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Classification of Public Lands (page 202 Agcaoili)

I
G.R. No. 159589

December 23, 2008

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,


vs.
HEIRS OF JUAN FABIO, namely: DOMINGA C. FABIO, SOCORRO D. FABIO,
LYDIA D. FABIO, ROLANDO D. FABIO, NORMA D. FABIO, NORMA L. FABIO,
ANGELITA FABIO, ROSALIE FABIO, DANILO FABIO, RENATO FABIO, LEVITA
FABIO, IRENE FABIO, TERESITA MOLERA, ROSEMARIE C. PAKAY, LIGAYA C.
MASANGKAY, ALFREDO F. CASTILLO, MELINDA F. CASTILLO, MERCEDITA F.
CASTILLO, ESTELA DE JESUS AQUINO, FELECITO FABIO, and ALEXANDER
FABIO, represented herein by ANGELITA F. ESTEIBAR as their Attorney-inFact, respondent.
DECISION
CARPIO, J.:
The Case
Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari 1 assailing the Decision2 dated
29 August 2003 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 66522, which affirmed the
judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Naic, Cavite, Branch 15, in LRC Case No. NC96-782 granting respondents application for registration of title to Lot No. 233 (Lot),
Cad-617-D, Ternate Cadastre.
The Facts
On 21 November 1996, respondents, who are the heirs of Juan Fabio, represented
by Angelita F. Esteibar (Esteibar) as their Attorney-in-Fact, filed with the Regional
Trial Court of Naic, Cavite, Branch 15, an application for registration of title 3 to the
Lot with an approximate area of 1,096,866 square meters or 109.6 hectares. The Lot
is situated in Barangay Sapang, Ternate, Cavite. The respondents sought the
registration of title under the provisions of Act No. 496 or the Land Registration Act,
as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1529 (PD 1529). 4
In the application, respondents alleged that they are the owners of the Lot,
including all the improvements, having acquired the same through a bona fide claim
of ownership. They declared that they and their predecessors-in-interest were in
open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the Lot in the concept of an
owner for more than 100 years.5

Together with the application for registration, respondents submitted the following
documents:
1. Certificate of Death proving the fact of death of Juan Fabio; 6
2. Special Power of Attorney showing that the heirs authorized Esteibar to file
the application;7
3. Order dated 25 November 1994 of Sydicious F. Panoy, Regional Technical
Director, Regional Office No. IV-A, Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR), giving authority to survey the Lot, which survey was
numbered SWO-042121-003369-D;8
4. Surveyors Certificate and Transmittal of Survey Returns signed by
Geodetic Engineer Susipatro Mancha proving that the Lot was surveyed; 9
5. Sepia copies of the survey plan establishing that the land area is more or
less 109 hectares and that the Lot was already surveyed and the boundaries
determined;10
6. Letter of Authority dated 30 June 1997 authorizing Engineer Roberto C.
Pangyarihan (Pangyarihan) to represent the Land Management Sector, DENRRegion IV, and to testify on plan SWO-042121-003369-D covering the Lot; 11
7. Technical Description signed by Pangyarihan proving the boundaries of the
Lot as surveyed;12
8. Letter dated 22 April 1991 of Arnaldo Conlu (Conlu), Land Management
Inspector, DENR-Region IV establishing that the Lot is alienable and
disposable;13
9. First Indorsement dated 22 April 1991 of Rufo F. Lorenzo, Community
Environment and Natural Resources Officer, forwarding to the Regional
Technical Director, Land Management Division, through the Chief, Surveys
Division, DENR-Region IV the investigation report of Land Management
Inspector, Conlu;14
10. Certifications dated 4 July 1995 and 23 November 1995 of Conrado C.
Lindo, Municipal Mayor, and Flordeliza C. Soberano, Municipal Assessor of
Ternate, Cavite, respectively, establishing that Juan Fabio was the declared
owner of the Lot under Tax Declaration No. 1385 having an area of 200
hectares and situated in Calumpang and Caybangat, Zapang, Ternate,
Cavite;15

11. Tax Declarations corresponding to different years showing that the Lot
has been declared under the name of Juan Fabio for tax purposes: Tax
Declaration No. 428 for the year 1947, Tax Declaration No. 302 for the year
1961; Tax Declaration No. 227 for the year 1969, Tax Declaration No. 210 for
the year 1974, Tax Declaration No. 173 for the year 1980, Tax Declaration No.
1543 for the year 1985, and Tax Declaration No. 1385 for the year
1994;16 and
12. Certifications of the Assistant Municipal Treasurer of Ternate, Cavite
stating that the real estate taxes for the years 1994 to 1997 were paid. 17
After the presentation of exhibits establishing the jurisdictional facts, the trial
prosecutor assigned to the case interposed no objection. Thus, the trial court
ordered a general default against the public except the government.
On 1 July 1997, respondents presented their evidence consisting of documentary
exhibits and the testimonies of witnesses Esteibar, Pangyarihan, Dominga Fabio
Lozano, Mariano Huerto, and Raymundo Pakay.
Esteibar, the duly appointed representative of the heirs of Juan Fabio, testified that
her grandfather, Juan, died in 1959 when she was only 13 years old. She attested
that she was born on the Lot and knows that her grandfather owned, possessed and
occupied the Lot until his death. Esteibar claimed that they and their predecessorsin-interest have possessed and occupied the Lot openly, publicly, continuously,
peacefully, without interruption in the concept of an owner and adverse to the
public since time immemorial up to the present or for more than 100 years. They
had paid real estate taxes; planted trees, vegetables, rice, and banana plants; and
raised animals on the Lot. Further, she stated that the Lot is neither mortgaged nor
encumbered and that no other person other than her and her co-heirs are in
possession of the Lot.
The next witness, Pangyarihan of the Land Management Sector, DENR-Region IV,
testified that he had been connected with DENR-Region IV since 1956. He was
formerly the Chief of the Survey Division of DENR-Region IV from 1991 until his
designation as Special Assistant to the Regional Director in 1995. Pangyarihan
affirmed that the Lot is 1,096,866 square meters or 109.6 hectares and that he
recommended the approval of the survey plan, SWO-042121-003369-D, which
includes the Lot, on the basis of submission of certain requirements like tax
declarations, report of investigation by the land investigator and survey returns
prepared by the geodetic engineer. He verified that the survey plan and the
technical descriptions matched with each other and stated that there is no overlap
or encroachment on other surrounding claims on adjacent or adjoining lots. Further,
he confirmed that there is a notation at the left hand footnote of the approved
survey plan which reads "this survey falls within the Calumpang Point Naval

Reservation and disposition hereof shall be subject to the final


delimitation thereof as per Proc. No. 1582-A dated September 6, 1976."
Dominga Fabio Lozano, the only living and youngest child of Juan Fabio and who was
then 63 years of age, testified that she was born in 1934 in Calumpang, Ternate,
Cavite. She alleged that she was born and has lived on the Lot, owned by her father
Juan Fabio, who in turn inherited the land from his father Ignacio Fabio. She narrated
that her father was born in 1887 and died in 1959 at the age of 72 as evidenced by
his death certificate. She stated further that no one has ever questioned their
ownership or disturbed their peaceful possession and occupation of the Lot. As a
result, their possession of the Lot covers more than 100 years of continuous,
uninterrupted, public, open and peaceful possession.
Mariano Huerto, a helper of the late Juan Fabio, testified that since 1935, when he
was only 12 years old, he had helped cultivate the Lot until he left the place in
1955. He stated that at the time he served as helper, Juan Fabio and his family were
the ones who possessed and occupied the Lot. He helped plant vegetables, banana
plants, papaya trees and upland rice and was familiar with the boundaries of the
Lot.
Raymundo Pakay, 70 years of age at the time and a resident of Ternate, Cavite,
testified that he knew Juan Fabio as the owner of the Lot, which has an area of 200
hectares, more or less. He stated that Juan built a house there and could not recall
of anyone else who claimed ownership of the Lot.
On 7 August 1997, the Assistant City Prosecutor of Tagaytay City filed his
Manifestation and Comment dated 28 July 1997:
COMES NOW the government, through the undersigned Assistant City
Prosecutor of Tagaytay City, assisting the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of
the Province of Cavite, by way of comment to petitioners formal offer of
evidence dated July 3, 1997 hereby manifest that the government interposes
no objection to Exhibit A up to PP together with its sub markings, the same
being material and relevant to the instant petition.
The government further manifests that considering the fact that it has no
controverting evidence in its possession to refute the material allegations of
the herein petitioner, the government is submitting the instant case for the
immediate resolution of this Honorable Court on the basis of the evidence
adduced by the petitioner and the cross examination propounded by the Trial
Prosecutor.18
On 29 September 1997, the trial court rendered a Decision ordering the registration
of the Lot in the name of Juan Fabio. The dispositive portion states:

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, finding the application for registration


and grant of title under Act 496, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1529
to be meritorious and fully substantiated by evidence sufficient and requisite
under the law, this Court, confirming its previous Order of general default as
against the general public, hereby decrees and adjudges and hereby orders
the registration of the parcel of land as hereinabove described, identified, and
bounded and now the subject matter of the present application for
registration of title in the above-entitled case, in favor of, and in the name of
JUAN FABIO, of Barangay Sapang, Municipality of Ternate, Province of Cavite.
FURTHER, upon the finality of this DECISION, the Administrator, Land
Registration Authority, is hereby ordered to issue the corresponding decree of
registration and the Original Certificate of Title in favor of, and in the name of
JUAN FABIO, of Barangay Sapang, Municipality of Ternate, Province of Cavite,
over the parcel of land described, identified and bounded as hereinabovementioned and subject matter of this Decision which decreed and adjudged
the registration of its title in his name.
SO ORDERED.19
The Republic of the Philippines (petitioner), through the Office of the Solicitor
General, filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals. Petitioner claimed that the trial
court erred in ruling that respondents have acquired a vested right over the Lot
which falls within the Calumpang Point Naval Reservation. Petitioner asserted that
the trial court disregarded the testimony of Pangyarihan who recommended the
approval of the survey plan with the following notation:
This survey falls within the Calumpang Point Naval Reservation and
disposition hereof shall be subject to the final delimitation thereof as per
Proc. No. 1582-A dated September 6, 1976. x x x
In essence, petitioner argued that the trial courts grant of registration is contrary to
the provisions of Section 88 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 20 and Proclamation No.
1582-A.21
The Ruling of the Court of Appeals
On 29 August 2003, the Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of the trial court. 22 The
appellate court ruled that the mode of appeal filed by petitioner was wrong. Since
the lone question involved was one of law, petitioner should have filed a petition for
review with this Court under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure instead of
filing an appeal under Rule 41. Nevertheless, the appellate court looked into the
merits of the case and sustained the findings of the trial court:

On the merits of the case, it may be true that the General Order 56 of the
United States War Department dated 25 March 1904 reserved the subject
property as a military reservation, however, President Ferdinand Marcos
issued Proclamation 307 on 20 November 1967 which provides x x x.
In other words, Presidential Proclamation 307 provides for an exception
those properties subject to private rights or those on which private
individuals can prove ownership by any mode acceptable under our laws and
Torrens system.
Proclamation 1582-A issued by President Marcos on 6 September 1976 again
provided the following x x x.
Without doubt, this complements and recognizes the rights acquired by
private individuals under Proclamation 307, over the portion of the properties
reserved under General Order 56 of the United States War Department dated
25 March 1904.
Considering that the annotation appearing in the survey plan merely provides
that the controversial portion shall be subject to final delimitation as per
Proclamation 1582-A, the same is consistent with the provisions of
Proclamation 307.
For wrong remedy and for lack of merit, the Court holds and so rules that the
trial court erred not in granting petitioners application for registration of title.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is DISMISSED and the
challenged 29 September 1997 Decision of the court a quo is hereby
AFFIRMED in toto. No costs.
SO ORDERED.23
Hence, the instant petition.
The Issues
The issues for our resolution are (1) whether petitioner correctly appealed the ruling
of the trial court to the Court of Appeals, and (2) whether the respondents have
acquired a right over the Lot.
The Courts Ruling
The petition has merit.

First Issue: Mode of Appeal


Petitioner contends that the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals over the appeal is
determined on the basis of the averments in the notice of appeal. Since the appeal
involves questions of fact and law, petitioner correctly appealed the ruling of the
trial court to the Court of Appeals and not directly to this Court.
Respondents, on the other hand, maintain that the remedy resorted to by petitioner
before the Court of Appeals was not correct. Respondents contend that the issues
actually raised in the appellants brief determine the appropriate mode of appeal,
not the averments in the notice of appeal. Since the appellate court found that
petitioner only raised questions of law, the appeal is dismissible under the Rules.
Section 2, Rule 41 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, which governs
appeals from judgments and final orders of the Regional Trial Court to the Court of
Appeals, provides:
Section 2. Modes of appeal.
(a) Ordinary appeal. The appeal to the Court of Appeals in cases decided by
the Regional Trial Court in the exercise of its original jurisdiction shall be
taken by filing a notice of appeal with the court which rendered the judgment
or final order appealed from and serving a copy thereof upon the adverse
party. No record on appeal shall be required except in special proceedings
and other cases of multiple or separate appeals where the law or these Rules
so require. In such cases, the record on appeal shall be filed and served in
like manner.
(b) Petition for review. The appeal to the Court of Appeals in cases decided
by the Regional Trial Court in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction shall be
by petition for review in accordance with Rule 42.
(c) Appeal by certiorari. In all cases where only questions of law
are raised or involved, the appeal shall be to the Supreme Court by
petition for review on certiorari in accordance with Rule
45. (Emphasis supplied)
A question of law arises when there is doubt as to what the law is on a certain state
of facts, while there is a question of fact when the doubt arises as to the truth or
falsity of the alleged facts. For questions to be one of law, the same must not
involve an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the
litigants. The resolution of the issue must rest solely on what the law provides on
the given set of circumstances. 24

In its appellants brief filed with the Court of Appeals, petitioner interposed a lone
assignment of error:
The trial court erred in ruling that appellees have acquired a vested right over the
subject property despite the fact that it falls within the Calumpang Point Naval
Reservation.25
Clearly, the issue stated by petitioner provides no confusion with regard to the truth
or falsity of the given facts pertaining to the Lot and its location as established
during the trial. It had been duly established that the Lot falls within the Calumpang
Point Naval Reservation as shown in the survey conducted and attested to by the
DENR. Here, the only issue involved is the interpretation of a relevant order and
proclamations denominating the Lot as part of a military reservation subject to the
limitation that private rights should be respected. Undoubtedly, this is a pure
question of law.
Thus, petitioners appeal under Rule 41 having been improperly brought before the
Court of Appeals, it should have been dismissed by the appellate court pursuant to
Section 2, Rule 50 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, which
provides:
Sec. 2. Dismissal of improper appeal to the Court of Appeals. An
appeal under Rule 41 taken from the Regional Trial Court to the Court of
Appeals raising only questions of law shall be dismissed, issues purely of law
not being reviewable by the said court. x x x (Emphasis supplied)
Nonetheless, the appellate court in resolving that petitioners appeal constituted a
wrong remedy, looked into the merits of the case and found that the laws involved
recognize the rights of respondents. As such, equity considerations require that we
take a similar course of action in order to put a rest to this case.
Second Issue: Validity of Respondents Title
Petitioner asserts that both the trial and appellate courts failed to recognize the
import of the notation in the survey plan stating that the Lot falls within the
Calumpang Point Naval Reservation. At the time the application for registration of
title was filed, the Lot was no longer open to private ownership as it had been
classified as a military reservation for public service. Thus, respondents are not
entitled to have the Lot registered under the Torrens system.
Respondents, on the other hand, maintain that they have acquired a vested right
over the Lot. The Presidential Proclamations, which declared the Lot part of a naval
reservation, provided for an exception that private rights shall be respected, taking

the portion covered by private rights out of the reservation. Thus, respondents claim
they are entitled to have the Lot registered under their names.
The three proclamations cited reserving the Calumpang Point Naval Reservation for
the exclusive use of the military are the following: (1) U.S. War Department Order
No. 56 issued on 25 March 1904, (2) Proclamation No. 307 26 issued on 20 November
1967, and (3) Proclamation No. 1582-A issued on 6 September 1976. Such
proclamations state:
U.S. War Department General Order No. 5627
U.S. War Department General Order No. 56
Washington, March 25, 1904.
For the knowledge and governance of all interested parties, the following is
hereby announced:
The President of the United States, by the Order dated March 14, 1904, which
provides that the reservations made by Executive Order of April 11, 1902
(General Order No. 38, Army Headquarters, Office of the Adjutant General,
April 17, 1902), at the entrance of Manila Bay, Luzon, Philippine Islands, are
arranged in such a way that will include only these lands as later described,
whose lands were reserved by the Order of March 14, 1904 for military
purposes, by virtue of Article 12 of the Act of Congress approved on July 1,
1902, entitled "Act providing for the Temporary Administration of Civil Affairs
of the Government of the Philippine Islands and for Other Purposes" (32 Stat.
L., 691); namely:
1. In the northern side of the entrance to Manila Bay, in the province of
Bataan, Luzon (Mariveles Reservation), all public lands within the limits that
are described as follows:
"Starting from the mouth of the Mariveles River in the eastern border and
from here straight North to a distance of 5,280 feet; from this point straight
to the East to intercept a line, in a straight direction to the South from a stone
monument marked U.S. (Station 4); from there straight from the North until
the aforementioned Station 4; from here straight to the East to a distance of
6,600 feet until a stone monument marked U.S. (Station 5); from here
straight South to a distance of 6,600 feet until a stone monument marked
U.S. (Station 6); from here straight to the East to a distance of 8,910 feet until
a stone monument marked U.S. (Station 7); from here straight to the South to
a distance of 7,730 feet until a stone monument marked U.S. (Station 8),
situated at the northwest corner of the second creek to the east of Lasisi
Point, 30 feet North of the high-tide mark; from there in the same direction

until the high-tide mark; from here towards the East following the shoreline
up to the starting point."
2. In the southern side of the Manila Bay entrance, in the province of
Cavite, Luzon (Calumpan Point Reservation), all public lands within
the limits that are described as follows:
"Starting from a stone monument marked U.S. (Station 1) situated in
the cliff on the Eastern side of Asubig Point, 20 feet above the hightide mark and about 50 feet from the edge of the cliff and continuing
from there to the South 28 10 West, a distance of up to 22,000
feet until a stone monument marked U.S. (Station 2); from here to
North 54 10' West at a distance of 5,146 feet until a stone
monument marked U.S. (Station 3); from here towards South 85 35
' 30 "West, at a distance of 2,455 feet until a stone monument
marked U.S. (Station 4), situated on the beach near the Northeast
corner of Limbones Bay, about 50 feet from the high-tide mark and
following in the same direction until the high-tide mark; from here
towards North and East following the shoreline until North 28 10 '
East from the starting point and from there encompassing more or
less 5,200 acres. The markers are exact."
3. The islands of Corregidor, Pulo Caballo, La Monja, El Fraile, and Carabao,
and all other islands and detached rocks lying between Mariveles Reservation
on the north side of the entrance to Manila Bay and Calumpan Point
Reservation on the south side of said entrance.
4. The jurisdiction of the military authorities in the case of reservations in the
northern and southern beaches of the entrance to Manila Bay and all the
islands referred to in paragraph 3, are extended from the high-tide marker
towards the sea until a distance of 1,000 yards.
By Order of the Secretary of War:
GEORGE L. GILLESPIE,
General Commander, Chief of Internal General Staff,
Official copy.
W.P. HALL, Internal Adjutant General. (Emphasis supplied)
Proclamation No. 307
x x x do hereby withdraw from sale or settlement and reserve for military
purposes under the administration of the Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the

Philippines, subject to private rights, if any there be, a certain parcel of land
of the public domain situated in the municipality of Ternate, province of
Cavite, Island of Luzon, more particularly described as follows:
Proposed Naval Reservation
Calumpang Point
A parcel of land (the proposed Calumpang Point Naval Reservation), situated
in the municipality of Ternate, province of Cavite. Bounded on the NW., N. and
E., by Manila Bay; on the SE. and S., by municipality of Ternate; and on the
W., by Manila Bay. Beginning at a point marked "1" on the attached Sketch
Plan traced from Coastal Hydrography of Limbones Island.
thence N. 54 deg. 30 E., 750.00 m. to point 2;
thence N. 89 deg. 15E., 1780.00 m. to point 3;
thence N. 15 deg. 10 E., 6860.00 m. to point 4;
thence N. 12 deg. 40 W., 930.00 m. to point 5;
thence S. 77 deg. 20 W., 2336.00 m. to point 6;
thence S. 49 deg. 30 W., 4450.00 m. to point 7;
thence S. 12 deg. 40 E., 2875.00 m. to point 8;
thence S. 30 deg. 30 E., 2075.00 m. to the point of beginning;
containing an approximate area of twenty eight million nine hundred
seventy three thousand one hundred twelve (28, 973,112) square
meters.
NOTE: All data are approximate and subject to change based on future
surveys."
Proclamation No. 1582-A
WHEREAS, Proclamation No. 307 dated November 20, 1967 and U.S.
War Department Order No. 56 dated March 25, 1904 reserved for
military purposes, and withdrew from sale or settlement, a parcel of
land of the public domain situated in the Municipality of Ternate,
Province of Cavite, more particularly described as follows: x x x

WHEREAS, the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Marines now need that
portion of this area reserved under Proclamation No. 307, particularly,
Cayladme Cove, Caynipa Cove, Calumpang Cove and Sinalam Cove, for their
use as official station, not only to guard and protect the mouth of Manila Bay
and the shorelines of the Province of Cavite, Batangas and Bataan, but also to
maintain peace and order in the Corregidor area, which is now one of the
leading tourist attractions in the country; x x x
x x x containing an approximate area of EIGHT MILLION EIGHTY NINE
THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED NINETY (8,089,990) SQUARE METERS, more or
less.
The portion that remains after the segregation which are occupied shall be
released to bona fide occupants pursuant to existing laws/policies regarding
the disposition of lands of the public domain and the unoccupied portions
shall be considered as alienable or disposable lands. (Emphasis supplied)
The proclamations established that as early as 1904 a certain parcel of land was
placed under the exclusive use of the government for military purposes by the then
colonial American government. In 1904, the U.S. War Department segregated the
area, including the Lot, for military purposes through General Order No. 56.
Subsequently, after the Philippines regained its independence in 1946, the
American government transferred all control and sovereignty to the Philippine
government, including all the lands appropriated for a public purpose. Twenty years
later, two other presidential proclamations followed, both issued by former President
Ferdinand E. Marcos, restating that the same property is a naval reservation for the
use of the Republic.
There is no question that the Lot is situated within a military reservation. The only
issue to be resolved is whether the respondents are entitled to have the Lot
registered under the Torrens systems based on the limitation clause cited in the
proclamations: (1) "subject to private rights, if any there be" in Proclamation No.
307, and (2) "the portion that remains after the segregation which are occupied
shall be released to bona fide occupants pursuant to existing laws/policies
regarding the disposition of lands of the public domain and the unoccupied portions
shall be considered as alienable or disposable lands" in Proclamation No. 1582-A.
This proviso means that persons claiming rights over the reserved land are not
precluded from proving their claims. In effect, the State gives respect and
recognizes the rights of private persons who may have acquired any vested interest
to the Lot before the issuance of the General Order or proclamations.
Commonwealth Act No. 141 (CA 141), also known as the Public Land Act, remains to
this day the existing general law governing the classification and disposition of
lands of the public domain, other than timber and mineral lands. 28 Under the

Regalian doctrine embodied in our Constitution, land that has not been acquired
from the government, either by purchase, grant or any other mode recognized by
law, belongs to the State as part of the public domain. 29 No public land can be
acquired by private persons through any other means, and it is indispensable that
the person claiming title to public land should show that his title was acquired
through purchase or grant from the State, or through any other mode of acquisition
recognized by law.30
Section 48(b) of CA 141, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073 (PD
1073),31 provides:
Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands
of the public domain or claiming to own any such land or an interest therein,
but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the
Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for
confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor,
under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
xxx
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have
been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under abona fide claim
of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately
preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title, except when
prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to
have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall
be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. 32
Similarly, Section 14 of PD 1529 or the Property Registration Decree, governing
original registration through registration proceedings, provides:
SECTION 14. Who may apply. - The following persons may file in the proper
Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land, whether
personally or through their duly authorized representatives:
(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have
been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation
of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona
fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
xxx

To put it simply, Section 14(1) of PD 1529 states that there are three requisites for
the filing of an application for registration of title: (1) that the property in question is
alienable and disposable land of the public domain; (2) that the applicants by
themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation; and (3) that such possession is
under a bona fide claim of ownership since 12 June 1945 or earlier.
To prove that the Lot is alienable and disposable land of the public domain,
respondents presented in evidence a letter 33 dated 22 April 1991 of Conlu, a Land
Management Inspector of the DENR-Region IV. The relevant portion of the letter
states:
In examination [of] the above-noted subject, please be [informed] that I have
examined the land x x x and the following findings [were] ascertained;
That the land covers a portion of 3 (three) barangays, namely: Calumpang,
Cabangat and Zapang, all within the municipality of Ternate, Cavite;
That the land is within alienable and disposable zone under Project No.
22-B, L.C. Map No. 3091;
That the land was declared for taxation purposes since 1945, the latest of which is
Tax Declaration No. 1543 with a market value of P1,250,000.00 in favor of Juan
Fabio x x x (Emphasis supplied)
This letter-certification is insufficient. Conlu is merely a land investigator of the
DENR. It is not enough that he alone should certify that the Lot is within the
alienable and disposable zone. Under Section 6 of the Public Land Act, the
prerogative of classifying or reclassifying lands of the public domain belongs to the
President.34 The President, through a presidential proclamation or executive order,
can classify or reclassify a land to be included or excluded from the public domain.
The DENR Secretary is the only other public official empowered by law to approve a
land classification and declare such land as alienable and disposable. 35
From the records, this letter was the only evidence presented by respondents to
prove that the Lot is alienable and disposable. In fact, not even the Community
Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) certified as correct the
investigation report of the Land Management Inspector. The most that the CENRO
officer did was to indorse the report to the Regional Technical Director of the
DENR.36 In Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,37 we ruled that it is not enough for the
Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) or CENRO to certify
that a land is alienable and disposable. The applicant for land registration must
prove that the DENR Secretary had approved the land classification and released
the land of the public domain as alienable and disposable, and that the land subject

of the application for registration falls within the approved area per verification
through survey by the PENRO or CENRO. In addition, the applicant must present a
copy of the original classification of the land into alienable and disposable, as
declared by the DENR Secretary, or as proclaimed by the President. Such copy of
the DENR Secretarys declaration or the Presidents proclamation must be certified
as a true copy by the legal custodian of such official record. These facts must be
established to prove that the land is alienable and disposable.
Respondents have failed to present any of these documents. No document was
presented to show that the DENR Secretary or the President has classified the Lot as
alienable and disposable. No CENRO or PENRO certification was presented that the
Lot, per verification through survey, falls within the alienable and disposable zone.
The 22 April 1991 letter of Land Management Inspector Conlu is not proof that the
DENR Secretary or the President has classified the Lot as alienable and disposable,
or that the Lot falls within the alienable and disposable zone. The mere issuance of
the letter does not prove the facts stated in such letter. 38
Further, the burden is on respondents to prove that the Lot ceased to have the
status of a military reservation or other inalienable land of the public domain. No
proof was ever submitted by respondents that the Calumpang Point Naval
Reservation, or the Lot, ceased as a military reservation. Even if its ownership and
control had been transferred by the Americans to the Philippine government, the
Calumpang Point Naval Reservation remained as an official military reservation.
Thus, being a military reservation at the time, the Calumpang Point Naval
Reservation, to which the Lot is a part of, can not be subject to occupation, entry or
settlement.39 This is clear from Sections 83 and 88 of CA 141, which provide:
SECTION 83. Upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and
Commerce, the President may designate by proclamation any tract or tracts
of land of the public domain as reservations for the use of the Commonwealth
of the Philippines or of any of its branches, or of the inhabitants thereof, in
accordance with regulations prescribed for this purpose, or for quasi-public
uses or purposes when the public interest requires it, including reservations
for highways, rights of way for railroads, hydraulic power sites, irrigation
systems, communal pastures or leguas comunales, public parks, public
quarries, public fishponds, working-mens village and other improvements for
the public benefit.
SECTION 88. The tract or tracts of land reserved under the provisions of
section eighty-three shall be non-alienable and shall not be subject to
occupation, entry, sale, lease, or other disposition until again
declared alienable under the provision of this Act or by proclamation
of the President. (Emphasis supplied)

Well-entrenched is the rule that unless a land is reclassified and declared alienable
and disposable, occupation in the concept of an owner, no matter how long, cannot
ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. 40Consequently, respondents could
not have occupied the Lot in the concept of an owner in 1947 and subsequent years
when respondents declared the Lot for taxation purposes, or even earlier when
respondents predecessors-in-interest possessed the Lot, because the Lot was
considered inalienable from the time of its declaration as a military reservation in
1904. Therefore, respondents failed to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that
the Lot is alienable and disposable.
Public lands not shown to have been classified as alienable and disposable land
remain part of the inalienable public domain. 41 In view of the lack of sufficient
evidence showing that the Lot was already classified as alienable and disposable,
the Lot applied for by respondents is inalienable land of the public domain, not
subject to registration under Section 14(1) of PD 1529 and Section 48(b) of CA 141,
as amended by PD 1073. Hence, there is no need to discuss the other requisites
dealing with respondents occupation and possession of the Lot in the concept of an
owner.
While it is an acknowledged policy of the State to promote the distribution of
alienable public lands to spur economic growth and in line with the ideal of social
justice, the law imposes stringent safeguards upon the grant of such resources lest
they fall into the wrong hands to the prejudice of the national patrimony. 42 We must
not, therefore, relax the stringent safeguards relative to the registration of imperfect
titles.43
In Republic v. Estonilo,44 we ruled that persons claiming the protection of "private
rights" in order to exclude their lands from military reservations must show by clear
and convincing evidence that the properties in question have been acquired by a
legal method of acquiring public lands. Here, respondents failed to do so, and are
thus not entitled to have the Lot registered in their names. Clearly, both the trial
and appellate courts gravely erred in granting respondents application for
registration of title.
WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition. We SET ASIDE the 29 August 2003
Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 66522.
We DISMISS respondents application for registration and issuance of title to Lot
No. 233, Cad-617-D, Ternate Cadastre in LRC Case No. NC-96-782 filed with the
Regional Trial Court of Naic, Cavite, Branch 15.
SO ORDERED.

II
G.R. No. L-36847 July 20, 1983
SERAFIN B. YNGSON, plaintiff-appellant,
vs.
THE HON. SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE and NATURAL RESOURCES, ANITA
V. DE GONZALES and JOSE M. LOPEZ, defendants-appellees.

GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:


This is an appeal from the decision of the Court of First Instance of Negros
Occidental which upheld the orders of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
Resources and the Office of the President regarding the disposition of swamplands
for conversion into fishponds. Originally taken to the Court of Appeals, the case was
elevated to this Court on a finding that only a pure question of law was involved in
the appeal.
There is no dispute over the facts. The Court of Appeals adopted the statement of
facts in the Solicitor-General's brief. We do the same:
The subject matter of the case at bar are the same mangrove swamps
with an area of about 66 hectares, more or less, situated in sitio
Urbaso, barrio Mabini, municipality of Escalante, province of the Negros
Occidental. In view of the potentialities and possibilities of said area for
fishpond purposes, several persons filed their applications with the
Bureau of Fisheries, to utilize the same for said purposes. The first
applicant was Teofila Longno de Ligasan who filed her application on
January 14, 1946, followed by Custodio Doromal who filed his on
October 28, 1947. Both applications were rejected, however, because
said area were then still considered as communal forest and therefore
not yet available for fishpond purposes.

On March 19, 1952, petitioner-appellant Serafin B. Yngson filed a


similar application for fishpond permit with the Bureau of Fisheries
followed by those of the respondents-appellees, Anita de Gonzales and
Jose M. Lopez, who filed their respective applications with the same
bureau on March 19 and April 24, 1953. When the applications were
filed by the aforesaid parties in the instant case, said area was not yet
available for fishpond purposes and the same was only released for
said purpose on January 14, 1954. The conflicting claims of the
aforesaid parties were brought to the attention of the Director of the
Bureau of Fisheries who issued an order on April 10, 1954 awarding the
whole area in favor of the petitioner-appellant and rejecting the claims
of the respondents-appellees (pp. 1-3, Rec. on Appeal). Appellants
Anita V. de Gonzales and Jose M. Lopez appealed the order of the
Director of Fisheries to the Department of Agriculture and Natural
Resources where their appeals were docketed as D.A.N.R. Cases Nos.
901 and 901-A (p. 3, Rec. on Appeal).
In an order dated April 5, 1955, the Honorable Secretary of the
Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources set aside the order of
the Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and caused the division of the
area in question into three portions giving each party an area of onethird (1/3) of the whole area covered by their respective applications
(pp. 4-5, Rec. on Appeal). Appellant filed a petition for review dated
July 6, 1955 from the aforesaid order of the Department of Agriculture
and Natural Resources but the same was dismissed by the Office of the
President of the Philippines on December 20, 1955 (pp. 5-8, Rec. on
Appeal). A motion for reconsideration filed by the appellant on
February 15, 1956 was likewise denied on August 3, 1956. A second
and third motion for reconsiderations filed by the appellant was also
denied on August 5, 1958 and October 26, 1960, respectively (p. 18,
Rec. on Appeal).
Not satisfied with one-third of the 66 hectares, Mr. Yngson filed a petition for
certiorari with the Court of First Instance against the Executive Secretary, Office of
the President, the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Anita V. Gonzales,
and Jose M. Lopez.
The petitioner-appellant asked that the orders of the public respondents be declared
null and void and that the order of the Director of Fisheries awarding the entire area
to him be reinstated.
The Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental dismissed the petition on the
ground that plaintiff had not established such "capricious and whimsical exercise of
judgment" on the part of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources and

the Office of the President of the Philippines as to constitute grave abuse of


discretion justifying review by the courts in a special civil action.
The plaintiff-appellant made the following assignments of errors:
I
THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE PLAINTIFF HAS NOT ESTABLISHED
SUCH 'CAPRICIOUS AND WHIMSICAL EXERCISE OF JUDGMENT ON THE PART OF THE
DEFENDANTS- APPELLEES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL
RESOURCES AND THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES AS TO
CONSTITUTE GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION, JUSTIFYING REVIEW THEREOF IN A
SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION BY THE COURT.
II
THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN SUSTAINING THE RULE OF THE DEFENDANTSAPPELLEES ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES IN EFFECT ITSELF HOLDING THAT THE
'PRIORITY RULE' ESTABLISHED IN PARAGRAPHS (a) AND (d), SECTION 14, FISHERY
ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER NO. 14 IS NOT APPLICABLE TO FISHPOND APPLICATIONS
FILED PRIOR TO THE CERTIFICATION OF THE BUREAU OF FORESTRY THAT THE AREA
APPLIED FOR IS AVAILABLE FOR FISHPOND PURPOSES; IN TREATING THE
APPLICATIONS OF THE APPELLANT AND THAT OF THE APPELLEES LOPEZ AND
GONZALES ON EQUAL FOOTING ONLY AND IN ORDERING THE DIVISION OF THE
AREA INVOLVED IN THESE APPLICATIONS INTO THREE EQUAL PARTS AWARDING ONETHIRD SHARE EACH TO THESE APPLICANTS.
III
THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT.
Did the administrative agencies having jurisdiction over leases of public lands for
development into fishponds gravely abuse their discretion in interpreting and
applying their own rules? This is the only issue in this case.
The pertinent provisions of Fisheries Administrative Order No. 14 read:
SEC. 14. Priority Right of Application-In determining the priority of
application or right to a permit or lease the following rules shall be
observed:
(a) When two or more applications are filed for the same area, which is
unoccupied and unimproved, the first applicant shall have the right of
preference thereto.

xxx xxx xxx


(d) A holder of fishpond application which has been rejected or
cancelled by the Director of Fisheries by reason of the fact that the
area covered thereby has been certified by the Director of Forestry as
not available for fishpond purposes, SHALL NOT LOSE his right as a
PRIOR APPLICANT therefore, if LATER ON, the area applied for is
certified by the Director of Forestry as available for fishpond purposes,
provided that not more than one (1) year has expired since the
rejection or cancellation of his application, in which case, his fishpond
application which was rejected or cancelled before, shall be reinstated
and given due course, and all other fishpond applications filed for the
same area shall be rejected.
The five applicants for the 66 hectares of swampland filed their applications on the
following dates:
1. Teofila L. de Ligasan January 14, 1946.
2. Custodio Doromal October 28, 1947
3. Serafin B. Yngson March 19, 1952
4. Anita V. Gonzales March 19, 1953
5. Jose M. Lopez April 24, 1953
The mangrove swampland was released and made available for fishpond purposes
only on January 14, 1954. It is clear, therefore, that all five applications were filed
prematurely. There was no land available for lease permits and c nversion into
fishponds at the time all five applicants filed their applications.
After the area was opened for development, the Director of Fisheries inexplicably
gave due course to Yngzon's application and rejected those of Anita V. Gonzales and
Jose M. Lopez. The reason given was Yngzon's priority of application.
We see no error in the decision of the lower court. The administrative authorities
committed no grave abuse of discretion.
It is elementary in the law governing the disposition of lands of the public domain
that until timber or forest lands are released as disposable and alienable neither the
Bureau of Lands nor the Bureau of Fisheries has authority to lease, grant, sell, or
otherwise dispose of these lands for homesteads, sales patents, leases for grazing
or other purposes, fishpond leases, and other modes of utilization. (Mapa v. Insular

Government, 10 Phil. 175; Ankron v. Government of the Philippine Islands, 40 Phil.


10; Vda. de Alfafara v. Mapa, 95 Phil. 125; Director of Forestry v. Muoz, 23 SCRA
1184).
The Bureau of Fisheries has no jurisdiction to administer and dispose of swamplands
or mangrove lands forming part of the public domain while such lands are still
classified as forest land or timberland and not released for fishery or other
purposes.
All the applications being premature, not one of the applicants can claim to have a
preferential right over another. The priority given in paragraph "d" of Section 14 is
only for those applications filed so close in time to the actual opening of the
swampland for disposition and utilization, within a period of one year, as to be given
some kind of administrative preferential treatment. Whether or not the
administrative agencies could validly issue such an administrative order is not
challenged in this case. The validity of paragraph "d" is not in issue because
petitioner-appellant Yngson is clearly not covered by the provision. His application
was filed almost two years before the release of the area for fishpond purposes. The
private respondents, who filed their applications within the one-year period, do not
object to sharing the area with the petitioner-appellant, in spite of the fact that the
latter has apparently the least right to the fishpond leases. As a matter of fact, the
respondent Secretary's order states that all three applications must be considered
as having been filed at the same time on the day the area was released to the
Bureau of Fisheries and to share the lease of the 66 hectares among the three of
them equally. The private respondents accept this order. They pray that the decision
of the lower court be affirmed in toto.
The Office of the President holds the view that the only purpose of the provision in
question is to redeem a rejected premature application and to consider it filed as of
the date the area was released and not to grant a premature application a better
right over another of the same category. We find such an interpretation as an
exercise of sound discretion which should not be disturbed. In the case of Salaria v.
Buenviaje (81 SCRA 722) we reiterated the rule that the construction of the officer
charged with implementing and enforcing the provision of a statute should be given
controlling weight. Similarly, in Pastor v. Echavez (79 SCRA 220) we held that in the
absence of a clear showing of abuse, the discretion of the appropriate department
head must be respected. The records show that the above rulings should also apply
to the present case.
During the pendency of this petition, petitioner Yngson filed a motion to have
Patricio Bayoborda, Rene Amamio, and nine other respondents, declared in
contempt of court. Petitioner charged that Bayoborda and Amamio entered the
property in controversy and without petitioner's consent, laid stakes on the ground
alleging that the same were boundaries of the areas they were claiming; that the

other respondents likewise entered the property on different dates and destroyed
petitioner's hut and the uppermost part of his fishpond and started to build houses
and to occupy the same. In their comment, the respondents in the contempt motion
denied petitioner's charges. Bayoborda and Amamio stated that they were bonafide applicants for fishpond purposes of areas outside the 22 hectares alloted for the
petitioner and that they were authorized to place placards in the areas they applied
for. As evidence the respondents attached a copy of the resolution of the
Presidential Action Committee on Land Problems (PACLAP) showing that their
applications have been duly received and acknowledged by the latter and in
compliance with government regulations, they placed markers and signs in their
respective boundaries. The resolution likewise stated that these markers and signs
were subsequently destroyed and later on Mr. Yngson started development by
building dikes in the area applied for, which he has no authority to do so due to the
present conflict. The resolution further prohibited Yngson from constructing any
improvements in any area outside his 22 hectares and also prohibited Bayoborda
and Amamio from entering and making constructions in the applied for areas
pending the issuance of their permits.
The petitioner has failed to show that the acts committed by the respondents were
a direct disturbance in the proper administration of justice and processes of the law
which constitutes contempt of court. If there were any violations of petitioner's
rights, he should resort to PACLAP which issued the resolution between him and
respondents or file, as he alleged he did, a criminal complaint or other action before
the courts. The motion also raises factual considerations including boundaries and
geographical locations more proper for a trial court.
We have held that contempt of court presupposes contumacious and arrogant
defiance of the court. (De Midgely v. Ferandos, 64 SCRA 23; Matutina v. Judge
Buslon, 109 Phil. 140,142)
The petitioner has failed to show a contempt of court which we can take cognizance
of and punish. If any of his property or other rights over his one-third's share of the
disputed property are violated, he can pursue the correct action before the proper
lower court.
WHEREFORE, the judgment appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED. The motion for
contempt is also DENIED for lack of merit. Costs against petitioner-appellant.
SO ORDERED.

III
G.R. No. 155450

August 6, 2008

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES represented by the Regional Executive


Director, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Regional
Office No. 2, petitioners,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS, HEIRS OF ANTONIO CARAG AND VICTORIA TURINGAN,
THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF CAGAYAN, and the COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
OF CAGAYAN,respondents.
DECISION
CARPIO, J.:
The Case
This is a petition for review1 of the 21 May 20012 and 25 September
20023 Resolutions of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 47965. The
21 May 2001 Resolution dismissed petitioner Republic of the Philippines (petitioner)
amended complaint for reversion, annulment of decree, cancellation and
declaration of nullity of titles. The 25 September 2002 Resolution denied petitioners
motion for reconsideration.
The Facts
On 2 June 1930, the then Court of First Instance of Cagayan (trial court) issued
Decree No. 3819284in favor of spouses Antonio Carag and Victoria Turingan
(spouses Carag), predecessors-in-interest of private respondents Heirs of Antonio
Carag and Victoria Turingan (private respondents), covering a parcel of land

identified as Lot No. 2472, Cad. 151, containing an area of 7,047,673 square meters
(subject property), situated in Tuguegarao, Cagayan. On 19 July 1938, pursuant to
said Decree, the Register of Deeds of Cagayan issued Original Certificate of Title No.
115855 (OCT No. 11585) in the name of spouses Carag.
On 2 July 1952, OCT No. 11585 was cancelled to discharge the encumbrance
expressly stated in Decree No. 381928. Two transfer certificates of title were issued:
Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-1277,6 issued in the name of the Province of
Cagayan, covering Lot 2472-B consisting of 100,000 square meters and Transfer
Certificate of Title No. T-1278,7 issued in the name of the private respondents,
covering Lot 2472-A consisting of 6,997,921 square meters.
On 19 May 1994, Bienvenida Taguiam Vda. De Dayag and others filed with the
Regional Office No. 2 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
(DENR), Tuguegarao, Cagayan, a letter-petition requesting the DENR to initiate the
filing of an action for the annulment of Decree No. 381928 on the ground that the
trial court did not have jurisdiction to adjudicate a portion of the subject property
which was allegedly still classified as timber land at the time of the issuance of
Decree No. 381928.
The Regional Executive Director of the DENR created an investigating team to
conduct ground verification and ocular inspection of the subject property.
The investigating team reported that:
A) The portion of Lot 2472 Cad-151 as shown in the Plan prepared for spouses
Carag, and covered under LC Project 3-L of Tuguegarao, Cagayan, was found
to be still within the timberland area at the time of the issuance of the Decree
and O.C.T. of the spouses Antonio Carag and Victoria Turingan, and the same
was only released as alienable and disposable on February 22, 1982, as
certified by USEC Jose G. Solis of the NAMRIA on 27 May 1994.
B) Petitioner Bienvenida Taguiam Vda. De Dayag and others have possessed
and occupied by themselves and thru their predecessors-in-interest the
portion of Lot 2472 Cad-151, covered by LC Project 3-L of LC Map 2999, since
time immemorial.8
Thus, the investigating team claimed that "a portion of Lot 2472 Cad-151" was "only
released as alienable and disposable on 22 February 1982."
In a Memorandum dated 9 September 1996, the Legal Division of the Land
Management Bureau recommended to the Director of Lands that an action for the
cancellation of OCT No. 11585, as well as its derivative titles, be filed with the
proper court. The Director of Lands approved the recommendation.

On 10 June 1998, or 68 years after the issuance of Decree No. 381928,


petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a complaint for annulment of judgment,
cancellation and declaration of nullity of titles9 on the ground that in 1930 the trial
court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate a portion of the subject property, which
portion consists of 2,640,000 square meters (disputed portion). The disputed
portion was allegedly still classified as timber land at the time of issuance of Decree
No. 381928 and, therefore, was not alienable and disposable until 22 February 1982
when the disputed portion was classified as alienable and disposable.
On 19 October 1998, private respondents filed a motion to dismiss. 10 Private
respondents alleged that petitioner failed to comply with Rule 47 of the Rules of
Court because the real ground for the complaint was mistake, not lack of
jurisdiction, and that petitioner, as a party in the original proceedings, could have
availed of the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other
appropriate remedies but failed to do so. Private respondents added that petitioner
did not attach to the complaint a certified true copy of the decision sought to be
annulled. Private respondents also maintained that the complaint was barred by the
doctrines of res judicata and law of the case and by Section 38 of Act No.
496.11 Private respondents also stated that not all the heirs of spouses Carag were
brought before the Court of Appeals for an effective resolution of the case. Finally,
private respondents claimed that the real party in interest was not petitioner but a
certain Alfonso Bassig, who had an ax to grind against private respondents. 12
On 3 March 1999, petitioner filed an amended complaint for reversion, annulment of
decree, cancellation and declaration of nullity of titles. 13
The Ruling of the Court of Appeals
On 21 May 2001, the Court of Appeals dismissed the complaint because of lack of
jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case. The Court of Appeals declared:
The rule is clear that such judgments, final orders and resolutions in civil
actions which this court may annul are those which the "ordinary remedies of
new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no
longer available." The Amended Complaint contains no such allegations
which are jurisdictional neither can such circumstances be divined from its
allegations. Furthermore, such actions for Annulment may be based only on
two (2) grounds: extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction. Neither ground is
alleged in the Amended Complaint which is for Reversion/Annulment of
Decree, Cancellation and Declaration of Nullity of Titles. It merely alleges that
around 2,640,000 square meters of timberland area within Lot 2472 Cad.
151, had been erroneously included in the title of the Spouses Antonio Carag
and Victoria Turingan under Decree No. 381928 and O.C.T. No. 11585 issued
on June 2, 1930 and July 19, 1938, respectively; that hence, such adjudication

and/or Decree and Title covering a timberland area is null and void ab initio
under the provisions of the 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions.
Finally, it is clear that the issues raised in the Amended Complaint as well as those
in the Motion to dismiss are factual in nature and should be threshed out in the
proper trial court in accordance with Section 101 of the Public Land Act. 14 (Citations
omitted)
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration. In its 25 September 2002 Resolution,
the Court of Appeals denied the motion for reconsideration.
Hence, this petition.
The Issues
Petitioner raises the following issues:
1. Whether the allegations of the complaint clearly stated that the ordinary
remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief and other appropriate
remedies are no longer available;
2. Whether the amended complaint clearly alleged the ground of lack of
jurisdiction;
3. Whether the Court of Appeals may try the factual issues raised in the
amended complaint and in the motion to dismiss;
4. Whether the then Court of First Instance of Cagayan had jurisdiction to
adjudicate a tract of timberland in favor of respondent spouses Antonio Carag
and Victoria Turingan;
5. Whether the fact that the Director of Lands was a party to the original
proceedings changed the nature of the land and granted jurisdiction to the
then Court of First Instance over the land;
6. Whether the doctrine of res judicata applies in this case; and
7. Whether Section 38 of Act No. 496 is applicable in this case.
The Ruling of the Court
While the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing the complaint on procedural grounds,
we will still deny the petition because the complaint for annulment of decree has no
merit.

Petitioner Complied with Rule 47 of the Rules of Court


First, the Court of Appeals ruled that petitioner failed to allege either of the grounds
of extrinsic fraud or lack of jurisdiction in the complaint for annulment of decree. 15
We find otherwise. In its complaint and amended complaint, petitioner stated:
11. In view of the fact that in 1930 or in 1938, only the Executive Branch of
the Government had the authority and power to declassify or reclassify land
of the public domain, the Court did not, therefore, have the power and
authority to adjudicate in favor of the spouses Antonio Carag and
Victoria Turingan the said tract of timberland, portion of the Lot
2472 Cad-151, at the time of the issuance of the Decree and the
Original Certificate of Title of the said spouses; and such adjudication
and/or Decree and Title issued covering the timberland area is null and void
ab initio considering the provisions of the 1935, 1973 and 1987 Philippine
constitution.
xxxx
15. The issuance of Decree No. 381928 and O.C.T. No. 11585 in the name of
spouses Antonio Carag and Victoria Turingan, and all the derivative titles
thereto in the name of the Heirs and said spouses, specifically with respect to
the inclusion thereto of timberland area, by the then Court of First Instance
(now the Regional Trial Court), and the Register of Deeds of Cagayan is
patently illegal and erroneous for the reason that said Court and/or the
Register of Deeds of Cagayan did not have any authority or
jurisdiction to decree or adjudicate the said timberland area of Lot
2472 Cad-151, consequently, the same are null and void ab initio, and of no
force and effect whatsoever.16 (Emphasis supplied; citations omitted)
Petitioner clearly alleged in the complaint and amended complaint that it was
seeking to annul Decree No. 381928 on the ground of the trial courts lack of
jurisdiction over the subject land, specifically over the disputed portion, which
petitioner maintained was classified as timber land and was not alienable and
disposable.
Second, the Court of Appeals also dismissed the complaint on the ground of
petitioners failure to allege that the "ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition
for relief or other appropriate remedies are no longer available."
In Ancheta v. Ancheta,17 we ruled:

In a case where a petition for annulment of judgment or final order of the RTC
filed under Rule 47 of the Rules of Court is grounded on lack of jurisdiction
over the person of the defendant/respondent or over the nature or subject of
the action, the petitioner need not allege in the petition that the ordinary
remedy of new trial or reconsideration of the final order or judgment or
appeal therefrom are no longer available through no fault of her own. This is
so because a judgment rendered or final order issued by the RTC without
jurisdiction is null and void and may be assailed any time either collaterally or
in a direct action or by resisting such judgment or final order in any action or
proceeding whenever it is invoked, unless barred by laches. 18
Since petitioners complaint is grounded on lack of jurisdiction over the subject of
the action, petitioner need not allege that the ordinary remedies of new trial,
appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no longer available
through no fault of petitioner.
Third, the Court of Appeals ruled that the issues raised in petitioners complaint
were factual in nature and should be threshed out in the proper trial court in
accordance with Section 101 of the Public Land Act. 19
Section 6, Rule 47 of the Rules of Court provides:
SEC. 6. Procedure. - The procedure in ordinary civil cases shall be observed.
Should a trial be necessary, the reception of evidence may be referred to a
member of the court or a judge of a Regional Trial Court.
Therefore, the Court of Appeals may try the factual issues raised in the complaint
for the complete and proper determination of the case.
However, instead of remanding the complaint to the Court of Appeals for further
proceedings, we shall decide the case on the merits.
Complaint for Annulment of Decree Has No Merit
Petitioner contends that the trial court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate to spouses
Carag the disputed portion of the subject property. Petitioner claims that the
disputed portion was still classified as timber land, and thus not alienable and
disposable, when Decree No. 381928 was issued in 1930. In effect, petitioner admits
that the adjacent 4,407,673 square meters of the subject property, outside of the
disputed portion, were alienable and disposable in 1930. Petitioner argues that in
1930 or in 1938, only the Executive Branch of the Government, not the trial courts,
had the power to declassify or reclassify lands of the public domain.

Lack of jurisdiction, as a ground for annulment of judgment, refers to either lack of


jurisdiction over the person of the defending party or over the subject matter of the
claim.20 Jurisdiction over the subject matter is conferred by law and is determined by
the statute in force at the time of the filing of the action. 21
Under the Spanish regime, all Crown lands were per se alienable. In Aldecoa v.
Insular Government,22 we ruled:
From the language of the foregoing provisions of law, it is deduced that, with
the exception of those comprised within the mineral and timber zone, all
lands owned by the State or by the sovereign nation are public in
character, and per se alienable and, provided they are not destined to the
use of the public in general or reserved by the Government in accordance
with law, they may be acquired by any private or juridical person x x
x23 (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, unless specifically declared as mineral or forest zone, or reserved by the State
for some public purpose in accordance with law, all Crown lands were deemed
alienable.
In this case, petitioner has not alleged that the disputed portion had been declared
as mineral or forest zone, or reserved for some public purpose in accordance with
law, during the Spanish regime or thereafter. The land classification
maps24 petitioner attached to the complaint also do not show that in 1930 the
disputed portion was part of the forest zone or reserved for some public purpose.
The certification of the National Mapping and Resources Information Authority,
dated 27 May 1994, contained no statement that the disputed portion was declared
and classified as timber land.25
The law prevailing when Decree No. 381928 was issued in 1930 was Act No.
2874,26 which provides:
SECTION 6. The Governor-General, upon the recommendation of the
Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time
classify the lands of the public domain into (a) Alienable or disposable
(b) Timber and
(c) Mineral lands
and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands from one class
to another, for the purposes of their government and disposition.

Petitioner has not alleged that the Governor-General had declared the disputed
portion of the subject property timber or mineral land pursuant to Section 6 of Act
No. 2874.
It is true that Section 8 of Act No. 2874 opens to disposition only those lands which
have been declared alienable or disposable. Section 8 provides:
SECTION 8. Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or
concession which have been officially delimited and classified and, when
practicable, surveyed, and which have not been reserved for public or quasipublic uses, not appropriated by the Government, nor in any manner
become private property, nor those on which a private right
authorized and recognized by this Act or any other valid law may be
claimed, or which, having been reserved or appropriated, have ceased to be
so. However, the Governor-General may, for reasons of public interest,
declare lands of the public domain open to disposition before the same have
had their boundaries established or been surveyed, or may, for the same
reasons, suspend their concession or disposition by proclamation duly
published or by Act of the Legislature. (Emphasis supplied)
However, Section 8 provides that lands which are already private lands, as well as
lands on which a private claim may be made under any law, are not covered by the
classification requirement in Section 8 for purposes of disposition. This exclusion in
Section 8 recognizes that during the Spanish regime, Crown lands were per se
alienable unless falling under timber or mineral zones, or otherwise reserved for
some public purpose in accordance with law.
Clearly, with respect to lands excluded from the classification requirement in
Section 8, trial courts had jurisdiction to adjudicate these lands to private parties.
Petitioner has not alleged that the disputed portion had not become private
property prior to the enactment of Act No. 2874. Neither has petitioner alleged that
the disputed portion was not land on which a private right may be claimed under
any existing law at that time.
In Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals,27 the Republic sought to annul the
judgment of the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Rizal, sitting as a land registration
court, because when the application for land registration was filed in 1927 the land
was alleged to be unclassified forest land. The Republic also alleged that the CFI of
Rizal had no jurisdiction to determine whether the land applied for was forest or
agricultural land since the authority to classify lands was then vested in the Director
of Lands as provided in Act Nos. 92628 and 2874. The Court ruled:
We are inclined to agree with the respondent that it is legally doubtful if the
authority of the Governor General to declare lands as alienable and

disposable would apply to lands that have become private property or lands
that have been impressed with a private right authorized and recognized by
Act 2874 or any valid law. By express declaration of Section 45 (b) of Act
2874 which is quoted above, those who have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the
public domain under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership since July
26, 1894 may file an application with the Court of First Instance of the
province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and these
applicants shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the
conditions essential to a government grant and shall be entitled to a
certificate of title. When the land registration court issued a decision
for the issuance of a decree which was the basis of an original
certificate of title to the land, the court had already made a
determination that the land was agricultural and that the applicant
had proven that he was in open and exclusive possession of the
subject land for the prescribed number of years. It was the land
registration court which had the jurisdiction to determine whether
the land applied for was agricultural, forest or timber taking into
account the proof or evidence in each particular case. (Emphasis
supplied)
As with this case, when the trial court issued the decision for the issuance of Decree
No. 381928 in 1930, the trial court had jurisdiction to determine whether the subject
property, including the disputed portion, applied for was agricultural, timber or
mineral land. The trial court determined that the land was agricultural and that
spouses Carag proved that they were entitled to the decree and a certificate of title.
The government, which was a party in the original proceedings in the trial court as
required by law, did not appeal the decision of the trial court declaring the subject
land as agricultural. Since the trial court had jurisdiction over the subject matter of
the action, its decision rendered in 1930, or 78 years ago, is now final and beyond
review.
The finality of the trial courts decision is further recognized in Section 1, Article XII
of the 1935 Constitution which provides:
SECTION 1. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain,
waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of
potential energy, and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the
State, and their disposition, exploitation, development, or utilization shall be
limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations or associations at
least sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned by such
citizens, subject to any existing right, grant, lease, or concession at
the time of the inauguration of the Government established under
this Constitution. (Emphasis supplied)

Thus, even as the 1935 Constitution declared that all agricultural, timber and
mineral lands of the public domain belong to the State, it recognized that these
lands were "subject to any existing right, grant, lease or concession at the
time of the inauguration of the Government established under this
Constitution."29 When the Commonwealth Government was established under the
1935 Constitution, spouses Carag had already an existing right to the subject land,
including the disputed portion, pursuant to Decree No. 381928 issued in 1930 by
the trial court.
WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. We DISMISS petitioner Republic of the
Philippines complaint for reversion, annulment of decree, cancellation and
declaration of nullity of titles for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.

IV
G.R. No. 180067

June 30, 2009

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,


vs.
IGLESIA NI CRISTO, Trustee and APPLICANT, with its Executive Minister
ERAO MANALO as Corporate Sole Respondent.
DECISION
VELASCO, JR., J.:
The Case
In this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45, the Republic of the Philippines
assails the October 11, 2007 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV
No. 85348, which affirmed the April 26, 2005 Decision 2 of the Municipal Circuit Trial
Court (MCTC) in Paoay-Currimao, Ilocos Norte, in Land Registration Case No. 762-C
for Application for Registration of Title, entitled Iglesia Ni Cristo, Trustee and
Applicant with its Executive Minister Erao Manalo as Corporate Sole v. Republic of
the Philippines as oppositor.
The Facts
Subject of the instant controversy is Lot No. 3946 of the Currimao Cadastre,
particularly described as follows:
A parcel of land (Plan Swo-I-001047, L.R.C. Rec. No. ______) situated in the Barrio of
Baramban, Municipality of Currimao, Province of Ilocos Norte, Island of Luzon.
Bounded on the SE., along line 1-2 by the National Road (20.00 m. wide); on the SW.
& NW., along lines 2-3-4 by lot 3946, Cads-562-D, Currimao Cadastral Sketching,
Bernardo Badanguio; on the NE., along line 4-1 by lot 3947, portion, Cads-562-D;
(Pacita B. Lazaro) and lot 3948, Pacita B. Lazaro, Cads-562-D, Currimao Cadastral
Sketching x x x containing an area of FOUR THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED AND ONE
(4201) SQUARE METERS. x x x
On November 19, 1998, Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), represented by Erao G. Manalo, as
corporate sole, filed its Application for Registration of Title before the MCTC in
Paoay-Currimao. Appended to the application were thesepia or tracing cloth of plan
Swo-1-001047, the technical description of subject lot, 3 the Geodetic Engineers
Certificate,4 Tax Declaration No. (TD) 5080265 covering the subject lot, and the
September 7, 1970 Deed of Sale6 executed by Bernardo Bandaguio in favor of INC.

The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), entered its
appearance and deputized the Provincial Prosecutor of Laoag City to appear on its
behalf. It also filed an Opposition to INCs application.
The Ruling of the Cadastral Court
After the required jurisdictional publication, notification, and posting, hearing
ensued where the INC presented three testimonial witnesses, 7 the MCTC, acting as
cadastral court, rendered its Decision on April 26, 2005, granting INCs application.
The decretal portion reads:
Wherefore, the application for registration is hereby granted. Upon finality of this
decision, let an Order be issued directing the Land Registration Authority to register
and issue an Original Certificate of Title to the applicant Iglesia Ni Cristo, as
Corporation Sole, with official address at No. 1 Central Avenue, New Era, Diliman
Quezon City.
SO ORDERED.
The cadastral court held that based on documentary and testimonial evidence, the
essential requisites for judicial confirmation of an imperfect title over the subject lot
have been complied with.
It was established during trial that the subject lot formed part of a bigger lot owned
by one Dionisio Sabuco. On February 23, 1952, Sabuco sold a small portion of the
bigger lot to INC which built a chapel on the lot. Saturnino Sacayanan, who was born
in 1941 and became a member of INC in 1948, testified to the sale by Sabuco and
the erection of the small chapel by INC in 1952. Subsequently, Sabuco sold the
bigger lot to Bernardo Badanguio less the small portion where the INC chapel was
built.
Badanguio in 1954 then declared the entire bigger lot he purchased from Sabuco for
tax purposes and was issued TD 006114.8 In 1959, Badanguio also sold a small
portion of the bigger lot to INC for which a Deed of Absolute Sale 9 was executed on
January 8, 1959. Jaime Alcantara, the property custodian of INC, testified to the
purchases constituting the subject lot and the issuance of TDs covering it as
declared by INC for tax purposes. Thus, these two purchases by INC of a small
portion of the bigger lot originally owned by Sabuco, who inherited it from his
parents and later sold it to Badanguio, constituted the subject lot.
On September 7, 1970, a Deed of Sale was executed by Badanguio in favor of INC
formally ceding and conveying to INC the subject lot which still formed part of the
TD of the bigger lot under his name. This was testified to by Teofilo Tulali who
became a tenant of the bigger lot in 1965 and continued to be its tenant under

Badanguio. Tulali testified further that the ownership and possession of Sabuco and
Badanguio of the bigger lot were never disturbed.
Subsequently, TD 648510 was issued in 1970 in the name of INC pursuant to the
September 7, 1970 Deed of Sale. This was subsequently replaced by TD No.
40605611 in 1974, TD 508026 in 1980, and TD 605153 in 1985.
For the processing of its application for judicial confirmation of title, subject Lot No.
3946 of the Currimao Cadastre was surveyed and consisted of 4,201 square meters.
With the presentation of the requisite sepia or tracing cloth of plan Swo-1-001047,
technical description of the subject lot, Geodetic Engineers Certificate, and Report
given by the City Environment and Natural Resources Office special investigator
showing that the subject lot is within alienable and disposable public zone, the
MCTC found and appreciated the continuous possession by INC of the subject lot for
over 40 years after its acquisition of the lot. Besides, it noted that Badanguio and
Sabuco, the predecessors-in-interest of INC, were never disturbed in their
possession of the portions they sold to INC constituting the subject lot.
Aggrieved, the Republic seasonably interposed its appeal before the CA, docketed
as CA-G.R. CV No. 85348.
The Ruling of the CA
On October 11, 2007, the appellate court rendered the assailed Decision affirming
the April 26, 2005 MCTC Decision. The fallo reads:
WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, the instant appeal is hereby DENIED and
the assailed decision AFFIRMED in toto.
SO ORDERED.
In denying the Republics appeal, the CA found that the documentary and
testimonial evidence on record sufficiently established the continuous, open, and
peaceful possession and occupation of the subject lot in the concept of an owner by
INC of more than 40 years and by its predecessors-in-interest prior to the
conveyance of the lot to INC.
Hence, we have this petition.
The Issue
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED ON A QUESTION OF LAW IN AFFIRMING THE [MCTC]
DECISION GRANTING THE APPLICATION FOR LAND REGISTRATION DESPITE
EVIDENCE THAT THE LAND WAS DECLARED ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE LAND OF

THE PUBLIC DOMAIN ONLY ON MAY 16, 1993, OR FIVE (5) YEARS BEFORE THE FILING
OF THE APPLICATION FOR REGISTRATION ON NOVEMBER 19, 1998. 12
The Courts Ruling
May a judicial confirmation of imperfect title prosper when the subject property has
been declared as alienable only after June 12, 1945? This is the sole issue to be
resolved.
The petition is bereft of merit. The sole issue raised is not novel.
The Republics Contention
The Republic contends that subject Lot No. 3946 was certified as alienable and
disposable land of the public domain only on May 16, 1993. Relying on Republic v.
Herbieto,13 it argues that prior to said date, the subject lot remained to be of the
public dominion or res publicae in nature incapable of private appropriation, and,
consequently, INC and its predecessors-in-interests possession and occupation
cannot confer ownership or possessory rights and "any period of possession prior to
the date when the lot was classified as alienable and disposable is inconsequential
and should be excluded in the computation of the period of possession." 14
The Republic maintains further that since the application was filed only on
November 19, 1998 or a scant five years from the declaration of the subject lot to
be alienable and disposable land on May 16, 1993, INCs possession fell short of the
30-year period required under Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act No. (CA) 141,
otherwise known as the Public Land Act.
The Argument of INC
Respondent INC counters that the Court has already clarified this issue in Republic
v. Court of Appeals (Naguitcase), in which we held that what is merely required by
Sec. 14(1) of Presidential Decree No. (PD) 1529, otherwise known as the Property
Registration Decree, is that the "property sought to be registered [is] already
alienable and disposable at the time of the application for registration of title is
filed."15 Moreover, INC asserts that the Herbieto pronouncement quoted by the
Republic cannot be considered doctrinal in that it is merely an obiter dictum, stated
only after the case was dismissed for the applicants failure to comply with the
jurisdictional requirement of publication.
Necessity of declaration of public agricultural land as alienable and
disposable

It is well-settled that no public land can be acquired by private persons without any
grant, express or implied, from the government, and it is indispensable that the
persons claiming title to a public land should show that their title was acquired from
the State or any other mode of acquisition recognized by law. 16 In the instant case, it
is undisputed that the subject lot has already been declared alienable and
disposable by the government on May 16, 1993 or a little over five years before the
application for registration was filed by INC.
Conflicting rulings in Herbieto and Naguit
It must be noted that this Court had conflicting rulings in Naguit and Herbieto, relied
on by the parties contradictory positions.
Herbieto essentially ruled that reckoning of the possession of an applicant for
judicial confirmation of imperfect title is counted from the date when the lot was
classified as alienable and disposable, and possession before such date is
inconsequential and must be excluded in the computation of the period of
possession. This ruling is very stringent and restrictive, for there can be no
perfection of title when the declaration of public agricultural land as alienable and
disposable is made after June 12, 1945, since the reckoning of the period of
possession cannot comply with the mandatory period under Sec. 14(1) of PD 1529.
In Naguit, this Court held a less stringent requirement in the application of Sec.
14(1) of PD 1529 in that the reckoning for the period of possession is the actual
possession of the property and it is sufficient for the property sought to be
registered to be already alienable and disposable at the time of the application for
registration of title is filed.
A review of subsequent and recent rulings by this Court shows that the
pronouncement in Herbieto has been applied to Buenaventura v.
Republic,17 Republic v. Diloy,18 Ponciano, Jr. v. Laguna Lake Development
Authority,19 and Preciosa v. Pascual.20 This Courts ruling in Naguit, on the other
hand, has been applied toRepublic v. Bibonia.21
Core issue laid to rest in Heirs of Mario Malabanan v. Republic
In Heirs of Mario Malabanan v. Republic (Malabanan),22 the Court upheld Naguit and
abandoned the stringent ruling in Herbieto.
Sec. 14(1) of PD 1529 pertinently provides:
SEC. 14. Who may apply.The following persons may file in the proper Court of First
Instance [now Regional Trial Court] an application for registration of title to land,
whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:

(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in


open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable
and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership
since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
In declaring that the correct interpretation of Sec. 14(1) of PD 1529 is that which
was adopted in Naguit, the Court ruled that "the more reasonable
interpretation of Sec. 14(1) of PD 1529 is that it merely requires the
property sought to be registered as already alienable and disposable at
the time the application for registration of title is filed."
The Court in Malabanan traced the rights of a citizen to own alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain as granted under CA 141, otherwise known as
the Public Land Act, as amended by PD 1073, and PD 1529. The Court observed that
Sec. 48(b) of CA 141 and Sec. 14(1) of PD 1529 are virtually the same, with the
latter law specifically operationalizing the registration of lands of the public domain
and codifying the various laws relative to the registration of property. We
cited Naguit and ratiocinated:
Despite the clear text of Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended and
Section 14(a) of the Property Registration Decree, the OSG has adopted the position
that for one to acquire the right to seek registration of an alienable and disposable
land of the public domain, it is not enough that the applicant and his/her
predecessors-in-interest be in possession under a bona fide claim of ownership
since 12 June 1945; the alienable and disposable character of the property must
have been declared also as of 12 June 1945. Following the OSGs approach, all lands
certified as alienable and disposable after 12 June 1945 cannot be registered either
under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree or Section 48(b) of the
Public Land Act as amended. The absurdity of such an implication was discussed
in Naguit.
Petitioner suggests an interpretation that the alienable and disposable character of
the land should have already been established since June 12, 1945 or earlier. This is
not borne out by the plain meaning of Section 14(1). "Since June 12, 1945," as used
in the provision, qualifies its antecedent phrase "under a bonafide claim of
ownership." Generally speaking, qualifying words restrict or modify only the words
or phrases to which they are immediately associated, and not those distantly or
remotely located. Ad proximum antecedents fiat relation nisi impediatur
sentencia.lavvphi1.net
Besides, we are mindful of the absurdity that would result if we adopt petitioners
position. Absent a legislative amendment, the rule would be, adopting the OSGs
view, that all lands of the public domain which were not declared alienable or
disposable before June 12, 1945 would not be susceptible to original registration, no

matter the length of unchallenged possession by the occupant. Such interpretation


renders paragraph (1) of Section 14 virtually inoperative and even precludes the
government from giving it effect even as it decides to reclassify public agricultural
lands as alienable and disposable. The unreasonableness of the situation would
even be aggravated considering that before June 12, 1945, the Philippines was not
yet even considered an independent state.
Accordingly, the Court in Naguit explained:
[T]he more reasonable interpretation of Section 14(1) is that it merely requires the
property sought to be registered as already alienable and disposable at the time the
application for registration of title is filed. If the State, at the time the application is
made, has not yet deemed it proper to release the property for alienation or
disposition, the presumption is that the government is still reserving the right to
utilize the property; hence, the need to preserve its ownership in the State
irrespective of the length of adverse possession even if in good faith. However, if
the property has already been classified as alienable and disposable, as it is in this
case, then there is already an intention on the part of the State to abdicate its
exclusive prerogative over the property.
The Court declares that the correct interpretation of Section 14(1) is that which was
adopted in Naguit. The contrary pronouncement in Herbieto, as pointed out
in Naguit, absurdly limits the application of the provision to the point of virtual
inutility since it would only cover lands actually declared alienable and disposable
prior to 12 June 1945, even if the current possessor is able to establish open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession under a bona fide claim of
ownership long before that date.
Moreover, the Naguit interpretation allows more possessors under a bona fide claim
of ownership to avail of judicial confirmation of their imperfect titles than what
would be feasible under Herbieto. This balancing fact is significant, especially
considering our forthcoming discussion on the scope and reach of Section 14(2) of
the Property Registration Decree.
Petitioners make the salient observation that the contradictory passages
from Herbieto are obiter dicta since the land registration proceedings therein is
void ab initio in the first place due to lack of the requisite publication of the notice of
initial hearing. There is no need to explicitly overturn Herbieto, as it suffices that the
Courts acknowledgment that the particular line of argument used therein
concerning Section 14(1) is indeed obiter.
Naguit as affirmed in Malabanan more in accord with the States policy

Moreover, we wish to emphasize that our affirmation of Naguit in Malabananas


regards the correct interpretation of Sec. 14(1) of PD 1529 relative to the reckoning
of possession vis--vis the declaration of the property of the public domain as
alienable and disposableis indeed more in keeping with the spirit of the Public
Land Act, as amended, and of PD 1529. These statutes were enacted to conform to
the States policy of encouraging and promoting the distribution of alienable public
lands to spur economic growth and remain true to the ideal of social justice. 23 The
statutes requirements, as couched and amended, are stringent enough to
safeguard against fraudulent applications for registration of title over alienable and
disposable public land. The application of the more stringent pronouncement
in Herbieto would indeed stifle and repress the States policy.
Finally, the Court in Malabanan aptly synthesized the doctrine that the period of
possession required under Sec. 14(1) of PD 1527 is not reckoned from the time of
the declaration of the property as alienable and disposable, thus:
We synthesize the doctrines laid down in this case, as follows:
(1) In connection with Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree, Section
48(b) of the Public Land Act recognizes and confirms that "those who by themselves
or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive,
and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the
public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12,
1945" have acquired ownership of, and registrable title to, such lands based on the
length and quality of their possession.
(a) Since Section 48(b) merely requires possession since 12 June 1945 and
does not require that the lands should have been alienable and disposable
during the entire period of possession, the possessor is entitled to secure
judicial confirmation of his title thereto as soon as it is declared alienable and
disposable, subject to the timeframe imposed by Section 47 of the Public
Land Act.
(b) The right to register granted under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is
further confirmed by Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree.
INC entitled to registrable right over subject lot
With the resolution of the core issue, we find no error in the findings of the courts a
quo that INC had indeed sufficiently established its possession and occupation of
the subject lot in accordance with the Public Land Act and Sec. 14(1) of PD 1529,
and had duly proved its right to judicial confirmation of imperfect title over subject
lot.

As a rule, the findings of fact of the trial court when affirmed by the CA are final and
conclusive on, and cannot be reviewed on appeal by, this Court as long as they are
borne out by the record or are based on substantial evidence. The Court is not a
trier of facts, its jurisdiction being limited to reviewing only errors of law that may
have been committed by the lower courts.24 This is applicable to the instant case.
The possession of INC has been established not only from 1952 and 1959 when it
purchased the respective halves of the subject lot, but is also tacked on to the
possession of its predecessors-in-interest, Badanguio and Sabuco, the latter
possessing the subject lot way before June 12, 1945, as he inherited the bigger lot,
of which the subject lot is a portion, from his parents. These possessions and
occupationfrom Sabuco, including those of his parents, to INC; and from Sabuco to
Badanguio to INChad been in the concept of owners: open, continuous, exclusive,
and notorious possession and occupation under a bona fide claim of acquisition of
property. These had not been disturbed as attested to by respondents witnesses.
WHEREFORE, this petition is hereby DENIED. Accordingly, the October 11, 2007 CA
Decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 85348 is hereby AFFIRMED IN TOTO.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.