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LandTi

LandTi

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EN BANC [G.R. No. 133250. July 9, 2002] FRANCISCO I. CHAVEZ, petitioner, vs.

PUBLIC ESTATES AUTHORITY and AMARI COASTAL BAY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, respondents. DECISION CARPIO, J.: This is an original Petition for Mandamus with prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order. The petition seeks to compel the Public Estates Authority (“PEA” for brevity) to disclose all facts on PEA’s then on-going renegotiations with Amari Coastal Bay and Development Corporation (“AMARI” for brevity) to reclaim portions of Manila Bay. The petition further seeks to enjoin PEA from signing a new agreement with AMARI involving such reclamation. The Facts On November 20, 1973, the government, through the Commissioner of Public Highways, signed a contract with the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines (“CDCP” for brevity) to reclaim certain foreshore and offshore areas of Manila Bay. The contract also included the construction of Phases I and II of the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road. CDCP obligated itself to carry out all the works in consideration of fifty percent of the total reclaimed land. On February 4, 1977, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1084 creating PEA. PD No. 1084 tasked PEA “to reclaim land, including foreshore and submerged areas,” and “to develop, improve, acquire, x x x lease and sell any and all kinds of lands.”[1] On the same date, then President Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1085 transferring to PEA the “lands reclaimed in the foreshore and offshore of the Manila Bay”[2] under the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road and Reclamation Project (MCCRRP). On December 29, 1981, then President Marcos issued a memorandum directing PEA to amend its contract with CDCP, so that “[A]ll future works in MCCRRP x x x shall be funded and owned by PEA.” Accordingly, PEA and CDCP executed a Memorandum of Agreement dated December 29, 1981, which stated: “(i) CDCP shall undertake all reclamation, construction, and such other works in the MCCRRP as may be agreed upon by the parties, to be paid according to progress of works on a unit price/lump sum basis for items of work to be agreed upon, subject to price escalation, retention and other terms and conditions provided for in Presidential Decree No. 1594. All the financing required for such works shall be provided by PEA. xxx (iii) x x x CDCP shall give up all its development rights and hereby agrees to cede and transfer in favor of PEA, all of the rights, title, interest and participation of CDCP in and to all the areas of land reclaimed by CDCP in the MCCRRP as of December 30, 1981 which have not yet been sold, transferred or otherwise disposed of by CDCP as of said date, which areas consist of

approximately Ninety-Nine Thousand Four Hundred Seventy Three (99,473) square meters in the Financial Center Area covered by land pledge No. 5 and approximately Three Million Three Hundred Eighty Two Thousand Eight Hundred Eighty Eight (3,382,888) square meters of reclaimed areas at varying elevations above Mean Low Water Level located outside the Financial Center Area and the First Neighborhood Unit.”[3] On January 19, 1988, then President Corazon C. Aquino issued Special Patent No. 3517, granting and transferring to PEA “the parcels of land so reclaimed under the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road and Reclamation Project (MCCRRP) containing a total area of one million nine hundred fifteen thousand eight hundred ninety four (1,915,894) square meters.” Subsequently, on April 9, 1988, the Register of Deeds of the Municipality of Parañaque issued Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. 7309, 7311, and 7312, in the name of PEA, covering the three reclaimed islands known as the “Freedom Islands” located at the southern portion of the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road, Parañaque City. The Freedom Islands have a total land area of One Million Five Hundred Seventy Eight Thousand Four Hundred and Forty One (1,578,441) square meters or 157.841 hectares. On April 25, 1995, PEA entered into a Joint Venture Agreement (“JVA” for brevity) with AMARI, a private corporation, to develop the Freedom Islands. The JVA also required the reclamation of an additional 250 hectares of submerged areas surrounding these islands to complete the configuration in the Master Development Plan of the Southern Reclamation Project-MCCRRP. PEA and AMARI entered into the JVA through negotiation without public bidding.[4] On April 28, 1995, the Board of Directors of PEA, in its Resolution No. 1245, confirmed the JVA. [5] On June 8, 1995, then President Fidel V. Ramos, through then Executive Secretary Ruben Torres, approved the JVA.[6] On November 29, 1996, then Senate President Ernesto Maceda delivered a privilege speech in the Senate and denounced the JVA as the “grandmother of all scams.” As a result, the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, and the Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, conducted a joint investigation. The Senate Committees reported the results of their investigation in Senate Committee Report No. 560 dated September 16, 1997.[7] Among the conclusions of their report are: (1) the reclaimed lands PEA seeks to transfer to AMARI under the JVA are lands of the public domain which the government has not classified as alienable lands and therefore PEA cannot alienate these lands; (2) the certificates of title covering the Freedom Islands are thus void, and (3) the JVA itself is illegal. On December 5, 1997, then President Fidel V. Ramos issued Presidential Administrative Order No. 365 creating a Legal Task Force to conduct a study on the legality of the JVA in view of Senate Committee Report No. 560. The members of the Legal Task Force were the Secretary of Justice,[8] the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel,[9] and the Government Corporate Counsel.[10] The Legal Task Force upheld the legality of the JVA, contrary to the conclusions reached by the Senate Committees.[11] On April 4 and 5, 1998, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Today published reports that there were on-going renegotiations between PEA and AMARI under

an order issued by then President Fidel V. Ramos. According to these reports, PEA Director Nestor Kalaw, PEA Chairman Arsenio Yulo and retired Navy Officer Sergio Cruz composed the negotiating panel of PEA. On April 13, 1998, Antonio M. Zulueta filed before the Court a Petition for Prohibition with Application for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction docketed as G.R. No. 132994 seeking to nullify the JVA. The Court dismissed the petition “for unwarranted disregard of judicial hierarchy, without prejudice to the refiling of the case before the proper court.”[12] On April 27, 1998, petitioner Frank I. Chavez (“Petitioner” for brevity) as a taxpayer, filed the instant Petition for Mandamus with Prayer for the Issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order. Petitioner contends the government stands to lose billions of pesos in the sale by PEA of the reclaimed lands to AMARI. Petitioner prays that PEA publicly disclose the terms of any renegotiation of the JVA, invoking Section 28, Article II, and Section 7, Article III, of the 1987 Constitution on the right of the people to information on matters of public concern. Petitioner assails the sale to AMARI of lands of the public domain as a blatant violation of Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution prohibiting the sale of alienable lands of the public domain to private corporations. Finally, petitioner asserts that he seeks to enjoin the loss of billions of pesos in properties of the State that are of public dominion. After several motions for extension of time,[13] PEA and AMARI filed their Comments on October 19, 1998 and June 25, 1998, respectively. Meanwhile, on December 28, 1998, petitioner filed an Omnibus Motion: (a) to require PEA to submit the terms of the renegotiated PEA-AMARI contract; (b) for issuance of a temporary restraining order; and (c) to set the case for hearing on oral argument. Petitioner filed a Reiterative Motion for Issuance of a TRO dated May 26, 1999, which the Court denied in a Resolution dated June 22, 1999. In a Resolution dated March 23, 1999, the Court gave due course to the petition and required the parties to file their respective memoranda. On March 30, 1999, PEA and AMARI signed the Amended Joint Venture Agreement (“Amended JVA,” for brevity). On May 28, 1999, the Office of the President under the administration of then President Joseph E. Estrada approved the Amended JVA. Due to the approval of the Amended JVA by the Office of the President, petitioner now prays that on “constitutional and statutory grounds the renegotiated contract be declared null and void.”[14] The Issues The issues raised by petitioner, PEA[15] and AMARI[16] are as follows: I. WHETHER THE PRINCIPAL RELIEFS PRAYED FOR IN THE PETITION ARE MOOT AND ACADEMIC BECAUSE OF SUBSEQUENT EVENTS;

II. WHETHER THE PETITION MERITS DISMISSAL FOR FAILING TO OBSERVE THE PRINCIPLE GOVERNING THE HIERARCHY OF COURTS; III. WHETHER THE PETITION MERITS DISMISSAL FOR NON-EXHAUSTION OF ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES; IV. WHETHER PETITIONER HAS LOCUS STANDI TO BRING THIS SUIT; V. WHETHER THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO INFORMATION INCLUDES OFFICIAL INFORMATION ON ON-GOING NEGOTIATIONS BEFORE A FINAL AGREEMENT; VI. WHETHER THE STIPULATIONS IN THE AMENDED JOINT VENTURE AGREEMENT FOR THE TRANSFER TO AMARI OF CERTAIN LANDS, RECLAIMED AND STILL TO BE RECLAIMED, VIOLATE THE 1987 CONSTITUTION; AND VII. WHETHER THE COURT IS THE PROPER FORUM FOR RAISING THE ISSUE OF WHETHER THE AMENDED JOINT VENTURE AGREEMENT IS GROSSLY DISADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT. The Court’s Ruling First issue: whether the principal reliefs prayed for in the petition are moot and academic because of subsequent events. The petition prays that PEA publicly disclose the “terms and conditions of the on-going negotiations for a new agreement.” The petition also prays that the Court enjoin PEA from “privately entering into, perfecting and/or executing any new agreement with AMARI.” PEA and AMARI claim the petition is now moot and academic because AMARI furnished petitioner on June 21, 1999 a copy of the signed Amended JVA containing the terms and conditions agreed upon in the renegotiations. Thus, PEA has satisfied petitioner’s prayer for a public disclosure of the renegotiations. Likewise, petitioner’s prayer to enjoin the signing of the Amended JVA is now moot because PEA and AMARI have already signed the Amended JVA on March 30, 1999. Moreover, the Office of the President has approved the Amended JVA on May 28, 1999. Petitioner counters that PEA and AMARI cannot avoid the constitutional issue by simply fast-tracking the signing and approval of the Amended JVA before the Court could act on the issue. Presidential approval does not resolve the constitutional issue or remove it from the ambit of judicial review. We rule that the signing of the Amended JVA by PEA and AMARI and its approval by the President cannot operate to moot the petition and divest the Court of its jurisdiction. PEA and AMARI have still to implement the Amended JVA. The prayer to enjoin the signing of the Amended JVA on constitutional grounds necessarily includes preventing its implementation if in the meantime PEA and AMARI have signed one in violation of the Constitution. Petitioner’s principal basis in assailing the renegotiation of the JVA is its violation of Section 3, Article XII of the Constitution, which prohibits the government from alienating lands of

the public domain to private corporations. If the Amended JVA indeed violates the Constitution, it is the duty of the Court to enjoin its implementation, and if already implemented, to annul the effects of such unconstitutional contract. The Amended JVA is not an ordinary commercial contract but one which seeks to transfer title and ownership to 367.5 hectares of reclaimed lands and submerged areas of Manila Bay to a single private corporation. It now becomes more compelling for the Court to resolve the issue to insure the government itself does not violate a provision of the Constitution intended to safeguard the national patrimony. Supervening events, whether intended or accidental, cannot prevent the Court from rendering a decision if there is a grave violation of the Constitution. In the instant case, if the Amended JVA runs counter to the Constitution, the Court can still prevent the transfer of title and ownership of alienable lands of the public domain in the name of AMARI. Even in cases where supervening events had made the cases moot, the Court did not hesitate to resolve the legal or constitutional issues raised to formulate controlling principles to guide the bench, bar, and the public.[17] Also, the instant petition is a case of first impression. All previous decisions of the Court involving Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, or its counterpart provision in the 1973 Constitution,[18] covered agricultural lands sold to private corporations which acquired the lands from private parties. The transferors of the private corporations claimed or could claim the right to judicial confirmation of their imperfect titles[19] under Title II of Commonwealth Act. 141 (“CA No. 141” for brevity). In the instant case, AMARI seeks to acquire from PEA, a public corporation, reclaimed lands and submerged areas for nonagricultural purposes by purchase under PD No. 1084 (charter of PEA) and Title III of CA No. 141. Certain undertakings by AMARI under the Amended JVA constitute the consideration for the purchase. Neither AMARI nor PEA can claim judicial confirmation of their titles because the lands covered by the Amended JVA are newly reclaimed or still to be reclaimed. Judicial confirmation of imperfect title requires open, continuous, exclusive and notorious occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain for at least thirty years since June 12, 1945 or earlier. Besides, the deadline for filing applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect title expired on December 31, 1987.[20] Lastly, there is a need to resolve immediately the constitutional issue raised in this petition because of the possible transfer at any time by PEA to AMARI of title and ownership to portions of the reclaimed lands. Under the Amended JVA, PEA is obligated to transfer to AMARI the latter’s seventy percent proportionate share in the reclaimed areas as the reclamation progresses. The Amended JVA even allows AMARI to mortgage at any time the entire reclaimed area to raise financing for the reclamation project.[21] Second issue: whether the petition merits dismissal for failing to observe the principle governing the hierarchy of courts. PEA and AMARI claim petitioner ignored the judicial hierarchy by seeking relief directly from the Court. The principle of hierarchy of courts applies generally to cases involving factual questions. As it is not a trier of facts, the Court cannot entertain cases involving factual issues. The instant case, however, raises constitutional issues of transcendental importance to the public.[22] The Court

can resolve this case without determining any factual issue related to the case. Also, the instant case is a petition for mandamus which falls under the original jurisdiction of the Court under Section 5, Article VIII of the Constitution. We resolve to exercise primary jurisdiction over the instant case. Third issue: whether the petition merits dismissal for non-exhaustion of administrative remedies. PEA faults petitioner for seeking judicial intervention in compelling PEA to disclose publicly certain information without first asking PEA the needed information. PEA claims petitioner’s direct resort to the Court violates the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies. It also violates the rule that mandamus may issue only if there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. PEA distinguishes the instant case from Tañada v. Tuvera[23] where the Court granted the petition for mandamus even if the petitioners there did not initially demand from the Office of the President the publication of the presidential decrees. PEA points out that in Tañada, the Executive Department had an affirmative statutory duty under Article 2 of the Civil Code[24] and Section 1 of Commonwealth Act No. 638[25] to publish the presidential decrees. There was, therefore, no need for the petitioners in Tañada to make an initial demand from the Office of the President. In the instant case, PEA claims it has no affirmative statutory duty to disclose publicly information about its renegotiation of the JVA. Thus, PEA asserts that the Court must apply the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies to the instant case in view of the failure of petitioner here to demand initially from PEA the needed information. The original JVA sought to dispose to AMARI public lands held by PEA, a government corporation. Under Section 79 of the Government Auditing Code, [26]2 the disposition of government lands to private parties requires public bidding. PEA was under a positive legal duty to disclose to the public the terms and conditions for the sale of its lands. The law obligated PEA to make this public disclosure even without demand from petitioner or from anyone. PEA failed to make this public disclosure because the original JVA, like the Amended JVA, was the result of a negotiated contract, not of a public bidding. Considering that PEA had an affirmative statutory duty to make the public disclosure, and was even in breach of this legal duty, petitioner had the right to seek direct judicial intervention. Moreover, and this alone is determinative of this issue, the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies does not apply when the issue involved is a purely legal or constitutional question.[27] The principal issue in the instant case is the capacity of AMARI to acquire lands held by PEA in view of the constitutional ban prohibiting the alienation of lands of the public domain to private corporations. We rule that the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies does not apply in the instant case. Fourth issue: whether petitioner has locus standi to bring this suit PEA argues that petitioner has no standing to institute mandamus proceedings to enforce his constitutional right to information without a showing that PEA

refused to perform an affirmative duty imposed on PEA by the Constitution. PEA also claims that petitioner has not shown that he will suffer any concrete injury because of the signing or implementation of the Amended JVA. Thus, there is no actual controversy requiring the exercise of the power of judicial review. The petitioner has standing to bring this taxpayer’s suit because the petition seeks to compel PEA to comply with its constitutional duties. There are two constitutional issues involved here. First is the right of citizens to information on matters of public concern. Second is the application of a constitutional provision intended to insure the equitable distribution of alienable lands of the public domain among Filipino citizens. The thrust of the first issue is to compel PEA to disclose publicly information on the sale of government lands worth billions of pesos, information which the Constitution and statutory law mandate PEA to disclose. The thrust of the second issue is to prevent PEA from alienating hundreds of hectares of alienable lands of the public domain in violation of the Constitution, compelling PEA to comply with a constitutional duty to the nation. Moreover, the petition raises matters of transcendental importance to the public. In Chavez v. PCGG,[28] the Court upheld the right of a citizen to bring a taxpayer’s suit on matters of transcendental importance to the public, thus “Besides, petitioner emphasizes, the matter of recovering the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses is an issue of ‘transcendental importance to the public.’ He asserts that ordinary taxpayers have a right to initiate and prosecute actions questioning the validity of acts or orders of government agencies or instrumentalities, if the issues raised are of ‘paramount public interest,’ and if they ‘immediately affect the social, economic and moral well being of the people.’ Moreover, the mere fact that he is a citizen satisfies the requirement of personal interest, when the proceeding involves the assertion of a public right, such as in this case. He invokes several decisions of this Court which have set aside the procedural matter of locus standi, when the subject of the case involved public interest. xxx In Tañada v. Tuvera, the Court asserted that when the issue concerns a public right and the object of mandamus is to obtain the enforcement of a public duty, the people are regarded as the real parties in interest; and because it is sufficient that petitioner is a citizen and as such is interested in the execution of the laws, he need not show that he has any legal or special interest in the result of the action. In the aforesaid case, the petitioners sought to enforce their right to be informed on matters of public concern, a right then recognized in Section 6, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution, in connection with the rule that laws in order to be valid and enforceable must be published in the Official Gazette or otherwise effectively promulgated. In ruling for the petitioners' legal standing, the Court declared that the right they sought to be enforced ‘is a public right recognized by no less than the fundamental law of the land.’

Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, while reiterating Tañada, further declared that ‘when a mandamus proceeding involves the assertion of a public right, the requirement of personal interest is satisfied by the mere fact that petitioner is a citizen and, therefore, part of the general 'public' which possesses the right.’ Further, in Albano v. Reyes, we said that while expenditure of public funds may not have been involved under the questioned contract for the development, management and operation of the Manila International Container Terminal, ‘public interest [was] definitely involved considering the important role [of the subject contract] . . . in the economic development of the country and the magnitude of the financial consideration involved.’ We concluded that, as a consequence, the disclosure provision in the Constitution would constitute sufficient authority for upholding the petitioner's standing. Similarly, the instant petition is anchored on the right of the people to information and access to official records, documents and papers — a right guaranteed under Section 7, Article III of the 1987 Constitution. Petitioner, a former solicitor general, is a Filipino citizen. Because of the satisfaction of the two basic requisites laid down by decisional law to sustain petitioner's legal standing, i.e. (1) the enforcement of a public right (2) espoused by a Filipino citizen, we rule that the petition at bar should be allowed.” We rule that since the instant petition, brought by a citizen, involves the enforcement of constitutional rights - to information and to the equitable diffusion of natural resources - matters of transcendental public importance, the petitioner has the requisite locus standi. Fifth issue: whether the constitutional right to information includes official information on on-going negotiations before a final agreement. Section 7, Article III of the Constitution explains the people’s right to information on matters of public concern in this manner: “Sec. 7. The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.” (Emphasis supplied) The State policy of full transparency in all transactions involving public interest reinforces the people’s right to information on matters of public concern. This State policy is expressed in Section 28, Article II of the Constitution, thus: “Sec. 28. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.” (Emphasis supplied) These twin provisions of the Constitution seek to promote transparency in policy-making and in the operations of the government, as well as provide the people sufficient information to exercise effectively other constitutional rights. These twin provisions are essential to the exercise of freedom of expression. If

Before the consummation of the contract. does the Gentleman refer to the steps leading to the consummation of the contract. There is need. the parties qualified to bid. And when we say ‘transactions’ which should be distinguished from contracts. and information the constitutional right to information requires PEA to release to the public. because the Government Auditing Code requires public bidding. diplomatic or foreign relations. Government officials will hesitate before petitioner can their deliberations at decision-making in to express their real sentiments during deliberations if there is immediate public dissemination of their discussions. Otherwise.[30]– “An essential element of these freedoms is to keep open a continuing dialogue or process of communication between the government and the people. once the committee makes its official recommendation. Ople: Yes. becomes a fait accompli. transactions and decisions to citizens. it can cover both steps leading to a contract and already a consummated contract. or treaties or whatever. they cannot hold public officials accountable for anything. location. to observe the same restrictions on disclosure of information in general. Mr. of course. the terms and conditions of the disposition. technical description and nature of the property being disposed of. Such a requirement will prevent the . Suarez: Thank you. Ople: The ‘transactions’ used here. transactions. Armed with the right information.” (Emphasis supplied) Contrary to AMARI’s contention. though.” PEA asserts. Mr. These twin provisions are also essential to hold public officials “at all times x x x accountable to the people. as discussed earlier – such as on matters involving national security. Presiding Officer. In Chavez v. Suarez. AMARI contends that petitioner cannot invoke the right at the predecisional stage or before the closing of the transaction. These include the size. or does he refer to the contract itself? Mr. we believe that it is incumbent upon the PCGG and its officers. Belmonte. PEA must prepare all these data and disclose them to the public at the start of the disposition process.the government does not disclose its official acts. PEA must. Only when the participants in the discussion are aware of the issues and have access to information relating thereto can such bear fruit. I suppose is generic and therefore. any citizen can demand from PEA this information at any time during the bidding process. From this moment. it may be too late for the public to expose its defects.” Also. An informed citizenry is essential to the existence and proper functioning of any democracy. and any citizen can access all the non-proprietary information leading to such definite proposition.”[29] for unless citizens have the proper information. or decisions” on the bids or proposals. there arises a “definite proposition” on the part of the government. long before the consummation of the contract. which may be grossly disadvantageous to the government or even illegal. will be speculative and amount to nothing.” Certainly.[33] the Court ruled as follows: “Considering the intent of the framers of the Constitution. this open dialogue can be effective only to the extent that the citizenry is informed and thus able to formulate its will intelligently. citizens can participate in public discussions leading to the formulation of government policies and their effective implementation. Suarez: This contemplates inclusion of negotiations leading to the consummation of the transaction. PCGG. on its own and without demand from anyone. AMARI cites the following discussion in the 1986 Constitutional Commission: “Mr. not necessarily to intra-agency or inter-agency recommendations or communications during the stage when common assertions are still in the process of being formulated or are in the “exploratory” stage. there are no “official acts. putting them under all kinds of pressure before they decide. to disclose sufficient public information on any proposed settlement they have decided to take up with the ostensible owners and holders of ill-gotten wealth. and if one is consummated. as well as other government representatives. the people can never exercise the right if no contract is consummated. Mr.”[32] (Emphasis supplied) AMARI argues there must first be a consummated contract invoke the right.” PEA maintains the right does not include access to “intra-agency or interagency recommendations or communications during the stage when common assertions are still in the process of being formulated or are in the ‘exploratory stage’. Jr. This negates the State policy of full transparency on matters of public concern. on on-going evaluation or review of bids or proposals being undertaken by the bidding or review committee is not immediately accessible under the right to information. To support its contention. citing Chavez v. Information. Yet. disclose to the public matters relating to the disposition of its property. the commissioners of the 1986 Constitutional Commission understood that the right to information “contemplates inclusion of negotiations leading to the consummation of the transaction. Requiring government officials to reveal the pre-decisional stage will degrade the quality of government agencies. whatever citizens say. PCGG. However. We must first distinguish between information the law on public bidding requires PEA to disclose publicly. intelligence and other classified information. Mr. a consummated contract is not a requirement for the exercise of the right to information. Requiring a consummated contract will keep the public in the dark until the contract. subject only to reasonable safeguards on the national interest. agreements. It is in the interest of the State that the channels for free political discussion be maintained to the end that the government may perceive and be responsive to the people’s will. As explained by the Court in Valmonte v. even if expressed without any restraint. the minimum price and similar information. a situation which the framers of the Constitution could not have intended. however. If PEA fails to make this disclosure. the public’s right to information attaches.[31] that in cases of on-going negotiations the right to information is limited to “definite propositions of the government. While the evaluation or review is still on-going. must pertain to definite propositions of the government. Such information.

in lieu of the King. There is no claim by PEA that the information demanded by petitioner is privileged information rooted in the separation of powers. collated or processed. which is now Article 420 of the Civil Code of 1950. of reclaimed lands of the government to corporations and individuals. We rule.[39] This is not the situation in the instant case. 1907. 1936. confirming.[36] The right does not also apply to information on military and diplomatic secrets. ownership of all “lands. minutes of meetings. reclaimed or to be reclaimed. Later. shall become the property of the party constructing such works. supporting. The exercise of the right is also subject to reasonable regulations to protect the integrity of the public records and to minimize disruption to government operations.citizenry from participating in the public discussion of any proposed contract. which provided as follows: “Article 5. however. The information does not cover Presidential conversations. of reclaimed lands of the government to corporations and individuals. On May 18. however. with proper permission. documents and papers at his expense. whether raw. either by purchase or by grant.[34] The right only affords access to records. The information that petitioner may access on the renegotiation of the JVA includes evaluation reports. A frank exchange of exploratory ideas and assessments. We can allow neither an emasculation of a constitutional right. The third category refers to research data. also known as the Public Land Act. military and diplomatic secrets and similar matters affecting national security and public order. but not the sale.” The right covers three categories of information which are “matters of public concern. that the constitutional right to information includes official information on on-going negotiations before a final contract.”[43] Article 339 of the Civil Code of 1889. which means the opportunity to inspect and copy them. as the sovereign ruler and representative of the people. must constitute definite propositions by the government and should not cover recognized exceptions like privileged information. CA No. like internal deliberations of the Supreme Court and other collegiate courts. evidencing. abstracts. The second category refers to documents and papers recording. The first category refers to any document that is part of the public records in the custody of government agencies or officials.[42] The King. therefore. the National Assembly passed Commonwealth Act No. and (3) government research data used in formulating policies. Legislative and Judicial power. the Philippine Legislature approved Act No. Upon the Spanish conquest of the Philippines. belong to the public domain. 2874.[38] are recognized as confidential.[44] The Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 allowed the reclamation of the sea under Article 5. correspondences. owned by the government and used in formulating government policies. pueblos or private persons. coves. the State. 141 continues to this day as the general law governing the classification and disposition of lands of the public domain. 1654 which provided for the lease. On November 7.[41] Sixth issue: whether stipulations in the Amended JVA for the transfer to AMARI of lands. or by the provinces. However. The information.[35] The right to information. The Regalian doctrine is the foundation of the time-honored principle of land ownership that “all lands that were not acquired from the Government.[40] Congress has also prescribed other limitations on the right to information in several legislations. like rules specifying when and how to conduct the inspection and copying. unless otherwise provided by the terms of the grant of authority. acquired and owned all lands and territories in the Philippines except those he disposed of by grant or sale to private individuals. justifying or explaining official acts. but not the sale. legal and expert opinions. incorporated the Regalian doctrine. information affecting national security. Ownership and Disposition of Reclaimed Lands The Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 was the first statutory law governing the ownership and disposition of reclaimed lands in the Philippines. transactions or decisions of government agencies or officials. establishing. as the owner of all lands and waters of the public domain. (2) documents and papers pertaining to official acts. or discussions during closed-door Cabinet meetings which. One who exercises the right must copy the records. the Philippine Commission enacted Act No. the Public Land Act. The 1935.” namely: (1) official records. but not the sale. the right to information does not compel PEA to prepare lists. recommendations. which authorized the lease. territories and possessions” in the Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown. effectively truncating a basic right enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 and the Civil Code of 1889 Under the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. on November 29. does not extend to matters recognized as privileged information under the separation of powers. which authorized the lease. and information on investigations of crimes by law enforcement agencies before the prosecution of the accused. Lands reclaimed from the sea in consequence of works constructed by the State. all relating to the JVA. inlets and all waters within the maritime zone of the Spanish territory belonged to the public domain for public use. or executive sessions of either house of Congress. 141. transactions and decisions.[37] The right may also be subject to other limitations that Congress may impose by law. the shores. summaries and the like relating to the renegotiation of the JVA. bays. however. The Regalian Doctrine The ownership of lands reclaimed from foreshore and submerged areas is rooted in the Regalian doctrine which holds that the State owns all lands and waters of the public domain. terms of reference and other documents attached to such reports or minutes. documents and papers. violate the Constitution. 1973 and 1987 Constitutions adopted the Regalian doctrine substituting. nor a retreat by the State of its avowed “policy of full disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest. free from the glare of publicity and pressure by interested parties. This kind of information cannot be pried open by a co-equal branch of government. which courts have long recognized as confidential.” . is essential to protect the independence of decision-making of those tasked to exercise Presidential. of reclaimed lands of the government to corporations and individuals. 1919.

1654 of the Philippine Commission On May 8. Private parties could lease lands reclaimed by the government only if these lands were no longer needed for public purpose. x x x. is employed in some public service. roadsteads. x x x. Section 2. (a) The Secretary of the Interior shall cause all Government or public lands made or reclaimed by the Government by dredging or filling or otherwise to be divided into lots or blocks. upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. the Philippine Legislature enacted Act No. xxx (e) The leases above provided for shall be disposed of to the highest and best bidder therefore. (b) Upon completion of such plats and plans the Governor-General shall give notice to the public that such parts of the lands so made or reclaimed as are not needed for public purposes will be leased for commercial and business purposes. ports and bridges constructed by the State. Article 339 of the Civil Code of 1889 defined property of public dominion as follows: “Art. rivers. however. shores. or the executive department pursuant to law. For the purposes of the government and disposition of alienable or disposable public lands. riverbanks. 1919. Act No. Act No. upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. the Philippine Commission enacted Act No. provided the government issued the necessary permit and did not reserve ownership of the reclaimed land to the State. shall be retained by the Government without prejudice to vested rights and without prejudice to rights conceded to the City of Manila in the Luneta Extension. when no longer devoted to public use or to the defense of the territory. That belonging exclusively to the State which. to wit: “Art. Act No. Article 341 of the Civil Code of 1889 governed the re-classification of property of public dominion into private property. torrents. (b) Timber. these reclaimed lands were available only for lease to private parties. The legislature. Act No. 2874. 339. Lands reclaimed from the sea by private parties with government permission remained private lands. fortresses. were as follows: “Sec. and the title to all Government or public lands made or reclaimed by the Government by dredging or filling or otherwise throughout the Philippine Islands. Act No.Under the Spanish Law of Waters. 1654 made government reclaimed lands sui generis in that unlike other public lands which the government could sell to private parties. such as roads. or in the development of the national wealth. and that of a similar character. such as walls. and mines. 7. 1654. property devoted to public service referred to property used for some specific public service and open only to those authorized to use the property. the Governor-General. canals. 1654 did not prohibit private parties from reclaiming parts of the sea under Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters. In contrast. with the necessary streets and alleyways located thereon. The salient provisions of this law were as follows: “Section 1. and shall cause plats and plans of such surveys to be prepared and filed with the Bureau of Lands. 1654 which regulated the lease of reclaimed and foreshore lands. shall from time to time classify the lands of the public domain into – (a) Alienable or disposable.[45] Act No. and (c) Mineral lands. on reclaimed lands. subject to such regulations and safeguards as the GovernorGeneral may by executive order prescribe. the Public Land Act. Property of public dominion is – 1. This class of property constituted property of public dominion although employed for some economic or commercial activity to increase the national wealth. land reclaimed from the sea belonged to the party undertaking the reclamation.[46] The salient provisions of Act No. must declare the property no longer needed for public use or territorial defense before the government could lease or alienate the property to private parties. until granted to private individuals. 1654 mandated public bidding in the lease of government reclaimed lands. 1654 mandated that the government should retain title to all lands reclaimed by the government. was not self-executing. 6. without being of general public use.” Property devoted to public use referred to property open for use by the public.” (Emphasis supplied) Act No. 1907. shall become a part of the private property of the State. 2874 of the Philippine Legislature On November 29. Property of public dominion referred not only to property devoted to public use. The control and disposition of the foreshore as defined in existing law. Sec. and other works for the defense of the territory. That devoted to public use. 2874. did not repeal Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. but also to property not so used but employed to develop the national wealth.” . however. The Act also vested in the government control and disposition of foreshore lands.” This provision. 2. shall from time to time declare what lands are open to disposition or concession under this Act. Property of public dominion. 341. The Governor-General.

Sec. as the only alienable or disposable lands of the public domain that the government could not sell to private parties. foreshore and marshy lands into other non-agricultural lands under Section 56 (d). foreshore and marshy lands remained sui generis. fisheries. Lands falling under Section 56 (d) were the only lands for non-agricultural purposes the government could sell to private parties. in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and limit of the grant. with the exception of public agricultural land. petroleum. concession. 1654. and only allowed the lease. must be suitable for residential. foreshore and marshy lands. became inalienable by constitutional fiat. or industrial uses other than the development of water power. The rationale behind this State policy is obvious. These provisions also empowered the Governor-General to classify further such disposable lands of the public domain into government reclaimed. a policy first enunciated in 1907 in Act No. foreshore and marshy lands of the public domain. as well as other lands. shall declare that the same are not necessary for the public service and are open to disposition under this chapter. renewable for another 25 years. shall be disposed of under the provisions of this chapter.” Section 56 of Act No. The government could alienate foreshore lands only after these lands were reclaimed and classified as alienable agricultural lands of the public domain. which were the only natural resources the State could alienate. Sec. foreshore and marshy lands to private parties. (c) Marshy lands or lands covered with water bordering upon the shores or banks of navigable lakes or rivers.” Section 8 of the Act limited alienable or disposable lands only to those lands which have been “officially delimited and classified. foreshore and marshy public lands for non-agricultural purposes retain their inherent potential as areas for public service. coal.Sec. commercial. foreshore lands. 2874. available only for lease for 25 years.” (Emphasis supplied) Section 6 of Act No. declared in Section 1. The lands comprised in classes (a). (b). shall be classified as suitable for residential purposes or for commercial. xxx Sec. and not otherwise. water supply. The State always reserved these lands for some future public service. or lease for the exploitation. and (c) of section fifty-six shall be disposed of to private parties by lease only and not otherwise. This is the reason the government prohibited the sale. except as to water rights for irrigation. unless the legislature passed a law allowing their sale. considered part of the State’s natural resources. filling. under Act No. as soon as the Governor-General. 2874 did not authorize the reclassification of government reclaimed. 2874 authorized the Governor-General to “classify lands of the public domain into x x x alienable or disposable”[47] lands. Thus. that – “Section 1. industrial or other productive non-agricultural purposes. 2874 stated that lands “disposable under this title[48] shall be classified” as government reclaimed. (d) Lands not included in any of the foregoing classes. 58. must formally declare that the lands were “not necessary for the public service. foreshore or marshy lands of the public domain. minerals. before allowing the lease of these lands to private parties. and their disposition. Thus. The lands included in class (d) may be disposed of by sale or lease under the provisions of this Act. 56. subject to any existing right. The lands disposable under this title shall be classified as follows: (a) Lands reclaimed by the Government by dredging. 8. The 1935 Constitution. 2874 did not prohibit private parties from reclaiming parts of the sea pursuant to Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. of these lands to private parties. 2874 categorically mandated that disposable lands of the public domain classified as government reclaimed. industrial. and shall be open to disposition or concession. Any tract of land of the public domain which. timber. These provisions vested upon the Governor-General the power to classify inalienable lands of the public domain into disposable lands of the public domain. Natural resources. 55. Lands reclaimed from the sea by private parties with government permission remained private lands. in adopting the Regalian doctrine. All these lands.” (Emphasis supplied) The 1935 Constitution barred the alienation of all natural resources except public agricultural lands. or other means. Article XIII. the government could not sell government reclaimed. 2874 reiterated the State policy to lease and not to sell government reclaimed. or other productive purposes other than agricultural purposes. renewable for another twenty-five years. all forces of potential energy and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State. and other mineral oils. the 1935 Constitution took effect upon its ratification by the Filipino people. lease. exploitation. Section 58 of Act No. Government reclaimed. x x x.” The Governor-General. development. and mineral lands of the public domain. Government reclaimed. grant. being neither timber nor mineral land. upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. All agricultural. (b) Foreshore. as well as other non-agricultural lands. Section 7 of the Act empowered the Governor-General to “declare what lands are open to disposition or concession. 1935. Government reclaimed and .[49] Act No. or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period exceeding twenty-five years. shall not be alienated. development. Dispositions under the 1935 Constitution On May 14. Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or concession which have been officially delimited or classified x x x. Act No. however. or concession at the time of the inauguration of the Government established under this Constitution.” Act No. and no license. waters. foreshore and marshy lands “shall be disposed of to private parties by lease only and not otherwise. or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned by such citizens.

There must be no law reserving these lands for public or quasi-public uses. 141 authorizes the President to “declare what lands are open to disposition or concession. The lands disposable under this title shall be classified as follows: (a) Lands reclaimed by the Government by dredging. industrial. industrial or other non- . (b) Timber. Section 58 of Act No. surveyed.[53] for the purpose of their administration and disposition. (c) Marshy lands or lands covered with water bordering upon the shores or banks of navigable lakes or rivers. and (c) of section fifty-nine shall be disposed of to private parties by lease only and not otherwise. as soon as the President.marshy lands of the public domain. 61. 141. Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution provided as follows: “Section 2. which compiled the then existing laws on lands of the public domain. 6. nor appropriated by the Government. private corporation. could only be leased and not sold to private parties because of Act No. having been reserved or appropriated. after the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution. (b). being neither timber nor mineral land. being neither timber nor mineral lands. foreshore and marshy lands of the public domain. or other means. The prohibition on private parties from acquiring ownership of government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain was only a statutory prohibition and the legislature could therefore remove such prohibition. which prior to such classification are inalienable and outside the commerce of man. All these lands are intended for residential. Sec. 58. x x x. when practicable. Any tract of land of the public domain which. or association. Sec. The salient provisions of CA No. 7. or by lease in excess of one thousand and twentyfour hectares. The President. the President. The lands included in class (d) may be disposed of by sale or lease under the provisions of this Act. may be leased to an individual. Sec. nor those on which a private right authorized and recognized by this Act or any other valid law may be claimed. not exceeding two thousand hectares.[51] Section 6 of CA No. or by homestead in excess of twenty-four hectares. 141 read as follows: “Sec. 141 empowers the President to classify lands of the public domain into “alienable or disposable”[52] lands of the public domain. Commonwealth Act No. 2874. commercial. 7 and 8 of CA No. and (c) Mineral lands. 60. upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture. upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce. fell under the classification of public agricultural lands. the legislature continued the long established State policy of retaining for the government title and ownership of government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain. Sec. and may at any time and in like manner transfer such lands from one class to another.” (Emphasis supplied) Section 61 of CA No. or which. 2874 to open for sale to private parties government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain. CA No. although subject to classification as disposable public agricultural lands.” (Emphasis supplied) Still. The 1935 Constitution did not prohibit individuals and corporations from acquiring government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain that were classified as agricultural lands under existing public land laws. 2874 prohibiting the sale of government reclaimed. Section 7 of CA No. 141. before the government could alienate or dispose of lands of the public domain. is intended to be used for residential purposes or for commercial. as amended. and which have not been reserved for public or quasi-public uses.” Sections 6. remains to this day the existing general law governing the classification and disposition of lands of the public domain other than timber and mineral lands. x x x. 141. Section 2.” Thus. shall declare that the same are not necessary for the public service and are open to disposition under this chapter. Lands adapted to grazing. filling.” Section 8 of CA No. have ceased to be so. Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or concession which have been officially delimited and classified and. nor in any manner become private property. to any person. 141 of the Philippine National Assembly On November 7. the President must first officially classify these lands as alienable or disposable. No private corporation or association may acquire. or hold public agricultural lands in excess of one thousand and twenty four hectares. shall from time to time declare what lands are open to disposition or concession under this Act. 1936. the legislature did not repeal Section 58 of Act No. as the case may be. shall be disposed of under the provisions of this chapter and not otherwise. or other productive purposes other than agricultural. the National Assembly approved Commonwealth Act No. corporation. are as follows: “Sec. lease. and is open to disposition or concession. 59. The lands comprised in classes (a). Sec. For the purposes of the administration and disposition of alienable or disposable public lands. On the contrary. 8. foreshore and marshy disposable lands of the public domain. shall from time to time classify the lands of the public domain into – (a) Alienable or disposable. also known as the Public Land Act. (d) Lands not included in any of the foregoing classes. nor may any individual acquire such lands by purchase in excess of one hundred and forty hectares. 141 readopted. government reclaimed and marshy lands.[50] However. (b) Foreshore. 141 states that the government can declare open for disposition or concession only lands that are “officially delimited and classified. on government reclaimed. or association authorized to purchase or lease public lands for agricultural purposes. upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce. after the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution. Any tract of land comprised under this title may be leased or sold. and then declare them open to disposition or concession.

After the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution. “Commonwealth Act No.[56] These lands remained sui generis. encumbered. 141 exempted government units and entities from the maximum area of public lands that could be acquired from the State. as follows: “Foreshore lands are lands of public dominion intended for public use. Otherwise. 141 mirrors the legislative authority required in Section 56 of Act No. or other means. Puno summarized succinctly the law on this matter.” Under Section 10 of CA No. government reclaimed and marshy disposable lands of the public domain continued to be only leased and not sold to private parties.” Before leasing. 141 has remained in effect at present. Court of Appeals. 141 expressly states that disposable lands of the public domain intended for residential. Section 60 of CA No. Foreshore lands. 63.[54] unless a subsequent law amended or repealed these provisions. the only way the government can sell to private parties government reclaimed and marshy disposable lands of the public domain is for the legislature to pass a law authorizing such sale. the transfer of lands for non-agricultural purposes to government units and entities could be used to circumvent constitutional limitations on ownership of alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. Upon receipt of such authority. 141 after the 1935 Constitution took effect. In the same manner. 2874. and shall not exceed one hundred and forty-four hectares: Provided. The prohibition on the sale of foreshore lands. 141 constitutes by operation of law a lien on these lands. Moreover. Said law allowed only the ‘leasing’ of reclaimed land.[55] Justice Reynato S. x x x The area so leased or sold shall be such as shall. the Governor-General. 60. So too are lands reclaimed by the government by dredging. 141. That this limitation shall not apply to grants. Any disposition of government reclaimed. or transferred to a province. the term “disposition” includes lease of the land. foreshore and marshy disposable lands of the public domain. The Public Land Acts of 1919 and 1936 also declared that the foreshore and lands reclaimed by the government were to be “disposed of to private parties by lease only and not otherwise. donations. the Director of Lands shall ask the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce (now the Secretary of Natural Resources) for authority to dispose of the same. 141 expressly requires congressional authority before lands under Section 59 that the government previously transferred to government units or entities could be sold to private parties.” The State policy prohibiting the sale to private parties of government reclaimed. commercial. as the only alienable or disposable lands of the public domain the government could not sell to private parties. municipality or branch or subdivision of the Government for the purposes deemed by said entities conducive to the public interest. foreshore and marshy alienable lands of the public domain. One reason for the congressional authority is that Section 60 of CA No. first implemented in 1907 was thus reaffirmed in CA No. These government units and entities should not just turn around and sell these lands to private parties in violation of constitutional or statutory limitations. 141. unless reclaimed by the government and classified as agricultural lands of the public domain. became a constitutional edict under the 1935 Constitution. except when authorized by Congress: x x x. upon recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Foreshore lands became inalienable as natural resources of the State. or transfers made to a province. in which case they would fall under the classification of government reclaimed lands. Lands classified under Section 59 (d) are the only alienable or disposable lands for non-agricultural purposes that the government could sell to private parties. 141. foreshore and marshy disposable lands for non-agricultural purposes must comply with Chapter IX. such transfers could also be used to evade the statutory prohibition in CA No. be reasonably necessary for the purposes for which such sale or lease is requested. Sections 63 and 67 of CA No. This requisite must have been met before the land could be disposed of. Since then and until now. filling. As before. Title III of CA No. industrial or other productive purposes other than agricultural “shall be disposed of under the provisions of this chapter and not otherwise. Act 1654 mandated that the control and disposition of the foreshore and lands under water remained in the national government. had first to determine that the land reclaimed was not necessary for the public service. or those lands for non-agricultural purposes not classified as government reclaimed. Sections 63 and 67 require a public bidding. municipality or branch or subdivision of the Government shall not be alienated. In his concurring opinion in the landmark case of Republic Real Estate Corporation v. The land remained property of the State. But even then. 141 on the sale of government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain to private parties. however. Section 60 of CA No. CA No. however. 141. in the judgment of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. 141 does not authorize the President to reclassify government reclaimed and marshy lands into other non-agricultural lands under Section 59 (d). the foreshore and lands under water were not to be alienated and sold to private parties.agricultural purposes. 141 provide as follows: “Sec. Section 58 of CA No. The government could sell to private parties only lands falling under Section 59 (d) of CA No.” (Emphasis supplied) The congressional authority required in Section 60 of CA No. The disposition of the reclaimed land was only by lease. donated. Whenever it is decided that lands covered by this chapter are not needed for public purposes. or otherwise disposed of in a manner affecting its title. however. but the land so granted. Section 61 allowed only the lease of such lands to private parties. Section 60 of CA No. however. the Director of .” (Emphasis supplied) As observed by Justice Puno in his concurring opinion. 141 declares that – “Sec. became inalienable under the 1935 Constitution which only allowed the lease of these lands to qualified private parties.[57] In case of sale or lease of disposable lands of the public domain falling under Section 59 of CA No.

industrial or commercial. minerals. Section 8. residential. corporation. 1973. under the 1973 Constitution. Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution stated that – “Sec. natural resources shall not be alienated. Section 11. waters. and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State. 141 mandates the Government to put to public auction all leases or sales of alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. it would fall under the classification of agricultural land of the public domain. ports and bridges constructed by the State. the declaration of their being disposable. concession. x x x.” (Emphasis supplied) Thus. and are intended for some public service or for the development of the national wealth. however. The following things are property of public dominion: (1) Those intended for public use. is governed by the applicable provisions of CA No. commercial. Sec. and the conditions therefor. No private corporation or association may hold by lease. The Batasang Pambansa. any qualified individual. The 1973 Constitution. petroleum and other mineral oils. as well as the manner of their disposition. shall form part of the patrimonial property of the State. government reclaimed and marshy lands of the State.Lands shall give notice by public advertisement in the same manner as in the case of leases or sales of agricultural public land. 8. canals. license or permit. x x x. water supply. and development requirements of the natural resources. development. before the same could be classified as patrimonial property of the State. in which cases. likewise adopted the Regalian doctrine. when no longer intended for public use or for public service. without being for public use. Property of public dominion. and private corporations became . homestead or grant.[60] If the land of public domain were neither timber nor mineral land. if developed to enhance the national wealth. (2) Those which belong to the State. renewable for not more than twenty-five years.” (Emphasis supplied) Thus. shall determine by law the size of land of the public domain which may be developed. even if not employed for public use or public service.” However. The Civil Code of 1950 The Civil Code of 1950 readopted substantially the definition of property of public dominion found in the Civil Code of 1889. all forces of potential energy. without being for public use. banks. With the exception of agricultural. and resettlement lands of the public domain. coal. exploitation. rivers. CA No. Articles 420 and 422 of the Civil Code of 1950 state that – “Art. Private corporations. 67. residential and resettlement lands of the public domain. even if wholly owned by Philippine citizens. wildlife. or industrial uses other than the development of water power. are intended for public service or the “development of the national wealth. and adjudication shall be made to the highest bidder. x x x. 1654 and Act No. private corporations could hold alienable lands of the public domain only through lease. the 1935 Constitution barred the alienation of all natural resources except “public agricultural lands. All lands of the public domain. which took effect on January 17. 420. torrents. the reclaimed land could become private land only if classified as alienable agricultural land of the public domain open to disposition under CA No. fisheries. limited the alienation of lands of the public domain to individuals who were citizens of the Philippines. the government must formally declare that the property of public dominion is no longer needed for public use or public service. concession. were no longer allowed to acquire alienable lands of the public domain unlike in the 1935 Constitution.” In contrast. and resettlement lands of the public domain. beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant. except as to water rights for irrigation.” Again. 2874 before it. 141. fisheries. or lease for the exploration. therefore. and others of similar character. However. 141. and no license. Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution declared that – “Sec. prohibited the alienation of all natural resources except agricultural lands of the public domain. The 1935 Constitution prohibited the alienation of all natural resources except public agricultural lands.[58] Like Act No. residential. No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area nor may any citizen hold such lands by lease in excess of five hundred hectares or acquire by purchase. However. held or acquired by. Like the Civil Code of 1889. are classified as property of public dominion. Both the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions. shores. 422. or association. or leased to. Dispositions under the 1973 Constitution The 1973 Constitution. roadsteads. or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period exceeding twentyfive years.” (Emphasis supplied) The 1973 Constitution prohibited the alienation of all natural resources with the exception of “agricultural. Only individuals could now acquire alienable lands of the public domain. The lease or sale shall be made by oral bidding. in excess of twenty-four hectares. the Civil Code of 1950 included as property of public dominion those properties of the State which. 11. ecological. CA No.” Thus. such as roads. taking into account conservation. the term “public agricultural lands” in the 1935 Constitution encompassed industrial. Private parties could still reclaim portions of the sea with government permission. such area may be increased by the Batasang Pambansa upon recommendation of the National Economic and Development Authority. timber or forest lands and other timber or forest resources in excess of one hundred thousand hectares. 141 did not repeal Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. industrial or commercial.[59] In the case of government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain. Art.

Foreshore areas are those covered and uncovered by the ebb and flow of the tide. The ban in the 1973 Constitution on private corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the public domain did not apply to PEA since it was then. coal. which states – “Sec. and subject to the requirements of agrarian reform. or to acquire reclaimed land.” (Emphasis supplied) PD No. Agricultural lands of the public domain may be further classified by law according to the uses which they may be devoted. and further declared no longer needed for public service.” (Emphasis supplied) Without such legislative authority. as well as title to lands of the public domain. xxx (i) To hold lands of the public domain in excess of the area permitted to private corporations by statute. lease and sell any and all kinds of lands. flume x x x. Sections 4 and 8 of PD No. by law. x x x. The 1987 Constitution declares that all natural resources are “owned by the State. only to “private corporations and associations. Sec. dispose. The Authority is hereby created for the following purposes: (a) To reclaim land. The Authority shall. wildlife. fisheries. Private corporations or associations may not hold such alienable lands of the public domain except by lease. subdivide. 1084 Creating the Public Estates Authority On February 4. the Congress shall determine. or acquire not more than twelve hectares thereof by purchase. PD No. This legislative authority is necessary in view of Section 60 of CA No. and not to exceed one thousand hectares in area. in carrying out the purposes for which it is created. any stream. The constitutional ban applied then. filling or other means. by dredging. operate or administer such service as may be necessary for the efficient. like the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions before it. 1084 authorizes PEA to reclaim both foreshore and submerged areas of the public domain.” PD No. deal in. the size of lands of the public domain which may be acquired. buildings. 5. any legislative authority granted to PEA to sell its reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain would be subject to the constitutional ban on private corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the public domain. or leased and the conditions therefor. 1084 creating PEA. Dispositions under the 1987 Constitution The 1987 Constitution. such legislative authority could only benefit private individuals. 141 applied only to government reclaimed. Sections 2 and 3. xxx (o) To perform such acts and exercise such functions as may be necessary for the attainment of the purposes and objectives herein specified. or otherwise. Purpose. forest or timber.absolutely barred from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain. x x x. Hence. economical and beneficial utilization of the above properties. but the land so granted. and until today. improve. canal. Powers and functions of the Authority. (c) To provide for. acquire. and development.” (Emphasis supplied) The 1987 Constitution continues the State policy in the 1973 Constitution banning private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the . natural resources cannot be alienated. vests PEA with the following purposes and powers: “Sec. 1084.” and except for alienable agricultural lands of the public domain. all other natural resources shall not be alienated. Section 3. minerals. All lands of the public domain. homestead. The exploration. Citizens of the Philippines may lease not more than five hundred hectares.141. waters. PEA can hold title to private lands. or grant. development.” Thus. (b) To develop. administer. Alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to agricultural lands. including foreshore and submerged areas. Lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural. foreshore and marshy alienable lands of the public domain. petroleum and other mineral oils. x x x. while the statutory ban under CA No. (j) To reclaim lands and to construct work across. 4. held. municipality. 1084 expressly empowers PEA “to hold lands of the public domain” even “in excess of the area permitted to private corporations by statute. watercourse.[62] Foreshore and submerged areas indisputably belong to the public domain[63] and are inalienable unless reclaimed. all forces of potential energy. have the following powers and functions: (a)To prescribe its by-laws. a wholly government owned and controlled corporation with a special charter. In order for PEA to sell its reclaimed foreshore and submerged alienable lands of the public domain. estates and other forms of real property. flora and fauna. PEA could not sell but only lease its reclaimed foreshore and submerged alienable lands of the public domain. 1977. owned. and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. and national parks. With the exception of agricultural lands. encumbered or otherwise disposed of in a manner affecting its title. 60. donated or transferred to a province. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution state that – “Section 2. then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. there must be legislative authority empowering PEA to sell these lands. The constitutional ban extended to all kinds of alienable lands of the public domain. mineral lands. controlled and/or operated by the government. as it still applies now. has adopted the Regalian doctrine. forests or timber. for a period not exceeding twenty-five years. classified as alienable lands open to disposition.[61] Submerged areas are those permanently under water regardless of the ebb and flow of the tide. ecology. except when authorized by Congress. ditch. or branch or subdivision of the Government shall not be alienated. Taking into account the requirements of conservation. a fully owned government corporation. and other natural resources are owned by the State. renewable for not more than twenty-five years. developed. managed. Nevertheless.

the 1987 Constitution allows private corporations to hold alienable lands of the public domain only through lease. The Amended Joint Venture Agreement The subject matter of the Amended JVA. placing the land in the name of a corporation would be more effective in preventing the break-up of farmlands. Vice-President. In effect. Under the Amended JVA. Like the 1973 Constitution. The constitutional intent. and the rest of the 592. is to transfer ownership of only a limited area of alienable land of the public domain to a qualified individual. if the constitutional intent is to prevent huge landholdings. this provision did not exist under the 1935 Constitution. This constitutional intent is safeguarded by the provision prohibiting corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the public domain. is the practical benefit arising from the constitutional ban.00 for PEA’s “actual cost” in partially reclaiming the Freedom Islands. The Constitution could have followed the limitations on individuals. alienable lands of the public domain is not well understood. individuals who already acquired the maximum area of alienable lands of the public domain could easily set up corporations to acquire more alienable public lands.”[65] PEA confirms that the Amended JVA involves “the development of the Freedom Islands and further reclamation of about 250 hectares x x x. except through lease. as stated in its second Whereas clause.” plus an option “granted to AMARI to subsequently reclaim another 350 hectares x x x.’ If we recall. it would seem. the Constitution could have simply limited the size of alienable lands of the public domain that corporations could acquire. it was indicated that the purpose of this is to prevent large landholdings. The most effective way to insure faithful adherence to this constitutional intent is to grant or sell alienable lands of the public domain only to individuals. not to exceed one thousand hectares in area. line 5 which says: `No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease.441 square meters. VILLEGAS: I think that is the spirit of the provision. An individual could own as many corporations as his means would allow him.421.15 hectares are still submerged areas forming part of Manila Bay. The corporation is a convenient vehicle to circumvent the constitutional limitation on acquisition by individuals of alienable lands of the public domain. there were instances where the Iglesia ni Cristo was not allowed to acquire a mere 313square meter land where a chapel stood because the Supreme Court said it would be in violation of this. the reclamation of the .” and 3. upon the death of the owner. Metro Manila. This. FR.129. but this was introduced in the 1973 Constitution. consists of three properties. In actual practice.public domain. An individual could even hide his ownership of a corporation by putting his nominees as stockholders of the corporation. AMARI will reimburse PEA the sum of P1.[64] the Court explained the rationale behind this constitutional ban in this way: “Indeed.84 hectares of the 750-hectare reclamation project have been reclaimed. at its own expense. Is that the intent of this provision? MR. BERNAS: In existing decisions involving the Iglesia ni Cristo. and not more than 12 hectares under the 1987 Constitution.”[66] In short. “[A]nother area of 2. under the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions. The Rationale behind the Constitutional Ban The rationale behind the constitutional ban on corporations from acquiring. Cusi. the constitutional ban strengthens the constitutional limitation on individuals from acquiring more than the allowed area of alienable lands of the public domain.” However.” 2. since the vehicle to circumvent the constitutional intent is removed. 141.894. The available alienable public lands are gradually decreasing in the face of an evergrowing population. During the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. my questions have reference to page 3.200. it prohibits private corporations from acquiring alienable public lands.” (Emphasis supplied) In Ayog v. Huge landholdings by corporations or private persons had spawned social unrest. with a combined titled area of 1. “[T]hree partially reclaimed and substantially eroded islands along Emilio Aguinaldo Boulevard in Paranaque and Las Pinas. the Amended JVA covers a reclamation area of 750 hectares. Only 157. the commissioners probed the rationale behind this ban.559 square meters contiguous to the three islands. namely: 1. his heirs would inherit shares in the corporation instead of subdivided parcels of the farmland. AMARI will also complete. who could acquire not more than 24 hectares of alienable lands of the public domain under the 1973 Constitution. Without the constitutional ban. an additional 350 hectares more or less to regularize the configuration of the reclaimed area. foreshore and marshy alienable lands of the public domain is still CA No. thus: “FR. In some of the cases decided in 1982 and 1983. But it has not been very clear in jurisprudence what the reason for this is. “[A]t AMARI’s option as approved by PEA. the general law governing the lease to private corporations of reclaimed. BERNAS: Mr.578. one purpose of the constitutional prohibition against purchases of public agricultural lands by private corporations is to equitably diffuse land ownership or to encourage ‘owner-cultivatorship and the economic family-size farm’ and to prevent a recurrence of cases like the instant case. As in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions. If the constitutional intent is to encourage economic family-size farms. If the farmland is registered in the name of a corporation. This would prevent the continuing break-up of farmlands into smaller and smaller plots from one generation to the next.

With the exception of agricultural lands. coal. as owner. fisheries. these reclaimed lands cannot be classified as alienable or disposable if the law has reserved them for some public or quasi-public use.2. totaling 367. The lands disposable under this title shall be classified as follows: (a) Lands reclaimed by the government by dredging. the Legal Task Force[68] constituted under Presidential Administrative Order No. Private corporations or associations may not hold such alienable lands of the public domain except by lease. filling. 1995.”[69] The Legal Task Force concluded that – “D. There must be a law or presidential proclamation officially classifying these reclaimed lands as alienable or disposable and open to disposition or concession. 365 admitted in its Report and Recommendation to then President Fidel V. all other natural resources shall not be alienated.a of the Amended JVA states that – “PEA hereby contributes to the joint venture its rights and privileges to perform Rawland Reclamation and Horizontal Development as well as own the Reclamation Area. can acquire and own under the Amended JVA 367.” Under Section 2. does not apply to reclaimed lands whose ownership has passed on to PEA by statutory grant. when requested in writing by AMARI. that if more than seventy percent (70%) of the titled area at any given time pertains to AMARI. 141 provides that “only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or concession which have been officially delimited and classified. PEA shall have the duty to execute without delay the necessary deed of transfer or conveyance of the title pertaining to AMARI’s Land share based on the Land Allocation Plan. However. Conclusion Reclaimed lands are lands of the public domain. as amended). Ramos. a private corporation.” unless they are classified as “agricultural lands” of the public domain. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which state that: “Section 2.5 hectares. The mere reclamation of these areas by PEA does not convert these inalienable natural resources of the State into alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. Section 3. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. AMARI and PEA will share. shall then cause the issuance and delivery of the proper certificates of title covering AMARI’s Land Share in the name of AMARI. the total net usable area which is defined in the Amended JVA as the total reclaimed area less 30 percent earmarked for common areas. flora and fauna. minerals. To implement the Amended JVA. reclaimed lands are classified as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain: ‘Sec. thereby granting the Joint Venture the full and exclusive right. waters x x x and other natural resources” and consequently “owned by the State. Moreover. in the proportion of 70 percent and 30 percent. 59. PEA. pursuant to Section 6 of CA No. x x x. or other means.” (Emphasis supplied) Indisputably. The constitutional provision prohibiting private corporations from holding public land.5 hectares of reclaimed foreshore and submerged areas in Manila Bay in view of Sections 2 and 3.”(Emphasis supplied) Classification of Reclaimed Foreshore and Submerged Areas PEA readily concedes that lands reclaimed from foreshore or submerged areas of Manila Bay are alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. AMARI will further shoulder all the reclamation costs of all the other areas. 1995 and its supplemental agreement dated August 9. waters.Freedom Islands.”[72] The President has the authority to classify inalienable lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. 3. forests or timber. XVII. xxx Section 3.[73] the Executive Department attempted to sell the Roppongi property in Tokyo. The Threshold Issue The threshold issue is whether AMARI. by virtue of which PEA. respectively. and other mineral oils. may validly convey the same to any qualified person without violating the Constitution or any statute. In Laurel vs.[67] PEA admits that – “Under the Public Land Act (CA 141. Section 5. provided. all forces of potential energy. under the Amended JVA AMARI will acquire and own a maximum of 367.” As such. Garcia. Japan. Art. until such time when a corresponding proportionate area of additional land pertaining to PEA has been titled. will be issued in the name of AMARI. the foreshore and submerged areas of Manila Bay are part of the “lands of the public domain. rights and privileges to reclaim foreshore and submerged areas in Manila Bay. and other natural resources are owned by the State. x x x Alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to agricultural lands.[70] 1987 Constitution). Title to AMARI’s share in the net usable area.’” (Emphasis supplied) Likewise.2 (c) of the Amended JVA provides that – “x x x.5 hectares of reclaimed land which will be titled in its name. All lands of the public domain.” The Amended JVA is the product of a renegotiation of the original JVA dated April 25. which was acquired by the Philippine Government for use as the Chancery of the Philippine . totaling 592. PEA shall deliver to AMARI only seventy percent (70%) of the titles pertaining to AMARI. x x x. In its Memorandum. [71] Section 8 of CA No. petroleum.15 hectares. by statutory authority. 141. x x x. the rights of ownership and disposition over reclaimed lands have been transferred to PEA. x x x. still to be reclaimed. “[R]eclaimed lands are classified as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. PEA delegated to the unincorporated PEAAMARI joint venture PEA’s statutory authority. except by lease (Sec. wildlife. foreshore and submerged areas “shall not be alienated. authority and privilege to undertake the Project in accordance with the Master Development Plan.

revoked all laws authorizing the reclamation of areas under water and revested solely in the National Government the power to reclaim lands. 3-A. and national parks. then it cannot be said that reclaimed lands are lands of the public domain which the State may not alienate. 66 SCRA 481 [1975]. not available for private appropriation or ownership ‘until there is a formal declaration on the part of the government to withdraw it from being such’ (Ignacio v. In particular. mineral. It also meant that the State could grant or withhold ownership of the reclaimed land because any reclaimed land. belonged to the State. AMARI claims that the Freedom Islands are private lands because CDCP. the contract between CDCP and the government was executed after the effectivity of the 1973 Constitution which barred private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain. forest or timber. either by purchase or by grant. 3517 in the name of PEA for the 157.”[77] Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters must be read together with laws subsequently enacted on the disposition of public lands.[78] Moreover.” This clearly meant that no one could reclaim from the sea without permission from the State because the sea is property of public dominion. are “waters x x x owned by the State” forming part of the public domain. argues that “if the ownership of reclaimed lands may be given to the party constructing the works. 1977. 1085. the Freedom Islands were no longer part of Manila Bay but part of the land mass.” PD No. is equivalent to an official proclamation classifying the Freedom Islands as alienable or disposable lands of the public domain.” (Emphasis supplied) PD No. pueblos or private persons. belong to the public domain. At the time then President Aquino issued Special Patent No. Although the Chancery had transferred to another location thirteen years earlier. 335 [1960]. a private person reclaiming from the sea without permission from the State could not acquire ownership of the reclaimed land which would remain property of public dominion like the sea it replaced.” Being neither timber. 3-A repealed Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 because reclamation of areas under water could now be undertaken only by the National Government or by a person contracted by the National Government. and are inalienable pursuant to Section 2. PD No. Section 3. unless otherwise provided by the terms of the grant of authority. On January 19. These lands must not be reserved for public or quasi-public purposes. issued on January 11. Subsequently. issued on February 4.[76] Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 adopted the timehonored principle of land ownership that “all lands that were not acquired from the government. shall become the property of the party constructing such works. 1999 the Register of Deeds of the Municipality of Paranaque issued TCT Nos. PD No.”[75] Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters reads as follows: “Article 5. The Freedom Islands are thus alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution classifies lands of the public domain into “agricultural. Bercilles. such as the seas or bays. on April 9. authorized the issuance of special land patents for lands reclaimed by PEA from the foreshore or submerged areas of Manila Bay. 1085 and President Aquino’s issuance of a land patent also constitute a declaration that the Freedom Islands are no longer needed for public service. 1973. shall be limited to the National Government or any person authorized by it under a proper contract. 3517. whether foreshore or inland. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. and no longer by grant or permission as provided in Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866.Embassy. private parties could reclaim from the sea only with “proper permission” from the State. Presidential Decree No. 7309. The Court ruled that – “The fact that the Roppongi site has not been used for a long time for actual Embassy service does not automatically convert it to patrimonial property. Director of Lands. Private parties may reclaim from the sea only under a contract with the National Government. CA No. coupled with President Aquino’s actual issuance of a special patent covering the Freedom Islands. A property continues to be part of the public domain. 1085. citing Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. Section 1 of PD No.84 hectares comprising the partially reclaimed Freedom Islands. the Court still ruled that. This contract could not have converted the Freedom Islands into private lands of a private corporation. or by the provinces.” (Emphasis supplied) Under Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. with proper permission. reclaimed the islands under a contract dated November 20. 7311 and 7312 in the name of PEA pursuant to Section 103 of PD No. 1973 with the Commissioner of Public Highways. mineral lands. Private parties could own the reclaimed land only if not “otherwise provided by the terms of the grant of authority. then a private corporation. agricultural lands of the public domain are the only natural resources that the State may alienate to qualified private parties. 3-A declared that – “The provisions of any law to the contrary notwithstanding. the reclamation of areas under water. Thus. 141 requires that lands of the public domain must first be classified as alienable or disposable before the government can alienate them. 108 Phil. Any such conversion happens only if the property is withdrawn from public use (Cebu Oxygen and Acetylene Co. 1988 then President Corazon C. the reclaimed Freedom Islands necessarily fall under the classification of agricultural lands of the public domain. All other natural resources. AMARI. To this day. Thus. open to disposition or concession to qualified parties. Lands reclaimed from the sea in consequence of works constructed by the State. nor national park lands. The government had also completed the necessary surveys on these islands. v. Under the 1987 Constitution. like the sea from which it emerged. PEA had already reclaimed the Freedom Islands although subsequently there were partial erosions on some areas. under Article 422[74] of the Civil Code. . 1529 authorizing the issuance of certificates of title corresponding to land patents. Aquino issued Special Patent No. these certificates of title are still in the name of PEA. (Emphasis supplied) x x x. a property of public dominion retains such character until formally declared otherwise.

whether or not classified as alienable or disposable.” DENR also exercises “exclusive jurisdiction on the management and disposition of all lands of the public domain. by declaring that all lands reclaimed by PEA “shall belong to or be owned by the PEA. under EO No. PEA became the primary implementing agency of the National Government to reclaim foreshore and submerged lands of the public domain. Only when actually reclaimed from the sea can these submerged areas be classified as public agricultural lands. Powers and Functions.” forming part of the public domain and consequently inalienable. The Department shall: (1) x x x xxx (4) Exercise supervision and control over forest lands. 525 provides that PEA “shall be primarily responsible for integrating. fees. x x x. These submerged areas are not covered by any patent or certificate of title. There is no legislative or Presidential act classifying these submerged areas as alienable or disposable lands of the public domain open to disposition. exploration and utilization of the country’s marine. concessions.” could not automatically operate to classify inalienable lands into alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. 3-A and PD No. tramways and other kinds of land transportation.Executive Order No. or in kind consisting of portions of the reclaimed land. a private party receives compensation for reclamation services rendered to PEA. like foreshore or submerged areas of Manila Bay. EO No.” The same section also states that “[A]ll reclamation projects shall be approved by the President upon recommendation of the PEA. maintain and operate such storm drains as may be necessary.15 hectares which are still submerged and forming part of Manila Bay. The classification of PEA’s reclaimed foreshore and submerged lands into alienable or disposable lands open to disposition is necessary because PEA is tasked under its charter to undertake public services that require the use of lands of the public domain. in relation to PD No. Otherwise. xxx (14) Promulgate rules. and shall be undertaken by the PEA or through a proper contract executed by it with any person or entity. cancel or cause to cancel such privileges upon failure.” Thus. reclaimed foreshore and submerged lands of the public domain would automatically become alienable once reclaimed by PEA. directing. should be . the government may then officially classify these lands as alienable or disposable lands open to disposition. Payment to the contractor may be in cash. and for all other causes which are in furtherance of the conservation of natural resources and supportive of the national interest. a later law than either PD No. and in their present state are inalienable and outside the commerce of man. the functions of PEA include the following: “[T]o own or operate railroads. 525. 1084 or EO No.” Under such contract. 525. sub-classification. The Revised Administrative Code of 1987. regulations and guidelines on the issuance of licenses. 1084. There can be no dispute that these submerged areas form part of the public domain. which under the Constitution are the only natural resources that the State may alienate. maintain and operate such systems of sanitary sewers as may be necessary. Under Section 5 of PD No. (15) Exercise exclusive jurisdiction on the management and disposition of all lands of the public domain and serve as the sole agency responsible for classification. “waters x x x owned by the State. alienable and disposable public lands. DENR decides whether areas under water.” which “shall be undertaken by the PEA or through a proper contract executed by it with any person or entity. Until reclaimed from the sea. order. 1979.”[80] (Emphasis supplied) As manager. development. [T]o construct. in the process of exercising such control. Section 3 of EO No. mineral resources and. freshwater. 525. x x x. but also an additional 592. surveying and titling of lands in consultation with appropriate agencies. and coordinating all reclamation projects for and on behalf of the National Government. Thereafter. subject to the constitutional ban on private corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the public domain. utilization or gathering of such resources. these submerged areas are. [T]o construct.”[79] Since large portions of these reclaimed lands would obviously be needed for public service. buildings and/or any of its properties and to impose or collect fees or tolls for their use.” Thus. utilities. The Amended JVA covers not only the Freedom Islands.” PEA is empowered to issue “rules and regulations as may be necessary for the proper use by private parties of any or all of the highways. designated PEA as the National Government’s implementing arm to undertake “all reclamation projects of the government. roads. Moreover. lease agreements and such other privileges concerning the development. The reclaimed land can be used as payment in kind only if the reclaimed land is first classified as alienable or disposable land open to disposition. and then declared no longer needed for public service. and brackish water and over all aquatic resources of the country and shall continue to oversee. non-compliance or violations of any regulation. rentals and any such form of levy and collect such revenues for the exploration.1084. permits. part of the reclaimed foreshore and submerged lands held by the PEA would actually be needed for public use or service since many of the functions imposed on PEA by its charter constitute essential public services. Section 1 of Executive Order No. impose appropriate taxes. supervise and police our natural resources. 525 recognized PEA as the government entity “to undertake the reclamation of lands and ensure their maximum utilization in promoting public welfare and interests. DENR exercises “supervision and control over alienable and disposable public lands. vests in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (“DENR” for brevity) the following powers and functions: “Sec. the government may declare these lands no longer needed for public service. charges. 4.” Thus. issued on February 14. Only then can these reclaimed lands be considered alienable or disposable lands of the public domain and within the commerce of man. Once reclaimed and transformed into public agricultural lands. there must be a formal declaration segregating reclaimed lands no longer needed for public service from those still needed for public service. conservator and overseer of the natural resources of the State. 525. under the Constitution.

141. issued on February 14. We note that then DENR Secretary Fulgencio S. conveyed and assigned to the ownership and administration of the Public Estates Authority established pursuant to PD No. the Public Land Act. Once DENR decides that the reclaimed lands should be so classified. open to disposition under the Constitution. Provided.[84] PEA’s Authority to Sell Reclaimed Lands PEA. which states that – 48 of the Revised conveyance shall be executed in behalf of the government by the following: x x x. DENR is vested with the power to authorize the reclamation of areas under water. the Public Estates Authority shall exercise the rights and assume the obligations of the Republic of the Philippines (Department of Public Highways) arising from. much less patrimonial lands of PEA. Garcia. Whenever real property of the Government is authorized by law to be conveyed. provides that – “The land reclaimed in the foreshore and offshore area of Manila Bay pursuant to the contract for the reclamation and construction of the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road Project between the Republic of the Philippines and the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines dated November 20. DENR decides whether reclaimed lands of PEA should be classified as alienable under Sections 6[81] and 7[82] of CA No. On the other hand. PEA is tasked to develop.reclaimed or not. citing Section 60 of CA No. This means that PEA needs authorization from DENR before PEA can undertake reclamation projects in Manila Bay. 48. countersigned Special Patent No. The Secretary of Public Highways and the General Manager of the Public Estates Authority shall execute such contracts or agreements. It requires executive and legislative concurrence. except when authorized by Congress: x x x. 1973 and/or any other contract or reclamation covering the same area is hereby transferred. lands reclaimed by PEA remain inalienable lands of the public domain. DENR also exercises exclusive jurisdiction over the disposition of all lands of the public domain. the Public Estates Authority shall issue in favor of the Republic of the Philippines the corresponding shares of stock in said entity with an issued value of said shares of stock (which) shall be deemed fully paid and non-assessable. Factoran. In consideration of the foregoing transfer and assignment. much less patrimonial lands of PEA. it then recommends to the President the issuance of a proclamation classifying the lands as alienable or disposable lands of the public domain open to disposition. the deed of . Hence. 525. 1977. however. the reclaimed lands shall be disposed of in accordance with CA No. 141.” (Emphasis supplied) On the other hand. including appropriate agreements with the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines. or otherwise disposed of in a manner affecting its title. issued on February 4. argues that as alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. Clearly. or incident to. PEA. Official Authorized to Convey Real Property. PD No. while PEA is vested with the power to undertake the physical reclamation of areas under water. 1979. like the Legal Task Force. 141. sell or lease the reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain. admits that reclaimed lands transferred to a branch or subdivision of the government “shall not be alienated. In short. the Court concluded that a law is needed to convey any real property belonging to the Government. encumbered. Only such an official classification and formal declaration can convert reclaimed lands into alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. The Court declared that “It is not for the President to convey real property of the government on his or her own sole will. 1085. 3517 in compliance with the Revised Administrative Code and Sections 6 and 7 of CA No. 141 and other applicable laws. 1085 and EO No. Section 3 of EO No.[86] the Court cited Section Administrative Code of 1987. 525 constitute the legislative authority allowing PEA to sell its reclaimed lands. Absent two official acts – a classification that these lands are alienable or disposable and open to disposition and a declaration that these lands are not needed for public service. 141.” (Emphasis supplied) PEA contends that PD No. Special land patent/patents shall be issued by the Secretary of Natural Resources in favor of the Public Estates Authority without prejudice to the subsequent transfer to the contractor or his assignees of such portion or portions of the land reclaimed or to be reclaimed as provided for in the abovementioned contract. as may be necessary to implement the above. Henceforth. Jr. whether directly or through private contractors. Any such conveyance must be authorized and approved by a law enacted by the Congress. 1084. Likewise. Title I and Title III[83] of CA No. the aforesaid contract between the Republic of the Philippines and the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines. the mere physical act of reclamation by PEA of foreshore or submerged areas does not make the reclaimed lands alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. That the rights and interests of the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines pursuant to the aforesaid contract shall be recognized and respected. or in any part of the country. DENR is also empowered to classify lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable lands subject to the approval of the President. the mere transfer by the National Government of lands of the public domain to PEA does not make the lands alienable or disposable lands of the public domain.”[85] (Emphasis by PEA) In Laurel vs.” Thus. provides that - “Sec. the Land Registration Commission shall issue the corresponding certificate of title. On the basis of such patents.

with the legislative authority. it may be destroyed in their presence. whether in kind and in installment. 141 requiring public auction. controlled and/or operated by the government. while EO No. The provision in PD No. as amended. 1085 would violate both the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions. be inspected by the head of the agency or his duly authorized representative in the presence of the auditor concerned and. 654. improve.”[87] (Emphasis supplied) There is.” There is no express authority under either PD No. upon application of the officer accountable therefor. PEA may sell to private parties its patrimonial properties in accordance with the PEA charter free from constitutional limitations. 1991. PEA imposed a condition that the winning bidder should reclaim another 250 hectares of submerged areas to regularize the shape of the Freedom Islands. it may be sold at public auction to the highest bidder under the supervision of the proper committee on award or similar body in the presence of the auditor concerned or other authorized representative of the Commission. PEA must observe the provisions of Sections 63 and 67 of CA No. 525 for PEA to sell its reclaimed lands. 1445 mandates that – “Section 79. 1084. Section 79 of PD No. 1084. does not exempt PEA from the requirement of public auction.[92] No one. and further declared no longer needed for public service. the property may be sold at a private sale at such price as may be fixed by the same committee or body concerned and approved by the Commission.[93] .“Sec. however. This circular emphasizes that government assets must be disposed of only through public auction. The constitutional ban on private corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the public domain does not apply to the sale of PEA’s patrimonial lands. only Philippine citizens are qualified to bid for PEA’s reclaimed foreshore and submerged alienable lands of the public domain. 1445. When government property has become unserviceable for any cause. in the absence of a law exempting PEA from holding a public auction. If found to be valuable. but does not authorize PEA to dispense with public auction. 1991. 1084. the Government Corporate Counsel advised PEA it could sell the Freedom Islands through negotiation. or for not less than three consecutive days in any newspaper of general circulation. On December 23. The legislative authority benefits only individuals. after advertising by printed notice in the Official Gazette. acquire.” the charter of PEA. however. by notices posted for a like period in at least three public places in the locality where the property is to be sold. or where the value of the property does not warrant the expense of publication. “supplemented by Commonwealth Act No. EO No. 141 apply to the disposition of reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain unless otherwise provided by law. administer. Private corporations are barred from bidding at the auction sale of any kind of alienable land of the public domain. if found to be valueless or unsaleable. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution expressly prohibits such sales. Otherwise. All lands reclaimed by PEA shall belong to or be owned by the PEA which shall be responsible for its administration. Executive Order No. Moreover. [89] which authorizes PEA “to determine the kind and manner of payment for the transfer” of its assets and properties. lease and sell any and all kinds of lands x x x owned. the provisions of PD No. 1085 or EO No. there is no longer any statutory prohibition against such sales and the constitutional ban does not apply to individuals.” It is only when the public auction fails that a negotiated sale is allowed. otherwise known as the Government Auditing Code. PEA would have to conduct a public bidding in selling or leasing these lands. deal in. 3. whether patrimonial or alienable lands of the public domain. 141. submitted a bid. 89-296[91] dated January 27. or is no longer needed. In the event that the public auction fails. Any and all income that the PEA may derive from the sale.” EO No. including government reclaimed lands. PEA originally scheduled a public bidding for the Freedom Islands on December 10. expressly tasks PEA “to develop.[90] The Commission on Audit implements Section 79 of the Government Auditing Code through Circular No. PEA. and a negotiated sale can be resorted to only in case of “failure of public auction. 1994. legislative authority granted to PEA to sell its lands. it shall. utilization or disposition in accordance with the provisions of Presidential Decree No. because of the failure of the public bidding on December 10. 525 expressly states that PEA should dispose of its reclaimed lands “in accordance with the provisions of Presidential Decree No. subdivide. dispose.[88] Special Patent No. lease or use of reclaimed lands shall be used in accordance with the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1989. 525 declared that lands reclaimed by PEA “shall belong to or be owned by PEA. cannot sell any of its alienable or disposable lands of the public domain to private corporations since Section 3. PEA may also sell its alienable or disposable lands of the public domain to private individuals since. 1084. 1085 stating that portions of the reclaimed lands could be transferred by PEA to the “contractor or his assignees” (Emphasis supplied) would not apply to private corporations but only to individuals because of the constitutional ban.” At the public auction sale. therefore. Private corporations remain barred from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain. the government is required to sell valuable government property through public bidding.” This is an acknowledgment that the provisions of CA No. PD No. however. PEA’s charter. under Section 79 of PD No. under a 60-40 sharing of the additional reclaimed areas in favor of the winning bidder. development. 1085 merely transferred “ownership and administration” of lands reclaimed from Manila Bay to PEA. in which case the Commission on Audit must approve the selling price. 654 merely authorizes PEA to decide the mode of payment. 3517 expressly states that the patent is issued by authority of the Constitution and PD No. managed. The requirement of public auction in the sale of reclaimed lands Assuming the reclaimed lands of PEA are classified as alienable or disposable lands open to disposition. without need of another public bidding.

” Although Section 302 of the Local Government Code does not contain a proviso similar to that of the BOT Law. portions of the reclaimed land.84 hectares comprising the Freedom Islands have become private lands of PEA. 1995 covered not only the Freedom Islands and the additional 250 hectares still to be reclaimed. Maintenance. PEA and AMARI contend that with the issuance of Special Patent No. the 157. almost double the area publicly auctioned. cannot acquire reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain in view of the constitutional ban. more than three years before the signing of the original JVA on April 25. the original JVA dated April 25. Sumail v. cited by PEA and AMARI as legislative authority to sell reclaimed lands to private parties. The original JVA. operation and maintenance of any infrastructure projects undertaken through the buildoperate-and-transfer arrangement or any of its variations pursuant to the provisions of this Act. 1971. Heirs of Jose Aliwalas. 1991. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. therefore. and Management of Infrastructure Projects by the Private Sector. the said lots ceased to be part of the public domain and. 1995. Besides. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution is absolute and clear: “Private corporations or associations may not hold such alienable lands of the public domain except by lease. David. 1991.[99] where the Court ruled “While the Director of Lands has the power to review homestead patents. it also granted an option to AMARI to reclaim another 350 hectares.[101] where the Court stated – . In support of their theory. . Intermediate Appellate Court.Republic v.” 4. the land ceased to be part of the public domain and became private property over which the Director of Lands has neither control nor jurisdiction. the constitutional restrictions on land ownership automatically apply even though not expressly mentioned in the Local Government Code. the grant of a portion or percentage of the reclaimed land. but not limited to. enlarged the reclamation area to 750 hectares. can only be paid with leaseholds on portions of the reclaimed land.” (Emphasis supplied) A private corporation. and free patents were issued covering the same in favor of the private respondents. Financing. the land ceases to be part of the public domain and becomes private property over which the Director of Lands has neither control nor jurisdiction.[98] where the Court declared “After the registration and issuance of the certificate and duplicate certificate of title based on a public land patent. to wit: “Section 302. the Director of Lands lost jurisdiction over the same.” Even Republic Act No.For the financing. may be conveyed to him in ownership in view of the legislative authority allowing such conveyance. subject to the constitutional requirements with respect to the ownership of the land: x x x. Manalo v. such as. even one that undertakes the physical reclamation of a government BOT project. The economic situation in the country had greatly improved during the intervening period.” In short. the project proponent x x x may likewise be repaid in the form of a share in the revenue of the project or other non-monetary payments. PEA and AMARI cite the following rulings of the Court: 1. but once the patent is registered and a certificate of title is issued. PEA theorizes that the “act of conveying the ownership of the reclaimed lands to public respondent PEA transformed such lands of the public domain to private lands. the failure of public bidding happened on December 10. x x x xxx In case of land reclamation or construction of industrial estates.[95] is not a valid justification for a negotiated sale of 750 hectares. construction. recognizes the constitutional ban. authorizes local governments in land reclamation projects to pay the contractor or developer in kind consisting of a percentage of the reclaimed land. 6957 (“BOT Law. This is the only way these provisions of the BOT Law and the Local Government Code can avoid a direct collision with Section 3.[97] where the Court held – “Once the patent was granted and the corresponding certificate of title was issued. 6957 states – “Sec.However. if a corporate entity. the contractor or developer.[94] The failure of public bidding on December 10. Construction. Lee Hong Hok v.84 hectares.[100] where the Court held – “When the lots in dispute were certified as disposable on May 19. involving only 407. Judge of CFI of Cotabato. also mentioned by PEA and AMARI. Reclamation under the BOT Law and the Local Government Code The constitutional prohibition in Section 3. 6. Heirs of Gregorio Tengco v. under either the BOT Law or the Local Government Code.” 3.” for brevity).” This theory is echoed by AMARI which maintains that the “issuance of the special patent leading to the eventual issuance of title takes the subject land away from the land of public domain and converts the property into patrimonial or private property.” 5. Section 302 of the Local Government Code. he may do so only so long as the land remains part of the public domain and continues to be under his exclusive control. Registration of lands of the public domain Finally. 3517 and the corresponding certificates of titles. Thus. a negotiated contract. Section 6 of RA No. Court of Appeals. x x x. the land covered thereby automatically comes under the operation of Republic Act 496 subject to all the safeguards provided therein.” 2. the repayment plan may consist of the grant of a portion or percentage of the reclaimed land or the industrial estate constructed. Repayment Scheme. If the contractor or developer is an individual. Operation. not exceeding 12 hectares[96] of non-agricultural lands.

No patent or certificate of title has been issued to any private party. prior to such law.” the sale of alienable lands of the public domain that are transferred to government units or entities.’” The first four cases cited involve petitions to cancel the land patents and the corresponding certificates of titles issued to private parties. “except when authorized by Congress. and the land covered by these certificates. 496 or PD No.8-hectare public land granted by the National Government to Mindanao Medical Center. EO No. Section 60 of CA No. a government unit under the Department of Health. Registration does not give the registrant a better right than what the registrant had prior to the registration. which governs the registration of grants or patents involving public lands. that by authority of the Constitution of the Philippines and in conformity with the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 3517 issued by then President Aquino. 525 declares that – “EXECUTIVE ORDER NO.[103] Jurisprudence holding that upon the grant of the patent or issuance of the certificate of title the alienable land of the public domain automatically becomes private land cannot apply to government units and entities like PEA. as amended. dated October 9.[104] Alienable lands of the public domain held by government entities under Section 60 of CA No. however. Otherwise. The grant of legislative authority to sell public lands in accordance with Section 60 of CA No. 1529. 141 constitutes. Department of Health. 525. 141 does not automatically convert alienable lands of the public domain into private or patrimonial lands. granted or conveyed to persons or to public or private corporations. Section 60 of CA No. Registration of land under Act No. a “statutory lien affecting title” of the registered land even if not annotated on the certificate of title. there are hereby granted and conveyed unto the Public Estates Authority the aforesaid tracts of land containing a total area of one million nine hundred fifteen thousand eight hundred ninety four (1. being alienable lands of the public domain. or to government entities not tasked to dispose of public lands. supplemented by Commonwealth Act No. PEA became the central implementing agency of the National Government to reclaim foreshore and submerged areas of the public domain.” (Emphasis supplied) Thus. the only patent and certificates of title issued are those in the name of PEA. to wit: “NOW. No one is asking the Director of Lands to cancel PEA’s patent or certificates of title. Bureau of Medical Services. Congress. there is a need to give further institutional support to the Government’s declared policy to provide for a coordinated. 141 apply to the Freedom Islands on matters not covered by PD No. the thrust of the instant petition is that PEA’s certificates of title should remain with PEA. 496 without the land losing its character as a property of public dominion. under Section 44 of PD No. 141 prohibits. The transfer of the Freedom Islands to PEA was made subject to the provisions of CA No. the constitutional ban will become illusory if Congress can declare lands of the public domain as private or patrimonial lands in the hands of a government agency tasked to dispose of public lands. The Court affirmed the registration of the 12. In fact. provides that ‘Whenever public lands in the Philippine Islands belonging to the Government of the United States or to the Government of the Philippines are alienated. These four cases uniformly hold that the Director of Lands has no jurisdiction over private lands or that upon issuance of the certificate of title the land automatically comes under the Torrens System. economical and efficient reclamation of lands. of the whole lot. 141 remain public lands because they cannot be alienated or encumbered unless Congress passes a law authorizing their disposition. Such land grant is constitutive of a ‘fee simple’ title or absolute title in favor of petitioner Mindanao Medical Center. Act 496) and shall become registered lands. Whereas. This fifth case is an example of a public land being registered under Act No. validly sufficient for initial registration under the Land Registration Act. Thus. should not be sold to a private corporation. 141 as expressly stated in Special Patent No. are concededly public lands. 1529 does not vest in the registrant private or public ownership of the land. there are several reclamation projects which are ongoing or being proposed to be undertaken in various parts of the country which need to be evaluated for consistency with national programs. This will allow private corporations to acquire directly from government agencies limitless areas of lands which. Section 122 of the Act. Registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership but is merely evidence of ownership previously conferred by any of the recognized modes of acquiring ownership.8-hectare public land in the name of Mindanao Medical Center under Section 122 of Act No.8-hectare public land to serve as the site for the hospital buildings and other facilities of Mindanao Medical Center. by itself. 141.[102] The registration of lands of the public domain under the Torrens system. The National Government transferred the 12. which performed a public service. before these lands can become private or patrimonial lands. the same shall be brought forthwith under the operation of this Act (Land Registration Act. Thus. of President Magsaysay legally effected a land grant to the Mindanao Medical Center. KNOW YE. The fifth case cited involves the registration under the Torrens System of a 12. Only individuals can benefit from such law. 496.“Proclamation No. 350. .915. cannot convert public lands into private lands. a wholly government owned corporation performing public as well as proprietary functions.894) square meters. 525 Designating the Public Estates Authority as the Agency Primarily Responsible for all Reclamation Projects Whereas. Under EO No. the technical description of which are hereto attached and made an integral part hereof. cannot authorize the sale to private corporations of reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain because of the constitutional ban. THEREFORE. In the instant case. 1956. the provisions of CA No. The alienable lands of the public domain must be transferred to qualified private parties. 1084. 1084.

Furthermore.” PD No. 141 that the land “shall not be alienated. that. Alienable lands of the public domain “granted. President of the Philippines. granted or conveyed to any person.[105] The 1973 Constitution prohibited private corporations from acquiring any kind of public land.” As the central implementing agency tasked to undertake reclamation projects nationwide. the mere fact that alienable lands of the public domain like the Freedom Islands are transferred to PEA and issued land patents or certificates of title in PEA’s name does not automatically make such lands private.” (Emphasis supplied) Based on its legislative history. 496 or PD No. 122. or conveyed to persons or the public or private corporations. donated. can even be applied to alienable agricultural lands of the public domain since PEA can “acquire x x x any and all kinds of lands. 1529. 1416. 496. Presidential Decree No. Whereas. 141. without losing their character as public lands. MARCOS.” as provided in Section 60 of CA No. 1529. if allowed. in the same manner that DENR. not private lands. or branch or subdivision of the Government. now numbering over 80 million strong. Only when qualified private parties acquire these lands will the lands become private lands. x x x . The Public Estates Authority (PEA) shall be primarily responsible for integrating. All reclamation projects shall be approved by the President upon recommendation of the PEA. Presidential Decree No. 1529. automatically become private lands is contrary to existing laws. except when authorized by Congress. respectively. Section 122 of Act No. Whereas. This will result in corporations amassing huge landholdings never before seen in this country creating the very evil that the constitutional ban was designed to prevent. PEA’s charter expressly states that PEA “shall hold lands of the public domain” as well as “any and all kinds of lands. the same shall be brought forthwith under the operation of this Act and shall become registered lands. To allow vast areas of reclaimed lands of the public domain to be transferred to PEA as private lands will sanction a gross violation of the constitutional ban on private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain. Certificate of Title to Patents. THEREFORE.” This will open the floodgates to corporations and even individuals acquiring hundreds of hectares of alienable lands of the public domain under the guise that in the hands of PEA these lands are private lands. with authority to sell reclaimed lands. by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution and pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 3-A requires that all reclamation of areas shall be limited to the National Government or any person authorized by it under proper contract. PEA took the place of DENR as the government agency charged with leasing or selling reclaimed lands of the public domain. and Whereas. or merger of functions and offices. and coordinating all reclamation projects for and on behalf of the National Government. however. This scheme will effectively nullify the constitutional ban in Section 3.” This provision refers to government reclaimed. or transferred to a province. provide as follows: Act No. Provided. This will completely reverse the clear direction of constitutional development in this country. Such registration. directing. 496 “Sec. and transfer several hundreds of hectares of these reclaimed and still to be reclaimed lands to a single private corporation in only one transaction. 496. and shall be undertaken by the PEA or through a proper contract executed by it with any person or entity.024 hectares of public lands. granted. these lands are still public. foreshore and marshy lands of the public domain that . 1084 creates the Public Estates Authority as a government corporation to undertake reclamation of lands and ensure their maximum utilization in promoting public welfare and interests. 103. Whenever public lands in the Philippine Islands belonging to the x x x Government of the Philippine Islands are alienated. as PEA has now done under the Amended JVA. I. NOW. abolition. encumbered or otherwise disposed of in a manner affecting its title. reclamation projects of any national government agency or entity authorized under its charter shall be undertaken in consultation with the PEA upon approval of the President. This scheme. municipality.Whereas. The reclaimed lands being leased or sold by PEA are not private lands. FERDINAND E. may be registered under the Torrens System pursuant to Section 103 of PD No. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which was intended to diffuse equitably the ownership of alienable lands of the public domain among Filipinos. do hereby order and direct the following: Section 1. the phrase “conveyed to any person” in Section 103 of PD No. does not dispose of private lands but alienable lands of the public domain. The contention of PEA and AMARI that public lands. The 1935 Constitution allowed private corporations to acquire not more than 1. the same shall be brought forthwith under the operation of this Decree. PEA will simply turn around. a central authority is needed to act on behalf of the National Government which shall ensure a coordinated and integrated approach in the reclamation of lands. 1529. once registered under Act No. Whenever public land is by the Government alienated. is expressly subject to the condition in Section 60 of CA No. 1529 includes conveyances of public lands to public corporations. Several laws authorize lands of the public domain to be registered under the Torrens System or Act No. 1529 “Sec. 1416 provides the President with continuing authority to reorganize the national government including the transfer. and the 1987 Constitution has unequivocally reiterated this prohibition.” PEA can hold both lands of the public domain and private lands. when it disposes of other alienable lands. and Section 103 of PD No. now PD No. In the hands of the government agency tasked and authorized to dispose of alienable of disposable lands of the public domain. Presidential Decree No. Thus.

Whenever any registered land. We can now summarize our conclusions as follows: 1. Land taken by eminent domain. now covered by certificates of title in the name of PEA. a transaction considered a sale or alienation under CA No. lands reclaimed by the government are sui generis. remain registered land. the Amended JVA “is not a sale but a joint venture with a stipulation for reimbursement of the original cost incurred by PEA for the earlier reclamation and construction works performed by the CDCP under its 1973 contract with the Republic. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which provides that private corporations “shall not hold such alienable lands of the public domain except by lease. 1529. 1529 are not exclusively private or patrimonial lands.84 hectares of reclaimed lands comprising the Freedom Islands. the deed of conveyance shall be executed in behalf of the government by the following: (1) x x x (2) For property belonging to the Republic of the Philippines. 1529 states – “Sec. and the nature of the public use. private property purchased by the National Government for expansion of a public wharf may be titled in the name of a government corporation regulating port operations in the country.have been titled but still cannot be alienated or encumbered unless expressly authorized by Congress. the fact remains that the Amended JVA requires PEA to “cause the issuance and delivery of the certificates of title conveying AMARI’s Land Share in the name of AMARI. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. To insure such equitable distribution. The need for legislative authority prevents the registered land of the public domain from becoming private land that can be disposed of to qualified private parties. by the executive head of the agency or instrumentality. the particular property or interest expropriated. AMARI makes a parting shot that the Amended JVA is not a sale to AMARI of the Freedom Islands or of the lands to be reclaimed from submerged areas of Manila Bay. Reclaimed lands retain their inherent potential as areas for public use or public service. Private property donated to a municipality for use as a town plaza or public school site may likewise be titled in the name of the municipality.[108] the Government Auditing Code. Book I of the Code states – “Sec. The Revised Administrative Code of 1987 also recognizes that lands of the public domain may be registered under the Torrens System. Lands reclaimed from foreshore and submerged areas also form part of the public domain and are also inalienable. and where the fee simple is taken. city. municipality. Section 85 of PD No. Historically. Section 85 of PD No. 1529 authorizes the Register of Deeds to issue in the name of the National Government new certificates of title covering such expropriated lands. 496 or PD No. or seek to circumvent the constitutional ban on alienation of lands of the public domain to private corporations.” (Emphasis supplied) Thus. the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions have barred private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain. not available for sale to private parties unlike other alienable public lands. province. or interest therein. Lands of the public domain may also be registered pursuant to existing laws. or any other agency or instrumentality exercising such right for the land so taken. Foreshore and submerged areas form part of the public domain and are inalienable. Private property purchased by the National Government for expansion of an airport may also be titled in the name of the government agency tasked to administer the airport. a new certificate shall be issued in favor of the National Government.” The transfer of title and ownership to AMARI clearly means that AMARI will “hold” the reclaimed lands other than by lease. PEA may lease these lands to private corporations but may not sell or transfer ownership of these lands to private corporations. but titled in the name of any political subdivision or of any corporate agency or instrumentality. Nevertheless. and if already registered under Act No. PEA may only sell these lands to Philippine citizens. There is no requirement or provision in any existing law for the de-registration of land from the Torrens System. The Regalian doctrine is deeply implanted in our legal system. 48. Section 48. increasingly becoming scarce natural resources. Whenever real property of the Government is authorized by law to be conveyed. Official Authorized to Convey Real Property. 85. the National Government. The 592. lands registered under Act No. Those who attempt to dispose of inalienable natural resources of the State. 141.15 hectares of submerged areas of Manila Bay remain inalienable natural resources of the public domain until classified as alienable or disposable lands open to disposition and declared no longer needed for public service. Alienable lands of the public domain. are to be distributed equitably among our ever-growing population. The 157.” Whether the Amended JVA is a sale or a joint venture. The government can make such classification and declaration only after PEA has . province.[109] and Section 3. Chapter 12. or any other agency or instrumentality exercising such right shall file for registration in the proper Registry a certified copy of the judgment which shall state definitely by an adequate description. do so at their own risk. In the words of AMARI.” (Emphasis supplied) Consequently. city or municipality.[106] All these properties become properties of the public domain. is expropriated or taken by eminent domain. The transfer of title and ownership is a “disposition” of the reclaimed lands. subject to the ownership limitations in the 1987 Constitution and existing laws. 2.”[107] This stipulation still contravenes Section 3. 496 or PD No. Private lands taken by the Government for public use under its power of eminent domain become unquestionably part of the public domain. The legal expenses incident to the memorandum of registration or issuance of a new certificate of title shall be for the account of the authority taking the land or interest therein. are alienable lands of the public domain. A memorandum of the right or interest taken shall be made on each certificate of title by the Register of Deeds. unless converted pursuant to law into alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. the number of the certificate of title.

4. ownership of 77. PEA may reclaim these submerged areas. the government can classify the reclaimed lands as alienable or disposable. joined by THE LANDOWNERS OF BORACAY SIMILARLY SITUATED NAMED IN A LIST. 3.15 hectares of are inalienable and outside the commerce of man. REGION VI PROVINCIAL CARPIO. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which prohibits private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain. 2008 x--------------------------------------------------x DR. THE REGIONAL TECHNICAL DIRECTOR FOR LANDS. the 592. LIBERTAD TALAPIAN. Considering that the Amended JVA is null and void ab initio.R. ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ.J.. YAP. No. TINGA. . ORLANDO SACAY and WILFREDO GELITO. SO ORDERED. PHILIPPINE TOURISM NACHURA. DENR-REGION VI. 173775 . MILA Y.versus MAYOR JOSE S. CARPIO MORALES. Besides. PROVINCIAL ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES OFFICER. AKLAN. the transfer of such reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain to AMARI will be void in view of Section 3. Respondents. JJ.” The Court must perform its duty to defend and uphold the Constitution. DIRECTOR FOR LANDS. LANDS MANAGEMENT BUREAU. and further declare them no longer needed for public service.156 hectares[111] of still submerged areas of Manila Bay. 167707 Present: PUNO. Petitioners. Since the Amended JVA also seeks to transfer to AMARI ownership of 290. REGISTER OF DEEDS. and ANICETO YAP. and therefore declares the Amended JVA null and void ab initio. ANNEX “A” OF THIS PETITION.R. REGION VI. CORONA. and this last issue involves a determination of factual matters. LANDS MANAGEMENT BUREAU. Clearly. such transfer is void for being contrary to Section 3.reclaimed these agricultural lands government can submerged areas submerged areas. No. Under Article 1409[112] of the Civil Code.. YNARES-SANTIAGO. KALIBO. Only then can these lands qualify as of the public domain. SUMNDAD. . the petition is GRANTED. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which prohibits private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain. in their behalf and Promulgated: in behalf of all those similarly situated. RESOURCES OFFICER OF KALIBO. REGIONAL TECHNICAL G. Seventh issue: whether the Court is the proper forum to raise the issue of whether the Amended JVA is grossly disadvantageous to the government. Respondents. The Public Estates Authority and Amari Coastal Bay Development Corporation are PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from implementing the Amended Joint Venture Agreement which is hereby declared NULL and VOID ab initio. which are the only natural resources the alienate. October 8. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which prohibits the alienation of natural resources other than agricultural lands of the public domain. WHEREFORE. SECRETARY. Still.** AUTHORITY.34 hectares[110] of the Freedom Islands. DIRECTOR OF VELASCO. such transfer is void for being contrary to Section 2. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO. the Amended JVA violates glaringly Sections 2 and 3. In their present state.” are “inexistent and void from the beginning. a private corporation. REGISTRATION AUTHORITY. Thereafter. x--------------------------------------------------x G.* AKLAN. Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. the Court is not a trier of facts. C. there is no necessity to rule on this last issue. contracts whose “object or purpose is contrary to law. and BRION. DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM CHICO-NAZARIO. THE REGIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR. REYES.” or whose “object is outside the commerce of men.versus THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES. Petitioners. EN BANC THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES. JR. Since the Amended JVA seeks to transfer to AMARI. QUISUMBING. DIRECTOR OF LAND AZCUNA.

705. The Republic. and nullification of Proclamation No. Claiming that Proclamation No.: AT stake in these consolidated cases is the right of the present occupants of Boracay Island to secure titles over their occupied lands. respondents-claimants and the OSG stipulated on the following facts: (1) respondents-claimants were presently in possession of parcels of land in Boracay Island.[16] RTC and CA Dispositions On July 14. more particularly Lots 1 and 30. They decided to forego with the trial and to submit the case for resolution upon submission of their respective memoranda. 1801 and PTA Circular No. R. These lots were involved in Civil Case Nos. among other islands. The second is G. Aklan. 3-82 raised doubts on their right to secure titles over their occupied lands. No. They declared that they themselves. then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation No. 3-82 was misplaced. Since Boracay Island had not been classified as alienable and disposable. in accordance with the applicable laws and in the manner prescribed therein. 1978. In their petition. 1801 posed any legal hindrance or impediment to the titling of the lands in Boracay. Yap. respondents-claimants alleged that Proclamation No. (2) these parcels of land were planted with coconut trees and other natural growing trees.T. through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). mandamus. (3) the coconut trees had heights of more or less twenty (20) meters and were planted more or less fifty (50) years ago. or earlier since time immemorial. 141 and PD No. 1976. exclusive. No.R. with its powdery white sand beaches and warm crystalline waters. and ordered the survey of Boracay for titling purposes. the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) approved the National Reservation Survey of Boracay Island. 5222 and 5262 filed before the RTC of Kalibo. with a fallo reading: WHEREFORE. is reputedly a premier Philippine tourist destination. whatever possession they had cannot ripen into ownership. The first is G. Sumndad. 3-82 pose no legal obstacle to the petitioners and those similarly situated to acquire title to their lands in Boracay. to implement Proclamation No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code. [12] The parties also agreed that the principal issue for resolution was purely legal: whether Proclamation No. Mila Y. Aklan. The island is also home to 12. President Marcos later approved the issuance of PTA Circular 3-82[9] dated September 3. continuous. Libertad Talapian. it was susceptible of private ownership. and (4) respondents-claimants declared the land they were occupying for tax purposes. J. No. 1801. The OSG maintained that respondents-claimants’ reliance on PD No.R. and to have their . which granted the petition for declaratory relief filed by respondents-claimants Mayor Jose Yap. 1982. During pre-trial. Plan PSU-5344. 1064[3] issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo classifying Boracay into reserved forest and agricultural land. 1801 and its implementing Circular did not place Boracay beyond the commerce of man. a petition for prohibition. 1801[8] declaring Boracay Island.R. The Antecedents G. There are two consolidated petitions. they had the right to have the lots registered in their names through judicial confirmation of imperfect titles.[10] Respondents-claimants posited that Proclamation No. 141.[5] On April 14. the Court declares that Proclamation No. 1945. 173775. had been in open. opposed the petition for declaratory relief. in view of the foregoing.. Aklan. or through their predecessors-in-interest.[15] The titles were issued on August 7. Their right to judicial confirmation of title was governed by CA No. respondents-claimants Mayor Jose S. Since the Island was classified as a tourist zone.DECISION REYES. the RTC rendered a decision in favor of respondentsclaimants. [11] as amended.003 inhabitants[4] who live in the bone-shaped island’s three barangays. otherwise known as the Public Land Act. Tirol. Aklan. and notorious possession and occupation in Boracay since June 12. and Aniceto Yap filed a petition for declaratory relief with the RTC in Kalibo. It formed part of the mass of lands classified as “public forest. 19502 (RO 2222) in the name of the Heirs of Ciriaco S. caves and peninsulas in the Philippines. Jr. as tourist zones and marine reserves under the administration of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA). 1801 and PTA Circular No. 1801 and PTA Circular No. 167707. 1999. The OSG countered that Boracay Island was an unclassified land of the public domain.” which was not available for disposition pursuant to Section 3(a) of Presidential Decree (PD) No.[6] which identified several lots as being occupied or claimed by named persons. [13] The RTC took judicial notice[14] that certain parcels of land in Boracay Island. 1933. were covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 167707 Boracay Island in the Municipality of Malay. They declared their lands for tax purposes and paid realty taxes on them. 1801 and PTA Circular No 3-82 precluded them from filing an application for judicial confirmation of imperfect title or survey of land for titling purposes. a petition for review on certiorari of the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming that[2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Kalibo. et al.[7] On November 10. Under Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act (CA) No..

They have also invested billions of pesos in developing their lands and building internationally renowned first class resorts on their lots.[33] Issues G.[25] Hence. 167707 The OSG raises the lone issue of whether Proclamation No. SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL OR AT THE LATEST SINCE 30 YRS. AT THE TIME OF THE ESTABLISHED POSSESSION OF PETITIONERS IN CONCEPT OF OWNER OVER THEIR RESPECTIVE AREAS IN BORACAY. 173775 On May 22. 705. It is only the executive department. the claimed portions of the island are inalienable and cannot be the subject of judicial confirmation of imperfect title. the OSG sought reconsideration but it was similarly denied. Orlando Sacay.[34] On December 9. mandamus. the island is deemed agricultural pursuant to the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No.[32] Thus. 1801 and PTA Circular No.[27] Wilfredo Gelito. 1801 nor PTA Circular No.R. during the pendency of G. 1064[26] classifying Boracay Island into four hundred (400) hectares of reserved forest land (protection purposes) and six hundred twenty-eight and 96/100 (628. 2006. Being public forest. which has authority to reclassify lands of the public domain into alienable and disposable lands. this Court ordered the consolidation of the two petitions as they principally involve the same issues on the land classification of Boracay Island. SO ORDERED. There is a need for a positive government act in order to release the lots for disposition. 1997. PD 705? II.R.[22] The OSG moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied.96) hectares of agricultural land (alienable and disposable). 2004. reserved for right-of-way and which shall form part of the area reserved for forest land protection purposes. disposing as follows: WHEREFORE.[18] The Circular itself recognized private ownership of lands.[23] Republic then appealed to the CA. in view of the foregoing premises. the OSG argued that petitioners-claimants do not have a vested right over their occupied portions in the island.[24] The CA held that respondents-claimants could not be prejudiced by a declaration that the lands they occupied since time immemorial were part of a forest reserve. judgment is hereby rendered by us DENYING the appeal filed in this case and AFFIRMING the decision of the lower court. and nullification of Proclamation No. The Petitioners-claimants contended that there is no need for a proclamation reclassifying Boracay into agricultural land. The Proclamation likewise provided for a fifteen-meter buffer zone on each side of the centerline of roads and trails. Again. Being classified as neither mineral nor timber land. [30] They allege that the Proclamation infringed on their “prior vested rights” over portions of Boracay.[28] and other landowners[29] in Boracay filed with this Court an original petition for prohibition.R. not the courts. Opposing the petition. It ruled that neither Proclamation No. to acquire title to their occupied lands in Boracay Island. 926. WERE THE AREAS OCCUPIED BY THEM PUBLIC AGRICULTURAL LANDS AS DEFINED BY LAWS THEN ON JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLES OR PUBLIC FOREST AS DEFINED BY SEC.[19] The trial court cited Sections 87[20] and 53[21] of the Public Land Act as basis for acknowledging private ownership of lands in Boracay and that only those forested areas in public lands were declared as part of the forest reserve. petitioners-claimants Dr. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation No.lands surveyed and approved by respondent Regional Technical Director of Lands as the approved survey does not in itself constitute a title to the land. On November 21. . the present petition under Rule 45. No. namely: I. G. the appellate court affirmed in toto the RTC decision. They have been in continued possession of their respective lots in Boracay since time immemorial.[31] G. 3-82 mentioned that lands in Boracay were inalienable or could not be the subject of disposition. HAVE PETITIONERS OCCUPANTS ACQUIRED PRIOR VESTED RIGHT OF PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OVER THEIR OCCUPIED PORTIONS OF BORACAY LAND. On August 10. No. No. 19. known as the first Public Land Act. PRIOR TO THE FILING OF THE PETITION FOR DECLARATORY RELIEF ON NOV. 173775 Petitioners-claimants hoist five (5) issues. 3a. their possession in the concept of owner for the required period entitled them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. DESPITE THE FACT THAT THEY HAVE NOT APPLIED YET FOR JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLE? III. and all those similarly situated. No. Boracay is an unclassified public forest land pursuant to Section 3(a) of PD No. 1064. 2006. 2006. 3-82 pose any legal obstacle for respondents.R.[17] The RTC upheld respondents-claimants’ right to have their occupied lands titled in their name. 167707.

resettlement. Boracay Island had never been expressly and administratively classified under any of these grand divisions. industrial or commercial. the 1973 Constitution provided the following divisions: agricultural. No. namely: (1) titulo real or royal grant. if any. They do not involve their right to secure title under other pertinent laws.[48] Necessarily. it is up to the State to determine if lands of the public domain will be disposed of for private ownership.[60] By this law. the main issue is whether private claimants (respondents-claimants in G. and timber or forest lands. belong to the public domain. and (c) Proclamation No. a peek at the Regalian principle and the power of the executive to reclassify lands of the public domain. mineral. (2) concesion especial or special grant. The twin petitions pertain to their right. 1801[38] issued by then President Marcos. the lands would revert to the State.[62] It also . the disposal of mineral lands by means of absolute grant (freehold system) and by lease (leasehold system). later amended and/or superseded by Act No.[47] Thus. 2006. 1064[39] issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.IS THE EXECUTIVE DECLARATION OF THEIR AREAS AS ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE UNDER SEC 6. to wit: agricultural. either by purchase or by grant. either by purchase or by grant. and (5) informacion posesoria or possessory information title. V. But first.[41] giving the government great leeway for classification.[59] The first law governing the disposition of public lands in the Philippines under American rule was embodied in the Philippine Bill of 1902. (4) titulo de compra or title by purchase.[50] The Regalian doctrine was first introduced in the Philippines through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas. 1895.[43] Of these. or until April 17. Otherwise.[40] Meanwhile. all lands that have not been acquired from the government. 2006. which laid the foundation that “all lands that were not acquired from the Government.[56] from the date of its inscription. The government. as well as under what terms they may be granted such privilege. 4(a) OF RA 6657. belong to the State as part of the inalienable public domain. public. 167707 and petitioners-claimants in G. private ownership of land under the Spanish regime could only be founded on royal concessions which took various forms. 141.[44] Prior to Proclamation No. and adverse.R. residential.[54] Under Section 393 of the Maura Law. mineral. not excluding the placing of obstacles in the way of their exercise of what otherwise would be ordinary acts of ownership. timber or forest and grazing lands.[46] All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. CA 141 [AN] INDISPENSABLE PRE-REQUISITE FOR PETITIONERS TO OBTAIN TITLE UNDER THE TORRENS SYSTEM? IV.[42] Then the 1987 Constitution reverted to the 1935 Constitution classification with one addition: national parks. 8.[49] Our present land law traces its roots to the Regalian Doctrine. The Regalian Doctrine dictates that all lands of the public domain belong to the State. OR SEC.[61] The act provided for. that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony. VIOLATIVE OF THE PRIOR VESTED RIGHTS TO PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF PETITIONERS OVER THEIR LANDS IN BORACAY.[58] In sum. and 1987 Constitutions. (3) composicion con el estado or adjustment title. 2874 and CA No. CAN RESPONDENTS BE COMPELLED BY MANDAMUS TO ALLOW THE SURVEY AND TO APPROVE THE SURVEY PLANS FOR PURPOSES OF THE APPLICATION FOR TITLING OF THE LANDS OF PETITIONERS IN BORACAY?[35] (Underscoring supplied) In capsule.”[51] The Laws of the Indies was followed by the Ley Hipotecaria or the Mortgage Law of 1893. PROTECTED BY THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE CONSTITUTION OR IS PROCLAMATION 1064 CONTRARY TO SEC. 1973.[57] However. possessory information title had to be perfected one year after the promulgation of the Maura Law. 1064 of May 22. is converted into a title of ownership only after the lapse of twenty (20) years of uninterrupted possession which must be actual. 173775) have a right to secure titles over their occupied portions in Boracay.R.[45] The doctrine has been consistently adopted under the 1935. to judicial confirmation of imperfect title under CA No. CA 141. as the agent of the state. The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic registration of titles and deeds as well as possessory claims. is possessed of the plenary power as the persona in law to determine who shall be the favored recipients of public lands. We shall proceed to determine their rights to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under these laws and executive acts. an informacion posesoria or possessory information title. territories and possessions in the Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown.[52] The Royal Decree of 1894 or the Maura Law[53] partly amended the Spanish Mortgage Law and the Laws of the Indies. No. as amended. IS THE ISSUANCE OF PROCLAMATION 1064 ON MAY 22. Upon the Spanish conquest of the Philippines.[37] (b) Proclamation No. forest or timber.[55] when duly inscribed in the Registry of Property. 141. and such other classes as may be provided by law. among others. Our Ruling Regalian Doctrine and power of the executive to reclassify lands of the public domain Private claimants rely on three (3) laws and executive acts in their bid for judicial confirmation of imperfect title. only agricultural lands may be alienated. under certain conditions which were set forth in said decree. 926. The 1935 Constitution classified lands of the public domain into agricultural. ownership of all lands. It established possessory information as the method of legalizing possession of vacant Crown land. namely: (a) Philippine Bill of 1902[36] in relation to Act No. Boracay was an unclassified land of the public domain. lands of the public domain in the Philippine Islands were classified into three (3) grand divisions.

1529. 926 merely provided the manner through which land . was required. continuous. To this day. There is a statement in these old cases that “in the absence of evidence to the contrary. 141 retained the requirement under Act No. known as the Property Registration Decree. 1903. remains as the existing general law governing the classification and disposition of lands of the public domain other than timber and mineral lands. To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable.[73] which now provides for possession and occupation of the land applied for since June 12. and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands for the next ten (10) years preceding July 26. However. or portions of it.[83] To overcome this presumption. an administrative action.[78] It governs registration of lands under the Torrens system as well as unregistered lands. that the phrase “agricultural land” as used in Act No. 496. 496 within six (6) months from the effectivity of the decree on February 16. on October 7. It was enacted to codify the various laws relative to registration of property. which was the first Public Land Act. 2874 on December 1.”[82] 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). Private claimants posit that Boracay was already an agricultural land pursuant to the old cases Ankron v. On June 11. In keeping with the presumption of State ownership.[69] After the passage of the 1935 Constitution. 1919. 1942. It permitted corporations regardless of the nationality of persons owning the controlling stock to lease or purchase lands of the public domain. CA No. Absent such well-nigh incontrovertible evidence. such as an official proclamation. exclusive. more comprehensive law limited the exploitation of agricultural lands to Filipinos and Americans and citizens of other countries which gave Filipinos the same privileges. otherwise known as the second Public Land Act. and imprescriptible. 1894. the Court declared in Mapa v.[84] There must still be a positive act declaring land of the public domain as alienable and disposable. report. or earlier. 496 was amended and updated by PD No. 141. investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators. and a legislative act or a statute.[86] In the case at bar. 1904 was sufficient for judicial confirmation of imperfect title. the Philippine Commission passed Act No. agricultural lands. x x x[65] (Emphasis Ours) On February 1. 892[75] on February 16. 1976 discontinued the use of Spanish titles as evidence in land registration proceedings. including chattel mortgages.[72] which provided for a simple thirty-year prescriptive period for judicial confirmation of imperfect title. 926. 1903. 1936. 141 limits alienable or disposable lands only to those lands which have been “officially delimited and classified. Government of the Philippine Islands (1919)[88] and De Aldecoa v.[85] The applicant may also secure a certification from the government that the land claimed to have been possessed for the required number of years is alienable and disposable. no such proclamation.”[90] Private claimants’ reliance on Ankron and De Aldecoa is misplaced. Act No. [89] These cases were decided under the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 3344. open. The records are bereft of evidence showing that. the applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order. 2874 of possession and occupation of lands of the public domain since time immemorial or since July 26. The act established a system of registration by which recorded title becomes absolute. this provision was superseded by Republic Act (RA) No. Section 8 of CA No. the recording of all unregistered lands[77] shall be governed by Section 194 of the Revised Administrative Code. These cases did not have the effect of converting the whole of Boracay Island or portions of it into agricultural lands. 1073. all holders of Spanish titles or grants should apply for registration of their lands under Act No. or certification was presented to the Court. the Philippine Legislature passed Act No. Thereafter. the Court has time and again emphasized that there must be a positive act of the government. 141 amended Act No. 1945.[74] The issuance of PD No. The Act introduced the homestead system and made provisions for judicial and administrative confirmation of imperfect titles and for the sale or lease of public lands. prior to 2006.[68] On November 29.[80] declassifying inalienable public land into disposable land for agricultural or other purposes. the portions of Boracay occupied by private claimants were subject of a government proclamation that the land is alienable and disposable. It should be stressed that the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No.[87] Ankron and De Aldecoa did not make the whole of Boracay Island. This is known as the Torrens system. who must prove that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable. otherwise known as the Land Registration Act. administrative action.[66] Concurrently. as amended by Act No. as amended.[81] In fact. 926 was superseded by Act No. The provision was last amended by PD No. or since July 26. Matters of land classification or reclassification cannot be assumed. 926. They call for proof. 2874. the Court cannot accept the submission that lands occupied by private claimants were already open to disposition before 2006. For judicial confirmation of title.[71] Section 48(b) of CA No. 1894. that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown. statute. 1978. 1976. Act No. CA No.[70] and privately owned lands which reverted to the State.[79] A positive act declaring land as alienable and disposable is required. executive order. The Insular Government (1909). This new.[67] Under the Act. 926 means those public lands acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands.”[63] Interpreting the meaning of “agricultural lands” under the Philippine Bill of 1902. indefeasible.provided the definition by exclusion of “agricultural public lands. possession and occupation en concepto dueño since time immemorial.[76] Under the decree. Insular Government:[64] x x x In other words. incontrovertible evidence must be established that the land subject of the application (or claim) is alienable or disposable.

In the latter case. That would take these lands out of State ownership and worse. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols Vda. by reservation. 1148. and that in each case it is a question of fact. Act No. At that time. 1148.: x x x Petitioners furthermore insist that a particular land need not be formally released by an act of the Executive before it can be deemed open to private ownership. whether the land is agricultural. we think it is safe to say that in order to be forestry or mineral land the proof must show that it is more valuable for the forestry or the mineral which it contains than it is for agricultural purposes. depending upon the preponderance of the evidence.”[94] cases dealing with judicial and administrative confirmation of imperfect titles.” and “mineral” lands. that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown. xxxx Petitioner’s reliance upon Ramos v. lands classified as agricultural today may be differently classified tomorrow. in the first instance. timber and agricultural so that the courts then were free to make corresponding classifications in justiciable cases. by virtue of the terms of said Act (No. the Government. by reason of the exhaustion of the timber or mineral. having regard for its present or future value for one or the other purposes. Director of Lands and Ankron v. Whatever the land involved in a particular land registration case is forestry or mineral land must. De Palanca v. Director of Forestry. Whether the land would be classified as timber. or were vested with implicit power to do so. 175. is a question of proof.registration courts would classify lands of the public domain. Ankron and De Aldecoa were decided at a time when the President of the Philippines had no power to classify lands of the public domain into mineral. Jocson vs. There must be some proof of the extent and present or future value of the forestry and of the minerals. would be utterly inconsistent with and totally repugnant to the long-entrenched Regalian doctrine. And vice-versa. the courts were free to make corresponding classifications in justiciable cases. 39 Phil. the Attorney-General admitted in effect that whether the particular land in question belongs to one class or another is a question of fact. this Court stated: In the case of Jocson vs. 1148). in the absence of evidence to the contrary. The fact that the land is a manglar [mangrove swamp] is not sufficient for the courts to decide whether it is agricultural. It certainly cannot apply to landowners. The Government. Each case must be decided upon the proof in that particular case. (Sec. may decide for itself what portions of the “public domain” shall be set aside and reserved as forestry or mineral land. 926 enacted by the Philippine Commission on October 7. however. or mineral land. timber. Government is misplaced. Land classification was. unless private interests have intervened before such reservation is made. their land remained unclassified and. be classified as agricultural land tomorrow. The presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa attaches only to land registration cases brought under the provisions of Act No. who failed to avail themselves of the benefits of Act No. under the provisions of Act No.[93] To aid the courts in resolving land registration cases under Act No. many definitions have been given for “agriculture. citing the cases of Ramos v. Director of Lands and Ankron v. in the absence of evidence to the contrary. be a matter of proof.[91] This was the Court’s ruling in Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. as we have just said. These cases were decided under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and the first Public Land Act No. Republic. 926 would have automatically made all lands in the Philippines. By no stretch of imagination did the presumption convert all lands of the public domain into agricultural lands. through Justice Adolfo Azcuna. supra)[95] (Emphasis ours) But We cannot unduly expand the presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa to an argument that all lands of the public domain had been automatically reclassified as disposable and alienable agricultural lands. 7. If there was proof that the land was better suited for non-agricultural uses. may. or were vested with implicit power to do so. such as private claimants or their predecessors-in-interest. It may perchance belong to one or the other of said classes of land. Until private interests have intervened. Director of Lands. If We accept the position of private claimants. Director of Forestry (supra). therefore. forestry. While. 926. mineral. by reason of the rapid growth of timber or the discovery of valuable minerals. 926. or more specifically those . the assumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa was not absolute.” “forestry. continued to be owned by the State. 1926. and. in the end. under which there was no legal provision vesting in the Chief Executive or President of the Philippines the power to classify lands of the public domain into mineral. the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No.[92] in which it stated. and agricultural. it was then necessary to devise a presumption on land classification. 926. The mere fact that a tract of land has trees upon it or has mineral within it is not of itself sufficient to declare that one is forestry land and the other. viz. We believe. the courts could adjudge it as a mineral or timber land despite the presumption. forestry. mineral land. Thus evolved the dictum in Ankron that “the courts have a right to presume. decide for itself what portions of public land shall be considered forestry land. except those already classified as timber or mineral land. considering the fact that it is a matter of public knowledge that a majority of the lands in the Philippine Islands are agricultural lands that the courts have a right to presume. (Ramos vs. Government of the Philippine Islands. In Ankron. As to them.) It is not sufficient to show that there exists some trees upon the land or that it bears some mineral. alienable and disposable lands. In any case. 926. by virtue of the Regalian doctrine. Its superior value for one purpose or the other is a question of fact to be settled by the proof in each particular case. Land may be classified as forestry or mineral today. or agricultural depended on proof presented in each case. dependent on proof. depending upon the preponderance of the evidence. that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown. The presumption applies to an applicant for judicial or administrative conformation of imperfect title under Act No. or mineral.

” Applying PD No. however. Private claimants’ continued possession under Act No.R. they may apply for a title in their name. 705.[100] which was decided in 1947 when CA No. or mineral. was passed in pursuance of the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902. Court of Appeals. forest or timber. 926 was supplanted by Act No. [108] (Emphasis Ours) Except for lands already covered by existing titles.[103] Krivenko. courts no longer had the authority. that the occupants of Boracay have built multi-million peso beach resorts on the island. As a premier tourist destination for local and foreign tourists.96-a Since then. It prescribed rules and regulations for the homesteading. gave the Executive Department. [101] De Aldecoa v.107-a ruled: “Act No. the Public Land Act operated on the assumption that title to public lands in the Philippine Islands remained in the government.” In short. however. A similar argument was squarely rejected by the Court in Collado v. or that the implementation of Proclamation No.[96] Act No. and that the government’s title to public land sprung from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent treaties between Spain and the United States. and for the cancellation or confirmation of Spanish concessions and grants in the Islands. Krivenko cited the old cases Mapa v. vesting the Executive with the sole power to classify lands of the public domain was already in effect. 705 may seem to be out of touch with the present realities in the island. unlike the Heirs of Ciriaco Tirol who were issued their title in 1933.Since 1919. When Act No. Private claimants also contend that their continued possession of portions of Boracay Island for the requisite period of ten (10) years under Act No. 141. Boracay was an unclassified land of the public domain prior to Proclamation No. Such unclassified lands are considered public forest under PD No.[107] Collado. Government of the Philippine Islands. 926 does not create a presumption that the land is alienable. including Ankron and De Aldecoa. respects titles already existing prior to its effectivity. . Boracay appears more of a commercial island resort. Forests. all unclassified lands. 2874 in 1919. and excluded the patrimonial property of the government and the friar lands. whether express or implied. 926. PD No. the definition of “agricultural public lands” mentioned in Krivenko relied on the old cases decided prior to the enactment of Act No. courts were no longer free to determine the classification of lands from the facts of each case. 141. citing the separate opinion of now Chief Justice Reynato S. 705 issued by President Marcos categorized all unclassified lands of the public domain as public forest. private claimants. No. The pertinent issue in Krivenko was whether residential lots were included in the general classification of agricultural lands. Register of Deeds of Manila. Simply put. without an application for judicial confirmation having been filed by private claimants or their predecessors-in-interest. The Court notes that the classification of Boracay as a forest land under PD No. 926. the first Public Land Act.[111] that the island has already been stripped of its forest cover. It also provided for the “issuance of patents to certain native settlers upon public lands. The term “public land” referred to all lands of the public domain whose title still remained in the government and are thrown open to private appropriation and settlement. the courts were no longer authorized to determine the property’s land classification. Boracay. has been partly stripped of its forest cover to pave the way for commercial developments. do not negate its character as public forest. selling and leasing of portions of the public domain of the Philippine Islands. 1064 will destroy the island’s tourism industry. is not controlling here because it involved a totally different issue.[102] and Ankron v. for the completion of imperfect titles. the exclusive prerogative to classify or reclassify public lands into alienable or disposable. it is plain error for petitioners to argue that under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Public Land Act No. private claimants cannot bank on Act No. The DENR[109] and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority[110] certify that Boracay Island is an unclassified land of the public domain. except those that have already became private lands. which included residential lots. 1064. no doubt. and prescribed the terms and conditions to enable persons to perfect their titles to public lands in the Islands. Insular Government.[105] As We have already stated. since they were decided when the Executive did not have the authority to classify lands as agricultural. are ipso facto considered public forests. and if so.[98] did not present a justiciable case for determination by the land registration court of the property’s land classification. 926. 705. Nevertheless. 2874. Puno in Cruz v. in the context of both the Public Land Act and the Constitution[112] classifying lands of the public domain into “agricultural. mineral or forest. 705.” Thus. promulgated in 1919 and reproduced in Section 6 of CA No. The law governed the disposition of lands of the public domain. 2874. rather than a forest land. 926[106] ipso facto converted the island into private ownership. This Court ruled that as an alien. the issue is whether unclassified lands of the public domain are automatically deemed agricultural. Notably. whether an alien could acquire a residential lot. Section 3(a) of PD No. The Insular Government. to determine the classification of lands of the public domain. 167707 mentioned Krivenko v. 705 defines a public forest as “a mass of lands of the public domain which has not been the subject of the present system of classification for the determination of which lands are needed for forest purpose and which are not. Krivenko was prohibited by the 1935 Constitution[104] from acquiring agricultural land. including those in Boracay Island. timber. there was no opportunity for the courts then to resolve if the land the Boracay occupants are now claiming were agricultural lands. through the President. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources.[97] Here.” for the establishment of town sites and sale of lots therein. Here. those cases cannot apply here. mere possession by private individuals of lands creates the legal presumption that the lands are alienable and disposable. Hence. Hence. We note that the RTC decision[99] in G. PD No.

Classification of public lands is the exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department. as a tourist zone. 1801. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers.” do not necessarily refer to large tracts of wooded land or expanses covered by dense growths of trees and underbrushes. the land remains unclassified until released and rendered open to disposition. there was nothing invalid or irregular. This was not done in Proclamation No. Private claimants cannot rely on Proclamation No.[123] Proclamation No. Director of Forestry[114] is particularly instructive: A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose such classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. but sixty-four (64) other islands. 3-82 did not convert the whole of Boracay into an agricultural land. much less unconstitutional.96 hectares of agricultural land. among other islands. [113] The discussion in Heirs of Amunategui v.[115] (Emphasis supplied) There is a big difference between “forest” as defined in a dictionary and “forest or timber land” as a classification of lands of the public domain as appearing in our statutes. Therefore. to name a few. Proclamation No. or both.mineral lands. together with other islands. The proclamation did not convert Boracay into an agricultural land. Notably. private claimants argue that Proclamation No. 1801 also explain the rationale behind the declaration of Boracay Island. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Rule VIII. the reference in the Circular to both private and public lands merely recognizes that the island can be classified by the Executive department pursuant to its powers under CA No. a classification for legal purposes. Puerto Princesa and surrounding areas in Palawan. 1801 cannot be deemed the positive act needed to classify Boracay Island as alienable and disposable land. the Court is tasked to determine the legal status of Boracay Island. Panglao and Balicasag Islands in Bohol. 141. it has not been automatically converted from public forest to alienable agricultural land. Camiguin Island in Cagayan de Oro. about the classification of Boracay Island made by the President through Proclamation No. subject to existing vested rights. presumably subject to existing vested rights. upon the recommendation of the proper department head. Coron Island. 1064. and other trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest land. In fact. One is descriptive of what appears on the land while the other is a legal status.[116] At any rate. and not look into its physical layout. There is nothing in the law or the Circular which made Boracay Island an agricultural land. (Emphasis supplied) Clearly. and is clearly beyond. in areas declared as alienable and disposable by the Bureau of Forest Development. It was within her authority to make such classification. 1801 or PTA Circular No. The Proclamation likewise provides for a 15-meter buffer zone on each side of the center line of roads and trails. 1064. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees. as President Arroyo did in Proclamation No. Proclamation No. caves and peninsulas in the Philippines. as a tourist zone and marine reserve to be administered by the PTA – to ensure the concentrated efforts of the public and private sectors in the development of the areas’ tourism potential with due regard for ecological balance in the marine environment. the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply. The reference in Circular No. all the other areas mentioned would likewise be declared wide open for private disposition. restaurants and other commercial establishments. as a tourist spot. 1801 issued by then President Marcos in 1978 entitles them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. 141[120] provide that it is only the President. That could not have been. 1801 as basis for judicial confirmation of imperfect title. Section 3 provides: No trees in forested private lands may be cut without prior authority from the PTA. and peninsulas in the Philippines. All forested areas in public lands are declared forest reserves. 3-82 makes reference not only to private lands and areas but also to public forested lands. Courts have no authority to do so. Proclamation No. Hence. timber and mineral lands. 1064 classifies Boracay into 400 hectares of reserved forest land and 628. The Proclamation classified Boracay. such as Fortune and Verde Islands in Batangas. If the designation of Boracay Island as tourist zone makes it alienable and disposable by virtue of Proclamation No. Circular No. the island is susceptible of private ownership.[119] More importantly. Unless and until the land classified as “forest” is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain. even if its forest cover has been replaced by beach resorts. However.[122] Absent such classification. 3-82 to “private lands”[117] and “areas declared as alienable and disposable”[118] does not by itself classify the entire island as agricultural. Section 5 of the Circular recognizes the then Bureau of Forest Development’s authority to declare areas in the island as alienable and disposable when it provides: Subsistence farming. If President Marcos intended to classify the island as alienable and disposable or forest. and Misamis Oriental. The Whereas clauses of Proclamation No. 1801. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo merely exercised the authority granted to her to classify lands of the public domain. It was Proclamation No.[121] In issuing Proclamation No. coves. the proclamation is aimed at administering the islands for tourism and ecological purposes. Private claimants assert that. 1064. Port Galera in Oriental Mindoro. which are reserved for right of way and which shall form part of the area reserved for forest land protection purposes. . he would have identified the specific limits of each. Simply put. Sections 6 and 7 of CA No. Contrary to private claimants’ argument. 1064 of 2006 which positively declared part of Boracay as alienable and opened the same to private ownership. through the Office of the President. nipa palms. and national parks. the intent of the proclamation. It does not address the areas’ alienability. “Forest lands” do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way places. 1801 covers not only Boracay Island. who has the authority to classify the lands of the public domain into alienable or disposable.

Neither do they have vested rights over the occupied lands under the said law. The island remained an unclassified land of the public domain and. cannot confer ownership or possessory rights. [124] the Court stated that unclassified lands are public forests.[130] Neither may private claimants apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under Proclamation No. The tax declarations in the name of private claimants are insufficient to prove the first element of possession. 131 and Executive Order No. President Arroyo can no longer convert it into an agricultural land without running afoul of Section 4(a) of RA No. and Proclamation No. 705. They say their continued possession . does not. That Boracay Island was classified as a public forest under PD No. having been in possession of the island for a long time. 926. the fact that they were unclassified lands leads to the same result. continuous. shall have determined by law. obviously. no matter how long. the Philippine Bill of 1902. 229. thus: SEC. the specific limits of the public domain. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols v. 705. This is clear from the wording of the law itself. exclusive. possession of the land. They have invested millions of pesos in developing the island into a tourist spot. 926. 1945. as in the case of Boracay. all public and private agricultural lands as provided in Proclamation No. and Proclamation No. Private claimants failed to prove the first element of open. the key word to the correct application of the prohibition in Section 4(a) is the word “reclassification. 1801. there can be no “reclassification of forest lands” to speak of within the meaning of Section 4(a). namely: (1) open. as needed for forest purposes in accordance with the provisions of the Revised Forestry Code. Private claimants insist that they have a vested right in Boracay. or classified. must fail because of the absence of the second element of alienable and disposable land. and cannot. the prohibition in Section 4(a) of the CARL against the reclassification of forest lands to agricultural lands without a prior law delimiting the limits of the public domain. 1801 did not convert portions of Boracay Island into an agricultural land. the prohibition under the CARL applies only to a “reclassification” of land. More specifically. the tax declarations are not sufficient to convince this Court that the period of possession and occupation commenced on June 12. 6657 barring conversion of public forests into agricultural lands. 6657. to the mass of the public domain which has not been the subject of the present system of classification for purposes of determining which are needed for forest purposes and which are not] into permanent forest or forest reserves or some other forest uses under the Revised Forestry Code.Proclamation No. We cannot sustain the CA and RTC conclusion in the petition for declaratory relief that private claimants complied with the requisite period of possession. Act No. 1945. relying on the Philippine Bill of 1902. Private claimants further assert that Proclamation No. 1064 violates the provision of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) or RA No. 141. We note that the earliest of the tax declarations in the name of private claimants were issued in 1993. 1064. 1945. the following lands are covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program: (a) All alienable and disposable lands of the public domain devoted to or suitable for agriculture. is considered State property. They claim that since Boracay is a public forest under PD No. we repeat. which have not been previously determined. 1064 does not violate the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. apply to those lands of the public domain. While it is true that the land classification map does not categorically state that the islands are public forests. Private claimants’ bid for judicial confirmation of imperfect title.” Where there has been no previous classification of public forest [referring.[125] (Emphasis supplied) Moreover. In Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. If the land had never been previously classified. Being of recent dates. Their entitlement to a government grant under our present Public Land Act presupposes that the land possessed and applied for is already alienable and disposable. Act No. 4. with respect to those lands which were classified as agricultural lands. [128] As discussed. applying the Regalian doctrine. Scope. In the absence of the classification as mineral or timber land. developmental and equity considerations. the land remains unclassified land until released and rendered open to disposition. exclusive. – The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 shall cover. regardless of tenurial arrangement and commodity produced. Thus. Boracay Island still remained an unclassified land of the public domain despite PD No. continuous. [127] Private claimants are not entitled to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under CA No. and notorious possession of their lands in Boracay since June 12.[129] Where the land is not alienable and disposable. There are two requisites for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under CA No. taking into account ecological. and (2) the classification of the land as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest under a bona fide claim of ownership since time immemorial or from June 12. there can be no prohibited reclassification under the agrarian law. Republic. 705 did not bar the Executive from later converting it into agricultural land. including other lands of the public domain suitable for agriculture. We agree with the opinion of the Department of Justice[126] on this point: Indeed. denominated as “public forest” under the Revised Forestry Code. No reclassification of forest or mineral lands to agricultural lands shall be undertaken after the approval of this Act until Congress. 141.

livestock. The continued possession and considerable investment of private claimants do not automatically give them a vested right in Boracay. . rivers and lakes which they supply are emptied of their contents. this does not denote their automatic ouster from the residential. substituted by his heirs. Denuded areas become dust bowls. private claimants are ineligible to apply for a judicial confirmation of title over their occupied portions in Boracay even with their continued possession and considerable investment in the island. G.R. houses. THIRD DIVISION JULIO FLORES (deceased). making it a by-word in the local and international tourism industry.R. While the Court commiserates with private claimants’ plight. That the island is no longer overrun by trees.R. These are needs that become more urgent as destruction of our environment gets prevalent and difficult to control. The Court also notes that for a number of years..and investments give them a vested right which cannot be unilaterally rescinded by Proclamation No. It is of common knowledge by now that absence of the necessary green cover on our lands produces a number of adverse or ill effects of serious proportions. 167707 is GRANTED and the Court of Appeals Decision in CA-G. As the law and jurisprudence stand. We are bound to apply the law strictly and judiciously. the foregoing observations should be written down in a lumberman’s decalogue. substituted by his heirs. Chairperson. Not without justification. such as by homestead[131] or sales patent. SO ORDERED. The petition for certiorari in G. conservation. In issuing Proclamation No. . the fertile topsoil is washed away. Their promotion and protection are not just fancy rhetoric for politicians and activists. they may look into other modes of applying for original registration of title.versus MARCIANO BAGAOISAN. 141. the government has taken the step necessary to open up the island to private ownership. While they may not be eligible to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under Section 48(b) of CA No. thousands of people have called the island their home. They can take steps to preserve or protect their possession. Neither will this mean the loss of their substantial investments on their occupied alienable lands. As waterfalls cease to function. commercial. 1064. BENITO FLORES (deceased). For another. No. No. Without the trees. so will hydroelectric plants. Respondent. JIMENA TOMAS. JR. and many more have spoken. forests constitute a vital segment of any country's natural resources. forest lands are fundamental to our nation’s survival. With erosion come the dreaded floods that wreak havoc and destruction to property – crops. This Court is constitutionally bound to decide cases based on the evidence presented and the laws applicable. protection. 173365 Present: CORONA. about the pressing need for forest preservation. There is one such bill[133] now pending in the House of Representatives. watersheds dry up. The petition for certiorari in G. J. and other areas they possess now classified as agricultural.[132] subject to the conditions imposed by law. for private claimants. Lack of title does not necessarily mean lack of right to possess. The fish disappear.R. and highways – not to mention precious human lives. as amended. This is the law and it should prevail. Ecological conservation is as important as economic progress. DOLORES FLORES and VIRGINIA FLORES-DALERE.[135] WHEREFORE. 71118 REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. Nor do these give them a right to apply for a title to the land they are presently occupying. Petitioners. 1064. does not becloud the vision to protect its remaining forest cover and to strike a healthy balance between progress and ecology.. For one thing. Munoz:[134] The view this Court takes of the cases at bar is but in adherence to public policy that should be followed with respect to forest lands. Ito ang batas at ito ang dapat umiral. To be sure. geological erosion results. development and reforestation. More realistically. Indeed. 173775 is DISMISSED for lack of merit. No. judgment is rendered as follows: 1. With the rains. All is not lost. 2. Whether that bill or a similar bill will become a law is for Congress to decide. For. those with lawful possession may claim good faith as builders of improvements. however. One Last Note The Court is aware that millions of pesos have been invested for the development of Boracay Island. however. CV No. Congress may enact a law to entitle private claimants to acquire title to their occupied lots or to exempt them from certain requirements under the present land laws. represented by their Attorney-in-Fact. Many have written much. and quite often. As aptly observed by Justice Conrado Sanchez in 1968 in Director of Forestry v. VELASCO. This gesture may not be sufficient to appease some sectors which view the classification of the island partially into a forest reserve as absurd.

1983. P-11880 and that petitioners have previously recognized such fact. 2006 Resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA). He claimed that the subject property was erroneously covered by OCT No. To cease and desist from further possession of said parcel of land and to immediately reconvey the same to plaintiff. Promulgated: April 15. since he bought the property in 1977. considering that they No pronouncement as to costs. denying their motion for reconsideration. grant. the CA dismissed their assertion that they did not know the contents of the document. OCT No. Dolores. and MENDOZA. This property is located in the Municipality of Piddig.552 sq. Thereafter. with Lazo taking advantage of their lack of education. While admitting that they executed the Deed of Confirmation and Quitclaim in favor of Lazo. bought the subject property from Lazo. 1995. On June 21. petitioners.: executed an affidavit acknowledging the erroneous inclusion of the property in their title. 1996.[6] On February 3. given on November 12. together with their mother Luisa Viernes. Petitioners seek a review of the March 29. petitioners agreed to “sell.552-square meter portion of a parcel of land covered by Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 1976. disposing as follows: WHEREFORE. petitioners had denied his ownership of the land and asserted their ownership thereof by working and harvesting the crops thereon. On December 20. 1997. the Regional Trial Court rendered a decision. Through this document. parcel of land situated in Barrio Maab-abucay (now Estancia) Municipality of Piddig. P-11880 was issued pursuant to Homestead Patent No. partition and damages against petitioners.00 as reasonable attorney’s fees. petitioners claimed that they were misled into signing the same. petitioners stated that they did not relinquish ownership or possession of the land to Lazo. any statute barring an action by the real . 138892. herein petitioners. he possessed the land as owner and paid real property tax thereon. Marciano Bagaoisan. Viernes and petitioner Virginia Flores-Dalere executed a Palawag A Nasapataan (Affidavit). and 4. respondent filed an action for ownership.[7] On appeal. jointly and severally: 1. He said that. executed a Deed of Confirmation and Quitclaim[3] in favor of Vicente T. The case involves a 13. judgment is hereby rendered ordering the defendants. it concluded that the five-year prohibition against alienation of a property awarded through homestead patent did not apply. in view of the foregoing. and Virginia. attesting to the fact that they conveyed to Lazo the subject property through the Deed of Confirmation and Quitclaim. 1977. 2010 x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x DECISION NACHURA. Affiants also attested that Lazo and his predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the disputed portion since 1940 and that the same was mistakenly included in the patent application of Victor Flores.NACHURA. the CA upheld the validity of the Deed of Confirmation and Quitclaim.[4] On April 4. 2000. as evidenced by a Deed of Absolute Sale dated February 20. 1996. P-11880[2] in the name of the Heirs of Victor Flores. 2006 Decision[1] and the June 20. respondent.000. Ilocos Norte. convey. computed as the price then obtaining in said years. The CA likewise rejected petitioners’ contention that the action was barred by prescription or laches. praying that he be declared as the true owner of the subject property and that the entire property covered by OCT No. for the loss of harvest he incurred in 1994.[8] the CA held that where the registered owner knew that the property described in the patent and the certificate of title belonged to another. He averred that. P-11880 be partitioned among them. Anore. namely: Julio. Lazo. Ilocos Norte. It further declared that the deed merely confirmed petitioners’ non-ownership of the subject property and it did not involve an alienation or encumbrance. To pay said plaintiff such amount as would be the peso equivalent of 100 cavanes of palay per year. Benito. respondent asserted that he was a tenant of Lazo and that he had been working on the subjec0t property since time immemorial. JJ. In light of petitioners’ admission that they signed the deed after it was read to them. cede.m. 2.[5] In answer. and transfer by way of QUITCLAIM” the subject property to Lazo. In the Complaint. 1973. 1998 and 1999. Petitioners contended that it was too late for respondent to assert title to the disputed portion because the title covering the same had already become indefeasible one year after it was issued. 3. J. PERALTA. SO ORDERED. quieting of title. lately. To recognize plaintiff Marciano Bagaoisan as owner of the 13. Citing Vital v. Accordingly. To pay plaintiff the amount of P20.

11048-14 is hereby AFFIRMED. Without going into petitioners’ allegation that they were unaware of the contents of the Deed of Confirmation and Quitclaim. SO ORDERED.owner would not apply. which approval shall not be denied except on constitutional and legal grounds. We do not agree with the CA that the Deed of Confirmation and Quitclaim merely “confirmed” petitioners’ non-ownership of the subject property. associations. The petition is meritorious. 2006 Decision reads: WHEREFORE.[15] After the lapse of such period. aimed at providing a class of independent small landholders which is the bulwark of peace and order. No alienation. 141). by clear and convincing evidence. and the true owner might file an action to settle the issue of ownership. To repeat. The basic presumption is that lands of whatever classification belong to the State and evidence of a land grant must . Except in favor of the Government or any of its branches. there was no allegation as to how petitioners were able to secure title to the property despite the alleged ownership of respondent’s predecessor.” “convey. it is essential for the party seeking reconveyance to prove. as the Court had occasion to stress. insisting that the Deed of Confirmation and Quitclaim is void as its contents were not fully explained to them. The deed uses the words “sell. is to promote public policy. Laoag City. we nonetheless hold that the deed is void for violating the five-year prohibitory period against alienation of lands acquired through homestead patent as provided under Section 118 of the Public Land Act.” “grant. respondent failed to present sufficient evidence to surmount the conclusiveness and indefeasibility of the certificate of title.[10] Consequently.[16] In order that an action for reconveyance based on fraud may prosper. 118. To validate such an arrangement would be to throw the door open to all possible fraudulent subterfuges and schemes that persons interested in land given to a homesteader may devise to circumvent and defeat the legal provisions prohibiting their alienation within five years from the issuance of the patent. Labeling the deed as a confirmation of non-ownership or as a quitclaim of rights would actually make no difference. lands acquired under free patent or homestead provisions shall not be subject to encumbrance or alienation from the date of the approval of the application and for a term of five years from and after the date of issuance of the patent and grant. Furthermore.[14] There is. or institutions. which states: Sec. the sole remedy of a landowner. In fact. the appeal is hereby DISMISSED for lack of sufficient merit.” and “transfer. his title to the property and the fact of fraud. More importantly. units. The assailed 3 February 2000 decision by the Regional Trial Court.” These words admit of no other interpretation than that the subject property was indeed being transferred to Lazo. An OCT issued on the strength of a homestead patent partakes of the nature of a certificate issued in a judicial proceeding and becomes indefeasible and incontrovertible upon the expiration of one year from the date of the promulgation of the Director of Lands’ order for the issuance of the patent. and it violates Section 118 of the Public Land Act (Commonwealth Act No. The dispositive portion of the assailed March 29. for it is not within the competence of any citizen to barter away what public policy by law seeks to preserve. any act which would have the effect of removing the property subject of the patent from the hands of a grantee will be struck down for being violative of the law. [17] Respondent did not allege in his complaint or prove during the trial that fraud attended the registration of the subject property in petitioners’ names. [12] Its basic objective. The use of the words “confirmation” and “quitclaim” in the title of the document was an obvious attempt to circumvent the prohibition imposed by law. therefore. as the effect would still be the alienation or conveyance of the property. He merely asserted that his predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the property since 1940.[11] It bears stressing that the law was enacted to give the homesteader or patentee every chance to preserve for himself and his family the land that the State had gratuitously given to him as a reward for his labor in cleaning and cultivating it. whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another’s name is to file an action for reconveyance so long as the property has not passed to an innocent purchaser for value.[13] Hence. The act of conveyance would still fall within the ambit of the prohibition. which prohibits the alienation of lands acquired through a homestead patent. is void and cannot be enforced. the conveyance of a homestead before the expiration of the five-year prohibitory period following the issuance of the homestead patent is null and void and cannot be enforced.[9] The CA likewise denied petitioners’ motion for reconsideration in its Resolution dated June 20. respondent failed to prove that he has title to the subject property. petitioners filed this petition for review. no doubt that the Deed of Confirmation and Quitclaim. or corporations. 2006. in Civil Case No. or conveyance of any homestead after five years and before twenty-five years after the issuance of title shall be valid without the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce. transfer. but the improvements or crops on the land may be mortgaged or pledged to qualified persons. that is to provide home and decent living for destitutes. nor shall they become liable to the satisfaction of any debt contracted prior to the expiration of said period. which was executed three years after the homestead patent was issued.” “cede.

dated July 17. Wherefore. it is in that action that petitioners’ defenses. without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. ROLANDO RAMOS. Domingo has not entered. 168464 January 23.R. Susana’s father. The complaint for ownership. it is clear that Felimon B. which shall be reserved as barrio cemetery site. Alexander. 1996. Susana met her second husband. it would be well to mention that the execution of the Deed of Confirmation and Quitclaim within the five-year prohibitory period also makes the homestead patent susceptible to cancellation.be “well-nigh incontrovertible. her brother. 21992 of Felimon B. Domingo be as hereby it is rejected. one of whom is respondent Rolando. Branch 23. as well as its Resolution3 dated June 14. [20] Should the Solicitor General decide to file such an action. petitioner Zenaida and her brother Alexander (now deceased) are the children of spouses Susana Bueno and Abundio Ramos. Isabela. will have to be resolved.R. The partition was not registered but Deeds of Sale were executed in favor of Rolando and Alexander. vs. DECISION YNARES-SANTIAGO. prior to 1958. the possessor is deemed to have acquired. it not appearing that this Office has received the homestead (new) application allegedly filed by her for the same land. 2005 in CA-G. . RAMOS EVANGELISTO GARCIA. petitioner Zenaida continued the cultivation and possession of the subject land. respondent Eusebio Ramos in 1946. with whom she had five children. The Bureau of Lands resolved the dispute. without prejudice to an action for reversion that the Solicitor General may decide to file for the State. The land ceases to be a part of the public domain and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands. Roxas. in Civil Case No. forfeiting in favor of the Government whatever amount have been paid on account thereof. situated at Muñoz. continuous.[18] such that the latter would have no more right to issue a homestead patent to another person. Respondents. In closing. Petitioner. on the basis of their continuous occupation and cultivation and their valuable improvements introduced thereon.: This petition assails the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated February 16. Susana discovered that Felimon Domingo applied for a sales patent over the subject parcel of land which she opposed. the petition is GRANTED. Pls-15. Sometime later. 204 in 1938. it is ordered that the Sales Application No. 2005 denying the motion for reconsideration. de Ramos and her children have sufficiently established their right of preference over the land except the one hectare Cemetery site. The March 29. J. CV No. Br.[19] It is the Solicitor General. wherever he was assigned. and the subject property being reverted to the public domain. in turn. 2006 Resolution are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.4 FIRST DIVISION G.” The Public Land Act requires that the possessor or his predecessors-in-interest must be in open. The only evidence on record attesting to the fact that respondent and his predecessorsin-interest had been in possession of the property since 1940 was the affidavit executed by some of petitioners. and respondent Rolando and his siblings. Isabela. Susana sold the land to petitioner who. would not suffice. No. a right to a government grant. quieting of title and damages is DISMISSED. It was alleged that as Susana accompanied her husband Eusebio. who is by law mandated to institute an action for reversion. This. particularly their alleged lack of knowledge of the contents of the deed. 23-357 which ruled that herein petitioner Zenaida Ramos-Balalio had a superior right to possess Lot No. exclusive. WHEREFORE. SO ORDERED. As culled from the records. 2006 Decision of the Court of Appeals and its June 20. and daughter. In the interim. Respondent merely established that he had been in possession of the property and that he had been paying real property taxes thereon since 1977. and notorious possession and occupation of the land for at least thirty years. by operation of law. a soldier. George Bueno. 2006 ZENAIDA RAMOS-BALALIO. 204. partitioned it among herself. When these conditions are complied with. Abundio died in 1944. The land in question shall be subdivided so as to exclude therefrom the one hectare portion in the northwestern part of the land. while the remaining area is hereby allocated to SUSANA BUENO VDA DE RAMOS who shall file an appropriate application therefore within sixty (60) days after the survey thereof at her own expense. SO ORDERED. on behalf of the government. The spouses started occupying Lot No. thus: In the light of the foregoing facts. possessed or cultivated the land in question and therefore he has not acquired any preference right thereto. EUSEBIO I. Upon the other hand contestant Susana Bueno Vda. however. 58644 reversing the Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Roxas.

800. lot 204-G and lot 204-C. m. more or less. more or less. Lot 204-B consisting of 17. judgment is hereby rendered in favor of plaintiff.Petitioner thereafter mortgaged her share. The middle portion consisting of 24. possession and damages with a petition for preliminary mandatory injunction. more or less.. Ten Thousand (P10. Eusebio Ramos is occupying and cultivating lot 204-A with an area of 4. And to pay the cost. 4. m. WHEREFORE. occupation. As a consequence.. more or less.. Myrna and Mila.410 sq. Isabela. SO ORDERED. 204 and thus ruled: AS A CONSEQUENCE OF ALL THE FOREGOING. as he validly bought the area from Alexander Ramos. c.00) Pesos as the reasonable owner’s share of the produce of the land of Zenaida Ramos from 1975 to the present. with a total area of 43.000. m. prescinding from the above ruling. more or less.. d.689 sq. After settling the mortgage. Rolando Ramos and Alexander Ramos cannot be enforced because neither of the parties therein can claim any vested right over the subject parcel land which is still part of the public domain.410 sq. 23-357 is REVERSED and the "Complaint" filed by plaintiff-appellee as well as the respective "Answer in Intervention" of Eusebio Ramos and Evangelisto Garcia are all hereby ordered DISMISSED. 3. with an interest of 6% per annum until fully paid. the partition being also East to West. m. In fine.994 sq. South of the share of Zenaida consisting also of 24. it being the conjugal property of the first marriage of Susana Bueno to Abundio Ramos. Evangelisto Garcia is adjudicated the first two (2) hectares from the North and East of the cemetery.. her right never ripened to ownership which she could have transmitted to her heirs. neither of the intervenors could claim any right which they can enforce in court. to wit: As a consequence of the foregoing. 1996. intervenor. Pls-15. The total area of the land in question. is the valid share of Rolando Ramos and his full blooded brother and sisters namely Robin. Branch 23.. since the vendor never inherited anything from Susana there was nothing which he (Evangelisto) could have bought. . 7. 4.410 sq. Corazon. It is short by 2. in Civil Case No. it reversed the decision of the trial court.6 On July 17. defendant. m.00) Pesos as appearance fees of her lawyer.. it came to her knowledge that respondents Rolando and Eusebio had usurped her share and deprived the mortgagees of possession over the land. Plaintiff Zenaida Ramos Balalio has no possession.7 On appeal. 1. Ordering Eusebio Ramos to vacate lot 204-A and surrender it to Evangelisto Garcia because he is not entitled to any portion of the lot in question. Rolando Ramos and Eusebio Ramos are ordered jointly and severally to pay Zenaida Ramos: a. m. m. One Hundred Thousand Eight Hundred (P100. the Court of Appeals found that neither Zenaida nor Alexander complied with the homestead application requirements in order to acquire superior vested right. 8.311 sq.957 sq. As to Evangelisto Garcia who supposedly purchased that share of Alexander (an heir of Susana). His occupation is very much less than the two (2) hectares sold to him by Alexander Ramos. and Eusebio Ramos. Zenaida Ramos and against Rolando Ramos. This is adjudicated in favor of his heirs.00) Pesos as attorney’s fees. 5.. m. The Clerk of Court and the Sheriff are ordered to repair to the land in question and partition said land in accordance with the tenor of this decision. the intervention of Eusebio Ramos and Evangelisto Garcia should likewise be dismissed. more or less. the partition being from East to West. He is presently occupying only 17. the Court rules in favor of appellants as to the fourth error and finds that the contract supposedly dividing that property among Zenaida. One thousand Five Hundred (P1. The trial court had the land surveyed. and also South of the portion adjudicated to the heirs of Alexander is now given to Zenaida Ramos Balalio as her valid share of lot 204. all surnamed Ramos. more or less.. petitioner filed a case for recovery of inheritance. the survey plan revealed the following: 1. however. As to Eusebio. more or less. Ten Thousand (P10. Subdividing the land into Lots 204-A to 204-H5 based on the actual possessor or occupant. after deducting one (1) hectare occupied by the cemetery is 73. 2. m.500. 5. The remaining portion of the share of Alexander Ramos is 4.150 sq. 3. His possession now is increased to two (2) hectares which includes the area being possessed by Eusebio Ramos.685 sq. since Susana never filed an application for homestead. 6.000. Rolando Ramos is in possession and cultivation of lot 204-F. Br. Also. and cultivation whatsoever of lot 204. the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Roxas. the trial court rendered its decision holding that petitioner was deprived of her right to cultivation and possession of her share of Lot No. more or less. another intervenor. 2. is possessed and cultivated by Evangelisto Garcia. and immediately South of the cemetery. b.00) Pesos as incidental expenses relative to the case. This portion now corresponds to the area immediately South of the area of Evangelisto Garcia.

mineral lands. AND DECLARING THAT SHE HAS NO RIGHT WHATSOEVER TO THE DISPUTED LAND.13 To be qualified. Zenaida’s argument is flawed because it assumes that her parents had perfected their title over the land and that they could validly convey the same to third persons. the issue is whether Zenaida. However. for some time.8 Hence. Under the Public Land Act. he shall be succeeded in his rights and obligations with respect to the land applied for or granted or leased under this Act by his heirs in law. The decision of the Bureau of Lands in 1958 only addressed Zenaida’s family’s right of preference over the land. the subject land remains to be part of the public domain and rightfully belongs to the State. Hence. none of the parties obtained a defensible title to the property which can be upheld by the Court. She produced evidence showing that she has filed a verified . public. may be considered as having any right to the land occupied. Under the Regalian doctrine. In her lifetime. the land remains part of the public domain. forest or timber. Nonetheless.SO ORDERED. remains to be the general law governing the classification and disposition of alienable lands of the public domain. she failed to apply for a homestead patent and to acquire any vested right that Eusebio or Rolando can inherit. grantee. We find that Zenaida has proven prior possession of the portion of land she claims as her share. over the age of 18 years or the head of a family. Furthermore.11 Commonwealth Act No.16 In this case. whether by sale or by inheritance. Alexander.15 The purported sale. open. As such. the applicable law to the case before us. nor can it be a source of right for Zenaida. 7. or during the life of the lease. neither Eusebio nor Rolando can claim any right whatsoever as heirs of Susana. this petition on the following assigned errors: 7. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN IGNORING THE ISSUE OF ACCION PUBLICIANA IN THE CASE AT BAR AND CONFINED ITSELF TO THE CLAIM OF RECOVERY OF INHERITANCE. which possession antedates the filing of the homestead application.1. (Emphasis added) The reliance is misplaced because the cited provision speaks of an applicant. a homestead patent is one issued to any citizen of this country. therefore. there was as yet no valid application filed. following the death of her father Abundio. the possession of the land is different from the issue of its ownership.2. all lands of the public domain belong to the State and those lands not appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. despite her possession and cultivation of the land. therefore.9 The petition is partly meritorious. 1073 (1977). 141 (1936). A homestead patent. because Susana did not have the authority to sell what did not belong to her. For the same reason. If at any time the applicant or grantee shall die before the issuance of the patent or the final grant of the land. in view of their possession and cultivation of the land. An accion publiciana is an action for the recovery of the right to possess and is a plenary action in an ordinary civil proceeding to determine the better right of possession of realty independently of title. petitioner Zenaida asserts her right to a parcel of agricultural land that her parents Susana and Abundio had possessed since 1938. or lessee. which may entitle her to sue in courts for the return of the possession thereof. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED IN REVERSING THE TRIAL COURT’S DECISION AND DISMISSING THE PETITIONER’S COMPLAINT. a careful examination of the records shows that petitioner has not satisfactorily established that a valid application for homestead patent was filed by her parents. The invalidation of the sale consequently nullifies the partition of the property among Zenaida. 7.3. or the Public Land Act. is one of the modes to acquire title to public lands suitable for agricultural purposes. who shall be entitled to have issued to them the patent or final concession if they show that they have complied with the requirements therefor. the Bureau of Lands ordered the filing of an appropriate application for its registration which indicates that as of that time. As held by the Court of Appeals. and Rolando and his siblings because Zenaida could not have disposed of the land which she did not own. Alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to agricultural lands. Their claim evidently relies on the provision of the Public Land Act which states: Section 105. as amended by Presidential Decree No. She claims that. It enumerates the different modes of acquisition of these lands and prescribes the terms and conditions to enable private persons to perfect their title to them. as an applicant for public land. and who is not the owner of more than 2412 hectares of land in the country. the cultivation of this land was left to her and her grandfather and that.14 In the case at bar. between petitioner and her mother cannot be given effect. the land was allegedly sold to her by her mother Susana.10 Lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural. in accordance with this Act. Susana was not one of these. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT PETITIONER IS NOT IN PRIOR POSSESSION OF THE SAID LAND. Petitioner argues that her petition may be treated as an accion publiciana and not merely an action for recovery of inheritance. the applicant must show that he has resided continuously for at least one year in the municipality where the land is situated and must have cultivated at least one-fifth of the land applied for. and who shall be subrogated in all his rights and obligations for the purposes of this Act. such as the subject of the instant case. Nonetheless. Eusebio and Rolando cannot invoke their prior possession and occupation of the land because the same cannot be considered as adverse. and national parks. or while the applicant or grantee still has obligations pending towards the Government. peaceful and to the exclusion of all. It is.

Inc. Isabela. ETC.00) Pesos worth of improvements. 1959. vs. 1962. 2005 is MODIFIED. members of the Dumagat tribe. Inc. Pls-15. represented by Mr. D. Time and again. That Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. She alleged that during the lifetime of her mother. Rodolfo Nazario is a corporation duly organized in accordance with the laws of the Republic of the Philippines and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on December 23. represented by Mr. which ordered registration in favor of Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. That the possession of the Infiels over the land relinquished or sold to Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc. said improvements were seen by the Court during its ocular investigation of the land sought to be registered on September 18. we have held that although tax declarations or realty tax payments of property are not conclusive evidence of ownership. That applicant Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. 3.. of five parcels of land measuring 481. Roxas. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT and ACME PLYWOOD & VENEER CO. Zenaida presented tax declarations both in her name and that of her predecessor-in-interest (mother Susana Bueno) covering the property. situated in Muñoz. Isabela. from Mariano Infiel and Acer Infiel.. Rodolfo Nazario can acquire real properties pursuant to the provisions of the Articles of Incorporation particularly on the provision of its secondary purposes (paragraph (9). That Acme Plywood & Veneer Co... No.. whether with the alienable or disposable public land or within the public domain. 2. she and her maternal grandfather cultivated and occupied the land. 1996. The registration proceedings were for confirmation of title under Section 48 of Commonwealth Act No... 73002 December 29. Exhibit 'M-l'). dates back before the Philippines was discovered by Magellan as the ancestors of the Infiels have possessed and occupied the land from generation to generation until the same came into the possession of Mariano Infiel and Acer Infiel. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated February 16. 1971.000.18 They constitute at least proof that the holder has a claim of title over the property. That the land subject of the Land Registration proceeding was ancestrally acquired by Acme Plywood & Veneer Co.000. Inc. as amended: and the appealed judgment sums up the findings of the trial court in said proceedings in this wise: 1. The documents remain uncontested and the application has not been assailed by any of the parties to the case. is continuous.. INC. respondents. That the land sought to be registered is a private land pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No.: The Director of Lands has brought this appeal by certiorari from a judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court affirming a decision of the Court of First Instance of Isabela. 1986 or less. 1962. adverse and public from 1962 to the present and tacking the possession of the Infiels who were granted from whom the applicant bought said land on October 29. 1962. petitioner. Inc. 6. dated July 17. 5. which entitles her to be protected by the law in such possession. has introduced more than Forty-Five Million (P45.. both members of the Dumagat tribe and as such are cultural minorities. 3872 granting absolute ownership to members of the non-Christian Tribes on land occupied by them or their ancestral lands. 4.17 which is still pending. on October 29. NARVASA. more . 9. they are good indicia of possession in the concept of owner for no one in his right mind would be paying taxes for a property that is not in his actual or at least constructive possession. Inc. J.R. The voluntary declaration of a piece of property for taxation purposes manifests not only one’s sincere and honest desire to obtain title to the property and announces his adverse claim against the State and all other interested parties. Moreover. Isabela. 8. 7. Inc.. have negotiated for the donation of the THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS. as delineated in the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Roxas.. but also the intention to contribute needed revenues to the Government.19 All told. the petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. acquired by it from Mariano and Acer Infiel. WHEREFORE. 141 (The Public Land Act). petitioner Zenaida’s uncontested and verified application for a homestead patent coupled with her open and notorious occupation of the land convinces us of her preferential right to possess the land claimed. Nacion Law Office for private respondent. EN BANC G. That the constitution of the Republic of the Philippines of 1935 is applicable as the sale took place on October 29. SO ORDERED. Branch 23. 390 square meters. That the possession of the applicant Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. 1982.application for the registration of the land with the Bureau of Lands on August 10. That the ownership and possession of the land sought to be registered by the applicant was duly recognized by the government when the Municipal Officials of Maconacon.. insofar as to grant petitioner Zenaida Ramos-Balalio preferential possession of the portion of Lot 204. hence the possession is already considered from time immemorial. nevertheless.

it was reversible error to decree registration in favor of Acme Section 48. under a bona fide claim of ownership for at least 30 years shall be entitled to the rights granted in subsection (b) hereof. in view of the quoted findings of the trial court which were cited and affirmed by the Intermediate Appellate Court. during their special session on November 22. 141. for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. the question before this Court is whether or not the title that the Infiels had transferred to Acme in 1962 could be confirmed in favor of the latter in proceedings instituted by it in 1981 when the 1973 Constitution was already in effect. 644). attention has been invited to Manila Electric Company vs. on the other hand. by reason thereof. and a majority of this Court upheld the dismissal. and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor. assuming that the lots were public land. It would cease to be public land only upon the issuance of the certificate of title to any Filipino citizen claiming it under section 48(b). Isabela (Exh. The following described citizens of the Philippines. The prohibition applies to alienable public lands as to which a Torrens title may be secured under section 48(b). 20 SCRA 641. entitled to exercise the right granted in Section 48 of the Public Land . or for more than the required 30-year period and were. having in mind the prohibition therein against private corporations holding lands of the public domain except in lease not exceeding 1. Meralco applied to the Court of First Instance of Rizal. they were then already private lands.. 1981. is disqualified to apply for its registration under section 48(b). the constitutional prohibition against their acquisition by private corporations or associations obviously does not apply. The court. 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. occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein. The Petition for Review does not dispute-indeed. et al. and which donation was accepted by the Municipal Government of Maconacon. 1967. July 30.000 hectares (a prohibition not found in the 1935 Constitution which was in force in 1962 when Acme purchased the lands in question from the Infiels). was not qualified to apply for registration under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act which allows only Filipino citizens or natural persons to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect titles to public land. Olimpia Ramos. Because it is still public land and the Meralco. before them. but whose titles have not been perfected or completed. continuous. It was held that: . whether disposable or not. 1976. except by lease not to exceed 1. 48. 1979. exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain. Inc. Meralco's application cannot be given due course or has to be dismissed. are members of the national cultural minorities who had. 1 where a similar set of facts prevailed. is disqualified to acquire and register ownership of said lands under any provisions of the 1973 Constitution other than Section 11 of its Article XIV already referred to. exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of lands of the public domain suitable to agriculture. we should not make any distinction or qualification. the registration proceedings have been commenced only on July 17. Concerning this.. Rizal from the Piguing spouses. as amended.. the latter is the correctly applicable law. for confirmation of title to said lots. to wit: xxx xxx xxx Act to have their title judicially confirmed. a domestic corporation more than 60% of the capital stock of which is Filipino-owned. 'N-l'). the said land is still public land. (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open. had purchased in 1947 two lots in Tanay. Nor is there any pretension that Acme. as the successor-in-interest of the Infiels. Inc. by their predecessor-in-interest. Finally. dismissed the application on the ground that Meralco. by themselves and through their progenitors. 1962. reads: SEC. If. it can no longer controvert before this Court-the fact that Mariano and Acer Infiel. or long after the 1973 Constitution had gone into effect. If they were then still part of the public domain. had donated a part of the land bought by the Company from the Infiels for the townsite of Maconacon Isabela (Exh. as a juridical person. under the Land Registration Act..townsite from Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. L-19535. 'N') on November 15. it must be answered in the negative. On December 1. from whom Acme purchased the lands in question on October 29. it may be observed that the constitutional prohibition makes no distinction between (on the one hand) alienable agricultural public lands as to which no occupant has an imperfect title and (on the other hand) alienable lands of the public domain as to which an occupant has on imperfect title subject to judicial confirmation. Given the foregoing. may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims. 1979. (c) Members of the National Cultural minorities who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open. a juridical person. CastroBartolome. The proceeding under section 48(b) 'presupposes that the land is public' (Mindanao vs. Director of Lands. and since section 11 of its Article XIV prohibits private corporations or associations from holding alienable lands of the public domain. since prior to the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941.. Manila Electric Company. Makati Branch.. he asserts that. The question turns upon a determination of the character of the lands at the time of institution of the registration proceedings in 1981. under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership. continuous. The Director of Lands takes no issue with any of these findings except as to the applicability of the 1935 Constitution to the matter at hand. In this regard.. Meralco appealed. In that case. of Commonwealth Act No. Since section 11 of Article XIV does not distinguish. The lots had been possessed by the vendors and.000 hectares. paragraphs (b) and (c). and this negotiation came to reality when the Board of Directors of the Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. possessed and occupied those lands since time immemorial.

. the correct. by operation of law not only a right to a grant. moreover. 2874. was not to confer title. 9 Miguel vs. if he had read every word of it. personally and through his predecessors. for he has been in actual and physical possession.. That said dissent expressed what is the better — and. The words 'may prove' (acrediten) as well or better. Director of Lands.. 1942. Cabanatuan. and Angela Razon did not thereby acquire any right. 8 Manarpac vs. It may be that an English conveyancer would have recommended an application under the foregoing decree... but a grant of the Government. appears to be squarely affirmative: 11 .The present Chief Justice entered a vigorous dissent. view-becomes evident from a consideration of some of the principal rulings cited therein. ownership actually gained would be lost. if not by earlier law. in view of the other provisions. 7 Mesina vs. and the sale thus made was void and of no effect. in selling the land in question of Angela Razon. exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public land for the period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land. for want of it. ceases to be of the public domain and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. 1880 for adjustment of royal lands wrongfully occupied by private individuals in the Philippine Islands. continuously. an application therefore is sufficient. indeed. Court of Appeals 10 and Herico vs. shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title . was not to confer title.. for that matter. confirmation proceedings would. Vda. in the 1973 Constitution which came into effect later) prohibiting corporations from acquiring and owning private lands. in truth be little more than a formality. (T)here are indications that registration was expected from all. 4 which developed. Thereafter. but simply recognize a title already vested. Dar. Consequently. the possessor is deemed to have acquired.. ceases to be public land and becomes private property. as already conferred by the decree. by himself and by his predecessors-in-interest." If it is accepted-as it must be-that the land was already private land to which the Infiels had a legally sufficient and transferable title on October 29.. In favor of Valentin Susi. with a right to a certificate of title to said land under the provisions of Chapter VIII of said Act. in Carino involving the Decree/Regulations of June 25.. ownership actually gained would be lost.. it is no longer disposable under the Public Land Act as by free patent. amending Act No. a government grant. that all the necessary requirements for a grant by the Government were complied with. in Susi: . of an agricultural land of the public domain openly. Herico.. There are indications that registration was expected from all but none sufficient to show that.. might be taken to mean when called upon to do so in any litigation. which the respondent Court held to be inapplicable to the petitioner's case. the presumption juris et de jure established in paragraph (b) of section 45 of Act No. but certainly it was not calculated to convey to the mind of an Igorot chief the notion that ancient family possessions were in danger. it had already ceased to be of the public domain and had become private property. xxx xxx xxx As interpreted in several cases. and registration thereunder would not confer title. but simply to establish it. wherever made. of which only some need be mentioned. the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued upon the strength of said patent. Secondly. if not by earlier law. in particular. it must also be conceded that Acme had a perfect right to make such acquisition. So that when Angela Razon applied for the grant in her favor. so to speak. at least by presumption. at the most limited to ascertaining whether the possession claimed is of the required character and length of time. The effect of the proof. 926. but none sufficient to show that.. supra. It was ruled that: It is true that the language of articles 4 and 5 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. The proceedings would not originally convert the land from public to private land. 12 Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical inevitability of considering possession of public land which is of the character and duration prescribed by statute as the equivalent of an express grant from the State than the dictum of the statute itself 13 that the possessor(s) ". under the provisions of section 47 of Act No. by operation of law. but only confirm such a conversion already affected by operation of law from the moment the required period of possession became complete. . If by a legal fiction. 2874. exclusively and publicly since July 26. ". under the provisions of Republic Act No. Valentin Susi had already acquired.. a right to a grant. The land. therefore. there being nothing in the 1935 Constitution then in force (or. for want of it. upon completion of the requisite period ipso jure and without the need of judicial or other sanction. beyond the control of the Director of Lands. The main theme was given birth. of Valentin Susi. The application for confirmation is mere formality. without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. for it is not necessary that a certificate of title should be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts. wherever made. there is. .. " No proof being admissible to overcome a conclusive presumption. with the latter's proven occupation and cultivation for more than 30 years since 1914. by invoking and affirming the Susi doctrine have firmly rooted it in jurisprudence. the Director of Lands disposed of a land over which he had no longer any title or control. 1962 when Acme acquired it from said owners. Valentin Susi had acquired the land in question by a grant of the State. 1984. de Sonza. . but simply to establish it.. as already conferred by the decree. The effect of the proof. tracing the line of cases beginning with Carino in 1909 2 thru Susi in 1925 3 down to Herico in 1980. title over the land has vested on petitioner so as to segregate the land from the mass of public land. when the conditions as specified in the foregoing provision are complied with. That ruling assumed a more doctrinal character because expressed in more categorical language. 6 Succeeding cases. As was so well put in Carino.. likeof Lacaste vs. affirmed and reaffirmed the doctrine that open..

J. City of Davao) The ends of justice would best be served. That vested right has to be respected. therefore. Petitioner' prohibition action is barred by the doctrine of vested rights in constitutional law. the land subject of this appeal was already private property at the time it was acquired from the Infiels by Acme. The purely accidental circumstance that confirmation proceedings were brought under the aegis of the 1973 Constitution which forbids corporations from owning lands of the public domain cannot defeat a right already vested before that law came into effect. whereas the same The due process clause prohibits the annihilation of vested rights. openly. is of the view. until title in their favor was actually confirmed in appropriate proceedings under the Public Land Act. To uphold respondent judge's denial of Meralco's application on the technicality that the Public Land Act allows only citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons to apply for confirmation of their title would be impractical and would just give rise to multiplicity of court actions.<äre||anº•1àw> 15 The fact. personally or through his predecessors-in-interest. there can be no serious question of Acmes right to acquire the land at the time it did. and so holds. The correct rule.. or by a change in the constitution of the State. that the majority ruling in Meralco must be reconsidered and no longer deemed to be binding precedent. ipso jure. The objection that. Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution allows private corporations to purchase public agricultural lands not exceeding one thousand and twenty-four hectares. Assuming that there was a technical error not having filed the application for registration in the name of the Piguing spouses as the original owners and vendors. because it had already acquired a vested right to the land applied for at the time the 1973 Constitution took effect. because of their indisputable acquisition of ownership by operation of law and the conclusive presumption therein provided in their favor. 919). xxx xxx xxx In the instant case. as amended) is converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of said period. 123 Phil.Even on the proposition that the land remained technically "public" land. Section 2. xxx xxx xxx unquestionable that in the light of the undisputed facts. Its compliance with the requirements of the Public Land Law for the issuance of a patent had the effect of segregating the said land from the public domain. despite immemorial possession of the Infiels and their ancestors. (See Francisco vs. as a juridical person. there also being nothing in the 1935 Constitution that might be construed to prohibit corporations from purchasing or acquiring interests in public land to which the vendor had already acquired that type of so-called "incomplete" or "imperfect" title. i. continuously and exclusively for the prescribed statutory period (30 years under The Public Land Act. But this would be merely indulging in empty charades. rather than substantial and. still it is conceded that there is no prohibition against their sale of the land to the applicant Meralco and neither is there any prohibition against the application being refiled with retroactive effect in the name of the original owners and vendors (as such natural persons) with the end result of their application being granted. The only limitation then extant was that corporations could not acquire. therefore. that the confirmation proceedings were instituted by Acme in its own name must be regarded as simply another accidental circumstance. again. hold or lease public agricultural lands in excess of 1. As it is . We hold that the said constitutional prohibition 14 has no retroactive application to the sales application of Binan Development Co. It should not be necessary to go through all the rituals at the great cost of refiling of all such applications in their names and adding to the overcrowded court dockets when the Court can after all these years dispose of it here and now. productive of a defect hardly more than procedural and in nowise affecting the substance and merits of the right of ownership sought to be confirmed in said proceedings. The corporation's right to obtain a patent for the land is protected by law. by the enactment or by the subsequent repeal of a municipal ordinance. There is also nothing to prevent Acme from reconveying the lands to the Infiels and the latter from themselves applying for confirmation of title and. The Court. in analogous circumstances. as filed in the names of the original persons who as natural persons are duly qualified to apply for formal confirmation of the title that they had acquired by conclusive presumption and mandate of the Public Land Act and who thereafter duly sold to the herein corporations (both admittedly Filipino corporations duly qualified to hold and own private lands) and granting the applications for confirmation of title to the private lands so acquired and sold or exchanged. is that alienable public land held by a possessor. This Court has already held. It could not be abrogated by the new Constitution. under either the 1935 or the 1973 Constitution. Acme is not qualified to apply for judicial confirmation of title under section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is technical. except in a legitimate exercise of the police power'(16 C. CA. or invalidate transactions then perfectly valid and proper.e. by considering the applications for confirmation as amended to conform to the evidence. that the Constitution cannot impair vested rights. It cannot be deprived of that right without due process (Director of Lands vs. 117778). the Infiels. deeding the lands back to Acme. after issuance of the certificate/s of title in their names. it is incontestable that prior to the effectivity of the 1973 Constitution the right of the corporation to purchase the land in question had become fixed and established and was no longer open to doubt or controversy. could have had title in themselves confirmed and registered. Following that rule and on the basis of the undisputed facts. there being at the time no prohibition against said corporation's holding or owning private land. 'A state may not impair vested rights by legislative enactment. finds its answer in the dissent in Meralco: 6.024 hectares. there being no doubt of Acme's entitlement to the land. Inc. in the light of the foregoing. Acme thereby acquired a registrable title.S. only a rigid subservience to the letter of the law would deny the same benefit to their lawful successor-in-interest by valid conveyance which violates no constitutional mandate. as enunciated in the line of cases already referred to.

were represented by the Provincial Prosecutor Florencia Abbu and Major Raul Llacuna of JAGO [Judge Advocate General’s Office]. in Meralco rested chiefly on the proposition that the petitioner therein. 66807. PROVINCE OF MISAMIS ORIENTAL. WHEREFORE. In her application. without costs in this instance. which took effect on March 31. the same is hereby affirmed. Consequently. it breaks no precedent. all that is needed is a presidential proclamation to that effect. Thereafter. be considered as essentially obiter. only the Provincial Fiscal of Misamis Oriental. Indeed. decided no constitutional question. 4318. like the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Anatalia Actub Tiu Estonilo and Andrea Actub Tiu Po. in behalf of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP] and the Director of [the] Bureau of Land[s] filed its opposition thereto. – x x x. Bombeo claimed that said parcel of land was previously owned and possessed by a certain Rosendo Bacas since 1894 until it was sold to her by the heirs of Rosendo Bacas. represented by their attorney-infact and heir himself. 1955. Oppositors . On the other hand. Section 11. While this opinion seemingly reverses an earlier ruling of comparatively recent vintage. THIRD DIVISION G.’ "During the initial hearing set on February 12. The assailed CA Decision disposed as follows: "WHEREFORE.866 square meters. seeking to reverse and set aside the February 21. to wit: ‘PRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION NO. doctrines the soundness of which has passed the test of searching examination and inquiry in many past cases. "After due notice and publication of said application. situated in the barrios of Bulua and Carmen. DECISION PANGANIBAN. the following described parcels of public domain. The Case Before us is a Petition for Review1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. was disqualified from applying for confirmation of an imperfect title to public land under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. A court judgment is not necessary to make the proclamation effective or valid. by a liberal application of the rule on amendment to conform to the evidence suggested in the dissent in Meralco. 1994. an Order of General Default was issued by the lower court. 265. it is worth noting that the majority opinion. but only reaffirms and reestablished. MUNICIPALITY OF CAGAYAN. with no prejudice to anyone. 1954. ISLAND OF MINDANAO. On July 29. was only tangential limited to a brief paragraph in the main opinion. 1990. Island of Mindanao. and may. Petitioner. Meralco. 1938."3 The Facts The antecedents were summarized by the CA as follows: "This case originated from an application for registration of a parcel of land known as Lot No.R. a juridical person.result is more efficaciously and speedily obtained. SO ORDERED. under the administration of the Chief of Staff subject to private rights. Nazaria Bombeo with the defunct Court of First Instance of Misamis Oriental on July 22. 2005 REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES. the case literally went to slumber until it was re-raffled to the Regional Trial Court (Branch 17) of Misamis Oriental on October 16. in a real sense. 265. No. in that context. the trial court confirmed title over Lot 4318 to Nazaria Bombeo substituted by her heirs Anatalia Actub Tiu Estonilo and Andrea Actub Tiu Po and ordered registration thereof under the names of the latter. and particularly described in Bureau of Lands SWO-15234. due to intervening deaths of the parties. if any thereby. J. I hereby withdraw from sale of settlement and reserve for the use of the Philippine Army. Oppositors Bureau of Lands and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. vs. alleging that Lot 4318 is not a registrable land pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. Respondents. Containing an area of 354. On May 27. 157306 November 25. as it were. the foregoing premises considered. Calistro Bacas by virtue of an Absolute Sale of Realty (Exhibit ‘A’) on June 14. the ruling of the trial court is hereby AFFIRMED. RESERVING FOR THE USE OF THE PHILIPPINE ARMY THREE PARCELS OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN SITUATED IN THE BARRIOS OF BULUA AND CARMEN.: To segregate portions of the public domain as reservations for the use of the Republic of the Philippines or any of its branches. Bombeo died and was substituted by her daughter Cipriana Actub Tiu who eventually died on December 5. as well as the concurring opinions of Chief Justice Fernando and Justice Abad Santos. there being no reversible error in the appealed judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court. 2003 Decision2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-GR CV No. namely. Province of Misamis Oriental. Municipality of Cagayan. in short. in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines. Reference to the 1973 Constitution and its Article XIV. to wit: Lot No. and which declared Lot 4318 reserved for the use of the Philippine Army. 1959. ANATALIA ACTUB TIU ESTONILO and ANDREA ACTUB TIU PO (in Substitution of NAZARIA BOMBEO).377 square meters. 1954. filed by [the] original [a]pplicant. Upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce and pursuant to the provision of section eighty-three of Commonwealth Act Number One Hundred and Forty-one. 4318 of the cadastral survey of Cagayan de Oro consisting [of] an area of 357. 1991 and was pursued anew by the daughters of Cipriana Actub Tiu.

however."5 Ruling of the Court of Appeals The Court of Appeals ruled that Presidential Proclamation No. 265 (Proc 265) failed to segregate effectively Lot 4318 as part of the military reservation. It contends that the proviso requiring the reservation to be subject to private rights means that persons claiming rights over the reserved land are not precluded from proving their claims. It contends further that respondents were afforded due process when their application for registration of title to Lot 4318 was heard by the lower courts. adverse and peaceful possession. this Petition. It added that ownership of the land would still be deemed vested in respondents. the main issue is whether respondents have duly proven their title to the subject land and may thus register it under the Public Land Act. When the legal conditions are complied with. Whether or not the Court of Appeals gravely erred in holding that Presidential Proclamation No. x x x [respondents urged the CA] to finally put to rest the controversy in their favor considering that the opposition of the Republic has no longer any basis. argues that the Public Land Act does not require a judicial order to create a military reservation. 265[. The segregation of land for a public purpose is governed by the Public Land Act. as well as of the evidence on record. Whether or not the Court of Appeals gravely erred in holding that the passage of Presidential Proclamation No. though. They further allege that the AFP failed to observe these requirements. Otherwise. Hence. the pertinent provisions of which are as follows: . the reservation would amount to a deprivation of property without due process of law. Whether or not the Court of Appeals gravely erred in finding that respondents were able to establish that they have already acquired private right over Lot 4318 which already amounted to a title. 3304 took effect on June 20.6 Issues Petitioner raises the following issues for our consideration: "I. exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the property has taken place either since time immemorial or for the period prescribed by law. The CA said that the proclamation was "not self-executory and self-adjudicating considering that there is a need to determine private rights of claimants over lands sought to be reserved. Respondents maintain.10 After a meticulous review of the Decisions of both the trial and the appellate courts." even if possession by their predecessors-in-interest were not taken into consideration.9 and (2) that their open. "III. They maintain that the provision in the Proclamation subjecting the reservation to private rights presumes that notice and hearing will be afforded to all persons claiming ownership rights over the land. subject to judicial confirmation. the Court finds that respondents failed to satisfy the above legal requirements. filed an appeal to said decision x x x.acquires a right to a government grant. however. The Court’s Ruling The Petition is meritorious. without necessitating the issuance of a certificate of title. continuous. 265 Lot 4318 negates the claim of the AFP that the land in dispute is actively possessed and used by it. excluding Lot 4318 from the operation of Presidential Proclamation No. Petitioner. Main Issue: Validity of Respondents’ Title The Public Land Act8 requires applicants for confirmation of imperfect titles to prove (1) that the land is alienable public land. "During the pendency of the appeal. Presidential Proclamation No. 265 did not effectively segregate Lot 4318 from the public domain. Nature of Lot 4318 It is not disputed that Proc 265 specifically reserved Lot 4318 for the use of the Philippine Army. thus causing the reservation to be ineffectual.11 they allege that a petition for reservation or a court judgment declaring the reservation is necessary to make Proc 265 effective. "II.Bureau of Lands and Chief of Staff of Armed Forces of the Philippines. CA. that the land was not effectively segregated as a military reservation by the Proclamation. Relying on Baloy v. It acknowledged that possession by respondents’ predecessors-in-interest had ripened into an imperfect title of ownership. through the Solicitor General’s Office."7 In short." Moreover. 330 which excludes from the operation of Presidential Proclamation No. the possessor of the land -by operation of law -. the appellate court agreed with the trial court that respondents were able to establish with sufficient evidence their right to have the land registered under their names. "in view of their almost half a century of open.] xxxxxxxxx "In view of the aforesaid decree. 2000. continuous. We agree with petitioner.

and in the names of Garcia and Obdin? For although tax receipts and declarations of ownership for taxation purposes are not incontrovertible evidence of ownership. However. and a copy of this record shall be forwarded to the Register of Deeds of the province or city where the land lies. while the tax declarations were issued under the names of respondents’ predecessors-in-interest. they conclude that their imperfect title had already attached long before the issuance of the Proclamation segregating the land as a military reservation. Upon receipt of such certified copy. the Proclamation successfully segregated Lot 4318 as a military reservation. It shall be lawful for the Director of Lands. the governing law in Baloy was Act 627. public parks. he shall proceed in accordance with the next following section. Generosa Santiago. Upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. To this rule. the earliest one presented was issued only in 1954. including reservations for highways. only a positive act of the President is needed to segregate a piece of land for a public purpose. peaceful and continuous possession of the property for over 30 years prior to 1938. through the Solicitor General or the officer acting in his stead. Moreover. Santiago: ‘x x x [I]f it is true that the original owner and possessor. the Director of Lands shall order the immediate survey of the proposed reservation if the land has not yet been surveyed. there are settled exceptions. Thus. open. imperfect titles to agricultural lands are subjected to rigorous scrutiny before judicial confirmation is granted. in accordance with regulations prescribed for this purposes. irrigation systems. CA20 held thus: "x x x." Clearly. after due notice and hearing. or that it is advisable that the title to such lands be settled and adjudicated. claimant.13 Under the provisions of that law. and praying that the title to any such land or the boundaries thereof or the right to occupancy thereof be settled and adjudicated." "SECTION 86. shall proceed in accordance with the provision of Section fifty-three of this Act. only a positive act of the President is required to create a government reservation. to cause to be filed in the proper Court of First Instance. the Solicitor General. when the judgment assailed is not supported by sufficient evidence or is based on a misapprehension of facts. They are mere indicia of [a] claim of ownership. or occupant is open to discussion. Verily. Lot 4318 in the present case is unquestionably public land. Accordingly. Consequently. if requested to do so by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. We are not convinced."SECTION 83. stating in substance that the title of such holder. the factual findings of the trial court.through the solicitor general -. why were the subject lands declared for taxation purposes for the first time only in 1968. A certified copy of every proclamation of the President issued under the provisions of this title shall be forwarded to the Director of Lands for record in his office. The judicial proceedings under this section shall be in accordance with the laws on adjudication of title in cadastral proceedings. the trial and the appellate courts gave much weight to the tax declarations presented by the former. a petition against the holder. CA12 requiring. public quarries. whenever in the opinion of the President the public interests shall require it. are conclusive and binding on this Court. As will be explained shortly. possessor. because it was considered inalienable14 since its reservation in 1938." "SECTION 87. rights of way for railroads.to file a petition against claimants of the reserved land. Proc 265 was issued pursuant to Commonwealth Act (CA) No. As a rule. respondents could not have validly occupied it in 1954.17 In the same manner. as evidenced by a possessory information title issued in the applicants’ favor during the Spanish era." "SECTION 53. workingmen's village and other improvements for the public benefit. the private character of the land shall be respected absent any court order declaring that the property has become public. The only issue is whether respondents have acquired title to the property. or that the boundaries of any such land which has not been brought into court as aforesaid are open to question. respondents maintain their entitlement to have it registered under their names. possessor. had been in possession since 1925. 141. They allege that their predecessors-in-interest were already in adverse. It must be noted that while Section 53 grants authority to the director of lands -. when affirmed by the appellate court. Tax receipts and tax declarations are not incontrovertible evidence of ownership. If all the lands included in the proclamation of the President are not registered under the Land Registration Act. or occupant of any land who shall not have voluntarily come in under the provisions of this chapter or of the Land Registration Act. In Director of Lands vs. hydraulic power sites. Lands Management Bureau v. under the above provisions. The subject of the application for registration in Baloy was originally private land. belongs to the State as part of the public domain. Land that has not been acquired from the government. or for quasi-public uses or purposes when the public interest requires it." Inapplicable is the ruling in Baloy v. The director of lands is required to file a petition only "whenever in the opinion of the President public interest requires it.’"21 .16 For this reason. claimant. public fishponds. the President may designate by proclamation any tract or tracts of land of the public domain as reservations for the use of the Republic of the Philippines or of any of its branches. Respondents’ Period of Possession Notwithstanding the reservation in 1938 of Lot 4318 for military use. persons claiming the protection of "private rights" in order to exclude their lands from military reservations must show by clear and convincing evidence that the pieces of property in question have been acquired by a legal method of acquiring public lands. for instance. however. In the case before us.18 In granting respondents judicial confirmation of their imperfect title. the filing of that petition is not mandatory.19 The Director. or of the inhabitants thereof. they constitute at least proof that the holder had a claim of title over the property. communal pastures or leguas comunales.15 We find that these exceptions apply here. either by purchase or by grant. a judicial declaration of reservation. and as soon as the plat has been completed.

23 Thus. 2005 REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES. have the burden of proving that they have an imperfect title to Lot 4318. 652-D. Courts may. Zambales.. 13’E. 44. 39 deg.R. in fee simple. the Petition is GRANTED. 1999.) No. ENCISO. to point. as culled from the records of the case. on the NE. alleging to be the owner in fee simple of a parcel of residential land located in Barangay South Poblacion.. This alleged prior possession. Even the absence of opposition from the government does not relieve them of this burden. 44. SR. No. In this connection. from BLLM. thence N.. Lucia Street. 12. & SW. SECOND DIVISION G.83 m. the lower courts credited the alleged prior possession by Calixto and Rosendo Bacas. Masinloc Cadastre in favor of respondent Pedro O. All points referred to are indicated on the plan and are marked on the ground by P." Moreover. Bearings. 1927-July 1928 and that of the subdivision survey. Courts are not justified in registering property under the Torrens system. 2. J. situated in the Barrio of South Poblacion. upon the ground that the facts presented did not show that the petitioner is the owner. in fee simple. along line 1-2 by Sta.76 m. the Court reiterates the following ruling in Director of Lands v. The lot is described as follows: A parcel of land (Lot 2278-A of the subdivision plan Csd-03-012562-D being a portion of Lot 2278. DECISION CALLEJO. Sept. The evidence did not show the nature and the period of the alleged possession by Calixto and Rosendo Bacas. 2001 in LRC Case No. Cad. 33. Branch 71. 16 deg. 32. along line 2-3 by Capt. 73 deg.: Before us is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.1. which affirmed the Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC). beginning. 15 x 40 cms. 57’W. along line 3-4-1 by Lot 2278-B of the subd. as correctly observed by the Office of the Solicitor General. as applicants. No pronouncement as to costs. true. thence S. 20. 652-D. No. filed a petition for land registration before the RTC of Iba.S.C.3 The respondent averred....In addition. 652-D L. even in the absence of any opposition." WHEREFORE. RTC-N-75-I. The segregation of Lot 4318 as part of a military reservation is declared VALID. of the land which he is attempting to have registered. Cad. that he is the absolute owner. plan. to point. It is important that applicants for judicial confirmation of imperfect titles must present specific acts of ownership to substantiate their claims. 1999 and was approved on Jan. The facts. simply because there is no opposition offered. 2278-A.22 It must be stressed that respondents. Respondents’ evidence hardly supported the conclusion that their predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the land since "time immemorial.48 m. it was erroneous for the trial and the appellate courts to hold that the failure of the government to dislodge respondents. that he acquired title to the said lot by virtue of an extrajudicial settlement of estate and quitclaim on March 15.05 m. on the SE. promulgated on July 31. from the subject land since 1954 already amounted to a title. 4. even though there is no opposition. The CA and the trial court adjudicated Lot No. Bounded on the NW. to the satisfaction of the court. 3. 160145 November 11. Iba. mons.. thence S. as amended. to point. and the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. they cannot simply offer general statements that are mere conclusions of law rather than factual evidence of possession. Province of Zambales. deny the registration of the land under the Torrens system. 05’E. Cad. assailing the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated September 26.R. to point.475) square meters. Zambales. 2000. open. and the respondent and his predecessors-in-interest have been in continuous. uninterrupted and adverse possession of the land in . inter alia.D. SO ORDERED. containing an area of ONE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED SEVENTYFIVE (1. Albright Street. cyl. judicially or extrajudicially. peaceful. Zambales. Rec. 2000. the respondent. the evidence on record merely established the transfer of the property from Calixto Bacas to Nazaria Bombeo.). He must show.36 m. 2003. The petitioner is not necessarily entitled to have the land registered under the Torrens system simply because no one appears to oppose his title and to oppose the registration of his land. from whom respondents’ predecessors had purportedly bought the property. though. pursuant to Section 29 of Presidential Decree (P. conc. vs. notorious. Municipality of Masinloc.. Petitioner. 19’W. thence N. date of original survey. PEDRO O. 1529. Beginning at a point marked "1" on plan being N. the said property is not tenanted or occupied by any person other than the respondent and his family who are in actual physical possession of the same. Agustin:24 "x x x. of. Masinloc. was totally devoid of any supporting evidence on record. Respondent. show that on April 24. 75 deg. Enciso. 35’E. July 22. 16 deg.

represented by its Mayor. The respondent further narrated that the property was originally owned by the Municipality of Masinloc. provided that the cost and value of the inner wall exceeds the assessed value of the land. Considering that the assessed value of the lot was P2. Zambales unanimously approved Resolution No. the Municipality of Masinloc. who died on May 18. 2278- . On May 8.50. Zambales. continuous. Pampanga. He also testified that he acquired the property by inheritance from his deceased father. Edaño entered into a Deed of Partition15 involving the same parcel of land. the landowners will have to pay the corresponding balance to the government.5 After ascertaining that the jurisdictional requirements for the application were done in accordance with the law during the initial hearing6 on November 9. the advances of the landowners as a result of his [sic] construction (inner wall) be considered as price of the land. this Court.790 square meters in favor of Honorato Edaño. 2001 hereby adjudicates Lot No. 1. Lucia Street. 1980. Edaño.17 Without waiting for the final report. informing the trial court that it was not in a position to verify whether the parcel of land subject of registration was already covered by a land patent and previously approved isolated survey. 2001. On October 5. Honorato was thus entitled to buy the lot for his help in carrying out the project envisioned in Resolution No. to submit a report on the status of the parcel of land.70 more than the vendee spent for the construction of the inner wall. but requiring landowners adjoining the roads to share in the expenses for an inner wall adjacent to their lots.80.092.398 square meters. opposed the application on the following grounds: (a) neither the respondent nor his predecessors-in-interest have been in open. (d) the claim of ownership in fee simple on the basis of Spanish title or grant can no longer be availed of by the respondent considering that he failed to file an appropriate application for registration within the period of six months from February 16. 1969. after confirming the Order of General Default entered into the record of this case on January 3. Acting on this report. the trial court granted the application for registration on July 31. Natividad Edaño Asuncion and Thelma A. Vicente was awarded one-half of the total area of the property. the spouses Honorato and Esperanza Edaño sold the lot to Vicente B. Vicente Enciso. He then immediately took possession of the property and constructed a house thereon in 1991. Albright Streets at a total expense of P1. executed a Deed of Absolute Sale12 covering a piece of reclaimed land containing more or less 2. Vicente Enciso. The respondent presented tax receipts to show that the property was declared for taxation purposes in his name. Lucia Street. 71. 1968. In view of this. he and his siblings executed an extrajudicial settlement of estate where the land was adjudicated in his favor. 1991. Immediately thereafter. exclusive and notorious possession and occupation thereof in the concept of owner since June 12. exclusive. 102. where the above landowners share in the construction of the roads. On March 15. Natividad and Thelma got one-fourth each. 1945 or prior thereto.5 square meters individually. 102-A11 dated March 15. Cortez of the Department on Registration submitted the Report16 of the Land Registration Authority. The deed stated that the vendee constructed the inner wall needed to facilitate the fabrication of a portion of Sta.70 to the vendor. more or less.50 via a Deed of Absolute Sale. and if the cost of the inner wall is less than the assessed value of the land. 2001.8 undertaking to construct a road along the shoreline of the poblacion. 1976 as required by P. if such additional areas are not needed by the government for public use.14 On January 17.4 Petitioner Republic of the Philippines. the municipality passed Resolution No. 71. The respondent admitted that Honorato was his uncle. P. the dispositive portion of the decision reads: WHEREFORE. the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of Iba. continuous. …9 On March 8.13 He further narrated that on December 9. the municipality was authorizing the Municipal Mayor to enter into and sign deeds of purchase between the municipality and the landowners concerned.092.10 which stated that in consideration of the financial assistance extended by the abutting property owners. No. the trial court directed the Lands Management Bureau. and (e) the subject land is a portion of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines which is not subject to private appropriation. the Municipal Council of Masinloc. through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). 2000. or approximately 697. (b) the respondent failed to adduce any muniment of title and/or the tax declaration with the application to prove bona fide acquisition of the land applied for or its open. 2001 against all persons with the exception of the government. and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Executive Director for Region III. being his father’s halfbrother. 1945 or prior thereto. and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land since June 12. and because the government no longer needed the additional areas for public use. the trial court issued an Order of Default7 on January 3. 1999. the same resolution provided that: WHEREAS. (c) the alleged tax declaration adverted to in the application does not appear to be genuine and the tax declarations indicate such possession to be of recent vintage. or P408. 1969. and after the submission of an itemized statement of the cost of the construction of the inner wall along Sta. covering a portion of the reclaimed lots no longer needed for public use. the vendee paid P408. and the extensions of Magsaysay and Capt. authorizing its mayor to execute a deed of sale in favor of Honorato Edaño.the concept of an owner for not less than 30 years immediately preceding the filing of the application. the Municipality of Masinloc. 892. Zambales. Zambales passed supplementary Resolution No. No cross-examination was conducted and no evidence was adduced by the government to controvert the application for registration. Zambales. which was opposite his lot. San Fernando. Director Felino M. Enciso for P2. the same may be given the priority to acquire such additional available areas by purchase. Consequently. 1981.A.D.683.

Petitioner-appellee’s possession and occupation of the subject land is continuous. the trial court found that the respondent. as appearing on the approved Plan No. The respondent cites the following justification of the CA in supporting his claim over Lot No. Zambales in LRC Case No. Once this decision becomes final. there was no evidence that the subject parcel of land was within any government reservation.475 square meters. and municipalities is divided into property for public use and patrimonial property. South Poblacion. or that the applicant was disqualified from owning real property under the Constitution. exclusive and notorious possession required under the law. According to the trial court. Masinloc Cadastre. It was already segregated from the public domain and assumed the character of private ownership. In his comment to the petition. Article 1137 of the Civil Code provides: "Art. Masinloc.19 The Republic of the Philippines appealed the case before the CA. had been in open. public. The Municipality of Masinloc must have been in possession of the subject land even before 1969 considering that it was originally surveyed way back in 1927-1928. continuous. On this note. and under a bona fide claim of ownership. Article 423 of the Civil Code provides that: "Art. the respondent asserts that the CA was correct in affirming the decision of the land registration court. Masinloc. Thus. RTC-N-75-1 is hereby AFFIRMED. The CA disposed of the appeal on September 26. the assailed decision dated July 31. … … Subject land was reclassified as residential.21 The petitioner contends that the first and primordial element in order to warrant the registration of title is to show that the land must be an alienable and disposable land of the public domain. In the exercise of its proprietary right. Ownership and other real rights over immovables also prescribed (sic) through uninterrupted adverse possession thereof for thirty years. 1969 executed by the Municipal Mayor. The OSG assigned the following error to the appellate court: THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED ON A QUESTION OF LAW IN GRANTING RESPONDENT’S PETITION FOR REGISTRATION SANS ANY SHOWING THAT THE SUBJECT PROPERTY WAS PREVIOUSLY DECLARED ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE LANDS OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. adverse and uninterrupted and in the concept an owner and no other person claimed possession and ownership of the same. Zambales. situated at Brgy. subject land changed hand until it was acquired by petitioner-appellee when his siblings executed an Extrajudicial Partition assigning said land to him. Cad. without need of titles or of good faith. The fallo of the decision reads: WHEREFORE. 2278-A. the petitioner adds that under the Regalian doctrine. The property of provinces. Philippines. the petitioner believes that the respondent failed to adduce any evidence to show that the subject land was already previously declared part of such alienable and disposable land of the public domain. 102 and 102-A-29 sold the subject land to Honorato Edaño as evidenced by the Deed of Absolute Sale dated March 31. It was declared for taxation purposes in his name under Tax Declaration No. adverse. the Municipality of Masinloc validly conveyed the subject land to petitioner-appellee’s predecessors-in-interest. all lands of the public domain belong to the State. through Resolutions 71. Likewise. 1529. the same become patrimonial and may be the subject of a contract. 652-D. petitioner-appellee’s possession tacked with that of his predecessors-in-interest already complied with the thirty (30)-year requirement of open. This adjudication however is subject to the various easements/reservations provided for under pertinent laws. contending that the trial court erred in granting the application despite his failure to prove registrable title over Lot No. Subject land was likewise sold by Honorato Edaño to petitioner-appellee’s father. South Poblacion. By analogy. 1137. 2001 of the RTC. Zambales. The Municipality of Masinloc. SO ORDERED. as well as the identity of the land sought to be titled. containing an area of 1. when a municipality’s properties for public use are no longer intended for such use. From then. as well as his predecessors-in-interest. It was reclaimed by the Municipality of Masinloc and eventually adjudicated to Honorato Edaño. in accordance with Section 29 of Presidential Decree No. Presidential Decree and/or Presidential Letters of Instruction. 2003 and affirmed the decision of the trial court. public. Furthermore." Properties of political subdivision[s] which are patrimonial in character may be alienated.A. continuous. Branch 71 of Iba. . Philippines." Parenthetically. cities. by virtue of a Deed of Absolute Sale. and those not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to it. Zambales. SO ORDERED. Vicente Enciso. premises considered.20 The petitioner dispensed with the filing of a motion for reconsideration and forthwith filed the instant petition. 423. the Deed of Absolute Sale executed by and between the Municipal Mayor of Masinloc and Honorato Edaño was a valid contract. peaceful.18 The trial court ruled that the respondent satisfactorily proved his ownership in fee simple. which should be annotated/projected in the title to be issued. 2278-A: Records reveal that subject land is a residential land owned by the Municipality of Masinloc. 007-0700R. let the corresponding decree and title be issued. Csd-03-012562-D (Exhibit "M") and also in the Technical Description of said lot (Exhibit "K") in favor of the applicant whose address is at Brgy.

141. otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree." This is not the kind of possession and occupation contemplated under the law. was adjudicated in favor of Vicente. the respondent’s claim must still fail. 1936. It must be stressed that incontrovertible evidence must be presented to establish that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable.26 According to the CA. Who may apply. Actual possession of a land consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such a nature as a party would naturally exercise over his own property.23 This is the situation in this case. one-half of the total area of the land.22 The petition is meritorious. Any other interpretation would be dangerously detrimental to our national patrimony. The respondent’s possession and that of his "predecessors-in-interest" will not suffice for purposes of judicial confirmation of title." At the moment. 1945. foreshore and marshy alienable lands of the public domain to private individuals continued under the 1935 Constitution. It is not disputed that the land sought to be registered was originally part of the reclamation project undertaken by the Municipality of Masinloc. While the subject property was still in the hands of the municipality. therefore. The evidence on record shows that a house was constructed on the subject property only in 1991. which was 1. Applicants for registration of title must therefore prove the following: (a) that the land forms part of the disposable and alienable lands of the public domain. or since June 12. exclusive and notorious. continuous. Since these words are separated by the conjunction and. the word occupation serves to highlight the fact that for an applicant to qualify. "the Municipality of Masinloc must have been in possession of the subject land even before 1969 considering that it was originally surveyed way back in 1927-1928. possessed the property as early as 1969.D. it is not clear as to when the proper authorities classified the subject as alienable and disposable. Why was there a need to partition the property if the entire land had already been sold to Vicente? The Court also notes that in the said deed of partition.24 The ownership of lands reclaimed from foreshore areas is rooted in the Regalian doctrine. his possession must not be a mere fiction. Alconaba:27 The law speaks of possession and occupation. the land sought to be registered consists of 1. the respondent’s earliest predecessor-ininterest. While it is the rule that findings of fact of appellate courts are conclusive upon this Court.25 On November 7. 1945.Prescinding from the foregoing. continuous. the National Assembly approved Commonwealth Act No. in the respondent’s application for registration. continuous.790 square meters on December 9. exclusive. Well-entrenched is the rule that the burden of proof in land registration cases rests on the applicant who must show clear. exclusive. Even assuming that Honorato Edaño. as the only alienable or disposable lands of the public domain which the government could not sell to private parties except if the legislature passes a law authorizing such sale. Indeed. As the Court ruled in Republic v. it seeks to delimit the all encompassing effect of constructive possession. the law adds the word occupation. however. Certain discrepancies likewise surround the application for registration: Honorato Edaño sold a parcel of land consisting of 2. provides: SEC. The prevailing rule is that reclaimed disposable lands of the public domain may only be leased and not sold to private parties. it was undeniably part of the public domain. 1945 or earlier. and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership. 14. These lands remained sui generis. as he was unable to prove open. When. What is categorically required by law is open. continuous. 1529. there is nothing to support the respondent’s claim that the property "was reclassified as residential … already segregated from the public domain and assumed the character of private ownership. 1980 to Vicente Enciso alone. 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. petitioner-appellee sufficiently and satisfactorily proved his real and absolute ownership in fee simple. 1981. whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives: (1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open.398 square meters. Possession is broader than occupation because it includes constructive possession. and (b) that they have been in open. Section 14(1) of P. or earlier. among the recognized exceptions is where the findings of fact are not supported by the record or are conspicuously erroneous as to constitute a serious abuse of discretion. that he has a registrable title over the subject land and that he complied with the requirements under the law to warrant registration of title over the subject land. Reclaimed lands retain their inherent potential as areas for public use or public service. Taken together with the words open. which declares that all lands and waters of the public domain belong to the State.475 square meters. the clear intention of the law is not to make one synonymous with the other. Vicente Enciso. Zambales. also known as the Public Land Act. –The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land. No. continuous. The municipality cannot then be considered a predecessor-in-interest of the applicant from whom the period of possession and occupation required by law may be reckoned with. and notorious possession and occupation under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12. This remains to this day the existing and applicable general law governing the classification and disposition of lands of the public domain. positive and convincing evidence that his alleged possession and occupation were of the nature and duration . on January 17. Natividad Edaño Asuncion and Thelma Edaño executed a deed of partition covering the same lot. compiling all the existing laws on lands of the public domain. and notorious possession and occupation of the same under a bona fide claim of ownership either since time immemorial. exclusive. The State policy prohibiting the sale of government reclaimed.

. or from June 12. 72859 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. WHEREFORE. SO ORDERED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated September 26.28 Evidently. Cad. Masinloc Cadastre. 2003 in CA-G. and notorious possession and occupation thereof in the concept of owners since time immemorial. Enciso’s application for registration and issuance of title to Lot No. and (2) he and his predecessors-in-interest have been in open. 1945. Bare allegations. the petition is GRANTED. is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit. CV No. 2278-A was classified as part of the disposable and alienable land of the public domain. exclusive. do not amount to preponderant evidence that would shift the burden to the oppositor. Respondent Pedro O. continuous. without more. 652-D.required by law. 2278-A. the respondent failed to prove that (1) Lot No.R.

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