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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. 73002 December 29, 1986
THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner,
vs.
INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT and ACME PLYWOOD & VENEER CO. INC., ETC., respondents.
D. Nacion Law Office for private respondent.

NARVASA, J.:
The Director of Lands has brought this appeal by certiorari from a judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court
affirming a decision of the Court of First Instance of Isabela, which ordered registration in favor of Acme Plywood &
Veneer Co., Inc. of five parcels of land measuring 481, 390 square meters, more or less, acquired by it from Mariano
and Acer Infiel, members of the Dumagat tribe.
The registration proceedings were for confirmation of title under Section 48 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 (The
Public Land Act). as amended: and the appealed judgment sums up the findings of the trial court in said proceedings
in this wise:
1. That Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., represented by Mr. Rodolfo Nazario is a corporation duly
organized in accordance with the laws of the Republic of the Philippines and registered with the Securities
and Exchange Commission on December 23, 1959;
2. That Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., represented by Mr. Rodolfo Nazario can acquire real properties
pursuant to the provisions of the Articles of Incorporation particularly on the provision of its secondary
purposes (paragraph (9), Exhibit 'M-l');
3. That the land subject of the Land Registration proceeding was ancestrally acquired by Acme Plywood &
Veneer Co., Inc., on October 29, 1962, from Mariano Infiel and Acer Infiel, both members of the Dumagat
tribe and as such are cultural minorities;
4. That the constitution of the Republic of the Philippines of 1935 is applicable as the sale took place on
October 29, 1962;
5. That the possession of the Infiels over the land relinquished or sold to Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc.,
dates back before the Philippines was discovered by Magellan as the ancestors of the Infiels have
possessed and occupied the land from generation to generation until the same came into the possession of
Mariano Infiel and Acer Infiel;
6. That the possession of the applicant Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., is continuous, adverse and public
from 1962 to the present and tacking the possession of the Infiels who were granted from whom the
applicant bought said land on October 29, 1962, hence the possession is already considered from time
immemorial.

7. That the land sought to be registered is a private land pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No. 3872
granting absolute ownership to members of the non-Christian Tribes on land occupied by them or their
ancestral lands, whether with the alienable or disposable public land or within the public domain;
8. That applicant Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., has introduced more than Forty-Five Million
(P45,000,000.00) Pesos worth of improvements, said improvements were seen by the Court during its
ocular investigation of the land sought to be registered on September 18, 1982;
9. That the ownership and possession of the land sought to be registered by the applicant was duly
recognized by the government when the Municipal Officials of Maconacon, Isabela, have negotiated for the
donation of the townsite from Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., and this negotiation came to reality when
the Board of Directors of the Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., had donated a part of the land bought by the
Company from the Infiels for the townsite of Maconacon Isabela (Exh. 'N') on November 15, 1979, and
which donation was accepted by the Municipal Government of Maconacon, Isabela (Exh. 'N-l'), during their
special session on November 22, 1979.
The Director of Lands takes no issue with any of these findings except as to the applicability of the 1935 Constitution
to the matter at hand. Concerning this, he asserts that, the registration proceedings have been commenced only on
July 17, 1981, or long after the 1973 Constitution had gone into effect, the latter is the correctly applicable law; and
since section 11 of its Article XIV prohibits private corporations or associations from holding alienable lands of the
public domain, except by lease not to exceed 1,000 hectares (a prohibition not found in the 1935 Constitution which
was in force in 1962 when Acme purchased the lands in question from the Infiels), it was reversible error to decree
registration in favor of Acme Section 48, paragraphs (b) and (c), of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, reads:
SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or
claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or
completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation
of their claims, and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
xxx xxx xxx
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona
fide claim of acquisition or ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the
application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be
conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be
entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.
(c) Members of the National Cultural minorities who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest
have been in open. continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of lands of the public
domain suitable to agriculture, whether disposable or not, under a bona fide claim of ownership for at least
30 years shall be entitled to the rights granted in subsection (b) hereof.
The Petition for Review does not dispute-indeed, in view of the quoted findings of the trial court which were cited and
affirmed by the Intermediate Appellate Court, it can no longer controvert before this Court-the fact that Mariano and
Acer Infiel, from whom Acme purchased the lands in question on October 29, 1962, are members of the national
cultural minorities who had, by themselves and through their progenitors, possessed and occupied those lands since
time immemorial, or for more than the required 30-year period and were, by reason thereof, entitled to exercise the
right granted in Section 48 of the Public Land Act to have their title judicially confirmed. Nor is there any pretension
that Acme, as the successor-in-interest of the Infiels, is disqualified to acquire and register ownership of said lands
under any provisions of the 1973 Constitution other than Section 11 of its Article XIV already referred to.

Given the foregoing, the question before this Court is whether or not the title that the Infiels had transferred to Acme
in 1962 could be confirmed in favor of the latter in proceedings instituted by it in 1981 when the 1973 Constitution
was already in effect, having in mind the prohibition therein against private corporations holding lands of the public
domain except in lease not exceeding 1,000 hectares.
The question turns upon a determination of the character of the lands at the time of institution of the registration
proceedings in 1981. If they were then still part of the public domain, it must be answered in the negative. If, on the
other hand, they were then already private lands, the constitutional prohibition against their acquisition by private
corporations or associations obviously does not apply.
In this regard, attention has been invited to Manila Electric Company vs. Castro-Bartolome, et al, 1 where a similar

set of facts prevailed. In that case, Manila Electric Company, a domestic corporation more than 60% of
the capital stock of which is Filipino-owned, had purchased in 1947 two lots in Tanay, Rizal from the
Piguing spouses. The lots had been possessed by the vendors and, before them, by their predecessor-ininterest, Olimpia Ramos, since prior to the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941. On December 1, 1976,
Meralco applied to the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Makati Branch, for confirmation of title to said lots.
The court, assuming that the lots were public land, dismissed the application on the ground that Meralco,
a juridical person, was not qualified to apply for registration under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act
which allows only Filipino citizens or natural persons to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect titles to
public land. Meralco appealed, and a majority of this Court upheld the dismissal. It was held that:
..., the said land is still public land. It would cease to be public land only upon the issuance of the certificate
of title to any Filipino citizen claiming it under section 48(b). Because it is still public land and the Meralco, as
a juridical person, is disqualified to apply for its registration under section 48(b), Meralco's application cannot
be given due course or has to be dismissed.
Finally, it may be observed that the constitutional prohibition makes no distinction between (on the one
hand) alienable agricultural public lands as to which no occupant has an imperfect title and (on the other
hand) alienable lands of the public domain as to which an occupant has on imperfect title subject to judicial
confirmation.
Since section 11 of Article XIV does not distinguish, we should not make any distinction or qualification. The
prohibition applies to alienable public lands as to which a Torrens title may be secured under section 48(b).
The proceeding under section 48(b) 'presupposes that the land is public' (Mindanao vs. Director of Lands, L19535, July 30, 1967, 20 SCRA 641, 644).
The present Chief Justice entered a vigorous dissent, tracing the line of cases beginning with Carino in
1909 2thru Susi in 1925 3 down to Herico in 1980, 4 which developed, affirmed and reaffirmed the doctrine

that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public land for the period prescribed by law
creates the legal fiction whereby the land, upon completion of the requisite period ipso jure and without
the need of judicial or other sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes private property. That said
dissent expressed what is the better and, indeed, the correct, view-becomes evident from a
consideration of some of the principal rulings cited therein,
The main theme was given birth, so to speak, in Carino involving the Decree/Regulations of June 25, 1880 for
adjustment of royal lands wrongfully occupied by private individuals in the Philippine Islands. It was ruled that:
It is true that the language of articles 4 and 5 5 attributes title to those 'who may prove' possession for

the necessary time and we do not overlook the argument that this means may prove in
registration proceedings. It may be that an English conveyancer would have recommended an

application under the foregoing decree, but certainly it was not calculated to convey to the mind of
an Igorot chief the notion that ancient family possessions were in danger, if he had read every
word of it. The words 'may prove' (acrediten) as well or better, in view of the other provisions,
might be taken to mean when called upon to do so in any litigation. There are indications that
registration was expected from all but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership
actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, wherever made, was not to confer title, but
simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. ...
That ruling assumed a more doctrinal character because expressed in more categorical language, in Susi:
.... In favor of Valentin Susi, there is, moreover, the presumption juris et de jure established in paragraph (b)
of section 45 of Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926, that all the necessary requirements for a grant by the
Government were complied with, for he has been in actual and physical possession, personally and through
his predecessors, of an agricultural land of the public domain openly, continuously, exclusively and publicly
since July 26, 1984, with a right to a certificate of title to said land under the provisions of Chapter VIII of
said Act. So that when Angela Razon applied for the grant in her favor, Valentin Susi had already acquired,
by operation of law not only a right to a grant, but a grant of the Government, for it is not necessary that a
certificate of title should be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts, an application
therefore is sufficient, under the provisions of section 47 of Act No. 2874. If by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi
had acquired the land in question by a grant of the State, it had already ceased to be of the public domain
and had become private property, at least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the
Director of Lands. Consequently, in selling the land in question of Angela Razon, the Director of Lands
disposed of a land over which he had no longer any title or control, and the sale thus made was void and of
no effect, and Angela Razon did not thereby acquire any right. 6
Succeeding cases, of which only some need be mentioned, likeof Lacaste vs. Director of Lands, 7 Mesina vs. Vda.

de Sonza, 8 Manarpac vs. Cabanatuan, 9 Miguel vs. Court of Appeals 10 and Herico vs. Dar, supra, by
invoking and affirming the Susi doctrine have firmly rooted it in jurisprudence.
Herico, in particular, appears to be squarely affirmative: 11
.... Secondly, under the provisions of Republic Act No. 1942, which the respondent Court held to be
inapplicable to the petitioner's case, with the latter's proven occupation and cultivation for more than 30
years since 1914, by himself and by his predecessors-in-interest, title over the land has vested on petitioner
so as to segregate the land from the mass of public land. Thereafter, it is no longer disposable under the
Public Land Act as by free patent. ....
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As interpreted in several cases, when the conditions as specified in the foregoing provision are complied
with, the possessor is deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, a government grant,
without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The land, therefore, ceases to be of the public
domain and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. The application for confirmation is
mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by
the patent and the Torrens title to be issued upon the strength of said patent. 12
Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical inevitability of considering possession of public land which is of the
character and duration prescribed by statute as the equivalent of an express grant from the State than the dictum of
the statute itself 13 that the possessor(s) "... shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the

conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title .... " No proof being
admissible to overcome a conclusive presumption, confirmation proceedings would, in truth be little more

than a formality, at the most limited to ascertaining whether the possession claimed is of the required
character and length of time; and registration thereunder would not confer title, but simply recognize a title
already vested. The proceedings would not originally convert the land from public to private land, but only
confirm such a conversion already affected by operation of law from the moment the required period of
possession became complete. As was so well put in Carino, "... (T)here are indications that registration
was expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually gained would be
lost. The effect of the proof, wherever made, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already
conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law."
If it is accepted-as it must be-that the land was already private land to which the Infiels had a legally sufficient and
transferable title on October 29, 1962 when Acme acquired it from said owners, it must also be conceded that Acme
had a perfect right to make such acquisition, there being nothing in the 1935 Constitution then in force (or, for that
matter, in the 1973 Constitution which came into effect later) prohibiting corporations from acquiring and owning
private lands.
Even on the proposition that the land remained technically "public" land, despite immemorial possession of the Infiels
and their ancestors, until title in their favor was actually confirmed in appropriate proceedings under the Public Land
Act, there can be no serious question of Acmes right to acquire the land at the time it did, there also being nothing in
the 1935 Constitution that might be construed to prohibit corporations from purchasing or acquiring interests in public
land to which the vendor had already acquired that type of so-called "incomplete" or "imperfect" title. The only
limitation then extant was that corporations could not acquire, hold or lease public agricultural lands in excess of
1,024 hectares. The purely accidental circumstance that confirmation proceedings were brought under the aegis of
the 1973 Constitution which forbids corporations from owning lands of the public domain cannot defeat a right already
vested before that law came into effect, or invalidate transactions then perfectly valid and proper. This Court has
already held, in analogous circumstances, that the Constitution cannot impair vested rights.
We hold that the said constitutional prohibition 14 has no retroactive application to the sales application

of Binan Development Co., Inc. because it had already acquired a vested right to the land applied
for at the time the 1973 Constitution took effect.
That vested right has to be respected. It could not be abrogated by the new Constitution. Section 2, Article
XIII of the 1935 Constitution allows private corporations to purchase public agricultural lands not exceeding
one thousand and twenty-four hectares. Petitioner' prohibition action is barred by the doctrine of vested
rights in constitutional law.
xxx xxx xxx
The due process clause prohibits the annihilation of vested rights. 'A state may not impair vested rights by
legislative enactment, by the enactment or by the subsequent repeal of a municipal ordinance, or by a
change in the constitution of the State, except in a legitimate exercise of the police power'(16 C.J.S. 117778).
xxx xxx xxx
In the instant case, it is incontestable that prior to the effectivity of the 1973 Constitution the right of the
corporation to purchase the land in question had become fixed and established and was no longer open to
doubt or controversy.
Its compliance with the requirements of the Public Land Law for the issuance of a patent had the effect of
segregating the said land from the public domain. The corporation's right to obtain a patent for the land is

protected by law. It cannot be deprived of that right without due process (Director of Lands vs. CA, 123 Phil.
919). 15
<re||an1w>

The fact, therefore, that the confirmation proceedings were instituted by Acme in its own name must be regarded as
simply another accidental circumstance, productive of a defect hardly more than procedural and in nowise affecting
the substance and merits of the right of ownership sought to be confirmed in said proceedings, there being no doubt
of Acme's entitlement to the land. As it is unquestionable that in the light of the undisputed facts, the Infiels, under
either the 1935 or the 1973 Constitution, could have had title in themselves confirmed and registered, only a rigid
subservience to the letter of the law would deny the same benefit to their lawful successor-in-interest by valid
conveyance which violates no constitutional mandate.
The Court, in the light of the foregoing, is of the view, and so holds, that the majority ruling in Meralco must be
reconsidered and no longer deemed to be binding precedent. The correct rule, as enunciated in the line of cases
already referred to, is that alienable public land held by a possessor, personally or through his predecessors-ininterest, openly, continuously and exclusively for the prescribed statutory period (30 years under The Public Land Act,
as amended) is converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of said period, ipso jure. Following that
rule and on the basis of the undisputed facts, the land subject of this appeal was already private property at the time it
was acquired from the Infiels by Acme. Acme thereby acquired a registrable title, there being at the time no
prohibition against said corporation's holding or owning private land. The objection that, as a juridical person, Acme is
not qualified to apply for judicial confirmation of title under section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is technical, rather
than substantial and, again, finds its answer in the dissent in Meralco:
6. To uphold respondent judge's denial of Meralco's application on the technicality that the Public Land Act
allows only citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons to apply for confirmation of their title would be
impractical and would just give rise to multiplicity of court actions. Assuming that there was a technical error
not having filed the application for registration in the name of the Piguing spouses as the original owners and
vendors, still it is conceded that there is no prohibition against their sale of the land to the applicant Meralco
and neither is there any prohibition against the application being refiled with retroactive effect in the name of
the original owners and vendors (as such natural persons) with the end result of their application being
granted, because of their indisputable acquisition of ownership by operation of law and the conclusive
presumption therein provided in their favor. It should not be necessary to go through all the rituals at the
great cost of refiling of all such applications in their names and adding to the overcrowded court dockets
when the Court can after all these years dispose of it here and now. (See Francisco vs. City of Davao)
The ends of justice would best be served, therefore, by considering the applications for confirmation as
amended to conform to the evidence, i.e. as filed in the names of the original persons who as natural
persons are duly qualified to apply for formal confirmation of the title that they had acquired by conclusive
presumption and mandate of the Public Land Act and who thereafter duly sold to the herein corporations
(both admittedly Filipino corporations duly qualified to hold and own private lands) and granting the
applications for confirmation of title to the private lands so acquired and sold or exchanged.
There is also nothing to prevent Acme from reconveying the lands to the Infiels and the latter from themselves
applying for confirmation of title and, after issuance of the certificate/s of title in their names, deeding the lands back
to Acme. But this would be merely indulging in empty charades, whereas the same result is more efficaciously and
speedily obtained, with no prejudice to anyone, by a liberal application of the rule on amendment to conform to the
evidence suggested in the dissent in Meralco.
While this opinion seemingly reverses an earlier ruling of comparatively recent vintage, in a real sense, it breaks no
precedent, but only reaffirms and re-established, as it were, doctrines the soundness of which has passed the test of
searching examination and inquiry in many past cases. Indeed, it is worth noting that the majority opinion, as well as
the concurring opinions of Chief Justice Fernando and Justice Abad Santos, in Meralco rested chiefly on the
proposition that the petitioner therein, a juridical person, was disqualified from applying for confirmation of an
imperfect title to public land under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. Reference to the 1973 Constitution and its

Article XIV, Section 11, was only tangential limited to a brief paragraph in the main opinion, and may, in that context,
be considered as essentially obiter. Meralco, in short, decided no constitutional question.
WHEREFORE, there being no reversible error in the appealed judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court, the
same is hereby affirmed, without costs in this instance.
SO ORDERED.
Feria, Yap, Fernan, Alampay, Cruz, Paras and Feliciano, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions
GUTIERREZ, JR., J., concurring:
I reiterate my concurrence in Meralco v. Castro-Bartolome, and, therefore, dissent here.

TEEHANKEE, C.J., concurring:


I am honored by my brethren's judgment at bar that my dissenting opinion in the June, 1982 Meralco and Iglesia ni
Cristo cases, 1 which is herein upheld, "expressed what is the better. . . . and indeed the correct view." My

dissent was anchored on the landmark 1909 case of Carino 2 through the 1925 case of Susi 3 and the long
line of cases cited therein to the latest 1980 case of Herico 4 that "it is established doctrine....... that an
open, continuous, adverse and public possession of a land of the public domain for the period provided in
the Public Land Act provision in force at the time (from July 26, 1894 in Susi under the old law [this period
was reduced to 'at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of
title' by amendment of Commonwealth Act No. 141, equivalent to the period of acquisitive prescription 5 ])
by a private individual personally and through his predecessors confers an effective title on said
possessor, whereby the land ceases to be land of the public domain and becomes private property." I
hereby reproduce the same by reference for brevity's sake. But since we are reverting to the old abovecited established doctrine and precedents and discarding the Meralco and Iglesia ni Cristo cases which
departed therefrom in the recent past, I feel constrained to write this concurrence in amplification of my
views and ratio decidendi.
Under the express text and mandate of the cited Act, such possessors "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. "
The Court thus held in Susi that under the presumption juris et de jure established in the Act, the rightful possessor of
the public land for the statutory period "already acquired, by operation of law, not only a right to a grant, but a grant of
the Government, for it is not necessary that certificate of title should be issued an order that said grant may be
sanctioned by the courts, an application therefore is sufficient . . . . If by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi had acquired the
land in question by a grant of the State, it had already ceased to be of the public domainand had become private
property, at least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the Director of Lands [and beyond his
authority to sell to any other person]. " 6

The root of the doctrine goes back to the pronouncement of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes for the U.S. Supreme
Court in the 1909 case of Carino (the Igorot chief who would have been deprived of ancestral family lands by the
dismissal of his application for registration) which reversed the dismissal of the registration court (as affirmed by the
Supreme Court) and adopted the liberal view that under the decree and regulations of June 25, 1880, "The words
'may prove' (acrediten), as well, or better, in view of the other provisions, might be taken to mean when called upon to
do so in any litigation. There are indications that registration was expected from all, but none sufficient to show that,
for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, whenever made, was not to confer
title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law."
The Court's decision at bar now expressly overturns the Meralco and related cases subsequent thereto which failed
to adhere to the aforecited established doctrine dating back to 1909 and was consistently applied up to June 29, 1982
(when the Meralco decision was promulgated). We reaffirm the established doctrine that such acquisitive prescription
of alienable public lands takes place ipso jure or by operation of law without the necessity of a prior issuance of a
certificate of title. The land ipso jure ceases to be of the public domain and becomes private property, which may be
lawfully sold to and acquired by qualified corporations such as respondent corporation. (As stressed in Herico supra,
"the application for confirmation is a mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title.")
Such ipso jure conversion into private property of public lands publicly held under a bona fide claim of acquisition or
ownership is the public policy of the Act and is so expressly stated therein. By virtue of such conversion into private
property, qualified corporations may lawfully acquire them and there is no "alteration or defeating" of the 1973
Constitution's prohibition against corporations holding or acquiring title to lands of the public domain, as claimed in
the dissenting opinion, for the simple reason that no public lands are involved.
It should be noted that respondent corporation purchased the land from the Infiels on October 16, 1962 under the
aegis of the 1935 Constitution which contained no prohibition against corporations holding public lands (except a limit
of 1,024 hectares) unlike the later 1973 Constitution which imposed an absolute prohibition. Even on the erroneous
assumption that the land remained public land despite the Infiels' open possession thereof as owners from time
immemorial, respondent corporation's lawful purchase from them of the land in 1962 and P 45million investments
redounding presumably to the welfare and progress of the community, particularly the municipality of Maconacon,
Isabela to which it donated part of the land for the townsite created a vested right which could not be impaired by the
prohibition adopted eleven years later. But as sufficiently stressed, the land of the Infiels had beenipso jure converted
into private land and they had a legally sufficient and transferable title conferred by the conclusive presumption of the
Public Land Act (which needed only to be established in confirmation of title proceedings for formalization and
issuance of the certificate of title) which they lawfully and validly transferred to respondent corporation.
In fact, the many amendments to the Act extending the period for the filing of such applications for judicial
confirmation of imperfect and incomplete titles to alienable and disposable public lands expressly reiterate that it has
always been the "policy of the State to hasten the settlement, adjudication and quieting of titles to [such] unregistered
lands," i.e. to recognize that such lands publicly and notoriously occupied and cultivated under bona fide claim of
acquisition or ownership have ipso jure been converted into private property and grant the possessors the opportunity
to establish and record such fact. Thus, the deadline for the filing of such application which would have originally
expired first on December 31, 1938 was successively extended to December 31, 1941, then extended to December
31, 1957, then to December 31, 1968, further extended to December 31, 1976 and lastly extended to December 31,
1987. 7
The cited Act's provision that only natural persons may apply thereunder for confirmation of title is in effect a
technicality of procedure and not of substance. My submittal in Meralco, mutatis mutandis, is properly applicable:
"The ends of justice would best be served, therefore, by considering the applications for confirmation as amended to
conform to the evidence, i.e. as filed in the names of the original persons who as natural persons are duly qualified to
apply for formal confirmation of the title that they had acquired by conclusive presumption and mandate of the Public
Land Act and who thereafter duly sold to the herein corporations (both admittedly Filipino corporations duly qualified
to hold and own private lands) and granting the applications for confirmation of title to the private lands so acquired
and sold or exchanged." 8 Indeed, then Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando likewise dissented along the

same line from the majority ruling therein and held: "I dissent insofar as the opinion of the Court would
characterize such jurisdictional defect that the applicant was Meralco, a juridical person rather than the
natural persons-transferors, under the particular circumstances of this case, as an insurmountable
obstacle to the relief sought. I would apply by analogy, although the facts could be distinguished, the
approach followed by us in Francisco v. City of Davao,where the legal question raised, instead of being
deferred and possibly taken up in another case, was resolved. By legal fiction and in the exercise of our
equitable jurisdiction, I feel that the realistic solution would be to decide the matter as if the application
under Section 48(b) were filed by the Piguing spouses, who I assume suffer from no such
disability." 9 Justice Vicente Abad Santos, now retired, while concurring in the procedural result, likewise,
in effect dissented from the therein majority ruling on the question of substance, and stated his opinion
that "the lots which are sought to be registered have ceased to be lands of the public domain at the time
they were acquired by the petitioner corporation. They are already private lands because of acquisitive
prescription by the predecessors of the petitioner and all that is needed is the confirmation of the title.
Accordingly, the constitutional provision that no private corporation or association may hold alienable
lands of the public domain is inapplicable. " 10
To my mind, the reason why the Act limits the filing of such applications to natural citizens who may prove their
undisputed and open possession of public lands for the required statutory thirty-year period, tacking on their
predecessors'-in-interest possession is that only natural persons, to the exclusion of juridical persons such as
corporations, can actually, physically and in reality possess public lands for the required statutory 30-year period.
That juridical persons or corporations cannot do so is obvious. But when the natural persons have fulfilled the
required statutory period of possession, the Act confers on them a legally sufficient and transferable title. It is
preferable to follow the letter of the law that they file the applications for confirmation of their title, although they have
lawfully transferred their title to the land. But such procedural failure cannot and should not defeat the substance of
the law, as stressed in the above-cited opinions, that the lands are already private lands because ofacquisitive
prescription by the corporation's predecessors and the realistic solution would be to consider the application for
confirmation as filed by the natural persons-transferors, and in accordance with the evidence, confirm their title to the
private lands so converted by operation of law and lawfully transferred by them to the corporation. The law, after all,
recognizes the validity of the transfer and sale of the private land to the corporation. It should not be necessary to go
in a round-about way and have the corporation reassign its rights to the private land to natural persons-(as I
understand), was done after the decision in the Meralco and Iglesia ni Cristo cases) just for the purpose of complying
on paper with the technicality of having natural persons file the application for confirmation of title to the private land.

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., dissenting:


Section 48 of the Public Land Act, in part, provides:
SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or
claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or
completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation
of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
(a) ...
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona
fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the
application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be

conclusively presumed to have performed are the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be
entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.
(c) ...
Article XIV, Section 11, of the 1973 Constitution, in part, provides:
SEC. 11. .... No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by
lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area; nor may any citizen hold such lands by lease in excess
of five hundred hectares ....
It has to be conceded that, literally, statutory law and constitutional provision prevent a corporation from directly
applying to the Courts for the issuance of Original Certificates of Title to lands of the public domain (Manila Electric
Company vs. Castro-Bartolome, 114 SCRA 799; Republic vs. Villanueva, 114 SCRA 875; Republic vs. Court of
Appeals, 119 SCRA 449; Iglesia ni Cristo vs. Hon. Judge, CFI of Nueva Ecija, Br. 1). It is my opinion that the literalism
should be adhered to in this case.
The reasoning of the majority can be restated in simple terms as follows:
(a) The INFIELS can successfully file an application for a certificate of title over the land involved in the case.
(b) After the INFIELS secure a certificate of title, they can sell the land to ACME.
(c) As ACME can eventually own the certificate of title, it should be allowed to directly apply to the Courts for the
Certificate of Title, thus avoiding the circuituous "literal" requirement that the INFIELS should first apply to the courts
for the titles, and afterwards transfer the title to ACME.
The majority opinion, in effect, adopted the following excerpt from a dissent in Manila Electric Company vs. CastroBartolome (114 SCRA 799, 823 [1982]).
To uphold respondent judge's denial of Meralco's application on the technicality that the Public Land Act
allows only citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons to apply for confirmation of their title would be
impractical and would just give rise to multiplicity of court actions. Assuming that there was a technical error
in not having filed the application for registration in the name of the Piguing spouses as the original owners
and vendors,
still it is conceded that there is no prohibition against their sale of the land to the applicant Meralco
and neither is there any prohibition against the application being refiled with retroactive effect in the name of
the original owners and vendors (as such natural persons) with the end result of their application being
granted, because of their indisputable acquisition of ownership by operation of law and the conclusive
presumption therein provided in their favor.
It should not be necessary to go through all the rituals at the great cost of refiling of all such applications in their
names and adding to the overcrowded court dockets when the Court can after all these years dispose of it here and
now." (Paragraphing supplied)
The effect is that the majority opinion now nullifies the statutory provision that only citizens (natural persons) can
apply for certificates of title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as well as the constitutional provision (Article
XIV, Section 11) which prohibits corporations from acquiring title to lands of the public domain. That interpretation or
construction adopted by the majority cannot be justified. "A construction adopted should not be such as to nullify,
destroy or defeat the intention of the legislature" (New York State Dept. of Social Services v. Dublino [UST 37 L. Ed

2d 688, 93 S Ct 2507; United States v. Alpers 338 US 680, 94 L Ed 457, 70 S Ct 352; cited in 73 Am Jur. 2nd., p.
351).
It has also been said that:
In the construction of statutes, the courts start with the assumption that the legislature intended to enact an
effective law, and the legislature is not to be presumed to have done a vain thing in the enactment of a
statute. Hence, it is a general principle that the courts should, if reasonably possible to do so interpret the
statute, or the provision being construed, so as to give it efficient operation and effect as a whole. An
interpretation should, if possible, be avoided, under which the statute or provision being construed is
defeated, or as otherwise expressed, nullified, destroyed, emasculated, repealed, explained away, or
rendered insignificant, meaningless, inoperative, or nugatory. If a statute is fairly susceptible of two
constructions, one of which will give effect to the act, while the other will defeat it, the former construction is
preferred. One part of a statute may not be construed so as to render another part nugatory or of no effect.
Moreover, notwithstanding the general rule against the enlargement of extension of a statute by
construction, the meaning of a statute may be extended beyond the precise words used in the law, and
words or phrases may be altered or supplied, where this is necessary to prevent a law from becoming a
nullity. Wherever the provision of a statute is general everything which is necessary to make such provision
effectual is supplied by implication. (Pliakos vs. Illinois Liquor Control Com. 11 III 2d 456, 143 NE2d 47; cited
in 73 AM Jur. 2d pp. 422-423)
The statutory provision and the constitutional prohibition express a public policy. The proper course for the Court to
take is to promote in the fullest manner the policy thus laid down and to avoid a construction which would alter or
defeat that policy.
In fine, I confirm my adherence to the ruling of this Court in Meralco vs. Hon. Castro-Bartolome, 114 SCRA 799
[1982] and related cases.

Separate Opinions
GUTIERREZ, JR., J., concurring:
I reiterate my concurrence in Meralco v. Castro-Bartolome, and, therefore, dissent here.

TEEHANKEE, C.J., concurring:


I am honored by my brethren's judgment at bar that my dissenting opinion in the June, 1982 Meralco and Iglesia ni
Cristo cases, 1 which is herein upheld, "expressed what is the better. . . . and indeed the correct view." My

dissent was anchored on the landmark 1909 case of Carino 2 through the 1925 case of Susi 3 and the long
line of cases cited therein to the latest 1980 case of Herico 4 that "it is established doctrine....... that an
open, continuous, adverse and public possession of a land of the public domain for the period provided in
the Public Land Act provision in force at the time (from July 26, 1894 in Susi under the old law [this period
was reduced to 'at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of
title' by amendment of Commonwealth Act No. 141, equivalent to the period of acquisitive prescription 5 ])
by a private individual personally and through his predecessors confers an effective title on said

possessor, whereby the land ceases to be land of the public domain and becomes private property." I
hereby reproduce the same by reference for brevity's sake. But since we are reverting to the old abovecited established doctrine and precedents and discarding the Meralco and Iglesia ni Cristo cases which
departed therefrom in the recent past, I feel constrained to write this concurrence in amplification of my
views and ratio decidendi.
Under the express text and mandate of the cited Act, such possessors "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. "
The Court thus held in Susi that under the presumption juris et de jure established in the Act, the rightful possessor of
the public land for the statutory period "already acquired, by operation of law, not only a right to a grant, but a grant of
the Government, for it is not necessary that certificate of title should be issued an order that said grant may be
sanctioned by the courts, an application therefore is sufficient . . . . If by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi had acquired the
land in question by a grant of the State, it had already ceased to be of the public domainand had become private
property, at least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the Director of Lands [and beyond his
authority to sell to any other person]. " 6
The root of the doctrine goes back to the pronouncement of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes for the U.S. Supreme
Court in the 1909 case of Carino (the Igorot chief who would have been deprived of ancestral family lands by the
dismissal of his application for registration) which reversed the dismissal of the registration court (as affirmed by the
Supreme Court) and adopted the liberal view that under the decree and regulations of June 25, 1880, "The words
'may prove' (acrediten), as well, or better, in view of the other provisions, might be taken to mean when called upon to
do so in any litigation. There are indications that registration was expected from all, but none sufficient to show that,
for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, whenever made, was not to confer
title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law."
The Court's decision at bar now expressly overturns the Meralco and related cases subsequent thereto which failed
to adhere to the aforecited established doctrine dating back to 1909 and was consistently applied up to June 29, 1982
(when the Meralco decision was promulgated). We reaffirm the established doctrine that such acquisitive
prescription of alienable public lands takes place ipso jure or by operation of law without the necessity of a prior
issuance of a certificate of title. The land ipso jure ceases to be of the public domain and becomes private property,
which may be lawfully sold to and acquired by qualified corporations such as respondent corporation. (As stressed
in Herico supra, "the application for confirmation is a mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal
sufficiency of the title.")
<re||an1w>

Such ipso jure conversion into private property of public lands publicly held under a bona fide claim of acquisition or
ownership is the public policy of the Act and is so expressly stated therein. By virtue of such conversion into private
property, qualified corporations may lawfully acquire them and there is no "alteration or defeating" of the 1973
Constitution's prohibition against corporations holding or acquiring title to lands of the public domain, as claimed in
the dissenting opinion, for the simple reason that no public lands are involved.
It should be noted that respondent corporation purchased the land from the Infiels on October 16, 1962 under the
aegis of the 1935 Constitution which contained no prohibition against corporations holding public lands (except a limit
of 1,024 hectares) unlike the later 1973 Constitution which imposed an absolute prohibition. Even on the erroneous
assumption that the land remained public land despite the Infiels' open possession thereof as owners from time
immemorial, respondent corporation's lawful purchase from them of the land in 1962 and P 45million investments
redounding presumably to the welfare and progress of the community, particularly the municipality of Maconacon,
Isabela to which it donated part of the land for the townsite created a vested right which could not be impaired by the
prohibition adopted eleven years later. But as sufficiently stressed, the land of the Infiels had beenipso jure converted
into private land and they had a legally sufficient and transferable title conferred by the conclusive presumption of the

Public Land Act (which needed only to be established in confirmation of title proceedings for formalization and
issuance of the certificate of title) which they lawfully and validly transferred to respondent corporation.
In fact, the many amendments to the Act extending the period for the filing of such applications for judicial
confirmation of imperfect and incomplete titles to alienable and disposable public lands expressly reiterate that it has
always been the "policy of the State to hasten the settlement, adjudication and quieting of titles to [such] unregistered
lands," i.e. to recognize that such lands publicly and notoriously occupied and cultivated under bona fide claim of
acquisition or ownership have ipso jure been converted into private property and grant the possessors the opportunity
to establish and record such fact. Thus, the deadline for the filing of such application which would have originally
expired first on December 31, 1938 was successively extended to December 31, 1941, then extended to December
31, 1957, then to December 31, 1968, further extended to December 31, 1976 and lastly extended to December 31,
1987. 7
The cited Act's provision that only natural persons may apply thereunder for confirmation of title is in effect a
technicality of procedure and not of substance. My submittal in Meralco, mutatis mutandis, is properly applicable:
"The ends of justice would best be served, therefore, by considering the applications for confirmation as amended to
conform to the evidence, i.e. as filed in the names of the original persons who as natural persons are duly qualified to
apply for formal confirmation of the title that they had acquired by conclusive presumption and mandate of the Public
Land Act and who thereafter duly sold to the herein corporations (both admittedly Filipino corporations duly qualified
to hold and own private lands) and granting the applications for confirmation of title to the private lands so acquired
and sold or exchanged." 8 Indeed, then Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando likewise dissented along the

same line from the majority ruling therein and held: "I dissent insofar as the opinion of the Court would
characterize such jurisdictional defect that the applicant was Meralco, a juridical person rather than the
natural persons-transferors, under the particular circumstances of this case, as an insurmountable
obstacle to the relief sought. I would apply by analogy, although the facts could be distinguished, the
approach followed by us in Francisco v. City of Davao,where the legal question raised, instead of being
deferred and possibly taken up in another case, was resolved. By legal fiction and in the exercise of our
equitable jurisdiction, I feel that the realistic solution would be to decide the matter as if the application
under Section 48(b) were filed by the Piguing spouses, who I assume suffer from no such
disability." 9 Justice Vicente Abad Santos, now retired, while concurring in the procedural result, likewise,
in effect dissented from the therein majority ruling on the question of substance, and stated his opinion
that "the lots which are sought to be registered have ceased to be lands of the public domain at the time
they were acquired by the petitioner corporation. They are already private lands because of acquisitive
prescription by the predecessors of the petitioner and all that is needed is the confirmation of the title.
Accordingly, the constitutional provision that no private corporation or association may hold alienable
lands of the public domain is inapplicable. " 10
To my mind, the reason why the Act limits the filing of such applications to natural citizens who may prove their
undisputed and open possession of public lands for the required statutory thirty-year period, tacking on their
predecessors'-in-interest possession is that only natural persons, to the exclusion of juridical persons such as
corporations, can actually, physically and in reality possess public lands for the required statutory 30-year period.
That juridical persons or corporations cannot do so is obvious. But when the natural persons have fulfilled the
required statutory period of possession, the Act confers on them a legally sufficient and transferable title. It is
preferable to follow the letter of the law that they file the applications for confirmation of their title, although they have
lawfully transferred their title to the land. But such procedural failure cannot and should not defeat the substance of
the law, as stressed in the above-cited opinions, that the lands are already private lands because ofacquisitive
prescription by the corporation's predecessors and the realistic solution would be to consider the application for
confirmation as filed by the natural persons-transferors, and in accordance with the evidence, confirm their title to the
private lands so converted by operation of law and lawfully transferred by them to the corporation. The law, after all,
recognizes the validity of the transfer and sale of the private land to the corporation. It should not be necessary to go
in a round-about way and have the corporation reassign its rights to the private land to natural persons-(as I

understand), was done after the decision in the Meralco and Iglesia ni Cristo cases) just for the purpose of complying
on paper with the technicality of having natural persons file the application for confirmation of title to the private land.

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J., dissenting:


Section 48 of the Public Land Act, in part, provides:
SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or
claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or
completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation
of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
(a) ...
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona
fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the
application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be
conclusively presumed to have performed are the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be
entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.
(c) ...
Article XIV, Section 11, of the 1973 Constitution, in part, provides:
SEC. 11. .... No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by
lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area; nor may any citizen hold such lands by lease in excess
of five hundred hectares ....
It has to be conceded that, literally, statutory law and constitutional provision prevent a corporation from directly
applying to the Courts for the issuance of Original Certificates of Title to lands of the public domain (Manila Electric
Company vs. Castro-Bartolome, 114 SCRA 799; Republic vs. Villanueva, 114 SCRA 875; Republic vs. Court of
Appeals, 119 SCRA 449; Iglesia ni Cristo vs. Hon. Judge, CFI of Nueva Ecija, Br. 1). It is my opinion that the literalism
should be adhered to in this case.
The reasoning of the majority can be restated in simple terms as follows:
(a) The INFIELS can successfully file an application for a certificate of title over the land involved in the case.
(b) After the INFIELS secure a certificate of title, they can sell the land to ACME.
(c) As ACME can eventually own the certificate of title, it should be allowed to directly apply to the Courts for the
Certificate of Title, thus avoiding the circuituous "literal" requirement that the INFIELS should first apply to the courts
for the titles, and afterwards transfer the title to ACME.
The majority opinion, in effect, adopted the following excerpt from a dissent in Manila Electric Company vs. CastroBartolome (114 SCRA 799, 823 [1982]).

To uphold respondent judge's denial of Meralco's application on the technicality that the Public Land Act
allows only citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons to apply for confirmation of their title would be
impractical and would just give rise to multiplicity of court actions. Assuming that there was a technical error
in not having filed the application for registration in the name of the Piguing spouses as the original owners
and vendors,
still it is conceded that there is no prohibition against their sale of the land to the applicant Meralco
and neither is there any prohibition against the application being refiled with retroactive effect in the name of
the original owners and vendors (as such natural persons) with the end result of their application being
granted, because of their indisputable acquisition of ownership by operation of law and the conclusive
presumption therein provided in their favor.
It should not be necessary to go through all the rituals at the great cost of refiling of all such applications in their
names and adding to the overcrowded court dockets when the Court can after all these years dispose of it here and
now." (Emphasis supplied)
The effect is that the majority opinion now nullifies the statutory provision that only citizens (natural persons) can
apply for certificates of title under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as well as the constitutional provision (Article
XIV, Section 11) which prohibits corporations from acquiring title to lands of the public domain. That interpretation or
construction adopted by the majority cannot be justified. "A construction adopted should not be such as to nullify,
destroy or defeat the intention of the legislature" (New York State Dept. of Social Services v. Dublino [UST 37 L. Ed
2d 688, 93 S Ct 2507; United States v. Alpers 338 US 680, 94 L Ed 457, 70 S Ct 352; cited in 73 Am Jur. 2nd., p.
351).
It has also been said that:
In the construction of statutes, the courts start with the assumption that the legislature intended to enact an
effective law, and the legislature is not to be presumed to have done a vain thing in the enactment of a
statute. Hence, it is a general principle that the courts should, if reasonably possible to do so interpret the
statute, or the provision being construed, so as to give it efficient operation and effect as a whole. An
interpretation should, if possible, be avoided, under which the statute or provision being construed is
defeated, or as otherwise expressed, nullified, destroyed, emasculated, repealed, explained away, or
rendered insignificant, meaningless, inoperative, or nugatory. If a statute is fairly susceptible of two
constructions, one of which will give effect to the act, while the other will defeat it, the former construction is
preferred. One part of a statute may not be construed so as to render another part nugatory or of no effect.
Moreover, notwithstanding the general rule against the enlargement of extension of a statute by
construction, the meaning of a statute may be extended beyond the precise words used in the law, and
words or phrases may be altered or supplied, where this is necessary to prevent a law from becoming a
nullity. Wherever the provision of a statute is general everything which is necessary to make such provision
effectual is supplied by implication. (Pliakos vs. Illinois Liquor Control Com. 11 III 2d 456, 143 NE2d 47; cited
in 73 AM Jur. 2d pp. 422-423)
The statutory provision and the constitutional prohibition express a public policy. The proper course for the Court to
take is to promote in the fullest manner the policy thus laid down and to avoid a construction which would alter or
defeat that policy.
In fine, I confirm my adherence to the ruling of this Court in Meralco vs. Hon. Castro-Bartolome, 114 SCRA 799
[1982] and related cases.

Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court
Manila

FIRST DIVISION
CATALINA BALAIS-MABANAG, G.R. No. 153142
assisted by her husband,
Present:
ELEUTERIO MABANAG,
Petitioner,
CARPIO
MORALES,* ActingChai
- versus rperson,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
PERALTA,**
BERSAMIN, and
THE REGISTER OF DEEDS
ABAD,*** JJ.
OFQUEZON CITY,
CONCEPCION D. ALCARAZ, and
RAMONA PATRICIA ALCARAZ, Promulgated:
Respondents.
March 29, 2010
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
BERSAMIN, J.:
The issue of citizenship of the registered owner of land cannot anymore be
raised to forestall the execution of a final and executory judgment where the
objecting party had the opportunity to raise the issue prior to the finality of the
judgment. The time for assailing the capacity of the winning party to acquire the
land was during the trial, not during the execution of a final decision.
Antecedents
As culled from the assailed decision dated December 5, 2000 of the Court of
Appeals (CA),[1] and from the Courts decision promulgated on October 7, 1996 in
G.R. No. 103577,[2] the following are the antecedent facts.

On January 19, 1985, Romulo A. Coronel, Alarico A. Coronel, Annette A. Coronel,


Annabelle C. Gonzales, Floraida C. Tupper, and Cielito A. Coronel (Coronels)
executed a document entitled receipt of down payment, stipulating that they
received from respondent Ramona Patricia Alcaraz (Ramona), through Ramonas
mother, respondent Concepcion D. Alcaraz (Concepcion), the sum of P50,000.00
as downpayment on the total purchase price of P1,240,000.00 for their inherited
house and lot, covered by TCT No. 119627 of the Registry of Deeds of Quezon
City.
The receipt of down payment contained other stipulations, as follows:
We bind ourselves to effect the transfer in our names from our
deceased father, Constancio P. Coronel, the transfer certificate of title
immediately upon our receipt of the down payment above-stated.
On our presentation of the TCT already in our name, we will
immediately execute the deed of absolute sale of said property and Miss
Ramona Patricia Alcaraz shall immediately pay the balance of the
P1,190,000.00.[3]

On February 6, 1985, the property originally registered in the name of the Coronels
father (Constancio P. Coronel) was transferred in the name of the Coronels under
Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 327043 of the Registry of Deeds of Quezon
City.
On February 18, 1985, the Coronels sold the property covered by TCT No. 327043
to the petitioner for the higher price of P1,580,000.00 after the latter delivered an
initial sum of P300,000.00. For this reason, the Coronels rescinded their contract
with Ramona by depositing her downpayment of P50,000.00 in the bank in trust
for Ramona Patricia Alcaraz.
On February 22, 1985, Concepcion, through one Gloria P. Noel as her attorney-infact, filed a complaint for specific performance and damages in her own name in
the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Quezon City against the Coronels, docketed as
Civil Case No. Q-44134.[4] Concepcion subsequently caused the annotation of a
notice of lis pendens on TCT No. 327403.
On April 2, 1985, the petitioner had a notice of adverse claim annotated on TCT
No. 327403 in the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City.

On April 25, 1985, the Coronels executed a deed of absolute sale in favor of the
petitioner.
On June 5, 1985, TCT No. 351582 was issued in the name of the petitioner.
It is relevant to mention that on May 24, 1985 the petitioner moved to have her
answer in intervention admitted in Civil Case No. Q-44134.[5] Her intervention was
allowed on May 31, 1985.[6]
Earlier, on May 19, 1986, Concepcion sought leave of court to amend the
complaint for the purpose of impleading Ramona as a co-plaintiff. [7] The amended
complaint naming both Concepcion and Ramona as plaintiffs was attached to the
motion.[8] On June 25, 1986, the amended complaint was admitted.[9]
On March 1, 1989, the RTC rendered its decision,[10] disposing:
WHEREFORE, judgment for specific performance is hereby
rendered ordering defendant to execute in favor of plaintiffs a deed of
absolute sale covering that parcel of land embraced in and covered by
Transfer Certificate of Title No. 327403 (now TCT No. 331582) of the
Registry of Deeds for Quezon City, together with all the improvements
existing thereon, free from all liens and encumbrances, and once
accomplished, to immediately deliver said document of sale to plaintiffs,
and upon receipt thereof, the plaintiffs are ordered to pay defendants the
whole balance of the purchase price amounting to P1,190,000.00 in
cash. Transfer Certificate of Title No. 331582 of the Registry of Deeds
for Quezon City in the name of intervenor is hereby cancelled and
declared to be without any force and effect. Defendants and intervenor
and all other persons claiming under them are hereby ordered to vacate
the subject property, and deliver possession thereof to plaintiff. Plaintiffs
claim for damages and attorneys fees, as well as the counterclaims of
defendants and intervenors are hereby dismissed.
No pronouncement as to costs.
So Ordered.

Upon denial of the motion for reconsideration, the Coronels and the
petitioner interposed an appeal to the CA, which promulgated a judgment
on December 16, 1991, fully upholding the decision of the RTC.
Thus, the petitioner and the Coronels appealed the CA judgment to this
Court (G.R. No. 103577), which affirmed the CA on October 7, 1996.
Thereafter, the decision of the RTC became final and executory.
Acting on the respondents motion for execution, the RTC issued a writ of
execution on October 1, 1997. However, the petitioner and the Coronels filed
their motion to stay execution and supplemental motion for reconsideration, which
the RTC denied on March 10, 1998.
Upon failure of the petitioner and the Coronels to comply with the writ of
execution, the RTC approved the respondents motion for appointment of
suitable person to execute deed, etc., and ordered on April 8, 1998 the Branch
Clerk of the RTC, Branch 83, Quezon City, to execute the deed of absolute sale in
favor of Ramona in lieu of the defendants (i.e., the petitioner and the Coronels).
On May 19, 1998, the petitioner and the Coronels filed in the CA a petition
for certiorari assailing the RTCs orders of October 1, 1997 and March 10, 1998,
but the CA dismissed the petition on July 30, 1998.
On August 21, 1998, the petitioner and the Coronels presented their motion
for reconsideration in the CA.
On September 2, 1998, the RTC held in abeyance the respondents motion
reiterating previous motion to resolve respondents motion, whereby the
respondents sought an order to direct the petitioner to surrender her TCT No.
331582, and the Registrar of Deeds of Quezon City to cancel the petitioners copy
of said TCT for her failure to comply with the earlier order for her to surrender the
TCT to the Registrar of Deeds pending resolution by the CA of the
petitionersmotion for reconsideration.
Ultimately, on September 30, 1998, the CA denied the petitioners motion for
reconsideration.

The petitioner thus appealed to the Court, which denied her petition for
review for being filed out of time. The Court also denied the petitioners motion for
reconsideration on April 21, 1999.
Thereafter, the respondents moved in the RTC for the resolution of their
pending motion. After the RTC granted the respondents pending motion on July
29, 1999, the petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration against such order,but
the RTC denied her motion on September 23, 1999.
Following the denial of her motion for reconsideration, the petitioner commenced
a special civil action of certiorari in the CA to assail the RTCs action (C.A.-G.R.
SP No. 55576). However, the CA dismissed her petition through its decision
dated December 5, 2000, Rollo, pp. 61-69, and denied her motion for
reconsideration on April 16, 2002.[11]
Issues
Hence, this appeal, in which the petitioner submits that the CA erred in sustaining
the registration by the Registrar of Deeds of the deed of absolute sale despite the
lack of indication of the citizenship of the buyer of the subject property; and in
sustaining the order of the RTC directing the Branch Clerk of Court to execute
the deed of absolute sale without first requiring the defendants to execute the deed
of absolute sale as required by the decision.
Ruling
The petition lacks merit.
A
Res judicata barred petitioners objection
In the complaint dated February 22, 1985, respondent Concepcion, as
plaintiff, categorically averred that she was a Filipino citizen. [12] The petitioner did
not deny or disprove the averment of Filipino citizenship during the trial and on
appeal. The petitioner did not also advert to the issue of citizenship after the
complaint was amended in order to implead Ramona as a co-plaintiff, despite the
petitioners opportunity to do so.

Yet, now, when the final decision of the RTC is already being implemented,
the petitioner would thwart the execution by assailing the directive of the RTC for
the Branch Clerk of Court to execute the deed of absolute sale and by blocking the
registration of the deed of absolute sale in the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City,
on the ground that Ramona was disqualified from owning land in the Philippines.
The petitioners move was outrightly unwarranted.
First: The petitioner did not raise any issue against Ramonas qualifications
to own land in the Philippines during the trial or, at the latest, before the finality of
the RTC judgment. The petitioner was thereby deemed to have waived the
objection, pursuant to Section 1, Rule 9 of the Rules of Court, to wit:
Section 1. Defenses and objections not pleaded. Defenses and
objections not pleaded either in a motion to dismiss or in the answer
are deemed waived. However, when it appears from the pleadings or
the evidence on record that the court has no jurisdiction over the subject
matter, that there is another action pending between the same parties for
the same cause, or that the action is barred by a prior judgment or by
statute of limitations, the court shall dismiss the claim. (2a)

In every action, indeed, the parties and their counsel are enjoined to present
all available defenses and objections in order that the matter in issue can finally be
laid to rest in an appropriate contest before the court. The rule is a wise and tested
one, borne by necessity. Without the rule, there will be no end to a litigation,
because the dissatisfied litigant may simply raise new or additional issues in order
to prevent, defeat, or delay the implementation of an already final and executory
judgment. The endlessness of litigation can give rise to added costs for the parties,
and can surely contribute to the unwarranted clogging of court dockets. The
prospect of a protracted litigation between the parties annuls the very rationale of
every litigation to attain justice. Verily, there must be an end to litigation.
Second: The petitioner cannot now insist that the RTC did not settle the
question of the respondents qualifications to own land due to non-citizenship. It is
fundamental that the judgment or final order is, with respect to the matter directly
adjudged or as to any other matter that could have been raised in relation thereto,
conclusive between the parties and their successors in interest by title subsequent
to the commencement of the action or special proceeding, litigating for the same
thing and under the same title and in the same capacity.[13] Thus, in Gabuya v.

Layug,[14] this Court had the occasion to hold that a judgment involving the same
parties, the same facts, and the same issues binds the parties not only as to every
matter offered and received to sustain or defeat their claims or demands, but also as
to any other admissible matter that might have been offered for that purpose and all
other matters that could have been adjudged in that case.
Third: The present recourse has not been the only one taken by the petitioner
and her counsel to assail the qualification of Ramona to acquire and own the
subject property. In fact, the Court catalogued such recourses taken for the
petitioner herein in A.C. No. 5469, entitled Foronda v. Guerrero,[15] an
administrative case for disbarment commenced on June 29, 2001 by Ricardo A.
Foronda (an attorney-in-fact of the respondents) against Atty. Arnold V. Guerrero,
the attorney of the petitioner,[16] as follows:
1. Catalina Balais-Mabanag, assisted by her husband Eleuterio Mabanag v. Hon.
Estrella T. Estrada, et al. docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 47710:
A special civil action for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus with prayer for
temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction filed with
the CA, on the ground that the respondent judge committed grave abuse of
discretion, excess or lack of jurisdiction in issuing and/or refusing to stay the
execution of its decision. The respondent put forth the argument that Ramona
Patricia Alcaraz, being a foreign national, was incapacitated to purchase the
subject property due to the limitations embodied in the 1987 Constitution.
The petition was denied, with the CA ratiocinating as follows:
We are not impressed. We find the trial courts stand on the matter
to be legally unassailable. In the first place, petitioner is not the proper
party to question the qualification or eligibility of Ramona Alcaraz. It
is the State, through the Office of the Solicitor General, which has the
legal personality and the authority to question the qualification of
Ramona Alcaraz to own rural or urban land. In the second place, the
decision sought to be executed has already gained finality. As held by
the Supreme Court, when a courts judgment or order becomes final
and executory it is the ministerial duty of the trial court to issue a writ
of execution to enforce its judgment (Rollo, p. 65-66).
2. Catalina Balais-Mabanag, et al. v. Concepcion Alvarez, et. al. docketed as G.R.
No. 135820:
This petition was filed by the respondent on behalf of his clients asking the
Supreme Court to review the decision of the CA dismissing the petition for

injunction in CA-G.R. SP No. 47710. The petition was denied for having been
filed out of time, and the motion for reconsideration therefrom was denied
with finality on April 21, 1999.
3. Spouses Eleuterio & Catalina Mabanag v. Ramona Patricia Alcaraz and the
Register of Deeds for Quezon City docketed as Civil Case No. Q-97-31268:
A complaint for Declaration of Inability to Acquire Real Property and
Damages filed in the RTC QC, Branch 83. In its Order dated July 9, 1999, the
court dismissed the case on the grounds of res judicata and forum shopping.
The RTC observed that for failure of the plaintiffs in this case to get a
favorable decision from the earlier case, they tried to prevent the execution by
disqualifying the herein defendant Alcaraz
4. Catalina Balais-Mabanag, assisted by her husband, Eleuterio Mabanag v.
Emelita L Mariano, Concepcion D. Alcaraz and Ramona P. Alcaraz, et
al. docketed as Civil Case No. Q-01-43396:
An action for Annulment of Title and Deed of Absolute Sale and Damages
with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary
Injunction. In its Order dated March 20, 2001, acting on the injunctive aspect
of the case, the RTC denied the injunction prayed for for failure of the plaintiff
to make at least a prima facie showing of a right to the issuance of the writ.
The subsequent motion for reconsideration filed by the respondent on behalf
of his clients was denied on June 18, 2001. Acting on the defendants Special
and Affirmative Defenses and Motion to Dismiss, the court issued an order
dated January 16, 2002 dismissing the complaint finding that the decision in
Civil Case No. Q-44134 had already been turned over to complainant as
attorney-in-fact of defendants Alcarazes.
5. Catalina Balais-Mabanag, assisted by her husband, Eleuterio Mabanag v.
Emelita L Mariano, Concepcion D. Alcaraz and Ramona P. Alcaraz, et
al. docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 65783 (Annex 12, Comment)
A special civil action for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for temporary
restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction filed by Atty. Guerrero
on behalf of Catalina Balais-Mabanag. The CA dismissed the petition onJune
14, 2002, and pointed out the following:
a) On December 5, 2000, the Twelfth Division of the CA had already
affirmed the decision of the RTC that the authority of the Register
of Deeds was confined only to the determination of whether all the
requisites for registration are complied with. To authorize the
Register of Deeds to determine whether Ramona Alcaraz was
qualified to own real property in the Philippines was to clothe the
Register of Deeds with judicial powers that only courts could
exercise.

b) The issue as to whether Ramona Alcaraz was qualified to own real


property had been passed upon by the Third Division of the CA in
CA-G.R. SP No. 47710.
c) The Third Division of the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 103577
upheld the RTC and the CA when it ruled onOctober 7, 1996 that
the sale of the subject land between Alcaraz and the Coronels was
perfected before the sale between Mabanag and the Coronels.
6. Catalina Balais-Mabanag, etc. v. Emelita L. Mariano et al. docketed as CAG.R. CV No. 75911:
Appeal filed by Atty. Guerrero on behalf of Catalina Balais-Mabanag on
February 1, 2003 after Civil Case No. Q-01-43396 for Annulment of Title and
Deed of Absolute Sale and Damages was dismissed by RTC QC, Branch 80.
7. Catalina Balais-Mabanag, assisted by her husband, Eleuterio Mabanag v.
Hon. Estrella Estrada, The Register of Deeds of Quezon City, Concepcion D.
Alcaraz and Ramona Patricia-Alcaraz docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 55576:
A special civil action for certiorari, questioning the order of the RTC in Civil
Case No. Q-44134, ordering Balais-Mabanag to surrender the owners
duplicate copy of TCT No. 331582 to the Alcarazes. The CA dismissed the
petition onDecember 5, 2000 with the final note, to wit:

The Supreme Court Third Division as well as in G.R. No. 103577,


on October 7, 1996, ruled: Thus the sale of the subject parcel of land
between petitioners and Romana P. Alcaraz, perfected on February 6,
1985, prior to that between petitioners and Catalina B. Mabanag on
February 18, 1985, was correctly upheld by both the lower courts
below.[]
Obviously, the lower courts judgment has become final and
executory as per Entry of Judgment issued by the Supreme Court. It is
axiomatic that final and executory judgment can no longer be attacked
by any of the parties or be modified, directly or indirectly, even by the
highest court of the land

All the aforestated recourses have had the uniform result of sustaining the
right of Ramona to acquire the property, which warranted a finding against
Atty. Guerrero of resorting to forum shopping, and leading to his suspension from

the practice of law for two years.[17] Such result fully affirms that the petitioners
objection is now barred by res judicata.
For res judicata to bar the institution of a subsequent action, the following
requisites must concur: (a) the former judgment must be final; (b) it must have
been rendered by a court having jurisdiction of the subject matter and the parties;
(c) it must be a judgment on the merits; and (d) there must be between the first and
second actions identity of parties, identity of the subject matter, and identity of
cause of action.[18]
The guiding principle of the doctrine of res judicata was formulated by Vice
Chancellor Wigram in an English casecirca 1843, thus:
xxx that where a given matter becomes the subject of litigation in, and of
adjudication by, a court of competent jurisdiction, the court requires the
parties to that litigation to bring forward their whole case, and will not
(except under special circumstances) permit the same parties to open the
same subject of litigation in respect of matter which might have been
brought forward as part of the subject in contest, but which was not
brought forward, only because they have, from negligence, inadvertence,
or even accident, omitted part of their case. The plea of res
judicata applies, except in special cases, not only to points which the
court was actually required by the parties to form an opinion and
pronounce a judgment, but to every point which properly belonged to the
subject of litigation, and which the parties, exercising reasonable
diligence, might have brought forward at the time. [19]

The doctrine is also known as estoppel per rem judicatam and involves both cause
of action estoppel and issue estoppel. The purpose of the doctrine is two-fold to
prevent unnecessary proceedings involving expenses to the parties and wastage of
the courts time which could be used by others, and to avoid stale litigations as well
as to enable the defendant to know the extent of the claims being made arising out
of the same single incident.[20]
Under the doctrine of res judicata, therefore, a final judgment or decree on
the merits rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive of the rights
of the parties or their privies in all later suits and on all points and matters
determined in the previous suit.[21] The foundation principle upon which the
doctrine rests is that the parties ought not to be permitted to litigate the same issue
more than once; that when a right or fact has been judicially tried and determined

by a court of competent jurisdiction, so long as it remains unreversed, should be


conclusive upon the parties and those in privity with them in law or estate.[22]
B
Petitioner lacked the capacity to institute suit
It should also be pointed out that the petitioner was not the proper party to
challenge Ramonas qualifications to acquire land.
Under Section 7, Batas Pambansa Blg. 185,[23] the Solicitor General or his
representative shall institute escheat proceedings against its violators. Although the
law does not categorically state that only the Government, through the Solicitor
General, may attack the title of an alien transferee of land, it is nonetheless correct
to hold that only the Government, through the Solicitor General, has the
personality to file a case challenging the capacity of a person to acquire or to own
land based on non-citizenship. This limitation is based on the fact that the violation
is committed against the State, not against any individual; and that in the event that
the transferee is adjudged to be not a Filipino citizen, the affected
property reverts to the State, not to the previous owner or any other individual.
Herein, even assuming that Ramona was legally disqualified from owning the
subject property, the decision that voids or annuls their right of ownership over the
subject land will not inure to the benefit of the petitioner. Instead, the subject
property will be escheated in favor of the State in accordance with Batas
Pambansa Blg. 185.
C
Deed of absolute sale executed
by Branch Clerk of Court was valid
The petitioner contends that the RTC did not see to it that the writ of
execution be first served on her, and a demand for her compliance be first made;
hence, the deed of absolute sale executed by the Branch Clerk of Court to
implement the judgment was void.
We do not agree.
The CA found that it was the petitioner who did not comply with the notice
of the sheriff of the implementation of the judgment through the writ of execution;

[24]

and that her non-compliance then justified the RTCs order to the Branch Clerk
of Court to execute the deed of absolute sale to implement the final judgment
rendered in G. R. No. 103577.
The fact that the petitioner and her counsel maneuvered to thwart, or, at
least, to delay the inevitable execution of the judgment warranted the RTCs
directing the Branch Clerk of Court execute the deed of absolute sale to implement
the judgment. The RTCs effort to implement the judgment could not be stymied by
the petitioners deliberate refusal to comply with the judgment. Such deliberate
refusal called for the RTC to order the Branch Clerk of Court to execute thedeed of
absolute sale in favor of Ramona, which move of the trial court was
precisely authorized by Rule 39 of theRules of Court, to wit:
Section 10. Execution of judgments for specific act.
(a) Conveyance, delivery of deeds, or other specific acts; vesting title. If
a judgment directs a party who execute a conveyance of land or personal
property, or to deliver deeds or other documents, or to perform any other
specific act in connection therewith, and the party fails to comply within
the time specified, the court may direct the act to be done at the cost of
the disobedient party by some other person appointed by the court and
the act when so done shall have like effect as if done by the party. If real
or personal property is situated within the Philippines, the court in lieu of
directing a conveyance thereof may be an order divest the title of any
party and vest it in others, which shall have the force and effect of a
conveyance executed in due form of law. (10a)

D
A Word of Caution
In A.C. No. 5469,[25] the Court observed as follows:
It has, thus, been clearly established that in filing such numerous
petitions in behalf of his client, the respondent thereby engaged in
forum shopping. The essence of forum shopping is the filing of
multiple suits involving the same parties for the same cause of
action, either simultaneously or successively, for the purpose of
obtaining a favorable judgment. It exists when, as a result of an
adverse opinion in one forum, a party seeks a favorable opinion in

another, or when he institutes two or more actions or proceedings


grounded on the same cause to increase the chances of obtaining a
favorable decision. An important factor in determining the existence
of forum shopping is the vexation caused to the courts and the
parties-litigants by the filing of similar cases to claim substantially
the same reliefs.
Indeed, while a lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client, it
should not be at the expense of truth and the administration of
justice. Under the Code of Professional Responsibility, a lawyer has the
duty to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice, and is
enjoined from unduly delaying a case by impeding execution of a
judgment or by misusing court processes. Such filing of multiple
petitions constitutes abuse of the Courts processes and improper
conduct that tends to impede, obstruct and degrade the
administration of justice and will be punished as contempt of
court. Needless to add, the lawyer who files such multiple or
repetitious petitions (which obviously delays the execution of a final
and executory judgment) subjects himself to disciplinary action for
incompetence (for not knowing any better) or for willful violation of
his duties as an attorney to act with all good fidelity to the courts,
and to maintain only such actions as appear to him to be just and
are consistent with truth and honor.
We note that while lawyers owe their entire devotion to the interest
of their clients and zeal in the defense of their clients right, they should
not forget that they are, first and foremost, officers of the court, bound to
exert every effort to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of
justice.
In filing multiple petitions before various courts concerning the
same subject matter, the respondent violated Canon 12 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, which provides that a lawyer shall exert
every effort and consider it his duty to assist in the speedy and efficient
administration of justice. He also violated Rule 12.02 and Rule 12.04 of
the Code, as well as a lawyers mandate to delay no man for money or
malice.

The Court reminds that its foregoing observations on the deleterious effects
of forum shopping did not apply only to Atty. Guerrero, but also to the petitioner as
the client whom he represented. Thus, this decision becomes a good occasion to
warn both the petitioner and her attorney that another attempt by them to revive the
issue of Ramonas lack of qualification to own the land will be swiftly and
condignly sanctioned.
WHEREFORE, the petition for review on certiorari is denied, and the
decision dated December 5, 2000promulgated in C.A.-G.R. SP No. 55576 is
affirmed.

Costs to be paid by the petitioner.


SO ORDERED.

EN BANC
HEIRS OF MARIO MALABANAN, G.R. No. 179987
Petitioner,
Present:
PUNO, C.J.,
QUISUMBING,
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
CARPIO,
- versus - AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CORONA,
CARPIO MORALES,
TINGA,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
VELASCO, JR.,
NACHURA,
LEONARDO DE CASTRO,
BRION,
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, PERALTA, and

Respondent. BERSAMIN, JJ.


Promulgated:
April 29, 2009
x--------------------------------------------------------------------------- x

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

The question is: How is it that so many governments, from


Suharto's in Indonesia to Fujimori's in Peru, have wanted to title these
people and have not been able to do so effectively? One reason is that
none of the state systems in Asia or Latin America can gather proof of
informal titles. In Peru, the informals have means of proving property
ownership to each other which are not the same means developed by the
Spanish legal system. The informals have their own papers, their own
forms of agreements, and their own systems of registration, all of which
are very clearly stated in the maps which they use for their own informal
business transactions.
If you take a walk through the countryside, from Indonesia to Peru,
and you walk by field after field--in each field a different dog is going to
bark at you. Even dogs know what private property is all about. The only
one who does not know it is the government. The issue is that there exists
a "common law" and an "informal law" which the Latin American formal
legal system does not know how to recognize.
- Hernando De Soto[1]

This decision inevitably affects all untitled lands currently in possession of


persons and entities other than the Philippine government. The petition, while
unremarkable as to the facts, was accepted by the Court en banc in order to provide
definitive clarity to the applicability and scope of original registration proceedings
under Sections 14(1) and 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree. In doing so,
the Court confronts not only the relevant provisions of the Public Land Act and the
Civil Code, but also the reality on the ground. The countrywide phenomenon of
untitled lands, as well as the problem of informal settlement it has spawned, has
unfortunately been treated with benign neglect. Yet our current laws are hemmed in
by their own circumscriptions in addressing the phenomenon. Still, the duty on our
part is primarily to decide cases before us in accord with the Constitution and the
legal principles that have developed our public land law, though our social
obligations dissuade us from casting a blind eye on the endemic problems.
I.
On 20 February 1998, Mario Malabanan filed an application for land registration
covering a parcel of land identified asLot 9864-A, Cad-452-D, Silang Cadastre,
[2]
situated in Barangay Tibig, Silang Cavite, and consisting of 71,324 square
meters. Malabanan claimed that he had purchased the property from Eduardo
Velazco,[3] and that he and his predecessors-in-interest had been in open, notorious,
and continuous adverse and peaceful possession of the land for more than thirty
(30) years.
The application was raffled to the Regional Trial Court of (RTC) CaviteTagaytay City, Branch 18. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) duly
designated the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor of Cavite, Jose Velazco, Jr., to
appear on behalf of the State.[4] Apart from presenting documentary evidence,
Malabanan himself and his witness, Aristedes Velazco, testified at the hearing.
Velazco testified that the property was originally belonged to a twenty-two hectare
property owned by his great-grandfather, Lino Velazco. Lino had four sons
Benedicto, Gregorio, Eduardo and Estebanthe fourth being Aristedess grandfather.
Upon Linos death, his four sons inherited the property and divided it among
themselves. But by 1966, Estebans wife, Magdalena, had become the administrator
of all the properties inherited by the Velazco sons from their father, Lino. After the

death of Esteban and Magdalena, their son Virgilio succeeded them in


administering the properties, including Lot 9864-A, which originally belonged to
his uncle, Eduardo Velazco. It was this property that was sold by Eduardo Velazco
to Malabanan.[5]
Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Jose Velazco, Jr. did not cross-examine
Aristedes Velazco. He further manifested that he also [knew] the property and I
affirm the truth of the testimony given by Mr. Velazco. [6] The Republic of
thePhilippines likewise did not present any evidence to controvert the application.
Among the evidence presented by Malabanan during trial was a Certification
dated 11 June 2001, issued by the Community Environment & Natural Resources
Office, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO-DENR),
which stated that the subject property was verified to be within the Alienable or
Disposable land per Land Classification Map No. 3013 established under Project
No. 20-A and approved as such under FAO 4-1656 on March 15, 1982.[7]
On 3 December 2002, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of Malabanan,
the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, this Court hereby approves this application for registration
and thus places under the operation of Act 141, Act 496 and/or P.D. 1529,
otherwise known as Property Registration Law, the lands described in Plan Csd04-0173123-D, Lot 9864-A and containing an area of Seventy One Thousand
Three Hundred Twenty Four (71,324) Square Meters, as supported by its technical
description now forming part of the record of this case, in addition to other proofs
adduced in the name of MARIO MALABANAN, who is of legal age, Filipino,
widower, and with residence at Munting Ilog, Silang, Cavite.
Once this Decision becomes final and executory, the corresponding decree
of registration shall forthwith issue.
SO ORDERED.

The Republic interposed an appeal to the Court of Appeals, arguing that


Malabanan had failed to prove that the property belonged to the alienable and
disposable land of the public domain, and that the RTC had erred in finding that he

had been in possession of the property in the manner and for the length of time
required by law for confirmation of imperfect title.
On 23 February 2007, the Court of Appeals rendered a Decision[8] reversing
the RTC and dismissing the application of Malabanan. The appellate court held
that under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree any period of
possession prior to the classification of the lots as alienable and disposable was
inconsequential and should be excluded from the computation of the period of
possession. Thus, the appellate court noted that since the CENRO-DENR
certification
had
verified
that
the
property
was
declared
alienable and disposable only on 15 March 1982, the Velazcos possession prior to
that date could not be factored in the computation of the period of possession. This
interpretation of the Court of Appeals of Section 14(1) of the Property Registration
Decree was based on the Courts ruling in Republic v. Herbieto.[9]
Malabanan died while the case was pending with the Court of Appeals;
hence, it was his heirs who appealed the decision of the appellate court.
Petitioners, before this Court, rely on our ruling in Republic v. Naguit,[11] which
was handed down just four months prior to Herbieto. Petitioners suggest that the
discussion in Herbieto cited by the Court of Appeals is actually obiter dictum since
the Metropolitan Trial Court therein which had directed the registration of the
property had no jurisdiction in the first place since the requisite notice of hearing
was published only after the hearing had already begun. Naguit, petitioners argue,
remains the controlling doctrine, especially when the property in question is
agricultural land. Therefore, with respect to agricultural lands, any possession prior
to the declaration of the alienable property as disposable may be counted in
reckoning the period of possession to perfect title under the Public Land Act and
the Property Registration Decree.
[10]

The petition was referred to the Court en banc,[12] and on 11 November 2008,
the case was heard on oral arguments. The Court formulated the principal issues
for the oral arguments, to wit:
1. In order that an alienable and disposable land of the public domain may
be registered under Section 14(1) of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise

known as the Property Registration Decree, should the land be classified as


alienable and disposable as of June 12, 1945 or is it sufficient that such
classification occur at any time prior to the filing of the applicant for registration
provided that it is established that the applicant has been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession of the land under a bona fide claim of
ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier?
2. For purposes of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree may a
parcel of land classified as alienable and disposable be deemed private land and
therefore susceptible to acquisition by prescription in accordance with the Civil
Code?
3. May a parcel of land established as agricultural in character either
because of its use or because its slope is below that of forest lands be registrable
under Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree in relation to the
provisions of the Civil Code on acquisitive prescription?
4. Are petitioners entitled to the registration of the subject land in their
names under Section 14(1) or Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree or
both?[13]

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


With respect to Section 14(1), petitioners reiterate that the analysis of the
Court in Naguit is the correct interpretation of the provision. The seemingly
contradictory pronouncement in Herbieto, it is submitted, should be
considered obiter dictum, since the land registration proceedings therein was
void ab initio due to lack of publication of the notice of initial hearing. Petitioners
further point out that in Republic v. Bibonia,[14] promulgated in June of 2007, the
Court applied Naguit and adopted the same observation that the preferred
interpretation by the OSG of Section 14(1) was patently absurd. For its part, the
OSG remains insistent that for Section 14(1) to apply, the land should have been
classified as alienable and disposable as of 12 June 1945. Apart from Herbieto, the
OSG also cites the subsequent rulings in Buenaventura v. Republic,[15] Fieldman
Agricultural Trading v. Republic[16] and Republic v. Imperial Credit Corporation,
[17]
as well as the earlier case of Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals.[18]
With respect to Section 14(2), petitioners submit that open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession of an alienable land of the public domain for
more than 30 years ipso jure converts the land into private property, thus placing it
under the coverage of Section 14(2). According to them, it would not matter

whether the land sought to be registered was previously classified as agricultural


land of the public domain so long as, at the time of the application, the property
had already been converted into private property through prescription. To bolster
their argument, petitioners cite extensively from our 2008 ruling in Republic v.
T.A.N. Properties.[19]

The arguments submitted by the OSG with respect to Section 14(2) are more
extensive. The OSG notes that under Article 1113 of the Civil Code, the acquisitive
prescription of properties of the State refers to patrimonial property, while Section
14(2) speaks of private lands. It observes that the Court has yet to decide a case
that presented Section 14(2) as a ground for application for registration, and that
the 30-year possession period refers to the period of possession under Section
48(b) of the Public Land Act, and not the concept of prescription under the Civil
Code. The OSG further submits that, assuming that the 30-year prescriptive period
can run against public lands, said period should be reckoned from the time the
public land was declared alienable and disposable.
Both sides likewise offer special arguments with respect to the particular
factual circumstances surrounding the subject property and the ownership thereof.
II.
First, we discuss Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree. For a full
understanding of the provision, reference has to be made to the Public Land Act.
A.
Commonwealth Act No. 141, also known as the Public Land Act, has, since
its enactment, governed the classification and disposition of lands of the public
domain. The President is authorized, from time to time, to classify the lands of the
public domain into alienable and disposable, timber, or mineral lands. [20] Alienable
and disposable lands of the public domain are further classified according to their
uses into (a) agricultural; (b) residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar
productive purposes; (c) educational, charitable, or other similar purposes; or (d)
reservations for town sites and for public and quasi-public uses.[21]

May a private person validly seek the registration in his/her name of


alienable and disposable lands of the public domain? Section 11 of the Public Land
Act acknowledges that public lands suitable for agricultural purposes may be
disposed of by confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles through judicial
legalization.[22] Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by P.D. No.
1073, supplies the details and unmistakably grants that right, subject to the
requisites stated therein:
Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying
lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such land or an interest
therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the
Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation
of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land
Registration Act, to wit:
xxx
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest
have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and
occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona
fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier,
immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title
except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively
presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant
and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.

Section 48(b) of Com. Act No. 141 received its present wording in 1977 when the
law was amended by P.D. No. 1073. Two significant amendments were introduced
by P.D. No. 1073. First, the term agricultural lands was changed to alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain. The OSG submits that this amendment
restricted the scope of the lands that may be registered. [23] This is not actually the
case. Under Section 9 of the Public Land Act, agricultural lands are a mere subset
of lands of the public domain alienable or open to disposition. Evidently, alienable
and disposable lands of the public domain are a larger class than only agricultural
lands.

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

It bears further observation that Section 48(b) of Com. Act No, 141 is virtually the
same as Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree. Said Decree codified
the various laws relative to the registration of property, including lands of the
public domain. It is Section 14(1) that operationalizes the registration of such lands
of the public domain. The provision reads:
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-ininterest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation of alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim
of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.

Notwithstanding the passage of the Property Registration Decree and the


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

The opening clauses of Section 48 of the Public Land Act and Section 14 of
the Property Registration Decree warrant comparison:
Sec. 48 [of the Public Land Act]. The following described citizens of the
Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such
land or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed,
may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located
for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor,
under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
xxx
Sec. 14 [of the Property Registration Decree]. Who may apply. The
following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for
registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized
representatives:
xxx

It is clear that Section 48 of the Public Land Act is more descriptive of the
nature of the right enjoyed by the possessor than Section 14 of the Property
Registration Decree, which seems to presume the pre-existence of the right, rather
than establishing the right itself for the first time. It is proper to assert that it is the
Public Land Act, as amended by P.D. No. 1073 effective 25 January 1977, that has
primarily established the right of a Filipino citizen who has been in open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of
ownership, since June 12, 1945 to perfect or complete his title by applying with the
proper court for the confirmation of his ownership claim and the issuance of the
corresponding certificate of title.

Section 48 can be viewed in conjunction with the afore-quoted Section 11 of


the Public Land Act, which provides that public lands suitable for agricultural
purposes may be disposed of by confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles, and
given the notion that both provisions declare that it is indeed the Public Land Act
that primarily establishes the substantive ownership of the possessor who has been
in possession of the property since 12 June 1945. In turn, Section 14(a) of the
Property Registration Decree recognizes the substantive right granted under

Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as well provides the corresponding original
registration procedure for the judicial confirmation of an imperfect or incomplete
title.
There is another limitation to the right granted under Section 48(b). Section 47 of
the Public Land Act limits the period within which one may exercise the right to
seek registration under Section 48. The provision has been amended several times,
most recently by Rep. Act No. 9176 in 2002. It currently reads thus:
Section 47. The persons specified in the next following section are hereby
granted time, not to extend beyond December 31, 2020 within which to avail of
the benefits of this Chapter: Provided, That this period shall apply only where the
area applied for does not exceed twelve (12) hectares: Provided, further, That the
several periods of time designated by the President in accordance with Section
Forty-Five of this Act shall apply also to the lands comprised in the provisions of
this Chapter, but this Section shall not be construed as prohibiting any said persons
from acting under this Chapter at any time prior to the period fixed by the
President.[24]

Accordingly under the current state of the law, the substantive right granted under
Section 48(b) may be availed of only until 31 December 2020.
B.
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.[25] Ad proximum antecedents fiat relation nisi
impediatur sentencia.
Besides, we are mindful of the absurdity that would result if we adopt petitioners
position. Absent a legislative amendment, the rule would be, adopting the OSGs
view, that all lands of the public domain which were not declared alienable or
disposable before June 12, 1945 would not be susceptible to original registration,
no matter the length of unchallenged possession by the occupant. Such
interpretation renders paragraph (1) of Section 14 virtually inoperative and even
precludes the government from giving it effect even as it decides to reclassify
public agricultural lands as alienable and disposable. The unreasonableness of the
situation would even be aggravated considering that before June 12, 1945,
the Philippines was not yet even considered an independent state.

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 abona 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.
It may be noted that in the subsequent case of Buenaventura,[26] the Court,
citing Herbieto, again stated that[a]ny period of possession prior to the date when
the [s]ubject [property was] classified as alienable and disposable is
inconsequential and should be excluded from the computation of the period of
possession That statement, in the context of Section 14(1), is certainly erroneous.
Nonetheless, the passage as cited in Buenaventura should again be considered
as obiter. The application therein was ultimately granted, citing Section 14(2). The
evidence submitted by petitioners therein did not establish any mode of possession
on their part prior to 1948, thereby precluding the application of Section 14(1). It is
not even apparent from the decision whether petitioners therein had claimed
entitlement to original registration following Section 14(1), their position being
that they had been in exclusive possession under a bona fide claim of ownership
for over fifty (50) years, but not before 12 June 1945.
Thus, neither Herbieto nor its principal discipular ruling Buenaventura has
any precedental value with respect to Section 14(1). On the other hand, the ratio
of Naguit is embedded in Section 14(1), since it precisely involved situation
wherein the applicant had been in exclusive possession under a bona fide claim of
ownership prior to 12 June 1945. The Courts interpretation of Section 14(1) therein
was decisive to the resolution of the case. Any doubt as to which
between Naguit or Herbieto provides the final word of the Court on Section 14(1)
is now settled in favor of Naguit.
We noted in Naguit that it should be distinguished from Bracewell v. Court of
Appeals[27] since in the latter, the application for registration had been
filed before the land was declared alienable or disposable. The dissent though
pronounces Bracewell as the better rule between the two. Yet two years
after Bracewell, its ponente, the esteemedJustice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago,

penned the ruling in Republic v. Ceniza,[28] which involved a claim of possession


that extended back to 1927 over a public domain land that was declared alienable
and disposable only in 1980. Cenizacited Bracewell, quoted extensively from it,
and following the mindset of the dissent, the attempt at registration
inCeniza should have failed. Not so.
To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is
alienable, an applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the
government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an
administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and
a legislative act or a statute.
In this case, private respondents presented a certification dated November
25, 1994, issued by Eduardo M. Inting, the Community Environment and Natural
Resources Officer in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Office in Cebu City, stating that the lots involved were "found to be within the
alienable and disposable (sic) Block-I, Land Classification Project No. 32-A, per
map 2962 4-I555 dated December 9, 1980." This is sufficient evidence to show
the real character of the land subject of private respondents application. Further,
the certification enjoys a presumption of regularity in the absence of contradictory
evidence, which is true in this case. Worth noting also was the observation of the
Court of Appeals stating that:
[n]o opposition was filed by the Bureaus of Lands and
Forestry to contest the application of appellees on the ground that
the property still forms part of the public domain. Nor is there any
showing that the lots in question are forestal land....
Thus, while the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that mere possession of
public land for the period required by law would entitle its occupant to a
confirmation of imperfect title, it did not err in ruling in favor of private
respondents as far as the first requirement in Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act
is concerned, for they were able to overcome the burden of proving the
alienability of the land subject of their application.
As correctly found by the Court of Appeals, private respondents were able
to prove their open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the subject
land even before the year 1927. As a rule, we are bound by the factual findings of
the Court of Appeals. Although there are exceptions, petitioner did not show that
this is one of them.[29]

Why did the Court in Ceniza, through the same eminent member who
authored Bracewell, sanction the registration under Section 48(b) of public domain
lands declared alienable or disposable thirty-five (35) years and 180 days after 12

June 1945? The telling difference is that in Ceniza, the application for registration
was filed nearly six (6) years afterthe land had been declared alienable or
disposable, while in Bracewell, the application was filed nine (9) years before the
land was declared alienable or disposable. That crucial difference was also
stressed in Naguit to contradistinguish it from Bracewell, a difference which the
dissent seeks to belittle.
III.
We next ascertain the correct framework of analysis with respect to Section 14(2).
The provision reads:

SECTION 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the
proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land,
whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:
xxx
(2) Those who have acquired ownership over private lands by
prescription under the provisions of existing laws.

The Court in Naguit offered the following discussion concerning Section


14(2), which we did even then recognize, and still do, to be an obiter dictum, but
we nonetheless refer to it as material for further discussion, thus:
Did the enactment of the Property Registration Decree and the amendatory
P.D. No. 1073 preclude the application for registration of alienable lands of the
public domain, possession over which commenced only after June 12, 1945? It did
not, considering Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, which governs
and authorizes the application of those who have acquired ownership of private
lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws.
Prescription is one of the modes of acquiring ownership under the Civil
Code.[[30]] There is a consistent jurisprudential rule that properties classified as
alienable public land may be converted into private property by reason of open,
continuous and exclusive possession of at least thirty (30) years.[ [31]] With such
conversion, such property may now fall within the contemplation of private lands
under Section 14(2), and thus susceptible to registration by those who have
acquired ownership through prescription. Thus, even if possession of the alienable

public land commenced on a date later than June 12, 1945, and such possession
being been open, continuous and exclusive, then the possessor may have the right
to register the land by virtue of Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree.

Naguit did not involve the application of Section 14(2), unlike in this case where
petitioners have based their registration bid primarily on that provision, and where
the evidence definitively establishes their claim of possession only as far back as
1948. It is in this case that we can properly appreciate the nuances of the provision.
A.
The obiter in Naguit cited the Civil Code provisions on prescription as the possible
basis for application for original registration under Section 14(2). Specifically, it is
Article 1113 which provides legal foundation for the application. It reads:
All things which are within the commerce of men are susceptible of
prescription, unless otherwise provided. Property of the State or any of its
subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription.

It is clear under the Civil Code that where lands of the public domain are
patrimonial in character, they are susceptible to acquisitive prescription. On the
other hand, among the public domain lands that are not susceptible to acquisitive
prescription are timber lands and mineral lands. The Constitution itself proscribes
private ownership of timber or mineral lands.
There are in fact several provisions in the Civil Code concerning the
acquisition of real property through prescription. Ownership of real property may
be acquired by ordinary prescription of ten (10) years,[32] or through extraordinary
prescription of thirty (30) years.[33] Ordinary acquisitive prescription requires
possession in good faith,[34] as well as just title.[35]
When Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree explicitly provides
that persons who have acquired ownership over private lands by prescription under
the provisions of existing laws, it unmistakably refers to the Civil Code as a valid
basis for the registration of lands. The Civil Code is the only existing law that
specifically allows the acquisition by prescription of private lands, including
patrimonial property belonging to the State. Thus, the critical question that needs

affirmation is whether Section 14(2) does encompass original registration


proceedings over patrimonial property of the State, which a private person has
acquired through prescription.
The Naguit obiter had adverted to a frequently reiterated jurisprudence
holding that properties classified as alienable public land may be converted into
private property by reason of open, continuous and exclusive possession of at least
thirty (30) years.[36] Yet if we ascertain the source of the thirty-year period,
additional complexities relating to Section 14(2) and to how exactly it operates
would emerge. For there are in fact two distinct origins of the thirty (30)-year
rule.
The first source is Rep. Act No. 1942, enacted in 1957, which amended
Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act by granting the right to seek original
registration of alienable public lands through possession in the concept of an owner
for at least thirty years.
The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of
the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but
whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of
First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their
claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land
Registration Act, to wit:
xxx

xxx

xxx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest


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

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

The second source is Section 14(2) of P.D. 1529 itself, at least by


implication, as it applies the rules on prescription under the Civil Code, particularly
Article 1113 in relation to Article 1137. Note that there are two kinds of
prescription under the Civil Codeordinary acquisitive prescription and
extraordinary acquisitive prescription, which, under Article 1137, is completed
through uninterrupted adverse possession for thirty years, without need of title or of
good faith.
Obviously, the first source of the thirty (30)-year period rule, Rep. Act No.
1942, became unavailable after 1977. At present, the only legal basis for the thirty
(30)-year period is the law on prescription under the Civil Code, as mandated under
Section 14(2). However, there is a material difference between how the thirty (30)year rule operated under Rep. Act No. 1942 and how it did under the Civil Code.
Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by Rep. Act No. 1942, did
not refer to or call into application the Civil Code provisions on prescription. It
merely set forth a requisite thirty-year possession period immediately preceding the
application for confirmation of title, without any qualification as to whether the
property should be declared alienable at the beginning of, and continue as such,
throughout the entire thirty-(30) years. There is neither statutory nor jurisprudential
basis to assert Rep. Act No. 1942 had mandated such a requirement, [38] similar to
our earlier finding with respect to the present language of Section 48(b), which now
sets 12 June 1945 as the point of reference.
Then, with the repeal of Rep. Act No. 1942, the thirty-year possession period
as basis for original registration became Section 14(2) of the Property Registration
Decree, which entitled those who have acquired ownership over private lands by
prescription under the provisions of existing laws to apply for original registration.
Again, the thirty-year period is derived from the rule on extraordinary prescription
under Article 1137 of the Civil Code. At the same time, Section 14(2) puts into
operation the entire regime of prescription under the Civil Code, a fact which does
not hold true with respect to Section 14(1).
B.

Unlike Section 14(1), Section 14(2) explicitly refers to the principles on


prescription under existing laws. Accordingly, we are impelled to apply the civil
law concept of prescription, as set forth in the Civil Code, in our interpretation of
Section 14(2). There is no similar demand on our part in the case of Section 14(1).
The critical qualification under Article 1113 of the Civil Code is thus:
[p]roperty of the State or any of its subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall
not be the object of prescription. The identification what consists of patrimonial
property is provided by Articles 420 and 421, which we quote in full:
Art. 420. The following things are property of public dominion:
(1) Those intended for public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents, ports
and bridges constructed by the State, banks, shores, roadsteads, and others of
similar character;
(2) Those which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are
intended for some public service or for the development of the national
wealth.
Art. 421. All other property of the State, which is not of the character stated
in the preceding article, is patrimonial property

It is clear that property of public dominion, which generally includes property


belonging to the State, cannot be the object of prescription or, indeed, be subject of
the commerce of man.[39] Lands of the public domain, whether declared alienable
and disposable or not, are property of public dominion and thus insusceptible to
acquisition by prescription.
Let us now explore the effects under the Civil Code of a declaration by the
President or any duly authorized government officer of alienability and
disposability of lands of the public domain. Would such lands so declared alienable
and disposable be converted, under the Civil Code, from property of the public
dominion into patrimonial property? After all, by connotative definition, alienable
and disposable lands may be the object of the commerce of man; Article 1113
provides that all things within the commerce of man are susceptible to prescription;
and the same provision further provides that patrimonial property of the State may
be acquired by prescription.

Nonetheless, Article 422 of the Civil Code states that [p]roperty of public
dominion, when no longer intended for public use or for public service, shall form
part of the patrimonial property of the State. It is this provision that controls how
public dominion property may be converted into patrimonial property susceptible
to acquisition by prescription. After all, Article 420 (2) makes clear that those
property which belong to the State, without being for public use, and are intended
for some public service or for the development of the national wealth are public
dominion property. For as long as the property belongs to the State, although
already classified as alienable or disposable, it remains property of the public
dominion if when it is intended for some public service or for the development of
the national wealth.
Accordingly, there must be an express declaration by the State that the
public dominion property is no longer intended for public service or the
development of the national wealth or that the property has been converted
into patrimonial. Without such express declaration, the property, even if
classified as alienable or disposable, remains property of the public dominion,
pursuant to Article 420(2), and thus incapable of acquisition by prescription.
It is only when such alienable and disposable lands are expressly declared by
the State to be no longer intended for public service or for the development of
the national wealth that the period of acquisitive prescription can begin to
run. Such declaration shall be in the form of a law duly enacted by Congress
or a Presidential Proclamation in cases where the President is duly authorized
by law.
It is comprehensible with ease that this reading of Section 14(2) of the
Property Registration Decree limits its scope and reach and thus affects the
registrability even of lands already declared alienable and disposable to the
detriment of the bona fide possessors or occupants claiming title to the lands. Yet
this interpretation is in accord with the Regalian doctrine and its concomitant
assumption that all lands owned by the State, although declared alienable or
disposable, remain as such and ought to be used only by the Government.
Recourse does not lie with this Court in the matter. The duty of the Court is
to apply the Constitution and the laws in accordance with their language and intent.
The remedy is to change the law, which is the province of the legislative branch.

Congress can very well be entreated to amend Section 14(2) of the Property
Registration Decree and pertinent provisions of the Civil Code to liberalize the
requirements for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles.
The operation of the foregoing interpretation can be illustrated by an actual
example. Republic Act No. 7227, entitled An Act Accelerating The Conversion Of
Military Reservations Into Other Productive Uses, etc., is more commonly known
as the BCDA law. Section 2 of the law authorizes the sale of certain military
reservations and portions of military camps in Metro Manila,
including Fort Bonifacio and Villamor Air Base. For purposes of effecting the sale
of the military camps, the law mandates the President to transfer such military
lands to the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) [40] which in turn is
authorized to own, hold and/or administer them.[41] The President is authorized to
sell portions of the military camps, in whole or in part. [42] Accordingly, the BCDA
law itself declares that the military lands subject thereof are alienable and
disposable pursuant to the provisions of existing laws and regulations governing
sales of government properties.[43]
From the moment the BCDA law was enacted the subject military lands
have become alienable and disposable. However, said lands did not become
patrimonial, as the BCDA law itself expressly makes the reservation that these
lands are to be sold in order to raise funds for the conversion of the former
American bases at Clark and Subic.[44]Such purpose can be tied to either public
service or the development of national wealth under Article 420(2). Thus, at that
time, the lands remained property of the public dominion under Article 420(2),
notwithstanding their status as alienable and disposable. It is upon their sale as
authorized under the BCDA law to a private person or entity that such lands
become private property and cease to be property of the public dominion.
C.
Should public domain lands become patrimonial because they are declared
as such in a duly enacted law or duly promulgated proclamation that they are no
longer intended for public service or for the development of the national wealth,
would the period of possession prior to the conversion of such public dominion

into patrimonial be reckoned in counting the prescriptive period in favor of the


possessors? We rule in the negative.
The limitation imposed by Article 1113 dissuades us from ruling that the period of
possession before the public domain land becomes patrimonial may be counted for
the purpose of completing the prescriptive period. Possession of public dominion
property before it becomes patrimonial cannot be the object of prescription
according to the Civil Code. As the application for registration under Section 14(2)
falls wholly within the framework of prescription under the Civil Code, there is no
way that possession during the time that the land was still classified as public
dominion property can be counted to meet the requisites of acquisitive prescription
and justify registration.
Are we being inconsistent in applying divergent rules for Section 14(1) and
Section 14(2)? There is no inconsistency. Section 14(1) mandates registration on
the basis of possession, while Section 14(2) entitles registration on the basis
of prescription. Registration under Section 14(1) is extended under the aegis
of theProperty Registration Decree and the Public Land Act while registration
under Section 14(2) is made available both by the Property Registration
Decree and the Civil Code.
In the same manner, we can distinguish between the thirty-year period under
Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by Rep. Act No. 1472, and the
thirty-year period available through Section 14(2) of the Property Registration
Decree in relation to Article 1137 of the Civil Code. The period under the former
speaks of a thirty-year period of possession, while the period under the latter
concerns a thirty-year period of extraordinary prescription.Registration
under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act as amended by Rep. Act No. 1472
is based on thirty years of possession alone without regard to the Civil Code,
while the registration under Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree
is founded on extraordinary prescription under the Civil Code.
It may be asked why the principles of prescription under the Civil Code should not
apply as well to Section 14(1). Notwithstanding the vaunted status of the Civil
Code, it ultimately is just one of numerous statutes, neither superior nor inferior to
other statutes such as the Property Registration Decree. The legislative branch is

not bound to adhere to the framework set forth by the Civil Code when it enacts
subsequent legislation. Section 14(2) manifests a clear intent to interrelate the
registration allowed under that provision with the Civil Code, but no such intent
exists with respect to Section 14(1).
IV.
One of the keys to understanding the framework we set forth today is seeing how
our land registration procedures correlate with our law on prescription, which,
under the Civil Code, is one of the modes for acquiring ownership over property.
The Civil Code makes it clear that patrimonial property of the State may be
acquired by private persons through prescription. This is brought about by Article
1113, which states that [a]ll things which are within the commerce of man are
susceptible to prescription, and that [p]roperty of the State or any of its
subdivisions not patrimonial in character shall not be the object of prescription.
There are two modes of prescription through which immovables may be acquired
under the Civil Code. The first is ordinary acquisitive prescription, which, under
Article 1117, requires possession in good faith and with just title; and, under
Article 1134, is completed through possession of ten (10) years. There is nothing in
the Civil Code that bars a person from acquiring patrimonial property of the State
through ordinary acquisitive prescription, nor is there any apparent reason to
impose such a rule. At the same time, there are indispensable requisitesgood faith
and just title. The ascertainment of good faith involves the application of Articles
526, 527, and 528, as well as Article 1127 of the Civil Code, [45] provisions that
more or less speak for themselves.
On the other hand, the concept of just title requires some clarification. Under
Article 1129, there is just title for the purposes of prescription when the adverse
claimant came into possession of the property through one of the modes
recognized by law for the acquisition of ownership or other real rights, but the
grantor was not the owner or could not transmit any right. Dr. Tolentino explains:
Just title is an act which has for its purpose the transmission of ownership,
and which would have actually transferred ownership if the grantor had been the

owner. This vice or defect is the one cured by prescription. Examples: sale with
delivery, exchange, donation, succession, and dacion in payment.[46]

The OSG submits that the requirement of just title necessarily precludes the
applicability of ordinary acquisitive prescription to patrimonial property. The major
premise for the argument is that the State, as the owner and grantor, could not
transmit ownership to the possessor before the completion of the required period of
possession.[47] It is evident that the OSG erred when it assumed that the grantor
referred to in Article 1129 is the State. The grantor is the one from whom the
person invoking ordinary acquisitive prescription derived the title, whether by sale,
exchange, donation, succession or any other mode of the acquisition of ownership
or other real rights.
Earlier, we made it clear that, whether under ordinary prescription or
extraordinary prescription, the period of possession preceding the classification of
public dominion lands as patrimonial cannot be counted for the purpose of
computing prescription. But after the property has been become patrimonial, the
period of prescription begins to run in favor of the possessor. Once the requisite
period has been completed, two legal events ensue: (1) the patrimonial property
is ipso jure converted into private land; and (2) the person in possession for the
periods prescribed under the Civil Code acquires ownership of the property by
operation of the Civil Code.
It is evident that once the possessor automatically becomes the owner of the
converted patrimonial property, the ideal next step is the registration of the
property under the Torrens system. It should be remembered that registration of
property is not a mode of acquisition of ownership, but merely a mode of
confirmation of ownership.[48]
Looking back at the registration regime prior to the adoption of the Property
Registration Decree in 1977, it is apparent that the registration system then did not
fully accommodate the acquisition of ownership of patrimonial property under the
Civil Code. What the system accommodated was the confirmation of imperfect
title brought about by the completion of a period of possession ordained under the
Public Land Act (either 30 years following Rep. Act No. 1942, or since 12 June
1945 following P.D. No. 1073).

The Land Registration Act[49] was noticeably silent on the requisites for
alienable public lands acquired through ordinary prescription under the Civil Code,
though it arguably did not preclude such registration. [50] Still, the gap was
lamentable, considering that the Civil Code, by itself, establishes ownership over
the patrimonial property of persons who have completed the prescriptive periods
ordained therein. The gap was finally closed with the adoption of the Property
Registration Decree in 1977, with Section 14(2) thereof expressly authorizing
original registration in favor of persons who have acquired ownership over private
lands by prescription under the provisions of existing laws, that is, the Civil Code
as of now.
V.
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.[51]
(b) The right to register granted under Section 48(b) of the Public
Land Act is further confirmed by Section 14(1) of the Property Registration
Decree.
(2) In complying with Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, consider
that under the Civil Code, prescription is recognized as a mode of acquiring

ownership of patrimonial property. However, public domain lands become only


patrimonial property not only with a declaration that these are alienable or
disposable. There must also be an express government manifestation that the
property is already patrimonial or no longer retained for public service or the
development of national wealth, under Article 422 of the Civil Code. And only
when the property has become patrimonial can the prescriptive period for the
acquisition of property of the public dominion begin to run.
(a) Patrimonial property is private property of the government. The
person acquires ownership of patrimonial property by prescription under the
Civil Code is entitled to secure registration thereof under Section 14(2) of
the Property Registration Decree.
(b) There are two kinds of prescription by which patrimonial property
may be acquired, one ordinary and other extraordinary. Under ordinary
acquisitive prescription, a person acquires ownership of a patrimonial
property through possession for at least ten (10) years, in good faith and with
just title. Under extraordinary acquisitive prescription, a persons
uninterrupted adverse possession of patrimonial property for at least thirty
(30) years, regardless of good faith or just title, ripens into ownership.
B.
We now apply the above-stated doctrines to the case at bar.
It is clear that the evidence of petitioners is insufficient to establish that Malabanan
has acquired ownership over the subject property under Section 48(b) of the Public
Land Act. There is no substantive evidence to establish that Malabanan or
petitioners as his predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the property
since 12 June 1945 or earlier. The earliest that petitioners can date back their
possession, according to their own evidencethe Tax Declarations they presented in
particularis to the year 1948. Thus, they cannot avail themselves of registration
under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree.

Neither can petitioners properly invoke Section 14(2) as basis for registration.
While the subject property was declared as alienable or disposable in 1982, there is
no competent evidence that is no longer intended for public use service or for the
development of the national evidence, conformably with Article 422 of the Civil
Code. The classification of the subject property as alienable and disposable land of
the public domain does not change its status as property of the public dominion
under Article 420(2) of the Civil Code. Thus, it is insusceptible to acquisition by
prescription.
VI.
A final word. The Court is comfortable with the correctness of the legal
doctrines established in this decision. Nonetheless, discomfiture over the
implications of todays ruling cannot be discounted. For, every untitled property
that is occupied in the country will be affected by this ruling. The social
implications cannot be dismissed lightly, and the Court would be abdicating its
social responsibility to the Filipino people if we simply levied the law without
comment.
The informal settlement of public lands, whether declared alienable or not, is a
phenomenon tied to long-standing habit and cultural acquiescence, and is common
among the so-called Third World countries. This paradigm powerfully evokes the
disconnect between a legal system and the reality on the ground. The law so far has
been unable to bridge that gap. Alternative means of acquisition of these
public domain lands, such as through homestead or free patent, have

proven unattractive due to limitations imposed on the grantee in the encumbrance


or alienation of said properties.[52]Judicial confirmation of imperfect title has
emerged as the most viable, if not the most attractive means to regularize the
informal settlement of alienable or disposable lands of the public domain, yet even
that system, as revealed in this decision, has considerable limits.
There are millions upon millions of Filipinos who have individually or exclusively
held residential lands on which they have lived and raised their families. Many
more have tilled and made productive idle lands of the State with their hands. They

have been regarded for generation by their families and their communities as
common law owners. There is much to be said about the virtues of according them
legitimate states. Yet such virtues are not for the Court to translate into positive
law, as the law itself considered such lands as property of the public dominion. It
could only be up to Congress to set forth a new phase of land reform to sensibly
regularize and formalize the settlement of such lands which in legal theory are
lands of the public domain before the problem becomes insoluble. This could be
accomplished, to cite two examples, by liberalizing the standards for judicial
confirmation of imperfect title, or amending the Civil Code itself to ease the
requisites for the conversion of public dominion property into patrimonial.
Ones sense of security over land rights infuses into every aspect of wellbeing not only of that individual, but also to the persons family. Once that sense of
security is deprived, life and livelihood are put on stasis. It is for the political
branches to bring welcome closure to the long pestering problem.
WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals
dated 23 February 2007 and Resolution dated 2 October 2007 are AFFIRMED.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION
OFFICE OF THE CITY MAYOR OF
PARAAQUE CITY, OFFICE OF
THE CITY ADMINISTRATOR OF
PARAAQUE CITY, OFFICE OF
THE CITY ENGINEER OF
PARAAQUE CITY, OFFICE OF
THE CITY PLANNING AND
DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR,
OFFICE OF THE BARANGAY
CAPTAIN AND SANGGUNIANG
PAMBARANGAY OF BARANGAY
VITALEZ, PARAAQUE CITY,

G.R. No. 178411


Present:
CARPIO MORALES, J.,
Chairperson,
BRION,
BERSAMIN,
ABAD, and
VILLARAMA, JR., JJ.

TERESITA A. GATCHALIAN,
ENRICO
R.
ESGUERRA,
ERNESTO T. PRACALE, JR.,
MANUEL M. ARGOTE, CONRADO
M. CANLAS, JOSEPHINE S.
DAUIGOY, ALLAN L. GONZALES,
ESTER C. ASEHAN, MANUEL A.
FUENTES,
and
MYRNA P.
ROSALES,
Petitioners,
- versus MARIO D. EBIO AND HIS Promulgated:
CHILDREN/HEIRS
namely,
ARTURO V. EBIO, EDUARDO V. June 23, 2010
EBIO,
RENATO
V.
EBIO,
LOURDES E. MAGTANGOB,
MILA V. EBIO, and ARNEL V.
EBIO,
Respondents.
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION
VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
Before us is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of
Civil Procedure, as amended, assailing the January 31, 2007 Decision [1] and June 8,
2007 Resolution[2] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 91350 allegedly
for being contrary to law and jurisprudence. The CA had reversed the Order [3] of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Paraaque City, Branch 196, issued on April 29,
2005 in Civil Case No. 05-0155.
Below are the facts.

Respondents claim that they are the absolute owners of a parcel of land consisting
of 406 square meters, more or less, located at 9781 Vitalez Compound in Barangay
Vitalez, Paraaque City and covered by Tax Declaration Nos. 01027 and 01472 in
the name of respondent Mario D. Ebio. Said land was an accretion of Cut-cut
creek. Respondents assert that the original occupant and possessor of the said
parcel of land was their great grandfather, Jose Vitalez. Sometime in 1930, Jose
gave the land to his son, Pedro Vitalez. From then on, Pedro continuously and
exclusively occupied and possessed the said lot. In 1966, after executing an
affidavit declaring possession and occupancy,[4] Pedro was able to obtain a tax
declaration over the said property in his name. [5] Since then, respondents have been
religiously paying real property taxes for the said property.[6]
Meanwhile, in 1961, respondent Mario Ebio married Pedros daughter, Zenaida.
Upon Pedros advice, the couple established their home on the said lot. In April
1964 and in October 1971, Mario Ebio secured building permits from the Paraaque
municipal office for the construction of their house within the said compound.
[7]
On April 21, 1987, Pedro executed a notarized Transfer of Rights [8] ceding his
claim over the entire parcel of land in favor of Mario Ebio. Subsequently, the tax
declarations under Pedros name were cancelled and new ones were issued in Mario
Ebios name.[9]
On March 30, 1999, the Office of the Sangguniang Barangay of Vitalez passed
Resolution No. 08, series of 1999[10]seeking assistance from the City Government
of Paraaque for the construction of an access road along Cut-cut Creek located in
the said barangay. The proposed road, projected to be eight (8) meters wide and
sixty (60) meters long, will run from Urma Drive to the main road of Vitalez
Compound[11] traversing the lot occupied by the respondents. When the city
government advised all the affected residents to vacate the said area, respondents
immediately registered their opposition thereto. As a result, the road project was
temporarily suspended.[12]
In January 2003, however, respondents were surprised when several officials from
the barangay and the city planning office proceeded to cut eight (8) coconut trees
planted on the said lot. Respondents filed letter-complaints before the Regional
Director of the Bureau of Lands, the Department of Interior and Local Government
and the Office of the Vice Mayor.[13] On June 29, 2003, the Sangguniang
Barangay of Vitalez held a meeting to discuss the construction of the proposed
road. In the said meeting, respondents asserted their opposition to the proposed
project and their claim of ownership over the affected property.[14] On November
14, 2003, respondents attended another meeting with officials from the city
government, but no definite agreement was reached by and among the parties.[15]

On March 28, 2005, City Administrator Noli Aldip sent a letter to the respondents
ordering them to vacate the area within the next thirty (30) days, or be physically
evicted from the said property.[16] Respondents sent a letter to the Office of the City
Administrator asserting, in sum, their claim over the subject property and
expressing intent for a further dialogue.[17] The request remained unheeded.
Threatened of being evicted, respondents went to the RTC of Paraaque City
on April 21, 2005 and applied for a writ of preliminary injunction against
petitioners.[18] In the course of the proceedings, respondents admitted before the
trial court that they have a pending application for the issuance of a sales patent
before the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).[19]
On April 29, 2005, the RTC issued an Order[20] denying the petition for lack of merit.
The trial court reasoned that respondents were not able to prove successfully that
they have an established right to the property since they have not instituted an action
for confirmation of title and their application for sales patent has not yet been
granted. Additionally, they failed to implead the Republic of the Philippines, which
is an indispensable party.
Respondents moved for reconsideration, but the same was denied.[21]
Aggrieved, respondents elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals. On January
31, 2007, the Court of Appeals issued its Decision in favor of the respondents.
According to the Court of Appeals-The issue ultimately boils down to the question of ownership of the lands
adjoining Cutcut Creek particularly Road Lot No. 8 (hereinafter RL 8)
and the accreted portion beside RL 8.
The evidentiary records of the instant case, shows that RL 8 containing
an area of 291 square meters is owned by Guaranteed Homes, Inc.
covered by TCT No. S-62176. The same RL 8 appears to have been
donated by the Guaranteed Homes to the City Government of Paraaque
on 22 March 1966 and which was accepted by the then Mayor
FLORENCIO BERNABE on 5 April 1966. There is no evidence
however, when RL 8 has been intended as a road lot.
On the other hand, the evidentiary records reveal that PEDRO VITALEZ
possessed the accreted property since 1930 per his Affidavit dated 21
March 1966 for the purpose of declaring the said property for taxation
purposes. The property then became the subject of Tax Declaration No.

20134 beginning the year 1967 and the real property taxes therefor had
been paid for the years 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974,
1978, 1980, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and
2004. Sometime in 1964 and 1971, construction permits were issued in
favor of Appellant MARIO EBIO for the subject property. On 21 April
1987, PEDRO VITALEZ transferred his rights in the accreted property
to MARIO EBIO and his successors-in-interest.
Applying [Article 457 of the Civil Code considering] the foregoing
documentary evidence, it could be concluded that Guaranteed Homes is
the owner of the accreted property considering its ownership of the
adjoining RL 8 to which the accretion attached. However, this is without
the application of the provisions of the Civil Code on acquisitive
prescription which is likewise applicable in the instant case.
xxxx
The subject of acquisitive prescription in the instant case is the accreted
portion which [was] duly proven by the Appellants. It is clear that since
1930, Appellants together with their predecessor-in-interest, PEDRO
VITALEZ[,] have been in exclusive possession of the subject property
and starting 1964 had introduced improvements thereon as evidenced by
their construction permits. Thus, even by extraordinary acquisitive
prescription[,] Appellants have acquired ownership of the property in
question since 1930 even if the adjoining RL 8 was subsequently
registered in the name of Guaranteed Homes. x x x.
xxxx
Further, it was only in 1978 that Guaranteed Homes was able to have RL
8 registered in its name, which is almost fifty years from the time
PEDRO VITALEZ occupied the adjoining accreted property in 1930. x x
x.
xxxx
We likewise note the continuous payment of real property taxes of
Appellants which bolster their right over the subject property. x x x.
xxxx
In sum, We are fully convinced and so hold that the Appellants [have]
amply proven their right over the property in question.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is


hereby GRANTED. The challenged Order of the court a quo
isREVERSED and SET ASIDE.
SO ORDERED.[22]

On June 8, 2007, the appellate court denied petitioners motion for reconsideration.
Hence, this petition raising the following assignment of errors:
I. WHETHER OR NOT THE DECISION AND RESOLUTION OF
THE
HONORABLE
COURT
OF
APPEALS
THAT
RESPONDENTS HAVE A RIGHT IN ESSE IS IN ACCORD WITH
THE LAW AND ESTABLISHED JURISPRUDENCE[;]
II. WHETHER OR NOT THE DECISION AND RESOLUTION OF
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS THAT THE SUBJECT
LOT IS AVAILABLE FOR ACQUISITIVE PRESCRIPTION IS IN
ACCORD
WITH
THE
LAW
AND
ESTABLISHED
JURISPRUDENCE[;] AND
III. WHETHER OR NOT THE STATE IS AN INDISPENSABLE
PARTY TO THE COMPLAINT FILED BY RESPONDENTS IN
THE LOWER COURT.[23]

The issues may be narrowed down into two (2): procedurally, whether the State is
an indispensable party to respondents action for prohibitory injunction; and
substantively, whether the character of respondents possession and occupation of
the subject property entitles them to avail of the relief of prohibitory injunction.
The petition is without merit.
An action for injunction is brought specifically to restrain or command the
performance of an act.[24] It is distinct from the ancillary remedy of preliminary
injunction, which cannot exist except only as part or as an incident to an
independent action or proceeding. Moreover, in an action for injunction, the
auxiliary remedy of a preliminary prohibitory or mandatory injunction may issue.
[25]

In the case at bar, respondents filed an action for injunction to prevent the local
government of Paraaque City from proceeding with the construction of an access

road that will traverse through a parcel of land which they claim is owned by them
by virtue of acquisitive prescription.
Petitioners, however, argue that since the creek, being a tributary of the river, is
classified as part of the public domain, any land that may have formed along its
banks through time should also be considered as part of the public domain. And
respondents should have included the State as it is an indispensable party to the
action.
We do not agree.
It is an uncontested fact that the subject land was formed from the alluvial deposits
that have gradually settled along the banks of Cut-cut creek. This being the case,
the law that governs ownership over the accreted portion is Article 84 of
the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866, which remains in effect,[26] in relation to
Article 457 of the Civil Code.
Article 84 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 specifically covers ownership
over alluvial deposits along the banks of a creek. It reads:
ART. 84. Accretions deposited gradually upon lands contiguous to
creeks, streams, rivers, and lakes, by accessions or sediments from the
waters thereof, belong to the owners of such lands. [27]

Interestingly, Article 457 of the Civil Code states:


Art. 457. To the owners of lands adjoining the banks of rivers belong the
accretion which they gradually receive from the effects of the current of
the waters.

It is therefore explicit from the foregoing provisions that alluvial deposits along the
banks of a creek do not form part of the public domain as the alluvial property
automatically belongs to the owner of the estate to which it may have been
added. The only restriction provided for by law is that the owner of the adjoining
property must register the same under the Torrens system; otherwise, the alluvial
property may be subject to acquisition through prescription by third persons.[28]
In contrast, properties of public dominion cannot be acquired by prescription. No
matter how long the possession of the properties has been, there can be no

prescription against the State regarding property of public domain. [29] Even a city
or municipality cannot acquire them by prescription as against the State.[30]
Hence, while it is true that a creek is a property of public dominion, [31] the land
which is formed by the gradual and imperceptible accumulation of sediments along
its banks does not form part of the public domain by clear provision of law.
Moreover, an indispensable party is one whose interest in the controversy is such
that a final decree would necessarily affect his/her right, so that the court cannot
proceed without their presence.[32] In contrast, a necessary party is one whose
presence in the proceedings is necessary to adjudicate the whole controversy but
whose interest is separable such that a final decree can be made in their absence
without affecting them.[33]
In the instant case, the action for prohibition seeks to enjoin the city government of
Paraaque from proceeding with its implementation of the road construction project.
The State is neither a necessary nor an indispensable party to an action where no
positive act shall be required from it or where no obligation shall be imposed upon
it, such as in the case at bar. Neither would it be an indispensable party if none of
its properties shall be divested nor any of its rights infringed.
We also find that the character of possession and ownership by the respondents
over the contested land entitles them to the avails of the action.
A right in esse means a clear and unmistakable right.[34] A party seeking to avail of
an injunctive relief must prove that he or she possesses a right in esse or one that is
actual or existing.[35] It should not be contingent, abstract, or future rights, or one
which may never arise.[36]
In the case at bar, respondents assert that their predecessor-in-interest, Pedro
Vitalez, had occupied and possessed the subject lot as early as 1930. In 1964,
respondent Mario Ebio secured a permit from the local government of Paraaque for
the construction of their family dwelling on the said lot. In 1966, Pedro executed
an affidavit of possession and occupancy allowing him to declare the property in
his name for taxation purposes. Curiously, it was also in 1966 when Guaranteed
Homes, Inc., the registered owner of Road Lot No. 8 (RL 8) which adjoins the land
occupied by the respondents, donated RL 8 to the local government of Paraaque.

From these findings of fact by both the trial court and the Court of Appeals, only
one conclusion can be made: that for more than thirty (30) years, neither
Guaranteed Homes, Inc. nor the local government of Paraaque in its corporate or
private capacity sought to register the accreted portion. Undoubtedly, respondents
are deemed to have acquired ownership over the subject property through
prescription. Respondents can assert such right despite the fact that they have yet
to register their title over the said lot. It must be remembered that the purpose of
land registration is not the acquisition of lands, but only the registration of title
which the applicant already possessed over the land. Registration was never
intended as a means of acquiring ownership.[37] A decree of registration merely
confirms, but does not confer, ownership.[38]
Did the filing of a sales patent application by the respondents, which remains
pending before the DENR, estop them from filing an injunction suit?
We answer in the negative.
Confirmation of an imperfect title over a parcel of land may be done either through
judicial proceedings or through administrative process. In the instant case,
respondents admitted that they opted to confirm their title over the property
administratively by filing an application for sales patent.
Respondents application for sales patent, however, should not be used to prejudice
or derogate what may be deemed as their vested right over the subject property.
The sales patent application should instead be considered as a mere superfluity
particularly since ownership over the land, which they seek to buy from the State,
is already vested upon them by virtue of acquisitive prescription. Moreover, the
State does not have any authority to convey a property through the issuance of a
grant or a patent if the land is no longer a public land.[39]
Nemo dat quod dat non habet. No one can give what he does not have. Such
principle is equally applicable even against a sovereign entity that is the State.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The January 31,
2007 Decision, as well as the July 8, 2007 Resolution, of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. SP No. 91350 are hereby AFFIRMED.
With costs against petitioners.
SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION

REPUBLIC
THE PHILIPPINES,

OF

G.R. No. 174633


Present:

Petitioner,
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
J.,Chairperson,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
- versus -

REYES, and
BRION,* JJ.

Promulgated:
GREGORIA L. DILOY,

August 26, 2008

Respondent.
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under


Rule 45 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure seeking to
set
aside
the
Decision[1] dated 7
February
2006 and
[2]
Resolution dated 30 August 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. CV No. 75028. The Court of Appeals Decision denied the
appeal filed before it by the Republic of the Philippines (Republic)
and affirmed the Decision[3] of the 2nd Municipal Circuit Trial
Court (MCTC) of Silang-Amadeo, Silang, Cavite, dated 5 May 1999
in LRC Case No. 97-063, granting the application for registration
of title filed before it by the herein respondent Gregoria L. Diloy
over a parcel of land located in Barangay Dagatan, Municipality of
Amadeo, Province of Cavite, covering an area of 22,249 square
meters. The Resolution denied the Motion for Reconsideration
filed by the Republic.

The antecedent facts of this case are as follows:

As early as 1948, Crispin Leaban had already declared the


subject property for taxation purposes under his name, as
evidenced by Tax Declaration (T.D.) No. 2708. [4] He was then
succeeded by his son, Eusebio Leaban, who filed the following
T.D. Nos.[5] 4501, 3710 and 2855 in his name from the period
covering the years 1951-1969. Thereafter, in 1974, the subject
property was transferred to Eusebio Leabans daughter, Pacencia
Leaban, who, in turn, declared the same for taxation purposes
under her name. It was evidenced by T.D. Nos. 8672, 7282 and
6231.[6] On 15 June 1979, the subject property was then conveyed

by Pacencia Leaban to her daughter, herein respondent Gregoria


L. Diloy, by virtue of a Deed of Absolute Sale. [7]

In 1997, respondent Gregoria L. Diloy, now married to


Joselito C. Espiritu, filed an Application [8] for Registration of Title
over the subject property under Section 14 of Presidential Decree
No.
1529[9] before
the
2ndMCTC
of
Silang-Amadeo,
Silang, Cavite. The subject property was particularly described as
Lot No. 2280, Cad-482-D, Amadeo Cadastre, Ap-04-010073, with
an area of 22,249 square meters located in Barangay Dagatan,
Amadeo,Cavite.

To establish the jurisdictional requirements required by the


aforesaid law, the respondent submitted and marked the following
documents, to wit: (1) Application for Registration as Exhibits
A; A-1 to A-4;[10] (2) Notice of Initial Hearing dated 17 July 1997
as Exhibits B and B-1;[11] (3) Certificate of Publication[12] by the
Land Registration Authority (LRA) as Exhibit C and Certificate of
Notification[13] by the LRA as Exhibit C-1; (4) Certificate of
Publication issued by the National Printing Office (NPO) as
Exhibit D[14] and a copy of the Official Gazette (O.G.), Volume
93, No. 39, 29 September 1997[15] as Exhibits D-1 to D-3;
(5) Affidavit
of
Publication[16] issued
by
the We
[17]
Forum newspaper
as Exhibits E, E-1 and E-1-A; (6) Registry
Receipts sent to the government agencies concerned as
well as to the adjoining owners as Exhibits F, F-1 to F-16,
inclusive; and (7) Certificate of Posting[18]as Exhibit G.

Since the Public Prosecutor did not interpose any objection,


the court a quo admitted the aforementioned Exhibits.[19]

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), however, on behalf


of the Republic, filed an Opposition [20] to the aforesaid Application
for Registration of Title. It filed a Notice of Appearance, [21] but in a

letter[22] dated 18 November 1997, deputized the Provincial


Prosecutor of Silang, Cavite, to represent its interest therein.

During the hearing of the Application for Registration of Title,


respondent presented her father, Rustico Diloy, and Armando
Ramos as witnesses to strengthen her claim that her
predecessors-in-interest had been in actual, continuous, open,
notorious and adverse possession of the subject property.

Rustico Diloy testified that the first time he came to know of


the subject property was in 1952 when he was twenty years old,
because he used to work on the said property. When he married
Pacencia Leaban, the owner of the subject property was Eusebio
Leaban, the father of Pacencia Leaban. Said property was
inherited by his wife from her father. It then came to the
possession of the respondent by virtue of a Deed of Absolute Sale
executed
between
her
and
her
mother,
Pacencia
Leaban. According to him, from the time he came to know of the
subject property up to the present, it was continuously declared
for taxation purposes. He also affirmed that the subject property
has an area of 22,249 square meters, and it is located in
Barangay Dagatan, Amadeo, Cavite. He came to know of said
information because he was the one who had it surveyed. The
survey of the land was made and approved by the Director of
Lands and reapproved by the Bureau of Lands. The subject
property was fenced with barbed wire and shrubs. [23]

To corroborate the testimony of Rustico Diloy, Armando


Ramos, 81 years old and presently residing in Barangay Dagatan,
Amadeo, Cavite, stated that he was the owner of the land
adjoining the subject property, and that he knew the previous
owners of the same. He disclosed that he knew the subject
property even before the Japanese Occupation because he
became the husband of one of the heirs of the owner
thereof. Prior to the Japanese Occupation, he said the owner of
the subject property was his father-in-law, Narciso Leaban. Then,

in 1948, Crispin Leaban came into the possession of said


land. From Crispin Leaban, he confirmed that the subject property
was inherited by Eusebio Leaban, the son of Crispin
Leaban. Eusebio Leaban, in turn, transferred the same to his
daughter, Pacencia Leaban. Then, in 1979, Pacencia Leaban
conveyed the subject property to her daughter, the respondent,
who is the present owner of the subject property where she plants
coffee.[24]

The MCTC rendered a Decision dated 5 May 1999 in favor of


the respondent, thereby granting her application for registration
over the subject property. The dispositive portion reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, this Court hereby APPROVES the Application


for Registration filed by [respondent], married to Joselito
C. Espiritu. Thus, Lot 2280, Amadeo Cadastre, Ap-04010073 is placed under the operation of Act. 141, Act 495
and/or P.D. 1529, otherwise known as Property
Registration Law. Which property is situated in Barangay
Dagatan, Municipality ofAmadeo, Cavite, with an area of
22,249 square meters, and the same is covered by an
approved Technical Description and Subdivision Plan AP04-010073. These documents form part of the records of
the case, in addition to other proofs adduced by herein
[respondent].

Once this Decision becomes final and executory, the


corresponding decree of registration shall forthwith issue.

Furnish a copy of this Decision to the Office of the


Solicitor General, the [LRA], the Land Management
Sector, Regional (sic) IV, Manila, the Register of Deeds of

Cavite, the [Community Environment and Natural


Resources Office] CENRO, Trece Martires City, Department
of Agrarian Reform and the Department of Public Works
and Highways, as well as the party and counsel.[25]

From the aforesaid Decision, the Republic filed a Motion for


Reconsideration[26] arguing that the respondent failed to prove her
possession as required under Presidential Decree No. 1529. In an
Order[27] dated 27
March
2001,
the
said
Motion
for
Reconsideration was denied.

As a result thereof, the Republic appealed the Decision of the


MCTC to the Court of Appeals assigning the following error:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT THE APPLICANT


PROVED A REGISTRABLE TITLE TO THEPROPERTY.[28]

On 7 February 2006, the Court of Appeals denied the appeal


of the Republic and affirmed the Decision of the MCTC granting
the application for registration of the subject property.

Aggrieved, the Republic filed a motion for the


reconsideration of the aforesaid Decision which was likewise
denied in a Resolution dated 30 August 2006.

Hence, this Petition.

The Republic now comes before this Court with the sole issue
of: whether or not the respondent has acquired a registrable title.
[29]

The Republic persistently argues that the respondents


Application for Registration of Title should have been denied
because the latter failed to comply with the period of possession
required by law, i.e., Section 14 of Presidential Decree No. 1529.
[30]
The Republic reveals that the subject property was only
declared alienable and disposable on 15 March 1982 per Forestry
Administration Office (FAO) No. 4-1650. From 1982 when the
property was declared alienable and disposable to 1997, the
respondent had only been in adverse possession of the subject
property for a period of 15 years. Thus, there was no compliance
with Section 14, Presidential Decree No. 1529 because the subject
property was not yet alienable and disposable on 12 June 1945,
and respondents possession lacked the required number of years
(30
years)
for
her
to
acquire
the
same
through
prescription. Hence, respondent did not acquire an imperfect title,
which may be confirmed through a judicial proceeding.

In her Comment, respondent firmly holds that the MCTC and


the Court of Appeals did not commit any error or grave abuse of
discretion in rendering their Decisions granting her Application for
Registration of Title over the subject property. She avows that she
has satisfactorily established that she and her predecessors-ininterest have been in actual, continuous, open, notorious and
adverse possession and occupation of an alienable and disposable
land under a bona fide claim of ownership over the subject
property for more than 30 years. To prove the same, she tacked
her own possession, commencing on 15 June 1979 up to the time
of the filing of her Application for Registration of Title, onto the
prior possession of her predecessors-in-interest of 31 years.
Adding these periods, respondents and her predecessors-ininterest have been in possession of the land for more than 50
years now in the concept of an owner.Moreover, the realty taxes
thereon have been religiously paid, and there is no tax
delinquency incurred by her. The subject property has also been
devoted to agriculture, particularly, coffee plantation. Similarly,
she presented her father and one Armando Ramos as witnesses to

prove that she, indeed, was able to satisfy the manner and length
of possession required by law so as to grant her Application for
Registration of Title over the subject property.

The Petition is meritorious.

Section 14 of the Property Registration Decree speaks of who


may apply for registration of land. The said provisions of law refer
to an original registration through ordinary registration
proceedings.[31] It specifically 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 fideclaim of
ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier. (Emphasis
supplied.)

Based on the aforesaid provisions, the three requisites for


the filing of an application for registration of title under
the first category are: (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 fideclaim of
ownership since 12 June 1945 or earlier.[32] In effect, the
period of possession - open, continuous, exclusive and notorious must at least be 30 years computed from 12 June 1945 to the
effectivity of Presidential Decree No. 1529 on 11 June 1978.
Section 14(1) of the aforesaid law requires that
the property sought to be registered is already alienable
and disposable at the time the application for registration
of title is filed.[33]

In the case at bar, it is beyond question that the subject


property was already an alienable and disposable land at the time
the Application for Registration of Title over the same was filed by
the respondent. The Application for Registration of Title over
the subject property was filed by the respondent in the
year 1997. The Report,[34] dated 27 July 1998, submitted by the
Director of Lands and the Certification, [35] dated 4 May 1998,
issued by the CENRO, clearly established that the subject
property was already within the alienable and disposable
zone as classified under Project No. 5, L.C. Map No. 3013
as early as 15 March 1982 per Forestry Administration
Order No. 4-1650.[36] Even the parties to this case, particularly
the OSG, did not refute the fact that at the time the Application
for Registration of Title was filed, the subject property had already
been classified as alienable and disposable land.

Both lower courts upheld that the respondent was able to


prove that her possession of the subject property was open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious for more than 30 years. Here
we quote the pronouncement made by the Court of Appeals, thus:

The trial court committed no error in ruling that [respondent]


has a registrable title. It is undisputed that [respondent]

came into possession of the subject [property] by means


of a [D]eed of [S]ale executed in her favor by Pacencia
Leaban in 1979. Prior to the sale, Pacencia Leaban
inherited said property from her father, Eusebio Leaban,
who possessed the same since 1951.Testimonial evidence
showed that Eusebio Leaban devoted the land to
agriculture and that shrubs and barbed wire enclosed the
subject property. At the time of filing of the application for
registration, the crop found therein is coffee.

x x x. Rustico Diloy testified that he worked on the land


under the supervision of Eusebio Leaban indicating that
there were necessary farm works to be done thereon. The
owner of the adjoining land stated that said land is a
coffee plantation. There is also showing that the subject
land was fenced, signifying a public and adverse
possession thereof. Likewise, [respondent] with the aid of
Rustico Diloy, caused the survey of the subject
[property]. These are apparently acts of ownership. x x x.

Together with her predecessors-in-interest, [respondent] was in


actual and adverse possession of the subject land for
more than 30 years, thereby satisfying the period
required under P.D. 1529. Coupled with the cultivation or
possession is the regular payment of realty taxes on said
land since 1948 up to the filing of the application for
registration of title thereto.[37]

While this Court agrees with the lower courts that, indeed,
respondents possession of the subject property was open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious, however, we hold

that respondent failed to prove that she or her


predecessors-in-interest were already in possession of the
subject property under a bona fide claim of ownership
since 12 June 1945 or earlier, which is the reckoning period
specifically provided in Section 14(1) of Presidential Decree No.
1529.
As can be gleaned from the records, respondents possession
of the subject property started only in the year 1979 when her
mother executed a Deed of Absolute Sale over the same in her
favor. There was also no showing that her predecessors-in-interest
had already been in possession or had already exercised acts of
ownership over the subject property since 12 June 1945 or prior
thereto, as her predecessors-in-interest declared the subject
property for taxation purposes only in the year 1948. What was
clearly established by the respondent was possession of the
subject property by her predecessors-in-interest beginning 1948,
which was short of three years from 12 June 1945. What is more
telling is that the subject property became alienable and
disposable only on 15 March 1982. Prior to its declaration as
alienable land in 1982, any occupation or possession thereof
could not be considered in the counting of the 30-year possession
requirement.[38] The period of possession by the respondent of the
subject property cannot be considered to have started in 1979,
when the same was conveyed to her by her mother. Neither can
her possession of the subject property be tacked to that of her
predecessors-in-interest, even if they had occupied and were in
possession of the same since 1948, because during those
periods, the subject property had not yet been classified
as alienable and disposable land capable of private
appropriation. Possession of the subject property could only
start to ripen into ownership on15 March 1982, when the same
became alienable and disposable. Any period of possession
prior to the date when the subject lot was classified as
alienable and disposable is inconsequential and should be
excluded from the computation of the period of possession; such
possession can never ripen into ownership and, unless the
land has been classified as alienable and disposable, the
rules on the confirmation of imperfect title shall not apply
thereto.[39] The adverse possession which may be the basis

of a grant of title or confirmation of an imperfect title


refers only to alienable or disposable portions of the
public domain. There can be no imperfect title to be
confirmed over lands not yet classified as disposable or
alienable. In the absence of such classification, the land remains
unclassified public land until released therefrom and open to
disposition.[40] Possession of the land by the respondent under the
circumstances, whether spanning decades or centuries, can never
ripen into ownership.[41]

From 1982 up to 1997, the year the respondent filed an


Application for Registration of Title over the subject property, the
respondent was in possession of the same for only 15 years,
which was short of another 15 years from the 30-year-period
possession requirement. Thus, this Court is constrained to abide
by the Latin maxim Dura lex sed lex.[42]

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Petition is


hereby GRANTED. The Decision and Resolution of the Court of
Appeals dated 7 February 2006 and 30 August 2006, respectively
affirming the Decision of the MCTC dated 5 May 1999, which
granted the respondents Application for Registration of Title over
the
subject
property,
are
hereby REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. The respondents Application for Registration of Title over
the subject property is hereby DENIED.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. 175746

March 12, 2008

CHARLES L. ONG, Petitioner,


vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This petition for review on certiorari assails the April 25, 2006 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No.
76085, which reversed and set aside the January 16, 2002 Decision2 of the Municipal Trial Court of Mangaldan,
Pangasinan in Land Registration Case No. 99-023, and the November 20, 2006 Resolution3 which denied petitioners
motion for reconsideration.
The antecedent facts are as follows.
On July 1, 1999, petitioner Charles L. Ong (petitioner) in his behalf and as duly authorized representative of his
brothers, namely, Roberto, Alberto and Cesar, filed an Application for Registration of Title4 over Lot 15911 (subject lot)
situated in Barangay Anolid, Mangaldan, Pangasinan with an area of five hundred seventy four (574) square meters,
more or less. They alleged that they are the co-owners of the subject lot; that the subject lot is their exclusive property
having acquired the same by purchase from spouses Tony Bautista and Alicia Villamil on August 24, 1998; that the
subject lot is presently unoccupied; and that they and their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous
and peaceful possession of the subject lot in the concept of owners for more than thirty (30) years.
After due notice and publication, only respondent Republic of the Philippines (respondent), represented by the Office
of the Solicitor General, opposed the application for registration of title. Respondent asserted that neither applicants
nor their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation
of the subject lot since June 12, 1945 or earlier as required by Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as
amended by Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1073; that applicants failed to adduce any muniment of title to prove their
claims; that the tax declaration appended to the application does not appear genuine and merely shows pretended
possession of recent vintage; that the application was filed beyond the period allowed under P.D. No. 892; and that
the subject lot is part of the public domain which cannot be the subject of private appropriation.
On January 16, 2002, the trial court rendered a Decision in favor of petitioner and his brothers, viz:
The foregoing evidences presented by the applicant indubitably established sufficient basis to grant the applicant (sic)
for registration. Originally, the whole parcel of land was owned by spouses Teofilo Abellara and Abella Charmine who
acquired the same by virtue of a Deed of Sale from Cynthia Cacho, Agustin Cacho, Jr., Jasmin Cacho, Jover Cacho
and Lauro Cacho. Later, they sold the same parcel of land to spouses Tony C. Villamil and Alicia Bautista, who in turn
sold the same land to herein applicants.
The same parcel of land has been declared in the name of the applicant and her predecessors-in-interest and its
taxes has (sic) been religiously paid.
The said circumstances further show that the possession and ownership of the applicant and her (sic) predecessorsin-interest over the same parcel of land has (sic) been continuous and peaceful under bona fide claim of ownership
before the filing of the instant application for registration on [July 1, 1999].
WHEREFORE, after confirming the Order of General Default, the Court hereby orders and decrees the registration of
a parcel of land as shown on plan ap-01-004897 approved by the Bureau of Land(s) situated in Barangay Anolid,
Mangaldan, Pangasinan, containing an area of Five Hundred Seventy Four (574) square meters, subject of the
application for registration of title, in accordance with Presidential Decree No. 1529, in favor of CHARLIE L. ONG in
his behalf and as representative of his brothers namely, ROBERTO L. ONG, ALBERTO L. ONG and CESAR L. ONG.

Furnish copies of this Decision to the Office of the Solicitor General, Makati City, Metro Manila, the Office of the
Provincial Prosecutor, Dagupan City, Atty. Celestino Domingo Jr., the Office of the Land Registration Authority,
Quezon City, as well as the applicant.
SO ORDERED.5
Aggrieved, respondent appealed to the Court of Appeals which rendered the assailed Decision, the dispositive portion
of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is GRANTED. Accordingly, the decision of the court a quo granting the application
for registration of title of applicants-appellees is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.6
In reversing the decision of the trial court, the Court of Appeals found that the subject lot is part of the alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain. Thus, it was incumbent upon petitioner to prove that they possessed the
subject lot in the nature and for the duration required by law. However, petitioner failed to prove that he or his
predecessors-in-interest have been in adverse possession of the subject lot in the concept of owner since June 12,
1945 or earlier as mandated by Section 14(1) of P.D. 1529. It noted that the earliest tax declaration which petitioner
presented is dated 1971. Consequently, petitioner could not fairly claim possession of the land prior to 1971. Neither
was petitioner able to prove that he or his predecessors-in-interest actually occupied the subject lot prior to the filing
of the application. Thus, the trial court erred in granting the application for registration of title over the subject lot.
Hence, this petition raising the following issues:
1. WHETHER OR NOT PETITIONER, TOGETHER WITH HIS BROTHERS, NAMELY, ROBERTO L. ONG,
ALBERTO L. ONG AND CEZAR L. ONG, HAVE REGISTRABLE OWNERSHIP OVER THE REAL
PROPERTY SUBJECT MATTER OF LAND REGISTRATION CASE NO. 99-023, AND
2. WHETHER OR NOT THE FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION OF THE FORMER SPECIAL FOURTH
DIVISION OF THE COURT OF APPEALS THAT THE SUBJECT REAL PROPERTY IS A PUBLIC LAND IS
CORRECT.7
The petition lacks merit.
Section 14(1) of P.D. 1529 ("Property Registration Decree"), as amended, provides
SEC. 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an application for
registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives:
(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim
of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
Thus, pursuant to the aforequoted provision of law, applicants for registration of title must prove: (1) that the subject
land forms part of the disposable and alienable lands of the public domain, and (2) that they have been in open,
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the same under a bona fide claim of ownership
since June 12, 1945, or earlier.8 These requisites involve questions of fact which are not proper in a petition for review
on certiorari. Factual findings of the court a quo are generally binding on this Court except for certain recognized
exceptions, as is the case here, where the trial court and the Court of Appeals arrived at conflicting findings.9 After a
careful review of the records, we sustain the findings and conclusions of the Court of Appeals.

There is no dispute that the subject lot is classified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain. The
Report10 dated January 17, 2000 of the Bureau of Lands stated that the subject lot is "within the alienable and
disposable zone as classified under Project 50 L.C. Map No. 698 and released and classified as such on November
21, 1927."11 This finding is, likewise, embodied in the Report12 dated January 7, 1999 of the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR-CENRO) and
the blue print Copy13 of the plan covering the subject lot. However, petitioner failed to prove that he or his
predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the
subject lot since June 12, 1945 or earlier.
The records show that petitioner and his brothers bought the subject lot from spouses Tony Bautista and Alicia
Villamil on August 24, 1998,14 who in turn purchased the same from spouses Teofilo Abellera and Abella Sarmen on
January 16, 1997.15 The latter bought the subject lot from Cynthia, Agustin Jr., Jasmin, Omir and Lauro, all surnamed
Cacho, on July 10, 1979.16 The earliest tax declaration which was submitted in evidence was Tax Declaration No.
2560617 issued in 1971 in the names of spouses Agustin Cacho and Eufrosinia Baustista. While tax declarations are
not conclusive proof of ownership, they constitute good indicia of possession in the concept of owner and a claim of
title over the subject property.18 Even if we were to tack petitioners claim of ownership over the subject lot to that of
their alleged predecessors-in-interest, spouses Agustin Cacho and Eufrosinia Baustista in 1971, still this would fall
short of the required possession from June 12, 1945 or earlier.
1avvphi1

Further, as correctly pointed by the Court of Appeals, possession alone is not sufficient to acquire title to alienable
lands of the public domain because the law requires possession and occupation. As held in Republic v. Alconaba:19
The law speaks of possession and occupation. Since these words are separated by the conjunction and, the clear
intention of the law is not to make one synonymous with the other. Possession is broader than occupation because it
includes constructive possession. When, therefore, the law adds the word occupation, it seeks to delimit the all
encompassing effect of constructive possession. Taken together with the words open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious, the word occupation serves to highlight the fact that for an applicant to qualify, his possession must not be
a mere fiction. Actual possession of a land consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such a nature as
a party would naturally exercise over his own property.20
Petitioner admitted that after he and his brothers bought the subject lot from spouses Tony Bautista and Alicia Villamil
in 1998, neither he nor his brothers actually occupied the subject lot.21 No improvements were made thereon and the
most that they did was to visit the lot on several occasions.22 Petitioners predecessor-in-interest, Tony Bautista
testified that he and his wife never actually occupied the subject lot from the time they bought the same from spouses
Teofilo Abellera and Abella Sarmen in 1997.23 Aside from these two testimonies, no other evidence was presented to
establish the character of the possession of the subject lot by petitioners other alleged predecessors-in-interest.
Clearly, petitioners evidence failed to establish specific acts of ownership to substantiate the claim that he and his
predecessors-in-interest possessed and occupied the subject lot in the nature and duration required by law.
The burden of proof in land registration cases rests on the applicant who must show by clear, positive and convincing
evidence that his alleged possession and occupation of the land is of the nature and duration required by
law.24 Unfortunately, petitioners evidence do not constitute the "well-nigh incontrovertible" evidence necessary in
cases of this nature.25 Accordingly, the Court of Appeals did not err in reversing the Decision of the trial court and in
denying his application for registration of title over the subject lot.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is DENIED. The April 25, 2006 Decision of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G.R. CV No. 76085 which reversed and set aside the January 16, 2002 Decision of the Municipal Trial Court of
Mangaldan, Pangasinan in Land Registration Case No. 99-023, and the November 20, 2006 Resolution denying the
motion for reconsideration, are AFFIRMED.
Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.