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Property Case Digests

Case 5:

December 4, 1967

G.R. No. L-15829
 ROMAN R. SANTOS, petitioner-appellee, 

FLORENCIO MORENO, as Secretary of Public Works and Communications
and JULIAN C. CARGULLO, respondents-appellants.


The Zobel family of Spain formerly owned vast track of marshland in the
municipality of Macabebe, Pampanga province. Called Hacienda San
Esteban, it was administered and managed by the Ayala y Cia. From the
year 1860 to about the year 1924 Ayala y Cia., devoted the hacienda to the
planting and cultivation of nipa palms from which it gathered nipa sap or
"tuba." It operated a distillery plant in barrio San Esteban to turn nipa tuba
into potable alcohol, which was in turn manufactured into liquor.

Accessibility through the nipa palms deep into the hacienda posed as a
problem. Ayala y Cia., therefore dug canals leading towards the hacienda's
interior where most of them interlinked with each other. The canals
facilitated the gathering of tuba and the guarding and patrolling of the
hacienda by security guards called "arundines." By the gradual process of
erosion these canals acquired the characteristics and dimensions of rivers.

In 1924 Ayala y Cia shifted from the business of alcohol production to

bangus culture. It converted Hacienda San Esteban from a forest of nipa
groves to a web of fishponds. To do so, it cut down the nipa palm, constructed
dikes and closed the canals criss-crossing the hacienda.

Sometime in 1925 or 1926 Ayala y Cia., sold a portion of Hacienda San

Esteban to Roman Santos who also transformed the swamp land into a
fishpond. In so doing, he closed and built dikes across Sapang Malauling
Maragul, Quiñorang Silab, Pepangebunan, Bulacus, Nigui and Nasi.

The closing of the man-made canals in Hacienda San Esteban drew

complaints from residents of the surrounding communities. Claiming that
the closing of the canals caused floods during the rainy season, and that it
deprived them of their means of transportation and fishing grounds, said
residents demanded re-opening of those canals.

Subsequently, Mayor Lazaro Yambao of Macabebe, accompanied by

policemen and some residents went to Hacienda San Esteban and opened
the closure dikes at Sapang Malauling Maragul Nigui and Quiñorang

Whereupon, Roman Santos filed Civil Case No. 4488 in the Court of First
Instance of Pampanga which preliminarily enjoined Mayor Yambao and
others from demolishing the dikes across the canals. The municipal officials
of Macabebe countered by filing a complaint (docketed as Civil Case No.
4527) in the same court. The Pampanga Court of First Instance rendered
judgment in both cases against Roman Santos who immediately elevated
the case to the Supreme Court.

Do the streams involved in this case belong to the public domain or to the
owner of Hacienda San Esteban according to law and the evidence
submitted to the Department of Public Works and Communications?


A private person may take possession of a watercourse if he constructed the

same within his property.

One and all, the evidence, oral and documentary, presented by Roman
Santos in the administrative proceedings supports the conclusion of the
lower court that the streams involved in this case were originally man-
made canals constructed by the former owners of Hacienda San Esteban
and that said streams were not held open for public use. This same
conclusion was reached 27 years earlier by an investigator of the Bureau of
Public Works whose report and recommendations were approved by the
Director of Public Works and submitted to the Secretary of Commerce and

The streams in question were artificially made, hence of private ownership.

Pursuant to Article 71 of the Spanish Law of Waters of August 3, 1866, and

Article 408(5) of the Spanish Civil Code, channels of creeks and brooks
belong to the owners of estates over which they flow. The channels, therefore,
of the streams in question, which may be classified creeks, belong to the
owners of Hacienda San Esteban.

With the exception of Sapang Cansusu, being a natural stream and a

continuation of the Cansusu River, admittedly a public stream, belongs to
the public domain. Its closure therefore by the predecessors of Roman Santos
was illegal.

All the other streams, being artificial and devoted exclusively for the use of
the hacienda owner and his personnel, are declared of private ownership.
Hence, the dams across them should not he ordered demolished as public
Case 6:

G.R. No. 92013 July 25, 1990

SALVADOR H. LAUREL, petitioner, 

RAMON GARCIA, as head of the Asset
Privatization Trust, RAUL MANGLAPUS, as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and
CATALINO MACARAIG, as Executive Secretary, respondents.


These are two petitions for prohibition seeking to enjoin respondents, their
representatives and agents from proceeding with the bidding for the sale of
the 3,179 square meters of land at 306 Roppongi, 5-Chome Minato-ku Tokyo,
Japan scheduled on February 21, 1990. The Supreme Court granted the
prayer for a temporary restraining order, in favor of the petitioner, effective
February 20, 1990.

The subject property in this case is one of the four (4) properties in Japan
acquired by the Philippine government under the Reparations Agreement
entered into with Japan on May 9, 1956.

The Roppongi property is not just like any piece of property. It was given to
the Filipino people in reparation for the lives and blood of Filipinos who
died and suffered during the Japanese military occupation, for the
suffering of widows and orphans who lost their loved ones and kindred, for
the homes and other properties lost by countless Filipinos during the war.

Amidst opposition by various sectors, the Executive branch of the government

has been pushing, with great vigor, its decision to sell the reparations
properties starting with the Roppongi lot.


Can the Roppongi property and others of its kind be alienated by the
Philippine Government?


The nature of the Roppongi lot as property for public service is expressly
spelled out. It is dictated by the terms of the Reparations Agreement and the
corresponding contract of procurement, which bind both the Philippine
government and the Japanese government.

There can be no doubt that it is of public dominion unless it is convincingly

shown that the property has become patrimonial. This, the respondents have
failed to do.

As property of public dominion, the Roppongi lot is outside the commerce of

man. It cannot be alienated. Its ownership is a special collective ownership
for general use and enjoyment, an application to the satisfaction of
collective needs, and resides in the social group. The purpose is not to serve
the State as a juridical person, but the citizens; it is intended for the
common and public welfare and cannot be the object of appropriation.

Maneclang v. IAC

144 SCRA 553

DOCTRINE: Finding that subject body of water is a creek belonging to the

public domain,not susceptible to private appropriation, a factual
determination binding on the Supreme Court.


● Maneclang filed a complaint for quieting of title over a certain

fishpond located within the four parcels of land belonging to them.

● The trial court dismissed the complaint upon finding that the body of
water traversing the titled properties of petitioners is a creek constituting a
tributary of a river; therefore public in nature and not subject to private


Whether or not a creek can be registered under the Torrens System -- NO


A creek is a recess/arm extending from a river and participating in the ebb

and flow of the sea. It is a property belonging to the public domain, It is a
property belonging to the public domain. it is not susceptible to
appropriation and acquisitive prescription. As a public water, it cannot be
registered under the Torrens System in the name of any individual.

Its nature as property of the public domain cannot be modified by the

construction of irrigation dikes by the National Irrigation Authority, or by
its conversion into a fishpond. Hence, a compromise agreement
adjudicating the ownership of such property in favor of an individual is
null and void. The compromise agreement has no legal effect since it is
contrary to law and public policy.

Chavez v. Public Estates Authority

384 SCRA 152

DOCTRINE: Until now, the only way the government can sell to private
parties government reclaimed and marshy disposable lands of the public
domain is for the legislature to pass a law authorizing such sale. However,
there exists a constitutional ban wherein private corporations are
prohibited from acquiring alienable lands of the public domain. These
corporations may only lease the lands from a period granted by the law.


The government, through the Commissioner of Public Highways, signed a

contract with CDCP to reclaim certain foreshore and offshore areas of
Manila Bay under the MCCRRP. Later on President Marcos signed PD No.
1084 and 1085 creating PEA and transferring to PEA the reclaimed lands
in the foreshore and offshore of the Manila Bay. In addition, a
Memorandum of Agreement was executed between PEA and CDCP wherein
the latter acceded and transferred its rights and interest in favor of the
former as regards CDCP’s reclaimed lands under MCCRRP. During Aquino’s
administration, special patents as well as 3 TCTs (the lands were known as
Freedom Islands) were issued in favor of PEA.

PEA and AMARI, a private corporation, through negotiation but without

conducting any public bidding entered into a Joint Venture Agreement
(JVA for brevity) for the development of the Freedom Islands. A year later,
Senate President Maceda described such JVA during his privileged speech as
the “grandmother of all scams”. Consequently, a joint investigation was
conducted and the report concluded that the JVA is illegal because what
PEA seeks to do is to transfer ownership of the reclaimed lands which are
public lands hence inalienable to AMARI. However, the Legal Task formed
by Pres. Ramos upheld the legality of the JVA.

Phillipine Daily Inquirer and Today published reports that Pres. Ramos
ordered that renegotiations regarding the JVA be again made. Such JVA
(now called Amended JVA) was later on approved by Pres. Estrada.
Petitioner Chavez prays that the Amended JVA be declared null and void
for it violating the Constitutional and statutory provisions.


Whether or not AMARI, a private corporation may acquire the reclaimed

lands? NO

In this case, the SC traced back the laws governing reclaimed lands as
regards its alienability. The previous Constitutions including the 1987
Constitution has adopted the Regalian Doctrine wherein it states that all
public lands and waters are owned by the State. The court discussed and
emphasized also CA No. 141 which states that the only way the government
can sell to private parties’ government reclaimed and marshy disposable
lands of the public domain is for the legislature to pass a law authorizing
such sale. In addition, the Constitution has established that private
corporations (such as AMARI) cannot acquire the reclaimed lands however;
these corporations are allowed to lease them. This rule is absolute.

Applying these provisions to the case, the reclaimed lands are classified as
public property and in order for PEA to sell these lands; there must be a
legislative act granting such right to sell. In addition, even if there exist an
express provision in favor of PEA, such would still subject of the constitutional
ban as regards private corporation acquiring reclaimed alienable lands.

As mentioned and established already, these reclaimed lands are

considered inalienable public property. PD No. 1085 granting PEA the power
to oversee the Freedom Islands did not in any way convert the lands into
alienable or disposable lands. The issuance of special patents by Pres. Aquino
as well as the TCTs also did not convert it into private lands. It must be noted
that the registration of public lands under Torrens system cannot convert it
into private property.
Ignacio v. Director of Lands

108 Phil. 335

DOCTRINE: Citing Article 457 of the New Civil Code (Article 366, Old Civil
Code), which provides that: To the owners of lands adjoining the banks of
rivers belong the accretion which they gradually receive from the effects of
the current of the waters.

The article cited is clearly inapplicable because it refers to accretion or

deposits on the banks of rivers, while the accretion in the present case was
caused by action of the Manila Bay.


Ignacio filed an application alleging that among others that he owned the
parcel applied for by right of accretion. The Director of Lands, Laureano
Valeriano and Domingo Gutierrez filed oppositions. Gutierrez later
withdrew his opposition. The Director of Lands claimed the parcel applied
for as a portion of the public domain, for the reason that neither the
applicant nor his predecessor-in-interest possessed sufficient title thereto,
not having acquired it either by composition title from the Spanish
government or by possessory information title under the Royal Decree and
that he had not possessed the same openly, continuously and adversely
under a bona fide claim of ownership since July 26, 1894. In his turn,
Valeriano alleged he was holding the land by virtue of a permit granted
him by the Bureau of Fisheries and approved by the President.

It is not disputed that the land applied for adjoins a parcel owned by the
applicant which he had acquired from the Government by virtue of a free
patent title in 1936. It has also been established that the parcel in question
was formed by accretion and alluvial deposits caused by the action of the
Manila Bay which boarders it on the southwest.

On the other hand, the Director of Lands sought to prove that the parcel is
foreshore land, covered by the ebb and flow of the tide and, therefore,
formed part of the public domain.

After hearing, the trial court dismissed the application, holding that the
parcel formed part of the public domain.


Whether or not the disputed land is part of public domain -- Yes. It is part
of public domain

Appellant contends that the parcel belongs to him by the law of accretion,
having been formed by gradual deposit by action of the Manila Bay, and
he cites Article 457 of the New Civil Code (Article 366, Old Civil Code), which
provides that:

To the owners of lands adjoining the banks of rivers belong the accretion
which they gradually receive from the effects of the current of the waters.

The article cited is clearly inapplicable because it refers to accretion or

deposits on the banks of rivers, while the accretion in the present case was
caused by action of the Manila Bay.

Interpreting Article 4 of the Law of Waters of 1866, in the case of Natividad

vs. Director of Lands, (CA) 37 Off. Gaz., 2905, it was there held that:

Article 4 of the Law of Waters of 1866 provides that when a portion of the
shore is no longer washed by the waters of the sea and is not necessary for
purposes of public utility, or for the establishment of special industries, or for
coastguard service, the government shall declare it to be the property of the
owners of the estates adjacent thereto and as an increment thereof. We
believe that only the executive and possibly the legislative departments have
the authority and the power to make the declaration that any land so
gained by the sea, is not necessary for purposes of public utility, or for the
establishment of special industries, on for coast-guard service. If no such
declaration has been made by said departments, the lot in question forms
part of the public domain.