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Facts: An Igorot applied for the registration of a certain land. He and his ancestors
had held the land as owners for more than 50 years, which he inherited under Igorot
customs. There was no document of title issued for the land when he applied for
registration. The government contends that the land in question belonged to the
state. Under the Spanish Law, all lands belonged to the Spanish Crown except those
with permit private titles. Moreover, there is no prescription against the Crown.
Issue: WON the land in question belonged to the Spanish Crown under the Regalian
Held: No. Law and justice require that the applicant should be granted title to his
The United States Supreme Court, through Justice Holmes declared:
It might perhaps, be proper and sufficient to say that when, as far as testimony or
memory goes, the land has been held by individuals under a claim of private
ownership, it will be presumed to have been held in the same way from before the
Spanish conquest, and never to have been public land.
There is an existence of native title to land, or ownership of land by Filipinos by
virtue of possession under a claim of ownership since time immemorial and
independent of any grant from the Spanish Crown, as an exception to the theory
of jura regalia.


Courts: The Misinterpretation of Cario
Posted by kitangladintegratedngos under 1999
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Vol. 4, No. 4, Fourth Quarter 1999
By Dante B. Gatmaytan
Repeated efforts have been made to point out that the Philippine legal system has long recognized that
indigenous peoples ownership rights over their ancestral domains. Cario V. Insular Government, the
United States Supreme Court, exercising appellate jurisdiction over the Philippine courts, is a case in
point. It stated that lands held since time immemorial are private lands protected by the Bill of Rights.

This case has generated considerable discussion, but it has also been pointed out that Cario and its
subsequent interpretation by courts in the Philippines and United States. It will show that the Cario
decision haws been continuously misinterpreted in both jurisdictions.
Cario is significant because the judicial recognition of indigenous peoples ownership of their ancestral
domains is uncommon. Ironically, the United States Supreme Court that decided Cario has been less
than willing to recognize similar rights for the indigenous peoples of North America. Simply put, that Court
has held that neither the discovery of the New World under international law, nor the resulting English
colonial policy, requires the recognition of Indian title. The United States as a legatee of this policy was,
therefore, not bound to recognize any rights belonging to indigenous peoples. The judicial doctrines in the
United States have been explained as a result of racist attitudes that prevailed during the settlement of
the United States. Many accounts of the settlement were crafted as the triumph of a people over the
challenges of nature.
However, it was mostly a violent, imperialistic process by which the West was wrested from its original
owners. Scholars have traced this attitude to the medieval era when the crusading theory of practice of
the Church produced a highly refined legal tradition denying non-Christian peoples the rights of self-rule
and jurisdictional authority over the lands they occupied and the property they possessed. This cultural
racism was applied with the same force against any race of peoples, whose religion, civilization, or form
of culture, differed from Christian European norms. This legacy was brought to the New World by the
colonizers and used to support a set of legal privileges that discriminated against indigenous peoples and
denied them rights of self-rule because of their deviation from European standards.
The westward expansion of the United States did not stop with the adjacent states. By the end of the
nineteenth century, the United States has established itself not only as a sovereign nation worthy of
inclusion into the international community, but had also asserted itself as a world power. There was
agitation for greater glory beyond the territorial borders of the country, which echoed the same rhetoric
used to justify the conquest to the Native Americans. There were calls for continued westward progress of
the Caucasian race, carrying civilization and blessing in its march.
The stimulus in the United States was to push for the adoption of the expansionists platform. The Cuban
insurrection against Spain had become a central theme in the debates about whether the
United States should engage in overseas expansion. Inflammatory reports of Spanish atrocities
generated popular sympathy for insurgents, until a policy of non-intervention was disregarded, and war
with Spain was viewed as the sole remedy to the Cuban situation. To the delight of the expansionists, the

United Stated went to war against Spain. Senator Albert J. Beveridge further spurred his United Stated
went to war against Spain.
Senator Albert J. Beveridge further spurred his fellow Americans by reminding them that we are
conquering race, and that we must obey our blood and occupy new markers and new lands. He pointed
to the Philippines to the United States and delivered rounded by indigenous people who were never
subdued by the Spanish empire.
The indications were that United States law will be used to settle land disputes between nonChristian indigenous peoples and the United States President McKinleys Instructions to the second
Philippine Commission headed by William Howard Taft stated that:
In dealing with the uncivilized tribes of the Islands, the Commission should adopt the same course
followed by Congress in allowing the tribes of our North American Indians to maintain their tribal
organization and government, and under which many of these tribes are now living in peace and
contentment, surrounded by a civilization to which they are unable or willing to confirm. Such tribal
governments should, however, be subjected to wise and firm regulation; and without due and pretty
interference constant and active effort should be exercised without due and petty interference constant
and active effort should be exercised to prevent barbarous practices and introduce civilized customs.
The instructions were not surprising considering that the United States incursion into the Philippines
coincided with the use of reservations and the allotment of lands to control Indians. But when the issue of
ownership of ancestral domains in the Philippines was raised to the United States Supreme Court, the
issue was decided differently. In the next portion of their paper, we will outline the decision of the U.S.
Supreme Court in Cario.
The facts of Cario v. Insular Government were brief:
The applicant and plaintiff in error is an Igorot of the Province of Benguet, where the land lies. For more
than fifty years before the Treaty of Paris, April 11, 1989 (30 Stat. At L., 1754), as far back as the findings
go, the plaintiff and his ancestors had held the land as owners. His grandfather had lived upon it, and had
maintained fences efficient for the holding of cattle, according to the custom of the country, with some of
the fences, it seems, having been of much earlier date. His father had cultivated parts and had used parts
for pasturing cattle, and he had used it as a pasture in his turn. They all had been recognized as owners
by the Igorots, and he had inherited or received the land from his father, in accordance with Igorot
custom. No document of title, however, had issued from the Spanish Crown, and although, in 1893-1894,
and again in 1869-1879, he applied for one under the royal decrees then in force, nothing seems to have

come of it, unless perhaps, information that lands in Benguet could not be conceded until those to be
occupied for sanitarium, etc., had been designated-a purpose carried out by the Philippine government
and the United States. In 1901 the plaintiff filed a petition, alleging ownership, under the mortgage law,
and the lands were registered to him, that process, establishing only a possessory title, it said.
The issue according to Justice Holmes was whether the claimant, an Igorot, owned the land. The United
States government contented that Spain had title to all the lands in the Philippines, except so far as it saw
fit to permit private titles to be acquired. It maintained that no prescription can be claimed against Spanish
empire and even if that was possible, a decree in 1880 had set a deadline for the registration of these
titles. No title would be recognized as valid beyond that date. Since the land in question was not
registered, the government contended that it had become public (if it was already public). When the
United States succeeded to the title of Spain, Cario had no right which it was bound to respect. The
Court disagreed with the United States in a decision that has remained as obscure as it is significant.
The Court admitted that Spain had embraced the universal feudal theory that all lands were held by the
Crown. However, Justice Holmes, who spoke for the Court, said that in practice sovereignty may vary in
degree. How far a new sovereign shall insist upon the theoretical relation of the subjects to the head in
the past, and how far it shall recognize actual facts, are matters for it to decide.
The Igorots were never brought under the control of the Spaniards. The Court quipped that it would be
almost certain that Spain would not have granted registration of the property that would not have made
title valid. Regardless of Spains position about technical subtleties, this did not mean that under the
dominion of the United States, Cario had lost all his rights. He was not a mere trespasser when the
government succeeded as the new sovereign. A contrary position, would amount to denial of native titles
throughout an important part of the Island of Luzon, at least for the want of ceremonies which the
Spaniards would not have permitted and had not the power to enforce.
The Court explained that the cases involving the land claims of Native Americans were inapplicable in this
situation because the acquisition of the Philippines was not like the settlement of the white race in the
United States. Whatever consideration may have been shown to the North American Indians, the
dominant purpose of the whites in America was to occupy the land. Evidently, however stated, the reason
for our taking over the Philippines was different. No one, we suppose would deny that, so far consistent
with paramount necessities, our first object in the internal administration of the islands is to do justice to
the natives, not to exploit their country for private gain. By the Organic Act of July 1, 1902 all the
property and rights acquired there by the United States are to be administered for the benefit of the
inhabitants thereof.

In the Courts view, the United States had bound itself to administer the islands for the benefit of the
inhabitants, and not to exploit it for profit. However, the decision did not stop there. It pointed out that the
Philippine Bill of 1902 included a Bill of rights that extended those safeguards to all the inhabitants of the
Philippines. The Court found it hard to believe that the United States interpreted the due process clause
not to apply to the inhabitants of Benguet. The property under the organic act protected only that which
had become such by ceremonies of which presumably a large part of the inhabitants never heard, and
that it proposed to treat as public land what they, by native custom and by long association one of the
profoundest factors in human thought-regarded as their own.
While the government of the Philippines was empowered to enact rules for perfecting titles to public lands
and to issue patents to natives, the Court held that this power was confined to lands which were
admittedly public. It had not continued for such a length of time and under such circumstances as to give
rise to the understanding that the occupants were owners. The Court refused to believe that there was
an intent to declare every native who had not a paper title a trespasser. This set the claims of all the
wilder tribes afloat. The Court further held that there must be a presumption against the government when
a private individual claims property as his or her own. It went so far as to say that the lands will be
deemed private absent contrary proof. In what is probably the most potent statement ever made on this
subject by any Court, it held:
Whatever the law upon these points may beevery presumption is and ought to be against the
government in a case like the present. It might be proper and sufficient to say that when as far
back as testimony or memory goes, the land has been held by individuals under a claim of private
ownership, it will be presumed to have been held in the same way even before Spanish conquest,
and never to have been public land.
The Court proceeded to explain that the case would have been similarly resolved had the case tried by
the laws of Spain. After examining the pertinent laws, the Court held that We do not discover such clear
proof that it was bad by that [Spanish] law as to satisfy us that he does not own the land. To begin with,
the older decrees and laws cited by the counsel for the plaintiff in error seem to suggest pretty clearly that
the natives were recognized as owing some lands, irrespective of any royal grant. In other words, Spain
did not assume to convert all the native inhabitants of the Philippines into trespassers or even tenants at
The Court pointed out that the Recopilacion de Leyes de Las Indias (that body of edicts, decrees and
orders that set out Spains laws for her colonies) allowed confirmation of title through prescription, and
that title was admitted to exist that owed nothing to the power of Spain beyond this recognition in their

books. The Court further explained that Spanish law was not that stringent in requiring proof, ancient
possession being sufficient.
As prescription, even against Crown lands, was recognized by the laws of Spain, we see no sufficient
reason for hesitating to admit the title was recognized in the Philippines in regard to lands over which
Spain had only a paper sovereignty.
Clearly, the reference to Spanish law was inconsequential. Justice Holmes discussed the issue only to
clarify that Carios claim would have also prevailed, (this time under prescription) had the Court resorted
to Spanish laws. This part of the discussion was surplusage because the lands claimed by Cario were
already held to be private.
In concluding, Holmes wrote that law and justice require that the applicant should be granted what he
seeks, and should not be deprived of what, by the practice and belief of those among whom he lived, was
his property, through a refined interpretation of an almost forgotten law of Spain.
In the following portion of the paper, we analyze the Courts decision.
Cario did not rely on precedent. Justice Holmes said that whatever theories justified claims over
discovered lands, the truth was that conquerors were never able to see, much less secure most of these
areas. The fact that the Igorots had never been assimilated or defeated by the Spaniards must surely
have been a substantial consideration. The court said that title will not be extinguished simply because a
territory is occupied by an alien force.
Holmess language stripped the veneer of nobility that has often been used to justify the dispossession of
the Native Americans. The experience in America was exposed as nothing more than an ignoble, colossal
capitalist venture meant to take lands at the Indians expense. Cario made no explicit reference here to
either superior culture or religion.
The Court then noted the second obstacles to the United States claim: the United States had not
asserted a claim over the entire country. When Congress enacted the Philippine bill of 1902, it extended
the Bill of Rights to the territory. The United States had stretched its protection, particularly the due
process clause, to all the inhabitants of the Philippines. Ata this point, the Court had already characterized
the ancestral domain of the Igorots (and by extension, those of other native peoples) as private. It should
be noted that the property here was private not because of recognition of title by any sovereign. This was
the result of the Igorots custom and long association and practice and belief.

The Court also mocked Spains claims over the entire territory of the Philippines. Such claims could not
defeat the claim of Cario based on laws that Spain had not the power to enforce, or Cario, living as he
did with his unconquered folk, had no reason to heed. The resolution of the case was guided more by the
Courts determination to do justice rather than to apply obscure laws. This explains Holmes refusal to rely
upon established doctrines and his liberal interpretation of the Philippine Bill. No weight was ever placed
upon theories of conquest or alien laws that could not have been known to or understood by a people so
removed from the potentates game of global takeover. Thus, unlike in North America, the Court refused
to deprive the Indian of his rights by resorting to the laws of nations within the exclusive sphere of a mere
handful of nations. It would not construe laws to deny the Igorots claim, and the executive and legislative
acts in any way that would amount to a denial of native titles.
It might be suggested that there is a difference between the claims in Cario and those of the North
American Indians because the former involved the assertion of an individuals private right consistent with
western property schemes against those asserted by an entire community. But there is no evidence of
this difference in Holmes language.
Neither can the differences in the result can be justified on the ground that the Court viewed the claimants
as a civilized westernized people. The claimants in Cario were also considered inferior peoples, if
subtly. The court made conscious efforts to waive technicalities because the claimants were Igorots, and
were referred to as wilder tribes.
But while they were, from the western legal perspective, considered savage and uncivilized, the Court still
found it unfair to refuse recognition of their title.
Cario has been consistently upheld by the Philippine Supreme Court. And while it originally involved the
claim of an individual under a claim of private ownership the Philippine Supreme Court later expanded
the doctrine to include lands held by a community, and lands that are unoccupied and unimproved.
Unfortunately, some confusion has attended the application of doctrine.Cario has been cited as authority
for the Public Land Act which allows registration of public lands as private possession if the claimant has
been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the said lands for thirty years. The error
is obvious. Cario involved lands which had never been public. The prescriptive remedy under the Public
Land Act admits that the land was initially public. However, it becomes private (and therefore may be
titled) after the lapse of the prescriptive period.
Confusion in the Court had surfaced as early as 1931 in De Palas v. Saito and Madrazo. In that case, the
Supreme Court held that the sale of property made by a member of the Bagobo tribe without the approval
of the Director of the Non-Christian tribes was null and void. While the Bagobos retained their land, the

decision showed the Court was confused about its character. Justice Johnson in the lone dissent
explained that: There is absolutely no analogy between the relations of the non-Christian people of the
Philippine Islands to the Philippine Government as compared with the relation of the American Indians to
the American government.
A citizen of the Philippine Islands, whether non-Christian or Christian, has a perfect right to
dispose of his private property freely without the necessity of securing the consent of any person
of the GovernmentHundreds and thousands of the non-Christian people of the Philippine
Islands have, through their industry and intelligence, become the absolute owners of private
property (Cario vs. Insular Government, 7 Phil. 132; Cario vs. Insular Government, 212 U.S.
449; 53 Law.Ed. 549; 41 Phil., 935).
In the United States the government distributed lands freely to the American Indians and the dispose of
the same without the consent of the Secretary of the Interior. The Government, having given the Indian
his land without cost, it had a perfect right to impose such condition upon the disposition of the same as
the Government might deem wise. In the Philippine Islands, however, the non-Christian people have
never been given land by the government. They are therefore under no obligation to the Government
concerning the land they acquire.
Admittedly, the dissents interpretation of the jurisprudence on Native American land rights leaves much to
be desired. However, its use of the Cario doctrine was faithful to Holmes dictum. Because of this
confusion, there are presently two streams of cases in the Philippines, both as prominent, as they are
glaringly contradictory. In one line, lands held since time immemorial are recognized as private. It has
even been held that subsequent reclassification of land cannot impair the rights of long-term occupants.
In the other line, public agricultural lands become private lands and could therefore be titled. This is if the
claimant can show that there has been continuous possession thereof for at least thirty years. Cario has
been cited as authority for both. A recent case cited both lines of cases without the Court observing any
Some earlier cases did manage to make a distinction between the two claims. In these cases, the Court
would first check if the land is private under the Cario doctrine, and then examine if it has become
private under the Public Land Act. While the Cariodoctrine may be in jurisprudential limbo, the case does
surface periodically in the discussions of the other branches of government.
Courts in the United States had several occasions to apply the Cario decision. As will be shown,
however, these courts had, for the most part, also misinterpreted the doctrine. These cases may be

divided into those that involved lands in its territories, and those involving claims within the continental
United States.
In the Territories
The first claims involved lands in Mexico. In Pueblo de Sta. Rosa v. Fall, the claimants filed a bill in equity
in the Supreme Court in the District of Columbia to restrain the Secretary of the Interior and the
Commissioner of the General Land Office from opening its lands to sale, entry, and settlement as public
lands of the United States. The plaintiffs alleged that the lands were granted and conceded to the pueblo
of Sta. Rosa by the laws and customs of the Indians, antedating the Spanish discovery of America and
the laws of Spain and Mexico. The lands were part of the territory ceded by Mexico to United States
under the Gadsden Treaty.
In resolving the issue, the Court explained that the title of the Indian inhabitants of a pueblo in Mexico has
been recognized not only by the Mexican, but also by Spanish laws. Such recognition rests not upon title
by grant or charter from the crown, but it may be established and was frequently established by
prescription. It cited Cario to stress that prescription against the Crown was recognized by Spanish laws.
It said, [t]here can be no question, we think that prior to the cession under the Gadsden Treaty the
Papago Indians had acquired a title which was subject to recognition by the government of Mexico. It
concluded that, had the record title been established in Mexico to which this pueblo was clearly entitled, it
could not be divested by the sort of evidence adduced in this case. This would have been the proper case
to cite Cariobecause the claim was premised upon the laws and customs of Indians that antedated the
Spanish discovery of America. The land was ceded by Spain to the United States. No grant was relied
upon, and there was an assertion that both Spanish and Mexican laws relied upon, and there was an
assertion that both Spanish and Mexican laws recognized such Indian title. Unfortunately, the courts
reliance upon Cario was merely to recognize the right of the claimant through prescription, and not to
reaffirm the rule that lands held since time-immemorial are private lands.
The second case came some twenty years later. Playa de Flor Land and Improvement CO. v. United
States involved lands in Panama. The complainants, an unincorporated association, alleged that they had
acquired title and rights of ownership to specific real property based on prescription under the name of
Playa del Flor Land and Improvement Co., their predecessors in interest, and those who had been and
were in the actual, open, notorious, and adverse possession, use, and cultivation of the lands for more
than forty years before the Treaty between the United States and the Republic of Panama. They also
alleged that they were forcibly and unlawfully evicted and dispossessed of the lands and improvements
by the United States and that the joint owners had not been paid for the property taken from them.

The Court held that all of the collective facts necessary to prove adverse possession are shown in the
record; there was actual possession; it was open, notorious, and visible; it was selfish and exclusive; it
was hostile, even against the whole world, and it was a definite possession marked by the descriptions in
documentary evidence, which were of color of title. The Court summarized the rulings of similar and
analogous cases regarding the validity of land titles acquired under a former sovereign. It also
cited Cario, quoting that statement that recognized the private nature of lands held since time
The Court touched upon the most important part of the decision stating that [t]he principles announced
[in these cases] are plain, simple, and easily understood. They are grounded on common honesty, right
and justice, and they had received the approval of the executive and legislative branches of the
government for more than a hundred years. The Court understood the theme of the decision, and
associated the ownership of land to the concept of human rights. It said:
Since we are so freely expressing our opinions to all questions herein, we might suggest that, despite all
the argument undertaking to distinguish property rights and human rights, there never was a country and
never will there be a country where, if property rights are ignored, human rights will be respected.
The decision followed the reasoning of the Holmes decisions. It anticipated, and sought to prevent the
present situation in many countries where the refusal to recognize native title had crushed the essence of
Indian identity. While technically, the case did not involve Indian lands,
the jurisprudence cited to support the courts conclusion did.
Finally, the United States Supreme Court itself cited Cario approvingly in United States v. FullardLeo. That case was an action to quiet title to the Palmyra Island in Hawaii. AT the time of the annexation
of the Island by the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1862, the monarchy possessed a system of land ownership and
land laws adequate to establish titles which were maintained by a proper record.
The facts of this case were clearly inconsistent with those in Cario. The claimants in this case were
alleging the issuance of a grant they were unable to produce. Predictably, therefore, the Court turned to
the doctrine of the presumption of a lost grant. The Court explained the doctrine thus: it may be safely
said that by the weight of authority, as well as the preponderance of opinion, it is the general rule of
American law that a grant will be presumed upon proof of an adverse, exclusive, and uninterrupted
possession for 20 years, and that such rule will be applied as a presumption juris et de jure, wherever, by
possibility, aright may be acquired in any manner known to the law. See United States v. Pendell, 185
U.S. 189, 200-201, 22 S. Ct. 624, 628, 629, 46 L. Ed. 866.

The Court quoted Cario saying that land held by individuals under a claim of private ownership since
time immemorial are presumed to be private. There was never an intimation that the title of Cario was
founded on a grant. He had attempted to secure a grant but his efforts had not amounted to anything.
This was not the case in Fullard.
The use of in Cario these cases was not always proper. Pueblo was tailor-made for the doctrine.
Unfortunately, it used the doctrine to uphold a prescriptive right, something for which was Cario never
designed to be authority. Playa relied on the Cariodecision to state that title will not be denied for failure
of the claimant to produce title. If nothing else, it seemed to find support in natural law, a position not
previously unexplored by the United States Supreme Court. Fullard-Leo was not analogous toCario. The
claimant in that case had relied upon a previous grant destroyed in a fire.Cario was never given title by
the Spanish government, although it was not for want of trying.
In the United States There have been two attempts to cite in Cario cases involving Native Americans.
Both efforts, however, failed. In 1995, Tee-Hit-Ton Indians cited the case to bolter their claim that the U.S.
governments taking of timber from Indian-occupied lands was compensable. The Supreme Court,
however, not only distinguishedCario from the Alaskan controversy, but also attempted to belittle it. The
Court stated that it is well-settled that in all the States of the Union the tribes who inhabited the islands of
the States held claim to such lands after the coming of the white man, under what is sometimes termed
original Indian title or permission from the whites to occupy. The Court explained that that meant mere
possession not specially recognized as ownership by Congress.
The Court explained that: [a]fter conquest they were permitted to occupy portions of the territory over
which they had previously exercised sovereignty as we use that term. This is not a property right but
amounts to a right of occupancy that the sovereign grants and protects against intrusion by third parties
where right of occupancy may be terminated and such lands fully disposed of by the sovereign itself
without legally enforceable obligation to compensate the Indians.
In a footnote, the Court dismissed the applicability of the Cario doctrine: The basis of the Courts
decision [in Cario] however, distinguishes it from applicability to the Tee-Hit-Ton claim. The court chiefly
upon the purpose of our acquisition of the Philippines as revealed by the Organic Act of July 1, 1902,
which was to administer property and rights for the benefit of the inhabitants thereof This purpose in
acquisition and its effect on land held by the natives was distinguished from the settlement of the white
race in the United States where the dominant purpose was to occupy the land. 212 U.S., at page 458,
29 S. Ct. at page 336. The Court further found that the Spanish law and exercise of Spanish sovereignty
over the islands tended to support rather than defeat a prescriptive right. Since this was no communal
claim to a vast uncultivated area, it was natural to apply the law of prescription rather than a rule of

sovereign ownership of dominion. Cario claim was to a 370-acre farm that his grandfather had fenced
some fifty years before and was used by three generations as a pasture for livestock and some cultivation
of vegetable and grain. The case bears closer analogy to the ordinary prescriptive rights situation rather
than to a recognition by this court of any aboriginal use and possession amounting to fee simple
The second attempt by Alaskan tribes to use Cario also failed. In , Aleut Community of St. Paul Island v.
United States the Indians claimed that under Russian Law, they had a right to an accounting of funds
allegedly misspent. The United States had failed in its obligation to deal with the tribe in fairness and
honor. The Indian Claims Commission dismissed the claim on the governments motion, and the plaintiffs
The Court of Claims held that the Indians title was no more than aboriginal in nature and did not have
attributes of fee simple title. Again, the reference to Cario was dismissed because in that case, the
Supreme Court found fee simple title of certain land had been established by the plaintiff via prescription.
Said the Court:
The case is of little aid to appellants at bar, however, because the Court in Cario held that the plaintiff
there had met the requirements of prescription as set out in the Spanish Civil Code, and that under the
circumstances of the American occupation of the Philippines that title had to be protected. As pointed out
above, the appellants at bar have failed to prove that they achieved the undisturbed possession
necessary under Russian law to obtain title by prescription. Without a showing that they had obtained title
by prescription under Russian law, appellants have no grounds upon which to ask that appellee respect
their proprietary rights.
Further, the Court Held that, The title, if any of Aleutian natives to St. Pauls Island, or other islands
involved in this proceeding, was no more than aboriginal in nature and did not have the attributes of fee
simple title, at the time of the Treaty of Cession. No recognition of such title by our government, then or
later, is shown, and therefore no acts or our Government can be construed as taking such title. Since it is
related to aboriginal title claims, it follows that appellants have not shown reversible error as to just
compensation portion of their petitions.
These decisions failed to appreciate the significance of Cario. Both decisions were written with the
understanding that the recognition of title in Cario was based upon prescription against the crown. As
pointed out, however, it was more in consonance with the idea of fairness that the Supreme Court ruled
in Cario favor.

Cario was decided in favor of the claimant not only because of the explicit provision in the Philippine Bill
of 1902 directing the United States government to administer the Philippines for the benefit of its
inhabitants. The underlying theme in the entire decision is the inherent fairness in recognizing the title of
indigenous peoples against the claims of a succeeding sovereign. Justice Holmes rejected the position
that both Spain and the United States had title to all lands in their territories as they had in the American
continents simply by asserting sovereignty, and without actual occupation of these lands.
Unfortunately, neither the Supreme Courts of the Philippines and the United States properly appreciate
the doctrines of the case. With few exceptions, subsequent cases in both countries have misapplied the
case as authority for a prescriptive right against the government.
At the very least, Cario has not been overruled in either country. It would be inconceivable to do so in the
Philippines where the recognition of native title was held to be protected by the due process clause. The
Bill of Rights that was initially introduced through the Philippine Bill of 1902 has remained intact in all the
Constitutions of the Republic of the Philippines. A reversal of the Cario doctrine can only be done as an
express repudiation of the equal status of indigenous peoples. (Reprinted from Philippine Natural
Resources Law Journal, Volume 7 Number 2)