the middle portion of the said lot and has been in existence since then up to
the present.

The complaint further alleged that some time in 1978, 4 the Municipality of Buruanga constructed its municipal building on the
northeastern portion of the subject lot after it obtained the permission of Fr. Jesus Patio, then parish priest of Buruanga. The
municipality promised to vfgttttttttttremove all the improvements it constructed thereon if and when the Roman Catholic Bishop
of Kalibo needed the said land.

In October 1989, the said municipal building was razed by fire allegedly perpetrated by members of the New Peoples Army.
On November 25, 1989, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo, through its counsel, wrote to the Municipal Mayor of Buruanga
requesting the officials of the said municipality to refrain from constructing its new building on the same site because it is the
property of the church. Further, it needed the said land for its social action projects. The letter reads in part:

I am writing you on behalf of my client THE ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KALIBO, AKLAN, a corporation sole and
represented by Bishop Juan N. Nilmar requesting you and the Honorable Members of the Municipal Council (Sangguniang
Bayan) to refrain from constructing your new Municipal Building on the same site where your old Municipal Building was
burned down because it is constructed on the property of the Church.

Please be informed that the land of the Church is needed for its social action projects and additional building, hence, kindly
relocate your New Municipal Building in your own land located along Emilio Ostan Street, known as Cadastral Lot No. 87.

With respect to your other public buildings such as the Rural Hospital, Buruanga Community Medicare Hospital, the Basketball
Court and the Grandstand which are all occupying the Church property, you can continue using the same land subject to your
recognition of the true ownership of the property of the Church The Roman Catholic Church of Buruanga, Aklan, under the
Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo, Aklan, the lawful administrator of all church properties in the Province of Aklan. 5

On March 12, 1990, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo wrote the Department of Public Works and Highways of the said
province requesting the said office not to issue any building permit to the Municipal Mayor and/or the Municipality of Buruanga
in connection with the construction of its municipal building on the land owned by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo. 6

These letters went unheeded as the construction of the new municipal building on the same site proceeded. Consequently, the
Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo filed the complaint a quo and prayed that it be declared the lawful owner and possessor of
Lot 138. It likewise prayed that a temporary restraining order be issued to enjoin the said municipality and its authorized
representatives from constructing the new municipal building thereon and that the latter be directed to pay damages to the
Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 2
In itsAnswer,7 the Municipality of Buruanga, represented by Mayor Protacio Obrique, denied that the Roman Catholic Bishop
of Kalibo ever acquired ownership and possession over the land subject of the complaint. It raised as affirmative defenses that
the said lot was surveyed as property of the municipality on February 3, 1909 in accordance with Section 58 of Act 926 by
A.W. Bushell and approved by the Bureau of Lands on May 15, 1909. 8 Thereafter, a decree was issued on March 14, 1919 in
favor of the Municipality of Buruanga under Case No. 12871 of then Court of Land Registration, Bureau of Lands.

It was further alleged that the said land was again surveyed in the name of the Municipality of Buruanga under Act No. 2259
and denominated as Lot No. 138 GSS-06-00012 from the approved cadastral map and that the said municipality alone had
possessed the said land under the claim of title exclusively for over fifty (50) years, exclusive of all other rights and adverse to
all other claimants.

The Municipality of Buruanga urged the court a quo to dismiss the complaint and, instead, declare it the absolute and
exclusive owner of the disputed lot.

On November 29, 1990, the court a quo issued the Order 9 appointing Geodetic Engineer Rodrigo Santiago of the Bureau of
Lands as

Commissioner and directing him to identify and delineate the lot in question.

In compliance therewith, Engr. Santiago submitted the Commissioners Report and Sketch stating in part:

That as per order of the court dated November 29, 1990 to delineate the land[in] question, the undersigned court
commissioner notified both parties and the schedule of survey was January 12, 1991 but it was postponed and moved to
January 15 as requested by the representative from the Municipality of Buruanga.

That the land in question involved was pointed to me by the Honorable Mayor of the Municipality of Buruanga, identified on the
plan as [L]ot 138 located at Poblacion Buruanga with survey no. GSS-06-00012 approved by the Director Lands last February
19, 1985, listed as Public Plaza on file in the CENR Office Land Management Sector, Kalibo, Aklan.

That the Honorable Mayor of the Municipality of Buruanga pointed also the boundary between the Public Plaza and the
Roman Catholic Church.

The Technical Descriptions are as follows:

Lot 138-A (Public Plaza)

corner 1-2 S86 - 03E 65.54 m.

2-3 S03 - 17E 32.36 m.

3-4 N88 - 54W 71.31 m

4-1 N06 - 33E 35.68 m.

containing an area of 2,319 square meters

Lot 138-B (Roman Catholic Church)

1-2 S86 - 03E 65.54 m.

2-3 S03 - 17E 32.36 m.

3-4 N88 - 54W 71.31 m.

4-1 N06 - 33E 35.68 m.

containing an area of 3,836 square meters

Lot 138-C (Public Plaza)

1-2 N81 - 19W 87.70 m.

2-3 N06 - 33E 38.90 m.


Law on NatRes (23-49) 3
3-4 S83 - 17E 80.35 m.

4-1 S03 - 17E 42.57 m.

containing an area of 3,389 square meters

Consistent with the above technical description, the sketch submitted by Engr. Santiago showed the delineation of Lot 138 into
three parts: Lots 138-A, 138-B and 138-C. The municipal building stood on Lot 138-A; the Roman Catholic Church stood on
Lot 138-B and the municipal health center and the Buruanga Community Medicare building stood on Lot 138-C. It also showed
that portions of Lots 138-A and 138-C were being used as public plaza.

At the pre-trial, the parties stipulated on the following facts:

1. The identity of the lot in question which is Lot 138 consisting of Lots 138-A, 138-B and 138-C as reflected in the
commissioners sketch with an area of 9,544 square meters and subdivided as follows:

Lot 138-A 2,319 square meters

Lot 138-B 3,836 square meters

Lot 138-C 3,389 square meters

2. Lot 138-B is the present site of the Roman Catholic Church of Buruanga. 11

The parties also agreed that the sole issue for resolution is who between the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo and the
Municipality of Buruanga is the owner of Lot 138.

After due trial, the court a quo rendered its Decision dated October 30, 1995 declaring the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo as
the lawful owner and possessor of Lot 138-B and the Municipality of Buruanga as the lawful owner and possessor of Lots 138-
A and 138-C, the said lots being public plaza for public use.

The court a quo found that of the various tax declarations12 presented by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo to support its
claim, only one referred to a portion of Lot 138. Said tax declaration13 covered the church site and the parish house situated
within Lot 138-B. The other pieces of evidence14 could not be relied upon because they contained hearsay information relating
to the disputed lot that occurred before the affiants were born. The affidavit executed by Fr. Jesus Patio 15 stating that he was
the one who gave verbal permission to then Municipal Mayor Pedro Omugtong to construct the municipal building on the
vacant lot owned by the church was not accorded any evidentiary value because he (Fr. Patio) did not testify during the trial.

On the other hand, the court a quo did not give credence to the Municipality of Buruangas Exhibit "1," a microfilm enlargement
of a plan showing that the land consisting of 12,615 square meters was subject of Land Registration Case No. 12871. The
plan showed that the survey was approved on May 15, 1909 and the notations therein indicated that a decree was issued on
March 14, 1919. But no such decree was shown. It was further found by the court a quo that the plan was requested from the
Bureau of Lands Survey Division on December 22, 1976. However, the same was not duly certified by the issuing government
agency. Even assuming that the disputed lot was indeed subject of a land registration proceeding and a decree had been
issued therefor in March 1919, the Municipality of Buruanga, despite lapse of decades, failed to take the necessary judicial
steps for the issuance of a title in its name based on the decree. Neither did it take any other course of action that would
render its title thereto indefeasible.

The court a quo, however, gave probative weight to the testimony of Manuel Sualog, Chief of the Lands Management Section
of the Department of Environment and National Resources, who was presented by the Municipality of Buruanga. Sualog
testified that the disputed lot was the public plaza of the said municipality. Standing thereon are the Roman Catholic Church
and its parish house, the new municipal hall, the rural health center, the barangay community hospital and a basketball court.

During the court a quos ocular inspection conducted on May 7, 1992, the town was celebrating its town fiesta. It observed that
the public was using the whole plaza (in Lots 138-A and 138-C) for the festivities. Also, the existence of the health centers,
basketball court and the municipal hall showed that portions of the disputed lot were being used by the public.

Upon inspection of the church, the court a quo further observed that it was indeed an old stone structure and probably built in
1894, the year carved on its left side entrance. It described the church as "vintage turn-of-the century colonial Filipino church
architecture. Moss and ficus grow out of its wall crevices. The age of the church shows that it has been occupying that
Law on NatRes (23-49) 4
particular space for almost one hundred (100) years long enough for the plaintiff to have possessed it in the concept of owner
continuously, adversely and publicly against the whole world." 16

The court a quo held that the facts of the present case were similar to those in Harty v. Municipality of Victoria, 17 where the
Court ruled that:

For the above reasons, x x x it should be held, as we do hereby hold, that the whole of the land not occupied by the church of
the town of Victoria and its parish house, is a public plaza of said town, of public use and that in consequence thereof, the
defendant is absolved of the complaint without any special ruling as to the costs of both instances. 18

The dispositive portion of the court a quos decision reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

1. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo, Aklan, is declared the lawful owner and possessor of Lot 138-B with an area of 3,836
square meters in the Commissioners Report as against the defendant;

2. Defendant Municipality of Buruanga is declared the lawful owner and possessor of Lot 138-A with an area of 2,319 square
meters and Lot 138-C with an area of 3,389 square meters in the Commissioners Report, said lots being public plaza destined
for public use.19

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo seasonably filed its appeal with the Court of Appeals. It sought the reversal of that
portion of the court a quos judgment adjudicating the ownership of Lots 138-A and 138-C to the Municipality of Buruanga.

During the pendency of the case in the appellate court, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo moved to submit additional
evidence to support its claim of ownership over the entire Lot 138. The additional evidence consisted of affidavits of old
residents of Buruanga stating that the municipal building was constructed on the disputed lot only in the late 1950s. Prior
thereto, the municipal building stood at a place called Sunset Park, a block totally different from the disputed lot. The said
motion was denied by the appellate court on the ground that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo had already been accorded
full opportunity to present its evidence in the court a quo.

The Municipality of Buruanga did not file its appellees brief with the CA. On January 31, 2001, the appellate court rendered
the assailed Decision affirming with modification the decision of the court a quo. The CA affirmed the ownership of the Roman
Catholic Bishop of Kalibo over Lot 138-B but reversed the court a quos ruling relative to the ownership of Lots 138-A and 138-
C. The appellate court declared the said lots property of public dominion, hence, not owned by either of the parties.

The CA stated that the court a quo correctly relied on the ruling in Harty, which was reiterated in Bishop of Calbayog v.
Director of Lands,20 where the Court held that the public plaza and public thoroughfare were not subject to registration by the
church. In the latter case, it was ruled that since neither the Church nor the municipality presented positive proof of ownership
or exclusive possession for an appreciable period of time, and the only indubitable fact was the free and continuous use of the
lot in question by the residents of the town, which had no other public plaza to speak of other than the disputed lot, there was a
strong presumption that the same had been segregated as a public plaza upon the founding of the municipality therein.

As mentioned earlier, the appellate court reversed that portion of the court a quos judgment declaring the Municipality of
Buruanga as the owner of Lots 138-A and 138-C which form part of the public plaza. Citing Articles 419 21 and 42022 of the Civil
Code, the appellate court classified these lots as property of public dominion; hence, not susceptible to private ownership by
the Municipality of Buruanga. The said lots are merely under its jurisdiction and administration. Being intended for the common
and public welfare, they could not be appropriated either by the State or by private persons.

The dispositive portion of the assailed CA decision reads:

WHEREFORE, upon the premises, the appealed decision is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that Lots 138-A and 138-C
are declared property of public dominion not owned by either of the parties. 23

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo moved for a partial reconsideration of the appellate courts ruling that Lots 138-A and
138-C, being the public plaza, are property of public dominion. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Kalibo averred that the
appellate court erred in affirming the finding of the court a quo that these lots comprise the public plaza. It maintained that it
owned the entire Lot 138.

The appellate court denied the motion for partial reconsideration, hence, the recourse to this Court by the Roman Catholic
Bishop of Kalibo (the petitioner).
Law on NatRes (23-49) 5
The Petitioners Arguments

The present petition for review on certiorari alleges that:

I. THE COURT OF APPEALS GRIEVOUSLY ERRED IN RELYING UPON THE CASES OF HARTY V. MUNICIPALITY OF
VICTORIA, TARLAC (13 Phil. 152 [1909]) and BISHOP OF CALBAYOG V. DIRECTOR OF LANDS (45 SCRA 418 [1972]) TO
SUPPORT ITS CONCLUSION THAT THE PETITIONER IS NOT THE OWNER OF LOTS 138-A AND 138-C.

II. THE COURT OF APPEALS GRIEVOUSLY ERRED IN FINDING THAT LOTS 138-A AND 138-C [WHICH ARE WITHIN
THE ORIGINAL LOT 138] ARE PROPERTIES OF THE PUBLIC [DOMAIN] AND NOT SUSCEPTIBLE TO PRIVATE
OWNERSHIP BY THE PETITIONER.

III. THE COURT OF APPEALS GRIEVOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT REFUSED TO RECOGNIZE THAT PETITIONERS
OWNERSHIP OF THE ENTIRE LOT 138 WAS GRANTED AND RECOGNIZED UNDER SPANISH LAW, AND AFFIRMED IN
THE TREATY OF PARIS.24

The petitioner clarifies that it is seeking a partial review of the appellate courts Decision dated January 31, 2001 classifying
Lots 138-A and 138-C as property of public dominion and not susceptible to private ownership and that the petitioner is not
entitled to the possession and ownership thereof. It is not contesting the portion of the CA decision upholding its ownership
over Lot 138-B.

The petitioner opines that the case of Harty, relied upon by the court a quo and the CA to hold that Lots 138-A and 138-C
comprise the public plaza, are inapplicable because the facts therein are not similar to those of the present case. The
petitioner points out that the public plaza referred to in Harty was the lot across the street from the church lot. It was not
referring to the land surrounding the Catholic church and the convent of the town of Victoria, which was bounded by streets on
each of its four sides. Thus, when the Court in Harty limited the ownership of the church to the land "occupied by the church of
the town of Victoria and its parish house," it was not confining the ownership to a portion of the lot on which the church and
parish house were situated. Rather, the Court in Harty referred to the entire lot or block (bounded by a street on each of the
four sides) on which the church and its parish house were erected.

The petitioner asserts that the following facts that have been established support its claim of ownership over the entire Lot 138
as against the claim of the Municipality of Buruanga (respondent municipality):

[a] The church is built in the middle of Lot 138 (which is now Lot 138-B). It was built therein in 1894. The church was almost
100 years old (at the time the case was instituted with the trial court in 1990). x x x

[b] The Municipality of Buruanga is an old municipality constituted or created during the colonial period, when the Philippine
Islands was under the Spanish sovereignty. x x x

[c] No building was built on Lot 138 earlier than or at about the same time as the church. No municipal building was built
around the church for many decades after 1894. x x x

[d] The municipal hall of Buruanga was built on what is now Lot 138-A only in the late 1950s. x x x

[e] It was not controverted by the private respondent that then Mayor Omugtong of Buruanga sought and obtained the
permission of the then parish priest, Fr. Jesus Patino, to allow the municipal government to build its municipal hall on Lot 138-
A in the late 1950s only. x x x

[f] No evidence was adduced by private respondent that it had obtained title of Lot 138-A or 138-C from the church (the owner
of these lots) or that its possession of any portion of Lot 138 was adverse to that of the church. x x x

[g] When the municipal hall was burned down by the NPA rebels in 1989 the church asked the municipal government to
relocate the municipal hall elsewhere since it (church) needed the lot for itself.

[h] Because the municipal government resisted and for the first time exhibited a possession adverse to the church, the
petitioner promptly filed the instant suit before the lower court for quieting of title to the subject lot (the entire Lot 138) and to be
declared the owner of such property.

[i] The church has been in continuous, open, adverse, notorious possession of the entire Lot 138 in the concept of owner since
at least 1894 until the late 1950s. x x x
Law on NatRes (23-49) 6
[j] No evidence has been shown that Lots 138-A and 138-C were devoted for public use or for use as a public plaza before
1894 or even at about the time the church was built on Lot 138. x x x

{k] The only evidence as to the supposed character of Lot 138-C as a public plaza is a survey plan allegedly approved on 15
May 1909 denominated as [GSS]-06-00012, Buruanga Settlement Project, approved only in 1984. Petitioner was not notified
of this survey. x x x

[l] The real property tax declaration presented by private respondent to establish its supposed possession (Exhs. 4, 4-a, and 4-
b, Record, pages 45-47) covered the year 1992 only.

[m] Witness Jaime S. Prado, Sr. (who was born on 17 December 1905 and coming to the age of reason when he was about
10 years old) testified that as far as he can remember (since he was grade 1) he was brought to mass by his elders at the
church of Buruanga, which was the very same church as of the time he testified in 1992, and was active in church activities in
that church (e.g., tsn, 9 January 1992, pages 5, 16); that the property of the church was bounded on all four sides by the very
same streets that bounded it at the time he testified (ibid., at page 6-8).

[n] Private respondent indirectly judicially admitted that it has no title (Torrens or otherwise) to the subject properties when its
star witness (the incumbent Mayor Protacio Obrique of Buruanga) testified that the properties in the poblacion of Buruanga are
not covered by any title (tsn, 27 July 1992, page 5).25

The petitioner contends that the pronouncement in Bishop of Calbayog, cited by the appellate court, does not support its
decision. Instead, it actually supports the petitioners claim of ownership over Lot 138, including Lots 138-A and 138-C. In the
said case, the lot (Lot 2) that was declared by the Court as plaza was a separate and distinct lot separated from the church lot
(Lot 1) by a provincial road. Lot 1, held to be owned by the church in the said case, included not only the space occupied by
the church, belfry, convent, parish school and nuns residence, but also the empty space which only had concrete benches as
improvements thereon and which was used as a public playground.

The petitioner also cites Roman Catholic Bishop of Jaro v. Director of Lands, 26 where the Court recognized that under the
Laws of the Indies (Leyes de las Indias), the law in force in the Philippine Islands during the Spanish regime, the property of
the church in the pueblos consisted of one parcel of land which meant "not only the two buildings but also the land adjacent
and contiguous to said buildings, that is, the parcel which by itself constitutes one whole piece of land bounded on its four
sides by streets, and within which said buildings, the church and the convent, are situated." 27

According to the petitioner, the appellate court erred in affirming the finding of the court a quo that Lots 138-A and 138-C
comprise the public plaza. Unlike in Harty, no evidence was allegedly adduced to show that from the time respondent
municipality was created these two lots had been set aside for the public.

Harty is not applicable, the petitioner expounds, because it was indubitably established therein that the "plaza was used
without let or hindrance by the public and the residents of Victoria ever since its creation." In contrast, in the present case,
there was allegedly no evidence to show that Lots 138-A and 138-C were set aside as the public plaza, or for any public
purpose, when the Municipality of Buruanga was created during the Spanish period. The evidence, in fact, show that the entire
Lot 138, bounded on all its four sides by streets, belonged to the church and it had continuous use and occupation thereof
since 1894 when it constructed its church in the middle of Lot 138. No such use of Lot 138-A and 138-C as the public plaza for
the same length of time or from 1894 had been shown.

The petitioner assails the reliance by the appellate court on the court a quos statement during its ocular inspection on Lot 138
in 1992 that it observed that the property was occupied by the Roman Catholic Church, a parish house, the municipal hall and
three of its municipal edifices, and a basketball court. Based on this observation, the court a quo concluded, and the appellate
court affirmed, that Lots 138-A and 138-C comprise the public plaza. The petitioner objects to this conclusion stating that the
same cannot overcome the evidence in favor of the church as to its ownership over these lots traced back to 1894 when it
constructed the church in the middle of Lot 138 or what is now Lot 138-B.

It reiterates that under the Laws of the Indies, when a municipality was created, the church was assigned a property consisting
of a parcel of land bounded on all its four sides by streets, and that the public plaza was situated not on the same parcel of
land assigned to the church but on a distinct lot separated by a street from that assigned to the church.

The petitioner likewise argues that even if it, as the owner of the entire Lot 138, allowed respondent municipality to build its
municipal hall on what is now Lot 138-A in the late 1950s by mere tolerance of the parish priest, it does not necessarily follow
that Lot 138-A had become property of public dominion. It does not allegedly lose its possession or ownership over the
property if the possession or use by another of the same is by mere tolerance.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 7
Respondent municipality, through its Mayor Protacio Obrique during his testimony, allegedly admitted that respondent
municipalitys lot was located in a portion designated as Lot 2 in its Exhibit "1." The said lot was along the beach and
separated from Lot 138 by Emilio Ostan Street. The alleged import of this admission is that the entire Lot 138 (designated as
Lot 1 in Exhibit "1") was assigned solely to the church since a different lot was assigned to respondent municipality.

The petitioner avers that Buruanga is an ancient Spanish town and that when it was created the Spanish authorities assigned
a distinct and separate lot for its municipal government or pueblo where it could build its municipal hall or casa real. It could
thus be assumed that the casa real of respondent municipality would be built at about the same time as the church or around
1894. The petitioner contends that nothing in the evidence suggests that the casa real was built on Lot 138 during the said
period. It was only in the late 1950s that the municipal hall was built thereon upon the permission granted by the parish priest.

Refuting respondent municipalitys view that it is unthinkable that the church would be given a bigger property than the
municipal government, the petitioner submits that such notion is not far fetched considering that the primary aim of the
Spaniards at the time was to spread the Catholic faith to the colonies.

That the entire Lot 138 belonged to the petitioner is allegedly supported by the practice during the Spanish period, as shown
by the layout of the church convent and church plaza in practically all the old towns in the Philippines and the early cases28
decided by the Court, to invariably provide the church with spacious grounds bounded by the four principal streets of the town.

Even without any document or certificate of title thereto, the petitioner bases its claim of ownership over Lot 138 under the
Spanish Law as recognized and affirmed under the Treaty of Paris. It cites Roman Catholic Apostolic Church v. Municipality of
Placer29 where the Court recognized that the church is entitled not only to possession of its properties but to ownership
thereof. Bishop of Jaro was again invoked by the petitioner as the Court explained therein that it did not find it strange that the
church was unable to exhibit a written title to its property since the Laws of the Indies in force during the Spanish regime
dictated the layout of the towns and assigned the locations of the church, square and government administration buildings.
The provisions of the Laws of the Indies pertaining thereto were held to be sufficient to secure the registration in the name of
the church of its land.

The petitioner asserts that even granting arguendo that Lot 138 was not assigned to it during the Spanish regime or is not
owned by it pursuant to the Laws of the Indies, still, it had acquired ipso jure or by operation of law a government grant, a
vested title, to the disputed lot by virtue of its open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation thereof
since 1894. In support of this contention, the petitioner cites Subsection 6 of Section 54 of Act No. 926, which became
effective on July 26, 1904, and which provided that:

6. All persons who by themselves or their predecessors in interest have been in the open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of agricultural public lands, as defined by said Act of Congress of July first, nineteen hundred and
two, under a bona fide claim of ownership except as against the Government, for a period of ten years next preceding the
taking effect of this Act, except when prevented by war or force majeure, shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all
the conditions essential to a government grant and to have received the same, and shall be entitled to a certificate of title to
such land under the provisions of this chapter.

It is allegedly clear that as early as July 26, 1904, when Act No. 926 took effect, the petitioner had already acquired a
government grant, a vested title, to Lot 138.

Subsection b of Section 45 of Act No. 2874, approved on November 9, 1919, which amended Act No. 926, is similarly cited by
the petitioner. It provided that:

(b) Those who by themselves or their predecessors in interest have been in the open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of 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 conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a government grant
and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.

On the basis of the foregoing provisions, a land registration proceeding instituted would, according to the petitioner, "in truth be
little more than a formality, at the most limited to ascertaining whether the possession claimed is of the required character and
length of time, and registration thereunder would not confer title, but simply recognize a title already vested."

In addition to its arguments on the merits of the case, the petitioner assails the appellate courts denial of its motion to submit
additional evidence which would have showed that the casa real of respondent municipality, together with its plaza (Sunset
Park Plaza), was located on a distinct lot (Lot 2) separated from Lot 138 by Emilio Ostan Street.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 8
The petitioner urges the Court to reverse and set aside the portion of the appellate courts decision declaring Lots 138-A and
138-C as property of public dominion and to declare the petitioner the absolute owner of the entire Lot 138. In the alternative,
the petitioner prays that it be allowed to submit additional evidence of its ownership over Lots 138-A and 138-C.

Respondent Municipalitys Counter-arguments

For its part, respondent municipality contends that, except for the figures 1894 etched on the left wall of the church, the
petitioner has not presented any evidence to show that it had continuous possession of the entire Lot 138 since the turn of the
twentieth century. The petitioner is allegedly of the mistaken belief that because it possessed Lot 138-B, it must have likewise
possessed Lots 138-A and 138-C. Respondent municipality claims that it is the one that has been exercising acts of exclusive
ownership over the disputed lot.

The petitioner has allegedly misread Harty and Bishop of Calbayog in claiming that in cases involving the church, the lot
adjudicated to it invariably consisted of the entire block, bounded by a street on each of the four sides, and the public plazas
were situated in separate blocks. While it may true that many church properties occupy an entire block in certain
municipalities, it is allegedly equally true that other church properties occupy only portions thereof depending on the
exigencies of the locality at the time when the church was being established.

In those instances that the Court allegedly adjudicated an open space in favor of the church, the local government was not
shown to have exercised dominion over the property and the church has consistently established some control over it, like the
putting up of a religious monument thereon. On the other hand, in the present case, respondent municipality insists that it has
laid adverse claim over Lot 138 as early as 1909 when it applied for title over it and was even issued a decree over the said
lot. Respondent municipality places its actual, public and adverse possession of Lot 138 at the latest in 1958 when it built its
old municipal hall on the said site. Its occupation prior thereto could also be allegedly presumed from its actual possession
thereof.

The petitioner has allegedly failed to establish that the construction of the old municipal building in 1958 was by mere
tolerance on its part. Respondent municipality harps on the failure of the petitioner to present as its witness Fr. Patio, the
parish priest who supposedly gave respondent municipality permission to construct its municipal building on the disputed lot.
Respondent municipality denies ever seeking such permission. Further, the tax declaration (Exhibit "B") of the petitioner only
pertained to Lot 138-B proving that its ownership was limited to the said lot and did not extend to Lots 138-A and 138-C.

Respondent municipality avers that it is already contented with the decision of the appellate court although the latter allegedly
erred in concluding that Lots 138-A and 138-C are property of public dominion without taking into consideration that
respondent municipality applied for the issuance of title covering the disputed lot and was issued a decree thereto in 1919. The
admission of Mayor Obrique, during his testimony, that respondent municipality owned the lot along the beach (Lot 2) and
situated across the street from Lot 138 could not be allegedly taken to mean that the Mayor was disclaiming ownership over
Lot 138.

Respondent municipality theorizes that in those cases30 that the Court upheld the ownership of the church over a subject
property, the same have ever since remained the property of the church and have been in its peaceful possession. Further,
there were no adverse claimants and the primary issue being resolved was whether, despite non-compliance with procedural
requirements, title may be granted in favor of the church.

Respondent municipality distinguishes the present case from those cases in that there is an open contest over the ownership
and possession of Lots 138-A and 138-C and respondent municipality has in its favor actual and adverse possession thereof.
It emphasizes that there is nothing in fact and in law that would support the petitioners bare claim of ownership and
possession over Lots 138-A and 138-C. On the contrary, there is allegedly strong evidence showing respondent municipalitys
exercise of proprietary and governmental rights over the said lots where it has constructed permanent structures, e.g.,
municipal building, community hospital, health center, social hall/basketball court, and where public functions are openly
conducted.

Respondent municipality urges the Court to dismiss the petition and, instead, to affirm the decision of the court a quo declaring
it the lawful owner and possessor of Lots 138-A and 138-C.

Issue

The substantive issue to be resolved is whether the appellate court correctly declared Lots 138-A and 138-C as property of
public dominion, hence, not susceptible to ownership by either the petitioner and respondent municipality.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 9
Since respondent municipality no longer sought the review of the assailed decision of the appellate court, the Court shall
mainly resolve the merits of the petitioners claim of ownership over Lots 138-A and 138-C vis--vis the appellate courts
holding that they are of public dominion, hence, not susceptible to private ownership.

The Courts Ruling

The petition is denied.

The Laws of the Indies and the cases cited

by the petitioner do not support its claim

of ownership over Lots 138-A and 138-C

The petitioner anchors its claim of ownership over Lots 138-A and 138-C on its theory that the entire Lot 138, bounded on all
its four sides by streets, was assigned to it as far back as 1894 when the church was built in the middle of the said lot. The
cases it cited allegedly stand for the proposition that "under the Laws of the Indies, when a municipality was created, the
church was assigned a property consisting of a parcel of land bounded on all its (four) sides by streets, and that the public
plaza was situated not on the same parcel of land assigned to the church but on a distinct parcel of land separated from the
parcel of land assigned to the church by a street."31

This allegation fails to persuade. The pertinent provision of the Laws of the Indies relating to the designation of a parcel of land
for the church upon the establishment of a town or pueblo during the Spanish regime reads:

Ley viij. Que se fabriquen el Templo principal en el sitio, y disposicion, que se ordena, y otras Iglesias, y Monasterios.

En lugares Mediterrneos no se fabrique el Templo en la plaza, sino algo distante de ella, donde est separado de otro
qualquier edificio, que no pertenezca su comodidad y ordenato, y porque de todas partes sea visto, y mejor venerado, est
algo levantado de suelo, de forma que se haya de entrar por gradas, y entre la plaza mayor, y Templo se edifiquen las Casas
Reales, Cabildo, Concejo, Aduana, y Atarazana, en tal distancia, que autoricen al Templo, y no le embaracen, y en caso de
necesidad se puedan socorrer, y si la poblacion fuere en Costa, dispngase de forma que en saliendo de Mar sea visto, y su
fbrica como defensa del Puerto, sealando solares cerca de l, y no su continuacion, en que se fabriquen Casas Reales, y
tiendas en la plaza para propios, imponiendo algun

moderado tributo en las mercaderas: y asmismo sitios en otras plazas menores para Iglesias Parroquiales, y Monasterios
donde sean convenientes.32

The above provision prescribed that the church be built at some distance from the square, separate from other buildings in
order that it may be better seen and venerated, and raised from the ground with steps leading to it. It decreed that government
administration buildings, including casas reales, be built between the main square and the church and at such distance as not
to shut the church from view. In cases of coastal towns, the church was to be constructed in such location as to be seen by
those coming from the sea and serve for the defense of the port.

The other provisions of the Laws of the Indies on the establishment of new towns or pueblos in the archipelago, including the
designation of lands for the church, casa reales (municipal buildings) and public squares, had been discussed by the Court in
this wise:

xxx

The executive authorities and other officials who then represented the Spanish Government in these Islands were obliged to
adjust their procedure, in the fulfillment of their duties with regard to the establishment and laying out of new towns, to the
Laws of the Indies, which determined the course that they were to pursue for such purposes, as may be seen by the following:

Law 6, title 5, book 4, of the Recompilation of the Laws of the Indies, provides, among other things:

"That within the boundaries which may be assigned to it, there must be at least thirty residents, and each one of them must
have a house," etc.

Law 7 of the same title and book contains this provision:

"Whoever wishes to undertake to establish a new town in the manner provided for, of not more than thirty nor less than ten
residents, shall be granted the time and territory necessary for the purpose and under the same conditions."
Law on NatRes (23-49) 10
It may be affirmed that years afterwards all the modern pueblos of the Archipelago were formed by taking as a basis for their
establishment the barrios already populated by a large number of residents who, under the agreement to build the church of
the new pueblo, the court-house and afterwards the schoolhouse, obtained from the General Government the administrative
separation of their barrio from the pueblo on which it depended and in whose territory it was previously comprised. In such
cases procedure analogous to that prescribed by the Laws of the Indies was observed.

For the establishment, then, of new pueblos, the administrative authority of the province, in representation of the Governor-
General, designated the territory for their location and extension and the metes and bounds of the same; and before the
allotting the lands among the new settlers, a special demarcation was made of the places which were to serve as the public
square of the pueblo, for the erection of the church, and as sites for the public buildings, among others, the municipal building
or the casa real, as well as of the lands which were to constitute the commons, pastures, and propios of the municipality and
the streets and roads which were to intersect the new town were laid out, as may be seen by the following laws:

Law 7, title 7, book 4, of the Recompilation of the Laws of the Indies, provides:

"The district or territory to be given for settlement by composition shall be allotted in the following manner: There shall first be
set apart the portion required for the lots of the pueblo, the exido or public lands, and pastures amply sufficient for the stock
which the residents may have, and as much more as propios del lugar or common lands of the locality; the rest of the territory
and district shall be divided into four parts one of them, of his choice, shall be for him who takes upon himself the obligation
to found the pueblo, and the other three shall be apportioned equally among the settlers."

Law 8, of the same title and book, prescribes, among other things:

"That, between the main square and the church, there shall be constructed the casas reales or municipal buildings, the
cabildo, concejo, customs buildings," etc.

Law 14 of the said title and book, also directs among other things:

"That the viceroys shall have set aside such lands as to them appear suitable as the common lands (propios) of the pueblos
that have none, therewith to assist in the payment of the salaries of the corregidores, and sufficient public lands (exidos) and
pasture lands as provided for and prescribed by law."

Law 1, title 13 of the aforesaid book, provides the following:

"Such viceroys and governors as have due authority shall designate to each villa and lugar newly founded and settled the
lands and lots which they may need and may be given to them, without detriment to a third party, as propios, and a statement
shall be sent to us of what was designated and given to each, in order that we may have such action approved." 33

Nowhere in the above provisions was it stated that the parcel of land designated for the church of the town or pueblo was, in
all cases, to be an entire block or bounded on all its four sides by streets. The petitioner thus erroneously asseverates that the
said ancient laws sustain its claim of ownership over the entire Lot 138.

Neither can it find support in the cases that it cited. A careful review of these cases reveal that, in those instances where the
Court upheld the claim of the church over a parcel of land vis--vis that of the municipality or national government, the
ownership and possession by the church of the same had been indubitably established by its exclusive exercise thereon of
proprietary acts or acts of dominion.

For example, in Bishop of Calbayog v. Director of Lands,34 which according to the petitioner supports its case, the Court
adjudicated in favor of the church the ownership of Lot 1 (except the portion thereof occupied by a public thoroughfare)
including not only the space occupied by the church, belfry, convent, parish school and nuns residence, but also the empty
space which only had concrete benches as improvements thereon.

With respect to the empty space (eastern portion of Lot 1), the Court noted the following:

x x x The eastern portion of Lot 1, the area in contention, is an empty space except for concrete benches along the perimeter.
A partly cemented path runs across this lot from east to west leading up to the front or entrance of the church and appears to
be an extension of Anunciacion St., which runs from the bank of the Catarman river up to Mendiola St. In the middle of this
path, half-way between Mendiola St. and the church, is a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

xxx
Law on NatRes (23-49) 11
x x x The Roman Catholic Church had made no improvements on this eastern portion of Lot 1, which at present is being used
as a public playground, although a bandstand stood there for about three years after it was constructed in 1926 by the
members of an orchestra which was organized by a Fr. Ranera and which used to give musical performances on the
bandstand. On the feast of Corpus Christi the parishioners would construct an altar on this lot and hold the procession there.35

It is apparent that the Court adjudicated to the church the ownership of Lot 1 (except a portion thereof which was a public
thoroughfare) because the latter was able to establish that it had exercised acts of possession or ownership over the same
including over its empty space. In particular, the empty space was used for religious functions, such as the Feast of Corpus
Christi and the procession held on the occasion and the church did not ask for any permit from the local authorities whenever it
used the said space for such activities.

In the present case, the petitioner has not shown that, at one time after the church was built in 1894 in the middle of Lot 138
(now Lot 138-B), it exercised acts of ownership or possession over Lots 138-A and 138-C as well.

It must be emphasized that the petitioners allegation that it merely tolerated the construction of not only the municipal building
but also the other improvements thereon, e.g., the rural health center, Buruanga community Medicare hospital, basketball
court, Rizal monument and grandstand, has remained unsubstantiated. The affidavit of Fr. Patio was correctly not given any
credence since he was not presented on the witness stand; thus, considered hearsay. Hearsay evidence is generally excluded
because the party against whom it is presented is deprived of his right and opportunity to cross-examine the person to whom
the statement or writing is attributed.36

The testimony of Mr. Jaime S. Prado, Sr., an octogenarian and resident of Buruanga, cannot likewise be given any credence
because it consisted only of a bare assertion that the church building and the land on which it was built, bounded by streets on
all its four sides, were the petitioners property. 37 He based this statement on the fact that as a child he heard masses at the
church with his parents. This assertion, without more or without any corroborative evidence, is not sufficient to establish the
petitioners ownership over Lots 138-A and 138-C especially in light of the fact that Mr. Prado is not competent to testify on the
matter because he had no actual personal knowledge with respect to any transactions involving Lot 138:

FISCAL DEL ROSARIO:

Q Now, when you were President of the Parish Council, have you access of any documents relating to church properties in
Buruanga, Aklan?

A Never.

Q Now, you have stated that the boundaries of the property of the[R]oman [C]atholic [C]hurch in Buruanga, Aklan has previous
names thus, the present name of Viven Ostan, Nitoy Sualog and Emilio Ostan is at present now. My question is, what was the
previous names of these roads?

A Of Nitoy Sualog, that was Malilipayon Street. The Provincial road street, before that was Kaaganhon street, West, Emilio
Ostan, before that was Kahaponanon Street and instead of Viven Ostan, that was Kabulakan Street.

Q So, you will agree with me Mr. Witness so, that previous names is not in any way related to the names of former parish
priest[s] of Buruanga, Aklan or saints, am I right?

A No, sir.

Q You know very well Rev. Jesus Patinio and Mayor Pedro Omugtong?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, do you remember if there was any transaction of them during your lifetime?

A This Padre Patinio and I were close friends. Mr. Omugtong met Patinio [,] talked together about the land they agreed [,] and I
dont know what is there (sic) agreement but the building was constructed then.

Q Were you present during the talked (sic) of Rev. Jesus Patinio and Mayor Pedro Omugtong?

A No, sir.

Q You identified in this Exhibit "F" as Municipal Hall, Rural Health Unit Hospital, the Buruanga Community Hospital, Basketball
Court and the Grandstand. Now, my question is, are these buildings constructed by the [R]oman [C]atholic [C]hurch?
Law on NatRes (23-49) 12
A Not one.38

Even the affidavits of the other residents of Buruanga, which were also properly considered hearsay, made no mention of any
instance where the petitioner exercised acts of dominion over Lots 138-A and 138-C. These affidavits uniformly stated:

That we have been residing in this Municipality since birth and that we have full knowledge of the site where the church now
stands;

That during the Pre-Spanish time, the site of the town proper was swampy, fishermen used to fish in the swamp, trees of
different kinds grows (sic) along the beach;

That when the Spaniards arrived in our town, they introduced education and religion;

That because there was no site for the church, the Spaniards forced the inhabitants to work for the filling up of the swamp,
men are hauling stones[,] and women [,] sand and gravel;

That after so many years of hard labor the swamp was filled up and then the friars build a church in the center of the town;

That as far as we are concerned the site where the church now stand and the surrounding area and the site where the present
Municipal building now stands is even the part of the property of the church and not the property of the municipality as allege
(sic) by the Mayor;

That we execute this affidavit with our own free act and voluntary deed. 39

The information proffered by these affidavits could not have been based on the personal knowledge of the affiants because
they obviously were not yet born when the events they narrated took place. 40

Like in Bishop of Calbayog, the Court in Hacbang v. Director of Lands41 adjudicated to the church the ownership of two parcels
of land, designated as Lots 1 and 2 despite the opposition of the Director of Lands who claimed that a portion on the eastern
part of Lot 1 and the entire Lot 2 were public plazas. The Court affirmed the ownership of the church over these lots upon the
following findings:

It is inferred from the foregoing facts which are held to have been indisputably established by the evidence, that the disputed
portion of lot No. 1 as well as the entire lot No. 2 belongs to the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church of the Diocese of Samar
and Leyte. It cannot be denied that said church, for more than half a century, was in the possession of said lands together with
the church, belfry and convent which existed first on lot No. 1 and later provisionally on lot No. 2. The fact that the catholic
cemetery was located on lot No. 2 and that the stone posts and pillars were later erected thereon, thereby converting it into a
place for the celebration of the Way of the Cross, conclusively proves that the property belonged to the church and that the
latter's possession has constantly been under claim of ownership.

x x x [I]t must be presumed upon these facts that said portion formed part of the parcels of land assigned and adjudicated by
the authorities to the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church in said town for the erection of the church, belfry, convent and
cemetery, all of which, as everybody knows, are necessary for the practice and celebration of the cults of said religion. 42

The proprietary acts exercised by the church over the disputed lots consisted of the construction thereon of the church, belfry,
convent and cemetery. Moreover, it conducted thereon the Way of the Cross and other religious celebrations.

Unlike in the Bishop of Calbayog and Hacbang, in the present case, the petitioner has not shown that it exercised proprietary
acts or acts of dominion over Lots 138-A and 138-C, to the exclusion of others, to buttress its claim of ownership over these
lots.

Neither can the petitioner rely on Roman Catholic Bishop of Jaro v. Director of Lands43 where the Court categorically made the
finding that the lot in question (Lot 3) had been in the possession of the church, as owner, for a time sufficiently long for
purposes of prescription. In a prior case 44 involving the said lot, the Court adjudged that the church was "entitled to the
possession of the following property situated in the Municipality of Sibalom: The Church of Sibalom, the convent, contiguous to
the same, and the land occupied by these two buildings."

The Court interpreted the phrase "land occupied by the church and its convent" to mean "not only the two buildings, but
also the land adjacent and contiguous to said buildings, that is, the parcel which by itself constitutes one whole piece of land
bounded on its four sides by streets, and within which said buildings, the church and the convent, are situated."45
Law on NatRes (23-49) 13
Significantly, the parcel of land that was adjudicated in favor of the church was the "land adjacent and contiguous to said
buildings," i.e., church and convent. The word "adjacent" has been defined as follows:

The word "adjacent" is of Latin derivation. An examination of its original use clearly indicates that in order that things shall be
adjacent they shall be thrown near together.

Webster in his International Dictionary defines "adjacent" as "lying near, close or contiguous; neighboring; bordering upon;"
and gives as synonyms the words "adjoining, contiguous, near."

Roque Barcia in his "Diccionario General Etimolgico de la Lengua Espaola," in defining the word "adjacent," uses as
synonyms "inmediato, junto, prximo." Things cannot be "inmediatas, juntas, prximas" where other objects intervene.

Vicente Salva in his "Nuevo Diccionario Francs-Espaol" defines the word "adjacent as "qui est situ aupres, aux environs."

Black in his Law Dictionary defines "adjacent" as "lying near or close to; contiguous. The difference between adjacent and
adjoining seems to be that the former implies that two objects are not widely separated, though they may not actually touch."

Harpers Latin Dictionary as revised by Lewis and Short, in defining the word "ad-jaceo," which is equivalent to the English
word "adjacent," says it means "to lie at or near, to be contiguous to, to border upon."

The Universal Encyclopedia defines an adjacent angle as "an angle contiguous to another, so that one side is common to both
angles."

In the case of Miller v. Cabell (81 Ky., 184) it was held that where a change of venue was taken to an adjacent county it must
be taken to an adjoining county.

In the case of Camp Hill Borough (142 Penn. State, 517), it was held that the word "adjacent" meant adjoining or contiguous.

In the case of In re Municipality, etc. (7 La. Ann., 76), the court said: "We think the word adjacent, applied to lots, is
synonymous with the word "contiguous."

In the case of the People v. Schemerhorne (19 Barber [N.Y.], 576), the court said: "The interpretations given to the adjacent
by Walker are lying close, bordering upon something." 46

Blacks Law Dictionary defines "contiguous" as "in close proximity; neighboring; adjoining; near in succession; in actual close
contact; touching in at a point or along a boundary; bounded or traversed by."47

Applying the foregoing definitions, the "land adjacent and contiguous" to the church and the parish house in the present case
is the land comprising Lot 138-B. On the other hand, Lots 138-A and 138-C are the lands adjacent and contiguous to the
municipal building, rural health center, Buruanga community Medicare hospital, basketball court, Rizal monument and
grandstand thereon.

Roman Catholic Bishop of Jaro therefore is not squarely applicable to the present case because of significant factual
differences. Specifically, in the former, the buildings or structures on the disputed land all belonged to the church; hence, this
fact was construed by the Court in favor of the church as constituting its exercise of acts of dominion over the land adjacent
and contiguous to these buildings. On the other hand, the municipal building, rural health center, Buruanga community
Medicare hospital, basketball court, Rizal monument and grandstand, all standing on Lots 138-A and 138-C, are not owned by
the petitioner. Moreover, the petitioner has not shown that it had, at any time, exercised acts of dominion over these lots.
Consequently, given its tenuous claim of ownership, Lots 138-A and 138-C,

the lands adjacent and contiguous to the buildings and improvements which admittedly do not belong to the petitioner, cannot
be adjudicated to the latter under the circumstances.

Seminary of San Carlos v. Municipality of Cebu,48 cited in Roman Catholic Bishop of Jaro, is also unavailing to the petitioner
because the Court, among others, simply explained therein that the word "church" refers to the land upon which the church
stands, and not to the church building itself. In the present case, the petitioners ownership has not been limited by the court a
quo and the appellate court to the church structure itself but also as including Lot 138-B, on which it stands.

In Roman Catholic Apostolic Church v. Municipality of Placer, 49 the Court definitively recognized the juridical personality and
proprietary rights of the church citing the Treaty of Paris 50 and other pertinent Spanish laws. It held therein that the church not
only was entitled to the possession of the church, convent and cemetery of Placer but was also the lawful owner thereof.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 14
It bears stressing that the crux in the foregoing cases, particularly Bishop of Calbayog, Hacbang and Jaro, is that the church
had indubitably established its exercise of exclusive proprietary acts on the lots that were subject of the controversy. The same
cannot be said with respect to the petitioner in relation to Lots 138-A and 138-C. In fact, not one of the enumeration ([a] to ([n])
made by the petitioner in its Petition for Review as allegedly showing its ownership over Lots 138-A and 138-C categorically
establishes that it exercised thereon exclusive proprietary acts or acts of dominion.

The ruling in Harty v. Municipality of

Victoria is applicable to the present case

Contrary to the stance taken by the petitioner, the ruling in Harty v. Municipality of Victoria 51 is applicable to the present case.
The said case involved the dispute between the church and the Municipality of Victoria over the parcel of land that surrounded
the parish church of the said town, and which was called the public plaza of the same. The Court therein held that "the whole
of the land not occupied by the church of the town of Victoria and its parish house, is a public plaza of the said town, of public
use." It justified its conclusion, thus:

xxx

From the evidence presented by both parties it appears that the town of Victoria, which was formerly only a barrio of the town
of Tarlac and known as Canarum, was converted into a town in 1855, and named Victoria; to this end they must have laid out
the streets and the plaza of the town, in the center of which were situated the church and parish house from the
commencement, and at the expiration of about twelve years the parish of said town was constituted and the priest, who was to
perform the office of curate, was appointed; that from the very beginning, the large tract of land that surrounds the church and
the parish house was known as a public plaza, destined to the use of all the residents of the recently founded town; public
performances and religious processions were held thereon without hindrance either on the part of the local authorities or of the
curate of said town.

It must be assumed that the principal residents of the old barrio, being interested in the conversion of the barrio into a civil
town, arranged in such a way that the barrio, as the center of the future town which was subsequently called Victoria, should
have streets and a public plaza with its church and parish house, and also a tribunal or building destined for the use of the
municipality and the local official at the time called the gobernadorcillo and later on capitan municipal, as has occurred in the
foundation of all the towns in these Islands, under the old administrative laws.

It may be true that the father of the witness Casimiro Taedo, who owned the space of land where the church and parish
house were erected, had voluntarily donated it to the Catholic Church, the only one known at the time, but proper proof is
lacking that the donation affirmed by the said Taedo comprehended the whole of the large tract which at the present time
constitutes the plaza of the town.

It was a custom observed by all the towns established administratively in these Islands under the old Laws of the Indies, that
on their creation, a certain amount of land was always reserved for plazas, commons, and special and communal property,
and as it is unquestionable that the said large space of land was left vacant in the center of the town of Victoria when it was
constituted as a civil town, more than twelve years prior to the appointment of a permanent curate therein, there are good
grounds to suppose that the late Vicente Taedo donated the land now occupied by the church and parish house in said
municipality for religious purposes, or to the church, but not to the parish curate, because at the time there was no curate at
the new town of Victoria.

Even though all the remaining space of land which now forms the great plaza of the town of Victoria had been owned by the
said Taedo, it must be presumed that he waived his right thereto for the benefit of the townspeople, since from the creation or
establishment of the town, down to the present day, all the residents, including the curate of said town, have enjoyed the free
use of said plaza; it has not been satisfactorily shown that the municipality or the principales of the town of Victoria had
donated the whole of said land to the curate of Victoria or to the Catholic Church, as alleged, nor could it have been so
donated, it being a public plaza destined to public use and was not private ownership, or patrimony of the town of Victoria, or
of the Province of Tarlac.

It should be noted that, among other things, plazas destined to the public use are not subject to prescription. (Art. 1936, Civil
Code.) That both the curates and the gobernadorcillos of the said town procured fruit trees and plants to be set out in the
plaza, does not constitute an act of private ownership, but evidences the public use thereof, or perhaps the intention to
improve and embellish the said plaza for the benefit of the townspeople.

Certain it is that the plaintiff has not proven that the Catholic Church or the parish of Victoria was the owner or proprietor of the
said extensive piece of land which now forms the public plaza of said town, nor that it was in possession thereof under the
Law on NatRes (23-49) 15
form and conditions required by law, inasmuch as it has been fully proven that said plaza has been used without let or
hindrance by the public and the residents of the town of Victoria ever since its creation. For the above reasons, it is our opinion
that the judgment appealed from should be reversed, and that it should be held, as we do hereby hold, that the whole of the
land not occupied by the church of the town of Victoria and its parish house, is a public plaza of the said town, of public use,
and that in consequence thereof, the defendant is absolved of the complaint without any special ruling as to the costs of both
instances.52

The petitioner argues against the applicability of Harty as it makes much of the fact that the disputed lot therein was situated
across the street from the church lot. When the Court therein limited the ownership of the church to the land "occupied by the
church of the town of Victoria and its

parish house," it did not allegedly confine its ownership to a portion of the lot on which the church and parish house were
situated but to the block occupied by these structures.

To the Courts mind, however, whether the disputed lot was on the same block as the church or separated therefrom by a
street was not the crucial factor which constrained the Court in Harty to rule against the churchs claim of ownership over the
said property. Rather, it was the fact that the church was not able to prove its ownership or possession thereof. The ruling on
this point is reiterated below:

Certain it is that the plaintiff has not proven that the Catholic Church or the parish of Victoria was the owner or proprietor of the
said extensive piece of land which now forms the public plaza of said town, nor that it was in possession thereof under the
form and conditions required by law, x x x53

As applied to the present case, that Lots 138-A and 138-C are on the same block as the lot on which the church and its parish
house stand do not necessarily make them (Lots 138-A and 138-C) also the property of the petitioner absent any evidence
that its ownership or possession extended to these lots and under the conditions required by law.

Contrary to its submission, the petitioner had

not acquired ipso jure or by operation of law

a government grant or title to the entire Lot 138

The petitioner submits that even granting arguendo that the entire Lot 138 was not assigned to it during the Spanish regime or
it is not the owner thereof pursuant to the Laws of the Indies, its open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of Lot 138 since 1894 and for many decades thereafter vests ipso jure or by operation of law upon the petitioner a
government grant, a vested title, to the subject property. It cites Subsection 6 of Section 54 of Act No. 926 54 and Subsection b
of Section 45 of Act No. 2874.55

This contention is likewise not persuasive.

One of the important requisites for the application of the pertinent provisions of Act No. 926 and Act No. 2874 is the "open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation" of the land by the applicant. Actual possession of land
consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such a nature as a party would naturally exercise over his own
property.56 The phrase "possession and occupation" was explained as follows:

It must be underscored that the law speaks of "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 order [sic]. Possession is broader than
occupation because it includes constructive possession. When, therefore, the law adds the word occupation, it seeks to delimit
the all-encompassing effect of constructive possession. Taken together with the words open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious, the word occupation serves to highlight the fact that for one to qualify under paragraph (b) of the aforesaid section,
his possession of the land must not be mere fiction. As this Court stated, through then Mr. Justice Jose P. Laurel, in Lasam v.
The Director of Lands:

x x x Counsel for the applicant invokes the doctrine laid down by us in Ramos v. Director of Lands. But it should be observed
that the application of the doctrine of constructive possession in that case is subject to certain qualifications, and this court was
careful to observe that among these qualifications is "one particularly relating to the size of the tract in controversy with
reference to the portion actually in possession of the claimant." While, therefore, "possession in the eyes of the law does not
mean that a man has to have his feet on every square meter of ground before it can be said that he is in possession,"
possession under paragraph 6 of section 54 of Act No. 926, as amended by paragraph (b) of section 45 of Act No. 2874, is not
gained by mere nominal claim. The mere planting of a sign or symbol of possession cannot justify a Magellan-like claim of
Law on NatRes (23-49) 16
dominion over an immense tract of territory. Possession as a means of acquiring ownership, while it may be constructive, is
not a mere fiction. x x x

xxx

Possession is open when it is patent, visible, apparent, notorious and not clandestine. It is continuous when uninterrupted,
unbroken and not intermittent or occasional; exclusive when the adverse possessor can show exclusive dominion over the
land and an appropriation of it to his own use and benefit; and notorious when it is so conspicuous that it is generally known
and talked of by the public or the people in the neighborhood.

Use of land is adverse when it is open and notorious. 57

Indisputably, the petitioner has been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of Lot 138-B
since 1894 as evidenced by the church structure built thereon. However, the record is bereft of any evidence that would tend
to show that such possession and occupation extended to Lots 138-A and 138-C beginning the same period. No single
instance of the exercise by the petitioner of proprietary acts or acts of dominion over these lots was established. Its
unsubstantiated claim that the construction of the municipal building as well as the subsequent improvements thereon, e.g.,
the rural health center, Buruanga community Medicare hospital, basketball court, Rizal monument and grandstand, was by its
tolerance does not constitute proof of possession and occupation on its (the petitioners) part.

Absent the important requisite of open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation thereon since 1894,
no government grant or title to Lots 138-A and 138-C had vested upon the petitioner ipso jure or by operation of law.
Possession under paragraph 6 of section 54 of Act No. 926, as amended by paragraph (b) of section 45 of Act No. 2874, is not
gained by mere nominal claim.58

Lots 138-A and 138-C comprise the public plaza and are property of public dominion; hence, not susceptible to private
ownership by the petitioner or respondent municipality

The appellate court correctly declared that Lots 138-A and 138-C comprise the public plaza and are property of public
dominion; hence, may not be the object of appropriation either by the petitioner or respondent municipality. In support thereof,
it cited Bishop of Calbayog ratiocinating:

This ruling [referring to Harty] was, in fact, reiterated in Bishop of Calbayog v. Director of Lands (45 SCRA 418) involving the
same question of ownership of the land which surrounded the parish church of the town. The Supreme Court therein declared
that the public plaza and public thoroughfare are not subject to registration by the church; that since neither the Church nor the
municipality presented positive proof of ownership or exclusive possession for an appreciable period of time, and the only
indubitable fact is the free and continuous use of Lot 2 by residents of Catarman, and the town had no public plaza to speak of
other than the disputed parcel of land, there was a strong presumption that the same had been segregated as a public plaza
upon the founding of the municipality of Catarman. x x x59

As can be gleaned, the above discussion principally pertained to Lot 2, a public plaza the ownership of which was disputed by
the Bishop of Calbayog and the Municipality of Catarman.

The appellate court correctly cited Bishop of Calabayog. However, the ruling therein pertaining to a portion of Lot 1 occupied
by a public thoroughfare is more apropos to the present case. To recall, in the said case, the application of the Bishop of
Calabayog as to the eastern portion of Lot 1 was also being opposed by the Municipality of Catarman on the ground that it was
part of the public plaza. As mentioned earlier, the Court upheld the ownership of the church over Lot 1 including not only the
space occupied by the church, belfry, convent, parish school and nuns residence, but also the empty space which only had
some benches as improvements thereon. Significantly, the portion of Lot 1 occupied by a public thoroughfare (Nalazon Street)
was ordered excluded from the application for registration filed by the church. The Court therein made the following findings
with respect to the public thoroughfare:

Admittedly Nalazon St. was originally merely a trail used by the parishioners in going to and from the church. But since 1910,
when it was opened and improved as a public thoroughfare by the municipality, it had been continuously used as such by the
townspeople of Catarman without objection from the Church authorities. The acacia trees along both sides of the street were
planted by the municipality in 1920, although these trees were cut down recently upon order of the priest. There is no proof
that the Church merely tolerated and limited the use of this street for the benefit of its parishioners, considering that the street
traverses the entire length of the poblacion from south to north and that Lot 1, on which the church stands, is located almost at
the center of the poblacion. The street does not stop on Lot 1 but extends north toward the sea, passing along the lot occupied
by the Central Elementary School and the Northern Samar General Hospital. Thus, it is clear that Nalazon St. inside Lot 1 is
used by the residents not only in going to the church but to the public school and the general hospital north of Lot 1. 60
Law on NatRes (23-49) 17
In the present case, the following improvements now stand on Lots 138-A and 138-C: the municipal building, rural health
center, Buruanga community Medicare hospital, basketball court, Rizal monument and grandstand. Except for the construction
of the municipal building, the other improvements were made on Lots 138-A and 138-C, and continuously used by the public
without the petitioners objection. Further, there is no proof that the petitioner merely tolerated the construction of these
improvements. On the other hand, the free and continuous use by the public of Lots 138-A and 138-C, as found by the court a
quo and affirmed by the appellate court, incontrovertibly establishes that they are property for public use.

On this point, Articles 420, quoted anew below, and 424 of the Civil Code are applicable:

Art. 420. The following things are property of public dominion:

(1) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges constructed by the State, banks,
shores, roadsteads, and others of similar character;

Art. 424. Property for public use, in the provinces, cities, and municipalities, consist of the provincial roads, city streets,
municipal streets, the squares, fountains, public waters, promenades, and public works for public service paid for by said
provinces, cities or municipalities.

Property for public use of provinces and towns are governed by the same principles as property of public dominion of the
same character.The ownership of such property, which has the special characteristics of a collective ownership for the general
use and enjoyment, by virtue of their application to the satisfaction of the collective needs, is in the social group, whether
national, provincial, or municipal.62 Their purpose is not to serve the State as a juridical person, but the citizens; they are
intended for the common and public welfare, and so they cannot be the object of appropriation, either by the State or by
private persons.63

The appellate court committed no reversible error in denying the petitioners motion for reception of evidence

In denying the petitioners motion for reception evidence, the appellate court reasoned that based on the records, the petitioner
was already accorded the full opportunity to present its evidence in the court a quo and that the evidence to be introduced in
the desired hearing would not directly establish its ownership of the disputed lots. 64

The petitioners motion for reception of evidence filed with the appellate court stated that the additional evidence that it sought
to submit consisted of affidavits of old residents of Buruanga attesting to the fact that "the old municipal building was in fact at
a place called Sunset Park prior to its transfer to the present site." 65 These affidavits would allegedly establish that respondent
municipality could not be the owner of Lots 138-A and 138-C which it had neither possessed nor occupied.66

The appellate court did not err in denying the petitioners motion for reception of evidence. Indeed, the petitioner was already
given full opportunity during the trial in the court a quo to adduce any and all relevant evidence to substantiate its claim of
ownership over the entire Lot 138. In no sense, therefore, may it be argued that it was denied due process of law. 67

With the reality that those documents were never presented and formally offered during the trial in the court a quo, their
belated admission for purposes of having them duly considered in the resolution of the case on appeal would certainly collide
with Section 34, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court which reads:

SECTION 34. Offer of Evidence. The court shall consider no evidence which has not been formally offered. The purpose for
which the evidence is offered must be specified.68

In any case, as correctly stated by the appellate court, these affidavits would not directly establish the petitioners ownership
over Lots 138-A and 138-C.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED. The Decision dated January 31, 2001 of the Court of Appeals
and its Resolution dated July 18, 2001 in CA-G.R. CV No. 52626 are AFFIRMED in toto. SO ORDERED.

HEIRS OF JOSE AMUNATEGUI, Petitioners, v. DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, Respondent.; [G.R. No. L-27873. November
29, 1983.]

ROQUE BORRE and ENCARNACION DELFIN, Petitioners, v. ANGEL ALPASAN, HEIRS OF MELQUIADES BORRE,
EMETERIO BEREBER and HEIRS OF JOSE AMUNATEGUI and THE CAPIZ COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE,
Respondents.; [G.R. No. L-30035. November 29, 1983.]
Law on NatRes (23-49) 18
1. CIVIL LAW; PUBLIC LAND ACT; FOREST LAND; CLASSIFICATION NOT LOST EVEN IF IT HAS BEEN STRIPPED OF
FOREST COVER; UNLESS RELEASED IN AN OFFICIAL PROCLAMATION AS DISPOSABLE LANDS, RULES ON
CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLE DO NOT APPLY. A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain
does not lose such classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land
classified as forest land may actually be covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. "Forest
lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms,
and other tress growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest land. The classification is descriptive of its
legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Unless and until the land
classified as "forest" is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural
lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply.

2. ID.; ID.; FOREST LANDS; ACQUISITIVE OWNERSHIP NOT ACQUIRED. This Court ruled in the leading case of
Director of Forestry v. Muoz (23 SCRA 1184) that possession of forest lands, no matter how long, cannot ripen into private
ownership. And in Republic v. Animas (56 SCRA 499), we granted the petition on the ground that the ares covered by the
patent and title was not disposable public land, it being a part of the forest zone and any patent and title to said area is void ab
initio. It bears emphasizing that a positive act of Government is needed to declassify land which is classified as forest and to
convert it into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes.

3. ID.; ID.; CONFIRMATION, OF IMPERFECT TITLE CASES; BURDEN OF PROVING THAT THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE
LAW HAVE BEEN MET, RESTS ON THE APPLICANT. In confirmation of imperfect title cases, the applicant shoulders the
burden of proving that he meets the requirements of Section 48, Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Republic Act
No. 1942. He must overcome the presumption that the land he is applying for is part of the public domain but that he has an
interest therein sufficient to warrant registration in his name because of an imperfect title such as those derived from old
Spanish grants or that he has had continuous, open, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the
public domain under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership for at least thirty (30) years preceding the filing of his
application.

GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:

The two petitions for review on certiorari before us question the decision of the Court of Appeals which declared the disputed
property as forest land, not subject to titling in favor of private persons.

These two petitions have their genesis in an application for confirmation of imperfect title and its registration filed with the
Court of First Instance of Capiz. The parcel of land sought to be registered is known as Lot No. 885 of the Cadastral Survey of
Pilar, Capiz, and has an area of 645,703 square meters.cralawnad

Roque Borre, petitioner in G.R. No, L-30035, and Melquiades Borre, filed the application for registration. In due time, the heirs
of Jose Amunategui, petitioners in G.R. No. L-27873 filed an opposition to the application of Roque and Melquiades Borre. At
the same time, they prayed that the title to a portion of Lot No. 885 of Pilar Cadastre containing 527,747 square meters be
confirmed and registered in the names of said Heirs of Jose Amunategui.

The Director of Forestry, through the Provincial Fiscal of Capiz, also filed an opposition to the application for registration of title
claiming that the land was mangrove swamp which was still classified as forest land and part of the public domain.

Another oppositor, Emeterio Bereber filed his opposition insofar as a portion of Lot No. 885 containing 117,956 square meters
was concerned and prayed that title to said portion be confirmed and registered in his name.

During the progress of the trial, applicant-petitioner Roque Borre sold whatever rights and interests he may have on Lot No.
885 to Angel Alpasan. The latter also filed an opposition, claiming that he is entitled to have said lot registered in his name.

After trial, the Court of First Instance of Capiz adjudicated 117,956 square meters to Emeterio Bereber and the rest of the land
containing 527,747 square meters was adjudicated in the proportion of 5/6 share to Angel Alpasan and 1/6 share to
Melquiades Borre.

Only the Heirs of Jose Amunategui and the Director of Forestry filed their respective appeals with the Court of Appeals, The
case was docketed as CA-G.R. No. 34190-R.

In its decision, the Court of Appeals held:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph


Law on NatRes (23-49) 19

". . . the conclusion so far must have to be that as to the private litigants that have been shown to have a better right over Lot
885 are, as to the northeastern portion of a little less than 117,956 square meters, it was Emeterio Bereber and as to the rest
of 527,747 square meters, it was the heirs of Jose Amunategui; but the last question that must have to be considered is
whether after all, the title that these two (2) private litigants have shown did not amount to a registerable one in view of the
opposition and evidence of the Director of Forestry; . . .

". . . turning back the clock thirty (30) years from 1955 when the application was filed which would place it at 1925, the fact
must have to be accepted that during that period, the land was a classified forest land so much so that timber licenses had to
be issued to certain licensee before 1926 and after that; that even Jose Amunategui himself took the trouble to ask for a
license to cut timber within the area; and this can only mean that the Bureau of Forestry had stood and maintained its ground
that it was a forest land as indeed the testimonial evidence referred to above persuasively indicates, and the only time when
the property was converted into a fishpond was sometime after 1950; or a bare five (5) years before the filing of the
application; but only after there had been a previous warning by the District Forester that that could not be done because it
was classified as a public forest; so that having these in mind and remembering that even under Republic Act 1942 which
came into effect in 1957, two (2) years after this case had already been filed in the lower Court, in order for applicant to be
able to demonstrate a registerable title he must have shown.

"open, continuous, 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 thirty (30) years, preceding the filing of the application;

the foregoing details cannot but justify the conclusion that not one of the applicants or oppositors had shown that during the
required period of thirty (30) years prescribed by Republic Act 1942 in order for him to have shown a registerable title for the
entire period of thirty (30) years before filing of the application, he had been in

"open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain,

it is evident that the Bureau of Forestry had insisted on its claim all throughout that period of thirty (30) years and even before
and applicants and their predecessors had made implicit recognition of that; the result must be to deny all these applications;
this Court stating that it had felt impelled notwithstanding, just the same to resolve the conflicting positions of the private
litigants among themselves as to who of them had demonstrated a better right to possess because this Court foresees that
this litigation will go all the way to the Supreme Court and it is always better that the findings be as complete as possible to
enable the Highest Court to pass final judgment;

"IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision must have to be as it is hereby reversed; the application as well as all the oppositions with
the exception of that of the Director of Forestry which is hereby sustained are dismissed; no more pronouncement as to
costs."cralaw virtua1aw library

A petition for review on certiorari was filed by the Heirs of Jose Amunategui contending that the disputed lot had been in the
possession of private persons for over thirty years and therefore in accordance with Republic Act No. 1942, said lot could still
be the subject of registration and confirmation of title in the name of a private person in accordance with Act No. 496 known as
the Land Registration Act. On the other hand, another petition for review on certiorari was filed by Roque Borre and
Encarnacion Delfin, contending that the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion in dismissing their complaint against
the Heirs of Jose Amunategui. The Borre complaint was for the annulment of the deed of absolute sale of Lot No. 885
executed by them in favor of the Heirs of Amunategui. The complaint was dismissed on the basis of the Court of Appeals
decision that the disputed lot is part of the public domain. The petitioners also question the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals
in passing upon the relative rights of the parties over the disputed lot when its final decision after all is to declare said lot a part
of the public domain classified as forest land.chanrobles law library : red

The need for resolving the questions raised by Roque Borre and Encarnacion Delfin in their petition depends on the issue
raised by the Heirs of Jose Amunategui, that is, whether or not Lot No. 885 is public forest land, not capable of registration in
the names of the private applicants.

The Heirs of Jose Amunategui maintain that Lot No. 885 cannot be classified as forest land because it is not thickly forested
but is a "mangrove swamp." Although conceding that a "mangrove swamp" is included in the classification of forest land in
accordance with Section 1820 of the Revised Administrative Code, the petitioners argue that no big trees classified in Section
1821 of said Code as first, second and third groups are found on the land in question. Furthermore, they contend that Lot 885,
even if it is a mangrove swamp, is still subject to land registration proceedings because the property had been in actual
possession of private persons for many years, and therefore, said land was already "private land" better adapted and more
Law on NatRes (23-49) 20
valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept under forest classification.

The petition is without merit.

A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose such classification simply because loggers or
settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be covered with grass or
planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way
places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be
classified as forest land. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of
what the land actually looks like. Unless and until the land classified as "forest" is released in an official proclamation to that
effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect
title do not apply.

This Court ruled in the leading case of Director of Forestry v. Muoz (23 SCRA 1184) that possession of forest lands, no
matter how long, cannot ripen into private ownership. And in Republic v. Animas (56 SCRA 499), we granted the petition on
the ground that the area covered by the patent and title was not disposable public land, it being a part of the forest zone and
any patent and title to said area is void ab initio. It bears emphasizing that a positive act of Government is needed to declassify
land which is classified as forest and to convert it into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes.

The findings of the Court of Appeals are particularly well-grounded in the instant petition.

The fact that no trees enumerated in Section 1821 of the Revised Administrative Code are found in Lot No. 885 does not
divest such land of its being classified as forest land, much less as land of the public domain. The appellate court found that in
1912, the land must have been a virgin forest as stated by Emeterio Berebers witness Deogracias Gavacao, and that as late
as 1926, it must have been a thickly forested area as testified by Jaime Bertolde. The opposition of the Director of Forestry
was strengthened by the appellate courts finding that timber licenses had to be issued to certain licensees and even Jose
Amunategui himself took the trouble to ask for a license to cut timber within the area. It was only sometime in 1950 that the
property was converted into fishpond but only after a previous warning from the District Forester that the same could not be
done because it was classified as "public forest." chanrobles.com:cralaw:red

In confirmation of imperfect title cases, the applicant shoulders the burden of proving that he meets the requirements of
Section 48, Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Republic Act No. 1942. He must overcome the presumption that the
land he is applying for is part of the public domain but that he has an interest therein sufficient to warrant registration in his
name because of an imperfect title such as those derived from old Spanish grants or that he has had continuous, open, and
notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of acquisition of
ownership for at least thirty (30) years preceding the filing of his application.

The decision of the appellate court is not based merely on the presumptions implicit in Commonwealth Act No. 141 as
amended. The records show that Lot No. 88S never ceased to be classified as forest land of the public domain.

In Republic v. Gonong (118 SCRA 729) we ruled:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"As held in Oh Cho v. Director of Lands, 75 Phil. 890, all lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by
purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain. An exception to the rule would be any land that should have been in the
possession of an occupant and of his predecessors in-interests since time immemorial, for such possession would justify the
presumption that the land had never been part of the public domain or that it had been a private property even before the
Spanish conquest."cralaw virtua1aw library

In the instant petitions, the exception in the Oh Cho case does not apply. The evidence is clear that Lot No. 885 had always
been public land classified as forest.

Similarly, in Republic v. Vera (120 SCRA 210), we ruled:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

". . . The possession of public land however long the period thereof may have extended, never confers title thereto upon the
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 the required number of years to constitute a
grant from the State. (Director of Lands v. Reyes, 68 SCRA 177, 195)."cralaw virtua1aw library

We, therefore, affirm the finding that the disputed property Lot No. 885 is part of the public domain, classified as public forest
Law on NatRes (23-49) 21
land. There is no need for us to pass upon the other issues raised by petitioners Roque Borre and Encarnacion Delfin, as such
issues are rendered moot by this finding.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary

WHEREFORE, the petitions in G. R. No. L-30035 and G. R. No. L-27873 are DISMISSED for lack of merit. Costs against the
petitioners.
SO ORDERED.

J. H. ANKRON,petitioner-appellee, vs. THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, objector-appellant.; G.R. No. L-
14213 August 23, 1919;JOHNSON, J.:

This action was commenced in the Court of First Instance of the Province of Davao, Department of Mindanao and Sulu. Its
purpose was to have registered, under the Torrens system, a certain piece or parcel of land situated, bounded and particularly
described in the plan and technical description attached to the complaint and made a part thereof.

The only opposition which was presented was on the part of the Director of Lands. The oppositor[objector] alleged that the
land in question was the property of the Government of the United States under the control and administration of the
Government of the Philippine Islands.

During the trial of the cause two witnesses only were presented by the petitioner. No proof whatever was offered by the
oppositor. After hearing and considering the evidence, the Honorable Francisco Soriano, judge, reached the following
conclusions of fact:

1. That the land sought to be registered consists of one parcel of land as marked and indicated on the plan and technical
description presented;

2. That all of said land, with the exception of a small part at the north, the exact description and extension of which does not
appear, has been cultivated and planted for more than forty-four years prior to the date of this decision;

3. That said land was formerly occupied, cultivated and planted by Moros, Mansacas and others, under a claim of ownership,
and that they lived thereon and had their houses thereon, and that portion of the land which was not planted or cultivated was
used as pasture land whereon they pastured their carabaos, cattle, and horses;

4. That all of said Moros and Mansacas sold, transferred and conveyed all their right, title and interest in said land to the
applicant, J. H. Ankron, some eleven years past, at which time all of the said former owners moved o n to adjoining lands
where they now reside;

5. That the possession under claim of ownership of the applicant and his predecessors in interest was shown to have been
open, notorious, actual, public and continuous for more than forty-four years past, and that their claim was exclusive of any
other right adverse to all other claims;

6. That the applicant now has some one hundred fifty (150) hills of hemp, some eight thousand (8,000) cocoanut trees, a
dwelling house, various laborers' quarters, store-building, large camarin (storehouse of wood, a galvanized iron and other
buildings and improvements on said land.

Upon the foregoing facts the lower court ordered and decreed that said parcel of land be registered in the name of the said
applicant, J. H. Ankron, subject, however, to the right of the Government of the Philippine Islands to open a road thereon in the
manner and conditions mentioned in said decision. The conditions mentioned with reference to the opening of the road, as
found in said decision, are that the applicant give his consent, which he has already done, to the opening of said road which
should be fifteen (15) meters wide and should follow approximately the line of the road as it now exists subject to the
subsequent survey to be made by the engineer of the province of Davao.

From that decree the Director of Lands appealed to this court.

The appellant argues, first, that the applicant did not sufficiently identify the land in question. In reply to that argument, the
record shows that a detained and technical description of the land was made a part of the record. The evidence shows that the
boundaries of the land in question were marked by monuments built of cement. The oppositor neither presented the question
of the failure of proper identification of the land in the lower court nor presented any proof whatever to show that said cement
monuments did not exist.

The appellant, in his second assignment of error, contends that the appellant failed to prove his possession and occupation in
accordance with the provisions of paragraph 6 of section 54 of Act No. 926. The important prerequisites for registration of land
Law on NatRes (23-49) 22
imposed by said section 54, paragraph 6, are (a) that the land shall be agricultural publicland as defined by the Act of
Congress of July 1, 1902; (b) that the petitioner, by himself or his predecessors in interest, shall have been in the open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the same under a bona fide claim of ownership for a period
of ten years next preceding the taking effect of said Act.

In the present case the applicant proved, and there was no effort to dispute said proof, that the land in question was
agricultural land and that he and his predecessors in interest had occupied the same as owners in good faith for a period of
more than forty years prior to the commencement of the present action. No question is raised nor discussed by the appellant
with reference to the right of the Moros to acquire the absolute ownership and dominion of the land which they have occupied
openly, notoriously, peacefully and adversely for a long period of years. (Cario vs. Insular Government, 7 Phil. Rep., 132 [212
U. S., 449].)

Accepting the undisputed proof, we are of the opinion that said paragraph 6 of section 54 of Act No. 926 has been fully
complied with and that the petitioner, so far as the second assignment of error is concerned, is entitled to have his land
registered under the Torrens system.

Under the third assignment of error the appellant contends that portions of said land cannot be registered in accordance with
the existing Land Registration Law for the reason that they are manglares. That question is not discussed in the present brief.
The appellant, however., refers the court to his discussion of that question in the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry(39
Phil. Rep., 560). By reference to the argument in the brief in the case, it is found that the appellant relied upon the provisions
of section 3 of Act No. 1148 in relation with section 1820 of Act No. 2711 (second Administrative Code). Section 3 of Act No.
1148 provides that "the public forests shall include all unreserved lands covered with trees of whatever age." Said section
1820 (Act No. 2711) provides that "for the purpose of this chapter 'public forest' includes, except as otherwise specially
indicated, all unreserved public land, including nipa and mangrove swamps, and all forest reserves of whatever character."

In the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government(10 Phil. Rep., 175), which decision has been follows in numerous other decision,
the phrase "agricultural public lands" as defined by Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, was held to mean "those public lands
acquired from Spain which are neither mineral nor timber lands" (forestry lands).

Paragraph 6 of section 54 of Act No. 926 only permits the registration, under the conditions therein mentioned, of "public
agricultural lands." It must follow, therefore, that the moment that it appears that the land is not agricultural, the petition for
registration must be denied. If the evidence shows that it is public forestry land or public mineral land, the petition for
registration must be denied. Many definitions have been given for "agricultural," "forestry," and "mineral" lands. These
definitions are valuable so far as they establish general rules. In this relation we think the executive department of the
Government, through the Bureau of Forestry, may, and should, in view especially of the provisions of section 4, 8, and 20 of
Act No. 1148, define what shall be considered forestry lands, to the end that the people of the Philippine Islands shall be
guaranteed in "the future a continued supply of valuable timber and other forest products." (Sec. 8, Act No. 1148.) If the
Bureau of Forestry should accurately and definitely define what lands are forestry, occupants in the future would be greatly
assisted in their proof and the courts would be greatly aided in determining the question whether the particular land is forestry
or other class of lands.

In the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry(supra), the Attorney-General admitted in effect that whether the particular land in
question belongs to one class or another is a question of fact. The mere fact that a tract of land has trees upon it or has
mineral within it is not of itself sufficient to declare that one is forestry land and the other, mineral land. There must be some
proof of the extent and present or future value of the forestry and of the minerals. While, as we have just said, many definitions
have been given for "agriculture," "forestry," and "mineral" lands, and that in each case it is a question of fact, we think it is
safe to say that in order to be forestry or mineral land the proof must show that it is more valuable for the forestry or the
mineral which it contains than it is for agricultural purposes. (Sec. 7, Act No. 1148.) It is not sufficient to show that there exists
some trees upon the land or that it bears some mineral. Land may be classified as forestry or mineral today, and, by reason of
the exhaustion of the timber or mineral, be classified as agricultural land tomorrow. And vice-versa, by reason of the rapid
growth of timber or the discovery of valuable minerals, lands classified as agricultural today may be differently classified
tomorrow. Each case must be decided upon the proof in that particular case, having regard for its present or future value for
one or the other purposes. We believe, however, considering the fact that it is a matter of public knowledge that a majority of
the lands in the Philippine Islands are agricultural lands, that the courts have a right to presume, in the absence of evidence to
the contrary, that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown. Whatever the land involved in a
particular land registration case is forestry or mineral land must, therefore, be a matter of proof. Its superior value for one
purpose or the other is a question of fact to be settled by the proof in each particular case. The fact that the land is a manglar
[mangrove swamp] is not sufficient for the courts to decide whether it is agricultural, forestry, or mineral land. It may perchance
belong to one or the other of said classes of land. The Government, in the first instance, under the provisions of Act No. 1148,
may, by reservation, decide for itself what portions of public land shall be considered forestry land, unless private interests
Law on NatRes (23-49) 23
have intervened before such reservation is made. In the latter case, whether the land is agricultural, forestry, or mineral, is a
question of proof. Until private interests have intervened, the Government, by virtue of the terms of said Act (No. 1148), may
decide for itself what portions of the "public domain" shall be set aside and reserved as forestry or mineral land. (Ramos vs.
Director of Lands (39 Phil. Rep., 175; Jocson vs. Director of Forestry, supra.)

In view of the foregoing we are of the opinion, and so order and decree, that the judgment of the lower court should be and is
hereby affirmed, with the condition that before the final certificate is issued, an accurate survey be made of the lands to be
occupied by the road above mentioned and that a plan of the same be attached to the original plan upon which the petition
herein is based. It is so ordered, with costs.

STA. ROSA REALTY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, JUAN B. AMANTE etc.;
G.R. No. 112526 October 12, 2001; PARDO, J.:

The case before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the Court of Appeals 1 affirming the decision of
the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board 2 (hereafter DARAB) ordering the compulsory acquisition of petitioner's
property under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Petitioner Sta. Rosa Realty Development Corporation (hereafter, SRRDC) was the registered owner of two parcels of land,
situated at Barangay Casile, Cabuyao, Laguna covered by TCT Nos. 81949 and 84891, with a total area of 254.6 hectares.
According to petitioner, the parcels of land are watersheds, which provide clean potable water to the Canlubang community,
and that ninety (90) light industries are now located in the area. 3

Petitioner alleged that respondents usurped its rights over the property, thereby destroying the ecosystem. Sometime in
December 1985, respondents filed a civil case 4 with the Regional Trial Court, Laguna, seeking an easement of a right of way
to and from Barangay Casile. By way of counterclaim, however, petitioner sought the ejectment of private respondents.

In October 1986 to August 1987, petitioner filed with the Municipal Trial Court, Cabuyao, Laguna separate complaints for
forcible entry against respondents.5

After the filing of the ejectment cases, respondents petitioned the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for the compulsory
acquisition of the SRRDC property under the CARP.

On August 11, 1989, the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer (MARO) of Cabuyao, Laguna issued a notice of coverage to
petitioner and invited its officials or representatives to a conference on August 18, 1989.6 During the meeting, the following
were present: representatives of petitioner, the Land Bank of the Philippines, PARCCOM, PARO of Laguna, MARO of Laguna,
the BARC Chairman of Barangay Casile and some potential farmer beneficiaries, who are residents of Barangay Casile,
Cabuyao, Laguna. It was the consensus and recommendation of the assembly that the landholding of SRRDC be placed
under compulsory acquisition.

On August 17, 1989, petitioner filed with the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (MARO), Cabuyao, Laguna a "Protest and
Objection" to the compulsory acquisition of the property on the ground that the area was not appropriate for agricultural
purposes. The area was rugged in terrain with slopes of 18% and above and that the occupants of the land were squatters,
who were not entitled to any land as beneficiaries.7

On August 29, 1989, the farmer beneficiaries together with the BARC chairman answered the protest and objection stating
that the slope of the land is not 18% but only 5-10% and that the land is suitable and economically viable for agricultural
purposes, as evidenced by the Certification of the Department of Agriculture, municipality of Cabuyao, Laguna. 8

On September 8, 1989, MARO Belen dela Torre made a summary investigation report and forwarded the Compulsory
Acquisition Folder Indorsement (CAFI) to the Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (hereafter, PARO). 9

On September 21, 1989, PARO Durante Ubeda forwarded his endorsement of the compulsory acquisition to the Secretary of
Agrarian Reform.

On November 23, 1989, Acting Director Eduardo C. Visperas of the Bureau of Land Acquisition and Development, DAR
forwarded two (2) Compulsory Acquisition Claim Folders covering the landholding of SRRDC, covered by TCT Nos. T-81949
and T-84891 to the President, Land Bank of the Philippines for further review and evaluation. 10

On December 12, 1989, Secretary of Agrarian Reform Miriam Defensor Santiago sent two (2) notices of acquisition 11 to
petitioner, stating that petitioner's landholdings covered by TCT Nos. 81949 and 84891, containing an area of 188.2858 and
Law on NatRes (23-49) 24
58.5800 hectares, valued at P4,417,735.65 and P1,220,229.93, respectively, had been placed under the Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Program.

On February 6, 1990, petitioner SRRDC in two letters12 separately addressed to Secretary Florencio B. Abad and the Director,
Bureau of Land Acquisition and Distribution, sent its formal protest, protesting not only the amount of compensation offered by
DAR for the property but also the two (2) notices of acquisition.

On March 17, 1990, Secretary Abad referred the case to the DARAB for summary proceedings to determine just
compensation under R. A. No. 6657, Section 16.

On March 23, 1990, the LBP returned the two (2) claim folders previously referred for review and evaluation to the Director of
BLAD mentioning its inability to value the SRRDC landholding due to some deficiencies.

On March 28, 1990, Executive Director Emmanuel S. Galvez wrote Land Bank President Deogracias Vistan to forward the two
(2) claim folders involving the property of SRRDC to the DARAB for it to conduct summary proceedings to determine the just
compensation for the land.

On April 6, 1990, petitioner sent a letter to the Land Bank of the Philippines stating that its property under the aforesaid land
titles were exempt from CARP coverage because they had been classified as watershed area and were the subject of a
pending petition for land conversion.

On May 10, 1990, Director Narciso Villapando of BLAD turned over the two (2) claim folders (CACF's) to the Executive
Director of the DAR Adjudication Board for proper administrative valuation. Acting on the CACF's, on September 10, 1990, the
Board promulgated a resolution asking the office of the Secretary of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to first resolve two (2) issues
before it proceeds with the summary land valuation proceedings. 13

The issues that need to be threshed out were as follows: (1) whether the subject parcels of land fall within the coverage of the
Compulsory Acquisition Program of the CARP; and (2) whether the petition for land conversion of the parcels of land may be
granted.

On December 7, 1990, the Office of the Secretary, DAR, through the Undersecretary for Operations (Assistant Secretary for
Luzon Operations) and the Regional Director of Region IV, submitted a report answering the two issues raised. According to
them, firstly, by virtue of the issuance of the notice of coverage on August 11, 1989, and notice of acquisition on December 12,
1989, the property is covered under compulsory acquisition. Secondly, Administrative Order No. 1, Series of 1990, Section IV
D also supports the DAR position on the coverage of the said property. During the consideration of the case by the Board,
there was no pending petition for land conversion specifically concerning the parcels of land in question.

On February 19, 1991, the Board sent a notice of hearing to all the parties interested, setting the hearing for the administrative
valuation of the subject parcels of land on March 6, 1991. However, on February 22, 1991, Atty. Ma. Elena P. Hernandez-
Cueva, counsel for SRRDC, wrote the Board requesting for its assistance in the reconstruction of the records of the case
because the records could not be found as her co-counsel, Atty. Ricardo Blancaflor, who originally handled the case for
SRRDC and had possession of all the records of the case was on indefinite leave and could not be contacted. The Board
granted counsel's request and moved the hearing to April 4, 1991.

On March 18, 1991, SRRDC submitted a petition to the Board for the latter to resolve SRRDC's petition for exemption from
CARP coverage before any administrative valuation of their landholding could be had by the Board.

On April 4, 1991, the initial DARAB hearing of the case was held and subsequently, different dates of hearing were set without
objection from counsel of SRRDC. During the April 15, 1991 hearing, the subdivision plan of subject property at Casile,
Cabuyao, Laguna was submitted and marked as Exhibit "5" for SRRDC. At the hearing on April 23, 1991, the Land Bank
asked for a period of one month to value the land in dispute.

At the hearing on April 23, 1991, certification from Deputy Zoning Administrator Generoso B. Opina was presented. The
certification issued on September 8, 1989, stated that the parcels of land subject of the case were classified as "industrial
Park" per Sanguniang Bayan Resolution No. 45-89 dated March 29, 1989.14

To avert any opportunity that the DARAB might distribute the lands to the farmer beneficiaries, on April 30, 1991, petitioner
filed a petition15 with DARAB to disqualify private respondents as beneficiaries. However, DARAB refused to address the issue
of beneficiaries.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 25
In the meantime, on January 20, 1992, the Regional Trial Court, Laguna, Branch 24, rendered a decision,16 finding that private
respondents illegally entered the SRRDC property, and ordered them evicted.

On July 11, 1991, DAR Secretary Benjamin T. Leong issued a memorandum directing the Land Bank of the Philippines to
open a trust account in favor of SRRDC, for P5,637,965.55, as valuation for the SRRDC property.

On December 19, 1991, DARAB promulgated a decision, the decretal portion of which reads:

"WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing premises, the Board hereby orders:

"1. The dismissal for lack of merit of the protest against the compulsory coverage of the landholdings of Sta. Rosa Realty
Development Corporation (Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. 81949 and 84891 with an area of 254.766 hectares) in Barangay
Casile, Municipality of Cabuyao, Province of Laguna under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program is hereby affirmed;

"2. The Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to pay Sta. Rosa Realty Development Corporation the amount of Seven Million
Eight Hundred Forty-One Thousand, Nine Hundred Ninety Seven Pesos and Sixty-Four centavos (P7,841,997.64) for its
landholdings covered by the two (2) Transfer Certificates of Title mentioned above. Should there be a rejection of the payment
tendered, to open, if none has yet been made, a trust account for said amount in the name of Sta. Rosa Realty Development
Corporation;

"3. The Register of Deeds of the Province of Laguna to cancel with dispatch Transfer certificate of Title Nos. 84891 and 81949
and new one be issued in the name of the Republic of the Philippines, free from liens and encumbrances;

"4 The Department of Environment and Natural Resources either through its Provincial Office in Laguna or the Regional
Office, Region IV, to conduct a final segregation survey on the lands covered by Transfer certificate of Title Nos. 84891 and
81949 so the same can be transferred by the Register of Deeds to the name of the Republic of the Philippines;

"5. The Regional Office of the Department of Agrarian Reform through its Municipal and Provincial Agrarian Reform Office to
take immediate possession on the said landholding after Title shall have been transferred to the name of the Republic of the
Philippines, and distribute the same to the immediate issuance of Emancipation Patents to the farmer-beneficiaries as
determined by the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office of Cabuyao, Laguna." 17

On January 20, 1992, the Regional Trial Court, Laguna, Branch 24, rendered a decision in Civil Case No. B-233318 ruling that
respondents were builders in bad faith.

On February 6, 1992, petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for review of the DARAB decision. 19 On November 5,
1993, the Court of Appeals promulgated a decision affirming the decision of DARAB. The decretal portion of the Court of
Appeals decision reads:

"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the DARAB decision dated September 19, 1991 is AFFIRMED, without prejudice to
petitioner Sta. Rosa Realty Development Corporation ventilating its case with the Special Agrarian Court on the issue of just
compensation."20Hence, this petition.21

On December 15, 1993, the Court issued a Resolution which reads:

"G. R. Nos. 112526 (Sta. Rosa Realty Development Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, et. al.) Considering the compliance,
dated December 13, 1993, filed by counsel for petitioner, with the resolution of December 8, 1993 which required petitioner to
post a cash bond or surety bond in the amount of P1,500,000.00 Pesos before issuing a temporary restraining order prayed
for, manifesting that it has posted a CASH BOND in the same amount with the Cashier of the Court as evidenced by the
attached official receipt no. 315519, the Court resolved to ISSUE the Temporary Retraining Order prayed for.

"The Court therefore, resolved to restrain: (a) the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board from enforcing its
decision dated December 19, 1991 in DARAB Case No. JC-R-IV-LAG-0001, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in a
Decision dated November 5, 1993, and which ordered, among others, the Regional Office of the Department of Agrarian
Reform through its Municipal and Provincial Reform Office to take immediate possession of the landholding in dispute after
title shall have been transferred to the name of the Republic of the Philippines and to distribute the same through the
immediate issuance of Emancipation Patents to the farmer-beneficiaries as determined by the Municipal Agrarian Officer of
Cabuyao, Laguna, (b) The Department of Agrarian Reform and/or the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, and
all persons acting for and in their behalf and under their authority from entering the properties involved in this case and from
introducing permanent infrastructures thereon; and (c) the private respondents from further clearing the said properties of their
green cover by the cutting or burning of trees and other vegetation, effective today until further orders from this Court." 22
Law on NatRes (23-49) 26
The main issue raised is whether the property in question is covered by CARP despite the fact that the entire property formed
part of a watershed area prior to the enactment of R. A. No. 6657.

Under Republic Act No. 6657, there are two modes of acquisition of private land: compulsory and voluntary. In the case at bar,
the Department of Agrarian Reform sought the compulsory acquisition of subject property under R. A. No. 6657, Section 16, to
wit:

"Sec. 16. Procedure for Acquisition of Private Lands. For purposes of acquisition of private lands, the following procedures
shall be followed:

a.) After having identified the land, the landowners and the beneficiaries, the DAR shall send its notice to acquire the land to
the owners thereof, by personal delivery or registered mail, and post the same in a conspicuous place in the municipal building
and barangay hall of the place where the property is located. Said notice shall contain the offer of the DAR to pay
corresponding value in accordance with the valuation set forth in Sections 17, 18, and other pertinent provisions hereof.

b.) Within thirty (30) days from the date of the receipt of written notice by personal delivery or registered mail, the landowner,
his administrator or representative shall inform the DAR of his acceptance or rejection of the offer.

c.) If the landowner accepts the offer of the DAR, the LBP shall pay the landowner the purchase price of the land within thirty
(30) days after he executes and delivers a deed of transfer in favor of the government and other muniments of title.

d.) In case of rejection or failure to reply, the DAR shall conduct summary administrative proceedings to determine the
compensation for the land requiring the landowner, the LBP and other interested parties to submit fifteen (15) days from
receipt of the notice. After the expiration of the above period, the matter is deemed submitted for decision. The DAR shall
decide the case within thirty (30) days after it is submitted for decision.

e.) Upon receipt by the landowner of the corresponding payment, or, in case of rejection or no response from the landowner,
upon the deposit with an accessible bank designated by the DAR of the compensation in cash or in LBP bonds in accordance
with this act, the DAR shall make immediate possession of the land and shall request the proper Register of Deeds to issue
Transfer Certificate of Titles (TCT) in the name of the Republic of the Philippines. The DAR shall thereafter proceed with the
redistribution of the land to the qualified beneficiaries.

f.) Any party who disagrees with the decision may bring the matter to the court 23 of proper jurisdiction for final determination of
just compensation.

In compulsory acquisition of private lands, the landholding, the landowners and farmer beneficiaries must first be identified.
After identification, the DAR shall send a notice of acquisition to the landowner, by personal delivery or registered mail, and
post it in a conspicuous place in the municipal building and barangay hall of the place where the property is located.

Within thirty (30) days from receipt of the notice of acquisition, the landowner, his administrator or representative shall inform
the DAR of his acceptance or rejection of the offer.

If the landowner accepts, he executes and delivers a deed of transfer in favor of the government and surrenders the certificate
of title. Within thirty (30) days from the execution of the deed of transfer, the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) pays the
owner the purchase price. If the landowner accepts, he executes and delivers a deed of transfer in favor of the government
and surrenders the certificate of title. Within thirty days from the execution of the deed of transfer, the Land Bank of the
Philippines (LBP) pays the owner the purchase price. If the landowner rejects the DAR's offer or fails to make a reply, the DAR
conducts summary administrative proceedings to determine just compensation for the land. The landowner, the LBP
representative and other interested parties may submit evidence on just compensation within fifteen days from notice. Within
thirty days from submission, the DAR shall decide the case and inform the owner of its decision and the amount of just
compensation.

Upon receipt by the owner of the corresponding payment, or, in case of rejection or lack of response from the latter, the DAR
shall deposit the compensation in cash or in LBP bonds with an accessible bank. The DAR shall immediately take possession
of the land and cause the issuance of a transfer certificate of title in the name of the Republic of the Philippines. The land shall
then be redistributed to the farmer beneficiaries. Any party may question the decision of the DAR in the special agrarian courts
(provisionally the Supreme Court designated branches of the regional trial court as special agrarian courts) for final
determination of just compensation.

The DAR has made compulsory acquisition the priority mode of land acquisition to hasten the implementation of the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Under Sec. 16 of the CARL, the first step in compulsory acquisition is the
Law on NatRes (23-49) 27
identification of the land, the landowners and the farmer beneficiaries. However, the law is silent on how the identification
process shall be made. To fill this gap, on July 26, 1989, the DAR issued Administrative Order No. 12, series of 1989, which
set the operating procedure in the identification of such lands. The procedure is as follows:

A. The Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer (MARO), with the assistance of the pertinent Barangay Agrarian Reform Committee
(BARC), shall:

1. Update the masterlist of all agricultural lands covered under the CARP in his area of responsibility; the masterlist should
include such information as required under the attached CARP masterlist form which shall include the name of the landowner,
landholding area, TCT/OCT number, and tax declaration number.

2. Prepare the Compulsory Acquisition Case Folder (CACF) for each title (OCT/TCT) or landholding covered under Phase I
and II of the CARP except those for which the landowners have already filed applications to avail of other modes of land
acquisition. A case folder shall contain the following duly accomplished forms:

a) CARP CA Form 1MARO investigation report

b) CARP CA Form No 2 Summary investigation report findings and evaluation

c) CARP CA Form 3Applicant's Information sheet

d) CARP CA Form 4 Beneficiaries undertaking

e) CARP CA Form 5 Transmittal report to the PARO

The MARO/BARC shall certify that all information contained in the above-mentioned forms have been examined and verified
by him and that the same are true and correct.

3. Send notice of coverage and a letter of invitation to a conference/meeting to the landowner covered by the Compulsory
Case Acquisition Folder. Invitations to the said conference meeting shall also be sent to the prospective farmer-beneficiaries,
the BARC representatives, the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) representative, and the other interested parties to discuss
the inputs to the valuation of the property.

He shall discuss the MARO/BARC investigation report and solicit the views, objection, agreements or suggestions of the
participants thereon. The landowner shall also ask to indicate his retention area. The minutes of the meeting shall be signed
by all participants in the conference and shall form an integral part of the CACF.

4. Submit all completed case folders to the Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO).

B. The PARO shall:

1. Ensure the individual case folders are forwarded to him by his MAROs.

2. Immediately upon receipt of a case folder, compute the valuation of the land in accordance with A.O. No. 6, series of 1988.
The valuation worksheet and the related CACF valuation forms shall be duly certified correct by the PARO and all the
personnel who participated in the accomplishment of these forms.

3. In all cases, the PARO may validate the report of the MARO through ocular inspection and verification of the property. This
ocular inspection and verification shall be mandatory when the computed value exceeds P500,000 per estate.

4. Upon determination of the valuation, forward the case folder, together with the duly accomplished valuation forms and his
recommendations, to the Central Office.

The LBP representative and the MARO concerned shall be furnished a copy each of his report.

C. DAR Central Office, specifically through the Bureau of Land Acquisition and Distribution (BLAD), shall:

1. Within three days from receipt of the case folder from the PARO, review, evaluate and determine the final land valuation of
the property covered by the case folder. A summary review and evaluation report shall be prepared and duly certified by the
BLAD Director and the personnel directly participating in the review and final valuation.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 28
2. Prepare, for the signature of the Secretary or her duly authorized representative, a notice of acquisition (CARP Form 8) for
the subject property. Serve the notice to the landowner personally or through registered mail within three days from its
approval. The notice shall include among others, the area subject of compulsory acquisition, and the amount of just
compensation offered by DAR.

3. Should the landowner accept the DAR's offered value, the BLAD shall prepare and submit to the Secretary for approval the
order of acquisition. However, in case of rejection or non-reply, the DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB) shall conduct a
summary administrative hearing to determine just compensation, in accordance with the procedures provided under
Administrative Order No. 13, series of 1989. Immediately upon receipt of the DARAB's decision on just compensation, the
BLAD shall prepare and submit to the Secretary for approval the required order of acquisition.

4. Upon the landowner's receipt of payment, in case of acceptance, or upon deposit of payment in the designated bank, in
case of rejection or non-response, the Secretary shall immediately direct the pertinent Register of Deeds to issue the
corresponding Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) in the name of the Republic of the Philippines. Once the property is
transferred, the DAR, through the PARO, shall take possession of the land for redistribution to qualified beneficiaries."

Administrative Order No. 12, Series of 1989 requires that the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer (MARO) keep an updated
master list of all agricultural lands under the CARP in his area of responsibility containing all the required information. The
MARO prepares a Compulsory Acquisition Case Folder (CACF) for each title covered by CARP. The MARO then sends the
landowner a "Notice of Coverage" and a "letter of invitation" to a "conference/ meeting" over the land covered by the CACF.
He also sends invitations to the prospective farmer-beneficiaries, the representatives of the Barangay Agrarian Reform
Committee (BARC), the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and other interested parties to discuss the inputs to the valuation
of the property and solicit views, suggestions, objections or agreements of the parties. At the meeting, the landowner is asked
to indicate his retention area.

The MARO shall make a report of the case to the Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) who shall complete the valuation
of the land. Ocular inspection and verification of the property by the PARO shall be mandatory when the computed value of the
estate exceeds P500,000.00. Upon determination of the valuation, the PARO shall forward all papers together with his
recommendation to the Central Office of the DAR. The DAR Central Office, specifically, the Bureau of Land Acquisition and
Distribution (BLAD) shall prepare, on the signature of the Secretary or his duly authorized representative, a notice of
acquisition of the subject property. From this point, the provisions of R. A. No. 6657, Section 16 shall apply.

For a valid implementation of the CARP Program, two notices are required: (1) the notice of coverage and letter of invitation to
a preliminary conference sent to the landowner, the representative of the BARC, LBP, farmer beneficiaries and other
interested parties pursuant to DAR A. O. No. 12, series of 1989; and (2) the notice of acquisition sent to the landowner under
Section 16 of the CARL.

The importance of the first notice, that is, the notice of coverage and the letter of invitation to a conference, and its actual
conduct cannot be understated. They are steps designed to comply with the requirements of administrative due process. The
implementation of the CARL is an exercise of the State's police power and the power of eminent domain. To the extent that
the CARL prescribes retention limits to the landowners, there is an exercise of police power for the regulation of private
property in accordance with the Constitution. But where, to carry out such regulation, the owners are deprived of lands they
own in excess of the maximum area allowed, there is also a taking under the power of eminent domain. The taking
contemplated is not mere limitation of the use of the land. What is required is the surrender of the title to and physical
possession of the excess and all beneficial rights accruing to the owner in favor of the farmer beneficiary.

In the case at bar, DAR has executed the taking of the property in question. However, payment of just compensation was not
in accordance with the procedural requirement. The law required payment in cash or LBP bonds, not by trust account as was
done by DAR.

In Association of Small Landowners in the Philippines v. Secretary of Agrarian Reform, we held that "The CARP Law, for its
part, conditions the transfer of possession and ownership of the land to the government on receipt of the landowner of the
corresponding payment or the deposit by the DAR of the compensation in cash or LBP bonds with an accessible bank. Until
then, title also remains with the landowner. No outright change of ownership is contemplated either." 24

Consequently, petitioner questioned before the Court of Appeals DARAB's decision ordering the compulsory acquisition of
petitioner's property.25 Here, petitioner pressed the question of whether the property was a watershed, not covered by CARP.

Article 67 of the Water Code of the Philippines (P. D. No. 1067) provides:
Law on NatRes (23-49) 29
"Art. 67. Any watershed or any area of land adjacent to any surface water or overlying any ground water may be declared by
the Department of Natural resources as a protected area. Rules and Regulations may be promulgated by such Department to
prohibit or control such activities by the owners or occupants thereof within the protected area which may damage or cause
the deterioration of the surface water or ground water or interfere with the investigation, use, control, protection, management
or administration of such waters."

Watersheds may be defined as "an area drained by a river and its tributaries and enclosed by a boundary or divide which
separates it from adjacent watersheds." Watersheds generally are outside the commerce of man, so why was the Casile
property titled in the name of SRRDC? The answer is simple. At the time of the titling, the Department of Agriculture and
Natural Resources had not declared the property as watershed area. The parcels of land in Barangay Casile were declared as
"PARK" by a Zoning Ordinance adopted by the municipality of Cabuyao in 1979, as certified by the Housing and Land Use
Regulatory Board. On January 5, 1994, the Sangguniang Bayan of Cabuyao, Laguna issued a Resolution 26 voiding the zoning
classification of the land at Barangay Casile as Park and declaring that the land is now classified as agricultural land.

The authority of the municipality of Cabuyao, Laguna to issue zoning classification is an exercise of its police power, not the
power of eminent domain. "A zoning ordinance is defined as a local city or municipal legislation which logically arranges,
prescribes, defines and apportions a given political subdivision into specific land uses as present and future projection of
needs."27

In Natalia Realty, Inc. v. Department of Agrarian Reform28 we held that lands classified as non-agricultural prior to the
effectivity of the CARL may not be compulsorily acquired for distribution to farmer beneficiaries.

However, more than the classification of the subject land as PARK is the fact that subsequent studies and survey showed that
the parcels of land in question form a vital part of a watershed area.29

Now, petitioner has offered to prove that the land in dispute is a "watershed or part of the protected area for watershed
purposes." Ecological balances and environmental disasters in our day and age seem to be interconnected. Property
developers and tillers of the land must be aware of this deadly combination. In the case at bar, DAR included the disputed
parcels of land for compulsory acquisition simply because the land was allegedly devoted to agriculture and was titled to
SRRDC, hence, private and alienable land that may be subject to CARP.

However, the scenario has changed, after an in-depth study, survey and reassessment. We cannot ignore the fact that the
disputed parcels of land form a vital part of an area that need to be protected for watershed purposes. In a report of the
Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), a research arm of the DENR, regarding the environmental
assessment of the Casile and Kabanga-an river watersheds, they concluded that:

"The Casile barangay covered by CLOA in question is situated in the heartland of both watersheds. Considering the
barangays proximity to the Matangtubig waterworks, the activities of the farmers which are in conflict with proper soil and
water conservation practices jeopardize and endanger the vital waterworks. Degradation of the land would have double edge
detrimental effects. On the Casile side this would mean direct siltation of the Mangumit river which drains to the water
impounding reservoir below. On the Kabanga-an side, this would mean destruction of forest covers which acts as recharged
areas of the Matang Tubig springs. Considering that the people have little if no direct interest in the protection of the Matang
Tubig structures they couldn't care less even if it would be destroyed.

The Casile and Kabanga-an watersheds can be considered a most vital life support system to thousands of inhabitants directly
and indirectly affected by it. From these watersheds come the natural God-given precious resource water. x x x x x

Clearing and tilling of the lands are totally inconsistent with sound watershed management. More so, the introduction of earth
disturbing activities like road building and erection of permanent infrastructures. Unless the pernicious agricultural activities of
the Casile farmers are immediately stopped, it would not be long before these watersheds would cease to be of value. The
impact of watershed degredation threatens the livelihood of thousands of people dependent upon it. Toward this, we hope that
an acceptable comprehensive watershed development policy and program be immediately formulated and implemented
before the irreversible damage finally happens.

Hence, the following are recommended:

7.2 The Casile farmers should be relocated and given financial assistance.

7.3 Declaration of the two watersheds as critical and in need of immediate rehabilitation.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 30
7.4 A comprehensive and detailed watershed management plan and program be formulated and implemented by the
Canlubang Estate in coordination with pertinent government agencies." 30

The ERDB report was prepared by a composite team headed by Dr. Emilio Rosario, the ERDB Director, who holds a doctorate
degree in water resources from U.P. Los Banos in 1987; Dr. Medel Limsuan, who obtained his doctorate degree in watershed
management from Colorado University (US) in 1989; and Dr. Antonio M. Dano, who obtained his doctorate degree in Soil and
Water management Conservation from U.P. Los Banos in 1993.

Also, DENR Secretary Angel Alcala submitted a Memorandum for the President dated September 7, 1993 (Subject: PFVR
HWI Ref.: 933103 Presidential Instructions on the Protection of Watersheds of the Canlubang Estates at Barrio Casile,
Cabuyao, Laguna) which reads:

"It is the opinion of this office that the area in question must be maintained for watershed purposes for ecological and
environmental considerations, among others. Although the 88 families who are the proposed CARP beneficiaries will be
affected, it is important that a larger view of the situation be taken as one should also consider the adverse effect on
thousands of residents downstream if the watershed will not be protected and maintained for watershed purposes.

"The foregoing considered, it is recommended that if possible, an alternate area be allocated for the affected farmers, and that
the Canlubang Estates be mandated to protect and maintain the area in question as a permanent watershed reserved." 31

The definition does not exactly depict the complexities of a watershed. The most important product of a watershed is water
which is one of the most important human necessity. The protection of watersheds ensures an adequate supply of water for
future generations and the control of flashfloods that not only damage property but cause loss of lives. Protection of
watersheds is an "intergenerational responsibility" that needs to be answered now.

Another factor that needs to be mentioned is the fact that during the DARAB hearing, petitioner presented proof that the Casile
property has slopes of 18% and over, which exempted the land from the coverage of CARL. R. A. No. 6657, Section 10,
provides:

"Section 10. Exemptions and Exclusions. Lands actually, directly and exclusively used and found to be necessary for parks,
wildlife, forest reserves, reforestration, fish sanctuaries and breeding grounds, watersheds and mangroves, national defense,
school sites and campuses including experimental farm stations operated by public or private schools for educational
purposes, seeds and seedlings research and pilot production centers, church sites and convents appurtenent thereto,
communal burial grounds and cemeteries, penal colonies and penal farms actually worked by the inmates, government and
private research and quarantine centers, and all lands with eighteen percent (18%) slope and over, except those already
developed shall be exempt from coverage of this Act."

Hence, during the hearing at DARAB, there was proof showing that the disputed parcels of land may be excluded from the
compulsory acquisition coverage of CARP because of its very high slopes.

To resolve the issue as to the true nature of the parcels of land involved in the case at bar, the Court directs the DARAB to
conduct a re-evaluation of the issue.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the Court SETS ASIDE the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G. R. SP No. 27234.

In lieu thereof, the Court REMANDS the case to the DARAB for re-evaluation and determination of the nature of the parcels of
land involved to resolve the issue of its coverage by the Comprehensive Land Reform Program.

In the meantime, the effects of the CLOAs issued by the DAR to supposed farmer beneficiaries shall continue to be stayed by
the temporary restraining order issued on December 15, 1993, which shall remain in effect until final decision on the case.
No costs. SO ORDERED.

EDNA COLLADO, BERNARDINA TAWAS, etc. vs.


COURT OF APPEALS and REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, thru the Director of Lands,
BOCKASANJO ISF AWARDEES ASSOCIATION, INC.,
LITA MENDOZA, MORADO PREFIDIGNO, TERESITA CRUZ and CALOMA MOISES, respondents/intervernors.; G. R. No.
107764 October 4, 2002; CARPIO, J.:

The Case
Law on NatRes (23-49) 31
This Petition1seeks to set aside the Decision of the Court of Appeals,2dated June 22, 1992, in CA-G.R. SP No. 25597, which
declared null and void the Decision 3 dated January 30, 1991 of the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo, Rizal, Branch 71, in LRC
No. 269-A, LRC Rec. No. N-59179, confirming the imperfect title of petitioners over a parcel of land.

The Facts

On April 25, 1985, petitioner Edna T. Collado filed with the land registration court an application for registration of a parcel of
land with an approximate area of 1,200,766 square meters or 120.0766 hectares ("Lot" for brevity). The Lot is situated in
Barangay San Isidro (formerly known as Boso-boso), Antipolo, Rizal, and covered by Survey Plan Psu-162620. Attached to
the application was the technical description of the Lot as Lot Psu-162620 signed by Robert C. Pangyarihan, Officer-in-Charge
of the Survey Division, Bureau of Lands, which stated, "[t]his survey is inside IN-12 Mariquina Watershed." On March 24,
1986, petitioner Edna T. Collado filed an Amended Application to include additional co-applicants.4 Subsequently, more
applicants joined (collectively referred to as "petitioners" for brevity). 5

The Republic of the Philippines, through the Solicitor General, and the Municipality of Antipolo, through its Municipal Attorney
and the Provincial Fiscal of Rizal, filed oppositions to petitioners application. In due course, the land registration court issued
an order of general default against the whole world with the exception of the oppositors.

Petitioners alleged that they have occupied the Lot since time immemorial. Their possession has been open, public, notorious
and in the concept of owners. The Lot was surveyed in the name of Sesinando Leyva, one of their predecessors-in-interest, as
early as March 22, 1902. Petitioners declared the Lot for taxation purposes and paid all the corresponding real estate taxes.
According to them, there are now twenty-five co-owners in pro-indiviso shares of five hectares each. During the hearings,
petitioners submitted evidence to prove that there have been nine transfers of rights among them and their predecessors-in-
interest, as follows:

"1. SESINANDO LEYVA was the earliest known predecessor-in-interest of the Applicants who was in actual, open, notorious
and continuous possession of the property in the concept of owner. He had the property surveyed in his name on 22 March
1902 (Exhibit "W" and "W-1" testimonies of J. Torres on 16 December 1987 and Mariano Leyva on 29 December 1987).

2. DIOSDADO LEYVA, is the son of Sesinando Leyva, who inherited the property. He had the property resurveyed in his name
on May 21-28, 1928 (Exhibit "X" and "X-1"; testimony of Mariano Leyva, a son of Diosdado Leyva).

3. GREGORIO CAMANTIQUE bought the property from Diosdado Leyva before the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines
during World War II. He owned and possessed the property until 1958. He declared the property for tax purposes, the latest of
which was under Tax Declaration No. 7182 issued on 3 February 1957 (Exhibit "I" and testimony of Mariano Leyva, supra).

4. ANGELINA REYNOSO, bought the property from Gregorio Camantique by virtue of a Deed of Sale on 3 February 1958
(Exhibit "H"). During the ownership of the property by Angelina Reynoso, Mariano Leyva the grandson of Sesinando Leyva,
the previous owner, attended to the farm. (Testimony of Mariano Leyva, supra). Angelina Reynoso declared the property in her
name under Tax Declaration No. 7189 in 4 February 1958, under Tax Declaration No. 8775 on 3 August 1965, under Tax
Declaration No. 16945 on 15 December 1975, and under Tax Declaration No. 03-06145 on 25 June 1978.

5. MYRNA TORRES bought the property from Angelina Reynoso on 16 October 1982 through a Deed of Sale (Exhibit "G").

6. EDNA COLLADO bought the property from Myrna Torres in a Deed of Sale dated 28 April 1984 (Exhibit "P-1" to "P-3").

7. Additional owners BERNARDINA TAWAS, JORETO TORRES, JOSE AMO, VICENTE TORRES and SERGIO
MONTEALEGRE who bought portions of the property from Edna Collado through a Deed of Sale on 6 November 1985
(Exhibit "Q" to "Q-3").

8. And more additional Owners JOSEPH NUNEZ, DIOSDADO ARENOS, DANILO FABREGAS, FERNANDO TORRES, LUZ
TUBUNGBANUA, CARIDAD TUTANA, JOSE TORRES JR., RODRIGO TUTANA, ROSALIE TUTANA, NORMA ASTORIAS,
MYRNA LANCION, CHONA MARCIANO, CECILIA MACARANAS, PEDRO BRIONES, REMEDIOS BANTIQUE, DANTE
MONTEALEGRE, ARMANDO TORRES, AIDA GADON and AMELIA M. MALAPAD bought portions of the property in a Deed
of Sale on 12 May 1986 (Exhibit "S" to "S-3").

9. Co-owners DIOSDADO ARENOS, RODRIGO TUTANA, CHONA MARCIANO and AMELIA MALAPAD jointly sold their
shares to new OWNERS GLORIA R. SERRANO, IMELDA CAYLALUAD, NORBERTO CAMILOTE and FIDELITO ECO
through a Deed of Sale dated 18 January 1987 (Exhibit "T" to "T-9")."6
Law on NatRes (23-49) 32
During the hearing on January 9, 1991, only the assistant provincial prosecutor appeared without the Solicitor General. For
failure of the oppositors to present their evidence, the land registration court issued an order considering the case submitted
for decision based on the evidence of the petitioners. The court later set aside the order and reset the hearing to January 14,
1991 for the presentation of the evidence of the oppositors. On this date, counsel for oppositors failed to appear again despite
due notice. Hence, the court again issued an order submitting the case for decision based on the evidence of the petitioners.

The Trial Courts Ruling

After appraisal of the evidence submitted by petitioners, the land registration court held that petitioners had adduced sufficient
evidence to establish their registrable rights over the Lot. Accordingly, the court rendered a decision confirming the imperfect
title of petitioners. We quote the pertinent portions of the courts decision, as follows:

"From the evidence presented, the Court finds that from the testimony of the witnesses presented by the Applicants, the
property applied for is in actual, open, public and notorious possession by the applicants and their predecessor-in-interest
since time immemorial and said possession had been testified to by witnesses Jimmy Torres, Mariano Leyva, Sergio
Montealegre, Jose Amo and one Chona who were all cross-examined by Counsel for Oppositor Republic of the Philippines.

Evidence was likewise presented that said property was declared for taxation purposes in the names of the previous owners
and the corresponding taxes were paid by the Applicants and the previous owners and said property was planted to fruit
bearing trees; portions to palay and portions used for grazing purposes.

To the mind of the Court, Applicants have presented sufficient evidence to establish registrable title over said property applied
for by them.

On the claim that the property applied for is within the Marikina Watershed, the Court can only add that all Presidential
Proclamations like the Proclamation setting aside the Marikina Watershed are subject to "private rights."

In the case of Municipality of Santiago vs. Court of Appeals, 120 SCRA 734, 1983 "private rights" is proof of acquisition
through (sic) among means of acquisition of public lands.

In the case of Director of Lands vs. Reyes, 68 SCRA 193-195, by "private rights" means that applicant should show clear and
convincing evidence that the property in question was acquired by applicants or their ancestors either by composition title from
the Spanish government or by Possessory Information title, or any other means for the acquisition of public lands xxx"
(underscoring supplied).

The Court believes that from the evidence presented as above stated, Applicants have acquired private rights to which the
Presidential Proclamation setting aside the Marikina Watershed should be subject to such private rights.

At any rate, the Court notes that evidence was presented by the applicants that as per Certification issued by the Bureau of
Forest Development dated March 18, 1980, the area applied for was verified to be within the area excluded from the operation
of the Marikina Watershed Lands Executive Order No. 33 dated July 26, 1904 per Proclamation No. 1283 promulgated on
June 21, 1974 which established the Boso-boso Town Site Reservation, amended by Proclamation No. 1637 dated April 18,
1977 known as the Lungsod Silangan Townsite Reservation. (Exhibit "K")." 7

In a motion dated April 5, 1991, received by the Solicitor General on April 6, 1991, petitioners alleged that the decision dated
January 30, 1991 confirming their title had become final after the Solicitor General received a copy of the decision on February
18, 1991. Petitioners prayed that the land registration court order the Land Registration Authority to issue the necessary
decree in their favor over the Lot.

On April 11, 1991, the Solicitor General inquired from the Provincial Prosecutor of Rizal whether the land registration court had
already rendered a decision and if so, whether the Provincial Prosecutor would recommend an appeal. However, the
Provincial Prosecutor failed to answer the query.

According to the Solicitor General, he received on April 23, 1991 a copy of the land registration courts decision dated January
30, 1991, and not on February 18, 1991 as alleged by petitioners in their motion.

In the meantime, on May 7, 1991, the land registration court issued an order directing the Land Regulation Authority to issue
the corresponding decree of registration in favor of the petitioners.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 33
On August 6, 1991, the Solicitor General filed with the Court of Appeals a Petition for Annulment of Judgment pursuant to
Section 9(2) of BP Blg. 129 on the ground that there had been no clear showing that the Lot had been previously classified as
alienable and disposable making it subject to private appropriation.

On November 29, 1991, Bockasanjo ISF Awardees Association, Inc., an association of holders of certificates of stewardship
issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources ("DENR" for brevity) under its Integrated Social Forestry
Program ("ISF" for brevity), filed with the Court of Appeals a Motion for Leave to Intervene and to Admit Petition-In-
Intervention. They likewise opposed the registration and asserted that the Lot, which is situated inside the Marikina Watershed
Reservation, is inalienable. They claimed that they are the actual occupants of the Lot pursuant to the certificates of
stewardship issued by the DENR under the ISF for tree planting purposes.

The Court of Appeals granted the motion to intervene verbally during the preliminary conference held on April 6, 1992. During
the preliminary conference, all the parties as represented by their respective counsels agreed that the only issue for resolution
was whether the Lot in question is part of the public domain. 8

The Court of Appeals Ruling

In a decision dated June 22, 1992, the Court of Appeals granted the petition and declared null and void the decision dated
January 30, 1991 of the land registration court. The Court of Appeals explained thus:

"Under the Regalian Doctrine, which is enshrined in the 1935 (Art. XIII, Sec. 1), 1973 (Art. XIV, Sec. 8), and 1987 Constitution
(Art. XII, Sec. 2), all lands of the public domain belong to the State. An applicant, like the private respondents herein, for
registration of a parcel of land bears the burden of overcoming the presumption that the land sought to be registered forms
part of the public domain (Director of Lands vs. Aquino, 192 SCRA 296).

A positive Act of government is needed to declassify a public land and to convert it into alienable or disposable land for
agricultural or other purposes (Republic vs. Bacas, 176 SCRA 376).

In the case at bar, the private respondents failed to present any evidence whatsoever that the land applied for as described in
Psu-162620 has been segregated from the bulk of the public domain and declared by competent authority to be alienable and
disposable. Worse, the technical description of Psu-162620 signed by Robert C. Pangyarihan, Officer-in-Charge, Survey
Division, Bureau of Lands, which was attached to the application of private respondents, categorically stated that "This survey
is inside IN-12 Mariquina Watershed.""

That the land in question is within the Marikina Watershed Reservation is confirmed by the Administrator of the National Land
Titles and Deeds in a Report, dated March 2, 1988, submitted to the respondent Court in LR Case No. 269-A. These
documents readily and effectively negate the allegation in private respondent Collados application that "said parcel of land
known as Psu-162620 is not covered by any form of title, nor any public land application and are not within any government
reservation (Par. 8, Application; Emphasis supplied). The respondent court could not have missed the import of these vital
documents which are binding upon the courts inasmuch as it is the exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department to
classify public lands. They should have forewarned the respondent judge from assuming jurisdiction over the case.

"x x x inasmuch as the said properties applied for by petitioners are part of the public domain, it is the Director of Lands who
has jurisdiction in the disposition of the same (subject to the approval of the Secretary of Natural Resources and Environment),
and not the courts. x x x Even assuming that petitioners did have the said properties surveyed even before the same was
declared to be part of the Busol Forest Reservation, the fact remains that it was so converted into a forest reservation, thus it
is with more reason that this action must fail. Forest lands are inalienable and possession thereof, no matter how long, cannot
convert the same into private property. And courts are without jurisdiction to adjudicate lands within the forest zone. (Heirs of
Gumangan vs. Court of Appeals. 172 SCRA 563; Emphasis supplied).

Needless to say, a final judgment may be annulled on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, fraud or that it is contrary to law
(Panlilio vs. Garcia, 119 SCRA 387, 391) and a decision rendered without jurisdiction is a total nullity and may be struck down
at any time (Suarez vs. Court of Appeals, 186 SCRA 339)." 9

Hence, the instant petition.

The Issues

The issues raised by petitioners are restated as follows:

I
Law on NatRes (23-49) 34
WHETHER THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED OR GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN REVERSING THE DECISION
OF THE TRIAL COURT GRANTING THE APPLICATION OF THE PETITIONERS FOR CONFIRMATION OF TITLE;

II

WHETHER THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED OR GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN GIVING DUE COURSE TO
THE PETITION FOR ANNULMENT OF JUDGMENT FILED BY THE REPUBLIC LONG AFTER THE DECISION OF THE
TRIAL COURT HAD BECOME FINAL;

III

WHETHER THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED OR GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN GIVING DUE COURSE TO
THE INTERVENORS PETITION FOR INTERVENTION WHICH WAS FILED OUT OF TIME OR LONG AFTER THE
DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT HAD BECOME FINAL.

The Courts Ruling

The petition is bereft of merit.

First Issue: whether petitioners have registrable title over the Lot.

There is no dispute that Executive Order No. 33 ("EO 33" for brevity) dated July 26, 190410 established the Marikina
Watershed Reservation ("MWR" for brevity) situated in the Municipality of Antipolo, Rizal. Petitioners even concede that the
Lot, described as Lot Psu-162620, is inside the technical, literal description of the MWR. However, the main thrust of
petitioners claim over the Lot is that "all Presidential proclamations like the proclamation setting aside the Marikina Watershed
Reservation are subject to private rights." They point out that EO 33 contains a saving clause that the reservations are "subject
to existing private rights, if any there be." Petitioners contend that their claim of ownership goes all the way back to 1902, when
their known predecessor-in-interest, Sesinando Leyva, laid claim and ownership over the Lot. They claim that the presumption
of law then prevailing under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Public Land Act No. 926 was that the land possessed and claimed
by individuals as their own are agricultural lands and therefore alienable and disposable. They conclude that private rights
were vested on Sesinando Leyva before the issuance of EO 33, thus excluding the Lot from the Marikina Watershed
Reservation.

Petitioners arguments find no basis in law.

The Regalian Doctrine: An Overview

Under the Regalian Doctrine, all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong
to the State.11 The Spaniards first introduced the doctrine to the Philippines through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal
Cedulas, specifically, Law 14, Title 12, Book 4 of the Novisima Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias 12 which laid the foundation
that "all lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain." 13
Upon the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, ownership of all "lands, territories and possessions" in the Philippines passed to
the Spanish Crown.14

The Laws of the Indies were followed by the Ley Hipotecaria or the Mortgage Law of 1893. The Spanish Mortgage Law
provided for the systematic registration of titles and deeds as well as possessory claims. The Royal Decree of 1894 or the
"Maura Law" partly amended the Mortgage Law as well as the Law of the Indies. The Maura Law was the last Spanish land
law promulgated in the Philippines. It required the "adjustment" or registration of all agricultural lands, otherwise the lands
would revert to the state.15

Four years later, Spain ceded to the government of the United States all rights, interests and claims over the national territory
of the Philippine Islands through the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898. In 1903, the United States colonial government,
through the Philippine Commission, passed Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, which was described as follows:

"Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was passed in pursuance of the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902. The law
governed the disposition of lands of the public domain. It prescribed rules and regulations for the homesteading, selling and
leasing of portions of the public domain of the Philippine Islands, and prescribed the terms and conditions to enable persons to
perfect their titles to public lands in the Islands. It also provided for the "issuance of patents to certain native settlers upon
public lands," for the establishment of town sites and sale of lots therein, for the completion of imperfect titles, and for the
cancellation or confirmation of Spanish concessions and grants in the Islands." In short, the Public Land Act operated on the
assumption that title to public lands in the Philippine Islands remained in the government; and that the governments title to
Law on NatRes (23-49) 35
public land sprung from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent treaties between Spain and the United States. The term
"public land" referred to all lands of the public domain whose title still remained in the government and are thrown open to
private appropriation and settlement, and excluded the patrimonial property of the government and the friar lands." 16

Thus, it is plain error for petitioners to argue that under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Public Land Act No. 926, mere
possession by private individuals of lands creates the legal presumption that the lands are alienable and disposable.

Act 2874, the second Public Land Act, superseded Act No. 926 in 1919. After the passage of the 1935 Constitution,
Commonwealth Act No. 141 ("CA 141" for brevity) amended Act 2874 in 1936. CA 141, as amended, remains to this day as
the existing general law governing the classification and disposition of lands of the public domain other than timber and
mineral lands.17

In the meantime, in order to establish a system of registration by which recorded title becomes absolute, indefeasible and
imprescriptible, the legislature passed Act 496, otherwise known as the Land Registration Act, which took effect on February
1, 1903. Act 496 placed all registered lands in the Philippines under the Torrens system. 18 The Torrens system requires the
government to issue a certificate of title stating that the person named in the title is the owner of the property described
therein, subject to liens and encumbrances annotated on the title or reserved by law. The certificate of title is indefeasible and
imprescriptible and all claims to the parcel of land are quieted upon issuance of the certificate.19 PD 1529, known as the
Property Registration Decree enacted on June 11, 1978, 20 amended and updated Act 496.

The 1935, 1973, 1987 Philippine Constitutions

The 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions adopted the Regalian doctrine substituting, however, the state, in lieu of the King, as
the owner of all lands and waters of the public domain. 21 Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his separate opinion in Cruz vs.
Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources,22 explained thus:

"One of the fixed and dominating objectives of the 1935 Constitutional Convention was the nationalization and conservation of
the natural resources of the country. There was an overwhelming sentiment in the Convention in favor of the principle of state
ownership of natural resources and the adoption of the Regalian doctrine. State ownership of natural resources was seen as a
necessary starting point to secure recognition of the states power to control their disposition, exploitation, development, or
utilization. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention very well knew that the concept of State ownership of land and
natural resources was introduced by the Spaniards, however, they were not certain whether it was continued and applied by
the Americans. To remove all doubts, the Convention approved the provision in the Constitution affirming the Regalian
doctrine."

Thus, Section 1, Article XIII23 of the 1935 Constitution, on "Conservation and Utilization of Natural Resources" barred the
alienation of all natural resources except public agricultural lands, which were the only natural resources the State could
alienate. The 1973 Constitution reiterated the Regalian doctrine in Section 8, Article XIV 24 on the "National Economy and the
Patrimony of the Nation". The 1987 Constitution reaffirmed the Regalian doctrine in Section 2 of Article XII 25 on "National
Economy and Patrimony".

Both the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions prohibited the alienation of all natural resources except agricultural lands of the public
domain. The 1987 Constitution readopted this policy. Indeed, all lands of the public domain as well as all natural resources
enumerated in the Philippine Constitution belong to the State.

Watershed Reservation is a Natural Resource

The term "natural resource" includes "not only timber, gas, oil coal, minerals, lakes, and submerged lands, but also, features
which supply a human need and contribute to the health, welfare, and benefit of a community, and are essential to the well-
being thereof and proper enjoyment of property devoted to park and recreational purposes." 26

In Sta. Rosa Realty Development Corp. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., 27 the Court had occasion to discourse on watershed
areas. The Court resolved the issue of whether the parcel of land which the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources had assessed to be a watershed area is exempt from the coverage of RA No. 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Law ("CARL" for brevity).28 The Court defined watershed as "an area drained by a river and its tributaries and
enclosed by a boundary or divide which separates it from adjacent watersheds." However, the Court also recognized that:

"The definition does not exactly depict the complexities of a watershed. The most important product of a watershed is water
which is one of the most important human necessit(ies). The protection of watershed ensures an adequate supply of water for
future generations and the control of flashfloods that not only damage property but also cause loss of lives. Protection of
watersheds is an "intergenerational" responsibility that needs to be answered now."
Law on NatRes (23-49) 36
Article 67 of the Water Code of the Philippines (PD 1067) provides:

"Art. 67. Any watershed or any area of land adjacent to any surface water or overlying any ground water may be declared by
the Department of Natural Resources as a protected area. Rules and Regulations may be promulgated by such Department to
prohibit or control such activities by the owners or occupants thereof within the protected area which may damage or cause
the deterioration of the surface water or ground water or interfere with the investigation, use, control, protection, management
or administration of such waters."

The Court in Sta. Rosa Realty also recognized the need to protect watershed areas and took note of the report of the
Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), a research arm of the DENR, regarding the environmental
assessment of the Casile and Kabanga-an river watersheds involved in that case. That report concluded as follows:

"The Casile barangay covered by CLOA in question is situated in the heartland of both watersheds. Considering the
barangays proximity to the Matangtubig waterworks, the activities of the farmers which are in conflict with proper soil and
water conservation practices jeopardize and endanger the vital waterworks. Degradation of the land would have double edge
detrimental effects. On the Casile side this would mean direct siltation of the Mangumit river which drains to the water
impounding reservoir below. On the Kabanga-an side, this would mean destruction of forest covers which acts as recharged
areas of the Matangtubig springs. Considering that the people have little if no direct interest in the protection of the
Matangtubig structures they couldnt care less even if it would be destroyed.

The Casile and Kabanga-an watersheds can be considered a most vital life support system to thousands of inhabitants directly
and indirectly affected by it. From these watersheds come the natural God-given precious resource water. x x x

Clearing and tilling of the lands are totally inconsistent with sound watershed management. More so, the introduction of earth
disturbing activities like road building and erection of permanent infrastructures. Unless the pernicious agricultural activities of
the Casile farmers are immediately stopped, it would not be long before these watersheds would cease to be of value. The
impact of watershed degradation threatens the livelihood of thousands of people dependent upon it. Toward this, we hope that
an acceptable comprehensive watershed development policy and program be immediately formulated and implemented
before the irreversible damage finally happens."

The Court remanded the case to the Department of Agriculture and Adjudication Board or DARAB to re-evaluate and
determine the nature of the parcels of land involved in order to resolve the issue of its coverage by the CARL.

Sta. Rosa Realty gives us a glimpse of the dangers posed by the misuse of natural resources such as watershed reservations
which are akin to forest zones. Population growth and industrialization have taken a heavy toll on the environment.
Environmental degradation from unchecked human activities could wreak havoc on the lives of present and future generations.
Hence, by constitutional fiat, natural resources remain to this day inalienable properties of the State.

Viewed under this legal and factual backdrop, did petitioners acquire, as they vigorously argue, private rights over the parcel of
land prior to the issuance of EO 33 segregating the same as a watershed reservation?

The answer is in the negative.

First. An applicant for confirmation of imperfect title bears the burden of proving that he meets the requirements of Section 48
of CA 141, as amended. He must overcome the presumption that the land he is applying for is part of the public domain and
that he has an interest therein sufficient to warrant registration in his name arising from an imperfect title. An imperfect title
may have been derived from old Spanish grants such as a titulo real or royal grant, a concession especial or special grant, a
composicion con el estado or adjustment title, or a titulo de compra or title through purchase.29 Or, that he has had continuous,
open and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership
for at least thirty years preceding the filing of his application as provided by Section 48 (b) CA 141.

Originally, Section 48(b) of CA 141 provided for possession and occupation of lands of the public domain since July 26, 1894.
This was superseded by RA 1942 which provided for a simple thirty-year prescriptive period of occupation by an applicant for
judicial confirmation of an imperfect title. The same, however, has already been amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073,
approved on January 25, 1977, the law prevailing at the time petitioners application for registration was filed on April 25,
1985.30 As amended, Section 48 (b) now reads:

"(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or
ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title, except when
Law on NatRes (23-49) 37
prevented by wars or force majeure. Those shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a
Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter."

Interpreting Section 48 (b) of CA 141, the Court stated that the Public Land Act requires that the applicant must prove the
following:

"(a) that the land is alienable public land and (b) that his open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation
of the same must either be since time immemorial or for the period prescribed in the Public Land Act. When the conditions set
by law are complied with, the possessor of the land, by operation of law, acquires a right to a grant, a government grant,
without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued." 31

Petitioners do not claim to have documentary title over the Lot. Their right to register the Lot is predicated mainly upon
continuous possession since 1902.

Clearly, petitioners were unable to acquire a valid and enforceable right or title because of the failure to complete the required
period of possession, whether under the original Section 48 (b) of CA 141 prior to the issuance of EO 33, or under the
amendment by RA 1942 and PD 1073.

There is no proof that prior to the issuance of EO 33 in 1904, petitioners had acquired ownership or title to the Lot either by
deed or by any other mode of acquisition from the State, as for instance by acquisitive prescription. As of 1904, Sesinando
Leyva had only been in possession for two years. Verily, petitioners have not possessed the parcel of land in the manner and
for the number of years required by law for the confirmation of imperfect title.

Second, assuming that the Lot was alienable and disposable land prior to the issuance of EO 33 in 1904, EO 33 reserved the
Lot as a watershed. Since then, the Lot became non-disposable and inalienable public land. At the time petitioners filed their
application on April 25, 1985, the Lot has been reserved as a watershed under EO 33 for 81 years prior to the filing of
petitioners application.

The period of occupancy after the issuance of EO 33 in 1904 could no longer be counted because as a watershed reservation,
the Lot was no longer susceptible of occupancy, disposition, conveyance or alienation. Section 48 (b) of CA 141, as amended,
applies exclusively to alienable and disposable public agricultural land. Forest lands, including watershed reservations, are
excluded. It is axiomatic that the possession of forest lands or other inalienable public lands cannot ripen into private
ownership. In Municipality of Santiago, Isabela vs. Court of Appeals,32 the Court declared that inalienable public lands -

"x x x cannot be acquired by acquisitive prescription. Prescription, both acquisitive and extinctive, does not run against the
State.

The possession of public land, however long the period may have extended, never confers title thereto upon the 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 the required number of years to constitute a grant from
the State. "

Third, Gordula vs. Court of Appeals33 is in point. In Gordula, petitioners did not contest the nature of the land. They admitted
that the land lies in the heart of the Caliraya-Lumot River Forest Reserve, which Proclamation No. 573 classified as
inalienable. The petitioners in Gordula contended, however, that Proclamation No. 573 itself recognizes private rights of
landowners prior to the reservation. They claim to have established their private rights to the subject land. The Court ruled:

"We do not agree. No public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied from the
government; it is indispensable that there be a showing of a title from the state. The facts show that petitioner Gordula did not
acquire title to the subject land prior to its reservation under Proclamation No. 573. He filed his application for free patent only
in January, 1973, more than three (3) years after the issuance of Proclamation No. 573 in June, 1969. At that time, the land,
as part of the Caliraya-Lumot River Forest Reserve, was no longer open to private ownership as it has been classified as
public forest reserve for the public good.

Nonetheless, petitioners insist that the term, "private rights," in Proclamation No. 573, should not be interpreted as requiring a
title. They opine that it suffices if the claimant "had occupied and cultivated the property for so many number of years, declared
the land for taxation purposes, [paid] the corresponding real estate taxes [which are] accepted by the government, and [his]
occupancy and possession [is] continuous, open and unmolested and recognized by the government. Prescinding from this
premise, petitioners urge that the 25-year possession by petitioner Gordula from 1944 to 1969, albeit five (5) years short of the
30-year possession required under Commonwealth Act (C.A.) No. 141, as amended, is enough to vest upon petitioner Gordula
the "private rights" recognized and respected in Proclamation No. 573.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 38
The case law does not support this submission. In Director of Lands vs. Reyes, we held that a settler claiming the protection of
"private rights" to exclude his land from a military or forest reservation must show "x x x by clear and convincing evidence that
the property in question was acquired by [any] x x x means for the acquisition of public lands."

In fine, one claiming "private rights" must prove that he has complied with C.A. No. 141, as amended, otherwise known as the
Public Land Act, which prescribes the substantive as well as the procedural requirements for acquisition of public lands. This
law requires at least thirty (30) years of open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and possession of agricultural
lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition, immediately preceding the filing of the application for free
patent. The rationale for the 30-year period lies in the presumption that the land applied for pertains to the State, and that the
occupants and/or possessors claim an interest therein only by virtue of their imperfect title or continuous, open and notorious
possession."

Next, petitioners argue that assuming no private rights had attached to the Lot prior to EO 33 in 1904, the President of the
Philippines had subsequently segregated the Lot from the public domain and made the Lot alienable and disposable when he
issued Proclamation No. 1283 on June 21, 1974. Petitioners contend that Proclamation No. 1283 expressly excluded an area
of 3,780 hectares from the MWR and made the area part of the Boso-boso Townsite Reservation. Petitioners assert that Lot
Psu-162620 is a small part of this excluded town site area. Petitioners further contend that town sites are considered alienable
and disposable under CA 141.

Proclamation No. 1283 reads thus:

"PROCLAMATION NO. 1283

EXCLUDING FROM THE OPERATION EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 33, DATED JULY 26, 1904, AS AMENDED BY
EXECUTIVE ORDERS NOS. 14 AND 16, BOTH SERIES OF 1915, WHICH ESTABLISHED THE WATERSHED
RESERVATION SITUATED IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF ANTIPOLO, PROVINCE OF RIZAL, ISLAND OF LUZON, A
CERTAIN PORTION OF THE LAND EMBRACED THEREIN AND RESERVING THE SAME, TOGETHER WITH THE
ADJACENT PARCEL OF LAND OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN, FOR TOWNSITE PURPOSES UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF
CHAPTER XI OF THE PUBLIC LAND ACT.

Upon recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and pursuant to the authority vested in me by
law, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, do hereby, exclude from the operation of Executive Order No.
33 dated July 26, 1904, as amended by Executive Orders Nos. 14 and 16, both series of 1915, which established the
Watershed Reservation situated in the Municipality of Antipolo, Province of Rizal, Island of Luzon, certain portions of land
embraced therein and reserve the same, together with the adjacent parcel of land of the public domain, for townsite purposes
under the provisions of Chapter XI of the Public Land Act, subject to private rights, if any there be, and to future subdivision
survey in accordance with the development plan to be prepared and approved by the Department of Local Government and
Community Development, which parcels are more particularly described as follows:

Lot A (Part of Watershed Reservation)

A parcel of land (Lot A of Proposed Poor Mans Baguio, being a portion of the Marikina Watershed, IN-2), situated in the
municipality of Antipolo, Province of Rizal, Island of Luzon, beginning at a point marked "1" on sketch plan, being N-74-30 E,
8480.00 meters more or less, from BLLM 1, Antipolo, Rizal; thence N 33 28 W 1575.00 m. to point 2; thence N 40 26 W
1538.50 m. to point 3; thence N 30 50W 503.17 m. to point 4; thence N 75 02 W 704.33 m. to point 5; thence N 14 18 W
1399.39 m. to point 6; thence N 43 25 W 477.04 m. to point 7; thence N 71 38 W 458.36 m. to point 8; thence N 31 05 W
1025.00 m. to point 9; thence Due North 490.38 m. to point 10; thence Due North 1075.00 m. to point 11; thence Due East
1000.00 m. to point 12; thence Due East 1000.00 m. to point 13; thence Due East 1000.00 m. to point 14; thence Due East
1000.00 m. to point 15; thence Due East 1000.00 m. to point 16; thence Due East 1000.00 m. to point 17; thence Due East
1075.00 m. to point 18; thence Due South 1000.00 m. to point 19; thence Due South 1000.00 m. to point 20; thence Due
South 1000.00 m. to point 21; thence Due South 1000.00 m. to point 22; thence Due South 1000.00 m. to point 23; thence
Due South 1000.00 m. to point 24; thence Due South 1075.00 m. to point 25; thence Due West 1000.00 m. to point 26; thence
Due West 1000.00 m. to point 27; thence Due West 636.56 m. to point of beginning. Containing an area of three thousand
seven hundred eighty (3,780) Hectares, more or less.

Lot B (Alienable and Disposable Land)

A parcel of land (Lot B of Proposed Poor Mans Baguio, being a portion of alienable and disposable portion of public domain)
situated in the municipality of Antipolo, Province of Rizal, Island of Luzon. Beginning at a point marked "1" on sketch plan
being N 74 30 E., 8430.00 m., more or less, from BLLM 1. Antipolo, Rizal; thence Due West 363.44 m. to point 2; thence Due
Law on NatRes (23-49) 39
West 1000.00 m. to point 3; thence Due West 100.00 m. to point 4; thence Due West 1000.00 m. to point 5; thence Due West
1075.00 m. to point 6; thence Due North 1000.00 m. to point 7; thence Due North 1000.00 m. to point 8; thence Due North
1000.00 m. to point 9; thence Due North 1000.00 m. to point 10; thence Due North 1000.00 m. to point 11; thence Due North
509.62 m. to point 12; thence S. 31 05 E 1025.00 m. to point 13; thence S 71 38 E 458.36 m. to point 14; thence S 43 25 E
477.04 m. to point 15; thence S 14 18 E 1399.39 m. to point 16; thence S 75 02 E 704.33 m. to point 17; thence S. 30 50 E
503.17 m. to point 18; thence S 40 26 E 1538.50 m. to point 19; thence s 33 23 e 1575.00 m to point of beginning. Containing
an area of one thousand two hundred twenty five (1,225) Hectares, more or less.

Note: All data are approximate and subject to change based on future survey.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I Have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.

Done in the City of Manila, this 21st day of June, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and seventy-four.

(Sgd.) FERDINAND E. MARCOS


President
Republic of the Philippines"

Proclamation No. 1283 has since been amended by Proclamation No. 1637 issued on April 18, 1977. Proclamation No. 1637
revised the area and location of the proposed townsite. According to then DENR Secretary Victor O. Ramos, Proclamation No.
1637 excluded Lot A (of which the Lot claimed by petitioners is part) for townsite purposes and reverted it to MWR coverage.34
Proclamation No. 1637 reads:

"PROCLAMATION NO. 1637

AMENDING PROCLAMATION NO. 1283, DATED JUNE 21, 1974, WHICH ESTABLISHED THE TOWNSITE RESERVATION
IN THE MUNICIPALITIES OF ANTIPOLO AND SAN MATEO, PROVINCE OF RIZAL, ISLAND OF LUZON BY INCREASING
THE AREA AND REVISING THE TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE LAND EMBRACED THEREIN, AND REVOKING
PROCLAMATION NO. 765 DATED OCTOBER 26, 1970 THAT RESERVED PORTIONS OF THE AREA AS
RESETTLEMENT SITE.

Upon recommendation of the Secretary of Natural Resources and pursuant to the authority vested in me by law, I,
FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, do hereby amend Proclamation No. 1283, dated June 21, 1974 which
established the townsite reservation in the municipalities of Antipolo and San Mateo, Province of Rizal, Island of Luzon, by
increasing the area and revising the technical descriptions of the land embraced therein, subject to private rights, if any there
be, which parcel of land is more particularly described as follows:

(Proposed Lungsod Silangan Townsite)

A PARCEL OF LAND (Proposed Lungsod Silangan Townsite Reservation amending the area under SWO-41762 establishing
the Bagong Silangan Townsite Reservation) situated in the Municipalities of Antipolo, San Mateo, and Montalban, Province of
Rizal, Island of Luzon. Bounded on the E., along lines 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-20-21-22-23 by the
Marikina Watershed Reservation (IN-12); on the S., along lines 23-24-25 by the portion of Antipolo; on the W., along lines 25-
26-27-28-29-30 by the Municipalities of Montalban, San Mateo; and on the N., along lines 30-31-32-33-34-35-36-37-38-39-40-
41-42-43-44 by the Angat Watershed Reservation. Beginning at a point marked "1" on the Topographic Maps with the Scale of
1:50,000 which is the identical corner 38 IN-12, Marikina Watershed Reservation.

xxx xxx xxx

NOTE: All data are approximate and subject to change based on future survey.

Proclamation No. 765 dated October 26, 1970, which covered areas entirely within the herein Lungsod Silangan Townsite, is
hereby revoked accordingly.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.

Done in the City of Manila, this 18th day of April, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and seventy-seven.

(Sgd.) FERDINAND E. MARCOS


President of the Philippines"
Law on NatRes (23-49) 40
A positive act (e.g., an official proclamation) of the Executive Department is needed to declassify land which had been earlier
classified as a watershed reservation and to convert it into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes. 35
Unless and until the land classified as such is released in an official proclamation so that it may form part of the disposable
agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply. 36

The principal document presented by petitioners to prove the private character of the Lot is the Certification of the Bureau of
Forest Development dated March 18, 1986 that the Lot is excluded from the Marikina Watershed (Exh. R). The Certification
reads:

"Republic of the Philippines


Ministry of Natural Resources

BUREAU OF FOREST DEVELOPMENT


REGION IV
EL AL Building
100 Quezon Avenue, Quezon City

MAR 18 1986

VERIFICATION ON THE STATUS OF LAND:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

This is to certify that the tract of land situated in Barangay San Isidro, Antipolo, Rizal, containing an area of 1,269,766 square
meters, as shown and described on the reverse side hereof, surveyed by Geodetic Engineer Telesforo Cabading for Angelina
C. Reynoso, is verified to be within the area excluded from the operation of Marikina Watershed Reservation established
under Executive Order No. 33 dated July 26, 1904 per Proclamation No. 1283, promulgated on June 21, 1974, which
established the Boso-Boso Townsite Reservation, amended by proclamation No. 1637 dated April 18, 1977 known as
Lungsod Silangan Townsite Reservation.

Subject area also falls within the bounds of Bagong Lipunan Site under P.D. 1396 dated June 2, 1978 under the sole
jurisdiction of the Ministry of Human Settlements, to the exclusion of any other government agencies.

This verification is made upon the request of the Chief, Legal Staff, R-4 as contained in his internal memorandum dated March
18, 1986.

Verified by:

(Sgd) ROMEO C. PASCUBILLO


Cartographer II

Checked by:

(Sgd) ARMENDO R. CRUZ


Supervising Cartographer

ATTESTED:

(Sgd) LUIS G. DACANAY


Chief, Forest Engineering & Infrastructure Section"

The above certification on which petitioners rely that a reclassification had occurred, and that the Lot is covered by the
reclassification, is contradicted by several documents submitted by the Solicitor General before the land registration court.

The Solicitor General submitted to the land registration court a Report 37 dated March 2, 1988, signed by Administrator Teodoro
G. Bonifacio of the then National Land Titles and Deeds Registration Administration, confirming that the Lot described in Psu-
162620 forms part of the MWR. He thus recommended the dismissal of the application for registration. The Report states:

"COMES NOW the Administrator of the National Land Titles and Deeds Registration Commission and to this Honorable Court
respectfully reports that:
Law on NatRes (23-49) 41
1. A parcel of land described in plan Psu-162620 situated in the Barrio of San Isidro, Municipality of Antipolo, Province of
Rizal, is applied for registration of title in the case at bar.

2. After plotting plan Psu-162620 in our Municipal Index Map it was found that a portion of the SW, described as Lot 3 in plan
Psu-173790 was previously the subject of registration in Land Reg. Case No. N-9578, LRC Record No. N-55948 and was
issued Decree No. N-191242 on April 4, 1986 in the name of Apolonia Garcia, et al., pursuant to the Decision and Order for
Issuance of the Decree dated February 8, 1984 and March 6, 1984, respectively, and the remaining portion of plan Psu-
162620 is inside IN-12, Marikina Watershed. x x x

"WHEREFORE, this matter is respectfully submitted to the Honorable Court for its information and guidance with the
recommendation that the application in the instant proceedings be dismissed, after due hearing (Underlining supplied)."

Likewise, in a letter38 dated November 11, 1991, the Deputy Land Inspector, DENR, Region IV, Community Environment and
Natural Resources Office, Antipolo, Rizal, similarly confirmed that the Lot is within the MWR. The letter states:

"That the land sought to be registered is situated at San Isidro (Boso-boso), Antipolo, Rizal, with an area of ONE HUNDRED
TWENTY SIX POINT ZERO SEVEN SIXTY SIX (126.0766) hectares, more particularly described in Psu-162620, which is
within the Marikina Watershed Reservation under Executive Order No. 33 dated July 2, 1904 which established the Marikina
Watershed Reservation (IN-12) x x x.

"x x x

"That the land sought to be registered is not a private property of the Registration Applicant but part of the public domain, not
subjected to disposition and is covered by Proclamation No. 585 for Integrated Social Forestry Program hence, L.R.C. No.
269-A is recommended for rejection (Underlining supplied)." Copy of the letter is attached herewith as Annex "3" and made an
integral part hereof."

Lastly, the Solicitor General pointed out that attached to petitioner Edna T. Collados [as original applicant] application is the
technical description39 of the Lot signed by Robert C. Pangyarihan, Officer-in-Charge of the Survey Division of the Bureau of
Lands. This technical description categorically stated that the Lot "is inside IN-12 Mariquina Watershed."

The evidence of record thus appears unsatisfactory and insufficient to show clearly and positively that the Lot had been
officially released from the Marikina Watershed Reservation to form part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public
domain. We hold that once a parcel of land is included within a watershed reservation duly established by Executive
Proclamation, as in the instant case, a presumption arises that the land continues to be part of such Reservation until clear
and convincing evidence of subsequent declassification is shown.

It is obvious, based on the facts on record that neither petitioners nor their predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the Lot for at least thirty years immediately preceding the
filing of the application for confirmation of title. Even if they submitted sufficient proof that the Lot had been excluded from the
MWR upon the issuance of Proclamation No. 1283 on June 21, 1974, petitioners possession as of the filing of their application
on April 25, 1985 would have been only eleven years counted from the issuance of the proclamation in 1974. The result will
not change even if we tack in the two years Sesinando Leyva allegedly possessed the Lot from 1902 until the issuance of EO
33 in 1904. Petitioners case falters even more because of the issuance of Proclamation No. 1637 on April 18, 1977.
According to then DENR Secretary Victor Ramos, Proclamation No. 1637 reverted Lot A or the townsite reservation, where
petitioners' Lot is supposedly situated, back to the MWR.

Finally, it is of no moment if the areas of the MWR are now fairly populated and vibrant communities as claimed by petitioners.
The following ruling may be applied to this case by analogy:

"A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose such classification simply because loggers or
settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be covered with grass or
planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way
places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms and other trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be
classified as forest land. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of
what the land actually looks like. Unless and until the land classified as "forest" is released in an official proclamation to that
effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect
title do not apply."40

Second Issue: Whether the petition for annulment of judgment


Law on NatRes (23-49) 42
should have been given due course.

Petitioners fault the Court of Appeals for giving due course to the Republics petition for annulment of judgment which was filed
long after the decision of the land registration court had allegedly become final and executory. The land registration court
rendered its decision on January 30, 1991 and the Solicitor General received a copy of the decision on April 23, 1991. 41
Petitioners point out that the Solicitor General filed with the Court of Appeals the petition for annulment of judgment invoking
Section 9(2) of BP Blg. 12942 only on August 6, 1991, after the decision had supposedly become final and executory.
Moreover, petitioners further point out that the Solicitor General filed the petition for annulment after the land registration court
issued its order of May 6, 1991 directing the Land Registration Authority to issue the corresponding decree of registration.

The Solicitor General sought the annulment of the decision on the ground that the land registration court had no jurisdiction
over the case, specifically, over the Lot which was not alienable and disposable. The Solicitor General maintained that the
decision was null and void.

Petitioners argue that the remedy of annulment of judgment is no longer available because it is barred by the principle of res
judicata. They insist that the land registration court had jurisdiction over the case which involves private land. They also argue
that the Republic is estopped from questioning the land registration courts jurisdiction considering that the Republic
participated in the proceedings before the court.

It is now established that the Lot, being a watershed reservation, is not alienable and disposable public land. The evidence of
the petitioners do not clearly and convincingly show that the Lot, described as Lot Psu-162620, ceased to be a portion of the
area classified as a watershed reservation of the public domain. Any title to the Lot is void ab initio. In view of this, the alleged
procedural infirmities attending the filing of the petition for annulment of judgment are immaterial since the land registration
court never acquired jurisdiction over the Lot. All proceedings of the land registration court involving the Lot are therefore null
and void.

We apply our ruling in Martinez vs. Court of Appeals,43 as follows:

"The Land Registration Court has no jurisdiction over non-registrable properties, such as public navigable rivers which are
parts of the public domain, and cannot validly adjudge the registration of title in favor of private applicant. Hence, the judgment
of the Court of First Instance of Pampanga as regards the Lot No. 2 of certificate of Title No. 15856 in the name of petitioners
may be attacked at any time, either directly or collaterally, by the State which is not bound by any prescriptive period provided
for by the Statute of Limitations."

We also hold that environmental consequences in this case override concerns over technicalities and rules of procedure.

In Republic vs. De los Angeles,44 which involved the registration of public lands, specifically parts of the sea, the Court rejected
the principle of res judicata and estoppel to silence the Republics claim over public lands. The Court said:

"It should be noted further that the doctrine of estoppel or laches does not apply when the Government sues as a sovereign or
asserts governmental rights, nor does estoppel or laches validate an act that contravenes law or public policy, and that res
judicata is to be disregarded if its application would involve the sacrifice of justice to technicality."

The Court further held that "the right of reversion or reconveyance to the State of the public properties registered and which
are not capable of private appropriation or private acquisition does not prescribe."

Third issue: Whether the petition-in-intervention is proper.

The Bockasanjo ISF Awardees Association, Inc., an association of holders of certificates of stewardship issued by the DENR
under its Integrated Social Forestry Program, filed with the Court of Appeals on November 29, 1991 a Motion for Leave to
Intervene and to Admit Petition-In-Intervention.

According to intervenors, they are the actual occupants of the Lot which petitioners sought to register. Aware that the parcels
of land which their forefathers had occupied, developed and tilled belong to the Government, they filed a petition with then
President Corazon C. Aquino and then DENR Secretary Fulgencio S. Factoran, to award the parcels of land to them.

Secretary Factoran directed the Director of Forest Management Bureau to take steps for the segregation of the
aforementioned area from the MWR for development under the DENRs ISF Programs. Subsequently, then President Aquino
issued Proclamation No. 585 dated June 5, 1990 excluding 1,430 hectares from the operation of EO 33 and placed the same
under the DENRs Integrated Social Forestry Program. Proclamation No. 585 reads:
Law on NatRes (23-49) 43
PROCLAMATION NO. 585

AMENDING FURTHER EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 33, DATED JULY 26, 1904 WHICH ESTABLISHED THE MARIKINA
WATERSHED RESERVATION (IN-12) AS AMENDED, BY EXCLUDING CERTAIN PORTIONS OF LANDS EMBRACED
THEREIN SITUATED AT SITIOS BOSOBOSO, KILINGAN, VETERANS, BARANGAYS SAN JOSEPH AND PAENAAN,
MUNICIPALITY OF ANTIPOLO, PROVINCE OF RIZAL, ISLAND OF LUZON.

Upon recommendation of the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources and pursuant to the authority vested in me by
law, I, CORAZON C. AQUINO, President of the Philippines, do hereby exclude from the operation of Executive Order No. 33,
which established the Marikina Watershed Reservation, certain parcel of land of the public domain embraced therein situated
in Sitios Bosoboso, Veterans, Kilingan and Barangay San Joseph and Paenaan, Municipality of Antipolo, Province of Rizal and
place the same under the Integrated Social Forestry Program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in
accordance with existing laws, rules and regulations, which parcel of land is more particularly described as follows:

"A PARCEL OF LAND, within the Marikina Watershed Reservation situated in the Municipality of Antipolo, Province of Rizal,
beginning at point "1" on plan, being identical to corner 1 of Marikina Watershed Reservation; thence

xxx xxx xxx

Containing an area of One Thousand Four Hundred Thirty (1,430) Hectares.

All other lands covered and embraced under Executive Order No. 33 as amended, not otherwise affected by this
Proclamation, shall remain in force and effect.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.

Done in the City of Manila, this 5th day of June, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and ninety.

(Sgd.) CORAZON C. AQUINO


President of the Philippines"

Pursuant to Proclamation No. 585, the chief of the ISF Unit, acting through the Regional Executive Director of the DENR
(Region IV), issued sometime between the years 1989 to 1991 certificates of stewardship contracts to bona fide residents of
the barangays mentioned in the proclamation as qualified recipients of the ISF programs. Among those awarded were
intervenors. The certificates of stewardship are actually contracts of lease granted by the DENR to actual occupants of parcels
of land under its ISF programs for a period of twenty-five (25) years, renewable for another twenty-five (25) years.45 The DENR
awarded contracts of stewardship to ISF participants in Barangay San Isidro (or Boso-boso) and the other barangays based
on the Inventory of Forest Occupants the DENR had conducted. 46

According to intervenors, they learned only on July 31, 1991 about the pendency of LRC Case No. 269-A before the Regional
Trial Court of Antipolo, Rizal. On August 8, 1991, they filed a Motion for Leave to Intervene and to Admit Opposition in
Intervention before the land registration court to assert their rights and to protect their interests.

However, shortly after the filing of their opposition, intervenors learned that the land registration court had already rendered a
decision on January 30, 1991 confirming petitioners imperfect title. Intervenors counsel received a copy of the decision on
August 9, 1991.

On August 14, 1991, intervenors filed a motion to vacate judgment and for new trial before the land registration court.
According to intervenors, the land registration court could not act on its motions due to the restraining order issued by the
Court of Appeals on August 8, 1991, enjoining the land registration court from executing its decision, as prayed for by the
Solicitor General in its petition for annulment of judgment. The intervenors were thus constrained to file a petition for
intervention before the Court of Appeals which allowed the same.

Rule 19 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure47 provides in pertinent parts:

Section 1. Who may intervene. A person who has a legal interest in the matter in litigation, or in the success of either of the
parties, or an interest against both, or is so situated as to be adversely affected by a distribution or other disposition of property
in the custody of the court, or an officer thereof may, with leave of court, be allowed to intervene in the action. The Court shall
consider whether or not the intervention will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the original parties, and
whether or not the inertvenors rights may be fully protected in a separate proceeding.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 44
Sec. 2. Time to intervene. The motion to intervene may be filed at any time before rendition of judgment by the trial court. A
copy of the pleading-in-intervention shall be attached to the motion and served on the original parties.

As a rule, intervention is allowed "before rendition of judgment by the trial court," as Section 2, Rule 19 expressly provides.
However, the Court has recognized exceptions to this rule in the interest of substantial justice. Mago vs. Court of Appeals 48
reiterated the ruling in Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, where the Court allowed the motions for intervention even when
the case had already reached this Court. Thus, in Mago the Court held that:

"It is quite clear and patent that the motions for intervention filed by the movants at this stage of the proceedings where trial
had already been concluded x x x and on appeal x x x the same affirmed by the Court of Appeals and the instant petition for
certiorari to review said judgment is already submitted for decision by the Supreme Court, are obviously and, manifestly late,
beyond the period prescribed under x x x Section 2, Rule 12 of the rules of Court.

But Rule 12 of the Rules of Court, like all other Rules therein promulgated, is simply a rule of procedure, the whole purpose
and object of which is to make the powers of the Court fully and completely available for justice. The purpose of procedure is
not to thwart justice. Its proper aim is to facilitate the application of justice to the rival claims of contending parties. It was
created not to hinder and delay but to facilitate and promote the administration of justice. It does not constitute the thing itself
which courts are always striving to secure to litigants. It is designed as the means best adopted to obtain that thing. In other
words, it is a means to an end."

To be sure, the Court of Appeals did not pass upon the actual status of intervenors in relation to the Lot as this was not in
issue. Neither was the validity of the certificates of stewardship contracts which intervenors allegedly possessed inquired into
considering this too was not in issue. In fact, intervenors did not specifically seek any relief apart from a declaration that the
Lot in question remains inalienable land of the public domain. We cannot fault the Court of Appeals for allowing the
intervention, if only to provide the rival groups a peaceful venue for ventilating their sides. This case has already claimed at
least five lives due to the raging dispute between the rival camps of the petitioners on one side and those of the DENR
awardees on the other. It also spawned a number of criminal cases between the two rival groups including malicious mischief,
robbery and arson. A strict application of the rules would blur this bigger, far more important picture.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated June 22, 1992 declaring null and void the
Decision dated January 30, 1991 of Branch 71, Regional Trial Court of Antipolo, Rizal, in LRC No. 269-A, LRC Rec. No. N-
59179 is AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED.

THE DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, vs. RUPERTO A. VILLAREAL, ; G.R. No. L-32266 February 27, 1989; CRUZ, J.:

The basic question before the Court is the legal classification of mangrove swamps, or manglares, as they are commonly
known. If they are part of our public forest lands, they are not alienable under the Constitution. If they are considered public
agricultural lands, they may be acquired under private ownership. The private respondent's claim to the land in question must
be judged by these criteria.

The said land consists of 178,113 square meters of mangrove swamps located in the municipality of Sapian, Capiz. Ruperto
Villareal applied for its registration on January 25, 1949, alleging that he and his predecessors-in-interest had been in
possession of the land for more than forty years. He was opposed by several persons, including the petitioner on behalf of the
Republic of the Philippines. After trial, the application was approved by the Court of First Instance. of Capiz. 1 The decision
was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. 2 The Director of Forestry then came to this Court in a petition for review on certiorari
claiming that the land in dispute was forestal in nature and not subject to private appropriation. He asks that the registration be
reversed.

It should be stressed at the outset that both the petitioner and the private respondent agree that the land is mangrove land.
There is no dispute as to this. The bone of contention between the parties is the legal nature of mangrove swamps or
manglares. The petitioner claims, it is forestal and therefore not disposable and the private respondent insists it is alienable as
agricultural land. The issue before us is legal, not factual.

For a proper background of this case, we have to go back to the Philippine Bill of 1902, one of the earlier American organic
acts in the country. By this law, lands of the public domain in the Philippine Islands were classified into three grand divisions,
to wit, agricultural, mineral and timber or forest lands. This classification was maintained in the Constitution of the
Commonwealth, promulgated in 1935, until it was superseded by the Constitution of 1973. That new charter expanded the
classification of public lands to include industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, and grazing lands and even
permitted the legislature to provide for other categories. 3 This provision has been reproduced, but with substantial
modifications, in the present Constitution. 4
Law on NatRes (23-49) 45
Under the Commonwealth Constitution, which was the charter in force when this case arose, only agricultural lands were
allowed to be alienated. 5 Their disposition was provided for under C.A. No. 141. Mineral and timber or forest lands were not
subject to private ownership unless they were first reclassified as agricultural lands and so released for alienation.

In the leading case of Montano v. Insular Government, 6 promulgated in 1909, mangrove swamps or manglares were defined
by the Court as:

... mud flats, alternately washed and exposed by the tide, in which grows various kindred plants which will not live except when
watered by the sea, extending their roots deep into the mud and casting their seeds, which also germinate there. These
constitute the mangrove flats of the tropics, which exist naturally, but which are also, to some extent cultivated by man for the
sake of the combustible wood of the mangrove and like trees as well as for the useful nipa palm propagated thereon. Although
these flats are literally tidal lands, yet we are of the opinion that they cannot be so regarded in the sense in which that term is
used in the cases cited or in general American jurisprudence. The waters flowing over them are not available for purpose of
navigation, and they may be disposed of without impairment of the public interest in what remains.

xxx

Under this uncertain and somewhat unsatisfactory condition of the law, the custom had grown of converting manglares and
nipa lands into fisheries which became a common feature of settlement along the coast and at the same time of the change of
sovereignty constituted one of the most productive industries of the Islands, the abrogation of which would destroy vested
interests and prove a public disaster.

Mangrove swamps were thus considered agricultural lands and so susceptible of private ownership.

Subsequently, the Philippine Legislature categorically declared, despite the above-cited case, that mangrove swamps form
part of the public forests of this country. This it did in the Administrative Code of 1917, which became effective on October 1 of
that year, thus:

Section 1820. Words and phrase defined. - For the purpose of this chapter 'public forest' includes, except as otherwise
specially indicated, all unreserved public land, including nipa and mangrove swamps, and all forest reserves of whatever
character.

It is noteworthy, though, that notwithstanding this definition, the Court maintained the doctrine in the Montano case when two
years later it held in the case of Jocson v. Director of Forestry: 7

...the words timber land are always translated in the Spanish translation of that Act (Act of Congress) as terrenos forestales.
We think there is an error in this translation and that a better translation would be 'terrenos madereros.' Lumber land in English
means land with trees growing on it. The mangler plant would never be called a tree in English but a bush, and land which has
only bushes, shrubs or aquatic plants growing on it cannot be called 'timber land.

xxx xxx xxx

The fact that there are a few trees growing in a manglare or nipa swamps does not change the general character of the land
from manglare to timber land.

More to the point, addressing itself directly to above-quoted Section 1820, the Court declared:

'In the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government (10 Phil. Rep., 175), this Court said that the phrase agricultural lands as used in
Act No. 926 means those public lands acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands.

Whatever may have been the meaning of the term 'forestry' under the Spanish law, the Act of Congress of July 1st 1902,
classifies the public lands in the Philippine Islands as timber, mineral or agricultural lands, and all public lands that are not
timber or mineral lands are necessarily agricultural public lands, whether they are used as nipa swamps, manglares, fisheries
or ordinary farm lands.

The definition of forestry as including manglares found in the Administrative Code of 1917 cannot affect rights which vested
prior to its enactment.

These lands being neither timber nor mineral lands, the trial court should have considered them agricultural lands. If they are
agricultural lands, then the rights of appellants are fully established by Act No. 926.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 46
The doctrine was reiterated still later in Garchitorena Vda. de Centenera v. Obias, 8 promulgated on March 4, 1933, more than
fifteen years after the effectivity of the Administrative Code of 1917. Justice Ostrand declared for a unanimous Court:

The opposition rests mainly upon the proposition that the land covered by the application there are mangrove lands as shown
in his opponent's Exh. 1, but we think this opposition of the Director of Forestry is untenable, inasmuch as it has been definitely
decided that mangrove lands are not forest lands in the sense in which this phrase is used in the Act of Congress.

No elaboration was made on this conclusion which was merely based on the cases of Montano and Jocson. And in 1977, the
above ruling was reaffirmed in Tongson v. Director of Forestry, 9 with Justice Fernando declaring that the mangrove lands in
litis were agricultural in nature. The decision even quoted with approval the statement of the trial court that:

... Mangrove swamps where only trees of mangrove species grow, where the trees are small and sparse, fit only for firewood
purposes and the trees growing are not of commercial value as lumber do not convert the land into public land. Such lands are
not forest in character. They do not form part of the public domain.

Only last year, in Republic v. De Porkan, 10 the Court, citing Krivenko v. Register of Deeds, 11 reiterated the ruling in the
Mapa case that "all public lands that are not timber or mineral lands are necessarily agricultural public lands, whether they are
used as nipa swamps, manglares, fisheries or ordinary farm lands.

But the problem is not all that simple. As it happens, there is also a line of decisions holding the contrary view.

In Yngson v. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 12 promulgated in 1983, the Court ruled "that the Bureau of
Fisheries has no jurisdiction to dispose of swamp lands or mangrove lands forming part of the public domain while such lands
are still classified as forest lands.

Four months later, in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry, 13 the Court was more positive when it held, again through
Justice Gutierrez:

The Heirs of Jose Amunategui maintain that Lot No. 885 cannot be classified as forest land because it is not thickly forested
but is a 'mangrove swamps.' Although conceding that 'mangrove swamp' is included in the classification of forest land in
accordance with Section 1820 of the Revised Administrative Code, the petitioners argue that no big trees classified in Section
1821 of the said Code as first, second and third groups are found on the land in question. Furthermore, they contend that Lot
885, even if it is a mangrove swamp, is still subject to land registration proceedings because the property had been in actual
possession of private persons for many years, and therefore, said land was already 'private land' better adapted and more
valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept under forest classification.

The petition is without merit.

A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose such classification simply because loggers or
settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be covered with grass or
planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. 'Forested lands' do not have to be on mountains or in out-of-the-way
places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be
classified as forest land. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of
what the land actually looks like. Unless and until the land classsified as 'forest' is released in an official proclamation to that
effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect
titles do not apply.'

The view was maintained in Vallarta v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 14 where this Court agreed with the Solicitor General's
submission that the land in dispute, which he described as "swamp mangrove or forestal land," were not private properties and
so not registerable. This case was decided only twelve days after the De Porkan case.

Faced with these apparent contradictions, the Court feels there is a need for a categorical pronouncement that should resolve
once and for all the question of whether mangrove swamps are agricultural lands or forest lands.

The determination of this question is a function initially belonging to the legislature, which has the authority to implement the
constitutional provision classifying the lands of the public domain (and is now even permitted to provide for more categories of
public lands). The legislature having made such implementation, the executive officials may then, in the discharge of their own
role, administer our public lands pursuant to their constitutional duty " to ensure that the laws be faithfully executed' and in
accordance with the policy prescribed. For their part, the courts will step into the picture if the rules laid down by the legislature
are challenged or, assuming they are valid, it is claimed that they are not being correctly observed by the executive. Thus do
Law on NatRes (23-49) 47
the three departments, coordinating with each other, pursue and achieve the objectives of the Constitution in the conservation
and utilization of our natural resources.

In C.A. No. 141, the National Assembly delegated to the President of the Philippines the function of making periodic
classifications of public lands, thus:

Sec. 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to
time classify the lands of the public domain into:

(a) Alienable or disposable,

(b) Lumber, and

(c) Mineral lands,

and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands from one class to another, for the purposes of their
administration and disposition.

Sec. 7. For the purposes of the administration and disposition of alienable or disposable lands, the President, upon
recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time declare what lands are open to
disposition or concession under this Act.

With particular regard to alienable public lands, Section 9 of the same law provides:

For the purpose of their administration and disposition, the lands of the public domain alienable or open to disposition shall be
classified, according to the use or purposes to which such lands are destined, as follows:

(a) Agricultural;

(b) Residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes;

(c) Educational, charitable, or other similar purposes; and

(d) Reservations for townsites and for public and quasi-public uses.

The President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time make the
classifications provided for in this section, and may, at any time and in a similar manner, transfer lands from one class to
another.

As for timber or forest lands, the Revised Administrative Code states as follows:

Sec. 1826. Regulation setting apart forest reserves- Revocation of same. - Upon there commendation of the Director of
Forestry, with the approval of the Department Head, the President of the Philippines may set apart forest reserves from the
public lands and he shall by proclamation declare the establishment of such reserves and the boundaries thereof, and
thereafter such forest reserves shall not be entered, sold, or otherwise disposed of, but shall remain as such for forest uses,
and shall be administered in the same manner as public forest.

The President of the Philippines may in like manner by proclamation alter or modify the boundaries of any forest reserve from
time to time, or revoke any such proclamation, and upon such revocation such forest reserve shall be and become part of the
public lands as though such proclamation had never been made.

Sec. 1827. Assignment of forest land for agricultural purposes. - Lands in public forest, not including forest reserves, upon the
certification of the Director of Forestry that said lands are better adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for forest
purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept under forest, shall be declared by the Department Head to be
agricultural lands.

With these principles in mind, we reach the following conclusion:

Mangrove swamps or manglares should be understood as comprised within the public forests of the Philippines as defined in
the aforecited Section 1820 of the Administrative Code of 1917. The legislature having so determined, we have no authority to
ignore or modify its decision, and in effect veto it, in the exercise of our own discretion. The statutory definition remains
unchanged to date and, no less noteworthy, is accepted and invoked by the executive department. More importantly, the said
Law on NatRes (23-49) 48
provision has not been challenged as arbitrary or unrealistic or unconstitutional assuming the requisite conditions, to justify our
judicial intervention and scrutiny. The law is thus presumed valid and so must be respected. We repeat our statement in the
Amunategui case that the classification of mangrove swamps as forest lands is descriptive of its legal nature or status and
does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. That determination having been made and no cogent
argument having been raised to annul it, we have no duty as judges but to apply it. And so we shall.

Our previous description of the term in question as pertaining to our agricultural lands should be understood as covering only
those lands over which ownership had already vested before the Administrative Code of 1917 became effective. Such lands
could not be retroactively legislated as forest lands because this would be violative of a duly acquired property right protected
by the due process clause. So we ruled again only two months ago in Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals, 15
where the possession of the land in dispute commenced as early as 1909, before it was much later classified as timberland.

It follows from all this that the land under contention being admittedly a part of the mangrove swamps of Sapian, and for which
a minor forest license had in fact been issued by the Bureau of Forestry from 1920 to 1950, it must be considered forest land.
It could therefore not be the subject of the adverse possession and consequent ownership claimed by the private respondent
in support of his application for registration. To be so, it had first to be released as forest land and reclassified as agricultural
land pursuant to the certification the Director of Forestry may issue under Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code.

The private respondent invokes the survey plan of the mangrove swamps approved by the Director of Lands, 16 to prove that
the land is registerable. It should be plain, however, that the mere existence of such a plan would not have the effect of
converting the mangrove swamps, as forest land, into agricultural land. Such approval is ineffectual because it is clearly in
officious. The Director of Lands was not authorized to act in the premises. Under the aforecited law, it is the Director of
Forestry who has the authority to determine whether forest land is more valuable for agricultural rather than forestry uses, as a
basis for its declaration as agricultural land and release for private ownership.

Thus we held in the Yngson case:

It is elementary in the law governing the disposition of lands of the public domain that until timber or forest lands are released
as disposable and alienable neither the Bureau of Lands nor the Bureau of Fisheries has authority to lease, grant, sell or
otherwise dispose of these lands for homesteads, sales patents, leases for grazing or other purposes, fishpond leases and
other modes of utilization.

The Bureau of Fisheries has no jurisdiction to administer and dispose of swamp lands or mangrove lands forming part of the
public domain while such lands are still classified as forest land or timber land and not released for fishery or other purposes.

The same rule was echoed in the Vallarta case, thus:

It is elementary in the law governing natural resources that forest land cannot be owned by private persons. It is not
registerable. The adverse possession which can be the basis of a grant of title in confirmation of imperfect title cases cannot
commence until after the forest land has been declared alienable and disposable. Possession of forest land, no matter bow
long cannot convert it into private property.'

We find in fact that even if the land in dispute were agricultural in nature, the proof the private respondent offers of prescriptive
possession thereof is remarkably meager and of dubious persuasiveness. The record contains no convincing evidence of the
existence of the informacion posesoria allegedly obtained by the original transferor of the property, let alone the fact that the
conditions for acquiring title thereunder have been satisfied. Nowhere has it been shown that the informacion posesoria has
been inscribed or registered in the registry of property and that the land has been under the actual and adverse possession of
the private respondent for twenty years as required by the Spanish Mortgage Law. 17 These matters are not presumed but
must be established with definite proof, which is lacking in this case.

Significantly, the tax declarations made by the private respondent were practically the only basis used by the appellate court in
sustaining his claim of possession over the land in question. Tax declarations are, of course, not sufficient to prove possession
and much less vest ownership in favor of the declarant, as we have held in countless cases. 18

We hold, in sum, that the private respondent has not established his right to the registration of the subject land in his name.
Accordingly, the petition must be granted.

It is reiterated for emphasis that, conformably to the legislative definition embodied in Section 1820 of the Revised
Administrative Code of 1917, which remains unamended up to now, mangrove swamps or manglares form part of the public
forests of the Philippines. As such, they are not alienable under the Constitution and may not be the subject of private
ownership until and unless they are first released as forest land and classified as alienable agricultural land.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 49
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is SET ASIDE and the application for registration of title of private
respondent is DISMISSED, with cost against him. This decision is immediately executory.SO ORDERED.

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,


vs. SOUTHSIDE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC. and the REGISTER OF DEEDS OF PASIG, RIZAL, respondents.;
G.R. No. 156951 September 22, 2006

x-------------------------------------------x

BASES CONVERSION DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, intervenor

x-------------------------------------------x

DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENSE, represented by HON. SECRETARY ANGELO T. REYES, and the ARMED
FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by CHIEF OF STAFF, AFP, GENERAL NARCISO L. ABAYA, intervenors

x-------------------------------------------x

G.R. No. 173408 September 22, 2006

RENE A.V. SAGUISAG, MGEN. MARCIANO ILAGAN (Ret.), MGEN. PONCIANO MILLENA (Ret.), BGEN. JUANITO
MALTO (Ret.), BGEN. RAYMUNDO JARQUE (Ret.) and COL. DOMINADOR P. AMADOR (Ret.), petitioners, vs. L/T. GEN.
HERMOGENES C. ESPERON, JR., respondent.

DECISION

GARCIA, J.:

Before the Court are these two petitions having, as common denominator, the issue of ownership of a large tract of land.

In the first, a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court and docketed as G.R. No. 156951, the petitioner Republic
of the Philippines seeks to nullify and set aside the Decision 1 dated January 28, 2003 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R.
CV No. 59454, affirming the dismissal by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City, Branch 71, of the Republics complaint
for declaration of nullity and cancellation of a land title against the herein private respondent, the Southside Homeowners
Association, Inc. (SHAI).

In the second, docketed as G.R. No. 173408, petitioners Rene Saguisag and five (5) retired military officers pray that Lt. Gen.
Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr., the present Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), be asked to show cause
why he should not be cited for contempt for having announced time and again that the military officers and their families in the
contempt action would be ousted and evicted from the property subject of the main petition even before the issue of ownership
thereof is finally resolved by the Court.

After the private respondent SHAI had filed its Comment2 to the petition in G.R. No. 156951, the Bases Conversion
Development Authority (BCDA), followed by the Department of National Defense (DND) and the AFP, joined causes with the
petitioner Republic and thus sought leave to intervene. The Court, per its Resolutions dated September 3, 2003, 3 and
September 29, 2003,4 respectively, allowed the intervention and admitted the corresponding petitions-for-intervention.

Per Resolution of the Court dated August 09, 2006, both petitions were ordered consolidated.

The Republics recourse in G.R. No. 156951 is cast against the following backdrop:

On July 12, 1957, then President Carlos P. Garcia issued Proclamation No. 423 5 establishing a military reservation known as
Fort William McKinley later renamed Fort Andres Bonifacio Military Reservation (FBMR). The proclamation "withdr[ew]
from sale or settlement and reserve[d] for military purposes, under the administration of the Chief of Staff of the [AFP] the
[certain] parcels of the public domain [indicated in plan Psu-2031]" situated in the several towns and a city of what was once
the Province of Rizal. On its face, the proclamation covers three (3) large parcels of land, to wit: Parcel No. 2 (portion), Parcel
No. 3 (or 3-A) and Parcel No. 4 (or 4-A). Parcel No. 3 with an area of 15,912,684 square meters and Parcel No. 4 with an area
of 7,660,128 square meters are described in the proclamation as situated inside Fort McKinley, Rizal. Specifically mentioned
Law on NatRes (23-49) 50
as excluded from Parcel No. 4 albeit within its boundaries are the American Battle Monument Cemetery (606,985 sq. m.), the
Traffic Circle (7,093 sq. m.) and the Diplomatic and Consular area (100,000 sq.m.).

Several presidential proclamations would later issue excluding certain defined areas from the operation of Proclamation No.
423 and declaring them open for disposition. These are Proclamation No. 461 6 and Proclamation No. 462,7 both series of
1965, excluding portions of the reservation and declaring them the AFP Officers Village and the AFP EMs Village,
respectively, to be disposed of under Republic Act (R.A.) 2748 and R.A. 7309 in relation to the Public Land Act (C.A. 141, as
amended). Excluded, too, under Proclamation No. 172 dated October 16, 1987 and to be disposed pursuant to the same laws
aforementioned, save those used or earmarked for public/quasi-public purposes, are portions of the reservation known as
Lower and Upper Bicutan, Western Bicutan and the Signal Village, all in Taguig, Metro Manila.

In 1992, Congress enacted the Bases Conversion and Development Act (R.A. 7227, as amended), investing the BCDA the
power to own, hold and administer portions of Metro Manila military camps that may be transferred to it by the President 10 and
to dispose, after the lapse of a number of months, portions of Fort Bonifacio. 11

At the core of the instant proceedings for declaration of nullity of title are parcels of land with a total area of 39.99 hectares,
more or less, known as or are situated in what is referred to as the JUSMAG housing area in Fort Bonifacio. As may be
gathered from the pleadings, military officers, both in the active and retired services, and their respective families, have been
occupying housing units and facilities originally constructed by the AFP on the JUSMAG area.

Private respondent SHAI is a non-stock corporation organized mostly by wives of AFP military officers. Records show that
SHAI was able to secure from the Registry of Deeds of the Province of Rizal a title Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No.
1508412 - in its name to the bulk of, if not the entire, JUSMAG area. TCT No. 15084 particularly describes the property covered
thereby as follows:

A parcel of land (Lot 3-Y-1, Psd-76057, being a portion of Parcel 3 of plan Psu-2031) situated in Jusmang (sic) Area, Fort
Bonifacio, Province of Rizal. containing an area of (398,602) SQUARE METERS. xxx.

A parcel of land (Lot 3-Y-2, Psd-76057 as shown on subdivision Plan Psd 76057, being a portion of parcel 3 of plan Psu-2031,
LRC Rec. No.) situated in Jusmang (sic) Area, Fort Bonifacio, Province of Rizal. containing an area of (1,320) SQUARE
METERS xxx.. (Underscoring added.)

The Rizal Registry issued TCT No. 15084 on October 30, 1991 on the basis of a notarized Deed of Sale13 purportedly
executed on the same date by then Director Abelardo G. Palad, Jr. (Palad, for brevity) of the Lands Management Bureau
(LMB) in favor of SHAI. The total purchase price as written in the conveying deed was P11,997,660.00 or P30.00 per square
meter.

It appears that in the process of the investigation conducted by the Department of Justice on reported land scams at the
FBMR, a copy of the aforesaid October 30, 1991 deed of sale surfaced and eventually referred to the National Bureau of
Investigation (NBI) for examination. The results of the examination undertaken by NBI Document Examiner Eliodoro
Constantino are embodied in his Questioned Documents Report (QDR) No. 815-1093.14 Its highlights:

QUESTIONED SPECIMENS:

1. Original copy of the Deed of Sale issued in favor of the Navy Officers Village Association (NOVA) containing the
signature of "ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR." designated as "Q-961" .

2. Original copy of the Deed of Sale issued in favor of SHAI containing the signature of "ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR." ...
designated as "Q-962.

xxx xxx xxx

PURPOSE OF EXAMINATION:

To determine whether or not the questioned and sample/specimen signatures "ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR." were written by
one and the same person.

FINDINGS:
Law on NatRes (23-49) 51
Scientific comparative examination and analysis of the specimens, submitted, under stereoscopic microscope and magnifying
lens, with the aid of photographic enlargement reveals that there exist fundamental, significant differences in writing
characteristics between the questioned and the standard/sample signatures "ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR." such as in:

- The questioned signatures show slow, drawn, painstaking laborious manner in execution of strokes; that of the
standard/sample signatures show free, rapid coordinated and spontaneous strokes in the manner of execution of
letters/elements.

xxx xxx xxx

Furthermore, the questioned signature "ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR." marked "Q-961" is a product of TRACING PROCESS by
CARBON-OUTLINE METHOD.

CONCLUSION:

Based on the above FINDINGS, the questioned and the standard/sample signatures "ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR." were not
written by one and the same person.

The questioned signature "ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR." marked "Q-961" is a TRACED FORGERY by carbon process.

REMARKS:

The other questioned Deeds of Sale containing the signatures of "ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR." are still in the process of
examination.15

On October 16, 1993, then President Fidel V. Ramos issued Memorandum Order No. 173 16 directing the Office of the Solicitor
General (OSG) to institute action towards the cancellation of TCT No. 15084 and the title acquired by the Navy Officers
Village Association (NOVA) over a bigger parcel within the reservation. A month later, the OSG, in behalf of the petitioner
Republic, filed with the RTC of Pasig City the corresponding nullification and cancellation of title suit against the private
respondent SHAI. In its complaint, docketed as Civil Case No. 63883 and eventually raffled to Branch 71 of the court, the
Republic alleged that fraud attended SHAIs procurement of TCT No. 15084. In paragraph No. 5 of the complaint, the Republic
alleged that TCT No. 15084 is void owing, inter alia, to the following circumstances: a) the conveying deed is spurious as the
purported signature thereon of Palad is a forgery; b) there are no records with the LMB of (i) the application to purchase and
(ii) the alleged payment of the purchase price; and c) the property in question is inalienable, being part of a military reservation
established under Proclamation No. 423.17

In its ANSWER with counterclaim, respondent SHAI denied the material allegations of the complaint and countered that the
impugned title as well as the October 30, 1991 Deed of Sale are valid documents which the Republic is estopped to deny. 18
SHAI also alleged paying in full the purchase price indicated in the deed as evidenced by Official Receipt No. 6030203-C
dated October 29, 1991.

On October 19, 1994, the case was heard on pre-trial in the course of which the Republic, as plaintiff therein, marked (and
later offered in evidence) the Deed of Sale dated October 30, 1991 as its Exhibit "A," and TCT No. 15084 as Exhibit "B."
Respondent, then defendant SHAI adopted Exhibits "A" and "B" as its Exhibits "1" and "2," respectively. As the pre-trial order
was written, it would appear that the parties agreed to limit the issue to the due execution and genuineness of Exhs. "A" and
"B."19

During the trial, the Republic presented as expert witness NBI Document Examiner Eliodoro Constantino who testified on NBI
QDR No. 815-1093 and asserted that the signature of Palad in Exhibit "A" is a forgery. For his part, Palad dismissed as
forged his signature appearing in the same document and denied ever signing the same, let alone in front of a notary public
holding office outside of the LMB premises. Pressing the point, Palad stated that he could not have had signed the conveying
deed involving as it did a reservation area which, apart from its being outside of the LMBs jurisdiction, is inalienable in the first
place. The testimony of other witnesses revolved around the absence of bureau records respecting SHAIs application to
acquire, payment of the purchase price and Psd-76057, the plan described in TCT No. 15084. 20

For its part, then defendant SHAI presented an opposing expert witness in the person of Police Inspector Redencion Caimbon
who brought with him PNP QDR No. 001-96 and testified that Palads signature in Exhibit "A" (same as Exh. "1") is genuine.
Mrs. Virginia Santos, then SHAI president, likewise testified, saying that applications to purchase were signed and then filed
with the LMB by one Engr. Eugenia Balis,21 followed by the payment in full of the contract price. Atty. Vicente Garcia, the then
Register of Deeds of Rizal, also testified about his having endorsed to Palad a letter-inquiry he received from SHAI respecting
the authenticity of TCT No. 15084. Palads response-letter dated January 23, 1992 (Exh. "10"), according to Atty. Garcia, is to
Law on NatRes (23-49) 52
the effect that TCT No. 15084 must be genuine as it emanated from the Registrys office on the basis of the October 30, 1991
Deed of Sale.22

On rebuttal, Palad would deny authorship of Exhibit "10" and an LMB official would disclaim transmitting the same to Atty.
Garcia.

Eventually, in a decision23 dated October 7, 1997, the trial court rendered judgment dismissing the Republics complaint, to wit:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Complaint dated November 15, 1991 is hereby DISMISSED without
pronouncement as to costs.

The counterclaims are also DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

In not so many words, the trial court considered the parcels covered by the deed in question as no longer part of the FBMR.

Therefrom, the Republic went on appeal to the CA whereat its appellate recourse was docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 59454.

In the herein assailed Decision24 dated January 28, 2003, the appellate court affirmed in toto that of the trial court.

Hence, this petition of the Republic on the threshold abstract submission that the CA "completely ignored, overlooked and/or
grossly misappreciated facts of substance which, if duly considered, will materially affect the outcome of this case."

In its COMMENT To Petition,private respondent SHAI parlays the "what-can-be-raised" line. It urges the dismissal of the
petition on the ground that the issues raised therein, particularly those bearing on the authenticity of Exhibit "A"/"1," are
mainly questions of fact, adding that the matter of the inalienability of the area purportedly sold is outside the issue agreed
upon during the pre-trial stage.

The desired dismissal cannot be granted on the bases of the reasons proffered above.

While the Court, in a petition for review of CA decisions under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, usually limits its inquiry only to
questions of law, this rule is far from absolute. Reyes v. Court of Appeals,25 citing Floro v. Llenado,26 for one, suggests as
much. In Floro, we wrote:

xxx There are, however, exceptional circumstances that would compel the Court to review the finding of facts of the [CA],
summarized in and subsequent cases as follows: 1) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible;
2) when there is grave abuse of discretion; 3) when the finding is grounded entirely on speculations, surmises or conjectures;
4) when the judgment of the [CA] are based on misapprehension of facts; 5) when the findings of facts are conflicting; 6) ; 7)
; 8) ; 9) when the [CA] manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties and which if properly
considered would justify a different conclusion; and 10) when the findings of facts are premised on the absence of evidence
and are contradicted by the evidence on record. (Words in bracket, added.)

To the mind of the Court, the instant case is within the purview of at least three of the exceptions listed above, foremost of
which is item #9.

Private respondent SHAIs stance about the petitioner Republic being barred from raising the issue of inalienability since it
failed to plead or assert the same at the pre-trial proceedings is, to a degree, correct. For the general rule, as articulated in
Permanent Concrete Products, Inc. v. Teodoro,27 is that the determination of issues at a pre-trial conference bars the
consideration of others on appeal. It should be pointed out, however, that the rationale for such preliminary, albeit mandatory,
conference is to isolate as far as possible the trial out of the realm of surprises and back-handed maneuverings. And lest it be
overlooked, the adverted rule on the procedure to be observed in pre-trials is, as Bergano v. Court of Appeals28 teaches, citing
Gicano v. Gegato,29 subject to exceptions. And without meaning to diminish the importance of the same rule, the Court is
possessed with inherent power to suspend its own rules or to except a particular case from its operations whenever the
demands of justice so require.30

Given the foregoing considerations, the rule to be generally observed in pre-trial conferences hardly poses an insurmountable
obstacle to tackling the question of inalienability which, under the premises, is an issue more legal than factual. As it were, the
element of surprise is not really present here. For the issue of inalienability, which is central to the Republics cause of action,
was raised in its basic complaint, passed upon by the CA and, before it, by the trial court 31 and of which at least one witness
(Palad) was examined as follows:
Law on NatRes (23-49) 53
Q: Mr. Witness you stated that the parcel of land in question at the time of the land alleged sale was part of the [FBMR].
Now as part of the [FBRM] do you know whether the said parcel of land can be the subject of disposition?

A: If it is part of the reservation it cannot be sold and it is already part of those government lands that has been assigned to
other government agencies that is no longer within my jurisdiction. Meaning to say I have no more say on that because the
proclamation to the effect was reserving this for particular purpose under the DND . 32 (Words in bracket added.)

At any rate, Palads testimony drew nary an objection from private respondent SHAI. It even cross-examined said witness.33
The rule obtains that the introduction of evidence bearing on an issue not otherwise included in the pre-trial order amounts to
implied consent conferring jurisdiction on the court to try such issue. 34

Digressing from the procedural aspects of this case, we now consider the clashing assertions regarding the JUSMAG area.
Was it, during the period material, alienable or inalienable, as the case may be, and, therefore, can or cannot be subject of a
lawful private conveyance?

Petitioner Republic, as do the intervenors, asserts the inalienable character of the JUSMAG area, the same having not
effectively been separated from the military reservation and declared as alienable and disposable.

The Republics and the intervenors parallel assertions are correct.

The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, may designate by
proclamation any tract or tracts of land of the public domain as reservations for the use of the Republic or any of its branches,
or for quasi-public uses or purposes.35 Such tract or tracts of land thus reserved shall be non-alienable and shall not be subject
to sale or other disposition until again declared alienable. 36 Consistent with the foregoing postulates, jurisprudence teaches
that a military reservation, like the FBMR, or a part thereof is not open to private appropriation or disposition and, therefore, not
registrable,37 unless it is in the meantime reclassified and declared as disposable and alienable public land. 38 And until a given
parcel of land is released from its classification as part of the military reservation zone and reclassified by law or by
presidential proclamation as disposable and alienable, its status as part of a military reservation remains, 39 even if incidentally
it is devoted for a purpose other than as a military camp or for defense. So it must be here.

There can be no quibbling that the JUSMAG area subject of the questioned October 30, 1991 sale formed part of the FBMR
as originally established under Proclamation No. 423. And while private respondent SHAI would categorically say that the
petitioner Republic had not presented evidence that "subject land is within military reservation," 40 and even dared to state that
the JUSMAG area is the private property of the government and therefore removed from the concept of public domain per
se,41 its own evidence themselves belie its posture. We start with its Exhibit "2" (petitioners Exh. "B"), a copy of TCT No.
15084, which described the area covered thereby measuring 399,922 square meters as a "portion of Parcel 3 of plan Psu-
2031 situated in Jusmang (sic) area Fort Bonifacio." Complementing its Exhibit "2" is its Exhibit "1" - the deed of sale - which
technically described the property purportedly being conveyed to private respondent SHAI as follows:

A PARCEL OF LAND (Lot 3-Y-1, Psd-76067, being a portion of Parcel 3 of plan Psu-2031) situated in Jusmag (sic) area, Fort
Bonifacio, Province of Rizal. Xxx (Emphasis added)

As the Court distinctly notes, the disputed property, as described in private respondents Exhibits "1" and "2," formed part of
that wide expanse under Proclamation No. 423 which lists, as earlier stated, three (3) parcels of land of the public domain as
falling within its coverage. These include, inter alia, the entire 15,912,684-square meter area constituting Parcel No. 3 of Plan
Psu 2031 located inside the now renamed Fort Mckinley which, to a redundant point, was declared a military reservation.

The Court has, on the issue of inalienability, taken stock of the Compilation Map of Approved Surveys Plan inside Parcels 1, 2,
3 and 4, of plan Psu 203142 prepared in September 1995 and certified by the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR). It indicates in colored ink the outlines of Parcels 2, 3 and 4 covered by Proclamation No. 423. As there
also shown, the 399,992-square meter area embraced by SHAIs TCT No. 15084, defined in the legend by red-colored
stripes, is within the violet-colored borders of Parcel No. 3 and Parcel No. 4 of Proclamation No. 423.

Indubitably, the area covered by SHAIs TCT No. 15084 was and is still part of the FBMR, more particularly within the
15,912,684- square meter Parcel No. 3 of the reservation. The petitioner Republic, joined by the intervenors BCDA, DND and
AFP in this appellate proceedings, has maintained all along this thesis. Towards discharging its burden of proving that the
disputed property is part of the reservation, the petitioner Republic need only to demonstrate that all of the 15,912,684 square
meters of Parcel No. 3 of Plan Psu 2031 have been reserved for military purposes. The evidence, however, of the fact of
reservation is the law or, to be more precise, Proclamation No. 423 itself, the contents and issuance of which courts can and
should take judicial notice of under Section 1, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court. 43
Law on NatRes (23-49) 54
The Republic has, since the filing of its underlying complaint, invoked Proclamation No. 423. In the process, it has invariably
invited attention to the proclamations specific area coverage to prove the nullity of TCT No. 15084, inasmuch as the title
embraced a reserved area considered inalienable, and hence, beyond the commerce of man. In this regard, the appellate
court seemed to have glossed over, if not entirely turned a blind eye on, certain admissions made by the private respondent,
the most basic being those made in its answer to the Republics allegations in paragraph 5 (e) and (g) of its complaint. To the
Republics allegations that the property covered by TCT No. 15084 was and remains part the FBMR, SHAIs answer thereto
reads:

2. It specifically denies the allegations in paragraphs 5 of the complaint, the truth of the matter being that in the
Deed of Sale , the Director of Lands Certificate (sic) that he is "authorized under the law to sell" the subject property and that
the "lots were duly awarded by the [LBM] to the vendee.44 ( Emphasis and word in bracket added.)

In net effect, private respondent SHAI admitted what the petitioner Republic alleged in par. 5 (e) and (g) of the complaint, the
formers denial to such allegations on the inalienable nature of the property covered by TCT No. 15084 being in the nature of a
general denial. Under the rules on pleadings, a specific, not a general, denial is required; a denial is not specific because it is
so qualified or termed "specific" by the pleader. 45 The defendant must specify each material factual allegation the truth of
which he absolutely denies and, whenever practicable, shall set forth the substance of the matters upon which he will rely to
support his denial.46 Else, the denial will be regarded as general and will, therefore, be regarded as an admission of a given
material fact/s stated in the complaint.

What private respondent SHAI did under the premises was to enter what, under the Rules, is tantamount to a general denial of
the Republics averments that what SHAIs TCT No. 15084 covers is part of the military reservation. In the process, private
respondent SHAI is deemed to admit the reality of such averment.

To be sure, the petitioner Republic, as plaintiff below, had more than sufficiently established its claim on the inalienability of the
parcels of land covered by TCT No. 15084. In fine, it had discharged the burden of proof on the issue of inalienability. Be that
as it may, the burden of evidence to disprove inalienability or, to be precise, that said parcels of land had, for settlement
purposes, effectively been withdrawn from the reservation or excluded from the coverage of Proclamation No. 423, devolves
upon the private respondent. This is as it should be for the cogency of SHAIs claim respecting the validity of both the
underlying deed of sale (Exh. "A"/"1") and its TCT No. 15084 (Exh. "B"/"2") rests on the postulate that what it purportedly
bought from the LMB had ceased to be part of the reserved lands of the public domain. Elsewise put, SHAI must prove that
the JUSMAG area had been withdrawn from the reservation and declared open for disposition, failing which it has no
enforceable right over the area as against the State.

Private respondent SHAI has definitely not met its burden by reason of lack of evidence. To be sure, it has not, because it
cannot even if it wanted to, pointed to any presidential act specifically withdrawing the disputed parcels from the coverage of
Proclamation No. 423. Worse still, its own Exhibit "5,"47 a letter dated March 19, 1991 of then PA Commanding General,
M/Gen Lisandro Abadia, to one Mrs. Gabon, then President of the SHAI, cannot but be viewed as a partys judicial admission
that the disputed land has yet to be excluded from the military reservation. The Abadia letter, with its feature dis-serving to
private respondent SHAI, reads in part as follows:

Dear Mrs. Gabon:

This is in connection with your move to make a petition to President Aquino regarding the possible exclusion of Southside
Housing Area from the military reservation and for its eventual allotment to the military officers presently residing thereat.
Allow me to state that I interpose no objection . I find it helpful to our officers to be provided a portion of the Fort Bonifacio
military reservation . (Underscoring added.)

Owing to the foregoing considerations, the Court is hard put to understand how the CA could still have found for SHAI.. The
appellate court, apparently swayed by what SHAI said in its Brief for the Appellees48 that:

Appellant [petitioner Republic] is probably unaware that , then President Diosdado Macapagal issued Proclamation 461
when he excluded from the operation of Proclamation No. 423 an area of 2,455,810 square meters more or less.
Likewise on October 16, 1987, then President Corazon Aquino issued Proclamation No. 172 excluding five (5) parcels of land
from the operation of Proclamation No. 423 also located at Fort Bonifacio containing an area of 4,436, 478 . So if we deduct
the 6,892,288 [2,455,810 + 4,436,478 = 6,892,288] square meters covered by Proclamation Nos. 461 and 172 of the areas
reserved for military purposes of 7,053,143 square meters, what is only left is 160,857 square meters or more or less 16
hectares .49

justified its holding on the alienability of the disputed land with the following disquisition:
Law on NatRes (23-49) 55
The foregoing admission aside, appellants [now petitioners] reliance on Proclamation No. 493 [should be 423] in insisting that
the land in litigation is inalienable because it is part of the [FBMR] is too general to merit serous consideration. While it is true
that, under the said July 12, 1957 Proclamation, then President Carlos P. Garcia reserved the area now known as Fort
Bonifacio for military purposes, appellee [now respondent] correctly calls our attention to the fact, among other matters, that
numerous exceptions thereto had already been declared through the years. The excluded areas under Proclamation No. 461,
dated September 29, 1965 and Proclamation No. 172, dated October 16, 1987 alone already total 6,892,338 square meters.
(Figures in bracket added.)

The CAs justifying line does not commend itself for concurrence.

For one, it utilizes SHAIs misleading assertion as a springboard to justify speculative inferences. Per our count, Proclamation
423 reserved for military purposes roughly a total area of 25,875,000 square meters, not 7,053,143. On the other hand,
Proclamation Nos. 461 and 172 excluded a combined area of 6,892,338 square meters. Now then, the jump from an
acknowledgment of the disputed parcels of land having been reserved for military purposes to a rationalization that they must
have been excluded from the reservation because 6,892,338 square meters had already been withdrawn from Proclamation
423 is simply speculative. Needless to stress, factual speculations do not make for proof.

Corollary to the first reason is the fact that private respondent SHAI - and quite understandably, the appellate court - had not
pointed to any proclamation, or legislative act for that matter, segregating the property covered by TCT No. 15084 from the
reservation and classifying the same as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. To reiterate what we earlier said,
lands of the public domain classified as a military reservation remains as such until, by presidential fiat or congressional act,
the same is released from such classification and declared open to disposition. 50 The October 30, 1991 Deed of Sale
purportedly executed by Palad, assuming for the nonce its authenticity, could not plausibly be the requisite classifying medium
converting the JUSMAG area into a disposable parcel. And private respondent SHAIs unyielding stance that would have the
Republic in estoppel to question the transfer to it by the LMB Director of the JUSMAG area is unavailing. It should have
realized that the Republic is not usually estopped by the mistake or error on the part of its officials or agents.51

Since the parcels of land in question allegedly sold to the private respondent are, or at least at the time of the supposed
transaction were, still part of the FBMR, the purported sale is necessarily void ab initio.

The Court can hypothetically concede, as a matter of fact, the withdrawal of the JUSMAG area from the ambit of Proclamation
No. 423 and its reclassification as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. Still, such hypothesis would not carry
the day for private respondent SHAI. The reason therefor is basic: Article XII, Section 3 52 of the 1987 Constitution forbids
private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain, except through lease for a limited period.
While Fr. Bernas had stated the observation that the reason for the ban is not very clear under existing jurisprudence, 53 the
fact remains that private corporations, like SHAI, are prohibited from purchasing or otherwise acquiring alienable public lands.

Even if on the foregoing score alone, the Court could write finis to this disposition. An appropriate closure to this case could
not be had, however, without delving to an extent on the issue of the validity of the October 30, 1991 Deed of Sale which
necessarily involves the question of the authenticity of what appears to be Palads signature thereon.

With the view we take of the case, the interplay of compelling circumstances and inferences deducible therefrom, would, as a
package, cast doubt on the authenticity of such deed, if not support a conclusion that the deed is spurious. Consider:

1. Palad categorically declared that his said signature on the deed is a forgery. The Court perceives no reason why he should
lie, albeit respondent states, without elaboration, that Palads declaration is aimed at avoiding "criminal prosecution".54 The
NBI signature expert corroborated Palads allegation on forgery.55 Respondent SHAIs expert witness from the PNP, however,
disputes the NBIs findings. In net effect, both experts from the NBI and the PNP cancel each other out.

2. Palad signed the supposed deed of sale in Manila, possibly at the LMB office at Plaza Cervantes, Binondo. Even if he
acted in an official capacity, Palad nonetheless proceeded on the same day to Pasig City to appear before the notarizing
officer. The deed was then brought to the Rizal Registry and there stamped "Received" by the entry clerk. That same
afternoon, or at 3:14 p.m. of October 30, 1991 to be precise, TCT No. 15084 was issued. In other words, the whole
conveyance and registration process was done in less than a day. The very unusual dispatch is quite surprising. Stranger still
is why a bureau head, while in the exercise of his functions as the bureaus authorized contracting officer, has to repair to
another city just to have a deed notarized.

3. There is absolutely no record of the requisite public land application to purchase required under Section 89 of the Public
Land Act.56 There is also no record of the deed of sale and of documents usually accompanying an application to purchase,
inclusive of the investigation report and the property valuation. The Certification under the seal of the LMB bearing date
Law on NatRes (23-49) 56
November 24, 1994 and issued/signed by Alberto Recalde, OIC, Records Management Division of the LMB pursuant to a
subpoena issued by the trial court57 attest to this fact of absence of records. Atty. Alice B. Dayrit, then Chief, Land Utilization
and Disposition Division, LMB, testified having personally looked at the bureau record book, but found no entry pertaining to
SHAI.58

4. In its Answer as defendant a quo, respondent SHAI states that the "deed of sale specifically meritorious Official Receipt No.
6030203C dated 29 October 1991, (sic) as evidence of full payment of the agreed purchase price.." An official receipt
(O.R.) is doubtless the best evidence to prove payment. While it kept referring to O.R. No. 6030203 as its evidence of the
required payment,59 it failed to present and offer the receipt in evidence. A Certification under date September 15, 1993 of the
OIC Cash Division, LMB, states that "OR # 6030203 in the amount of P11,977,000.00 supposedly paid by [SHAI] is not among
the series of [ORs] issued at any time by the National Printing Office to the Cashier, LMB, Central Office." 60 A copy of the OR
receipt is not appended to any of the pleadings filed before the Court. We can thus validly presume that no such OR exists or,
if it does, that its presentation would be adverse to SHAI.

A contract of sale is void where the price, which appears in the document as paid has, in fact, never been paid.61

5. The purchase price was, according to the witnesses for SHAI, paid in full in cash to the cashier of the LMB the
corresponding amount apparently coming in a mix of P500 and P100 denominations. Albeit plausible, SHAIs witnesses
account taxes credulity to the limit.

A final consideration in G.R. No. 156951. This case could not have come to pass without the participation of a cabal of cheats
out to make a dishonest buck at the expense of the government and most likely the members of SHAI. No less than its former
president (Ms. Virginia Santos) testified that a "facilitator" did, for a fee, the necessary paper and leg work before the LMB and
the Registry of Deeds that led to the execution of the Deed of Sale and issuance of the certificate of title in question.62 Ms.
Santos identified Eugenia Balis, a geodetic engineer, as the "facilitator"63 who "facilitated all these presentation" of
documents,64 and most of the time, "directly transacted" with the LMB and the Register of Deeds leading to acquisition of
title.65 Engr. Balis was, in the course of Ms. Santos testimony, directly mentioned by name for at least fifteen (15) times. Not
surprisingly, Engr. Balis did not appear in court, despite SHAIs stated intention to present her as witness. 66

The extent of the misappropriation of the Fort Bonifacio land involved in this and the NOVA area litigations is, as described in
the Report of the FactFinding Commission,67 "so epic in scale as to make the overpricing of land complained of in the two
hundred AFP [Retirement and Separation Benefits System] RSBS cases (P703 million) seem like petty shoplifting in
comparison."68 The members of private respondent SHAI may very well have paid for what they might have been led to
believe as the purchase price of the JUSMAG housing area. The sad reality, however, is that the over P11 Million they paid, if
that be the case, for a piece of real estate contextually outside the commerce of man apparently fell into the wrong hands and
did not enter the government coffers. Else, there must be some memorials of such payment.

At bottom, this disposition is nothing more than restoring the petitioner Republic, and eventually the BCDA, to what rightfully
belongs to it in law and in fact. There is nothing unjust to this approach.

With the foregoing disquisitions, the petition for contempt in G.R. No. 173408 need not detain us long. As it were, the question
raised by the petitioners therein respecting the ownership of the JUSMAG area and, accordingly, of the right of the petitioning
retired military officers to remain in the housing units each may be occupying is now moot and academic. However, contempt
petitioners expressed revulsion over the efforts of the military establishment, particularly the AFP Chief of Staff, to oust them
from their respective dwellings, if that really be the case, even before G.R. No. 156951 could be resolved, is understandable
as it is justified. We thus end this ponencia with a reminder to all and sundry that might is not always right; that ours is still a
government of laws and not of men, be they in the civilian or military sector. Accordingly, the Court will not treat lightly any
attempt to trifle, intended or otherwise, with its processes and proceedings. A becoming respect to the majesty of the law and
the prerogatives of the Court is a must for the orderly administration of justice to triumph.

WHEREFORE, the petition in G.R. No. 156951 is GRANTED and the appealed CA Decision is REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
Accordingly, the Deed of Sale dated October 30, 1991 (Exh. "A"/"1") purportedly executed in favor of private respondent SHAI
and TCT No. 15084 (Exh. "B"/"2") of the Registry of Deeds of Rizal issued on the basis of such deed are declared VOID. The
Register of Deeds of Pasig or Taguig, as the case may be, is hereby ordered to CANCEL TCT No. 15084 in the name of SHAI
and the area covered thereby is DECLARED part of the Fort Bonifacio Military Reservation, unless the same has, in the
interim, been duly excluded by law or proclamation from such reservation. Private respondent SHAI, its members,
representatives and/or their assigns shall vacate the subject parcels of land immediately upon the finality of this decision,
subject to the provisions of Republic Act No. 7227, otherwise known as the Bases Conversion and Development Act.

Cost against the private respondent SHAI.


Law on NatRes (23-49) 57
Having said our piece in G.R. No. 173408, we need not speak any further thereon other than to deny as we hereby similarly
DENY the same. SO ORDERED.

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner,vs. MELITONA ALAGAD,
SPOUSES CARMEN ALAGAD AND ESPIRIDION KOLIMLIM, JUSTO ALAGAD, CARLOS ALAGAD, SPOUSES LIBRADA
ALAGAD AND EMERSON ABANO, DEMETRIO ALAGAD, ANTONIO ALAGAD, REGISTER OF DEEDS OF LAGUNA, and
the INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT (Fourth Civil Cases Division), respondents.; G.R. No. L-66807 January 26,
1989; SARMIENTO, J.:

The Republic appeals from the decision of the Court of Appeals 1 affirming two orders of the defunct Court of First Instance of
Laguna 2 dismissing its petition for "annulment of title and reversion. 3 The facts appear in the decision appealed from:

On or about October 11, 1951, defendants filed an application for registration of their title over a parcel of land situated at
Linga, Pila, Laguna, with an area of 8.1263 hectares, reflected in survey plan Psu-116971, which was amended after the land
was divided into two parcels, namely, Lot 1 with an area of 5.2476 hectares and Lot 2 with an area of 2.8421 hectares,
reflected in survey plan Psu-226971, amd. 2.

The Republic opposed the application on the stereo-typed ground that applicants and their predecessors have not been in
possession of the land openly, continuously, publicly and adversely under a bona fide claim of ownership since July 26, 1894
and the land has not ceased to be a part of the public domain. It appears that barrio folk also opposed the application. (LRC
Case No. 189. G.L.R.O. Rec. No. 4922 of the Court of First Instance of Laguna).

By virtue of a final judgment in said case, promulgated January 16, 1956, supplemented by orders issued on March 21, 1956
and August 13, 1956, defendants were declared owners of Lot 1 and the remaining portion, or Lot 2, was declared public land.
Decree No. N-51479 was entered and Original Certificate of Title No. 0- 40 1, dated October 18, 1956, was issued in the
names of defendants.

In August, 1966, Civil Case No. 52 of the Municipal Court of Pila, Laguna, was filed by defendants to evict the barrio folk
occupying portions of Lot 1. On August 8, 1968, judgment was rendered in the eviction case ordering the defendants therein to
return possession of the premises to herein defendants, as plaintiffs therein. The defendants therein did not appeal.

The foregoing anterior proceedings triggered the filing of the instant case. On October 6, 1970, as prayed for in the complaint,
a writ of preliminary injunction was issued enjoining the Provincial Sheriff of Laguna or his deputies from enforcing the writ of
execution issued in Civil Case No. 52, and the defendants from selling, mortgaging, disposing or otherwise entering into any
transaction affecting the area.

This case was set for pre-trial on July 6, 1971. Despite notice of the pre-trial, Atty. Alejandro A. Ponferada, Special Attorney,
Bureau of Lands, representing plaintiff Republic, did not appear. On July 16, 1971, the court a quo dismissed the complaint.
The Republic filed a motion for reconsideration, was set for hearing, and finally denied by the court a quo, hence, this appeal.

Plaintiff filed its record on appeal on March 13, 1972. It appears that the appeal was dismissed by this Court for failure to show
in the record on appeal that the appeal was perfected on time. Plaintiff went to the Supreme Court on a petition for review on
the action of this Court. On November 19, 1982, the Supreme Court set aside the dismissal resolution of this Court and
ordered Us to reinstate and give due course to plaintiffs appeal.

In commencing proceedings below, the Republic claims that the decree and title [rendered and issued in LRC Case No. 189,
G.L.R.O. Rec. No. L-4922] insofar as the 1.42 hectare northwestern portion on end of Lot 1, Psu-116971, Amd. 2, is
concerned, are void ab initio, 5 for the following reasons:

(a) That said l.42 hectare northwestern portion or end of Lot l, Psu-116971, Amd. 2, like the adjoining Lot 2 of the same survey
plan containing 2.8421 hectares, had since time immemorial, been foreshore land reached and covered by the waters of the
Laguna de Bay (Republic vs. Ayala y Cia, L-20950, May 31, 1965; Antonio Dizon, et al., vs. Juan de G. Rodriguez, et al., L-
20355- 56, April 30, 1965);

(b) That moreover said 1.42 hectare portion is actually now the site of Barrio Aplaya, formerly a sitio of Linga, Pila, Laguna,
having been occupied by the barrio people since the American occupation of the country in the early 1900's where they
established their houses;

(c) That the barrio people of Aplaya thru the years since the early 1900's have filled up and elevated the land to its present
condition of being some feet above the level of the adjoining Lot 2 of plan Psu-116971 and the rest of Lot 1 of the same survey
Law on NatRes (23-49) 58
plan so much so that this barrio site of Aplaya where there are now sixty-eight (68) houses occupied by more than one
hundred (100) families is no longer reached and covered by the waters of the Laguna de Bay; and

(d) That were it not for the fillings made by the barrio people, the land in question would not have been fit for human habitation,
so much so that defendants and their predecessors-in-interest could not have acquired an imperfect title to the property which
could be judicially confirmed in a registration case, as in fact said defendants and their predecessors-in-interest have never
been in actual possession of the land in question, the actual occupants thereof being the barrio people of Aplaya; 6

In sustaining the trial court, the Court of Appeals held that under Section 20, of Rule 20, of the Rules of Court, dismissal was
proper upon failure of the Republic to appear for pre-trial. It likewise ruled that the judgment, dated January 16, 1956, in the
said LRC No. 189 has long become final, titles to the properties had been issued (in favor of the private respondents), and that
res judicata, consequently, was a bar.

In its petition, the Republic assails the decision insofar as it sustained the lower court: (1) in dismissing the petition for failure of
the Republic to appear for pre-trial; and (2) in holding that res judicata is an obstacle to the suit.

I.

With respect to the first question, we hold that the Court of Appeals has been guilty of grave abuse of discretion. It is well-
established that the State cannot be bound by, or estopped from, the mistakes or negligent acts of its official or agents, 7
much more, non-suited as a result thereof.

This is so because:

... [T]he state as a persona in law is the judicial entity, which is the source of any asserted right to ownership in land under the
basic doctrine embodied in the 1935 Constitution as well as the present charter. It is charged moreover with the conservation
of such patrimony. There is need therefore of the most rigorous scrutiny before private claims to portions thereof are judicially
accorded recognition, especially so where the matter is sought to be raked up anew after almost fifty years. Such primordial
consideration, not the apparent carelessness, much less the acquiescense of public officials, is the controlling norm . . .

The cases of Ramos v. Central Bank of the Philippines 9 and Nilo v. Romero, 10 cited by the Court of Appeals in support of its
decision, are not applicable. In Ramos, we applied estoppel upon finding of bad faith on the part of the State (the Central
Bank) in deliberately reneging on its promises. In Nilo, we denied efforts to impugn the jurisdiction of the court on the ground
that the defendant had been "erroneously' represented in the complaint by the City Attorney when it should have been the City
Mayor, on a holding that the City Attorney, in any event, could have ably defended the City (Davao City). In both cases, it is
seen that the acts that gave rise to estoppel were voluntary and intentional in character, in which cases, it could not be said
that the Government had been prejudiced by some negligent act or omission.

There is no merit either, in claims that res judicata is an impediment to reversion of property. In Republic v. Court of Appeals,
11 this Court stated:

... [a] certificate of title may be ordered cancelled (Republic v Animas, et al., . supra), and the cancellation may be pursued
through an ordinary action therefor. This action cannot be barred by the prior judgment of the land registration court, since the
said court had no jurisdiction over the subject matter. And if there was no such jurisdiction, then the principle of res judicata
does not apply. For it is a well-settled rule that for a prior judgment to constitute a bar to a subsequent case, the following
requisites must concur; (1) it must be a final judgment; (2) it must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the
subject matter and over the parties; (3) it must be a judgment on the merits; and (4) there must be, between the first and
second actions, identity of parties, identity of subject matter and identity of cause of action (Municipality of Daet vs. CA, 93
SCRA 503; Mendoza vs. Arrieta, et al., 91 SCRA 113)... 12

In the case at bar, if the parcel registered in the names of the private respondents were foreshore land, the land registration
court could not have validly awarded title thereto. It would have been without the authority to do so. The fact that the Bureau of
Lands had failed to appeal from the decree of registration could not have validated the court's decision, rendered without
jurisdiction.

II.

"Property, according to the Civil Code, is either of public dominion or of private ownership ." Property is of public dominion if it
is:
Law on NatRes (23-49) 59
(1) ... intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges constructed by the State, banks,
shores, roadsteads and others of similar character; 14 or if it:

(2) . . . belong[s] to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or for the development of
the national wealth.

All other property of the State, it is provided further, which is not of the character mentioned in ... article [4201, is patrimonial
property, meaning to say, property 'open to disposition 17 by the Government, or otherwise, property pertaining to the national
domain, or public lands. 18 Property of the public dominion, on the other hand, refers to things held by the State by regalian
right. They are things res publicae in nature and hence, incapable of private appropriation. Thus, under the present
Constitution, [w]ith the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated.' 19

Specifically:

ART. 502. The following are of public dominion:

(1) Rivers and their natural beds;

(2) Continuous or intermittent waters of springs and brooks running in their natural beds and the beds themselves;

(3) Waters rising continuously or intermittently on lands of public dominion;

(4) Lakes and lagoons formed by Nature on public lands, and their beds;

(5) Rain waters running through ravines or sand beds, which are also of public dominion;

(6) Subterranean waters on public lands;

(7) Waters found within the zone of operation of public works, even if constructed by a contractor;

(8) Waters rising continuously or intermittently on lands belonging to private persons, to the State, to a province, or to a city or
municipality from the moment they leave such lands;

(9) The waste waters of fountains, sewers and public establishments. 20

So also is it ordained by the Spanish Law of Waters of August 3, 1866:

Art. 44. Natural ponds and lakes existing upon public lands and fed by public waters, belong to the public domain.

Lakes, ponds, and pools existing upon the lands of private individuals, or the State or provinces, belong to the respective
owners of such lands, and those situated upon lands of communal use belong to their respective pueblos.

Assuming, therefore, for purposes of this petition, that the lands subject of the Republic's reversion efforts are foreshore in
nature, the Republic has legitimate reason to demand reconveyance. In that case, res judicata or estoppel is no defense.

Of course, whether or not the properties in question are, indeed, foreshore lands is the core of controversy. According to the
trial court, the aforementioned parcel of land is a portion of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines, 23
and hence, available disposition and registration. As we have pointed out, the Government holds otherwise, and that as
foreshore laud, it is not registerable.

The question, so it follows, is one of fact: Is the parcel foreshore or is it part and parcel of the public domain?

Laguna de Bay has long been recognized as a lake . Thus:

Laguna de Bay is a body of water formed in depressions of the earth; it contains fresh water coming from rivers and brooks or
springs, and is connected with Manila Bay by the Pasig River. According to the definition just quoted, Laguna de Bay is a lake.

And, "[i]nasmuch as Laguna de Bay is a lake, so Colegio de San Jose further tells us, "we must resort to the legal provisions
governing the ownership and use of lakes and their beds and shores, in order to determine the character and ownership of the
parcels of land in question. 26 The recourse to legal provisions is necessary, for under Article 74 of the Law of Waters, [T]he
natural bed or basin of lakes ... is the ground covered by their waters when at their highest ordinary depth. 27 and in which
Law on NatRes (23-49) 60
case, it forms part of the national dominion. When Laguna de Bay's waters are at their highest ordinary depth has been
defined as:

... the highest depth of the waters of Laguna de Bay during the dry season, such depth being the regular, common, natural,
which occurs always or most of the time during the year . . . 28

Otherwise, where the rise in water level is due to the extraordinary action of nature, rainfall for instance, the portions inundated
thereby are not considered part of the bed or basin of the body of water in question. It cannot therefore be said to be foreshore
land but land outside of the public dominion, and land capable of registration as private property.

A foreshore land, on the other hand, has been defined as follows:

. . . that part of (the land) which is between high and low water and left dry by the flux and reflux of the tides...

The strip of land that lies between the high and low water marks and that is alternatively wet and dry according to the flow of
the tide.

If the submergence, however, of the land is due to precipitation, it does not become foreshore, despite its proximity to the
waters.

The case, then, has to be decided alongside these principles and regretfully, the Court cannot make a ruling, in the first place,
because it is not a trier of facts, and in the second, it is in possession of no evidence to assist it in arriving at a conclusive
disposition. We therefore remand the case to the court a quo to determine whether or not the property subject of controversy
is foreshore. We, consequently, reverse both the Court of Appeals and the trial court and reinstate the Republic's complaint.

WHEREFORE, this case is hereby REMANDED to the trial court for further proceedings.

SIAIN ENTERPRISES, INC.,Petitioner,


vs. F.F. CRUZ & CO., INC.,Respondent.; G.R. No. 146616 August 31, 2006; CARPIO MORALES, J.:

Western Visayas Industrial Corporation (WESVICO) filed on September 18, 1973 a foreshore lease application over the
foreshore land adjacent to certain lots registered in its name, located in Loboc, Lapuz, La Paz, Iloilo City, including Lot 3309. It
eventually withdrew the application and filed on March 1976 a petition for registration over the same foreshore land with the
then Court of First Instance of Iloilo. The case was, however, archived as WESVICOs representative could no longer be
contacted.

It appears that WESVICO ceased to hold operations and its properties including Lot 3309 were foreclosed by the Development
Bank of the Philippines (DBP) which later consolidated its ownership thereon. 1

On July 7, 1983, F.F. Cruz & Co. (F.F. Cruz) filed with the Bureau of Lands, Iloilo City, District Land Office VI-1 a foreshore
lease application 2 over a foreshore land, a portion of which is adjacent to Lot 3309. The application was docketed as FLA (VI-
1) 176.

In the preliminary investigation report 3 on F.F. Cruz FLA (VI-1) 176, Senior Special Investigator Ramon Torre who personally
visited and examined the land applied for recommended that the application be given due course.

District Land Officer Norberto Bernas thereafter submitted to the Director of Lands a report, 4 together with relevant documents
including the preliminary investigation report. The pertinent portion of Bernas report reads:

. . . I personally visited the area applied for by the herein applicant and found that the same is actually occupied and used by
them as a sanctuary of their marine equipment which they are using in their construction work of the Iloilo Port. The applicant
has also introduced some facilities on the area applied for in the repair and maintenance of said equipment. A portion of the
land applied for has already been filled up by the applicantas they are in need of a land area for the repair and
maintenance of their equipment and in the loading and unloading of materials that they use in the construction of the Iloilo City
Port.

x x x x 5 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Petitioner Siain Enterprises Inc. (SIAIN), who purchased from the DBP the properties previously owned by WESVICO
including Lot 3309, 6 filed on September 29, 1986 a foreshore lease application 7 over the foreshore land adjacent to the
properties it bought from DBP.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 61
Upon learning that 130 linear meters of the foreshore land subject of F.F. Cruzs foreshore lease application overlapped that
covered by its foreshore lease application, SIAIN filed on January 9, 1987 a protest 8 alleging that it being the owner of the
property adjoining the overlapping area, it should be given preference in its lease.

On March 6, 1987, the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Iloilo City, by Resolution No. 174, 9 approved the recommendation of its
Committee on Finance that "for the mutual interest" of F.F. Cruz and SIAIN, SIAIN would get 70 linear meters and F.F. Cruz
would get 60 linear meters of the disputed area, in light of its finding that, among other things, both SIAIN and F.F. Cruz would
"contribute substantially to the economic growth of the City of Iloilo."

10
Concurring with the Sangguniang Panglungsod, the Land Management Bureau (LMB) through its Director, by Order of July
15, 1989, dismissed SIAINs protest in this wise:

. . . While it cannot be denied that protestant is now the registered owner of the property adjoining the foreshore in question,
the disputed foreshore cannot be considered to have been built or formed by means of accretion but is a reclaimed land
made by respondent F.F. Cruz and Company for the purpose of utilizing the same in the loading and unloading of their
equipment and materials and for the repair and maintenance of said equipment which respondents use in the reclamation of
the Iloilo City Port. This is supported by the findings of the District Land Officer Norberto Bernas who, in his letter dated
February 18, 1984 to this Office, reported that he personally visited the foreshore in question and found that the same is now
actually occupied and used by the respondent company as a sanctuaryof its marine equipment which it is using in its
construction work of the Iloilo City Port and that a portion of the land applied for has already been filled up by the
applicant to be utilized in the repair and maintenance of its equipment and in the loading and unloading of materials it uses in
the construction of the Iloilo City Port. It is therefore clear that the foreshore in question is neither an accretion nor an
accessory to protestants property. While protestant SEI appears to be owner of the property adjacent to the disputed
foreshore, it cannot be considered as a riparian owner within the contemplation of the aforementioned law. 11 (Emphasis and
underscoring supplied)

Accordingly, the LMB disposed:

WHEREFORE, it is ordered that the protest of SIAIN Enterprises, Inc. be, as it hereby it is, dismissed and this case, dropped
from the records. Both Foreshore Lease Application Nos. (VI-5) 220 and (VI-1) 176 of SIAIN Enterprises, Inc. and F.F. Cruz
and Co., Inc. respectively, shall be amended in such a way that SIAINs application shall cover SEVENTY (70) linear meters of
the disputed foreshore adjoining Lot 3309 while F.F. Cruzs application shall cover SIXTY (60) linear meters thereof.
Accordingly, both applications shall be give due course in accordance with the provisions of the Public Land Law, otherwise
known as Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended. 12 (Underscoring supplied)

SIAIN appealed to the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), arguing that the LMB:

1. . . . made [a] false assumption of fact when it considered the foreshore area under . . . controversy as reclaimed land;

2. . . . committed a grave error in not considering the preferential right of the riparian owner/littoral owner, . . . to apply for a
lease over the foreshore under controversy; [and]

13
3. . . . erred in awarding sixty (60) linear meters of the foreshore under controversy to [F.F. Cruz].

By Decision 14 of May 6, 1997, then DENR Acting Secretary Antonio G.M. La Via set aside the LMB Order, the pertinent
portions of which decision read:

It is blatant error to consider the contested area as reclaimed land as it has no basis in fact, in law and jurisprudence.

The area in question is unquestionably a natural foreshore for which various applicants prior to the herein parties
have applied. CRUZs F.L.A. No. (VI-1) 176 itself which was filed on July 7, 1983, long after it had allegedly filled up
the area undeniably shows CRUZs admission that it is a foreshore and not something else.

The assumption that the contested area is a reclaimed land runs smack against the provision of Article 5 of the Spanish Law
on Waters of August 3, 1866 stating that:

"Lands reclaimed from the sea in consequence of works constructed by the State, or by provinces, pueblos or private persons,
with proper permission,shall become the property of the party constructing such works, unless otherwise provided by the terms
of the grant of authority."
Law on NatRes (23-49) 62
We cannot find in the records anything to show that a "permission" was ever sought by or granted to, CRUZ for the alleged
reclamation of the land in question.

xxxx

It is by reason of the Director of Lands erroneous classification of the contested area as "reclaimed" that he awarded
60 linear meters thereof to CRUZ. However, as heretofore discussed, the said area in question is clearly a natural
foreshore and SIAIN is correct in claiming it to be so. Hence, the law that applies in this case is Section 32 of Lands
Administrative Order No. 7-1 which was issued by the Secretary of the then Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources
...

xxxx

It is an undisputed fact that SIAIN is the registered owner of the land adjoining the foreshore area in controversy. Hence SIAIN
is the riparian/littoral owner insofar as the contested foreshore area is concerned and should enjoy the preferential right to
lease the entire one hundred thirty (130) linear meters of said area adjoining its property, which includes the sixty (60) linear
meters thereof awarded to CRUZ in the questioned Order.

x x x x 15 (Emphasis supplied; underscoring partly in the original and partly supplied)

The DENR Acting Secretary thus ordered that the application of F.F. Cruz be amended to exclude the disputed foreshore area
adjacent to Lot 3309 and that SIANs application be given due course.

F.F. Cruz appealed to the Office of the President, contending that the DENR Acting Secretary acted with grave abuse of
discretion:

I. IN DISREGARDING THE FINDINGS OF THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS MANAGEMENT BUREAU THAT THE
CONTROVERTED AREA IS A RECLAIMED LAND UNDERTAKEN BY APPELLANT F.F. CRUZ . . .

II. IN RULING THAT [SIAIN] HAS A PREFERENTIAL RIGHT OVER THE PROPERTY IN DISPUTE; [and]

III. IN ISSUING THE SUBJECT DECISION CONSIDERING THAT HE IS NOT EMPOWERED BY LAW OR RULE TO ISSUE
THE SAME. 16

By Decision 17 of March 12, 1999, the Office of the President, through then Executive Secretary Ronaldo B. Zamora, reversed
the decision of the DENR Acting Secretary and reinstated that of the LMB in this wise:

Records reveal that WESVICO, who may be considered as the real riparian owner, had previously availed itself of the
preferential right to apply for the foreshore area adjacent to its property. However, it withdrew its application, and
instead sought the titling of said property via a petition for registration filed with the court, which eventually archived
the case for petitioners lack of interest. In net effect, WESVICOs preferential right adverted to, albeit initially
pursued, was thereafter abandoned due to its voluntary withdrawal of the corresponding application and its
erroneous resort to some other mode of acquisition, i.e., the filing of a petition for registration. Consequent to such
abandonment, it may be said that WESVICO had already waived its preferential right over the controverted area at the
time SIAIN purchased the adjacent property. As vendee, SIAIN was subrogated not only to the rights and actions of
its predecessor-in-interest, WESVICO, but also to the absence/lack of those.

Also decidedly going for CRUZ is the fact that it applied for the disputed area, occupied the same and introduced
improvements thereon long before SIAIN filed its own lease application. Subject to certain exceptions, it is axiomatic
in public land grant that he who is first in time is preferred or stronger in law Priore in tempore, potior jure.

It may be, as stated by the DENR, that the contested area abuts upon the titled property of SIAIN, a circumstance which
ordinarily would accord that firm a preferential right to lease the property in question, the rule being that a riparian/littoral owner
enjoys preference over the abutting foreshore lands formed by accretion or alluvial deposits.

xxxx

. . . The principle thus enunciated in Santulanproperly applies where the adjoining lot is a natural foreshore, meaning that the
foreshore was formed by what may rightfully be considered as accretion, or the settling down, by natural causes, of soil, earth
and other deposits. But such is not what it obtains in this case, contrary to the bare assertion of the DENR Acting Secretary
that the "area in question is unquestionably a natural foreshore." . . .
Law on NatRes (23-49) 63
xxxx

Not being the product of accretion, the disputed strip of foreshore land cannot be the proper subject of a riparian or littoral
claim.

xxxx

The actuality of the DENR not formally granting CRUZ a permit to undertake reclamation works on the disputed area can be
conceded. But in the light of the Bernas report, . . . there can be no quibbling that CRUZ occupied and raised, thru filling, the
area to its present level, with the implicit consent, if not approval, of lands authorities. That consent and/or approval have been
given may be deduced from the fact that the Bureau of Lands required the payment of, and received from appellant, the
amount of P40,032.00 as occupation fee. Any suggestion that CRUZ, after paying the occupational fee, merely planted itself
on the disputed area without as much as dredging and filling the same is unacceptable. In a very real sense, therefore, the
reclamation work undertaken by CRUZ was with the proper permission, or at least the acquiescence of the Bureau of Lands,
the agency which, following Insular Government v. Aldecoa (19 Phil. 505), is empowered to grant such permit in behalf of the
DENR Secretary. 18 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

In its petition for review before the Court of Appeals, SIAIN raised the issues of 1) whether the disputed area is reclaimed land
or foreshore land and if found to be foreshore land, 2) whether SIAIN has preferential right to lease the same. 19

By Decision of July 3, 2000, 20 the appellate court dismissed SIAINs petition, ruling that there is no justification to digress from
the findings and conclusions of the Office of the President and the LMB and that administrative matters within the executive
jurisdiction can only be set aside on proof of gross abuse of discretion, fraud or error of law.

Hence, the present petition for review filed by SIAIN.

SIAIN contends that the evidence overwhelmingly proves that the disputed area is foreshore land and not reclaimed land as
found by the Office of the President. It invites attention to F.F. Cruzs own declaration in its foreshore lease application that the
disputed area is a "parcel of foreshore land." To SIAIN, this declaration is equivalent to a judicial admission which does not
require proof and is conclusive as to it.

Further, SIAIN argues that the records reveal that the only evidence relied upon by the Office of the President is the Bernas
report which speaks of a portion allegedly filled-up by F.F. Cruz, the identity, location and size of which were never
established; and that there is no evidence to prove that the filled-up portion is one and the same as the disputed area, but that
even assuming that it is, F.F. Cruz cannot have a better right over it as the reclamation was made without the necessary
permit, hence, it cannot be allowed to benefit from its own wrongdoing.

Furthermore, SIAIN contends that there can be no waiver of preferential right over the disputed property, no advice from the
Director of Lands having been communicated to WESVICO, DBP or SIAIN of their preferential right to lease the adjacent
foreshore land, and therefore, the 60 days within which they are supposed to apply 21 has not begun to run.

The key to the present controversy lies in the classification of the disputed area.

The DENR Secretary found that the disputed area is a "natural foreshore," hence, it concluded that SIAIN, being a littoral
owner (owner of land bordering the sea or lake or other tidal waters 22), has preferential right to lease it as provided in
paragraph 32 of Lands Administrative Order No. 7-1 dated April 30, 1936 which reads:

32. Preference of Riparian Owner. The owner of the property adjoining foreshore lands or lands covered with water
bordering upon shores or banks of navigable lakes or rivers, shall be given preference to apply for such lands
adjoining his property as may not be needed for the public service, subject to the laws and regulations governing lands of
this nature, provided that he applies therefore within sixty (60) days from the date he receives a communication from the
Director of Lands advising him of his preferential right. 23 (Emphasis supplied)

The DENR Secretary found the LMBs classification of the disputed area as "reclaimed" erroneous for lack of basis in fact, law
and jurisprudence.

On the other hand, while the Office of the President recognized the preferential right of littoral owner WESVICO, it held that it
had waived its preferential right and SIAIN, as successor-in-interest, was subrogated to WESVICOs right or lack of it.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 64
The Office of the President went on to hold that since the disputed area is already reclaimed land, it cannot be subject to
littoral claim, SIAIN, not being the littoral owner within the contemplation of the law, citing Santulan v. The Executive Secretary
24 which elucidated on the principal reason for giving a riparian or littoral owner preferential right, thus:

Now, then, is there any justification for giving to the littoral owner the preferential right to lease the foreshore land abutting on
his land?

That rule in paragraph 32 is in consonance with article 4 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 which provides that, while
lands added to the shores by accretions and alluvial deposits caused by the action of the sea form part of the public domain,
such lands, when they are no longer washed by the waters of the sea are not necessary for purposes of public utility, or for the
establishment of special industries, or for the coast guard service," shall be declared by the Government "to be the property of
the owners of the estates adjacent thereto and as increment thereof."

In other words, article 4 recognizes the preferential right of the littoral (riparian according to paragraph 32) to the
foreshore land formed by accretions or alluvial deposits due to the action of the sea.

The reason for the preferential right is the same as the justification for giving accretions to the riparian owner for the
diminutions which his land suffers by reason of the destructive force of the waters. So, in the case of littoral lands, he who
loses by the encroachments of the sea should gain by its recession. 25 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Furthermore, as reflected above, the Office of the President, finding that F.F. Cruzs occupation and introduction of
improvements on the contested area long before SIAIN filed its lease application, held that "it is axiomatic in public land grant
that he who is first in time is preferred or stronger in law."

The petition is impressed with merit.

That the foreshore area had been reclaimed does not remove it from its classification of foreshore area subject to the
preferential right to lease of the littoral owner.

It bears noting that it was not the reclamation that brought the disputed foreshore area into existence. Such foreshore area
existed even before F.F. Cruz undertook its reclamation. It was "formed by accretions or alluvial deposits due to the action of
the sea." Following Santulan, the littoral owner has preferential right to lease the same.

Contrary to the ruling of the Office of the President, as affirmed by the appellate court, littoral owner WESVICO cannot be
considered to have waived or abandoned its preferential right to lease the disputed area when it subsequently filed an
application for registration thereover. For being a part of the public domain, ownership of the area could not be acquired by
WESVICO. Its preferential right remained, however. Its move to have the contested land titled in its name, albeit a faux pas, in
fact more than proves its interest to utilize it.

As correctly argued by SIAIN, were WESVICOs petition for registration which, as stated earlier, was archived by the trial
court, pursued but eventually denied, WESVICO would not have been barred from filing anew a foreshore lease application.
Parenthetically, the petition for registration of WESVICO was archived not on account of lack of interest but because it ceased
operations due to financial reasons.

WHEREFORE, the Court of Appeals Decision dated July 3, 2000 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE.

The May 6, 1997 Decision of then Acting Secretary Antonio G.M. La Via of the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources is REINSTATED. SO ORDERED.

THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, applicant-appelle, vs.


THE ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF MANILA, objector-appellant. JUSTA DE GUZMAN, ET AL., objectors-
appellees.; G.R. No. L-14869 October 27, 1920; MALCOLM, J.:

In 1913, cadastral proceedings were begun to settle the title to a considerable tract of land situated in the Province of Rizal.
Thirteen of the cadastral lots were claimed by the municipality of Cainta, Province of Rizal, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of
Manila, and various private individuals. The judgment of the trial court adjudicated the parcels in question to the private
claimants. From this judgment both the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila and the municipality of Cainta appealed, but
subsequently the appeal of the latter wad dismissed for failure to prosecute. The contest has thus narrowed down to one
between the Church as appellant and various individuals as appellees.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 65
A ruling as to four of the lots can quickly be made. By stipulation during the trial, and by admission of counsel for appellant,
Policarpio Buenviaje is conceded to have title to lot 2187. As to lot 2186, the only evidence before us, confirmed by the
findings of the trial court, is, that Mamerta Roxas went into possession of the same in 1895; and when counsel for the Church
made his offer to present rebuttal testimony, he failed to mention this lot. Likewise, as to lots 2213 and 2214, the only evidence
before us, confirmed by the findings of the trial court, is, that Antonio, Benito, and Gervasio dela Paz went into possession of
the same in 1896; the record states that "ambas partes dan por terminadas sus pruebas," while counsel for the Church in
making his offer of rebuttal testimony again failed to include these two lots.

A more difficult situation has arisen with reference to the nine remaining cadastral lots. To understand it, a brief narration of the
course of the proceedings in the trial court will have to be made.

The trial as to the land now before us opened with a stipulation to the effect that the composition title of the Church with the
spanish Government included this land. The Church presented one witness and rested. The private oppositors then called
their respective witnesses. Each endeavored to prove title by possession, best understood by the following table:

Counsel for the Church, thereupon, made an offer to present additional testimony with reference to lots 2176, 2178, 2180,
2182, 2184, 2185, 2190, 2191, and 2192, or the lots above enumerated in the table. Three witnesses were called to the stand,
but each time, before any pertinent testimony could be secured from them, an objection was made by counsel for the
oppositors that the proof related to the evidence in chief of the Church, and this was sustained by the court.

To resolve the facts into their simplest terms, it is evident that when an admission was made of the royal title, the Church had
shown that it was the legitimate owner of the land to which it refers. The most perfect title could, however, be lost by
abandonments. When, therefore, the private oppositors showed possession for the prescriptive period, they had made their
case, and the burden of proof had shifted. To overcome this burden, it was then incumbent upon the Church to demonstrate
that such possession had been interrupted, or that it was merely possession through the tolerance of the Church.

This brings us to the specific consideration of assignment of error No. 2 of the appellant to the effect that the court erred in
refusing to admit evidence tendered by this claimant and appellant in answer to rival claims. A correct ruling can most
appropriately be arrived at by a consideration of the nature of cadastral proceedings, with reference to the usual rules of trial
practice and evidence.

The object of a cadastral petition, as all know, is that the title to the various lots embraced in the survey may be settled and
adjudicated. It is in the nature of a proceeding in rem, promoted by the Director of Lands, somewhat, akin to a judicial inquiry
and investigation leading to a judicial decree. In one sense, there is no plaintiff and there is no defendant. In another sense,
the Government is the plaintiff and all the claimants are defendants. (Act No. 2259, sec. 10.) The trial is conducted in the same
manner as ordinary trials and proceedings in the Court of Land Registration. (Sec. 11.) As to this court, now abolished, the
Land Registration Act provides that it "shall conform, as near as may be, to the practice in special proceedings in courts of first
instance." (Act No. 496, sec. 2) The Code of Civil Procedure, which is thus brought into relation with the Cadastral Act,
prescribes the order in which the trial must proceed. (Secs. 56, 132). The usual rules of practice, procedure, and evidence
govern registration proceedings.

Obviously, orderly procedure must be followed if injurious surprises and annoying delays in the administration of justice are to
be avoided. Evidence cannot be given piecemeal. The strict rule is that the plaintiff must try his case out when he commences.
Nevertheless, a relaxation of the rule is permitted in the sound discretion of the court. "The proper rule for the exercise of this
discretion," it has been said by an eminent author, "is, that material testimony should not be excluded because offered by the
plaintiff after the defendant has rested, although not in rebuttal, unless it has been kept back by a trick, and for the purpose of
deceiving the defendant and affecting his case injuriously." (1 Thompson on Trials, sec. 346.)1awph!l.net

These principles find their echo in Philippine remedial law. While the general rule is rightly recognized, the Code of Civil
Procedure authorizes the judge "for special reasons," to change the order of the trial, and "for good reason, in the furtherance
of justice," to permit the parties "to offer evidence upon their original case." (Sec. 132.) These exceptions are made stronger
when one considers the character of registration proceedings and the fact that where so many parties are involved, and action
is taken quickly and abruptly, conformity with precise legal rules should not always be expected. Even at the risk of violating
legal formul, an opportunity should be given to parties to submit additional corroborative evidence in support of their claims
of title, if the ends of justice so require. (Rodriquez vs. Director of Lands [1915], 31 Phil., 272; Government of the Philippine
Islands vs. Abural [1919], 39 Phil., 996.)

We believe that the offer of counsel for the Church could property be classified as evidence in denial of an affirmative fact; but
that even if not technically rebuttal evidence, yet in the interest of justice and the ascertainment of the truth it should be
Law on NatRes (23-49) 66
received. Whether such evidence would be sufficient to overcome the case which exists in favor of the claimants of the nine
lots cannot now be determined.

In so far as the judgment relates to lots No. 2186, 2187, 2213, and 2214, it is affirmed, and in so far as it relates to lots Nos.
2176, 2178, 2180, 2182, 2184, 2185, 2190, 2191, and 2192, it is reversed, and the record shall be returned to the lower court
for the taking of additional evidence under the offer of counsel for the Church found on page 83 of the stenographic notes. No
finding as to costs is made in this instance. So ordered.

FABIAN B. S. ABELLERA, petitioner,


vs. MEYNARDO M. FAROL, ET AL., respondents.
BOCOBO, J.:; G.R. No. L-48480 July 30, 1943

Whether in a cadastral case, the judge may upon motion of adverse claimants order the cancellation of the claimant's answer
and keep the latter from introducing evidence to prove his ownership because the case is barred by a prior judgment, is the
legal question at issue in this case. An order to that effect issued by the Court of First Instance of La Union, is impugned by
Fabian B.S. Abellera in a petition for a writ of certiorari.

Abellera, in a previous case concerning the same real estate involved herein, sued Hermegildo Balanag and others who are
either the same parties in this case or the latter's predecessors in interest, alleging ownership of the land. But his complaint
was dismissed by the Court of First Instance on two grounds: (1) prescription in favor of defendants; and (2) the deed of
donation of these lands to him had not been formally accepted according to Article 633 of the Civil Code. Upon appeal to this
Court, the judgment of the trial court was affirmed on the second ground aforementioned (Abellera vs. Balanag G.R. No.
11970, promulgated March 22, 1918, and reported in 37 Phil. 865).

It appears in that decision of this Court that after the perfection of the appeal, Abellera executed a public document formally
accepting the donation of the land, and presented and deed of acceptance together with proofs of notification of acceptance to
the donor, as ground for new trial. This Court held that this was not newly-discovered evidence, and that Abellera had not
acquired title to the hacienda until the execution of the deed of acceptance and the notification thereof to donor. This Court
added:

So that whether rights he may have to institute and maintain a new action of ejectment in reliance upon his claim that he has
acquired title to the hacienda, since the date of the dismissal of this action, it is clear that the present action was properly
dismissed on the ground of failure of proof of title in the plaintiff at the time when the action was instituted and later when
judgment of dismissal was entered by the trial court.

In July of 1918, or four months after the above-mentioned decision of this Court, petitioner herein brought another action for
recovery of the land against the same defendants in the previous case. The second suit was later dismissed by the Court of
First Instance and transferred to cadastral case No. 5 which included the haciendain question that had in the meantime been
subdivided into lots. When the cadastral case came up before the Hon. Meynardo M. Farol at Aringay, La Union, in July 1941,
Fabian B.S. Abellera appeared as claimant while Narciso de Guzman and others appeared as adverse claimant. The latter
through counsel moved that Abellera's claim over the lots concerned be dismissed on the grounds of res judicataand
prescription.

A careful examination of the decision of this Court in the previous case (37 Phil., 865) convinces us that there is no res
judicata. We merely held that Abellera had not acquired title to the hacienda until the execution of the deed of acceptance and
the notification thereof, and we clearly refused to prevent Abellera from instituting a new action based upon his assertion that
he had acquired title to the estate since the dismissal of his original action.

The other ground for the motion for dismissal, prescription, is not involved in the present proceedings.

The next question is: Did the cadastral court, on the ground of res judicata, have any power to entertain the motion to dismiss
Abellera's claim and bar him from presenting evidence to prove his ownership of these lots?

Rule 132 of the Rules of Court provides:

These rules shall not apply to land registration, cadastral and election cases, naturalization and insolvency proceedings, and
other cases not herein provided for, except by analogy or in a suppletory character and whenever practicable and convenient.

The Rules of Court may be applied in cadastral cases when two conditions are present: (1) analogy or need to supplement the
cadastral law, and (2) practicability and convenience.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 67
If the nature and objective of the cadastral scheme are kept in view, a motion to dismiss in a cadastral case on the ground of
prior judgment would seem to be out of place. The Government initiates a cadastral case, compelling all claimants in a
municipality to litigate against one another regarding their respective claims of ownership. By this plan, all the private lands in
a town are registered in one single collective proceeding. Thus, the piece-meal and isolated registration of lands, so
inadequate in more ways than one, is avoided. The principal aim is to settle as much as possible all disputes over land and to
remove all clouds over land titles, as far a practicable, in a community. To attain this purpose, the cadastral court should allow
all claimants ample freedom to ventilate whatever right they may assert over real estate, permitting them, in keeping with the
law of evidence, to offer proofs in support of their allegations. To countenance the contrary opinion, by suppressing the
presentation of evidence in support of claims, would but serve to perpetuate conflicts over land, for such stifled affirmations of
ownership will fester like wounds unskillfully treated. No sufficient leeway having been give all claimants to demonstrate the
strength and consistently of their alleged rights, the stability of decrees of title is jeopardized.

In Haw Pia vs. Roman A. Cruz(G.R. No. 48506), we declared that the Court of First Instance in a cadastral proceeding cannot
appoint a receiver because its jurisdiction is special and limited. We declined in that case to apply the new Rules of Court by
analogy.

We are, therefore, of the opinion that while in a cadastral case res judicatais available to a claimant in order to defeat the
alleged rights of another claimant, nevertheless prior judgment can not set up in a motion to dismiss.

The order appealed from is hereby reversed. Petitioner herein shall in the cadastral proceedings be allowed to present
evidence to prove his claim over the lots in question. With costs against the adverse claimants who are respondents herein.
So ordered.

SEVERINO GAYAPANAO, TEODORO GAYAPANAO, LAURO GAYAPANAO, SALVADOR GAYAPANAO, RAYMUNDA


GAYAPANAO-RAMOS, HEIRS OF ELEUTERIO GAYAPANAO and HEIRS OF ROBERTO GAYAPANAO, petitioners,
vs. THE HONORABLE INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT and SIMEONA GAYAPANAO-NOVENARIO,
respondents. G.R. No. L-68109 July 17, 1991; FERNAN, C.J.:p

In this Petition for Review on Certiorari, petitioners Severino Gayapanao and his siblings question the decision of the then
Intermediate Appellate Court (IAC) 1 in AC-G.R. No. CV-59589, entitled "Severino Gayapanao, et al. vs. Simeona Gayapanao-
Novenario" upholding the validity of the sale of two (2) hectares of the ten-hectare homestead land by their father in favor of
their sister Simeona Gayapanao-Novenario.

Briefly, the facts of the case as found by the Appellate Court are as follows:

. . . the 2-hectare land subject of this case is part and parcel of a homestead lot registered in the name of Constantino
Gayapanao under Original Certificate of Title No. 3625 (Exhibits B and 2, Plaintiffs' Folder of Exhibits, p. 2). The homestead
application of the late Constantino Gayapanao over the said lot was approved on September 7, 1931 (Exhibit C, Ibid., p. 5)
and the final order of the Director of Lands for the issuance of patent was issued on December 10, 1937, (Exhibit A, Ibid., p.
1). On July 13, 1939, the Homestead Patent Title was issued in the name of Constantino Gayapanao married to Aurelia
Maamo (Exhibit D, Ibid., p. 2). On November 15, 1938, the late Constantino Gayapanao executed a private deed entitled
Kasulatan ng Bilihan in favor of Serafin Novenario and his wife, Simeona Gayapanao over 20,000 square meters of the
homestead land (Exhibit 4, Defendants' Folder of Exhibits, p. 8).

Constantino Gayapanao and his wife Aurelia Maamo died intestate on December 22, 1942 and September 29, 1966,
respectively (Record on Appeal, p. 70) . . .

On January 2, 1974, Severino, Teodoro, Roberto, Salvador, and Lauro, all surnamed Gayapanao, Raymunda Gayapanao-
Ramos and the heirs of Eleuterio Gayapanao filed before the then Court of First Instance of Oriental Mindoro Civil Case No. R-
317, a Complaint for Partition and Accounting with Prayer for Appointment of Receiver against their sisters Gloria Gayapanao-
Saet and Simeona Gayapanao-Novenario (private respondent herein) who were then occupying the subject homestead lot.
Both defendants filed their Answer to the complaint.

On March 11, 1975, the court a quo rendered a decision 3 declaring as null and void Exhibit 4, the contract of sale between
Simeona Gayapanao-Novenario and her father Constantino Gayapanao for having been executed within the five-year
prohibitory period provided under Section 118 of the Public Land Law, 4 and at the same time declaring as valid Exhibit 5, the
deed of sale executed by Teodoro Gayapanao in favor of his sister Gloria Gayapanao-Saet covering the former's hereditary
share in the homestead lot. Accordingly, the lower court ruled as follows:

WHEREFORE, in view of the above findings, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:


Law on NatRes (23-49) 68
A. Adjudicating unto plaintiffs SEVERINO, ROBERTO, SALVADOR, LAURO, RAYMUNDA and the heirs of ELEUTERIO, all
surnamed Gayapanao and Simeona Gayapanao-Novenario one-ninth 1/9 each of the intestate estate of the deceased
Constantino and Aurelia Maamo covered in and embraced by Original Certificate of Title No. 3625 and the remaining two-
ninths (2/9) to Gloria Gayapanao-Saet, she having purchased the one-ninth (1/9) hereditary share of plaintiff Teodoro
Gayapanao;

B. Authorizing the herein parties to agree among themselves to cause the relocated survey of the entire land in question
covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 3625 so that their respective shares may be properly delineated;

C. Ordering the parties to submit the necessary project of partition after the relocation survey has been executed not later than
three (3) months after entry of this judgment in order to terminate tills proceeding;

D. Declaring as null and void document marked Exhibit "4", the same having been executed one year prior to the issuance of
the patent, but Exhibit "5" is confirmed and declared valid.

WITHOUT special findings as to costs.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

Simeona Gayapanao-Novenario moved to reconsider, but failed. She then sought relief before the IAC which, finding the sale
in her favor to be perfectly valid, set aside the decision of the lower court and entered a new one dismissing the complaint
against her.

Hence, this appeal filed by Severino Gayapanao, et al. after their motion for reconsideration was denied 7 by the respondent
appellate court.

In upholding the sale of a portion of the homestead lot by Constantino Gayapanao to his daughter, herein private respondent
Simeona Gayapanao-Novenario, the respondent court interpreted the prohibition against the alienation or encumbrance of the
homestead land under Section 118 of the Public Land Law as referring to an alienation or encumbrance in favor of a third
person outside the family circle of the original homesteader. Since, according to the appellate court, the conveyance involved
herein was made in favor of Simeona Gayapanao-Novenario, who is one of the nine (9) children of the original homesteader
and who is the "continuity of the personality of her father for all legal intents and purposes," such sale is "not in contravention
of the avowed policy of the State, which is to preserve and keep to the homesteader and his family the land granted to him by
the State." 8

We rule otherwise. The pertinent portion of Section 118 of the Public Land Law provides:

Except in favor of the government or any of its branches, units or institutions land acquired under free patent or homestead
provisions shall not be subject to encumbrance or alienation from the date of the approval of the application and for a term of
five years from and after the date of issuance of the patent or grant nor shall they become liable to the satisfaction of any debt
contracted prior to the expiration of said period, but the improvements or crops on the land may be mortgaged or pledged to
qualified persons, associations or corporations.

The provision of law which prohibits the sale or encumbrance of the homestead within five years after the grant is mandatory.
From the date of the approval of the application and for a term of five (5) years from and after the date of issuance of the
patent or grant, lands acquired under free patent or homestead provisions cannot be subject to encumbrance or alienation, nor
shall they become liable to the satisfaction of any debt contracted prior to the expiration of said period. The only exception
mentioned by the law is the sale or encumbrance in favor of the government or any of its branches, units or institutions.

In a number of cases, we have consistently ruled that a sale of homestead within the five (5) year prohibitive period is void ab
initio and the same cannot be ratified nor can it acquire validity through the passage of time.

In the case of Arsenal vs. IAC, 10 we said:

The above provisions of law are clear and explicit. A contract which purports to alienate, transfer, convey or encumber any
homestead within the prohibitory period of five (5) years from the date of issuance of the patent is void from its execution. In a
number of cases, this Court has held that such provision is mandatory (De los Santos vs. Roman Catholic Church of
Midsayap, 94 Phil. 405).

It is dangerous precedent to allow the sale of a homestead during the five-year prohibition to anyone, even to the
homesteader's own son or daughter. As aptly put by the petitioners, a clever homesteader who wants to circumvent the ban
Law on NatRes (23-49) 69
may simply sell the lot to his descendant and the latter after registering the same in his name would sell it to a third person.
This way, public policy would not be subserved.

Moreover, the sale to a descendant is not one of the exceptions contemplated by law. Only the government or any of its
branches, units or institutions is given the right to acquire homestead by purchase at any time and even during the five-year
prohibitory period. To hold valid the sale at bar would be to throw the door open to schemes and subterfuges which would
defeat the law prohibiting the alienation of homestead within five (5) years from the issuance of the patent.

The respondent Court cited the case of Lasud v. Lasud, 11 in support of its decision. Said case is not applicable to the case at
bar, considering that the plaintiff, Sigbe Lasud sold the inherited homestead to his brother Santay Lasud and the latter's wife
twenty-one (21) years after the patent was issued to his father the homesteader. On the other hand, the questioned
conveyance in the case at bar was done within the five year prohibitory period. Furthermore, what was involved in the Lasud
case is the right of therein plaintiff under Section 119 of the Public Land Law to redeem the portion sold. In contrast, the case
at bar centers on Section 118 of the same law

WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the then Intermediate Appellate Court, now Court of Appeals, is REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. The decision in Civil Case No. R-317 of the then Court of First Instance of Oriental Mindoro is REINSTATED. Costs
against private respondent. SO ORDERED.

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs. ISABELO GARCIA, DOMINGO COLORADO, RAYMUNDO DE GUZMAN, INOCENCIO PADAMA, IGNACIO RAMOS,
LEON DE GUZMAN and THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF THE PROVINCE OF COTABATO, defendants-appellants.; G.R.
No. L-11597 May 27, 1959; PADILLA, J.:

Appeal from a judgment rendered by the Court of First Instance of Cotabato decreeing the reversion to the State of a
homestead land covered by Patent No. V-532 and original certificate of title No. V-17 issued by the Registrar of Deeds in and
for the province of Cotabato. The dispositive part of the judgment is:

IN VIEW THEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff:

(a) ordering defendant Isabela Garcia to return the owner's Certificate of Title No. V-17 to the Register of Deeds;

(b) ordering the Register of Deeds of Cotabato that homestead patent No. V-532 be returned to the Bureau of Lands for
cancellation;

(c) ordering the Register of Deeds of Cotabato to cancel Certificate of Title No. V-17; and

(d) declaring hereby reverted to the public domain as belonging to the Republic of the Philippines the land covered by said
Certificate of Title No. V-17, with costs against the defendants.

Only questions of law are raised.

From the pleadings, stipulation of facts and documentary evidence submitted by the parties, the following facts are gathered:
Sometime before the last war appellant Isabelo Garcia and his wife Tagumpay Dumaguindin acquired by purchase the
homestead rights of Lingasa Bapanialag to a parcel of homestead land situated at Mabay, Kiamba, Cotabato, containing an
area of 23.21 hectares (Homestead Application No. 182259 [E-90722]). The transfer was approved by the Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources upon recommendation of the Director of Lands and Patent No. V-532 was issued in favor of
the appellant Isabelo Garcia and his wife. Three years and three months after the issuance of the homestead patent, or on 14
April 1950, for and in consideration of the sum of P11,000, by an instrument executed and acknowledged before a notary
public the appellant Isabelo Garcia and his wife sold and conveyed to Domingo Colorado, Raymundo de Guzman, Inocencio
Padama, Ignacio Ramos and Leon de Guzman 19 hectares of the homestead land (Exhibit A). The vendees took possession
of the part sold to them. The deed of sale was not submitted to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources for
approval nor presented to the Registrar of Deeds in and for the province of Cotabato for registration.

Section 118 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 partly provides:

Except in favor of the Government or any its branches, units, or institutions, lands acquired under free patent or homestead
provision shall not be subject to encumbrance of alienation from the date of the approval of the application and for a term of
five years from and after the date of issuance of the patent or grant, nor shall they become liable to the satisfaction of any debt
contracted prior to the expiration of said period, but the improvements or crops on the land may be mortgaged or pledged to
qualified persons, association, or corporations.
Law on NatRes (23-49) 70
Section 124 of the same Act provides:

Any acquisition, conveyance, alienation, transfer, or other contract made or executed in violation of any of the provisions of
section one hundred and eighteen, one hundred and twenty, one hundred and twenty-one, one hundred and twenty-two, and
one hundred and twenty-three of this Act shall be unlawful and null and void from its execution and shall produce the effect of
annulling and cancelling the grant, title, patent, or permit originally issued, recognized or confirmed, actually or presumptively,
and cause the reversion of the property and its improvements to the State.

As the sale of the 19 hectares of the homestead land was made within the prohibitive period of five years three years and
three months after the issuance of the homestead patent is null and void, 1 and is a cause for reversion of the homestead to the
State.

Appellants' defense set up in the court below was that the document Exhibit A was intended merely as a mortgage on the
improvements and crops existing on the 19 hectares of the homestead land to secure the payment by instalment of a loan,
only that it was drawn up by mistake as an absolute sale upon the insistence of the vendees. If it was drawn up as an absolute
sale upon the insistence of the vendees, then there was no mistake committed. The document Exhibit A is also so clear
worded as to preclude an interpretation other than what the parties had intended it to be a deed of absolute sale of the 19
hectares of the homestead land. Moreover, as found and held by the trial court:

. . . as stated in Annex "A", the improvements on the land only consist of 50 coconut, 5 mango trees, 1 nangka tree, bananas
and other fruit trees. It is unbelievable that defendants Domingo Colorado, Raymundo de Guzman, Inocencio Padama, Ignacio
Ramos and Leon de Guzman would grant a loan of P11,000.00 for such a small security as those improvements specified
above. Then if it is true that the transaction had between them is only a loan, to be paid by instalment every year, the
defendants failed to produce any evidence that any instalment has ever been paid, taking into consideration that already
elapsed more than five (5) years from that time up to the hearing of this case.

The fact that the appellant Isabelo Garcia moved to the municipality of Bislig, province of Surigao, and abandoned his
homestead in Kiamba, Cotabato, is proof that he sold 19 hectares of his homestead.

Appellants contended that, under section 50, Act No. 496, the operative act to convey and affect lands registered thereunder is
the act of registration, that inasmuch as the deed of sale Exhibit A was never registered there was actually no conveyance
made of the 19 hectares of the homestead land, and that for that reason there was no infringement of section 118 of
Commonwealth Act No. 141. To constitute a violation of the section just referred to, it is enough that the homestead be
encumbered or alienated within the prohibitive period of five years; it is not necessary that the encumbrance or alienation be
registered in the Office of the Register of Deeds. To uphold the appellants' contention would defeat the very prohibition
established by law, for no party to a prohibited sale or conveyance would register such an illegal transaction. Besides, the
vendees already, had taken possession of the part sold to them.

Even if only 19 out of the 23.21 hectares of the homestead land had been sold or alienated within the prohibitive period of five
years from date of issuance of the patent to the grantee, such alienation is a sufficient cause for reversion to the State of the
whole grant. In granting a homestead to an applicant, the law imposes as a condition that the land should not be encumbered,
sold or alienated within five years from the issuance of the patent. The sale or alienation of part of the homestead violates that
condition.

The judgment appealed from is affirmed, with costs against the appellants.