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LAND TITLES AND DEEDS

Carino v. Insular Government, 212 U.S. 449 (1909) Writ of error is the general, and appeal the exceptional, method of bringing Cases to this Court. The latter method is in the main confined to equity cases, and the former is proper to bring up a judgment of the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands affirming a judgment of the Court of Land Registration dismissing an application for registration of land. Although a province may be excepted from the operation of Act No. 926 of 1903 of the Philippine Commission which provides for the registration and perfecting of new titles, one who actually owns property in such province is entitled to registration under Act No. 496 of 1902, which applies to the whole archipelago. While, in legal theory and as against foreign nations, sovereignty is absolute, practically it is a question of strength and of varying degree, and it is for a new sovereign to decide how far it will insist upon theoretical relations of the subject to the former sovereign and how far it will recognize actual facts. Page 212 U. S. 450 The acquisition of the Philippines was not for the purpose of acquiring the lands occupied by the inhabitants, and under the Organic Act of July 1, 1902, c. 1369, 32 Stat. 691, providing that property rights are to be administered for the benefit of the inhabitants, one who actually owned land for many years cannot be deprived of it for failure to comply with certain ceremonies prescribed either by the acts of the Philippine Commission or by Spanish law. The Organic Act of the Philippines made a bill of rights embodying safeguards of the Constitution, and, like the Constitution, extends those safeguards to all. Every presumption of ownership is in favor of one actually occupying land for many years, and against the government which seeks to deprive him of it, for failure to comply with provisions of a subsequently enacted registration act. Title by prescription against the crown existed under Spanish law in force in the Philippine Islands prior to their acquisition by the United States, and one occupying land in the Province of Benguet for more than fifty years before the Treaty of Paris is entitled to the continued possession thereof. 7 Phil. 132 reversed. The facts are stated in the opinion. Page 212 U. S. 455 MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court. This was an application to the Philippine Court of Land Registration for the registration of certain land. The application was granted by the court on March 4, 1904. An appeal was taken to the Court of First Instance of the Province of Benguet on behalf of the government of the Philippines, and also on behalf of the United States, those governments having taken possession of the property for public and military purposes. The Court of First Instance found the facts and dismissed the application upon grounds of law. This judgment was affirmed by the supreme court, 7 Phil. 132, and the case then was brought here by writ of error. The material facts found are very few. The applicant and plaintiff in error is an Igorot of the Province of Benguet, where the land lies. For more than fifty years before the Treaty of Page 212 U. S. 456 Paris, April 11, 1899, as far back as the findings go, the plaintiff and his ancestors had held the land as owners. His grandfather had lived upon it, and had maintained fences sufficient for the holding of cattle, according to the custom of the country, some of the fences, it seems, having been of much earlier date. His father had cultivated parts and had used parts for pasturing cattle, and he had used it for pasture in his turn. They all had been recognized as owners by the Igorots, and he had inherited or received the land from his father in accordance with Igorot custom. No document of title, however, had issued from the Spanish Crown, and although, in 1893-1894 and again in 1896-1897, he made application for one under the royal decrees then in force, nothing seems to have come of it, unless, perhaps, information that lands in Benguet could not be conceded until those to be occupied for a sanatorium, etc., had been designated -- a purpose that has been carried out by the

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Philippine government and the United States. In 1901, the plaintiff filed a petition, alleging ownership, under the mortgage law, and the lands were registered to him, that process, however, establishing only a possessory title, it is said. Before we deal with the merits, we must dispose of a technical point. The government has spent some energy in maintaining that this case should have been brought up by appeal, and not by writ of error. We are of opinion, however, that the mode adopted was right. The proceeding for registration is likened to bills in equity to quiet title, but it is different in principle. It is a proceeding in rem under a statute of the type of the Torrens Act, such as was discussed in Tyler v. Court of Registration, 175 Mass. 71. It is nearer to law than to equity, and is an assertion of legal title; but we think it unnecessary to put it into either pigeon hole. A writ of error is the general method of bringing cases to this Court, an appeal the exception, confined to equity in the main. There is no reason for not applying the general rule to this case. Ormsby v. Webb, 134 U. S. 47, 134 U. S. 65; Campbell v. Porter, 162 U. S. 478; Metropolitan R. Co. v. District of Columbia, 195 U. S. 322. Page 212 U. S. 457 Another preliminary matter may as well be disposed of here. It is suggested that, even if the applicant have title, he cannot have it registered, because the Philippine Commission's Act No. 926, of 1903, excepts the Province of Benguet among others from its operation. But that act deals with the acquisition of new titles by homestead entries, purchase, etc., and the perfecting of titles begun under the Spanish law. The applicant's claim is that he now owns the land, and is entitled to registration under the Philippine Commission's Act No. 496, of 1902, which established a court for that purpose with jurisdiction "throughout the Philippine Archipelago," 2, and authorized in general terms applications to be made by persons claiming to own the legal estate in fee simple, as the applicant does. He is entitled to registration if his claim of ownership can be maintained. We come, then, to the question on which the case was decided below -- namely, whether the plaintiff owns the land. The position of the government, shortly stated, is that Spain assumed, asserted, and had title to all the land in the Philippines except so far as it saw fit to permit private titles to be acquired; that there was no prescription against the Crown, and that, if there was, a decree of June 25, 1880, required registration within a limited time to make the title good; that the plaintiff's land was not registered, and therefore became, if it was not always, public land; that the United States succeeded to the title of Spain, and so that the plaintiff has no rights that the Philippine government is bound to respect. If we suppose for the moment that the government's contention is so far correct that the Crown of Spain in form asserted a title to this land at the date of the Treaty of Paris, to which the United States succeeded, it is not to be assumed without argument that the plaintiff's case is at an end. It is true that Spain, in its earlier decrees, embodied the universal feudal theory that all lands were held from the Crown, and perhaps the general attitude of conquering nations toward people not recognized as entitled to the treatment accorded to those Page 212 U. S. 458 in the same zone of civilization with themselves. It is true also that, in legal theory, sovereignty is absolute, and that, as against foreign nations, the United States may assert, as Spain asserted, absolute power. But it does not follow that, as against the inhabitants of the Philippines, the United States asserts that Spain had such power. When theory is left on one side, sovereignty is a question of strength, and may vary in degree. How far a new sovereign shall insist upon the theoretical relation of the subjects to the head in the past, and how far it shall recognize actual facts, are matters for it to decide. The Province of Benguet was inhabited by a tribe that the Solicitor General, in his argument, characterized as a savage tribe that never was brought under the civil or military government of the Spanish Crown. It seems probable, if not certain, that the Spanish officials would not have granted to anyone in that province the registration to which formerly the plaintiff was entitled by the Spanish laws, and which would have made his title beyond question good. Whatever may have been the technical position of Spain, it does not follow that, in the view of the United States, he had lost all rights and was a mere trespasser when the present government seized his land. The argument to that effect seems to amount to a denial of native titles throughout an important part of the island of Luzon, at least, for the want of ceremonies which the Spaniards would not have permitted and had not the power to enforce. The acquisition of the Philippines was not like the settlement of the white race in the United States. Whatever consideration may have been shown to the North American Indians, the dominant purpose of the whites in America was to occupy the land. It is obvious that, however stated, the reason for our taking over the Philippines was different. No one, we suppose, would deny that, so far as consistent with paramount necessities, our first object in the internal administration of the islands is to do justice to the natives, not to exploit their

LAND TITLES AND DEEDS


country for private gain. By the Organic Act of July 1, 1902, c. 1369, 12, 32 Stat. 691, all the property and rights acquired there by the Page 212 U. S. 459 United States are to be administered "for the benefit of the inhabitants thereof." It is reasonable to suppose that the attitude thus assumed by the United States with regard to what was unquestionably its own is also its attitude in deciding what it will claim for its own. The same statute made a bill of rights, embodying the safeguards of the Constitution, and, like the Constitution, extends those safeguards to all. It provides that "no law shall be enacted in said islands which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or deny to any person therein the equal protection of the laws." 5. In the light of the declaration that we have quoted from 12, it is hard to believe that the United States was ready to declare in the next breath that "any person" did not embrace the inhabitants of Benguet, or that it meant by "property" only that which had become such by ceremonies of which presumably a large part of the inhabitants never had heard, and that it proposed to treat as public land what they, by native custom and by long association -- one of the profoundest factors in human thought -- regarded as their own. It is true that, by 14, the government of the Philippines is empowered to enact rules and prescribe terms for perfecting titles to public lands where some, but not all, Spanish conditions had been fulfilled, and to issue patents to natives for not more than sixteen hectares of public lands actually occupied by the native or his ancestors before August 13, 1898. But this section perhaps might be satisfied if confined to cases where the occupation was of land admitted to be public land, and had not continued for such a length of time and under such circumstances as to give rise to the understanding that the occupants were owners at that date. We hesitate to suppose that it was intended to declare every native who had not a paper title a trespasser, and to set the claims of all the wilder tribes afloat. It is true again that there is excepted from the provision that we have quoted as to the administration of the property and rights acquired by the United States such land and property as shall be designated by the President for military or other reservations, Page 212 U. S. 460 as this land since has been. But there still remains the question what property and rights the United States asserted itself to have acquired. Whatever the law upon these points may be, and we mean to go no further than the necessities of decision demand, every presumption is and ought to be against the government in a case like the present. It might, perhaps, be proper and sufficient to say that when, as far back as testimony or memory goes, the land has been held by individuals under a claim of private ownership, it will be presumed to have been held in the same way from before the Spanish conquest, and never to have been public land. Certainly, in a case like this, if there is doubt or ambiguity in the Spanish law, we ought to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt. Whether justice to the natives and the import of the organic act ought not to carry us beyond a subtle examination of ancient texts, or perhaps even beyond the attitude of Spanish law, humane though it was, it is unnecessary to decide. If, in a tacit way, it was assumed that the wild tribes of the Philippines were to be dealt with as the power and inclination of the conqueror might dictate, Congress has not yet sanctioned the same course as the proper one "for the benefit of the inhabitants thereof." If the applicant's case is to be tried by the law of Spain, we do not discover such clear proof that it was bad by that law as to satisfy us that he does not own the land. To begin with, the older decrees and laws cited by the counsel for the plaintiff in error seem to indicate pretty clearly that the natives were recognized as owning some lands, irrespective of any royal grant. In other words, Spain did not assume to convert all the native inhabitants of the Philippines into trespassers, or even into tenants at will. For instance, Book 4, Title 12, Law 14 of the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, cited for a contrary conclusion in Valenton v. Murciano, 3 Phil. 537, while it commands viceroys and others, when it seems proper, to call for the exhibition of grants, directs them to confirm those who hold by good grants or justa prescripcion. It is true that it Page 212 U. S. 461 begins by the characteristic assertion of feudal overlordship and the origin of all titles in the King or his predecessors. That was theory and discourse. The fact was that titles were admitted to exist that owed nothing to the powers of Spain beyond this recognition in their books.

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Prescription is mentioned again in the royal cedula of October 15, 1754, cited in 3 Phil. 546: "Where such possessors shall not be able to produce title deeds, it shall be sufficient if they shall show that ancient possession, as a valid title by prescription." It may be that this means possession from before 1700; but, at all events, the principle is admitted. As prescription, even against Crown lands, was recognized by the laws of Spain, we see no sufficient reason for hesitating to admit that it was recognized in the Philippines in regard to lands over which Spain had only a paper sovereignty. The question comes, however, on the decree of June 25, 1880, for the adjustment of royal lands wrongfully occupied by private individuals in the Philippine Islands. This begins with the usual theoretic assertion that, for private ownership, there must have been a grant by competent authority; but instantly descends to fact by providing that, for all legal effects, those who have been in possession for certain times shall be deemed owners. For cultivated land, twenty years, uninterrupted, is enough. For uncultivated, thirty. Art. 5. So that, when this decree went into effect, the applicant's father was owner of the land by the very terms of the decree. But, it is said, the object of this law was to require the adjustment or registration proceedings that it described, and in that way to require everyone to get a document of title or lose his land. That purpose may have been entertained, but it does not appear clearly to have been applicable to all. The regulations purport to have been made "for the adjustment of royal lands wrongfully occupied by private individuals." (We follow the translation in the government's brief.) It does not appear that this land ever was royal land or wrongfully occupied. In Article 6, it is provided that "interested parties not included within the two preceding Page 212 U. S. 462 articles [the articles recognizing prescription of twenty and thirty years] may legalize their possession, and thereby acquire the full ownership of the said lands, by means of adjustment proceedings, to be conducted in the following manner." This seems, by its very terms, not to apply to those declared already to be owners by lapse of time. Article 8 provides for the case of parties not asking an adjustment of the lands of which they are unlawfully enjoying the possession, within one year, and threatens that the treasury "will reassert the ownership of the state over the lands," and will sell at auction such part as it does not reserve. The applicant's possession was not unlawful, and no attempt at any such proceedings against him or his father ever was made. Finally, it should be noted that the natural construction of the decree is confirmed by the report of the council of state. That report puts forward as a reason for the regulations that, in view of the condition of almost all property in the Philippines, it is important to fix its status by general rules on the principle that the lapse of a fixed period legalizes completely all possession, recommends in two articles twenty and thirty years, as adopted in the decree, and then suggests that interested parties not included in those articles may legalize their possession and acquire ownership by adjustment at a certain price. It is true that the language of Articles 4 and 5 attributes title to those "who may prove" possession for the necessary time, and we do not overlook the argument that this means may prove in registration proceedings. It may be that an English conveyancer would have recommended an application under the foregoing decree, but certainly it was not calculated to convey to the mind of an Igorot chief the notion that ancient family possessions were in danger, if he had read every word of it. The words "may prove" (acrediten), as well, or better, in view of the other provisions, might be taken to mean when called upon to do so in any litigation. There are indications that registration was expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. Page 212 U. S. 463 The effect of the proof, wherever made, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. The royal decree of February 13, 1894, declaring forfeited titles that were capable of adjustment under the decree of 1880, for which adjustment had not been sought, should not be construed as a confiscation, but as the withdrawal of a privilege. As a matter of fact, the applicant never was disturbed. This same decree is quoted by the Court of Land Registration for another recognition of the common law prescription of thirty years as still running against alienable Crown land. It will be perceived that the rights of the applicant under the Spanish law present a problem not without difficulties for courts of a different legal tradition. We have deemed it proper on that account to notice the possible effect of the change of sovereignty and the act of Congress establishing the fundamental principles now to be observed. Upon a consideration of the whole case, we are of opinion that law and justice require that the applicant should be granted what he seeks, and should not be deprived of what, by the practice and belief of

LAND TITLES AND DEEDS


those among whom he lived, was his property, through a refined interpretation of an almost forgotten law of Spain. Judgment reversed.

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ownership over lands of the public domain as well as minerals and other natural resources therein, in violation of the regalian doctrine embodied in Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution:

(1) Section 3(a) which defines the extent and coverage of ancestral domains, and Section 3(b) which, in turn, defines ancestral lands; [G.R. No. 135385. December 6, 2000] ISAGANI CRUZ and CESAR EUROPA, petitioners, vs. SECRETARY OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, SECRETARY OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT and CHAIRMAN and COMMISSIONERS OF THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, respondents.

(2) Section 5, in relation to section 3(a), which provides that ancestral domains including inalienable public lands, bodies of water, mineral and other resources found within ancestral domains are private but community property of the indigenous peoples;

Petitioners Isagani Cruz and Cesar Europa brought this suit for prohibition and mandamus as citizens and taxpayers, assailing the constitutionality of certain provisions of Republic Act No. 8371 (R.A. 8371), otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA), and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (Implementing Rules).

(3) Section 6 in relation to section 3(a) and 3(b) which defines the composition of ancestral domains and ancestral lands;

(4) Section 7 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous peoples over the ancestral domains; In its resolution of September 29, 1998, the Court required respondents to comment.[1] In compliance, respondents Chairperson and Commissioners of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the government agency created under the IPRA to implement its provisions, filed on October 13, 1998 their Comment to the Petition, in which they defend the constitutionality of the IPRA and pray that the petition be dismissed for lack of merit.

(5) Section 8 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous peoples over the ancestral lands;

On October 19, 1998, respondents Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) filed through the Solicitor General a consolidated Comment. The Solicitor General is of the view that the IPRA is partly unconstitutional on the ground that it grants ownership over natural resources to indigenous peoples and prays that the petition be granted in part.

(6) Section 57 which provides for priority rights of the indigenous peoples in the harvesting, extraction, development or exploration of minerals and other natural resources within the areas claimed to be their ancestral domains, and the right to enter into agreements with nonindigenous peoples for the development and utilization of natural resources therein for a period not exceeding 25 years, renewable for not more than 25 years; and

On November 10, 1998, a group of intervenors, composed of Sen. Juan Flavier, one of the authors of the IPRA, Mr. Ponciano Bennagen, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, and the leaders and members of 112 groups of indigenous peoples (Flavier, et. al), filed their Motion for Leave to Intervene. They join the NCIP in defending the constitutionality of IPRA and praying for the dismissal of the petition.

(7) Section 58 which gives the indigenous peoples the responsibility to maintain, develop, protect and conserve the ancestral domains and portions thereof which are found to be necessary for critical watersheds, mangroves, wildlife sanctuaries, wilderness, protected areas, forest cover or reforestation.[2]

On March 22, 1999, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) likewise filed a Motion to Intervene and/or to Appear as Amicus Curiae. The CHR asserts that IPRA is an expression of the principle of parens patriae and that the State has the responsibility to protect and guarantee the rights of those who are at a serious disadvantage like indigenous peoples. For this reason it prays that the petition be dismissed.

Petitioners also content that, by providing for an all-encompassing definition of ancestral domains and ancestral lands which might even include private lands found within said areas, Sections 3(a) and 3(b) violate the rights of private landowners.[3]

On March 23, 1999, another group, composed of the Ikalahan Indigenous People and the Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, Inc. (Haribon, et al.), filed a motion to Intervene with attached Comment-in-Intervention. They agree with the NCIP and Flavier, et al. that IPRA is consistent with the Constitution and pray that the petition for prohibition and mandamus be dismissed.

In addition, petitioners question the provisions of the IPRA defining the powers and jurisdiction of the NCIP and making customary law applicable to the settlement of disputes involving ancestral domains and ancestral lands on the ground that these provisions violate the due process clause of the Constitution.[4]

These provisions are: The motions for intervention of the aforesaid groups and organizations were granted. (1) sections 51 to 53 and 59 which detail the process of delineation and recognition of ancestral domains and which vest on the NCIP the sole authority to delineate ancestral domains and ancestral lands;

Oral arguments were heard on April 13, 1999. Thereafter, the parties and intervenors filed their respective memoranda in which they reiterate the arguments adduced in their earlier pleadings and during the hearing.

Petitioners assail the constitutionality of the following provisions of the IPRA and its Implementing Rules on the ground that they amount to an unlawful deprivation of the States

(2) Section 52[i] which provides that upon certification by the NCIP that a particular area is an ancestral domain and upon notification to the following officials, namely, the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Secretary of Interior and Local Governments, Secretary of Justice and Commissioner of the National Development Corporation, the jurisdiction of said officials over said area terminates;

LAND TITLES AND DEEDS

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(3) Section 63 which provides the customary law, traditions and practices of indigenous peoples shall be applied first with respect to property rights, claims of ownership, hereditary succession and settlement of land disputes, and that any doubt or ambiguity in the interpretation thereof shall be resolved in favor of the indigenous peoples;

(4) Section 65 which states that customary laws and practices shall be used to resolve disputes involving indigenous peoples; and

Seven (7) other members of the Court voted to grant the petition. Justice Panganiban filed a separate opinion expressing the view that Sections 3 (a)(b), 5, 6, 7 (a)(b), 8, and related provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. He reserves judgment on the constitutionality of Sections 58, 59, 65, and 66 of the law, which he believes must await the filing of specific cases by those whose rights may have been violated by the IPRA. Justice Vitug also filed a separate opinion expressing the view that Sections 3(a), 7, and 57 of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. Justices Melo, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and De Leon join in the separate opinions of Justices Panganiban and Vitug.

(5) Section 66 which vests on the NCIP the jurisdiction over all claims and disputes involving rights of the indigenous peoples.[5]

As the votes were equally divided (7 to 7) and the necessary majority was not obtained, the case was redeliberated upon. However, after redeliberation, the voting remained the same. Accordingly, pursuant to Rule 56, Section 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the petition is DISMISSED.

Finally, petitioners assail the validity of Rule VII, Part II, Section 1 of the NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, which provides that the administrative relationship of the NCIP to the Office of the President is characterized as a lateral but autonomous relationship for purposes of policy and program coordination. They contend that said Rule infringes upon the Presidents power of control over executive departments under Section 17, Article VII of the Constitution.[6]

Attached hereto and made integral parts thereof are the separate opinions of Justices Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, and Panganiban. G.R. No. 171631 : November 15, 2010 REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. AVELINO R. DELA PAZ, ARSENIO R. DELA PAZ, JOSE R. DELA PAZ, and GLICERIO R. DELA PAZ, represented by JOSE R. DELA PAZ, Respondents.

Petitioners pray for the following:

(1) A declaration that Sections 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 52[I], 57, 58, 59, 63, 65 and 66 and other related provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional and invalid;

Before this Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking to set aside the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA), dated February 15, 2006, in CA-G.R. CV No. 84206, which affirmed the Decision[2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City, Branch 167, in LRC Case No. N-11514, granting respondents application for registration and confirmation of title over a parcel of land located in Barangay Ibayo, Napindan, Taguig, Metro Manila. The factual milieu of this case is as follows:

(2) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Chairperson and Commissioners of the NCIP to cease and desist from implementing the assailed provisions of R.A. 8371 and its Implementing Rules;

(3) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to cease and desist from implementing Department of Environment and Natural Resources Circular No. 2, series of 1998;

(4) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of Budget and Management to cease and desist from disbursing public funds for the implementation of the assailed provisions of R.A. 8371; and

On November 13, 2003, respondents Avelino R. dela Paz, Arsenio R. dela Paz, Jose R. dela Paz, and Glicerio R. dela Paz, represented by Jose R. dela Paz (Jose), filed with the RTC of Pasig City an application for registration of land[3] under Presidential Decree No. 1529 (PD 1529) otherwise known as the PropertyRegistration Decree. The application covered a parcel of land with an area of 25,825 square meters, situated at Ibayo, Napindan, Taguig, Metro Manila, describedunder survey Plan Ccn-00-000084, (Conversion Consolidated plan of Lot Nos. 3212 and 3234, MCADM 590-D, Taguig Cadastral Mapping). Together with their application for registration, respondents submitted the following documents: (1) Special power of attorney showing that the respondents authorized Jose dela Paz to file the application; (2) Conversion Consolidated plan of Lot Nos. 3212 and 3234, MCADM 590-D, Taguig Cadastral Mapping (Ccn-00-000084) with the annotation that the survey is inside L.C. Map No. 2623 Proj. No. 27-B classified as alienable/disposable by the Bureau of Forest Development, Quezon City on January03, 1968; (3) Technical Descriptions of Ccn-00000084; (4) Geodetic Engineer's Certificate; (5) Tax Declaration No. FL-018-01466; (6) Salaysay ng Pagkakaloob dated June 18, 1987; (7) Sinumpaang Pahayag sa Paglilipat sa Sarili ng mga Pagaari ng Namatay dated March 10, 1979; (8) Certification that the subject lots are not covered by any land patent or any public land appilcation; and (9) Certification by the Office of the Treasurer, Municipality of Taguig, Metro Manila, that the tax on the real property for the year 2003 has been paid. Respondents alleged that they acquired the subject property, which is an agricultural land, by virtue of Salaysay ng Pagkakaloob[4] dated June 18, 1987, executed by their parents Zosimo dela Paz and Ester dela Paz (Zosimo and Ester), who earlier acquired the said property from their deceased parent Alejandro dela Paz (Alejandro) by virtue of a Sinumpaang Pahayag sa Paglilipat sa Sarili ng mga Pag-aari ng Namatay[5] dated March 10, 1979. In their application, respondents claimed that they are co-owners of the subject parcel of land and they have been in continuous, uninterrupted, open, public, adverse possession of the same, in the concept of owner since they acquired it in 1987. Respondents further averred that by way of tacking of possession, they, through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, public, adverse, continuous, and uninterrupted possession of the same, in the concept of an owner even before June 12, 1945, or for a period of more than fifty (50) years since the filing of the application of registration with the trial court. They maintained that the subject property is classified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. The case was set for initial hearing on April 30, 2004. On said date, respondents presented documentary evidence to prove compliance with the jurisdictional requirements of the law. Petitioner Republic of the Philippines (Republic), through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the application for registration on the following grounds, among others: (1) that neither the applicants nor theirpredecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,

(5) The issuance of a writ of mandamus commanding the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources to comply with his duty of carrying out the States constitutional mandate to control and supervise the exploration, development, utilization and conservation of Philippine natural resources.[7]

After due deliberation on the petition, the members of the Court voted as follows:

Seven (7) voted to dismiss the petition. Justice Kapunan filed an opinion, which the Chief Justice and Justices Bellosillo, Quisumbing, and Santiago join, sustaining the validity of the challenged provisions of R.A. 8371. Justice Puno also filed a separate opinion sustaining all challenged provisions of the law with the exception of Section 1, Part II, Rule III of NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, the Rules and Regulations Implementing the IPRA, and Section 57 of the IPRA which he contends should be interpreted as dealing with the large-scale exploitation of natural resources and should be read in conjunction with Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. On the other hand, Justice Mendoza voted to dismiss the petition solely on the ground that it does not raise a justiciable controversy and petitioners do not have standing to question the constitutionality of R.A. 8371.

LAND TITLES AND DEEDS


exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the land in question for a period of not less than thirty (30) years; (2) that the muniments of title, and/or the tax declarations and tax payments receipts of applicants, if any, attached to or alleged in the application, do not constitute competent and sufficient evidence of bona fide acquisition of the land applied for; and (3) that the parcel of land applied for is a portion of public domain belonging to the Republic not subject to private appropriation. Except for the Republic, there was no other oppositor to the application. On May 5, 2004, the trial court issued an Order of General Default[6] against the whole world except as against the Republic. Thereafter, respondents presented their evidence in support of their application. In its Decision dated November 17, 2004, the RTC granted respondents' application for registration of the subject property. The dispositive portion of the decision states: WHEREFORE, affirming the order of general default hereto entered, judgment is hereby rendered AFFIRMING and CONFIRMING the title of AVELINO R. DELA PAZ, Arsenio R. dela Paz, Jose R. dela Paz and Glicerio R. dela Paz, all married and residents of and with postal address at No. 65 Ibayo, Napindan, Taguig, Metro Manila, over a parcel of land described and bounded under Plan Ccn-00-000084 (consolidation of Lots No. 3212 and 3234, Mcadm-590-D, Taguig, Cadastral Mapping, containing Twenty-Five Thousand Eight Hundred Twenty-Five (25,825) Square Meters, more or less, situated at Barangay Ibayo, Napindan, Taguig, Metro Manila, under the operation of P.D. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree. After the decision shall have been become final and executory and, upon payment of all taxes and other charges due on the land, the order for the issuance of a decree of registration shall be accordingly undertaken. SO ORDERED.[7] Aggrieved by the Decision, petitioner filed a Notice of Appeal.[8]The CA, in its Decision dated February 15, 2006, dismissed the appeal and affirmed the decision of the RTC. The CA ruled that respondents were able to show that they have been in continuous, open, exclusive and notorious possession of the subject property through themselves and their predecessors-in-interest. The CA found that respondents acquired the subject land from their predecessors-in-interest, who have been in actual, continuous, uninterrupted, public and adverse possession in the concept of an owner since time immemorial. The CA, likewise, held that respondents were able to present sufficient evidence to establish that the subject property is part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. Hence, the instant petition raising the following grounds: I THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE TRIAL COURT'S ORDER GRANTING RESPONDENTS' APPLICATION FOR REGISTRATION OF THE SUBJECT LOT CONSIDERING THAT THE EVIDENCE ON RECORD FAILED TO ESTABLISH THAT RESPONDENTS HAVE BEEN IN OPEN, CONTINUOUS, EXCLUSIVE AND NOTORIOUS POSSESSION OF THE SUBJECT LOT IN THE CONCEPT OF AN OWNER. II Respondents' reliance on the afore-mentioned annotation is misplaced. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN ORDERING THE REGISTRATION OF THE SUBJECT LOT IN RESPONDENTS' NAME CONSIDERING THAT NO EVIDENCE WAS FORMALLY OFFERED TO PROVE THAT THE SAME IS WITHIN THE ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE AREA OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.[9] In its Memorandum, petitioner claims that the CA's findings that respondents and their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, uninterrupted, public, and adverse possession in the concept of owners, for more than fifty years or even before June 12, 1945, was unsubstantiated. Respondents failed to show actual or constructive possession and occupation over the subject land in the concept of an owner. Respondents also failed to establish that the subject property is within the alienable and disposable portion of the public domain. The subject property remained to be owned by the State under the Regalian Doctrine. In their Memorandum, respondents alleged that they were able to present evidence of specific acts of ownership showing open, notorious, continuous and adverse possession and occupation in the concept of an owner of the subject land. To prove their continuous and uninterrupted possession of the subject land, they presented several tax declarations, dated 1949, 1966, 1974, 1979, 1980, 1985, 1991, 1994 and 2000, issued in the name of their predecessors-in-interest. In addition, respondents presented a tax clearance issued by the Treasurer's Office of the City of Taguig to show that they are up to date in their payment of real property taxes. Respondents maintain that the annotations appearing on the survey plan of the subject land serves as sufficient proof that the land is within the alienable and disposable portion of the public domain. Finally, respondents assert that the issues raised by

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the petitioner are questions of fact which the Court should not consider in a petition for review under Rule 45. chanrobles The petition is meritorious. In petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court, this Court is limited to reviewing only errors of law, not of fact, unless the factual findings complained of are devoid of support by the evidence on record, or the assailed judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts.[10] It is not the function of this Court to analyze or weigh evidence all over again, unless there is a showing that the findings of the lower court are totally devoid of support or are glaringly erroneous as to constitute palpable error or grave abuse of discretion.[11] chanrobles In the present case, the records do not support the findings made by the CA that the subject land is part of the alienable and disposable portion of the public domain. chanrobles Section 14 (1) of PD 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree provides: SEC. 14. Who may apply. - The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives: (1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier. From the foregoing, respondents need to prove that (1) the land forms part of the alienable and disposable land of the public domain; and (2) they, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest, have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land under a bona fide claim of ownership from June 12, 1945 or earlier.[12] These the respondents must prove by no less than clear, positive and convincing evidence.[13]chanrobles Under the Regalian doctrine, which is embodied in our Constitution, all lands of the public domain belong to the State, which is the source of any asserted right to any ownership of land. All lands not appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. Accordingly, public lands not shown to have been reclassified or released as alienable agricultural land, or alienated to a private person by the State, remain part of the inalienable public domain.[14] The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of the lands of the public domain is on the person applying for registration (or claiming ownership), who must prove that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable.To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be established that the land subject of the application (or claim) is alienable or disposable.[15] chanrobles To support its contention that the land subject of the application for registration is alienable, respondents presented survey Plan Ccn-00-000084[16] chanrobles (Conversion Consolidated plan of Lot Nos. 3212 & 3234, MCADM 590-D, Taguig Cadastral Mapping) prepared by Geodetic Engineer Arnaldo C. Torres with the following annotation: This survey is inside L.C. Map No. 2623 Proj. No. 27-B clasified as alienable/disposable by the Bureau of Forest Development, Quezon City on Jan. 03, 1968.

In Republic v. Sarmiento,[17] the Court ruled that the notation of the surveyor-geodetic engineer on the blue print copy of the conversion and subdivision plan approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Center, that this survey is inside the alienable and disposable area, Project No. 27-B. L.C. Map No. 2623, certified on January 3, 1968 by the Bureau of Forestry, is insufficient and does not constitute incontrovertible evidence to overcome the presumption that the land remains part of the inalienable public domain. Further, in Republic v. Tri-plus Corporation,[18] the Court held that: In the present case, the only evidence to prove the character of the subject lands as required by law is the notation appearing in the Advance Plan stating in effect that the said properties are alienable and disposable. However, this is hardly the kind of proof required by law. To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, an applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the government, such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order, an administrative action, investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators, and a legislative act or statute. The applicant may also secure a certification from the Government that the lands applied for are alienable and disposable. In the case at bar, while the Advance Plan bearing the notation was certified by the Lands Management Services of the DENR, the certification refers only to the technical correctness of the survey plotted in the said plan and has nothing to do whatsoever with the nature and character of the property surveyed. Respondents failed to submit a

LAND TITLES AND DEEDS


certification from the proper government agency to prove that the lands subject for registration are indeed alienable and disposable. Furthermore, in Republic of the Philippines v. Rosila Roche,[19] the Court held that the applicant bears the burden of proving the status of the land. In this connection, the Court has held that he must present a certificate of land classification status issued by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), or the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of the DENR. He must also prove that the DENR Secretary had approved the land classification and released the land as alienable and disposable, and that it is within the approved area per verification through survey by the CENRO or PENRO. Further, the applicant must present a copy of the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as true copy by the legal custodian of the official records. These facts must be established by the applicant to prove that the land is alienable and disposable. chanrobles Clearly, the surveyor's annotation presented by respondents is not the kind of proof required by law to prove that the subject land falls within the alienable and disposable zone.Respondents failed to submit a certification from the proper government agency to establish that the subject land are part of the alienable and disposable portion of the public domain. In the absence of incontrovertible evidence to prove that the subject property is already classified as alienable and disposable, we must consider the same as still inalienable public domain.[20] chanrobles Anent respondents possession and occupation of the subject property, a reading of the records failed to show that the respondents by themselves or through their predecessors-ininterest possessed and occupied the subject land since June 12, 1945 or earlier. The evidence submitted by respondents to prove their possession and occupation over the subject property consists of the testimonies of Jose and Amado Geronimo (Amado), the tenant of the adjacent lot. However, their testimonies failed to establish respondents predecessors-in-interest' possession and occupation of subject property since June 12, 1945 or earlier. Jose, who was born on March 19, 1939,[21] testified that since he attained the age of reason he already knew that the land subject of this case belonged to them.[22] Amado testified that he was a tenant of the land adjacent to the subject property since 1950,[23] and on about the same year, he knew that the respondents were occupying the subject land.[24] chanrobles Jose and Amado's testimonies consist merely of general statements with no specific details as to when respondents' predecessors-in-interest began actual occupancy of the land subject of this case. While Jose testified that the subject land was previously owned by their parents Zosimo and Ester, who earlier inherited the property from their parent Alejandro, no clear evidence was presented to show Alejandro's mode of acquisition of ownership and that he had been in possession of the same on or before June 12, 1945, the period of possession required by law. It is a rule that general statements that are mere conclusions of law and not factual proof of possession are unavailing and cannot suffice.[25] An applicant in a land registration case cannot just harp on mere conclusions of law to embellish the application but must impress thereto the facts and circumstances evidencing the alleged ownership and possession of the land.[26] chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary Respondents earliest evidence can be traced back to a tax declaration issued in the name of their predecessors-in-interest only in the year 1949. At best, respondents can only prove possession since said date. What is required is open, exclusive, continuous and notorious possession by respondents and their predecessors-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of ownership, since June 12, 1945 or earlier.[27] Respondents failed to explain why, despite their claim that their predecessors-in interest have possessed the subject properties in the concept of an owner even before June 12, 1945, it was only in 1949 that their predecessorsin-interest started to declare the same for purposes of taxation. Well settled is the rule that tax declarations and receipts are not conclusive evidence of ownership or of the right to possess land when not supported by any other evidence.The fact that the disputed property may have been declared for taxation purposes in the names of the applicants for registration or of their predecessors-in-interest does not necessarily prove ownership. They are merely indicia of a claim of ownership.[28] chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary The foregoing pieces of evidence, taken together, failed to paint a clear picture that respondents by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, exclusive, continuous and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land, under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier. Evidently, since respondents failed to prove that (1) the subject property was classified as part of the disposable and alienable land of the public domain; and (2) they and their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation thereof under a bonafide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier, their application for confirmation and registration of the subject property under PD 1529 should be denied. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated February 15, 2006, in CA-G.R. CV No. 84206, affirming the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 167, in LRC Case No. N-11514, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The application for registration and confirmation of title filed by respondents Avelino R. dela

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Paz, Arsenio R. dela Paz, Jose R. dela Paz, and Glicerio R. dela Paz, as represented by Jose R. dela Paz, over a parcel of land, with a total area of twenty-five thousand eight hundred twenty-five (25,825) square meters situated at Barangay Ibayo, Napindan, Taguig, Metro Manila, is DENIED. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary SO ORDERED. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES vs ROCHE, G.R. No. 175846

This case is about the need for applicant for original registration of title to prove that the land applied for is alienable or disposable land of the public domain. The Facts and the Case On December 5, 1996 Rosila Roche applied for registration of title1[1] of her 15,353-square-meter land in Barrio Napindan, Taguig, Metro Manila,2[2] denominated as Lot 8698, before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City, Branch 155. Roche alleged that she inherited the land in 1960 from her father, Miguel, who in turn had held the land in the concept of an owner when Roche was only about six years old. She was born on that land on January 10, 1938 and had helped her father cultivate it.3[3] Roche had also paid the realty taxes on the land, which had an assessed value of P490,000.00. To support her application for registration, Roche presented, among others, a certified true copy of the survey plan of the land,4[4] its technical description,5[5] a Certification from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in lieu of the Geodetic Engineers Certificate,6[6] tax declarations,7[7] and real property tax receipts.8[8] She also presented certifications that the Land Registration Authority (LRA) and the National Printing Office issued to show compliance with requirements of service of notice to adjoining owners and publication of notice of initial hearing.9[9] As proof of her open, continuous, and uninterrupted possession of the land, Roche presented Manuel Adriano, a former resident of Napindan who owned an unregistered property adjoining Lot 8698. Adriano testified that he had been a resident of the place where the land was located from 1949 to 1996 when he moved to Pampanga.10[10] He drew a sketch showing the location of Lot 8698 in relation to his own and identified the owners of the other adjoining lots.11[11] He claimed to have known Roches father since the latter had been cultivating vegetables and rice on the land.12[12]

LAND TITLES AND DEEDS


The Republic of the Philippines (the Government), through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the application on the grounds a) that neither Roche nor her predecessor-in-interest had occupied the land for the required period; and b) that the land belonged to the State and is not subject to private acquisition.13[13] The Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) also opposed14[14] Roches application on the ground that, based on technical descriptions, her land was located below the reglementary lake elevation of 12.50 meters and, therefore, may be deemed part of the Laguna Lake bed under Section 4115[15] of Republic Act (R.A.) 4850. On September 7, 1999 the OSG filed a manifestation that, since Roche failed to prove that the land was part of the alienable land of the public domain, the Government did not need to present evidence in the case. It also adopted LLDAs opposition.16[16] On September 30, 1999 the RTC rendered judgment,17[17] granting Roches application. The RTC held that Roche had proved continued adverse possession of the land in the concept of an owner since June 12, 1945 or earlier, pursuant to Presidential Decree (P.D.) 1959. Assuming that the land was part of the public domain, Roche and her predecessors occupation and cultivation of more than 30 years vested title on her, effectively segregating it from the mass of public land.18[18] Moreover, the LLDA did not prove by substantial evidence that the land was inalienable and part of the Laguna Lake bed. On appeal by the Government,19[19] the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the decision of the RTC.20[20] The OSG filed a motion for reconsideration but the CA denied the same, prompting the Government to file the present petition. The Issue Presented The sole issue the petition presents is whether or not the land subject of Roches application is alienable or disposable land of the public domain.

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water. R.A. 4850 provides that the Lake is that area covered with water when it is at the average maximum lake level of 12.50 meters. This presupposed that the lake extends only to lakeshore lands. The land in this case does not adjoin the Laguna Lake.22[22]

An application for registration of title must, under Section 14(1), P.D. 1529, meet three requirements: a) that the property is alienable and disposable land of the public domain; b) that the applicants by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the land; and c) that such possession is under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier.23[23]

Under the Regalian doctrine, all lands of the public domain belong to the State and the latter is the source of any asserted right to ownership in land. Thus, the State presumably owns all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership. To overcome such presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be shown by the applicant that the land subject of registration is alienable and disposable.24[24]

The Ruling of the Court

Respecting the third requirement, the applicant bears the burden of proving the status of the land.25[25] In this connection, the Court has held that he must present a certificate of land classification status issued by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO)26[26] or the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO)27[27] of the DENR. He must also prove that the DENR Secretary had approved the land classification and released the land as alienable and disposable, and that it is within the approved area per verification through survey by the CENRO or PENRO. Further, the applicant must present a copy of the original classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as true copy by the legal custodian of the official records. These facts must be established by the applicant to prove that the land is alienable and disposable.28[28]

The Government insists that the subject land forms part of the lake bed and that it has not been released into the mass of alienable and disposable land of the public domain. As such, Roche cannot register title to it in her name.21[21]

Here, Roche did not present evidence that the land she applied for has been classified as alienable or disposable land of the public domain. She submitted only the survey map and technical description of the land which bears no information regarding the lands classification. She did not bother to establish the status of the land by any certification from the appropriate government agency. Thus, it cannot be said that she complied with all requisites for registration of title under Section 14(1) of P.D. 1529.29[29]

Roche points out, on the other hand, that the lot could not possibly be part of the Laguna Lakes bed since it has always been planted to crops and is not covered by

LAND TITLES AND DEEDS


Since Roche was unable to overcome the presumption that the land she applied for is inalienable land that belongs to the State, the Government did not have to adduce evidence to prove it. I.

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WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the decision of the Court of Appeals dated August 31, 2006 in CA-G.R. CV 65567 as well as the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City in LRC N-11330 dated September 30, 1999 and DENIES respondent Rosila Roches application for registration of title over Lot 8698 located in Barrio Napindan, Taguig, Metro Manila, without prejudice to her proving by appropriate evidence her right to registration of the same at a future time.

On 20 February 1998, Mario Malabanan filed an application for land registration covering a parcel of land identified as Lot 9864-A, Cad-452-D, Silang Cadastre,31[2] situated in Barangay Tibig, Silang Cavite, and consisting of 71,324 square meters. Malabanan claimed that he had purchased the property from Eduardo Velazco,32[3] and that he and his predecessors-in-interest had been in open, notorious, and continuous adverse and peaceful possession of the land for more than thirty (30) years.

SO ORDERED. MALABANAN VS REPUBLIC One main reason why the informal sector has not become formal is that from Indonesia to Brazil, 90 percent of the informal lands are not titled and registered. This is a generalized phenomenon in the so-called Third World. And it has many consequences.

The application was raffled to the Regional Trial Court of (RTC) CaviteTagaytay City, Branch 18. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) duly designated the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor of Cavite, Jose Velazco, Jr., to appear on behalf of the State.33[4] Apart from presenting documentary evidence, Malabanan himself and his witness, Aristedes Velazco, testified at the hearing. Velazco testified that the property was originally belonged to a twenty-two hectare property owned by his great-grandfather, Lino Velazco. Lino had four sons Benedicto, Gregorio, Eduardo and Estebanthe fourth being Aristedess grandfather. Upon Linos death, his four sons inherited the property and divided it among themselves. But by 1966, Estebans wife, Magdalena, had become the administrator of all the properties inherited by the Velazco sons from their father, Lino. After the death of Esteban and Magdalena, their son Virgilio succeeded them in administering the properties, including Lot 9864-A, which originally belonged to his uncle, Eduardo Velazco. It was this property that was sold by Eduardo Velazco to Malabanan.34[5]

xxx The question is: How is it that so many governments, from Suharto's in Indonesia to Fujimori's in Peru, have wanted to title these people and have not been able to do so effectively? One reason is that none of the state systems in Asia or Latin America can gather proof of informal titles. In Peru, the informals have means of proving property ownership to each other which are not the same means developed by the Spanish legal system. The informals have their own papers, their own forms of agreements, and their own systems of registration, all of which are very clearly stated in the maps which they use for their own informal business transactions. If you take a walk through the countryside, from Indonesia to Peru, and you walk by field after field--in each field a different dog is going to bark at you. Even dogs know what private property is all about. The only one who does not know it is the government. The issue is that there exists a "common law" and an "informal law" which the Latin American formal legal system does not know how to recognize. Hernando De Soto30[1] Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Jose Velazco, Jr. did not cross-examine Aristedes Velazco. He further manifested that he also [knew] the property and I affirm the truth of the testimony given by Mr. Velazco.35[6] The Republic of the Philippines likewise did not present any evidence to controvert the application.

Among the evidence presented by Malabanan during trial was a Certification dated 11 June 2001, issued by the Community Environment & Natural Resources Office, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO-DENR), which stated that the subject property was verified to be within the Alienable or Disposable land per Land Classification Map No. 3013 established under Project No. 20-A and approved as such under FAO 4-1656 on March 15, 1982.36[7] On 3 December 2002, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of Malabanan, the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, this Court hereby approves this application for registration and thus places under the operation of Act 141, Act 496 and/or P.D. 1529, otherwise known as Property Registration Law, the lands described in Plan Csd-04-0173123-D, Lot 9864-A and containing an area of Seventy One Thousand Three Hundred Twenty Four (71,324) Square Meters, as supported by its technical description now forming part of the record of this case, in addition to other proofs adduced in the name of MARIO MALABANAN, who is of legal age, Filipino, widower, and with residence at Munting Ilog, Silang, Cavite.

This decision inevitably affects all untitled lands currently in possession of persons and entities other than the Philippine government. The petition, while unremarkable as to the facts, was accepted by the Court en banc in order to provide definitive clarity to the applicability and scope of original registration proceedings under Sections 14(1) and 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree. In doing so, the Court confronts not only the relevant provisions of the Public Land Act and the Civil Code, but also the reality on the ground. The countrywide phenomenon of untitled lands, as well as the problem of informal settlement it has spawned, has unfortunately been treated with benign neglect. Yet our current laws are hemmed in by their own circumscriptions in addressing the phenomenon. Still, the duty on our part is primarily to decide cases before us in accord with the Constitution and the legal principles that have developed our public land law, though our social obligations dissuade us from casting a blind eye on the endemic problems.

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Once this Decision becomes final and executory, the corresponding decree of registration shall forthwith issue. SO ORDERED.

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Section 14(1) of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree, should the land be classified as alienable and disposable as of June 12, 1945 or is it sufficient that such classification occur at any time prior to the filing of the applicant for registration provided that it is established that the applicant has been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the land under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier? 2. For purposes of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree may a parcel of land classified as alienable and disposable be deemed private land and therefore susceptible to acquisition by prescription in accordance with the Civil Code? 3. May a parcel of land established as agricultural in character either because of its use or because its slope is below that of forest lands be registrable under Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree in relation to the provisions of the Civil Code on acquisitive prescription? 4. Are petitioners entitled to the registration of the subject land in their names under Section 14(1) or Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree or both?42[13]

The Republic interposed an appeal to the Court of Appeals, arguing that Malabanan had failed to prove that the property belonged to the alienable and disposable land of the public domain, and that the RTC had erred in finding that he had been in possession of the property in the manner and for the length of time required by law for confirmation of imperfect title.

On 23 February 2007, the Court of Appeals rendered a Decision37[8] reversing the RTC and dismissing the application of Malabanan. The appellate court held that under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree any period of possession prior to the classification of the lots as alienable and disposable was inconsequential and should be excluded from the computation of the period of possession. Thus, the appellate court noted that since the CENRO-DENR certification had verified that the property was declared alienable and disposable only on 15 March 1982, the Velazcos possession prior to that date could not be factored in the computation of the period of possession. This interpretation of the Court of Appeals of Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree was based on the Courts ruling in Republic v. Herbieto.38[9]

Based on these issues, the parties formulated their respective positions.

Malabanan died while the case was pending with the Court of Appeals;39[10] hence, it was his heirs who appealed the decision of the appellate court. Petitioners, before this Court, rely on our ruling in Republic v. Naguit,40[11] which was handed down just four months prior to Herbieto. Petitioners suggest that the discussion in Herbieto cited by the Court of Appeals is actually obiter dictum since the Metropolitan Trial Court therein which had directed the registration of the property had no jurisdiction in the first place since the requisite notice of hearing was published only after the hearing had already begun. Naguit, petitioners argue, remains the controlling doctrine, especially when the property in question is agricultural land. Therefore, with respect to agricultural lands, any possession prior to the declaration of the alienable property as disposable may be counted in reckoning the period of possession to perfect title under the Public Land Act and the Property Registration Decree.

With respect to Section 14(1), petitioners reiterate that the analysis of the Court in Naguit is the correct interpretation of the provision. The seemingly contradictory pronouncement in Herbieto, it is submitted, should be considered obiter dictum, since the land registration proceedings therein was void ab initio due to lack of publication of the notice of initial hearing. Petitioners further point out that in Republic v. Bibonia,43[14] promulgated in June of 2007, the Court applied Naguit and adopted the same observation that the preferred interpretation by the OSG of Section 14(1) was patently absurd. For its part, the OSG remains insistent that for Section 14(1) to apply, the land should have been classified as alienable and disposable as of 12 June 1945. Apart from Herbieto, the OSG also cites the subsequent rulings in Buenaventura v. Republic,44[15] Fieldman Agricultural Trading v. Republic45[16] and Republic v. Imperial Credit Corporation,46[17] as well as the earlier case of Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals.47[18]

The petition was referred to the Court en banc,41[12] and on 11 November 2008, the case was heard on oral arguments. The Court formulated the principal issues for the oral arguments, to wit:

With respect to Section 14(2), petitioners submit that open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of an alienable land of the public domain for more than 30 years ipso jure converts the land into private property, thus placing it under the coverage of Section 14(2). According to them, it would not matter whether the land sought to be registered was previously classified as agricultural land of the public domain so long as, at the time of the application, the property had already been converted into private property through prescription. To bolster their argument, petitioners cite extensively from our 2008 ruling in Republic v. T.A.N. Properties.48[19]

1. In order that an alienable and disposable land of the public domain may be registered under

LAND TITLES AND DEEDS

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The arguments submitted by the OSG with respect to Section 14(2) are more extensive. The OSG notes that under Article 1113 of the Civil Code, the acquisitive prescription of properties of the State refers to patrimonial property, while Section 14(2) speaks of private lands. It observes that the Court has yet to decide a case that presented Section 14(2) as a ground for application for registration, and that the 30-year possession period refers to the period of possession under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, and not the concept of prescription under the Civil Code. The OSG further submits that, assuming that the 30-year prescriptive period can run against public lands, said period should be reckoned from the time the public land was declared alienable and disposable.

a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. Section 48(b) of Com. Act No. 141 received its present wording in 1977 when the law was amended by P.D. No. 1073. Two significant amendments were introduced by P.D. No. 1073. First, the term agricultural lands was changed to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. The OSG submits that this amendment restricted the scope of the lands that may be registered.52[23] This is not actually the case. Under Section 9 of the Public Land Act, agricultural lands are a mere subset of lands of the public domain alienable or open to disposition. Evidently, alienable and disposable lands of the public domain are a larger class than only agricultural lands.

Both sides likewise offer special arguments with respect to the particular factual circumstances surrounding the subject property and the ownership thereof.

II. First, we discuss Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree. For a full understanding of the provision, reference has to be made to the Public Land Act.

Second, the length of the requisite possession was changed from possession for thirty (30) years immediately preceding the filing of the application to possession since June 12, 1945 or earlier. The Court in Naguit explained:

A. Commonwealth Act No. 141, also known as the Public Land Act, has, since its enactment, governed the classification and disposition of lands of the public domain. The President is authorized, from time to time, to classify the lands of the public domain into alienable and disposable, timber, or mineral lands.49[20] Alienable and disposable lands of the public domain are further classified according to their uses into (a) agricultural; (b) residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes; (c) educational, charitable, or other similar purposes; or (d) reservations for town sites and for public and quasi-public uses.50[21]

When the Public Land Act was first promulgated in 1936, the period of possession deemed necessary to vest the right to register their title to agricultural lands of the public domain commenced from July 26, 1894. However, this period was amended by R.A. No. 1942, which provided that the bona fide claim of ownership must have been for at least thirty (30) years. Then in 1977, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act was again amended, this time by P.D. No. 1073, which pegged the reckoning date at June 12, 1945. xxx

It bears further observation that Section 48(b) of Com. Act No, 141 is virtually the same as Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree. Said Decree codified the various laws relative to the registration of property, including lands of the public domain. It is Section 14(1) that operationalizes the registration of such lands of the public domain. The provision reads:

May a private person validly seek the registration in his/her name of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain? Section 11 of the Public Land Act acknowledges that public lands suitable for agricultural purposes may be disposed of by confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles through judicial legalization.51[22] Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by P.D. No. 1073, supplies the details and unmistakably grants that right, subject to the requisites stated therein:

SECTION 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such land or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit: xxx (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under

(1) those who by themselves or through their predecessors-ininterest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.

Notwithstanding the passage of the Property Registration Decree and the inclusion of Section 14(1) therein, the Public Land Act has remained in effect. Both laws commonly refer to persons or their predecessors-in-interest who have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier. That circumstance may have led to the impression that one or the other is a redundancy, or that Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act has somehow been repealed or mooted. That is not the case.

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The opening clauses of Section 48 of the Public Land Act and Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree warrant comparison:

Accordingly under the current state of the law, the substantive right granted under Section 48(b) may be availed of only until 31 December 2020. Despite the clear text of Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended and Section 14(a) of the Property Registration Decree, the OSG has adopted the position that for one to acquire the right to seek registration of an alienable and disposable land of the public domain, it is not enough that the applicant and his/her predecessors-in-interest be in possession under a bona fide claim of ownership since 12 June 1945; the alienable and disposable character of the property must have been declared also as of 12 June 1945. Following the OSGs approach, all lands certified as alienable and disposable after 12 June 1945 cannot be registered either under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree or Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act as amended. The absurdity of such an implication was discussed in Naguit.

Sec. 48 [of the Public Land Act]. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such land or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit: xxx Sec. 14 [of the Property Registration Decree]. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives: xxx It is clear that Section 48 of the Public Land Act is more descriptive of the nature of the right enjoyed by the possessor than Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree, which seems to presume the pre-existence of the right, rather than establishing the right itself for the first time. It is proper to assert that it is the Public Land Act, as amended by P.D. No. 1073 effective 25 January 1977, that has primarily established the right of a Filipino citizen who has been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945 to perfect or complete his title by applying with the proper court for the confirmation of his ownership claim and the issuance of the corresponding certificate of title.

Petitioner suggests an interpretation that the alienable and disposable character of the land should have already been established since June 12, 1945 or earlier. This is not borne out by the plain meaning of Section 14(1). Since June 12, 1945, as used in the provision, qualifies its antecedent phrase under a bonafide claim of ownership. Generally speaking, qualifying words restrict or modify only the words or phrases to which they are immediately associated, and not those distantly or remotely located.54[25] Ad proximum antecedents fiat relation nisi impediatur sentencia. Besides, we are mindful of the absurdity that would result if we adopt petitioners position. Absent a legislative amendment, the rule would be, adopting the OSGs view, that all lands of the public domain which were not declared alienable or disposable before June 12, 1945 would not be susceptible to original registration, no matter the length of unchallenged possession by the occupant. Such interpretation renders paragraph (1) of Section 14 virtually inoperative and even precludes the government from giving it effect even as it decides to reclassify public agricultural lands as alienable and disposable. The unreasonableness of the situation would even be aggravated considering that before June 12, 1945, the Philippines was not yet even considered an independent state.

Section 48 can be viewed in conjunction with the afore-quoted Section 11 of the Public Land Act, which provides that public lands suitable for agricultural purposes may be disposed of by confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles, and given the notion that both provisions declare that it is indeed the Public Land Act that primarily establishes the substantive ownership of the possessor who has been in possession of the property since 12 June 1945. In turn, Section 14(a) of the Property Registration Decree recognizes the substantive right granted under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as well provides the corresponding original registration procedure for the judicial confirmation of an imperfect or incomplete title.

Accordingly, the Court in Naguit explained:

There is another limitation to the right granted under Section 48(b). Section 47 of the Public Land Act limits the period within which one may exercise the right to seek registration under Section 48. The provision has been amended several times, most recently by Rep. Act No. 9176 in 2002. It currently reads thus:

[T]he more reasonable interpretation of Section 14(1) is that it merely requires the property sought to be registered as already alienable and disposable at the time the application for registration of title is filed. If the State, at the time the application is made, has not yet deemed it proper to release the property for alienation or disposition, the presumption is that the government is still reserving the right to utilize the property; hence, the need to preserve its ownership in the State irrespective of the length of adverse possession even if in good faith. However, if the property has already been classified as alienable and disposable, as it is in this case, then there is already an intention on the part of the State to abdicate its exclusive prerogative over the property. The Court declares that the correct interpretation of Section 14(1) is that which was adopted in Naguit. The contrary pronouncement in Herbieto, as pointed out in Naguit, absurdly limits the application of the provision to the point of virtual inutility since it would only cover lands actually declared alienable and disposable prior to 12 June 1945, even if the current possessor is able to establish open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession under a bona fide claim of ownership long before that date. Moreover, the Naguit interpretation allows more possessors under a bona fide claim of ownership to avail of judicial confirmation of their imperfect titles than what would be feasible under Herbieto. This balancing fact is significant, especially considering our

Section 47. The persons specified in the next following section are hereby granted time, not to extend beyond December 31, 2020 within which to avail of the benefits of this Chapter: Provided, That this period shall apply only where the area applied for does not exceed twelve (12) hectares: Provided, further, That the several periods of time designated by the President in accordance with Section Forty-Five of this Act shall apply also to the lands comprised in the provisions of this Chapter, but this Section shall not be construed as prohibiting any said persons from acting under this Chapter at any time prior to the period fixed by the President.53[24]

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forthcoming discussion on the scope and reach of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree. Petitioners make the salient observation that the contradictory passages from Herbieto are obiter dicta since the land registration proceedings therein is void ab initio in the first place due to lack of the requisite publication of the notice of initial hearing. There is no need to explicitly overturn Herbieto, as it suffices that the Courts acknowledgment that the particular line of argument used therein concerning Section 14(1) is indeed obiter. It may be noted that in the subsequent case of Buenaventura,55[26] the Court, citing Herbieto, again stated that [a]ny period of possession prior to the date when the [s]ubject [property was] classified as alienable and disposable is inconsequential and should be excluded from the computation of the period of possession That statement, in the context of Section 14(1), is certainly erroneous. Nonetheless, the passage as cited in Buenaventura should again be considered as obiter. The application therein was ultimately granted, citing Section 14(2). The evidence submitted by petitioners therein did not establish any mode of possession on their part prior to 1948, thereby precluding the application of Section 14(1). It is not even apparent from the decision whether petitioners therein had claimed entitlement to original registration following Section 14(1), their position being that they had been in exclusive possession under a bona fide claim of ownership for over fifty (50) years, but not before 12 June 1945. Thus, neither Herbieto nor its principal discipular ruling Buenaventura has any precedental value with respect to Section 14(1). On the other hand, the ratio of Naguit is embedded in Section 14(1), since it precisely involved situation wherein the applicant had been in exclusive possession under a bona fide claim of ownership prior to 12 June 1945. The Courts interpretation of Section 14(1) therein was decisive to the resolution of the case. Any doubt as to which between Naguit or Herbieto provides the final word of the Court on Section 14(1) is now settled in favor of Naguit. on the ground that the property still forms part of the public domain. Nor is there any showing that the lots in question are forestal land....

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Thus, while the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that mere possession of public land for the period required by law would entitle its occupant to a confirmation of imperfect title, it did not err in ruling in favor of private respondents as far as the first requirement in Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is concerned, for they were able to overcome the burden of proving the alienability of the land subject of their application. As correctly found by the Court of Appeals, private respondents were able to prove their open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the subject land even before the year 1927. As a rule, we are bound by the factual findings of the Court of Appeals. Although there are exceptions, petitioner did not show that this is one of them.58[29]

Why did the Court in Ceniza, through the same eminent member who authored Bracewell, sanction the registration under Section 48(b) of public domain lands declared alienable or disposable thirty-five (35) years and 180 days after 12 June 1945? The telling difference is that in Ceniza, the application for registration was filed nearly six (6) years after the land had been declared alienable or disposable, while in Bracewell, the application was filed nine (9) years before the land was declared alienable or disposable. That crucial difference was also stressed in Naguit to contradistinguish it from Bracewell, a difference which the dissent seeks to belittle.

III.

We noted in Naguit that it should be distinguished from Bracewell v. Court of Appeals56[27] since in the latter, the application for registration had been filed before the land was declared alienable or disposable. The dissent though pronounces Bracewell as the better rule between the two. Yet two years after Bracewell, its ponente, the esteemed Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, penned the ruling in Republic v. Ceniza,57[28] which involved a claim of possession that extended back to 1927 over a public domain land that was declared alienable and disposable only in 1980. Ceniza cited Bracewell, quoted extensively from it, and following the mindset of the dissent, the attempt at registration in Ceniza should have failed. Not so.

We next ascertain the correct framework of analysis with respect to Section 14(2). The provision reads:

To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, an applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute. In this case, private respondents presented a certification dated November 25, 1994, issued by Eduardo M. Inting, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Office in Cebu City, stating that the lots involved were "found to be within the alienable and disposable (sic) Block-I, Land Classification Project No. 32-A, per map 2962 4-I555 dated December 9, 1980." This is sufficient evidence to show the real character of the land subject of private respondents application. Further, the certification enjoys a presumption of regularity in the absence of contradictory evidence, which is true in this case. Worth noting also was the observation of the Court of Appeals stating that: [n]o opposition was filed by the Bureaus of Lands and Forestry to contest the application of appellees

SECTION 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives: xxx

(2)

Those who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws.

The Court in Naguit offered the following discussion concerning Section 14(2), which we did even then recognize, and still do, to be an obiter dictum, but we nonetheless refer to it as material for further discussion, thus:

Did the enactment of the Property Registration Decree and the amendatory P.D. No. 1073 preclude the application

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for registration of alienable lands of the public domain, possession over which commenced only after June 12, 1945? It did not, considering Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, which governs and authorizes the application of those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws. Prescription is one of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil Code.[59[30]] There is a consistent jurisprudential rule that properties classified as alienable public land may be converted into private property by reason of open, continuous and exclusive possession of at least thirty (30) years.[60[31]] With such conversion, such property may now fall within the contemplation of private lands under Section 14(2), and thus susceptible to registration by those who have acquired ownership through prescription. Thus, even if possession of the alienable public land commenced on a date later than June 12, 1945, and such possession being been open, continuous and exclusive, then the possessor may have the right to register the land by virtue of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree.

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years.62[33] Ordinary acquisitive prescription requires possession in good faith,63[34] as well as just title.64[35]

When Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree explicitly provides that persons who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws, it unmistakably refers to the Civil Code as a valid basis for the registration of lands. The Civil Code is the only existing law that specifically allows the acquisition by prescription of private lands, including patrimonial property belonging to the State. Thus, the critical question that needs affirmation is whether Section 14(2) does encompass original registration proceedings over patrimonial property of the State, which a private person has acquired through prescription.

Naguit did not involve the application of Section 14(2), unlike in this case where petitioners have based their registration bid primarily on that provision, and where the evidence definitively establishes their claim of possession only as far back as 1948. It is in this case that we can properly appreciate the nuances of the provision.

The Naguit obiter had adverted to a frequently reiterated jurisprudence holding that properties classified as alienable public land may be converted into private property by reason of open, continuous and exclusive possession of at least thirty (30) years.65[36] Yet if we ascertain the source of the thirty-year period, additional complexities relating to Section 14(2) and to how exactly it operates would emerge. For there are in fact two distinct origins of the thirty (30)-year rule.

The first source is Rep. Act No. 1942, enacted in 1957, which amended Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act by granting the right to seek original registration of alienable public lands through possession in the concept of an owner for at least thirty years. A.

The obiter in Naguit cited the Civil Code provisions on prescription as the possible basis for application for original registration under Section 14(2). Specifically, it is Article 1113 which provides legal foundation for the application. It reads:

The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit: xxx xxx xxx

All things which are within the commerce of men are susceptible of prescription, unless otherwise provided. Property of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription.

It is clear under the Civil Code that where lands of the public domain are patrimonial in character, they are susceptible to acquisitive prescription. On the other hand, among the public domain lands that are not susceptible to acquisitive prescription are timber lands and mineral lands. The Constitution itself proscribes private ownership of timber or mineral lands.

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title, except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this Chapter. (emphasis supplied)66[37]

There are in fact several provisions in the Civil Code concerning the acquisition of real property through prescription. Ownership of real property may be acquired by ordinary prescription of ten (10) years,61[32] or through extraordinary prescription of thirty (30)

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This provision was repealed in 1977 with the enactment of P.D. 1073, which made the date 12 June 1945 the reckoning point for the first time. Nonetheless, applications for registration filed prior to 1977 could have invoked the 30-year rule introduced by Rep. Act No. 1942.

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(1) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges constructed by the State, banks, shores, roadsteads, and others of similar character; (2) Those which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or for the development of the national wealth. Art. 421. All other property of the State, which is not of the character stated in the preceding article, is patrimonial property

The second source is Section 14(2) of P.D. 1529 itself, at least by implication, as it applies the rules on prescription under the Civil Code, particularly Article 1113 in relation to Article 1137. Note that there are two kinds of prescription under the Civil Codeordinary acquisitive prescription and extraordinary acquisitive prescription, which, under Article 1137, is completed through uninterrupted adverse possession for thirty years, without need of title or of good faith.

Obviously, the first source of the thirty (30)-year period rule, Rep. Act No. 1942, became unavailable after 1977. At present, the only legal basis for the thirty (30)-year period is the law on prescription under the Civil Code, as mandated under Section 14(2). However, there is a material difference between how the thirty (30)-year rule operated under Rep. Act No. 1942 and how it did under the Civil Code.

It is clear that property of public dominion, which generally includes property belonging to the State, cannot be the object of prescription or, indeed, be subject of the commerce of man.68[39] Lands of the public domain, whether declared alienable and disposable or not, are property of public dominion and thus insusceptible to acquisition by prescription.

Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by Rep. Act No. 1942, did not refer to or call into application the Civil Code provisions on prescription. It merely set forth a requisite thirty-year possession period immediately preceding the application for confirmation of title, without any qualification as to whether the property should be declared alienable at the beginning of, and continue as such, throughout the entire thirty-(30) years. There is neither statutory nor jurisprudential basis to assert Rep. Act No. 1942 had mandated such a requirement,67[38] similar to our earlier finding with respect to the present language of Section 48(b), which now sets 12 June 1945 as the point of reference.

Let us now explore the effects under the Civil Code of a declaration by the President or any duly authorized government officer of alienability and disposability of lands of the public domain. Would such lands so declared alienable and disposable be converted, under the Civil Code, from property of the public dominion into patrimonial property? After all, by connotative definition, alienable and disposable lands may be the object of the commerce of man; Article 1113 provides that all things within the commerce of man are susceptible to prescription; and the same provision further provides that patrimonial property of the State may be acquired by prescription.

Then, with the repeal of Rep. Act No. 1942, the thirty-year possession period as basis for original registration became Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, which entitled those who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws to apply for original registration. Again, the thirty-year period is derived from the rule on extraordinary prescription under Article 1137 of the Civil Code. At the same time, Section 14(2) puts into operation the entire regime of prescription under the Civil Code, a fact which does not hold true with respect to Section 14(1).

Nonetheless, Article 422 of the Civil Code states that [p]roperty of public dominion, when no longer intended for public use or for public service, shall form part of the patrimonial property of the State. It is this provision that controls how public dominion property may be converted into patrimonial property susceptible to acquisition by prescription. After all, Article 420 (2) makes clear that those property which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended for some public service or for the development of the national wealth are public dominion property. For as long as the property belongs to the State, although already classified as alienable or disposable, it remains property of the public dominion if when it is intended for some public service or for the development of the national wealth.

B.

Unlike Section 14(1), Section 14(2) explicitly refers to the principles on prescription under existing laws. Accordingly, we are impelled to apply the civil law concept of prescription, as set forth in the Civil Code, in our interpretation of Section 14(2). There is no similar demand on our part in the case of Section 14(1).

Accordingly, there must be an express declaration by the State that the public dominion property is no longer intended for public service or the development of the national wealth or that the property has been converted into patrimonial. Without such express declaration, the property, even if classified as alienable or disposable, remains property of the public dominion, pursuant to Article 420(2), and thus incapable of acquisition by prescription. It is only when such alienable and disposable lands are expressly declared by the State to be no longer intended for public service or for the development of the national wealth that the period of acquisitive prescription can begin to run. Such declaration shall be in the form of a law duly enacted by Congress or a Presidential Proclamation in cases where the President is duly authorized by law.

The critical qualification under Article 1113 of the Civil Code is thus: [p]roperty of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription. The identification what consists of patrimonial property is provided by Articles 420 and 421, which we quote in full:

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

It is comprehensible with ease that this reading of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree limits its scope and reach and thus affects the registrability even of lands already declared alienable and disposable to the detriment of the bona fide possessors or occupants claiming title to the lands. Yet this interpretation is in accord with the Regalian doctrine and its concomitant assumption that all lands owned by the State, although declared alienable or disposable, remain as such and ought to be used only by the Government.

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Recourse does not lie with this Court in the matter. The duty of the Court is to apply the Constitution and the laws in accordance with their language and intent. The remedy is to change the law, which is the province of the legislative branch. Congress can very well be entreated to amend Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree and pertinent provisions of the Civil Code to liberalize the requirements for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles.

Code. As the application for registration under Section 14(2) falls wholly within the framework of prescription under the Civil Code, there is no way that possession during the time that the land was still classified as public dominion property can be counted to meet the requisites of acquisitive prescription and justify registration.

The operation of the foregoing interpretation can be illustrated by an actual example. Republic Act No. 7227, entitled An Act Accelerating The Conversion Of Military Reservations Into Other Productive Uses, etc., is more commonly known as the BCDA law. Section 2 of the law authorizes the sale of certain military reservations and portions of military camps in Metro Manila, including Fort Bonifacio and Villamor Air Base. For purposes of effecting the sale of the military camps, the law mandates the President to transfer such military lands to the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA)69[40] which in turn is authorized to own, hold and/or administer them.70[41] The President is authorized to sell portions of the military camps, in whole or in part.71[42] Accordingly, the BCDA law itself declares that the military lands subject thereof are alienable and disposable pursuant to the provisions of existing laws and regulations governing sales of government properties.72[43]

Are we being inconsistent in applying divergent rules for Section 14(1) and Section 14(2)? There is no inconsistency. Section 14(1) mandates registration on the basis of possession, while Section 14(2) entitles registration on the basis of prescription. Registration under Section 14(1) is extended under the aegis of the Property Registration Decree and the Public Land Act while registration under Section 14(2) is made available both by the Property Registration Decree and the Civil Code.

In the same manner, we can distinguish between the thirty-year period under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by Rep. Act No. 1472, and the thirty-year period available through Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree in relation to Article 1137 of the Civil Code. The period under the former speaks of a thirty-year period of possession, while the period under the latter concerns a thirty-year period of extraordinary prescription. Registration under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act as amended by Rep. Act No. 1472 is based on thirty years of possession alone without regard to the Civil Code, while the registration under Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree is founded on extraordinary prescription under the Civil Code.

From the moment the BCDA law was enacted the subject military lands have become alienable and disposable. However, said lands did not become patrimonial, as the BCDA law itself expressly makes the reservation that these lands are to be sold in order to raise funds for the conversion of the former American bases at Clark and Subic.73[44] Such purpose can be tied to either public service or the development of national wealth under Article 420(2). Thus, at that time, the lands remained property of the public dominion under Article 420(2), notwithstanding their status as alienable and disposable. It is upon their sale as authorized under the BCDA law to a private person or entity that such lands become private property and cease to be property of the public dominion.

It may be asked why the principles of prescription under the Civil Code should not apply as well to Section 14(1). Notwithstanding the vaunted status of the Civil Code, it ultimately is just one of numerous statutes, neither superior nor inferior to other statutes such as the Property Registration Decree. The legislative branch is not bound to adhere to the framework set forth by the Civil Code when it enacts subsequent legislation. Section 14(2) manifests a clear intent to interrelate the registration allowed under that provision with the Civil Code, but no such intent exists with respect to Section 14(1).

IV. C.

Should public domain lands become patrimonial because they are declared as such in a duly enacted law or duly promulgated proclamation that they are no longer intended for public service or for the development of the national wealth, would the period of possession prior to the conversion of such public dominion into patrimonial be reckoned in counting the prescriptive period in favor of the possessors? We rule in the negative.

One of the keys to understanding the framework we set forth today is seeing how our land registration procedures correlate with our law on prescription, which, under the Civil Code, is one of the modes for acquiring ownership over property.

The limitation imposed by Article 1113 dissuades us from ruling that the period of possession before the public domain land becomes patrimonial may be counted for the purpose of completing the prescriptive period. Possession of public dominion property before it becomes patrimonial cannot be the object of prescription according to the Civil

The Civil Code makes it clear that patrimonial property of the State may be acquired by private persons through prescription. This is brought about by Article 1113, which states that [a]ll things which are within the commerce of man are susceptible to prescription, and that [p]roperty of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription.

There are two modes of prescription through which immovables may be acquired under the Civil Code. The first is ordinary acquisitive prescription, which, under Article 1117, requires possession in good faith and with just title; and, under Article 1134, is completed through possession of ten (10) years. There is nothing in the Civil Code that bars a person from acquiring patrimonial property of the State through ordinary acquisitive prescription, nor is there any apparent reason to impose such a rule. At the same time, there are indispensable requisitesgood faith and just title. The ascertainment of good faith involves the application of Articles 526, 527, and 528, as well as Article 1127 of the Civil Code,74[45] provisions that more or less speak for themselves.

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On the other hand, the concept of just title requires some clarification. Under Article 1129, there is just title for the purposes of prescription when the adverse claimant came into possession of the property through one of the modes recognized by law for the acquisition of ownership or other real rights, but the grantor was not the owner or could not transmit any right. Dr. Tolentino explains:

arguably did not preclude such registration.79[50] Still, the gap was lamentable, considering that the Civil Code, by itself, establishes ownership over the patrimonial property of persons who have completed the prescriptive periods ordained therein. The gap was finally closed with the adoption of the Property Registration Decree in 1977, with Section 14(2) thereof expressly authorizing original registration in favor of persons who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws, that is, the Civil Code as of now.

Just title is an act which has for its purpose the transmission of ownership, and which would have actually transferred ownership if the grantor had been the owner. This vice or defect is the one cured by prescription. Examples: sale with delivery, exchange, donation, succession, and dacion in payment.75[46]

V.

We synthesize the doctrines laid down in this case, as follows:

The OSG submits that the requirement of just title necessarily precludes the applicability of ordinary acquisitive prescription to patrimonial property. The major premise for the argument is that the State, as the owner and grantor, could not transmit ownership to the possessor before the completion of the required period of possession.76[47] It is evident that the OSG erred when it assumed that the grantor referred to in Article 1129 is the State. The grantor is the one from whom the person invoking ordinary acquisitive prescription derived the title, whether by sale, exchange, donation, succession or any other mode of the acquisition of ownership or other real rights.

(1) In connection with Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act recognizes and confirms that those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945 have acquired ownership of, and registrable title to, such lands based on the length and quality of their possession.

Earlier, we made it clear that, whether under ordinary prescription or extraordinary prescription, the period of possession preceding the classification of public dominion lands as patrimonial cannot be counted for the purpose of computing prescription. But after the property has been become patrimonial, the period of prescription begins to run in favor of the possessor. Once the requisite period has been completed, two legal events ensue: (1) the patrimonial property is ipso jure converted into private land; and (2) the person in possession for the periods prescribed under the Civil Code acquires ownership of the property by operation of the Civil Code.

(a) Since Section 48(b) merely requires possession since 12 June 1945 and does not require that the lands should have been alienable and disposable during the entire period of possession, the possessor is entitled to secure judicial confirmation of his title thereto as soon as it is declared alienable and disposable, subject to the timeframe imposed by Section 47 of the Public Land Act.80[51]

(b) The right to register granted under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is further confirmed by Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree. It is evident that once the possessor automatically becomes the owner of the converted patrimonial property, the ideal next step is the registration of the property under the Torrens system. It should be remembered that registration of property is not a mode of acquisition of ownership, but merely a mode of confirmation of ownership.77[48] (2) In complying with Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, consider that under the Civil Code, prescription is recognized as a mode of acquiring ownership of patrimonial property. However, public domain lands become only patrimonial property not only with a declaration that these are alienable or disposable. There must also be an express government manifestation that the property is already patrimonial or no longer retained for public service or the development of national wealth, under Article 422 of the Civil Code. And only when the property has become patrimonial can the prescriptive period for the acquisition of property of the public dominion begin to run.

Looking back at the registration regime prior to the adoption of the Property Registration Decree in 1977, it is apparent that the registration system then did not fully accommodate the acquisition of ownership of patrimonial property under the Civil Code. What the system accommodated was the confirmation of imperfect title brought about by the completion of a period of possession ordained under the Public Land Act (either 30 years following Rep. Act No. 1942, or since 12 June 1945 following P.D. No. 1073).

The Land Registration Act78[49] was noticeably silent on the requisites for alienable public lands acquired through ordinary prescription under the Civil Code, though it

(a) Patrimonial property is private property of the government. The person acquires ownership of patrimonial property by prescription under the Civil Code is entitled to secure registration thereof under Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree.

LAND TITLES AND DEEDS


(b) There are two kinds of prescription by which patrimonial property may be acquired, one ordinary and other extraordinary. Under ordinary acquisitive prescription, a person acquires ownership of a patrimonial property through possession for at least ten (10) years, in good faith and with just title. Under extraordinary acquisitive prescription, a persons uninterrupted adverse possession of patrimonial property for at least thirty (30) years, regardless of good faith or just title, ripens into ownership.

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alienable or disposable lands of the public domain, yet even that system, as revealed in this decision, has considerable limits.

B.

We now apply the above-stated doctrines to the case at bar.

There are millions upon millions of Filipinos who have individually or exclusively held residential lands on which they have lived and raised their families. Many more have tilled and made productive idle lands of the State with their hands. They have been regarded for generation by their families and their communities as common law owners. There is much to be said about the virtues of according them legitimate states. Yet such virtues are not for the Court to translate into positive law, as the law itself considered such lands as property of the public dominion. It could only be up to Congress to set forth a new phase of land reform to sensibly regularize and formalize the settlement of such lands which in legal theory are lands of the public domain before the problem becomes insoluble. This could be accomplished, to cite two examples, by liberalizing the standards for judicial confirmation of imperfect title, or amending the Civil Code itself to ease the requisites for the conversion of public dominion property into patrimonial.

It is clear that the evidence of petitioners is insufficient to establish that Malabanan has acquired ownership over the subject property under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. There is no substantive evidence to establish that Malabanan or petitioners as his predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the property since 12 June 1945 or earlier. The earliest that petitioners can date back their possession, according to their own evidencethe Tax Declarations they presented in particularis to the year 1948. Thus, they cannot avail themselves of registration under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree.

Ones sense of security over land rights infuses into every aspect of well-being not only of that individual, but also to the persons family. Once that sense of security is deprived, life and livelihood are put on stasis. It is for the political branches to bring welcome closure to the long pestering problem.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 23 February 2007 and Resolution dated 2 October 2007 are AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs.

Neither can petitioners properly invoke Section 14(2) as basis for registration. While the subject property was declared as alienable or disposable in 1982, there is no competent evidence that is no longer intended for public use service or for the development of the national evidence, conformably with Article 422 of the Civil Code. The classification of the subject property as alienable and disposable land of the public domain does not change its status as property of the public dominion under Article 420(2) of the Civil Code. Thus, it is insusceptible to acquisition by prescription.

SO ORDERED.

VI.

A final word. The Court is comfortable with the correctness of the legal doctrines established in this decision. Nonetheless, discomfiture over the implications of todays ruling cannot be discounted. For, every untitled property that is occupied in the country will be affected by this ruling. The social implications cannot be dismissed lightly, and the Court would be abdicating its social responsibility to the Filipino people if we simply levied the law without comment.

The informal settlement of public lands, whether declared alienable or not, is a phenomenon tied to long-standing habit and cultural acquiescence, and is common among the so-called Third World countries. This paradigm powerfully evokes the disconnect between a legal system and the reality on the ground. The law so far has been unable to bridge that gap. Alternative means of acquisition of these public domain lands, such as through homestead or free patent, have proven unattractive due to limitations imposed on the grantee in the encumbrance or alienation of said properties.81[52] Judicial confirmation of imperfect title has emerged as the most viable, if not the most attractive means to regularize the informal settlement of