You are on page 1of 18

SUNBEAM CONVENIENCE FOODS INC.

, CORAL BEACH
DEVELOPMENT CORP., and the REGISTER OF DEEDS OF According to the Solicitor General, the Court of First Instance
BATAAN, vs CA committed grave abuse of discretion in dismissing the complaint
and in
In this petition for review on certiorari, Convenience Foods
Corporation (hereafter simply SUNBEAM) and Coral Beach a. Not finding that since the lower court acted in a Motion to
Development Corporation (hereafter simply CORAL BEACH) Dismiss, the correctness of its decision must be decided in the
bring to our attention the decision rendered by the Court of assumed truth and accuracy of the allegations of the complaint.
Appeals in "Republic of the Philippines v. Hon. Pedro T. Santiago, The complaint alleges that the lands in question are forest lands;
et al.," disposing as follows: hence, inalienable.

WHEREFORE, the writ prayed for is granted. The order of the b. Finding that Lots I and 2 are alienable and disposable lands of
respondent judge dated October 7, 1977, dismissing Civil Case No. the public domain under the jurisdiction of the Director of Lands
4062 is set aside, and respondent judge is ordered to require despite clear and positive evidence to the contrary.
private respondents to file their answer to the complaint in said
Civil Case No. 4062 and thereafter to proceed with the trial of the c. Concluding that the complaint for reversion is defective as it
case on the merits and to render judgment thereon.' was not initiated by the Director of Lands.

The following facts stated by the respondent Court in its decision d. Finding that the complaint for reversion states no cause of
and restated by the petitioners in their petition are accurate: action for alleged failure of petitioner to exhaust administrative
remedies. 6
(a) On April 29, 1963, the Director of Lands caused the issuance
of a Sales Patent in favor of defendant Sunbeam Convenience The Court of Appeals gave due course to the petition for
Foods, Inc., over the parcels of land both situated in Mariveles, certiorari, set aside the Order of Dismissal rendered by the Court
Bataan and more particularly described and bounded as follows: of First Instance in Civil Case No. 4062, and ordered the presiding
judge Hon. Pedro T. Santiago to receive the answers of the private
Lot 1-Sgs-2409 (area 3,113,695 sq. m ) respondents SUNBEAM and CORAL BEACH in the action for
reversion.
Lot 2-Sgs-2409 area 1,401,855 sq. m
Hence Sunbeam and Coral Beach filed this petition for review.
(b) On May 3, 1963, the aforesaid Sales Patent was registered
with the defendant Register of Deeds of Bataan who in turn A review is not a matter of right but of sound judicial discretion,
issued Original Certificate of Title No. Sp-24 in favor of defendant and is granted only when there are special and important reasons
Sunbeam Convenience Foods, Inc., for the two parcels of land therefore. The following, while neither controlling nor fully
above-described; measuring the Court's discretion, enumerates the premises for
granting a review:
(c) Subsequently, Original Certificate of Title No. Sp-24 was
cancelled and in lieu thereof, Transfer Certificate of Title No. T- (a) When the Court of Appeals has decided a question of
12421 was issued over Lot 1, Sgs-2409, while Transfer Certificate substance, not theretofore determined by the Supreme Court or
of Title No. 12422 was issued over Lot 2, Sgs-2409, both in favor has decided it in a way probably not in accord with law or the
of defendant Coral Beach Development Corporation I applicable decisions of the Supreme Court; and

(d) On May 11, 1976, the Solicitor General in the name of the (b) When the Court of Appeals has so far departed from the
Republic of the Philippines instituted before the Court of First accepted and usual course of judicial proceedings or so far
Instance of Bataan, an action for reversion docketed as Civil Case sanctioned such departure by a lower court as to call for
No. 4062. 2 supervision .7

SUNBEAM and CORAL BEACH filed a Motion to Dismiss on the We agree with the Court of Appeals' granting of the petition filed
following grounds: by the Republic of the Philippines charging the then Court of First
Instance with grave abuse of discretion. The filing of the Motion
1. The Republic of the Philippines should have exhausted all to Dismiss the complaint for reversion by SUNBEAM and CORAL
administrative remedies before filing the case in court; BEACH on the ground of lack of cause of action, necessarily
carried with it the admission, for purposes of the motion, of the
2. The title issued to SUNBEAM and CORAL BEACH had become truth of all material facts pleaded in the complaint instituted by
indefeasible and imprescriptible; the Republic.

3. The action for reversion was defective, having been initiated by An important factual issue raised in the complaint was the
the Solicitor General and not by the Director of Lands. 3 classification of the lands as forest lands. This material allegation
stated in the Republic's complaint' was never denied specifically
The then Court of First Instance of Bataan dismissed the 9 by the defendants (petitioners herein) SUNBEAM and CORAL
complaint in the Order of October 7, 1977,4 adopting mainly the BEACH.
theory that since the titles sought to be cancelled emanated from
the administrative act of the Bureau of Lands Director, the latter, If it is true that the lands are forest lands, then all these
not the courts, had jurisdiction over the disposition of the land. proceedings become moot and academic. Land remains
unclassified land until it is released therefrom and rendered open
The Solicitor General received the copy of the Order on October to disposition.10
11, 1977 and filed a Notice of Appeal dated October 25, 1977 .5
The Solicitor General then moved for an extension of thirty days Our adherence to the Regalian doctrine subjects all agricultural,
within which to file the Record on Appeal and to pay the docket timber, and mineral lands to the dominion of the State.11 Thus,
fee in order to perfect the appeal. This was to be followed by before any land may be declassified from the forest group and
another motion for extension filed by the Solicitor General, converted into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or
resulting in the Court of Appeals granting the petitioner another other purposes, there must be a positive act from the
extension of fifteen days from December 10, 1977. Finally before government. Even rules on the confirmation of imperfect titles do
this period of extension lapsed, instead of an appeal, a petition for not apply unless and until the land classified as forest land is
certiorari with the respondent Court of Appeals was filed. released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may
form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public
domain. 12

The mere fact that a title was issued by the Director of Lands does
not confer any validity on such title if the property covered by the
title or patent is part of the public forest. 13

The only way to resolve this question of fact as to the


classification of the land is by remanding the case to the lower
court for a full- dress trial on the issues involved.

Generally, the rules of procedure must be observed so that the


efficient administration of justice is ensured. However, the rules
of procedure should be viewed as mere tools designed to
facilitate the attainment of justice.14 They must lead to the
proper and just determination of litigation, without tying the
hands of the law or making it indifferent to realities.1âwphi1

Certiorari is one such remedy. Considered extraordinary, it is


made available only when there is no appeal, nor any plain,
speedy or adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law. 15
The long line of decisions denying the petition for certiorari,
either before appeal was availed of or specially in instances
where the appeal period has lapsed, far outnumbers the instances
when certiorari was given due course. The few significant
exceptions were: when public welfare and the advancement of
public policy dictate; or when the broader interests of justice so
require, or when the writs issued are null, 16 or when the
questioned order amounts to an oppressive exercise of judicial
authority. 17

We find nothing disagreeable with the action of the Court of


Appeals to give due course to the petition considering that the
issue affected a matter of public concern which is the disposition
of the lands of our matrimony No less than the Constitution
protects its policy.

We therefore find no compelling reason to disturb the findings of


the appellate court, in the absence of a clear showing that the
Court of Appeals has decided a question of substance in a manner
inconsistent with jurisprudence, or that the respondent Court has
departed from the accepted and usual course of judicial
proceedings. In sum, no reversible error has been committed by
the respondent court. 18

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the decision of the


Court of Appeals is affirmed. Costs against the petitioners.

SO ORDERED.
REPUBLIC vs HON. SOFRONIO G. SAYO, Judge, Br. I, C I, Nueva 3) as counsel of the Republic, he should have been but
Vizcaya, HEIRS OF CASIANO SANDOVAL, HEIRS OF LIBERATO was not given notice of the compromise agreement or otherwise
BAYAUA, JOSE C. REYES, and PHILIPPINE CACAO AND FARM accorded an opportunity to take part therein;
PRODUCTS, INC.
4) that he was not even served with notice of the decision
Sought to be annulled and set aside in this special civil action of approving the compromise; it was the Sangguniang Panlalawigan
certiorari is the decision of respondent Judge Sofronio G. Sayo of Quirino Province that drew his attention to the "patently
rendered on March 5, 1981 in Land Registration Case No. N-109, erroneous decision" and requested him to take immediate
LRC Record No. 20850, confirming, by virtue of a compromise remedial measures to bring about its annulment.
agreement, the title of the private respondents over a tract of
land. The respondents maintain, on the other hand, that the Solicitor
General's arguments are premised on the proposition that Lot
The spouses, Casiano Sandoval and Luz Marquez, filed an original 7454 is public land, but it is not. According to them, as pointed
application for registration of a tract of land identified as Lot No. out in the application for registration, the private character of the
7454 of the Cadastral Survey of Santiago, BL Cad. 211 (July 17, land is demonstrated by the following circumstances, to wit:
1961) and having an area of 33,950 hectares. The land was
formerly part of the Municipality of Santiago, Province of Isabela, 1) the possessory information title of the applicants and
but had been transferred to Nueva Vizcaya in virtue of Republic their predecessors-in-interest;
Act No. 236.
2) the fact that Lot 7454 was never claimed to be public
Oppositions were filed by the Government, through the Director land by the Director of Lands in the proper cadastral proceedings;
of Lands and the Director of Forestry, and some others, including
the Heirs of Liberato Bayaua.1 In due course, an order of general 3) the pre-war certification of the National Library dated
default was thereafter entered on December 11, 1961 against the August 16, 1932 to the effect that the (Estadistica de
whole world except the oppositors. Propiedades) of Isabela issued in 1896 and appearing in the
Bureau of Archives, the property in question was registered
The case dragged on for about twenty (20) years until March 3, under the 'Spanish system of land registration as private property
1981 when a compromise agreement was entered into by and owned by Don Liberato Bayaua, applicants' predecessors-in-
among all the parties, assisted by their respective counsel, interest;
namely: the Heirs of Casiano Sandoval (who had since died), the
Bureau of Lands, the Bureau of Forest Development, the Heirs of 4) the proceeding for registration, brought under Act 496
Liberato Bayaua, and the Philippine Cacao and Farm Products, (the Torrens Act) presupposes that there is already a title to be
Inc. Under the compromise agreement, the Heirs of Casiano confirmed by the court, distinguishing it from proceedings under
Sandoval (as applicants) renounced their claims and ceded — the Public Land Act where the presumption is always that the
land involved belongs to the State.
1) in favor of the Bureau of Lands, an area of 4,109
hectares; Under the Regalian Doctrine 2 all lands not otherwise appearing
to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to
2) in favor of the Bureau of Forest Development, 12,341 the State. Hence it is that all applicants in land registration
hectares; proceedings have the burden of overcoming the presumption that
the land thus sought to be registered forms part of the public
3) in favor of the Heirs of Liberato Bayaua, 4,000 domain. 3 Unless the applicant succeeds in showing by clear and
hectares; and convincing evidence that the property involved was acquired by
him or his ancestors either by composition title from the Spanish
4) in favor of Philippine Cacao & Farm Products, Inc., Government or by possessory information title, or any other
8,000 hectares. means for the proper acquisition of public lands, the property
must be held to be part of the public domain . 4 The applicant
The remaining area of 5,500 hectares was, under the compromise must present competent and persuasive proof to substantiate his
agreement, adjudicated to and acknowledged as owned by the claim; he may not rely on general statements, or mere
Heirs of Casiano Sandoval, but out of this area, 1,500 hectares conclusions of law other than factual evidence of possession and
were assigned by the Casiano Heirs to their counsel, Jose C. Reyes, title. 5
in payment of his attorney's fees. In consideration of the areas
respectively allocated to them, all the parties also mutually In the proceeding at bar, it appears that the principal document
waived and renounced all their prior claims to and over Lot No. relied upon and presented by the applicants for registration, to
7454 of the Santiago Cadastre. prove the private character of the large tract of land subject of
their application, was a photocopy of a certification of the
In a decision rendered on March 5, 1981, the respondent Judge National Library dated August 16, 1932 (already above
approved the compromise agreement and confirmed the title and mentioned) to the effect that according to the Government's
ownership of the parties in accordance with its terms. (Estadistica de Propiedades) of Isabela issued in 1896, the
property in question was registered under the Spanish system of
The Solicitor General, in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, land registration as private property of Don Liberato Bayaua. But,
has taken the present recourse in a bid to have that decision of as this Court has already had occasion to rule, that Spanish
March 5, 1981 annulled as being patently void and rendered in document, the (Estadistica de Propiedades,) cannot be considered
excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. The a title to property, it not being one of the grants made during the
Solicitor General contends that — Spanish regime, and obviously not constituting primary evidence
of ownership. 6 It is an inefficacious document on which to base
1) no evidence whatever was adduced by the parties in any finding of the private character of the land in question.
support of their petitions for registration;
And, of course, to argue that the initiation of an application for
2) neither the Director of Lands nor the Director of Forest registration of land under the Torrens Act is proof that the land is
Development had legal authority to enter into the compromise of private ownership, not pertaining to the public domain, is to
agreement; beg the question. It is precisely the character of the land as
private which the applicant has the obligation of establishing. For
there can be no doubt of the intendment of the Land Registration
Act, Act 496, that every applicant show a proper title for
registration; indeed, even in the absence of any adverse claim, the
applicant is not assured of a favorable decree by the Land
Registration Court, if he fails to establish a proper title for official
recognition.

It thus appears that the decision of the Registration Court a quo is


based solely on the compromise agreement of the parties. But
that compromise agreement included private persons who had
not adduced any competent evidence of their ownership over the
land subject of the registration proceeding. Portions of the land in
controversy were assigned to persons or entities who had
presented nothing whatever to prove their ownership of any part
of the land. What was done was to consider the compromise
agreement as proof of title of the parties taking part therein, a
totally unacceptable proposition. The result has been the
adjudication of lands of no little extension to persons who had not
submitted any substantiation at all of their pretensions to
ownership, founded on nothing but the agreement among
themselves that they had rights and interests over the land.

The assent of the Directors of Lands and Forest Development to


the compromise agreement did not and could not supply the
absence of evidence of title required of the private respondents.

As to the informacion posesoria invoked by the private


respondents, it should be pointed out that under the Spanish
Mortgage Law, it was considered a mode of acquiring title to
public lands, subject to two (2) conditions: first, the inscription
thereof in the Registry of Property, and second, actual, public,
adverse, and uninterrupted possession of the land for twenty (20)
years (later reduced to ten [10] years); but where, as here, proof
of fulfillment of these conditions is absent, the informacion
posesoria cannot be considered as anything more than prima
facie evidence of possession.

Finally, it was error to disregard the Solicitor General in the


execution of the compromise agreement and its submission to the
Court for approval. It is, after all, the Solicitor General, who is the
principal counsel of the Government; this is the reason for our
holding that "Court orders and decisions sent to the fiscal, acting
as agent of the Solicitor General in land registration cases, are not
binding until they are actually received by the Solicitor General."

It thus appears that the compromise agreement and the judgment


approving it must be, as they are hereby, declared null and void,
and set aside. Considerations of fairness however indicate the
remand of the case to the Registration Court so that the private
parties may be afforded an opportunity to establish by competent
evidence their respective claims to the property.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the respondent Judge complained of


is ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. Land Registration Case No. N-109
subject of the petition is REMANDED to the court of origin which
shall conduct further appropriate proceedings therein, receiving
the evidence of the parties and thereafter rendering judgment as
such evidence and the law may warrant. No pronouncement as to
costs.

SO ORDERED.
SEVILLE vs NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT COMPANY '1. The Deed of Sale executed by Calixtra Yap on June 14, 1980 in
favor of LSBDA, (Exhibit PP and 25) conveying the subject
Unless a public land is shown to have been reclassified as property to said LSBDA is declared NULL and VOID ab initio;
alienable or actually alienated by the State to a private person,
that piece of land remains part of the public domain. Hence, '2. The intestate estate of JOAQUIN ORTEGA is declared the owner
occupation thereof, however long, cannot ripen into ownership. in fee simple of the 735,333 square meters real property subject
of the present action and defendant NDC is ordered to segregate
The Case the same area from OCT P-28131 and CONVEY the same to the
Estate of Joaquin Ortega;
Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the
November 29, 1996 Decision of the Court of Appeals1 (CA), as '3. Upon the segregation of the 735,333 square meters from OCT
well as the May 19, 1997 CA Resolution2 denying the Motion for No. P-28131 the Register of Deeds of the Province of Leyte is
Reconsideration. The dispositive part of the CA Decision reads as ordered to issue 8 new title to the said portion in the name of the
follows: Intestate Estate of Joaquin Ortega;

"WHEREFORE, the appealed decision is REVERSED and SET '4. [Respondents] LSBDA, NDC, PASAR, are ordered to pay jointly
ASIDE. Another judgment is hereby rendered dismissing the and severally to [petitioners] the sum of FOUR MILLION SEVEN
complaint. The counterclaims of appellants are denied. Costs HUNDRED EIGHTY FOUR THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED FORTY
against plaintiffs-appellees."3 SIX PESOS (P4,784,846.00) as rentals due from 1979 to the
present, plus accrued interest pursuant to par. 2 of the Lease
The Facts Contract between NDC and PASAR. (Exhibit 54)

The appellate court narrated the undisputed facts in this manner: '5. [Respondents] LSBDA, NDC, and PHILPHOS are also ordered to
pay jointly and severally [petitioners] the sum of TWO MILLION
"1. By virtue of Presidential Decree No. 625, Leyte Sab-A Basin EIGHTY SIX THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED NINETY EIGHT PESOS
Development Authority (LSBDA) was created to integrate AND SIXTY CENTAVOS (P2,086,398.60) as accrued rentals of
government and private sector efforts for a planned development PHILPHOS from 1979 to present, plus the accrued interest for
and balanced growth of the Sab-a Basin in the [P]rovince of Leyte, non-payment pursuant to paragraph 2 of the same Lease Contract
empowered to acquire real property in the successful prosecution cited above;
of its business. Letter of Instruction No. 962 authorized LSBDA to
acquire privately-owned lands circumscribed in the Leyte '6. [Respondents] are ordered to pay jointly and severally
Industrial Development Estate (LIDE) by way of negotiated sales [petitioners] P200,000.00 as indemnity for the value of the
with the landowners. ancestral home;

"2. On June 14, 1980, [Respondent] Calixtra Yap sold to LSBDA '7. [Respondents] are also ordered to pay jointly and severally
Lot No. 057 SWO 08-000047 consisting of 464,920 square meters, [petitioners] the sum of P250,000.00 as reimbursement for
located at Barangay Sto. Rosario, Isabel, Leyte, covered under Tax attorney's fees and the further sum of P50,000.00 as expenses for
Declarations Nos. 3181, 3579, 3425, 1292 and 4251 under the litigation;
name of said vendor.1âwphi1.nêt
'8. Finally, [petitioners] and [respondents] are ordered to sit
"3. On June 1, 1982, appellant LSBDA fired a Miscellaneous Sales down together and discuss the possibility of a compromise
Application with the Bureau of Lands covering said lot together agreement on how the improvements introduced on the
with other lots acquired by LSBDA with an aggregate area of landholding subject of the present suit should be disposed of and
'442,7508 square meters.' for the parties to submit to this Court a joint manifestation
relative thereto. In the absence of any such compromise
"4. After due notice and investigation conducted by the Bureau of agreement, such improvements shall be disposed of pursuant to
Lands, Miscellaneous Sales Patent No. 9353 was issued in the Article 449 of the New Civil Code.
name of [Respondent] LSBDA on the basis of which Original
Certificate of Title No. P-28131 was transcribed in the 'Costs against [respondents].
Registration Book for the [P]rovince of Leyte on August 12, 1983
in the name of [Respondent] LSBDA. On December 14, 1989, 'SO ORDERED.'"4
LSBDA assigned all its rights over the subject property to its [Co-
respondent] National Development Company (NOC) as a result of Ruling of the Court of Appeals
which a new Transfer Certificate of Title "vas issued on March 2,
1990 by the Registry of Deeds for the Province of Northern Leyte Citing the Regalian doctrine that lands not appearing to be
in the name of NDC. The subject property was leased to privately owned are presumed to be part of the public domain,
[Respondents] Philippine Associated Smelting & Refining the CA held that, first, there was no competent evidence to prove
Corporation (PASAR), Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer that the property in question was private in character. Second,
Corporation (PHILPHOS) and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co., possession thereof, no matter how long, would not ripen into
Inc. (LEPANTO). ownership, absent any showing that the land had been classified
as alienable. Third, the property had been untitled before the
"5. On November 29, 1988, the Estate of Joaquin Ortega issuance of the Miscellaneous Sales Patent in favor of LSBDA.
represented by judicial administrator Felipe Seville filed with the Fourth, petitioners were guilty of laches, because they had failed
Regional Trial Court (Branch 12) of Ormoc City, a complaint for to apply for the judicial confirmation of their title, if they had any.
recovery of real property, rentals and damages against the above- Fifth, there was no evidence of bad faith on "the part of LSBDA in
named [respondents] which complaint was later on amended on dealing with Yap regarding the property.
May 11, 1990. [Respondents] filed their respective Answers. After
trial, the trial court rendered judgment the dispositive portion of Hence, this Petition.5
which reads as follows:
The Issues
'WHEREFORE, [a] decision is hereby rendered for [petitioners]
and against [respondents]. In their Memorandum, petitioners submit the following issues for
the consideration of the Court:6
"A. Whether or not the sale by Calixtra Yap of the Estate of the
Late Joaquin Ortega in favor of LSBDA was null and void. xxx xxx xxx

"B. Whether or not the issuance of a Miscellaneous Sales Patent (b) those who by themselves or through their predecessor in-
and an Original Certificate of Title in favor of LSBDA was valid. interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public
"C. Whether or not petitioners are guilty of laches. domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, for
at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the
"D. Whether or not petitioners are entitled to the remedy of application for confirmation of title except when prevented by
reconveyance and the damages awarded by the trial court." war or force majeure. They shall be conclusively presumed to
have performed all the conditions essential to a Government
In the main, the Court is called upon to determine the validity of grant and shall he entitled to a certificate of title under the
LSBDA's title. In resolving this issue, it will also ascertain provisions of this Chapter."
whether, before the issuance of the title, the land was private or
public. Under Section 4 of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1073,10
paragraph "b" of the aforecited provision applies only to alienable
The Court's Ruling and disposable lands of the public domain. The provision reads:

The Petition has no merit. "SEC. 4. The provisions of Section 48 (b) and Section 48 (c),
Chapter VIII, of the Public Land Act, are hereby amended in the
Main Issue: sense that these provisions shall apply only to alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain which have been in open,
Validity of LSBDA continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation
by the applicant himself or thru his predecessor-in-interest,
Petitioners argue that LSBDA's title to 73 hectares of the 402- under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12,
hectare Leyte Industrial Development Estate was void, having 1945."
allegedly been obtained from Calixtra Yap who had no right to it.
They maintain that they acquired title to the disputed property by It should be stressed that petitioners had no certificate of title
acquisitive prescription, because they and their predecessors in over the disputed property. Although they claim that their title
interest had been in possession of it for more than thirty years.7 was based on acquisitive prescription, they fail to present
Although it was the subject of settlement proceedings, petitioners incontrovertible proof that the land had previously been
further claim that Yap sold the same to LSBDA without the classified as alienable. They simply brush aside the conclusion of
permission of the trial court. the CA on this crucial point by saying that it was "without factual
basis."11 Instead, they maintain that the private character of the
Disputing these contentions, respondents and the appellate court land was evidenced by various tax declarations, Deeds of Sale,
maintain that petitioners have not shown that the land had and Decisions of the trial court and even the Supreme Court.12
previously been classified as alienable and disposable. Absent
such classification, they argue that possession of it, no matter Petitioners' arguments are not convincing. Tax declarations are
how long, could not ripen into ownership. not conclusive proofs of ownership, let alone of the private
character of the land. At best, they are merely "indicia of a claim
We agree with respondents and the appellate court. First, there of ownership."13 In Spouses Palomo v. CA,14 the Court also
was no showing that the land had been classified as alienable rejected tax declarations as proof of private ownership, absent
before the title was issued to LSBDA; hence, petitioners could not any showing that the forest land in question had been reclassified
have become owners thereof through acquisitive prescription. as alienable.
Second, petitioners' challenge to LSBDA's title cannot be granted,
because it is based on a wrong premise and amounts to a Moreover, the Deeds of Sale of portions of the disputed property,
collateral attack, which is not allowed by law. which Joaquin Ortega and several vendors executed, do not prove
that the land was private in character. The question remains:
Public Character of the Land What was the character of the land when Ortega purchased it?
Indeed, a vendee acquires only those rights belonging to the
Under the Regalian doctrine, all lands of the public domain belong vendor. But petitioners failed to show that, at the time, the
to the State, which is the source of any asserted right to vendors were already its owners, or that the land was already
ownership of land. All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly classified as alienable.
within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State.8
In Menguito v. Republic,9 the Court held that "[u]nless public land Also misplaced is petitioners' reliance on Ortega v. CA,15 in which
is shown to have been reclassified or alienated to a private person the Supreme Court allegedly recognized the private character of
by the State, it remains part of the inalienable public domain. the disputed property .In that case, the sole issue was "whether
Indeed, 'occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter the respondent judge x x x acted in excess of jurisdiction when he
how long, cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a converted Civil Case No. 1184-O, an action for quieting of title,
title.' To overcome such presumption, incontrovertible evidence declaration of nullity of sale, and annulment of tax declaration of
must be shown by the applicant. Absent such evidence, the land a parcel of land, into an action for the declaration of who is the
sought to be registered remains inalienable." legal wife, who are the legitimate children, if any, and who are the
compulsory heirs of the deceased Joaquin Ortega."16 The Court
A person in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession did not at all make any ruling that the property had been
of a public land for more than thirty years acquires an imperfect classified as alienable.
title thereto. That title may be the subject of judicial confirmation,
pursuant to Section 48 of the Public Land Act, which provides: In any event, Ortega arose from a suit for quieting of title, an
action quasi in rem that was binding only between the parties.17
"SECTION 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, The present respondents as well as the Bureau of Lands, which
occupying lands of public domain or claiming to own any such subsequently declared that the land was public, are not bound by
lands or an interest thereon, but whose titles have not been that ruling, because they were not impleaded therein.
perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance
of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their While petitioners refer to the trial court proceedings supposedly
claims, and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the recognizing the private character of the disputed property, they
Land Registration Act, to wit:
make no claim that these cases directly involve the classification Moreover, the title became indefeasible and incontrovertible after
of the land, or that the Bureau of Lands is a party thereto. the lapse of one year from the time of its registration and
issuance.23 Section 32 of PD 1529 provides that "[u]pon the
Clearly, the burden of proof that the land has been classified as expiration of said period of one year, the decree of registration
alienable is on the claimant.18 In the present case, petitioners and the certificate of title shall become incontrovertible. Any
failed to discharge this burden. Hence, their possession of the person aggrieved by such decree of registration in any case may
disputed property, however long, cannot ripen into ownership. pursue his remedy by action for damages against the applicant or
other persons responsible for the fraud." Although LSBDA's title
LSBDA's Title was registered in 1983, petitioners filed the amended Complaint
only in 1990.
Equally unmeritorious is the argument of petitioners that the title
of LSBDA is void. As earlier stated, they claim that such title was Reconveyance
derived from Calixtra Yap, who was allegedly not the owner of the
property. Petitioners assume that LSBDA, having acquired the Petitioners also claim that the disputed property should be
rights of Yap, resorted to a confirmation of her imperfect title reconveyed to them. This cannot be allowed. Considering that the
under Section 48 of the Public Land Act. This argument is devoid land was public before the Miscellaneous Sales Patent was issued
of factual or legal basis. to LSBDA, petitioners have no standing to ask for the
reconveyance of the property to them. The proper remedy is an
Petitioners fail to consider that the title of LSBDA was based, not action for reversion, which may be instituted only by the Office of
on the conveyance made by Yap, but on Miscellaneous Sales the Solicitor General, pursuant to Section 101 of the Public Land
Patent No. 9353 issued by the director of the Bureau of Lands. In Act, which reads as follows:
fact, after LSBDA had filed an application for patent, the Bureau of
Lands conducted an investigation and found that the land was "SEC. 101. All actions for the reversion to the Government of
part of the public domain. After compliance with the notice and lands of the public domain or improvements thereon shall be
publication requirements, LSBDA acquired the property in a instituted by the Solicitor General or the officer acting in his
public auction conducted by the Bureau of Lands.19 stead, in the proper courts, in the name of the [Republic] of the
Philippines."
Petitioners insist, however, that LSBDA was estopped from
claiming that the land was public, because the Deed of Sale Verily, the prayer for reconveyance and, for that matter, the
executed by Yap in its favor stipulated that "the seller is the entire case of petitioners rest on the theory that they have
absolute owner in fee simple of the x x x described property."20 It acquired the property by acquisitive prescription; and that Yap,
is scarcely necessary to address this point. To begin with, the without any right or authority, sold the same to LSBDA.
power to classify a land as alienable belongs to the State, not to
private entities. Hence, the pronouncements of Yap or LSBDA Conclusion
cannot effect the reclassification of the property. Moreover, the
assailed misrepresentation was made by Yap as seller. Hence, In the light of our earlier disquisition, the theory has no leg to
objections thereto should be raised not by petitioners but by stand on. Absent any showing that the land has been classified as
LSBDA, the contracting party obviously aggrieved. alienable, their possession thereof, no matter how lengthy, cannot
ripen into ownership. In other words, they have not become
In any case, the actions of LSBDA after Yap's conveyance owners of the disputed property. Moreover, LSBDA's title was
demonstrated its position that the disputed land was part of the derived from a Miscellaneous Sales Patent, not from Yap. Finally,
public domain. That this was so can be inferred from LSBDA's petitioners cannot, by a collateral attack, challenge a certificate of
subsequent application for a Miscellaneous Sales Patent and, in a title that has already become indefeasible and incontrovertible.
public auction, its purchase of the property from the Bureau of
Lands. Indeed, Yap merely conveyed a claim, not a title which she If petitioners believe that they have been defrauded by Yap, they
did not have. should seek redress, not in these proceedings, but in a proper
action in accordance with law.
Collateral Attack
WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby DENIED and the assailed
There is another reason for denying the present Petition. Decision AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners.1âwphi1.nêt
Petitioners insist that they "are not seeking the re-opening of a
decree under the Torrens system." Supposedly, they are only SO ORDERED.
"praying for the segregation of 735,333 square meters of land, or
73 hectares more or less from the OCT No. P-28131 issued to
LSBDA."21 This disputation is mere quibbling over words, plain
and simple.

Semantics aside, petitioners are effectively seeking the


modification of LSBDA's OCT, which allegedly encompassed even
a parcel of land allegedly belonging to them. Hence, the present
suit, purportedly filed for the "recovery of real property and
damages," is tantamount to a collateral attack not sanctioned by
law. Section 48 of PD 1529, the Property Registration Decree,
expressly provides:

"SEC. 48. Certificate not subject to collateral attack. -- A certificate


of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be
altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding in
accordance with law."

It has been held that a certificate of title, once registered, should


not thereafter be impugned, altered, changed, modified, enlarged
or diminished, except in a direct proceeding permitted by law.
Otherwise, the reliance on registered titles would be lost.22
DIRECTOR OF LANDS vs IAC Pacific Farms, Inc. in this case — from acquiring lands of public
domain.
For review before Us is the decision of the Court of Appeals in the
land registration case entitled J. Antonio Araneta v. The Director III. The lower court erred in not declaring the land known
of Lands and Director of Forest Development, AC-G.R. CV. No. as the "Tambac Island" not subject of registration it being an
00636,1 affirming the lower court's approval of the application island formed on the seas.
for registration of a parcel of land in favor of applicant therein, J.
Antonio Araneta. IV. The lower court erred in adjudicating the land to the
applicant under the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1529,
Evidence show that the land involved is actually an island known otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, despite
as Tambac Island in Lingayen Gulf. Situated in the Municipality of absence of any specific invocation of this law in the original and
Bani, Pangasinan, the area consists of 187,288 square meters, amended application.
more or less. The initial application for registration was filed for
Pacific Farms, Inc. under the provisions of the Land Registration V. The lower court erred in not granting the
Act, Act No. 496, as amended. government's motion for reconsideration at least to enable it to
present proof of the status of the land as within the unclassified
The Republic of the Philippines, thru the Director of Lands public forest, and hence beyond the court's jurisdiction to
opposed the application alleging that the applicant, Pacific Farms, adjudicate as private property.
Inc. does not possess a fee simple title to the land nor did its
predecessors possess the land for at least thirty (30) years VI. The lower court erred in not declaring that the
immediately preceding the filing of application. The opposition applicant has failed to overthrow the presumption that the land is
likewise specifically alleged that the applicant is a private a portion of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the
corporation disqualified under the (1973) new Philippine Philippines.
Constitution from acquiring alienable lands of the public domain
citing Section 11, Article 14.2 From the foregoing it appears that the more important issues are:
1) whether the presentation of the tracing cloth plan is necessary;
The Director of Forest Development also entered its opposition and 2) whether the land known as "Tambac Island" can be subject
alleging that the land is within the unclassified public land and, to registration.
hence, inalienable. Other private parties also filed their
oppositions, but were subsequently withdrawn. By mere consideration of the first assignment of error, We can
right away glean the merit of the petition.
In an amended application, Pacific Farms, Inc. filed a
manifestation-motion to change the applicant from Pacific Farms, Respondent claims that the tracing cloth plan is with the files of
Inc. to J. Antonio Araneta. Despite the supposed amendment, the Land Registration Commission, and the only evidence that can
there was no republication. be presented to that fact is the request for the issuance of a
certified copy thereof and the certified copy issued pursuant to
Evidence presented by the applicant include the testimony of the request.5 Respondent further argues that failure of the
Placido Orlando, fishery guard of Pacific Farms, Inc., who said he petitioners to object to the presentation of the certified copy of
has known the disputed land since he attained the age of reason the tracing cloth plan was the basis of the trial court's denial of
for some forty (40) years now; that when he first came to know petitioner's motion for reconsideration.
the property it was then owned by and in the possession of
Paulino Castelo, Juan Ambrosio and Julio Castelo, and later on the In a very recent decision of this Court, entitled The Director of
whole island was bought by Atty. Vicente Castelo who in turn sold Lands v. The Honorable Intermediate Appellate Court and Lino
it to J. Antonio Araneta. Anit,6 We have ruled that the submission of the tracing cloth plan
is a mandatory requirement for registration. Reiterating Our
Deposition by oral examination of Araneta was also presented, ruling in Director of Lands v. Reyes,7 We asserted that failure to
together with documents of sale, tax declarations and receipts, submit in evidence the original tracing cloth plan is fatal it being a
and survey of property. Applicant, however, failed to present the statutory requirement of mandatory character.
tracing cloth plan and instead submitted to the court certified
copies thereof. It is of no import that petitioner failed to object to the
presentation of the certified copy of the said plan. What is
While this case is pending here in Court, respondent filed an required is the original tracing cloth plan of the land applied for
Omnibus Motion for Substitution of private respondent.3 and objection to such requirement cannot be waived either
Apparently, Antonio Araneta had assigned his rights to and expressly or impliedly.8 This case is no different from the case of
interest in Tambac Island to Amancio R. Garcia4 who in turn Director of Lands v. Reyes, supra wherein We said that if the
assigned his rights and interest in the same property to Johnny A. original tracing cloth plan was indeed with the Land Registration
Khonghun whose nationality was not alleged in the pleadings. Commission, there is no reason why the applicant cannot easily
retrieve the same and submit it in evidence, it being an essential
On October 4, 1979, the trial court rendered a decision requirement for registration.
adjudicating the subject property to J. Antonio Araneta. On appeal
to the then Intermediate Appellate Court, the decision of the As to the second assignment of error, We are inclined to agree
lower court was affirmed on December 12, 1985. with petitioners that the amendment of the application from the
name of Pacific Farms Inc., as applicant, to the name of J. Antonio
Petitioners raised the following errors: Araneta Inc., was a mere attempt to evade disqualification. Our
Constitution, whether the 19739 or
I. The lower court erred in adjudicating the lands subject 1987, 10 prohibits private corporations or associations from
of registration to applicant-appellee despite his failure to present holding alienable lands of the public domain except by lease.
the original tracing cloth plan the submission of which is a Apparently realizing such prohibition, respondent amended its
statutory requirement of mandatory character. application to conform with the mandates of the law.

II. The lower court erred in not denying registration in However, We cannot go along with petitioners' position that the
favor of J. Antonio Araneta since the amendment of the absence of republication of an amended application for
application was simply an attempt to avoid the application of the registration is a jurisdictional flaw. We should distinguish.
constitutional provision disqualifying a private corporation — the Amendments to the application may be due to change in parties
or substantial change in the boundaries or increase in the area of with receipts attached, in the names of respondent's
the land applied for. predecessors-in-interest. Nevertheless, in that span of time there
had been no attempt to register the same either under Act 496 or
In the former case, neither the Land Registration Act, as amended, under the Spanish Mortgage Law. It is also rather intriguing that
nor Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Vicente Castelo who acquired almost 90% of the property from
Property Registration Decree, requires republication and Alejo Ambrosia, et al. on June 18, 1958 and from Julio Castelo on
registration may be allowed by the court at any stage of the June 19, 1958 immediately sold the same to applicant J. Antonio
proceeding upon just and reasonable terms. 11 On the other Araneta on 3 July 1958.
hand, republication is required if the amendment is due to
substantial change in the boundaries or increase in the area of the According to the report of Land Investigator Daroy, the land was
land applied for. declared for taxation purposes in the name of Vicente Castelo
only in 1958 and the purported old tax declarations are not on
As to the fourth assignment of error. We do not see any relevant file with the Provincial Assessor's Office.
dispute in the lower court's application of Presidential Decree No.
1529, instead of Act No. 496, in adjudicating the land to the then In any case tax declarations and receipts are not conclusive
applicant, assuming that the land involved is registrable. Both evidence of ownership or of the right to possess land when not
laws are existing and can stand together. P.D. 1529 was enacted supported by evidence.20 The fact that the disputed property
to codify the various laws relative to registration of property, in may have been declared for taxation purposes in the names of the
order to facilitate effective implementation of said laws.12 applicants or of their predecessors-in-interest way back in 1921
does not necessarily prove ownership. They are merely indicia of
The third, fifth and sixth assignment of errors are likewise a claim of ownership.21
meritorious and shall be discussed forthwith together.
Respondent's contention that the BFD, LC Map No. 681, certified
Respondent asserts that contrary to the allegation of petitioners, on August 8, 1927 which was the basis of the report and
the reports of the District Land Officer of Dagupan City, Land recommendation of the Land Examiner, is too antiquated; that it
Inspector Perfecto Daroy and Supervising Land Examiner cannot be conclusively relied upon and was not even presented in
Teodoro P. Nieva show that the subject property is an unclassified evidence, is not well taken. As We have said in the case of Director
public land, not forest land. This claim is rather misleading. The of Lands v. CA:22
report of Supervising Land Examiner Nieva specifically states that
the "land is within the unclassified forest land" under the And the fact that BF Map LC No. 673 dated March 1, 1927
administrative jurisdiction of the then Bureau of Forest showing subject property to be within unclassified region was not
Development.13 This was based on the reports of Land Inspector presented in evidence will not operate against the State
Daroy and District Land Officer Feliciano Liggayu. considering the stipulation between the parties and under the
well-settled rule that the State cannot be estopped by the
Lands of the public domain are classified under three main omission, mistake or error of its officials or agents, if omission
categories, namely: Mineral, Forest and Disposable or Alienable there was, in fact.
Lands.14 Under the Commonwealth Constitution, only
agricultural lands were allowed to be alienated. Their disposition Respondent even admitted that Tambac Island is still an
was provided for under Commonwealth Act No. 141 (Secs. 6-7), unclassified public land as of 1927 and remains to be unclassified.
which states that it is only the President, upon the
recommendation of the proper department head, who has the Since the subject property is still unclassified, whatever
authority to classify the lands of the public domain into alienable possession
or disposable, timber and mineral lands. Mineral and Timber or the applicant may have had and however long, cannot ripen into
forest lands are not subject to private ownership unless they are private ownership. 23 The conversion of subject property does
first reclassified as agricultural lands and so released for not automatically render the property as alienable and
alienation. 15 In the absence of such classification, the land disposable.
remains as unclassified land until released therefrom and
rendered open to disposition. Courts have no authority to do so. In effect what the courts a quo have done is to release the subject
16 property from the unclassified category, which is beyond their
competence and jurisdiction. We reiterate that the classification
This is in consonance with the Regalian doctrine that all lands of of public lands is an exclusive prerogative of the Executive
the public domain belong to the State, and that the State is the Department of the Government and not of the Courts. In the
source of any asserted right to ownership in land and charged absence of such classification, the land remains unclassified until
with the conservation of such patrimony. Under the Regalian released therefrom and rendered open to disposition. 24
Doctrine, all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within
private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Hence, a In fairness to respondent, the petitioners should seriously
positive act of the government is needed to declassify a forest consider the matter of the reclassification of the land in question.
land into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other The attempt of people to have disposable lands they have been
purposes. 17 tilling for generations titled in their name should not only be
viewed with understanding attitude, but as a matter of policy
The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of state encouraged. 25
ownership of the lands of the public domain is on the person
applying for registration that the land subject of the application is WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED and the decisions
alienable or disposable.18 of the courts a quo are REVERSED.

Unless the applicant succeeds in showing by convincing evidence SO ORDERED.


that the property involved was acquired by him or his ancestors
either by composition title from the Spanish Government or by
possessory information title, or any other means for the proper
acquisition of public lands, the property must be held to be part of
the public domain. The applicant must present evidence and
persuasive proof to substantiate his claim. 19

In this particular case, respondent presented proof that as early


as 1921, the subject property has been declared for tax purposes
UNITED PARACALE MINING COMPANY vs DELA ROSA which mineral deposits are a valuable asset. It may be
underscored, in this connection, that the Decree does not cover all
G.R. No. 63786-87. April 7, 1993. = UNITED PARACALE MINING mining claims located under the Phil. Bill of 1902, but only those
COMPANY, INC., AND COCO GROVE, INC., petitioners, vs. HON. claims over which their locators had failed to obtain a patent. And
JOSELITO DELA ROSA, in his capacity as the former Judge of the even then, such locators may still avail of the renewable twenty-
Court of First Instance of Camarines Norte, Branch 2, et al., five year (25) lease prescribed by Pres. Decree No. 463, the
respondents. Mineral Development Resources Decree of 1974. Mere location
does not mean absolute ownership over the affected land or the
G.R. No. 70423. April 7, 1993. = ZAMBALES CHROMITE MINING mining claim. It merely segregates the located land or area from
COMPANY, INC., petitioner, vs. HON. ALFREDO L. BENIPAYO, as the public domain by barring other would-be locators from
Judge, Regional Trial Court of Manila, and PHILZEA MINING & locating the same and appropriating for themselves the minerals
DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, respondents. found therein. To rule otherwise would imply that location is all
that is needed to acquire and maintain rights over a located
G.R. No. 73931. April 7, 1993. = JOSEPH V. LOPEZ and MIGUEL C. mining claim. This, we cannot approve or sanction because it is
ANDRADE, petitioners, vs. THE INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE contrary to the intention of the lawmaker that the locator should
COURT MARSMAN & COMPANY, INC. and UNITED PARACALE faithfully and consistently comply with the requirements for
MINING COMPANY, INC., respondents. annual work and improvements in the located mining claim. This,
we cannot approve or sanction because it is contrary to the
1. STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION; INTERPRETATION OF A intention of the lawmaker that the locator should faithfully and
STATUTE; PROPER ONLY WHEN THERE IS DOUBT OR consistently comply with the requirements for annual work and
AMBIGUITY IN ITS LANGUAGE; CASE AT BAR. — The view of the improvements in the located mining claim. Presidential Decree
petitioner that by virtue of the registration of the mining claims No. 1214 is in accord with Sec. 8, Art. XIV of the 1973
under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 624, the mining Constitution. The same Constitutional mandate is found in Sec. 2,
claims became private property and thereby brought outside the Art. XII of the 1987 Constitution.
control and supervision of the Director of Mines is without legal
basis. The abovecited law does not distinguish between private DECISION
property and lands of the public domain. The provision of law
involved is clear and is not susceptible to interpretation. A CAMPOS, JR., J p:
condition sine qua non before the court may construe or interpret
a statute is that there be doubt or ambiguity in its language. The cases herein were consolidated upon the representations of
Section 7 of P.D. 1281 quoted above defining the original and petitioners that they involve the same issues or questions of law
exclusive jurisdiction of the Director of Mines is clear. Time and or at the very least, revolve around the same set of facts. A
again, it has been repeatedly declared by this Court that where perusal of the records, however, reveals the contrary. Only two
the law speaks in clear and categorical language, there is no room petitions are properly consolidated. Thus, it behooves Us to
for interpretation. There is only room for application. [Cebu discuss the cases separately.
Portland Cement Company vs. Municipality of Naga, Cebu, 35
SCRA 708 (1968)] Where the law is clear and unambiguous, it In blatant violation of Section 2, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court
must be taken to mean exactly what it says and the court has no which in part, provides:
choice but to see to it that its mandate is obeyed. [Chartered Bank
Employees Association vs. Ople, 138 SCRA 273 (1985)]. "Sec. 2. Contents of the petition — The petition shall contain a
concise statement of the matters involved, the assignment of
2. REMEDIAL LAW; CIVIL PROCEDURE; JUDICIAL RELIEF; NOT A errors made in the court below, and the reasons relied on for the
VESTED RIGHT; A MERE STATUTORY PRIVILEGE, NOT A allowance of the petition, . . . (Emphasis Ours.).
PROPERTY RIGHT. — There can be no vested right in a judicial
relief for this is a mere statutory privilege and not a property "Only questions of law may be raised in the petition and must be
right. The distinction between statutory privileges and vested distinctly set forth . . ."
rights must be borne in mind for persons have no vested rights in
statutory privileges. The state may change or take away rights this petition devotes nine (9) pages under the subtitle "Summary
which were created by the law of the state, although it may not statement of the matters involved" to a discussion of matters off
take away property which was vested by virtue of such tangent from the real issues in the case. Definitely, the question of
rights.(16A Am. Jur. 2d, pp. 652-653) Besides, the right to judicial whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that the
relief is not a right which may constitute vested right because to Regional Trial Court did not commit grave abuse of discretion in
be vested, a right must have become a title, legal or equitable, to issuing an order suspending hearing pending the resolution of
the present or future enjoyment of property, or to the present or their motion to dismiss, does not involve the Philippine Bill of
future enforcement of a demand or legal exemption from a 1902, Executive Order No. 141, much less P.D. 1214. The counsel
demand made by another. (National Carloading Corporation v. for petitioners even discussed pending cases in this Court (G.R.
Phoenix-E1 Paso Express, Inc., cited in 16A Am, Jur. 2d, p. 651) No. 63786 - 87 and 69203) which have completely nothing to do
Definitely, the judicial relief herein referred to by the petitioner with the instant petition except for the fact that the parties
does not fall under any of these. therein are being represented by the same counsel as in this
petition. In several pleadings subsequent to their petition,
3. CIVIL LAW; PRESIDENTIAL DECREE 1214; A VALID EXERCISE petitioners insisted that the proceedings in the court below must
OF THE SOVEREIGN POWER OF THE STATE AS OWNER OF LAND be restrained until this Court resolves the pending cases
OF PUBLIC DOMAIN; SUSTAINED IN CASE AT BAR. — The heart abovecited. For this reason this case was consolidated thereto.
of these twin petitions is the question of constitutionality of P.D.
1214. Unless P.D. 1214 is successfully assailed, the petitioners A summary of the real matters involved in this petition is found in
will be but mere applicants for the lease of the mining claims the respondent Court's decision, to wit:
involved and would thus have no causes of action against private
respondents. This question has been resolved by this Court in "This is a petition for certiorari and prohibition to enjoin the
Santa Rosa Mining Company, Inc. vs. Leido, Jr. [156 SCRA 1 Regional Trial Court, Branch XL, in Camarines Norte from issuing
(1987), which ruling was reiterated in Zambales Chromite Mining a writ of preliminary injunction in Civil Case No. 5148 and to
Company, Inc. vs. Leido, Jr., 176 SCRA 602 (1989)] thus: "(W)e disqualify the respondent judge from acting in that case. The case
hold that Presidential Decree No. 1214 is not unconstitutional.' It was brought by the respondents Marsman and Co., Inc. and
is a valid exercise of the sovereign power of the State, as owner, United Paracale Mining, Inc., to enjoin the petitioners, Joseph V.
over lands of the public domain, of which petitioner's mining Lopez and Miguel Andrade, from entering and conducting mining
claims still form a part, and over the patrimony of the nation, of operations within the "McDonald" and "San Antonio" Tunnels in
Paracale, Camarines Norte, in which the private respondents have
mining claims ("Tulisan," "Santa Marta," "California," and "Rocky Petitioner wants Us to construe Section 7 of P.D. 1281 as
Mountain Fraction"). On December 11, 1984 the RTC issued a applicable only to mineral lands forming part of the public
restraining order against the petitioners. domain and not to mining claims located and registered under
Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 624 as is its case.
On December 12 the petitioners filed their answer alleging that,
in accordance with PD 1214, the private respondents had Section 7 of P.D. 1281 reads as follows:
forfeited their right to the mining claims. They likewise argued
that in view of PD 605, the RTC had no jurisdiction to entertain Sec. 7. In addition to its regulatory and adjudicative functions
the case. On the same day the petitioners moved for the over companies, partnerships or persons engaged in mining
disqualification of the respondent judge of the RTC, claiming (sic) exploration, development and exploitation, the Bureau of Mines
that in issuing the restraining order of December 11, 1984, he shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide
showed his "bias, prejudice and personal hatred of and hostility cases involving:
to the [petitioners'] counsel [Atty. Pedro A. Venida]."
(a) a mining property subject of different agreements entered
On December 24, 1984 the petitioners filed a motion for a into by the claim holder thereof with several mining operators;
preliminary hearing on their defense that the RTC lacked
jurisdiction under PD 605 to issue a temporary restraining order (b) complaints from claimowners that the mining property
or injunction in cases involving or growing out of the action of subject of an operating agreement has not been placed into actual
administrative officials on the applications for permits for the operations within the period stipulated therein; and
disposition, exploitation, utilization, or exploration or
development of the natural resources. Accordingly the RTC, in its (c) cancellation and/or reinforcement of mining contracts due to
order of September 5, 1985, suspended the hearing of the case the refusal of the claimowner/operator to aside by the terms and
until the resolution of the petitioners' motion to dismiss. It is at conditions thereof.
this point that the present petition was filed." 1
All actions and decisions of the Director of Mines on the above
The respondent Court denied this petition on grounds that: (1) cases are subject to review, motu proprio or upon appeal by any
the questions being raised are not proper in a petition for person aggrieved thereby, by the Secretary of Natural Resources
certiorari under Rule 65 but rather defenses which should be whose decision shall be final and executory after the lapse of
raised in the action itself; (2) the question of jurisdiction which thirty (30) days from receipt by the aggrieved party of said
has yet to be resolved by the trial court pending resolution of the decision, unless appealed to the President in accordance with the
motion to dismiss is prematurely raised; and (3) there was no applicable provisions of Presidential Decree No. 309 and Letter of
basis for determining whether or not the judge must be Instructions Nos. 119 and 135.
disqualified. 2
The view of the petitioner that by virtue of the registration of the
The review of this decision is what is on appeal before. mining claims under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 624,
the mining claims became private property and thereby brought
We refuse to be persuaded by the petitioners that the RTC must outside the control and supervision of the Director of Mines is
be enjoined from exercising its jurisdiction in settling the case without legal basis. The abovecited law does not distinguish
presented before it for the reason that the constitutionality of the between private property and lands of the public domain. The
law involved in the said case is being questioned before this provision of law involved is clear and is not susceptible to
Court. This case should have been disposed of independently of interpretation. A condition sine qua non before the court may
the other petitions herein. construe or interpret a statute is that there be doubt or ambiguity
in its language. 5 Section 7 of P.D. 1281 quoted above defining the
The respondent Court of Appeals committed no reversible error. original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Director of Mines is
Neither did it commit grave abuse of discretion as what clear. Time and again, it has been repeatedly declared by this
petitioners want this Court to believe. The petitioners fail to point Court that where the law speaks in clear and categorical language,
out any assigned error which the respondent Court had there is no room for interpretation. There is only room for
supposedly committed but simply narrate the action taken by it. application. 6 Where the law is clear and unambiguous, it must be
Much less have they stated the reasons relied upon for the taken to mean exactly what it says and the court has no choice but
allowance of the instant petition. For being insufficient in to see to it that its mandate is obeyed. 7
substance and in form, the instant petition lacks merit and must
be dismissed. This Court in Benguet Corporation vs. Leviste, 8 made these
pronouncements:
G.R. No. 70423
"We grant the petition. Presidential Decree No. 1281 which took
This is a petition involving the question of jurisdiction of regular effect on January 16, 1978 vests the Bureau of Mines with
courts in cases which had been placed under the original and jurisdictional supervision and control over all holders of mining
exclusive jurisdiction of the Bureau of Mines under P.D. 1281. claims or applicants for and/or grantees of mining licenses,
permits, leases and/or operators thereof, including mining
This petition seeks to reverse the order of then Judge, now service contracts and service contractors insofar as their mining
Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals, Hon. Alfredo L. activities are concerned. To effectively discharge its task as the
Benipayo, dismissing the complaint filed by petitioner herein on Government's arm in the administration and disposition of
the ground of lack of jurisdiction, citing Section 7 of P.D. 1281 and mineral resources, Section 7 of P.D. 1281 confers upon the
the doctrine enunciated in Twin Peaks Mining Association, et al. Bureau quasi-judicial powers as follows:
vs. Navarro, 3 that an action for the enforcement of mining
contracts, in this case cancellation of a mining contract, is outside xxx xxx xxx
the competence of regular courts in view of the law cited. 4
Analyzing the objective of P.D. 1281, particularly said Section 7
The complaint filed with the then CFI of Manila, Branch XVI, was thereof, the Court in Twin Peaks Mining Association, the case
one for the rescission of its mining contract with herein private relied upon by petitioner, noted that the trend is to make the
respondent on grounds of violations of the terms and conditions adjudication of mining cases a purely administrative matter. This
thereof, with prayer for the issuance of a preliminary injunction observation was reiterated in the more recent case of Atlas
and/or temporary restraining order. The trial court, however, Consolidated Mining & Development Corporation vs. Court of
upon motion of the defendant therein, dismissed the case. Appeals."
Presidential Decree No. 1214 is in accord with Sec. 8, Art. XIV of
The petitioner further argues that to hold that P.D. 1281 the 1973 Constitution which states:
retroactively applies to its mining claims which according to it is
private property would constitute impairment of vested rights 'All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum,
since by shifting the forum of the petitioner's case from the courts and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries,
to the Bureau of Mines, as urged by private respondent, the wildlife, and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to
substantive rights to full protection of its property rights shall be the State. With the exception of agricultural, industrial or
greatly impaired and prejudiced. The judicial relief available for commercial, residential and resettlement lands of the public
the redress of private property rights violated, now being enjoyed domain, natural resources shall not be alienated, and no license,
by petitioner shall be lost altogether. concession, or lease for the exploration, development, and
exploitation, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be
This argument does not merit Our approval. There can be no granted for a period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for
vested right in a judicial relief for this is a mere statutory not more than twenty-five years, except as to water rights for
privilege and not a property right. The distinction between irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than
statutory privileges and vested rights must be borne in mind for development of water power, in which cases, beneficial use may
persons have no vested rights in statutory privileges. The state be the measure and the limit of the grant.'
may change or take away rights which were created by the law of
the state, although it may not take away property which was The same Constitutional mandate is found in Sec. 2, Art. XII of the
vested by virtue of such rights. 9 Besides, the right to judicial 1987 Constitution, which declares:
relief is not a right which may constitute vested right because to
be vested, a right must have become a title, legal or equitable, to 'All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum,
the present or future enjoyment of property, or to the present or and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries,
future enforcement of a demand or legal exemption from a forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural
demand made by another. 10 Definitely, the judicial relief herein resources are owned by the State. With the exception of
referred to by the petitioner does not fall under any of these. agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be
alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of
The case at bar falls within the original and exclusive jurisdiction natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision
of the Bureau of Mines, hence, the trial court did not err in of the State . . .'"
dismissing the petitioner's complaint on the ground of lack of
jurisdiction. Notwithstanding Our ruling , in favor of the constitutionality of
P.D. 1214, petitioners contend that having filed mining lease
G.R. Nos. 63786-87 applications on the mining claims they have previously located
and registered under then existing laws, pursuant to the
In these petitions filed by petitioners United Paracale Mining requirements of this Presidential Decree, and despite the waiver
Company, Inc. and Coco Grove, Inc., petitioners seek to set aside of their rights to the issuance of mining patents therefor
the Order of dismissal of the case they filed with the trial court for (emphasis theirs), they cannot be placed in equal footing with
the ejectment of their respective defendants from the mining those who forfeit all rights by virtue of non-filing of an application
claims which were allegedly privately owned by them having within the prescribed period such that they (petitioners) have no
been located and perfected under the provisions of the Philippine causes of action against private respondents.
Bill of 1902 and Act No. 624.
We are not persuaded by this contention.
The heart of these twin petitions is the question of
constitutionality of P.D. 1214. Unless P.D. 1214 is successfully Although We may agree that those who filed their mining lease
assailed, the petitioners will be but mere applicants for the lease applications have better rights than those who forfeited all their
of the mining claims involved and would thus have no causes of right by not filing at all, this, however, does not amount to any
action against private respondents. vested right which could be the basis for their cause of action
against herein private respondents. What is precisely waived is
This question has been resolved by this Court in Santa Rosa their right to the issuance of a mining patent upon application.
Mining Company, Inc. vs. Leido, Jr. 11 thus: This in effect grants the government the power, in the exercise of
its sound discretion, to award the patent to the applicant most
"(W)e hold that Presidential Decree No. 1214 is not qualified to explore, develop and exploit the mineral resources of
unconstitutional. ** It is a valid exercise of the sovereign power of the country in line with the objectives of P.D. 463, and not
the State, as owner, over lands of the public domain, of which necessarily to the original locator of the mining claim. To sustain
petitioner's mining claims still form a part, and over the their contention that they can question the award of mining
patrimony of the nation, of which mineral deposits are a valuable patents to applicants other than them would put to naught the
asset. It may be underscored, in this connection, that the Decree objectives of P.D. 1214 as enunciated in its WHEREAS clauses.
does not cover all mining claims located under the Phil. Bill of
1902, but only those claims over which their locators had failed to We agree with the trial court that with the waiver of their right to
obtain a patent. And even then, such locators may still avail of the the issuance of a mining patent upon their application for a
renewable twenty-five year (25) lease prescribed by Pres. Decree mining lease, their status is reduced to a mere applicant, their
No. 463, the Mineral Development Resources Decree of 1974. only advantage over the others is the fact that they have already
conducted explorations at the site and this exploration may he
Mere location does not mean absolute ownership over the ongoing. But still, this credential, so to speak, is not intended to
affected land or the mining claim. It merely segregates the located tie the hands of the government so as to prevent it from awarding
land or area from the public domain by barring other would-be the mining patent to some other applicants, which in its belief
locators from locating the same and appropriating for themselves may he more qualified than them.
the minerals found therein. To rule otherwise would imply that
location is all that is needed to acquire and maintain rights over a WHEREFORE, the petition in G.R. No. 73931 is hereby DISMISSED
located mining claim. This, we cannot approve or sanction for lack of merit; the Order of dismissal assailed in G.R. No. 70423
because it is contrary to the intention of the lawmaker that the is AFFIRMED and this petition is hereby likewise DISMISSED; the
locator should faithfully and consistently comply with the Order of dismissal assailed in G.R. Nos. 63786-87 is AFFIRMED
requirements for annual work and improvements in the located and these petitions are hereby DISMISSED. No pronouncements
mining claim. as to costs.

SO ORDERED.
REPUBLIC vs REGISTER OF DEEDS QUEZON
(b) Ordering defendant Manuel G. Atienza to pay the
This petition for review on certiorari seeks to nullify and set aside Development Bank of the Philippines, Lucena City Branch, the
the decision 1 of the then Intermediate Appellate Court reversing sum of P15,053.97, and all interests due thereon; and
the decision of the former Court of First Instance of Quezon,
Branch II at Lucena City 2 which annulled Original Certificate of (c) Ordering defendant Manuel G. Atienza to pay the costs
Title (OCT) No. P-13840 and Free Patent (FP) No. 324198 issued of this suit.
to Manuel Atienza for a 17-hectare piece of land which turned out
to be within the forest zone in Pagbilao, Quezon. SO ORDERED.

On April 18, 1967, Atienza was awarded FP No. 324198 over a On appeal, Atienza maintained that the land in question was not
parcel of land located in Ila, Malicboy, Pagbilao, Quezon, with an within the unclassified public forest land and therefore alienable
area of 172,028 square meters. By virtue of such award, he was land of the public domain. The then Intermediate Appellate Court
issued on May 5, 1967, OCT No. P-13840. relied only on the arguments he raised since petitioner had not
filed any brief, and arrived at the conclusion that "(t)he litigated
Sometime in 1968, an investigation was conducted by the Bureau land is part of public land alienable and disposable for homestead
of Lands in connection with alleged land grabbing activities in and [F]ree Patent." On December 27, 1985, the appellate court set
Pagbilao. It appeared that some of the free patents, including that aside the lower court's decision, declared as valid and subsisting
of Atienza's, were fraudulently acquired. Thus, on March 19, Atienza's OCT, and dismissed the cross-claim of the DBP.
1970, a criminal complaint for falsification of public documents
was filed in the then Court of First Instance of Quezon, Branch II, After receiving a copy of said decision, Assistant Solicitor General
against Atienza and four other persons for allegedly falsifying Oswaldo D. Agcaoili informed the Director of Lands of the adverse
their applications for free patent, the survey plans, and other decision of the appellate court, which noted that no appellee's
documents pertinent to said applications. brief had been filed in said court. Agcaoili also stated that the
Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) had not been furnished with
In its decision dated October 4, 1972, the court acquitted the the appellant's brief; that the Bureau of Lands received notice of
accused of the crime charged but, finding that the land covered by hearing of the record on appeal filed by the appellant but the OSG
the application for free patent of private respondent was within had not been informed of the "action taken thereon;" that since
the forest zone, declared as null and void OCT No. P-13840 in the Bureau of Lands had been furnished directly with relevant
Atienza's name and ordered the Register of Deeds of Quezon to pleadings and orders, the same office should "take immediate
cancel the same. appropriate action on the decision;" and that it may file a motion
for reconsideration within fifteen (15) days from January 6, 1986,
Meanwhile, before the promulgation of said decision, or on May the date of receipt by the OSG of the copy of the decision sought
10, 1972, then Acting Solicitor General Conrado T. Limcaoco filed to be appealed.
for the petitioner a complaint against Atienza, the Register of
Deeds of Quezon, and the Rural Bank of Sariaya, which was later On January 28, 1986, petitioner filed a motion for extension of
dropped as defendant and, in an amended complaint, substituted time to file motion for reconsideration which was denied in a
by the Development Bank of the Philippines as actual mortgagee resolution dated February 12, 1986. Petitioner's motion for
of the subject parcel of land. Docketed as Civil Case No. 7555, the reconsideration of said resolution was likewise denied.
complaint prayed for the declaration of nullity of FP No. 324198
and OCT No. P-13840. The instant petition for review on certiorari raises the following
arguments: (a) petitioner was denied due process and fair play
In his answer, Atienza claimed that the land in question was no when Atienza did not furnish it with a copy of his appellant's brief
longer within the unclassified public forest land because by the before the then Intermediate Appellate Court thereby depriving it
approval of his application for free patent by the Bureau of Lands, of the opportunity to rebut his assertions which later became the
the land "was already alienable and disposable public agricultural sole basis of the assailed decision of December 27, 1985; (b) the
land." Since the subject land was a very small portion of Lot 5139 appellate court erred in holding that the land in question is part
of the Pagbilao Cadastre, an area which had been declared of the alienable and disposable public land in complete disregard
disposable public land by the cadastral court on March 9, 1932 in of the trial court's finding that it forms part of the unclassified
Cadastral Case No. 76 entitled "El Govierno Filipino de las Islas public forest zone; and (c) the appellate court erred in declaring
Filipinas contra Jose Abastillas, et al., G.L.R.O. cadastral Record that the land in question could be alienated and disposed of in
No. 1124," he also averred that the Director of Lands had given favor of Atienza.
due course to free and homestead patent applications of
claimants to Lot 5139. He further alleged that through a certain We find for the petitioner.
Sergio Castillo, he had been in possession of the land since the
Japanese occupation, cultivating it and introducing improvements Appeal is an essential part of our judicial system. As such, courts
thereon. The DBP, after due and proper investigation and should proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of the
inspection of his title, even granted him a loan with the subject right to appeal, particularly if the appeal is meritorious. 3 Respect
property as collateral. Finally, he stated that his acquittal in the for the appellant's right, however, carries with it the
criminal case proved that he committed no fraud in his corresponding respect for the appellee's similar rights to fair play
application for free patent. and justice. Thus, appeal being a purely statutory right, an
appealing party must strictly comply with the requisites laid
On July 27, 1981, the lower court rendered a decision with the down in the Rules of Court. 4
categorical finding based on "solid evidence" that "the land in
question was found definitely within the forest zone denominated Of paramount importance is the duty of an appellant to serve a
as Project 21-A." copy of his brief upon the appellee with proof of service thereof. 5
This procedural requirement is consonant with Section 2 of Rule
The dispositive portion thereof reads as follows: 13, which mandates that all pleadings and papers "shall be filed
with the court, and served upon the parties affected thereby." The
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, (J)udgment is hereby importance of serving copies of the brief upon the adverse party
rendered: is underscored in Mozar v. Court of Appeals, 6 where the Court
held that the appellees "should have been given an opportunity to
(a) Declaring as null and void Original Certificate of Title file their appellee's brief in the Court of Appeals if only to
No. P-13840 in the name of defendant Manuel G. Atienza, as well emphasize the necessity of due process."
as Free Patent No. V-324198;
In this case, however, the Court of Appeals, oblivious of the fact lands, are not subject to private ownership unless they under the
that this case involves public lands requiring as it does the Constitution, become private properties. In the absence of such
exercise of extraordinary caution lest said lands be dissipated and classification, the land remains unclassified public land until
erroneously alienated to undeserving or unqualified private released therefrom and rendered open to disposition. 16
individuals, decided the appeal without hearing the government's
side. In our jurisdiction, the task of administering and disposing lands
of the public domain belongs to the Director of Lands, and
Atienza avers that he furnished Atty. Francisco Torres, a lawyer in ultimately, the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources 17
the Bureau of Lands and designated special attorney for the Office (now the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources). 18
of the Solicitor General, with two copies of the appellant's brief, Classification of public lands is, thus, an exclusive prerogative of
thereby implying that it was not his fault that petitioner failed to the Executive Department through the Office of the President. 19
file its appellee's brief. Courts have no authority to do so. 20

Such an assertion betrays a lack of comprehension of the role of Thus, in controversies involving the disposition of public
the Solicitor General as government counsel or of the OSG as the agricultural lands, the burden of overcoming the presumption of
government's "law office." 7 Only the Solicitor General, as the state ownership of lands of the public domain lies upon the
lawyer of the government, can bring or defend actions on behalf private claimant 21 who, in this case, is Atienza. The records
of the Republic of the Philippines and, therefore, actions filed in show, however, that he failed to present clear, positive and
the name of the Republic, if not initiated by the Solicitor General, absolute evidence 22 to overcome said presumption and to
will be summarily dismissed. 8 Specifically, he is empowered to support his claim.
represent the Government in all land registration and related
proceedings, 9 such as, an action for cancellation of title and for Atienza's claim is rooted in the March 9, 1932 decision of the then
reversion of a homestead to the government. 10 Hence, he is Court of First Instance of Tayabas in Cadastral Case No. 76, which
entitled to be furnished with copies of all court orders, notices was not given much weight by the court a quo, and for good
and decisions. Consequently, service of decisions on the Solicitor reasons.
General is the proper basis for computing the reglementary
period for filing appeals and for finality of decisions. His Apart from his assertions before this Court, Atienza failed to
representative, who may be a lawyer from the Bureau of Lands, present proof that he or his predecessor-in-interest was one of
has no legal authority to decide whether or not an appeal should the claimants who answered the petition filed by the then
be made. 11 Attorney-General in the said cadastral proceedings. The
document reflecting said cadastral decision, a xerox copy,
Service of the appellant's brief on Atty. Torres was no service at indicated the claimants simply as "Jose Abastillas et al." In
all upon the Solicitor General. It may be argued that Atty. Torres support of that decision, Atienza presented a certification
could have transmitted one of the two copies of appellant's brief purportedly issued by someone from the Technical Reference
upon the Solicitor General, but such omission does not excuse Section of the Surveys Division, apparently of the Bureau of
Atienza's failure to serve a copy of his brief directly on the Lands, stating that "Lot 5886 is a portion of Lot 5139 Pagbilao
Solicitor General. Cadastre," which evidence is, however, directly controverted by
the sketch plan showing that the land in controversy is actually
On the part of the appellate court, its decision based solely on, outside the alienable and disposable public lands, although part
and even quoting verbatim from, the appellant's brief was of Lot 5139.
certainly arrived at in grave abuse of discretion. It denied
appellee (petitioner herein) of the opportunity to be heard and to The fact that Atienza acquired a title to the land is of no moment,
rebut Atienza's allegations, in rank disregard of its right to due notwithstanding the indefeasibility of titles issued under the
process. Such violation of due process could have been rectified Torrens system. In Bornales v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 23
with the granting of petitioner's motion for reconsideration by we ruled that the indefeasibility of a certificate of title cannot be
the appellate court, 12 but even the door to this recourse was invoked by one who procured the same by means of fraud. The
slammed by the appellate court with the denial of petitioner's "fraud" contemplated by the law (Sec. 32, P.D. 1529) is actual and
motion for extension of time to file motion for reconsideration in extrinsic, that is, "an intentional omission of fact required by law,"
a resolution dated February 12, 1986, which ruling erroneously 24 which in the case at bench consisted in the failure of Atienza to
applied the Habaluyas doctrine. 13 state that the land sought to be registered still formed part of the
unclassified forest lands.
Such denial notwithstanding, petitioner filed its motion for
reconsideration. Considering the clear allegations thereunder, the WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby REVERSED
appellate court would have done well, in the interest of justice, and SET ASIDE and the decision of the court a quo dated July 27,
not to blindly adhere to technical rules of procedure by 1981, is REINSTATED.
dismissing outright said motion. As we declared in Villareal v.
Court of Appeals: 14 SO ORDERED.

. . . The requirements of due process are satisfied when the


parties are afforded a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain
and air their side. The essence of due process is simply the
opportunity to be heard or as applied to administrative
proceedings, an opportunity to explain one's side or an
opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling
taken. (Emphasis supplied)

In view of the foregoing and the long-standing procedural rule


that this Court may review the findings of facts of the Court of
Appeals in the event that they may be contrary to those of the
trial court, 15 in order to attain substantial justice, the Court now
reviews the facts of the case.

Under the Regalian Doctrine, all lands not otherwise clearly


appearing to be privately-owned are presumed to belong to the
State. Forest lands, like mineral or timber lands which are public
Ituralde vs Falcasantos
Petitioner submits that the Court of Appeals erred in setting aside
The case is an appeal via certiorari from a decision of the Court of the trial court's decision in his favor and dismissing the complaint
Appeals reversing that of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 2, because when the Director of Lands allowed petitioner to file a
Basilan province, and dismissing petitioner's complaint for public land application for said property, it was equivalent to a
recovery of possession and ownership of a parcel of land with the declaration that said land was no longer part of the public
improvements existing thereon, situated at Barangay Upper domain.
Bañas, municipality of Lantawan, province of Basilan, with an
area of 7.1248 hectares. We deny the petition. The Court of Appeals correctly held that
"the evidence is unrebutted that the subject land is within the
The facts may be related as follows: Forest Reserve Area as per L.C. Map No. 1557 certified on August
13, 1951'." 1 and, hence, not capable of private appropriation and
On October 17, 1986, petitioner acquired by purchase from the occupation. 2
heirs of. Pedro Mana-ay a parcel of land located at Bañas,
Lantawan, Basilan Province, with an area of 6.0000 hectares, In Republic vs. Register of Deeds of Quezon, we held that "Forest
more or less, more particularly described as follows: land, like mineral timber lands which are public lands, are not
subject to private ownership unless they under the Constitution,
A parcel of land, situated at Bañas, Lantawan Basilan. Bounded on become private properties. In the absence of such classification,
the North by property of Alejandro; Marso; on the East by the land remains unclassified public land until released therefrom
property of Ramon Bacor; on the South by property at Atty. and rendered open to disposition." 3
Ricardo G. Mon and on the West by property of Librada Guerrero.
Containing an area of 6.0000 hectares, more or less. In Sunbeam Convenience Foods Inc. vs. Court of Appeals, we said:
"Thus, before any land may be declassified from the forest group
However, on November 3, 1986, respondent applied with the and converted into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or
Bureau of Lands in Isabela, Basilan province, for the award to him other purposes, there must be a positive act from the
of the same parcel of land under free patent. On November 17, government. Even rules on the confirmation of imperfect titles do
1986, petitioner filed a protest to such application. not apply unless and until the land classified as forest land is
released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may
On February 7, 1989, the Regional Director of Lands rendered a form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public
decision giving respondent a period of one hundred twenty (120) domain." 4
days to exercise the right to repurchase the land by reimbursing
petitioner of all expenses he incurred in the purchase of the Hence, a positive act of the government is needed to declassify a
property in question, and held in abeyance respondent's forest land into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or
application for free patent. other purposes. " 5

On October 11, 1989, the Regional Director issued an order And the rule is "Possession of forest lands, however long, cannot
declaring that respondent had waived his right of repurchase, and ripen into private ownership."6
rejected his application for free patent for lack of interest, and
allowed petitioner to file a public land application for the subject What is more, there is yet no award or grant to petitioner of the
land. land in question by free patent or other ways of acquisition of
public land. Consequently, he cannot lawfully claim to be the
On May 8, 1990, the Regional Director ordered respondent to owner of the land in question.
vacate the land in question, but respondent refused.
WHEREFORE, the Courts hereby AFFIRMS the appealed decision
On July 24, 1990, petitioner filed with the Regional Trial Court, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 42306, dismissing the
Basilan province, a complaint for recovery of ownership and complaint of petitioner before the Regional Trial Court, Basilan
possession with preliminary injunction of the subject parcel of province, in Civil Case No. 441-63.
land.
No costs.
In Answer to the complaint, respondent alleged that the land
occupied by him belonged to the Republic of the Philippines, and SO ORDERED.
that he had introduced improvements thereon such as coconut
and other fruit trees.

After trial on the merits, on March 20, 1993, the trial court
rendered decision declaring petitioner the owner and the
possessor of the subject parcel of land with all the improvements
existing thereon, situated at Barangay Upper Bañas, municipality
of Lantawan, province of Basilan, with an area of 3.1248 hectares,
and ordering respondent to vacate the land in question, to pay
petitioner the amount of ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) as
attorneys fee, the amount of five thousand pesos (P5,000.00) as
litigation expenses, the three hundred pesos (P300.00) as judicial
cost.

In due time, petitioner appealed the trial court's decision to the


Court of Appeals.

On December 20, 1996, the Court of Appeals rendered decision


reversing the appealed decision, and entering a new judgment
dismissing petitioner's complaint without prejudice to any action
that petitioner may take if the subject land was declassified from
forest land to alienable and disposable land of the public domain.

Hence, the present recourse.


Heirs of Gozo vs Philippine Mission Corp. of the Seventh Day on the subject property was merely tolerated by petitioners and
Adventist Church therefore could not ripen into ownership.10 In addition,
petitioners argued that the signatures of the Spouses Gozo were
This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari1 filed by petitioners forged underscoring the stark contrast between the genuine
Heirs of Rafael Gozo seeking to reverse and set aside the 10 signatures of their parents from the ones appearing in the
November 2010 Decision2 of the Court of Appeals and its 14 deed.11 Finally, petitioners averred that granting for the sake of
February 2011 Resolution3 in CA-G.R. CV No. 00188. The assailed argument that the said signatures were genuine, the deed of
decision and resolution reversed the 30 June 2004 Decision of the donation will remain invalid for lack of acceptance which is an
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte and essential requisite for a valid contract of donation.12
held that the action for nullification and recovery of possession
filed by the petitioners is already, barred by laches. The For their part, respondents insisted on the validity of the
dispositive portion of the Court of Appeals Decision reads: donation and on the genuineness of the signatures of the donors
who had voluntarily parted with their property as faithful
ACCORDINGLY, the Decision dated 30 June 2004 of the court a devotees of the church for the pursuit of social and religious
quo is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The South Philippine Union ends.13 They further contended that from the moment the
Mission of the Seventh Day Adventist Church remains the Spouses Gozo delivered the subject property to respondents in
absolute owner of the donated property. 1937, they were already in open, public, continuous and adverse
possession thereof in the concept of an owner.14 A considerable
The Facts improvement was claimed to have been introduced into the
property in the form of church and school buildings.15 The
Petitioners claim that they are the heirs of the Spouses Rafael and argument of the petitioners, therefore, that the donation was
Concepcion Gozo (Spouses Gozo) who, before their death, were invalid for lack of acceptance, a question which came 63 years
the original owners of a parcel of land with an area 236,638 after it was executed, is already barred by laches.
square meters located in Sitio Simpak, Brgy. Lala, Municipality of
Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte. The respondents claim that they After the pre-trial conference, trial on the merits ensued. Both
own a 5,000 square-meter portion of the property. The assertion parties adduced documentary and testimonial evidence to
is based on the 28 February 1937 Deed of Donation5 in favor of support their respective positions.
respondent Philippine Union Mission Corporation of the Seventh
Day Adventist (PUMCO-SDA). Respondents took possession of the On 30 June 2004, the RTC rendered a Decision16 in favor of the
subject property by introducing improvements thereon through petitioners thereby declaring that they are the rightful owners of
the construction of a church building, and later on, an elementary the subject property since the contract of donation which
school. On the date the Deed of Donation is executed in 1937, the purportedly transferred the. ownership of the subject property to
Spouses Gozo were not the registered owners of the property yet PUMCO-SDA is void for lack of acceptance. In upholding the right
although they were the lawful possessors thereof. It was only on of the petitioners to the land, the court a quo held that an action
5 October 1953 that the Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. P- or defense for the declaration of nullity of a contract does not
642 covering the entire property was issued in the name of Rafael prescribe. Anent the claim that petitioners slept on their rights,
Gozo (Rafael) married to Concepcion Gozo (Concepcion) pursuant the RTC adjudged that the equitable doctrine of laches is
to the Homestead Patent granted by the President of the inapplicable in the case at bar because the action of the registered
Philippines on 22 August 1953.6 owners to recover possession is based on Torrens title which
cannot be barred by laches. The RTC disposed in this wise:
In view of Rafael's prior death, however, his heirs, Concepcion,
and their six children, namely, Abnera, Benia, Castillo, Dilbert, WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing consideration, judgment is
Filipinas and Grace caused the extrajudicial partition of the hereby rendered in favor of the [petitioners], to wit:
property. Accordingly, the Register of Deeds of Lanao del Norte
issued a new certificate of title under Transfer Certificate of Title (1)
(TCT) No. (T-347)-2927 under the names of the heirs on 13 Declaring the 5,000 square meter portion of the land covered by
January 1954. TCT [No.] (T-347)-292 part of the common property of the
[petitioners]; and
On 30 July 1992, Concepcion caused the survey and the (2)
subdivision of the entire property including the portion occupied Declaring the Deed of Donation as void.
by PUMCO-SDA.8 It was at this point that respondents brought to
the attention of Concepcion that the 5,000 square-meter portion The [petitioners], however, are not entitled to damages,
of the property is already owned by respondent PUMCO-SDA in attorney's fees and cost of litigation prayed for.
view of the Deed of Donation she executed together with her
husband in their favor in 1937. When Concepcion, however, On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the RTC Decision18 and
verified the matter with the Register Deeds, it appeared that the ordered the dismissal of petitioners' complaint on the ground of
donation was not annotated in the title. The absence of laches. The appellate court opined that petitioners failed to assert
annotation of the so-called encumbrance in the title prompted their rights over the land for more than 60 years, thus, laches had
petitioners not to recognize the donation claimed by the set in. Even if petitioners were the registered owners of the land
respondents. The matter was left unresolved until Concepcion in dispute, laches would still bar them from recovering
died and the rest of the owners continued to pursue their claims possession of the same.
to recover the subject property from the respondents.
The Motion for Reconsideration filed by the petitioners was
A compromise was initially reached by the parties wherein the likewise denied by the appellate court in a Resolution19 dated 14
petitioners were allowed by respondents to harvest from the February 2011.
coconut trees planted on the subject property but a
misunderstanding ensued causing respondents to file a case for Petitioners are now before this Court via this instant Petition for
qualified theft against the petitioners. Review on Certiorari seeking the reversal of the Court of Appeals
Decision and Resolution on the sole ground that:
On 19 June 2000 or around six decades after the Deed of
Donation was executed, petitioners filed an action for Declaration THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN REVERSING
of Nullity of Document, Recovery of Possession and Ownership AND SETTING ASIDE THE DECISION OF THE COURT A QUO ON
with Damages against PUMCO-SDA before the RTC of Kapatagan, THE GROUND OF LACHES.20
Lanao del Norte.9 In their-Complaint docketed as Civil Case No.
21-201, petitioners claimed that the possession of PUMCO-SDA The Court's Ruling
While the opposing parties center their arguments and counter xxxx
arguments on the timeliness of raising the question of the validity
of' donation, a careful scrutiny of the records, however, reveals a SEC. 8. Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or
significant fact that at the time the Deed of Donation was concession which have been officially delimited and classified
executed by the Spouses Gozo on 28 February 1937, the subject and, when practicable, surveyed, and which have not been
property was part of the inalienable public domain. It was only reserved for public or quasi-public uses, nor appropriated by the
almost after two decades later or on 5 October 1953 that the State Government, nor in any manner become private property, nor
ceded its right over the land in favor of the Spouses Gozo by those on which a private right authorized and recognized by this
granting their patent application and issuing an original Act or any other valid law may be claimed, or which, having been
certificate of title in their favor. Prior to such conferment of title, reserved or appropriated, have ceased to be so. However, the
the Spouses Gozo possessed no right to dispose of the land which, President may, for reasons of public interest, declare lands of the
by all intents and purposes, belongs to the State. public domain open to disposition before the same have had their
boundaries established or been surveyed, or may, for the same
Under the Regalian doctrine, which is embodied in Article XII, reason, suspend their concession or disposition until they are
Section 2 of our Constitution, all lands of the public domain again declared open to concession or disposition by proclamation
belong to the State, which is the source of any asserted right to duly published or by Act of the Congress.
any ownership of land. All lands not appearing to be clearly
within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. SEC. 9. For the purpose of their administration and disposition,
Accordingly, public lands not shown to have been reclassified or the lands of the public domain alienable or open to disposition
released as alienable agricultural land or alienated to a private shall be classified, according to the use or purposes to which such
person by the State remain part of the inalienable public lands are destined, as follows:
domain.21 (a) Agricultural;
(b) Residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar productive
The classification of public lands is an exclusive prerogative of the purposes;
executive department of the government and not the Courts. In (c) Educational, charitable, or other similar purposes; and
the absence of such classification, the land remains as an (d) Reservations for townsites and for public and quasi-public
unclassified land until it is released therefrom and rendered open uses.
to disposition. This is in consonance with the Regalian doctrine The President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of
that all lands of the public domain belong to the State and that the Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time make
State is the source of any asserted right to ownership in land and the classifications provided for in this section, and may, at any
charged with the conservation of such patrimony.22 time and in a similar manner, transfer lands from one class to
another.25
All lands not appearing to be clearly within private ownership are By virtue of Presidential Decree No. 705, otherwise known as the
presumed to belong to the State. Accordingly, all public lands not Revised Forestry Code, the President delegated to the DENR
shown to have been reclassified or released as alienable Secretary the power to determine which of the unclassified lands
agricultural land or alienated to a private person by the State of the public domain are (1) needed for forest purposes and
remain part of the alienable public domain. As already well- declare them as permanent forest to form part of the forest
settled in jurisprudence, no public land can be acquired by reserves; and (2) not needed for forest purposes and declare
private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the them as alienable and disposable lands.26
government; and it is indispensable that the person claiming title
to public land should show that his title was acquired from the Per the Public Land Act, alienable and disposable public lands
State or any other mode of acquisition recognized by law. To suitable for agricultural purposes can be disposed of only as
prove that the land subject of an application for registration is follows:
alienable, the applicant must establish the existence of a positive 1. For homestead settlement;
act of the government such as a presidential proclamation or an 2. By sale;
executive order, an administrative action, investigation reports of 3. By lease; and
Bureau of Lands investigators, and a legislative act or a statute. 4. By confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles:
The applicant may also secure a certification from the
Government that the land applied for is alienable and (a) By judicial legalization;
disposable.23 (b) By administrative legalization (free patent).27
Homestead over alienable and disposable public agricultural land
Commonwealth Act No. 141, also known as the Public Land Act, is granted after compliance by an applicant with the conditions
as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073, remains to this day and requirements laid down under Title II, Chapter IV of the
the existing general law governing the classification and Public Land Act, the most basic of which are quoted below:
disposition of lands of the public domain, other than timber and
mineral lands. The following provisions under Title I, Chapter II SEC. 12. Any citizen of the Philippines over the age of eighteen
of the Public Land Act, as amended, is very specific on how lands years, or the head of a family, who does not own more than
of the public domain become alienable or disposable:24 twenty-four hectares of land in the Philippines or has not had the
SEC. 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary benefit of any gratuitous allotment of more than twenty-four
of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time hectares of land since the occupation of the Philippines by the
classify the lands of the public domain into: United States, may enter a homestead of not exceeding twenty-
(a) Alienable or disposable, four hectares of agricultural land of the public domain.
(b) Timber, and
(c) Mineral lands, SEC. 13. Upon the filing of an application for a homestead, the
Director of Lands, if he finds that the application should be
and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands approved, shall do so and authorize the applicant to take
from one class to another, for the purposes of their possession of the land upon the payment of five pesos, Philippine
administration and disposition. currency, as entry fee. Within six months from and after the date
of the approval of the application, the applicant shall begin to
SEC. 7. For the purposes of the administration and disposition of work the homestead, otherwise he shall lose his prior right to the
alienable or disposable public lands, the Batasang Pambansa or land.
the President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Natural
Resources, may from time to time declare what public lands are SEC. 14. No certificate shall be given or patent issued for the land
open to disposition or concession under this Act. applied for until at least one-fifth of the land has been improved
and cultivated. The period within which the land shall be or creates a lien upon the land.37 Indeed it has been ruled that
cultivated shall not be less than one nor more than five years, where there was nothing in the certificate of title to indicate any
from and after the date of the approval of the application. The cloud or vice in the ownership of the property, or any
applicant shall, within the said period, notify the Director of encumbrance thereon, the purchaser is not required to explore
Lands as soon as he is ready to acquire the title. If at the date of farther than what the Torrens title upon its face indicates in quest
such notice, the applicant shall prove to the satisfaction of the for any hidden defect or inchoate right that may subsequently
Director of Lands, that he has resided continuously for at least defeat his right thereto.38 If the rule were otherwise, the efficacy
one year in the municipality in which the land is located, or in a and conclusiveness of the certificate of title which the Torrens
municipality adjacent to the same and has cultivated at least one- system seeks to insure would entirely be futile and nugatory.39
fifth of the land continuously since the approval of the The public shall then be denied of its foremost motivation for
application, and shall make affidavit that no part of said land has respecting and observing the Land Registration Act.40
been alienated or encumbered, and that he has complied with all
the requirements of this Act, then, upon the payment of five Just as significantly, the homestead application of the Spouses
pesos, as final fee, he shall be entitled to a patent. Gozo over the entire area of the property including that occupied
by respondents and the issuance in their favor of the
It is clear under the law that before compliance with the corresponding title without any complaint or objection from the
foregoing conditions and requirements the applicant has no right respondents, remove the case of the petitioners from the
over the land subject of the patent and therefore cannot dispose operation of the doctrine of laches.
the same even if such disposal was made gratuitously. It is an
established principle that no one can give what one does not And, further than the issuance of an original title, the entire
have, nemo dat quod non habet.29 It is true that gratuitous property was made subject of an extrajudicial partition of the
disposal in donation may consist of a thing or a right but the term property by the Gozo heirs resulting in the issuance of TCTs in
right must be understood in a "proprietary" sense over which the their names in 1954. Again, in no instance during the partition did
possessor has jus disponendi.30 This is because in true donations the respondents make known their claim over the property.
there results a consequent impoverishment of the donor or
diminution of his assets.31 In Republic v. Court of Appeals,32 the Clearly from the facts, the petitioners asserted their rights
Court declared the contract of donation, executed by the donor repeatedly; it was the respondents who kept silent all throughout
who has no proprietary right over the object of the contract, null about the supposed donee's rights.
and void, viz:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is hereby
Even on the gratuitous assumption that a donation of the military GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated 10 November 2010 and
"camp site" was executed between Eugenio de Jesus and Serafin Resolution dated 14 February 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-
Marabut, such donation would anyway be void because Eugenio G.R. CV No. 00188 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
de Jesus held no dominical rights over the site when it was
allegedly donated by him in 1936. In that year, Proclamation No. SO ORDERED.
85. of President Quezon already withdrew the area from sale or
settlement and reserved it for military purposes, x x x Eugenio de
Jesus cannot be said to be possessed of that "proprietary" right
over the whole 33 hectares in 1936 including the disputed
12.8081 hectares for at the time this 12.8081-hectare lot had
already been severed from the mass disposable public lands by
Proclamation No. 85 and excluded from the Sales Award.
Impoverishment of Eugenio's asset as a result of such donation is
therefore farfetched. (Emphasis supplied)

It is beyond question that at the time the gratuitous transfer was


effected by the Spouses Gozo on 28 February 1937, the subject
property was part of the public domain and is outside the
commerce of man. It was only on 5 October 1953 that the
ownership of the property was vested by the State to the Spouses
Gozo by virtue of its issuance of the OCT pursuant to the
Homestead Patent granted by the President of the Philippines on
22 August 1953. Hence, the donation of the subject property
which took place before 5 October 1953 is null and void from the
very start.33

As a void contract, the Deed of Donation produces no legal effect


whatsoever. Quod nullum est, nullum producit effectum34 That
which is a nullity produces no effect.35 Logically, it could not
have transferred title to the subject property from the Spouses
Gozo to PUMCO-SDA and there can be no basis for the church's
demand for the issuance of title under its name. Neither does the
church have the right to subsequently dispose the property nor
invoke acquisitive prescription to justify its occupation. A void
contract is not susceptible to ratification, and the action for the
declaration of absolute nullity of such contract is
imprescriptible.36

The lack of respondents' right over the property was confirmed


when the Spouses Gozo had the entire property, including the
portion occupied by the church, surveyed and patented, and
covered by their homestead patent. Further, after a certificate of
title was issued under their names, the Spouses Gozo did not
effect the annotation thereon of the supposed donation.
Registration is the operative act that gives validity to the transfer