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G.R. No. L-15829 December 4, 1967 immemorial.

He consequently ordered Roman Santos on


November 3, 1930 to demolish the dikes across said six
streams. However, on May 8, 1931 the said official revoked
ROMAN R. SANTOS, petitioner-appellee,
his decision of November 3, 1930 and declared the streams
vs.
in question privately owned because they were artificially
HON. FLORENCIO MORENO, as Secretary of Public
constructed. Subsequently, upon authority granted under Act
Works and Communications and JULIAN C. CARGULLO,
3982 the Secretary of Commerce and Communications
respondents-appellants.
entered into a contract with Roman Santos whereby the
former recognized the private ownership of Sapang
Gil R. Carlos and Associates for petitioner-appellee. Malauling Maragul, Quiñorang Silab, Pepangebunan,
Office of the Solicitor General for respondents-appellants. Bulacus, Nigui and Nasi and the latter turned over for public
use two artificial canals and bound himself to maintain them
in navigable state. The Provincial Board of Pampanga and
BENGZON, J.P., J.: the municipal councils of Macabebe and Masantol objected
to the contract. However, the Secretary of Justice, in his
THE APPEAL opinion dated March 6, 1934, upheld its legality. Roman
Santos withdraw his appeals in the Supreme Court.
The Honorable Secretary of Public Works &
Communications appeals from the decision of the Court of With respect to the portion of Hacienda San Esteban still
First Instance of Manila declaring of private ownership owned by the Zobel family, the municipal authorities of
certain creeks situated in barrio San Esteban, Macabebe, Macabebe filed in 1930 an administrative complaint, in the
Pampanga. Bureau of Public Works praying for the opening of the dikes
and dams across certain streams in Hacienda San Esteban.
Whereupon, the district engineer of Pampanga and a
THE BACKGROUND representative of the Bureau of Public Works conducted
investigations. In the meantime, the Attorney General, upon
The Zobel family of Spain formerly owned vast track of a query from the Secretary of Commerce and
marshland in the municipality of Macabebe, Pampanga Communications, rendered an opinion dated October 11,
province. Called Hacienda San Esteban, it was administered 1930 sustaining the latter's power to declare streams as
and managed by the Ayala y Cia. From the year 1860 to publicly owned under Sec. 4 of Act 2152, as amended by Act
about the year 1924 Ayala y Cia., devoted the hacienda to 3208.
the planting and cultivation of nipa palms from which it
gathered nipa sap or "tuba." It operated a distillery plant in On September 29, 1930 the investigator of the Bureau of
barrio San Esteban to turn nipa tuba into potable alcohol Public Works, Eliseo Panopio, submitted his report
which was in turn manufactured into liquor. recommending the removal of the dikes and dams in
question. And on the basis of said report, the Secretary of
Accessibility through the nipa palms deep into the hacienda Commerce and Communications rendered his decision on
posed as a problem. Ayala y Cia., therefore dug canals November 3, 1930 ordering Ayala y Cia., to demolish the
leading towards the hacienda's interior where most of them dikes and dams across the streams named therein situated
interlinked with each other. The canals facilitated the in Hacienda San Esteban. Ayala y Cia., moved for
gathering of tuba and the guarding and patrolling of the reconsideration, questioning the power of the Secretary of
hacienda by security guards called "arundines." By the Commerce and Communications to order the demolition of
gradual process of erosion these canals acquired the said dikes.
characteristics and dimensions of rivers.
Days before the Secretary of Commerce and
In 1924 Ayala y Cia shifted from the business of alcohol Communications rendered his aforementioned decision,
production to bangus culture. It converted Hacienda San Ayala y Cia., thru counsel, made representations with the
Esteban from a forest of nipa groves to a web of fishponds. Director of Public Works for a compromise agreement. In its
To do so, it cut down the nipa palm, constructed dikes and letter dated October 11, 1930, Ayala y Cia., offered to admit
closed the canals criss-crossing the hacienda. public ownership of the following creeks:

Sometime in 1925 or 1926 Ayala y Cia., sold a portion of Antipolo, Batasan Teracan, Biuas or Batasan,
Hacienda San Esteban to Roman Santos who also Capiz, Carbon, Cutut, Dalayap, Enrique, Iba,
transformed the swamp land into a fishpond. In so doing, he Inaun, Margarita, Malauli or Budbud, Matalaba
closed and built dikes across Sapang Malauling Maragul, Palapat, Palipit Maisao, Panlovenas, Panquitan,
Quiñorang Silab, Pepangebunan, Bulacus, Nigui and Nasi. Quinapati, Quiñorang, Bubong or Malauli Malati,
Salop, Sinubli and Vitas.
The closing of the man-made canals in Hacienda San
Esteban drew complaints from residents of the surrounding provided the rest of the streams were declared private.
communities. Claiming that the closing of the canals caused Acting on said offer, the Director of Public Works instructed
floods during the rainy season, and that it deprived them of the surveyor in his office, Eliseo Panopio, to proceed to
their means of transportation and fishing grounds, said Pampanga and conduct another investigation.
residents demanded re-opening of those canals.
Subsequently, Mayor Lazaro Yambao of Macabebe, On January 23, 1931 Panopio submitted his report to the
accompanied by policemen and some residents went to Director of Public Works recommending that some streams
Hacienda San Esteban and opened the closure dikes at enumerated therein be declared public and some private on
Sapang Malauling Maragul Nigui and Quiñorang Silab. the ground that they were originally dug by the hacienda
Whereupon, Roman Santos filed Civil Case No. 4488 in the owners. The private streams were:
Court of First Instance of Pampanga which preliminarily
enjoined Mayor Yambao and others from demolishing the
dikes across the canals. The municipal officials of Macabebe Agape, Atlong, Cruz, Balanga, Batasan, Batasan
countered by filing a complaint (docketed as Civil Case No. Matlaue, Balibago, Baliti, Bato, Buengco Malati,
4527) in the same court. The Pampanga Court of First Bungalin, Bungo Malati, Bungo Maragui, Buta-
Instance rendered judgment in both cases against Roman buta, Camastiles, Catlu, Cauayan or Biabas, Cela,
Santos who immediately elevated the case to the Supreme Dampalit, Danlimpu, Dilinquente, Fabian,
Court. Laguzan, Lalap Maburac, Mabutol, Macabacle,
Maragul or Macanduli, Macabacle or Mababo,
Maisac, Malande, Malati, Magasawa, Maniup,
In the meantime, the Secretary of Commerce and Manulit, Mapanlao, Maisac, Maragul Mariablus
Communications1 conducted his own investigation and found Malate, Masamaral, Mitulid, Nasi, Nigui or
that the aforementioned six streams closed by Roman Bulacus, Palipit, Maragul, Pangebonan,
Santos were natural, floatable and navigable and were Paumbong, Pasco or Culali, Pilapil, Pinac Malati,
utilized by the public for transportation since time Pinac, Maragul or Macabacle, Quiñorang Silab or

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Malauli Maragul, Raymundo, Salamin, Salop Balbaro, Balili, Banawa, Batasan Matua Bato,
Maisac, Salop Maragul, Sermon and Sinca or Bengco, Bunga, Buta-buta, Camastiles, Cansusu,
Mabulog. Cela, Don Timpo, Mabalanga, Mabutol,
Macabacle, Macabacle qng. Iba, Macanduling,
Maragul, Malauli, Magasawa, Mariablus Malate
He therefore recommended revocation of the decision
Masamaral, Matalabang Maisa, Mariablus,3 Nigui,
already mentioned above, dated November 3, 1930 of the
Pita, Quiñorang, Silab, Sapang Maragul, Sepung
Secretary of Commerce and Communications ordering the
Bato, Sinag and Tumbong.
demolition of the dikes closing Malauling Maragul,
Quiñorang, Silab, Pepangebonan, Nigui, Bulacus, Nasi, and
Pinac. On February 13, 1931 the Director of Public Works On March 2, 4, 10, 30 and 31, and April 1, 1959, the
concurred in Panopio's report and forwarded the same the Secretary of Public Works and Communications rendered
Secretary of Commerce and Communications. his decisions ordering the opening and restoration of the
channel of all the streams in controversy except Sapang
Malauling, Maragul, Quiñorang, Silab, Nigui Pepangebonan,
On February 25, 1935 the municipality of Macabebe and the
Nasi and Bulacus, within 30 days on the ground that said
Zobel family executed an agreement whereby they
streams belong to the public domain.
recognized the nature of the streams mentioned in Panopio's
report as public or private, depending on the findings in said
report. This agreement was approved by the Secretary of On April 29, 1959, that is, after receipt of the Secretary's
Public Works and Communications on February 27, 1935 decision dated March 4, 1959, Roman Santos filed a motion
and confirmed the next day by the municipal council of with the Court of First Instance of Man for junction against
Macabebe under Resolution No. 36. the Secretary of Public Works and Communications and
Julian C. Cargullo. As prayed for preliminary injunction was
granted on May 8, 1959. The Secretary of Public Work and
A few months later, that is, on June 12, 1935, the then
Communications answered and alleged as defense that
Secretary of Justice issued an opinion holding that the
venue was improperly laid; that Roman Santos failed to
contract executed by the Zobel family and the municipality of
exhaust administrative remedies; that the contract between
Macabebe has no validity for two reasons, namely, (1) the
Ayala y Cia., and the Municipality of Macabebe is null and
streams although originally dug by Ayala y Cia., lost their
void; and, that Section 39 of Act 496 excludes public
private nature by prescription inasmuch as the public was
streams from the operation of the Torrens System.
allowed to use them for navigation and fishing, citing
Mercado vs. Municipality of Macabebe, 59 Phil. 592; and (2)
at the time the Secretary of Commerce and Communications On April 29 and June 12, 1969, Roman Santos received the
approved the said contract, he had no more power so to do, decision of the Secretary of Public Works and
because such power under Sec. 2 of Act 2152 was revoked Communications dated March 10 and March 30, March 31,
by the amending Act 4175 which took effect on December 7, and April 1, 1959. Consequently, on June 24, 1959 he asked
1934. the court to cite in contempt Secretary Florendo Moreno,
Undersecretary M.D. Bautista and Julian Cargullo for issuing
and serving upon him the said decisions despite the
Despite the above ruling of the Secretary of Justice, the
existence of the preliminary injunction. The Solicitor General
streams in question remained closed.
opposed the motion alleging that the decisions in question
had long been issued when the petition for injunction was
In 1939 administrative investigations were again conducted filed, that they were received after preliminary injunction
by various agencies of the Executive branch of our issued because they were transmitted through the District
government culminating in an order of President Manuel Engineer of Pampanga to Roman Santos; that their issuance
Quezon immediately before the national elections in 1941 was for Roman Santos' information and guidance; and, that
requiring the opening of Sapang Macanduling, Maragul the motion did not allege that respondents took steps to
Macabacle, Balbaro and Cansusu. Said streams were again enforce the decision. Acting upon said motion, on July 17,
closed in 1942 allegedly upon order of President Quezon. 1959, the trial court considered unsatisfactory the
explanation of the Solicitor General but ruled that Secretary
Florencio Moreno, Undersecretary M.D. Bautista and Julian
THE CASE Cargullo acted in good faith. Hence, they were merely
"admonished to desist from any and further action in this
Roman Santos acquired in 1940 from the Zobel family a case, observe the preliminary injunction issued by this Court,
larger portion of Hacienda San Esteban wherein are located with the stern warning, however, that a repetition of the acts
25 streams which were closed by Ayala y Cia., and are now complained of shall be dealt with severely."
the subject matter in the instant controversy.
On July 18, 1959 the trial court declared all the streams
Eighteen years later, that is in 1958, Congress enacted under litigation private, and rendered the following judgment:
Republic Act No. 20562 following a congressional inquiry
which was kindled by a speech delivered by Senator Rogelio The Writ of preliminary injunction restraining the
de la Rosa in the Senate. On August 15, 1958 Senator de la respondent Secretary of Public Works &
Rosa requested in writing the Secretary of Public Works and Communications from enforcing the decisions of
communications to proceed in pursuance of Republic Act March 2 And 4, 1959 and all other similar
No. 2056 against fishpond owners in the province of decisions is hereby made permanent.
Pampanga who have closed rivers and appropriated them as
fishponds without color of title. On the same day, Benigno
Musni and other residents in the vicinity of Hacienda San The Secretary of Public Works and Communication and
Esteban petitioned the Secretary of Public Works and Julian Cargullo appealed to this Court from the order of July
Communications to open the following streams: 17, 1959 issued in connection with Roman Santos' motion
for contempt and from the decision of the lower court on the
merits of the case.
Balbaro, Batasan Matua, Bunga, Cansusu,
Macabacle, Macanduling, Maragul, Mariablus,
Malate, Matalabang, Maisac, Nigui, Quiñorang ISSUES
Silab, Sapang Maragul and Sepung Bato.
The issues are: (1) Did Roman Santos exhaust
Thereupon, the Secretary of Public Works and administrative remedies? (2) Was venue properly laid? (3)
Communications instructed Julian C. Cargullo to conduct an Did the lower court err in conducting a trial de novo of the
investigation on the above named streams. case and in admitting evidence not presented during the
administrative proceeding? (4) Do the streams involved in
this case belong to the public domain or to the owner of
On October 20, 1958 Musni and his co-petitioners amended Hacienda San Esteban according to law and the evidence
their petition to include other streams. The amended petition submitted to the Department of Public Works and
therefore covered the following streams: Communications?

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DISCUSSION OF THE ISSUES 2. It is contended that if this case were considered as an
ordinary civil action, venue was improperly laid when the
same was instituted in the Court of First Instance of Manila
1. Respondents maintain that Roman Santos resorted to the
for the reason that the case affects the title of a real
courts without first exhausting administrative remedies
property. In fine, the proposition is that since the controversy
available to him, namely, (a) motion for reconsideration of
dwells on the ownership of or title to the streams located in
the decisions of the Secretary of Public Works and
Hacienda San Esteban, the case is real action which,
Communications; and, (b) appeal to the President of the
pursuant to Sec. 3 of Rule 5 of the Rules of Court should
Philippines.
have been filed in the Court of First Instance of Pampanga.

Whether a litigant, in exhausting available administrative


The mere fact that the resolution of the controversy in this
remedies, need move for the reconsideration of an
case would wholly rest on the ownership of the streams
administrative decision before he can turn to the courts for
involved herein would not necessarily classify it as a real
relief, would largely depend upon the pertinent law,4 the
action. The purpose of this suit is to review the decision of
rules of procedure and the usual practice followed in a
the Secretary of Public Works and Communications to enjoin
particular office.5
him from enforcing them and to prevent him from making
and issuing similar decisions concerning the stream in
Republic Act No. 2056 does not require the filing of a motion Hacienda San Esteban. The acts of the Secretary of Public
for reconsideration as a condition precedent to judicial relief. Works and Communications are the object of the litigation,
From the context of the law, the intention of the legislators to that is, petitioner Roman Santos seeks to control them,
forego a motion for reconsideration manifests itself hence, the suit ought to be filed in the Court of First Instance
clearly.1awphil.net Republic Act No. 2056 underscores the whose territorial jurisdiction encompasses the place where
urgency and summary nature of the proceedings authorized the respondent Secretary is found or is holding office. For
thereunder. Thus in Section 2 thereof the Secretary of Public the rule is that outside its territorial limits, the court has no
Works and Communications under pain of criminal liability is power to enforce its order.7
duty bound to terminate the proceedings and render his
decision within a period not exceeding 90 days from the filing
Section 3 of Rule 5 of the Rules of Court does not apply to
of the complaint. Under the same section, the party
determine venue of this action. Applicable is Sec. 1 the
respondent concerned is given not than 30 days within which
same rule, which states:
to comply with the decision of the Secretary of Public Works
and Communications, otherwise the removal of the dams
would be done by the Government at the expense of said Sec. 1. General rule. — Civil actions in Courts of
party. Congress has precisely provided for a speedy and a First Instance may be commenced and tried where
most expeditious proceeding for the removal of illegal the defendant any of the defendants residents or
obstructions to rivers and on the basis of such a provision it may be found or where the plaintiff or any of the
would be preposterous to conclude that it had in mind to plaintiffs resides, at the election of the plaintiff.
require a party to file a motion for reconsideration — an
additional proceeding which would certainly lengthen the
Accordingly, the Petition for injunction who correctly filed in
time towards the final settlement of existing controversies.
the Court of First Instance of Manila. Respondents Secretary
The logical conclusion is that Congress intended the
of Public Works and Communications and Julian Cargullo
decision of the Secretary of Public Works and
are found and hold office in the City of Manila.
Communications to be final and executory subject to a timely
review by the courts without going through formal and time
consuming preliminaries. 3. The lower court tried this case de novo. Against this
procedure respondents objected and maintained that the
action, although captioned as an injunction is really a petition
Moreover, the issues raised during the administrative
for certiorari to review the decision of the Secretary of Public
proceedings of this case are the same ones submitted to
Works and Communications. Therefore they now contend
court for resolution. No new matter was introduced during
that the court should have confined itself to reviewing the
the proceeding in the court below which the Secretary of
decisions of the respondent Secretary of Public Works and
Public Works and Communications had no opportunity to
Communications only on the basis of the evidence
correct under his authority.
presented in the administrative proceedings. On the other
hand, Roman Santos now, submits that the action is a
Furthermore, Roman Santos assailed the constitutionality of proceeding independent and distinct from the administrative
Republic Act No. 2056 and the jurisdiction of the Secretary investigation; that, accordingly, the lower court correctly
of Public Works and Communications to order the demolition acted in trying the case anew and rendering judgment upon
of dams across rivers or streams. Those questions are not evidence adduced during the trial.
within the competence of said Secretary to decide upon a
motion for reconsideration.itc-alf They are purely legal
Whether the action instituted in the Court of First Instance be
questions, not administrative in nature, and should properly
for mandamus, injunction or certiorari is not very material. In
be aired before a competent court as was rightly done by
reviewing the decision of the Secretary of Public Works and
petitioner Roman Santos .
Communications, the Court of First Instance shall confine its
inquiry to the evidence presented during, the administrative
At any rate, there is no showing in the records of this case proceedings. Evidence not presented therein shall not be
that the Secretary of Public Works and Communications admitted, and considered by the trial court. As aptly by this
adopted rule of procedure in investigations authorized under Court speaking through Mr. Justice J.B.L. Reyes, in a similar
Republic Act No. 2056 which require a party litigant to file a case:
motion for the reconsideration of the Secretary's decision
before he can appeal to the courts. Roman Santos however
The findings of the Secretary can not be enervated
stated in his brief that the practice is not to entertain motions
by new evidence not laid before him, for that
for reconsideration for the reason that Republic Act No. 2056
would be tantamount to holding a new
does not expressly or impliedly allow the Secretary to grant
investigation, and to substitute for the discretion
the same. Roman Santos' statement is supported by Opinion
and judgment of the Secretary the discretion and
No. 61, Series of 1959, dated April 14, 1959 of the Secretary
judgment of the court, to whom the statute had not
of Justice.
entrusted the case. It is immaterial that the present
action should be one for prohibition or injunction
As to the failure of Roman Santos to appeal from the and not one for certiorari; in either event the case
decision of the Secretary of Public Works and must be resolved upon the evidence submitted to
Communications to the President of the Philippines, suffice it the Secretary, since a judicial review of executive
to state that such appeal could be dispensed with because decisions does not import a trial de novo, but only
said Secretary is the alter ego of the President.itc-alf The an ascertainment of whether the "executive
actions of the former are presumed to have the implied findings are not in violation of the Constitution or of
sanction of the latter.6 the laws, and are free from fraud or imposition,

3
and whether they find reasonable support in the when it allowed the public to use them for navigation for a
evidence. . . .8 long time. Respondents cite Mercado vs. Municipal
President of Macabebe, 59 Phil. 592.
The case at bar, no matter what the parties call it, is in reality
a review of several administrative decisions of the Secretary (5) Assuming the streams in question are not mentioned as
of Public Works and Communications. Being so, it was error public in the certificates of title held by Ayala y Cia., over
for the lower court to conduct a trial de novo. Accordingly, for Hacienda San Esteban, still they cannot be considered as
purposes of this review, only the evidence presented and privately owned for Section 39 of Act 496 expressly excepts
admitted in the administrative investigation will be public streams from private ownership.
considered in our determination of whether on the basis
thereof the decisions of the Secretary of Public Works and
(6) The Panopio Report, which found the streams in question
Communications were correct.
of private ownership was nullified by the Secretary of Justice
in his opinion dated June 12, 1935.1awphil.net And, the
4. We come to the question whether the streams involved in contract between Ayala y Cia., and the Secretary of
this case belong to the public domain or to the owner of Commerce and Communications agreeing on the ownership
Hacienda San Esteban. If said streams are public, then of the streams in question is ultra vires.
Republic Act 2056 applies, if private, then the Secretary of
Public Works and Communications cannot order demolition
The doctrine in Montano vs. Insular Government, supra, that
of the dikes and dams across them pursuant to his authority
a marshland which is inundated by the rise of the tides
granted by said law.
belongs to the State and is not susceptible to appropriation
by occupation — has no application here inasmuch as in
First, we come to the question of the constitutionality of said case the land subject matter of the litigation was not yet
Republic Act No. 2056. The lower court held Republic Act titled and precisely Isabelo Montano sought title thereon on
No. 2056 constitutional but ruled that it was applied by the strength of ten years' occupation pursuant to paragraph
respondents unconstitutionally. That is, it held that Roman 6, section 54 of Act 926 of the Philippine Commission.
Santos was being deprived of his property without due Whereas, the subject matter in this case — Hacienda San
process of law, for the dikes of his fishponds were ordered Esteban — is titled land and private ownership thereof by
demolished through an administrative, instead of a judicial, Ayala y Cia., has been recognized by the King of Spain and
proceeding. This conclusion and rationalization of the lower later by the Philippine Government when the same was
court amount in effect to declaring the law unconstitutional, registered under Act 496.
stated inversely. Note that the law provides for an
expeditious administrative process to determine whether or
Respondents further cite Bautista vs. Alarcon, 23 Phil. 631,
not a dam or dike should be declare a public nuisance and
where the plaintiff sought injunction against the defendants
ordered demolished. And to say that such an administrative
who allegedly constructed a dam across a public canal
process, when put to operation, is unconstitutional is
which conveyed water from the Obando River to fishponds
tantamount to saying that the law itself violates the
belonging to several persons. The canal was situated within
Constitution. In Lovina vs. Moreno, supra, We held said law
a public land. In sustaining the injunction granted by the
constitutional. We see no reason here to hold otherwise.
Court of First Instance, this Court said:

Discussing now the applicability of Republic Act 2056, the


No private persons has right to usurp possession
same applies to two types of bodies of water, namely (1)
of a watercourse, branch of a river, or lake of the
public navigable rivers, streams, coastal waters, or
public domain and use, unless it shall have been
waterways and (b) areas declared as communal fishing
proved that he constructed the same within in
grounds, as provided for in Section 1 thereof:
property of his exclusive ownership, and such
usurpation constitutes a violation of the legal
Sec. 1. . . . the construction or building of dams, provisions which explicity exclude such waterways
dikes or any other works which encroaches into from the exclusive use or possession of a private
any public navigable river, stream, coastal waters party. (Emphasis supplied)
and any other navigable public waters or
waterways as well as the construction or building
As indicated in the above-cited case, a private person may
of dams, dikes or any other works in areas
take possession of a watercourse if he constructed the same
declared as communal fishing grounds, shall be
within his property.itc-alf This puts Us into inquiry whether
ordered removed as public nuisances or as
the streams in question are natural or artificial. In so doing,
prohibited constructions as herein provided: . . .
We shall examine only the evidence presented before the
Department of Public Works and Communications and
We are not concerned with communal fishing grounds disregard that which was presented for the first time before
because the streams here involved have not been so the lower court, following our ruling in Lovina vs. Moreno,
declared, but with public navigable streams. The question supra.
therefore is: Are the streams in Hacienda San Esteban
which are mentioned in the petition of Benigno Musni and
(1) Sapang Macanduling Maragul or Macanduli is presently
others, public and navigable?
enclosed in Fishpond No. 12 of Roman Santos. Its banks
cannot anymore be seen but some traces of them could be
Respondents contend that said streams are public on the noted by a row of isolated nipa palms. Its water is subject to
following grounds: the rise and fall of the tides coming from Guagua and
Antipolo Rivers and it is navigable by light watercrafts. Its
inlet is Antipolo River; another dike at its outlet along the
(1) Hacienda San Esteban was formerly a marshland and
Palapat River.9 It is closed by four dikes: One dike at its inlet
being so, it is not susceptible to appropriation. It therefore
along the Antipolo River; another dike at its cutlet along the
belongs to the State. Respondents rely on Montano vs.
Palatpat River; and, two dikes in between. Then exist
Insular Government, 12 Phil. 572.
channel at the Palapat River where the fishpond gate lies
has been filled up with dredge spoils from the Pampanga
(2) The streams in question are natural streams. They are River Control Project.
tributaries of public streams. Cited are the cases of Samson
vs. Dionisio, et al., 11 Phil. 538 and Bautista vs. Alarcon, 23
(2) Sapang Macabacle is found in Fishpond No. 13. Its
Phil. 636.
banks are still evident. This stream is about 30 meters wide,
two meters deep and one and one-half to two kilometers
(3) The streams have for their source public rivers, therefore long. Its source is Rio Cansusu. Like Macanduli, its channel
they cannot be classified as canals. is obstructed by four dikes. One of them was constructed by
the engineers of the Pampanga River Control Project.
(4) Assuming the streams were artificially made by Ayala y
Cia., said titleholder lost ownership over them by prescription

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(3) Sapang Balbaro which is found in Fishpond No. 13, runs hacienda but later Mabalanga was connected to Don Timpo.
from Canal Enrique near Rio Cansusu to Sapang Maragul was connected to Mabalanga and Sapang Cela was
Macabacle, a distance of about one-half kilometer. It is extended to join Maragul.
passable by banca. The closures of this stream consist of
two dikes located at each ends on Canal Enrique and
Witnesses Nicanor Donarber, Mariano Ocampo and Mariano
Sapang Macabacle.
Guinto testified that Maragul, Mabalanga and Don Timpo are
artificial canals dug by Ayala y Cia., and that they (Donarber
(4) Sapang Cansusu is a continuation of the Cansusu River. and Mariano Guinto) worked in said excavations.13 Witness
The Cansusu River opens at the Guagua River and allegedly Mariano Guinto clarified that Don Timpo was originally dug
ends at the Palanas River in front of Barrio San Esteban. At but Mabalanga and Maragul were formerly small non-
a point near the mouth of Sapang Balbaro, the owners of navigable streams which were deepened into artificial
Hacienda San Esteban built a canal leading straight to one navigable canals by Ayala y Cia.14
end of Barrio San Esteban. They called this canal "Canal
Enrique." And at the point where Canal Enrique joins
Exhibit F, which is a map showing the streams and rivers in
Cansusu they built a dike across Cansusu, thus closing this
Hacienda San Esteban, shows that Maragul, Mabalanga and
very portion of the river which extends up to Palanas River
Don Timpo are more or less straight. From the big rivers
where they built another closure dike. This closed portion,
(Guagua and Matalaba Rivers) they lead deep into the
called "Sapang Cansusu," is now part of Fishpond No. 1.
interior of the hacienda, thus confirming the testimony that
they were built precisely as a means of reaching the interior
Sapang Cansusu is half a kilometer long and navigable by of the estate by banca. The weight of evidence, therefore,
banca. indicate that said streams are manmade.

Appellant's witnesses, Beligno Musni, 41, Macario (6) Sapang Bunga, now part of Bunga fishpond, gets its
Quiambao, 96, Roman Manansala, 55 and Castor water from Sapanga Iba and empties at Sta. Cruz River. It is
Quiambao, 76, all residents of Barrio San Esteban, testified about 300-400 meters long, 5-6 meters wide and 1-1.60
that prior to their closure, Sapang Macaduli, Macabacle, meters deep.
Balbaro and Cansusu were used as passageway and as
fishing grounds; that people transported through them tuba,10
(7) Sapang Batu is found in Capiz Fishpond. About 300-400
wood and sasa,11 and that the tuba was brought to the
meters long, 4-5 meters wide and 1.50-2.20 meters deep, it
distillery in Barrio San Esteban. Macario Quiambao testified
starts at Capiz River and ends at Malauling Maragul. From
also that said four streams "were created by God for the
Capiz River until it intersects Sapang Nigui the stream is
town people"; and that if any digging was done it was only to
called Sapang Batu Commencing from Sapang Nigui and up
deepen the shallow parts to make passage easier.
to its end at Sapang Malauling Maragul, the stream is called
According to witness Anastacio Quiambao said streams
Sapang Batu. Commencing from Sapang Nigui and up to its
were navigable, even Yangco's ship "Cababayan" could
end at Sapang Malauling Maragul, the stream is called
pass through. Simplicio Quiambao, 36, and Marcelino
Sepong Batu. Sepong Batu is not among those streams
Ocampo, 55, stated on direct examination that before
declared in the Panopio Report as private.
closure of the above named four streams, people from the
surrounding towns of Guagua, Bacolor, Macabebe, Masantol
and Sexmoan fished and navigated in them. (8) Sapang Banawa has one end at Palanas River and the
other at Sapang Macabacle. It is about 300 meters long, 3-4
meters wide and 1.30-1.40 meters deep. Its whole length is
Against the aforementioned, testimonial evidence Roman
within Fishpond No. 13 of Roman Santos.
Santos presented the testimony of Nicanor Donarber, 80,
Mariano Guinto, 71, and his own. Donarber, who started
working as an arundin12 testified that Ayala y Cia., dug (9) Sapang Mabutol is a dead-end stream, that is, it ends
Sapang Macanduli, Balbaro and Macabacle; that he worked inside the hacienda. It opens along Guagua river. Since its
also in the construction together with other workers; and, closure, it has become part of Fishpond No. 1.
that as an overseer he inspected their work. Mariano Guinto
testified that he worked for Ayala y Cia., as a tuba gatherer;
(10) Sapang Buta-buta, like Mabutol, dies inside the
that in order to reach remote nipa groves by banca, they
hacienda. It connects with Cansusu River and is about 100
made canals; and, that he was one of the who worked in the
meters long, 3-4 meters wide and 1.2-1.5 meters deep. It is
construction of those canals. Roman Santos also testified
now a part of Fishpond No. 13.
that Sapang Macanduli, Macabacle, Balbaro and Cansusu
are artificial canals excavated as far back as 1850 and due
to erosion coupled with the spongy nature of the land, they (11) Sapang Masamaral, another stream which opens at
acquired the proportion of rivers; that he joined Sapang Cansusu River And ends inside the hacienda., is 100-200
Balbaro to Sapang Macabacle because the former was a meters long, 3-4 meters wide and 1.50-2 meters deep. It
dying canal; and that Cansusu River is different from Sapang now forms part of Fishpond No. 13.
Cansusu Witness Domingo Yumang likewise testified that
Sapang Balbaro man-made.
The uncontradicted testimony of Marcos Guinto is that
Sapang Bunga, Batu, Sepong Batu, Banawa, Mabutol, Buta-
We observe that witnesses positively stated that Sapang Buta and Masamaral were constructed by Ayala y Cia., to
Macanduli, Macabacle and Balbaro were made by the gain access to the nipa the, interior of the hacienda. This
owners of Hacienda San Esteban. With respect to Sapang testimony tallies with the findings in the Panopio Report
Cansusu none, except Roman Santos himself, testified that which will be discussed herein later. The evidence adduced
Sapang Cansusu is an artificial canal. It is not one of the in the administrative proceeding conducted before a
streams found and recommended to be declared private in representative of the Secretary of Public Works and
the Panopio Report. Sapang Cansusu follows a winding Communications supports the contention that said streams
course different and, distinct from that of a canal such as are merely canals built by Ayala y Cia., for easy passage
that of Canal Enrique which is straight. Moreover, Sapang into the hinterland of its hacienda.
Cansusu is a part of Cansusu River, admittedly a public
stream.
(12) Sapang Magasawa consists of two streams running
parallel to each other commencing from Matalaba River and
(5) Sapang Maragul, Mabalanga and Don Timpo are all part terminating at Mariablus Rivers. About 600-700 meters long,
of Fishpond No. 1. Maragul is 600 meters long and 30 to 35 4-5 meters wide and 1.5-2 meters deep, these two streams
meters wide. Mabalanga is 250 meters in length and 50 are navigable by banca. They are enclosed within Fishpond
meters in width. Don Timpo is 220 meters long and 20 No. 1.
meters wide. All of them are navigable by banca. Maragul
and Mabalanga open at Guagua River and join each other
inside the hacienda to form one single stream, Sapang Don (13) Sapang Mariablus Malate, about 3-4 meters wide and
Timpo, which leads to the Matalaba River. Maragul, 250 meters long, is another stream that ends inside the
Mabalanga and Don Timpo, formerly ended inside the hacienda and gets its water from Guagua River. It is no part
of Fishpond No. 1.

5
(14) Sapang Matalabang Malate or Maisac opens at Guagua One and all, the evidence, oral and documentary, presented
River and ends at Sapang Cela and Matalabang Maragul. by Roman Santos in the administrative proceedings supports
This stream, which is about 800 meters long and 18 meters the conclusion of the lower court that the streams involved in
wide, forms part of Fishpond No. 1 of Roman Santos. this case were originally man-made canals constructed by
the former owners of Hacienda San Esteban and that said
streams were not held open for public use. This same
(15) Sapang Batasan Matua about 600 meters long, three
conclusion was reached 27 years earlier by an investigator
meters wide and .80 meters deep at low tide and 1.90
of the Bureau of Public Works whose report and
meters deep at high tide crosses the hacienda from
recommendations were approved by the Director of Public
Mariablus River to Cansusu River. It is at present a part of
Works and submitted to the Secretary of Commerce and
Fishpond No. 1-A.
Communications.

(16) Sapang Camastiles, a dead end stream of about 200 to


As stated, pursuant to Act 2152, as amended by Act 3208,
300 meters in length, gets its water from Biuas River. It is
the Bureau of Public Works and the Department of
within Fishpond No. 1.
Commerce and Communications locked into and settled the
question of whether or not the streams situated within
(17) Sapang Cela is within Fishpond No. 1. Its whole length Hacienda San Esteban are publicly or privately owned. We
situated inside the hacienda, it opens at Sapang Matalabang refer to the so-called Panopio Report which contains the
Malate or Maisac and ends at Sapang Malungkot. Latter findings and recommendations of Eliseo Panopio, a surveyor
Cela was extended to connect with Sapang Maragul. It is in the Bureau of Public Works, who was designated to
about 200 meters long and four meters wide. conduct formal hearings and investigation. Said report found
the following streams, among others, of private ownership:
Mariano Guinto, 71, testified without contradiction that
Sapang Mariablus Malate and Matalabang Malate were Camastiles, Cela Balanga, Bato, Batasan,
formerly small and non-navigable streams which were dug Bengco, Buta-buta, Don Timpo, Mabutol,
by Ayala y Cia.,15 while Batasan Matua Camastiles, Macabacle, Macanduli, Malande Malate (Bunga),
Magasawa and Cela are original canals made by Ayala y Magasawa, Masamaral, Maragul, Mariablus
Cia.,16 that he was one of those who worked in the Malate, Matalaba Malate, Nasi, Nigui,
construction of said canals; and that it took years to Pangebonan and Quiñorang Silab
construct them. All these streams were recommended in the
Panopio Report for declaration as private streams.
on the ground that —

(18) Sapang Sinag, 200 meters long, four to five meters


The preponderance of the probatory facts, . . .,
wide, one meter and one and one-half meters deep at low
shows that the rivers, creeks, esteros and canals
and high tides, respectively, gets its water from Cutod River
listed in (1) have originally been constructed,
and leads inside the hacienda to connect with Sapang
deepened, widened, and lengthened by the
Atlong Cruz, a stream declared private in the Panopio
owners of the Hacienda San Esteban. That they
Report. It is now inside Fishpond No. 14.
have been used as means of communication from
one place to another and to the inner most of the
(19) Sapang Balili, also found inside Fishpond No. 14, is nipales, exclusively for the employees, colonos
about 200 meters long, three to four meters wide and one and laborers of the said Hacienda San Esteban.
meter deep at low tide. From its mouth at Cutod River it drifts That they have never been used by the public for
into the interior of the hacienda and joins Sapang Bengco.17 navigation without the express consent of the
owners of the said Hacienda.21
(20) Sapang Pita is within Fishpond Capiz. It takes water
from Capiz River but dies 250 meters inside the hacienda. It Bases for the above-quoted conclusion were "the reliable
is about four to five meters wide, and one meter deep at low informations gathered from old residents of the locality, from
tide and 1.50 meters deep at high tide. outsiders, the sworn statements obtained from different
persons not interested in this case and the comparison of
the three plans prepared in 1880, 1906 and 1930.22 The
(21) Sapang Tumbong, situated inside Capiz Fishpond, persons referred to are Martin Isip, Hilarion Lobo, Emigdio
derives its water from Sapang Quiñorang Silab, a stream Ignacio, Castor Quiambao, Matias Sunga facio Cruz,
declared private by the Secretary of Public Works and Inocencio Dayrit, Gabriel Manansala, Lope Quiambao,
Communications, and ends inside the hacienda.18 Marcelino Bustos and Juan Lara .

(22) Sapang Bengco is found within Fishpond No. On February 13, 1931 the Director of Public Works
14.1awphil.net Two hundred meters long, five meters wide, transmitted the Panopio Report to the Secretary of
and one meter deep at low tide and 1.50 meters deep at Commerce and Communications recommending approval
high tide it gets water from Sapang Biabas and connects thereof. Later, on February 27, 1935, Secretary of Public
with Baliling Maisac.19 Works and Communications De las Alas approved the
agreement of Ayala y Cia., and the Municipality of
According to Marcos Guinto, a witness for Roman Santos, Macabebe, concerning the ownership of the streams in
Sapang Sinag, Balili, Pita Tumbong and Bengco were Hacienda San Esteban, for being in conformity with said
excavated a long time ago by Ayala y Cia.; and that they Panopio Report.
have a winding course because when they were made the
workers followed the location of the nipa palms.20 On the This agreement of Ayala y Cia and the Municipality of
other hand, Marcelo Quiambao, testified that Sapang Macabebe which was approved by the Secretary of Public
Tumbong is a natural stream and that the reason he said so Works and Communications only on February 27, 1935,
is because the stream was already there as far back as 1910 could not however bind the Government because the power
when he reached the age of ten. No other oral evidence was of the Secretary of Public Works and Communication to
presented to contradict the testimony of Marcos Guinto that enter thereto had been suppressed by the Philppine
the said five streams were artificially made by Ayala y Cia. Legislature when it enacted Act 4175 which effect on
December 7, 1934.
To show that the streams involved in this case were used
exclusively by the hacienda personnel and occasionally by Nullity of the aforesaid contract would not of course affect
members of their families, Roman Santos introduced the the findings of fact contained in the Panopio Report.
testimony of Eliseo Panopio, Nicanor Donarber, Blas Gaddi,
Mariano Ocampo, Mariano Guinto, Alejandro Manansala and
himself. The witnesses categorically testified that the public In weighing the evidence presented before the administrative
was prohibited from using the streams as a means of investigation which culminated in this appeal, respondent
navigation and that the prohibition was enforced by guards Secretary seemed to have ignored the Panopio Report and
called arundines. other documentary evidence as well as the testimony of

6
witnesses presented by petitioner but instead gave credence brooks crossing estates which are not of public
only to the witnesses of Benigno Musni, et al. Upon review, ownership.
however, the lower court, taking into account all the
evidence adduced in the administrative hearing, including
The water, bed, banks, and floodgates of a ditch
the Panopio Report, as well as those presented for the first
or aqueduct are deemed to be an integral part of
time before it, sustained petitioner's averment that the
the estate or building for which the waters are
streams in question were artificially made, hence of private
intended. The owners of estates through or along
ownership. As stated, this conclusion of the lower court
the boundaries of which the aqueduct passes can
which is in accord with the findings of Panopio as contained
assert no ownership over it, nor any right to make
in his report, finds ample support from the evidence
use. of it beds or banks, unless they base their
presented and admitted in the administrative investigation.
claims on title deed which specify the right or the
Accordingly, we see no merit in disturbing the lower court's
ownership claimed.
findings fact.

Articles 71 and 72 of the Spanish Law of Waters of August 3,


We next consider the issue of whether under pertinent laws,
1866 state:
the streams in question are public or private.

Art. 71. The water-beds of all creeks belong to the


We quote Articles 339, 407 and 408 of the Spanish Civil
owners of the estates or lands over which they
Code of 1889:
flow.

Art. 339. Property of public ownerships is —


Art. 72. The water-beds on public land, of creeks
through which spring waters run, are a part of the
1. That devoted to public use, such as roads, public domain.
canals, rivers, torrents, ports and bridges
constructed by the State, river banks, shores,
The natural water-beds or channels of rivers are
roadsteads, and that of a similar character;
also part of the public domain.

Art. 407. The following are of public ownership:


Pursuant to Article 71 of the Spanish Law of Waters of
August 3, 1866, and Article 408(5) of the Spanish Civil Code,
1. Rivers and their natural channels; channels of creeks and brooks belong to the owners of
estates over which they flow. The channels, therefore, of the
streams in question which may be classified creeks, belong
2. Continuous or intermittent waters from springs
to the owners of Hacienda San Esteban.
or brooks running in their natural channels and the
channels themselves.
The said streams, considered as canals, of which they
originally were, are of private ownership in contemplation of
3. Waters rising continuously or intermittently on
Article 339(l) of the Spanish Civil Code. Under Article 339,
lands of public ownership;
canals constructed by the State and devoted to public use
are of public ownership. Conversely, canals constructed by
4. Lakes and ponds formed by nature, on public private persons within private lands and devoted exclusively
lands, and their beds; for private use must be of private ownership.

5. Rain waters running through ravines or sand Our attention has been called to the case of Mercado v.
beds, the channels of which are of public Municipal President of Macabebe, 59 Phil. 592. There the
ownership; creek (Batasan-Limasan) involved was originally dug by the
estate's owner who, subsequently allowed said creek to be
used by the public for navigation and fishing purposes for a
6. Subterranean waters on public lands; period of 22 years. Said this Court through Mr. Justice Diaz:

7. Waters found within the zone of operation of And even granting that the Batasan-Limasan
public works, even though constructed under creek acquired the proportions which it had, before
contract; it was closed, as a result of excavations made by
laborers of the appellant's predecesor in interest, it
8. Waters which flow continuously or intermittently being a fact that, since the time it was opened as a
from lands belonging to private persons, to the water route between the Nasi River and Limasan
State, to provinces, or to towns, from the moment creek, the owners thereof as well as strangers,
they leave such lands; that is, both the residents of the hacienda and
those of other nearby barrios and municipalities,
had been using it not only for their bancas to pass
9. The waste waters of fountains, sewers, and through but also for fishing purposes, and it being
public institutions. also a fact that such was the condition of the creek
at least since 1906 until it was closed in 1928, if
Art. 408. The following are of private ownership: the appellant and her predecessors in interest had
acquired any right to the creek in question by
virtue of excavations which they had made
1. Waters, either continuous or intermittent rising thereon, they had such right through prescription,
on private etates, while they run through them; inasmuch as they failed to obtain, and in fact they
have not obtained, the necessary authorization to
2. Lakes and ponds and their beds when formed devote it to their own use to the exclusion of all
by nature on such estates; others. The use and enjoyment of a creek, as any
other property simceptible of appropriation, may
be acquired or lost through prescription, and the
3. Subterranean waters found therein; appellant and her predecessors in interest
certainly lost such right through the said cause,
4. Rain water falling thereon as long as their and they cannot now claim it exclusively for
bounderies. themselves after the general public had been
openly using the same from 1906 to 1928. . . .

5. The channels of flowing streams, continuous or


intermittent, formed by rain water, and those of In the cited case, the creek could have been of private
ownership had not its builder lost it by prescription. Applying

7
the principle therein enunciated to the case at bar, the Flores Macapagal, Ocampo and Balbastro for petitioners-
conclusion would be inevitably in favor of private ownership, appellants.
considering that the owners of Hacienda San Esteban held
them for their exclusive use and prohibited the public from
Office of the Solicitor General Felix Q. Antonio, Acting
using them.
Assistant Solicitor General Dominador L. Quiroz and
Solicitor Concepcion T. Agapinan for respondents-
It may be noted that in the opinion, mentioned earlier, issued appellees.
on June 12, 1935, the Secretary of Justice answered in the
negative the query of the Secretary of Public Works and
Communications whether the latter can declare of private
ownership those streams which "were dug up artificially",
because it was assumed that the streams were used "by the ESGUERRA, J.:p
public as fishing ground and in transporting their commerce
in bancas or in small crafts without the objection of the
Petition for review by certiorari of the judgment of the Court
parties who dug" them. Precisely, Mercado v. Municipality of
of Appeals dated November 17, 1969 in its CA-G.R. 27655-
Macabebe was given application therein. However, the facts,
R which reverses the judgment of the Court of First Instance
as then found by the Bureau of Public Works, do not support
of Pampanga in favor of petitioners-appellants against the
the factual premise that the streams in question were used
Secretary and Undersecretary of Public Works &
by the public "without the objection of the parties who dug"
Communications in the case instituted to annul the order of
them. We cannot therefore take as controlling in determining
November 25, 1958 of respondent Secretary of Public Works
the merits of this the factual premises and the legal
& Communications directing the removal by the petitioners of
conclusion contained in said opinion.
the dikes they had constructed on Lot No. 15856 of the
Register of Deeds of Pampanga, which order was issued
The case at bar should be differentiated from those cases pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No. 2056. The
where We held illegal the closing and/or appropriation of dispositive portion of the judgment of reversal of the Court of
rivers or streams by owners of estates through which they Appeals reads as follows:
flow for purposes of converting them into fishponds or other
works.23 In those cases, the watercourses which were
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING
dammed were natural navigable streams and used
CONSIDERATIONS, the judgment
habitually by the public for a long time as a means of
appealed from is hereby reversed, and
navigation. Consequently, they belong to the public domain
another entered: [1] upholding the
either as rivers pursuant to Article 407 (1) of the Spanish
validity of the decision reached by the
Civil Code of 1889 or as property devoted to public use
respondent officials in the administrative
under Article 339 of the same code. Whereas, the streams
case; [2] dissolving the injunction issued
involved in this case were artificially made and devoted to
by the Court below; and [3] cancelling
the exclusive use of the hacienda owner.
the registration of Lot No. 2, the
disputed area, and ordering its
Finally, Sapang Cansusu, being a natural stream and a reconveyance to the public domain. No
continuation of the Cansusu River, admittedly a public costs in this instance.
stream, belongs to the public domain. Its closure therefore
by the predecessors of Roman Santos was illegal.
The background facts are stated by the Court of Appeals as
follows:
The petition for the opening of Sapang Malauling Maragul,
Quiñorang Silab, Nigui, Pepangebunan, Nasi and Bulacus
The spouses Romeo Martinez and
was dismissed by the Secretary of Public Works and
Leonor Suarez, now petitioners-
Communications and the case considered closed. The said
appellees, are the registered owners of
administrative decision has not been questioned in this
two (2) parcels of land located in Lubao,
appeal by either party. Hence, they are deemed excluded
Pampanga, covered by transfer
herein.
certificate of title No. 15856 of the
Register of Deeds of the said province.
All the other streams, being artificial and devoted exclusively Both parcels of land are fishponds. The
for the use of the hacienda owner and his personnel, are property involved in the instant case is
declared of private ownership. Hence, the dams across them the second parcel mentioned in the
should not he ordered demolished as public nuisances. above-named transfer certificate of title.

With respect to the issue of contempt of court on the part of The disputed property was originally
the Secretary of Public Works and Communications and owned by one Paulino Montemayor,
Julian Cargullo for the alleged issuance of a administrative who secured a "titulo real" over it way
decisions ordering demolition of dikes involved in this case back in 1883. After the death of Paulino
after the writ of injunction was granted and served, suffice it Montemayor the said property passed to
to state that the lower court made no finding of contempt of his successors-in-interest, Maria
court. Necessarily, there is no conviction for contempt Montemayor and Donata Montemayor,
reviewable by this Court and any discussion on the matter who in turn, sold it, as well as the first
would be academic. parcel, to a certain Potenciano Garcia.

WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is affirmed, Because Potenciano Garcia was
except as to Sapang Cansusu which is hereby declared prevented by the then municipal
public and as to which the judgment of the lower court is president of Lubao, Pedro Beltran, from
reversed. No costs. So ordered. restoring the dikes constructed on the
contested property, the former, on June
22, 1914, filed Civil Case No. 1407 with
G.R. No. L-31271 April 29, 1974
the Court of First Instance against the
said Pedro Beltran to restrain the latter
ROMEO MARTINEZ and LEONOR SUAREZ, spouses, in his official capacity from molesting
petitioners-appellants, him in the possession of said second
vs. parcel, and on even date, applied for a
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, SECRETARY and writ of preliminary injunction, which was
UNDERSECRETARY OF PUBLIC WORKS & issued against said municipal president.
COMMUNICATIONS, respondents-appellees. The Court, by decision promulgated
June 12, 1916, declared permanent the
preliminary injunction, which, decision,
on appeal, was affirmed by the Supreme

8
Court on August 21, 1918. From June Some four (4) years later, and while
22, 1914, the dikes around the property Civil Case No. 751 was still pending the
in question remained closed until a Honorable Florencio Moreno, then
portion thereof was again opened just Secretary of Public Works and
before the outbreak of the Pacific War. Communications, ordered another
investigation of the said parcel of land,
directing the appellees herein to remove
On April 17, 1925. Potenciano Garcia
the dikes they had constructed, on the
applied for the registration of both
strength of the authority vested in him
parcels of land in his name, and the
by Republic Act No. 2056, approved on
Court of First Instance of Pampanga,
June 13, 1958, entitled "An Act To
sitting as land registration court, granted
Prohibit, Remove and/or Demolish the
the registration over and against the
Construction of Dams. Dikes, Or Any
opposition of the Attorney-General and
Other Walls In Public Navigable Waters,
the Director of Forestry. Pursuant to the
Or Waterways and In Communal
Court's decision, original certificate of
Fishing Grounds, To Regulate Works in
title No. 14318, covering said parcels 1
Such Waters or Waterways And In
and 2 was issued to the spouses
Communal Fishing Grounds, And To
Potenciano Garcia and Lorenza Sioson.
Provide Penalties For Its Violation, And
For Other Purposes. 1 The said order
These parcels of land were which gave rise to the instant
subsequently bought by Emilio Cruz de proceedings, embodied a threat that the
Dios in whose name transfer certificate dikes would be demolished should the
of title No. 1421 was first issued on herein appellees fail to comply therewith
November 9, 1925. within thirty (30) days.

Thereafter, the ownership of these The spouses Martinez replied to the


properties changed hands until order by commencing on January 2,
eventually they were acquired by the 1959 the present case, which was
herein appellee spouses who hold them decided in their favor by the lower Court
by virtue of transfer certificate of title No. in a decision dated August 10, 1959, the
15856. dispositive part of which reads:

To avoid any untoward incident, the "WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing considerations, the
disputants agreed to refer the matter to Court hereby declares the decision, Exhibit S, rendered by
the Committee on Rivers and Streams, the Undersecretary of Public Works and Communications
by then composed of the Honorable null and void; declares the preliminary injunction, hereto for
Pedro Tuason, at that time Secretary of issued, permanent, and forever enjoining both respondents
Justice, as chairman, and the Honorable from molesting the spouses Romeo Martinez and Leonor
Salvador Araneta and Vicente Orosa, Suarez in their possession, use and enjoyment of their
Secretary of Agriculture and National property described in Plan Psu-9992 and referred to in their
Resources and Secretary of Public petition."
Works and Communications,
respectively, as members. This
"Without pronouncement as to costs."
committee thereafter appointed a Sub-
Committee to investigate the case and
to conduct an ocular inspection of the "SO ORDERED."
contested property, and on March 11,
1954, said Sub-Committee submitted its
As against this judgment respondent officials of the
report to the Committee on Rivers and
Department of Public Works and Communications took the
Streams to the effect that Parcel No. 2
instant appeal, contending that the lower Court erred:
of transfer certificate of title No. 15856
was not a public river but a private
fishpond owned by the herein spouses. 1. In holding that then Senator Rogelio
de la Rosa, complainant in the
administrative case, is not an interested
On July 7, 1954, the Committee on
party and his letter-complaint dated
Rivers and Streams rendered its
August 15, 1958 did not confer
decision the dispositive part of which
jurisdiction upon the respondent
reads:
Undersecretary of Public Works and
Communications to investigate the said
"In view of the foregoing considerations, the spouses Romeo administrative case;
Martinez and Leonor Suarez should be restored to the
exclusive possession, use and enjoyment of the creek in
2. In holding that the duty to investigate
question which forms part of their registered property and
encroachments upon public rivers
the decision of the courts on the matter be given full force
conferred upon the respondent
and effect."
Secretary under Republic Act No. 7056
cannot be lawfully delegated by him to
The municipal officials of Lubao, led by Acting Mayor his subordinates;
Mariano Zagad, apparently refused to recognize the above
decision, because on September 1, 1954, the spouses
3. In holding that the investigation
Romeo Martinez and Leonor Suarez instituted Civil Case
ordered by the respondent Secretary in
No. 751 before the Court of First Instance of Pampanga
this case is illegal on the ground that the
against said Mayor Zagad, praying that the latter be enjoined
said respondent Secretary has
from molesting them in their possession of their property and
arrogated unto himself the power, which
in the construction of the dikes therein. The writ of
he does not possess, of reversing,
preliminary injunction applied for was issued against the
making nugatory, and setting aside the
respondent municipal Mayor, who immediately elevated the
two lawful decisions of the Court
injunction suit for review to the Supreme Court, which
Exhibits K and I, and even annulling
dismissed Mayor Zagad's petition on September 7, 1953.
thereby, the one rendered by the
With this dismissal order herein appellee spouses proceeded
highest Tribunal of the land;
to construct the dikes in the disputed parcel of land.

9
4. In not sustaining respondent's claim The 1st and 2nd assignment of errors, being closely related,
that petitioners have no cause of action will be taken up together.
because the property in dispute is a
public river and in holding that the said
The ruling of the Court of Appeals that Lot No. 2 covered by
claim has no basis in fact and in law;
Transfer Certificate of Title No. 15856 of the petitioners-
appellants is a public stream and that said title should be
5. In not passing upon and disposing of cancelled and the river covered reverted to public domain, is
respondent's counterclaim; assailed by the petitioners-appellants as being a collateral
attack on the indefeasibility of the torrens title originally
issued in 1925 in favor of the petitioners-appellants'
6. In not sustaining respondent's claim
predecessor-in-interest, Potenciano Garcia, which is
that the petition should not have been
violative of the rule of res judicata. It is argued that as the
entertained on the ground that the
decree of registration issued by the Land Registration Court
petitioners have not exhausted
was not re-opened through a petition for review filed within
administrative remedies; and
one (1) year from the entry of the decree of title, the
certificate of title issued pursuant thereto in favor of the
7. In holding that the decision of the appellants for the land covered thereby is no longer open to
respondents is illegal on the ground that attack under Section 38 of the Land Registration Act (Act
it violates the principles that laws shall 496) and the jurisprudence on the matter established by this
have no retroactive effect unless the Tribunal. Section 38 of the Land Registration Act cited by
contrary is provided and in holding that appellants expressly makes a decree of registration, which
the said Republic Act No. 2056 is ordinarily makes the title absolute and indefeasible, subject
unconstitutional on the ground that to the exemption stated in Section 39 of the said Act among
respondents' threat of prosecuting which are: "liens, claims or rights arising or existing under
petitioners under Section 3 thereof for the laws or Constitution of the United States or of the
acts done four years before its Philippine Islands which the statute of the Philippine Islands
enactment renders the said law ex post cannot require to appear of record in the registry."
facto.
At the time of the enactment of Section 496, one right
The Court of Appeals sustained the above-mentioned recognized or existing under the law is that provided for in
assignment of errors committed by the Court of First Article 339 of the old Civil Code which reads as follows:
Instance of Pampanga and, as previously stated, reversed
the judgment of the latter court. From this reversal this
Property of public ownership is:
appeal by certiorari was taken, and before this Court,
petitioners-appellants assigned the following errors allegedly
committed by the Court of Appeals: 1. That destined to the public use, such
as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports,
and bridges constructed by the State,
1. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED
and banks shores, roadsteads, and that
IN DECLARING IN THE INSTANT
of a similar character. (Par. 1)
CASE THAT PARCEL NO. 2 OF
TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE
NO. 15856 IS A PUBLIC RIVER AND The above-mentioned properties are parts of the public
ORDERING THE CANCELLATION OF domain intended for public use, are outside the commerce of
ITS REGISTRATION BECAUSE THIS men and, therefore, not subject to private appropriation. ( 3
CONSTITUTES A COLLATERAL Manresa, 6th ed. 101-104.)
ATTACK ON A TORRENS TITLE IN
VIOLATION OF THE LAW AND THE
In Ledesma v. Municipality of Iloilo, 49 Phil. 769, this Court
WELL-SETTLED JURISPRUDENCE
held:
ON THE MATTER.

A simple possession of a certificate of


2. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED
title under the Torrens system does not
IN REOPENING AND RE-LITIGATING
necessarily make the possessor a true
THE ISSUE AS TO WHETHER OR
owner of all the property described
NOT LOT NO. 2 OF TRANSFER
therein. If a person obtains title under
CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. 15856
the Torrens system which includes by
REGISTER OF DEEDS OF
mistake or oversight, lands which
PAMPANGA, IS A PUBLIC RIVER
cannot be registered under the Torrens
NOTWITHSTANDING THE FACT THAT
system, he does not by virtue of said
THIS ISSUE HAS BEEN LONG
certificate alone become the owner of
RESOLVED AND SETTLED BY THE
the land illegally included.
LAND REGISTRATION COURT OF
PAMPANGA IN LAND REGISTRATION
PROCEEDING NO. 692 AND IS NOW In Mercado v. Municipal President of Macabebe, 59 Phil.
RES JUDICATA. 592, it was also said:

3. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED It is useless for the appellant now to


IN ORDERING THE CANCELLATION allege that she has obtained certificate
OF THE REGISTRATION OF LOT NO. of title No. 329 in her favor because the
2 OF TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF said certificate does not confer upon her
TITLE NO. 15856 NOTWITHSTANDING any right to the creek in question,
THE FACT THAT THE TORRENS inasmuch as the said creek, being of the
TITLE COVERING IT HAS BEEN public domain, is included among the
VESTED IN THE PETITIONERS WHO various exceptions enumerated in
ARE THE SEVENTH OF THE Section 39 of Act 496 to which the said
SUCCESSIVE INNOCENT certificate is subject by express
PURCHASERS THEREOF AND WHO provision of the law.
IN PURCHASING THE SAME RELIED
ON THE PRINCIPLE THAT THE
The same ruling was laid down in Director of Lands v.
PERSONS DEALING WITH
Roman Catholic Bishop of Zamboanga, 61 Phil. 644, as
REGISTERED LAND NEED NOT GO
regards public plaza.
BEHIND THE REGISTER TO
DETERMINE THE CONDITION OF THE
PROPERTY.

10
In Dizon, et al. v. Rodriguez, et al., G.R. No. L-20300-01 and 7. Que los citados compradores Romeo
G.R. No. L-20355-56, April 30, 1965, 20 SCRA 704, it was Martinez y Leonor Suarez se encargan
held that the incontestable and indefeasible character of a de gestionar de las autoridades
Torrens certificate of title does not operate when the land correspondientes para que la citada
covered thereby is not capable of registration. segunda parcela pueda ser convertida
de nuevo en pesqueria, corriendo a
cuenta y cargo de los mismos todos los
It is, therefore, clear that the authorities cited by the
gastos.
appellants as to the conclusiveness and incontestability of a
Torrens certificate of title do not apply here. The Land
Registration Court has no jurisdiction over non-registerable 8. Que en el caso de que dichos
properties, such as public navigable rivers which are parts of compradores no pudiesen conseguir
the public domain, and cannot validly adjudge the sus propositos de convertir de nuevo en
registration of title in favor of a private applicant. Hence, the pesquera la citada segunda parcela, los
judgment of the Court of First Instance of Pampanga as aqui vendedores no devolveran ninguna
regards the Lot No. 2 of Certificate of Title No. 15856 in the cantidad de dinero a los referidos
name of petitioners-appellants may be attacked at any time, compradores; este es, no se disminuiriat
either directly or collaterally, by the State which is not bound el precio de esta venta. (Exh. 13-a, p.
by any prescriptive period provided for by the Statute of 52, respondents record of exhibits)
Limitations (Article 1108, par. 4, new Civil Code). The right of
reversion or reconveyance to the State of the public
These stipulations were accepted by the petitioners-
properties fraudulently registered and which are not capable
appellants in the same conveyance in the following terms:
of private appropriation or private acquisition does not
prescribe. (Republic v. Ramona Ruiz, et al., G.R. No. L-
23712, April 29, 1968, 23 SCRA 348; Republic v. Ramos, Romeo Martinez y Leonor Suarez,
G.R. No. mayores de edad, filipinos y residentes
L-15484, January 31, 1963, 7 SCRA 47.) en al Barrio de Julo Municipio de
Malabon, Provincia de Rizal, por la
presente, declaran que estan enterados
When it comes to registered properties, the jurisdiction of the
del contenido de este documento y lo
Secretary of Public Works & Communications under
aceptan en los precisos terminos en que
Republic Act 2056 to order the removal or obstruction to
arriba uedan consignados. (Exh. 13-a,
navigation along a public and navigable creek or river
ibid)
included therein, has been definitely settled and is no longer
open to question (Lovina v. Moreno, G.R. No L-17821,
November 29, 1963, 9 SCRA 557; Taleon v. Secretary of Before purchasing a parcel of land, it cannot be contended
Public Works & Communications G.R. No. L-24281, May 16, that the appellants who were the vendees did not know
1961, 20 SCRA 69, 74). exactly the condition of the land that they were buying and
the obstacles or restrictions thereon that may be put up by
the government in connection with their project of converting
The evidence submitted before the trial court which was
Lot No. 2 in question into a fishpond. Nevertheless, they
passed upon by the respondent Court of Appeals shows that
willfully and voluntarily assumed the risks attendant to the
Lot No. 2 (Plan Psu 992) of Transfer Certificate of Title No.
sale of said lot. One who buys something with knowledge of
15856, is a river of the public domain. The technical
defect or lack of title in his vendor cannot claim that he
description of both Lots Nos. 1 and 2 appearing in Original
acquired it in good faith (Leung Lee v. Strong Machinery Co.,
Certificate of Title No. 14318 of the Register of Deeds of
et al., 37 Phil. 664).
Pampanga, from which the present Transfer Certificate of
Title No. 15856 was derived, confirms the fact that Lot No. 2
embraced in said title is bounded practically on all sides by The ruling that a purchaser of a registered property cannot
rivers. As held by the Court of First Instance of Pampanga in go beyond the record to make inquiries as to the legality of
Civil Case No. 1247 for injunction filed by the petitioners' the title of the registered owner, but may rely on the registry
predecessors-in-interest against the Municipal Mayor of to determine if there is no lien or encumbrances over the
Lubao and decided in 1916 (Exh. "L"), Lot No. 2 is a branch same, cannot be availed of as against the law and the
of the main river that has been covered with water since time accepted principle that rivers are parts of the public domain
immemorial and, therefore, part of the public domain. This for public use and not capable of private appropriation or
finding having been affirmed by the Supreme Court, there is acquisition by prescription.
no longer any doubt that Lot No. 2 of Transfer Certificate of
Title No. 15856 of petitioners is a river which is not capable
FOR ALL THE FOREGOING, the judgment of the Court of
of private appropriation or acquisition by prescription.
Appeals appealed from is in accordance with law, and the
(Palanca v. Com. of the Philippines, 69 Phil. 449; Meneses
same is hereby affirmed with costs against the petitioners-
v. Com. of the Philippines, 69 Phil. 647). Consequently,
appellants.
appellants' title does not include said river.

G.R. No. L-3279 March 11, 1908


II

THE CITY OF MANILA, petitioner-appellee,


As regards the 3rd assignment of error, there is no weight in
vs.
the appellants' argument that, being a purchaser for value
THE INSULAR GOVERNMENT, ET AL., respondents-
and in good faith of Lot No. 2, the nullification of its
appellants.
registration would be contrary to the law and to the
applicable decisions of the Supreme Court as it would
destroy the stability of the title which is the core of the Attorney-General Araneta for the Government.
system of registration. Appellants cannot be deemed Modesto Reyes for appellee.
purchasers for value and in good faith as in the deed of
absolute conveyance executed in their favor, the following
appears: JOHNSON, J.:

6. Que la segunda parcela arriba On the 11th day of November, 1904, the city of Manila,
descrita y mencionada esta actualmente through its attorney, filed a petition in the Court of Land
abierta, sin malecones y excluida de la Registration for the registration of a certain parcel or tract of
primera parcela en virtud de la Orden land described by metes and bounds in the first paragraph of
Administrative No. 103, tal como fue said petition as follows:
enmendada, del pasado regimen o
Gobierno. A parcel of land situated in Paco, a district of this
city. It is bounded on the north by properties
belonging to Chas. M. Stone, Prudencio de Leon,

11
Asuncion Ventura, Petra Carnero y Garcia, and brothers to point 22; thence N. 68 degrees 47
Evaristo Roxas and brothers, Silvestra Sarmiento, minutes W., 26.40 meters along the southern
Evaristo Gonzalez y Valdes, Mariano Vergara, boundary of the property belonging to Evaristo
Bernardo Yalon, Julio Gonzaga, Leoncia Mañalac, Roxas and brothers to point No. 23; thence S. 68
Geronimo Morales, Antonio Bautista, Doroteo degrees 47 minutes W., 85.61 meters along the
Palacio, and Gualberta de los Reyes; on the south eastern boundary of the properties owned by
and on the east by property owned by Miguel Silvestra Sarmiento and Evaristo Gonzalez y
Fabie and brothers, and on the west by properties Valdes to point No. 24; thence N. 84 degrees 58
belonging to Gualberta de los Reyes and Toribia minutes W., 12.85 meters to a stone monument
Cruz. Beginning at the intersection of the northern along the southern boundary of the property
line of Calle Real and the eastern line of Calle owned by Evaristo Gonzalez Valdes to point No.
Peñafrancia (new street lines), approved on 21st 25; thence N. 79 degrees 37 minutes W., 11.10
December, 1903, and 17th February, 1904, meters along the southern boundary of the
respectively, by the Municipal Board, thence S. 4 property owned by Evaristo Gonzalez Valdes to
degrees and 8 minutes E., 157.09 meters to the point No. 0, the point of the beginning. Containing
point marked "0;) thence N., 79 degrees 37 10,472.23 square meters of extension. Bearings
minutes W., 1830 meters along the southern magnetic.
boundary of the property owned by Evaristo
Gonzalez Valdes and Mariano Vergara to point
The said city alleged that it was the absolute owner of the
No. 1; thence N. 11 degrees 25 minutes E., 6.20
said land; that said land was assessed by the city of Manila
meters along the western boundary of the property
in the sum of $1,780, United States currency; that there
belonging to Mariano Vergara to point No. 2;
existed no liens of whatever character against said land; that
thence N. 86 degrees 38 minutes W., 29.60
the land was unoccupied; that the said city obtained title to
meters along the southern boundary of the
the said land by reason of being the successor to all the
property owned by Mariano Vergara to point No. 3;
rights and actions of the old city of Manila (ayuntamiento de
thence N. 4 degrees 14 minutes E., 22.49 meters
Manila), to which said property formerly belonged.
along the western boundary of the property of
Mariano Vergara, to point No. 4; thence No. 11
degrees 42 minutes W., 5.71 meters along the To this petition of the petitioner, the Insular Government
western boundary of the property belonging to presented the following opposition to the registration of said
Bernardo Yalon to point No. 5; thence s. 89 land:
degrees 50 minutes W., 78.00 meters to a stone
monument along the southern boundary of the
The Solicitor-General, representing the Insular
property owned by Julio Gonzaga, Leoncia
Government, appears before the court, and states:
Mañalac, Geronimo Morales, to point No. 6;
thence N. 89 degrees 22 minutes W., 24.17
meters along the southern boundary of the I. That the city of Manila, represented by its
property belonging to Antonio Bautista, to point attorney, Modesto Reyes, requests that, in
No. 7; thence S. 55 degrees 56 minutes W., 16.81 compliance with the Land Registration Act, a
meters along the southeastern boundary of the parcel of land situated in Paco, a district of this
property owned by Doroteo Palacio to point No. 8; city, of which it claims to be the absolute owner,
thence N. 86 degrees 49 minutes W., 25.50 and the description of which is specified in the
meters along the southern boundary of the petition be inscribed in its name.
properties owned by Doroteo Palacio and
Gualberta de los Reyes to point No. 9; thence S.
15 degrees 30 minutes W., 16.47 meters to a II. That the land in question is the property of the
stone monument, along the eastern boundary of Government of the United States under the control
the property owned by Gualberta de los Reyes of the Insular Government.
and Toribia Cruz to point No. 10; thence S. 7
degrees 35 minutes W., 14.16 meters along the III. That by virtue thereof, the Solicitor-General
eastern boundary of the property owned by Toribia opposes the inscription asked for, and requests
Cruz to point No. 11; thence S. 75 degrees 39 the court to deny the petition with the costs.
minutes E., 14.37 meters along the northern
boundary of the property of Miguel Fabie and
brothers to point No. 12; thence N. 88 degrees 3 To this petition of the petitioner one Geronimo Morales also
minutes E., 45.35 meters along the northern presented the following opposition to the registration of a
boundary of the property belonging to Miguel portion of the land described in the second paragraph of said
Fabie and brothers to point No. 13; thence S. 89 petition:
degrees 11 minutes E., 70.15 meters to a stone
monument to Miguel Fabie and brothers to point Now comes the undersigned before this court and
No. 14; thence S. 86 degrees 33 minutes E., 85.07 says:
meters to a stone monument along the northern
boundary of the property of Miguel Fabie and
brothers to point No. 15; thence N. 83 degrees 8 1. That the city of Manila, by its attorney, Modesto
minutes E., 14.49 meters along the northern Reyes, has, in conformity with the provisions of
boundary of the property owned by Miguel Fabie the Land Registration Act, applied for the
and brothers to point no. 16; thence N. 47 degrees registration of a certain parcel of land located in
E., 158.35 meters along the northwestern the district of Paco, of this city, of which it alleges
boundary of Miguel Fabie and brothers to point sole and absolute ownership, and the description
No. 17; thence N. 70 degrees 22 minutes W., of which is included in the application.
40.74 meters along the southern boundary of the
properties owned by Charles M. Stone, Prudencio 2. That the plan and description of the said land as
de Leon, and Asuncion Ventura (Looban) to point they appear in the petition are incorrect, for there
No. 18; thence N. 83 degrees 22 minutes W., 7.38 is included in the same a part of a building lot
meters along a stone fence and the southern belonging to the undersigned, and situated in the
boundary of the properties belonging to Asuncion barrio of Rosario of said district, with an area of 84
Ventura (Looban) and Petra Garcia to point No. meters more or less, as will be seen in the plan to
19; thence S. 30 degrees 34 minutes W., 21.12 be filed later.
meters along a stone fence and the western
boundary of the property owned by Petra Carnero
y Garcia to point No. 20; thence S. 74 degrees 58 3. Therefore, the undersigned files his opposition
minutes W., 8.70 meters along the northern to the registration applied for, as far as it has any
boundary of the property of Evaristo Roxas and bearing on the building lot of the undersigned
brothers to point No. 21; thence s. 22 degrees 4 which is included in the plan and description of the
minutes W., 34.75 meters along the eastern applicant, and this honorable court is requested to
boundary of the property owned by Evaristo Roxas

12
deny the application as far as it relates to the said the registration of the rest of said described property in favor
building lot, with the costs against the petitioner. of the said city. Against this order allowing the registration of
said tract of land the respondent duly excepted and gave
notice of his intention to appeal.
After the presentation of the petition on the part of the said
petitioner, one of the examiners of titles of the Court of Land
Registration made an examination of the title claimed by the The Attorney-General, representing the respondent in this
petitioner and made the following report to the judge of the court, made the following assignment of error:
said court of Land Registration.
There is nothing in the record which justifies the
The examiner of titles of this judicial district, after conclusion of the judgment of the court below, to
going over the papers in the case of the city, the effect that the land in question is owned by the
represented by its attorney, Modesto Reyes, city of Manila.
states that:
The only proof presented during the trial by the petitioner
1. The application filed by the city of Manila, is not which tended in any way to support its claim was that in the
accompanied by any document relative to its year 1894 and thereafter the old city of Manila
alleged ownership, but sets forth that said city, as (ayuntamiento de Manila) rented said land and received the
the successor in rights and interest of the former rent therefor, and that the present city of Manila succeeded
ayuntamiento de Manila, is the owner of the land to the rights of said old city. No proof was offered by the
described in the petition above referred to. plaintiff, documentary or other, to show in any way by what
right said old city exercised this right of control over said
property.
2. In the office of the register of deeds there is no
record of any act or contract opposing the claim of
the applicant; nor does there appear, from the We are of the opinion, and so hold, that the mere renting of
investigations held, any fact contrary to those property and receiving the rent therefor can not, of
quoted in the application. The present limits of the themselves, in the absence of other proof, support a claim of
land in question may be held as correct. ownership of such property.

3. The city of Manila, in order to acquire title to the It has been argued that every pueblo organized by the
land above mentioned, must show the ownership Spanish Government in its insular possessions has had
which the former ayuntamiento had over said land. granted to it, as a matter of course, certain lands for public
purposes, such as public commons, pasture lands, etc. Our
attention has not been called to any law or royal decree in
OPINION.
which this contention is supported and we have searched in
vain to find such a provision. Upon the contrary we have
Based on the above report, the undersigned is of found a royal decree of the — day of — showing that the
the opinion that the title of the city of Manila, people of the pueblo of Dilao (now the barrio of Paco in
represented by its attorney, Modesto Reyes, is which this very land is located) had petitioned for a grant of a
defective and can not be registered. comunal, etc., and which was denied.

Manila, December 7, 1904. One of the earliest provisions of law relating to the rights of
pueblos in the insular possessions of the Spanish
Government is that de las reducciones, y pueblos de indios
AGUEDO VELARDE. (settlements and pueblos of natives) of December 1, 1573,
as amended by that of the 10th of October, 1618, found in
On the 14th of March, 1905, the cause was duly brought on Law VIII, Title III of Book VI of the Recopilacion de las Leyes
for trial and during the trial of said cause the petitioner de Indias, and which it as follows:
attempted to establish by proof the following facts
The sites whereon the pueblos and settlements
First. That said land formerly belonged to the old city of are to be built must have water facilities, lands,
Manila (ayuntamiento de Manila) under the sovereignty of forests, entrances and exits, lands for cultivation,
Spain. and an exido (common, public land) one league
long, wherein the natives may keep their cattle,
without mingling them with those owned by
Second. That the present city of Manila is at present the Spaniards.
owner of said land by virtue of being the successor of the old
city of Manila.
This provision of law seems to have been amplified in article
53 of the Ordinances of Good Government, dated February
Third. That the old city of Manila from the year 1894 until the 26, 1768, and extended to the pueblos of the Philippine
change of sovereignty in the Philippine Archipelago had Islands by proclamation on the 11th day of September,
rented said land, had received rents therefor, and in a 1801. This article clearly indicates that these lands should be
general way had administered the same. designated by the Spanish Government for the use and
benefit de las reducciones, y pueblos de los indios. Said
The respondent, the Central Government of the Philippine article 53 is in part as follows:
Islands, presented no proof whatever in opposition to the
claim of the petitioner, relying the fact that the petitioner was It is held to be comunal (common public) the
not entitled to have said land registered, for the following territory of the settlements and pueblos inhabited
reasons: by natives, to which, from the time of their
foundation or organization, the necessary lands
First. That the land in question was public land, belonging to were alloted in conformity with Law VII, Title III,
the Central Government; that the same had never been Book VI of the Recopilacion de las Leyes de
granted to any person or corporation or municipality by the Indias, etc.
Spanish Government.
This article 53 clearly indicates the following:
Second. That the city of Manila, neither the present nor the
old city, was the owner of said land. First. That the King continued to be the absolute owner of
said lands;
On the 15th day of February, 1906, the judge of the said
court filed his decision by which he denied the registration of
the land claimed by the said Geronimo Morales and granted

13
Second. That the pueblos were only given the mere usufruct 4. After the "legua comunal" has been granted by
of the same; this Government, the bureau of forestry shall
proceed to the setting up of the boundary marks of
the same, executing a certificate of the land,
Third. That the King might at any time annul such grant; and
which, after being signed by the officer conducting
the proceedings and by the principalia of the town,
Fourth. That a designation, of the particular land so granted, will be submitted for my approval through the
was a necessary prerequisite for the holding of the same for direccion general de administracion civil.
the purposes indicated, by the said pueblo. (See Autos
Acordados, Vol. I, pp. 29, 48.)
5. For the legua comunal uncultivated land will be
selected, whenever possible, which may be in
As a further confirmation of the fact that the pueblos of the proper condition for the pasture of cattle and
Philippine Islands did not have, as a matter of right, a cultivation of building timber and the necessary
comunal, etc., unless the same had been expressly granted, industries to meet the requirements of the
we find the following provision in the royal decree of inhabitants.
February 28, 1883, which is as follows:
6. In order to increase the said communal land,
On the recommendation of the minister for the when the requirements of the towns may demand,
colonies, and in conformity with the opinion it will be necessary to institute new proceedings,
submitted by the council of the state, sitting in which will be annexed to a statement signed by
banc, I hereby decree the following: the principalia, showing the number of the
inhabitants of the town, the kind and number of the
extension of the lands which, bearing in mind the
ARTICLE 1. The legua comunal for the Philippine local conditions, they may deem necessary to
Islands, under the provisions of Law VIII, Title III, meet the requirements of the former and
Book VI, of the Recopilacion de Indias, as far as nourishment for the latter.
the pueblos already established and those which
may be established thereafter are concerned, shall
be of an area of 20,000 feet, equivalent to a 7. These statements will be forwarded to the
league of 20 degrees, without regard to the direccion general by the chief of the province,
geometrical figure resulting from the topography of together with his opinion, in which he will state
the locality, or to conditions relating to property whether or not he considers the petition to be
rights over the land itself or over land adjoining the unreasonable.
same.
8. The offices under the department of finance will
ART. 2. The pueblos not having said land alloted furnish the direccion general de administracion
to them may apply and obtain the same by means with the necessary documents for verifying the
of the corresponding proceedings. truth of the declarations made by the principalias
of the towns, regarding the number of the
inhabitants and heads of cattle.
ART. 3. When the conditions so require, the
pueblos may institute proceedings to obtain an
extension of said comunal land, in order that the 9. The direccion general de administracion civil,
latter may be in keeping with the number of with the report of the bureau of forestry and,
inhabitants, the number of heads of each pueblo. should it be deemed necessary, of the board of
Given at the palace, on February 28, 1883. agriculture, shall recommend to me the extension
to be finally marked for the legua comunal.
Following this royal decree we have the superior decreto of
the 1st of August, 1883, relating to the legua comunal, with 10. After the area of the land has been determined
the following provisions: by this general government, the bureau of forestry
shall proceed with the appointment and the setting
of marks of the new communal land, a certificate
Legua comunal. — In order to comply with and being executed in the same form as previously
carry out the provisions of the royal decree of stated.
February 28 of the current year, published in the
Gaceta de Manila on June 28 last, and relating to
the legua comunal, on the recommendation of the 11. The expenses arising from the proceedings, as
direccion general de administracion civil, I hereby well as those arising from the setting up of
order that the following regulations be observed: boundary marks of the legua comunal and its final
establishment, must be paid by the town to which
the concession has been granted. (Gazette No.
1. The provincial chiefs shall take special care to 42, August 11.)
inform the gobernadorcillos of the towns under
their control of the decree relating to the legua
comunal, making them understand that the By the royal decree of the 23rd of December, 1870, it was
superficial extension to be occupied by the same made necessary by monuments or otherwise to mark the
is that corresponding to a square, the sides of division lines of the different pueblos of the Philippine
which measure 20,000 feet, equivalent to a square Islands. (Gaceta de Madrid, February 24.)
league, (de veinte al drado), and that the land
should be uncultivated or untilled.
By the royal order of the 17th of January, 1885, it was
provided that, when a pueblo should show to the
2. The towns not having said portion of land Government of the Philippine Islands that its legua comunal
assigned may apply for the same to this central was insufficient, it might, upon petition, have such lines
government through the chief of the province or increased. (Gaceta de Madrid, March 15, 1885.)
district, inclosing with the petition a report of the
principalia, stating the said circumstance and as
The royal decree of the 19th of May, 1893, relating to the
many particulars as may exist in their archives
municipal government (Gaceta de Madrid, May 22, 1893)
regarding the matter.
contains no provisions with reference to the granting to
pueblos of the legua comunal, etc.
3. The said documents shall be forwarded to the
direccion general de administracion civil, through
The question of the right of pueblos in the insular
the provincial chief, and the said office, upon the
possessions of the Spanish Government to public lands has
information from the bureau of forestry, shall
come before the Supreme Court of the United States several
recommend to me what it may deem proper.

14
times in its relation to pueblos in the territory acquired by the THE MUNICIPALITY OF CAVITE, plaintiff-appellant,
United States from the King of Spain. vs.
HILARIA ROJAS and her husband TIUNG SIUKO, alias
SIWA, defendants-appellees.
In the case of Grisar vs. McDowell (6 Wallace, 363, 373)
Justice Field in discussing this question said:
Attorney-General Villamor for appellant.
J. Y. Pinzon for appellees.
These laws provided for the assignment to the
pueblos, for their use and the use of their
inhabitants, of land not exceeding in extent 4 TORRES, J.:
square leagues. Such assignment was to be made
by the public authorities of the Government upon
Appeal filed through bill of exceptions by the Attorney-
the original establishment of the pueblo, or
General, representing the plaintiff municipality of Cavite,
afterwards upon the petition of its officers or
from the judgment of March 27, 1913, whereby the
inhabitants; and the land to be measured off in a
Honorable Herbert D. Gale, judge, dismissed the complaint
square or prolonged form, according to the nature
with costs against the plaintiff party, declaring that the said
and condition of the country. All lands within the
municipality had no right to require that the defendants
general limits stated, which had previously
vacate the land in question.
become private property or were required for
public purposes, were reserved and excepted from
the assignment. By an instrument dated December 5, 1911, afterwards
amended on March 14, 1912, the provincial fiscal of Cavite,
representing the municipality of that name, filed a complaint
Until the lands were thus definitely assigned and
in the Court of First Instance of said province alleging that
measured off, the right or claim of the pueblo was
the plaintiff municipal corporation, duly organized and
an imperfect one. It was a right which the
constituted in accordance with Act No. 82, and as the
Government might refuse to recognize at all, or
successor to the rights s aid entity had under the late
might recognize in a qualified form; it might be
Spanish government, and by virtue of Act No. 1039, had
burdened with conditions, and it might be
exclusive right, control and administration over the streets,
restricted to less limits than the 4 square leagues,
lanes, plazas, and public places of the municipality of Cavite;
which was the usual quantity assigned.
that the defendants, by virtue of a lease secured from the
plaintiff municipality, occupy a parcel of land 93 square
In the case of United States vs. Santa Fe (165 U. S., 707), in meters in area that forms part o the public plaza known
which this same question was involved, Justice White of the under the name of Soledad, belonging to the municipality of
Supreme Court of the United States said: Cavite, the defendants having constructed thereon a house,
through payment to the plaintiff for occupation thereof of a
rental of P5,58 a quarter in advance, said defendants being
It can not be doubted that under the law of Spain it
furthermore obligated to vacate the leased land within sixty
was necessary that the proper authorities should
days subsequent to plaintiff's demand to that effect; that the
particularly designate the land to be acquired by
defendants have been required by the municipality to vacate
towns or pueblos before a vested right or title to
and deliver possession of the said land, but more than the
the use thereof could arise.
sixty days within which they having done so to date; that the
lease secured from the municipality of Cavite, by virtue
Elizondo, in his work entitled Practica Universal Forense whereof the defendants occupy the land that is the subject
(vol. 5, p. 226), makes the following statement relating to the matter of the complaint, is ultra vires and therefore ipso facto
question presented here: null and void and of no force or effect, for the said land is an
integral portion of a public plaza of public domain and use,
and the municipal council of Cavite has never at any time
There is nothing whatever designated by law as had any power or authority to withdraw it from public use,
belonging to towns, other than that which by royal and to lease it to a private party for his own use, and so the
privilege, custom, or contract between man and defendants have never had any right or occupy or to retain
man is granted to them, so that although there be the said land under leasehold, or in any other way, their
assigned to the towns at the time of their occupation of the parcel being furthermore illegal; and
constitution territorio or pertinencias, which may therefore prayed that judgment be rendered declaring that
be common to all the residents, without each one possession of the sad land lies with the plaintiff and ordering
having the right to use them separately, it is a the defendants to vacate the land and deliver possession
prerogative reserved to the sovereigns to divided thereof to said plaintiff, with the costs against the
the terminos of the provinces and towns, assigning defendants.
to these the use and enjoyment, but the domain
remaining in the sovereigns themselves.
The demurrer filed to the foregoing complaint having been
overruled, with exception on the part of the defendants, in
Chief Justice Fuller, speaking for the court in the case of their answer of April 10, 1912, they admitted some of the
United States vs. Sandoval and in the case of Morton vs. allegations contained in the complaint but denied that the
United States (167 U.S., 278, 297), said: parcel of land which they occupy and to which the complaint
refers forms and integral part of Plaza Soledad, or that the
"Under the laws of the Indies, lands not actually lease secured by them from the municipality of Cavite was
allotted to setters remained the property of the null and void and ultra vires, stating if they refused to vacate
King, to be disposed of by him or by those on said land it was because they had acquired the right of
whom he might confer that power. As Mr. Hall possession thereof. As a special defense they alleged that,
says (Chap. VII, § 122): "The fee of the lands according to the lease, they could only be ordered to vacate
embraced within the limits of pueblos continued to the land leased when the plaintiff municipality might need it
remain in the sovereign, and never in the pueblo for decoration or other public use, which does not apply in
as a corporate body." the present case; and in a cross-complaint they alleged that
on the land which is the subject matter of the complaint the
defendants have erected a house of strong materials,
The petitioner herein not having presented proof showing assessed at P3,000, which was constructed under a license
that the land in question had been granted to it by the former secured from the plaintiff municipality; that if they should be
sovereign in these Islands, and not having shown that it was ordered to vacate the said land they would suffer damages
entitled to said lands by virtue of some law of the present to the extent of P3,000, wherefore they prayed that they be
sovereign of these Islands, the Court of Land Registration absolved from the complaint, or in the contrary case that the
was not empowered to grant the registration of said lands in plaintiff be sentenced to indemnify them in the sum of
favor of said petitioner. The judgment, therefore, of the lower P3,000 as damages, and to pay the costs.
court is hereby reversed. So ordered.

G.R. No. L-9069 March 31, 1915

15
After hearing of the case, wherein both parties submitted that the said lease is null and void in accordance with the
parol and documentary evidence, the court rendered the provisions of article 1303 of the Civil Code, the defendant
judgment that he been mentioned, whereto counsel for the must restore and deliver possession of the land described in
municipality excepted and in writing asked for a reopening of the complaint to the municipality of Cavite, which in its turn
the case and the holding of a new trial. This motion was must restore to the said defendant all the sums it may have
denied, with exception on the part of the appellant, and the received from her in the nature of rentals just as soon as she
forwarded to the clerk of this court. restores the land improperly leased. For the same reasons
as have been set forth, and as said contract is null and void
in its origin, it can produce no effect and consequently the
It is duly proven in the record that, upon presentation of an
defendant is not entitled to claim that the plaintiff municipality
application by Hilaria Rojas, he municipal council of Cavite
indemnity her for the damages she may suffer by the
by resolution No. 10, dated July 3, 107, Exhibit C, leased to
removal of her house from the said land.
the said Rojas some 70 or 80 square meters of Plaza
Soledad, on condition that she pay rent quarterly in advance
according to the schedule fixed in Ordinance No. 43, land For all the foregoing reasons we must reverse the judgment
within sixty days subsequent to notification to that effect. The appealed from and declare, as we do declare, that the land
record shows (receipts, Exhibit 1) that she has paid the land occupied by Hilaria Rojas forms part of the public plaza
tax on the house erected on the lot. called Soledad, and as the lease of said parcel of land is null
and void, we order the defendant to vacate it and release the
land in question within thirty days, leaving it cleared as it was
The boundary line between the properties of the municipality
before hr occupation. There is no ground for the indemnity
of Cavite and the naval reservation, as fixed in Act No. 1039
sought in the nature of damages, but the municipality must in
of the Philippine Commission, appears in the plan prepared
its turn to the defendant the rentals collected; without finding
by a naval engineer and submitted as evidence by the
as to the costs. So ordered.
plaintiff, Exhibit C of civil case No. 274 of the Cavite court
and registered in this court as No. 9071. According to said
plan, defendant's house is erected on a plat of ground that G.R. No. L-28379 March 27, 1929
forms part of the promenade called Plaza Soledad, and this
was also so proven by the testimony of the plaintiff's
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS,
witnesses.
applicant-appellant,
vs.
By section 3 of the said Act No. 1039, passed January 12, CONSORCIA CABANGIS, ET AL., claimants-appellees.
1904, the Philippine Commission granted to the municipality
of Cavite all the land included in the tract called Plaza
Attorney-General Jaranilla for appellant.
Soledad. In the case of Nicolas vs. Jose (6 Phil. Rep., 589),
Abad Santos, Camus & Delgado for appellees.
wherein the municipality of Cavite, represented by its
president Catalino Nicolas, sought inscription in its name of
the land comprised in the said Palza Soledad, with objection VILLA-REAL, J.:
on the part of Maria Jose et al. who is sought that inscription
be decreed in their name of the parcels of land in this plaza
The Government of the Philippine Islands appeals to this
occupied by them, this court decided that neither the
court from the judgment of the Court of First Instance of
municipality nor the objectors were entitled to inscription, for
Manila in cadastral proceeding No. 373 of the Court of First
with respect to the objectors said plaza belonged to the
Instance of Manila, G. L. R. O. Cadastral Record No. 373,
municipality of Cavite and with respect to the latter the said
adjudicating the title and decreeing the registration of lots
Plaza Soledad was not transferable property of that
Nos. 36, 39 and 40, block 3055 of the cadastral survey of the
municipality to be inscribed in its name, because he intention
City of Manila in favor of Consuelo, Consorcia, Elvira and
of Act No. 1039 was that the said plaza and other places
Tomas, surnamed Cabangis, in equal parts, and dismissing
therein enumerated should be kept open for public transit;
the claims presented by the Government of the Philippine
herefore there can be no doubt that the defendant has no
Islands and the City of Manila.
right to continue to occupy the land of the municipality
leased by her, for it is an integral portion of Plaza Soledad,
which if for public use and is reserved for the common In support of its appeal, the appellant assigns the following
benefit. alleged errors as committed by the trial court in its judgment,
to wit:
According to article 344 of the Civil Code: "Property for
public use in provinces and in towns comprises the 1. The lower court erred in not holding
provincial and town roads, the squares, streets, fountains, that the lots in question are of the public
and public waters, the promenades, and public works of domain, the same having been gained
general service supported by said towns or provinces." from the sea (Manila Bay) by accession,
by fillings made by the Bureau of Public
Works and by the construction of the
The said Plaza Soledad being a promenade for public use,
break-water (built by the Bureau of
the municipal council of Cavite could not in 1907 withdraw or
Navigation) near the mouth of Vitas
exclude from public use a portion thereof in order to lease it
Estero.
for the sole benefit of the defendant Hilaria Rojas. In leasing
a portion of said plaza or public place to the defendant for
private use the plaintiff municipality exceeded its authority in 2. The lower court erred in holding that
the exercise of its powers by executing a contract over a the lots in question formed part of the
thing of which it could not dispose, nor is it empowered so to big parcel of land belonging to the
do. spouses Maximo Cabangis and Tita
Andres, and in holding that these
spouses and their successors in interest
The Civil Code, articles 1271, prescribes that everything
have been in continuous, public,
which is not outside he commerce of man may be the object
peaceful and uninterrupted possession
of a contract, and plazas and streets are outside of this
of said lots up to the time this case
commerce, as was decided by the supreme court of Spain in
came up.
its decision of February 12, 195, which says: "Communal
things that cannot be soud because they are by their very
nature outside of commerce are those for public use, such 3. The lower court erred in holding that
as the plazas, streets, common lands, rivers, fountains, etc." said lots existed before, but that due to
the current of the Pasig River and to the
action of the big waves in Manila Bay
Therefore, it must be concluded that the contract, Exhibit C,
during the south-west monsoons, the
whereby he municipality of Cavite leased to Hilaria Rojas a
same disappeared.
portion of the Plaza Soledad is null and void and of no force
or effect, because it is contrary to the law and the thing
leased cannot be the object of a contract. On the hyphotesis

16
4. The lower court erred in adjudicating We should not be understood, by this decision, to hold that
the registration of the lands in question in a case of gradual encroachment or erosion by the ebb and
in the name of the appellees, and in flow of the tide, private property may not become 'property of
denying the appellant's motion for a new public ownership,' as defined in article 339 of the code,
trial. where it appears that the owner has to all intents and
purposes abandoned it and permitted it to be totally
destroyed, so as to become a part of the 'playa' (shore of the
A preponderance of the evidence in the record which may
seas), 'rada' (roadstead), or the like. . . .
properly be taken into consideration in deciding the case,
proves the following facts:
In the Enciclopedia Juridica Espanola, volume XII, page 558,
we read the following:
Lots 36, 39 and 40, block 3035 of cadastral proceeding No.
71 of the City of Manila, G. L. R. O. Record No. 373, were
formerly a part of a large parcel of land belonging to the With relative frequency the opposite
predecessor of the herein claimants and appellees. From the phenomenon occurs; that is, the sea
year 1896 said land began to wear away, due to the action advances and private properties are
of the waves of Manila Bay, until the year 1901 when the permanently invaded by the waves, and
said lots became completely submerged in water in ordinary in this case they become part of the
tides, and remained in such a state until 1912 when the shore or beach. They then pass to the
Government undertook the dredging of Vitas Estuary in public domain, but the owner thus
order to facilitate navigation, depositing all the sand and silt dispossessed does not retain any right
taken from the bed of the estuary on the low lands which to the natural products resulting from
were completely covered with water, surrounding that their new nature; it is a de facto case of
belonging to the Philippine Manufacturing Company, thereby eminent domain, and not subject to
slowly and gradually forming the lots, the subject matter of indemnity.
this proceeding.
Now then , when said land was reclaimed, did the claimants-
Up to the month of February, 1927 nobody had declared lot appellees or their predecessors recover it as their original
39 for the purposes of taxation, and it was only in the year property?
1926 that Dr. Pedro Gil, in behalf of the claimants and
appellees, declared lot No. 40 for such purpose.
As we have seen, the land belonging to the predecessors of
the herein claimants-appellees began to wear way in 1896,
In view of the facts just stated, as proved by a owing to the gradual erosion caused by the ebb and flow of
preponderance of the evidence, the question arises: Who the tide, until the year 1901, when the waters of Manila Bay
owns lots 36, 39 and 40 in question? completely submerged a portion of it, included within lots 36,
39 and 40 here in question, remaining thus under water until
reclaimed as a result of certain work done by the
The claimants-appellees contend that inasmuch as the said
Government in 1912. According to the above-cited
lots once formed a part of a large parcel of land belonging to
authorities said portion of land, that is, lots 36, 39 and 40,
their predecessors, whom they succeeded, and their
which was private property, became a part of the public
immediate predecessor in interest, Tomas Cabangis, having
domain. The predecessors of the herein claimants-appellees
taken possession thereof as soon as they were reclaimed,
could have protected their land by building a retaining wall,
giving his permission to some fishermen to dry their fishing
with the consent of competent authority, in 1896 when the
nets and deposit their bancas thereon, said lots belong to
waters of the sea began to wear it away, in accordance with
them.
the provisions of Article 29 of the aforecited Law of Waters of
August 3, 1866, and their failure to do so until 1901, when a
Article 339, subsection 1, of the Civil Code, reads: portion of the same became completely covered by said
waters, remaining thus submerged until 1912, constitutes
abandonment.
Article 339. Property of public ownership
is —
Now then: The lots under discussion having been reclaimed
from the seas as a result of certain work done by the
1. That devoted to public use, such as Government, to whom do they belong?
roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports and
bridges constructed by the State,
riverbanks, shorts, roadsteads, and that The answer to this question is found in article 5 of the
of a similar character. aforementioned Law of Waters, which is as follows:

xxx xxx xxx

Article 1, case 3, of the Law of Waters of August 3, 1866, ART. 5. Lands reclaimed from the sea in
provides as follows: consequence of works constructed by
the State, or by the provinces, pueblos
or private persons, with proper
ARTICLE 1. The following are part of permission, shall become the property
the national domain open to public use: of the party constructing such works,
unless otherwise provided by the terms
xxx xxx xxx of the grant of authority.

3. The Shores. By the shore is The fact that from 1912 some fishermen had been drying
understood that space covered and their fishing nets and depositing their bancas on lots 36, 39
uncovered by the movement of the tide. and 40, by permission of Tomas Cabangis, does not confer
Its interior or terrestrial limit is the line on the latter or his successors the ownership of said lots,
reached by the highest equinoctial tides. because, as they were converted into public land, no private
Where the tides are not appreciable, the person could acquire title thereto except in the form and
shore begins on the land side at the line manner established by the law.
reached by the sea during ordinary
storms or tempests. In the case of Buzon vs. Insular Government and City of
Manila (13 Phil., 324), cited by the claimants-appellees, this
In the case of Aragon vs. Insular Government (19 Phil., 223), court, admitting the findings and holdings of the lower court,
with reference to article 339 of the Civil Code just quoted, said the following:
this court said:

17
If we heed the parol evidence, we find It will be seen that in the case of Buzon vs. Insular
that the seashore was formerly about Government and City of Manila, cited above, the rise of the
one hundred brazas distant from the waters of the sea that covered the lands there in dispute,
land in question; that, in the course of was due not to the action of the tide but to the fact that a
time, and by the removal of a large quantity of sand was taken from the sea at the side of
considerable quantity of sand from the said land in order to fill in Cervantes Street, and this court
shore at the back of the land for the use properly held that because of this act, entirely independent
of the street car company in filling in of the will of the owner of said land, the latter could not lose
Calle Cervantes, the sea water in the ownership thereof, and the mere fact that the waters of
ordinary tides now covers part of the the sea covered it as a result of said act, is not sufficient to
land described in the petition. convert it into public land, especially, as the land was high
and appropriate for building purposes.
The fact that certain land, not the bed of
a river or of the sea, is covered by sea In the case of the Director of Lands vs. Aguilar also cited by
water during the period of ordinary high the claimants-appellees, the Insular Government did not
tide, is not a reason established by any present any evidence in support of its contention, thus
law to cause the loss thereof, especially leaving uncontradicted the evidence adduced by the
when, as in the present case, it claimants Aguilar et al., as to the ownership, possession and
becomes covered by water owing to occupation of said lots.
circumstances entirely independent of
the will of the owner.
In the instant case the evidence shows that from 1896, the
waves of Manila Bay had been gradually and constantly
In the case of Director of Lands vs. Aguilar (G.R. No. washing away the sand that formed the lots here in question,
22034),1 also cited by the claimants-appellees, wherein the until 1901, when the sea water completely covered them,
Government adduced no evidence in support of its and thus they remained until the year 1912. In the latter year
contention, the lower court said in part: they were reclaimed from the sea by filling in with sand and
silt extracted from the bed of Vitas Estuary when the
Government dredged said estuary in order to facilitate
The contention of the claimants
navigation. Neither the herein claimants-appellees nor their
Cabangis is to the effect that said lots
predecessors did anything to prevent their destruction.
are a part of the adjoining land
adjudicated to their deceased father,
Don Tomas Cabangis, which, for over In conclusion, then, we hold that the lots in question having
fifty years had belonged to their disappeared on account of the gradual erosion due to the
deceased grandmother, Tita Andres, ebb and flow of the tide, and having remained in such a state
and that, due to certain improvements until they were reclaimed from the sea by the filling in done
made in Manila Bay, the waters of the by the Government, they are public land. (Aragon vs. Insular
sea covered a large part of the lots Government, 19 Phil., 223; Francisco vs. Government of the
herein claimed. Philippine Islands, 28 Phil., 505).

The Government of the Philippine By virtue whereof, the judgment appealed from is reversed
Islands also claims the ownership of and lots Nos. 36, 39 and 40 of cadastral proceeding No. 373
said lots, because, at ordinary high tide, of the City of Manila are held to be public land belonging to
they are covered by the sea. the Government of the United States under the
administration and control of the Government of the
Philippine Islands. So ordered.
Upon petition of the parties, the lower
court made an ocular inspection of said
lots on September 12, 1923, and on G.R. No. L40474 August 29, 1975
said inspection found some light
material houses built thereon, and that
CEBU OXYGEN & ACETYLENE CO., INC., petitioner,
on that occasion the waters of the sea
vs.
did not reach the aforesaid lots.
HON. PASCUAL A. BERCILLES Presiding Judge, Branch
XV, 14th Judicial District, and JOSE L. ESPELETA,
From the evidence adduced at the trial Assistant Provincial Fiscal, Province of Cebu,
of this cause, it may be inferred that Tita representing the Solicitor General's Office and the
Andres, during her lifetime was the Bureau of Lands, respondents.
owner of a rather large parcel of land
which was adjudicated by a decree to
Jose Antonio R Conde for petitioner.
her son Tomas Cabangis; the lots now
in question are contiguous to that land
and are covered by the waters of the Office of the Acting Solicitor General Hugo E. Gutierrez, Jr.,
sea at extraordinary high tide; some 50 Assistant Solicitor General Octavio R. Ramirez and Trial
years before the sea did not reach said Attorney David R. Hilario for respondents. .
strip of land, and on it were constructed,
for the most part, light material houses,
occupied by the tenants of Tita Andres,
to whom they paid rent. Upon her death,
her son Tomas Cabangis succeeded to CONCEPCION, Jr., J.:
the possession, and his children
succeeded him, they being the present
claimants, Consuelo, Jesus, Tomas, This is a petition for the review of the order of the Court of
and Consorcia Cabangis. First Instance of Cebu dismissing petitioner's application for
registration of title over a parcel of land situated in the City of
Cebu.
The Government of the Philippine
Islands did not adduce any evidence in
support of its contention, with the The parcel of land sought to be registered was only a portion
exception of registry record No. 8147, to of M. Borces Street, Mabolo, Cebu City. On September 23,
show that the lots here in question were 1968, the City Council of Cebu, through Resolution No.
not excluded from the application 2193, approved on October 3, 1968, declared the terminal
presented in said proceeding. portion of M. Borces Street, Mabolo, Cebu City, as an
abandoned road, the same not being included in the City
Development Plan. 1 Subsequently, on December 19, 1968,
the City Council of Cebu passed Resolution No. 2755,

18
authorizing the Acting City Mayor to sell the land through a to the public trust will be presumed. So
public bidding. 2 Pursuant thereto, the lot was awarded to the the fact that some private interests may
herein petitioner being the highest bidder and on March 3, be served incidentally will not invalidate
1969, the City of Cebu, through the Acting City Mayor, the vacation ordinance.
executed a deed of absolute sale to the herein petitioner for
a total consideration of P10,800.00. 3 By virtue of the
(2) Since that portion of the city street subject of petitioner's
aforesaid deed of absolute sale, the petitioner filed an
application for registration of title was withdrawn from public
application with the Court of First instance of Cebu to have
use, it follows that such withdrawn portion becomes
its title to the land registered. 4
patrimonial property which can be the object of an ordinary
contract.
On June 26, 1974, the Assistant Provincial Fiscal of Cebu
filed a motion to dismiss the application on the ground that
Article 422 of the Civil Code expressly provides that
the property sought to be registered being a public road
"Property of public dominion, when no longer intended for
intended for public use is considered part of the public
public use or for public service, shall form part of the
domain and therefore outside the commerce of man.
patrimonial property of the State."
Consequently, it cannot be subject to registration by any
private individual. 5
Besides, the Revised Charter of the City of Cebu heretofore
quoted, in very clear and unequivocal terms, states that:
After hearing the parties, on October 11, 1974 the trial court
"Property thus withdrawn from public servitude may be used
issued an order dismissing the petitioner's application for
or conveyed for any purpose for which other real property
registration of title. 6 Hence, the instant petition for review.
belonging to the City may be lawfully used or conveyed."

For the resolution of this case, the petitioner poses the


Accordingly, the withdrawal of the property in question from
following questions:
public use and its subsequent sale to the petitioner is valid.
Hence, the petitioner has a registerable title over the lot in
(1) Does the City Charter of Cebu City question.
(Republic Act No. 3857) under Section
31, paragraph 34, give the City of Cebu
WHEREFORE, the order dated October 11, 1974, rendered
the valid right to declare a road as
by the respondent court in Land Reg. Case No. N-948, LRC
abandoned? and
Rec. No. N-44531 is hereby set aside, and the respondent
court is hereby ordered to proceed with the hearing of the
(2) Does the declaration of the road, as petitioner's application for registration of title.
abandoned, make it the patrimonial
property of the City of Cebu which may
SO ORDERED.
be the object of a common contract?

G.R. No. L-24950 March 25, 1926


(1) The pertinent portions of the Revised Charter of Cebu
City provides:
VIUDA DE TAN TOCO, plaintiff-appellant,
vs.
Section 31. Legislative Powers. Any
THE MUNICIPAL COUNCIL OF ILOILO, defendant-
provision of law and executive order to
appellee.
the contrary notwithstanding, the City
Council shall have the following
legislative powers: Arroyo & Evangelista for appellant.
Provincial Fiscal Borromeo Veloso for appelle.
xxx xxx xxx
VILLAMOR, J.:
(34) ...; to close any city road, street or
alley, boulevard, avenue, park or It appears from the record that the widow of Tan Toco had
square. Property thus withdrawn from sued the municipal council of Iloilo for the amount of
public servitude may be used or P42,966.40, being the purchase price of two strips of land,
conveyed for any purpose for which one on Calle J. M. Basa consisting of 592 square meters,
other real property belonging to the City and the other on Calle Aldiguer consisting of 59 square
may be lawfully used or conveyed. meters, which the municipality of Iloilo had appropriated for
widening said street. The Court of First Instance of Iloilo
sentenced the said municipality to pay the plaintiff the
From the foregoing, it is undoubtedly clear that the City of
amount so claimed, plus the interest, and the said judgment
Cebu is empowered to close a city road or street. In the case
was on appeal affirmed by this court.1
of Favis vs. City of Baguio, 7 where the power of the city
Council of Baguio City to close city streets and to vacate or
withdraw the same from public use was similarly assailed, On account of lack of funds the municipality of Iloilo was
this court said: unable to pay the said judgment, wherefore plaintiff had a
writ of execution issue against the property of the said
municipality, by virtue of which the sheriff attached two auto
5. So it is, that appellant may not
trucks used for street sprinkling, one police patrol
challenge the city council's act of
automobile, the police stations on Mabini street, and in Molo
withdrawing a strip of Lapu-Lapu Street
and Mandurriao and the concrete structures, with the
at its dead end from public use and
corresponding lots, used as markets by Iloilo, Molo, and
converting the remainder thereof into an
Mandurriao.
alley. These are acts well within the
ambit of the power to close a city street.
The city council, it would seem to us, is After notice of the sale of said property had been made, and
the authority competent to determine a few days before the sale, the provincial fiscal of Iloilo filed
whether or not a certain property is still a motion which the Court of First Instance praying that the
necessary for public use. attachment on the said property be dissolved, that the said
attachment be declared null and void as being illegal and
violative of the rights of the defendant municipality.
Such power to vacate a street or alley is
discretionary. And the discretion will not
ordinarily be controlled or interfered with Plaintiffs counsel objected o the fiscal's motion but the court,
by the courts, absent a plain case of by order of August 12, 1925, declared the attachment levied
abuse or fraud or collusion. Faithfulness upon the aforementioned property of the defendant

19
municipality null and void, thereby dissolving the said their inhabitants, and used for public purposes, is
attachment. exempt.

From this order the plaintiff has appealed by bill of For example, public buildings, school houses,
exceptions. The fundamental question raised by appellant in streets, squares, parks, wharves, engines and
her four assignments of error is whether or not the property engine houses, and the like, are not subject to
levied upon is exempt from execution. execution. So city waterworks, and a stock of
liquors carried in a town dispensary, are exempt.
The reason for the exemption is obvious.
The municipal law, section 2165 of the Administrative Code,
Municipal corporations are created for public
provides that:
purposes and for the good of the citizens in their
aggregate or public capacity. That they may
Municipalities are political bodies corporate, and properly discharge such public functions corporate
as such are endowed with the faculties of property and revenues are essential, and to deny
municipal corporations, to be exercised by and them these means the very purpose of their
through their respective municipal government in creation would be materially impeded, and in
conformity with law. some instances practically destroy it. Respecting
this subject the Supreme Court of Louisiana
remarked: "On the first view of this question there
It shall be competent for them, in their proper is something very repugnant to the moral sense in
corporate name, to sue and be sued, to contract the idea that a municipal corporation should
and be contracted with, to acquire and hold real contract debts, and that, having no resources but
and personal property for municipal purposes, and the taxes which are due to it, these should not be
generally to exercise the powers hereinafter subjected by legal process to the satisfaction of its
specified or otherwise conferred upon them by creditors. This consideration, deduced from the
law. principles of moral equity has only given way to
the more enlarged contemplation of the great and
For the purposes of the matter here in question, the paramount interests of public order and the
Administrative Code does not specify the kind of property principles of government."
that a municipality may acquire. However, article 343 of the
Civil Code divides the property of provinces and towns It is generally held that property owned by a
(municipalities) into property for public use and patrimonial municipality, where not used for a public purpose
property. According to article 344 of the same Code, but for quasi private purposes, is subject to
provincial roads and foot-path, squares, streets, fountains execution on a judgment against the municipality,
and public waters, drives and public improvements of and may be sold. This rule applies to shares of
general benefit built at the expense of the said towns or stock owned by a municipal corporation, and the
provinces, are property for public use. like. But the mere fact that corporate property held
for public uses is being temporarily used for
All other property possessed by the said towns and private purposes does not make it subject
provinces is patrimonial and shall be subject to the execution.
provisions of the Civil Code except as provided by special
laws. If municipal property exempt from execution is
destroyed, the insurance money stands in lieu
Commenting upon article 344, Mr. Manresa says that "In thereof and is also exempt.
accordance with administrative legislation" (Spanish) we
must distinguish, as to the patrimonial property of the towns,
The members or inhabitants of a municipal
"between that a common benefit and that which is private corporation proper are not personally liable for the
property of the town. The first differs from property for public debts of the municipality, except that in the New
use in that generally its enjoyment is less, as it is limited to England States the individual liability of the
neighbors or to a group or class thereof; and, furthermore, inhabitant is generally maintained.
such use, more or less general, is not intrinsic with this kind
of property, for by its very nature it may be enjoyed as
though it were private property. The third group, that is, In Corpus Juris, vol 23, page 355, the following is found:
private property, is used in the name of the town or province
by the entities representing it and, like and private property,
Where property of a municipal or other public
giving a source of revenue."
corporation is sough to be subjected to execution
to satisfy judgments recovered against such
Such distinction, however, is of little practical importance in corporation, the question as to whether such
this jurisdiction in view of the different principles underlying property is leviable or not is to be determined by
the functions of a municipality under the American rule. the usage and purposes for which it is held. The
Notwithstanding this, we believe that the principle governing rule is that property held for public uses, such as
property of the public domain of the State is applicable to public buildings, streets, squares parks,
property for public use of the municipalities as said municipal promenades, wharves, landing places fire
is similar in character. The principle is that the property for engines, hose and hose carriages, engine houses,
public use of the State is not within the commerce of man public markets, hospitals, cemeteries, and
and, consequently, is inalienable and not subject to generally everything held for governmental
prescription. Likewise, property for public of the municipality purposes, is not subject to levy and sale under
is not within the commerce of man so long as it is used by execution against such corporation. The rule also
the public and, consequently, said property is also applies to funds in the hands of a public officer.
inalienable. Likewise it has been held that taxes due to a
municipal corporation or country cannot be seized
under execution by a creditor of such corporation.
The American Law is more explicit about this matter as But where a municipal corporation or country owns
expounded by Mcquilin in Municipal Corporations, volume 3, in its proprietary, as distinguished from its public or
paragraph 1160, where he says that: governmental capacity, property not useful or used
for a public purpose but for quasi private
States statutes often provide the court houses, purposes, the general rule is that such property
jails and other buildings owned by municipalities may be seized and sold under execution against
and the lots on which they stand shall be exempt the corporation, precisely as similar property of
from attachment and execution. But independent individuals is seized and sold. But property held
of express statutory exemption, as a general for public purposes is not subject to execution
proposition, property, real and personal, held by merely because it is temporarily used for private
municipal corporations, in trust for the benefit of purposes, although if the public use is wholly

20
abandoned it becomes subject to execution. part in the contract, thus giving rise to the
Whether or not property held as public property is possibility of the regular course of a public service
necessary for the public use is a political, rather being disturbed by the more or less legal action of
than a judicial question. a grantee, to the prejudice of the state and the
public interests.
In the case of City of New Orleans vs. Louisiana
Construction Co., Ltd. (140 U. S., 654; 35 Law. ed., 556), it The privilege or franchise granted to a private
was held that a wharf for unloading sugar and molasses, person to enjoy the usufruct of a public market
open to the public, was property for the public use of the City cannot lawfully be attached and sold, and a
of New Orleans and was not subject to attachment for the creditor of such person can recover his debt only
payment of the debts of the said city. out of the income or revenue obtained by the
debtor from the enjoyment or usufruct of the said
privilege, in the same manner that the rights of
In that case it was proven that the said wharf was a parcel of
such creditors of a railroad company can be
land adjacent to the Mississippi River where all shipments of
exercised and their credit collected only out of the
sugar and molasses taken to New Orleans were unloaded.
gross receipts remaining after deduction has been
made therefrom of the operating expenses of the
That city leased the said wharf to the Louisiana Construction road. (Law of November 12, 1896, extended to the
Company, Ltd., in order that it might erect warehouses so overseas provinces by the royal order of August 3,
that the merchandise upon discharge might not be spoiled 1886.)
by the elements. The said company was given the privilege
of charging certain fees for storing merchandise in the said
For the reasons contained in the authorities above quoted
warehouses and the public in general had the right to unload
we believe that this court would have reached the same
sugar and molasses there by paying the required fees, 10
conclusion if the debtor had been municipality of Guinobatan
per cent of which was turned over to the city treasury.
and the public market had been levied upon by virtue of the
execution.
The United States Supreme Court on an appeal held that the
wharf was public property, that it never ceased to be such in
It is evident that the movable and immovable property of a
order to become private property of the city; wherefore the
municipality, necessary for governmental purpose, may not
company could not levy execution upon the wharf in order to
be attached and sold for the payment of a judgment against
collect the amount of the judgment rendered in favor thereof.
the municipality. The supreme reason for this rule is the
character of the public use to which such kind of property is
In the case of Klein vs. City of New Orleans (98 U. S., 149; devoted. The necessity for government service justifies that
25 Law. ed., 430), the Supreme Court of the United States the property of public of the municipality be exempt from
that a public wharf on the banks of the Mississippi River was execution just as it is necessary to exempt certain property
public property and not subject to execution for the payment of private individuals in accordance with section 452 of the
of a debt of the City of New Orleans where said wharf was Code of Civil Procedure.
located.
Even the municipal income, according to the above quoted
In this case a parcel of land adjacent to the Mississippi authorities, is exempt from levy and execution. In volume 1,
River, which formerly was the shore of the river and which page 467, Municipal Corporations by Dillon we find that:
later enlarged itself by accession, was converted into a wharf
by the city for public use, who charged a certain fee for its
Municipal corporations are instituted by the
use.
supreme authority of a state for the public good.
They exercise, by delegation from the legislature,
It was held that the land was public property as necessary as a portion of the sovereign power. The main object
a public street and was not subject to execution on account of their creation is to act as administrative
of the debts of the city. It was further held that the fees agencies for the state, and to provide for the police
collected where also exempt from execution because they and local government of certain designated civil
were a part of the income of the city. divisions of its territory. To this end they are
invested with certain governmental powers and
charged with civil, political, and municipal duties.
In the case of Tufexis vs. Olaguera and Municipal Council of To enable them beneficially to exercise these
Guinobatan (32 Phil., 654), the question raised was whether powers and discharge these duties, they are
for the payment of a debt to a third person by the clothed with the authority to raise revenues, chiefly
concessionaire of a public market, the said public market by taxation, and subordinately by other modes as
could be attached and sold at public auction. The Supreme by licenses, fines, and penalties. The revenue of
Court held that: the public corporation is the essential means by
which it is enabled to perform its appointed work.
Even though a creditor is unquestionably entitled Deprived of its regular and adequate supply of
to recover out of his debtor's property, yet when revenue, such a corporation is practically
among such property there is included the special destroyed and the ends of its erection thwarted.
right granted by the Government of usufruct in a Based upon considerations of this character, it is
building intended for a public service, and when the settled doctrine of the law that only the public
this privilege is closely related to a service of a property but also the taxes and public revenues of
public character, such right of the creditor to the such corporations cannot be seized under
collection of a debt owed him by the debtor who execution against them, either in the treasury or
enjoys the said special privilege of usufruct in a when in transit to it. Judgments rendered for taxes,
public market is not absolute and may be and the proceeds of such judgments in the hands
exercised only through the action of court of of officers of the law, are not subject to execution
justice with respect to the profits or revenue unless so declared by statute. The doctrine of the
obtained under the special right of usufruct inviolability of the public revenues by the creditor
enjoyed by debtor. is maintained, although the corporation is in debt,
and has no means of payment but the taxes which
it is authorized to collect.
The special concession of the right of usufruct in a
public market cannot be attached like any ordinary
right, because that would be to permit a person Another error assigned by counsel for appellant is the
who has contracted with the state or with the holding of the court a quo that the proper remedy for
administrative officials thereof to conduct and collecting the judgment in favor of the plaintiff was by way or
manage a service of a public character, to be mandamus.
substituted, without the knowledge and consent of
the administrative authorities, by one who took no

21
While this question is not necessarily included in the one parcel of land. On various dates in 1924, the City of Manila
which is the subject of this appeal, yet we believe that the sold portions of the aforementioned parcel of land in favor of
holding of the court, assigned as error by appellant's Pura Villanueva. As a consequence of the transactions
counsel, is true when, after a judgment is rendered against a Original Certificate of Title No. 4329 was cancelled and
municipality, it has no property subject to execution. This transfer certificates of title were issued in favor of Pura
doctrine is maintained by Dillon (Municipal Corporations, vol. Villanueva for the portions purchased by her. When the last
4, par. 1507, 5th ed.) based upon the decisions of several sale to Pura Villanueva was effected on August 22, 1924,
States of the Union upholding the same principle and which Transfer Certificate of Title No. 21974 in the name of the City
are cited on page 2679 of the aforesaid work. In this sense of Manila was cancelled and in lieu thereof Transfer
this assignment of error, we believe, is groundless. Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 22547 covering the residue
thereof known as Lot 1-B-2-B of Block 557, with an area of
7,490.10 square meters, was issued in the name of the City
By virtue of all the foregoing, the judgment appealed from
of Manila.
should be and is hereby affirmed with costs against the
appellant. So ordered.
On September 21, 1960, the Municipal Board of Manila,
presided by then Vice-Mayor Antono J. Villegas, adopted a
G.R. No. L-29788 August 30, 1972
resolution requesting His Excellency, the President of the
Philippines to consider the feasibility of declaring the City
RAFAEL S. SALAS, in his capacity as Executive property bounded by Florida, San Andres, and Nebraska
Secretary; CONRADO F. ESTRELLA, in his capacity as Streets, under Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. 25545 and
Governor of the Land Authority; and LORENZO GELLA, 22547, containing a total area of 7,450 square meters as a
in his capacity as Register of Deeds of Manila, patrimonial property of the City of Manila for the purpose of
petitioners-appellants, reselling these lots to the actual occupants thereof. 2
vs.
HON. HILARION U. JARENCIO, as Presiding Judge of
The said resolution of the Municipil Board of the City of
Branch XXIII, Court of First Instance of Manila; ANTONIO
Manila was officially transmitted to the President of the
J. VILLEGAS, in his capacity as Mayor of the City of
Philippines by then Vice-Mayor Antonio J. Villegas on
Manila; and the CITY OF MANILA, respondents-appellees.
September 21, 1960, with the information that the same
resolution was, on the same date, transmitted to the Senate
Office of the Solicitor General Felix V. Makasiar, Assistant and House of Representatives of the Congress of the
Solicitor-General Antonio A. Torres, Solicitor Raul I. Goco Philippines. 3
and Magno B. Pablo & Cipriano A. Tan, Legal Staff, Land
Authority for petitioners-appellants.
During the First Session of the Fifth Congress of the
Philippines, House Bill No. 191 was filed in the House of
Gregorio A. Ejercito and Felix C. Chavez for respondents- Representatives by then Congressman Bartolome
appellees. Cabangbang seeking to declare the property in question as
patrimonial property of the City of Manila, and for other
purposes. The explanatory note of the Bill gave the grounds
for its enactment, to wit:

ESGUERRA, J.:p In the particular case of the property


subject of this bill, the City of Manila
This is a petition for review of the decision of the Court of does not seem to have use thereof as a
First Instance of Manila, Branch XXIII, in Civil Case No. public communal property. As a matter
67946, dated September 23, 1968, the dispositive portion of of fact, a resolution was adopted by the
which is as follows: Municipal Board of Manila at its regular
session held on September 21, 1960, to
request the feasibility of declaring the
WHEREFORE, the Court renders city property bounded by Florida, San
judgment declaring Republic Act No. Andres and Nebraska Streets as a
4118 unconstitutional and invalid in that patrimonial property of the City of Manila
it deprived the City of Manila of its for the purpose of reselling these lots to
property without due process and the actual occupants thereof. Therefore,
payment of just compensation. it will be to the best interest of society
Respondent Executive Secretary and that the said property be used in one
Governor of the Land Authority are way or another. Since this property has
hereby restrained and enjoined from been occupied for a long time by the
implementing the provisions of said law. present occupants thereof and since
Respondent Register of Deeds of the said occupants have expressed their
City of Manila is ordered to cancel willingness to buy the said property, it is
Transfer Certificate of Title No. 80876 but proper that the same be sold to
which he had issued in the name of the them. 4
Land Tenure Administration and
reinstate Transfer Certificate of Title No.
22547 in the name of the City of Manila Subsequently, a revised version of the Bill was introduced in
which he cancelled, if that is feasible, or the House of Representatives by Congressmen Manuel
issue a new certificate of title for the Cases, Antonio Raquiza and Nicanor Yñiguez as House Bill
same parcel of land in the name of the No. 1453, with the following explanatory note:
City of Manila. 1
The accompanying bill seeks to convert
The facts necessary for a clear understanding of this case one (1) parcel of land in the district of
are as follows: Malate, which is reserved as communal
property into a disposable or alienable
property of the State and to provide its
On February 24, 1919, the 4th Branch of the Court of First subdivision and sale to bona fide
Instance of Manila, acting as a land registration court, occupants or tenants.
rendered judgment in Case No. 18, G.L.R.O. Record No.
111, declaring the City of Manila the owner in fee simple of a
parcel of land known as Lot No. 1, Block 557 of the This parcel of land in question was
Cadastral Survey of the City of Mani1a, containing an area originally an aggregate part of a piece of
of 9,689.8 square meters, more or less. Pursuant to said land with an area of 9,689.8 square
judgment the Register of Deeds of Manila on August 21, meters, more or less. ... On September
1920, issued in favor of the City of Manila, Original 21, 1960, the Municipal Board of Manila
Certificate of Title No. 4329 covering the aforementioned in its regular session unanimously

22
adopted a resolution requesting the property, is hereby converted into
President of the Philippines and disposal or alienable land of the State,
Congress of the Philippines the to be placed under the disposal of the
feasibility of declaring this property into Land Tenure Administration. The Land
disposable or alienable property of the Tenure Administration shall subdivide
State. There is therefore a precedent the property into small lots, none of
that this parcel of land could be which shall exceed one hundred and
subdivided and sold to bona fide twenty square meters in area and sell
occupants. This parcel of land will not the same on installment basis to the
serve any useful public project because tenants or bona fide occupants thereof
it is bounded on all sides by private and to individuals, in the order
properties which were formerly parts of mentioned: Provided, That no down
this lot in question. payment shall be required of tenants or
bona fide occupants who cannot afford
to pay such down payment: Provided,
Approval of this bill will implement the
further, That no person can purchase
policy of the Administration of land for
more than one lot: Provided,
the landless and the Fifth Declaration of
furthermore, That if the tenant or bona
Principles of the Constitution, which
fide occupant of any given lot is not able
states that the promotion of Social
to purchase the same, he shall be given
Justice to insure the well-being and
a lease from month to month until such
economic security of all people should
time that he is able to purchase the lot:
be the concern of the State. We are
Provided, still further, That in the event
ready and willing to enact legislation
of lease the rentals which may be
promoting the social and economic well-
charged shall not exceed eight per cent
being of the people whenever an
per annum of the assessed value of the
opportunity for enacting such kind of
property leased: And provided, finally,
legislation arises.
That in fixing the price of each lot, which
shall not exceed twenty pesos per
In view of the foregoing consideration and to insure fairness square meter, the cost of subdivision
and justice to the present bona fide occupants thereof, and survey shall not be included.
approval of this Bill is strongly urged. 5
Sec. 2. Upon approval of this Act no
The Bill having been passed by the House of ejectment proceedings against any
Representatives, the same was thereafter sent to the Senate tenant or bona fide occupant of the
where it was thoroughly discussed, as evidenced by the above lots shall be instituted and any
Congressional Records for May 20, 1964, pertinent portion ejectment proceedings pending in court
of which is as follows: against any such tenant or bona fide
occupant shall be dismissed upon
motion of the defendant: Provided, That
SENATOR FERNANDEZ: Mr. any demolition order directed against
President, it will be re called that when any tenant or bona fide occupant shall
the late Mayor Lacson was still alive, we be lifted.
approved a similar bill. But afterwards,
the late Mayor Lacson came here and
protested against the approval, and the Sec. 3. Upon approval of this Act, if the
approval was reconsidered. May I know tenant or bona fide occupant is in
whether the defect in the bill which we arrears in the payment of any rentals,
approved, has already been eliminated the amount legally due shall be
in this present bill? liquidated and shall be payable in
twenty-four equal monthly installments
from the date of liquidation.
SENATOR TOLENTINO: I understand
Mr. President, that that has already
been eliminated and that is why the City Sec. 4. No property acquired by virtue of
of Manila has no more objection to this this Act shall be transferred, sold,
bill. mortgaged, or otherwise disposed of
within a period of five years from the
date full ownership thereof has been
SENATOR FERNANDEZ: Mr. vested in the purchaser without the
President, in view of that manifestation consent of the Land Tenure
and considering that Mayor Villegas and Administration.
Congressman Albert of the Fourth
District of Manila are in favor of the bill. I
would not want to pretend to know more Sec. 5. In the event of the death of the
what is good for the City of Manila. purchaser prior to the complete payment
of the price of the lot purchased by him,
his widow and children shall succeed in
SENATOR TOLENTINO: Mr. President, all his rights and obligations with respect
there being no objection, I move that we to his lot.
approve this bill on second reading.

Sec. 6. The Chairman of the Land


PRESIDENT PRO-TEMPORE: The biII Tenure Administration shall implement
is approved on second reading after and issue such rules and regulations as
several Senetors said aye and nobody may be necessary to carry out the
said nay. provisions of this Act.

The bill was passed by the Senate, approved by the Sec. 7. The sum of one hundred fifty
President on June 20, 1964, and became Republic Act No. thousand pesos is appropriated out of
4118. It reads as follows: any funds in the National Treasury not
otherwise appropriated, to carry out the
Lot I-B-2-B of Block 557 of the cadastral purposes of this Act.
survey of the City of Manila, situated in
the District of Malate, City of Manila,
which is reserved as communal

23
Sec. 8. All laws or parts of laws I.
inconsistent with this Act are repealed or
modified accordingly.
As regards the first issue, appellants maintain that the land
involved is a communal land or "legua comunal" which is a
Sec. 9. This Act shall take effect upon portion of the public domain owned by the State; that it came
its approval. into existence as such when the City of Manila, or any
pueblo or town in the Philippines for that matter, was
founded under the laws of Spain, the former sovereign; that
Approved, June 20, 1964.
upon the establishment of a pueblo, the administrative
authority was required to allot and set aside portions of the
To implement the provisions of Republic Act No. 4118, and public domain for a public plaza, a church site, a site for
pursuant to the request of the occupants of the property public buildings, lands to serve as common pastures and for
involved, then Deputy Governor Jose V. Yap of the Land streets and roads; that in assigning these lands some lots
Authority (which succeeded the Land Tenure Administration) were earmarked for strictly public purposes, and ownership
addressed a letter, dated February 18, 1965, to Mayor of these lots (for public purposes) immediately passed to the
Antonio Villegas, furnishing him with a copy of the proposed new municipality; that in the case of common lands or "legua
subdivision plan of said lot as prepared for the Republic of comunal", there was no such immediate acquisition of
the Philippines for resale of the subdivision lots by the Land ownership by the pueblo, and the land though administered
Authority to bona fide applicants. 6 thereby, did not automatically become its property in the
absence of an express grant from the Central Government,
and that the reason for this arrangement is that this class of
On March 2, 1965, the City Mayor of Manila, through his land was not absolutely needed for the discharge of the
Executive and Technical Adviser, acknowledged receipt of municipality's governmental functions.
the proposed subdivision plan of the property in question
and informed the Land Authority that his office would
interpose no objection to the implementation of said law, It is argued that the parcel of land involved herein has not
provided that its provisions be strictly complied with. 7 been used by the City of Manila for any public purpose and
had not been officially earmarked as a site for the erection of
some public buildings; that this circumstance confirms the
With the above-mentioned written conformity of the City of fact that it was originally "communal" land alloted to the City
Manila for the implementation of Republic Act No. 4118, the of Manila by the Central Government not because it was
Land Authority, thru then Deputy Governor Jose V. Yap, needed in connection with its organization as a municipality
requested the City Treasurer of Manila, thru the City Mayor, but simply for the common use of its inhabitants; that the
for the surrender and delivery to the former of the owner's present City of Manila as successor of the Ayuntamiento de
duplicate of Transfer Certificate of Title No. 22547 in order to Manila under the former Spanish sovereign merely enjoys
obtain title thereto in the name of the Land Authority. The the usufruct over said land, and its exercise of acts of
request was duly granted with the knowledge and consent of ownership by selling parts thereof did not necessarily
the Office of the City Mayor. 8 convert the land into a patrimonial property of the City of
Manila nor divest the State of its paramount title.
With the presentation of Transfer Certificate of Title No.
22547, which had been yielded as above stated by the, City Appellants further argue that a municipal corporation, like a
authorities to the Land Authority, Transfer Certificate of Title city is a governmental agent of the State with authority to
(T.C.T. No. 22547) was cancelled by the Register of Deeds govern a limited portion of its territory or to administer purely
of Manila and in lieu thereof Transfer Certificate of Title No. local affairs in a given political subdivision, and the extent of
80876 was issued in the name of the Land Tenure its authority is strictly delimited by the grant of power
Administration (now Land Authority) pursuant to the conferred by the State; that Congress has the exclusive
provisions of Republic Act No. power to create, change or destroy municipal corporations;
4118. 9 that even if We admit that legislative control over municipal
corporations is not absolute and even if it is true that the City
But due to reasons which do not appear in the record, the of Manila has a registered title over the property in question,
City of Manila made a complete turn-about, for on December the mere transfer of such land by an act of the legislature
20, 1966, Antonio J. Villegas, in his capacity as the City from one class of public land to another, without
Mayor of Manila and the City of Manila as a duly organized compensation, does not invade the vested rights of the City.
public corporation, brought an action for injunction and/or
prohibition with preliminary injunction to restrain, prohibit and Appellants finally argue that Republic Act No. 4118 has
enjoin the herein appellants, particularly the Governor of the treated the land involved as one reserved for communal use,
Land Authority and the Register of Deeds of Manila, from and this classification is conclusive upon the courts; that if
further implementing Republic Act No. 4118, and praying for the City of Manila feels that this is wrong and its interests
the declaration of Republic Act No. 4118 as unconstitutional. have been thereby prejudiced, the matter should be brought
to the attention of Congress for correction; and that since
With the foregoing antecedent facts, which are all contained Congress, in the exercise of its wide discretionary powers
in the partial stipulation of facts submitted to the trial court has seen fit to classify the land in question as communal, the
and approved by respondent Judge, the parties waived the Courts certainly owe it to a coordinate branch of the
presentation of further evidence and submitted the case for Government to respect such determination and should not
decision. On September 23, 1968, judgment was rendered interfere with the enforcement of the law.
by the trial court declaring Republic Act No. 4118
unconstitutional and invalid on the ground that it deprived the Upon the other hand, appellees argue by simply quoting
City of Manila of its property without due process of law and portions of the appealed decision of the trial court, which
payment of just compensation. The respondents were read thus:
ordered to undo all that had been done to carry out the
provisions of said Act and were restrained from further
implementing the same. The respondents (petitioners-appellants
herein) contend, among other defenses,
that the property in question is
Two issues are presented for determination, on the communal property. This contention is,
resolution of which the decision in this case hinges, to wit: however, disproved by Original
Certificate of Title No. 4329 issued on
I. Is the property involved private or August 21, 1920 in favor of the City of
patrimonial property of the City of Manila after the land in question was
Manila? registered in the City's favor. The
Torrens Title expressly states that the
City of Manila was the owner in 'fee
II. Is Republic Act No. 4118 valid and simple' of the said land. Under Sec. 38
not repugnant to the Constitution? of the Land Registration Act, as

24
amended, the decree of confirmation case conformable
and registration in favor of the City of to the constitution,
Manila ... shall be conclusive upon and disregarding the
against all persons including the Insular law, the court must
Government and all the branches determine which of
there ... There is nothing in the said these conflicting
certificate of title indicating that the land rules governs the
was 'communal' land as contended by case. This is of the
the respondents. The erroneous very essence of
assumption by the Municipal Board of unconstitutional
Manila that the land in question was judicial duty.
communal land did not make it so. The
Municipal Board had no authority to do
Appellees finally concluded that when the courts declare a
that.
law unconstitutional it does not mean that the judicial power
is superior to the legislative power. It simply means that the
The respondents, however, contend that power of the people is superior to both and that when the will
Congress had the power and authority of the legislature, declared in statutes, stands in opposition
to declare that the land in question was to that of the people, declared in the Constitution, the judges
'communal' land and the courts have no ought to be governed by the Constitution rather than by the
power or authority to make a contrary statutes.
finding. This contention is not entirely
correct or accurate. Congress has the
There is one outstanding factor that should be borne in mind
power to classify 'land of the public
in resolving the character of the land involved, and it is that
domain', transfer them from one
the City of Manila, although declared by the Cadastral Court
classification to another and declare
as owner in fee simple, has not shown by any shred of
them disposable or not. Such power
evidence in what manner it acquired said land as its private
does not, however, extend to properties
or patrimonial property. It is true that the City of Manila as
which are owned by cities, provinces
well as its predecessor, the Ayuntamiento de Manila, could
and municipalities in their 'patrimonial'
validly acquire property in its corporate or private capacity,
capacity.
following the accepted doctrine on the dual character —
public and private — of a municipal corporation. And when it
Art. 324 of the Civil Code provides that acquires property in its private capacity, it acts like an
properties of provinces, cities and ordinary person capable of entering into contracts or making
municipalities are divided into properties transactions for the transmission of title or other real rights.
for public use and patrimonial property. When it comes to acquisition of land, it must have done so
Art. 424 of the same code provides that under any of the modes established by law for the
properties for public use consist of acquisition of ownership and other real rights. In the absence
provincial roads, city streets, municipal of a title deed to any land claimed by the City of Manila as its
streets, the squares, fountains, public own, showing that it was acquired with its private or
waters, promenades and public works corporate funds, the presumption is that such land came
for public service paid for by said from the State upon the creation of the municipality (Unson
province, cities or municipalities. All vs. Lacson, et al., 100 Phil. 695). Originally the municipality
other property possessed by any of owned no patrimonial property except those that were
them is patrimonial. Tested by this granted by the State not for its public but for private use.
criterion the Court finds and holds that Other properties it owns are acquired in the course of the
the land in question is patrimonial exercise of its corporate powers as a juridical entity to which
property of the City of Manila. category a municipal corporation pertains.

Respondents contend that Congress Communal lands or "legua comunal" came into existence
has declared the land in question to be when a town or pueblo was established in this country under
'communal' and, therefore, such the laws of Spain (Law VII, Title III, Book VI, Recopilacion de
designation is conclusive upon the las Leyes de Indios). The municipalities of the Philippines
courts. The Courts holds otherwise. were not entitled, as a matter of right, to any part of the
When a statute is assailed as public domain for use as communal lands. The Spanish law
unconstitutional the Courts have the provided that the usufruct of a portion of the public domain
power and authority to inquire into the adjoining municipal territory might be granted by the
question and pass upon it. This has long Government for communal purposes, upon proper petition,
ago been settled in Marbury vs. but, until granted, no rights therein passed to the
Madison, 2 L. ed. 60, when the United municipalities, and, in any event, the ultimate title remained
States Supreme Court speaking thru in the sovereign (City of Manila vs. Insular Government, 10
Chief Justice Marshall held: Phil. 327).

... If an act of the For the establishment, then, of new


legislature, pueblos the administrative authority of
repugnant to the the province, in representation of the
constitution, is void, Governor General, designated the
does it, territory for their location and extension
notwithstanding its and the metes and bounds of the same;
validity, bind the and before alloting the lands among the
courts, and oblige new settlers, a special demarcation was
them to give effect? made of the places which were to serve
It is emphatically as the public square of the pueblo, for
the province and the erection of the church, and as sites
duty of the judicial for the public buildings, among others,
department to say the municipal building or the casa real,
what the law is ... as well as of the lands whick were to
So if a law be in constitute the common pastures, and
opposition to the propios of the municipality and the
constitution; if both streets and roads which were to
the law and the intersect the new town were laid out, ... .
constitution apply to (Municipality of Catbalogan vs. Director
a particular case, so of Lands, 17 Phil. 216, 220) (Emphasis
that the court must supplied)
either decide that

25
It may, therefore, be laid down as a general rule that ordain that no person shall be deprived of his property
regardless of the source or classification of land in the without due process of law and that no private property shall
possession of a municipality, excepting those acquired with be taken for public use without just compensation.
its own funds in its private or corporate capacity, such
property is held in trust for the State for the benefit of its
II .
inhabitants, whether it be for governmental or proprietary
purposes. It holds such lands subject to the paramount
power of the legislature to dispose of the same, for after all it The trial court declared Republic Act No. 4118
owes its creation to it as an agent for the performance of a unconstitutional for allegedly depriving the City of Manila of
part of its public work, the municipality being but a its property without due process of law and without payment
subdivision or instrumentality thereof for purposes of local of just compensation. It is now well established that the
administration. Accordingly, the legal situation is the same presumption is always in favor of the constitutionality of a
as if the State itself holds the property and puts it to a law (U S. vs. Ten Yu, 24 Phil. 1; Go Ching, et al. vs.
different use (2 McQuilin,Municipal Corporations, 3rd Ed., p. Dinglasan, et al., 45 O.G. No. 2, pp. 703, 705). To declare a
197, citing Monagham vs. Armatage, 218 Minn. 27, 15 N. W. law unconstitutional, the repugnancy of that law to the
2nd 241). Constitution must be clear and unequivocal, for even if a law
is aimed at the attainment of some public good, no
infringement of constitutional rights is allowed. To strike
True it is that the legislative control over a municipal
down a law there must be a clear showing that what the
corporation is not absolute even when it comes to its
fundamental law condemns or prohibits, the statute allows it
property devoted to public use, for such control must not be
to be done (Morfe vs. Mutuc, et al., G.R. No. L-20387, Jan.
exercised to the extent of depriving persons of their property
31, 1968; 22 SCRA 424). That situation does not obtain in
or rights without due process of law, or in a manner
this case as the law assailed does not in any manner trench
impairing the obligations of contracts. Nevertheless, when it
upon the constitution as will hereafter be shown. Republic
comes to property of the municipality which it did not acquire
Act No. 4118 was intended to implement the social justice
in its private or corporate capacity with its own funds, the
policy of the Constitution and the Government program of
legislature can transfer its administration and disposition to
"Land for the Landless". The explanatory note of House Bill
an agency of the National Government to be disposed of
No. 1453 which became Republic Act No. 4118, reads in
according to its discretion. Here it did so in obedience to the
part as follows:
constitutional mandate of promoting social justice to insure
the well-being and economic security of the people.
Approval of this bill will implement the
policy of the administration of "land for
It has been held that a statute authorizing the transfer of a
the landless" and the Fifth Declaration of
Municipal airport to an Airport Commission created by the
Principles of the Constitution which
legislature, even without compensation to the city, was not
states that "the promotion of social
violative of the due process clause of the American Federal
justice to insure the well-being and
Constitution. The Supreme Court of Minnessota in
economic security of all people should
Monagham vs. Armatage, supra, said:
be the concern of the State." We are
ready and willing to enact legislation
... The case is controlled by the further promoting the social and economic well-
rule that the legislature, having plenary being of the people whenever an
control of the local municipality, of its opportunity for enacting such kind of
creation and of all its affairs, has the legislation arises.
right to authorize or direct the
expenditures of money in its treasury,
The respondent Court held that Republic Act No. 4118, "by
though raised, for a particular purpose,
converting the land in question — which is the patrimonial
for any legitimate municipal purpose, or
property of the City of Manila into disposable alienable land
to order and direct a distribution thereof
of the State and placing it under the disposal of the Land
upon a division of the territory into
Tenure Administration — violates the provisions of Article III
separate municipalities ... . The local
(Secs. 1 and 2) of the Constitution which ordain that "private
municipality has no such vested right in
property shall not be taken for public use without just
or to its public funds, like that which the
compensation, and that no person shall be deprived of life,
Constitution protects in the individual as
liberty or property without due process of law". In support
precludes legislative interferences.
thereof reliance is placed on the ruling in Province of
People vs. Power, 25 Ill. 187; State
Zamboanga del Norte vs. City of Zamboanga, G.R. No.
Board (of Education) vs. City, 56 Miss.
2440, March 28, 1968; 22 SCRA 1334, which holds that
518. As remarked by the supreme court
Congress cannot deprive a municipality of its private or
of Maryland in Mayor vs. Sehner, 37
patrimonial property without due process of law and without
Md. 180: "It is of the essence of such a
payment of just compensation since it has no absolute
corporation, that the government has
control thereof. There is no quarrel over this rule if it is
the sole right as trustee of the public
undisputed that the property sought to be taken is in reality a
interest, at its own good will and
private or patrimonial property of the municipality or city. But
pleasure, to inspect, regulate, control,
it would be simply begging the question to classify the land
and direct the corporation, its funds, and
in question as such. The property, as has been previously
franchises."
shown, was not acquired by the City of Manila with its own
funds in its private or proprietary capacity. That it has in its
We therefore hold that c.500, in name a registered title is not questioned, but this title should
authorizing the transfer of the use and be deemed to be held in trust for the State as the land
possession of the municipal airport to covered thereby was part of the territory of the City of Manila
the commission without compensation granted by the sovereign upon its creation. That the National
to the city or to the park board, does not Government, through the Director of Lands, represented by
violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the Solicitor General, in the cadastral proceedings did not
the Constitution of the United States. contest the claim of the City of Manila that the land is its
property, does not detract from its character as State
property and in no way divests the legislature of its power to
The Congress has dealt with the land involved as one
deal with it as such, the state not being bound by the
reserved for communal use (terreno comunal). The act of
mistakes and/or negligence of its officers.
classifying State property calls for the exercise of wide
discretionary legislative power and it should not be interfered
with by the courts. One decisive fact that should be noted is that the City of
Manila expressly recognized the paramount title of the State
over said land when by its resolution of September 20, 1960,
This brings Us to the second question as regards the validity
the Municipal Board, presided by then Vice-Mayor Antonio
of Republic Act No. 4118, viewed in the light of Article III,
Villegas, requested "His Excellency the President of the
Sections 1, subsection (1) and (2) of the Constitution which
Philippines to consider the feasibility of declaring the city

26
property bounded by Florida, San Andres and Nebraska WHEREFORE, the appealed decision is hereby reversed,
Streets, under Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. 25545 and and petitioners shall proceed with the free and untrammeled
25547, containing an area of 7,450 square meters, as implementation of Republic Act No. 4118 without any
patrimonial property of the City of Manila for the purpose of obstacle from the respondents. Without costs.
reselling these lots to the actual occupants thereof." (See
Annex E, Partial Stipulation of Facts, Civil Case No. 67945,
DACANAY JR. V. ASISTIO JR.
CFI, Manila, p. 121, Record of the Case) [Emphasis
Supplied]
208 SCRA 404

The alleged patrimonial character of the land under the


ownership of the City of Manila is totally belied by the City's
own official act, which is fatal to its claim since the Congress
did not do as bidden. If it were its patrimonial property why FACTS:
should the City of Manila be requesting the President to
make representation to the legislature to declare it as such An ordinance was issued designated certain city and
so it can be disposed of in favor of the actual occupants? municipal streets, roads, and other public areas for sites of
There could be no more blatant recognition of the fact that public markets. Pursuant to this, licenses were issued to
said land belongs to the State and was simply granted in market stall owners to put up their stalls in certain streets.
usufruct to the City of Manila for municipal purposes. But
Thereafter, the OIC mayor of Caloocan has caused the
since the City did not actually use said land for any
recognized public purpose and allowed it to remain idle and demolition of the stalls, which was upheld by the trial
unoccupied for a long time until it was overrun by squatters, court, saying that the public streets are part of the public
no presumption of State grant of ownership in favor of the dominion and is not open to the commerce of man. Then
City of Manila may be acquiesced in to justify the claim that it there come about a change in administration of the city. The
is its own private or patrimonial property (Municipality of
Tigbauan vs. Director of Lands, 35 Phil. 798; City of Manila next mayor did not continue the demolition of the stalls.
vs. Insular Government, 10 Phil. 327; Municipality of
Using the trial court’s decision, here now comes petitioner
Luzuriaga vs. Director of Lands, 24 Phil. 193). The
conclusion of the respondent court that Republic Act No. asking for the demolition of the stalls.
4118 converted a patrimonial property of the City of Manila
into a parcel of disposable land of the State and took it away HELD:
from the City without compensation is, therefore, unfounded.
In the last analysis the land in question pertains to the State There is no doubt that the disputed areas from which
and the City of Manila merely acted as trustee for the benefit the private respondent’s market stalls are sought to be
of the people therein for whom the State can legislate in the evicted are public streets. A public street is property for
exercise of its legitimate powers.
public use hence outside the commerce of man. Being
outside the commerce of man, it may not be the
Republic Act No. 4118 was never intended to expropriate the subject of
property involved but merely to confirm its character as
communal land of the State and to make it available for
lease or other contract.
disposition by the National Government: And this was done
at the instance or upon the request of the City of Manila
itself. The subdivision of the land and conveyance of the The right of the public to use the city streets may not be
resulting subdivision lots to the occupants by Congressional bargained away through contract. The interests of the few
authorization does not operate as an exercise of the power should not prevail over the good of the greater number in the
of eminent domain without just compensation in violation of community.
Section 1, subsection (2), Article III of the Constitution, but
simply as a manifestation of its right and power to deal with
state property.
G.R. No. 93654 May 6, 1992
It should be emphasized that the law assailed was enacted
upon formal written petition of the Municipal Board of Manila FRANCISCO U. DACANAY, petitioner,
in the form of a legally approved resolution. The certificate of
title over the property in the name of the City of Manila was
accordingly cancelled and another issued to the Land vs.
Tenure Administration after the voluntary surrender of the
City's duplicate certificate of title by the City Treasurer with MAYOR MACARIO ASISTIO, JR., CITY ENGR. LUCIANO
the knowledge and consent of the City Mayor. To implement SARNE, JR. of Kalookan City, Metro Manila, MILA
the provisions of Republic Act No. 4118, the then Deputy PASTRANA AND/OR RODOLFO TEOFE, STALLHOLDERS
Governor of the Land Authority sent a letter, dated February AND REPRESENTING CO-STALLHOLDERS, respondents.
18, 1965, to the City Mayor furnishing him with a copy of the
"proposed subdivision plan of the said lot as prepared for the
David D. Advincula, Jr. for petitioner.
Republic of the Philippines for subdivision and resale by the
Land Authority to bona fide applicants." On March 2, 1965,
the Mayor of Manila, through his Executive and Technical Juan P. Banaga for private respondents.
Adviser, acknowledged receipt of the subdivision plan and
informed the Land Authority that his Office "will interpose no
objection to the implementation of said law provided that its
provisions are strictly complied with." The foregoing GRIÑO-AQUINO, J.:
sequence of events, clearly indicate a pattern of regularity
and observance of due process in the reversion of the
May public streets or thoroughfares be leased or licensed to
property to the National Government. All such acts were
done in recognition by the City of Manila of the right and market stallholders by virtue of a city ordinance or resolution
power of the Congress to dispose of the land involved. of the Metro Manila Commission? This issue is posed by the
petitioner, an aggrieved Caloocan City resident who filed a
special civil action of mandamus against the incumbent city
Consequently, the City of Manila was not deprived of
anything it owns, either under the due process clause or mayor and city engineer, to compel these city officials to
under the eminent domain provisions of the Constitution. If it remove the market stalls from certain city streets which the
failed to get from the Congress the concession it sought of aforementioned city officials have designated as flea
having the land involved given to it as its patrimonial markets, and the private respondents (stallholders) to vacate
property, the Courts possess no power to grant that relief. the streets.
Republic Act No. 4118 does not, therefore, suffer from any
constitutional infirmity.

27
On January 5, 1979, MMC Ordinance No. 79-02 was The trial court found that Heroes del '96, Gozon and
enacted by the Metropolitan Manila Commission, Gonzales streets are of public dominion, hence, outside the
designating certain city and municipal streets, roads and commerce of man:
open spaces as sites for flea markets. Pursuant, thereto, the
Caloocan City mayor opened up seven (7) flea markets in The Heroes del '96 street, V. Gozon street and Gonzales
that city. One of those streets was the "Heroes del '96" street, being of public dominion must, therefore, be outside
where the petitioner lives. Upon application of vendors of the commerce of man. Considering the nature of the
Rodolfo Teope, Mila Pastrana, Carmen Barbosa, Merle subject premises, the following jurisprudence co/principles
Castillo, Bienvenido Menes, Nancy Bugarin, Jose Manuel, are applicable on the matter:
Crisaldo Paguirigan, Alejandro Castron, Ruben Araneta,
Juanita and Rafael Malibaran, and others, the respondents 1) They cannot be alienated or leased or otherwise be the
city mayor and city engineer, issued them licenses to subject matter of contracts. (Municipality of Cavite vs. Rojas,
conduct vending activities on said street. 30 Phil. 602);

In 1987, Antonio Martinez, as OIC city mayor of Caloocan 2) They cannot be acquired by prescription against the state
City, caused the demolition of the market stalls on Heroes (Insular Government vs. Aldecoa, 19 Phil. 505). Even
del '96, V. Gozon and Gonzales streets. To stop Mayor municipalities can not acquire them for use as communal
Martinez' efforts to clear the city streets, Rodolfo Teope, Mila lands against the state (City of Manila vs. Insular
Pastrana and other stallowners filed an action for prohibition Government, 10 Phil. 327);
against the City of Caloocan, the OIC City Mayor and the
City Engineer and/or their deputies (Civil Case No. C-12921) 3) They are not subject to attachment and execution (Tan
in the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City, Branch 122, Toco vs. Municipal Council of Iloilo, 49 Phil. 52);
praying the court to issue a writ of preliminary injunction
ordering these city officials to discontinue the demolition of 4) They cannot be burdened by any voluntary easement (2-II
their stalls during the pendency of the action. Colin & Capitant 520) (Tolentino, Civil Code of the Phils.,
Vol. II, 1983 Ed. pp. 29-30).
The court issued the writ prayed for. However, on December
20, 1987, it dismissed the petition and lifted the writ of In the aforecited case of Municipality of Cavite vs. Rojas, it
preliminary injunction which it had earlier issued. The trial was held that properties for public use may not be leased to
court observed that: private individuals. Such a lease is null and void for the
reason that a municipal council cannot withdraw part of the
A perusal of Ordinance 2, series of 1979 of the Metropolitan plaza from public use. If possession has already been given,
Manila Commission will show on the title itself that it is an the lessee must restore possession by vacating it and the
ordinance –– municipality must thereupon restore to him any sums it may
have collected as rent.
Authorizing and regulating the use of certain city and/or
municipal streets, roads and open spaces within In the case of City of Manila vs. Gerardo Garcia, 19 SCRA
Metropolitan Manila as sites for flea market and/or vending 413, the Supreme Court held:
areas, under certain terms and conditions, subject to the
approval of the Metropolitan Manila Commission, and for The property being a public one, the Manila Mayors did not
other purposes have the authority to give permits, written or oral, to the
squatters, and that the permits granted are therefore
which is further amplified in Section 2 of the said ordinance, considered null and void.
quoted hereunder:
This doctrine was reiterated in the case of Baguio Citizens
Sec. 2. The streets, roads and open spaces to be used as Action Inc. vs. The City Council, 121 SCRA 368, where it
sites for flea markets (tiangge) or vending areas; the design, was held that:
measurement or specification of the structures, equipment
and apparatuses to be used or put up; the allowable An ordinance legalizing the occupancy by squatters of public
distances; the days and time allowed for the conduct of the land is null and void.
businesses and/or activities herein authorized; the rates or
fees or charges to be imposed, levied and collected; the The authority of respondent Municipality of Makati to
kinds of merchandise, goods and commodities sold and demolish the shanties of the petitioner's members is
services rendered; and other matters and activities related to mandated by
the establishment, maintenance and management and
operation of flea markets and vending areas, shall be P.D. 772, and Sec. 1 of Letter of Instruction No. 19 orders
determined and prescribed by the mayors of the cities and certain public officials, one of whom is the Municipal Mayor
municipalities in the Metropolitan Manila where the same are to remove all illegal constructions including buildings on and
located, subject to the approval of the Metropolitan Manila along esteros and river banks, those along railroad tracks
Commission and consistent with the guidelines hereby and those built without permits on public or private property
prescribed. (Zansibarian Residents Association vs. Mun. of Makati, 135
SCRA 235). The City Engineer is also among those required
Further, it is so provided in the guidelines under the said to comply with said Letter of Instruction.
Ordinance No. 2 of the MMC that —
The occupation and use of private individuals of sidewalks
Sec. 6. In the establishment, operation, maintenance and and other public places devoted for public use constitute
management of flea markets and vending areas, the both public and private nuisances and nuisance per se, and
following guidelines, among others, shall be observed: this applies to even case involving the use or lease of public
places under permits and licenses issued by competent
xxx xxx xxx authority, upon the theory that such holders could not take
advantage of their unlawful permits and license and claim
(m) That the permittee shall remove the equipment, facilities that the land in question is a part of a public street or a public
and other appurtenances used by him in the conduct of his place devoted to public use, hence, beyond the commerce of
business after the close or termination of business hours. man. (Padilla, Civil Code Annotated, Vol. II, p. 59, 6th Ed.,
(Emphasis ours; pp. 15-16, Rollo.) citing Umali vs. Aquino, IC. A. Rep. 339.)

28
From the aforequoted jurisprudence/principles, the Court After conducting a preliminary investigation, the
opines that defendants have the right to demolish the subject OMBUDSMAN rendered a final evaluation and report on
stalls of the plaintiffs, more so when Section 185, par. 4 of August 28, 1989, finding that the respondents' inaction is
Batas Pambansa Blg. 337, otherwise known as the Local purely motivated by their perceived moral and social
Government Code provides that the City Engineer shall: responsibility toward their constituents, but "the fact remains
that there is an omission of an act which ought to be
(4) . . . performed, in clear violation of Sections 3(e) and (f) of
Republic Act 3019." (pp. 83-84, Rollo.) The OMBUDSMAN
(c) Prevent the encroachment of private buildings and fences recommended the filing of the corresponding information in
on the streets and public places; court.

xxx xxx xxx As the stallholders continued to occupy Heroes del '96
Street, through the tolerance of the public respondents, and
(j) Inspect and supervise the construction, repair, removal in clear violation of the decision it Civil Case No. C-12921,
and safety of private buildings; Dacanay filed the present petition for mandamus on June
19, 1990, praying that the public respondents be ordered to
xxx xxx xxx enforce the final decision in Civil Case No. C-12921 which
upheld the city mayor's authority to order the demolition of
(k) With the previous approval of the City Mayor in each market stalls on V. Gozon, Gonzales and Heroes del '96
case, order the removal of materials employed in the Streets and to enforce P.D. No. 772 and other pertinent
construction or repair of any building or structures made in laws.
violation of law or ordinance, and cause buildings and
structures dangerous to the public to made secure or torn On August 16, 1990, the public respondents, through the
down; City Legal Officer, filed their Comment' on the petition. The
Office of the Solicitor General asked to be excused from
xxx xxx xxx filing a separate Comment in behalf of the public
respondents. The City Legal Officer alleged that the vending
Further, the Charter of the City of Caloocan, Republic Act area was transferred to Heroes del '96 Street to decongest
No. 5502, Art. VII, Sec. 27, par. g, 1 and m, grants the City Malonzo Street, which is comparatively a busier
Engineer similar powers. (Emphasis supplied; pp. 17-20, thoroughfare; that the transfer was made by virtue of
Rollo.) Barangay Resolution No. 30 s'78 dated January 15, 1978;
that while the resolution was awaiting approval by the
However, shortly after the decision came out, the city Metropolitan Manila Commission, the latter passed
administration in Caloocan City changed hands. City Mayor Ordinance No. 79-2, authorizing the use of certain streets
Macario Asistio, Jr., as successor of Mayor Martinez, did not and open spaces as sites for flea markets and/or vending
pursue the latter's policy of clearing and cleaning up the city areas; that pursuant thereto, Acting MMC Mayor Virgilio P.
streets. Robles issued Executive Order No. 135 dated January 10,
1979, ordering the establishment and operation of flea
Invoking the trial court's decision in Civil Case No. C-12921,
markets in specified areas and created the Caloocan City
Francisco U. Dacanay, a concerned citizen, taxpayer and
Flea Market Authority as a regulatory body; and that among
registered voter of Barangay 74, Zone 7, District II of
the sites chosen and approved by the Metro Manila
Caloocan City, who resides on Heroes del '96 Street, one of
Commission, Heroes del '96 Street has considered "most
the affected streets, wrote a letter dated March 7, 1988 to
viable and progressive, lessening unemployment in the city
Mayor Asistio, Jr., calling his attention to the illegally-
and servicing the residents with affordable basic
constructed stalls on Heroes del '96 Street and asked for
necessities."
their demolition.
The petition for mandamus is meritorious.
Dacanay followed up that letter with another one dated April
7, 1988 addressed to the mayor and the city engineer, There is no doubt that the disputed areas from which the
Luciano Sarne, Jr. (who replaced Engineer Arturo Samonte), private respondents' market stalls are sought to be evicted
inviting their attention to the Regional Trial Court's decision are public streets, as found by the trial court in Civil Case
in Civil Case No. 12921. There was still no response. No. C-12921. A public street is property for public use hence
outside the commerce of man (Arts. 420, 424, Civil Code).
Dacanay sought President Corazon C. Aquino's intervention
Being outside the commerce of man, it may not be the
by writing her a letter on the matter. His letter was referred to
subject of lease or other contract (Villanueva et al. vs.
the city mayor for appropriate action. The acting Caloocan
Castañeda and Macalino, 15 SCRA 142, citing the
City secretary, Asuncion Manalo, in a letter dated August 1,
Municipality of Cavite vs. Rojas, 30 SCRA 602; Espiritu vs.
1988, informed the Presidential Staff Director that the city
Municipal Council of Pozorrubio, 102 Phil. 869; and Muyot
officials were still studying the issue of whether or not to
vs. De la Fuente, 48 O.G. 4860).
proceed with the demolition of the market stalls.
As the stallholders pay fees to the City Government for the
Dacanay filed a complaint against Mayor Asistio and
right to occupy portions of the public street, the City
Engineer Sarne (OMB-0-89-0146) in the Office of the
Government, contrary to law, has been leasing portions of
OMBUDSMAN. In their letter-comment dated April 3, 1989,
the streets to them. Such leases or licenses are null and void
said city officials explained that in view of the huge number
for being contrary to law. The right of the public to use the
of stallholders involved, not to mention their dependents, it
city streets may not be bargained away through contract.
would be harsh and inhuman to eject them from the area in
The interests of a few should not prevail over the good of the
question, for their relocation would not be an easy task.
greater number in the community whose health, peace,
safety, good order and general welfare, the respondent city
In reply, Dacanay maintained that respondents have been
officials are under legal obligation to protect.
derelict in the performance of their duties and through
manifest partiality constituting a violation of Section 3(e) of
The Executive Order issued by Acting Mayor Robles
R.A. 3019, have caused undue injury to the Government and
authorizing the use of Heroes del '96 Street as a vending
given unwarranted benefits to the stallholders.
area for stallholders who were granted licenses by the city
government contravenes the general law that reserves city

29
streets and roads for public use. Mayor Robles' Executive School
Order may not infringe upon the vested right of the public to ................................................ High School
2
use city streets for the purpose they were intended to serve: Playground
i.e., as arteries of travel for vehicles and pedestrians. As 9 ................................................ Burleighs
early as 1989, the public respondents bad started to look for ................................................ Hydro-
1
feasible alternative sites for flea markets. They have had Electric Site (Magay)
more than ample time to relocate the street vendors. 1 ................................................ San Roque
23 ................................................ vacant
WHEREFORE, it having been established that the petitioner
and the general public have a legal right to the relief It appears that in 1945, the capital of Zamboanga
demanded and that the public respondents have the Province was transferred to Dipolog. 2 Subsequently, or on
corresponding duty, arising from public office, to clear the June 16, 1948, Republic Act 286 was approved creating the
city streets and restore them to their specific public purpose municipality of Molave and making it the capital of
(Enriquez vs. Bidin, 47 SCRA 183; City of Manila vs. Garcia Zamboanga Province.
et al., 19 SCRA, 413 citing Unson vs. Lacson, 100 Phil. 695),
the respondents City Mayor and City Engineer of Caloocan On May 26, 1949, the Appraisal Committee formed by
City or their successors in office are hereby ordered to the Auditor General, pursuant to Commonwealth Act 39,
immediately enforce and implement the decision in Civil fixed the value of the properties and buildings in question left
by Zamboanga Province in Zamboanga City at
Case No. C-1292 declaring that Heroes del '96, V. Gozon, P1,294,244.00. 3
and Gonzales Streets are public streets for public use, and
they are ordered to remove or demolish, or cause to be
On June 6, 1952, Republic Act 711 was approved
removed or demolished, the market stalls occupying said city
dividing the province of Zamboanga into two (2): Zamboanga
streets with utmost dispatch within thirty (30)days from del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur. As to how the assets and
notice of this decision. This decision is immediately obligations of the old province were to be divided between
executory. the two new ones, Sec. 6 of that law provided:

SO ORDERED. Upon the approval of this Act, the funds, assets and other
properties and the obligations of the province of Zamboanga
G.R. No. L-24440 March 28, 1968 shall be divided equitably between the Province of
Zamboanga del Norte and the Province of Zamboanga del
Sur by the President of the Philippines, upon the
THE PROVINCE OF ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, plaintiff- recommendation of the Auditor General.
appellee,
vs.
CITY OF ZAMBOANGA, SECRETARY OF FINANCE and Pursuant thereto, the Auditor General, on January 11,
COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, defendants- 1955, apportioned the assets and obligations of the defunct
appellants. Province of Zamboanga as follows: 54.39% for Zamboanga
del Norte and 45.61% for Zamboanga del Sur. Zamboanga
del Norte therefore became entitled to 54.39% of
Fortugaleza, Lood, Sarmiento, M. T. Yap & Associates for P1,294,244.00, the total value of the lots and buildings in
plaintiff-appellee. question, or P704,220.05 payable by Zamboanga City.
Office of the Solicitor General for defendants-appellants.
On March 17, 1959, the Executive Secretary, by order
BENGZON, J.P., J.: of the President, issued a ruling 4 holding that Zamboanga
del Norte had a vested right as owner (should be co-owner
Prior to its incorporation as a chartered city, the pro-indiviso) of the properties mentioned in Sec. 50 of
Municipality of Zamboanga used to be the provincial capital Commonwealth Act 39, and is entitled to the price thereof,
of the then Zamboanga Province. On October 12, 1936, payable by Zamboanga City. This ruling revoked the
Commonwealth Act 39 was approved converting the previous Cabinet Resolution of July 13, 1951 conveying all
Municipality of Zamboanga into Zamboanga City. Sec. 50 of the said 50 lots and buildings thereon to Zamboanga City for
the Act also provided that — P1.00, effective as of 1945, when the provincial capital of the
then Zamboanga Province was transferred to Dipolog.

Buildings and properties which


the province shall abandon upon the The Secretary of Finance then authorized the
transfer of the capital to another place Commissioner of Internal Revenue to deduct an amount
will be acquired and paid for by the City equal to 25% of the regular internal revenue allotment for the
of Zamboanga at a price to be fixed by City of Zamboanga for the quarter ending March 31, 1960,
the Auditor General. then for the quarter ending June 30, 1960, and again for the
first quarter of the fiscal year 1960-1961. The deductions, all
aggregating P57,373.46, was credited to the province of
The properties and buildings referred to consisted of Zamboanga del Norte, in partial payment of the P764,220.05
50 lots and some buildings constructed thereon, located in due it.
the City of Zamboanga and covered individually by Torrens
certificates of title in the name of Zamboanga Province. As
far as can be gleaned from the records, 1 said properties However, on June 17, 1961, Republic Act 3039 was
were being utilized as follows — approved amending Sec. 50 of Commonwealth Act 39 by
providing that —

No. of
Use All buildings, properties and
Lots
assets belonging to the former province
1 ................................................ Capitol Site of Zamboanga and located within the
3 ................................................ School Site City of Zamboanga are hereby
................................................ Hospital transferred, free of charge, in favor of
3
Site the said City of Zamboanga. (Stressed
3 ................................................ Leprosarium for emphasis).
................................................ Curuan
1
School Consequently, the Secretary of Finance, on July 12,
................................................ Trade 1961, ordered the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to stop
1
School from effecting further payments to Zamboanga del Norte and
2 ................................................ Burleigh to return to Zamboanga City the sum of P57,373.46 taken

30
from it out of the internal revenue allotment of Zamboanga assertion that the law had already been violated and that
del Norte. Zamboanga City admits that since the enactment plaintiff sought to give it coercive effect, since assuming the
of Republic Act 3039, P43,030.11 of the P57,373.46 has same to be true, the Rules anyway authorize the conversion
already been returned to it. of the proceedings to an ordinary action, 5 We proceed to the
more important and principal question of the validity of
Republic Act 3039.
This constrained plaintiff-appellee Zamboanga del
Norte to file on March 5, 1962, a complaint entitled
"Declaratory Relief with Preliminary Mandatory Injunction" in The validity of the law ultimately depends on the
the Court of First Instance of Zamboanga del Norte against nature of the 50 lots and buildings thereon in question. For,
defendants-appellants Zamboanga City, the Secretary of the matter involved here is the extent of legislative control
Finance and the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. It was over the properties of a municipal corporation, of which a
prayed that: (a) Republic Act 3039 be declared province is one. The principle itself is simple: If the property
unconstitutional for depriving plaintiff province of property is owned by the municipality (meaning municipal
without due process and just compensation; (b) Plaintiff's corporation) in its public and governmental capacity, the
rights and obligations under said law be declared; (c) The property is public and Congress has absolute control over it.
Secretary of Finance and the Internal Revenue But if the property is owned in its private or proprietary
Commissioner be enjoined from reimbursing the sum of capacity, then it is patrimonial and Congress has no absolute
P57,373.46 to defendant City; and (d) The latter be ordered control. The municipality cannot be deprived of it without due
to continue paying the balance of P704,220.05 in quarterly process and payment of just compensation. 6
installments of 25% of its internal revenue allotments.
The capacity in which the property is held is, however,
On June 4, 1962, the lower court ordered the issuance dependent on the use to which it is intended and devoted.
of preliminary injunction as prayed for. After defendants filed Now, which of two norms, i.e., that of the Civil Code or that
their respective answers, trial was held. On August 12, 1963, obtaining under the law of Municipal Corporations, must be
judgment was rendered, the dispositive portion of which used in classifying the properties in question?
reads:
The Civil Code classification is embodied in its Arts.
WHEREFORE, judgment is 423 and 424 which provide:1äwphï1.ñët
hereby rendered declaring Republic Act
No. 3039 unconstitutional insofar as it
ART. 423. The property of
deprives plaintiff Zamboanga del Norte
provinces, cities, and municipalities is
of its private properties, consisting of 50
divided into property for public use and
parcels of land and the improvements
patrimonial property.
thereon under certificates of title
(Exhibits "A" to "A-49") in the name of
the defunct province of Zamboanga; ART. 424. Property for public use,
ordering defendant City of Zamboanga in the provinces, cities, and
to pay to the plaintiff the sum of municipalities, consists of the provincial
P704,220.05 payment thereof to be roads, city streets, municipal streets, the
deducted from its regular quarterly squares, fountains, public waters,
internal revenue allotment equivalent to promenades, and public works for public
25% thereof every quarter until said service paid for by said provinces, cities,
amount shall have been fully paid; or municipalities.
ordering defendant Secretary of Finance
to direct defendant Commissioner of
All other property possessed by any of
Internal Revenue to deduct 25% from
them is patrimonial and shall be
the regular quarterly internal revenue
governed by this Code, without
allotment for defendant City of
prejudice to the provisions of special
Zamboanga and to remit the same to
laws. (Stressed for emphasis).
plaintiff Zamboanga del Norte until said
sum of P704,220.05 shall have been
fully paid; ordering plaintiff Zamboanga Applying the above cited norm, all the properties in
del Norte to execute through its proper question, except the two (2) lots used as High School
officials the corresponding public playgrounds, could be considered as patrimonial properties
instrument deeding to defendant City of of the former Zamboanga province. Even the capital site, the
Zamboanga the 50 parcels of land and hospital and leprosarium sites, and the school sites will be
the improvements thereon under the considered patrimonial for they are not for public use. They
certificates of title (Exhibits "A" to "A- would fall under the phrase "public works for public service"
49") upon payment by the latter of the for it has been held that under the ejusdem generis rule,
aforesaid sum of P704,220.05 in full; such public works must be for free and indiscriminate use by
dismissing the counterclaim of anyone, just like the preceding enumerated properties in the
defendant City of Zamboanga; and first paragraph of Art 424. 7 The playgrounds, however, would
declaring permanent the preliminary fit into this category.
mandatory injunction issued on June 8,
1962, pursuant to the order of the Court
dated June 4, 1962. No costs are This was the norm applied by the lower court. And it
assessed against the defendants. cannot be said that its actuation was without jurisprudential
precedent for in Municipality of Catbalogan v. Director of
Lands, 8 and in Municipality of Tacloban v. Director of Lands,
It is SO ORDERED. 9
it was held that the capitol site and the school sites in
municipalities constitute their patrimonial properties. This
result is understandable because, unlike in the classification
Subsequently, but prior to the perfection of
regarding State properties, properties for public service in
defendants' appeal, plaintiff province filed a motion to
the municipalities are not classified as public. Assuming then
reconsider praying that Zamboanga City be ordered instead
the Civil Code classification to be the chosen norm, the
to pay the P704,220.05 in lump sum with 6% interest per
lower court must be affirmed except with regard to the two
annum. Over defendants' opposition, the lower court granted
(2) lots used as playgrounds.
plaintiff province's motion.

On the other hand, applying the norm obtaining under


The defendants then brought the case before Us on
the principles constituting the law of Municipal Corporations,
appeal.
all those of the 50 properties in question which are devoted
to public service are deemed public; the rest remain
Brushing aside the procedural point concerning the patrimonial. Under this norm, to be considered public, it is
property of declaratory relief filed in the lower court on the enough that the property be held and, devoted for

31
governmental purposes like local administration, public that of Civil Law. Moreover, this Court is not inclined to hold
education, public health, etc. 10 that municipal property held and devoted to public service is
in the same category as ordinary private property. The
consequences are dire. As ordinary private properties, they
Supporting jurisprudence are found in the following
can be levied upon and attached. They can even be
cases: (1) HINUNANGAN V. DIRECTOR OF LANDS, 11
acquired thru adverse possession — all these to the
where it was stated that "... where the municipality has
detriment of the local community. Lastly, the classification of
occupied lands distinctly for public purposes, such as for the
properties other than those for public use in the
municipal court house, the public school, the public market,
municipalities as patrimonial under Art. 424 of the Civil Code
or other necessary municipal building, we will, in the
— is "... without prejudice to the provisions of special laws."
absence of proof to the contrary, presume a grant from the
For purpose of this article, the principles, obtaining under the
States in favor of the municipality; but, as indicated by the
Law of Municipal Corporations can be considered as "special
wording, that rule may be invoked only as to property which
laws". Hence, the classification of municipal property
is used distinctly for public purposes...." (2) VIUDA DE
devoted for distinctly governmental purposes as public
TANTOCO V. MUNICIPAL COUNCIL OF ILOILO 12 held that
should prevail over the Civil Code classification in this
municipal properties necessary for governmental purposes
particular case.
are public in nature. Thus, the auto trucks used by the
municipality for street sprinkling, the police patrol
automobile, police stations and concrete structures with the Defendants' claim that plaintiff and its predecessor-in-
corresponding lots used as markets were declared exempt interest are "guilty of laches is without merit. Under
from execution and attachment since they were not Commonwealth Act 39, Sec. 50, the cause of action in favor
patrimonial properties. (3) MUNICIPALITY OF BATANGAS of the defunct Zamboanga Province arose only in 1949 after
VS. CANTOS 13 held squarely that a municipal lot which had the Auditor General fixed the value of the properties in
always been devoted to school purposes is one dedicated to question. While in 1951, the Cabinet resolved transfer said
public use and is not patrimonial property of a municipality. properties practically for free to Zamboanga City, a
reconsideration thereof was seasonably sought. In 1952, the
old province was dissolved. As successor-in-interest to more
Following this classification, Republic Act 3039 is valid
than half of the properties involved, Zamboanga del Norte
insofar as it affects the lots used as capitol site, school sites
was able to get a reconsideration of the Cabinet Resolution
and its grounds, hospital and leprosarium sites and the high
in 1959. In fact, partial payments were effected subsequently
school playground sites — a total of 24 lots — since these
and it was only after the passage of Republic Act 3039 in
were held by the former Zamboanga province in its
1961 that the present controversy arose. Plaintiff brought
governmental capacity and therefore are subject to the
suit in 1962. All the foregoing, negative laches.
absolute control of Congress. Said lots considered as public
property are the following:
It results then that Zamboanga del Norte is still entitled
to collect from the City of Zamboanga the former's 54.39%
We noticed that the eight Burleigh lots above
share in the 26 properties which are patrimonial in nature,
described are adjoining each other and in turn are between
said share to computed on the basis of the valuation of said
the two lots wherein the Burleigh schools are built, as per
26 properties as contained in Resolution No. 7, dated March
records appearing herein and in the Bureau of Lands.
26, 1949, of the Appraisal Committee formed by the Auditor
Hence, there is sufficient basis for holding that said eight lots
General.
constitute the appurtenant grounds of the Burleigh schools,
and partake of the nature of the same.
Plaintiff's share, however, cannot be paid in lump sum,
except as to the P43,030.11 already returned to defendant
Regarding the several buildings existing on the lots
City. The return of said amount to defendant was without
above-mentioned, the records do not disclose whether they
legal basis. Republic Act 3039 took effect only on June 17,
were constructed at the expense of the former Province of
1961 after a partial payment of P57,373.46 had already been
Zamboanga. Considering however the fact that said
made. Since the law did not provide for retroactivity, it could
buildings must have been erected even before 1936 when
not have validly affected a completed act. Hence, the
Commonwealth Act 39 was enacted and the further fact that
amount of P43,030.11 should be immediately returned by
provinces then had no power to authorize construction of
defendant City to plaintiff province. The remaining balance, if
buildings such as those in the case at bar at their own
any, in the amount of plaintiff's 54.39% share in the 26 lots
expense, 14 it can be assumed that said buildings were
should then be paid by defendant City in the same manner
erected by the National Government, using national funds.
originally adopted by the Secretary of Finance and the
Hence, Congress could very well dispose of said buildings in
Commissioner of Internal Revenue, and not in lump sum.
the same manner that it did with the lots in question.
Plaintiff's prayer, particularly pars. 5 and 6, read together
with pars. 10 and 11 of the first cause of action recited in the
But even assuming that provincial funds were used, complaint 17 clearly shows that the relief sought was merely
still the buildings constitute mere accessories to the lands, the continuance of the quarterly payments from the internal
which are public in nature, and so, they follow the nature of revenue allotments of defendant City. Art. 1169 of the Civil
said lands, i.e., public. Moreover, said buildings, though Code on reciprocal obligations invoked by plaintiff to justify
located in the city, will not be for the exclusive use and lump sum payment is inapplicable since there has been so
benefit of city residents for they could be availed of also by far in legal contemplation no complete delivery of the lots in
the provincial residents. The province then — and its question. The titles to the registered lots are not yet in the
successors-in-interest — are not really deprived of the name of defendant Zamboanga City.
benefits thereof.
WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby
But Republic Act 3039 cannot be applied to deprive set aside and another judgment is hereby entered as
Zamboanga del Norte of its share in the value of the rest of follows:.
the 26 remaining lots which are patrimonial properties since
they are not being utilized for distinctly, governmental
(1) Defendant Zamboanga City is hereby ordered to
purposes. Said lots are:
return to plaintiff Zamboanga del Norte in lump sum the
amount of P43,030.11 which the former took back from the
Moreover, the fact that these 26 lots are registered latter out of the sum of P57,373.46 previously paid to the
strengthens the proposition that they are truly private in latter; and
nature. On the other hand, that the 24 lots used for
governmental purposes are also registered is of no
(2) Defendants are hereby ordered to effect payments
significance since registration cannot convert public property
in favor of plaintiff of whatever balance remains of plaintiff's
to private. 16
54.39% share in the 26 patrimonial properties, after
deducting therefrom the sum of P57,373.46, on the basis of
We are more inclined to uphold this latter view. The Resolution No. 7 dated March 26, 1949 of the Appraisal
controversy here is more along the domains of the Law of Committee formed by the Auditor General, by way of
Municipal Corporations — State vs. Province — than along quarterly payments from the allotments of defendant City, in

32
the manner originally adopted by the Secretary of Finance and became the private or patrimonial property of
and the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. No costs. So the State.
ordered.
IV. The lower court erred in not holding that the
G.R. No. L-12958 May 30, 1960 oppositor Director of Lands is now in estoppel
from claiming the land in question as a land of the
public domain.
FAUSTINO IGNACIO, applicant-appellant,
vs.
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS and LAUREANO Appellant contends that the parcel belongs to him by the law
VALERIANO, oppositors-appellees. of accretion, having been formed by gradual deposit by
action of the Manila Bay, and he cites Article 457 of the New
Civil Code (Article 366, Old Civil Code), which provides that:
Acting Assistant Solicitor General Pacifico P. de Castro and
Solicitor Crispin V. Bautista for appellee Director of Lands.
Benjamin H. Aquino for appellee Laureano Veleriano. To the owners of lands adjoining the banks of
rivers belong the accretion which they gradually
receive from the effects of the current of the
MONTEMAYOR, J.:
waters.

Faustino Ignacio is appealing the decision of the Court of


The article cited is clearly inapplicable because it refers to
First Instance of Rizal, dismissing his application for the
accretion or deposits on the banks of rivers, while the
registration of a parcel of land.
accretion in the present case was caused by action of the
Manila Bay.
On January 25, 1950, Ignacio filed an application for the
registration of a parcel of land (mangrove), situated in barrio
Appellant next contends that Articles 1, 4 and 5 of the Law of
Gasac, Navotas, Rizal, with an area of 37,877 square
Waters are not applicable because they refer to accretions
meters. Later, he amended his application by alleging
formed by the sea, and that Manila Bay cannot be
among others that he owned the parcel applied for by right of
considered as a sea. We find said contention untenable. A
accretion. To the application, the Director of Lands,
bay is a part of the sea, being a mere indentation of the
Laureano Valeriano and Domingo Gutierrez filed
same:
oppositions. Gutierrez later withdrew his opposition. The
Director of Lands claimed the parcel applied for as a portion
of the public domain, for the reason that neither the applicant Bay. — An opening into the land where the water
nor his predecessor-in-interest possessed sufficient title is shut in on all sides except at the entrance; an
thereto, not having acquired it either by composition title inlet of the sea; an arm of the sea, distinct from a
from the Spanish government or by possessory information river, a bending or curbing of the shore of the sea
title under the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894, and that or of a lake. 7 C.J. 1013-1014 (Cited in Francisco,
he had not possessed the same openly, continuously and Philippine Law of Waters and Water Rights p. 6)
adversely under a bona fide claim of ownership since July
26, 1894. In his turn, Valeriano alleged he was holding the
Moreover, this Tribunal has some cases applied the Law of
land by virtue of a permit granted him by the Bureau of
Waters on Lands bordering Manila Bay. (See the cases of
Fisheries, issued on January 13, 1947, and approved by the
Ker & Co. vs. Cauden, 6 Phil., 732, involving a parcel of land
President.
bounded on the sides by Manila Bay, where it was held that
such land formed by the action of the sea is property of the
It is not disputed that the land applied for adjoins a parcel State; Francisco vs. Government of the P.I., 28 Phil., 505,
owned by the applicant which he had acquired from the involving a land claimed by a private person and subject to
Government by virtue of a free patent title in 1936. It has the ebb and flow of the tides of the Manila Bay).
also been established that the parcel in question was formed
by accretion and alluvial deposits caused by the action of the
Then the applicant argues that granting that the land in
Manila Bay which boarders it on the southwest. Applicant
question formed part of the public domain, having been
Ignacio claims that he had occupied the land since 1935,
gained from the sea, the trial court should have declared the
planting it with api-api trees, and that his possession thereof
same no longer necessary for any public use or purpose,
had been continuous, adverse and public for a period of
and therefore, became disposable and available for private
twenty years until said possession was distributed by
ownership. Article 4 of the Law of Waters of 1866 reads
oppositor Valeriano.
thus:

On the other hand, the Director of Lands sought to prove


ART. 4. Lands added to the shores by accretions
that the parcel is foreshore land, covered by the ebb and
and alluvial deposits caused by the action of the
flow of the tide and, therefore, formed part of the public
sea, form part of the public domain. When they are
domain.
no longer washed by the waters of the sea and are
not necessary for purposes of public utility, or for
After hearing, the trial court dismissed the application, the establishment of special industries, or for the
holding that the parcel formed part of the public domain. In coastguard service, the Government shall declare
his appeal, Ignacio assigns the following errors: them to be the property of the owners of the
estates adjacent thereto and as increment thereof.
I. The lower court erred in holding that the land in
question, altho an accretion to the land of the Interpreting Article 4 of the Law of Waters of 1866, in the
applicant-appellant, does not belong to him but case of Natividad vs. Director of Lands, (CA) 37 Off. Gaz.,
forms part of the public domain. 2905, it was there held that:

II. Granting that the land in question forms part of Article 4 of the Law of Waters of 1866 provides
the public domain, the lower court nevertheless that when a portion of the shore is no longer
erred in not declaring the same to be the washed by the waters of the sea and is not
necessary for any public use or purpose and in not necessary for purposes of public utility, or for the
ordering in the present registration proceedings. establishment of special industries, or for
coastguard service, the government shall declare
it to be the property of the owners of the estates
III. The lower court erred in not holding that the
adjacent thereto and as an increment thereof. We
land in question now belongs to the applicant-
believe that only the executive and possibly the
appellant by virtue of acquisitive prescription, the
legislative departments have the authority and the
said land having ceased to be of the public domain
power to make the declaration that any land so
gained by the sea, is not necessary for purposes

33
of public utility, or for the establishment of special It is of public dominion unless it is convincingly shown
industries, on for coast-guard service. If no such that the property has become patrimonial. The
declaration has been made by said departments, respondents have failed to do so.
the lot in question forms part of the public domain.
(Natividad vs. Director of Lands, supra.)
As property of public dominion, the Roppongi lot is outside
the commerce of man. It cannot be alienated. Its
The reason for this pronouncement, according to this ownership is a special collective ownership for general
Tribunal in the case of Vicente Joven y Monteverde vs.
use and payment, in application to the satisfaction of
Director of Lands, 93 Phil., 134, (cited in Velayo's Digest, VI.
I, p. 52). collective needs, and resides in the social group. The
purpose is not to serve the State as the juridical person but
the citizens; it is intended for the common and public
. . . is undoubtedly that the courts are neither
welfare and cannot be the object of appropriation.
primarily called upon, nor indeed in a position to
determine whether any public land are to be used
for the purposes specified in Article 4 of the Law of The fact that the Roppongi site has not been used for a long
Waters. time for actual Embassy service doesn’t automatically
convert it to patrimonial property. Any such conversion
Consequently, until a formal declaration on the part of the happens only if the property is withdrawn from public use. A
Government, through the executive department or the property continues to be part of the public domain, not
Legislature, to the effect that the land in question is no available for private appropriation or ownership until there is
longer needed for coast guard service, for public use or for a formal declaration on the part of the government to
special industries, they continue to be part of the public withdraw it from being such.
domain, not available for private appropriation or ownership.

G.R. No. 92013 July 25, 1990


Appellant next contends that he had acquired the parcel in
question through acquisitive prescription, having possessed
the same for over ten years. In answer, suffice it to say that SALVADOR H. LAUREL, petitioner,
land of the public domain is not subject to ordinary vs.
prescription. In the case of Insular Government vs. Aldecoa RAMON GARCIA, as head of the Asset Privatization
& Co., 19 Phil., 505 this Court said: Trust, RAUL MANGLAPUS, as Secretary of Foreign
Affairs, and CATALINO MACARAIG, as Executive
Secretary, respondents.
The occupation or material possession of any land
formed upon the shore by accretion, without
previous permission from the proper authorities, G.R. No. 92047 July 25, 1990
although the occupant may have held the same as
owner for seventeen years and constructed a
DIONISIO S. OJEDA, petitioner,
wharf on the land, is illegal and is a mere detainer,
vs.
inasmuch as such land is outside of the sphere of
EXECUTIVE SECRETARY MACARAIG, JR., ASSETS
commerce; it pertains to the national domain; it is
PRIVATIZATION TRUST CHAIRMAN RAMON T. GARCIA,
intended for public uses and for the benefit of
AMBASSADOR RAMON DEL ROSARIO, et al., as
those who live nearby.
members of the PRINCIPAL AND BIDDING
COMMITTEES ON THE UTILIZATION/DISPOSITION
We deem it unnecessary to discuss the other points raised in PETITION OF PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT PROPERTIES
the appeal. IN JAPAN, respondents.

In view of the foregoing, the appealed decision is hereby Arturo M. Tolentino for petitioner in 92013.
affirmed, with costs.
GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:
LAUREL V. GARCIA
These are two petitions for prohibition seeking to enjoin
187 SCRA 797 respondents, their representatives and agents from
proceeding with the bidding for the sale of the 3,179 square
meters of land at 306 Roppongi, 5-Chome Minato-ku Tokyo,
Japan scheduled on February 21, 1990. We granted the
prayer for a temporary restraining order effective February
20, 1990. One of the petitioners (in G.R. No. 92047) likewise
prayes for a writ of mandamus to compel the respondents to
FACTS:
fully disclose to the public the basis of their decision to push
through with the sale of the Roppongi property inspire of
The subject Roppongi property is one of the properties strong public opposition and to explain the proceedings
acquired by the Philippines from Japan pursuant to a which effectively prevent the participation of Filipino citizens
Reparations Agreement. The property is where the and entities in the bidding process.
Philippine Embassy was once located, before it transferred
to the Nampeidai property. It was decided that the The oral arguments in G.R. No. 92013, Laurel v. Garcia, et
properties would be al. were heard by the Court on March 13, 1990. After G.R.
No. 92047, Ojeda v. Secretary Macaraig, et al. was filed, the
available to sale or disposition. One of the first properties respondents were required to file a comment by the Court's
opened up for public auction was the Roppongi property, resolution dated February 22, 1990. The two petitions were
consolidated on March 27, 1990 when the memoranda of the
despite numerous oppositions from different sectors.
parties in the Laurel case were deliberated upon.
HELD:
The Court could not act on these cases immediately
The Roppongi property was acquired together with the because the respondents filed a motion for an extension of
thirty (30) days to file comment in G.R. No. 92047, followed
other properties through reparation agreements. They
by a second motion for an extension of another thirty (30)
were assigned to the government sector and that the days which we granted on May 8, 1990, a third motion for
Roppongi property was specifically designated under the extension of time granted on May 24, 1990 and a fourth
agreement to house the Philippine embassy. motion for extension of time which we granted on June 5,
1990 but calling the attention of the respondents to the
length of time the petitions have been pending. After the

34
comment was filed, the petitioner in G.R. No. 92047 asked through Administrative Order No. 3, followed by
for thirty (30) days to file a reply. We noted his motion and Administrative Orders Numbered 3-A, B, C and D.
resolved to decide the two (2) cases.
On July 25, 1987, the President issued Executive Order No.
I 296 entitling non-Filipino citizens or entities to avail of
separations' capital goods and services in the event of sale,
lease or disposition. The four properties in Japan including
The subject property in this case is one of the four (4)
the Roppongi were specifically mentioned in the first
properties in Japan acquired by the Philippine government
"Whereas" clause.
under the Reparations Agreement entered into with Japan
on May 9, 1956, the other lots being:
Amidst opposition by various sectors, the Executive branch
of the government has been pushing, with great vigor, its
(1) The Nampeidai Property at 11-24 Nampeidai-machi,
decision to sell the reparations properties starting with the
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo which has an area of approximately
Roppongi lot. The property has twice been set for bidding at
2,489.96 square meters, and is at present the site of the
a minimum floor price of $225 million. The first bidding was a
Philippine Embassy Chancery;
failure since only one bidder qualified. The second one, after
postponements, has not yet materialized. The last scheduled
(2) The Kobe Commercial Property at 63 Naniwa-cho, Kobe, bidding on February 21, 1990 was restrained by his Court.
with an area of around 764.72 square meters and Later, the rules on bidding were changed such that the $225
categorized as a commercial lot now being used as a million floor price became merely a suggested floor price.
warehouse and parking lot for the consulate staff; and
The Court finds that each of the herein petitions raises
(3) The Kobe Residential Property at 1-980-2 Obanoyama- distinct issues. The petitioner in G.R. No. 92013 objects to
cho, Shinohara, Nada-ku, Kobe, a residential lot which is the alienation of the Roppongi property to anyone while the
now vacant. petitioner in G.R. No. 92047 adds as a principal objection the
alleged unjustified bias of the Philippine government in favor
of selling the property to non-Filipino citizens and entities.
The properties and the capital goods and services procured These petitions have been consolidated and are resolved at
from the Japanese government for national development the same time for the objective is the same - to stop the sale
projects are part of the indemnification to the Filipino people of the Roppongi property.
for their losses in life and property and their suffering during
World War II.
The petitioner in G.R. No. 92013 raises the following issues:
The Reparations Agreement provides that reparations
valued at $550 million would be payable in twenty (20) years (1) Can the Roppongi property and others of its kind be
in accordance with annual schedules of procurements to be alienated by the Philippine Government?; and
fixed by the Philippine and Japanese governments (Article 2,
Reparations Agreement). Rep. Act No. 1789, the
(2) Does the Chief Executive, her officers and agents, have
Reparations Law, prescribes the national policy on
the authority and jurisdiction, to sell the Roppongi property?
procurement and utilization of reparations and development
loans. The procurements are divided into those for use by
the government sector and those for private parties in Petitioner Dionisio Ojeda in G.R. No. 92047, apart from
projects as the then National Economic Council shall questioning the authority of the government to alienate the
determine. Those intended for the private sector shall be Roppongi property assails the constitutionality of Executive
made available by sale to Filipino citizens or to one hundred Order No. 296 in making the property available for sale to
(100%) percent Filipino-owned entities in national non-Filipino citizens and entities. He also questions the
development projects. bidding procedures of the Committee on the Utilization or
Disposition of Philippine Government Properties in Japan for
being discriminatory against Filipino citizens and Filipino-
The Roppongi property was acquired from the Japanese
owned entities by denying them the right to be informed
government under the Second Year Schedule and listed
about the bidding requirements.
under the heading "Government Sector", through
Reparations Contract No. 300 dated June 27, 1958. The
Roppongi property consists of the land and building "for the II
Chancery of the Philippine Embassy" (Annex M-D to
Memorandum for Petitioner, p. 503). As intended, it became
In G.R. No. 92013, petitioner Laurel asserts that the
the site of the Philippine Embassy until the latter was
Roppongi property and the related lots were acquired as part
transferred to Nampeidai on July 22, 1976 when the
of the reparations from the Japanese government for
Roppongi building needed major repairs. Due to the failure
diplomatic and consular use by the Philippine government.
of our government to provide necessary funds, the Roppongi
Vice-President Laurel states that the Roppongi property is
property has remained undeveloped since that time.
classified as one of public dominion, and not of private
ownership under Article 420 of the Civil Code (See infra).
A proposal was presented to President Corazon C. Aquino
by former Philippine Ambassador to Japan, Carlos J. Valdez,
The petitioner submits that the Roppongi property comes
to make the property the subject of a lease agreement with a
under "property intended for public service" in paragraph 2 of
Japanese firm - Kajima Corporation — which shall construct
the above provision. He states that being one of public
two (2) buildings in Roppongi and one (1) building in
dominion, no ownership by any one can attach to it, not even
Nampeidai and renovate the present Philippine Chancery in
by the State. The Roppongi and related properties were
Nampeidai. The consideration of the construction would be
acquired for "sites for chancery, diplomatic, and consular
the lease to the foreign corporation of one (1) of the
quarters, buildings and other improvements" (Second Year
buildings to be constructed in Roppongi and the two (2)
Reparations Schedule). The petitioner states that they
buildings in Nampeidai. The other building in Roppongi shall
continue to be intended for a necessary service. They are
then be used as the Philippine Embassy Chancery. At the
held by the State in anticipation of an opportune use. (Citing
end of the lease period, all the three leased buildings shall
3 Manresa 65-66). Hence, it cannot be appropriated, is
be occupied and used by the Philippine government. No
outside the commerce of man, or to put it in more simple
change of ownership or title shall occur. (See Annex "B" to
terms, it cannot be alienated nor be the subject matter of
Reply to Comment) The Philippine government retains the
contracts (Citing Municipality of Cavite v. Rojas, 30 Phil. 20
title all throughout the lease period and thereafter. However,
[1915]). Noting the non-use of the Roppongi property at the
the government has not acted favorably on this proposal
moment, the petitioner avers that the same remains property
which is pending approval and ratification between the
of public dominion so long as the government has not used it
parties. Instead, on August 11, 1986, President Aquino
for other purposes nor adopted any measure constituting a
created a committee to study the disposition/utilization of
removal of its original purpose or use.
Philippine government properties in Tokyo and Kobe, Japan

35
The respondents, for their part, refute the petitioner's selection of qualified bidders should be done in Tokyo,
contention by saying that the subject property is not interested Filipino citizens or entities owned by them did not
governed by our Civil Code but by the laws of Japan where have the chance to comply with Purchase Offer
the property is located. They rely upon the rule of lex situs Requirements on the Roppongi. Worse, the Roppongi shall
which is used in determining the applicable law regarding the be sold for a minimum price of $225 million from which price
acquisition, transfer and devolution of the title to a property. capital gains tax under Japanese law of about 50 to 70% of
They also invoke Opinion No. 21, Series of 1988, dated the floor price would still be deducted.
January 27, 1988 of the Secretary of Justice which used the
lex situs in explaining the inapplicability of Philippine law
IV
regarding a property situated in Japan.

The petitioners and respondents in both cases do not


The respondents add that even assuming for the sake of
dispute the fact that the Roppongi site and the three related
argument that the Civil Code is applicable, the Roppongi
properties were through reparations agreements, that these
property has ceased to become property of public dominion.
were assigned to the government sector and that the
It has become patrimonial property because it has not been
Roppongi property itself was specifically designated under
used for public service or for diplomatic purposes for over
the Reparations Agreement to house the Philippine
thirteen (13) years now (Citing Article 422, Civil Code) and
Embassy.
because the intention by the Executive Department and the
Congress to convert it to private use has been manifested by
overt acts, such as, among others: (1) the transfer of the The nature of the Roppongi lot as property for public service
Philippine Embassy to Nampeidai (2) the issuance of is expressly spelled out. It is dictated by the terms of the
administrative orders for the possibility of alienating the four Reparations Agreement and the corresponding contract of
government properties in Japan; (3) the issuance of procurement which bind both the Philippine government and
Executive Order No. 296; (4) the enactment by the Congress the Japanese government.
of Rep. Act No. 6657 [the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform
Law] on June 10, 1988 which contains a provision stating
There can be no doubt that it is of public dominion unless it
that funds may be taken from the sale of Philippine
is convincingly shown that the property has become
properties in foreign countries; (5) the holding of the public
patrimonial. This, the respondents have failed to do.
bidding of the Roppongi property but which failed; (6) the
deferment by the Senate in Resolution No. 55 of the bidding
to a future date; thus an acknowledgment by the Senate of As property of public dominion, the Roppongi lot is outside
the government's intention to remove the Roppongi property the commerce of man. It cannot be alienated. Its ownership
from the public service purpose; and (7) the resolution of this is a special collective ownership for general use and
Court dismissing the petition in Ojeda v. Bidding Committee, enjoyment, an application to the satisfaction of collective
et al., G.R. No. 87478 which sought to enjoin the second needs, and resides in the social group. The purpose is not to
bidding of the Roppongi property scheduled on March 30, serve the State as a juridical person, but the citizens; it is
1989. intended for the common and public welfare and cannot be
the object of appropration. (Taken from 3 Manresa, 66-69;
cited in Tolentino, Commentaries on the Civil Code of the
III
Philippines, 1963 Edition, Vol. II, p. 26).

In G.R. No. 94047, petitioner Ojeda once more asks this


The applicable provisions of the Civil Code are:
Court to rule on the constitutionality of Executive Order No.
296. He had earlier filed a petition in G.R. No. 87478 which
the Court dismissed on August 1, 1989. He now avers that ART. 419. Property is either of public
the executive order contravenes the constitutional mandate dominion or of private ownership.
to conserve and develop the national patrimony stated in the
Preamble of the 1987 Constitution. It also allegedly violates:
ART. 420. The following things are
property of public dominion
(1) The reservation of the ownership and acquisition of
alienable lands of the public domain to Filipino citizens.
(Sections 2 and 3, Article XII, Constitution; Sections 22 and (1) Those intended for public use, such
23 of Commonwealth Act 141).i•t•c-aüsl as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports
and bridges constructed by the State,
banks shores roadsteads, and others of
(2) The preference for Filipino citizens in the grant of rights, similar character;
privileges and concessions covering the national economy
and patrimony (Section 10, Article VI, Constitution);
(2) Those which belong to the State,
without being for public use, and are
(3) The protection given to Filipino enterprises against unfair intended for some public service or for
competition and trade practices; the development of the national wealth.

(4) The guarantee of the right of the people to information on ART. 421. All other property of the
all matters of public concern (Section 7, Article III, State, which is not of the character
Constitution); stated in the preceding article, is
patrimonial property.
(5) The prohibition against the sale to non-Filipino citizens or
entities not wholly owned by Filipino citizens of capital goods The Roppongi property is correctly classified under
received by the Philippines under the Reparations Act paragraph 2 of Article 420 of the Civil Code as property
(Sections 2 and 12 of Rep. Act No. 1789); and belonging to the State and intended for some public service.

(6) The declaration of the state policy of full public disclosure Has the intention of the government regarding the use of the
of all transactions involving public interest (Section 28, property been changed because the lot has been Idle for
Article III, Constitution). some years? Has it become patrimonial?

Petitioner Ojeda warns that the use of public funds in the The fact that the Roppongi site has not been used for a long
execution of an unconstitutional executive order is a time for actual Embassy service does not automatically
misapplication of public funds He states that since the details convert it to patrimonial property. Any such conversion
of the bidding for the Roppongi property were never publicly happens only if the property is withdrawn from public use
disclosed until February 15, 1990 (or a few days before the (Cebu Oxygen and Acetylene Co. v. Bercilles, 66 SCRA 481
scheduled bidding), the bidding guidelines are available only [1975]). A property continues to be part of the public domain,
in Tokyo, and the accomplishment of requirements and the not available for private appropriation or ownership until

36
there is a formal declaration on the part of the government to extremely valuable government property, Japanese law and
withdraw it from being such (Ignacio v. Director of Lands, not Philippine law should prevail. The Japanese law - its
108 Phil. 335 [1960]). coverage and effects, when enacted, and exceptions to its
provision — is not presented to the Court It is simply
asserted that the lex loci rei sitae or Japanese law should
The respondents enumerate various pronouncements by
apply without stating what that law provides. It is a ed on
concerned public officials insinuating a change of intention.
faith that Japanese law would allow the sale.
We emphasize, however, that an abandonment of the
intention to use the Roppongi property for public service and
to make it patrimonial property under Article 422 of the Civil We see no reason why a conflict of law rule should apply
Code must be definite Abandonment cannot be inferred from when no conflict of law situation exists. A conflict of law
the non-use alone specially if the non-use was attributable situation arises only when: (1) There is a dispute over the
not to the government's own deliberate and indubitable will title or ownership of an immovable, such that the capacity to
but to a lack of financial support to repair and improve the take and transfer immovables, the formalities of conveyance,
property (See Heirs of Felino Santiago v. Lazaro, 166 SCRA the essential validity and effect of the transfer, or the
368 [1988]). Abandonment must be a certain and positive interpretation and effect of a conveyance, are to be
act based on correct legal premises. determined (See Salonga, Private International Law, 1981
ed., pp. 377-383); and (2) A foreign law on land ownership
and its conveyance is asserted to conflict with a domestic
A mere transfer of the Philippine Embassy to Nampeidai in
law on the same matters. Hence, the need to determine
1976 is not relinquishment of the Roppongi property's
which law should apply.
original purpose. Even the failure by the government to
repair the building in Roppongi is not abandonment since as
earlier stated, there simply was a shortage of government In the instant case, none of the above elements exists.
funds. The recent Administrative Orders authorizing a study
of the status and conditions of government properties in
The issues are not concerned with validity of ownership or
Japan were merely directives for investigation but did not in
title. There is no question that the property belongs to the
any way signify a clear intention to dispose of the properties.
Philippines. The issue is the authority of the respondent
officials to validly dispose of property belonging to the State.
Executive Order No. 296, though its title declares an And the validity of the procedures adopted to effect its sale.
"authority to sell", does not have a provision in its text This is governed by Philippine Law. The rule of lex situs
expressly authorizing the sale of the four properties procured does not apply.
from Japan for the government sector. The executive order
does not declare that the properties lost their public
The assertion that the opinion of the Secretary of Justice
character. It merely intends to make the properties available
sheds light on the relevance of the lex situs rule is
to foreigners and not to Filipinos alone in case of a sale,
misplaced. The opinion does not tackle the alienability of the
lease or other disposition. It merely eliminates the restriction
real properties procured through reparations nor the
under Rep. Act No. 1789 that reparations goods may be sold
existence in what body of the authority to sell them. In
only to Filipino citizens and one hundred (100%) percent
discussing who are capable of acquiring the lots, the
Filipino-owned entities. The text of Executive Order No. 296
Secretary merely explains that it is the foreign law which
provides:
should determine who can acquire the properties so that the
constitutional limitation on acquisition of lands of the public
Section 1. The provisions of Republic domain to Filipino citizens and entities wholly owned by
Act No. 1789, as amended, and of other Filipinos is inapplicable. We see no point in belaboring
laws to the contrary notwithstanding, the whether or not this opinion is correct. Why should we
above-mentioned properties can be discuss who can acquire the Roppongi lot when there is no
made available for sale, lease or any showing that it can be sold?
other manner of disposition to non-
Filipino citizens or to entities owned by
The subsequent approval on October 4, 1988 by President
non-Filipino citizens.
Aquino of the recommendation by the investigating
committee to sell the Roppongi property was premature or,
Executive Order No. 296 is based on the wrong premise or at the very least, conditioned on a valid change in the public
assumption that the Roppongi and the three other properties character of the Roppongi property. Moreover, the approval
were earlier converted into alienable real properties. As does not have the force and effect of law since the President
earlier stated, Rep. Act No. 1789 differentiates the already lost her legislative powers. The Congress had
procurements for the government sector and the private already convened for more than a year.
sector (Sections 2 and 12, Rep. Act No. 1789). Only the
private sector properties can be sold to end-users who must
Assuming for the sake of argument, however, that the
be Filipinos or entities owned by Filipinos. It is this nationality
Roppongi property is no longer of public dominion, there is
provision which was amended by Executive Order No. 296.
another obstacle to its sale by the respondents.

Section 63 (c) of Rep. Act No. 6657 (the CARP Law) which
There is no law authorizing its conveyance.
provides as one of the sources of funds for its
implementation, the proceeds of the disposition of the
properties of the Government in foreign countries, did not Section 79 (f) of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917
withdraw the Roppongi property from being classified as one provides
of public dominion when it mentions Philippine properties
abroad. Section 63 (c) refers to properties which are
Section 79 (f ) Conveyances and
alienable and not to those reserved for public use or service.
contracts to which the Government is a
Rep Act No. 6657, therefore, does not authorize the
party. — In cases in which the
Executive Department to sell the Roppongi property. It
Government of the Republic of the
merely enumerates possible sources of future funding to
Philippines is a party to any deed or
augment (as and when needed) the Agrarian Reform Fund
other instrument conveying the title to
created under Executive Order No. 299. Obviously any
real estate or to any other property the
property outside of the commerce of man cannot be tapped
value of which is in excess of one
as a source of funds.
hundred thousand pesos, the respective
Department Secretary shall prepare the
The respondents try to get around the public dominion necessary papers which, together with
character of the Roppongi property by insisting that the proper recommendations, shall be
Japanese law and not our Civil Code should apply. submitted to the Congress of the
Philippines for approval by the same.
Such deed, instrument, or contract shall
It is exceedingly strange why our top government officials, of
be executed and signed by the
all people, should be the ones to insist that in the sale of
President of the Philippines on behalf of

37
the Government of the Philippines The Court does not ordinarily pass upon constitutional
unless the Government of the questions unless these questions are properly raised in
Philippines unless the authority therefor appropriate cases and their resolution is necessary for the
be expressly vested by law in another determination of the case (People v. Vera, 65 Phil. 56
officer. (Emphasis supplied) [1937]). The Court will not pass upon a constitutional
question although properly presented by the record if the
case can be disposed of on some other ground such as the
The requirement has been retained in Section 48, Book I of
application of a statute or general law (Siler v. Louisville and
the Administrative Code of 1987 (Executive Order No. 292).
Nashville R. Co., 213 U.S. 175, [1909], Railroad Commission
v. Pullman Co., 312 U.S. 496 [1941]).
SEC. 48. Official Authorized to Convey
Real Property. — Whenever real
The petitioner in G.R. No. 92013 states why the Roppongi
property of the Government is
property should not be sold:
authorized by law to be conveyed, the
deed of conveyance shall be executed
in behalf of the government by the The Roppongi property is not just like
following: any piece of property. It was given to the
Filipino people in reparation for the lives
and blood of Filipinos who died and
(1) For property belonging to and titled
suffered during the Japanese military
in the name of the Republic of the
occupation, for the suffering of widows
Philippines, by the President, unless the
and orphans who lost their loved ones
authority therefor is expressly vested by
and kindred, for the homes and other
law in another officer.
properties lost by countless Filipinos
during the war. The Tokyo properties
(2) For property belonging to the are a monument to the bravery and
Republic of the Philippines but titled in sacrifice of the Filipino people in the
the name of any political subdivision or face of an invader; like the monuments
of any corporate agency or of Rizal, Quezon, and other Filipino
instrumentality, by the executive head of heroes, we do not expect economic or
the agency or instrumentality. financial benefits from them. But who
(Emphasis supplied) would think of selling these
monuments? Filipino honor and national
dignity dictate that we keep our
It is not for the President to convey valuable real property of properties in Japan as memorials to the
the government on his or her own sole will. Any such countless Filipinos who died and
conveyance must be authorized and approved by a law suffered. Even if we should become
enacted by the Congress. It requires executive and paupers we should not think of selling
legislative concurrence. them. For it would be as if we sold the
lives and blood and tears of our
Resolution No. 55 of the Senate dated June 8, 1989, asking countrymen. (Rollo- G.R. No. 92013,
for the deferment of the sale of the Roppongi property does p.147)
not withdraw the property from public domain much less
authorize its sale. It is a mere resolution; it is not a formal The petitioner in G.R. No. 92047 also states:
declaration abandoning the public character of the Roppongi
property. In fact, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
is conducting hearings on Senate Resolution No. 734 which Roppongi is no ordinary property. It is
raises serious policy considerations and calls for a fact- one ceded by the Japanese government
finding investigation of the circumstances behind the in atonement for its past belligerence for
decision to sell the Philippine government properties in the valiant sacrifice of life and limb and
Japan. for deaths, physical dislocation and
economic devastation the whole Filipino
people endured in World War II.
The resolution of this Court in Ojeda v. Bidding Committee,
et al., supra, did not pass upon the constitutionality of
Executive Order No. 296. Contrary to respondents' It is for what it stands for, and for what it
assertion, we did not uphold the authority of the President to could never bring back to life, that its
sell the Roppongi property. The Court stated that the significance today remains undimmed,
constitutionality of the executive order was not the real issue inspire of the lapse of 45 years since the
and that resolving the constitutional question was "neither war ended, inspire of the passage of 32
necessary nor finally determinative of the case." The Court years since the property passed on to
noted that "[W]hat petitioner ultimately questions is the use the Philippine government.
of the proceeds of the disposition of the Roppongi property."
In emphasizing that "the decision of the Executive to dispose
Roppongi is a reminder that cannot —
of the Roppongi property to finance the CARP ... cannot be
should not — be dissipated ... (Rollo-
questioned" in view of Section 63 (c) of Rep. Act No. 6657,
92047, p. 9)
the Court did not acknowledge the fact that the property
became alienable nor did it indicate that the President was
authorized to dispose of the Roppongi property. The It is indeed true that the Roppongi property is valuable not so
resolution should be read to mean that in case the Roppongi much because of the inflated prices fetched by real property
property is re-classified to be patrimonial and alienable by in Tokyo but more so because of its symbolic value to all
authority of law, the proceeds of a sale may be used for Filipinos — veterans and civilians alike. Whether or not the
national economic development projects including the Roppongi and related properties will eventually be sold is a
CARP. policy determination where both the President and Congress
must concur. Considering the properties' importance and
value, the laws on conversion and disposition of property of
Moreover, the sale in 1989 did not materialize. The petitions
public dominion must be faithfully followed.
before us question the proposed 1990 sale of the Roppongi
property. We are resolving the issues raised in these
petitions, not the issues raised in 1989. WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the
petitions are GRANTED. A writ of prohibition is issued
enjoining the respondents from proceeding with the sale of
Having declared a need for a law or formal declaration to
the Roppongi property in Tokyo, Japan. The February 20,
withdraw the Roppongi property from public domain to make
1990 Temporary Restraining Order is made PERMANENT.
it alienable and a need for legislative authority to allow the
sale of the property, we see no compelling reason to tackle
the constitutional issues raised by petitioner Ojeda. SO ORDERED.

38
Haystack: Harty v. Victoria, Tarlac (GR 5013, 11 March out the streets and the plaza of the town, in the center of
1909) which were situated the church and parish house from the
Harty v. Victoria, Tarlac commencement, and at the expiration of about 12 years the
[G.R. No. 5013. March 11, 1909.] parish of said town was constituted and the priest who was
En Banc, Torres (J): 5 concur to perform the office of curate was appointed; that from the
very beginning, the large tract of land that surrounds the
Facts: On 17 January 1908, the representative of Monsignor church and the parish house was known as a public plaza,
Jeremiah J. Harty, archbishop of the Roman Catholic destined to the use of all the residents of the recently
Church, as the legal administrator of the properties and founded town; public performances and religious
rights of the Catholic Church within the archbishopric of processions were held thereon without hindrance either on
Manila, filed a written complaint in the CFI Tarlac against the the part of the local authorities or of the curate of said town.
municipality of Victoria, alleging that the parish of the said Further, it was a custom observed by all the towns
town had been and was then the owner of a parcel of land established administratively in these Islands under the old
within the said municipality, known as the plaza of the Laws of the Indies, that on their creation, a certain amount of
church of Victoria; that it had acquired said parcel of land land was always reserved for plazas, commons, and special
more than 60 years previously, and had continued to and communal property, and as it is unquestionable that the
possess the same ever since up to 1901, in which year the said large space of land was left vacant in the center of the
municipality unlawfully and forcibly seized the said property, town of Victoria when it was constituted as a civil town.
claiming to be entitled thereto and retaining it to the present
day. On 15 June 1908, the trial court rendered judgment, 3. The late Tanedo donated the land occupied by the
holding that the parish of Victoria of the Roman Catholic Church to the church and not to the parish curate
Apostolic Church, had a better right to the possession of the There are good grounds to suppose that the late Vicente
land described in the complaint, and sentenced the Tanedo donated the land now occupied by the church and
Municipality to vacate the same and to pay the costs. To parish house in said municipality for religious purposes, or to
said judgment the representative of the Municipality the church, but not to the parish curate, because at the time
excepted and moved for a new trial on the ground that it was there was no curate at the new town of Victoria.
contrary to the weight of the evidence, and he notified the
court that, if his motion were overruled, he would appeal to 4. Proof lacking if the land Tanedo donated include the
the Supreme Court. The motion for a new trial was whole large tract constituting the town plaza; Waiver of
overruled; the Municipality excepted, and presented the rights thereon in favor of the public presumed
corresponding bill of exceptions which, after receipt of a It may be true that the father of the witness Casimiro
copy had been acknowledged by the adverse party, was Tañedo, who owned the space of land where the church and
approved. On 1 September, the Municipality was ordered to parish house were erected, had voluntarily donated it to the
furnish bond in the sum of P1,000 to insure the fulfillment of Catholic Church but proper proof is lacking that the donation
the judgment in the event that it should be totally or partially affirmed by the said Tanedo comprehended the whole of the
affirmed. To said order the Municipality excepted, but large tract which at the present time constitutes the plaza of
furnished the bond as directed by the court. the town. Even though all the remaining space of land which
now forms the great plaza of the town of Victoria had been
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment appealed from, owned by the said Tanedo, it must be presumed that he
and held that the whole of the land not occupied by the waived his right thereto for the benefit of the townspeople,
church of the town of Victoria and its parish house, is a since all the residents have enjoyed the free use of said
public plaza of the said town, of public use, and that in plaza. It has not been satisfactorily shown that the
consequence thereof, the Municipality is absolved of the municipality or the principales of the town of Victoria had
complaint without any special ruling as to the costs of both donated the whole of said land to the curate of Victoria or to
instances. the Catholic Church, nor could it have been so donated, it
being a public plaza destined to public use and was not
1. Property of public ownership private ownership, or patrimony of the town of Victoria, or of
Article 339 of the Civil Code provides that "property of public the Province of Tarlac. Certain it is that the Curate has not
ownership is (1) that destined to the public use, such as proven that the Catholic Church or the parish of Victoria was
roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports, and bridges constructed the owner or proprietor of the said extensive piece of land
by the State, and banks, shores, roadsteads, and that of a which now forms the public plaza of said town, nor that it
similar character." Further, Article 344 of said code provides was in possession thereof under the form and conditions
that "property for public use in provinces and in towns required by law, inasmuch as it has been fully proven that
comprises the provincial and town roads, the squares, said plaza has been used without let or hindrance by the
streets, fountains, and public waters, the promenades, and public and the residents of the town of Victoria ever since its
public works of general service supported by the said towns creation.
or provinces."
5. Plazas destined for public use not subject to
2. History of the municipality of Victoria, Tarlac; prescription
Customs in creation of new town under the old Laws of Pursuant to Article 1936 of the Civil Code, plazas, among
the Indies other things, destined to the public use are not subject to
The town of Victoria was formerly only a barrio of the town of prescription.
Tarlac and known as Canarum. It was converted into a town
in 1855, and named Victoria. To this end they must have laid

39
6. Procured trees set out in the plaza does not constitute totally or partially affirmed. To said order the defendant
an act of private ownership excepted, but furnished the bond as directed by the court.
That both the curates and the gobernadorcillos of the said
In view of the nature of the action brought by the plaintiff
town procured fruit trees and plants to be set out in the
against the municipality of Victoria, Province of Tarlac, the
plaza, does not constitute an act of private ownership, but question that has arisen between the contending parties
evidences the public use thereof, or perhaps the intention to consists only in determining who is the owner and proprietor
of the parcel of land that surrounds the parish church of the
improve the and embellish the said plaza for the benefit of said town, and which is called the public plaza of the same.
the townspeople.
Article 339 of the Civil Code reads:
G.R. No. L-5013 March 11, 1909
Property of public ownership is:
JEREMIAH J. HARTY, Roman Catholic Archbishop of
Manila, plaintiff-appellee, 1. That destined to the public use, such as roads, canals,
rivers, torrents, ports, and bridges constructed by the State,
vs. and banks, shores, roadsteads, and that of a similar
character.

THE MUNICIPALITY OF VICTORIA, Province of Tarlac,


defendant-appellant. Article 344 of said code also reads:

F. Buencamino for appellant. Hartigan and Rohde for Property for public use in provinces and in towns comprises
appellee. the provincial and town roads, the squares, streets,
fountains, and public waters, the promenades, and public
works of general service supported by the said towns or
TORRES, J.: provinces.

On January 17, 1908, the representative of Mgr. Jeremiah J. From the evidence presented by both parties it appears that
Harty, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church, as the the town of Victoria, which was formerly only a barrio of the
legal administrator of all the properties and rights of the town of Tarlac and known as Canarum, was converted into a
Catholic Church within the archbishopric of Manila, filed a town in 1855, and named Victoria; to this end they must
written complaint in the Court of First Instance of Tarlac have laid out the streets and the plaza of the town, in the
against the municipality of Victoria, alleging that the parish of center of which were situated the church and parish house
the said town had been and was then the owner of a parcel from the commencement, and at the expiration of about
of land within the said municipality, known as the plaza of twelve years the parish of said town was constituted and the
the church of Victoria; that it had acquired said parcel of land parish who was to perform the office of curate was
more than sixty years previously, and had continued to appointed; that from the very beginning, the large tract of
possess the same ever since up to 1901, in which year the land that surrounds the church and the parish house was
defendant municipality unlawfully and forcibly seized the said known as a public plaza , destined to the use of all the
property, claiming to be entitled thereto and retaining it to the residents of the recently founded town; public performances
present day. For the purposes of the complaint, a description and religious processions were held thereon without
of the meters and bounds of the land in question was set hindrance either on the part of the local authorities or of the
forth in the writing, and plaintiff prayed that, in view of what curate of said town.
was therein set forth, judgment be entered holding that the
said land was the property of the parish of Victoria, of the
Roman Catholic Apostolic Church, and that the defendant be It must be assumed that the principal residents of the old
ordered to vacate the same and to pay the costs of the barrio, being interested in the conversion of the barrio into a
action. civil town, arranged in such a way that the barrio, as the
center of the future town which was subsequently called
Victoria, should have streets and a public plaza with its
The defendant municipality answered the complaint through church and parish house, and also a tribunal or building
its attorney and offered a general denial of all the facts destined for the use of the municipality and the local official
stated therein, especially of those numbered 4, 5, 6, and 7; at that time called the gobernadorcillo and later on capitán
in special defense it alleged that the plaza described in No. 4 municipal, as has occurred in the foundation of all the towns
of the complaint was founded when the sitio denominated in these Islands, under the old administrative laws.
Canarum, a barrio of the town of Tarlac, was converted into
a civil town in 1855; that the parish of Tarlac was established
many years after the civil town, and that therefore, it neither It may be true that the father of the witness Casimiro
had then, nor has now any title to the plaza claimed, and that Tañedo, who owned the space of land where the church and
the complaint injured the defendant, and for this reason it parish house were erected, had voluntarily donated it to the
prayed that judgment be entered absolving the defendant of Catholic Church, the only one known at the time, but proper
the complaint with costs and damages against the plaintiff. proof is lacking that the donation affirmed by the said
Tañedo comprehended the whole of the large tract which at
the present time constitute the plaza of the town.
Evidence was adduced by both parties, and the documents
exhibited, to one of which the plaintiff objected, were made
of record; the trial court rendered judgment on the 15th of It was a custom observed by all the towns established
June, 1908, holding that the parish of Victoria of the Roman administratively in these Islands under the old Laws of the
Catholic Apostolic Church, had a better right to the Indies, that on their creation, a certain amount of land was
possession of the land described in the complaint, and always reserved for plazas , commons, and special and
sentenced the defendant to vacate the same and to pay the communal property, and as it is unquestionable that the said
costs. To said judgment the representative of the defendant large space of land was left vacant in the center of the town
excepted and moved for a new trial on the ground that it was of Victoria when it was constituted as a civil town, more than
contrary to the weight of the evidence, and he notified the twelve years prior to the appointment of a permanent curate
court that, if his motion were overruled, he would appeal to therein, there are good grounds to suppose that the late
the Supreme Court. The motion for a new trial was Vicente Tañedo donated the land now occupied by the
overruled; the defendant excepted, and presented the church and the parish house in said municipality for religious
corresponding bill of exceptions which, after receipt of a purposes, or to the church, but not to the parish curate
copy had been acknowledged by the adverse party, was because at the time there was no curate at the new town of
approved. On the 1st of September last, the appellant was Victoria.
ordered to furnish bond in the sum of P1,000 to insure the
fulfillment of the judgment in the event that it should be Even though all the remaining space of land which now
forms the great plaza of the town of Victoria had been owned

40
by the said Tañedo, it must be presumed that he waived his existed from time immemorial, although with different names.
right thereto for the benefit of the townspeople, since from Said four lots were already in the possession of the Roman
the creation or establishment of the town, down to the Catholic Apostolic Church some years prior to the year 1789,
present day, all the residents, including the curate of said and the church, belfry and convert which served as dwelling
town, have enjoyed the free use of said plaza ; it has not for the parish priests were built on lot No. 4. Heretofore its
been satisfactorily shown that the municipality or the possession has been quiet, open, public, continuous and
principales of the town of Victoria had donated the whole of under claim of ownership. The land identified as lot No. 1
said land to the curate of Victoria or to the Catholic Church, always formed part of lot No. 4. The so-called lot No. 2 was
as alleged, nor could it have been so donated, it being a occupied by nobody except the church through its parish
public plaza destined to public use and was not of private priests, until the local authorities converted it into an
ownership, or patrimony of the town of Victoria, or of the extension of Mabini Street which terminated at Norte
Province of Tarlac. America Street. As to lot No. 3, it has always been in the
possession of the church but it was occupied by two schools
for children of both sexes during the Spanish regime. The
It should be noted that, among other things, plaza s destined
girl's school was destroyed upon the arrival of the Americans
to the public use are not subject to prescription. (Art. 1936,
and the other school for boys was destroyed and it ceased to
Civil Code.)
exist about the year 1915. On one side of this land the
municipal authorities succeeded in erecting a monument of
That both the curates and the gobernadorcillos of the said Rizal, which still stands.
town procured fruit trees and plants to be set out in the plaza
, does not constitute an act of private ownership, but
The possession by the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church of
evidences the public use thereof, or perhaps the intention to
the lands in dispute for a period of about a century and a
improve and embellish the said plaza for the benefit of the
half, under the conditions above stated, can mean nothing
townspeople.
more than that said lands were designated by the State itself
to be devoted to the building of the church, belfry and
Certain it is that the plaintiff has not proven that the Catholic convent for the purpose of implanting the Roman Catholic
Church or the parish of Victoria was the owner or proprietor Apostolic Religion and maintaining the cult thereof.
of the said extensive piece of land which now forms the
public plaza of said town, nor that it was in possession
In the case of Barlin vs. Ramirez and Municipality of
thereof under the form and conditions required by law,
Lagonoy (7 Phil., 41 et seq.), this court said:
inasmuch as it has been fully proven that said plaza has
been used without let or hindrance by the public and the
residents of the town of Victoria ever since its creation. For (2) The municipality of Lagonoy, in its answer,
the above reasons it is our opinion that the judgment claims as such, to be the owner of the property. As
appealed from should be reversed, and that it should be we have said before, the evidence shows that it
held, as we do hereby hold, that the whole of the land not never was in the physical possession of the
occupied by the church of the town of Victoria and its parish property. But waiving this point and assuming that
house, is a public plaza of the said town, of public use, and the possession of Ramirez, which he alleges in his
that in consequence thereof, the defendant is absolved of answer is the possession of the municipality, gives
the complaint without any special ruling as to the costs of the municipality the rights of a possessor, the
both instances. question still arises, Who has the better right to the
present possession of the property? The plaintiff,
in 1902, had been in the lawful possession thereof
G.R. No. L-40851 July 31, 1935
for more than thirty years and during all that time
its possession had never been questioned or
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, applicant-appellee, disturbed. That possession has been taken away
vs. from it and it has the right now to recover the
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ZAMBOANGA, possession from the persons who have so
oppositor-appellant. deprived it of such possession, unless the latter
THE MUNICIPALITY OF MISAMIS, oppositor-appellee. can show that they have a better right thereto.
This was the proposition which was discussed and
settled in the case of the Bishop of Cebu vs.
Evangelista and Santos for appellant. Mangaron, No. 1748 (6 Phil., 286, decided June 1,
Eugenio S. del Rosario for appellee. 1906). That decision holds that as against one
who has been in possession for the length of time
IMPERIAL, J.: the plaintiff has been in possession, and who has
been deprived of his possession, and who cannot
produce any written evidence of title, the mere fact
In cadastral case No. 2 of Occidental Misamis, G.L.R.O. that the defendant is in possession does not entitle
Record No. 1210, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Zamboanga the defendant to retain that possession. In order
sought the registration in the name of the Roman Catholic that he may continue in possession, he must show
Apostolic Church of four (4) parcels of land, known as lots a better right thereto.
Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4, and the improvements thereon, situated
in the center of the town of the municipality of Misamis. The
Director of Lands claimed said properties alleging them to be The evidence in this case does not show that the
of the public domain, having been reserved for parks by municipality has, as such, any right whatever in
virtue of the Governor-General's Proclamation No. 360, the property in question. It has produced no
dated February 7, 1931. The municipality of Misamis evidence of ownership. Its claim of ownership is
likewise claimed lots No. 1, 2, and 3, and a southwestern rested in its brief in this court upon the following
portion of lot No. 4, having an area of 5,539 square meters, propositions: That the property in question
alleging them to be public plazas. belonged prior the Treaty of Paris to the Spanish
Government; that by the Treaty of Paris the
ownership thereof passed to the Government of
After the necessary hearing wherein the parties presented the United States; that by section 12 of the Act of
their respective evidence, the court rendered judgment Congress of July 1, 1902, such property was
ordering the registration of lot No. 4 with the improvements transferred to the Government of the Philippine
thereon in favor of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Islands, and that by the circular of that
Zamboanga and the registration of lots Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in Government, dated November 11, 1902, the
favor of the municipality of Misamis, thereby overruling the ownership and the right to the possession of this
claim of the Director of Lands. Only the Roman Catholic property passed to the municipality of Lagonoy. If,
Bishop of Zamboanga appealed. for the purposes of the argument, we should admit
that the other propositions are true, there is no
The four lots are really only one parcel and are bounded on evidence whatever to support the last proposition,
the four sides thereof by Norte America, Ledesma, namely that the Government of the Philippine
Washington and Commercial streets. These four streets Islands has transferred the ownership of this
church to the municipality of Lagonoy. We have

41
found no circular of the date above referred to. In the case of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church vs.
The one of February 10, 1903, which is probably Municipality of Placer (11 Phil., 315), the facts therein being
the one intended, contains nothing that indicates very analogous to the facts in the present case, this court
any such transfer. As to the municipality of followed the said decision of the Supreme Court of the
Lagonoy, therefore, it is very clear that it has United States, holding that, under the Spanish law
neither title, ownership, nor right to possession. heretofore existing in these Islands, and the provisions of the
Treaty of Paris, the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church is the
owner of the church buildings, convents, and cemeteries and
(3) We have said that it would have no such title or
the municipalities wherein the same are situated have no
ownership even admitting that the Spanish
right of ownership therein by reason of funds or lands
Government was the owner of the property and
contributed for the foundation or erection thereof.
that it passed by the Treaty of Paris to the
American Government. But this assumption is not
true. As a matter of law, the Spanish Government Our attention has not been called to any express
at the time the treaty of peace was signed, was granted or grants of land by the Crown of Spain for
not the owner of this property, nor of any other the purposes of the church upon which particular
property like it, situated in the Philippine Islands. churches were erected, and it is believed that,
during the early history of the sovereignty of Spain
in the Indies, no such grants can be found, but no
It does not admit of doubt that from the earliest
fact is better established in both secular and
times the parish churches in the Philippine Islands
ecclesiastical history than the fact that the Crown
were built by the Spanish Government. Law 2, title
of Spain and the Pope always cooperated from the
2, book 1, of the Compilation of the Laws of the
very earliest history of the possession of the Indies
Indies is, in part, as follows:
in the extension of the great benefits offered by
the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church to the Indio,
"Having erected all the churches, cathedrals, and as well as to the peoples of Europe. If any
parish houses of the Spaniards and natives of our difference whatever existed in the efforts thus
Indian possessions from their discovery at the cost made in the great interest which the church took in
and expense of our royal treasury, and applied for the different peoples, it was in favor of the Indio.
their service and maintenance the part of the tithes Scarcely had the Indies been discovered until the
belonging to us by apostolic concession according Pope and the Crown of Spain began to manifest a
to the division we have made." deep interest in the religious and educational
welfare of the people of the Indies. (Bula de
Alejandro VI of the 4th of May, 1493; also the Bula
The syllabus of the case of the Roman Catholic Apostolic of 16th of December, 1501; Ordenanza 5 (a) por
Church vs. Municipality of Placer (11 Phil., 315), reads: el Consejo de Las Indias, 1575; law 10, title 1,
book 1 of Laws of the Indias, of the 1st of June,
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH PROPERTY; 1574; law 14, title 2, book 1 of the Laws of the
OWNERSHIP. — On the authority of the Indias, and many others, the collection of which
Municipality of Ponce vs. Roman Catholic may be found in vol. 7 of Legislacion Ultramarina,
Apostolic Church in Porto Rico, decided by the p. 476.)
United States Supreme Court June 1, 1908; Held,
That under the Spanish law heretofore existing in From the reading of these various bulas and royal
these Islands and the provisions of the treaty of decrees and ordenanzas, it will be seen that the
Paris, the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church is the government and the church were constantly
owner of a church building, convent, and working together for the advancement of the
cemetery, and that the municipality wherein the religious and educational welfare of the Indios.
same are situated has no right of ownership The government lent its most enthusiastic support
therein by reason of funds or land contributed for to the efforts that were made by the church in this
the foundation or erection thereof. regard, even to the extent of paying out of the
public exchequer, funds, together with funds
In the case of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church vs. contributed by the encomenderos and the people
Municipalities of Caloocan, Morong and Malabon, of the of the pueblos, for the purpose of erecting the
Province of Rizal (12 Phil., 639 et seq.), this court in magnificent Catholic churches existing everywhere
analyzing the laws governing the temporal properties of the throughout the Spanish island possessions. While
church in these Islands again stated: the Crown of Spain always reserved a certain
control over the operations of the Catholic Church,
yet no one can doubt that, when these lands were
The evidence discloses, beyond peradventure of donated or designated and the church edifices
doubt, that the plaintiff had been in the quiet and were erected thereon, it was the intention of the
peaceable possession of the different parcels of Crown that such lands and such edifices should
property, with reference to which evidence was be devoted absolutely to the use of the church. It
presented, for a period immemorial, until some is a well-known fact that, when a church edifice of
time between the years 1896-1899, when they the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church was once
were molested in their possession and deprived of accepted and dedicated for religious purposes, it
the same by some of the defendants. This court thereafter could never be used for any other
has repeatedly decided that where a person has purpose. The Catholic Church certainly had a right
been in the long possession or real property and to believe at least that, during the three hundred
has been deprived of the possession thereof, he years or more that it occupied its churches in the
may recover it as against one in possession, Philippine Islands, without protest or objection on
unless the latter can show a better right thereto. the part of the Crown of Spain, the Crown had
(Bishop of Cebu vs. Mangaron, 6 Phil., 286; Barlin intended at least that they should become the
vs. Ramirez, 7 Phil, 41; Roman Catholic Apostolic absolute owners of such properties. And no
Church vs. Santos, 7 Phil., 66; City of Manila vs. protest has been called to our attention during a
Roman Catholic Apostolic Church, 8 Phil., 763; time immemorial and no protest or objection by the
Roman Catholic Apostolic Church vs. Municipality different pueblos to the right of ownership which
of Tarlac, 9 Phil, 450; Roman Catholic Apostolic the church has exercised for from two to three
Church vs. Certain Municipalities, etc., 10 Phil., 1; hundred years over the properties upon which the
Roman Catholic Apostolic Church vs. Municipality edifices of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church
of Badoc, 10 Phil., 659; Roman Catholic Apostolic were erected. Not only is it believed that the
Church vs. Municipality of Cuyapo, 9 Phil., 457; Crown of Spain intended that the Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Apostolic Church vs. Certain Apostolic Church should exercise absolute
Municipalities, etc., 9 Phil., 691.) dominion over such properties, but under the
treaty of Paris the Government of the United
xxx xxx xxx States obligated itself to protect all such interests.
The Roman Catholic Apostolic Church occupied

42
the different properties in question in this case for Neither does the existence of a monument of Rizal on said
a time so long that no one in the pueblos could land prove the ownership of the municipality of Misamis, nor
remember when such properties were not can the recent occupation thereof be invoked as a title
occupied and used for the benefit of said church, thereto. It should be interpreted as a tolerated possession in
until about the years 1896-99. The occupancy of accordance with articles 444 and 447 of the Civil Code which
property for from two to three hundred years in no way can be made the basis for the adjudication of a
without protest of any kind whatever from the title.
donors would seem at least two be sufficient time,
in the absence of positive proof to the contrary,
The circumstance that these lands have been reversed for
that such donation was made for the purpose of
park purposes by Proclamation No. 360, dated February 7,
transferring to the donee all rights and interests in
1931, is of no importance. Inasmuch as they were not public
such property.
lands, lands of the public domain or lands particularly
belonging to the Government, but properties of private
Therefore, adhering to and following the decision ownership, they could not be lawfully segregated in order to
of the Supreme Court of the United States in the be converted into public parks.
case of the Municipality of Ponce vs. Roman
Catholic Apostolic Church in Porto Rico (28 Sup.
As stated in the beginning, the court found that lots Nos. 1, 2
Ct. Rep., 737; 6 Off. Gaz., 1213) and the decision
and 3 are public plazas, as claimed by the municipality of
of this court in the case of the Roman Catholic
Misamis, and decreed the registration thereof in the name of
Apostolic Church vs. Municipality of Placer, supra,
the said municipality. This decree is untenable. If they are
we do hereby find that the plaintiff herein is
public plazas they are not susceptible or registration in the
entitled to the right of possession and ownership
name of any branch of the State. (Nicolas vs. Jose, 6 Phil.,
of the following properties:
589; Harty vs. Municipality of Victoria, 13 Phil., 152; 226
U.S., 12; 57 Law. ed., 103.)
La visita de Dampalit;
La visita de Ningan;
For the foregoing considerations, and without the necessity
La visita de Catmon;
of passing upon the various assignments of error of the
La visita de Tinajeros;
appellant separately, the appealed judgment is reversed and
La visita de Maysilo;
it is ordered that the registration of lots Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4
La visita de Matahong;
with the improvements thereof, except the Rizal monument,
La visita de Muson;
be decreed in favor of the Roman Catholic Bishop of
La visita de Julong-Dujat,
Zamboanga, without costs. So ordered.

each situated in barrios of the same names, in the


G.R. No. 69138 May 19, 1992
pueblo of Malabon, Province of Rizal; and also to
the right of possession and ownership of the
cementerio of the pueblo of Morong and the REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (Bureau of Forest
cementerio of Cardona in the pueblo of Morong. Development), petitioner,
vs.
INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT (First Civil Cases
The circumstance that public schools for children of both
Division) and HILARIO P. RAMA, respondents.
sexes were erected on lot No. 3 during the Spanish regime
is not conclusive evidence that the land was segregated
from the great portion thereof designated for the Roman
Catholic Apostolic Church and its cults particularly it we take
into account the fact that primary instruction was then under
GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:
the direct supervision of the parish priests who received
subsidy from the government.
The decision of the trial court in this case declared the
disputed parcels of land to be forest land and, therefore,
In the case of the Municipality of Nueva Caceres vs. Director
inalienable. The appellate court sustained the factual finding.
of Lands and Roman Catholic Bishop of Nueva Caceres (24
The issue raised in this petition refers to the propriety of
Phil., 485 et seq.), it was stated:
awarding necessary expenses to the alleged possessor in
good faith with right of retention until the expenses are paid.
Therefore, it will be seen from a reading of the above royal
decrees and regulations governing the primary instruction of
In May 1974, Anselmo Logronio, in his official capacity as
the boys, that boys' schools were under the direction and
officer-in-charge of the Bohol Reforestation Project of the
control of both the church and the state. It was only natural
Bureau of Forest Development, bulldozed portions of two (2)
that the schools of the church should be governed by the
parcels of land which he believed to be forest lands located
general laws regulating primary instruction inasmuch as all
at Talibon, Bohol, occupied the same, and planted mulberry
the schools were under its supervision; and as by throwing
and other trees.
open the school to the public, boys generally would be
instructed in the faith, it was to the advantage of the church
to make its schools as public as possible. Soon thereafter, respondent Hilario P. Rama commenced in
the then Court of First Instance, now Regional Trial Court of
Bohol, a complaint for recovery of possession, ownership
So, the fact that the Government intervened in the
and damages against Logronio alleging that he is the
administration of the school in no way tends to
absolute owner and possessor of the two (2) parcels of land
show or prove that the church had ceded the
occupied by Logronio. He specifically described the two (2)
building or the lot in question to either the local or
parcels of land as follows:
central government of Spain in the Philippines. On
the contrary, it would have been highly
unreasonable that such should have been the A. A parcel of land, Lot 1, Psu-218360
case, for the church is very jealous of its property beginning at a point marked "1" of Lot 1,
and especially of its educational institutions for the Psu 218360, being N. 41-39 E.,
instruction of the young, and especially of a lot and 15391.24 m. from B.L.L.M. No. 1,
building which faced its cathedral in Nueva Municipality of Carmen, Province of
Caceres and adjoined the same lot on which its Bohol, thence N. 47-35 W., 163.40 m. to
seminary for the instruction of aspirants to the point 2; S. 67-59 W., 173.82 m. to point
priesthood was built. In fact, there is no doubt that 3; N.5-17 E., 250.71 m. to point 4; S. 71-
until the revolution and separation of church and 33 E., 168.51 m. to point 5; S. 82-11 E.,
state, brought about by the advent of American 107.55 m. to point 6; S. 0-45 W., 228.32
sovereignty, the church was in possession of the m. to point 1; point of beginning . . .
school in question, considering it as its own containing an area of FIFTY ONE
exclusive property. THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED AND

43
TWENTY SIX (51,226) square meters . . 218360, as described in the complaint,
. evidenced by Original Certificate of and containing an area of 51,226 square
Title No. 6148 (Free Patent No. 319750) meters, is one of the two lots covered by
Office of the Register of Deeds for the OCT No. 6148 (Free Patent Title No.
Province of Bohol . . . also covered by 319750) in the name of Hilario Piscos
Tax Dec. No. R-3859 in the name of Rama (Exhs. A and A-1) and is,
Plaintiff . . . assessed at P990.00 . . . according to the plaintiff, free from any
liens or encumbrances.
B. A parcel of land (as shown on plant
H-154932, LRC Rec. No.), situated in Thus, plaintiff Hilario P. Rama, 42
the Barrio of Malitbog, Municipality of testified that of the two parcels of land
Trinidad, Province of Bohol. Bounded on mentioned in the complaint, one parcel
the H., (sic) along lines 1-2-3 by the was covered by title, as shown by a
property of Rufino Autida (H-166571), xerox copy of OCT No. 6148 (Exhs. A
on the E., along lines 4-5-6-7 by Creek; and A-1), and by tax declaration No. R-
on the S., along lines 7-8-9-10, by the 3859 (Exh. B); that he secured a
Marinas Creek 4.00 m. wide; on the W., certification from the Office of the
along line 10-11 by Public Land (Forest District Forester, Tagbilaran City,
Zone), and on the N., along lines 11-12- regarding the status of the land covered
1 by the property of Angel Jumawan . . . by OCT 6148 (Exh. C); that he had a
containing an area of Ninety Six plan of the land covered by OCT No.
Thousand Three Hundred Forty Three 6148 (Exh. D); that in the memorandum
(96,343) square meters . . . covered by of encumbrances on OCT No. 6148
Tax Dec. No. R-4019 in the name of (Exh. A-1), Entry No. 3382 referred to a
Plaintiff . . . with an assessed value of real-estate mortgage executed on 23
Pl,390.00 . . . November 1967 by Hilario Piscos Rama
and Socorro Regañon in favor of the
Development Bank of the Philippines,
xxx xxx xxx
but the obligation was already paid, and
there was a written release of the
(Record on Appeal, pp. 54-56) mortgage in 1975, which was not yet
registered because when he went to the
Registry of Deeds payment was
In his answer, Logronio claimed that the two parcels of land required for registering the release and
are forest lands and that the questioned acts were he did not have money at that time.
performed by him in the regular and lawful performance of
his duties as officer-in-charge of the Bohol Reforestation
Project of the Bureau of Forest Development. He prayed for As shown in OCT No. 6148 (Exh. A), the
the dismissal of the complaint. free patent title was given on 13 January
1967, and the certificate of title was
issued on 4 May 1967. Then on 7
Petitioner Republic filed a motion for leave to intervene November 1967, the Office of the
attaching its complaint-in-intervention. District Forester, Tagbilaran City, issued
Certification No. 57 (Exh. C) to the effect
The complaint-in-intervention alleged that Logronio's acts "that according to the records of this
were authorized by the government through the Director of Office, there is no pending case as far
the Bureau of Forest Development in connection with the as the Bureau of Forestry is concerned,
reforestation program of the government; that the two (2) involving the validity of the title over a
subject parcels of land are located within the timberland parcel of land containing an area of
Block D, L. C. Project No. 33 of Talibon, Bohol per BF Map 10.2450 hectares covered by Original
L. C. 686 and, therefore, are forest lands; that the said lands Certificate of Title No. 6148 Free Patent
were never released by the government as alienable and No. 319750 situated in barrio of
disposable lands, hence, are not susceptible of disposition or Malitbog, Municipality of Dagohoy,
private appropriation under the provisions of the Public Land Province of Bohol issued by the
Act (Commonwealth Act No. 41), as amended, nor were the Register of Deeds of Tagbilaran City on
said parcels of land registered under the provisions of the January 13, 1967 in the name of Hilario
Land Registration Law (Act No. 496), as amended. It prayed Piscos Rama, Filipino, of legal age,
that Free Patent No. 319750 covering the forest portion of married to Socorro Riganon, and
the first lot be declared null and void; that the Register of resident in Malitbog, Dagohoy, Bohol."
Deeds be ordered to cancel OCT No. 6148 covering the said
forest portion; that both forest lands be reverted back to the Meantime, on 11 September 1967,
public domain; and that the complaint against Logronio be Hipolito Amihan, Forester in Charge of
dismissed. the Bohol Reforestation Project,
Dagohoy, Bohol, addressed a letter to
The motion was granted and the complaint-in-intervention the Administrator, Reforestation
was admitted by the lower court. Administration, Diliman, Quezon City,
thru the Regional Officer, Cebu City,
(Exh. 8), stating that relative to OCT No.
Rama, then, filed an answer to the complaint-in-intervention 6148 in the name of Hilario Piscos
alleging that the Republic has no cause of action, and is Rama —
guilty of estoppel for having caused the issuance of the
certificate of title covering the forest land. He claimed that if
his title is to be cancelled, and he is deprived of ownership Upon verification of
over the parcels of land, he should be paid by the Republic the area in question
for all existing improvements plus whatever expenses he has it is found out that
incurred in connection with the improvement of said lands. Lot I in an area of
51,226 sq. m. is
within the area of
The trial of the case resulted in the following undisputed Bohol Reforestation
facts stated in the decision of the lower court: Project, Dagohoy,
Bohol. . . .
xxx xxx xxx
and recommending "that Lot No. 1
1. On parcel A in the complaint. The under PSU-21-8360 with an area of
evidence discloses that Lot 1, Psu- 51,226 sq. m. under Free Patent No.

44
318750 issued in favor of Mr. Hilario On 12 March 1968, the Office of the
Piscos Rama be cancelled." District Forester, Tagbilaran City, issued
Certification No. 90 (Exh. I) to the effect
"that the parcel of land containing an
On 29 October 1974, Lope D. Reyes,
approximate area of 9.6345 hectares
Assistant OIC, Legal Staff, Bureau of
situated in Barrio Malitbog, Municipality
Forest Development, Diliman, Quezon
of Dagohoy, Province of Bohol,
City, sent a memorandum to the OIC
described in the Tax Declaration
Silviculture Division (Exh. 1), requesting
proposed in the name of German
that OCT No. 6148 issued in favor of
Remarata, a resident of Bo. Malitbog,
Hilario Piscos Rama "be verified as to
Dagohoy, Bohol was verified by a
whether or not the area is inside a
representative of this Office and was
timberland of alienable or disposable
found to be within the Alienable and
land." And on 22 November 1974, Primo
Disposable Block "1", Land
P. Andres, Officer in Charge, Silviculture
Classification Project No. 33, Talibon,
Division, Bureau of Forest Development,
Bohol, L.C. Map No. 685, certified on
Diliman, Quezon City, returned by first
September 7, 1927." And on 4 March
endorsement (Exh. 2) the aforesaid
1970, the Office of the District Forester,
memorandum with the information that
City of Tagbilaran, thru Acting District
per verification and control —
Forester Pastor O. Ibarra, issued
Certification No. 101 (Exh. J), which is
1. Lot 1, PSU- similarly worded as Certification No. 90
218360 is within the (Exh. I), except that the proposed tax
Timberland Block-A declaration is in the name of HILARIO
of LC Project No. PISCOS RAMA.
33 of Talibon,
Bohol, per BF Map
But on 15 May 1974, the Office of the
LC-635, and;
District Forester, City of Tagbilaran, thru
District Forester Pastor O. Ibarra, sent a
2. Lot 2, PSU- letter to Hilario P. Rama (Exh. 4)
218360, is within informing him "that CERTIFICATION
the Alienable or NO. 101, issued to you on March 4,
Disposable Block-I, 1970, by the District Forester of
of LC Project 33 of Tagbilaran City, is hereby revoked on
Talibon, Bohol, the ground that after thorough (sic)
certified as such on investigation by representative of this
September 7, 1927, Office the parcel of land which you claim
per BF Map LC- and the subject matter in the above-
685. mentioned CERTIFICATION NO. 101, is
found to be within the Bohol
Reforestation Project." And on the same
And the Commissioner's Report (Exh. A- date, a letter to the same effect was
Commissioner) finds sent by District Forester Ibarra to the
that — Provincial Assessor, City of Tagbilaran
(Exh. 5).
On Lot 1, Psu-
218360 and (sic) The Commissioner's Report (Exh. A-
approximate area of Commissioner) inter alia states:
45,826 sq. m.
colored green on
the sketch is inside It was found out
the Timberland and that on lot H-
5,400 sq. m. more 154932 an
or less is in the approximate area of
Alienable and 94,719 Sq. M. is
Disposable Area. inside Timberland
block A, Project No.
33 a part of Bohol
And the Commissioner, Emmanuel Reforestation
Maboloc, 38, Junior Geodetic Engineer, Project (colored
Bureau of Forest Development, Region green on the sketch
VII, Cebu City, testified to this effect, plan) and only
stating, however, that he did not make approximately
technical descriptions of the portion of 1,624 Sq. M. is
the lot within the Bohol Reforestation inside the Alienable
Project and the portion outside it, so and Disposable
that, if required, he would have to go to area colored orange
the field again to make such technical on the sketch plan.
descriptions. (Record on Appeal, pp. 61-
65)
Likewise, Commissioner Maboloc
declared that he did not make technical
xxx xxx xxx descriptions of the portion of said lot
within the Bohol Reforestation Project
2. On parcel B in the complaint.— . . . and the portion outside it. (Record on
Appeal, pp. 66-68)
The land is covered by TD No. R-4019
in the name of plaintiff Hilario Piscos In view of its findings that the two (2) subject parcels of land
Rama (Exh. F) and was surveyed for the are forest lands, the lower court declared as null and void
Heirs of German Remarata in 1952, as the Certificate of Title covering the first lot in the name of
shown by the technical description (Exh. Rama and ordered him to vacate the said parcel "upon being
G) and plan H-154932 (Exh. H). But the reimbursed by the intervenor in the sum of SIX THOUSAND
land is not covered by any certificate of PESOS (P6,000.00) as necessary expenses." As regards
title. the second parcel of land, the lower court ordered Rama to
vacate the same parcel of land "with right to refund from the

45
intervenor for the necessary expenses in the sum of THREE In a resolution dated March 27, 1985, the Court gave due
THOUSAND PESOS (P3,000.00), but without rights of course to the petition. Because of the reorganization of the
retention." The dispositive portion of the decision reads: Court after the 1986 political upheaval and subsequent
changes caused by retirement of certain Justices, the case
could not be decided until its recent assignment to the
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby
undersigned ponente.
rendered, as follows:

On May 5, 1989, we issued another resolution stating


1. Relative to Lot 1, Psu-218360, (parcel
therein:
A in the complaint): declaring that
portion thereof indicated in the
Commissioner's Report (Exh. A- Considering the length of time that this
Commissioner) as having an case has remained pending and as a
"approximate area of 45,836 Sq. M. and practical measure to ease the backlog of
shown on the sketch (Exh. B- this Court, the parties shall, within ten
Commissioner) as timberland and (10) days from notice, MANIFEST
therefore part of the public domain whether or not they are still interested in
(colored green, Parcel B in said sketch); prosecuting this case, or supervening
declaring null and void Original events have transpired which render this
Certificate of Title No. 6148 in the name case moot and academic or otherwise
of HILARIO PISCOS RAMA insofar as it substantially affect the same. (Rollo, p.
includes the aforesaid portion; and 70)
ordering the plaintiff to vacate said
portion upon being reimbursed by the
In response to this resolution, the Solicitor General,
intervenor in the sum of SIX
representing petitioner Republic, filed on August 4, 1989, a
THOUSAND PESOS (P6,000.00) as
manifestation stating that he is not aware of any supervening
necessary expenses;
event that may have transpired which would render the case
moot and academic.
2. Relative to the parcel of land shown
on plan H-154932 (parcel B in the
As stated earlier, the only issue in this petition is the
complaint): declaring that the portion
propriety of awarding necessary expenses with right of
thereof indicated in the Commissioner's
retention over the two (2) parcels of land in favor of the
Report (Exh. A-Commissioner) as
possessor in this case, Rama, until the payment of the
having "an approximate area of 94,719
necessary expenses by petitioner Republic on the ground
Sq. M." and shown on the sketch (Exh.
that Rama is a possessor in good faith as defined in Article
B-Commissioner) as timberland and
526 of the Civil Code.
therefore part of the public domain
(colored green, Parcel A in said sketch);
declaring null and void Tax Declaration In ruling that private respondent Rama, the possessor of the
No. R-4019 (Exh. F) insofar as it two forest lands is entitled to payment of necessary
includes the aforesaid portion; and expenses, the appellate court cited the case of Dizon v.
ordering the plaintiff to vacate said Rodriguez, (13 SCRA 704 [1965]).
portion, with right to refund from the
intervenor for the necessary expenses
The background facts of the Dizon case are as follows:
in the sum of THREE THOUSAND
PESOS (P3,000.00), but without right of
retention; Hacienda Calatagan owned by Alfonso
and Jacobo Zobel was originally
covered by TCT No. T-722. In 1938, the
3. Dismissing the complaint as against
Hacienda constructed a pier, called
defendant Anselmo Logroño, both in his
"Santiago Landing," about 600 meters
private and in his official capacity;
long from the shore into the navigable
waters of the Pagaspas Bay, to be used
4. Dismissing defendant Logroño's by vessels loading sugar produced by
counterclaim; and the Hacienda sugar mill. When the
sugar mill ceased its operation in 1948,
the owners of the Hacienda converted
5. Ordering the Register of Deeds of the
the pier into a fishpond dike and built
Province of Bohol to annotate the
additional strong dikes enclosing an
judgment relative to Lot 1, Psu-2l8360 at
area of about 30 hectares (of the Bay)
the back of Original Certificate of Title
and converted the same into a fishpond.
No. 6148.
The Hacienda owners also enclosed a
similar area of about 37 hectares of the
Without pronouncement of costs. Bay on the other side of the pier which
was also converted into a fishpond.
(Record on Appeal, pp. 77-79)
In 1949, the Zobels ordered the
subdivision of the Hacienda by ordering
Petitioner Republic appealed the lower court's decision to
the preparation of the subdivision plan
the then Intermediate Appellate Court, now Court of
Psd-27941 wherein fishpond No. 1 (with
Appeals, insofar as it ordered petitioner Republic to pay
30 hectares) was referred to as Lot No.
Rama the necessary expenses with the right of retention
1 and fishpond No. 2 (with 37 hectares)
over the titled parcel of land.
was referred to as Lot No. 49. The plan
was approved by the Director of Lands,
The appellate court, however, did not only affirm the and the Register of Deeds issued, from
questioned decision, but modified it by ruling that as regards TCT No. T-722, TCT No. 2739 for lots
the second parcel which is not covered by any certificate of 49 and 1 in the name of Jacobo Zobel.
title, Rama has also the right of retention until the necessary
expenses awarded to him are paid by petitioner Republic.
In 1950, Jacobo Zobel sold to Antonino
Dizon, et al. Lot 49 for which said
A motion for reconsideration was denied. Hence, the instant purchasers obtained at first TCT No. T-
petition. 2740 and later T-4718, Lot 1, on the
other hand, was purchased by Carlos
Goco, et al., who in turn, sold one-half

46
thereof to Manuel Sy-Juco, et al. In its decision of October 31, 1961, as
Transfer Certificate of Title No. 4159 well as the resolution of August 20,
was issued in the names of the Gocos 1962, the appellate court adopted the
and Sy-Jucos. findings of the lower court, that the lots
in question are part of the foreshore
area and affirmed the ruling cancelling
On May 24, 1952, Miguel Tolentino filed
the titles to plaintiffs. Although in the
with the Bureau of Fisheries an
decision of October 31, 1961, the Court
application for ordinary fishpond permit
of Appeals awarded to applicants
or lease for Lot 49, and an application
Tolentinos damages in the amount of
for a similar permit, for Lot 1, was filed
P200.00 per hectare from October 1,
by his daughter Clemencia Tolentino.
1954, when plaintiffs were notified of the
denial of their protest by the Director of
The Dizons, Sy-Jucos, and Gocos filed Fisheries, such award was eliminated in
a protest with the Bureau of Fisheries, the resolution of August 20, 1962, for
claiming the properties to be private reason that plaintiffs, who relied on the
land covered by a certificate of title. This efficacy of their certificates of title,
protest was dismissed by the Director of cannot be considered possessors in bad
Fisheries, on the ground that the areas faith until after the legality of their said
applied for are outside the boundaries of titles has been finally determined.
TCT No. T-722 of Hacienda Calatagan. Appellants were thus declared entitled
This ruling was based upon the findings to retention of the properties until they
of the committee created by the are reimbursed by the landowner, the
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Republic of the Philippines, of the
Resources to look into the matter, that necessary expenses made on the lands,
Lots 1 and 49 are not originally included in the sums of P40,000.00 (for Lot 49)
within the boundaries of the hacienda. and P25,000.00 (for Lot 1). It is from this
portion of the decision as thus modified
that defendants Tolentinos and the
On October 1, 1954, the protestants intervenor Republic of the Philippines
Dizons, Sy-Jucos, and Gocos filed an appealed (in G.R. Nos. L-20355-56),
action in the Court of First Instance of claiming that plaintiffs' possession
Manila (Civ. Case No. 24237) to restrain became in bad faith when their protest
the Director of Fisheries from issuing the against the application for lease was
fishpond permits applied for by the denied by the Director of Fisheries. In
Tolentinos. The court dismissed this addition, the intervenor contends that
petition for non-exhaustion of being such possessors in bad faith,
administrative remedy, it appearing that plaintiffs are not entitled to
petitioners had not appealed from the reimbursement of the expenses made
decision of the Director of Fisheries to on the properties. (at pp. 705-708;
the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Emphasis supplied)
Resources. On appeal to this Court, the
decision of the lower court was
sustained (G.R. No. 8654, promulgated The appellate court's decision was appealed to us by both
April 28, 1956). The protestants then the Republic and the Dizons, et al.
filed an appeal with the Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources. This
We dismissed both appeals.
time, the same was dismissed for being
filed out of time.
A comparative study of the present case and the Dizon case
shows different circumstances which make the Dizon case
On August 16, 1956, the Dizons filed
not applicable to the instant case.
Civil Case 135 and the Sy-Jucos and
Gocos, Civil Case 136, in the Court of
First Instance of Batangas, to quiet their In the present case, the parcel of land titled in the name of
titles over Lots 49 and 1. Named Hilario P. Rama is covered by an original torrens title issued
defendants were the Secretary of in Rama's name on May 4, 1967. Earlier, he applied for the
Agriculture and Natural Resources and issuance of title based on a patent which was given on
applicants Tolentinos. The Republic of January 13, 1967. The fact that he applied for a patent title
the Philippines was allowed to intervene shows a recognition on his part that the parcel is part of the
in view of the finding by the investigating public domain. True, government officials caused the
committee created by the respondent issuance of the patent title and the original torrens title
Secretary, that the lots were part of the covering the land in Rama's name. However, the well-
foreshore area before their conversion entrenched principle is that the State cannot be put in
into fishponds by the hacienda-owners. estoppel by the mistakes or errors of its officials or agents.
(Republic v. Court of Appeals, 135 SCRA 156 [1985]; and
Republic v. Aquino, 120 SCRA 186 [1983])
On January 30, 1958, after due hearing,
the Court of First Instance of Batangas
promulgated a joint decision making the Considering that the subject parcel of land is forest land, the
finding, among others, that the patent and original certificate of title covering the subject
subdivision plan Psd-27941 was parcel issued to Rama did not confer any validity to his
prepared in disregard of the technical possession or claim of ownership. (Sunbeam Convenience
description stated in TCT No. T-722, Foods, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 181 SCRA 443 [1990];
because the surveyor merely followed Vallarta v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 151 SCRA 679
the existing shoreline and placed his [1987]; Republic v. Court of Appeals, 148 SCRA 480 [1987];
monuments on the southwest lateral of Republic v. Court of Appeals, 135 SCRA 156 [1985])
Lot 49, which was the pier abutting into
the sea; and made the conclusion that
The titles are void ab initio. (Heirs of Amunategui v. Director
Lots 1 and 49 of Psd-27941 were part of
of Forestry, 126 SCRA 69 [1983]; Republic v. Animas, 56
the foreshore lands. As the certificate of
SCRA 499 [1974]) The titles issued cannot ripen into private
title obtained by petitioners covered
ownership. (Director of Forestry v. Muñoz, 23 SCRA 1183
lands not subject to registration, the
[1968]; Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry, supra;
same were declared null and void, and
Vallarta v. Intermediate Appellate Court, supra) In effect,
Lots 1 and 49 were declared properties
Rama's possession of the parcel from the beginning was
of the public domain. Petitioners
fraudulent and illegal. He was merely a squatter on the
appealed to the Court of Appeals.

47
parcel. Under these circumstances, we cannot see any Even if the doctrine
reason why Rama should be considered a possessor in of indefeasibility of
good faith as defined in Article 526 of the Civil Code. a Torrens Title were
not thus reconciled,
the result would be
In the Dizon case, however, the occupants of the parcels of
the same,
land which were adjudged as part of these ashore or
considering the
foreshore area and part of the public domain bought the land
third paragraph of
from Alfonso and Jacobo Zobel relying on the original
Art. 526 which
certificate of title covering the parcels. This intervening event
provides that:
constitutes the difference between the Dizon case and the
present case. Dizon, et al. buyers of the foreshore lands
were protected by the principle that an innocent buyer of a Art. 526. . . .
registered land may rely on the torrens title of the seller. In
the absence of anything to excite suspicion, the buyer is not
Mistake upon a
obligated to look beyond the certificate to investigate the title
doubtful or difficult
of the sellers appearing on the face of the certificate.
question of law may
(Philippine National Bank v. Court of Appeals, 187 SCRA
be the basis of
735 [1990]; Gonzales v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 157
good faith.
SCRA 587 [1988]; Philippine National Cooperative Bank v.
Carandang-Villalon, 139 SCRA 570 [1985]); Penullar v.
Philippine National Bank, 120 SCRA 171 [1983]) The legal question
whether plaintiffs-
appellants'
Another distinction between the two (2) cases is in the
possession in good
degree of participation of the parties and the public officials
faith, under their
in the titling of the subject parcels of land. In the present
Torrens Titles
case, respondent Rama was the one who secured a
acquired in good
certificate from the office of the District Forester, Tagbilaran
faith, does not lose
City as regards the status of the parcel of land with his
this character
representations that "he had a plan of the land." It appears,
except in the case
therefore, that it was through the representations of Rama
and from the
that the land was titled in his name. Some months later,
moment their Titles
however, or on November 7, 1967, the Office of the District
are declared null
Forester suspected that the parcel of land thus titled was
and void by the
forest land. Why this angle was not pursued is not shown in
Courts, is a difficult
the records. It, however, negates the good faith of Rama
one. Even the
who actively pursued the titling of the parcel in his name.
members of this
Court were for a
Good faith which entitles the possessors to necessary long time divided,
expenses with right of retention until reimbursement was two to one, on the
explained in the Dizon case: answer. It was only
after several
sessions, where the
On the matter of possession of plaintiffs-
results of
appellants, the ruling of the Court of
exhaustive
Appeals must be upheld. There is no
researches on both
showing that plaintiffs are not
sides were
purchasers in good faith and for value.
thoroughly
As such titleholders, they have reason
discussed, that an
to rely on the indefeasible character of
undivided Court
their certificates.
finally found the
answer given in the
On the issue of good faith of the next preceding
plaintiffs, the Court of Appeals reasoned paragraph. Hence,
out: even if it be
assumed for the
sake of argument
The concept of that the Supreme
possessors in good Court would find
faith given in Art. that the law is not
526 of the Civil as we have stated it
Code and when in the next
said possession preceding
loses this Character paragraph and that
under Art. 528, the plaintiffs-
needs to be appellants made a
reconciled with the mistake in relying
doctrine of thereon, such
indefeasibility of a mistake on a
Torrens Title. Such difficult question of
reconcialiton can law may be the
only be achieved by basis of good faith.
holding that the Hence, their
possessor with a possession in good
Torrens Title is not faith does not lose
aware of any flaw in this character
his Title which except in the case
invalidates it until and from the
his Torrens Title is moment their
declared null and Torrens Titles are
void by final declared null and
judgment of the void by the Courts.
Courts.

Under the circumstances of the case,


especially where the subdivision plan

48
was originally approved by the Director The ownership of the landholding eventually moved from
of Lands, we are not ready to conclude one person to another. On 9 May 1959, respondent
that the above reasoning of the Court of Guillermo Manalo acquired 8.65 hectares thereof from
Appeals on this point is a reversible Faustina Taccad, daughter of Judge Juan Taccad. The land
error. Needless to state, as such sold was described in the Deed of Absolute Sale 1 as
occupants in good faith, plaintiffs have follows:
the right to the retention of the property
until they are reimbursed the necessary
. . . a parcel of agricultural land in Balug,
expenses made on the lands.
Tumauini, Isabela, containing an area of
8.6500 hectares, more or less; bounded
With respect to the contention of the on the North by Francisco Forto on the
Republic of the Philippines that the East by National Road; on South by
order for the reimbursement by it of Julian Tumolva and on the West by
such necessary expenses constitutes a Cagayan River; declared for taxation
judgment against the government in a under Tax Declaration No. 12681 in the
suit not consented to by it, suffice it to name of Faustina Taccad, and
say that the Republic, on its own assessed at P 750.00. . . .
initiative, asked and was permitted to
intervene in the case and thereby
Later in 1964, respondent Manalo purchased another 1.80
submitted itself voluntarily to the
hectares from Gregorio Taguba who had earlier acquired the
jurisdiction of the court. (at pp. 709-710;
same from Judge Juan Taccad. The second purchase
Emphasis supplied)
brought the total acquisition of respondent Manalo to 10.45
hectares. The second piece of property was more
With the foregoing findings, the appellate court's ruling as particularly described as follows:
regards the unregistered parcel of land which is to the effect
that Rama is also entitled to necessary expenses with right
. . . a piece of agricultural land
of retention until reimbursed of the necessary expenses
consisting of tobacco land, and
must be reversed. His title over the forest land is null and
containing an area of 18,000 square
void for the same reasons. There are no special
meters, more or less, bounded on the
circumstances which would warrant the application of the
North by Balug Creek; on the South, by
Dizon case.
Faustina Taccad (now Guillermo R.
Manalo); on the East, by a Provincial
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The questioned Road; and on the West, by Cagayan
decision and resolution of the then Intermediate Appellate River assessed at P 440.00, as tax
Court, now Court of Appeals, are SET ASIDE in so far as Declaration No. 3152. . . . 2
they ordered petitioner Republic to pay private respondent
Hilario P. Rama the necessary expenses incurred by him,
During the cadastral survey conducted at Balug, Tumauini,
with right of retention over the two (2) parcels of land
Isabela on 21 October 1969, the two (2) parcels of land
adjudged as forest lands until reimbursed of the necessary
belonging to respondent Manalo were surveyed and
expenses. The decision of the then Court of First Instance of
consolidated into one lot, designated as Lot No. 307, Pls-
Bohol (now Regional Trial Court of Bohol) in Civil Case No.
964. Lot 307 which contains 4.6489 hectares includes: (a)
2613 is MODIFIED in that the portion of the decision which
the whole of the 1.80 hectares acquired from Gregorio
ordered petitioner Republic to pay private respondent Hilario
Taguba; and (b) 2.8489 hectares out of the 8.65 hectares
P. Rama necessary expenses with right of retention in parcel
purchased from Faustina Taccad. As the survey was
number one described in the complaint is DELETED. In all
conducted on a rainy month, a portion of the land bought
other respects, the questioned decision and resolution are
from Faustina Taccad then under water was left unsurveyed
AFFIRMED. No costs.
and was not included in Lot 307.

SO ORDERED.
The Sketch Plan 3 submitted during the trial of this case and
which was identified by respondent Manalo shows that the
G.R. No. 92161 March 18, 1991 Cagayan River running from south to north, forks at a certain
point to form two (2) branches—the western and the eastern
branches—and then unites at the other end, further north, to
SIMPLICIO BINALAY, PONCIANO GANNABAN,
form a narrow strip of land. The eastern branch of the river
NICANOR MACUTAY, DOMINGO ROSALES, GREGORIO
cuts through the land of respondent Manalo and is inundated
ARGONZA, EUSTAQUIO BAUA, FLORENTINO
with water only during the rainy season. The bed of the
ROSALES, TEODORO MABBORANG, PATRICIO
eastern branch is the submerged or the unsurveyed portion
MABBORANG and FULGENCIO MORA, petitioners
of the land belonging to respondent Manalo. For about eight
vs.
(8) months of the year when the level of water at the point
GUILLERMO MANALO and COURT OF APPEALS,
where the Cagayan River forks is at its ordinary depth, river
respondents.
water does not flow into the eastern branch. While this
condition persists, the eastern bed is dry and is susceptible
Josefin De Alban Law Office for Petitioners. to cultivation.

Considering that water flowed through the eastern branch of


the Cagayan River when the cadastral survey was
conducted, the elongated strip of land formed by the western
FELICIANO, J.:p and the eastern branches of the Cagayan River looked very
much like an island. This strip of land was surveyed on 12
The late Judge Taccad originally owned a parcel of land December 1969. 4 It was found to have a total area of
situated in Tumauini, Isabela having an estimated area of 22.7209 hectares and was designated as Lot 821 and Lot
twenty (20) hectares. The western portion of this land 822. The area of Lot 822 is 10.8122 hectares while Lot 821
bordering on the Cagayan River has an elevation lower than has an area of 11.9087 hectares. Lot 821 is located directly
that of the eastern portion which borders on the national opposite Lot 307 and is separated from the latter only by the
road. Through the years, the western portion would eastern branch of the Cagayan River during the rainy
periodically go under the waters of the Cagayan River as season and, during the dry season, by the exposed, dry river
those waters swelled with the coming of the rains. The bed, being a portion of the land bought from Faustina
submerged portion, however, would re-appear during the dry Taccad. Respondent Manalo claims that Lot 821 also
season from January to August. It would remain under water belongs to him by way of accretion to the submerged portion
for the rest of the year, that is, from September to December of the property to which it is adjacent.
during the rainy season.

49
Petitioners who are in possession of Lot 821, upon the other It is a familiar rule that the findings of facts of the trial court
hand, insist that they own Lot 821. They occupy the outer are entitled to great respect, and that they carry even more
edges of Lot 821 along the river banks, i.e., the fertile weight when affirmed by the Court of Appeals. 9 This is in
portions on which they plant tobacco and other agricultural recognition of the peculiar advantage on the part of the trial
products. They also cultivate the western strip of the court of being able to observe first-hand the deportment of
unsurveyed portion during summer. 5 This situation the witnesses while testifying. Jurisprudence is likewise
compelled respondent Manalo to file a case for forcible entry settled that the Court of Appeals is the final arbiter of
against petitioners on 20 May 1969. The case was questions of fact. 10 But whether a conclusion drawn from
dismissed by the Municipal Court of Tumauini, Isabela for such findings of facts is correct, is a question of law
failure of both parties to appear. On 15 December 1972, cognizable by this Court. 11
respondent Manalo again filed a case for forcible entry
against petitioners. The latter case was similarly dismissed
In the instant case, the conclusion reached by both courts
for lack of jurisdiction by the Municipal Court of Tumauini,
below apparently collides with their findings that periodically
Isabela.
at the onset of and during the rainy season, river water flows
through the eastern bed of the Cagayan River. The trial court
On 24 July 1974, respondent Manalo filed a complaints 6 held:
before the then Court of First Instance of Isabela, Branch 3
for quieting of title, possession and damages against
The Court believes that the land in
petitioners. He alleged ownership of the two (2) parcels of
controversy is of the nature and
land he bought separately from Faustina Taccad and
character of alluvion (Accretion), for it
Gregorio Taguba for which reason he prayed that judgment
appears that during the dry season, the
be entered ordering petitioners to vacate the western strip of
body of water separating the same land
the unsurveyed portion. Respondent Manalo likewise prayed
in controversy (Lot No. 821, Pls-964)
that judgment be entered declaring him as owner of Lot 821
and the two (2) parcels of land which the
on which he had laid his claim during the survey.
plaintiff purchased from Gregorio
Taguba and Justina Taccad Cayaba
Petitioners filed their answer denying the material allegations becomes a marshy land and is only six
of the complaint. The case was then set for trial for failure of (6) inches deep and twelve (12) meters
the parties to reach an amicable agreement or to enter into a in width at its widest in the northern tip
stipulation of facts. 7 On 10 November 1982, the trial court (Exhs. "W", "W-l", "W-2", "W-3" and "W-
rendered a decision with the following dispositive portion: 4"), It has been held by our Supreme
Court that "the owner of the riparian land
which receives the gradual deposits of
WHEREFORE, in the light of the
alluvion, does not have to make an
foregoing premises, the Court renders
express act of possession. The law
judgment against the defendants and in
does not require it, and the deposit
favor of the plaintiff and orders:
created by the current of the water
becomes manifest" (Roxas vs. Tuazon,
1. That plaintiff, Guillermo Manalo, is 6 Phil. 408). 12
declared the lawful owner of the land in
question, Lot No. 821, Pls-964 of
The Court of Appeals adhered substantially to the conclusion
Tumauini Cadastre, and which is more
reached by the trial court, thus:
particularly described in paragraph 2-b
of the Complaint;
As found by the trial court, the disputed
property is not an island in the strict
2. That the defendants are hereby
sense of the word since the eastern
ordered to vacate the premises of the
portion of the said property claimed by
land in question, Lot No. 821, Pls-964 of
appellants to be part of the Cagayan
Tumauini Cadastre, and which is more
River dries up during summer.
particularly described in paragraph 2-b
Admittedly, it is the action of the heavy
of the Complaint;
rains which comes during rainy season
especially from September to November
3. That the defendants are being which increases the water level of the
restrained from entering the premises of Cagayan river. As the river becomes
the land in question, Lot No. 821, Pls- swollen due to heavy rains, the lower
964 of Tumauini Cadastre, and which is portion of the said strip of land located
more particularly described in paragraph at its southernmost point would be
2-b of the Complaint; and inundated with water. This is where the
water of the Cagayan river gains its
entry. Consequently, if the water level is
4. That there is no pronouncement as to high the whole strip of land would be
attorney's fees and costs. under water.

SO ORDERED. 8 In Government of the Philippine Islands vs. Colegio de San


Jose, it was held that —
Petitioners appealed to the Court of Appeals which,
however, affirmed the decision of the trial court. They filed a According to the
motion for reconsideration, without success. foregoing definition
of the words
While petitioners insist that Lot 821 is part of an island "ordinary" and
surrounded by the two (2) branches of the Cagayan River, "extra-ordinary," the
the Court of Appeals found otherwise. The Court of Appeals highest depth of the
concurred with the finding of the trial court that Lot 821 waters of Laguna
cannot be considered separate and distinct from Lot 307 de Bay during the
since the eastern branch of the Cagayan River substantially dry season is the
dries up for the most part of the year such that when this ordinary one, and
happens, Lot 821 becomes physically (i.e., by land) the highest depth
connected with the dried up bed owned by respondent they attain during
Manalo. Both courts below in effect rejected the assertion of the extra-ordinary
petitioners that the depression on the earth's surface which one (sic); inasmuch
separates Lot 307 and Lot 821 is, during part of the year, the as the former is the
bed of the eastern branch of the Cagayan River. one which is

50
regular, common, The conclusion of this Court that the depressed portion is a
natural, which river bed rests upon evidence of record. Firstly, respondent
occurs always or Manalo admitted in open court that the entire area he bought
most of the time from Gregorio Taguba was included in Lot 307. 15 If the 1.80
during the year, hectares purchased from Gregorio Taguba was included in
while the latter is Lot 307, then the Cagayan River referred to as the western
uncommon, boundary in the Deed of Sale transferring the land from
transcends the Gregorio Taguba to respondent Manalo as well as the Deed
general rule, order of Sale signed by Faustina Taccad, must refer to the dried
and measure, and up bed (during the dry months) or the eastern branch of the
goes beyond that river (during the rainy months). In the Sketch Plan attached
which is the to the records of the case, Lot 307 is separated from the
ordinary depth. If western branch of the Cagayan River by a large tract of land
according to the which includes not only Lot 821 but also what this Court
definition given by characterizes as the eastern branch of the Cagayan River.
Article 74 of the
Law of Waters
Secondly, the pictures identified by respondent Manalo
quoted above, the
during his direct examination depict the depressed portion as
natural bed or basin
a river bed. The pictures, marked as Exhibits "W" to "W-4",
of the lakes is the
were taken in July 1973 or at a time when the eastern bed
ground covered by
becomes visible. 16 Thus, Exhibit "W-2" which according to
their waters when at
respondent Manalo was taken facing the east and Exhibit
their highest
"W-3" which was taken facing the west both show that the
ordinary depth, the
visible, dried up portion has a markedly lower elevation than
natural bed or basin
Lot 307 and Lot 821. It has dike-like slopes on both sides
of Laguna de Bay is
connecting it to Lot 307 and Lot 821 that are vertical upward
the ground covered
and very prominent. This topographic feature is compatible
by its waters when
with the fact that a huge volume of water passes through the
at their highest
eastern bed regularly during the rainy season. In addition,
depth during the dry
petitioner Ponciano Gannaban testified that one had to go
season, that is up to
down what he called a "cliff" from the surveyed portion of the
the northeastern
land of respondent Manalo to the depressed portion. The
boundary of the two
cliff, as related by petitioner Gannaban, has a height of eight
parcels of land in
(8) meters. 17
question.

The records do not show when the Cagayan River began to


We find the foregoing ruling to be
carve its eastern channel on the surface of the earth.
analogous to the case at bar. The
However, Exhibit "E" 18 for the prosecution which was the
highest ordinary level of the waters of
Declaration of Real Property standing in the name of
the Cagayan River is that attained
Faustina Taccad indicates that the eastern bed already
during the dry season which is confined
existed even before the sale to respondent Manalo. The
only on the west side of Lot [821] and
words "old bed" enclosed in parentheses—perhaps written
Lot [822]. This is the natural Cagayan
to make legitimate the claim of private ownership over the
river itself. The small residual of water
submerged portion—is an implied admission of the existence
between Lot [821] and 307 is part of the
of the river bed. In the Declaration of Real Property made by
small stream already in existence when
respondent Manalo, the depressed portion assumed the
the whole of the late Judge Juan
name Rio Muerte de Cagayan. Indeed, the steep dike-like
Taccad's property was still susceptible
slopes on either side of the eastern bed could have been
to cultivation and uneroded. 13
formed only after a prolonged period of time.

The Court is unable to agree with the Court of Appeals that


Now, then, pursuant to Article 420 of the Civil Code,
Government of the Philippine Islands vs. Colegio de San
respondent Manalo did not acquire private ownership of the
Jose 14 is applicable to the present case. That case involved
bed of the eastern branch of the river even if it was included
Laguna de Bay; since Laguna de Bay is a lake, the Court
in the deeds of absolute sale executed by Gregorio Taguba
applied the legal provisions governing the ownership and
and Faustina Taccad in his favor. These vendors could not
use of lakes and their beds and shores, in order to determine
have validly sold land that constituted property of public
the character and ownership of the disputed property.
dominion. Article 420 of the Civil Code states:
Specifically, the Court applied the definition of the natural
bed or basin of lakes found in Article 74 of the Law of Waters
of 3 August 1866. Upon the other hand, what is involved in The following things are property of
the instant case is the eastern bed of the Cagayan River. public dominion:

We believe and so hold that Article 70 of the Law of Waters (1) Those intended for public use, such
of 3 August 1866 is the law applicable to the case at bar: as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports
and bridges constructed by the State,
banks, shores, roadsteads, and others
Art. 70. The natural bed or channel of a
of similar character;
creek or river is the ground covered by
its waters during the highest floods.
(Emphasis supplied) (2) Those which belong to the State,
without being for public use, and are
intended for some public service or for
We note that Article 70 defines the natural bed or
the development of the national wealth.
channel of a creek or river as the ground covered
(Emphasis supplied)
by its waters during the highest floods. The
highest floods in the eastern branch of the
Cagayan River occur with the annual coming of Although Article 420 speaks only of rivers and banks, "rivers"
the rains as the river waters in their onward course is a composite term which includes: (1) the running waters,
cover the entire depressed portion. Though the (2) the bed, and (3) the banks. 19 Manresa, in commenting
eastern bed substantially dries up for the most part upon Article 339 of the Spanish Civil Code of 1889 from
of the year (i.e., from January to August), we which Article 420 of the Philippine Civil Code was taken,
cannot ignore the periodical swelling of the waters stressed the public ownership of river beds:
( i.e., from September to December) causing the
eastern bed to be covered with flowing river
waters.

51
La naturaleza especial de los rios, en land having a total area of 22.72 hectares. We find it difficult
punto a su disfrute general, hace que to suppose that such a sizable area as Lot 821 resulted from
sea necesario considerar en su relacion slow accretion to another lot of almost equal size. The total
de dominio algo mas que sus aguas landholding purchased by respondent Manalo is 10.45
corrientes. En efecto en todo rio es hectares (8.65 hectares from Faustina Taccad and 1.80
preciso distinguir 1. esta agua corriente; hectares from Gregorio Taguba in 1959 and 1964,
2. el alveo o cauce, y 3. las riberas. respectively), in fact even smaller than Lot 821 which he
Ahora bien: son estas dos ultimas cosas claims by way of accretion. The cadastral survey showing
siempre de dominio publico, como las that Lot 821 has an area of 11.91 hectares was conducted in
aguas? 1969. If respondent Manalo's contention were accepted, it
would mean that in a span of only ten (10) years, he had
more than doubled his landholding by what the Court of
Realmente no puede imaginarse un rio
Appeals and the trial court considered as accretion. As
sin alveo y sin ribera; de suerte que al
already noted, there are steep vertical dike-like slopes
decir el Codigo civil que los rios son de
separating the depressed portion or river bed and Lot 821
dominio publico, parece que debe ir
and Lot 307. This topography of the land, among other
implicito el dominio publico de aquellos
things, precludes a reasonable conclusion that Lot 821 is an
tres elementos que integran el rio. Por
increment to the depressed portion by reason of the slow
otra parte, en cuanto a los alveos o
and constant action of the waters of either the western or the
cauces tenemos la declaracion del art.
eastern branches of the Cagayan River.
407, num 1, donde dice: son de
dominion publico . . . los rios y sus
cauces naturales; declaracion que We turn finally to the issue of ownership of Lot 821.
concuerda con lo que dispone el art. 34 Respondent Manalo's claim over Lot 821 rests on accretion
de la ley de [Aguas], segun el cual, son coupled with alleged prior possession. He alleged that the
de dominion publico: 1. los alveos o parcels of land he bought separately from Gregorio Taguba
cauces de los arroyos que no se hallen and Faustina Taccad were formerly owned by Judge Juan
comprendidos en el art. 33, y 2. los Taccad who was in possession thereof through his (Judge
alveos o cauces naturales de los rios en Taccad's) tenants. When ownership was transferred to him,
la extension que cubran sus aguas en respondent Manalo took over the cultivation of the property
las mayores crecidas ordinarias. 20 and had it declared for taxation purposes in his name. When
(Emphasis supplied) petitioners forcibly entered into his property, he twice
instituted the appropriate action before the Municipal Trial
Court of Tumauini, Isabela. Against respondent Manalo's
The claim of ownership of respondent Manalo over the
allegation of prior possession, petitioners presented tax
submerged portion is bereft of basis even if it were alleged
declarations standing in their respective names. They
and proved that the Cagayan River first began to encroach
claimed lawful, peaceful and adverse possession of Lot 821
on his property after the purchase from Gregorio Taguba
since 1955.
and Faustina Taccad. Article 462 of the Civil Code would
then apply divesting, by operation of law, respondent Manalo
of private ownership over the new river bed. The intrusion of If respondent Manalo had proved prior possession, it was
the eastern branch of the Cagayan River into his landholding limited physically to Lot 307 and the depressed portion or the
obviously prejudiced respondent Manalo but this is a eastern river bed. The testimony of Dominga Malana who
common occurrence since estates bordering on rivers are was a tenant for Justina Taccad did not indicate that she
exposed to floods and other evils produced by the was also cultivating Lot 821. In fact, the complaints for
destructive force of the waters. That loss is compensated by, forcible entry lodged before the Municipal Trial Court of
inter alia, the right of accretion acknowledged by Article 457 Tumauini, Isabela pertained only to Lot 307 and the
of the Civil Code. 21 It so happened that instead of increasing depressed portion or river bed and not to Lot 821. In the
the size of Lot 307, the eastern branch of the Cagayan River same manner, the tax declarations presented by petitioners
had carved a channel on it. conflict with those of respondent Manalo. Under Article 477
of the Civil Code, the plaintiff in an action for quieting of title
must at least have equitable title to or interest in the real
We turn next to the issue of accretion. After examining the
property which is the subject matter of the action. The
records of the case, the Court considers that there was no
evidence of record on this point is less than satisfactory and
evidence to prove that Lot 821 is an increment to Lot 307
the Court feels compelled to refrain from determining the
and the bed of the eastern branch of the river. Accretion as a
ownership and possession of Lot 821, adjudging neither
mode of acquiring property under Article 457 of the Civil
petitioners nor respondent Manalo as owner(s) thereof.
Code requires the concurrence of three (3) requisites: (a)
that the deposition of soil or sediment be gradual and
imperceptible; (b) that it be the result of the action of the WHEREFORE, the Decision and Resolution of the Court of
waters of the river (or sea); and (c) that the land where Appeals in CA-GR CV No. 04892 are hereby SET ASIDE.
accretion takes place is adjacent to the banks of rivers (or Respondent Manalo is hereby declared the owner of Lot
the sea coast). 22 The Court notes that the parcels of land 307. The regularly submerged portion or the eastern bed of
bought by respondent Manalo border on the eastern branch the Cagayan River is hereby DECLARED to be property of
of the Cagayan River. Any accretion formed by this eastern public dominion. The ownership of Lot 821 shall be
branch which respondent Manalo may claim must be determined in an appropriate action that may be instituted by
deposited on or attached to Lot 307. As it is, the claimed the interested parties inter se. No pronouncement as to
accretion (Lot 821) lies on the bank of the river not adjacent costs.
to Lot 307 but directly opposite Lot 307 across the river.
SO ORDERED.
Assuming (arguendo only) that the Cagayan River referred
to in the Deeds of Sale transferring ownership of the land to
G.R. No. 134209 January 24, 2006
respondent Manalo is the western branch, the decision of
the Court of Appeals and of the trial court are bare of factual
findings to the effect that the land purchased by respondent REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,
Manalo received alluvium from the action of the aver in a vs.
slow and gradual manner. On the contrary, the decision of CELESTINA NAGUIAT, Respondent.
the lower court made mention of several floods that caused
the land to reappear making it susceptible to cultivation. A
DECISION
sudden and forceful action like that of flooding is hardly the
alluvial process contemplated under Article 457 of the Civil
Code. It is the slow and hardly perceptible accumulation of GARCIA, J.:
soil deposits that the law grants to the riparian owner.
Before the Court is this petition for review under Rule 45 of
Besides, it is important to note that Lot 821 has an area of the Rules of Court seeking the reversal of the Decision1
11.91 hectares. Lot 821 is the northern portion of the strip of dated May 29, 1998 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R.

52
CV No. 37001 which affirmed an earlier decision2 of the As stated at the outset hereof, the CA, in the herein assailed
Regional Trial Court at Iba, Zambales, Branch 69 in Land decision of May 29, 1998, affirmed that of the trial court, to
Registration Case No. N-25-1. wit:

The decision under review recites the factual backdrop, as WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision appealed
follows: from is hereby AFFIRMED.

This is an application for registration of title to four (4) SO ORDERED.


parcels of land located in Panan, Botolan, Zambales, more
particularly described in the amended application filed by
Hence, the Republic’s present recourse on its basic
Celestina Naguiat on 29 December 1989 with the Regional
submission that the CA’s decision "is not in accordance with
Trial Court of Zambales, Branch 69. Applicant [herein
law, jurisprudence and the evidence, since respondent has
respondent] alleges, inter alia, that she is the owner of the
not established with the required evidence her title in fee
said parcels of land having acquired them by purchase from
simple or imperfect title in respect of the subject lots which
the LID Corporation which likewise acquired the same from
would warrant their registration under … (P.D. 1529 or
Demetria Calderon, Josefina Moraga and Fausto Monje and
Public Land Act (C.A.) 141." In particular, petitioner Republic
their predecessors-in-interest who have been in possession
faults the appellate court on its finding respecting the length
thereof for more than thirty (30) years; and that to the best of
of respondent’s occupation of the property subject of her
her knowledge, said lots suffer no mortgage or encumbrance
application for registration and for not considering the fact
of whatever kind nor is there any person having any interest,
that she has not established that the lands in question have
legal or equitable, or in possession thereof.
been declassified from forest or timber zone to alienable and
disposable property.
On 29 June 1990, the Republic of the Philippines [herein
petitioner]. . . filed an opposition to the application on the
Public forest lands or forest reserves, unless declassified
ground that neither the applicant nor her predecessors-in
and released by positive act of the Government so that they
interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the
notorious possession and occupation of the lands in
public domain, are not capable of private appropriation.5 As
question since 12 June 1945 or prior thereto; that the
to these assets, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do
muniments of title and tax payment receipts of applicant do
not apply.6 Given this postulate, the principal issue to be
not constitute competent and sufficient evidence of a bona-
addressed turns on the question of whether or not the areas
fide acquisition of the lands applied for or of his open,
in question have ceased to have the status of forest or other
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
inalienable lands of the public domain.
occupation thereof in the concept of (an) owner; that the
applicant’s claim of ownership in fee simple on the basis of
Spanish title or grant can no longer be availed of . . .; and Forests, in the context of both the Public Land Act7 and the
that the parcels of land applied for are part of the public Constitution8 classifying lands of the public domain into
domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines not "agricultural, forest or timber, mineral lands and national
subject to private appropriation. parks," do not necessarily refer to a large tract of wooded
land or an expanse covered by dense growth of trees and
underbrush. As we stated in Heirs of Amunategui 9-
On 15 October 1990, the lower court issued an order of
general default as against the whole world, with the
exception of the Office of the Solicitor General, and A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain
proceeded with the hearing of this registration case. does not lose such classification simply because loggers or
settlers have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land
classified as forest land may actually be covered with grass
After she had presented and formally offered her evidence . .
or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers.
. applicant rested her case. The Solicitor General, thru the
"Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of
Provincial Prosecutor, interposed no objection to the
the way places. xxx. The classification is merely descriptive
admission of the exhibits. Later . . . the Provincial Prosecutor
of its legal nature or status and does not have to be
manifest (sic) that the Government had no evidence to
descriptive of what the land actually looks like. xxx
adduce. 3

Under Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution,10 which


In a decision4 dated September 30, 1991, the trial court
embodies the Regalian doctrine, all lands of the public
rendered judgment for herein respondent Celestina Naguiat,
domain belong to the State – the source of any asserted
adjudicating unto her the parcels of land in question and
right to ownership of land.11 All lands not appearing to be
decreeing the registration thereof in her name, thus:
clearly of private dominion presumptively belong to the
State.12 Accordingly, public lands not shown to have been
WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court hereby reclassified or released as alienable agricultural land or
adjudicates the parcels of land situated in Panan, Botolan, alienated to a private person by the State remain part of the
Zambales, appearing on Plan AP-03-003447 containing an inalienable public domain.13 Under Section 6 of the Public
area of 3,131 square meters, appearing on Plan AP-03- Land Act, the prerogative of classifying or reclassifying lands
003446 containing an area of 15,322 containing an area of of the public domain, i.e., from forest or mineral to
15,387 square meters to herein applicant Celestina T. agricultural and vice versa, belongs to the Executive Branch
Naguiat, of legal age, Filipino citizen, married to Rommel of the government and not the court.14 Needless to stress,
Naguiat and a resident of Angeles City, Pampanga together the onus to overturn, by incontrovertible evidence, the
with all the improvements existing thereon and orders and presumption that the land subject of an application for
decrees registration in her name in accordance with Act No. registration is alienable or disposable rests with the
496, Commonwealth Act No. 14, [should be 141] as applicant.15
amended, and Presidential Decree No. 1529. This
adjudication, however, is subject to the various
In the present case, the CA assumed that the lands in
easements/reservations provided for under pertinent laws,
question are already alienable and disposable. Wrote the
presidential decrees and/or presidential letters of instructions
appellate court:
which should be annotated/ projected on the title to be
issued. And once this decision becomes final, let the
corresponding decree of registration be immediately issued. The theory of [petitioner] that the properties in question are
(Words in bracket added) lands of the public domain cannot be sustained as it is
directly against the above doctrine. Said doctrine is a
reaffirmation of the principle established in the earlier cases .
With its motion for reconsideration having been denied by
. . that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of
the trial court, petitioner Republic went on appeal to the CA
alienable public land for period prescribed by law creates the
in CA-G.R. CV No. 37001.
legal fiction whereby the land, upon completion of the
requisite period, ipso jure and without the need of judicial or
other sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes

53
private property …. (Word in bracket and underscoring
added.)

The principal reason for the appellate court’s disposition,


finding a registerable title for respondent, is her and her
predecessor-in-interest’s open, continuous and exclusive
occupation of the subject property for more than 30 years.
Prescinding from its above assumption and finding, the
appellate court went on to conclude, citing Director of Lands
vs. Intermediate Appellate Court (IAC)16 and Herico vs.
DAR,17 among other cases, that, upon the completion of the
requisite period of possession, the lands in question cease
to be public land and become private property.

Director of Lands, Herico and the other cases cited by the


CA are not, however, winning cards for the respondent, for
the simple reason that, in said cases, the disposable and
alienable nature of the land sought to be registered was
established, or, at least, not put in issue. And there lies the
difference.

Here, respondent never presented the required certification


from the proper government agency or official proclamation
reclassifying the land applied for as alienable and
disposable. Matters of land classification or reclassification
cannot be assumed. It calls for proof.18 Aside from tax
receipts, respondent submitted in evidence the survey map
and technical descriptions of the lands, which, needless to
state, provided no information respecting the classification of
the property. As the Court has held, however, these
documents are not sufficient to overcome the presumption
that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public
domain.19

It cannot be overemphasized that unwarranted appropriation


of public lands has been a notorious practice resorted to in
land registration cases.20 For this reason, the Court has
made it a point to stress, when appropriate, that
declassification of forest and mineral lands, as the case may
be, and their conversion into alienable and disposable lands
need an express and positive act from the government.21

The foregoing considered, the issue of whether or not


respondent and her predecessor-in-interest have been in
open, exclusive and continuous possession of the parcels of
land in question is now of little moment. For, unclassified
land, as here, cannot be acquired by adverse occupation or
possession; occupation thereof in the concept of owner,
however long, cannot ripen into private ownership and be
registered as title.22

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED and the


assailed decision dated May 29, 1998 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 37001 is REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. Accordingly, respondent’s application for original
registration of title in Land Registration Case No. N-25-1 of
the Regional Trial Court at Iba, Zambales, Branch 69, is
DENIED.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

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