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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. 173423

March 5, 2014

SPS. ANTONIO FORTUNA and ERLINDA FORTUNA, Petitioners,


vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
DECISION
BRION, J.:
Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari1 filed by the petitioners,
spouses Antonio and Erlinda Fortuna, assailing the decision dated May 16,
20052 and the resolution dated June 27, 20063 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in
CA-G.R. CV No. 71143. The CA reversed and set aside the decision dated May
7, 20014 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Fernando, La Union, Branch
66, in Land Registration Case (LRC) No. 2372.
THE BACKGROUND FACTS
In December 1994, the spouses Fortuna filed an application for registration
of a 2,597-square meter land identified as Lot No. 4457, situated in Bo.
Canaoay, San Fernando, La Union. The application was filed with the RTC and
docketed as LRC No. 2372.
The spouses Fortuna stated that Lot No. 4457 was originally owned by
Pastora Vendiola, upon whose death was succeeded by her children,
Clemente and Emeteria Nones. Through an affidavit of adjudication dated
August 3, 1972, Emeteria renounced all her interest in Lot No. 4457 in favor
of Clemente. Clemente later sold the lot in favor of Rodolfo Cuenca on May
23, 1975. Rodolfo sold the same lot to the spouses Fortuna through a deed of
absolute sale dated May 4, 1984.
The spouses Fortuna claimed that they, through themselves and their
predecessors-in-interest, have been in quiet, peaceful, adverse and
uninterrupted possession of Lot No. 4457 for more than 50 years, and
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submitted as evidence the lots survey plan, technical description, and


certificate of assessment.
Although the respondent, Republic of the Philippines (Republic), opposed the
application,5 it did not present any evidence in support of its opposition.
Since no private opposition to the registration was filed, the RTC issued an
order of general default on November 11, 1996 against the whole world,
except the Republic.6
In its Decision dated May 7, 2001,7 the RTC granted the application for
registration in favor of the spouses Fortuna. The RTC declared that "[the
spouses Fortuna] have established [their] possession, including that of their
predecessors-in-interest of the land sought to be registered, has been open,
continuous, peaceful, adverse against the whole world and in the concept of
an owner since 1948, or for a period of over fifty (50) years."8
The Republic appealed the RTC decision with the CA, arguing that the
spouses Fortuna did not present an official proclamation from the
government that the lot has been classified as alienable and disposable
agricultural land. It also claimed that the spouses Fortunas evidence Tax
Declaration No. 8366 showed that possession over the lot dates back only
to 1948, thus, failing to meet the June 12, 1945 cut-off period provided under
Section 14(1) of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1529 or the Property
Registration Decree (PRD).
In its decision dated May 16, 2005,9 the CA reversed and set aside the RTC
decision. Although it found that the spouses Fortuna were able to establish
the alienable and disposable nature of the land,10 they failed to show that
they complied with the length of possession that the law requires, i.e., since
June 12, 1945. It agreed with the Republics argument that Tax Declaration
No. 8366 only showed that the spouses Fortunas predecessor-in-interest,
Pastora, proved that she had been in possession of the land only since 1948.
The CA denied the spouses Fortunas motion for reconsideration of its
decision in its resolution dated June 27, 2006.11
THE PARTIES ARGUMENTS
Through the present petition, the spouses Fortuna seek a review of the CA
rulings.

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They contend that the applicable law is Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act
No. 141 or the Public Land Act (PLA), as amended by Republic Act (RA) No.
1942. RA No. 1942 amended the PLA by requiring 30 years of open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession to acquire imperfect title
over an agricultural land of the public domain. This 30-year period, however,
was removed by PD No. 1073 and instead required that the possession
should be since June 12, 1945. The amendment introduced by PD No. 1073
was carried in Section 14(1) of the PRD.12
The spouses Fortuna point out that PD No. 1073 was issued on January 25,
1977 and published on May 9, 1977; and the PRD was issued on June 11,
1978 and published on January 2, 1979. On the basis of the Courts ruling in
Taada, et al. v. Hon. Tuvera, etc., et al.,13 they allege that PD No. 1073 and
the PRD should be deemed effective only on May 24, 1977 and January 17,
1979, respectively. By these dates, they claim to have already satisfied the
30-year requirement under the RA No. 1942 amendment because Pastoras
possession dates back, at the latest, to 1947.
They allege that although Tax Declaration No. 8366 was made in 1948, this
does not contradict that fact that Pastora possessed Lot No. 4457 before
1948. The failure to present documentary evidence proving possession
earlier than 1948 was explained by Filma Salazar, Records Officer of the
Provincial Assessors Office, who testified that the records were lost beyond
recovery due to the outbreak of World War II.
Notwithstanding the absence of documents executed earlier than 1948, the
spouses Fortuna contend that evidence exists indicating that Pastora
possessed the lot even before 1948. First, Tax Declaration No. 8366 does not
contain a statement that it is a new tax declaration. Second, the annotation
found at the back of Tax Declaration No. 8366 states that "this declaration
cancels Tax Nos. 10543[.]"14 Since Tax Declaration No. 8366 was issued in
1948, the cancelled Tax Declaration No. 10543 was issued, at the latest, in
1947, indicating that there was already an owner and possessor of the lot
before 1948. Third, they rely on the testimony of one Macaria Flores in LRC
No. 2373. LRC No. 2373 was also commenced by the spouses Fortuna to
register Lot Nos. 4462, 27066, and 27098,15 which were also originally owned
by Pastora and are adjacent to the subject Lot No. 4457. Macaria testified
that she was born in 1926 and resided in a place a few meters from the three
lots. She stated that she regularly passed by these lots on her way to school
since 1938. She knew the property was owned by Pastora because the
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latters family had constructed a house and planted fruit-bearing trees


thereon; they also cleaned the area. On the basis of Macarias testimony and
the other evidence presented in LRC No. 2373, the RTC granted the spouses
Fortunas application for registration of Lot Nos. 4462, 27066, and 27098 in
its decision of January 3, 2005.16 The RTCs decision has lapsed into finality
unappealed.
The spouses Fortuna claim that Macarias testimony in LRC No. 2373 should
be considered to prove Pastoras possession prior to 1948. Although LRC No.
2373 is a separate registration proceeding, it pertained to lots adjacent to
the subject property, Lot No. 4457, and belonged to the same predecessorin-interest. Explaining their failure to present Macaria in the proceedings
before the RTC in LRC No. 2372, the spouses Fortuna said "it was only after
the reception of evidence x x x that [they] were able to trace and establish
the identity and competency of Macaria[.]"17
Commenting on the spouses Fortunas petition, the Republic relied mostly on
the CAs ruling which denied the registration of title and prayed for the
dismissal of the petition.
THE COURTS RULING
We deny the petition for failure of the spouses Fortuna to sufficiently prove
their compliance with the requisites for the acquisition of title to alienable
lands of the public domain.
The nature of Lot No. 4457 as alienable and
disposable public land has not been sufficiently
established
The Constitution declares that all lands of the public domain are owned by
the State.18 Of the four classes of public land, i.e., agricultural lands, forest or
timber lands, mineral lands, and national parks, only agricultural lands may
be alienated.19 Public land that has not been classified as alienable
agricultural land remains part of the inalienable public domain. Thus, it is
essential for any applicant for registration of title to land derived through a
public grant to establish foremost the alienable and disposable nature of the
land. The PLA provisions on the grant and disposition of alienable public
lands, specifically, Sections 11 and 48(b), will find application only from the
time that a public land has been classified as agricultural and declared as
alienable and disposable.
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Under Section 6 of the PLA,20 the classification and the reclassification of


public lands are the prerogative of the Executive Department. The President,
through a presidential proclamation or executive order, can classify or
reclassify a land to be included or excluded from the public domain. The
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary is
likewise empowered by law to approve a land classification and declare such
land as alienable and disposable.21
Accordingly, jurisprudence has required that an applicant for registration of
title acquired through a public land grant must present incontrovertible
evidence that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable by
establishing 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, the CA declared that the alienable nature of the land was
established by the notation in the survey plan,22 which states:
This survey is inside alienable and disposable area as per Project No. 13 L.C.
Map No. 1395 certified August 7, 1940. It is outside any civil or military
reservation.23
It also relied on the Certification dated July 19, 1999 from the DENR
Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) that "there
is, per record, neither any public land application filed nor title previously
issued for the subject parcel[.]"24 However, we find that neither of the above
documents is evidence of a positive act from the government reclassifying
the lot as alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain.
Mere notations appearing in survey plans are inadequate proof of the
covered properties alienable and disposable character.25 These notations, at
the very least, only establish that the land subject of the application for
registration falls within the approved alienable and disposable area per
verification through survey by the proper government office. The applicant,
however, must also present a copy of the original classification of the land
into alienable and disposable land, as declared by the DENR Secretary or as
proclaimed by the President.26 In Republic v. Heirs of Juan Fabio,27 the Court
ruled that [t]he applicant for land registration must prove that the DENR
Secretary had approved the land classification and released the land of the
public domain as alienable and disposable, and that the land subject of the
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application for registration falls within the approved area per verification
through survey by the PENRO28 or CENRO. In addition, the applicant must
present a copy of the original classification of the land into alienable and
disposable, as declared by the DENR Secretary, or as proclaimed by the
President.
The survey plan and the DENR-CENRO certification are not proof that the
President or the DENR Secretary has reclassified and released the public land
as alienable and disposable. The offices that prepared these documents are
not the official repositories or legal custodian of the issuances of the
President or the DENR Secretary declaring the public land as alienable and
disposable.29
For failure to present incontrovertible evidence that Lot No. 4457 has been
reclassified as alienable and disposable land of the public domain though a
positive act of the Executive Department, the spouses Fortunas claim of title
through a public land grant under the PLA should be denied.
In judicial confirmation of imperfect
or incomplete title, the period of
possession should commence, at the
latest, as of May 9, 1947
Although the above finding that the spouses Fortuna failed to establish the
alienable and disposable character of Lot No. 4457 serves as sufficient
ground to deny the petition and terminate the case, we deem it proper to
continue to address the other important legal issues raised in the petition.
As mentioned, the PLA is the law that governs the grant and disposition of
alienable agricultural lands. Under Section 11 of the PLA, alienable lands of
the public domain may be disposed of, among others, by judicial
confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title. This mode of acquisition of title
is governed by Section 48(b) of the PLA, the original version of which states:
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:
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xxxx
(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, except as against the Government, since July
twenty-sixth, eighteen hundred and ninety- four, 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]
On June 22, 1957, the cut-off date of July 26, 1894 was replaced by a 30-year
period of possession under RA No. 1942. Section 48(b) of the PLA, as
amended by RA No. 1942, read:
(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. [emphasis and underscore ours]
On January 25, 1977, PD No. 1073 replaced the 30-year period of possession
by requiring possession since June 12, 1945. Section 4 of PD No. 1073 reads:
SEC. 4. The provisions of Section 48(b) and Section 48(c), Chapter VIII of the
Public Land Act are hereby amended in the sense that these provisions shall
apply only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain which have
been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation
by the applicant himself or thru his predecessor-in-interest, under a bona fide
claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945. [emphasis supplied]
Under the PD No. 1073 amendment, possession of at least 32 years from
1945 up to its enactment in 1977 is required. This effectively impairs the
vested rights of applicants who had complied with the 30-year possession
required under the RA No. 1942 amendment, but whose possession
commenced only after the cut-off date of June 12, 1945 was established by
the PD No. 1073 amendment. To remedy this, the Court ruled in Abejaron v.
Nabasa30 that "Filipino citizens who by themselves or their predecessors-ininterest have been, prior to the effectivity of P.D. 1073 on January 25, 1977,
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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 30 years, or at least since January 24, 1947 may
apply for judicial confirmation of their imperfect or incomplete title under
Sec. 48(b) of the [PLA]." January 24, 1947 was considered as the cut-off date
as this was exactly 30 years counted backward from January 25, 1977 the
effectivity date of PD No. 1073.
It appears, however, that January 25, 1977 was the date PD No. 1073 was
enacted; based on the certification from the National Printing Office,31 PD No.
1073 was published in Vol. 73, No. 19 of the Official Gazette, months later
than its enactment or on May 9, 1977. This uncontroverted fact materially
affects the cut-off date for applications for judicial confirmation of incomplete
title under Section 48(b) of the PLA.
Although Section 6 of PD No. 1073 states that "[the] Decree shall take effect
upon its promulgation," the Court has declared in Taada, et al. v. Hon.
Tuvera, etc., et al.32 that the publication of laws is an indispensable
requirement for its effectivity. "[A]ll statutes, including those of local
application and private laws, shall be published as a condition for their
effectivity, which shall begin fifteen days after publication unless a different
effectivity date is fixed by the legislature."33 Accordingly, Section 6 of PD No.
1073 should be understood to mean that the decree took effect only upon its
publication, or on May 9, 1977. This, therefore, moves the cut-off date for
applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under
Section 48(b) of the PLA to May 8, 1947. In other words, applicants must
prove that they 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 30 years, or at least
since May 8, 1947.
The spouses Fortuna were unable to prove
that they possessed Lot No. 4457 since May 8, 1947
Even if the Court assumes that Lot No. 4457 is an alienable and disposable
agricultural land of the public domain, the spouses Fortunas application for
registration of title would still not prosper for failure to sufficiently prove that
they possessed the land since May 8, 1947.
The spouses Fortunas allegation that: (1) the absence of a notation that Tax
Declaration No. 8366 was a new tax declaration and (2) the notation stating
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that Tax Declaration No. 8366 cancels the earlier Tax Declaration No. 10543
both indicate that Pastora possessed the land prior to 1948 or, at the
earliest, in 1947. We also observe that Tax Declaration No. 8366 contains a
sworn statement of the owner that was subscribed on October 23,
1947.34 While these circumstances may indeed indicate possession as of
1947, none proves that it commenced as of the cut-off date of May 8, 1947.
Even if the tax declaration indicates possession since 1947, it does not show
the nature of Pastoras possession. Notably, Section 48(b) of the PLA 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."35 Nothing in
Tax Declaration No. 8366 shows that Pastora exercised acts of possession
and occupation such as cultivation of or fencing off the land. Indeed, the lot
was described as "cogonal."36
The spouses Fortuna seeks to remedy the defects of Tax Declaration No.
8366 by relying on Macarias testimony in a separate land registration
proceeding, LRC No. 2373. Macaria alleged that she passed by Pastoras lots
on her way to school, and she saw Pastoras family construct a house, plant
fruit-bearing trees, and clean the area. However, the Court is not convinced
that Macarias testimony constituted as the "well-nigh incontrovertible
evidence" required in cases of this nature.
The records disclose that the spouses Fortuna acquired adjoining parcels of
land, all of which are claimed to have previously belonged to Pastora. These
parcels of land were covered by three separate applications for registration,
to wit:
a. LRC No. N-1278, involving Lot Nos. 1 and 2, with a total area of
2,961 sq. m., commenced by Emeteria;
b. LRC No. 2373, involving Lot Nos. 4462, 27066, and 27098, with a
total area of 4,006 sq. m., commenced by the spouses Fortuna; and
c. LRC No. 2372 (the subject case), involving Lot No. 4457, with a total
area of 2,597 sq. m.
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As these cases involved different but adjoining lots that belonged to the
same predecessor-in-interest, the spouses Fortuna alleged that the final
rulings in LRC Nos. N-1278 and 2373,37 upholding Pastoras ownership, be
taken into account in resolving the present case.
Notably, the total land area of the adjoining lots that are claimed to have
previously belonged to Pastora is 9,564 sq. m. This is too big an area for the
Court to consider that Pastoras claimed acts of possession and occupation
(as testified to by Macaria) encompassed the entirety of the lots. Given the
size of the lots, it is unlikely that Macaria (age 21 in 1947) could competently
assess and declare that its entirety belonged to Pastora because she saw
acts of possession and occupation in what must have been but a limited
area. As mentioned, Tax Declaration No. 8366 described Lot No. 4457 as
"cogonal," thus, Macaria could not have also been referring to Lot No. 4457
when she said that Pastora planted fruit-bearing trees on her properties.
The lower courts' final rulings in LRC Nos. N-1278 and 2373, upholding
Pastora's possession, do not tie this Court's hands into ruling in favor of the
spouses Fortuna. Much to our dismay, the rulings in LRC Nos. N-1278 and
2373 do not even show that the lots have been officially reclassified as
alienable lands of the public domain or that the nature and duration of
Pastora's occupation met the requirements of the PLA, thus, failing to
convince us to either disregard the rules of evidence or consider their merits.
In this regard, we reiterate our directive in Santiago v. De las Santos:38
Both under the 193 5 and the present Constitutions, the conservation no less
than the utilization of the natural resources is ordained. There would be a
failure to abide by its command if the judiciary does not scrutinize with care
applications to private ownership of real estate. To be granted, they must be
grounded in well-nigh incontrovertible evidence. Where, as in this case, no
such proof would be forthcoming, there is no justification for viewing such
claim with favor. It is a basic assumption of our polity that lands of whatever
classification belong to the state. Unless alienated in accordance with law, it
retains its rights over the same as do minus.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The decision dated May 16, 2005 and
the resolution dated June 27, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No.
71143 are AFFIRMED insofar as these dismissed the spouses Antonio and
Erlinda Fortuna's application of registration of title on the basis of the
grounds discussed above. Costs against the spouses Fortuna.
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SO ORDERED.
FACTS:
In December 1994, spouses Fortuna filed an application for registration of a
parcel of land located in San Fernando, La Union. They claimed that the land
was originally owned by Pastora Vendiola, upon whose death was succeeded
by her heirs who later on sold the subject land to Sps. Fortuna in 1984. Sps.
Fortuna claimed that they, through themselves and their predecessors -ininterest, have beenin quiet, peaceful, adverse and uninterrupted possession
of Lot No. 4457 for more than 50 years, and submitted as evidence the lots
survey plan, technical description, and certificate of assessment. Republic of
the Philippines opposed the application.
The trial court granted the application for registration. The Republic appealed
to the CA arguing that there is no official proclamation from the government
that the land has been classified as alienable and disposable agricultural
land. The CA reversed the RTC decision for failure to comply with the length
of possession that the law requires.
ISSUE: Whether or not the Sps. Fortuna has complied with the requisites for
acquisition of title to alienable lands of public domain.
HELD: No. CA decision affirmed
Civil Law: There must be a positive act from the government
reclassifying the lot as alienable and disposable agricultural land of
the public domain
Jurisprudence has required that an applicant for registration of title acquired
through a public land grant must present incontrovertible evidence that the
land subject of the application is alienable or disposable by establishing the
existence of apositive 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.
Petitioners rely on the notation in the survey plan stating the land is
alienable and disposable. They likewise argue that the certification from the
DENR that there is, per record, neither any public land application filed nor
title previously issued for the subject parcel. However, neither of these
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documents is evidence is a positive act from the government reclassifying


the lot as alienable and disposable agricultural land of the public domain.
Mere notations appearing in survey plans are inadequate proof of the
covered properties alienable and disposable character. These notations, at
the very least, only establish that the land subject of the application for
registration falls within the approved alienable and disposable area per
verification through survey by the proper government office.The applicant,
however, must also present a copy of the original classification of the land
into alienable and disposable land, as declared by the DENR Secretary or as
proclaimed by the President. The survey plan and the DENR-CENRO
certification are not proof that the President or the DENR Secretary has
reclassified and released the public land as alienable and disposable. The
offices that prepared these documents arenot the official repositories or
legal custodian of the issuances of the President or the DENR Secretary
declaring the public land as alienable and disposable.
Civil Law: in judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title,
the period of possession should commence, at the latest, as of May
9, 1947
PD 1073 was enacted on January 25, 1977 but it was published months later
than its enactment. Following the ruling of the court in Tanada v. Tuvera, PD
1073 took effect 15 days after its publication, the cut-off date for
applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title is May 8,
1947. In other words,applicants must prove that they 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 30 years, or at least since May 8, 1947.
In the present case, the spouses were unable to prove that they possessed
the lot since May 8, 1947. So even if the lot in question is to be considered as
alienable and disposable, the application for registration will still not prosper
for failing to sufficiently prove possession since May 8, 1947.

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Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. 167707

October 8, 2008

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THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND


NATURAL RESOURCES, THE REGIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DENRREGION VI, REGIONAL TECHNICAL DIRECTOR FOR LANDS, LANDS
MANAGEMENT BUREAU, REGION VI PROVINCIAL ENVIRONMENT AND
NATURAL RESOURCES OFFICER OF KALIBO, AKLAN, REGISTER OF
DEEDS, DIRECTOR OF LAND REGISTRATION AUTHORITY, DEPARTMENT
OF TOURISM SECRETARY, DIRECTOR OF PHILIPPINE TOURISM
AUTHORITY, petitioners,
vs.
MAYOR JOSE S. YAP, LIBERTAD TALAPIAN, MILA Y. SUMNDAD, and
ANICETO YAP, in their behalf and in behalf of all those similarly
situated, respondents.
x--------------------------------------------------x
G.R. No. G.R. No. 173775

October 8, 2008

DR. ORLANDO SACAY and WILFREDO GELITO, joined by THE


LANDOWNERS OF BORACAY SIMILARLY SITUATED NAMED IN A LIST,
ANNEX "A" OF THIS PETITION, petitioners,
vs.
THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND
NATURAL RESOURCES, THE REGIONAL TECHNICAL DIRECTOR FOR
LANDS, LANDS MANAGEMENT BUREAU, REGION VI, PROVINCIAL
ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES OFFICER, KALIBO,
AKLAN, respondents.
DECISION
REYES, R.T., J.:
AT stake in these consolidated cases is the right of the present occupants of
Boracay Island to secure titles over their occupied lands.
There are two consolidated petitions. The first is G.R. No. 167707, a petition
for review on certiorari of the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming
that2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Kalibo, Aklan, which granted the
petition for declaratory relief filed by respondents-claimants Mayor Jose
Yap, et al. and ordered the survey of Boracay for titling purposes. The second
is G.R. No. 173775, a petition for prohibition, mandamus, and nullification of
Proclamation No. 10645">[3] issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
classifying Boracay into reserved forest and agricultural land.
The Antecedents
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G.R. No. 167707


Boracay Island in the Municipality of Malay, Aklan, with its powdery white
sand beaches and warm crystalline waters, is reputedly a premier Philippine
tourist destination. The island is also home to 12,003 inhabitants4 who live in
the bone-shaped islands three barangays.5
On April 14, 1976, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
(DENR) approved the National Reservation Survey of Boracay
Island,6 which identified several lots as being occupied or claimed by named
persons.7
On November 10, 1978, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued
Proclamation No. 18018 declaring Boracay Island, among other islands,
caves and peninsulas in the Philippines, as tourist zones and marine
reservesunder the administration of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA).
President Marcos later approved the issuance of PTA Circular 3-829 dated
September 3, 1982, to implement Proclamation No. 1801.
Claiming that Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No 3-82 precluded
them from filing an application for judicial confirmation of imperfect title or
survey of land for titling purposes, respondents-claimants
Mayor Jose S. Yap, Jr., Libertad Talapian, Mila Y. Sumndad, and Aniceto Yap
filed a petition for declaratory relief with the RTC in Kalibo, Aklan.
In their petition, respondents-claimants alleged that Proclamation No. 1801
and PTA Circular No. 3-82 raised doubts on their right to secure titles over
their occupied lands. They declared that they themselves, or through their
predecessors-in-interest, had been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation in Boracay since June 12, 1945, or
earlier since time immemorial. They declared their lands for tax purposes
and paid realty taxes on them.10
Respondents-claimants posited that Proclamation No. 1801 and its
implementing Circular did not place Boracay beyond the commerce of man.
Since the Island was classified as a tourist zone, it was susceptible of private
ownership. Under Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act (CA) No. 141,
otherwise known as the Public Land Act, they had the right to have the lots
registered in their names through judicial confirmation of imperfect titles.
The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the
petition for declaratory relief. The OSG countered that Boracay Island was
an unclassified land of the public domain. It formed part of the mass of
lands classified as "public forest," which was not available for disposition
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pursuant to Section 3(a) of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 705 or the Revised
Forestry Code,11 as amended.
The OSG maintained that respondents-claimants reliance on PD No. 1801
and PTA Circular No. 3-82 was misplaced. Their right to judicial confirmation
of title was governed by CA No. 141 and PD No. 705. Since Boracay Island
had not been classified as alienable and disposable, whatever possession
they had cannot ripen into ownership.
During pre-trial, respondents-claimants and the OSG stipulated on the
following facts: (1) respondents-claimants were presently in possession of
parcels of land in Boracay Island; (2) these parcels of land were planted with
coconut trees and other natural growing trees; (3) the coconut trees had
heights of more or less twenty (20) meters and were planted more or less
fifty (50) years ago; and (4) respondents-claimants declared the land they
were occupying for tax purposes.12
The parties also agreed that the principal issue for resolution was purely
legal: whether Proclamation No. 1801 posed any legal hindrance or
impediment to the titling of the lands in Boracay. They decided to forego with
the trial and to submit the case for resolution upon submission of their
respective memoranda.13
The RTC took judicial notice14 that certain parcels of land in Boracay Island,
more particularly Lots 1 and 30, Plan PSU-5344, were covered by Original
Certificate of Title No. 19502 (RO 2222) in the name of the Heirs of Ciriaco S.
Tirol. These lots were involved in Civil Case Nos. 5222 and 5262 filed before
the RTC of Kalibo, Aklan.15 The titles were issued on
August 7, 1933.16
RTC and CA Dispositions
On July 14, 1999, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of respondentsclaimants, with a fallo reading:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court declares that Proclamation
No. 1801 and PTA Circular No. 3-82 pose no legal obstacle to the petitioners
and those similarly situated to acquire title to their lands in Boracay, in
accordance with the applicable laws and in the manner prescribed therein;
and to have their lands surveyed and approved by respondent Regional
Technical Director of Lands as the approved survey does not in itself
constitute a title to the land.
SO ORDERED.17
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The RTC upheld respondents-claimants right to have their occupied lands


titled in their name. It ruled that neither Proclamation No. 1801 nor PTA
Circular No. 3-82 mentioned that lands in Boracay were inalienable or could
not be the subject of disposition.18 The Circular itself recognized private
ownership of lands.19 The trial court cited Sections 8720 and 5321 of the Public
Land Act as basis for acknowledging private ownership of lands in Boracay
and that only those forested areas in public lands were declared as part of
the forest reserve.22
The OSG moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied.23 The
Republic then appealed to the CA.
On December 9, 2004, the appellate court affirmed in toto the RTC decision,
disposing as follows:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is hereby rendered
by us DENYING the appeal filed in this case and AFFIRMING the decision of
the lower court.24
The CA held that respondents-claimants could not be prejudiced by a
declaration that the lands they occupied since time immemorial were part of
a forest reserve.
Again, the OSG sought reconsideration but it was similarly denied.25 Hence,
the present petition under Rule 45.
G.R. No. 173775
On May 22, 2006, during the pendency of G.R. No. 167707, President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 106426 classifying Boracay Island
into four hundred (400) hectares of reserved forest land (protection
purposes) and six hundred twenty-eight and 96/100 (628.96) hectares of
agricultural land (alienable and disposable). The Proclamation likewise
provided for a fifteen-meter buffer zone on each side of the centerline of
roads and trails, reserved for right-of-way and which shall form part of the
area reserved for forest land protection purposes.
On August 10, 2006, petitioners-claimants Dr. Orlando Sacay,27 Wilfredo
Gelito,28 and other landowners29 in Boracay filed with this Court an original
petition for prohibition, mandamus, and nullification of Proclamation No.
1064.30 They allege that the Proclamation infringed on their "prior vested
rights" over portions of Boracay. They have been in continued possession of
their respective lots in Boracay since time immemorial. They have also
invested billions of pesos in developing their lands and building
internationally renowned first class resorts on their lots.31
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Petitioners-claimants contended that there is no need for a proclamation


reclassifying Boracay into agricultural land. Being classified as neither
mineral nor timber land, the island is deemed agricultural pursuant to the
Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926, known as the first Public Land
Act.32 Thus, their possession in the concept of owner for the required period
entitled them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title.
Opposing the petition, the OSG argued that petitioners-claimants do not
have a vested right over their occupied portions in the island. Boracay is an
unclassified public forest land pursuant to Section 3(a) of PD No. 705. Being
public forest, the claimed portions of the island are inalienable and cannot be
the subject of judicial confirmation of imperfect title. It is only the executive
department, not the courts, which has authority to reclassify lands of the
public domain into alienable and disposable lands. There is a need for a
positive government act in order to release the lots for disposition.
On November 21, 2006, this Court ordered the consolidation of the two
petitions as they principally involve the same issues on the land classification
of Boracay Island.33
Issues
G.R. No. 167707
The OSG raises the lone issue of whether Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA
Circular No. 3-82 pose any legal obstacle for respondents, and all those
similarly situated, to acquire title to their occupied lands in Boracay Island. 34
G.R. No. 173775
Petitioners-claimants hoist five (5) issues, namely:
I.
AT THE TIME OF THE ESTABLISHED POSSESSION OF PETITIONERS IN
CONCEPT OF OWNER OVER THEIR RESPECTIVE AREAS IN BORACAY, SINCE
TIME IMMEMORIAL OR AT THE LATEST SINCE 30 YRS. PRIOR TO THE FILING
OF THE PETITION FOR DECLARATORY RELIEF ON NOV. 19, 1997, WERE THE
AREAS OCCUPIED BY THEM PUBLIC AGRICULTURAL LANDS AS DEFINED BY
LAWS THEN ON JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLES OR PUBLIC
FOREST AS DEFINED BY SEC. 3a, PD 705?
II.
HAVE PETITIONERS OCCUPANTS ACQUIRED PRIOR VESTED RIGHT OF PRIVATE
OWNERSHIPOVER THEIR OCCUPIED PORTIONS OF BORACAY LAND, DESPITE
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THE FACT THAT THEY HAVE NOT APPLIED YET FOR JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION
OF IMPERFECT TITLE?
III.
IS THE EXECUTIVE DECLARATION OF THEIR AREAS AS ALIENABLE AND
DISPOSABLE UNDER SEC 6, CA 141 [AN] INDISPENSABLE PRE-REQUISITE FOR
PETITIONERS TO OBTAIN TITLEUNDER THE TORRENS SYSTEM?
IV.
IS THE ISSUANCE OF PROCLAMATION 1064 ON MAY 22, 2006, VIOLATIVE OF
THE PRIOR VESTED RIGHTS TO PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF PETITIONERS OVER
THEIR LANDS IN BORACAY, PROTECTED BY THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE OF
THE CONSTITUTION OR IS PROCLAMATION 1064 CONTRARY TO SEC. 8, CA
141, OR SEC. 4(a) OF RA 6657.
V.
CAN RESPONDENTS BE COMPELLED BY MANDAMUS TO ALLOW THE SURVEY
AND TO APPROVE THE SURVEY PLANS FOR PURPOSES OF THE APPLICATION
FOR TITLING OF THE LANDS OF PETITIONERS IN BORACAY?35 (Underscoring
supplied)
In capsule, the main issue is whether private claimants (respondentsclaimants in G.R. No. 167707 and petitioners-claimants in G.R. No. 173775)
have a right to secure titles over their occupied portions in Boracay. The twin
petitions pertain to their right, if any, to judicial confirmation of imperfect
title under CA No. 141, as amended. They do not involve their right to secure
title under other pertinent laws.
Our Ruling
Regalian Doctrine and power of the executive
to reclassify lands of the public domain
Private claimants rely on three (3) laws and executive acts in their bid for
judicial confirmation of imperfect title, namely: (a) Philippine Bill of 1902 36 in
relation to Act No. 926, later amended and/or superseded by Act No. 2874
and CA No. 141;37 (b) Proclamation No. 180138 issued by then President
Marcos; and (c) Proclamation No. 106439 issued by President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo. We shall proceed to determine their rights to apply for
judicial confirmation of imperfect title under these laws and executive acts.

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But first, a peek at the Regalian principle and the power of the executive to
reclassify lands of the public domain.
The 1935 Constitution classified lands of the public domain into agricultural,
forest or timber.40 Meanwhile, the 1973 Constitution provided the following
divisions: agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement,
mineral, timber or forest and grazing lands, and such other classes as may
be provided by law,41 giving the government great leeway for
classification.42 Then the 1987 Constitution reverted to the 1935 Constitution
classification with one addition: national parks.43 Of these, only agricultural
lands may be alienated.44 Prior to Proclamation No. 1064 of May 22, 2006,
Boracay Island had never been expressly and administratively classified
under any of these grand divisions. Boracay was an unclassified land of the
public domain.
The Regalian Doctrine dictates that all lands of the public domain belong to
the State, that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of
land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony.45 The doctrine has
been consistently adopted under the 1935, 1973, and 1987 Constitutions.46
All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are
presumed to belong to the State.47Thus, all lands that have not been
acquired from the government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the
State as part of the inalienable public domain.48 Necessarily, it is up to the
State to determine if lands of the public domain will be disposed of for
private ownership. The government, as the agent of the state, is possessed
of the plenary power as the persona in law to determine who shall be the
favored recipients of public lands, as well as under what terms they may be
granted such privilege, not excluding the placing of obstacles in the way of
their exercise of what otherwise would be ordinary acts of ownership.49
Our present land law traces its roots to the Regalian Doctrine. Upon the
Spanish conquest of the Philippines, ownership of all lands, territories and
possessions in the Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown.50 The Regalian
doctrine was first introduced in the Philippines through the Laws of the Indies
and the Royal Cedulas,which laid the foundation that "all lands that were not
acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the
public domain."51
The Laws of the Indies was followed by the Ley Hipotecaria or the Mortgage
Law of 1893. The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic
registration of titles and deeds as well as possessory claims.52
The Royal Decree of 1894 or the Maura Law53 partly amended the Spanish
Mortgage Law and the Laws of the Indies. It established possessory
information as the method of legalizing possession of vacant Crown land,
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under certain conditions which were set forth in said decree.54 Under Section
393 of the Maura Law, an informacion posesoria or possessory information
title,55 when duly inscribed in the Registry of Property, is converted into a
title of ownership only after the lapse of twenty (20) years of uninterrupted
possession which must be actual, public, and adverse,56 from the date of its
inscription.57 However, possessory information title had to be perfected one
year after the promulgation of the Maura Law, or until April 17, 1895.
Otherwise, the lands would revert to the State.58
In sum, private ownership of land under the Spanish regime could only be
founded on royal concessions which took various forms, namely: (1) titulo
real or royal grant; (2) concesion especial or special grant; (3) composicion
con el estado or adjustment title; (4) titulo de compra or title by purchase;
and (5) informacion posesoria or possessory information title.59>
The first law governing the disposition of public lands in the Philippines
under American rule was embodied in the Philippine Bill of 1902.60 By this
law, lands of the public domain in the Philippine Islands were classified into
three (3) grand divisions, to wit: agricultural, mineral, and timber or forest
lands.61 The act provided for, among others, the disposal of mineral lands by
means of absolute grant (freehold system) and by lease (leasehold
system).62 It also provided the definition by exclusion of "agricultural public
lands."63 Interpreting the meaning of "agricultural lands" under the Philippine
Bill of 1902, the Court declared in Mapa v. Insular Government:64
x x x In other words, that the phrase "agricultural land" as used in Act No.
926 means those public lands acquired from Spain which are not
timber or mineral lands. x x x65 (Emphasis Ours)
On February 1, 1903, the Philippine Legislature passed Act
No. 496, otherwise known as the Land Registration Act. The act established
a system of registration by which recorded title becomes absolute,
indefeasible, and imprescriptible. This is known as the Torrens system.66
Concurrently, on October 7, 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Act
No. 926, which was the first Public Land Act. The Act introduced the
homestead system and made provisions for judicial and administrative
confirmation of imperfect titles and for the sale or lease of public lands. It
permitted corporations regardless of the nationality of persons owning the
controlling stock to lease or purchase lands of the public domain.67 Under the
Act, open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of
agricultural lands for the next ten (10) years preceding July 26, 1904 was
sufficient for judicial confirmation of imperfect title.68
On November 29, 1919, Act No. 926 was superseded by Act
No. 2874, otherwise known as the second Public Land Act. This new, more
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comprehensive law limited the exploitation of agricultural lands to Filipinos


and Americans and citizens of other countries which gave Filipinos the same
privileges. For judicial confirmation of title, possession and occupation en
concepto dueo since time immemorial, or since July 26, 1894, was
required.69
After the passage of the 1935 Constitution, CA No. 141 amended Act No.
2874 on December 1, 1936. To this day, CA No. 141, as
amended, remains as the existing general law governing the classification
and disposition of lands of the public domain other than timber and mineral
lands,70 and privately owned lands which reverted to the State.71
Section 48(b) of CA No. 141 retained the requirement under Act No. 2874 of
possession and occupation of lands of the public domain since time
immemorial or since July 26, 1894. However, this provision was superseded
by Republic Act (RA) No. 1942,72 which provided for a simple thirty-year
prescriptive period for judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The provision
was last amended by PD No. 1073,73 which now provides for possession and
occupation of the land applied for since June 12, 1945, or earlier.74
The issuance of PD No. 89275 on February 16, 1976 discontinued the use of
Spanish titles as evidence in land registration proceedings.76 Under the
decree, all holders of Spanish titles or grants should apply for registration of
their lands under Act No. 496 within six (6) months from the effectivity of the
decree on February 16, 1976. Thereafter, the recording of all unregistered
lands77 shall be governed by Section 194 of the Revised Administrative Code,
as amended by Act No. 3344.
On June 11, 1978, Act No. 496 was amended and updated by PD No. 1529,
known as the Property Registration Decree. It was enacted to codify the
various laws relative to registration of property.78 It governs registration of
lands under the Torrens system as well as unregistered lands, including
chattel mortgages.79
A positive act declaring land as alienable and disposable is
required. In keeping with the presumption of State ownership, the Court has
time and again emphasized that there must be a positive act of the
government, such as an official proclamation,80 declassifying inalienable
public land into disposable land for agricultural or other purposes.81 In fact,
Section 8 of CA No. 141 limits alienable or disposable lands only to those
lands which have been "officially delimited and classified."82
The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of the
lands of the public domain is on the person applying for registration (or
claiming ownership), who must prove that the land subject of the application
is alienable or disposable.83 To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible
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evidence must be established that the land subject of the application (or
claim) is alienable or disposable.84 There must still be a positive act declaring
land of the public domain as alienable and disposable. To prove that the land
subject of an application for registration is alienable, the 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.85 The applicant may also secure a certification from the
government that the land claimed to have been possessed for the required
number of years is alienable and disposable.86
In the case at bar, no such proclamation, executive order, administrative
action, report, statute, or certification was presented to the Court. The
records are bereft of evidence showing that, prior to 2006, the portions of
Boracay occupied by private claimants were subject of a government
proclamation that the land is alienable and disposable. Absent such well-nigh
incontrovertible evidence, the Court cannot accept the submission that lands
occupied by private claimants were already open to disposition before 2006.
Matters of land classification or reclassification cannot be assumed. They call
for proof.87
Ankron and De Aldecoa did not make the whole of Boracay Island, or
portions of it, agricultural lands.Private claimants posit that Boracay was
already an agricultural land pursuant to the old cases Ankron v. Government
of the Philippine Islands (1919)88 and De Aldecoa v. The Insular Government
(1909).89 These cases were decided under the provisions of the Philippine Bill
of 1902 and Act No. 926. There is a statement in these old cases that "in the
absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are
agricultural lands until the contrary is shown."90
Private claimants reliance on Ankron and De Aldecoa is misplaced. These
cases did not have the effect of converting the whole of Boracay Island or
portions of it into agricultural lands. It should be stressed that the Philippine
Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926 merely provided the manner through which land
registration courts would classify lands of the public domain. Whether the
land would be classified as timber, mineral, or agricultural depended on
proof presented in each case.
Ankron and De Aldecoa were decided at a time when the President of the
Philippines had no power to classify lands of the public domain into mineral,
timber, and agricultural. At that time, the courts were free to make
corresponding classifications in justiciable cases, or were vested with implicit
power to do so, depending upon the preponderance of the evidence.91 This
was the Courts ruling in Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and
Soterranea Rafols Vda. De Palanca v. Republic,92 in which it stated, through
Justice Adolfo Azcuna, viz.:
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x x x Petitioners furthermore insist that a particular land need not be formally


released by an act of the Executive before it can be deemed open to private
ownership, citing the cases of Ramos v. Director of Lands and Ankron v.
Government of the Philippine Islands.
xxxx
Petitioners reliance upon Ramos v. Director of Lands and Ankron v.
Government is misplaced. These cases were decided under the Philippine Bill
of 1902 and the first Public Land Act No. 926 enacted by the Philippine
Commission on October 7, 1926, under which there was no legal provision
vesting in the Chief Executive or President of the Philippines the power to
classify lands of the public domain into mineral, timber and agricultural so
that the courts then were free to make corresponding classifications in
justiciable cases, or were vested with implicit power to do so, depending
upon the preponderance of the evidence.93
To aid the courts in resolving land registration cases under Act No. 926, it
was then necessary to devise a presumption on land classification. Thus
evolved the dictum in Ankron that "the courts have a right to presume, in the
absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are
agricultural lands until the contrary is shown."94
But We cannot unduly expand the presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa to
an argument that all lands of the public domain had been automatically
reclassified as disposable and alienable agricultural lands. By no stretch of
imagination did the presumption convert all lands of the public domain into
agricultural lands.
If We accept the position of private claimants, the Philippine Bill of 1902 and
Act No. 926 would have automatically made all lands in the Philippines,
except those already classified as timber or mineral land, alienable and
disposable lands. That would take these lands out of State ownership and
worse, would be utterly inconsistent with and totally repugnant to the longentrenched Regalian doctrine.
The presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa attaches only to land registration
cases brought under the provisions of Act No. 926, or more specifically those
cases dealing with judicial and administrative confirmation of imperfect
titles. The presumption applies to an applicant for judicial or administrative
conformation of imperfect title under Act No. 926. It certainly cannot apply to
landowners, such as private claimants or their predecessors-in-interest, who
failed to avail themselves of the benefits of Act No. 926. As to them, their
land remained unclassified and, by virtue of the Regalian doctrine, continued
to be owned by the State.
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In any case, the assumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa was not absolute.
Land classification was, in the end, dependent on proof. If there was proof
that the land was better suited for non-agricultural uses, the courts could
adjudge it as a mineral or timber land despite the presumption.
In Ankron, this Court stated:
In the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry (supra), the Attorney-General
admitted in effect that whether the particular land in question belongs to one
class or another is a question of fact. The mere fact that a tract of land has
trees upon it or has mineral within it is not of itself sufficient to declare that
one is forestry land and the other, mineral land. There must be some proof of
the extent and present or future value of the forestry and of the minerals.
While, as we have just said, many definitions have been given for
"agriculture," "forestry," and "mineral" lands, and that in each case it is a
question of fact, we think it is safe to say that in order to be forestry or
mineral land the proof must show that it is more valuable for the forestry or
the mineral which it contains than it is for agricultural purposes. (Sec. 7, Act
No. 1148.) It is not sufficient to show that there exists some trees upon the
land or that it bears some mineral. Land may be classified as forestry or
mineral today, and, by reason of the exhaustion of the timber or mineral, be
classified as agricultural land tomorrow. And vice-versa, by reason of the
rapid growth of timber or the discovery of valuable minerals, lands classified
as agricultural today may be differently classified tomorrow. Each case
must be decided upon the proof in that particular case, having
regard for its present or future value for one or the other
purposes. We believe, however, considering the fact that it is a matter of
public knowledge that a majority of the lands in the Philippine Islands are
agricultural lands that the courts have a right to presume, in the absence of
evidence to the contrary, that in each case the lands are agricultural lands
until the contrary is shown. Whatever the land involved in a particular
land registration case is forestry or mineral land must, therefore, be
a matter of proof. Its superior value for one purpose or the other is
a question of fact to be settled by the proof in each particular
case. The fact that the land is a manglar [mangrove swamp] is not sufficient
for the courts to decide whether it is agricultural, forestry, or mineral land. It
may perchance belong to one or the other of said classes of land. The
Government, in the first instance, under the provisions of Act No. 1148, may,
by reservation, decide for itself what portions of public land shall be
considered forestry land, unless private interests have intervened before
such reservation is made. In the latter case, whether the land is agricultural,
forestry, or mineral, is a question of proof. Until private interests have
intervened, the Government, by virtue of the terms of said Act (No. 1148),
may decide for itself what portions of the "public domain" shall be set aside
and reserved as forestry or mineral land. (Ramos vs. Director of Lands, 39
Phil. 175; Jocson vs. Director of Forestry, supra)95 (Emphasis ours)
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Since 1919, courts were no longer free to determine the classification of


lands from the facts of each case, except those that have already became
private lands.96 Act No. 2874, promulgated in 1919 and reproduced in
Section 6 of CA No. 141, gave the Executive Department, through the
President, the exclusive prerogative to classify or reclassify public lands into
alienable or disposable, mineral or forest.96-a Since then, courts no longer had
the authority, whether express or implied, to determine the classification of
lands of the public domain.97
Here, private claimants, unlike the Heirs of Ciriaco Tirol who were issued their
title in 1933,98 did not present a justiciable case for determination by the
land registration court of the propertys land classification. Simply put, there
was no opportunity for the courts then to resolve if the land the Boracay
occupants are now claiming were agricultural lands. When Act No. 926 was
supplanted by Act No. 2874 in 1919, without an application for judicial
confirmation having been filed by private claimants or their predecessors-ininterest, the courts were no longer authorized to determine the propertys
land classification. Hence, private claimants cannot bank on Act No. 926.
We note that the RTC decision99 in G.R. No. 167707 mentioned Krivenko v.
Register of Deeds of Manila,100 which was decided in 1947 when CA No. 141,
vesting the Executive with the sole power to classify lands of the public
domain was already in effect. Krivenko cited the old cases Mapa v. Insular
Government,101 De Aldecoa v. The Insular Government,102 and Ankron v.
Government of the Philippine Islands.103
Krivenko, however, is not controlling here because it involved a totally
different issue. The pertinent issue inKrivenko was whether residential lots
were included in the general classification of agricultural lands; and if so,
whether an alien could acquire a residential lot. This Court ruled that as an
alien, Krivenko was prohibited by the 1935 Constitution104 from acquiring
agricultural land, which included residential lots. Here, the issue is whether
unclassified lands of the public domain are automatically deemed
agricultural.
Notably, the definition of "agricultural public lands" mentioned
in Krivenko relied on the old cases decided prior to the enactment of Act No.
2874, including Ankron and De Aldecoa.105 As We have already stated, those
cases cannot apply here, since they were decided when the Executive did
not have the authority to classify lands as agricultural, timber, or mineral.
Private claimants continued possession under Act No. 926 does not
create a presumption that the land is alienable. Private claimants also
contend that their continued possession of portions of Boracay Island for the
requisite period of ten (10) years under Act No. 926106 ipso facto converted
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the island into private ownership. Hence, they may apply for a title in their
name.
A similar argument was squarely rejected by the Court in Collado v. Court of
Appeals.107 Collado, citing the separate opinion of now Chief Justice Reynato
S. Puno in Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources,107-a ruled:
"Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was passed in pursuance of the
provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902. The law governed the disposition of
lands of the public domain. It prescribed rules and regulations for the
homesteading, selling and leasing of portions of the public domain of the
Philippine Islands, and prescribed the terms and conditions to enable persons
to perfect their titles to public lands in the Islands. It also provided for the
"issuance of patents to certain native settlers upon public lands," for the
establishment of town sites and sale of lots therein, for the completion of
imperfect titles, and for the cancellation or confirmation of Spanish
concessions and grants in the Islands." In short, the Public Land Act operated
on the assumption that title to public lands in the Philippine Islands remained
in the government; and that the governments title to public land sprung
from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent treaties between Spain and
the United States. The term "public land" referred to all lands of the public
domain whose title still remained in the government and are thrown open to
private appropriation and settlement, and excluded the patrimonial property
of the government and the friar lands."
Thus, it is plain error for petitioners to argue that under the
Philippine Bill of 1902 and Public Land Act No. 926, mere possession
by private individuals of lands creates the legal presumption that
the lands are alienable and disposable.108 (Emphasis Ours)
Except for lands already covered by existing titles, Boracay was an
unclassified land of the public domain prior to Proclamation No.
1064. Such unclassified lands are considered public forest under PD
No. 705. The DENR109 and the National Mapping and Resource Information
Authority110 certify that Boracay Island is an unclassified land of the public
domain.
PD No. 705 issued by President Marcos categorized all unclassified lands of
the public domain as public forest. Section 3(a) of PD No. 705 defines a
public forest as "a mass of lands of the public domain which has not been
the subject of the present system of classification for the determination of
which lands are needed for forest purpose and which are not." Applying PD
No. 705, all unclassified lands, including those in Boracay Island, are ipso
factoconsidered public forests. PD No. 705, however, respects titles already
existing prior to its effectivity.
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The Court notes that the classification of Boracay as a forest land under PD
No. 705 may seem to be out of touch with the present realities in the island.
Boracay, no doubt, has been partly stripped of its forest cover to pave the
way for commercial developments. As a premier tourist destination for local
and foreign tourists, Boracay appears more of a commercial island resort,
rather than a forest land.
Nevertheless, that the occupants of Boracay have built multi-million peso
beach resorts on the island;111 that the island has already been stripped of its
forest cover; or that the implementation of Proclamation No. 1064 will
destroy the islands tourism industry, do not negate its character as public
forest.
Forests, in the context of both the Public Land Act and the
Constitution112 classifying lands of the public domain into "agricultural, forest
or timber, mineral lands, and national parks," do not necessarily refer to
large tracts of wooded land or expanses covered by dense growths of trees
and underbrushes.113 The discussion in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of
Forestry114 is particularly instructive:
A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose
such classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of
its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be
covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other
farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way
places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other
trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest
land. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and
does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks
like. Unless and until the land classified as "forest" is released in an official
proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable
agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of
imperfect title do not apply.115 (Emphasis supplied)
There is a big difference between "forest" as defined in a dictionary and
"forest or timber land" as a classification of lands of the public domain as
appearing in our statutes. One is descriptive of what appears on the land
while the other is a legal status, a classification for legal purposes.116 At any
rate, the Court is tasked to determine thelegal status of Boracay Island, and
not look into its physical layout. Hence, even if its forest cover has been
replaced by beach resorts, restaurants and other commercial establishments,
it has not been automatically converted from public forest to alienable
agricultural land.
Private claimants cannot rely on Proclamation No. 1801 as basis for
judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The proclamation did not
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convert Boracay into an agricultural land. However, private claimants


argue that Proclamation No. 1801 issued by then President Marcos in 1978
entitles them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The Proclamation
classified Boracay, among other islands, as a tourist zone. Private claimants
assert that, as a tourist spot, the island is susceptible of private ownership.
Proclamation No. 1801 or PTA Circular No. 3-82 did not convert the whole of
Boracay into an agricultural land. There is nothing in the law or the Circular
which made Boracay Island an agricultural land. The reference in Circular No.
3-82 to "private lands"117 and "areas declared as alienable and
disposable"118 does not by itself classify the entire island as agricultural.
Notably, Circular No. 3-82 makes reference not only to private lands and
areas but also to public forested lands. Rule VIII, Section 3 provides:
No trees in forested private lands may be cut without prior authority from the
PTA. All forested areas in public lands are declared forest reserves.
(Emphasis supplied)
Clearly, the reference in the Circular to both private and public lands merely
recognizes that the island can be classified by the Executive department
pursuant to its powers under CA No. 141. In fact, Section 5 of the Circular
recognizes the then Bureau of Forest Developments authority to declare
areas in the island as alienable and disposable when it provides:
Subsistence farming, in areas declared as alienable and disposable by the
Bureau of Forest Development.
Therefore, Proclamation No. 1801 cannot be deemed the positive act needed
to classify Boracay Island as alienable and disposable land. If President
Marcos intended to classify the island as alienable and disposable or forest,
or both, he would have identified the specific limits of each, as President
Arroyo did in Proclamation No. 1064. This was not done in Proclamation No.
1801.
The Whereas clauses of Proclamation No. 1801 also explain the rationale
behind the declaration of Boracay Island, together with other islands, caves
and peninsulas in the Philippines, as a tourist zone and marine reserve to be
administered by the PTA to ensure the concentrated efforts of the public
and private sectors in the development of the areas tourism potential with
due regard for ecological balance in the marine environment. Simply put, the
proclamation is aimed at administering the islands for tourism and
ecological purposes. It does not address the areas alienability.119
More importantly, Proclamation No. 1801 covers not only Boracay Island, but
sixty-four (64) other islands, coves, and peninsulas in the Philippines, such as
Fortune and Verde Islands in Batangas, Port Galera in Oriental Mindoro,
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Panglao and Balicasag Islands in Bohol, Coron Island, Puerto Princesa and
surrounding areas in Palawan, Camiguin Island in Cagayan de Oro, and
Misamis Oriental, to name a few. If the designation of Boracay Island as
tourist zone makes it alienable and disposable by virtue of Proclamation No.
1801, all the other areas mentioned would likewise be declared wide open
for private disposition. That could not have been, and is clearly beyond, the
intent of the proclamation.
It was Proclamation No. 1064 of 2006 which positively declared part
of Boracay as alienable and opened the same to private
ownership. Sections 6 and 7 of CA No. 141120 provide that it is only the
President, upon the recommendation of the proper department head, who
has the authority to classify the lands of the public domain into alienable or
disposable, timber and mineral lands.121
In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo merely
exercised the authority granted to her to classify lands of the public domain,
presumably subject to existing vested rights. Classification of public lands is
the exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department, through the Office of
the President. Courts have no authority to do so.122 Absent such
classification, the land remains unclassified until released and rendered open
to disposition.123
Proclamation No. 1064 classifies Boracay into 400 hectares of reserved forest
land and 628.96 hectares of agricultural land. The Proclamation likewise
provides for a 15-meter buffer zone on each side of the center line of roads
and trails, which are reserved for right of way and which shall form part of
the area reserved for forest land protection purposes.
Contrary to private claimants argument, there was nothing invalid or
irregular, much less unconstitutional, about the classification of Boracay
Island made by the President through Proclamation No. 1064. It was within
her authority to make such classification, subject to existing vested rights.
Proclamation No. 1064 does not violate the Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Law. Private claimants further assert that Proclamation No. 1064
violates the provision of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) or
RA No. 6657 barring conversion of public forests into agricultural lands. They
claim that since Boracay is a public forest under PD No. 705, President Arroyo
can no longer convert it into an agricultural land without running afoul of
Section 4(a) of RA No. 6657, thus:
SEC. 4. Scope. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 shall
cover, regardless of tenurial arrangement and commodity produced, all
public and private agricultural lands as provided in Proclamation No. 131 and
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Executive Order No. 229, including other lands of the public domain suitable
for agriculture.
More specifically, the following lands are covered by the Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Program:
(a) All alienable and disposable lands of the public domain devoted to or
suitable for agriculture. No reclassification of forest or mineral lands to
agricultural lands shall be undertaken after the approval of this Act until
Congress, taking into account ecological, developmental and equity
considerations, shall have determined by law, the specific limits of the public
domain.
That Boracay Island was classified as a public forest under PD No. 705 did
not bar the Executive from later converting it into agricultural land. Boracay
Island still remained an unclassified land of the public domain despite PD No.
705.
In Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols v.
Republic,124 the Court stated that unclassified lands are public forests.
While it is true that the land classification map does not
categorically state that the islands are public forests, the fact that
they were unclassified lands leads to the same result. In the absence
of the classification as mineral or timber land, the land remains unclassified
land until released and rendered open to disposition.125 (Emphasis supplied)
Moreover, the prohibition under the CARL applies only to a "reclassification"
of land. If the land had never been previously classified, as in the case of
Boracay, there can be no prohibited reclassification under the agrarian law.
We agree with the opinion of the Department of Justice126 on this point:
Indeed, the key word to the correct application of the prohibition in Section
4(a) is the word "reclassification." Where there has been no previous
classification of public forest [referring, we repeat, to the mass of the public
domain which has not been the subject of the present system of
classification for purposes of determining which are needed for forest
purposes and which are not] into permanent forest or forest reserves or
some other forest uses under the Revised Forestry Code, there can be no
"reclassification of forest lands" to speak of within the meaning of Section
4(a).
Thus, obviously, the prohibition in Section 4(a) of the CARL against the
reclassification of forest lands to agricultural lands without a prior law
delimiting the limits of the public domain, does not, and cannot, apply to
those lands of the public domain, denominated as "public forest" under the
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Revised Forestry Code, which have not been previously determined, or


classified, as needed for forest purposes in accordance with the provisions of
the Revised Forestry Code.127
Private claimants are not entitled to apply for judicial confirmation
of imperfect title under CA No. 141. Neither do they have vested
rights over the occupied lands under the said law. There are two
requisites for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under CA
No. 141, namely: (1) open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession
and occupation of the subject land by himself or through his predecessors-ininterest under a bona fide claim of ownership since time immemorial or from
June 12, 1945; and (2) the classification of the land as alienable and
disposable land of the public domain.128
As discussed, the Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No.
1801 did not convert portions of Boracay Island into an agricultural land. The
island remained an unclassified land of the public domain and, applying the
Regalian doctrine, is considered State property.
Private claimants bid for judicial confirmation of imperfect title, relying on
the Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No. 1801, must fail
because of the absence of the second element of alienable and disposable
land. Their entitlement to a government grant under our present Public Land
Act presupposes that the land possessed and applied for is already alienable
and disposable. This is clear from the wording of the law itself.129Where the
land is not alienable and disposable, possession of the land, no matter how
long, cannot confer ownership or possessory rights.130
Neither may private claimants apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect
title under Proclamation No. 1064, with respect to those lands which were
classified as agricultural lands. Private claimants failed to prove the first
element of open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession of their
lands in Boracay since June 12, 1945.
We cannot sustain the CA and RTC conclusion in the petition for declaratory
relief that private claimants complied with the requisite period of possession.
The tax declarations in the name of private claimants are insufficient to
prove the first element of possession. We note that the earliest of the tax
declarations in the name of private claimants were issued in 1993. Being of
recent dates, the tax declarations are not sufficient to convince this Court
that the period of possession and occupation commenced on June 12, 1945.
Private claimants insist that they have a vested right in Boracay, having
been in possession of the island for a long time. They have invested millions
of pesos in developing the island into a tourist spot. They say their continued
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possession and investments give them a vested right which cannot be


unilaterally rescinded by Proclamation No. 1064.
The continued possession and considerable investment of private claimants
do not automatically give them a vested right in Boracay. Nor do these give
them a right to apply for a title to the land they are presently occupying. This
Court is constitutionally bound to decide cases based on the evidence
presented and the laws applicable. As the law and jurisprudence stand,
private claimants are ineligible to apply for a judicial confirmation of title
over their occupied portions in Boracay even with their continued possession
and considerable investment in the island.
One Last Note
The Court is aware that millions of pesos have been invested for the
development of Boracay Island, making it a by-word in the local and
international tourism industry. The Court also notes that for a number of
years, thousands of people have called the island their home. While the
Court commiserates with private claimants plight, We are bound to apply
the law strictly and judiciously. This is the law and it should prevail. Ito ang
batas at ito ang dapat umiral.
All is not lost, however, for private claimants. While they may not be eligible
to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under Section 48(b) of CA
No. 141, as amended, this does not denote their automatic ouster from the
residential, commercial, and other areas they possess now classified as
agricultural. Neither will this mean the loss of their substantial investments
on their occupied alienable lands. Lack of title does not necessarily mean
lack of right to possess.
For one thing, those with lawful possession may claim good faith as builders
of improvements. They can take steps to preserve or protect their
possession. For another, they may look into other modes of applying for
original registration of title, such as by homestead131 or sales
patent,132 subject to the conditions imposed by law.
More realistically, Congress may enact a law to entitle private claimants to
acquire title to their occupied lots or to exempt them from certain
requirements under the present land laws. There is one such bill133 now
pending in the House of Representatives. Whether that bill or a similar bill
will become a law is for Congress to decide.
In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, the government has taken the step
necessary to open up the island to private ownership. This gesture may not
be sufficient to appease some sectors which view the classification of the
island partially into a forest reserve as absurd. That the island is no longer
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overrun by trees, however, does not becloud the vision to protect its
remaining forest cover and to strike a healthy balance between progress and
ecology. Ecological conservation is as important as economic progress.
To be sure, forest lands are fundamental to our nations survival. Their
promotion and protection are not just fancy rhetoric for politicians and
activists. These are needs that become more urgent as destruction of our
environment gets prevalent and difficult to control. As aptly observed by
Justice Conrado Sanchez in 1968 in Director of Forestry v. Munoz:134
The view this Court takes of the cases at bar is but in adherence to public
policy that should be followed with respect to forest lands. Many have written
much, and many more have spoken, and quite often, about the pressing
need for forest preservation, conservation, protection, development and
reforestation. Not without justification. For, forests constitute a vital segment
of any country's natural resources. It is of common knowledge by now that
absence of the necessary green cover on our lands produces a number of
adverse or ill effects of serious proportions. Without the trees, watersheds
dry up; rivers and lakes which they supply are emptied of their contents. The
fish disappear. Denuded areas become dust bowls. As waterfalls cease to
function, so will hydroelectric plants. With the rains, the fertile topsoil is
washed away; geological erosion results. With erosion come the dreaded
floods that wreak havoc and destruction to property crops, livestock,
houses, and highways not to mention precious human lives. Indeed, the
foregoing observations should be written down in a lumbermans
decalogue.135
WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered as follows:
1. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 167707 is GRANTED and the Court of
Appeals Decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 71118 REVERSED AND SET ASIDE.
2. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 173775 is DISMISSED for lack of
merit.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
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EN BANC
G.R. No. L-13687

November 29, 1963

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner-appellant,


vs.
SEGUNDO SIOSON and PASCUALA BAUTISTA, respondents-appellees.
Office of the Solicitor General for petitioner-appellant.
De los Santos and De los Santos for respondents-appellees.
PADILLA, J.:
This is an appeal certified by the Court of Appeals to this Court, because in
its opinion "the only purpose of the instant appeal is to question the
propriety of the lower court's order denying the petition to review on the
grounds alleged therein," which is purely a question of law, the review of
which falls exclusively within the jurisdiction this Court.
It appears that on 6 November 1951, in the Court of First Instance of Bulacan
the spouses Segundo Sioson Pascuala Bautista filed an application for
registration four (4) parcels of land situated in barrio San Roque, municipality
of Paombong, province of Bulacan, delimited in plan Psu-12152, attached to
their application, of which the claimed to be the owners in fee simple.
On 20 March 1951, the Director of Lands filed an opposition to one of the
parcels of land the registration which was applied for stating (a) that neither
the applicants nor their predecessors in interest had sufficient title to the
said parcel of land, the same not having been a acquired either
by composicion title from the Spanish Government or by possessory
information title under the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894; (b) that
neither the applicants nor their predecessors in interest have possesses the
land openly, continuously, publicly, adversely and under bona fide claim of
ownership since July 26, 1894; all (e) that the said parcel of land sought to be
registered is a part of the public domain and as such belong to the Republic
of the Philippines.
After hearing, on 30 January 1954, judgment was rendered by the court, the
dispositive portion of which is as follows:

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IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court confirming its order of general


default issued herein, hereby adjudicates and orders the registration of Lots
Nos. 1, 2 and 3 shown in plan Psu-127152, Exhibit A, and described in
technical description Exhibits B, B-1, and B-2, respectively, in favor of the
spouses Segundo Sioson and Pascuala Bautista, of legal age Filipinos, with
residence and postal address of Dampalit, Malabon, Rizal.
No adjudication is hereby made with respect to Lot 4 of plan, Psu-127152,
Exhibit A. No pronouncement as to costs.
The applicants appealed from the judgment in so far it did not decree the
registration of Lot No. 4 in their names.
On 20 January 1955, the Solicitor General in behalf of the Director of Lands,
instead of filing a brief to answer that of the appellants, filed in the Court of
Appeals a pleading recommending that the registration of Lot No. 4 be
decreed in the name of the appellants.
On 31 January 1955, the Court of Appeals rendered judgment modifying that
of the lower court and decreeing the registration of Lot No. 4 in the name of
the appellants.
On 25 April 1955, in accordance with the judgment rendered by the Court of
Appeals just mentioned the lower court entered an order for the issuance of
the decree on Lot No. 4.
On 25 April 1956, the Solicitor General in behalf of the Republic of the
Philippines, filed in the same Court a petition for review of the decree of
registration and cancellation of title to a parcel of land (Pesqueria) in the
name of the spouses Segundo Sioson and Pascuala Bautista. The parcel of
land referred to in the petition is Lot No. 4. the registration of which was
decreed on appeal by the Court of Appeals in Land Registration Case No.
317, G.L.R.O. 4928, CA-G.R. No. 12688-R. The petition alleges actual and
extrinsic fraud practiced by the herein respondents, then applicants, by
intentional and deliberate concealment of facts and connivance by and
between the herein respondents and the land inspector.
On 2 May 1956, the respondents Segundo Sioson and Pascuala Bautista filed
an opposition to the "Petition for Review of Decree of Registration and
Cancellation of Title" filed by the Solicitor General. In their opposition,
respondents alleged, among other things, that they had not practiced any
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actual fraud; that the said Lot No. 4 was and still is in truth and in fact an
accretion to a titled parcel of land; that the present petition for review under
the principle of res judicata is undeniably improper, unwarranted and illegal;
that the lower court lacked jurisdiction to review or nullify a final and
irrevocable judgment rendered by the Court of Appeals; that the issue raised
in their appeal to and passed upon by the Court of Appeals is the same as
the one raised by the Solicitor General in its petition for review; that
petitioner's petition for review does not state facts sufficient to constitute a
cause of action; that during the pendency in the Court of Appeals of the
appeal on Lot No. 4, the Solicitor General as counsel for the Director of Lands
filed a pleading entitled "Comments" recommending that the registration of
the fourth parcel of land which was an accretion to the titled lands of the
then applicants-appellants be decreed in their names; and that the Solicitor
General is deemed to be in estoppel to make allegations in the present
petition contrary to or inconsistent with those stated in the aforesaid
"Comments."
On 18 September 1956 without hearing and presentation of evidence the
lower court entered an order denying the petition. The Republic of the
Philippines has appealed.
In its brief, petitioner-appellant assigns two (2) errors claimed to have been
committed by the lower court, to wit:
I
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT NO EXTRINSIC OR
COLLATERAL FRAUD HAD BEEN COMMITTED BY THE RESPONDENTSAPPELLEES IN COLLUSION WITH OTHERS, AGAINST THE PETITIONERAPPELLANT REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, IN EFFECTING THE
REGISTRATION OF A PORTION OF THE LAND SUBJECT MATTER OF THE
INSTANT CASE.
II
THE TRIAL COURT THEREFORE ERRED IN DISMISSING THE PETITION AT
BAR WITHOUT AFFORDING AN OPPORTUNITY TO THE PETITIONERAPPELLANT TO ADDUCE EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF THE SAME.
The petition for review is predicated on actual and extrinsic fraud committed
by the respondents, then applicant, and was filed within a year from the
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entry of the decree. Without hearing the evidence in support of the


allegation and claim that actual and extrinsic fraud had been committed by
the respondents the Court below denied the petition. This is an error. There
being an allegation of actual and extrinsic fraud the Court should have
afforded the petitioner an opportunity to prove it. Moreover, if it is true that
the lot is or forms part of the bed of a navigable stream, creek or river the
decree and title to it in the name of the respondents would not give them
any right or title to it. Navigable rivers cannot be appropriated and registered
under the Land Registration Act.
The order appealed from is set aside remanded to the lower court for further
proceedings in accord with law, without pronouncement as to costs.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 146754

March 21, 2012

SPOUSES JESSE CACHOPERO and BEMA CACHOPERO, Petitioners,


vs.
RACHEL CELESTIAL, Respondent.
DECISION
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari1 seeking to vacate and set aside the
September 4, 2000 Decision2 and January 19, 2001 Resolution3 of the Court
of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 52655.
Petitioner Jesse Cachopero, married to co-petitioner Bema Cachopero
(spouses Cachopero), is the younger brother of respondent Rachel Celestial
(Celestial). Celestial owned an old residential house (old house) situated on
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Lot No. 2586-G-28 (LRC) Psd-105462 (hereinafter, "Celestials lot") at


Poblacion 8, Midsayap, Cotabato, Philippines.4 A major portion of this house
stood on the eastern part of the 344-square meter-lot (subject land)
immediately adjoining Celestials lot. The subject land was formerly part of
the Salunayan Creek that became dry as a result of the construction of an
irrigation canal by the National Irrigation Administration.5
On July 21, 1989, Celestial filed an Ejectment case, which was docketed as
Civil Case No. 711, against the spouses Cachopero before the Municipal Trial
Court (MTC) of Midsayap.
In her Complaint,6 Celestial alleged that the spouses Cachopero had been
living in her house for free and out of tolerance since 1973. Celestial claimed
that when the condition of the old house had become uninhabitable, she
decided to have it demolished. However, the spouses Cachopero refused to
vacate the premises.
In the meantime, on August 10, 1989, Celestial and the spouses Cachopero
entered into a Compromise Agreement,7 the terms and conditions of which
are quoted as follows:
That Spouses Jesse Cachopero and Bema Cachopero, defendants in this case,
are going to vacate the premises in question and transfer the old house
subject of this ejectment case [to] the back of Lot No. 2586-G-28 (LRC) Psd105462, located at 8, Midsayap, Cotabato, within eight (8) months from
today, but not later than April 30, 1990;
That in transferring the old house subject of this suit to the back of Lot No.
2586-G-28 (LRC) Psd-105462 of plaintiff, plaintiff shall shoulder all expenses
in dismantling said house and in the reconstruction of said house, plaintiff
binds herself to pay fifty (50%) percent of the costs of labor and expenses in
transferring the said house;
That plaintiff is willing to give a two (2) meter wide exit alley on the eastern
portion of Lot No. 2586-G-28 (LRC) Psd-105462 and on the southern portion
of said lot as roadright-of-way up to the point of the NIA road on the west of
Lot No. 2586-G-28 (LRC) Psd-105462;
That defendants hereby promise to remove all their improvements
introduced fronting the residence of the plaintiff before August 31, 1989; and

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the plaintiff shall likewise remove all her existing improvements on the same
area;
That the parties are waiving their respective claims for moral damages, as
well as attorneys fees as appearing in the Complaint and Counter-Claim
appearing in their Answer in order to totally have this case amicably settled.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed that
Judgment be rendered by this Honorable Court base[d] on the terms and
conditions of this Compromise Agreement.
Midsayap, Cotabato, August 10, 1989.
On August 10, 1989, the MTC rendered a judgment, approving the
Compromise Agreement, to wit:
WHEREFORE, finding the Compromise Agreement to be in accordance with
law and equity, the same is hereby approved and judgment is rendered
pursuant to, and in accordance with the terms and conditions therein
stipulated.8
On July 17, 1990, then Deputy Sheriff Benedicto F. Flauta issued the Sheriffs
Return in the above Ejectment case, viz:
Respectfully returned to the Honorable Court, Municipal Trial Court,
Midsayap, Cotabato the herein attached original copy of the writ of Execution
issued in the above-entitled case with the information that:
1. Defendants Jesse and Bema is (sic) found to be out of the real estate
property of the plaintiff;
2. The boundary of the defendants and the plaintiff is distinct; and
3. The improvements introduced by the defendants fronting the
residence of the plaintiff is already outside the lot of the plaintiff.
WHEREFORE, the undersigned had nothing to do except to return the said
Writ of Execution for whatever the Honorable Court may deem necessary and
appropriate for both parties.9

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However, as the portion of the house beyond Celestials lot was not
demolished, Celestial filed a Motion for the Issuance of an Alias Writ of
Execution, with a prayer to cite the Deputy Sheriff in Contempt for not
executing the Writ of Execution issued on May 17, 1990.10
Since the MTC had not yet received the Sheriffs Return, it ordered the
Deputy Provincial Sheriff to comment on the Motion and on August 16, 1990,
the latter complied. The pertinent portions of said Comment are quoted as
follows:
That on May 30, 1990, the undersigned met one of the defendants at the
premises of the subject area and three days after, the same met the plaintiff
in the same area; the same informations were obtained which are top
confidential except that their boundary is distinct;
That the defendants are no longer within the metes and bounds of the
plaintiffs property;
That Lot No. 25[8]6-[G]-28 is the only base (sic) of this case and no
other lots more; and,
That the defendants had complied [with] the Compromise Agreement
which was the basis of the Court.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the undersigned respectfully submit,
that he has fully complied with the Writ of Execution issued by the Honorable
Court in this case.11
Based on the above, the MTC denied the Motion for the Issuance of an Alias
Writ of Execution on August 30, 1990. The MTC likewise denied Celestials
Motion for Reconsideration on November 20, 1990, and highlighted the fact
that the agreement was for the spouses Cachopero to vacate Celestials lot,
which was the land subject of the Ejectment case. The MTC further said that
it had no jurisdiction or power to decide a question not in issue.12
Celestial filed a petition for mandamus before the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Branch 18, of Midsayap, Cotabato, praying that the MTC be ordered to issue
an Alias Writ of Execution in the Ejectment case and that the Sheriff be
directed to enforce such Alias Writ of Execution. Celestial furthermore prayed
for the RTC to order the spouses Cachopero to pay her damages, attorneys

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fees, litigation expenses, and costs of suit. This was docketed as Special Civil
Case No. 051.13
In response, MTC Judge Nestor Flauta said that the old house constructed on
Celestials lot had already been demolished. Whatever remained
undemolished were owned by the spouses Cachopero, and were not put in
issue in the Ejectment case. Thus, Judge Flauta averred, "to order the
demolition of the undemolished improvements outside of the property of
[Celestial] would be tantamount to lack of jurisdiction and/or grave abuse of
discretion on the part of the [MTC]."14
On July 27, 1992, the RTC conducted an ocular inspection to determine
whether or not the Compromise Agreement was executed in accordance with
its terms.15
On March 20, 1997, the RTC issued an Order16 dismissing the petition for
mandamus for lack of merit. The RTC ratiocinated in this wise:
Mandamus does not lie where there was no right of petitioner which was
excluded from exercising and there is no duty on the part of respondent
Judge to perform (Villa Rey Transit, Inc. vs. Bello, 10 SCRA 238).
The law concedes to judges and courts the right to decide questions
according to their judgment and their understanding of the law and if their
decision in that regard is not correct or contrary to law, appeal, not
Mandamus, is the remedy. (Santiago Labor Union vs. Tabique, 17 SCRA
286.)17
Acting on Celestials Motion for Reconsideration, the RTC on September 1,
1997, rendered an Order granting such motion, and setting aside its earlier
Order of March 20, 1997.18
Meanwhile Jesse Cachopero had already instituted a petition, docketed as
Special Civil Case No. 070, for certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus with
preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order, assailing the orders
of the Department of Environment and Natural resources (DENR), which
denied his Miscellaneous Sales Application (MSA) over a portion of the
subject land. This petition and Jesse Cachoperos subsequent Motion for
Reconsideration, were denied by the RTC for lack of merit and nonexhaustion of administrative remedies. Undaunted, Jesse Cachopero assailed

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the above orders in a petition for certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus, filed
before the Court of Appeals. This was docketed as CA-G.R. No. 45927. 19
On February 3, 1999, the RTC rendered a Resolution,20 again dismissing
Celestials petition for mandamus, but on the ground that the issuance of an
Alias Writ of Execution in Civil Case No. 711 depended on the outcome of
Special Civil Case No. 070, which involved the subject land that Jesse
Cachopero had applied for.21 The RTC said that the foregoing "circumstance is
a supervening cause necessitating refusal to issue an alias writ of
execution."22
Celestial brought this matter to the Court of Appeals and claimed that the
RTC itself found that part of the old house, subject of the compromise
agreement, was still standing or undemolished. Thus, she posited the
following issues for the Court of Appeals resolution:
1. Can the Honorable Regional Trial Court set a condition other than that
provided in the Judgment itself for the implementation and execution of the
said judgment in Civil Case No. 711?
2. Was it legal, lawful and proper and did the Honorable Regional Trial Court
act without or in excess and/or grave abuse of discretion when it ordered and
directed the execution of the Judgment in Civil Case No. 711, subject to the
outcome of Special Civil Case No. 070, which is never a condition in the said
judgment sought to be executed in full? or
3. Did the Honorable Regional Trial Court, act without and in excess or abuse
of discretion and against the law and jurisprudence, in dismissing the petition
for Mandamus and making the issuance of a Writ of Execution subjected to
the outcome of Special Civil Case No. 070, which is never a condition made
in said Judgment sought to be executed?23
On September 4, 2000, the Court of Appeals came out with its Decision in
favor of Celestial. The fallo reads:
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the resolution in Special Civil Case No. 051 dated
February 3, 1999 is hereby set aside. As prayed for by petitioner, respondent
Judge is hereby directed to issue an alias Writ of Execution in Ejectment Case
No. 711 ordering the full and complete implementation of the judicially
approved compromise judgment.24

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In finding merit in Celestials appeal, the Court of Appeals said that a


compromise judgment is immediately executory and once judicially
approved, has the force of res judicata between the parties, which should not
be disturbed except for the vices of consent or perjury. More importantly, the
Court of Appeals held:
What is involved in Ejectment Case No. 711 is only the material possession of
the lot litigated therein. In Special Civil Case No. 070, what is involved is the
issue of who between the parties therein has a better right to purchase the
lot of the public domain the pendency of which may not abate the execution
of the compromise judgment in Ejectment Case No. 711.25
Resolving the spouses Cachoperos Motion for Reconsideration, the Court of
Appeals reiterated its position in its Resolution of January 19, 2001 and said:
Movants may not be allowed to renege from their express undertaking "to
vacate the premises and transfer the old house at the back of lot 2586-[G]28" and/or "to remove all of their improvements" from the premises in
dispute embodied in the judicially approved compromise in Ejectment Case
No. 111. Reiterated here, for emphasis, is the Courts previous holding that
the pendency of Civil Case No. 070 (on appeal in the Supreme Court) which
calls for the determination of who between the litigants possesses as
superior right to purchase the land of the public domain will not bar the
execution of the executory compromise judgment.26
The spouses Cachopero then elevated their case to this Court, praying that
the Court of Appeals Decision and Resolution be vacated and set aside, and
to declare that the RTC was correct in dismissing the case for mandamus.
On May 30, 2002, Celestial filed a Motion for the Issuance of a Status Quo
Order and/or a Writ of Preliminary Injunction,27 alleging that while the case
was pending in this Court, the spouses Cachopero had been making
constructions and had been planting trees and plants on the subject land.
Celestial claims that the spouses Cachoperos actions will cause her great
and grave injustice.
In the meantime, CA-G.R. No. 45927, which was originally Special Civil Case
No. 070, had already reached this Court upon Celestials pleading, after the
Court of Appeals granted Jesse Cachoperos petition, reversed and set aside
the assailed orders of the RTC, and ordered the DENR to process Jesse
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Cachoperos MSA.28 Celestials petition, docketed as G.R. No. 142595, was


denied for lack of merit by this Court on October 15, 2003.29
Issues
The following are the issues presented by the spouses Cachopero for this
Courts resolution:
1. Will Mandamus lie to compel the Regional Trial Court to issue an
alias Writ of Execution to execute a compromise agreement which the
Provincial Sheriff, the Municipal Trial Court, and the Regional Trial Court
ruled to have been properly executed?
2. Will Mandamus lie to compel the Regional Trial Court to eject
Petitioners from the land they occupy and applied for under MSA XII-61669 after demolition of the contested house by virtue of a
compromise agreement in an ejectment case?30
Discussion
The spouses Cachopero are insisting that the Writ of Execution had been
properly implemented as they had already vacated Celestials lot, which
according to them, was the subject matter of the Ejectment case against
them. They argue that to eject them also from the subject land, which they
applied for in the DENR, and which was put in issue in Special Civil Case No.
070, and then G.R. No. 142595 before this Court, would be going beyond
what was agreed upon by the parties.
Celestial on the other hand, claims that G.R. No. 142595 has no bearing on
this case. She asseverates that it was clear not only from the Sheriffs own
return, but also from the ocular inspection conducted by the RTC, that the old
house, which was the subject matter of the compromise agreement, was only
partially demolished.
We affirm the Court of Appeals.
A petition for mandamus, under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure,
provides:
SEC. 3. Petition for mandamus. When any tribunal, corporation, board,
officer or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law
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specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust, or station, or


unlawfully excludes another from the use and enjoyment of a right or office
to which such other is entitled, and there is no other plain, speedy and
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, the person aggrieved
thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with
certainty and praying that judgment be rendered commanding the
respondent, immediately or at some other time to be specified by the court,
to do the act required to be done to protect the rights of the petitioner, and
to pay the damages sustained by the petitioner by reason of the wrongful
acts of the respondent.
The writ of mandamus is aimed to compel a respondent, who failed to
execute his/her legal duty, or unlawfully excluded another from the
enjoyment of an entitled right or office, to perform the act needed to be done
in order to protect the rights of the petitioner.31 Simply put, "mandamus is
employed to compel the performance, when refused, of a ministerial, as
opposed to a discretionary, duty."32
In Tay v. Court of Appeals,33 this Court elucidated on when a writ of
mandamus may issue, to wit:
In order that a writ of mandamus may issue, it is essential that the person
petitioning for the same has a clear legal right to the thing demanded and
that it is the imperative duty of the respondent to perform the act required. It
neither confers powers nor imposes duties and is never issued in doubtful
cases. It is simply a command to exercise a power already possessed and to
perform a duty already imposed.34
In addition, mandamus applies as a remedy when the petitioners right is
founded clearly in law and is not doubtful.35
In the case at bar, Celestials petition for mandamus is anchored on her
rights emanating from the Compromise Agreement she executed with the
spouses Cachopero.
Article 2028 of the Civil Code defines a compromise as follows:
A compromise is a contract whereby the parties, by making reciprocal
concessions, avoid a litigation or put an end to one already commenced.

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Article 2037 of the Civil Code provides for the effects of a compromise
agreement, to wit:
A compromise has upon the parties the effect and authority of res judicata;
but there shall be no execution except in compliance with a judicial
compromise.
Expounding on the concept of compromise agreements, this Court, in Air
Transportation Office v. Gopuco, Jr.,36said:
[W]e have time and again ruled that a compromise agreement, when not
contrary to law, public order, public policy, morals, or good customs, is a
valid contract which is the law between the parties. It is a contract perfected
by mere consent, whereby the parties, making reciprocal concessions, avoid
litigation or put an end to one already commenced. It has the force of law
and is conclusive between the parties, and courts will not relieve parties from
obligations voluntarily assumed, simply because their contracts turned out to
be unwise. x x x.37
Likewise, in Philippine National Oil Company-Energy Development
Corporation (PNOC-EDC) v. Abella,38 this Court pronounced:
Prevailing case law provides that "a compromise once approved by final
orders of the court has the force of res judicata between the parties and
should not be disturbed except for vices of consent or forgery. Hence, a
decision on a compromise agreement is final and executory. Such
agreement has the force of law and is conclusive on the parties. It
transcends its identity as a mere contract binding only upon the parties
thereto, as it becomes a judgment that is subject to execution in accordance
with the Rules. Judges therefore have the ministerial and mandatory duty to
implement and enforce it." Hence, compromise agreements duly approved
by the courts are considered the decisions in the particular cases they
involve.39
The terms of the compromise agreement involved herein are clear and
unequivocal. The spouses Cachopero agreed to vacate Celestials lot and
transfer the old house to the land at the back of Celestials lot. While it has
been shown that the spouses Cachopero had already removed part of the old
house, Jesse Cachopero himself admitted, during the ocular inspection done
by the RTC, that part of the old house beyond Celestials lot were not
demolished nor removed, to wit:
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COURT:
Q This house here which is now remain standing in the lot enclosed with
bamboo fence, was it existing at the time of the filing of the complaint
between you and defendants at the time the decision was rendered?
JESSE CACHOPERO:
A Yes, your Honor.
xxxx
ATTY. AGDEPPA:
That the roofing is a part of the old house that was brought down when the
second story was destroyed, your Honor.
xxxx
COURT:
There is a structure which has been destroyed and above the remaining
structure of which a shade of galvanized iron was made. Yes
JESSE CACHOPERO:
A part of the second floor which was lowered down.
COURT:
Another questions This structure here was already existing during the time
of the filing of the complaint in the Municipal Court?
JESSE CACHOPERO:
Yes, your Honor.
ATTY. AMPARO:
When the two story building was demolished, how did the remaining portion
looks like?

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JESSE CACHOPERO:
It looks like a bahay kubo, sir.
ATTY. AMPARO:
When the building was demolished, what improvement did you introduce?
JESSE CACHOPERO:
The walling made of rough wood, sir.
ATTY. AMPARO:
How about this wall on the other side of the remaining structure?
JESSE CACHOPERO:
It is part of the old building, sir.
xxxx
COURT:
In other words it has already been paid for the expenses of the demolition.
Why was the other parts of the building not included in the demolition which
was made at the instance of the plaintiff?
RACHEL CELESTIAL:
Because he objected and according to him (Jesse Cachopero) it is beyond my
property, your Honor.40
It is clear from the records and the facts of this case that the real reason
Celestial wanted to eject the spouses Cachopero from the subject land is to
reclaim the use of such land for herself. This can be gleaned from the fact
that in their compromise agreement, she was willing to shoulder the
expenses of transferring the old house to the area at the back of her own lot.
This fact runs counter to her claim that she was ejecting her brother and his
wife from the old house due to its dilapidated and uninhabitable condition.
However, Celestials intention has nothing to do with the validity of the
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compromise agreement, which the spouses Cachopero freely signed, and on


which the MTC based its judgment.
This Court agrees with the Court of Appeals that Special Civil Case No. 070,
which became G.R. No. 142595 when it was elevated to this Court, has
nothing to do with the case before us. The spouses Cachopero anchor their
right on the MSA that they filed with the DENR over the subject land,
whereas this case concerns the compromise agreement they executed with
Celestial.
Although Celestials petition in G.R. No. 142595 was denied, and the Court of
Appeals ruling ordering the DENR to process the spouses Cachoperos MSA
over the subject lot was affirmed, what is involved herein is the transfer of
the old house from the subject land, and not the subject land itself. However,
the spouses Cachopero have not shown this Court that their MSA had indeed
been approved.1wphi1
Unless the spouses Cachopero can show this Court that there is a
supervening event, which occurred after the judgment of the MTC, and which
brought about a material change in their situation vis--vis that of Celestial,
the latter has the right to have the compromise agreement executed,
according to its terms.41
This Courts pronouncements in Silverio, Jr. v. Filipino Business Consultants,
Inc.,42 are instructive, and we quote as follows:
To justify the stay of immediate execution, the supervening events must
have a direct effect on the matter already litigated and settled. Or, the
supervening events must create a substantial change in the rights or
relations of the parties which would render execution of a final judgment
unjust, impossible or inequitable making it imperative to stay immediate
execution in the interest of justice.43
We find that no such supervening events exist in this case so as to justify the
stay of the execution of Civil Case No. 711.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED and the September 4, 2000
Decision and January 19, 2001 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R.
SP No. 52655 are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
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Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. L-43105 August 31, 1984
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (Director of Lands), petitioner,
vs.
THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS (SECOND DIVISION) AND SANTOS DEL
RIO, respondents.
G.R. No. L-43190 August 31, 1984
AURORA BAUTISTA, OLIMPIO LARIOS, FELICIDAD DE LA CRUZ,
ELPIDIO LARIOS, LUCITA BANDA, BENITO SANTAYANA, FRUCTUOSA
BANHAO LUCIO VELASCO, GREGORIO DATOY, FELIMON GUTIERREZ,
ET AL.,petitioners,
vs.
THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS AND SANTOS DEL RIO, respondents.
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Bonifacio, Perez & Concepcion for petitioners.


The Solicitor General for respondent Appellate Court.
Eduardo Cagandahan for respondent Santos del Rio.

CUEVAS, J.:
These two 1 Petitions for Review of the same decision of the defunct Court of
Appeals 2 have been consolidated in this single decision, having arisen from
one and the same Land Registration Cage (LRC Case No. N-283, Laguna), and
presenting as they do issues which may be resolved jointly by this Court.
The questioned decision of the Court of Appeals set aside the judgment of
the trial court and ordered the registration of the land in favor of applicant,
now private respondent, Santos del Rio. Petitioner Director of Lands in G.R.
No. L-43105 claims that the land sought to be registered is part of the public
domain and therefore not registerable. Petitioners private oppositors in G.R.
No. L-43190, on the other hand, allege that they reclaimed the land by
dumping duck egg shells thereon, and that they have been in possession of
the same for more than twenty (20) years.
The lot subject matter of this land registration case, with an area of 17,311
square meters, is situated near the shore of Laguna de Bay, about twenty
(20) meters therefrom (Exh. D), 3 in Barrio Pinagbayanan, Pila, Laguna. It was
purchased by Benedicto del Rio from Angel Pili on April 19, 1909. The Deed
of Sale evidencing said purchase is duly recorded with the Registry of Deeds
of Sta. Cruz, Laguna. The land was declared for tax purposes beginning the
year 1918, and the realty taxes thereon had been paid since 1948. When
Benedicto del Rio died in 1957, his heirs extrajudicially partitioned his estate
and the subject parcel passed on to his son, Santos del Rio, as the latter's
share in the inheritance.
Santos del Rio, herein applicant-private respondent, filed his application for
registration of said parcel on May 9, 1966. The application was opposed by
the Director of Lands and by private oppositors, petitioners in G.R. No. L43190.

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Sometime before 1966, private oppositors obtained permission from Santos


del Rio to construct duck houses on the land in question. Although there was
no definite commitment as to rentals, some of them had made voluntary
payments to private respondent. In violation of the original agreement,
private oppositors constructed residential houses on the land which
prompted private respondent to file an ejectment suit against the former in
1966. 4Meanwhile, during the latter part of 1965 and in 1966, private
oppositors had simultaneously filed their respective sales applications with
the Bureau of Lands, and in 1966, they opposed Santos del Rios application
for registration. The Court of First Instance of Laguna dismissed the
application for registration. Applicant appealed and obtained a favorable
judgment from the Court of Appeals. The Director of Lands and the private
oppositors filed their respective Petitions for Review of said decision.
The two consolidated petitions raise substantially the same issues, to wit :
1) whether or not the parcel of land in question is public land;
and
2) whether or not applicant private respondent has registerable
title to the land.
Property, which includes parcels of land found in Philippine territory, is either
of public dominion or of private ownership. 5 Public lands, or those of public
dominion, have been described as those which, under existing legislation are
not the subject of private ownership, and are reserved for public
purposes. 6 The New Civil Code enumerates properties of public dominion in
Articles 420 and 502 thereof. Article 420 provides:
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.
Article 502 adds to the above enumeration, the following:

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(1) Rivers and their natural beds;


(2) Continuous or intermittent waters of springs and brooks
running in their natural beds and the beds themselves;
(3) Waters rising continuously or intermittently on lands of public
dominion;
(4) Lakes and lagoons formed by Nature on public lands and their
beds;
xxx xxx xxx
(Emphasis supplied)
The Director of Lands would like Us to believe that since a portion of the land
sought to be registered is covered with water four to five months a year, the
same is part of the lake bed of Laguna de Bay, or is at least, a foreshoreland,
which brings it within the enumeration in Art. 502 of the New Civil Code
quoted above and therefore it cannot be the subject of registration.
The extent of a lake bed is defined in Art. 74 of the Law of Waters of 1866, as
follows:
The natural bed or basin of lakes, ponds, or pools, is the ground
covered by their waters when at their highest ordinary depth.
(Emphasis supplied)
The phrase "highest ordinary depth" in the above definition has been
interpreted in the case of Government of P.I. vs. Colegio de San Jose 7 to be
the highest depth of the waters of Laguna de Bay during the dry season,
such depth being the "regular, common, natural, which occurs always or
most of the time during the year." The foregoing interpretation was the focal
point in the Court of Appeals decision sought to be reviewed. We see no
reason to disturb the same.
Laguna de Bay is a lake. 8 While the waters of a lake are also subject to the
same gravitational forces that cause the formation of tides 9 in seas and
oceans, this phenomenon is not a regular daily occurrence in the case of
lakes. 10 Thus, the alternation of high tides and low tides, which is an
ordinary occurrence, could hardly account for the rise in the water level of
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the Laguna de Bay as observed four to five months a year during the rainy
season. Rather, it is the rains which bring about the inundation of a portion of
the land in question. Since the rise in the water level which causes the
submersion of the land occurs during a shorter period (four to five months a
year) than the level of the water at which the is completely dry, the latter
should be considered as the "highest ordinary depth" of Laguna de Bay.
Therefore, the land sought to be registered is not part of the bed or basin of
Laguna de Bay. Neither can it be considered as foreshore land. The Brief for
the Petitioner Director of Lands cites an accurate definition of a foreshore
land, to wit:
... that part of (the land) which is between high and low water
and left dry by the flux and reflux of the tides... 11
The strip of land that lies between the high and low water mark
and that is alternately wet and dry according to the flow of the
tide. 12
As aptly found by the Court a quo, the submersion in water of a portion of
the land in question is due to the rains "falling directly on or flowing into
Laguna de Bay from different sources. 13 Since the inundation of a portion of
the land is not due to "flux and reflux of tides" it cannot be considered a
foreshore land within the meaning of the authorities cited by petitioner
Director of Lands. The land sought to be registered not being part of the bed
or basin of Laguna de Bay, nor a foreshore land as claimed by the Director of
Lands, it is not a public land and therefore capable of registration as private
property provided that the applicant proves that he has a registerable title.
This brings us to the second issue, which is whether or not applicant private
respondent has registerable title to the land.
The purpose of land registration under the Torrens System is not the
acquisition of lands but only the registration of title which applicant already
possesses over the land. 14 Registration under the Torrens Law was never
intended as a means of acquiring ownership. Applicant in this case asserts
ownership over the parcel of land he seeks to register and traces the roots of
his title to a public instrument of sale (Exh. G) in favor of his father from
whom he inherited said land. In addition to this muniment of title, he
presents tax declarations (Exhs. F, G, H, I) covering the land since 1918 and
also tax receipts (Exhs. J, J-1, J-2, J-3, J-4, K, K-1, K-2, K-3) dating back to 1948.
While it is true that by themselves tax receipts and declarations of ownership
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for taxation purposes are not incontrovertible evidence of


ownership, 15 they become strong evidence of ownership acquired by
prescription when accompanied by proof of actual possession of the
property. 16 The then Court of Appeals found applicant by himself and
through his father before him, has been in open, continuous, public,
peaceful, exclusive and adverse possession of the disputed land for more
than thirty (30) years, counted from April 19, 1909, when the land was
acquired from a third person by purchase. 17 The record does not show any
circumstance of note sufficient enough to overthrow said findings of facts
which is binding upon us. Since applicant has possessed the subject parcel in
the concept of owner with just title and in good faith, his possession need
only last for ten years in order for ordinary acquisitive prescription to set
in. 18 Applicant has more than satisfied this legal requirement. And even if
the land sought to be registered is public land as claimed by the petitioners
still, applicant would be entitled to a judicial confirmation of his imperfect
title, since he has also satisfied the requirements of the Public Land Act
(Commonwealth Act No. 141 as amended by Republic Act No. 1942). Sec. 48
of said Act enumerates as among the persons entitled to judicial
confirmation of imperfect title, the following:
(a) ...
(b) Those who, by themselves or through their predecessors-ininterest, have been in the open, continuous, exclusive, and
notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the
public domain, under bona fide c of ownership, for at least tirty
years immediately preceding the filing of the application for
confirmation of title ...
The claim of private oppositors, petitioners in G.R. No. L43190, that they
have reclaimed the land from the waters of Laguna de Bay and that they
have possessed the same for more than twenty (20) years does not improve
their position. In the first place, private persons cannot, by themselves
reclaim land from water bodies belonging to the public domain without
proper permission from government authorities. 19 And even if such
reclamation had been authorized, the reclaimed land does not automatically
belong to the party reclaiming the same as they may still be subject to the
terms of the authority earlier granted.20 Private oppositors-petitioners failed
to show proper authority for the alleged reclamation, therefore, their claimed
title to the litigated parcel must fall. In the second place, their alleged
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possession can never ripen into ownership. Only possession acquired and
enjoyed in the concept of owner can serve as the root of a title acquired by
prescription. 21 As correctly found by the appellate court, the private
oppositors-petitioners entered into possession of the land with the
permission of, and as tenants of, the applicant del Rio. The fact that some of
them at one time or another did not pay rent cannot be considered in their
favor. Their use of the land and their non-payment of rents thereon were
merely tolerated by applicant and these could not have affected the
character of the latter's possession 22 which has already ripened into
ownership at the time of the filing of this application for registration.
The applicant private-respondent having satisfactorily established his
registerable title over the parcel of land described in his application, he is
clearly entitled to the registration in his favor of said land.
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the judgment appealed from is hereby
AFFIRMED and the registration in favor of applicant private-respondent of the
land described in his application is hereby ordered.
Costs against private petitioners.SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. 194336

March 11, 2013

PILAR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, Petitioner,


vs.
RAMON DUMADAG, EMMA BACABAC, RONALDO NAVARRO, JIMMY
PAGDALIAN, PAY DELOS SANTOS, ARMANDO TRILLOS, FELICISIMO
TRILLOS, ARCANGEL FLORES, EDDIE MARTIN, PRESILLA LAYOG,
CONRADO CAGUYONG, GINA GONZALES, ARLENE PEDROSA, JOCELYN
ABELINO, ROQUE VILLARAZA, ROLANDO VILLARAZA, CAMILO
GENOVE, NILDA ROAYANA, SUSAN ROAYANA, JUANCHO PANGANIBAN,
BONG DE GUZMAN, ARNOLD ENVERSO, DONNA DELA RAZA, EMELYN
HAGNAYA, FREDDIE DE LEON, RONILLO DE LEON, MARIO MARTINEZ,
and PRECY LOPEZ, Respondents.

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DECISION
PERALTA, J.:
Challenged in this petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules
of Civil Procedure are the March 5, 2010 Decision1 and October 29, 2010
Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 90254, which
affirmed the May 30, 2007 Decision3 of the Las Pias Regional Trial Court,
Branch 197 (trial court) dismissing the complaint filed by petitioner.
On July 1, 2002, petitioner filed a Complaint4 for accion publiciana with
damages against respondents for allegedly building their shanties, without
its knowledge and consent, in its 5,613-square-meter property located at
Daisy Road, Phase V, Pilar Village Subdivision, Almanza, Las
Pias City. It claims that said parcel of land, which is duly registered in its
name under Transfer Certificate of Title No. 481436 of the Register of Deeds
for the Province of Rizal, was designated as an open space of Pilar Village
Subdivision intended for village recreational facilities and amenities for
subdivision residents.5 In their Answer with Counterclaim,6 respondents
denied the material allegations of the Complaint and briefly asserted that it
is the local government, not petitioner, which has jurisdiction and authority
over them.
Trial ensued. Both parties presented their respective witnesses and the trial
court additionally conducted an ocular inspection of the subject property.
On May 30, 2007, the trial court dismissed petitioners complaint, finding
that the land being occupied by respondents are situated on the sloping area
going down and leading towards the Mahabang Ilog Creek, and within the
three-meter legal easement; thus, considered as public property and part of
public dominion under Article 5027 of the New Civil Code (Code), which could
not be owned by petitioner. The court held:
x x x The land title of [petitioner] only proves that it is the owner in fee
simple of the respective real properties described therein, free from all liens
and encumbrances, except such as may be expressly noted thereon or
otherwise reserved by law x x x. And in the present case, what is expressly
reserved is what is written in TCT No. T-481436, to wit "that the 3.00 meter
strip of the lot described herein along the Mahabang Ilog Creek is reserved

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for public easement purposes. (From OCT 1873/A-50) and to the limitations
imposed by Republic Act No. 440. x x x"8
The trial court opined that respondents have a better right to possess the
occupied lot, since they are in an area reserved for public easement
purposes and that only the local government of Las Pias City could institute
an action for recovery of possession or ownership.
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, but the same was denied by the
trial court in its Order dated August 21, 2007.9 Consequently, petitioner
elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals which, on March 5, 2010,
sustained the dismissal of the case.
Referring to Section 210 of Administrative Order (A.O.) No. 99-21 of the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the appellate
court ruled that the 3-meter area being disputed is located along the creek
which, in turn, is a form of a stream; therefore, belonging to the public
dominion. It said that petitioner could not close its eyes or ignore the fact,
which is glaring in its own title, that the 3-meter strip was indeed reserved
for public easement. By relying on the TCT, it is then estopped from claiming
ownership and enforcing its supposed right. Unlike the trial court, however,
the CA noted that the proper party entitled to seek recovery of possession of
the contested portion is not the City of Las Pias, but the Republic of the
Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), pursuant to
Section 10111 of Commonwealth Act (C.A.) No. 141 (otherwise known as The
Public Land Act).
The motion for reconsideration filed by petitioner was denied by the CA per
Resolution dated October 29, 2010, hence, this petition.
Anchoring its pleadings on Article 63012 of the Code, petitioner argues that
although the portion of the subject property occupied by respondents is
within the 3-meter strip reserved for public easement, it still retains
ownership thereof since the strip does not form part of the public dominion.
As the owner of the subject parcel of land, it is entitled to its lawful
possession, hence, the proper party to file an action for recovery of
possession against respondents conformably with Articles 42813 and 53914 of
Code.
We deny.
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An easement or servitude is a real right on another's property, corporeal and


immovable, whereby the owner of the latter must refrain from doing or
allowing somebody else to do or something to be done on his or her
property, for the benefit of another person or tenement; it is jus in re aliena,
inseparable from the estate to which it actively or passively belongs,
indivisible, perpetual, and a continuing property right, unless extinguished by
causes provided by law.15 The Code defines easement as an encumbrance
imposed upon an immovable for the benefit of another immovable belonging
to a different owner or for the benefit of a community, or of one or more
persons to whom the encumbered estate does not belong.16 There are two
kinds of easement according to source: by law or by will of the owners the
former are called legal and the latter voluntary easement.17 A legal easement
or compulsory easement, or an easement by necessity constituted by law
has for its object either public use or the interest of private persons.18
While Article 630 of the Code provides for the general rule that "the owner of
the servient estate retains the ownership of the portion on which the
easement is established, and may use the same in such a manner as not to
affect the exercise of the easement," Article 635 thereof is specific in saying
that "all matters concerning easements established for public or communal
use shall be governed by the special laws and regulations relating thereto,
and, in the absence thereof, by the provisions of this Title Title VII on
Easements or Servitudes."
In the case at bar, the applicability of DENR A.O. No. 99-21 dated June 11,
1999, which superseded DENR A.O. No. 97-0519 dated March 6, 1997 and
prescribed the revised guidelines in the implementation of the pertinent
provisions of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 1273 and Presidential Decree (P.D.) Nos.
705 and 1067, cannot be doubted. Inter alia, it was issued to further the
governments program of biodiversity preservation. Aside from Section 2.1
above-quoted, Section 2.3 of which further mandates:
2.3 Survey of Titled Lands:
2.3.1 Administratively Titled Lands:
The provisions of item 2.1.a and 2.1.b shall be observed as the above.
However, when these lands are to be subdivided, consolidated or
consolidated-subdivided, the strip of three (3) meters which falls within
urban areas shall be demarcated and marked on the plan for easement and
bank protection.
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The purpose of these strips of land shall be noted in the technical description
and annotated in the title.
xxxx
2.3.3 Complex Subdivision or Consolidation Subdivision Surveys for
Housing/Residential, Commercial or Industrial Purposes:
When titled lands are subdivided or consolidated-subdivided into lots for
residential, commercial or industrial purposes the segregation of the three
(3) meter wide strip along the banks of rivers or streams shall be observed
and be made part of the open space requirement pursuant to P.D. 1216.
The strip shall be preserved and shall not be subject to subsequent
subdivision. (Underscoring supplied)
Certainly, in the case of residential subdivisions, the allocation of the 3-meter
strip along the banks of a stream, like the Mahabang Ilog Creek in this case,
is required and shall be considered as forming part of the open space
requirement pursuant to P.D. 1216 dated October 14, 1977.20 Said law is
explicit: open spaces are "for public use and are, therefore, beyond the
commerce of men" and that "[the] areas reserved for parks, playgrounds and
recreational use shall be non-alienable public lands, and non-buildable."
Running in same vein is P.D. 1067 or The Water Code of the
Philippines21 which provides:
Art. 51. The banks of rivers and streams and the shores of the seas and lakes
throughout their entire length and within a zone of three (3) meters in urban
areas, twenty (20) meters in agricultural areas and forty (40) meters in forest
areas, along their margins, are subject to the easement of public use in the
interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage. No person
shall be allowed to stay in this zone longer than what is necessary for
recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing or salvage or to build structures of
any kind. (Underscoring supplied)
Thus, the above prove that petitioners right of ownership and possession
has been limited by law with respect to the 3-meter strip/zone along the
banks of Mahabang Ilog Creek. Despite this, the Court cannot agree with the
trial courts opinion, as to which the CA did not pass upon, that respondents
have a better right to possess the subject portion of the land because they
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are occupying an area reserved for public easement purposes. Similar to


petitioner, respondents have no right or title over it precisely because it is
public land. Likewise, we repeatedly held that squatters have no possessory
rights over the land intruded upon.22 The length of time that they may have
physically occupied the land is immaterial; they are deemed to have entered
the same in bad faith, such that the nature of their possession is presumed
to have retained the same character throughout their occupancy.23
As to the issue of who is the proper party entitled to institute a case with
respect to the 3-meter strip/zone, We find and so hold that both the Republic
of the Philippines, through the OSG and the local government of Las Pias
City, may file an action depending on the purpose sought to be achieved.
The former shall be responsible in case of action for reversion under C.A.
141, while the latter may also bring an action to enforce the relevant
provisions of Republic Act No. 7279 (otherwise known as the Urban
Development and Housing Act of 1992).24 Under R.A. 7279, which was
enacted to uplift the living conditions in the poorer sections of the
communities in urban areas and was envisioned to be the antidote to the
pernicious problem of squatting in the metropolis,25 all local government
units (LGUs) are mandated to evict and demolish persons or entities
occupying danger areas such as esteros, railroad tracks, garbage dumps,
riverbanks, shorelines, waterways, and other public places such as
sidewalks, roads, parks, and playgrounds.26 Moreover, under pain of
administrative and criminal liability in case of non-compliance,27 it obliges
LGUs to strictly observe the following:
Section 29. Resettlement. - Within two (2) years from the effectivity of this
Act, the local government units, in coordination with the National Housing
Authority, shall implement the relocation and resettlement of persons living
in danger areas such as esteros, railroad tracks, garbage dumps, riverbanks,
shorelines, waterways, and in other public places such as sidewalks, roads,
parks and playgrounds. The local government unit, in coordination with the
National Housing Authority, shall provide relocation or resettlement sites with
basic services and facilities and access to employment and livelihood
opportunities sufficient to meet the basic needs of the affected
families.1wphi1
Section 30. Prohibition Against New Illegal Structures. - It shall be unlawful
for any person to construct any structure in areas mentioned in the
preceding section. After the effectivity of this Act, the barangay, municipal or
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city government units shall prevent the construction of any kind or illegal
dwelling units or structures within their respective localities. The head of any
local government unit concerned who allows, abets or otherwise tolerates
the construction of any structure in violation of this section shall be liable to
administrative sanctions under existing laws and to penal sanctions provided
for in this Act.
Yet all is not lost for petitioner. It may properly file an action for mandamus to
compel the local government of Las Pias City to enforce with reasonable
dispatch the eviction, demolition, and relocation of respondents and any
other persons similarly situated in order to give flesh to one of the avowed
policies of R.A. 7279, which is to reduce urban dysfunctions, particularly
those that adversely affect public health, safety, and ecology.28
Indeed, as one of the basic human needs, housing is a matter of state
concern as it directly and significantly affects the general welfare.29
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The March 5, 2010 Decision and
October 29, 2010 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No.
90254, which affirmed the May 30, 2007 Decision of the Las Pias RTC,
Branch 197, dismissing petitioner's complaint, is hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

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Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
G. R. No. 107764

October 4, 2002

EDNA COLLADO, BERNARDINA TAWAS, JORETO C. TORRES,


JOSE AMO, SERGIO L. MONTEALEGRE, VICENTE C. TORRES,
JOSEPH L. NUEZ, GLORIA SERRANO, DANILO FABREGAS, FERNANDO
T. TORRES,
LUZ G. TUBUNGBANUA, CARIDAD T. TUTANA, JOSE C. TORRES, JR.,
IMELDA CAYLALUAD, ROSALIE TUTANA, NORMA ASTORIAS, MYRNA
M. LANCION,
NORBERTO CAMILOTE, CECILIA MACARANAS, PEDRO BRIONES,
REMEDIOS BANTIGUE, DANTE L. MONTEALEGRE, AIDA T. GADON,
ARMANDO T. TORRES and FIDELITO ECO, petitioners,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, thru the
Director of Lands, respondents,
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BOCKASANJO ISF AWARDEES ASSOCIATION, INC.,


LITA MENDOZA, MORADO PREFIDIGNO, TERESITA CRUZ
and CALOMA MOISES, respondents/intervernors.
DECISION
CARPIO, J.:
The Case
This Petition1 seeks to set aside the Decision of the Court of Appeals,2 dated
June 22, 1992, in CA-G.R. SP No. 25597, which declared null and void the
Decision3 dated January 30, 1991 of the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo,
Rizal, Branch 71, in LRC No. 269-A, LRC Rec. No. N-59179, confirming the
imperfect title of petitioners over a parcel of land.
The Facts
On April 25, 1985, petitioner Edna T. Collado filed with the land registration
court an application for registration of a parcel of land with an approximate
area of 1,200,766 square meters or 120.0766 hectares ("Lot" for brevity).
The Lot is situated in Barangay San Isidro (formerly known as Boso-boso),
Antipolo, Rizal, and covered by Survey Plan Psu-162620. Attached to the
application was the technical description of the Lot as Lot Psu-162620 signed
by Robert C. Pangyarihan, Officer-in-Charge of the Survey Division, Bureau of
Lands, which stated, "[t]his survey is inside IN-12 Mariquina Watershed." On
March 24, 1986, petitioner Edna T. Collado filed an Amended Application to
include additional co-applicants.4 Subsequently, more applicants joined
(collectively referred to as "petitioners" for brevity).5
The Republic of the Philippines, through the Solicitor General, and the
Municipality of Antipolo, through its Municipal Attorney and the Provincial
Fiscal of Rizal, filed oppositions to petitioners application. In due course, the
land registration court issued an order of general default against the whole
world with the exception of the oppositors.
Petitioners alleged that they have occupied the Lot since time immemorial.
Their possession has been open, public, notorious and in the concept of
owners. The Lot was surveyed in the name of Sesinando Leyva, one of their
predecessors-in-interest, as early as March 22, 1902. Petitioners declared the
Lot for taxation purposes and paid all the corresponding real estate taxes.
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According to them, there are now twenty-five co-owners in pro-indiviso


shares of five hectares each. During the hearings, petitioners submitted
evidence to prove that there have been nine transfers of rights among them
and their predecessors-in-interest, as follows:
"1. SESINANDO LEYVA was the earliest known predecessor-in-interest
of the Applicants who was in actual, open, notorious and continuous
possession of the property in the concept of owner. He had the
property surveyed in his name on 22 March 1902 (Exhibit "W" and "W1" testimonies of J. Torres on 16 December 1987 and Mariano Leyva on
29 December 1987).
2. DIOSDADO LEYVA, is the son of Sesinando Leyva, who inherited the
property. He had the property resurveyed in his name on May 21-28,
1928 (Exhibit "X" and "X-1"; testimony of Mariano Leyva, a son of
Diosdado Leyva).
3. GREGORIO CAMANTIQUE bought the property from Diosdado Leyva
before the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines during World War II.
He owned and possessed the property until 1958. He declared the
property for tax purposes, the latest of which was under Tax
Declaration No. 7182 issued on 3 February 1957 (Exhibit "I" and
testimony of Mariano Leyva, supra).
4. ANGELINA REYNOSO, bought the property from Gregorio
Camantique by virtue of a Deed of Sale on 3 February 1958 (Exhibit
"H"). During the ownership of the property by Angelina Reynoso,
Mariano Leyva the grandson of Sesinando Leyva, the previous owner,
attended to the farm. (Testimony of Mariano Leyva, supra). Angelina
Reynoso declared the property in her name under Tax Declaration No.
7189 in 4 February 1958, under Tax Declaration No. 8775 on 3 August
1965, under Tax Declaration No. 16945 on 15 December 1975, and
under Tax Declaration No. 03-06145 on 25 June 1978.
5. MYRNA TORRES bought the property from Angelina Reynoso on 16
October 1982 through a Deed of Sale (Exhibit "G").
6. EDNA COLLADO bought the property from Myrna Torres in a Deed of
Sale dated 28 April 1984 (Exhibit "P-1" to "P-3").

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7. Additional owners BERNARDINA TAWAS, JORETO TORRES, JOSE AMO,


VICENTE TORRES and SERGIO MONTEALEGRE who bought portions of
the property from Edna Collado through a Deed of Sale on 6 November
1985 (Exhibit "Q" to "Q-3").
8. And more additional Owners JOSEPH NUNEZ, DIOSDADO ARENOS,
DANILO FABREGAS, FERNANDO TORRES, LUZ TUBUNGBANUA, CARIDAD
TUTANA, JOSE TORRES JR., RODRIGO TUTANA, ROSALIE TUTANA,
NORMA ASTORIAS, MYRNA LANCION, CHONA MARCIANO, CECILIA
MACARANAS, PEDRO BRIONES, REMEDIOS BANTIQUE, DANTE
MONTEALEGRE, ARMANDO TORRES, AIDA GADON and AMELIA M.
MALAPAD bought portions of the property in a Deed of Sale on 12 May
1986 (Exhibit "S" to "S-3").
9. Co-owners DIOSDADO ARENOS, RODRIGO TUTANA, CHONA
MARCIANO and AMELIA MALAPAD jointly sold their shares to new
OWNERS GLORIA R. SERRANO, IMELDA CAYLALUAD, NORBERTO
CAMILOTE and FIDELITO ECO through a Deed of Sale dated 18 January
1987 (Exhibit "T" to "T-9")."6
During the hearing on January 9, 1991, only the assistant provincial
prosecutor appeared without the Solicitor General. For failure of the
oppositors to present their evidence, the land registration court issued an
order considering the case submitted for decision based on the evidence of
the petitioners. The court later set aside the order and reset the hearing to
January 14, 1991 for the presentation of the evidence of the oppositors. On
this date, counsel for oppositors failed to appear again despite due notice.
Hence, the court again issued an order submitting the case for decision
based on the evidence of the petitioners.
The Trial Courts Ruling
After appraisal of the evidence submitted by petitioners, the land registration
court held that petitioners had adduced sufficient evidence to establish their
registrable rights over the Lot. Accordingly, the court rendered a decision
confirming the imperfect title of petitioners. We quote the pertinent portions
of the courts decision, as follows:
"From the evidence presented, the Court finds that from the testimony of the
witnesses presented by the Applicants, the property applied for is in actual,
open, public and notorious possession by the applicants and their
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predecessor-in-interest since time immemorial and said possession had been


testified to by witnesses Jimmy Torres, Mariano Leyva, Sergio Montealegre,
Jose Amo and one Chona who were all cross-examined by Counsel for
Oppositor Republic of the Philippines.
Evidence was likewise presented that said property was declared for taxation
purposes in the names of the previous owners and the corresponding taxes
were paid by the Applicants and the previous owners and said property was
planted to fruit bearing trees; portions to palay and portions used for grazing
purposes.
To the mind of the Court, Applicants have presented sufficient evidence to
establish registrable title over said property applied for by them.
On the claim that the property applied for is within the Marikina Watershed,
the Court can only add that all Presidential Proclamations like the
Proclamation setting aside the Marikina Watershed are subject to "private
rights."
In the case of Municipality of Santiago vs. Court of Appeals, 120 SCRA 734,
1983 "private rights" is proof of acquisition through (sic) among means of
acquisition of public lands.
In the case of Director of Lands vs. Reyes, 68 SCRA 193-195, by "private
rights" means that applicant should show clear and convincing evidence that
the property in question was acquired by applicants or their ancestors either
by composition title from the Spanish government or by Possessory
Information title, or any other means for the acquisition of public lands xxx"
(underscoring supplied).
The Court believes that from the evidence presented as above stated,
Applicants have acquired private rights to which the Presidential
Proclamation setting aside the Marikina Watershed should be subject to such
private rights.
At any rate, the Court notes that evidence was presented by the applicants
that as per Certification issued by the Bureau of Forest Development dated
March 18, 1980, the area applied for was verified to be within the area
excluded from the operation of the Marikina Watershed Lands Executive
Order No. 33 dated July 26, 1904 per Proclamation No. 1283 promulgated on
June 21, 1974 which established the Boso-boso Town Site Reservation,
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amended by Proclamation No. 1637 dated April 18, 1977 known as the
Lungsod Silangan Townsite Reservation. (Exhibit "K")."7
In a motion dated April 5, 1991, received by the Solicitor General on April 6,
1991, petitioners alleged that the decision dated January 30, 1991
confirming their title had become final after the Solicitor General received a
copy of the decision on February 18, 1991. Petitioners prayed that the land
registration court order the Land Registration Authority to issue the
necessary decree in their favor over the Lot.
On April 11, 1991, the Solicitor General inquired from the Provincial
Prosecutor of Rizal whether the land registration court had already rendered
a decision and if so, whether the Provincial Prosecutor would recommend an
appeal. However, the Provincial Prosecutor failed to answer the query.
According to the Solicitor General, he received on April 23, 1991 a copy of
the land registration courts decision dated January 30, 1991, and not on
February 18, 1991 as alleged by petitioners in their motion.
In the meantime, on May 7, 1991, the land registration court issued an order
directing the Land Regulation Authority to issue the corresponding decree of
registration in favor of the petitioners.
On August 6, 1991, the Solicitor General filed with the Court of Appeals a
Petition for Annulment of Judgment pursuant to Section 9(2) of BP Blg. 129
on the ground that there had been no clear showing that the Lot had been
previously classified as alienable and disposable making it subject to private
appropriation.
On November 29, 1991, Bockasanjo ISF Awardees Association, Inc., an
association of holders of certificates of stewardship issued by the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources ("DENR" for brevity)
under its Integrated Social Forestry Program ("ISF" for brevity), filed with the
Court of Appeals a Motion for Leave to Intervene and to Admit Petition-InIntervention. They likewise opposed the registration and asserted that the
Lot, which is situated inside the Marikina Watershed Reservation, is
inalienable. They claimed that they are the actual occupants of the Lot
pursuant to the certificates of stewardship issued by the DENR under the ISF
for tree planting purposes.

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The Court of Appeals granted the motion to intervene verbally during the
preliminary conference held on April 6, 1992. During the preliminary
conference, all the parties as represented by their respective counsels
agreed that the only issue for resolution was whether the Lot in question is
part of the public domain.8
The Court of Appeals Ruling
In a decision dated June 22, 1992, the Court of Appeals granted the petition
and declared null and void the decision dated January 30, 1991 of the land
registration court. The Court of Appeals explained thus:
"Under the Regalian Doctrine, which is enshrined in the 1935 (Art. XIII, Sec.
1), 1973 (Art. XIV, Sec. 8), and 1987 Constitution (Art. XII, Sec. 2), all lands of
the public domain belong to the State. An applicant, like the private
respondents herein, for registration of a parcel of land bears the burden of
overcoming the presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part
of the public domain (Director of Lands vs. Aquino, 192 SCRA 296).
A positive Act of government is needed to declassify a public land and to
convert it into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes
(Republic vs. Bacas, 176 SCRA 376).
In the case at bar, the private respondents failed to present any evidence
whatsoever that the land applied for as described in Psu-162620 has been
segregated from the bulk of the public domain and declared by competent
authority to be alienable and disposable. Worse, the technical description of
Psu-162620 signed by Robert C. Pangyarihan, Officer-in-Charge, Survey
Division, Bureau of Lands, which was attached to the application of private
respondents, categorically stated that "This survey is inside IN-12 Mariquina
Watershed.""
That the land in question is within the Marikina Watershed Reservation is
confirmed by the Administrator of the National Land Titles and Deeds in a
Report, dated March 2, 1988, submitted to the respondent Court in LR Case
No. 269-A. These documents readily and effectively negate the allegation in
private respondent Collados application that "said parcel of land known as
Psu-162620 is not covered by any form of title, nor any public land
application and are not within any government reservation (Par. 8,
Application; Emphasis supplied). The respondent court could not have
missed the import of these vital documents which are binding upon the
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courts inasmuch as it is the exclusive prerogative of the Executive


Department to classify public lands. They should have forewarned the
respondent judge from assuming jurisdiction over the case.
"x x x inasmuch as the said properties applied for by petitioners are part of
the public domain, it is the Director of Lands who has jurisdiction in the
disposition of the same (subject to the approval of the Secretary of Natural
Resources and Environment), and not the courts. x x x Even assuming that
petitioners did have the said properties surveyed even before the same was
declared to be part of the Busol Forest Reservation, the fact remains that it
was so converted into a forest reservation, thus it is with more reason that
this action must fail. Forest lands are inalienable and possession thereof, no
matter how long, cannot convert the same into private property. And courts
are without jurisdiction to adjudicate lands within the forest zone. (Heirs of
Gumangan vs. Court of Appeals. 172 SCRA 563; Emphasis supplied).
Needless to say, a final judgment may be annulled on the ground of lack of
jurisdiction, fraud or that it is contrary to law (Panlilio vs. Garcia, 119 SCRA
387, 391) and a decision rendered without jurisdiction is a total nullity and
may be struck down at any time (Suarez vs. Court of Appeals, 186 SCRA
339)."9
Hence, the instant petition.
The Issues
The issues raised by petitioners are restated as follows:
I
WHETHER THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED OR GRAVELY ABUSED ITS
DISCRETION IN REVERSING THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT GRANTING
THE APPLICATION OF THE PETITIONERS FOR CONFIRMATION OF TITLE;
II
WHETHER THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED OR GRAVELY ABUSED ITS
DISCRETION IN GIVING DUE COURSE TO THE PETITION FOR ANNULMENT OF
JUDGMENT FILED BY THE REPUBLIC LONG AFTER THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL
COURT HAD BECOME FINAL;

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III
WHETHER THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED OR GRAVELY ABUSED ITS
DISCRETION IN GIVING DUE COURSE TO THE INTERVENORS PETITION FOR
INTERVENTION WHICH WAS FILED OUT OF TIME OR LONG AFTER THE
DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT HAD BECOME FINAL.
The Courts Ruling
The petition is bereft of merit.
First Issue: whether petitioners have registrable title over the Lot.
There is no dispute that Executive Order No. 33 ("EO 33" for brevity) dated
July 26, 190410 established the Marikina Watershed Reservation ("MWR" for
brevity) situated in the Municipality of Antipolo, Rizal. Petitioners even
concede that the Lot, described as Lot Psu-162620, is inside the technical,
literal description of the MWR. However, the main thrust of petitioners claim
over the Lot is that "all Presidential proclamations like the proclamation
setting aside the Marikina Watershed Reservation are subject to private
rights." They point out that EO 33 contains a saving clause that the
reservations are "subject to existing private rights, if any there be."
Petitioners contend that their claim of ownership goes all the way back to
1902, when their known predecessor-in-interest, Sesinando Leyva, laid claim
and ownership over the Lot. They claim that the presumption of law then
prevailing under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Public Land Act No. 926 was
that the land possessed and claimed by individuals as their own are
agricultural lands and therefore alienable and disposable. They conclude that
private rights were vested on Sesinando Leyva before the issuance of EO 33,
thus excluding the Lot from the Marikina Watershed Reservation.
Petitioners arguments find no basis in law.
The Regalian Doctrine: An Overview
Under the Regalian Doctrine, all lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly
within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State.11 The
Spaniards first introduced the doctrine to the Philippines through the Laws of
the Indies and the Royal Cedulas, specifically, Law 14, Title 12, Book 4 of the
Novisima Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias12 which laid the foundation that
"all lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or
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by grant, belong to the public domain."13 Upon the Spanish conquest of the
Philippines, ownership of all "lands, territories and possessions" in the
Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown.14
The Laws of the Indies were followed by the Ley Hipotecaria or the Mortgage
Law of 1893. The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic
registration of titles and deeds as well as possessory claims. The Royal
Decree of 1894 or the "Maura Law" partly amended the Mortgage Law as
well as the Law of the Indies. The Maura Law was the last Spanish land law
promulgated in the Philippines. It required the "adjustment" or registration of
all agricultural lands, otherwise the lands would revert to the state.15
Four years later, Spain ceded to the government of the United States all
rights, interests and claims over the national territory of the Philippine
Islands through the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898. In 1903, the United
States colonial government, through the Philippine Commission, passed Act
No. 926, the first Public Land Act, which was described as follows:
"Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was passed in pursuance of the
provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902. The law governed the disposition of
lands of the public domain. It prescribed rules and regulations for the
homesteading, selling and leasing of portions of the public domain of the
Philippine Islands, and prescribed the terms and conditions to enable persons
to perfect their titles to public lands in the Islands. It also provided for the
"issuance of patents to certain native settlers upon public lands," for the
establishment of town sites and sale of lots therein, for the completion of
imperfect titles, and for the cancellation or confirmation of Spanish
concessions and grants in the Islands." In short, the Public Land Act operated
on the assumption that title to public lands in the Philippine Islands remained
in the government; and that the governments title to public land sprung
from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent treaties between Spain and
the United States. The term "public land" referred to all lands of the public
domain whose title still remained in the government and are thrown open to
private appropriation and settlement, and excluded the patrimonial property
of the government and the friar lands."16
Thus, it is plain error for petitioners to argue that under the Philippine Bill of
1902 and Public Land Act No. 926, mere possession by private individuals of
lands creates the legal presumption that the lands are alienable and
disposable.
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Act 2874, the second Public Land Act, superseded Act No. 926 in 1919. After
the passage of the 1935 Constitution, Commonwealth Act No. 141 ("CA 141"
for brevity) amended Act 2874 in 1936. CA 141, as amended, remains to this
day as the existing general law governing the classification and disposition of
lands of the public domain other than timber and mineral lands.17
In the meantime, in order to establish a system of registration by which
recorded title becomes absolute, indefeasible and imprescriptible, the
legislature passed Act 496, otherwise known as the Land Registration Act,
which took effect on February 1, 1903. Act 496 placed all registered lands in
the Philippines under the Torrens system.18 The Torrens system requires the
government to issue a certificate of title stating that the person named in the
title is the owner of the property described therein, subject to liens and
encumbrances annotated on the title or reserved by law. The certificate of
title is indefeasible and imprescriptible and all claims to the parcel of land
are quieted upon issuance of the certificate.19 PD 1529, known as the
Property Registration Decree enacted on June 11, 1978,20 amended and
updated Act 496.
The 1935, 1973, 1987 Philippine Constitutions
The 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions adopted the Regalian doctrine
substituting, however, the state, in lieu of the King, as the owner of all lands
and waters of the public domain.21 Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his separate
opinion in Cruz vs. Secretary of Environment and Natural
Resources,22 explained thus:
"One of the fixed and dominating objectives of the 1935 Constitutional
Convention was the nationalization and conservation of the natural resources
of the country. There was an overwhelming sentiment in the Convention in
favor of the principle of state ownership of natural resources and the
adoption of the Regalian doctrine. State ownership of natural resources was
seen as a necessary starting point to secure recognition of the states power
to control their disposition, exploitation, development, or utilization. The
delegates to the Constitutional Convention very well knew that the concept
of State ownership of land and natural resources was introduced by the
Spaniards, however, they were not certain whether it was continued and
applied by the Americans. To remove all doubts, the Convention approved
the provision in the Constitution affirming the Regalian doctrine."

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Thus, Section 1, Article XIII23 of the 1935 Constitution, on "Conservation and


Utilization of Natural Resources" barred the alienation of all natural resources
except public agricultural lands, which were the only natural resources the
State could alienate. The 1973 Constitution reiterated the Regalian doctrine
in Section 8, Article XIV24 on the "National Economy and the Patrimony of the
Nation". The 1987 Constitution reaffirmed the Regalian doctrine in Section 2
of Article XII25 on "National Economy and Patrimony".
Both the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions prohibited the alienation of all natural
resources except agricultural lands of the public domain. The 1987
Constitution readopted this policy. Indeed, all lands of the public domain as
well as all natural resources enumerated in the Philippine Constitution belong
to the State.
Watershed Reservation is a Natural Resource
The term "natural resource" includes "not only timber, gas, oil coal, minerals,
lakes, and submerged lands, but also, features which supply a human need
and contribute to the health, welfare, and benefit of a community, and are
essential to the well-being thereof and proper enjoyment of property devoted
to park and recreational purposes."26
In Sta. Rosa Realty Development Corp. vs. Court of Appeals, et al.,27 the
Court had occasion to discourse on watershed areas. The Court resolved the
issue of whether the parcel of land which the Department of Environment
and Natural Resources had assessed to be a watershed area is exempt from
the coverage of RA No. 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law
("CARL" for brevity).28 The Court defined watershed as "an area drained by a
river and its tributaries and enclosed by a boundary or divide which
separates it from adjacent watersheds." However, the Court also recognized
that:
"The definition does not exactly depict the complexities of a watershed. The
most important product of a watershed is water which is one of the most
important human necessit(ies). The protection of watershed ensures an
adequate supply of water for future generations and the control of
flashfloods that not only damage property but also cause loss of lives.
Protection of watersheds is an "intergenerational" responsibility that needs to
be answered now."
Article 67 of the Water Code of the Philippines (PD 1067) provides:
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"Art. 67. Any watershed or any area of land adjacent to any surface water or
overlying any ground water may be declared by the Department of Natural
Resources as a protected area. Rules and Regulations may be promulgated
by such Department to prohibit or control such activities by the owners or
occupants thereof within the protected area which may damage or cause the
deterioration of the surface water or ground water or interfere with the
investigation, use, control, protection, management or administration of such
waters."
The Court in Sta. Rosa Realty also recognized the need to protect watershed
areas and took note of the report of the Ecosystems Research and
Development Bureau (ERDB), a research arm of the DENR, regarding the
environmental assessment of the Casile and Kabanga-an river watersheds
involved in that case. That report concluded as follows:
"The Casile barangay covered by CLOA in question is situated in the
heartland of both watersheds. Considering the barangays proximity to the
Matangtubig waterworks, the activities of the farmers which are in conflict
with proper soil and water conservation practices jeopardize and endanger
the vital waterworks. Degradation of the land would have double edge
detrimental effects. On the Casile side this would mean direct siltation of the
Mangumit river which drains to the water impounding reservoir below. On the
Kabanga-an side, this would mean destruction of forest covers which acts as
recharged areas of the Matangtubig springs. Considering that the people
have little if no direct interest in the protection of the Matangtubig structures
they couldnt care less even if it would be destroyed.
The Casile and Kabanga-an watersheds can be considered a most vital life
support system to thousands of inhabitants directly and indirectly affected
by it. From these watersheds come the natural God-given precious resource
water. x x x
Clearing and tilling of the lands are totally inconsistent with sound watershed
management. More so, the introduction of earth disturbing activities like road
building and erection of permanent infrastructures. Unless the pernicious
agricultural activities of the Casile farmers are immediately stopped, it would
not be long before these watersheds would cease to be of value. The impact
of watershed degradation threatens the livelihood of thousands of people
dependent upon it. Toward this, we hope that an acceptable comprehensive

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watershed development policy and program be immediately formulated and


implemented before the irreversible damage finally happens."
The Court remanded the case to the Department of Agriculture and
Adjudication Board or DARAB to re-evaluate and determine the nature of the
parcels of land involved in order to resolve the issue of its coverage by the
CARL.
Sta. Rosa Realty gives us a glimpse of the dangers posed by the misuse of
natural resources such as watershed reservations which are akin to forest
zones. Population growth and industrialization have taken a heavy toll on the
environment. Environmental degradation from unchecked human activities
could wreak havoc on the lives of present and future generations. Hence, by
constitutional fiat, natural resources remain to this day inalienable properties
of the State.
Viewed under this legal and factual backdrop, did petitioners acquire, as they
vigorously argue, private rights over the parcel of land prior to the issuance
of EO 33 segregating the same as a watershed reservation?
The answer is in the negative.
First. An applicant for confirmation of imperfect title bears the burden of
proving that he meets the requirements of Section 48 of CA 141, as
amended. He must overcome the presumption that the land he is applying
for is part of the public domain and that he has an interest therein sufficient
to warrant registration in his name arising from an imperfect title. An
imperfect title may have been derived from old Spanish grants such as a
titulo real or royal grant, a concession especial or special grant, a
composicion con el estado or adjustment title, or a titulo de compra or title
through purchase.29 Or, that he has had continuous, open and notorious
possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain under a
bona fide claim of ownership for at least thirty years preceding the filing of
his application as provided by Section 48 (b) CA 141.
Originally, Section 48(b) of CA 141 provided for possession and occupation of
lands of the public domain since July 26, 1894. This was superseded by RA
1942 which provided for a simple thirty-year prescriptive period of
occupation by an applicant for judicial confirmation of an imperfect title. The
same, however, has already been amended by Presidential Decree No. 1073,
approved on January 25, 1977, the law prevailing at the time petitioners
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application for registration was filed on April 25, 1985.30 As amended, Section
48 (b) now reads:
"(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
wars or force majeure. Those 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."
Interpreting Section 48 (b) of CA 141, the Court stated that the Public Land
Act requires that the applicant must prove the following:
"(a) that the land is alienable public land and (b) that his open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the same must either
be since time immemorial or for the period prescribed in the Public Land Act.
When the conditions set by law are complied with, the possessor of the land,
by operation of law, acquires a right to a grant, a government grant, without
the necessity of a certificate of title being issued."31
Petitioners do not claim to have documentary title over the Lot. Their right to
register the Lot is predicated mainly upon continuous possession since 1902.
Clearly, petitioners were unable to acquire a valid and enforceable right or
title because of the failure to complete the required period of possession,
whether under the original Section 48 (b) of CA 141 prior to the issuance of
EO 33, or under the amendment by RA 1942 and PD 1073.
There is no proof that prior to the issuance of EO 33 in 1904, petitioners had
acquired ownership or title to the Lot either by deed or by any other mode of
acquisition from the State, as for instance by acquisitive prescription. As of
1904, Sesinando Leyva had only been in possession for two years. Verily,
petitioners have not possessed the parcel of land in the manner and for the
number of years required by law for the confirmation of imperfect title.
Second, assuming that the Lot was alienable and disposable land prior to the
issuance of EO 33 in 1904, EO 33 reserved the Lot as a watershed. Since
then, the Lot became non-disposable and inalienable public land. At the time
petitioners filed their application on April 25, 1985, the Lot has been
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reserved as a watershed under EO 33 for 81 years prior to the filing of


petitioners application.
The period of occupancy after the issuance of EO 33 in 1904 could no longer
be counted because as a watershed reservation, the Lot was no longer
susceptible of occupancy, disposition, conveyance or alienation. Section 48
(b) of CA 141, as amended, applies exclusively to alienable and disposable
public agricultural land. Forest lands, including watershed reservations, are
excluded. It is axiomatic that the possession of forest lands or other
inalienable public lands cannot ripen into private ownership. In Municipality
of Santiago, Isabela vs. Court of Appeals,32 the Court declared that
inalienable public lands "x x x cannot be acquired by acquisitive prescription. Prescription, both
acquisitive and extinctive, does not run against the State.
The possession of public land, however long the period may have extended,
never confers title thereto upon the possessor because the statute of
limitations with regard to public land does not operate against the State,
unless the occupant can prove possession and occupation of the same under
claim of ownership for the required number of years to constitute a grant
from the State. "
Third, Gordula vs. Court of Appeals33 is in point. In Gordula, petitioners did
not contest the nature of the land. They admitted that the land lies in the
heart of the Caliraya-Lumot River Forest Reserve, which Proclamation No.
573 classified as inalienable. The petitioners in Gordula contended, however,
that Proclamation No. 573 itself recognizes private rights of landowners prior
to the reservation. They claim to have established their private rights to the
subject land. The Court ruled:
"We do not agree. No public land can be acquired by private persons without
any grant, express or implied from the government; it is indispensable that
there be a showing of a title from the state. The facts show that petitioner
Gordula did not acquire title to the subject land prior to its reservation under
Proclamation No. 573. He filed his application for free patent only in January,
1973, more than three (3) years after the issuance of Proclamation No. 573
in June, 1969. At that time, the land, as part of the Caliraya-Lumot River
Forest Reserve, was no longer open to private ownership as it has been
classified as public forest reserve for the public good.
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Nonetheless, petitioners insist that the term, "private rights," in Proclamation


No. 573, should not be interpreted as requiring a title. They opine that it
suffices if the claimant "had occupied and cultivated the property for so
many number of years, declared the land for taxation purposes, [paid] the
corresponding real estate taxes [which are] accepted by the government,
and [his] occupancy and possession [is] continuous, open and unmolested
and recognized by the government. Prescinding from this premise,
petitioners urge that the 25-year possession by petitioner Gordula from 1944
to 1969, albeit five (5) years short of the 30-year possession required under
Commonwealth Act (C.A.) No. 141, as amended, is enough to vest upon
petitioner Gordula the "private rights" recognized and respected in
Proclamation No. 573.
The case law does not support this submission. In Director of Lands vs.
Reyes, we held that a settler claiming the protection of "private rights" to
exclude his land from a military or forest reservation must show "x x x by
clear and convincing evidence that the property in question was acquired by
[any] x x x means for the acquisition of public lands."
In fine, one claiming "private rights" must prove that he has complied with
C.A. No. 141, as amended, otherwise known as the Public Land Act, which
prescribes the substantive as well as the procedural requirements for
acquisition of public lands. This law requires at least thirty (30) years of
open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and possession of
agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of
acquisition, immediately preceding the filing of the application for free
patent. The rationale for the 30-year period lies in the presumption that the
land applied for pertains to the State, and that the occupants and/or
possessors claim an interest therein only by virtue of their imperfect title or
continuous, open and notorious possession."
Next, petitioners argue that assuming no private rights had attached to the
Lot prior to EO 33 in 1904, the President of the Philippines had subsequently
segregated the Lot from the public domain and made the Lot alienable and
disposable when he issued Proclamation No. 1283 on June 21, 1974.
Petitioners contend that Proclamation No. 1283 expressly excluded an area
of 3,780 hectares from the MWR and made the area part of the Boso-boso
Townsite Reservation. Petitioners assert that Lot Psu-162620 is a small part
of this excluded town site area. Petitioners further contend that town sites
are considered alienable and disposable under CA 141.
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Proclamation No. 1283 reads thus:


"PROCLAMATION NO. 1283
EXCLUDING FROM THE OPERATION EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 33, DATED JULY
26, 1904, AS AMENDED BY EXECUTIVE ORDERS NOS. 14 AND 16, BOTH
SERIES OF 1915, WHICH ESTABLISHED THE WATERSHED RESERVATION
SITUATED IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF ANTIPOLO, PROVINCE OF RIZAL, ISLAND
OF LUZON, A CERTAIN PORTION OF THE LAND EMBRACED THEREIN AND
RESERVING THE SAME, TOGETHER WITH THE ADJACENT PARCEL OF LAND OF
THE PUBLIC DOMAIN, FOR TOWNSITE PURPOSES UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF
CHAPTER XI OF THE PUBLIC LAND ACT.
Upon recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources
and pursuant to the authority vested in me by law, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS,
President of the Philippines, do hereby, exclude from the operation of
Executive Order No. 33 dated July 26, 1904, as amended by Executive Orders
Nos. 14 and 16, both series of 1915, which established the Watershed
Reservation situated in the Municipality of Antipolo, Province of Rizal, Island
of Luzon, certain portions of land embraced therein and reserve the same,
together with the adjacent parcel of land of the public domain, for townsite
purposes under the provisions of Chapter XI of the Public Land Act, subject to
private rights, if any there be, and to future subdivision survey in accordance
with the development plan to be prepared and approved by the Department
of Local Government and Community Development, which parcels are more
particularly described as follows:
Lot A (Part of Watershed Reservation)
A parcel of land (Lot A of Proposed Poor Mans Baguio, being a portion of the
Marikina Watershed, IN-2), situated in the municipality of Antipolo, Province
of Rizal, Island of Luzon, beginning at a point marked "1" on sketch plan,
being N-74-30 E, 8480.00 meters more or less, from BLLM 1, Antipolo, Rizal;
thence N 33 28 W 1575.00 m. to point 2; thence N 40 26 W 1538.50 m. to
point 3; thence N 30 50W 503.17 m. to point 4; thence N 75 02 W 704.33
m. to point 5; thence N 14 18 W 1399.39 m. to point 6; thence N 43 25 W
477.04 m. to point 7; thence N 71 38 W 458.36 m. to point 8; thence N 31
05 W 1025.00 m. to point 9; thence Due North 490.38 m. to point 10; thence
Due North 1075.00 m. to point 11; thence Due East 1000.00 m. to point 12;
thence Due East 1000.00 m. to point 13; thence Due East 1000.00 m. to
point 14; thence Due East 1000.00 m. to point 15; thence Due East 1000.00
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m. to point 16; thence Due East 1000.00 m. to point 17; thence Due East
1075.00 m. to point 18; thence Due South 1000.00 m. to point 19; thence
Due South 1000.00 m. to point 20; thence Due South 1000.00 m. to point 21;
thence Due South 1000.00 m. to point 22; thence Due South 1000.00 m. to
point 23; thence Due South 1000.00 m. to point 24; thence Due South
1075.00 m. to point 25; thence Due West 1000.00 m. to point 26; thence
Due West 1000.00 m. to point 27; thence Due West 636.56 m. to point of
beginning. Containing an area of three thousand seven hundred eighty
(3,780) Hectares, more or less.
Lot B (Alienable and Disposable Land)
A parcel of land (Lot B of Proposed Poor Mans Baguio, being a portion of
alienable and disposable portion of public domain) situated in the
municipality of Antipolo, Province of Rizal, Island of Luzon. Beginning at a
point marked "1" on sketch plan being N 74 30 E., 8430.00 m., more or less,
from BLLM 1. Antipolo, Rizal; thence Due West 363.44 m. to point 2; thence
Due West 1000.00 m. to point 3; thence Due West 100.00 m. to point 4;
thence Due West 1000.00 m. to point 5; thence Due West 1075.00 m. to
point 6; thence Due North 1000.00 m. to point 7; thence Due North 1000.00
m. to point 8; thence Due North 1000.00 m. to point 9; thence Due North
1000.00 m. to point 10; thence Due North 1000.00 m. to point 11; thence
Due North 509.62 m. to point 12; thence S. 31 05 E 1025.00 m. to point 13;
thence S 71 38 E 458.36 m. to point 14; thence S 43 25 E 477.04 m. to
point 15; thence S 14 18 E 1399.39 m. to point 16; thence S 75 02 E 704.33
m. to point 17; thence S. 30 50 E 503.17 m. to point 18; thence S 40 26 E
1538.50 m. to point 19; thence s 33 23 e 1575.00 m to point of beginning.
Containing an area of one thousand two hundred twenty five (1,225)
Hectares, more or less.
Note: All data are approximate and subject to change based on future survey.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I Have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of
the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.
Done in the City of Manila, this 21st day of June, in the year of Our Lord,
nineteen hundred and seventy-four.
(Sgd.) FERDINAND E. MARCOS
President
Republic of the Philippines"
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Proclamation No. 1283 has since been amended by Proclamation No. 1637
issued on April 18, 1977. Proclamation No. 1637 revised the area and
location of the proposed townsite. According to then DENR Secretary Victor
O. Ramos, Proclamation No. 1637 excluded Lot A (of which the Lot claimed
by petitioners is part) for townsite purposes and reverted it to MWR
coverage.34 Proclamation No. 1637 reads:
"PROCLAMATION NO. 1637
AMENDING PROCLAMATION NO. 1283, DATED JUNE 21, 1974, WHICH
ESTABLISHED THE TOWNSITE RESERVATION IN THE MUNICIPALITIES OF
ANTIPOLO AND SAN MATEO, PROVINCE OF RIZAL, ISLAND OF LUZON BY
INCREASING THE AREA AND REVISING THE TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE
LAND EMBRACED THEREIN, AND REVOKING PROCLAMATION NO. 765 DATED
OCTOBER 26, 1970 THAT RESERVED PORTIONS OF THE AREA AS
RESETTLEMENT SITE.
Upon recommendation of the Secretary of Natural Resources and pursuant to
the authority vested in me by law, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the
Philippines, do hereby amend Proclamation No. 1283, dated June 21, 1974
which established the townsite reservation in the municipalities of Antipolo
and San Mateo, Province of Rizal, Island of Luzon, by increasing the area and
revising the technical descriptions of the land embraced therein, subject to
private rights, if any there be, which parcel of land is more particularly
described as follows:
(Proposed Lungsod Silangan Townsite)
A PARCEL OF LAND (Proposed Lungsod Silangan Townsite Reservation
amending the area under SWO-41762 establishing the Bagong Silangan
Townsite Reservation) situated in the Municipalities of Antipolo, San Mateo,
and Montalban, Province of Rizal, Island of Luzon. Bounded on the E., along
lines 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-20-21-22-23 by the
Marikina Watershed Reservation (IN-12); on the S., along lines 23-24-25 by
the portion of Antipolo; on the W., along lines 25-26-27-28-29-30 by the
Municipalities of Montalban, San Mateo; and on the N., along lines 30-31-3233-34-35-36-37-38-39-40-41-42-43-44 by the Angat Watershed Reservation.
Beginning at a point marked "1" on the Topographic Maps with the Scale of
1:50,000 which is the identical corner 38 IN-12, Marikina Watershed
Reservation.
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xxx

xxx

xxx

NOTE: All data are approximate and subject to change based on future
survey.
Proclamation No. 765 dated October 26, 1970, which covered areas entirely
within the herein Lungsod Silangan Townsite, is hereby revoked accordingly.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of
the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.
Done in the City of Manila, this 18th day of April, in the year of Our Lord,
nineteen hundred and seventy-seven.
(Sgd.) FERDINAND E. MARCOS
President of the Philippines"
A positive act (e.g., an official proclamation) of the Executive Department is
needed to declassify land which had been earlier classified as a watershed
reservation and to convert it into alienable or disposable land for agricultural
or other purposes.35 Unless and until the land classified as such is released in
an official proclamation so that it may form part of the disposable
agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of
imperfect title do not apply.36
The principal document presented by petitioners to prove the private
character of the Lot is the Certification of the Bureau of Forest Development
dated March 18, 1986 that the Lot is excluded from the Marikina Watershed
(Exh. R). The Certification reads:
"Republic of the Philippines
Ministry of Natural Resources
BUREAU OF FOREST DEVELOPMENT
REGION IV
EL AL Building
100 Quezon Avenue, Quezon City
MAR 18 1986
VERIFICATION ON THE STATUS OF LAND:
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TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:


This is to certify that the tract of land situated in Barangay San Isidro,
Antipolo, Rizal, containing an area of 1,269,766 square meters, as shown and
described on the reverse side hereof, surveyed by Geodetic Engineer
Telesforo Cabading for Angelina C. Reynoso, is verified to be within the area
excluded from the operation of Marikina Watershed Reservation established
under Executive Order No. 33 dated July 26, 1904 per Proclamation No. 1283,
promulgated on June 21, 1974, which established the Boso-Boso Townsite
Reservation, amended by proclamation No. 1637 dated April 18, 1977 known
as Lungsod Silangan Townsite Reservation.
Subject area also falls within the bounds of Bagong Lipunan Site under P.D.
1396 dated June 2, 1978 under the sole jurisdiction of the Ministry of Human
Settlements, to the exclusion of any other government agencies.
This verification is made upon the request of the Chief, Legal Staff, R-4 as
contained in his internal memorandum dated March 18, 1986.
Verified by:
(Sgd) ROMEO C. PASCUBILLO
Cartographer II
Checked by:
(Sgd) ARMENDO R. CRUZ
Supervising Cartographer
ATTESTED:
(Sgd) LUIS G. DACANAY
Chief, Forest Engineering & Infrastructure Section"
The above certification on which petitioners rely that a reclassification had
occurred, and that the Lot is covered by the reclassification, is contradicted
by several documents submitted by the Solicitor General before the land
registration court.
The Solicitor General submitted to the land registration court a
Report37 dated March 2, 1988, signed by Administrator Teodoro G. Bonifacio
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of the then National Land Titles and Deeds Registration Administration,


confirming that the Lot described in Psu-162620 forms part of the MWR. He
thus recommended the dismissal of the application for registration. The
Report states:
"COMES NOW the Administrator of the National Land Titles and Deeds
Registration Commission and to this Honorable Court respectfully reports
that:
1. A parcel of land described in plan Psu-162620 situated in the Barrio
of San Isidro, Municipality of Antipolo, Province of Rizal, is applied for
registration of title in the case at bar.
2. After plotting plan Psu-162620 in our Municipal Index Map it was
found that a portion of the SW, described as Lot 3 in plan Psu-173790
was previously the subject of registration in Land Reg. Case No. N9578, LRC Record No. N-55948 and was issued Decree No. N-191242
on April 4, 1986 in the name of Apolonia Garcia, et al., pursuant to the
Decision and Order for Issuance of the Decree dated February 8, 1984
and March 6, 1984, respectively, and the remaining portion of plan
Psu-162620 is inside IN-12, Marikina Watershed. x x x
"WHEREFORE, this matter is respectfully submitted to the Honorable Court
for its information and guidance with the recommendation that the
application in the instant proceedings be dismissed, after due hearing
(Underlining supplied)."
Likewise, in a letter38 dated November 11, 1991, the Deputy Land Inspector,
DENR, Region IV, Community Environment and Natural Resources Office,
Antipolo, Rizal, similarly confirmed that the Lot is within the MWR. The letter
states:
"That the land sought to be registered is situated at San Isidro (Boso-boso),
Antipolo, Rizal, with an area of ONE HUNDRED TWENTY SIX POINT ZERO
SEVEN SIXTY SIX (126.0766) hectares, more particularly described in Psu162620, which is within the Marikina Watershed Reservation under Executive
Order No. 33 dated July 2, 1904 which established the Marikina Watershed
Reservation (IN-12) x x x.
"x

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"That the land sought to be registered is not a private property of the


Registration Applicant but part of the public domain, not subjected to
disposition and is covered by Proclamation No. 585 for Integrated Social
Forestry Program hence, L.R.C. No. 269-A is recommended for rejection
(Underlining supplied)." Copy of the letter is attached herewith as Annex "3"
and made an integral part hereof."
Lastly, the Solicitor General pointed out that attached to petitioner Edna T.
Collados [as original applicant] application is the technical description 39 of
the Lot signed by Robert C. Pangyarihan, Officer-in-Charge of the Survey
Division of the Bureau of Lands. This technical description categorically
stated that the Lot "is inside IN-12 Mariquina Watershed."
The evidence of record thus appears unsatisfactory and insufficient to show
clearly and positively that the Lot had been officially released from the
Marikina Watershed Reservation to form part of the alienable and disposable
lands of the public domain. We hold that once a parcel of land is included
within a watershed reservation duly established by Executive Proclamation,
as in the instant case, a presumption arises that the land continues to be
part of such Reservation until clear and convincing evidence of subsequent
declassification is shown.
It is obvious, based on the facts on record that neither petitioners nor their
predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and
notorious possession and occupation of the Lot for at least thirty years
immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title.
Even if they submitted sufficient proof that the Lot had been excluded from
the MWR upon the issuance of Proclamation No. 1283 on June 21, 1974,
petitioners possession as of the filing of their application on April 25, 1985
would have been only eleven years counted from the issuance of the
proclamation in 1974. The result will not change even if we tack in the two
years Sesinando Leyva allegedly possessed the Lot from 1902 until the
issuance of EO 33 in 1904. Petitioners case falters even more because of the
issuance of Proclamation No. 1637 on April 18, 1977. According to then DENR
Secretary Victor Ramos, Proclamation No. 1637 reverted Lot A or the
townsite reservation, where petitioners' Lot is supposedly situated, back to
the MWR.

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Finally, it is of no moment if the areas of the MWR are now fairly populated
and vibrant communities as claimed by petitioners. The following ruling may
be applied to this case by analogy:
"A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose
such classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of
its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be
covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other
farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way
places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms and other
trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest land.
The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not
have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Unless and until
the land classified as "forest" is released in an official proclamation to that
effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the
public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply."40
Second Issue: Whether the petition for annulment of judgment
should have been given due course.
Petitioners fault the Court of Appeals for giving due course to the Republics
petition for annulment of judgment which was filed long after the decision of
the land registration court had allegedly become final and executory. The
land registration court rendered its decision on January 30, 1991 and the
Solicitor General received a copy of the decision on April 23,
1991.41 Petitioners point out that the Solicitor General filed with the Court of
Appeals the petition for annulment of judgment invoking Section 9(2) of BP
Blg. 12942 only on August 6, 1991, after the decision had supposedly become
final and executory. Moreover, petitioners further point out that the Solicitor
General filed the petition for annulment after the land registration court
issued its order of May 6, 1991 directing the Land Registration Authority to
issue the corresponding decree of registration.
The Solicitor General sought the annulment of the decision on the ground
that the land registration court had no jurisdiction over the case, specifically,
over the Lot which was not alienable and disposable. The Solicitor General
maintained that the decision was null and void.
Petitioners argue that the remedy of annulment of judgment is no longer
available because it is barred by the principle of res judicata. They insist that
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the land registration court had jurisdiction over the case which involves
private land. They also argue that the Republic is estopped from questioning
the land registration courts jurisdiction considering that the Republic
participated in the proceedings before the court.
It is now established that the Lot, being a watershed reservation, is not
alienable and disposable public land. The evidence of the petitioners do not
clearly and convincingly show that the Lot, described as Lot Psu-162620,
ceased to be a portion of the area classified as a watershed reservation of
the public domain. Any title to the Lot is void ab initio. In view of this, the
alleged procedural infirmities attending the filing of the petition for
annulment of judgment are immaterial since the land registration court
never acquired jurisdiction over the Lot. All proceedings of the land
registration court involving the Lot are therefore null and void.
We apply our ruling in Martinez vs. Court of Appeals,43 as follows:
"The Land Registration Court has no jurisdiction over non-registrable
properties, such as public navigable rivers which are parts of the public
domain, and cannot validly adjudge the registration of title in favor of private
applicant. Hence, the judgment of the Court of First Instance of Pampanga as
regards the Lot No. 2 of certificate of Title No. 15856 in the name of
petitioners may be attacked at any time, either directly or collaterally, by the
State which is not bound by any prescriptive period provided for by the
Statute of Limitations."
We also hold that environmental consequences in this case override
concerns over technicalities and rules of procedure.
In Republic vs. De los Angeles,44 which involved the registration of public
lands, specifically parts of the sea, the Court rejected the principle of res
judicata and estoppel to silence the Republics claim over public lands. The
Court said:
"It should be noted further that the doctrine of estoppel or laches does not
apply when the Government sues as a sovereign or asserts governmental
rights, nor does estoppel or laches validate an act that contravenes law or
public policy, and that res judicata is to be disregarded if its application
would involve the sacrifice of justice to technicality."

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The Court further held that "the right of reversion or reconveyance to the
State of the public properties registered and which are not capable of private
appropriation or private acquisition does not prescribe."
Third issue: Whether the petition-in-intervention is proper.
The Bockasanjo ISF Awardees Association, Inc., an association of holders of
certificates of stewardship issued by the DENR under its Integrated Social
Forestry Program, filed with the Court of Appeals on November 29, 1991 a
Motion for Leave to Intervene and to Admit Petition-In-Intervention.
According to intervenors, they are the actual occupants of the Lot which
petitioners sought to register. Aware that the parcels of land which their
forefathers had occupied, developed and tilled belong to the Government,
they filed a petition with then President Corazon C. Aquino and then DENR
Secretary Fulgencio S. Factoran, to award the parcels of land to them.
Secretary Factoran directed the Director of Forest Management Bureau to
take steps for the segregation of the aforementioned area from the MWR for
development under the DENRs ISF Programs. Subsequently, then President
Aquino issued Proclamation No. 585 dated June 5, 1990 excluding 1,430
hectares from the operation of EO 33 and placed the same under the DENRs
Integrated Social Forestry Program. Proclamation No. 585 reads:
PROCLAMATION NO. 585
AMENDING FURTHER EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 33, DATED JULY 26, 1904 WHICH
ESTABLISHED THE MARIKINA WATERSHED RESERVATION (IN-12) AS
AMENDED, BY EXCLUDING CERTAIN PORTIONS OF LANDS EMBRACED
THEREIN SITUATED AT SITIOS BOSOBOSO, KILINGAN, VETERANS, BARANGAYS
SAN JOSEPH AND PAENAAN, MUNICIPALITY OF ANTIPOLO, PROVINCE OF
RIZAL, ISLAND OF LUZON.
Upon recommendation of the Secretary of Environment and Natural
Resources and pursuant to the authority vested in me by law, I, CORAZON C.
AQUINO, President of the Philippines, do hereby exclude from the operation
of Executive Order No. 33, which established the Marikina Watershed
Reservation, certain parcel of land of the public domain embraced therein
situated in Sitios Bosoboso, Veterans, Kilingan and Barangay San Joseph and
Paenaan, Municipality of Antipolo, Province of Rizal and place the same under
the Integrated Social Forestry Program of the Department of Environment
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and Natural Resources in accordance with existing laws, rules and


regulations, which parcel of land is more particularly described as follows:
"A PARCEL OF LAND, within the Marikina Watershed Reservation situated in
the Municipality of Antipolo, Province of Rizal, beginning at point "1" on plan,
being identical to corner 1 of Marikina Watershed Reservation; thence
xxx

xxx

xxx

Containing an area of One Thousand Four Hundred Thirty (1,430) Hectares.


All other lands covered and embraced under Executive Order No. 33 as
amended, not otherwise affected by this Proclamation, shall remain in force
and effect.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of
the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.
Done in the City of Manila, this 5th day of June, in the year of Our Lord,
nineteen hundred and ninety.
(Sgd.) CORAZON C. AQUINO
President of the Philippines"
Pursuant to Proclamation No. 585, the chief of the ISF Unit, acting through
the Regional Executive Director of the DENR (Region IV), issued sometime
between the years 1989 to 1991 certificates of stewardship contracts to
bona fide residents of the barangays mentioned in the proclamation as
qualified recipients of the ISF programs. Among those awarded were
intervenors. The certificates of stewardship are actually contracts of lease
granted by the DENR to actual occupants of parcels of land under its ISF
programs for a period of twenty-five (25) years, renewable for another
twenty-five (25) years.45 The DENR awarded contracts of stewardship to ISF
participants in Barangay San Isidro (or Boso-boso) and the other barangays
based on the Inventory of Forest Occupants the DENR had conducted. 46
According to intervenors, they learned only on July 31, 1991 about the
pendency of LRC Case No. 269-A before the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo,
Rizal. On August 8, 1991, they filed a Motion for Leave to Intervene and to
Admit Opposition in Intervention before the land registration court to assert
their rights and to protect their interests.
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However, shortly after the filing of their opposition, intervenors learned that
the land registration court had already rendered a decision on January 30,
1991 confirming petitioners imperfect title. Intervenors counsel received a
copy of the decision on August 9, 1991.
On August 14, 1991, intervenors filed a motion to vacate judgment and for
new trial before the land registration court. According to intervenors, the
land registration court could not act on its motions due to the restraining
order issued by the Court of Appeals on August 8, 1991, enjoining the land
registration court from executing its decision, as prayed for by the Solicitor
General in its petition for annulment of judgment. The intervenors were thus
constrained to file a petition for intervention before the Court of Appeals
which allowed the same.
Rule 19 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure47 provides in pertinent parts:
Section 1. Who may intervene. A person who has a legal interest in the
matter in litigation, or in the success of either of the parties, or an interest
against both, or is so situated as to be adversely affected by a distribution or
other disposition of property in the custody of the court, or an officer thereof
may, with leave of court, be allowed to intervene in the action. The Court
shall consider whether or not the intervention will unduly delay or prejudice
the adjudication of the rights of the original parties, and whether or not the
inertvenors rights may be fully protected in a separate proceeding.
Sec. 2. Time to intervene. The motion to intervene may be filed at any time
before rendition of judgment by the trial court. A copy of the pleading-inintervention shall be attached to the motion and served on the original
parties.
As a rule, intervention is allowed "before rendition of judgment by the trial
court," as Section 2, Rule 19 expressly provides. However, the Court has
recognized exceptions to this rule in the interest of substantial justice. Mago
vs. Court of Appeals48 reiterated the ruling in Director of Lands vs. Court of
Appeals, where the Court allowed the motions for intervention even when
the case had already reached this Court. Thus, in Mago the Court held that:
"It is quite clear and patent that the motions for intervention filed by the
movants at this stage of the proceedings where trial had already been
concluded x x x and on appeal x x x the same affirmed by the Court of
Appeals and the instant petition for certiorari to review said judgment is
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already submitted for decision by the Supreme Court, are obviously and,
manifestly late, beyond the period prescribed under x x x Section 2, Rule 12
of the rules of Court.
But Rule 12 of the Rules of Court, like all other Rules therein promulgated, is
simply a rule of procedure, the whole purpose and object of which is to make
the powers of the Court fully and completely available for justice. The
purpose of procedure is not to thwart justice. Its proper aim is to facilitate
the application of justice to the rival claims of contending parties. It was
created not to hinder and delay but to facilitate and promote the
administration of justice. It does not constitute the thing itself which courts
are always striving to secure to litigants. It is designed as the means best
adopted to obtain that thing. In other words, it is a means to an end."
To be sure, the Court of Appeals did not pass upon the actual status of
intervenors in relation to the Lot as this was not in issue. Neither was the
validity of the certificates of stewardship contracts which intervenors
allegedly possessed inquired into considering this too was not in issue. In
fact, intervenors did not specifically seek any relief apart from a declaration
that the Lot in question remains inalienable land of the public domain. We
cannot fault the Court of Appeals for allowing the intervention, if only to
provide the rival groups a peaceful venue for ventilating their sides. This
case has already claimed at least five lives due to the raging dispute
between the rival camps of the petitioners on one side and those of the
DENR awardees on the other. It also spawned a number of criminal cases
between the two rival groups including malicious mischief, robbery and
arson. A strict application of the rules would blur this bigger, far more
important picture.
WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals
dated June 22, 1992 declaring null and void the Decision dated January 30,
1991 of Branch 71, Regional Trial Court of Antipolo, Rizal, in LRC No. 269-A,
LRC Rec. No. N-59179 is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
FACTS:
Petitioner Collado filed with the land registration court an application for
registration of a parcel of land with an approximate area of 120.0766
hectares ("Lot" for brevity). The Lot is situated in Barangay San Isidro,
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Antipolo, Rizal, and covered by Survey Plan Psu-162620. Attached to the


application was the technical description of the Lot as Lot Psu-162620 signed
by Robert C. Pangyarihan, Officer-in-Charge of the Survey Division, Bureau of
Lands, which stated, "[t]his survey is inside IN-12 Mariquina Watershed."
Then petitioner Collado filed an Amended Application to include additional
co-applicants. Subsequently, more applicants joined (collectively referred to
as "petitioners" for brevity).
The Republic of the Philippines, through the Solicitor General, and the
Municipality of Antipolo, through its Municipal Attorney and the Provincial
Fiscal of Rizal, filed oppositions to petitioners application.
Petitioners alleged that they have occupied the Lot since time immemorial.
Their possession has been open, public, notorious and in the concept of
owners. The Lot was surveyed in the name of Sesinando Leyva, one of their
predecessors-in-interest, as early as March 22, 1902.
ISSUES:
Whether petitioners have registrable title over the Lot.
HELD:
Under the Regalian Doctrine, all lands of the public domain as well as all
natural resources belong to the State. Watersheds are considered natural
resources which are not susceptible of occupancy, disposition, conveyance or
alienation. The statute of limitations with regard to public land does not
operate against the State.

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FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. L-27873. November 29, 1983.]
HEIRS OF JOSE AMUNATEGUI, Petitioners, v. DIRECTOR OF
FORESTRY, Respondent.
[G.R. No. L-30035. November 29, 1983.]
ROQUE BORRE and ENCARNACION DELFIN, Petitioners, v. ANGEL
ALPASAN, HEIRS OF MELQUIADES BORRE, EMETERIO BEREBER and
HEIRS OF JOSE AMUNATEGUI and THE CAPIZ COURT OF FIRST
INSTANCE, Respondents.
SYLLABUS
1. CIVIL LAW; PUBLIC LAND ACT; FOREST LAND; CLASSIFICATION NOT LOST
EVEN IF IT HAS BEEN STRIPPED OF FOREST COVER; UNLESS RELEASED IN AN
OFFICIAL PROCLAMATION AS DISPOSABLE LANDS, RULES ON CONFIRMATION
OF IMPERFECT TITLE DO NOT APPLY. A forested area classified as forest
land of the public domain does not lose such classification simply because
loggers or settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land
classified as forest land may actually be covered with grass or planted to
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crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to


be on mountains or in out of the way places. Swampy areas covered by
mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other tress growing in brackish or sea water
may also be classified as forest land. The classification is descriptive of its
legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land
actually looks like. Unless and until the land classified as "forest" is released
in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the
disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation
of imperfect title do not apply.
2. ID.; ID.; FOREST LANDS; ACQUISITIVE OWNERSHIP NOT ACQUIRED. This
Court ruled in the leading case of Director of Forestry v. Muoz (23 SCRA
1184) that possession of forest lands, no matter how long, cannot ripen into
private ownership. And in Republic v. Animas (56 SCRA 499), we granted the
petition on the ground that the ares covered by the patent and title was not
disposable public land, it being a part of the forest zone and any patent and
title to said area is void ab initio. It bears emphasizing that a positive act of
Government is needed to declassify land which is classified as forest and to
convert it into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes.
3. ID.; ID.; CONFIRMATION, OF IMPERFECT TITLE CASES; BURDEN OF
PROVING THAT THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE LAW HAVE BEEN MET, RESTS ON
THE APPLICANT. In confirmation of imperfect title cases, the applicant
shoulders the burden of proving that he meets the requirements of Section
48, Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Republic Act No. 1942. He
must overcome the presumption that the land he is applying for is part of the
public domain but that he has an interest therein sufficient to warrant
registration in his name because of an imperfect title such as those derived
from old Spanish grants or that he has had continuous, open, 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 (30) years
preceding the filing of his application.
DECISION
GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:
The two petitions for review on certiorari before us question the decision of
the Court of Appeals which declared the disputed property as forest land, not
subject to titling in favor of private persons.
These two petitions have their genesis in an application for confirmation of
imperfect title and its registration filed with the Court of First Instance of
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Capiz. The parcel of land sought to be registered is known as Lot No. 885 of
the Cadastral Survey of Pilar, Capiz, and has an area of 645,703 square
meters.cralawnad
Roque Borre, petitioner in G.R. No, L-30035, and Melquiades Borre, filed the
application for registration. In due time, the heirs of Jose Amunategui,
petitioners in G.R. No. L-27873 filed an opposition to the application of Roque
and Melquiades Borre. At the same time, they prayed that the title to a
portion of Lot No. 885 of Pilar Cadastre containing 527,747 square meters be
confirmed and registered in the names of said Heirs of Jose Amunategui.
The Director of Forestry, through the Provincial Fiscal of Capiz, also filed an
opposition to the application for registration of title claiming that the land
was mangrove swamp which was still classified as forest land and part of the
public domain.
Another oppositor, Emeterio Bereber filed his opposition insofar as a portion
of Lot No. 885 containing 117,956 square meters was concerned and prayed
that title to said portion be confirmed and registered in his name.
During the progress of the trial, applicant-petitioner Roque Borre sold
whatever rights and interests he may have on Lot No. 885 to Angel Alpasan.
The latter also filed an opposition, claiming that he is entitled to have said lot
registered in his name.
After trial, the Court of First Instance of Capiz adjudicated 117,956 square
meters to Emeterio Bereber and the rest of the land containing 527,747
square meters was adjudicated in the proportion of 5/6 share to Angel
Alpasan and 1/6 share to Melquiades Borre.
Only the Heirs of Jose Amunategui and the Director of Forestry filed their
respective appeals with the Court of Appeals, The case was docketed as CAG.R. No. 34190-R.
In its decision, the Court of Appeals held:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
". . . the conclusion so far must have to be that as to the private litigants that
have been shown to have a better right over Lot 885 are, as to the
northeastern portion of a little less than 117,956 square meters, it was
Emeterio Bereber and as to the rest of 527,747 square meters, it was the
heirs of Jose Amunategui; but the last question that must have to be
considered is whether after all, the title that these two (2) private litigants
have shown did not amount to a registerable one in view of the opposition
and evidence of the Director of Forestry; . . .
". . . turning back the clock thirty (30) years from 1955 when the application
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was filed which would place it at 1925, the fact must have to be accepted
that during that period, the land was a classified forest land so much so that
timber licenses had to be issued to certain licensee before 1926 and after
that; that even Jose Amunategui himself took the trouble to ask for a license
to cut timber within the area; and this can only mean that the Bureau of
Forestry had stood and maintained its ground that it was a forest land as
indeed the testimonial evidence referred to above persuasively indicates,
and the only time when the property was converted into a fishpond was
sometime after 1950; or a bare five (5) years before the filing of the
application; but only after there had been a previous warning by the District
Forester that that could not be done because it was classified as a public
forest; so that having these in mind and remembering that even under
Republic Act 1942 which came into effect in 1957, two (2) years after this
case had already been filed in the lower Court, in order for applicant to be
able to demonstrate a registerable title he must have shown.
"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 (30) years, preceding the filing of the
application;
the foregoing details cannot but justify the conclusion that not one of the
applicants or oppositors had shown that during the required period of thirty
(30) years prescribed by Republic Act 1942 in order for him to have shown a
registerable title for the entire period of thirty (30) years before filing of the
application, he had been in
"open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of
agricultural lands of the public domain,
it is evident that the Bureau of Forestry had insisted on its claim all
throughout that period of thirty (30) years and even before and applicants
and their predecessors had made implicit recognition of that; the result must
be to deny all these applications; this Court stating that it had felt impelled
notwithstanding, just the same to resolve the conflicting positions of the
private litigants among themselves as to who of them had demonstrated a
better right to possess because this Court foresees that this litigation will go
all the way to the Supreme Court and it is always better that the findings be
as complete as possible to enable the Highest Court to pass final judgment;
"IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision must have to be as it is hereby reversed;
the application as well as all the oppositions with the exception of that of the
Director of Forestry which is hereby sustained are dismissed; no more
pronouncement as to costs."cralaw virtua1aw library
A petition for review on certiorari was filed by the Heirs of Jose Amunategui
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contending that the disputed lot had been in the possession of private
persons for over thirty years and therefore in accordance with Republic Act
No. 1942, said lot could still be the subject of registration and confirmation of
title in the name of a private person in accordance with Act No. 496 known
as the Land Registration Act. On the other hand, another petition for review
on certiorari was filed by Roque Borre and Encarnacion Delfin, contending
that the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion in dismissing their
complaint against the Heirs of Jose Amunategui. The Borre complaint was for
the annulment of the deed of absolute sale of Lot No. 885 executed by them
in favor of the Heirs of Amunategui. The complaint was dismissed on the
basis of the Court of Appeals decision that the disputed lot is part of the
public domain. The petitioners also question the jurisdiction of the Court of
Appeals in passing upon the relative rights of the parties over the disputed
lot when its final decision after all is to declare said lot a part of the public
domain classified as forest land.chanrobles law library : red
The need for resolving the questions raised by Roque Borre and Encarnacion
Delfin in their petition depends on the issue raised by the Heirs of Jose
Amunategui, that is, whether or not Lot No. 885 is public forest land, not
capable of registration in the names of the private applicants.
The Heirs of Jose Amunategui maintain that Lot No. 885 cannot be classified
as forest land because it is not thickly forested but is a "mangrove swamp."
Although conceding that a "mangrove swamp" is included in the
classification of forest land in accordance with Section 1820 of the Revised
Administrative Code, the petitioners argue that no big trees classified in
Section 1821 of said Code as first, second and third groups are found on the
land in question. Furthermore, they contend that Lot 885, even if it is a
mangrove swamp, is still subject to land registration proceedings because
the property had been in actual possession of private persons for many
years, and therefore, said land was already "private land" better adapted and
more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by
the public interests to be kept under forest classification.
The petition is without merit.
A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose
such classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of
its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be
covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other
farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way
places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other
trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest land.
The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not
have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Unless and until
the land classified as "forest" is released in an official proclamation to that
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effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the
public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply.
This Court ruled in the leading case of Director of Forestry v. Muoz (23 SCRA
1184) that possession of forest lands, no matter how long, cannot ripen into
private ownership. And in Republic v. Animas (56 SCRA 499), we granted the
petition on the ground that the area covered by the patent and title was not
disposable public land, it being a part of the forest zone and any patent and
title to said area is void ab initio. It bears emphasizing that a positive act of
Government is needed to declassify land which is classified as forest and to
convert it into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes.
The findings of the Court of Appeals are particularly well-grounded in the
instant petition.
The fact that no trees enumerated in Section 1821 of the Revised
Administrative Code are found in Lot No. 885 does not divest such land of its
being classified as forest land, much less as land of the public domain. The
appellate court found that in 1912, the land must have been a virgin forest
as stated by Emeterio Berebers witness Deogracias Gavacao, and that as
late as 1926, it must have been a thickly forested area as testified by Jaime
Bertolde. The opposition of the Director of Forestry was strengthened by the
appellate courts finding that timber licenses had to be issued to certain
licensees and even Jose Amunategui himself took the trouble to ask for a
license to cut timber within the area. It was only sometime in 1950 that the
property was converted into fishpond but only after a previous warning from
the District Forester that the same could not be done because it was
classified as "public forest." chanrobles.com:cralaw:red
In confirmation of imperfect title cases, the applicant shoulders the burden of
proving that he meets the requirements of Section 48, Commonwealth Act
No. 141, as amended by Republic Act No. 1942. He must overcome the
presumption that the land he is applying for is part of the public domain but
that he has an interest therein sufficient to warrant registration in his name
because of an imperfect title such as those derived from old Spanish grants
or that he has had continuous, open, 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 (30) years preceding the filing of
his application.
The decision of the appellate court is not based merely on the presumptions
implicit in Commonwealth Act No. 141 as amended. The records show that
Lot No. 88S never ceased to be classified as forest land of the public domain.
In Republic v. Gonong (118 SCRA 729) we ruled:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
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"As held in Oh Cho v. Director of Lands, 75 Phil. 890, all lands that were not
acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the
public domain. An exception to the rule would be any land that should have
been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors in-interests
since time immemorial, for such possession would justify the presumption
that the land had never been part of the public domain or that it had been a
private property even before the Spanish conquest."cralaw virtua1aw library
In the instant petitions, the exception in the Oh Cho case does not apply. The
evidence is clear that Lot No. 885 had always been public land classified as
forest.
Similarly, in Republic v. Vera (120 SCRA 210), we
ruled:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
". . . The possession of public land however long the period thereof may have
extended, never confers title thereto upon the possessor because the statute
of limitations with regard to public land does not operate against the State,
unless the occupant can prove possession and occupation of the same under
claim of ownership for the required number of years to constitute a grant
from the State. (Director of Lands v. Reyes, 68 SCRA 177, 195)."cralaw
virtua1aw library
We, therefore, affirm the finding that the disputed property Lot No. 885 is
part of the public domain, classified as public forest land. There is no need
for us to pass upon the other issues raised by petitioners Roque Borre and
Encarnacion Delfin, as such issues are rendered moot by this
finding.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the petitions in G. R. No. L-30035 and G. R. No. L-27873 are
DISMISSED for lack of merit. Costs against the petitioners.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC

G.R. No. 101083 July 30, 1993

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JUAN ANTONIO, ANNA ROSARIO and JOSE ALFONSO, all surnamed


OPOSA, minors, and represented by their parents ANTONIO and
RIZALINA OPOSA, ROBERTA NICOLE SADIUA, minor, represented by
her parents CALVIN and ROBERTA SADIUA, CARLO, AMANDA SALUD
and PATRISHA, all surnamed FLORES, minors and represented by
their parents ENRICO and NIDA FLORES, GIANINA DITA R. FORTUN,
minor, represented by her parents SIGRID and DOLORES FORTUN,
GEORGE II and MA. CONCEPCION, all surnamed MISA, minors and
represented by their parents GEORGE and MYRA MISA, BENJAMIN
ALAN V. PESIGAN, minor, represented by his parents ANTONIO and
ALICE PESIGAN, JOVIE MARIE ALFARO, minor, represented by her
parents JOSE and MARIA VIOLETA ALFARO, MARIA CONCEPCION T.
CASTRO, minor, represented by her parents FREDENIL and JANE
CASTRO, JOHANNA DESAMPARADO,
minor, represented by her parents JOSE and ANGELA DESAMPRADO,
CARLO JOAQUIN T. NARVASA, minor, represented by his parents
GREGORIO II and CRISTINE CHARITY NARVASA, MA. MARGARITA,
JESUS IGNACIO, MA. ANGELA and MARIE GABRIELLE, all surnamed
SAENZ, minors, represented by their parents ROBERTO and AURORA
SAENZ, KRISTINE, MARY ELLEN, MAY, GOLDA MARTHE and DAVID
IAN, all surnamed KING, minors, represented by their parents
MARIO and HAYDEE KING, DAVID, FRANCISCO and THERESE
VICTORIA, all surnamed ENDRIGA, minors, represented by their
parents BALTAZAR and TERESITA ENDRIGA, JOSE MA. and REGINA
MA., all surnamed ABAYA, minors, represented by their parents
ANTONIO and MARICA ABAYA, MARILIN, MARIO, JR. and MARIETTE,
all surnamed CARDAMA, minors, represented by their parents
MARIO and LINA CARDAMA, CLARISSA, ANN MARIE, NAGEL, and IMEE
LYN, all surnamed OPOSA, minors and represented by their parents
RICARDO and MARISSA OPOSA, PHILIP JOSEPH, STEPHEN JOHN and
ISAIAH JAMES, all surnamed QUIPIT, minors, represented by their
parents JOSE MAX and VILMI QUIPIT, BUGHAW CIELO, CRISANTO,
ANNA, DANIEL and FRANCISCO, all surnamed BIBAL, minors,
represented by their parents FRANCISCO, JR. and MILAGROS BIBAL,
and THE PHILIPPINE ECOLOGICAL NETWORK, INC., petitioners,
vs.
THE HONORABLE FULGENCIO S. FACTORAN, JR., in his capacity as
the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources, and THE HONORABLE ERIBERTO U. ROSARIO, Presiding
Judge of the RTC, Makati, Branch 66, respondents.
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Oposa Law Office for petitioners.


The Solicitor General for respondents.

DAVIDE, JR., J.:


In a broader sense, this petition bears upon the right of Filipinos to a
balanced and healthful ecology which the petitioners dramatically associate
with the twin concepts of "inter-generational responsibility" and "intergenerational justice." Specifically, it touches on the issue of whether the said
petitioners have a cause of action to "prevent the misappropriation or
impairment" of Philippine rainforests and "arrest the unabated hemorrhage
of the country's vital life support systems and continued rape of Mother
Earth."
The controversy has its genesis in Civil Case No. 90-77 which was filed before
Branch 66 (Makati, Metro Manila) of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), National
Capital Judicial Region. The principal plaintiffs therein, now the principal
petitioners, are all minors duly represented and joined by their respective
parents. Impleaded as an additional plaintiff is the Philippine Ecological
Network, Inc. (PENI), a domestic, non-stock and non-profit corporation
organized for the purpose of, inter alia, engaging in concerted action geared
for the protection of our environment and natural resources. The original
defendant was the Honorable Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr., then Secretary of the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). His substitution
in this petition by the new Secretary, the Honorable Angel C. Alcala, was
subsequently ordered upon proper motion by the petitioners. 1 The
complaint 2was instituted as a taxpayers' class suit 3 and alleges that the
plaintiffs "are all citizens of the Republic of the Philippines, taxpayers, and
entitled to the full benefit, use and enjoyment of the natural resource
treasure that is the country's virgin tropical forests." The same was filed for
themselves and others who are equally concerned about the preservation of
said resource but are "so numerous that it is impracticable to bring them all
before the Court." The minors further asseverate that they "represent their
generation as well as generations yet unborn." 4 Consequently, it is prayed
for that judgment be rendered:
. . . ordering defendant, his agents, representatives and other
persons acting in his behalf to
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(1) Cancel all existing timber license agreements in the country;


(2) Cease and desist from receiving, accepting, processing,
renewing or approving new timber license agreements.
and granting the plaintiffs ". . . such other reliefs just and equitable under the
premises." 5
The complaint starts off with the general averments that the Philippine
archipelago of 7,100 islands has a land area of thirty million (30,000,000)
hectares and is endowed with rich, lush and verdant rainforests in which
varied, rare and unique species of flora and fauna may be found; these
rainforests contain a genetic, biological and chemical pool which is
irreplaceable; they are also the habitat of indigenous Philippine cultures
which have existed, endured and flourished since time immemorial; scientific
evidence reveals that in order to maintain a balanced and healthful ecology,
the country's land area should be utilized on the basis of a ratio of fifty-four
per cent (54%) for forest cover and forty-six per cent (46%) for agricultural,
residential, industrial, commercial and other uses; the distortion and
disturbance of this balance as a consequence of deforestation have resulted
in a host of environmental tragedies, such as (a) water shortages resulting
from drying up of the water table, otherwise known as the "aquifer," as well
as of rivers, brooks and streams, (b) salinization of the water table as a result
of the intrusion therein of salt water, incontrovertible examples of which may
be found in the island of Cebu and the Municipality of Bacoor, Cavite, (c)
massive erosion and the consequential loss of soil fertility and agricultural
productivity, with the volume of soil eroded estimated at one billion
(1,000,000,000) cubic meters per annum approximately the size of the
entire island of Catanduanes, (d) the endangering and extinction of the
country's unique, rare and varied flora and fauna, (e) the disturbance and
dislocation of cultural communities, including the disappearance of the
Filipino's indigenous cultures, (f) the siltation of rivers and seabeds and
consequential destruction of corals and other aquatic life leading to a critical
reduction in marine resource productivity, (g) recurrent spells of drought as is
presently experienced by the entire country, (h) increasing velocity of
typhoon winds which result from the absence of windbreakers, (i) the
floodings of lowlands and agricultural plains arising from the absence of the
absorbent mechanism of forests, (j) the siltation and shortening of the
lifespan of multi-billion peso dams constructed and operated for the purpose
of supplying water for domestic uses, irrigation and the generation of electric
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power, and (k) the reduction of the earth's capacity to process carbon
dioxide gases which has led to perplexing and catastrophic climatic changes
such as the phenomenon of global warming, otherwise known as the
"greenhouse effect."
Plaintiffs further assert that the adverse and detrimental consequences of
continued and deforestation are so capable of unquestionable demonstration
that the same may be submitted as a matter of judicial notice. This
notwithstanding, they expressed their intention to present expert witnesses
as well as documentary, photographic and film evidence in the course of the
trial.
As their cause of action, they specifically allege that:
CAUSE OF ACTION
7. Plaintiffs replead by reference the foregoing allegations.
8. Twenty-five (25) years ago, the Philippines had some sixteen
(16) million hectares of rainforests constituting roughly 53% of
the country's land mass.
9. Satellite images taken in 1987 reveal that there remained no
more than 1.2 million hectares of said rainforests or four per cent
(4.0%) of the country's land area.
10. More recent surveys reveal that a mere 850,000 hectares of
virgin old-growth rainforests are left, barely 2.8% of the entire
land mass of the Philippine archipelago and about 3.0 million
hectares of immature and uneconomical secondary growth
forests.
11. Public records reveal that the defendant's, predecessors have
granted timber license agreements ('TLA's') to various
corporations to cut the aggregate area of 3.89 million hectares
for commercial logging purposes.
A copy of the TLA holders and the corresponding areas covered is
hereto attached as Annex "A".

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12. At the present rate of deforestation, i.e. about 200,000


hectares per annum or 25 hectares per hour nighttime,
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays included the Philippines will
be bereft of forest resources after the end of this ensuing
decade, if not earlier.
13. The adverse effects, disastrous consequences, serious injury
and irreparable damage of this continued trend of deforestation
to the plaintiff minor's generation and to generations yet unborn
are evident and incontrovertible. As a matter of fact, the
environmental damages enumerated in paragraph 6 hereof are
already being felt, experienced and suffered by the generation of
plaintiff adults.
14. The continued allowance by defendant of TLA holders to cut
and deforest the remaining forest stands will work great damage
and irreparable injury to plaintiffs especially plaintiff minors
and their successors who may never see, use, benefit from
and enjoy this rare and unique natural resource treasure.
This act of defendant constitutes a misappropriation and/or
impairment of the natural resource property he holds in trust for
the benefit of plaintiff minors and succeeding generations.
15. Plaintiffs have a clear and constitutional right to a balanced
and healthful ecology and are entitled to protection by the State
in its capacity as the parens patriae.
16. Plaintiff have exhausted all administrative remedies with the
defendant's office. On March 2, 1990, plaintiffs served upon
defendant a final demand to cancel all logging permits in the
country.
A copy of the plaintiffs' letter dated March 1, 1990 is hereto
attached as Annex "B".
17. Defendant, however, fails and refuses to cancel the existing
TLA's to the continuing serious damage and extreme prejudice of
plaintiffs.

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18. The continued failure and refusal by defendant to cancel the


TLA's is an act violative of the rights of plaintiffs, especially
plaintiff minors who may be left with a country that is desertified
(sic), bare, barren and devoid of the wonderful flora, fauna and
indigenous cultures which the Philippines had been abundantly
blessed with.
19. Defendant's refusal to cancel the aforementioned TLA's is
manifestly contrary to the public policy enunciated in the
Philippine Environmental Policy which, in pertinent part, states
that it is the policy of the State
(a) to create, develop, maintain and improve conditions under
which man and nature can thrive in productive and enjoyable
harmony with each other;
(b) to fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of
present and future generations of Filipinos and;
(c) to ensure the attainment of an environmental quality that is
conductive to a life of dignity and well-being. (P.D. 1151, 6 June
1977)
20. Furthermore, defendant's continued refusal to cancel the
aforementioned TLA's is contradictory to the Constitutional policy
of the State to
a. effect "a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income
and wealth" and "make full and efficient use of natural resources
(sic)." (Section 1, Article XII of the Constitution);
b. "protect the nation's marine wealth." (Section 2, ibid);
c. "conserve and promote the nation's cultural heritage and
resources (sic)" (Section 14, Article XIV,id.);
d. "protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced
and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of
nature." (Section 16, Article II, id.)

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21. Finally, defendant's act is contrary to the highest law of


humankind the natural law and violative of plaintiffs' right
to self-preservation and perpetuation.
22. There is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in law
other than the instant action to arrest the unabated hemorrhage
of the country's vital life support systems and continued rape of
Mother Earth. 6
On 22 June 1990, the original defendant, Secretary Factoran, Jr., filed a
Motion to Dismiss the complaint based on two (2) grounds, namely: (1) the
plaintiffs have no cause of action against him and (2) the issue raised by the
plaintiffs is a political question which properly pertains to the legislative or
executive branches of Government. In their 12 July 1990 Opposition to the
Motion, the petitioners maintain that (1) the complaint shows a clear and
unmistakable cause of action, (2) the motion is dilatory and (3) the action
presents a justiciable question as it involves the defendant's abuse of
discretion.
On 18 July 1991, respondent Judge issued an order granting the
aforementioned motion to dismiss. 7 In the said order, not only was the
defendant's claim that the complaint states no cause of action against him
and that it raises a political question sustained, the respondent Judge
further ruled that the granting of the relief prayed for would result in the
impairment of contracts which is prohibited by the fundamental law of the
land.
Plaintiffs thus filed the instant special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65
of the Revised Rules of Court and ask this Court to rescind and set aside the
dismissal order on the ground that the respondent Judge gravely abused his
discretion in dismissing the action. Again, the parents of the plaintiffs-minors
not only represent their children, but have also joined the latter in this case. 8
On 14 May 1992, We resolved to give due course to the petition and required
the parties to submit their respective Memoranda after the Office of the
Solicitor General (OSG) filed a Comment in behalf of the respondents and the
petitioners filed a reply thereto.
Petitioners contend that the complaint clearly and unmistakably states a
cause of action as it contains sufficient allegations concerning their right to a
sound environment based on Articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Civil Code (Human
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Relations), Section 4 of Executive Order (E.O.) No. 192 creating the DENR,
Section 3 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1151 (Philippine Environmental
Policy), Section 16, Article II of the 1987 Constitution recognizing the right of
the people to a balanced and healthful ecology, the concept of generational
genocide in Criminal Law and the concept of man's inalienable right to selfpreservation and self-perpetuation embodied in natural law. Petitioners
likewise rely on the respondent's correlative obligation per Section 4 of E.O.
No. 192, to safeguard the people's right to a healthful environment.
It is further claimed that the issue of the respondent Secretary's alleged
grave abuse of discretion in granting Timber License Agreements (TLAs) to
cover more areas for logging than what is available involves a judicial
question.
Anent the invocation by the respondent Judge of the Constitution's nonimpairment clause, petitioners maintain that the same does not apply in this
case because TLAs are not contracts. They likewise submit that even if TLAs
may be considered protected by the said clause, it is well settled that they
may still be revoked by the State when the public interest so requires.
On the other hand, the respondents aver that the petitioners failed to allege
in their complaint a specific legal right violated by the respondent Secretary
for which any relief is provided by law. They see nothing in the complaint but
vague and nebulous allegations concerning an "environmental right" which
supposedly entitles the petitioners to the "protection by the state in its
capacity as parens patriae." Such allegations, according to them, do not
reveal a valid cause of action. They then reiterate the theory that the
question of whether logging should be permitted in the country is a political
question which should be properly addressed to the executive or legislative
branches of Government. They therefore assert that the petitioners'
resources is not to file an action to court, but to lobby before Congress for
the passage of a bill that would ban logging totally.
As to the matter of the cancellation of the TLAs, respondents submit that the
same cannot be done by the State without due process of law. Once issued, a
TLA remains effective for a certain period of time usually for twenty-five
(25) years. During its effectivity, the same can neither be revised nor
cancelled unless the holder has been found, after due notice and hearing, to
have violated the terms of the agreement or other forestry laws and
regulations. Petitioners' proposition to have all the TLAs indiscriminately
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cancelled without the requisite hearing would be violative of the


requirements of due process.
Before going any further, We must first focus on some procedural matters.
Petitioners instituted Civil Case No. 90-777 as a class suit. The original
defendant and the present respondents did not take issue with this matter.
Nevertheless, We hereby rule that the said civil case is indeed a class suit.
The subject matter of the complaint is of common and general interest not
just to several, but to all citizens of the Philippines. Consequently, since the
parties are so numerous, it, becomes impracticable, if not totally impossible,
to bring all of them before the court. We likewise declare that the plaintiffs
therein are numerous and representative enough to ensure the full
protection of all concerned interests. Hence, all the requisites for the filing of
a valid class suit under Section 12, Rule 3 of the Revised Rules of Court are
present both in the said civil case and in the instant petition, the latter being
but an incident to the former.
This case, however, has a special and novel element. Petitioners minors
assert that they represent their generation as well as generations yet
unborn. We find no difficulty in ruling that they can, for themselves, for
others of their generation and for the succeeding generations, file a class
suit. Their personality to sue in behalf of the succeeding generations can
only be based on the concept of intergenerational responsibility insofar as
the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is concerned. Such a right, as
hereinafter expounded, considers
the "rhythm and harmony of nature." Nature means the created world in its
entirety. 9 Such rhythm and harmony indispensably include, inter alia, the
judicious disposition, utilization, management, renewal and conservation of
the country's forest, mineral, land, waters, fisheries, wildlife, off-shore areas
and other natural resources to the end that their exploration, development
and utilization be equitably accessible to the present as well as future
generations. 10 Needless to say, every generation has a responsibility to the
next to preserve that rhythm and harmony for the full enjoyment of a
balanced and healthful ecology. Put a little differently, the minors' assertion
of their right to a sound environment constitutes, at the same time, the
performance of their obligation to ensure the protection of that right for the
generations to come.
The locus standi of the petitioners having thus been addressed, We shall now
proceed to the merits of the petition.
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After a careful perusal of the complaint in question and a meticulous


consideration and evaluation of the issues raised and arguments adduced by
the parties, We do not hesitate to find for the petitioners and rule against the
respondent Judge's challenged order for having been issued with grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. The pertinent portions
of the said order reads as follows:
xxx xxx xxx
After a careful and circumspect evaluation of the Complaint, the
Court cannot help but agree with the defendant. For although we
believe that plaintiffs have but the noblest of all intentions, it
(sic) fell short of alleging, with sufficient definiteness, a specific
legal right they are seeking to enforce and protect, or a specific
legal wrong they are seeking to prevent and redress (Sec. 1, Rule
2, RRC). Furthermore, the Court notes that the Complaint is
replete with vague assumptions and vague conclusions based on
unverified data. In fine, plaintiffs fail to state a cause of action in
its Complaint against the herein defendant.
Furthermore, the Court firmly believes that the matter before it,
being impressed with political color and involving a matter of
public policy, may not be taken cognizance of by this Court
without doing violence to the sacred principle of "Separation of
Powers" of the three (3) co-equal branches of the Government.
The Court is likewise of the impression that it cannot, no matter
how we stretch our jurisdiction, grant the reliefs prayed for by
the plaintiffs, i.e., to cancel all existing timber license
agreements in the country and to cease and desist from
receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or approving new
timber license agreements. For to do otherwise would amount to
"impairment of contracts" abhored (sic) by the fundamental
law. 11
We do not agree with the trial court's conclusions that the plaintiffs failed to
allege with sufficient definiteness a specific legal right involved or a specific
legal wrong committed, and that the complaint is replete with vague
assumptions and conclusions based on unverified data. A reading of the
complaint itself belies these conclusions.
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The complaint focuses on one specific fundamental legal right the right to
a balanced and healthful ecology which, for the first time in our nation's
constitutional history, is solemnly incorporated in the fundamental law.
Section 16, Article II of the 1987 Constitution explicitly provides:
Sec. 16. The State shall protect and advance the right of the
people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the
rhythm and harmony of nature.
This right unites with the right to health which is provided for in
the preceding section of the same article:
Sec. 15. The State shall protect and promote the right to health
of the people and instill health consciousness among them.
While the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is to be found under the
Declaration of Principles and State Policies and not under the Bill of Rights, it
does not follow that it is less important than any of the civil and political
rights enumerated in the latter. Such a right belongs to a different category
of rights altogether for it concerns nothing less than self-preservation and
self-perpetuation aptly and fittingly stressed by the petitioners the
advancement of which may even be said to predate all governments and
constitutions. As a matter of fact, these basic rights need not even be written
in the Constitution for they are assumed to exist from the inception of
humankind. If they are now explicitly mentioned in the fundamental charter,
it is because of the well-founded fear of its framers that unless the rights to a
balanced and healthful ecology and to health are mandated as state policies
by the Constitution itself, thereby highlighting their continuing importance
and imposing upon the state a solemn obligation to preserve the first and
protect and advance the second, the day would not be too far when all else
would be lost not only for the present generation, but also for those to come
generations which stand to inherit nothing but parched earth incapable of
sustaining life.
The right to a balanced and healthful ecology carries with it the correlative
duty to refrain from impairing the environment. During the debates on this
right in one of the plenary sessions of the 1986 Constitutional Commission,
the following exchange transpired between Commissioner Wilfrido Villacorta
and Commissioner Adolfo Azcuna who sponsored the section in question:
MR. VILLACORTA:
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Does this section mandate the State to provide


sanctions against all forms of pollution air, water
and noise pollution?
MR. AZCUNA:
Yes, Madam President. The right to healthful (sic)
environment necessarily carries with it the
correlative duty of not impairing the same and,
therefore, sanctions may be provided for impairment
of environmental balance. 12
The said right implies, among many other things, the judicious management
and conservation of the country's forests.
Without such forests, the ecological or environmental balance would be
irreversiby disrupted.
Conformably with the enunciated right to a balanced and healthful ecology
and the right to health, as well as the other related provisions of the
Constitution concerning the conservation, development and utilization of the
country's natural resources, 13 then President Corazon C. Aquino promulgated
on 10 June 1987 E.O. No. 192, 14 Section 4 of which expressly mandates that
the Department of Environment and Natural Resources "shall be the primary
government agency responsible for the conservation, management,
development and proper use of the country's environment and natural
resources, specifically forest and grazing lands, mineral, resources, including
those in reservation and watershed areas, and lands of the public domain, as
well as the licensing and regulation of all natural resources as may be
provided for by law in order to ensure equitable sharing of the benefits
derived therefrom for the welfare of the present and future generations of
Filipinos." Section 3 thereof makes the following statement of policy:
Sec. 3. Declaration of Policy. It is hereby declared the policy of
the State to ensure the sustainable use, development,
management, renewal, and conservation of the country's forest,
mineral, land, off-shore areas and other natural resources,
including the protection and enhancement of the quality of the
environment, and equitable access of the different segments of
the population to the development and the use of the country's
natural resources, not only for the present generation but for
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future generations as well. It is also the policy of the state to


recognize and apply a true value system including social and
environmental cost implications relative to their utilization,
development and conservation of our natural resources.
This policy declaration is substantially re-stated it Title XIV, Book IV of the
Administrative Code of 1987, 15specifically in Section 1 thereof which reads:
Sec. 1. Declaration of Policy. (1) The State shall ensure, for the
benefit of the Filipino people, the full exploration and
development as well as the judicious disposition, utilization,
management, renewal and conservation of the country's forest,
mineral, land, waters, fisheries, wildlife, off-shore areas and other
natural resources, consistent with the necessity of maintaining a
sound ecological balance and protecting and enhancing the
quality of the environment and the objective of making the
exploration, development and utilization of such natural
resources equitably accessible to the different segments of the
present as well as future generations.
(2) The State shall likewise recognize and apply a true value
system that takes into account social and environmental cost
implications relative to the utilization, development and
conservation of our natural resources.
The above provision stresses "the necessity of maintaining a sound
ecological balance and protecting and enhancing the quality of the
environment." Section 2 of the same Title, on the other hand, specifically
speaks of the mandate of the DENR; however, it makes particular reference
to the fact of the agency's being subject to law and higher authority. Said
section provides:
Sec. 2. Mandate. (1) The Department of Environment and
Natural Resources shall be primarily responsible for the
implementation of the foregoing policy.
(2) It shall, subject to law and higher authority, be in charge of
carrying out the State's constitutional mandate to control and
supervise the exploration, development, utilization, and
conservation of the country's natural resources.
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Both E.O. NO. 192 and the Administrative Code of 1987 have set the
objectives which will serve as the bases for policy formulation, and have
defined the powers and functions of the DENR.
It may, however, be recalled that even before the ratification of the 1987
Constitution, specific statutes already paid special attention to the
"environmental right" of the present and future generations. On 6 June 1977,
P.D. No. 1151 (Philippine Environmental Policy) and P.D. No. 1152 (Philippine
Environment Code) were issued. The former "declared a continuing policy of
the State (a) to create, develop, maintain and improve conditions under
which man and nature can thrive in productive and enjoyable harmony with
each other, (b) to fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of
present and future generations of Filipinos, and (c) to insure the attainment
of an environmental quality that is conducive to a life of dignity and wellbeing." 16 As its goal, it speaks of the "responsibilities of each generation as
trustee and guardian of the environment for succeeding generations." 17 The
latter statute, on the other hand, gave flesh to the said policy.
Thus, the right of the petitioners (and all those they represent) to a balanced
and healthful ecology is as clear as the DENR's duty under its mandate
and by virtue of its powers and functions under E.O. No. 192 and the
Administrative Code of 1987 to protect and advance the said right.
A denial or violation of that right by the other who has the corelative duty or
obligation to respect or protect the same gives rise to a cause of action.
Petitioners maintain that the granting of the TLAs, which they claim was
done with grave abuse of discretion, violated their right to a balanced and
healthful ecology; hence, the full protection thereof requires that no further
TLAs should be renewed or granted.
A cause of action is defined as:
. . . an act or omission of one party in violation of the legal right
or rights of the other; and its essential elements are legal right of
the plaintiff, correlative obligation of the defendant, and act or
omission of the defendant in violation of said legal right. 18
It is settled in this jurisdiction that in a motion to dismiss based on the
ground that the complaint fails to state a cause of action, 19 the question
submitted to the court for resolution involves the sufficiency of the facts
alleged in the complaint itself. No other matter should be considered;
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furthermore, the truth of falsity of the said allegations is beside the point for
the truth thereof is deemed hypothetically admitted. The only issue to be
resolved in such a case is: admitting such alleged facts to be true, may the
court render a valid judgment in accordance with the prayer in the
complaint? 20 In Militante vs. Edrosolano, 21 this Court laid down the rule that
the judiciary should "exercise the utmost care and circumspection in passing
upon a motion to dismiss on the ground of the absence thereof [cause of
action] lest, by its failure to manifest a correct appreciation of the facts
alleged and deemed hypothetically admitted, what the law grants or
recognizes is effectively nullified. If that happens, there is a blot on the legal
order. The law itself stands in disrepute."
After careful examination of the petitioners' complaint, We find the
statements under the introductory affirmative allegations, as well as the
specific averments under the sub-heading CAUSE OF ACTION, to be adequate
enough to show, prima facie, the claimed violation of their rights. On the
basis thereof, they may thus be granted, wholly or partly, the reliefs prayed
for. It bears stressing, however, that insofar as the cancellation of the TLAs is
concerned, there is the need to implead, as party defendants, the grantees
thereof for they are indispensable parties.
The foregoing considered, Civil Case No. 90-777 be said to raise a political
question. Policy formulation or determination by the executive or legislative
branches of Government is not squarely put in issue. What is principally
involved is the enforcement of a right vis-a-vis policies already formulated
and expressed in legislation. It must, nonetheless, be emphasized that the
political question doctrine is no longer, the insurmountable obstacle to the
exercise of judicial power or the impenetrable shield that protects executive
and legislative actions from judicial inquiry or review. The second paragraph
of section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution states that:
Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle
actual controversies involving rights which are legally
demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not
there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality
of the Government.
Commenting on this provision in his book, Philippine Political Law, 22 Mr.
Justice Isagani A. Cruz, a distinguished member of this Court, says:
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The first part of the authority represents the traditional concept


of judicial power, involving the settlement of conflicting rights as
conferred as law. The second part of the authority represents a
broadening of judicial power to enable the courts of justice to
review what was before forbidden territory, to wit, the discretion
of the political departments of the government.
As worded, the new provision vests in the judiciary, and
particularly the Supreme Court, the power to rule upon even the
wisdom of the decisions of the executive and the legislature and
to declare their acts invalid for lack or excess of jurisdiction
because tainted with grave abuse of discretion. The catch, of
course, is the meaning of "grave abuse of discretion," which is a
very elastic phrase that can expand or contract according to the
disposition of the judiciary.
In Daza vs. Singson,

23

Mr. Justice Cruz, now speaking for this Court, noted:

In the case now before us, the jurisdictional objection becomes


even less tenable and decisive. The reason is that, even if we
were to assume that the issue presented before us was political
in nature, we would still not be precluded from revolving it under
the expanded jurisdiction conferred upon us that now covers, in
proper cases, even the political question. Article VII, Section 1, of
the Constitution clearly provides: . . .
The last ground invoked by the trial court in dismissing the complaint is the
non-impairment of contracts clause found in the Constitution. The court a
quo declared that:
The Court is likewise of the impression that it cannot, no matter
how we stretch our jurisdiction, grant the reliefs prayed for by
the plaintiffs, i.e., to cancel all existing timber license
agreements in the country and to cease and desist from
receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or approving new
timber license agreements. For to do otherwise would amount to
"impairment of contracts" abhored (sic) by the fundamental
law. 24
We are not persuaded at all; on the contrary, We are amazed, if not shocked,
by such a sweeping pronouncement. In the first place, the respondent
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Secretary did not, for obvious reasons, even invoke in his motion to dismiss
the non-impairment clause. If he had done so, he would have acted with
utmost infidelity to the Government by providing undue and unwarranted
benefits and advantages to the timber license holders because he would
have forever bound the Government to strictly respect the said licenses
according to their terms and conditions regardless of changes in policy and
the demands of public interest and welfare. He was aware that as correctly
pointed out by the petitioners, into every timber license must be read
Section 20 of the Forestry Reform Code (P.D. No. 705) which provides:
. . . Provided, That when the national interest so requires, the
President may amend, modify, replace or rescind any contract,
concession, permit, licenses or any other form of privilege
granted herein . . .
Needless to say, all licenses may thus be revoked or rescinded by
executive action. It is not a contract, property or a property right
protested by the due process clause of the Constitution. In Tan vs.
Director of Forestry, 25 this Court held:
. . . A timber license is an instrument by which the State
regulates the utilization and disposition of forest resources to the
end that public welfare is promoted. A timber license is not a
contract within the purview of the due process clause; it is only a
license or privilege, which can be validly withdrawn whenever
dictated by public interest or public welfare as in this case.
A license is merely a permit or privilege to do what otherwise
would be unlawful, and is not a contract between the authority,
federal, state, or municipal, granting it and the person to whom it
is granted; neither is it property or a property right, nor does it
create a vested right; nor is it taxation (37 C.J. 168). Thus, this
Court held that the granting of license does not create
irrevocable rights, neither is it property or property rights (People
vs. Ong Tin, 54 O.G. 7576).
We reiterated this pronouncement in Felipe Ysmael, Jr. & Co., Inc. vs. Deputy
Executive Secretary: 26
. . . Timber licenses, permits and license agreements are the
principal instruments by which the State regulates the utilization
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and disposition of forest resources to the end that public welfare


is promoted. And it can hardly be gainsaid that they merely
evidence a privilege granted by the State to qualified entities,
and do not vest in the latter a permanent or irrevocable right to
the particular concession area and the forest products therein.
They may be validly amended, modified, replaced or rescinded
by the Chief Executive when national interests so require. Thus,
they are not deemed contracts within the purview of the due
process of law clause [See Sections 3(ee) and 20 of Pres. Decree
No. 705, as amended. Also, Tan v. Director of Forestry, G.R. No. L24548, October 27, 1983, 125 SCRA 302].
Since timber licenses are not contracts, the non-impairment clause, which
reads:
Sec. 10. No law impairing, the obligation of contracts shall be
passed. 27
cannot be invoked.
In the second place, even if it is to be assumed that the same are contracts,
the instant case does not involve a law or even an executive issuance
declaring the cancellation or modification of existing timber licenses. Hence,
the non-impairment clause cannot as yet be invoked. Nevertheless, granting
further that a law has actually been passed mandating cancellations or
modifications, the same cannot still be stigmatized as a violation of the nonimpairment clause. This is because by its very nature and purpose, such as
law could have only been passed in the exercise of the police power of the
state for the purpose of advancing the right of the people to a balanced and
healthful ecology, promoting their health and enhancing the general welfare.
In Abe vs. Foster Wheeler
Corp. 28 this Court stated:
The freedom of contract, under our system of government, is not
meant to be absolute. The same is understood to be subject to
reasonable legislative regulation aimed at the promotion of
public health, moral, safety and welfare. In other words, the
constitutional guaranty of non-impairment of obligations of
contract is limited by the exercise of the police power of the
State, in the interest of public health, safety, moral and general
welfare.
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The reason for this is emphatically set forth in Nebia vs. New York, 29 quoted
in Philippine American Life Insurance Co. vs. Auditor General, 30 to wit:
Under our form of government the use of property and the
making of contracts are normally matters of private and not of
public concern. The general rule is that both shall be free of
governmental interference. But neither property rights nor
contract rights are absolute; for government cannot exist if the
citizen may at will use his property to the detriment of his
fellows, or exercise his freedom of contract to work them harm.
Equally fundamental with the private right is that of the public to
regulate it in the common interest.
In short, the non-impairment clause must yield to the police power of the
state. 31
Finally, it is difficult to imagine, as the trial court did, how the nonimpairment clause could apply with respect to the prayer to enjoin the
respondent Secretary from receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or
approving new timber licenses for, save in cases of renewal, no contract
would have as of yet existed in the other instances. Moreover, with respect
to renewal, the holder is not entitled to it as a matter of right.
WHEREFORE, being impressed with merit, the instant Petition is hereby
GRANTED, and the challenged Order of respondent Judge of 18 July 1991
dismissing Civil Case No. 90-777 is hereby set aside. The petitioners may
therefore amend their complaint to implead as defendants the holders or
grantees of the questioned timber license agreements.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
FACTS:
The plaintiffs in this case are all minors duly represented and joined by their
parents. The first complaint was filed as a taxpayer's class suit at the Branch
66 (Makati, Metro Manila), of the Regional Trial Court, National capital Judicial
Region against defendant (respondent) Secretary of the Department of
Environment and Natural Reasources (DENR). Plaintiffs alleged that they are
entitled to the full benefit, use and enjoyment of the natural resource
treasure that is the country's virgin tropical forests. They further asseverate
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that they represent their generation as well as generations yet unborn and
asserted that continued deforestation have caused a distortion and
disturbance of the ecological balance and have resulted in a host of
environmental tragedies.
Plaintiffs prayed that judgement be rendered ordering the respondent, his
agents, representatives and other persons acting in his behalf to cancel all
existing Timber License Agreement (TLA) in the country and to cease and
desist from receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or approving new
TLAs.
Defendant, on the other hand, filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that
the complaint had no cause of action against him and that it raises a political
question.
The RTC Judge sustained the motion to dismiss, further ruling that granting of
the relief prayed for would result in the impairment of contracts which is
prohibited by the Constitution.
Plaintiffs (petitioners) thus filed the instant special civil action for certiorari
and asked the court to rescind and set aside the dismissal order on the
ground that the respondent RTC Judge gravely abused his discretion in
dismissing the action.
ISSUES:
(1) Whether or not the plaintiffs have a cause of action.
(2) Whether or not the complaint raises a political issue.
(3) Whether or not the original prayer of the plaintiffs result in the
impairment of contracts.
RULING:
First Issue: Cause of Action.
Respondents aver that the petitioners failed to allege in their complaint a
specific legal right violated by the respondent Secretary for which any relief
is provided by law. The Court did not agree with this. The complaint focuses
on one fundamental legal right -- the right to a balanced and healthful
ecology which is incorporated in Section 16 Article II of the Constitution. The
said right carries with it the duty to refrain from impairing the environment
and implies, among many other things, the judicious management and
conservation of the country's forests. Section 4 of E.O. 192 expressly
mandates the DENR to be the primary government agency responsible for
the governing and supervising the exploration, utilization, development and
conservation of the country's natural resources. The policy declaration of
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E.O. 192 is also substantially re-stated in Title XIV Book IV of the


Administrative Code of 1987. Both E.O. 192 and Administrative Code of 1987
have set the objectives which will serve as the bases for policy formation,
and have defined the powers and functions of the DENR. Thus, right of the
petitioners (and all those they represent) to a balanced and healthful ecology
is as clear as DENR's duty to protect and advance the said right.
A denial or violation of that right by the other who has the correlative duty or
obligation to respect or protect or respect the same gives rise to a cause of
action. Petitioners maintain that the granting of the TLA, which they claim
was done with grave abuse of discretion, violated their right to a balance and
healthful ecology. Hence, the full protection thereof requires that no further
TLAs should be renewed or granted.
After careful examination of the petitioners' complaint, the Court finds it to
be adequate enough to show, prima facie, the claimed violation of their
rights.
Second Issue: Political Issue.
Second paragraph, Section 1 of Article VIII of the constitution provides for the
expanded jurisdiction vested upon the Supreme Court. It allows the Court to
rule upon even on the wisdom of the decision of the Executive and
Legislature and to declare their acts as invalid for lack or excess of
jurisdiction because it is tainted with grave abuse of discretion.
Third Issue: Violation of the non-impairment clause.
The Court held that the Timber License Agreement is an instrument by which
the state regulates the utilization and disposition of forest resources to the
end that public welfare is promoted. It is not a contract within the purview of
the due process clause thus, the non-impairment clause cannot be invoked.
It can be validly withdraw whenever dictated by public interest or public
welfare as in this case. The granting of license does not create irrevocable
rights, neither is it property or property rights.
Moreover, the constitutional guaranty of non-impairment of obligations of
contract is limit by the exercise by the police power of the State, in the
interest of public health, safety, moral and general welfare. In short, the nonimpairment clause must yield to the police power of the State.
The instant petition, being impressed with merit, is hereby GRANTED and the
RTC decision is SET ASIDE.
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Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

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FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. L-43938 April 15, 1988
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (DIRECTOR OF FOREST
DEVELOPMENT), petitioner,
vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS (THIRD DIVISION) and JOSE Y. DE LA
ROSA, respondents.
G.R. No. L-44081 April 15, 1988
BENGUET CONSOLIDATED, INC., petitioner,
vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, VICTORIA, BENJAMIN
and EDUARDO, all surnamed DE LA ROSA, represented by their
father JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, respondents.
G.R. No. L-44092 April 15, 1988
ATOK-BIG WEDGE MINING COMPANY, petitioner,
vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, VICTORlA, BENJAMIN
and EDUARDO, all surnamed DE LA ROSA, represented by their
father, JOSE Y. DE LA ROSA, respondents.

CRUZ, J.:
The Regalian doctrine reserves to the State all natural wealth that may be
found in the bowels of the earth even if the land where the discovery is made
be private. 1 In the cases at bar, which have been consolidated because they
pose a common issue, this doctrine was not correctly applied.
These cases arose from the application for registration of a parcel of land
filed on February 11, 1965, by Jose de la Rosa on his own behalf and on
behalf of his three children, Victoria, Benjamin and Eduardo. The land,
situated in Tuding, Itogon, Benguet Province, was divided into 9 lots and
covered by plan Psu-225009. According to the application, Lots 1-5 were sold

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to Jose de la Rosa and Lots 6-9 to his children by Mamaya Balbalio and Jaime
Alberto, respectively, in 1964. 2
The application was separately opposed by Benguet Consolidated, Inc. as to
Lots 1-5, Atok Big Wedge Corporation, as to Portions of Lots 1-5 and all of
Lots 6-9, and by the Republic of the Philippines, through the Bureau of
Forestry Development, as to lots 1-9. 3
In support of the application, both Balbalio and Alberto testified that they
had acquired the subject land by virtue of prescription Balbalio claimed to
have received Lots 1-5 from her father shortly after the Liberation. She
testified she was born in the land, which was possessed by her parents under
claim of ownership. 4 Alberto said he received Lots 6-9 in 1961 from his
mother, Bella Alberto, who declared that the land was planted by Jaime and
his predecessors-in-interest to bananas, avocado, nangka and camote, and
was enclosed with a barbed-wire fence. She was corroborated by Felix
Marcos, 67 years old at the time, who recalled the earlier possession of the
land by Alberto's father. 5 Balbalio presented her tax declaration in 1956 and
the realty tax receipts from that year to 1964, 6 Alberto his tax declaration in
1961 and the realty tax receipts from that year to 1964. 7
Benguet opposed on the ground that the June Bug mineral claim covering
Lots 1-5 was sold to it on September 22, 1934, by the successors-in-interest
of James Kelly, who located the claim in September 1909 and recorded it on
October 14, 1909. From the date of its purchase, Benguet had been in actual,
continuous and exclusive possession of the land in concept of owner, as
evidenced by its construction of adits, its affidavits of annual assessment, its
geological mappings, geological samplings and trench side cuts, and its
payment of taxes on the land. 8
For its part, Atok alleged that a portion of Lots 1-5 and all of Lots 6-9 were
covered by the Emma and Fredia mineral claims located by Harrison and
Reynolds on December 25, 1930, and recorded on January 2, 1931, in the
office of the mining recorder of Baguio. These claims were purchased from
these locators on November 2, 1931, by Atok, which has since then been in
open, continuous and exclusive possession of the said lots as evidenced by
its annual assessment work on the claims, such as the boring of tunnels, and
its payment of annual taxes thereon.9
The location of the mineral claims was made in accordance with Section 21
of the Philippine Bill of 1902 which provided that:
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SEC. 21. All valuable mineral deposits in public lands in the


philippine Islands both surveyed and unsurveyed are hereby
declared to be free and open to exploration, occupation and
purchase and the land in which they are found to occupation and
purchase by the citizens of the United States, or of said islands.
The Bureau of Forestry Development also interposed its objection, arguing
that the land sought to be registered was covered by the Central Cordillera
Forest Reserve under Proclamation No. 217 dated February 16, 1929.
Moreover, by reason of its nature, it was not subject to alienation under the
Constitutions of 1935 and 1973. 10
The trial court * denied the application, holding that the applicants had failed
to prove their claim of possession and ownership of the land sought to be
registered. 11 The applicants appealed to the respondent court, * which
reversed the trial court and recognized the claims of the applicant, but
subject to the rights of Benguet and Atok respecting their mining claims. 12 In
other words, the Court of Appeals affirmed the surface rights of the de la
Rosas over the land while at the same time reserving the sub-surface rights
of Benguet and Atok by virtue of their mining claims.
Both Benguet and Atok have appealed to this Court, invoking their superior
right of ownership. The Republic has filed its own petition for review and
reiterates its argument that neither the private respondents nor the two
mining companies have any valid claim to the land because it is not
alienable and registerable.
It is true that the subject property was considered forest land and included in
the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve, but this did not impair the rights
already vested in Benguet and Atok at that time. The Court of Appeals
correctly declared that:
There is no question that the 9 lots applied for are within the
June Bug mineral claims of Benguet and the "Fredia and Emma"
mineral claims of Atok. The June Bug mineral claim of plaintiff
Benguet was one of the 16 mining claims of James E. Kelly,
American and mining locator. He filed his declaration of the
location of the June Bug mineral and the same was recorded in
the Mining Recorder's Office on October 14, 1909. All of the Kelly
claims ha subsequently been acquired by Benguet Consolidated,
Inc. Benguet's evidence is that it had made improvements on the
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June Bug mineral claim consisting of mine tunnels prior to 1935.


It had submitted the required affidavit of annual assessment.
After World War II, Benguet introduced improvements on mineral
claim June Bug, and also conducted geological mappings,
geological sampling and trench side cuts. In 1948, Benguet
redeclared the "June Bug" for taxation and had religiously paid
the taxes.
The Emma and Fredia claims were two of the several claims of
Harrison registered in 1931, and which Atok representatives
acquired. Portions of Lots 1 to 5 and all of Lots 6 to 9 are within
the Emma and Fredia mineral claims of Atok Big Wedge Mining
Company.
The June Bug mineral claim of Benguet and the Fredia and Emma
mineral claims of Atok having been perfected prior to the
approval of the Constitution of the Philippines of 1935, they were
removed from the public domain and had become private
properties of Benguet and Atok.
It is not disputed that the location of the mining
claim under consideration was perfected prior to
November 15, 1935, when the Government of the
Commonwealth was inaugurated; and according to
the laws existing at that time, as construed and
applied by this court in McDaniel v. Apacible and
Cuisia (42 Phil. 749), a valid location of a mining
claim segregated the area from the public domain.
Said the court in that case: The moment the locator
discovered a valuable mineral deposit on the lands
located, and perfected his location in accordance
with law, the power of the United States Government
to deprive him of the exclusive right to the
possession and enjoyment of the located claim was
gone, the lands had become mineral lands and they
were exempted from lands that could be granted to
any other person. The reservations of public lands
cannot be made so as to include prior mineral
perfected locations; and, of course, if a valid mining
location is made upon public lands afterwards
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included in a reservation, such inclusion or


reservation does not affect the validity of the former
location. By such location and perfection, the land
located is segregated from the public domain even
as against the Government. (Union Oil Co. v. Smith,
249 U.S. 337; Van Mess v. Roonet, 160 Cal. 131; 27
Cyc. 546).
"The legal effect of a valid location of a mining claim
is not only to segregate the area from the public
domain, but to grant to the locator the beneficial
ownership of the claim and the right to a patent
therefor upon compliance with the terms and
conditions prescribed by law. Where there is a valid
location of a mining claim, the area becomes
segregated from the public domain and the property
of the locator." (St. Louis Mining & Milling Co. v.
Montana Mining Co., 171 U.S. 650; 655; 43 Law ed.,
320, 322.) "When a location of a mining claim is
perfected it has the effect of a grant by the United
States of the right of present and exclusive
possession, with the right to the exclusive enjoyment
of all the surface ground as well as of all the minerals
within the lines of the claim, except as limited by the
extralateral right of adjoining locators; and this is the
locator's right before as well as after the issuance of
the patent. While a lode locator acquires a vested
property right by virtue of his location made in
compliance with the mining laws, the fee remains in
the government until patent issues."(18 R.C.L. 1152)
(Gold Creek Mining Corporation v. Hon. Eulogio
Rodriguez, Sec. of Agriculture and Commerce, and
Quirico Abadilla, Director of the Bureau of Mines, 66
Phil. 259, 265-266)
It is of no importance whether Benguet and Atok had secured a
patent for as held in the Gold Creek Mining Corp. Case, for all
physical purposes of ownership, the owner is not required to
secure a patent as long as he complies with the provisions of the

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mining laws; his possessory right, for all practical purposes of


ownership, is as good as though secured by patent.
We agree likewise with the oppositors that having complied with
all the requirements of the mining laws, the claims were removed
from the public domain, and not even the government of the
Philippines can take away this right from them. The reason is
obvious. Having become the private properties of the oppositors,
they cannot be deprived thereof without due process of law. 13
Such rights were not affected either by the stricture in the Commonwealth
Constitution against the alienation of all lands of the public domain except
those agricultural in nature for this was made subject to existing rights. Thus,
in its Article XIII, Section 1, it was categorically provided that:
SEC. 1. All agricultural, timber and mineral lands of the public
domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils,
all forces of potential energy and other natural resources of the
Philipppines belong to the State, and their disposition,
exploitation, development, or utilization shall be limited to
citizens of the Philippines or to corporations or associations at
least 60% of the capital of which is owned by such citizens,
subject to any existing right, grant, lease or concession at the
time of the inauguration of the government established under
this Constitution. Natural resources with the exception of public
agricultural lands, shall not be alienated, and no license,
concession, or lease for the exploitation, development or
utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a
period exceeding 25 years, except as to water rights for
irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than
the development of water power, in which case beneficial use
may be the measure and the limit of the grant.
Implementing this provision, Act No. 4268, approved on November 8, 1935,
declared:
Any provision of existing laws, executive order, proclamation to
the contrary notwithstanding, all locations of mining claim made
prior to February 8, 1935 within lands set apart as forest reserve
under Sec. 1826 of the Revised Administrative Code which would
be valid and subsisting location except to the existence of said
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reserve are hereby declared to be valid and subsisting locations


as of the date of their respective locations.
The perfection of the mining claim converted the property to mineral land
and under the laws then in force removed it from the public domain. 14 By
such act, the locators acquired exclusive rights over the land, against even
the government, without need of any further act such as the purchase of the
land or the obtention of a patent over it. 15 As the land had become the
private property of the locators, they had the right to transfer the same, as
they did, to Benguet and Atok.
It is true, as the Court of Appeals observed, that such private property was
subject to the "vicissitudes of ownership," or even to forfeiture by non-user
or abandonment or, as the private respondents aver, by acquisitive
prescription. However, the method invoked by the de la Rosas is not
available in the case at bar, for two reasons.
First, the trial court found that the evidence of open, continuous, adverse
and exclusive possession submitted by the applicants was insufficient to
support their claim of ownership. They themselves had acquired the land
only in 1964 and applied for its registration in 1965, relying on the earlier
alleged possession of their predecessors-in-interest. 16 The trial judge, who
had the opportunity to consider the evidence first-hand and observe the
demeanor of the witnesses and test their credibility was not convinced. We
defer to his judgment in the absence of a showing that it was reached with
grave abuse of discretion or without sufficient basis. 17
Second, even if it be assumed that the predecessors-in-interest of the de la
Rosas had really been in possession of the subject property, their possession
was not in the concept of owner of the mining claim but of the property
asagricultural land, which it was not. The property was mineral land, and
they were claiming it as agricultural land. They were not disputing the lights
of the mining locators nor were they seeking to oust them as such and to
replace them in the mining of the land. In fact, Balbalio testified that she was
aware of the diggings being undertaken "down below" 18 but she did not
mind, much less protest, the same although she claimed to be the owner of
the said land.
The Court of Appeals justified this by saying there is "no conflict of interest"
between the owners of the surface rights and the owners of the sub-surface
rights. This is rather doctrine, for it is a well-known principle that the owner
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of piece of land has rights not only to its surface but also to everything
underneath and the airspace above it up to a reasonable height. 19 Under the
aforesaid ruling, the land is classified as mineral underneath and agricultural
on the surface, subject to separate claims of title. This is also difficult to
understand, especially in its practical application.
Under the theory of the respondent court, the surface owner will be planting
on the land while the mining locator will be boring tunnels underneath. The
farmer cannot dig a well because he may interfere with the operations below
and the miner cannot blast a tunnel lest he destroy the crops above. How
deep can the farmer, and how high can the miner, go without encroaching on
each other's rights? Where is the dividing line between the surface and the
sub-surface rights?
The Court feels that the rights over the land are indivisible and that the land
itself cannot be half agricultural and half mineral. The classification must be
categorical; the land must be either completely mineral or completely
agricultural. In the instant case, as already observed, the land which was
originally classified as forest land ceased to be so and became mineral
and completely mineral once the mining claims were perfected. 20 As long
as mining operations were being undertaken thereon, or underneath, it did
not cease to be so and become agricultural, even if only partly so, because it
was enclosed with a fence and was cultivated by those who were unlawfully
occupying the surface.
What must have misled the respondent court is Commonwealth Act No. 137,
providing as follows:
Sec. 3. All mineral lands of the public domain and minerals
belong to the State, and their disposition, exploitation,
development or utilization, shall be limited to citizens of the
Philippines, or to corporations, or associations, at least 60% of
the capital of which is owned by such citizens, subject to any
existing right, grant, lease or concession at the time of the
inauguration of government established under the Constitution.
SEC. 4. The ownership of, and the right to the use of land for
agricultural, industrial, commercial, residential, or for any
purpose other than mining does not include the ownership of, nor
the right to extract or utilize, the minerals which may be found
on or under the surface.
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SEC. 5. The ownership of, and the right to extract and utilize, the
minerals included within all areas for which public agricultural
land patents are granted are excluded and excepted from all
such patents.
SEC. 6. The ownership of, and the right to extract and utilize, the
minerals included within all areas for which Torrens titles are
granted are excluded and excepted from all such titles.
This is an application of the Regalian doctrine which, as its name implies, is
intended for the benefit of the State, not of private persons. The rule simply
reserves to the State all minerals that may be found in public and even
private land devoted to "agricultural, industrial, commercial, residential or
(for) any purpose other than mining." Thus, if a person is the owner of
agricultural land in which minerals are discovered, his ownership of such land
does not give him the right to extract or utilize the said minerals without the
permission of the State to which such minerals belong.
The flaw in the reasoning of the respondent court is in supposing that the
rights over the land could be used for both mining and non-mining
purposes simultaneously. The correct interpretation is that once minerals are
discovered in the land, whatever the use to which it is being devoted at the
time, such use may be discontinued by the State to enable it to extract the
minerals therein in the exercise of its sovereign prerogative. The land is thus
converted to mineral land and may not be used by any private party,
including the registered owner thereof, for any other purpose that will
impede the mining operations to be undertaken therein, For the loss
sustained by such owner, he is of course entitled to just compensation under
the Mining Laws or in appropriate expropriation proceedings. 21
Our holding is that Benguet and Atok have exclusive rights to the property in
question by virtue of their respective mining claims which they validly
acquired before the Constitution of 1935 prohibited the alienation of all lands
of the public domain except agricultural lands, subject to vested rights
existing at the time of its adoption. The land was not and could not have
been transferred to the private respondents by virtue of acquisitive
prescription, nor could its use be shared simultaneously by them and the
mining companies for agricultural and mineral purposes.

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WHEREFORE, the decision of the respondent court dated April 30, 1976, is
SET ASIDE and that of the trial court dated March 11, 1969, is REINSTATED,
without any pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Doctrine: The owner of a piece of land has rights not only to its surface but
also to everything underneath and the airspace above it up to a reasonable
height. The rights over the land are indivisible and the land itself cannot be
half agricultural and half mineral. The classification must be categorical; the
land must be either completely mineral or completely agricultural.
Facts: These cases arose from the application for registration of a parcel of
land filed on February 11, 1965, by Jose de la Rosa on his own behalf and on
behalf of his three children, Victoria, Benjamin and Eduardo. The land,
situated in Tuding, Itogon, Benguet Province, was divided into 9 lots and
covered by plan Psu-225009. According to the application, Lots 1-5 were sold
to Jose de la Rosa and Lots 6-9 to his children by Mamaya Balbalio and Jaime
Alberto, respectively, in 1964.
The application was separately opposed by Benguet Consolidated, Inc. as to
Lots 1-5, Atok Big Wedge Corporation, as to Portions of Lots 1-5 and all of
Lots 6-9, and by the Republic of the Philippines, through the Bureau of
Forestry Development, as to lots 1-9.
In support of the application, both Balbalio and Alberto testified that they
had acquired the subject land by virtue of prescription Balbalio claimed to
have received Lots 1-5 from her father shortly after the Liberation.
Benguet opposed on the ground that the June Bug mineral claim covering
Lots 1-5 was sold to it on September 22, 1934, by the successors-in-interest
of James Kelly, who located the claim in September 1909 and recorded it on
October 14, 1909. From the date of its purchase, Benguet had been in actual,
continuous and exclusive possession of the land in concept of owner, as
evidenced by its construction of adits, its affidavits of annual assessment, its
geological mappings, geological samplings and trench side cuts, and its
payment of taxes on the land.

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For its part, Atok alleged that a portion of Lots 1-5 and all of Lots 6-9 were
covered by the Emma and Fredia mineral claims located by Harrison and
Reynolds on December 25, 1930, and recorded on January 2, 1931, in the
office of the mining recorder of Baguio. These claims were purchased from
these locators on November 2, 1931, by Atok, which has since then been in
open, continuous and exclusive possession of the said lots as evidenced by
its annual assessment work on the claims, such as the boring of tunnels, and
its payment of annual taxes thereon.
The Bureau of Forestry Development also interposed its objection, arguing
that the land sought to be registered was covered by the Central Cordillera
Forest Reserve under Proclamation No. 217 dated February 16, 1929.
Moreover, by reason of its nature, it was not subject to alienation under the
Constitutions of 1935 and 1973.
The trial court denied the application, holding that the applicants had failed
to prove their claim of possession and ownership of the land sought to be
registered.
The applicants appealed to the respondent court, which reversed the trial
court and recognized the claims of the applicant, but subject to the rights of
Benguet and Atok respecting their mining claims. In other words, the Court of
Appeals affirmed the surface rights of the de la Rosas over the land while at
the same time reserving the sub-surface rights of Benguet and Atok by virtue
of their mining claims. Both Benguet and Atok have appealed to this Court,
invoking their superior right of ownership.
Issue: Whether respondent courts decision, i.e. the surface rights of the de
la Rosas over the land while at the same time reserving the sub-surface
rights of Benguet and Atok by virtue of their mining claim, is correct.
Held: No. Our holding is that Benguet and Atok have exclusive rights to the
property in question by virtue of their respective mining claims which they
validly acquired before the Constitution of 1935 prohibited the alienation of
all lands of the public domain except agricultural lands, subject to vested
rights existing at the time of its adoption. The land was not and could not
have been transferred to the private respondents by virtue of acquisitive
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prescription, nor could its use be shared simultaneously by them and the
mining companies for agricultural and mineral purposes. It is true that the
subject property was considered forest land and included in the Central
Cordillera Forest Reserve, but this did not impair the rights already vested in
Benguet and Atok at that time. Such rights were not affected either by the
stricture in the Commonwealth Constitution against the alienation of all lands
of the public domain except those agricultural in nature for this was made
subject to existing rights. The perfection of the mining claim converted the
property to mineral land and under the laws then in force removed it from
the public domain. By such act, the locators acquired exclusive rights over
the land, against even the government, without need of any further act such
as the purchase of the land or the obtention of a patent over it. As the land
had become the private property of the locators, they had the right to
transfer the same, as they did, to Benguet and Atok. The Court of Appeals
justified this by saying there is no conflict of interest between the owners
of the surface rights and the owners of the sub-surface rights. This is rather
doctrine, for it is a well-known principle that the owner of piece of land has
rights not only to its surface but also to everything underneath and the
airspace above it up to a reasonable height. Under the aforesaid ruling, the
land is classified as mineral underneath and agricultural on the surface,
subject to separate claims of title. This is also difficult to understand,
especially in its practical application.
The Court feels that the rights over the land are indivisible and that the land
itself cannot be half agricultural and half mineral. The classification must be
categorical; the land must be either completely mineral or completely
agricultural. In the instant case, as already observed, the land which was
originally classified as forest land ceased to be so and became mineral
and completely mineral once the mining claims were perfected. As long as
mining operations were being undertaken thereon, or underneath, it did not
cease to be so and become agricultural, even if only partly so, because it
was enclosed with a fence and was cultivated by those who were unlawfully
occupying the surface.
This is an application of the Regalian doctrine which, as its name implies, is
intended for the benefit of the State, not of private persons. The rule simply
Elsa M. Canete|135 | P a g e
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reserves to the State all minerals that may be found in public and even
private land devoted to agricultural, industrial, commercial, residential or
(for) any purpose other than mining. Thus, if a person is the owner of
agricultural land in which minerals are discovered, his ownership of such land
does not give him the right to extract or utilize the said minerals without the
permission of the State to which such minerals belong.
The flaw in the reasoning of the respondent court is in supposing that the
rights over the land could be used for both mining and non-mining purposes
simultaneously. The correct interpretation is that once minerals are
discovered in the land, whatever the use to which it is being devoted at the
time, such use may be discontinued by the State to enable it to extract the
minerals therein in the exercise of its sovereign prerogative. The land is thus
converted to mineral land and may not be used by any private party,
including the registered owner thereof, for any other purpose that will
impede the mining operations to be undertaken therein, For the loss
sustained by such owner, he is of course entitled to just compensation under
the Mining Laws or in appropriate expropriation proceedings.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
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G.R. No. 103882 November 25, 1998


REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,
vs.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS AND REPUBLIC REAL ESTATE
CORPORATION, respondents, CULTURAL CENTER OF THE
PHILIPPINES, intervenor.
G.R. No. 105276 November 25, 1998
PASAY CITY AND REPUBLIC REAL ESTATE CORPORATION, petitioners,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

PURISIMA, J.:
At bar are two consolidated petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of
the Revised Rules of Court. Here, the Court is confronted with a case
commenced before the then Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court)
of Rizal in Pasay City, in 1961, more than 3 decades back, that has spanned
six administrations of the Republic and outlasted the tenure of ten (10) Chief
Justices of the Supreme Court.
In G.R. No. 103882, the Republic of the Philippines, as petitioner, assails the
Decision, dated January 29, 1992 and Amended Decision, dated April 28,
1992, of the Court of Appeals 1 which affirmed with modification the Decision
of the former Court of First Instance of Rizal (Branch 7, Pasay City) in Civil
Case No. 2229-P, entitled "Republic of the Philippines vs. Pasay City and
Republic Real Estate Corporation".
The facts that matter are, as follows:
Republic Act No. 1899 ("RA 1899"), which was approved on June 22, 1957,
authorized the reclamation of foreshore lands by chartered cities and
municipalities. Section I of said law, reads:

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Sec. 1. Authority is hereby granted to all municipalities and


chartered cities to undertake and carry out at their own expense
the reclamation by dredging, filling, or other means, of any
foreshore lands bordering them, and to establish, provide,
construct, maintain and repair proper and adequate docking and
harbor facilities as such municipalities and chartered cities may
determine in consultation with the Secretary of Finance and the
Secretary of Public Works and Communications.
On May 6, 1958, invoking the a forecited provision of RA 1899, the Pasay City
Council passed Ordinance No. 121, for the reclamation of Three Hundred
(300) hectares of foreshore lands in Pasay City, empowering the City Mayor
to award and enter into reclamation contracts, and prescribing terms and
conditions therefor. The said Ordinance was amended on April 21, 1959 by
Ordinance No. 158, which authorized the Republic Real Estate Corporation
("RREC") to reclaim foreshore lands of Pasay City under certain terms and
conditions.
On April 24, 1959, Pasay City and RREC entered into an Agreement
reclamation of the foreshore lands in Pasay City.

for the

On December 19, 1961, the Republic of the Philippines ("Republic") filed a


Complaint 3 for Recovery of Possession and Damages with Writ of Preliminary
Preventive injunction and Mandatory Injunction, docketed as Civil Case No.
2229-P before the former Court of First Instance of Rizal, (Branch 7, Pasay
City).
On March 5, 1962, the Republic of the Philippines filed an Amended
Complaint 4 questioning subject Agreement between Pasay City and RREC
(Exhibit "P") on the grounds that the subject-matter of such Agreement is
outside the commerce of man, that its terms and conditions are violative of
RA 1899, and that the said Agreement was executed without any public
bidding.
The Answers 5 of RREC and Pasay City, dated March 10 and March 14, 1962,
respectively, averred that the subject-matter of said Agreement is within the
commerce of man, that the phrase "foreshore lands" within the
contemplation of RA 1899 has a broader meaning than the cited definition of
the term in the Words and Phrases and in the Webster's Third New
International Dictionary and the plans and specifications of the reclamation
involved were approved by the authorities concerned.
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On April 26,1962, Judge Angel H. Mojica, (now deceased) of the former Court
of First Instance of Rizal (Branch 7, Pasay City) issued an Order 6 the
dispositive portion of which was to the following effect:
WHEREFORE, the court hereby orders the defendants, their
agents, and all persons claiming under them, to refrain from
"further reclaiming or committing acts of dispossession or
dispoilation over any area within the Manila Bay or the Manila
Bay Beach Resort", until further orders of the court.
On the following day, the same trial court issued a writ of preliminary
injunction 7 which enjoined the defendants, RREC and Pasay City, their
agents, and all persons claiming under them "from further reclaiming or
committing acts of dispossession."
Thereafter, a Motion to Intervene 8, dated June 27, 1962, was filed by Jose L.
Bautista, Emiliano Custodio, Renato Custodio, Roger de la Rosa, Belen
Gonzales, Norma Martiner, Emilia E. Paez, Ambrosio R. Parreno, Antolin M.
Oreta, Sixto L. Orosa, Pablo S. Sarmiento, Jesus Yujuico, Zamora Enterprises,
Inc., Industrial and Commercial Factors, Inc., Metropolitan Distributors of the
Philippines, and Bayview Hotel, Inc. stating inter alia that they were buyers
of lots in the Manila Bay area being reclaimed by RREC, whose rights would
be affected by whatever decision to be rendered in the case. The Motion was
granted by the trial court and the Answer attached thereto admitted. 9
The defendants and the intervenors then moved to dismiss 10 the Complaint
of the Republic, placing reliance on Section 3 of Republic Act No. 5187, which
reads:
Sec. 3. Miscellaneous Projects
xxx xxx xxx
m. For the construction of seawall and limited access highway
from the south boundary of the City of Manila to Cavite City, to
the south, and from the north boundary of the City of Manila to
the municipality of Mariveles, province of Bataan, to the north,
including the reclamation of the foreshore and submerged
areas: Provided, That priority in the construction of such
seawalls, highway and attendant reclamation works shall be
given to any corporation and/or corporations that may offer to
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undertake at its own expense such projects, in which case the


President of the Philippines may, after competitive didding,
award contracts for the construction of such project, with the
winning bidder shouldering all costs thereof, the same to be paid
in terms of percentage fee of the contractor which shall not
exceed fifty percent of the area reclaimed by the contractor and
shall represent full compensation for the purpose, the provisions
of the Public Land Law concerning disposition of reclaimed and
foreshore lands to the contrary notwithstanding: Provided,
finally, that the foregoing provisions and those of other laws,
executive orders, rules and regulations to the contrary
notwithstanding, existing rights, projects and/or contracts of city
or municipal governments for the reclamation of foreshore and
submerged lands shall be respected. . . . . (emphasis ours).
Since the aforecited law provides that existing contracts shall be
respected, movants contended that the issues raised by the pleadings
have become "moot, academic and of no further validity or effect."
Meanwhile, the Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc. ("PLCU") moved to
intervene 11, alleging as legal interest in the matter in litigation the avowed
purpose of the organization for the promotion of good government in Pasay
City. In its Order of June 10, 1969, the lower court of origin allowed the said
intervention 12.
On March 24, 1972, the trial court of origin came out with a Decision,
disposing, thus:
WHEREFORE, after carefully considering (1) the original
complaint, (2) the first Amended Complaint, (3) the Answer of
Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation to the first Amended
Complaint, (4) the Answer of Defendant Pasay City to the first
Amended Complaint, (5) the Second Amended Complaint, (6) the
Answer of Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation to the
Second Amended Complaint, (7) the Answer of Defendant Pasay
City to the Second Amended Complaint, (8) the Memorandum in
Support of Preliminary Injunction of Plaintiff, (9) the
Memorandum In Support of the Opposition to the Issuance of
Preliminary Injunction of Defendant Pasay City and Defendant
Republic Real Estate Corporation, (10) the Answer in Intervention
Elsa M. Canete|140 | P a g e
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of Intervenors Bautista, et. al., (11) Plaintiff's Opposition to


Motion to Intervene, (12) the Reply to Opposition to Motion to
Intervene of Intervenors Bautista, et. al., (13) the Stipulation of
Facts by all the parties, (14) the Motion for Leave to Intervene of
Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc., (15) the
Opposition to Motion For Leave to Intervene of Intervenors
Bautista, et. al., (16) the Reply of Intervenor Pasay Law and
Conscience Union, Inc., (17) the Supplement to Opposition to
Motion to Intervene of Defendant Pasay City and Republic Real
Estate Corporation (18) the Complain in Intervention of
Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc., (19) the
Answer of Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation, (20) the
Answer of Intervenor Jose L. Bautista, et. al., to Complaint in
Intervention, (21) the Motion to Dismiss of Defendant Republic
Real Estate Corporation, and Intervenors Bautista, et. al., (22)
the Opposition of Plaintiff to said Motion to Dismiss, (23) the
Opposition of Intervenor Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc.,
(24) the Memorandum of the Defendant Republic Real Estate
Corporation, (25) the Memorandum for the Intervenor Pasay Law
and Conscience Union, Inc., (26) the Manifestation of Plaintiff
filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, and all the
documentary evidence by the parties to wit: (a) Plaintiff's
Exhibits "A" to "YYY- 4", (b) Defendant Republic Real Estate
Corporation's Exhibits "1-RREC" to "40-a" and (c) Intervenor
Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc's., Exhibits "A-PLACU" to
"C-PLACU", the Court hereby:
(1) Denies the "Motion to Dismiss" filed on January 10, 1968, by
Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation and Intervenors
Bautista, et. al., as it is the finding of this Court that Republic Act
No. 5187 was not passed by Congress to cure any defect in the
ordinance and agreement in question and that the passage of
said Republic Act No. 5187 did not make the legal issues raised
in the pleadings "moot, academic and of no further validity or
effect;" and
(2) Renders judgment:
(a) dismissing the Plaintiff's Complaint;

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(b) Dismissing the Complaint in Intervention of Intervenor Pasay


Law and Conscience Union, Inc.,
(c) Enjoining Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation and
Defendant Pasay City to have all the plans and specifications in
the reclamation approved by the Director of Public Works and to
have all the contracts and sub-contracts for said reclamation
awarded by means of, and only after, public bidding; and
(d) Lifting the preliminary Injunction issued by the Court on April
26, 1962, as soon as Defendant Republic Real Estate Corporation
and Defendant Pasay City shall have submitted the
corresponding plans and specifications to the Director of Public
Works, and shall have obtained approval thereof, and as soon as
the corresponding public bidding for the award to the contractor
and sub-contractor that will undertake the reclamation project
shall have been effected.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED. (See Court of Appeals' Decision dated January 28,
1992; pp. 6-8)
Dissatisfied with the said judgment, the Republic appealed therefrom to the
Court of Appeals. However, on January 11, 1973, before the appeal could be
resolved, Presidential Decree No. 3-A issued, amending Presidential Decree
No. 3, thus:
Sec. 1. Section 7 of Presidential Decree No. 3, dated September
26, 1972, is hereby amended by the addition of the following
paragraphs:
The provisions of any law to the contrary notwithstanding, the
reclamation of areas under water, whether foreshore or inland,
shall be limited to the National Government or any person
authorized by it under a proper contract.
All reclamations made in violation of this provision shall be
forfeited to the State without need of judicial action.

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Contracts for reclamation still legally existing or whose validity


has been accepted by the National Government shall be taken
over by the National Government on the basis of quantum
meruit, for proper prosecution of the project involved by
administration.
On November 20, 1973, the Republic and the Construction Development
Corporation of the Philippines ("CDCP") signed a Contract 13 for the ManilaCavite Coastal Road Project (Phases I and II) which contract included the
reclamation and development of areas covered by the Agreement between
Pasay City and RREC. Then, there was issued Presidential Decree No. 1085
which transferred to the Public Estate Authority ("PEA") the rights and
obligations of the Republic of the Philippines under the contract between the
Republic and CDCP.
Attempts to settle amicably the dispute between representatives of the
Republic, on the one hand, and those of Pasay City and RREC, on the other,
did not work out. The parties involved failed to hammer out a compromise.
On January 28, 1992, the Court of Appeals came out with a
Decision 14 dismissing the appeal of the Republic and holding, thus:
WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED
with the following modifications:
1. The requirement by the trial court on public bidding and
submission of RREC's plans specification to the Department
Public Works and Highways in order that RREC may continue the
implementation of the reclamation work is deleted for being
moot and academic;
2. Ordering the plaintiff-appellant to turn over to Pasay City the
ownership and possession over all vacant spaces in the twentyone hectare area already reclaimed by Pasay City and RREC at
the time it took over the same. Areas thereat over which
permanent structures has (sic) been introduced shall, including
the structures, remain in the possession of the present
possessor, subject to any negotiation between Pasay City and
the said present possessor, as regards the continued possession
and ownership of the latter area.
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3. Sustaining RREC's irrevocable option to purchase sixty (60%)


percent of the Twenty-One (21) hectares of land already
reclaimed by it, to be exercised within one (1) year from the
finality of this decision, at the same terms and condition
embodied in the Pasay City-RREC reclamation contract, and
enjoining appellee Pasay City to respect RREC's option.
SO ORDERED.
On February 14, 1992, Pasay City and RREC presented a Motion for
Reconsideration of such Decision of the Court of Appeals, contending, among
others, that RREC had actually reclaimed Fifty-Five (55) hectares, and not
only Twenty-one (21) hectares, and the respondent Court of Appeals erred in
not awarding damages to them, movants.
On April 28, 1992, the Court of Appeals acted favorably on the said Motion
for Reconsideration, by amending the dispositive portion of its judgment of
January 28, 1992, to read as follows:
WHEREFORE, the dispositive portion of our Decision dated
January 28, 1992 is hereby AMENDED to read as follows:
1. The requirement by the trial court on public bidding and the
submission of the RREC's plans and specification to the
Department of Public Works and Highways in order that RREC
may continue the implementation of the reclamation work is
deleted for being moot and academic.
2. Ordering plaintiff-appellant to turn over to Pasay City the
ownership and possession of the above enumerated lots (1 to 9).
3. Sustaining RREC's irrevocable option to purchase sixty (60%)
percent of the land referred to in No. 2 of this dispositive portion,
to be exercised within one (1) year from the finality of this
Decision, at the same terms and condition embodied in the Pasay
City-RREC reclamation contract, and enjoining Pasay City to
respect RREC's irrevocable option.
SO ORDERED.

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From the Decision and Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals


aforementioned, the Republic of the Philippines, as well as Pasay City and
RREC, have come to this Court to seek relief, albeit with different prayers.
On September 10, 1997, the Court commissioned the former thirteenth
Division of Court of Appeals to hear and receive evidence on the controversy.
The corresponding Commissioner's Report, dated November 25, 1997, was
submitted and now forms part of the records.
On October 11, 1997, the Cultural Center of the Philippines ("CCP") filed a
Petition in Intervention, theorizing that it has a direct interest in the case
being the owner of subject nine (9) lots titled in its (CCP) name, which the
respondent Court of Appeals ordered to be turned over to Pasay City. The
CCP, as such intervenor, was allowed to present its evidence, as it did, before
the Court of Appeals, which evidence has been considered in the formulation
of this disposition.
In G.R. No. 103882, the Republic of the Philippines theorizes, by way of
assignment of errors, that:
I
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN UPHOLDING THE
VALIDITY OF PASAY CITY ORDINANCE NO. 158 DATED
APRIL 21, 1959 AND THE RECLAMATION CONTRACT
ENTERED INTO BETWEEN PASAY CITY AND RREC;
II
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING THAT
RREC HAD RECLAIMED 55 HECTARES AND IN
ORDERING THE TURN-OVER TO PASAY CITY OF THE
OWNERSHIP AND POSSESSION OF NINE (9) LOTS
TITLED IN THE NAME OF CCP.
In G.R. No. 105276, the petitioners, Pasay City and RREC, contend, that:
I
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT DECLARING
PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 3-A UNCONSTITUTIONAL;
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II
THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT AWARDING
DAMAGES IN FAVOR OF PASAY CITY AND RREC.
Let us first tackle the issues posed in G.R. No. 103882.
On the first question regarding the validity of Pasay City Ordinance No. 158
dated April 21, 1959 and the Agreement dated April 24, 1959 between Pasay
City and RREC, we rule in the negative.
Sec. 1 of RA 1899, reads:
Sec. 1. Authority is hereby granted to all
municipalities and chartered cities to undertake and
carry out at their own expense the reclamation by
dredging, filling, or other means, of any foreshore
lands bordering them, and to establish, provide,
construct, maintain and repair proper and adequate
docking and harbor facilities as such municipalities
and chartered cities may determine in consultation
with the Secretary of Finance and the Secretary of
Public Works and Communications.
It is the submission of the petitioner, Republic of the Philippines, that there
are no foreshore lands along the seaside of Pasay City 15; that what Pasay
City has are submerged or offshore areas outside the commerce of man
which could not be a proper subject matter of the Agreement between Pasay
City and RREC in question as the area affected is within the National Park,
known as Manila Bay Beach Resort, established under Proclamation No. 41,
dated July 5, 1954, pursuant to Act No. 3915, of which area it (Republic) has
been in open, continuous and peaceful possession since time immemorial.
Petitioner faults the respondent court for unduly expanding what may be
considered "foreshore land" through the following disquisition:
The former Secretary of Justice Alejo Mabanag, in
response to a request for an opinion from the then
Secretary of Public Works and Communications as to
whether the term, "foreshore areas" as used in
Section I of the immediately aforequoted law is that
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defined in Webster's Dictionary and the Law of


Waters so as to make any dredging or filling beyond
its prescribed limit illegal, opined:
According to the basic letter of the
Director of Public Works, the law of
Waters speaks of "shore" and defines it
thus: "that space movement of the tide.
Its interior or terrestrial limit in the line
reached by highest equinoctial tides."
Webster's definition of foreshore reads as follows:
That part of the shore between high
water and low-water marks usually fixed
at the line to which the ordinary means
tide flows: also, by extension, the beach,
the shore near the water's edge.
If we were to be strictly literal the term
foreshore or foreshore lands should be
confined to but a portion of the shore, in
itself a very limited area. (p. 6,
Intervenors-appellees' brief).
Bearing in mind the (Webster's and Law
of Waters) definitions of "shore" and of
foreshore lands, one is struck with the
apparent inconsistency between the
areas thus described and the purpose to
which that area, when reclaimed under
the provision of Republic Act No. 1899,
shall be devoted. Section I (of said Law)
authorizes the construction thereat of
"adequate docking and harbor facilities".
This purpose is repeated in Sections 3
and 4 of the Act.
And yet, it is well known fact that
foreshore lands normally extend only
from 10 to 20 meters along the coast.
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Not very much more if at all. In fact


certain parts in Manila bordering on
Manila Bay, has no foreshore to speak of
since the sea washes the sea wall.
It does not seem logical, then, that
Congress had in mind. Webster's limited
concept of foreshore when it enacted
Republic Act No. 1899, unless it intends
that the wharves, piers,
docks, etc. should be constructed parallel
to the shore, which is impractical.
Since it is to be presumed that Congress
could not have intended to enact an
ineffectual measure not one that would
lead to absurd consequences, it would
seem that it used "foreshore" in a sense
wider in scope that defined by
Webster. . . .
To said opinion on the interpretation of the R.A. 1899,
plaintiff-appellant could not offer any refutation or
contrary opinion. Neither can we. In fact, the above
construction is consistent with the "rule on context"
in statutory construction which provides that in
construing a statute, the same must be construed as
a whole. The particular words, clauses and phrases
should not be studied as detached and isolated
expressions, but the whole and every part of the
statute must be considered in fixing the meaning of
any of its parts in order to produce a harmonious
whole (see Araneta vs. Concepcion, 99 Phil. 709).
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the force and
significance of particular expressions will largely
depend upon the connection in which they are found
and their relation to the general subject-matter of
the law. The legislature must be understood to have
expressed its whole mind on the special object to
which the legislative act is directed but the vehicle
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for the expressions of that meaning is the statute,


considered as one entire and continuous act, and not
as an agglomeration of unrelated clauses. Each
clause or provision will be illuminated by those which
are cognate to it and by the general tenor of the
whole statute and thus obscurities end ambiguities
may often be cleared up by the most direct and
natural means. Secondly effect must be given, if it is
possible, to every word and clause of the statute, so
that nothing shall be left devoid of meaning or
destitute of force. To this end, each provision of the
statute should be read in the light of the whole. For
the general meaning of the legislature, as gathered
from the entire act, may often prevail over the
construction which would appear to be the most
natural and obvious on the face of a particular
clause. If is by this means that contradiction and
repugnance between the different parts of the
statute may be avoided. (See Black, Interpretation of
Laws, 2nd Ed., pp. 317-319).
Resorting to extrinsic aids, the "Explanatory Note" to
House Bill No. 3830, which was subsequently
enacted as Republic Act No. 1899, reads:
In order to develop and expand the
Maritime Commerce of the Philippines, it
is necessary that harbor facilities be
correspondingly improved and, where
necessary, expanded and developed. The
national government is not in a financial
position to handle all this work. On the
other hand, with a greater autonomy
many chartered cities and provinces are
financially able to have credit position
which will allow them to undertake these
projects. Some cities, such as the City of
Bacolod under R.A. 161, has been
authorized to reclaim foreshore lands
bordering it.
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Other cities end provinces have


continuously been requesting for
authority to reclaim foreshore lands on
the basis of the Bacolod City pattern, and
to undertake work to establish, construct
on the reclaimed area and maintain such
port facilities as may be necessary. In
order not to unduly delay the
undertaking of these projects, and
inorder to obviate the passage of
individual pieces of legislation for every
chartered city and province, it is hereby
recommended that the accompanying bill
be approved. It covers Authority for All
chartered cities and provinces to
undertake this work. . . . (emphasis
supplied)
Utilizing the above explanatory note in interpreting
and construing the provisions of R.A. 1899, then
Secretary of Justice Mabanag opined:
It is clear that the "Bacolod City pattern"
was the basis of the enactment of the
aforementioned bill of general
application. This so-called "Bacolod City
pattern" appears to be composed of 3
parts, namely: Republic Ad No. 161,
which grants authority to Bacolod City to
undertake or carry out . . . the
reclamation . . . of any [sic] carry out the
reclamation project conformably with
Republic Act No. 161; and Republic Act
No. 1132 authorizing Bacolod City to
contract indebtedness or to issue bonds
in the amount not exceeding six million
pesos to finance the reclamation of land
in said city.

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Republic Act No. 161 did not in itself


specify the precise space therein referred
to as "foreshore" lands, but it provided
that docking and harbor facilities should
be erected on the reclaimed portions
thereof, while not conclusive would
indicate that Congress used the word
"foreshore" in its broadest sense.
Significantly, the plan of reclamation of
foreshore drawn up by the Bureau of
Public Works maps out an area of
approximately 1,600,000 square meters,
the boundaries of which clearly extend
way beyond Webster's limited concept of
the term "foreshore". As a
contemporaneous construction by that
branch of the Government empowered to
oversee at least, the conduct of the work,
such an interpretation deserves great
weight. Finally, Congress in enacting
Republic Act No. 1132 (supplement to RA
161), tacitly confirmed and approved the
Bureau's interpretation of the term
'foreshore' when instead of taking the
occasion to correct the Bureau of over
extending its plan, it authorized the city
of Bacolod to raise the full estimated cost
of reclaiming the total area covered by
the plan. The explanatory note to House
Bill No. 1249 which became Republic Act
No. 1132 states among the things:
The Bureau of Public Works already
prepared a plan for the reclamation of
about 1,600,000 square meters of land at
an estimated costs of about
P6,000,000.00. The project is selfsupporting because the proceeds from
the sales or leases of lands so reclaimed

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will be more than sufficient to cover the


cost of the project.
Consequently, when Congress passed
Republic Act No. 1899 in order to
facilitate the reclamation by local
governments of foreshore lands on the
basis of the Bacolod City pattern and in
order to obviate the passage of individual
pieces of legislation for every chartered
city and provinces requesting authority
to undertake such projects, the
lawmaking body could not have had in
mind the limited area described by
Webster as "foreshore" lands. . . . .
If it was really the intention of Congress to limit the
area to the strict literal meaning of "foreshore" lands
which may be reclaimed by chartered cities and
municipalities, Congress would have excluded the
cities of Manila, Iloilo, Cebu, Zamboanga and Davao
from the operation of RA 1899 as suggested by
Senator Cuenco during the deliberation of the bill
considering that these cities do not have 'foreshore'
lands in the strict meaning of the term. Yet, Congress
did not approve the proposed amendment of Senator
Cuenco, implying therefore, that Congress intended
not to limit the area that may be reclaimed to the
strict definition of "foreshore" lands.
The opinion of the then Secretary of Justice Mabanag,
who was at that time the chief law officer and legal
adviser of the government and whose office is
required by law to issue opinions for the guidance of
the various departments of the government, there
being then no judicial interpretation to the contrary,
is entitled to respect (see Bengzon vs. Secretary of
Justice and Insular Auditor, 68 Phil. 912).

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We are not unmindful of the Supreme Court


Resolution dated February 3, 1965 in Ponce vs.
Gomez (L-21870) and Ponce vs. City of Cebu (L2266), by a unanimous vote of six (6) justices (the
other five (5) members deemed it unnecessary to
express their view because in their opinion the
questions raised were not properly brought before
the court), which in essence applied the strict
dictionary meaning of "foreshore lands" as used in
RA 1899 in the case of the city of Cebu. But this was
promulgated long after the then Secretary of Justice
Mabanag rendered the above opinion on November
16, 1959 and long after RREC has started the subject
reclamation project.
Furthermore, as held by the lower court, Congress,
after the Supreme Court issued the aforementioned
Resolution, enacted RA 5187. In Sec. 3 (m) of said
law, Congress appropriated money "for the
construction of the seawall and limited access
highway from the South boundary of the city of
Manila to Cavite City, to the South, and from the
North boundary of the city of Manila to the
municipality of Mariveles, province of Bataan, to the
North (including the reclamation of foreshore and
submerged areas . . . provided . . . that . . . existing
projects and/or contracts of city or municipal
governments for the reclamation of foreshore and
submerged lands shall be respected . . ." This is a
clear manifestation that Congress in enacting RA
1899, did not intend to limit the interpretation of the
term "foreshore land" to its dictionary meaning.
It is presumed that the legislature was acquainted
with and had in mind the judicial construction given
to a former statute on the subject, and that the
statute on the subject, and that the statute was
enacted having in mind the judicial construction that
the prior enactment had received, or in the light of
such existing judicial decisions as have direct bearing
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upon it (see 50 Am. Jur., Sec. 321, pp. 312-313). But


notwithstanding said interpretation by the Supreme
Court of RA 1899 in the Ponce cases, Congress
enacted a law covering the same areas previously
embraced in a RA 1899 (as mentioned earlier, cities
without foreshore lands which were sought to be
excluded from the operation of RA 1899 were not
excluded), providing that respect be given the
reclamation of not only foreshore lands but also of
submerged lands signifying its non-conformity to the
judicial construction given to RA 1899. If Congress
was in accord with the interpretation and
construction made by the Supreme Court on RA
1899, it would have mentioned reclamation of
"foreshore lands" only in RA 5187, but Congress
included "submerged lands" in order to clarify the
intention on the grant of authority to cities and
municipalities in the reclamation of lands bordering
them as provided in RA 1899. It is, therefore, our
opinion that it is actually the intention of Congress in
RA 1899 not to limit the authority granted to cities
and municipalities to reclaim foreshore lands in its
strict dictionary meaning but rather in its wider scope
as to include submerged lands.
The Petition is impressed with merit.
To begin with, erroneous and unsustainable is the opinion of respondent
court that under RA 1899, the term "foreshore lands" includes submerged
areas. As can be gleaned from its disquisition and rationalization
aforequoted, the respondent court unduly stretched and broadened the
meaning of "foreshore lands", beyond the intentment of the law, and against
the recognized legal connotation of "foreshore lands". Well entrenched, to
the point of being elementary, is the rule that when the law speaks in clear
and categorical language, there is no reason for interpretation or
construction, but only for application. 16 So also, resort to extrinsic aids, like
the records of the constitutional convention, is unwarranted, the language of
the law being plain and unambiguous. 17 Then, too, opinions of the Secretary
of Justice are unavailing to supplant or rectify any mistake or omission in the
law. 18 To repeat, the term "foreshore lands" refers to:
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The strip of land that lies between the high and low
water marks and that is alternately wet and dry
according to the flow of the tide. (Words and Phrases,
"Foreshore")
A strip of land margining a body of water (as a lake
or stream); the part of a seashore between the lowwater line usually at the seaward margin of a lowtide terrace and the upper limit of wave wash at high
tide usually marked by a beach scarp or berm.
(Webster's Third New International Dictionary)
The duty of the court is to interpret the enabling Act, RA 1899. In so doing,
we cannot broaden its meaning, much less widen the coverage thereof. If the
intention of Congress were to include submerged areas, it should
haveprovided expressly. That Congress did not so provide could only signify
the exclusion of submerged areas from the term "foreshore lands".
Neither is there any valid ground to disregard the Resolution of this Court
dated February 3, 1965 in Ponce v. Gomez (L-21870) and Ponce v. City of
Cebu (L-22669) despite the enactment of Republic Act No. 5187 ("RA 5187"),
the relevant portion of which, reads:
Sec. 3. Miscellaneous Projects
xxx xxx xxx
m. For the construction of seawall and limited access
highway from the south boundary of the City of
Manila to Cavite City, to the south, and from the
north boundary of the City of Manila to the
municipality of Mariveles, province of Bataan, to the
north, including the reclamation of the foreshore and
submerged areas: Provided, That priority in the
construction of such seawalls, highway and
attendant reclamation works shell be given to any
corporation and/or corporations that may offer to
undertake at its own expense such projects, in which
case the President of the Philippines may, after
competitive bidding, award contracts for the
construction of such projects, with the winning bidder
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shouldering all costs thereof, the same to be paid in


terms of percentage fee of the contractor which shall
not exceed fifty percent of the area reclaimed by the
contractor and shall represent full compensation for
the purpose, the provisions of the Public Land Law
concerning disposition of reclaimed and foreshore
lands to the contrary notwithstanding: Provided,
finally, that the foregoing provisions and those of
other laws, executive orders, rules and regulations to
the contrary notwithstanding, existing rights, projects
and/or contracts of city or municipal governments for
the reclamation of foreshore and submerged lands
shall be respected. . . . .
There is nothing in the foregoing provision of RA 5187 which can be
interpreted to broaden the scope of "foreshore lands." The said law is not
amendatory to RA 1899. It is an Appropriations Act, entitled "AN ACT
APPROPRIATING FUNDS FOR PUBLIC WORKS, SYNCHRONIZING THE SAME
WITH PREVIOUS PUBLIC WORKS APPROPRIATIONS."
All things viewed in proper perspective, we reiterate what was said in Ponce
v. Gomez (L-21870) and Ponce v. City of Cebu (L-22669) that the term
"foreshore" refers to "that part of the land adjacent to the sea which is
alternately covered and left dry by the ordinary flow of the tides." As opined
by this Court in said cases:
WHEREAS, six (6) members of the Court (Justices
Bautista Angelo, Concepcion, Reyes, Barrera, Dizon
and Jose P. Bengzon) opine that said city ordinance
and contracts areultra vires and hence, null and void,
insofar as the remaining 60% of the area
aforementioned, because the term "foreshore lands"
as used in Republic Act No. 1899 should be
understood in the sense attached thereto by
common parlance; (emphasis ours)
The aforesaid ruling was applied by then Secretary of Justice Claudio
Teehankee, in his opinion dated December 22, 1966, in a case with
analogous facts as the present one, to wit:

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Dece
mber
22,
1966
The Secretary of Agriculture
and Natural Resources
Diliman, Quezon City
Sir:
xxx xxx xxx
I. Facts
1. On January 19, 1961, pursuant to the provisions of
Republic Act No. 1899, the Municipality of Navotas
enacted Ordinance No. 1 authorizing the Municipal
Mayor to enter into a reclamation contract with Mr.
Chuanico.
2. On March 15, 1961, a reclamation contract was
concluded between the Municipality of Navotas,
represented by the Municipal Mayor, and Mr.
Chuanico in accordance with the above ordinance.
Thereunder, Mr. Chuanico shall be the attorney-infact of the Municipality in prosecuting the
reclamation project and shall advance the money
needed therefor; that the actual expenses incurred
shall be deemed a loan to the Municipality; that Mr.
Chuanico shall have the irrevocable option to buy
70% of the reclaimed area at P7.00 per square
meter; that he shall have the full and irrevocable
powers to do any and all things necessary and proper
in and about the premises," including the power to
hire necessary personnel for the prosecution of the
work, purchase materials and supplies, and purchase
or lease construction machineries and equipment,
but any and all contracts to be concluded by him in
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behalf of the Municipality shall be submitted to public


bidding.
xxx xxx xxx
3. On March 16, 1961, the Municipal Council of
Navotas passed Resolution No. 22 approving and
ratifying the contract.
xxx xxx xxx
III. Comments
1. The above reclamation contract was concluded on
the basis of Navotas Ordinance No. 1 which, in turn,
had been enacted avowedly pursuant to Republic Act
No. 1899. This being so, the contract, in order to be
valid, must conform to the provisions of the said law.
By authorizing local governments "to execute by
administration any reclamation work," (Republic Act
No. 1899 impliedly forbids the execution of said
project by contract. Thus, in the case or Ponce et
al. vs. Gomez (February 3, 1966), five justices of the
Supreme Court voted to annul the contract between
Cebu Development Corporation and Cebu City for the
reclamation of foreshore lands because "the
provisions of said . . . contract are not . . . in
accordance with the provisions of Republic Act No.
1899," as against one Justice who opined that the
contract substantially complied with the provisions of
the said law. (Five Justices expressed no opinion on
this point.)
Inasmuch as the Navotas reclamation contract is
substantially similar to the Cebu reclamation
contract, it is believed that the former is likewise
fatally defective.
2. The Navotas reclamation project envisages the
construction of a channel along the Manila Bay
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periphery of that town and the reclamation of


approximately 650 hectares of land from said
channel to a seaward distance of one kilometer. In
the basic letter it is stated that "practically, all the
650 hectares of lands proposed to be reclaimed
under the agreement" do not constitute foreshore
lands and that "the greater portion of the area . . . is
in fact navigable and presently being used as a
fishing harbor by deep-sea fishing operators as well
as a fishing ground of sustenance fisherman.
Assuming the correctness of these averments, the
Navotas reclamation contract evidently transcends
the authority granted under Republic Act No. 1899,
which empowers the local governments to reclaim
nothing more than "foreshore lands, i.e., "that part of
the land adjacent to the see which is alternately
covered and left dry by the ordinary flow of the
tides." (26 C.J. 890.) It was for this reason that in the
cited case Ponce case, the Supreme Court, by a vote
of 6-0 with five Justices abstaining, declared ultra
vires and void the contractual stipulation for the
reclamation of submerged lands off Cebu City, and
permanently enjoined its execution under Republic
Act No. 1899.
xxx xxx xxx
In accordance with the foregoing, I have the honor to
submit the view that the Navotas reclamation
contract is not binding and should be disregarded for
non-compliance with law.
Very
truly
yours
,
(SGD)
CLAU
DIO
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TEEH
ANKE
E
Secre
tary
of
Justic
e
The said opinion of Justice Secretary Teehankee who became Associate
Justice, and later Chief Justice, of this Court, did, in our considered view,
supersede the earlier opinion of former justice Secretary Alejo Mabanag,
aforestated, as the cases, in connection with which subject opinions were
sought, were with similar facts. The said Teehankee opinion accords with RA
1899.
It bears stressing that the subject matter of Pasay City Ordinance No. 121, as
amended by Ordinance No. 158, and the Agreement under attack, have been
found to be outside the intendment and scope of RA 1899, and
therefore ultra vires and null and void.
What is worse, the same Agreement was vitiated by the glaring absence of a
public bidding.
Obviously, there is a complete dearth of evidence to prove that RREC had
really reclaimed 55 hectares. The letter of Minister Baltazar Aquino relied
upon by RREC is no proof at all that RREC had reclaimed 55 hectares. Said
letter was just referring to a tentative schedule of work to be done by RREC,
even as it required RREC to submit the pertinent papers to show its
supposed accomplishment, to secure approval by the Ministry of Public
Works and Highways to the reclamation plan, and to submit to a public
bidding all contracts and sub-contracts for subject reclamation project but
RREC never complied with such requirements and conditions sine qua non.
No contracts or sub-contracts or agreements, plans, designs, and/or
specifications of the reclamation project were presented to reflect any
accomplishment. Not even any statement or itemization of works
accomplished by contractors or subcontractors or vouchers and other
relevant papers were introduced to describe the extent of RREC's
accomplishment. Neither was the requisite certification from the City
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Engineer concerned that "portions of the reclamation project not less than 50
hectares in area shall have been accomplished or completed" obtained and
presented by RREC.
As a matter of fact, no witness ever testified on any reclamation work done
by RREC, and extent thereof, as of April 26, 1962. Not a single contractor,
sub-contractor, engineer, surveyor, or any other witness involved in the
alleged reclamation work of RREC testified on the 55 hectares supposedly
reclaimed by RREC. What work was done, who did the work, where was it
commenced, and when was it completed, was never brought to light by any
witness before the court. Certainly, onus probandi was on RREC and Pasay
City to show and point out the as yet unidentified 55 hectares they allegedly
reclaimed. But this burden of proof RREC and Pasay City miserably failed to
discharge.
So also, in the decision of the Pasay Court of First Instance dismissing the
complaint of plaintiff-appellant, now petitioner Republic of the Philippines,
the lifting of the writ of Preliminary Injunction issued on April 26, 1962 would
become effective only "as soon as Defendant Republic Real Estate
Corporation and Defendant Pasay City shall have submitted the
corresponding plans and specifications to the Director of Public Work, and
shall have obtained approval thereof, and as soon as corresponding public
bidding for the award to the contractor and sub-contractor that will
undertake the reclamation project shall have been effected." (Rollo, pp. 127129, G.R. No. 103882)
From the records on hand, it is abundantly clear that RREC and Pasay City
never complied with such prerequisites for the lifting of the writ of
Preliminary Injunction. Consequently, RREC had no authority to resume its
reclamation work which was stopped by said writ of preliminary injunction
issued on April 26, 1962.
From the Contract for Dredging Work, dated November 26, 1960, marked
Exhibit "21-A" for RREC before the lower court, and Exhibit "EE" for CCP
before the Court of Appeals, it can be deduced that only on November 26,
1960 did RREC contract out the dredging work to C and A Construction
Company, Inc., for the reclamation of the 55 hectares initially programmed to
be reclaimed by it. But, as stated by RREC itself in the position paper filed
with this Court on July 15, 1997, with reference to CDCP's reclamation work,
mobilization of the reclamation team would take one year before a
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reclamation work could actually begin. Therefore, the reclamation work


undertaker by RREC could not have started before November 26, 1961.
Considering that on April 26, 1962 RREC was enjoined from proceeding any
further with its reclamation work, it had barely five (5) months, from
November, 1961 to April, 1962, to work on subject reclamation project. It
was thus physically impossible for RREC to reclaim 55 hectares, with the
stipulated specifications and elevation, in such a brief span of time. In the
report of RREC (Exhibit "DD" for CCP), it was conceded that due to the writ of
preliminary injunction issued on April 26, 1962, C and A Construction Co., Inc.
had suspended its dredging operation since May, 1962.
The "graphical report" on the Pasay Reclamation project, as of April 30, 1962,
attached to the Progress Report marked Exhibit "DD", is a schematic
representation of the work accomplishment referred to in such Progress
Report, indicating the various elevations of the land surface it embraced,
ranging from 0.00 meters to the highest elevation of 2.5 meters above MLLW.
Such portrayal of work accomplished is crucial in our determination of
whether or not RREC had actually "reclaimed" any land as under its Contract
for Dredging Work with C and A Construction Company (Exhibit "EE", the
required final elevation for a completely reclaimed land was 3.5 meters
above MLLW, as explicitly provided in said Contract for Dredging Work. So,
the irresistible conclusion is when the work on subject RREC-Pasay City
reclamation project stopped in April, 1962 in compliance with the writ of
preliminary injunction issued by the trial court of origin, no portion of the
reclamation project worked on by RREC had reached the stipulated elevation
of 3.5 meters above MLLW. The entire area it worked on was only at sea level
or 0.00 meter above MLLW. In short, RREC had not yet reclaimed any area
when the writ of preliminary injunction issued in April 1962.
On this point, the testimonies of Architect Ruben M. Protacio, Architect and
Managing partner of Leandro V. Locsin and partners, Architect and City
Planner Manuel T. Maoza, Jr. of Planning Resources and Operation System,
Inc., Rose D. Cruz, Executive Assistant, Office of the President, from 1966 to
1970, and Dr. Lucrecia Kasilag, National Artist and member of CCP Advisory
Committee, come to the fore. These credible, impartial and knowledgeable
witnesses recounted on the witness stand that when the construction of the
Main Building of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) began in 1966,
the only surface land available was the site for the said building (TSN, Sept.
29, 1997, pages 8, 14 and 50), what could be seen in front of and behind it
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was all water (TSN, Sept. 29, 1997 pages 127-128). When the CCP Main
Building was being constructed, from 1968 to 1969, the land above sea level
thereat was only where the CCP Main Building was erected and the rest of
the surroundings were all under water, particularly the back portion fronting
the bay. (TSN, Sept. 13, 1997, pp. 181, 182, 185, 186, 188). Dr. Lucrecia R.
Kasilag stressed that on April 16, 1966, during the ground breaking for the
CCP Main Building, it was water all around (TSN, Sept. 30, 1997, pp. 320,
324, 325).
There was indeed no legal and factual basis for the Court of Appeals to order
and declare that "the requirement by the trial court on public bidding and the
submission of RREC's plans and specification to the Department of Public
Works and Highways in order that RREC may continue the implementation of
the reclamation work is deleted for being moot and academic." Said
requirement has never become moot and academic. It has remained
indispensable, as ever, and non-compliance therewith restrained RREC from
lawfully resuming the reclamation work under controversy, notwithstanding
the rendition below of the decision in its favor.
Verily, contrary to what the Court of Appeals found, RREC had not reclaimed
any area with the prescribed elevation of 3.5 meters above MLLW, so much
so that in 1978, it (RREC) opted to file with the former Ministry of Public
Highways, a claim for compensation of P30,396,878.20, for reclamation work
allegedly done before the CDCP started working on the reclamation of the
CCP grounds. On September 7, 1979, RREC asked the Solicitor General to
settle its subject claim for compensation at the same amount of
P30,396,878.20. But on June 10, 1981, guided by the cost data, work volume
accomplished and other relevant information gathered by the former Ministry
of Public Highways, the Solicitor General informed RREC that the value of
what it had accomplished, based on 1962 price levels, was only
P8,344,741.29, and the expenses for mobilization of equipment amounted to
P2,581,330.00. The aforesaid evaluation made by the government, through
the then Minister of Public Highways, is factual and realistic, so much so that
on June 25, 1981, RREC, in its reply letter to the Solicitor General, stated:
We regret that we are not agreeable to the amount of
P10,926,071.29, based on 1962 cost data, etc., as
compensation based on quantum meruit. The least
we would consider is the amount of P10,926,071.29
plus interest at the rate of 6% per annum from 1962
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to the time of payment. We feel that 6% is very much


less than the accepted rate of inflation that has
supervened since 1962 to the present, and even less
than the present legal rate of 12% per annum. 19
Undoubtedly, what RREC claimed for was compensation for what it had done,
and for the dredge fill of 1,558,395 cubic meters it used, on subject
reclamation project.
Respondent Court likewise erred in ordering the turn-over to Pasay City of the
following titled lots, to wit:
LOT NO. BUILDING AREA OCT/TCT
42 Gloria Maris 9,516 sq.m. OCT 159 in the
Restaurant name of GSIS
3 Asean Garden 76,299 sq.m. OCT 10251 in the
name of CCP
12 Folk Arts Theater 1.7503 hec. TCT 18627 in the
and PICC parking name of CCP
space
22 landscaped with 132,924 sq.m. TCT 75676 in the
sculpture of Asean name of CCP
Artists-site of
Boom na Boom
23 open space, back 34,346 sq.m. TCT 75677 in the
of Philcite name of CCP
24 Parking space for 10,352 sq.m. TCT 75678 in the

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Star City, CCP, name of CCP


Philcite
25 open space 11,323 sq.m. TCT 75679 in the
occupied by Star name of CCP
City
28 open space, 27,689 sq.m. TCT 75684 in the
beside PICC name of CCP
29 open space, 106,067 sq.m. TCT 75681 in the
leased by El name of CCP
Shaddai
We discern no factual basis nor any legal justification therefor. In the
first place, in their answer to the Complaint and Amended Complaint
below, RREC and Pasay City never prayed for the transfer to Pasay City
of subject lots, title to which had long become indefeasible in favor of
the rightful title holders, CCP and GSIS, respectively.
The annotation of a notice of lis pendens on the certificates of title covering
the said lots is of no moment. It did not vest in Pasay City and RREC any real
right superior to the absolute ownership thereover of CCP and GSIS. Besides,
the nature of the action did not really warrant the issuance of a notice of lis
pendens.
Sec. 14 of Rule 13, Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, reads:
Sec. 14. Notice of lis pendens. In an action
affecting the title or the right of possession of real
properly, the plaintiff and the defendant, when
affirmative relief is claimed in his answer, may record
in the office of the registry of deeds of the province
in which the property is situated a notice of the
pendency of the action. Said notice shall contain the
names of the parties and the object of the action or
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defense, and a description of the property in that


province affected thereby. Only from the time of filing
such notice for record shall a purchaser, or
encumbrancer of the property affected thereby, be
deemed to have constructive notice of the pendency
of the action, and only of its pendency against the
parties designated by their real names.
The notice of lis pendens herein above mentioned
may be cancelled only upon order of the court, after
proper showing that the notice is for the purpose of
molesting the adverse party, or that it is not
necessary to protect the rights of the party who
caused it to be recorded.
Under the aforecited provision of law in point, a notice of lis pendens is
necessary when the action is for recovery of possession or ownership of a
parcel of land. In the present litigation, RREC and Pasay City, as defendants
in the main case, did not counterclaim for the turnover to Pasay City of the
titled lots aforementioned.
What is more, a torrens title cannot be collaterally attacked. The issue of
validity of a torrens title, whether fraudulently issued or not, may be posed
only in an action brought to impugn or annul it. (Halili vs. National Labor
Relations Commission, 257 SCRA 174, Cimafranca vs. Intermediate Appellate
Court, 147 SCRA 611.) Unmistakable, and cannot be ignored, is the germane
provision of Section 48 of P.D. 1529, that a certificate of title can never be
the subject of a collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled
except in a direct proceeding instituted in accordance with law.
Although Pasay City and RREC did not succeed in their undertaking to
reclaim any area within subject reclamation project, it appearing that
something compensable was accomplished by them, following the applicable
provision of law and hearkening to the dictates of equity, that no one, not
even the government, shall unjustly enrich oneself/itself at the expense of
another 20, we believe; and so hold, that Pasay City and RREC should be paid
for the said actual work done and dredge-fill poured in, worth
P10,926,071.29, as verified by the former Ministry of Public Highways, and as
claimed by RREC itself in its aforequoted letter dated June 25, 1981.

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It is fervently hoped that long after the end of our sojourn in this valley of
tears, the court, for its herein historic disposition, will be exalted by the
future generations of Filipinos, for the preservation of the national patrimony
and promotion of our cultural heritage. As writer Channing rightly puts it:
"Whatever expands the affections, or enlarges the sphere of our sympathies
Whatever makes us feel our relation to the universe and all that it inherits
in time and in eternity, and to the great and beneficent cause of all, must
unquestionably refine our nature, and elevate us in the scale of being."
WHEREFORE:
In G.R. No. 103882, the Petition is GRANTED; the Decision, dated January 28,
1992, and Amended Decision, dated April 28, 1992, of the Court of Appeals,
are both SET ASIDE; and Pasay City Ordinance No. 121, dated May 6, 1958,
and Ordinance No. 158, dated April 21, 1959, as well as the Reclamation
Agreements entered into by Pasay City and Republic Real Estate Corporation
(RREC) as authorized by said city ordinances, are declared NULL and VOID for
being ultra vires, and contrary to Rep. Act 1899.
The writ of preliminary injunction issued on April 26, 1962 by the trial court a
quo in Civil Case No. 2229-P is made permanent and the notice of lis
pendens issued by the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CV No. 51349 ordered
CANCELLED. The Register of Deeds of Pasay City is directed to take note of
and annotate on the certificates of title involved, the cancellation of subject
notice of lis pendens.
The petitioner, Republic of the Philippines, is hereby ordered to pay Pasay
City and Republic Real Estate Corporation the sum of TEN MILLION NINE
HUNDRED TWENTY-SIX THOUSAND SEVENTY-ONE AND TWENTY-NINE
CENTAVOS (P10,926,071.29) PESOS, plus interest thereon of six (6%) percent
per annum from May 1, 1962 until full payment, which amount shall be
divided by Pasay City and RREC, share and share alike.
In G.R. No. 105276, the Petition is hereby DENIED for lack of merit.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.

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Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. 133250

July 9, 2002

FRANCISCO I. CHAVEZ, petitioner,


vs.
PUBLIC ESTATES AUTHORITY and AMARI COASTAL BAY
DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, respondents.
CARPIO, J.:
This is an original Petition for Mandamus with prayer for a writ of preliminary
injunction and a temporary restraining order. The petition seeks to compel
the Public Estates Authority ("PEA" for brevity) to disclose all facts on PEA's
then on-going renegotiations with Amari Coastal Bay and Development
Corporation ("AMARI" for brevity) to reclaim portions of Manila Bay. The
petition further seeks to enjoin PEA from signing a new agreement with
AMARI involving such reclamation.
The Facts
On November 20, 1973, the government, through the Commissioner of Public
Highways, signed a contract with the Construction and Development
Corporation of the Philippines ("CDCP" for brevity) to reclaim certain
foreshore and offshore areas of Manila Bay. The contract also included the
construction of Phases I and II of the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road. CDCP
obligated itself to carry out all the works in consideration of fifty percent of
the total reclaimed land.
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On February 4, 1977, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential


Decree No. 1084 creating PEA. PD No. 1084 tasked PEA "to reclaim land,
including foreshore and submerged areas," and "to develop, improve,
acquire, x x x lease and sell any and all kinds of lands."1 On the same date,
then President Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1085 transferring to
PEA the "lands reclaimed in the foreshore and offshore of the Manila
Bay"2 under the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road and Reclamation Project
(MCCRRP).
On December 29, 1981, then President Marcos issued a memorandum
directing PEA to amend its contract with CDCP, so that "[A]ll future works in
MCCRRP x x x shall be funded and owned by PEA." Accordingly, PEA and
CDCP executed a Memorandum of Agreement dated December 29, 1981,
which stated:
"(i) CDCP shall undertake all reclamation, construction, and such other
works in the MCCRRP as may be agreed upon by the parties, to be paid
according to progress of works on a unit price/lump sum basis for items
of work to be agreed upon, subject to price escalation, retention and
other terms and conditions provided for in Presidential Decree No.
1594. All the financing required for such works shall be provided by
PEA.
xxx
(iii) x x x CDCP shall give up all its development rights and hereby
agrees to cede and transfer in favor of PEA, all of the rights, title,
interest and participation of CDCP in and to all the areas of land
reclaimed by CDCP in the MCCRRP as of December 30, 1981 which
have not yet been sold, transferred or otherwise disposed of by CDCP
as of said date, which areas consist of approximately Ninety-Nine
Thousand Four Hundred Seventy Three (99,473) square meters in the
Financial Center Area covered by land pledge No. 5 and approximately
Three Million Three Hundred Eighty Two Thousand Eight Hundred
Eighty Eight (3,382,888) square meters of reclaimed areas at varying
elevations above Mean Low Water Level located outside the Financial
Center Area and the First Neighborhood Unit."3
On January 19, 1988, then President Corazon C. Aquino issued Special Patent
No. 3517, granting and transferring to PEA "the parcels of land so reclaimed
under the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road and Reclamation Project (MCCRRP)
containing a total area of one million nine hundred fifteen thousand eight
hundred ninety four (1,915,894) square meters." Subsequently, on April 9,
1988, the Register of Deeds of the Municipality of Paraaque issued Transfer
Certificates of Title Nos. 7309, 7311, and 7312, in the name of PEA, covering
the three reclaimed islands known as the "Freedom Islands" located at the
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southern portion of the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road, Paraaque City. The


Freedom Islands have a total land area of One Million Five Hundred Seventy
Eight Thousand Four Hundred and Forty One (1,578,441) square meters or
157.841 hectares.
On April 25, 1995, PEA entered into a Joint Venture Agreement ("JVA" for
brevity) with AMARI, a private corporation, to develop the Freedom Islands.
The JVA also required the reclamation of an additional 250 hectares of
submerged areas surrounding these islands to complete the configuration in
the Master Development Plan of the Southern Reclamation Project-MCCRRP.
PEA and AMARI entered into the JVA through negotiation without public
bidding.4 On April 28, 1995, the Board of Directors of PEA, in its Resolution
No. 1245, confirmed the JVA.5On June 8, 1995, then President Fidel V. Ramos,
through then Executive Secretary Ruben Torres, approved the JVA.6
On November 29, 1996, then Senate President Ernesto Maceda delivered a
privilege speech in the Senate and denounced the JVA as the "grandmother
of all scams." As a result, the Senate Committee on Government
Corporations and Public Enterprises, and the Committee on Accountability of
Public Officers and Investigations, conducted a joint investigation. The
Senate Committees reported the results of their investigation in Senate
Committee Report No. 560 dated September 16, 1997.7 Among the
conclusions of their report are: (1) the reclaimed lands PEA seeks to transfer
to AMARI under the JVA are lands of the public domain which the government
has not classified as alienable lands and therefore PEA cannot alienate these
lands; (2) the certificates of title covering the Freedom Islands are thus void,
and (3) the JVA itself is illegal.
On December 5, 1997, then President Fidel V. Ramos issued Presidential
Administrative Order No. 365 creating a Legal Task Force to conduct a study
on the legality of the JVA in view of Senate Committee Report No. 560. The
members of the Legal Task Force were the Secretary of Justice,8 the Chief
Presidential Legal Counsel,9 and the Government Corporate Counsel.10 The
Legal Task Force upheld the legality of the JVA, contrary to the conclusions
reached by the Senate Committees.11
On April 4 and 5, 1998, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Today published
reports that there were on-going renegotiations between PEA and AMARI
under an order issued by then President Fidel V. Ramos. According to these
reports, PEA Director Nestor Kalaw, PEA Chairman Arsenio Yulo and retired
Navy Officer Sergio Cruz composed the negotiating panel of PEA.
On April 13, 1998, Antonio M. Zulueta filed before the Court a Petition for
Prohibition with Application for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining
Order and Preliminary Injunction docketed as G.R. No. 132994 seeking to
nullify the JVA. The Court dismissed the petition "for unwarranted disregard
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of judicial hierarchy, without prejudice to the refiling of the case before the
proper court."12
On April 27, 1998, petitioner Frank I. Chavez ("Petitioner" for brevity) as a
taxpayer, filed the instant Petition for Mandamus with Prayer for the
Issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order.
Petitioner contends the government stands to lose billions of pesos in the
sale by PEA of the reclaimed lands to AMARI. Petitioner prays that PEA
publicly disclose the terms of any renegotiation of the JVA, invoking Section
28, Article II, and Section 7, Article III, of the 1987 Constitution on the right of
the people to information on matters of public concern. Petitioner assails the
sale to AMARI of lands of the public domain as a blatant violation of Section
3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution prohibiting the sale of alienable lands
of the public domain to private corporations. Finally, petitioner asserts that
he seeks to enjoin the loss of billions of pesos in properties of the State that
are of public dominion.
After several motions for extension of time,13 PEA and AMARI filed their
Comments on October 19, 1998 and June 25, 1998, respectively. Meanwhile,
on December 28, 1998, petitioner filed an Omnibus Motion: (a) to require
PEA to submit the terms of the renegotiated PEA-AMARI contract; (b) for
issuance of a temporary restraining order; and (c) to set the case for hearing
on oral argument. Petitioner filed a Reiterative Motion for Issuance of a TRO
dated May 26, 1999, which the Court denied in a Resolution dated June 22,
1999.
In a Resolution dated March 23, 1999, the Court gave due course to the
petition and required the parties to file their respective memoranda.
On March 30, 1999, PEA and AMARI signed the Amended Joint Venture
Agreement ("Amended JVA," for brevity). On May 28, 1999, the Office of the
President under the administration of then President Joseph E. Estrada
approved the Amended JVA.
Due to the approval of the Amended JVA by the Office of the President,
petitioner now prays that on "constitutional and statutory grounds the
renegotiated contract be declared null and void."14
The Issues
The issues raised by petitioner, PEA15 and AMARI16 are as follows:
I. WHETHER THE PRINCIPAL RELIEFS PRAYED FOR IN THE PETITION ARE
MOOT AND ACADEMIC BECAUSE OF SUBSEQUENT EVENTS;

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II. WHETHER THE PETITION MERITS DISMISSAL FOR FAILING TO


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

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We rule that the signing of the Amended JVA by PEA and AMARI and its
approval by the President cannot operate to moot the petition and divest the
Court of its jurisdiction. PEA and AMARI have still to implement the Amended
JVA. The prayer to enjoin the signing of the Amended JVA on constitutional
grounds necessarily includes preventing its implementation if in the
meantime PEA and AMARI have signed one in violation of the Constitution.
Petitioner's principal basis in assailing the renegotiation of the JVA is its
violation of Section 3, Article XII of the Constitution, which prohibits the
government from alienating lands of the public domain to private
corporations. If the Amended JVA indeed violates the Constitution, it is the
duty of the Court to enjoin its implementation, and if already implemented,
to annul the effects of such unconstitutional contract.
The Amended JVA is not an ordinary commercial contract but one which
seeks to transfer title and ownership to 367.5 hectares of reclaimed
lands and submerged areas of Manila Bay to a single private
corporation. It now becomes more compelling for the Court to resolve the
issue to insure the government itself does not violate a provision of the
Constitution intended to safeguard the national patrimony. Supervening
events, whether intended or accidental, cannot prevent the Court from
rendering a decision if there is a grave violation of the Constitution. In the
instant case, if the Amended JVA runs counter to the Constitution, the Court
can still prevent the transfer of title and ownership of alienable lands of the
public domain in the name of AMARI. Even in cases where supervening
events had made the cases moot, the Court did not hesitate to resolve the
legal or constitutional issues raised to formulate controlling principles to
guide the bench, bar, and the public.17
Also, the instant petition is a case of first impression. All previous decisions
of the Court involving Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, or its
counterpart provision in the 1973 Constitution,18 covered agricultural
landssold to private corporations which acquired the lands from private
parties. The transferors of the private corporations claimed or could claim
the right to judicial confirmation of their imperfect titles19 under Title
II of Commonwealth Act. 141 ("CA No. 141" for brevity). In the instant case,
AMARI seeks to acquire from PEA, a public corporation, reclaimed lands and
submerged areas for non-agricultural purposes by purchase under PD No.
1084 (charter of PEA) and Title III of CA No. 141. Certain undertakings by
AMARI under the Amended JVA constitute the consideration for the purchase.
Neither AMARI nor PEA can claim judicial confirmation of their titles because
the lands covered by the Amended JVA are newly reclaimed or still to be
reclaimed. Judicial confirmation of imperfect title requires open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain
for at least thirty years since June 12, 1945 or earlier. Besides, the deadline
for filing applications for judicial confirmation of imperfect title expired on
December 31, 1987.20
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Lastly, there is a need to resolve immediately the constitutional issue raised


in this petition because of the possible transfer at any time by PEA to AMARI
of title and ownership to portions of the reclaimed lands. Under the Amended
JVA, PEA is obligated to transfer to AMARI the latter's seventy percent
proportionate share in the reclaimed areas as the reclamation progresses.
The Amended JVA even allows AMARI to mortgage at any time
the entirereclaimed area to raise financing for the reclamation project.21
Second issue: whether the petition merits dismissal for failing to
observe the principle governing the hierarchy of courts.
PEA and AMARI claim petitioner ignored the judicial hierarchy by seeking
relief directly from the Court. The principle of hierarchy of courts applies
generally to cases involving factual questions. As it is not a trier of facts, the
Court cannot entertain cases involving factual issues. The instant case,
however, raises constitutional issues of transcendental importance to the
public.22 The Court can resolve this case without determining any factual
issue related to the case. Also, the instant case is a petition for mandamus
which falls under the original jurisdiction of the Court under Section 5, Article
VIII of the Constitution. We resolve to exercise primary jurisdiction over the
instant case.
Third issue: whether the petition merits dismissal for nonexhaustion of administrative remedies.
PEA faults petitioner for seeking judicial intervention in compelling PEA to
disclose publicly certain information without first asking PEA the needed
information. PEA claims petitioner's direct resort to the Court violates the
principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies. It also violates the rule
that mandamus may issue only if there is no other plain, speedy and
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.
PEA distinguishes the instant case from Taada v. Tuvera23 where the Court
granted the petition for mandamus even if the petitioners there did not
initially demand from the Office of the President the publication of the
presidential decrees. PEA points out that in Taada, the Executive
Department had an affirmative statutory duty under Article 2 of the Civil
Code24 and Section 1 of Commonwealth Act No. 63825 to publish the
presidential decrees. There was, therefore, no need for the petitioners in
Taada to make an initial demand from the Office of the President. In the
instant case, PEA claims it has no affirmative statutory duty to disclose
publicly information about its renegotiation of the JVA. Thus, PEA asserts that
the Court must apply the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies
to the instant case in view of the failure of petitioner here to demand initially
from PEA the needed information.
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The original JVA sought to dispose to AMARI public lands held by PEA, a
government corporation. Under Section 79 of the Government Auditing
Code,26 the disposition of government lands to private parties requires public
bidding. PEA was under a positive legal duty to disclose to the public
the terms and conditions for the sale of its lands. The law obligated
PEA to make this public disclosure even without demand from petitioner or
from anyone. PEA failed to make this public disclosure because the original
JVA, like the Amended JVA, was the result of a negotiated contract, not of a
public bidding. Considering that PEA had an affirmative statutory duty to
make the public disclosure, and was even in breach of this legal duty,
petitioner had the right to seek direct judicial intervention.
Moreover, and this alone is determinative of this issue, the principle of
exhaustion of administrative remedies does not apply when the issue
involved is a purely legal or constitutional question.27 The principal issue in
the instant case is the capacity of AMARI to acquire lands held by PEA in view
of the constitutional ban prohibiting the alienation of lands of the public
domain to private corporations. We rule that the principle of exhaustion of
administrative remedies does not apply in the instant case.
Fourth issue: whether petitioner has locus standi to bring this suit
PEA argues that petitioner has no standing to
institute mandamus proceedings to enforce his constitutional right to
information without a showing that PEA refused to perform an affirmative
duty imposed on PEA by the Constitution. PEA also claims that petitioner has
not shown that he will suffer any concrete injury because of the signing or
implementation of the Amended JVA. Thus, there is no actual controversy
requiring the exercise of the power of judicial review.
The petitioner has standing to bring this taxpayer's suit because the petition
seeks to compel PEA to comply with its constitutional duties. There are two
constitutional issues involved here. First is the right of citizens to information
on matters of public concern. Second is the application of a constitutional
provision intended to insure the equitable distribution of alienable lands of
the public domain among Filipino citizens. The thrust of the first issue is to
compel PEA to disclose publicly information on the sale of government lands
worth billions of pesos, information which the Constitution and statutory law
mandate PEA to disclose. The thrust of the second issue is to prevent PEA
from alienating hundreds of hectares of alienable lands of the public domain
in violation of the Constitution, compelling PEA to comply with a
constitutional duty to the nation.
Moreover, the petition raises matters of transcendental importance to the
public. In Chavez v. PCGG,28 the Court upheld the right of a citizen to bring
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a taxpayer's suit on matters of transcendental importance to the public, thus


"Besides, petitioner emphasizes, the matter of recovering the ill-gotten
wealth of the Marcoses is an issue of 'transcendental importance to the
public.' He asserts that ordinary taxpayers have a right to initiate and
prosecute actions questioning the validity of acts or orders of
government agencies or instrumentalities, if the issues raised are of
'paramount public interest,' and if they 'immediately affect the social,
economic and moral well being of the people.'
Moreover, the mere fact that he is a citizen satisfies the requirement of
personal interest, when the proceeding involves the assertion of a
public right, such as in this case. He invokes several decisions of this
Court which have set aside the procedural matter of locus standi, when
the subject of the case involved public interest.
xxx
In Taada v. Tuvera, the Court asserted that when the issue concerns a
public right and the object of mandamus is to obtain the enforcement
of a public duty, the people are regarded as the real parties in interest;
and because it is sufficient that petitioner is a citizen and as such is
interested in the execution of the laws, he need not show that he has
any legal or special interest in the result of the action. In the aforesaid
case, the petitioners sought to enforce their right to be informed on
matters of public concern, a right then recognized in Section 6, Article
IV of the 1973 Constitution, in connection with the rule that laws in
order to be valid and enforceable must be published in the Official
Gazette or otherwise effectively promulgated. In ruling for the
petitioners' legal standing, the Court declared that the right they
sought to be enforced 'is a public right recognized by no less than the
fundamental law of the land.'
Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, while reiterating Taada, further
declared that 'when a mandamus proceeding involves the assertion of
a public right, the requirement of personal interest is satisfied by the
mere fact that petitioner is a citizen and, therefore, part of the general
'public' which possesses the right.'
Further, in Albano v. Reyes, we said that while expenditure of public
funds may not have been involved under the questioned contract for
the development, management and operation of the Manila
International Container Terminal, 'public interest [was] definitely
involved considering the important role [of the subject contract] . . . in
the economic development of the country and the magnitude of the
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financial consideration involved.' We concluded that, as a


consequence, the disclosure provision in the Constitution would
constitute sufficient authority for upholding the petitioner's standing.
Similarly, the instant petition is anchored on the right of the people to
information and access to official records, documents and papers a
right guaranteed under Section 7, Article III of the 1987 Constitution.
Petitioner, a former solicitor general, is a Filipino citizen. Because of the
satisfaction of the two basic requisites laid down by decisional law to
sustain petitioner's legal standing, i.e. (1) the enforcement of a public
right (2) espoused by a Filipino citizen, we rule that the petition at bar
should be allowed."
We rule that since the instant petition, brought by a citizen, involves the
enforcement of constitutional rights - to information and to the equitable
diffusion of natural resources - matters of transcendental public importance,
the petitioner has the requisite locus standi.
Fifth issue: whether the constitutional right to information includes
official information on on-going negotiations before a final
agreement.
Section 7, Article III of the Constitution explains the people's right to
information on matters of public concern in this manner:
"Sec. 7. The right of the people to information on matters of public
concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to
documents, and papers pertaining to official acts,
transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data
used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen,
subject to such limitations as may be provided by law." (Emphasis
supplied)
The State policy of full transparency in all transactions involving public
interest reinforces the people's right to information on matters of public
concern. This State policy is expressed in Section 28, Article II of the
Constitution, thus:
"Sec. 28. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State
adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its
transactions involving public interest." (Emphasis supplied)
These twin provisions of the Constitution seek to promote transparency in
policy-making and in the operations of the government, as well as provide
the people sufficient information to exercise effectively other constitutional
rights. These twin provisions are essential to the exercise of freedom of
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expression. If the government does not disclose its official acts, transactions
and decisions to citizens, whatever citizens say, even if expressed without
any restraint, will be speculative and amount to nothing. These twin
provisions are also essential to hold public officials "at all times x x x
accountable to the people,"29 for unless citizens have the proper information,
they cannot hold public officials accountable for anything. Armed with the
right information, citizens can participate in public discussions leading to the
formulation of government policies and their effective implementation. An
informed citizenry is essential to the existence and proper functioning of any
democracy. As explained by the Court inValmonte v. Belmonte, Jr.30
"An essential element of these freedoms is to keep open a continuing
dialogue or process of communication between the government and
the people. It is in the interest of the State that the channels for free
political discussion be maintained to the end that the government may
perceive and be responsive to the people's will. Yet, this open dialogue
can be effective only to the extent that the citizenry is informed and
thus able to formulate its will intelligently. Only when the participants
in the discussion are aware of the issues and have access to
information relating thereto can such bear fruit."
PEA asserts, citing Chavez v. PCGG,31 that in cases of on-going negotiations
the right to information is limited to "definite propositions of the
government." PEA maintains the right does not include access to "intraagency or inter-agency recommendations or communications during the
stage when common assertions are still in the process of being formulated or
are in the 'exploratory stage'."
Also, AMARI contends that petitioner cannot invoke the right at the predecisional stage or before the closing of the transaction. To support its
contention, AMARI cites the following discussion in the 1986 Constitutional
Commission:
"Mr. Suarez. And when we say 'transactions' which should be
distinguished from contracts, agreements, or treaties or whatever,
does the Gentleman refer to the steps leading to the consummation of
the contract, or does he refer to the contract itself?
Mr. Ople: The 'transactions' used here, I suppose is generic and
therefore, it can cover both steps leading to a contract and
already a consummated contract, Mr. Presiding Officer.
Mr. Suarez: This contemplates inclusion of negotiations leading
to the consummation of the transaction.

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Mr. Ople: Yes, subject only to reasonable safeguards on the


national interest.
Mr. Suarez: Thank you."32 (Emphasis supplied)
AMARI argues there must first be a consummated contract before petitioner
can invoke the right. Requiring government officials to reveal their
deliberations at the pre-decisional stage will degrade the quality of decisionmaking in government agencies. Government officials will hesitate to
express their real sentiments during deliberations if there is immediate
public dissemination of their discussions, putting them under all kinds of
pressure before they decide.
We must first distinguish between information the law on public bidding
requires PEA to disclose publicly, and information the constitutional right to
information requires PEA to release to the public. Before the consummation
of the contract, PEA must, on its own and without demand from anyone,
disclose to the public matters relating to the disposition of its property. These
include the size, location, technical description and nature of the property
being disposed of, the terms and conditions of the disposition, the parties
qualified to bid, the minimum price and similar information. PEA must
prepare all these data and disclose them to the public at the start of the
disposition process, long before the consummation of the contract, because
the Government Auditing Code requires public bidding. If PEA fails to make
this disclosure, any citizen can demand from PEA this information at any time
during the bidding process.
Information, however, on on-going evaluation or review of bids or
proposals being undertaken by the bidding or review committee is not
immediately accessible under the right to information. While the evaluation
or review is still on-going, there are no "official acts, transactions, or
decisions" on the bids or proposals. However, once the committee makes
its official recommendation, there arises a "definite proposition" on the
part of the government. From this moment, the public's right to information
attaches, and any citizen can access all the non-proprietary information
leading to such definite proposition. In Chavez v. PCGG,33 the Court ruled as
follows:
"Considering the intent of the framers of the Constitution, we believe
that it is incumbent upon the PCGG and its officers, as well as other
government representatives, to disclose sufficient public information
on any proposed settlement they have decided to take up with the
ostensible owners and holders of ill-gotten wealth. Such information,
though, must pertain to definite propositions of the government,
not necessarily to intra-agency or inter-agency recommendations or
communications during the stage when common assertions are still in
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the process of being formulated or are in the "exploratory" stage.


There is need, of course, to observe the same restrictions on disclosure
of information in general, as discussed earlier such as on matters
involving national security, diplomatic or foreign relations, intelligence
and other classified information." (Emphasis supplied)
Contrary to AMARI's contention, the commissioners of the 1986
Constitutional Commission understood that the right to
information "contemplates inclusion of negotiations leading to the
consummation of the transaction." Certainly, a consummated contract is
not a requirement for the exercise of the right to information. Otherwise, the
people can never exercise the right if no contract is consummated, and if one
is consummated, it may be too late for the public to expose its
defects.1wphi1.nt
Requiring a consummated contract will keep the public in the dark until the
contract, which may be grossly disadvantageous to the government or even
illegal, becomes a fait accompli. This negates the State policy of full
transparency on matters of public concern, a situation which the framers of
the Constitution could not have intended. Such a requirement will prevent
the citizenry from participating in the public discussion of
any proposedcontract, effectively truncating a basic right enshrined in the
Bill of Rights. We can allow neither an emasculation of a constitutional right,
nor a retreat by the State of its avowed "policy of full disclosure of all its
transactions involving public interest."
The right covers three categories of information which are "matters of public
concern," namely: (1) official records; (2) documents and papers pertaining
to official acts, transactions and decisions; and (3) government research data
used in formulating policies. The first category refers to any document that is
part of the public records in the custody of government agencies or officials.
The second category refers to documents and papers recording, evidencing,
establishing, confirming, supporting, justifying or explaining official acts,
transactions or decisions of government agencies or officials. The third
category refers to research data, whether raw, collated or processed, owned
by the government and used in formulating government policies.
The information that petitioner may access on the renegotiation of the JVA
includes evaluation reports, recommendations, legal and expert opinions,
minutes of meetings, terms of reference and other documents attached to
such reports or minutes, all relating to the JVA. However, the right to
information does not compel PEA to prepare lists, abstracts, summaries and
the like relating to the renegotiation of the JVA.34 The right only affords
access to records, documents and papers, which means the opportunity to
inspect and copy them. One who exercises the right must copy the records,
documents and papers at his expense. The exercise of the right is also
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subject to reasonable regulations to protect the integrity of the public


records and to minimize disruption to government operations, like rules
specifying when and how to conduct the inspection and copying.35
The right to information, however, does not extend to matters recognized as
privileged information under the separation of powers.36 The right does not
also apply to information on military and diplomatic secrets, information
affecting national security, and information on investigations of crimes by
law enforcement agencies before the prosecution of the accused, which
courts have long recognized as confidential.37 The right may also be subject
to other limitations that Congress may impose by law.
There is no claim by PEA that the information demanded by petitioner is
privileged information rooted in the separation of powers. The information
does not cover Presidential conversations, correspondences, or discussions
during closed-door Cabinet meetings which, like internal deliberations of the
Supreme Court and other collegiate courts, or executive sessions of either
house of Congress,38 are recognized as confidential. This kind of information
cannot be pried open by a co-equal branch of government. A frank exchange
of exploratory ideas and assessments, free from the glare of publicity and
pressure by interested parties, is essential to protect the independence of
decision-making of those tasked to exercise Presidential, Legislative and
Judicial power.39 This is not the situation in the instant case.
We rule, therefore, that the constitutional right to information includes official
information on on-going negotiations before a final contract. The
information, however, must constitute definite propositions by the
government and should not cover recognized exceptions like privileged
information, military and diplomatic secrets and similar matters affecting
national security and public order.40 Congress has also prescribed other
limitations on the right to information in several legislations.41
Sixth issue: whether stipulations in the Amended JVA for the
transfer to AMARI of lands, reclaimed or to be reclaimed, violate the
Constitution.
The Regalian Doctrine
The ownership of lands reclaimed from foreshore and submerged areas is
rooted in the Regalian doctrine which holds that the State owns all lands and
waters of the public domain. Upon the Spanish conquest of the Philippines,
ownership of all "lands, territories and possessions" in the Philippines passed
to the Spanish Crown.42 The King, as the sovereign ruler and representative
of the people, acquired and owned all lands and territories in the Philippines
except those he disposed of by grant or sale to private individuals.
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The 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions adopted the Regalian doctrine
substituting, however, the State, in lieu of the King, as the owner of all lands
and waters of the public domain. The Regalian doctrine is the foundation of
the time-honored principle of land ownership that "all lands that were not
acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the
public domain."43 Article 339 of the Civil Code of 1889, which is now Article
420 of the Civil Code of 1950, incorporated the Regalian doctrine.
Ownership and Disposition of Reclaimed Lands
The Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 was the first statutory law governing the
ownership and disposition of reclaimed lands in the Philippines. On May 18,
1907, the Philippine Commission enacted Act No. 1654 which provided for
the lease, but not the sale, of reclaimed lands of the government to
corporations and individuals. Later, on November 29, 1919, the Philippine
Legislature approved Act No. 2874, the Public Land Act, which
authorized the lease, but not the sale, of reclaimed lands of the
government to corporations and individuals. On November 7, 1936, the
National Assembly passed Commonwealth Act No. 141, also known as the
Public Land Act, which authorized the lease, but not the sale, of
reclaimed lands of the government to corporations and individuals.
CA No. 141 continues to this day as the general law governing the
classification and disposition of lands of the public domain.
The Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 and the Civil Code of 1889
Under the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866, the shores, bays, coves, inlets and
all waters within the maritime zone of the Spanish territory belonged to the
public domain for public use.44 The Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 allowed
the reclamation of the sea under Article 5, which provided as follows:
"Article 5. Lands reclaimed from the sea in consequence of works
constructed by the State, or by the provinces, pueblos or private
persons, with proper permission, shall become the property of the
party constructing such works, unless otherwise provided by the terms
of the grant of authority."
Under the Spanish Law of Waters, land reclaimed from the sea belonged to
the party undertaking the reclamation, provided the government issued the
necessary permit and did not reserve ownership of the reclaimed land to the
State.
Article 339 of the Civil Code of 1889 defined property of public dominion as
follows:
"Art. 339. Property of public dominion is
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1. That devoted to public use, such as roads, canals, rivers, torrents,


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


(c) Mineral lands, x x x.
Sec. 7. For the purposes of the government and disposition of alienable
or disposable public lands, the Governor-General, upon
recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
Resources, shall from time to time declare what lands are open
to disposition or concession under this Act."
Sec. 8. Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or
concession which have been officially delimited or classified x x
x.
xxx
Sec. 55. Any tract of land of the public domain which, being neither
timber nor mineral land, shall be classified as suitable for
residential purposes or for commercial, industrial, or other
productive purposes other than agricultural purposes, and shall
be open to disposition or concession, shall be disposed of under the
provisions of this chapter, and not otherwise.
Sec. 56. The lands disposable under this title shall be classified
as follows:
(a) Lands reclaimed by the Government by dredging,
filling, or other means;
(b) Foreshore;
(c) Marshy lands or lands covered with water bordering upon
the shores or banks of navigable lakes or rivers;
(d) Lands not included in any of the foregoing classes.
x x x.
Sec. 58. The lands comprised in classes (a), (b), and (c) of
section fifty-six shall be disposed of to private parties by lease
only and not otherwise, as soon as the Governor-General, upon
recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
Resources, shall declare that the same are not necessary for
the public service and are open to disposition under this
chapter. The lands included in class (d) may be disposed of by
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sale or lease under the provisions of this Act." (Emphasis


supplied)
Section 6 of Act No. 2874 authorized the Governor-General to "classify lands
of the public domain into x x x alienable or disposable"47 lands. Section 7 of
the Act empowered the Governor-General to "declare what lands are open to
disposition or concession." Section 8 of the Act limited alienable or
disposable lands only to those lands which have been "officially delimited
and classified."
Section 56 of Act No. 2874 stated that lands "disposable under this
title48 shall be classified" as government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy
lands, as well as other lands. All these lands, however, must be suitable for
residential, commercial, industrial or other productive nonagricultural purposes. These provisions vested upon the Governor-General
the power to classify inalienable lands of the public domain into disposable
lands of the public domain. These provisions also empowered the GovernorGeneral to classify further such disposable lands of the public domain into
government reclaimed, foreshore or marshy lands of the public domain, as
well as other non-agricultural lands.
Section 58 of Act No. 2874 categorically mandated that disposable lands of
the public domain classified as government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy
lands "shall be disposed of to private parties by lease only and not
otherwise." The Governor-General, before allowing the lease of these lands
to private parties, must formally declare that the lands were "not necessary
for the public service." Act No. 2874 reiterated the State policy to lease and
not to sell government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy lands of the public
domain, a policy first enunciated in 1907 in Act No. 1654. Government
reclaimed, foreshore and marshy lands remained sui generis, as the only
alienable or disposable lands of the public domain that the government could
not sell to private parties.
The rationale behind this State policy is obvious. Government reclaimed,
foreshore and marshy public lands for non-agricultural purposes retain their
inherent potential as areas for public service. This is the reason the
government prohibited the sale, and only allowed the lease, of these lands to
private parties. The State always reserved these lands for some future public
service.
Act No. 2874 did not authorize the reclassification of government reclaimed,
foreshore and marshy lands into other non-agricultural lands under Section
56 (d). Lands falling under Section 56 (d) were the only lands for nonagricultural purposes the government could sell to private parties. Thus,
under Act No. 2874, the government could not sell government reclaimed,
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foreshore and marshy lands to private parties, unless the legislature


passed a law allowing their sale.49
Act No. 2874 did not prohibit private parties from reclaiming parts of the sea
pursuant to Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866. Lands reclaimed
from the sea by private parties with government permission remained
private lands.
Dispositions under the 1935 Constitution
On May 14, 1935, the 1935 Constitution took effect upon its ratification by
the Filipino people. The 1935 Constitution, in adopting the Regalian doctrine,
declared in Section 1, Article XIII, that
"Section 1. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public
domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all
forces of potential energy and other natural resources of the
Philippines belong to the State, and their disposition, exploitation,
development, or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines
or to corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the
capital of which is owned by such citizens, subject to any existing right,
grant, lease, or concession at the time of the inauguration of the
Government established under this Constitution. Natural resources,
with the exception of public agricultural land, shall not be
alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the exploitation,
development, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be
granted for a period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for
another twenty-five years, except as to water rights for irrigation,
water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development
of water power, in which cases beneficial use may be the measure and
limit of the grant." (Emphasis supplied)
The 1935 Constitution barred the alienation of all natural resources except
public agricultural lands, which were the only natural resources the State
could alienate. Thus, foreshore lands, considered part of the State's natural
resources, became inalienable by constitutional fiat, available only for lease
for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years. The government could alienate
foreshore lands only after these lands were reclaimed and classified as
alienable agricultural lands of the public domain. Government reclaimed and
marshy lands of the public domain, being neither timber nor mineral lands,
fell under the classification of public agricultural lands.50 However,
government reclaimed and marshy lands, although subject to classification
as disposable public agricultural lands, could only be leased and not sold to
private parties because of Act No. 2874.

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The prohibition on private parties from acquiring ownership of government


reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain was only a statutory
prohibition and the legislature could therefore remove such prohibition. The
1935 Constitution did not prohibit individuals and corporations from
acquiring government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain that
were classified as agricultural lands under existing public land laws. Section
2, Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution provided as follows:
"Section 2. No private corporation or association may acquire,
lease, or hold public agricultural lands in excess of one
thousand and twenty four hectares, nor may any individual
acquire such lands by purchase in excess of one hundred and
forty hectares, or by lease in excess of one thousand and
twenty-four hectares, or by homestead in excess of twenty-four
hectares. Lands adapted to grazing, not exceeding two thousand
hectares, may be leased to an individual, private corporation, or
association." (Emphasis supplied)
Still, after the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution, the legislature did not
repeal Section 58 of Act No. 2874 to open for sale to private parties
government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain. On the
contrary, the legislature continued the long established State policy of
retaining for the government title and ownership of government reclaimed
and marshy lands of the public domain.
Commonwealth Act No. 141 of the Philippine National Assembly
On November 7, 1936, the National Assembly approved Commonwealth Act
No. 141, also known as the Public Land Act, which compiled the then existing
laws on lands of the public domain. CA No. 141, as amended, remains to this
day the existing general law governing the classification and disposition of
lands of the public domain other than timber and mineral lands.51
Section 6 of CA No. 141 empowers the President to classify lands of the
public domain into "alienable or disposable"52 lands of the public domain,
which prior to such classification are inalienable and outside the commerce
of man. Section 7 of CA No. 141 authorizes the President to "declare what
lands are open to disposition or concession." Section 8 of CA No. 141 states
that the government can declare open for disposition or concession only
lands that are "officially delimited and classified." Sections 6, 7 and 8 of CA
No. 141 read as follows:
"Sec. 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the
Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, shall from time to
time classify the lands of the public domain into
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(a) Alienable or disposable,


(b) Timber, and
(c) Mineral lands,
and may at any time and in like manner transfer such lands from one
class to another,53 for the purpose of their administration and
disposition.
Sec. 7. For the purposes of the administration and disposition of
alienable or disposable public lands, the President, upon
recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and
Commerce, shall from time to time declare what lands are
open to disposition or concession under this Act.
Sec. 8. Only those lands shall be declared open to disposition or
concession which have been officially delimited and
classified and, when practicable, surveyed, and which have not
been reserved for public or quasi-public uses, nor appropriated
by the Government, nor in any manner become private property, nor
those on which a private right authorized and recognized by this Act or
any other valid law may be claimed, or which, having been reserved or
appropriated, have ceased to be so. x x x."
Thus, before the government could alienate or dispose of lands of the public
domain, the President must first officially classify these lands as alienable or
disposable, and then declare them open to disposition or concession. There
must be no law reserving these lands for public or quasi-public uses.
The salient provisions of CA No. 141, on government reclaimed, foreshore
and marshy lands of the public domain, are as follows:
"Sec. 58. Any tract of land of the public domain which, being
neither timber nor mineral land, is intended to be used for
residential purposes or for commercial, industrial, or other
productive purposes other than agricultural, and is open to
disposition or concession, shall be disposed of under the
provisions of this chapter and not otherwise.
Sec. 59. The lands disposable under this title shall be classified
as follows:
(a) Lands reclaimed by the Government by dredging,
filling, or other means;
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(b) Foreshore;
(c) Marshy lands or lands covered with water bordering upon
the shores or banks of navigable lakes or rivers;
(d) Lands not included in any of the foregoing classes.
Sec. 60. Any tract of land comprised under this title may be leased or
sold, as the case may be, to any person, corporation, or association
authorized to purchase or lease public lands for agricultural purposes.
x x x.
Sec. 61. The lands comprised in classes (a), (b), and (c) of
section fifty-nine shall be disposed of to private parties by
lease only and not otherwise, as soon as the President, upon
recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture, shall declare that
the same are not necessary for the public service and are open
to disposition under this chapter. The lands included in class (d)
may be disposed of by sale or lease under the provisions of
this Act." (Emphasis supplied)
Section 61 of CA No. 141 readopted, after the effectivity of the 1935
Constitution, Section 58 of Act No. 2874 prohibiting the sale of government
reclaimed, foreshore and marshy disposable lands of the public domain. All
these lands are intended for residential, commercial, industrial or other nonagricultural purposes. As before, Section 61 allowed only the lease of such
lands to private parties. The government could sell to private parties only
lands falling under Section 59 (d) of CA No. 141, or those lands for nonagricultural purposes not classified as government reclaimed, foreshore and
marshy disposable lands of the public domain. Foreshore lands, however,
became inalienable under the 1935 Constitution which only allowed the
lease of these lands to qualified private parties.
Section 58 of CA No. 141 expressly states that disposable lands of the public
domain intended for residential, commercial, industrial or other productive
purposes other than agricultural "shall be disposed of under the
provisions of this chapter and not otherwise." Under Section 10 of CA
No. 141, the term "disposition" includes lease of the land. Any disposition of
government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy disposable lands for nonagricultural purposes must comply with Chapter IX, Title III of CA No.
141,54 unless a subsequent law amended or repealed these provisions.
In his concurring opinion in the landmark case of Republic Real Estate
Corporation v. Court of Appeals,55Justice Reynato S. Puno summarized
succinctly the law on this matter, as follows:
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"Foreshore lands are lands of public dominion intended for public use.
So too are lands reclaimed by the government by dredging, filling, or
other means. Act 1654 mandated that the control and disposition of
the foreshore and lands under water remained in the national
government. Said law allowed only the 'leasing' of reclaimed land. The
Public Land Acts of 1919 and 1936 also declared that the foreshore and
lands reclaimed by the government were to be "disposed of to private
parties by lease only and not otherwise." Before leasing, however, the
Governor-General, upon recommendation of the Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources, had first to determine that the land
reclaimed was not necessary for the public service. This requisite must
have been met before the land could be disposed of. But even then,
the foreshore and lands under water were not to be alienated
and sold to private parties. The disposition of the reclaimed
land was only by lease. The land remained property of the
State." (Emphasis supplied)
As observed by Justice Puno in his concurring opinion, "Commonwealth Act
No. 141 has remained in effect at present."
The State policy prohibiting the sale to private parties of government
reclaimed, foreshore and marshy alienable lands of the public domain, first
implemented in 1907 was thus reaffirmed in CA No. 141 after the 1935
Constitution took effect. The prohibition on the sale of foreshore lands,
however, became a constitutional edict under the 1935 Constitution.
Foreshore lands became inalienable as natural resources of the State, unless
reclaimed by the government and classified as agricultural lands of the
public domain, in which case they would fall under the classification of
government reclaimed lands.
After the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution, government reclaimed and
marshy disposable lands of the public domain continued to be only leased
and not sold to private parties.56 These lands remained sui generis, as the
only alienable or disposable lands of the public domain the government
could not sell to private parties.
Since then and until now, the only way the government can sell to private
parties government reclaimed and marshy disposable lands of the public
domain is for the legislature to pass a law authorizing such sale. CA No. 141
does not authorize the President to reclassify government reclaimed and
marshy lands into other non-agricultural lands under Section 59 (d). Lands
classified under Section 59 (d) are the only alienable or disposable lands for
non-agricultural purposes that the government could sell to private parties.
Moreover, Section 60 of CA No. 141 expressly requires congressional
authority before lands under Section 59 that the government previously
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transferred to government units or entities could be sold to private parties.


Section 60 of CA No. 141 declares that
"Sec. 60. x x x The area so leased or sold shall be such as shall, in the
judgment of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, be
reasonably necessary for the purposes for which such sale or lease is
requested, and shall not exceed one hundred and forty-four hectares:
Provided, however, That this limitation shall not apply to grants,
donations, or transfers made to a province, municipality or branch or
subdivision of the Government for the purposes deemed by said
entities conducive to the public interest;but the land so granted,
donated, or transferred to a province, municipality or branch
or subdivision of the Government shall not be alienated,
encumbered, or otherwise disposed of in a manner affecting
its title, except when authorized by Congress: x x x." (Emphasis
supplied)
The congressional authority required in Section 60 of CA No. 141 mirrors the
legislative authority required in Section 56 of Act No. 2874.
One reason for the congressional authority is that Section 60 of CA No. 141
exempted government units and entities from the maximum area of public
lands that could be acquired from the State. These government units and
entities should not just turn around and sell these lands to private parties in
violation of constitutional or statutory limitations. Otherwise, the transfer of
lands for non-agricultural purposes to government units and entities could be
used to circumvent constitutional limitations on ownership of alienable or
disposable lands of the public domain. In the same manner, such transfers
could also be used to evade the statutory prohibition in CA No. 141 on the
sale of government reclaimed and marshy lands of the public domain to
private parties. Section 60 of CA No. 141 constitutes by operation of law a
lien on these lands.57
In case of sale or lease of disposable lands of the public domain falling
under Section 59 of CA No. 141, Sections 63 and 67 require a public bidding.
Sections 63 and 67 of CA No. 141 provide as follows:
"Sec. 63. Whenever it is decided that lands covered by this chapter are
not needed for public purposes, the Director of Lands shall ask the
Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce (now the Secretary of Natural
Resources) for authority to dispose of the same. Upon receipt of such
authority, the Director of Lands shall give notice by public
advertisement in the same manner as in the case of leases or sales of
agricultural public land, x x x.

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


individual, corporation, or association, and the conditions therefor. No
private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of
the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand
hectares in area nor may any citizen hold such lands by lease in excess
of five hundred hectares or acquire by purchase, homestead or grant,
in excess of twenty-four hectares. No private corporation or association
may hold by lease, concession, license or permit, timber or forest lands
and other timber or forest resources in excess of one hundred
thousand hectares. However, such area may be increased by the
Batasang Pambansa upon recommendation of the National Economic
and Development Authority." (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, under the 1973 Constitution, private corporations could hold alienable
lands of the public domain only through lease. Only individuals could now
acquire alienable lands of the public domain, and private corporations
became absolutely barred from acquiring any kind of alienable land
of the public domain. The constitutional ban extended to all kinds of
alienable lands of the public domain, while the statutory ban under CA No.
141 applied only to government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy alienable
lands of the public domain.
PD No. 1084 Creating the Public Estates Authority
On February 4, 1977, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential
Decree No. 1084 creating PEA, a wholly government owned and controlled
corporation with a special charter. Sections 4 and 8 of PD No. 1084, vests
PEA with the following purposes and powers:
"Sec. 4. Purpose. The Authority is hereby created for the following
purposes:
(a) To reclaim land, including foreshore and submerged areas,
by dredging, filling or other means, or to acquire reclaimed
land;
(b) To develop, improve, acquire, administer, deal in, subdivide,
dispose, lease and sell any and all kinds of lands, buildings,
estates and other forms of real property, owned, managed, controlled
and/or operated by the government;
(c) To provide for, operate or administer such service as may be
necessary for the efficient, economical and beneficial utilization of the
above properties.

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Sec. 5. Powers and functions of the Authority. The Authority shall, in


carrying out the purposes for which it is created, have the following
powers and functions:
(a)To prescribe its by-laws.
xxx
(i) To hold lands of the public domain in excess of the area
permitted to private corporations by statute.
(j) To reclaim lands and to construct work across, or otherwise, any
stream, watercourse, canal, ditch, flume x x x.
xxx
(o) To perform such acts and exercise such functions as may be
necessary for the attainment of the purposes and objectives herein
specified." (Emphasis supplied)
PD No. 1084 authorizes PEA to reclaim both foreshore and submerged areas
of the public domain. Foreshore areas are those covered and uncovered by
the ebb and flow of the tide.61 Submerged areas are those permanently
under water regardless of the ebb and flow of the tide.62 Foreshore and
submerged areas indisputably belong to the public domain63 and are
inalienable unless reclaimed, classified as alienable lands open to
disposition, and further declared no longer needed for public service.
The ban in the 1973 Constitution on private corporations from acquiring
alienable lands of the public domain did not apply to PEA since it was then,
and until today, a fully owned government corporation. The constitutional
ban applied then, as it still applies now, only to "private corporations and
associations." PD No. 1084 expressly empowers PEA "to hold lands of the
public domain" even "in excess of the area permitted to private
corporations by statute." Thus, PEA can hold title to private lands, as
well as title to lands of the public domain.
In order for PEA to sell its reclaimed foreshore and submerged alienable
lands of the public domain, there must be legislative authority empowering
PEA to sell these lands. This legislative authority is necessary in view of
Section 60 of CA No.141, which states
"Sec. 60. x x x; but the land so granted, donated or transferred to a
province, municipality, or branch or subdivision of the Government
shall not be alienated, encumbered or otherwise disposed of in a
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manner affecting its title, except when authorized by Congress; x


x x." (Emphasis supplied)
Without such legislative authority, PEA could not sell but only lease its
reclaimed foreshore and submerged alienable lands of the public domain.
Nevertheless, any legislative authority granted to PEA to sell its reclaimed
alienable lands of the public domain would be subject to the constitutional
ban on private corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the public
domain. Hence, such legislative authority could only benefit private
individuals.
Dispositions under the 1987 Constitution
The 1987 Constitution, like the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions before it, has
adopted the Regalian doctrine. The 1987 Constitution declares that all
natural resources are "owned by the State," and except for alienable
agricultural lands of the public domain, natural resources cannot be
alienated. Sections 2 and 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution state that
"Section 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal,
petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy,
fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other
natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception
of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be
alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of natural
resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. x
x x.
Section 3. Lands of the public domain are classified into agricultural,
forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks. Agricultural lands of
the public domain may be further classified by law according to the
uses which they may be devoted. Alienable lands of the public
domain shall be limited to agricultural lands. Private
corporations or associations may not hold such alienable lands
of the public domain except by lease, for a period not
exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than
twenty-five years, and not to exceed one thousand hectares in
area. Citizens of the Philippines may lease not more than five hundred
hectares, or acquire not more than twelve hectares thereof by
purchase, homestead, or grant.
Taking into account the requirements of conservation, ecology, and
development, and subject to the requirements of agrarian reform, the
Congress shall determine, by law, the size of lands of the public
domain which may be acquired, developed, held, or leased and the
conditions therefor." (Emphasis supplied)
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The 1987 Constitution continues the State policy in the 1973 Constitution
banning private corporations fromacquiring any kind of alienable land of
the public domain. Like the 1973 Constitution, the 1987 Constitution allows
private corporations to hold alienable lands of the public domain only
through lease. As in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, the general law
governing the lease to private corporations of reclaimed, foreshore and
marshy alienable lands of the public domain is still CA No. 141.
The Rationale behind the Constitutional Ban
The rationale behind the constitutional ban on corporations from acquiring,
except through lease, alienable lands of the public domain is not well
understood. During the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission,
the commissioners probed the rationale behind this ban, thus:
"FR. BERNAS: Mr. Vice-President, my questions have reference to page
3, line 5 which says:
`No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the
public domain except by lease, not to exceed one thousand hectares in
area.'
If we recall, this provision did not exist under the 1935 Constitution,
but this was introduced in the 1973 Constitution. In effect, it prohibits
private corporations from acquiring alienable public lands. But it has
not been very clear in jurisprudence what the reason for this
is. In some of the cases decided in 1982 and 1983, it was indicated
that the purpose of this is to prevent large landholdings. Is that
the intent of this provision?
MR. VILLEGAS: I think that is the spirit of the provision.
FR. BERNAS: In existing decisions involving the Iglesia ni Cristo, there
were instances where the Iglesia ni Cristo was not allowed to acquire a
mere 313-square meter land where a chapel stood because the
Supreme Court said it would be in violation of this." (Emphasis
supplied)
In Ayog v. Cusi,64 the Court explained the rationale behind this
constitutional ban in this way:
"Indeed, one purpose of the constitutional prohibition against
purchases of public agricultural lands by private corporations is to
equitably diffuse land ownership or to encourage 'owner-cultivatorship
and the economic family-size farm' and to prevent a recurrence of
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cases like the instant case. Huge landholdings by corporations or


private persons had spawned social unrest."
However, if the constitutional intent is to prevent huge landholdings, the
Constitution could have simply limited the size of alienable lands of the
public domain that corporations could acquire. The Constitution could have
followed the limitations on individuals, who could acquire not more than 24
hectares of alienable lands of the public domain under the 1973 Constitution,
and not more than 12 hectares under the 1987 Constitution.
If the constitutional intent is to encourage economic family-size farms,
placing the land in the name of a corporation would be more effective in
preventing the break-up of farmlands. If the farmland is registered in the
name of a corporation, upon the death of the owner, his heirs would inherit
shares in the corporation instead of subdivided parcels of the farmland. This
would prevent the continuing break-up of farmlands into smaller and smaller
plots from one generation to the next.
In actual practice, the constitutional ban strengthens the constitutional
limitation on individuals from acquiring more than the allowed area of
alienable lands of the public domain. Without the constitutional ban,
individuals who already acquired the maximum area of alienable lands of the
public domain could easily set up corporations to acquire more alienable
public lands. An individual could own as many corporations as his means
would allow him. An individual could even hide his ownership of a
corporation by putting his nominees as stockholders of the corporation. The
corporation is a convenient vehicle to circumvent the constitutional limitation
on acquisition by individuals of alienable lands of the public domain.
The constitutional intent, under the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions, is to
transfer ownership of only a limited area of alienable land of the public
domain to a qualified individual. This constitutional intent is safeguarded by
the provision prohibiting corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the
public domain, since the vehicle to circumvent the constitutional intent is
removed. The available alienable public lands are gradually decreasing in the
face of an ever-growing population. The most effective way to insure faithful
adherence to this constitutional intent is to grant or sell alienable lands of
the public domain only to individuals. This, it would seem, is the practical
benefit arising from the constitutional ban.
The Amended Joint Venture Agreement
The subject matter of the Amended JVA, as stated in its second Whereas
clause, consists of three properties, namely:

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1. "[T]hree partially reclaimed and substantially eroded islands along


Emilio Aguinaldo Boulevard in Paranaque and Las Pinas, Metro Manila,
with a combined titled area of 1,578,441 square meters;"
2. "[A]nother area of 2,421,559 square meters contiguous to the three
islands;" and
3. "[A]t AMARI's option as approved by PEA, an additional 350 hectares
more or less to regularize the configuration of the reclaimed area."65
PEA confirms that the Amended JVA involves "the development of the
Freedom Islands and further reclamation of about 250 hectares x x x," plus
an option "granted to AMARI to subsequently reclaim another 350 hectares x
x x."66
In short, the Amended JVA covers a reclamation area of 750 hectares. Only
157.84 hectares of the 750-hectare reclamation project have been
reclaimed, and the rest of the 592.15 hectares are still submerged
areas forming part of Manila Bay.
Under the Amended JVA, AMARI will reimburse PEA the sum of
P1,894,129,200.00 for PEA's "actual cost" in partially reclaiming the Freedom
Islands. AMARI will also complete, at its own expense, the reclamation of the
Freedom Islands. AMARI will further shoulder all the reclamation costs of all
the other areas, totaling 592.15 hectares, still to be reclaimed. AMARI and
PEA will share, in the proportion of 70 percent and 30 percent, respectively,
the total net usable area which is defined in the Amended JVA as the total
reclaimed area less 30 percent earmarked for common areas. Title to
AMARI's share in the net usable area, totaling 367.5 hectares, will be issued
in the name of AMARI. Section 5.2 (c) of the Amended JVA provides that
"x x x, PEA shall have the duty to execute without delay the necessary
deed of transfer or conveyance of the title pertaining to AMARI's Land
share based on the Land Allocation Plan. PEA, when requested in
writing by AMARI, shall then cause the issuance and delivery
of the proper certificates of title covering AMARI's Land Share
in the name of AMARI, x x x; provided, that if more than seventy
percent (70%) of the titled area at any given time pertains to AMARI,
PEA shall deliver to AMARI only seventy percent (70%) of the titles
pertaining to AMARI, until such time when a corresponding
proportionate area of additional land pertaining to PEA has been
titled." (Emphasis supplied)
Indisputably, under the Amended JVA AMARI will acquire and own a
maximum of 367.5 hectares of reclaimed land which will be titled in
its name.
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To implement the Amended JVA, PEA delegated to the unincorporated PEAAMARI joint venture PEA's statutory authority, rights and privileges to reclaim
foreshore and submerged areas in Manila Bay. Section 3.2.a of the Amended
JVA states that
"PEA hereby contributes to the joint venture its rights and privileges to
perform Rawland Reclamation and Horizontal Development as well as
own the Reclamation Area, thereby granting the Joint Venture the full
and exclusive right, authority and privilege to undertake the Project in
accordance with the Master Development Plan."
The Amended JVA is the product of a renegotiation of the original JVA dated
April 25, 1995 and its supplemental agreement dated August 9, 1995.
The Threshold Issue
The threshold issue is whether AMARI, a private corporation, can acquire and
own under the Amended JVA 367.5 hectares of reclaimed foreshore and
submerged areas in Manila Bay in view of Sections 2 and 3, Article XII of the
1987 Constitution which state that:
"Section 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal,
petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy,
fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural
resources are owned by the State. With the exception of
agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be
alienated. x x x.
xxx
Section 3. x x x Alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to
agricultural lands. Private corporations or associations may not
hold such alienable lands of the public domain except by lease,
x x x."(Emphasis supplied)
Classification of Reclaimed Foreshore and Submerged Areas
PEA readily concedes that lands reclaimed from foreshore or submerged
areas of Manila Bay are alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. In
its Memorandum,67 PEA admits that
"Under the Public Land Act (CA 141, as amended), reclaimed lands
are classified as alienable and disposable lands of the public
domain:

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'Sec. 59. The lands disposable under this title shall be classified
as follows:
(a) Lands reclaimed by the government by dredging, filling, or
other means;
x x x.'" (Emphasis supplied)
Likewise, the Legal Task Force68 constituted under Presidential Administrative
Order No. 365 admitted in its Report and Recommendation to then President
Fidel V. Ramos, "[R]eclaimed lands are classified as alienable and
disposable lands of the public domain."69 The Legal Task Force
concluded that
"D. Conclusion
Reclaimed lands are lands of the public domain. However, by statutory
authority, the rights of ownership and disposition over reclaimed lands
have been transferred to PEA, by virtue of which PEA, as owner, may
validly convey the same to any qualified person without violating the
Constitution or any statute.
The constitutional provision prohibiting private corporations from
holding public land, except by lease (Sec. 3, Art. XVII,70 1987
Constitution), does not apply to reclaimed lands whose ownership has
passed on to PEA by statutory grant."
Under Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, the foreshore and
submerged areas of Manila Bay are part of the "lands of the public domain,
waters x x x and other natural resources" and consequently "owned by the
State." As such, foreshore and submerged areas "shall not be alienated,"
unless they are classified as "agricultural lands" of the public domain. The
mere reclamation of these areas by PEA does not convert these inalienable
natural resources of the State into alienable or disposable lands of the public
domain. There must be a law or presidential proclamation officially
classifying these reclaimed lands as alienable or disposable and open to
disposition or concession. Moreover, these reclaimed lands cannot be
classified as alienable or disposable if the law has reserved them for some
public or quasi-public use.71
Section 8 of CA No. 141 provides that "only those lands shall be declared
open to disposition or concession which have been officially delimited and
classified."72 The President has the authority to classify inalienable lands of
the public domain into alienable or disposable lands of the public domain,
pursuant to Section 6 of CA No. 141. In Laurel vs. Garcia,73 the Executive
Department attempted to sell the Roppongi property in Tokyo, Japan, which
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was acquired by the Philippine Government for use as the Chancery of the
Philippine Embassy. Although the Chancery had transferred to another
location thirteen years earlier, the Court still ruled that, under Article 42274of
the Civil Code, a property of public dominion retains such character until
formally declared otherwise. The Court ruled that
"The fact that the Roppongi site has not been used for a long time for
actual Embassy service does not automatically convert it to
patrimonial property. Any such conversion happens only if the property
is withdrawn from public use (Cebu Oxygen and Acetylene Co. v.
Bercilles, 66 SCRA 481 [1975]. A property continues to be part of
the public domain, not available for private appropriation or
ownership 'until there is a formal declaration on the part of
the government to withdraw it from being such' (Ignacio v.
Director of Lands, 108 Phil. 335 [1960]." (Emphasis supplied)
PD No. 1085, issued on February 4, 1977, authorized the issuance of special
land patents for lands reclaimed by PEA from the foreshore or submerged
areas of Manila Bay. On January 19, 1988 then President Corazon C. Aquino
issued Special Patent No. 3517 in the name of PEA for the 157.84 hectares
comprising the partially reclaimed Freedom Islands. Subsequently, on April 9,
1999 the Register of Deeds of the Municipality of Paranaque issued TCT Nos.
7309, 7311 and 7312 in the name of PEA pursuant to Section 103 of PD No.
1529 authorizing the issuance of certificates of title corresponding to land
patents. To this day, these certificates of title are still in the name of PEA.
PD No. 1085, coupled with President Aquino's actual issuance of a special
patent covering the Freedom Islands, is equivalent to an official proclamation
classifying the Freedom Islands as alienable or disposable lands of the public
domain. PD No. 1085 and President Aquino's issuance of a land patent also
constitute a declaration that the Freedom Islands are no longer needed for
public service. The Freedom Islands are thus alienable or disposable
lands of the public domain, open to disposition or concession to
qualified parties.
At the time then President Aquino issued Special Patent No. 3517, PEA had
already reclaimed the Freedom Islands although subsequently there were
partial erosions on some areas. The government had also completed the
necessary surveys on these islands. Thus, the Freedom Islands were no
longer part of Manila Bay but part of the land mass. Section 3, Article XII of
the 1987 Constitution classifies lands of the public domain into "agricultural,
forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks." Being neither timber,
mineral, nor national park lands, the reclaimed Freedom Islands necessarily
fall under the classification of agricultural lands of the public domain. Under
the 1987 Constitution, agricultural lands of the public domain are the only
natural resources that the State may alienate to qualified private parties. All
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other natural resources, such as the seas or bays, are "waters x x x owned
by the State" forming part of the public domain, and are inalienable pursuant
to Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
AMARI claims that the Freedom Islands are private lands because CDCP, then
a private corporation, reclaimed the islands under a contract dated
November 20, 1973 with the Commissioner of Public Highways. AMARI, citing
Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866, argues that "if the ownership
of reclaimed lands may be given to the party constructing the works, then it
cannot be said that reclaimed lands are lands of the public domain which the
State may not alienate."75 Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters reads as
follows:
"Article 5. Lands reclaimed from the sea in consequence of works
constructed by the State, or by the provinces, pueblos or private
persons, with proper permission, shall become the property of the
party constructing such works, unless otherwise provided by the
terms of the grant of authority." (Emphasis supplied)
Under Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866, private parties could
reclaim from the sea only with "proper permission" from the State. Private
parties could own the reclaimed land only if not "otherwise provided by the
terms of the grant of authority." This clearly meant that no one could reclaim
from the sea without permission from the State because the sea is property
of public dominion. It also meant that the State could grant or withhold
ownership of the reclaimed land because any reclaimed land, like the sea
from which it emerged, belonged to the State. Thus, a private person
reclaiming from the sea without permission from the State could not acquire
ownership of the reclaimed land which would remain property of public
dominion like the sea it replaced.76 Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of
1866 adopted the time-honored principle of land ownership that "all lands
that were not acquired from the government, either by purchase or by grant,
belong to the public domain."77
Article 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters must be read together with laws
subsequently enacted on the disposition of public lands. In particular, CA No.
141 requires that lands of the public domain must first be classified as
alienable or disposable before the government can alienate them. These
lands must not be reserved for public or quasi-public purposes.78 Moreover,
the contract between CDCP and the government was executed after the
effectivity of the 1973 Constitution which barred private corporations from
acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain. This contract could
not have converted the Freedom Islands into private lands of a private
corporation.

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Presidential Decree No. 3-A, issued on January 11, 1973, revoked all laws
authorizing the reclamation of areas under water and revested solely in the
National Government the power to reclaim lands. Section 1 of PD No. 3-A
declared that
"The provisions of any law to the contrary notwithstanding, the
reclamation of areas under water, whether foreshore or inland, shall
be limited to the National Government or any person
authorized by it under a proper contract. (Emphasis supplied)
x x x."
PD No. 3-A repealed Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866 because
reclamation of areas under water could now be undertaken only by the
National Government or by a person contracted by the National Government.
Private parties may reclaim from the sea only under a contract with the
National Government, and no longer by grant or permission as provided in
Section 5 of the Spanish Law of Waters of 1866.
Executive Order No. 525, issued on February 14, 1979, designated PEA as
the National Government's implementing arm to undertake "all reclamation
projects of the government," which "shall be undertaken by the PEA or
through a proper contract executed by it with any person or entity."
Under such contract, a private party receives compensation for reclamation
services rendered to PEA. Payment to the contractor may be in cash, or in
kind consisting of portions of the reclaimed land, subject to the constitutional
ban on private corporations from acquiring alienable lands of the public
domain. The reclaimed land can be used as payment in kind only if the
reclaimed land is first classified as alienable or disposable land open to
disposition, and then declared no longer needed for public service.
The Amended JVA covers not only the Freedom Islands, but also an additional
592.15 hectares which are still submerged and forming part of Manila
Bay. There is no legislative or Presidential act classifying these
submerged areas as alienable or disposable lands of the public
domain open to disposition. These submerged areas are not covered by
any patent or certificate of title. There can be no dispute that these
submerged areas form part of the public domain, and in their present state
are inalienable and outside the commerce of man. Until reclaimed from
the sea, these submerged areas are, under the Constitution, "waters x x x
owned by the State," forming part of the public domain and consequently
inalienable. Only when actually reclaimed from the sea can these submerged
areas be classified as public agricultural lands, which under the Constitution
are the only natural resources that the State may alienate. Once reclaimed
and transformed into public agricultural lands, the government may then
officially classify these lands as alienable or disposable lands open to
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disposition. Thereafter, the government may declare these lands no longer


needed for public service. Only then can these reclaimed lands be
considered alienable or disposable lands of the public domain and within the
commerce of man.
The classification of PEA's reclaimed foreshore and submerged lands into
alienable or disposable lands open to disposition is necessary because PEA is
tasked under its charter to undertake public services that require the use of
lands of the public domain. Under Section 5 of PD No. 1084, the functions of
PEA include the following: "[T]o own or operate railroads, tramways and
other kinds of land transportation, x x x; [T]o construct, maintain and
operate such systems of sanitary sewers as may be necessary; [T]o
construct, maintain and operate such storm drains as may be necessary."
PEA is empowered to issue "rules and regulations as may be necessary for
the proper use by private parties of any or all of the highways, roads,
utilities, buildings and/or any of its properties and to impose or collect
fees or tolls for their use." Thus, part of the reclaimed foreshore and
submerged lands held by the PEA would actually be needed for public use or
service since many of the functions imposed on PEA by its charter constitute
essential public services.
Moreover, Section 1 of Executive Order No. 525 provides that PEA "shall be
primarily responsible for integrating, directing, and coordinating all
reclamation projects for and on behalf of the National Government." The
same section also states that "[A]ll reclamation projects shall be approved by
the President upon recommendation of the PEA, and shall be undertaken by
the PEA or through a proper contract executed by it with any person or
entity; x x x." Thus, under EO No. 525, in relation to PD No. 3-A and PD
No.1084, PEA became the primary implementing agency of the National
Government to reclaim foreshore and submerged lands of the public domain.
EO No. 525 recognized PEA as the government entity "to undertake the
reclamation of lands and ensure their maximum utilization in promoting
public welfare and interests."79 Since large portions of these reclaimed
lands would obviously be needed for public service, there must be a formal
declaration segregating reclaimed lands no longer needed for public service
from those still needed for public service.1wphi1.nt
Section 3 of EO No. 525, by declaring that all lands reclaimed by PEA "shall
belong to or be owned by the PEA," could not automatically operate to
classify inalienable lands into alienable or disposable lands of the public
domain. Otherwise, reclaimed foreshore and submerged lands of the public
domain would automatically become alienable once reclaimed by PEA,
whether or not classified as alienable or disposable.

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The Revised Administrative Code of 1987, a later law than either PD No. 1084
or EO No. 525, vests in the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources ("DENR" for brevity) the following powers and functions:
"Sec. 4. Powers and Functions. The Department shall:
(1) x x x
xxx
(4) Exercise supervision and control over forest lands, alienable
and disposable public lands, mineral resources and, in the process
of exercising such control, impose appropriate taxes, fees, charges,
rentals and any such form of levy and collect such revenues for the
exploration, development, utilization or gathering of such resources;
xxx
(14) Promulgate rules, regulations and guidelines on the
issuance of licenses, permits, concessions, lease agreements
and such other privileges concerning the development,
exploration and utilization of the country's marine, freshwater,
and brackish water and over all aquatic resources of the
country and shall continue to oversee, supervise and police
our natural resources; cancel or cause to cancel such privileges
upon failure, non-compliance or violations of any regulation, order, and
for all other causes which are in furtherance of the conservation of
natural resources and supportive of the national interest;
(15) Exercise exclusive jurisdiction on the management and
disposition of all lands of the public domain and serve as the
sole agency responsible for classification, sub-classification,
surveying and titling of lands in consultation with appropriate
agencies."80 (Emphasis supplied)
As manager, conservator and overseer of the natural resources of the State,
DENR exercises "supervision and control over alienable and disposable public
lands." DENR also exercises "exclusive jurisdiction on the management and
disposition of all lands of the public domain." Thus, DENR decides whether
areas under water, like foreshore or submerged areas of Manila Bay, should
be reclaimed or not. This means that PEA needs authorization from DENR
before PEA can undertake reclamation projects in Manila Bay, or in any part
of the country.
DENR also exercises exclusive jurisdiction over the disposition of all lands of
the public domain. Hence, DENR decides whether reclaimed lands of PEA
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should be classified as alienable under Sections 681 and 782 of CA No. 141.
Once DENR decides that the reclaimed lands should be so classified, it then
recommends to the President the issuance of a proclamation classifying the
lands as alienable or disposable lands of the public domain open to
disposition. We note that then DENR Secretary Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr.
countersigned Special Patent No. 3517 in compliance with the Revised
Administrative Code and Sections 6 and 7 of CA No. 141.
In short, DENR is vested with the power to authorize the reclamation of areas
under water, while PEA is vested with the power to undertake the physical
reclamation of areas under water, whether directly or through private
contractors. DENR is also empowered to classify lands of the public domain
into alienable or disposable lands subject to the approval of the President. On
the other hand, PEA is tasked to develop, sell or lease the reclaimed
alienable lands of the public domain.
Clearly, the mere physical act of reclamation by PEA of foreshore or
submerged areas does not make the reclaimed lands alienable or disposable
lands of the public domain, much less patrimonial lands of PEA. Likewise, the
mere transfer by the National Government of lands of the public domain to
PEA does not make the lands alienable or disposable lands of the public
domain, much less patrimonial lands of PEA.
Absent two official acts a classification that these lands are alienable or
disposable and open to disposition and a declaration that these lands are not
needed for public service, lands reclaimed by PEA remain inalienable lands of
the public domain. Only such an official classification and formal declaration
can convert reclaimed lands into alienable or disposable lands of the public
domain, open to disposition under the Constitution, Title I and Title III83of CA
No. 141 and other applicable laws.84
PEA's Authority to Sell Reclaimed Lands
PEA, like the Legal Task Force, argues that as alienable or disposable lands of
the public domain, the reclaimed lands shall be disposed of in accordance
with CA No. 141, the Public Land Act. PEA, citing Section 60 of CA No. 141,
admits that reclaimed lands transferred to a branch or subdivision of the
government "shall not be alienated, encumbered, or otherwise disposed of in
a manner affecting its title, except when authorized by Congress: x x
x."85 (Emphasis by PEA)
In Laurel vs. Garcia,86 the Court cited Section 48 of the Revised
Administrative Code of 1987, which states that
"Sec. 48. Official Authorized to Convey Real Property. Whenever real
property of the Government is authorized by law to be conveyed,
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the deed of conveyance shall be executed in behalf of the government


by the following: x x x."
Thus, the Court concluded that a law is needed to convey any real property
belonging to the Government. The Court declared that "It is not for the President to convey real property of the government
on his or her own sole will. Any such conveyance must be
authorized and approved by a law enacted by the Congress. It
requires executive and legislative concurrence." (Emphasis supplied)
PEA contends that PD No. 1085 and EO No. 525 constitute the legislative
authority allowing PEA to sell its reclaimed lands. PD No. 1085, issued on
February 4, 1977, provides that
"The land reclaimed in the foreshore and offshore area of
Manila Bay pursuant to the contract for the reclamation and
construction of the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road Project between the
Republic of the Philippines and the Construction and Development
Corporation of the Philippines dated November 20, 1973 and/or any
other contract or reclamation covering the same area is hereby
transferred, conveyed and assigned to the ownership and
administration of the Public Estates Authority established
pursuant to PD No. 1084; Provided, however, That the rights and
interests of the Construction and Development Corporation of the
Philippines pursuant to the aforesaid contract shall be recognized and
respected.
Henceforth, the Public Estates Authority shall exercise the rights and
assume the obligations of the Republic of the Philippines (Department
of Public Highways) arising from, or incident to, the aforesaid contract
between the Republic of the Philippines and the Construction and
Development Corporation of the Philippines.
In consideration of the foregoing transfer and assignment, the Public
Estates Authority shall issue in favor of the Republic of the Philippines
the corresponding shares of stock in said entity with an issued value of
said shares of stock (which) shall be deemed fully paid and nonassessable.
The Secretary of Public Highways and the General Manager of the
Public Estates Authority shall execute such contracts or agreements,
including appropriate agreements with the Construction and
Development Corporation of the Philippines, as may be necessary to
implement the above.
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Special land patent/patents shall be issued by the Secretary of


Natural Resources in favor of the Public Estates Authority
without prejudice to the subsequent transfer to the contractor
or his assignees of such portion or portions of the land
reclaimed or to be reclaimed as provided for in the abovementioned contract. On the basis of such patents, the Land
Registration Commission shall issue the corresponding
certificate of title." (Emphasis supplied)
On the other hand, Section 3 of EO No. 525, issued on February 14, 1979,
provides that "Sec. 3. All lands reclaimed by PEA shall belong to or be owned
by the PEA which shall be responsible for its administration,
development, utilization or disposition in accordance with the
provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1084. Any and all income that the
PEA may derive from the sale, lease or use of reclaimed lands shall be
used in accordance with the provisions of Presidential Decree No.
1084."
There is no express authority under either PD No. 1085 or EO No. 525 for PEA
to sell its reclaimed lands. PD No. 1085 merely transferred "ownership and
administration" of lands reclaimed from Manila Bay to PEA, while EO No. 525
declared that lands reclaimed by PEA "shall belong to or be owned by PEA."
EO No. 525 expressly states that PEA should dispose of its reclaimed lands
"in accordance with the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1084," the
charter of PEA.
PEA's charter, however, expressly tasks PEA "to develop, improve, acquire,
administer, deal in, subdivide, dispose, lease and sell any and all kinds of
lands x x x owned, managed, controlled and/or operated by the
government."87 (Emphasis supplied) There is, therefore, legislative
authority granted to PEA to sell its lands, whether patrimonial or
alienable lands of the public domain. PEA may sell to private parties
its patrimonial properties in accordance with the PEA charter free from
constitutional limitations. The constitutional ban on private corporations from
acquiring alienable lands of the public domain does not apply to the sale of
PEA's patrimonial lands.
PEA may also sell its alienable or disposable lands of the public
domain to private individuals since, with the legislative authority, there is no
longer any statutory prohibition against such sales and the constitutional ban
does not apply to individuals. PEA, however, cannot sell any of its alienable
or disposable lands of the public domain to private corporations since
Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution expressly prohibits such sales.
The legislative authority benefits only individuals. Private corporations
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remain barred from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public domain,
including government reclaimed lands.
The provision in PD No. 1085 stating that portions of the reclaimed lands
could be transferred by PEA to the "contractor or his assignees" (Emphasis
supplied) would not apply to private corporations but only to individuals
because of the constitutional ban. Otherwise, the provisions of PD No. 1085
would violate both the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions.
The requirement of public auction in the sale of reclaimed lands
Assuming the reclaimed lands of PEA are classified as alienable or disposable
lands open to disposition, and further declared no longer needed for public
service, PEA would have to conduct a public bidding in selling or leasing
these lands. PEA must observe the provisions of Sections 63 and 67 of CA
No. 141 requiring public auction, in the absence of a law exempting PEA from
holding a public auction.88 Special Patent No. 3517 expressly states that the
patent is issued by authority of the Constitution and PD No. 1084,
"supplemented by Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended." This is an
acknowledgment that the provisions of CA No. 141 apply to the disposition of
reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain unless otherwise provided by
law. Executive Order No. 654,89 which authorizes PEA "to determine the kind
and manner of payment for the transfer" of its assets and properties, does
not exempt PEA from the requirement of public auction. EO No. 654 merely
authorizes PEA to decide the mode of payment, whether in kind and in
installment, but does not authorize PEA to dispense with public auction.
Moreover, under Section 79 of PD No. 1445, otherwise known as the
Government Auditing Code, the government is required to sell valuable
government property through public bidding. Section 79 of PD No. 1445
mandates that
"Section 79. When government property has become unserviceable
for any cause, or is no longer needed, it shall, upon application of the
officer accountable therefor, be inspected by the head of the agency or
his duly authorized representative in the presence of the auditor
concerned and, if found to be valueless or unsaleable, it may be
destroyed in their presence. If found to be valuable, it may be sold
at public auction to the highest bidder under the supervision of
the proper committee on award or similar body in the presence of the
auditor concerned or other authorized representative of the
Commission, after advertising by printed notice in the Official
Gazette, or for not less than three consecutive days in any
newspaper of general circulation, or where the value of the
property does not warrant the expense of publication, by notices
posted for a like period in at least three public places in the locality
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where the property is to be sold. In the event that the public


auction fails, the property may be sold at a private sale at
such price as may be fixed by the same committee or body
concerned and approved by the Commission."
It is only when the public auction fails that a negotiated sale is allowed, in
which case the Commission on Audit must approve the selling price. 90 The
Commission on Audit implements Section 79 of the Government Auditing
Code through Circular No. 89-29691 dated January 27, 1989. This circular
emphasizes that government assets must be disposed of only through public
auction, and a negotiated sale can be resorted to only in case of "failure of
public auction."
At the public auction sale, only Philippine citizens are qualified to bid for
PEA's reclaimed foreshore and submerged alienable lands of the public
domain. Private corporations are barred from bidding at the auction sale of
any kind of alienable land of the public domain.
PEA originally scheduled a public bidding for the Freedom Islands on
December 10, 1991. PEA imposed a condition that the winning bidder should
reclaim another 250 hectares of submerged areas to regularize the shape of
the Freedom Islands, under a 60-40 sharing of the additional reclaimed areas
in favor of the winning bidder.92No one, however, submitted a bid. On
December 23, 1994, the Government Corporate Counsel advised PEA it could
sell the Freedom Islands through negotiation, without need of another public
bidding, because of the failure of the public bidding on December 10, 1991. 93
However, the original JVA dated April 25, 1995 covered not only the Freedom
Islands and the additional 250 hectares still to be reclaimed, it also granted
an option to AMARI to reclaim another 350 hectares. The original JVA, a
negotiated contract, enlarged the reclamation area to 750 hectares.94 The
failure of public bidding on December 10, 1991, involving only 407.84
hectares,95 is not a valid justification for a negotiated sale of 750 hectares,
almost double the area publicly auctioned. Besides, the failure of public
bidding happened on December 10, 1991, more than three years before the
signing of the original JVA on April 25, 1995. The economic situation in the
country had greatly improved during the intervening period.
Reclamation under the BOT Law and the Local Government Code
The constitutional prohibition in Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution
is absolute and clear: "Private corporations or associations may not hold such
alienable lands of the public domain except by lease, x x x." Even Republic
Act No. 6957 ("BOT Law," for brevity), cited by PEA and AMARI as legislative
authority to sell reclaimed lands to private parties, recognizes the
constitutional ban. Section 6 of RA No. 6957 states
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"Sec. 6. Repayment Scheme. - For the financing, construction,


operation and maintenance of any infrastructure projects undertaken
through the build-operate-and-transfer arrangement or any of its
variations pursuant to the provisions of this Act, the project proponent
x x x may likewise be repaid in the form of a share in the revenue of
the project or other non-monetary payments, such as, but not limited
to, the grant of a portion or percentage of the reclaimed land, subject
to the constitutional requirements with respect to the
ownership of the land: x x x." (Emphasis supplied)
A private corporation, even one that undertakes the physical reclamation of
a government BOT project, cannot acquire reclaimed alienable lands of the
public domain in view of the constitutional ban.
Section 302 of the Local Government Code, also mentioned by PEA and
AMARI, authorizes local governments in land reclamation projects to pay the
contractor or developer in kind consisting of a percentage of the reclaimed
land, to wit:
"Section 302. Financing, Construction, Maintenance, Operation, and
Management of Infrastructure Projects by the Private Sector. x x x
xxx
In case of land reclamation or construction of industrial estates, the
repayment plan may consist of the grant of a portion or percentage of
the reclaimed land or the industrial estate constructed."
Although Section 302 of the Local Government Code does not contain a
proviso similar to that of the BOT Law, the constitutional restrictions on land
ownership automatically apply even though not expressly mentioned in the
Local Government Code.
Thus, under either the BOT Law or the Local Government Code, the
contractor or developer, if a corporate entity, can only be paid with
leaseholds on portions of the reclaimed land. If the contractor or developer is
an individual, portions of the reclaimed land, not exceeding 12 hectares96 of
non-agricultural lands, may be conveyed to him in ownership in view of the
legislative authority allowing such conveyance. This is the only way these
provisions of the BOT Law and the Local Government Code can avoid a direct
collision with Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
Registration of lands of the public domain
Finally, PEA theorizes that the "act of conveying the ownership of the
reclaimed lands to public respondent PEA transformed such lands of the
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public domain to private lands." This theory is echoed by AMARI which


maintains that the "issuance of the special patent leading to the eventual
issuance of title takes the subject land away from the land of public domain
and converts the property into patrimonial or private property." In short, PEA
and AMARI contend that with the issuance of Special Patent No. 3517 and the
corresponding certificates of titles, the 157.84 hectares comprising the
Freedom Islands have become private lands of PEA. In support of their
theory, PEA and AMARI cite the following rulings of the Court:
1. Sumail v. Judge of CFI of Cotabato,97 where the Court held
"Once the patent was granted and the corresponding certificate of title
was issued, the land ceased to be part of the public domain and
became private property over which the Director of Lands has neither
control nor jurisdiction."
2. Lee Hong Hok v. David,98 where the Court declared "After the registration and issuance of the certificate and duplicate
certificate of title based on a public land patent, the land covered
thereby automatically comes under the operation of Republic Act 496
subject to all the safeguards provided therein."3. Heirs of Gregorio
Tengco v. Heirs of Jose Aliwalas,99 where the Court ruled "While the Director of Lands has the power to review homestead
patents, he may do so only so long as the land remains part of the
public domain and continues to be under his exclusive control; but
once the patent is registered and a certificate of title is issued, the land
ceases to be part of the public domain and becomes private property
over which the Director of Lands has neither control nor jurisdiction."
4. Manalo v. Intermediate Appellate Court,100 where the Court held
"When the lots in dispute were certified as disposable on May 19,
1971, and free patents were issued covering the same in favor of the
private respondents, the said lots ceased to be part of the public
domain and, therefore, the Director of Lands lost jurisdiction over the
same."
5.Republic v. Court of Appeals,101 where the Court stated
"Proclamation No. 350, dated October 9, 1956, of President Magsaysay
legally effected a land grant to the Mindanao Medical Center, Bureau of
Medical Services, Department of Health, of the whole lot, validly
sufficient for initial registration under the Land Registration Act. Such
land grant is constitutive of a 'fee simple' title or absolute title in favor
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of petitioner Mindanao Medical Center. Thus, Section 122 of the Act,


which governs the registration of grants or patents involving public
lands, provides that 'Whenever public lands in the Philippine Islands
belonging to the Government of the United States or to the
Government of the Philippines are alienated, granted or conveyed to
persons or to public or private corporations, the same shall be brought
forthwith under the operation of this Act (Land Registration Act, Act
496) and shall become registered lands.'"
The first four cases cited involve petitions to cancel the land patents and the
corresponding certificates of titlesissued to private parties. These four
cases uniformly hold that the Director of Lands has no jurisdiction over
private lands or that upon issuance of the certificate of title the land
automatically comes under the Torrens System. The fifth case cited involves
the registration under the Torrens System of a 12.8-hectare public land
granted by the National Government to Mindanao Medical Center, a
government unit under the Department of Health. The National Government
transferred the 12.8-hectare public land to serve as the site for the hospital
buildings and other facilities of Mindanao Medical Center, which performed a
public service. The Court affirmed the registration of the 12.8-hectare public
land in the name of Mindanao Medical Center under Section 122 of Act No.
496. This fifth case is an example of a public land being registered under Act
No. 496 without the land losing its character as a property of public
dominion.
In the instant case, the only patent and certificates of title issued are those
in the name of PEA, a wholly government owned corporation performing
public as well as proprietary functions. No patent or certificate of title has
been issued to any private party. No one is asking the Director of Lands to
cancel PEA's patent or certificates of title. In fact, the thrust of the instant
petition is that PEA's certificates of title should remain with PEA, and the land
covered by these certificates, being alienable lands of the public domain,
should not be sold to a private corporation.
Registration of land under Act No. 496 or PD No. 1529 does not vest in the
registrant private or public ownership of the land. Registration is not a mode
of acquiring ownership but is merely evidence of ownership previously
conferred by any of the recognized modes of acquiring ownership.
Registration does not give the registrant a better right than what the
registrant had prior to the registration.102 The registration of lands of the
public domain under the Torrens system, by itself, cannot convert public
lands into private lands.103
Jurisprudence holding that upon the grant of the patent or issuance of the
certificate of title the alienable land of the public domain automatically
becomes private land cannot apply to government units and entities like
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PEA. The transfer of the Freedom Islands to PEA was made subject to the
provisions of CA No. 141 as expressly stated in Special Patent No. 3517
issued by then President Aquino, to wit:
"NOW, THEREFORE, KNOW YE, that by authority of the Constitution of
the Philippines and in conformity with the provisions of Presidential
Decree No. 1084, supplemented by Commonwealth Act No. 141,
as amended, there are hereby granted and conveyed unto the Public
Estates Authority the aforesaid tracts of land containing a total area of
one million nine hundred fifteen thousand eight hundred ninety four
(1,915,894) square meters; the technical description of which are
hereto attached and made an integral part hereof." (Emphasis
supplied)
Thus, the provisions of CA No. 141 apply to the Freedom Islands on matters
not covered by PD No. 1084. Section 60 of CA No. 141 prohibits, "except
when authorized by Congress," the sale of alienable lands of the public
domain that are transferred to government units or entities. Section 60 of CA
No. 141 constitutes, under Section 44 of PD No. 1529, a "statutory lien
affecting title" of the registered land even if not annotated on the certificate
of title.104Alienable lands of the public domain held by government entities
under Section 60 of CA No. 141 remain public lands because they cannot be
alienated or encumbered unless Congress passes a law authorizing their
disposition. Congress, however, cannot authorize the sale to private
corporations of reclaimed alienable lands of the public domain because of
the constitutional ban. Only individuals can benefit from such law.
The grant of legislative authority to sell public lands in accordance with
Section 60 of CA No. 141 does not automatically convert alienable lands of
the public domain into private or patrimonial lands. The alienable lands of
the public domain must be transferred to qualified private parties, or to
government entities not tasked to dispose of public lands, before these lands
can become private or patrimonial lands. Otherwise, the constitutional ban
will become illusory if Congress can declare lands of the public domain as
private or patrimonial lands in the hands of a government agency tasked to
dispose of public lands. This will allow private corporations to acquire directly
from government agencies limitless areas of lands which, prior to such law,
are concededly public lands.
Under EO No. 525, PEA became the central implementing agency of the
National Government to reclaim foreshore and submerged areas of the public
domain. Thus, EO No. 525 declares that
"EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 525

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Designating the Public Estates Authority as the Agency Primarily


Responsible for all Reclamation Projects
Whereas, there are several reclamation projects which are ongoing or
being proposed to be undertaken in various parts of the country which
need to be evaluated for consistency with national programs;
Whereas, there is a need to give further institutional support to the
Government's declared policy to provide for a coordinated, economical
and efficient reclamation of lands;
Whereas, Presidential Decree No. 3-A requires that all reclamation of
areas shall be limited to the National Government or any person
authorized by it under proper contract;
Whereas, a central authority is needed to act on behalf of the
National Government which shall ensure a coordinated and
integrated approach in the reclamation of lands;
Whereas, Presidential Decree No. 1084 creates the Public
Estates Authority as a government corporation to undertake
reclamation of lands and ensure their maximum utilization in
promoting public welfare and interests; and
Whereas, Presidential Decree No. 1416 provides the President with
continuing authority to reorganize the national government including
the transfer, abolition, or merger of functions and offices.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the
Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution
and pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 1416, do hereby order and
direct the following:
Section 1. The Public Estates Authority (PEA) shall be primarily
responsible for integrating, directing, and coordinating all
reclamation projects for and on behalf of the National
Government. All reclamation projects shall be approved by the
President upon recommendation of the PEA, and shall be undertaken
by the PEA or through a proper contract executed by it with any person
or entity; Provided, that, reclamation projects of any national
government agency or entity authorized under its charter shall be
undertaken in consultation with the PEA upon approval of the
President.
x x x ."
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As the central implementing agency tasked to undertake reclamation


projects nationwide, with authority to sell reclaimed lands, PEA took the
place of DENR as the government agency charged with leasing or selling
reclaimed lands of the public domain. The reclaimed lands being leased or
sold by PEA are not private lands, in the same manner that DENR, when it
disposes of other alienable lands, does not dispose of private lands but
alienable lands of the public domain. Only when qualified private parties
acquire these lands will the lands become private lands. In the hands of
the government agency tasked and authorized to dispose of
alienable of disposable lands of the public domain, these lands are
still public, not private lands.
Furthermore, PEA's charter expressly states that PEA "shall hold lands of
the public domain" as well as "any and all kinds of lands." PEA can hold
both lands of the public domain and private lands. Thus, the mere fact that
alienable lands of the public domain like the Freedom Islands are transferred
to PEA and issued land patents or certificates of title in PEA's name does not
automatically make such lands private.
To allow vast areas of reclaimed lands of the public domain to be transferred
to PEA as private lands will sanction a gross violation of the constitutional
ban on private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the
public domain. PEA will simply turn around, as PEA has now done under
the Amended JVA, and transfer several hundreds of hectares of these
reclaimed and still to be reclaimed lands to a single private corporation in
only one transaction. This scheme will effectively nullify the constitutional
ban in Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which was intended to
diffuse equitably the ownership of alienable lands of the public domain
among Filipinos, now numbering over 80 million strong.
This scheme, if allowed, can even be applied to alienable agricultural lands
of the public domain since PEA can "acquire x x x any and all kinds of lands."
This will open the floodgates to corporations and even individuals acquiring
hundreds of hectares of alienable lands of the public domain under the guise
that in the hands of PEA these lands are private lands. This will result in
corporations amassing huge landholdings never before seen in this country creating the very evil that the constitutional ban was designed to prevent.
This will completely reverse the clear direction of constitutional development
in this country. The 1935 Constitution allowed private corporations to acquire
not more than 1,024 hectares of public lands.105 The 1973 Constitution
prohibited private corporations from acquiring any kind of public land, and
the 1987 Constitution has unequivocally reiterated this prohibition.
The contention of PEA and AMARI that public lands, once registered under
Act No. 496 or PD No. 1529, automatically become private lands is contrary
to existing laws. Several laws authorize lands of the public domain to be
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registered under the Torrens System or Act No. 496, now PD No. 1529,
without losing their character as public lands. Section 122 of Act No. 496,
and Section 103 of PD No. 1529, respectively, provide as follows:
Act No. 496
"Sec. 122. Whenever public lands in the Philippine Islands belonging to
the x x x Government of the Philippine Islands are alienated, granted,
or conveyed to persons or the public or private corporations, the
same shall be brought forthwith under the operation of this Act and
shall become registered lands."
PD No. 1529
"Sec. 103. Certificate of Title to Patents. Whenever public land is by the
Government alienated, granted or conveyed to any person, the same
shall be brought forthwith under the operation of this Decree."
(Emphasis supplied)
Based on its legislative history, the phrase "conveyed to any person" in
Section 103 of PD No. 1529 includes conveyances of public lands to public
corporations.
Alienable lands of the public domain "granted, donated, or transferred to a
province, municipality, or branch or subdivision of the Government," as
provided in Section 60 of CA No. 141, may be registered under the Torrens
System pursuant to Section 103 of PD No. 1529. Such registration, however,
is expressly subject to the condition in Section 60 of CA No. 141 that the land
"shall not be alienated, encumbered or otherwise disposed of in a manner
affecting its title, except when authorized by Congress." This
provision refers to government reclaimed, foreshore and marshy lands of the
public domain that have been titled but still cannot be alienated or
encumbered unless expressly authorized by Congress. The need for
legislative authority prevents the registered land of the public domain from
becoming private land that can be disposed of to qualified private parties.
The Revised Administrative Code of 1987 also recognizes that lands of the
public domain may be registered under the Torrens System. Section 48,
Chapter 12, Book I of the Code states
"Sec. 48. Official Authorized to Convey Real Property. Whenever real
property of the Government is authorized by law to be conveyed, the
deed of conveyance shall be executed in behalf of the government by
the following:
(1) x x x
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(2) For property belonging to the Republic of the Philippines,


but titled in the name of any political subdivision or of any
corporate agency or instrumentality, by the executive head of the
agency or instrumentality." (Emphasis supplied)
Thus, private property purchased by the National Government for expansion
of a public wharf may be titled in the name of a government corporation
regulating port operations in the country. Private property purchased by the
National Government for expansion of an airport may also be titled in the
name of the government agency tasked to administer the airport. Private
property donated to a municipality for use as a town plaza or public school
site may likewise be titled in the name of the municipality.106 All these
properties become properties of the public domain, and if already registered
under Act No. 496 or PD No. 1529, remain registered land. There is no
requirement or provision in any existing law for the de-registration of land
from the Torrens System.
Private lands taken by the Government for public use under its power of
eminent domain become unquestionably part of the public domain.
Nevertheless, Section 85 of PD No. 1529 authorizes the Register of Deeds to
issue in the name of the National Government new certificates of title
covering such expropriated lands. Section 85 of PD No. 1529 states
"Sec. 85. Land taken by eminent domain. Whenever any registered
land, or interest therein, is expropriated or taken by eminent domain,
the National Government, province, city or municipality, or any other
agency or instrumentality exercising such right shall file for registration
in the proper Registry a certified copy of the judgment which shall
state definitely by an adequate description, the particular property or
interest expropriated, the number of the certificate of title, and the
nature of the public use. A memorandum of the right or interest taken
shall be made on each certificate of title by the Register of Deeds, and
where the fee simple is taken, a new certificate shall be issued in
favor of the National Government, province, city, municipality,
or any other agency or instrumentality exercising such right for the
land so taken. The legal expenses incident to the memorandum of
registration or issuance of a new certificate of title shall be for the
account of the authority taking the land or interest therein." (Emphasis
supplied)
Consequently, lands registered under Act No. 496 or PD No. 1529 are not
exclusively private or patrimonial lands. Lands of the public domain may also
be registered pursuant to existing laws.
AMARI makes a parting shot that the Amended JVA is not a sale to AMARI of
the Freedom Islands or of the lands to be reclaimed from submerged areas of
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Manila Bay. In the words of AMARI, the Amended JVA "is not a sale but a joint
venture with a stipulation for reimbursement of the original cost incurred by
PEA for the earlier reclamation and construction works performed by the
CDCP under its 1973 contract with the Republic." Whether the Amended JVA
is a sale or a joint venture, the fact remains that the Amended JVA requires
PEA to "cause the issuance and delivery of the certificates of title conveying
AMARI's Land Share in the name of AMARI."107
This stipulation still contravenes Section 3, Article XII of the 1987
Constitution which provides that private corporations "shall not hold such
alienable lands of the public domain except by lease." The transfer of title
and ownership to AMARI clearly means that AMARI will "hold" the reclaimed
lands other than by lease. The transfer of title and ownership is a
"disposition" of the reclaimed lands, a transaction considered a sale or
alienation under CA No. 141,108 the Government Auditing Code,109 and
Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
The Regalian doctrine is deeply implanted in our legal system. Foreshore and
submerged areas form part of the public domain and are inalienable. Lands
reclaimed from foreshore and submerged areas also form part of the public
domain and are also inalienable, unless converted pursuant to law into
alienable or disposable lands of the public domain. Historically, lands
reclaimed by the government are sui generis, not available for sale to
private parties unlike other alienable public lands. Reclaimed lands retain
their inherent potential as areas for public use or public service. Alienable
lands of the public domain, increasingly becoming scarce natural resources,
are to be distributed equitably among our ever-growing population. To insure
such equitable distribution, the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions have barred
private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public
domain. Those who attempt to dispose of inalienable natural resources of the
State, or seek to circumvent the constitutional ban on alienation of lands of
the public domain to private corporations, do so at their own risk.
We can now summarize our conclusions as follows:
1. The 157.84 hectares of reclaimed lands comprising the Freedom
Islands, now covered by certificates of title in the name of PEA,
are alienable lands of the public domain. PEA may lease these
lands to private corporations but may not sell or transfer ownership of
these lands to private corporations. PEA may only sell these lands to
Philippine citizens, subject to the ownership limitations in the 1987
Constitution and existing laws.
2. The 592.15 hectares of submerged areas of Manila Bay remain
inalienable natural resources of the public domain until classified as
alienable or disposable lands open to disposition and declared no
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longer needed for public service. The government can make such
classification and declaration only after PEA has reclaimed these
submerged areas. Only then can these lands qualify as agricultural
lands of the public domain, which are the only natural resources the
government can alienate. In their present state, the 592.15 hectares of
submerged areas are inalienable and outside the commerce of
man.
3. Since the Amended JVA seeks to transfer to AMARI, a private
corporation, ownership of 77.34 hectares110 of the Freedom Islands,
such transfer is void for being contrary to Section 3, Article XII of the
1987 Constitution which prohibits private corporations from acquiring
any kind of alienable land of the public domain.
4. Since the Amended JVA also seeks to transfer to AMARI ownership of
290.156 hectares111 of still submerged areas of Manila Bay, such
transfer is void for being contrary to Section 2, Article XII of the 1987
Constitution which prohibits the alienation of natural resources other
than agricultural lands of the public domain. PEA may reclaim these
submerged areas. Thereafter, the government can classify the
reclaimed lands as alienable or disposable, and further declare them
no longer needed for public service. Still, the transfer of such reclaimed
alienable lands of the public domain to AMARI will be void in view of
Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which prohibits private
corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the public
domain.
Clearly, the Amended JVA violates glaringly Sections 2 and 3, Article XII of
the 1987 Constitution. Under Article 1409112 of the Civil Code, contracts
whose "object or purpose is contrary to law," or whose "object is outside the
commerce of men," are "inexistent and void from the beginning." The Court
must perform its duty to defend and uphold the Constitution, and therefore
declares the Amended JVA null and void ab initio.
Seventh issue: whether the Court is the proper forum to raise the
issue of whether the Amended JVA is grossly disadvantageous to
the government.
Considering that the Amended JVA is null and void ab initio, there is no
necessity to rule on this last issue. Besides, the Court is not a trier of facts,
and this last issue involves a determination of factual matters.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Public Estates Authority and
Amari Coastal Bay Development Corporation are PERMANENTLY
ENJOINED from implementing the Amended Joint Venture Agreement which
is hereby declared NULL and VOID ab initio.
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SO ORDERED.
FACTS:
From the time of Marcos until Estrada, portions of Manila Bay were being
reclaimed. A law was passed creating the Public Estate Authority which was
granted with the power to transfer reclaimed lands. Now in this case, PEA
entered into a Joint Venture Agreement with AMARI, a private corporation.
Under the Joint Venture Agreement between AMARI and PEA, several
hectares of reclaimed lands comprising the Freedom Islands and several
portions of submerged areas of Manila Bay were going to be transferred to
AMARI .
ISSUE:
Whether or not the stipulations in the Amended JVA for the transfer to AMARI
of lands, reclaimed or to be reclaimed, violate the Constitution

RULING: YES!
Under the Public Land Act (CA 141, as amended), reclaimed lands are
classified as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain Section 3 of
the Constitution: Alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to
agricultural lands. Private corporations or associations may not hold such
alienable lands of the public domain except by lease The 157.84 hectares of
reclaimed lands comprising the Freedom Islands, now covered by certificates
of title in the name of PEA, are alienable lands of the public domain. PEA may
lease these lands to private corporations but may not sell or transfer
ownership of these lands to private corporations. PEA may only sell these
lands to Philippine
citizens, subject to the ownership limitations in the 1987 Constitution and
existing laws. Clearly, the Amended JVA violates glaringly Sections 2 and 3,
Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. Under Article 1409 of the Civil Code,
contracts whose object or purpose is contrary to law, or whose object is
outside the commerce of men, are inexistent and void from the beginning.
The Court must perform its duty to defend and uphold the Constitution, and
therefore declares the Amended JVA null and void ab initio.

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Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. L-32266 February 27, 1989
THE DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, petitioner
vs.
RUPERTO A. VILLAREAL, respondent.
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The Solicitor General for petitioner.


Quasha, Asperilla, Ancheta, Valmonte, Pena & Marcos for respondents.

CRUZ, J.:
The basic question before the Court is the legal classification of mangrove
swamps, or manglares, as they are commonly known. If they are part of our
public forest lands, they are not alienable under the Constitution. If they are
considered public agricultural lands, they may be acquired under private
ownership. The private respondent's claim to the land in question must be
judged by these criteria.
The said land consists of 178,113 square meters of mangrove swamps
located in the municipality of Sapian, Capiz. Ruperto Villareal applied for its
registration on January 25, 1949, alleging that he and his predecessors-ininterest had been in possession of the land for more than forty years. He was
opposed by several persons, including the petitioner on behalf of the
Republic of the Philippines. After trial, the application was approved by the
Court of First Instance. of Capiz. 1 The decision was affirmed by the Court of
Appeals. 2 The Director of Forestry then came to this Court in a petition for
review on certiorari claiming that the land in dispute was forestal in nature
and not subject to private appropriation. He asks that the registration be
reversed.
It should be stressed at the outset that both the petitioner and the private
respondent agree that the land is mangrove land. There is no dispute as to
this. The bone of contention between the parties is the legal nature of
mangrove swamps or manglares. The petitioner claims, it is forestal and
therefore not disposable and the private respondent insists it is alienable as
agricultural land. The issue before us is legal, not factual.
For a proper background of this case, we have to go back to the Philippine
Bill of 1902, one of the earlier American organic acts in the country. By this
law, lands of the public domain in the Philippine Islands were classified into
three grand divisions, to wit, agricultural, mineral and timber or forest lands.
This classification was maintained in the Constitution of the Commonwealth,
promulgated in 1935, until it was superseded by the Constitution of 1973.
That new charter expanded the classification of public lands to include
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industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, and grazing lands and


even permitted the legislature to provide for other categories. 3 This
provision has been reproduced, but with substantial modifications, in the
present Constitution. 4
Under the Commonwealth Constitution, which was the charter in force when
this case arose, only agricultural lands were allowed to be alienated. 5 Their
disposition was provided for under C.A. No. 141. Mineral and timber or forest
lands were not subject to private ownership unless they were first
reclassified as agricultural lands and so released for alienation.
In the leading case of Montano v. Insular Government, 6 promulgated in
1909, mangrove swamps or manglares were defined by the Court as:
... mud flats, alternately washed and exposed by the tide, in
which grows various kindred plants which will not live except
when watered by the sea, extending their roots deep into the
mud and casting their seeds, which also germinate there. These
constitute the mangrove flats of the tropics, which exist
naturally, but which are also, to some extent cultivated by man
for the sake of the combustible wood of the mangrove and like
trees as well as for the useful nipa palm propagated thereon.
Although these flats are literally tidal lands, yet we are of the
opinion that they cannot be so regarded in the sense in which
that term is used in the cases cited or in general American
jurisprudence. The waters flowing over them are not available for
purpose of navigation, and they may be disposed of without
impairment of the public interest in what remains.
xxx
Under this uncertain and somewhat unsatisfactory condition of
the law, the custom had grown of converting manglares and nipa
lands into fisheries which became a common feature of
settlement along the coast and at the same time of the change
of sovereignty constituted one of the most productive industries
of the Islands, the abrogation of which would destroy vested
interests and prove a public disaster.
Mangrove swamps were thus considered agricultural lands and so
susceptible of private ownership.
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Subsequently, the Philippine Legislature categorically declared, despite the


above-cited case, that mangrove swamps form part of the public forests of
this country. This it did in the Administrative Code of 1917, which became
effective on October 1 of that year, thus:
Section 1820. Words and phrase defined. - For the purpose of
this chapter 'public forest' includes, except as otherwise specially
indicated, all unreserved public land, including nipa and
mangrove swamps, and all forest reserves of whatever character.
It is noteworthy, though, that notwithstanding this definition, the Court
maintained the doctrine in the Montano case when two years later it held in
the case of Jocson v. Director of Forestry: 7
...the words timber land are always translated in the Spanish
translation of that Act (Act of Congress) as terrenos forestales.
We think there is an error in this translation and that a better
translation would be 'terrenos madereros.' Lumber land in
English means land with trees growing on it. The mangler plant
would never be called a tree in English but a bush, and land
which has only bushes, shrubs or aquatic plants growing on it
cannot be called 'timber land.
xxx xxx xxx
The fact that there are a few trees growing in a manglare or nipa
swamps does not change the general character of the land
from manglare to timber land.
More to the point, addressing itself directly to above-quoted Section 1820,
the Court declared:
'In the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government (10 Phil. Rep., 175),
this Court said that the phrase agricultural lands as used in Act
No. 926 means those public lands acquired from Spain which are
not timber or mineral lands.
Whatever may have been the meaning of the term 'forestry'
under the Spanish law, the Act of Congress of July 1st 1902,
classifies the public lands in the Philippine Islands as timber,
mineral or agricultural lands, and all public lands that are not
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timber or mineral lands are necessarily agricultural public lands,


whether they are used as nipa swamps, manglares, fisheries or
ordinary farm lands.
The definition of forestry as including manglares found in the
Administrative Code of 1917 cannot affect rights which vested
prior to its enactment.
These lands being neither timber nor mineral lands, the trial
court should have considered them agricultural lands. If they are
agricultural lands, then the rights of appellants are fully
established by Act No. 926.
The doctrine was reiterated still later in Garchitorena Vda. de Centenera v.
Obias, 8 promulgated on March 4, 1933, more than fifteen years after the
effectivity of the Administrative Code of 1917. Justice Ostrand declared for a
unanimous Court:
The opposition rests mainly upon the proposition that the land
covered by the application there are mangrove lands as shown in
his opponent's Exh. 1, but we think this opposition of the Director
of Forestry is untenable, inasmuch as it has been definitely
decided that mangrove lands are not forest lands in the sense in
which this phrase is used in the Act of Congress.
No elaboration was made on this conclusion which was merely based on the
cases of Montano and Jocson. And in 1977, the above ruling was reaffirmed
in Tongson v. Director of Forestry, 9 with Justice Fernando declaring that the
mangrove lands in litis were agricultural in nature. The decision even quoted
with approval the statement of the trial court that:
... Mangrove swamps where only trees of mangrove species
grow, where the trees are small and sparse, fit only for firewood
purposes and the trees growing are not of commercial value as
lumber do not convert the land into public land. Such lands are
not forest in character. They do not form part of the public
domain.
Only last year, in Republic v. De Porkan, 10 the Court, citing Krivenko v.
Register of Deeds, 11 reiterated the ruling in the Mapa case that "all public
lands that are not timber or mineral lands are necessarily agricultural public
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lands, whether they are used as nipa swamps, manglares, fisheries or


ordinary farm lands.
But the problem is not all that simple. As it happens, there is also a line of
decisions holding the contrary view.
In Yngson v. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 12 promulgated
in 1983, the Court ruled "that the Bureau of Fisheries has no jurisdiction to
dispose of swamp lands or mangrove lands forming part of the public domain
while such lands are still classified as forest lands.
Four months later, in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry,
was more positive when it held, again through Justice Gutierrez:

13

the Court

The Heirs of Jose Amunategui maintain that Lot No. 885 cannot
be classified as forest land because it is not thickly forested but
is a 'mangrove swamps.' Although conceding that 'mangrove
swamp' is included in the classification of forest land in
accordance with Section 1820 of the Revised Administrative
Code, the petitioners argue that no big trees classified in Section
1821 of the said Code as first, second and third groups are found
on the land in question. Furthermore, they contend that Lot 885,
even if it is a mangrove swamp, is still subject to land
registration proceedings because the property had been in actual
possession of private persons for many years, and therefore, said
land was already 'private land' better adapted and more valuable
for agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by the
public interests to be kept under forest classification.
The petition is without merit.
A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain
does not lose such classification simply because loggers or
settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land
classified as forest land may actually be covered with grass or
planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. 'Forested
lands' do not have to be on mountains or in out-of-the-way
places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms,
and other trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be
classified as forest land. The classification is descriptive of its
legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of
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what the land actually looks like. Unless and until the land
classsified as 'forest' is released in an official proclamation to
that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural
lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect
titles do not apply.'
The view was maintained in Vallarta v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 14 where
this Court agreed with the Solicitor General's submission that the land in
dispute, which he described as "swamp mangrove or forestal land," were not
private properties and so not registerable. This case was decided only twelve
days after the De Porkan case.
Faced with these apparent contradictions, the Court feels there is a need for
a categorical pronouncement that should resolve once and for all the
question of whether mangrove swamps are agricultural lands or forest lands.
The determination of this question is a function initially belonging to the
legislature, which has the authority to implement the constitutional provision
classifying the lands of the public domain (and is now even permitted to
provide for more categories of public lands). The legislature having made
such implementation, the executive officials may then, in the discharge of
their own role, administer our public lands pursuant to their constitutional
duty " to ensure that the laws be faithfully executed' and in accordance with
the policy prescribed. For their part, the courts will step into the picture if the
rules laid down by the legislature are challenged or, assuming they are valid,
it is claimed that they are not being correctly observed by the executive.
Thus do the three departments, coordinating with each other, pursue and
achieve the objectives of the Constitution in the conservation and utilization
of our natural resources.
In C.A. No. 141, the National Assembly delegated to the President of the
Philippines the function of making periodic classifications of public lands,
thus:
Sec. 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary
of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time
classify the lands of the public domain into:
(a) Alienable or disposable,
(b) Lumber, and
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(c) Mineral lands,


and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands
from one class to another, for the purposes of their
administration and disposition.
Sec. 7. For the purposes of the administration and disposition of
alienable or disposable lands, the President, upon
recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
Resources, shall from time to time declare what lands are open
to disposition or concession under this Act.
With particular regard to alienable public lands, Section 9 of the same law
provides:
For the purpose of their administration and disposition, the lands
of the public domain alienable or open to disposition shall be
classified, according to the use or purposes to which such lands
are destined, as follows:
(a) Agricultural;
(b) Residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar productive
purposes;
(c) Educational, charitable, or other similar purposes; and
(d) Reservations for townsites and for public and quasi-public
uses.
The President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time make
the classifications provided for in this section, and may, at any
time and in a similar manner, transfer lands from one class to
another.
As for timber or forest lands, the Revised Administrative Code states as
follows:
Sec. 1826. Regulation setting apart forest reserves- Revocation
of same. - Upon there commendation of the Director of Forestry,
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with the approval of the Department Head, the President of the


Philippines may set apart forest reserves from the public lands
and he shall by proclamation declare the establishment of such
reserves and the boundaries thereof, and thereafter such forest
reserves shall not be entered, sold, or otherwise disposed of, but
shall remain as such for forest uses, and shall be administered in
the same manner as public forest.
The President of the Philippines may in like manner by
proclamation alter or modify the boundaries of any forest reserve
from time to time, or revoke any such proclamation, and upon
such revocation such forest reserve shall be and become part of
the public lands as though such proclamation had never been
made.
Sec. 1827. Assignment of forest land for agricultural purposes. Lands in public forest, not including forest reserves, upon the
certification of the Director of Forestry that said lands are better
adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for forest
purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept
under forest, shall be declared by the Department Head to be
agricultural lands.
With these principles in mind, we reach the following conclusion:
Mangrove swamps or manglares should be understood as comprised within
the public forests of the Philippines as defined in the aforecited Section 1820
of the Administrative Code of 1917. The legislature having so determined, we
have no authority to ignore or modify its decision, and in effect veto it, in the
exercise of our own discretion. The statutory definition remains unchanged to
date and, no less noteworthy, is accepted and invoked by the executive
department. More importantly, the said provision has not been challenged as
arbitrary or unrealistic or unconstitutional assuming the requisite conditions,
to justify our judicial intervention and scrutiny. The law is thus presumed
valid and so must be respected. We repeat our statement in the Amunategui
case that the classification of mangrove swamps as forest lands is
descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive
of what the land actually looks like. That determination having been made
and no cogent argument having been raised to annul it, we have no duty as
judges but to apply it. And so we shall.
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Our previous description of the term in question as pertaining to our


agricultural lands should be understood as covering only those lands over
which ownership had already vested before the Administrative Code of 1917
became effective. Such lands could not be retroactively legislated as forest
lands because this would be violative of a duly acquired property right
protected by the due process clause. So we ruled again only two months ago
in Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals, 15 where the possession of
the land in dispute commenced as early as 1909, before it was much later
classified as timberland.
It follows from all this that the land under contention being admittedly a part
of the mangrove swamps of Sapian, and for which a minor forest license had
in fact been issued by the Bureau of Forestry from 1920 to 1950, it must be
considered forest land. It could therefore not be the subject of the adverse
possession and consequent ownership claimed by the private respondent in
support of his application for registration. To be so, it had first to be released
as forest land and reclassified as agricultural land pursuant to the
certification the Director of Forestry may issue under Section 1827 of the
Revised Administrative Code.
The private respondent invokes the survey plan of the mangrove swamps
approved by the Director of Lands, 16 to prove that the land is registerable. It
should be plain, however, that the mere existence of such a plan would not
have the effect of converting the mangrove swamps, as forest land, into
agricultural land. Such approval is ineffectual because it is clearly in
officious. The Director of Lands was not authorized to act in the premises.
Under the aforecited law, it is the Director of Forestry who has the authority
to determine whether forest land is more valuable for agricultural rather than
forestry uses, as a basis for its declaration as agricultural land and release
for private ownership.
Thus we held in the Yngson case:
It is elementary in the law governing the disposition of lands of
the public domain that until timber or forest lands are released
as disposable and alienable neither the Bureau of Lands nor the
Bureau of Fisheries has authority to lease, grant, sell or otherwise
dispose of these lands for homesteads, sales patents, leases for
grazing or other purposes, fishpond leases and other modes of
utilization.
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The Bureau of Fisheries has no jurisdiction to administer and


dispose of swamp lands or mangrove lands forming part of the
public domain while such lands are still classified as forest land
or timber land and not released for fishery or other purposes.
The same rule was echoed in the Vallarta case, thus:
It is elementary in the law governing natural resources that
forest land cannot be owned by private persons. It is not
registerable. The adverse possession which can be the basis of a
grant of title in confirmation of imperfect title cases cannot
commence until after the forest land has been declared alienable
and disposable. Possession of forest land, no matter bow long
cannot convert it into private property.'
We find in fact that even if the land in dispute were agricultural in nature, the
proof the private respondent offers of prescriptive possession thereof is
remarkably meager and of dubious persuasiveness. The record contains no
convincing evidence of the existence of the informacion posesoria allegedly
obtained by the original transferor of the property, let alone the fact that the
conditions for acquiring title thereunder have been satisfied. Nowhere has it
been shown that the informacion posesoria has been inscribed or registered
in the registry of property and that the land has been under the actual and
adverse possession of the private respondent for twenty years as required by
the Spanish Mortgage Law. 17 These matters are not presumed but must be
established with definite proof, which is lacking in this case.
Significantly, the tax declarations made by the private respondent were
practically the only basis used by the appellate court in sustaining his claim
of possession over the land in question. Tax declarations are, of course, not
sufficient to prove possession and much less vest ownership in favor of the
declarant, as we have held in countless cases. 18
We hold, in sum, that the private respondent has not established his right to
the registration of the subject land in his name. Accordingly, the petition
must be granted.
It is reiterated for emphasis that, conformably to the legislative definition
embodied in Section 1820 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917, which
remains unamended up to now, mangrove swamps or manglares form part of
the public forests of the Philippines. As such, they are not alienable under the
Elsa M. Canete|234 | P a g e
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Constitution and may not be the subject of private ownership until and
unless they are first released as forest land and classified as alienable
agricultural land.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is SET ASIDE and the
application for registration of title of private respondent is DISMISSED, with
cost against him. This decision is immediately executory.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 112526

October 12, 2001

STA. ROSA REALTY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, petitioner,


vs.
COURT OF APPEALS, JUAN B. AMANTE, FRANCISCO L. ANDAL, LUCIA
ANDAL, ANDREA P. AYENDE, LETICIA P. BALAT, FILOMENA B. BATINO,
ANICETO A. BURGOS, JAIME A. BURGOS, FLORENCIA CANUBAS,
LORETO A. CANUBAS, MAXIMO A. CANUBAS, REYNALDO CARINGAL,
QUIRINO C. CASALME, BENIGNO A. CRUZAT, ELINO A. CRUZAT,
GREGORIO F. CRUZAT, RUFINO C. CRUZAT, SERGIO CRUZAT, SEVERINO
F. CRUZAT, VICTORIA DE SAGUN, SEVERINO DE SAGUN, FELICISIMO
A. GONZALES, FRANCISCO A. GONZALES, GREGORIO GONZALES,
LEODEGARIO N. GONZALES, PASCUAL P. GONZALES, ROLANDO A.
GONZALES, FRANCISCO A. JUANGCO, GERVACIO A. JUANGCO,
LOURDES U. LUNA, ANSELMO M. MANDANAS, CRISANTO MANDANAS,
EMILIO M. MANDANAS, GREGORIO A. MANDANAS, MARIO G.
MANDANAS, TEODORO MANDANAS, CONSTANCIO B. MARQUEZ,
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LAND TITLES AND DEEDS

EUGENIO B. MARQUEZ, ARMANDO P. MATIENZO, DANIEL D.


MATIENZO, MAXIMINO MATIENZO, PACENCIA P. MATIENZO, DOROTEA
L. PANGANIBAN, JUANITO T. PEREZ, MARIANITO T. PEREZ, SEVERO M.
PEREZ, INOCENCIA S. PASQUIZA, BIENVENIDO F. PETATE, IGNACIO F.
PETATE, JUANITO PETATE, PABLO A. PLATON, PRECILLO V. PLATON,
AQUILINO B. SUBOL, CASIANO T. VILLA, DOMINGO VILLA, JUAN T.
VILLA, MARIO C. VILLA, NATIVIDAD A. VILLA, JACINTA S. ALVARADO,
RODOLFO ANGELES, DOMINGO A. CANUBAS, EDGARDO L. CASALME,
QUIRINO DE LEON, LEONILO M. ENRIQUEZ, CLAUDIA P. GONZALES,
FELISA R. LANGUE, QUINTILLANO LANGUE, REYNALDO LANGUE,
ROMEO S. LANGUE, BONIFACIO VILLA, ROGELIO AYENDE, ANTONIO B.
FERNANDEZ, ZACARIAS HERRERA, ZACARIAS HERRERA, REYNARIO U.
LAZO, AGAPITO MATIENZO, DIONISIO F. PETATE, LITO G. REYES, JOSE
M. SUBOL, CELESTINO G. TOPI NO, ROSA C. AMANTE, SOTERA
CASALME, REMIGIO M. SILVERIO, THE SECRETARY OF AGRARIAN
REFORM, DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM ADJUDICATION
BOARD, LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, REGISTER OF DEEDS OF
LAGUNA, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES
REGIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR REGION IV, and REGIONAL
AGRARIAN REFORM OFFICER FOR REGION IV, respondents.
PARDO, J.:
The case before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision
of the Court of Appeals1 affirming the decision of the Department of Agrarian
Reform Adjudication Board2 (hereafter DARAB) ordering the compulsory
acquisition of petitioner's property under the Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Program (CARP).
Petitioner Sta. Rosa Realty Development Corporation (hereafter, SRRDC) was
the registered owner of two parcels of land, situated at Barangay Casile,
Cabuyao, Laguna covered by TCT Nos. 81949 and 84891, with a total area of
254.6 hectares. According to petitioner, the parcels of land are watersheds,
which provide clean potable water to the Canlubang community, and that
ninety (90) light industries are now located in the area.3
Petitioner alleged that respondents usurped its rights over the property,
thereby destroying the ecosystem. Sometime in December 1985,
respondents filed a civil case4 with the Regional Trial Court, Laguna, seeking
an easement of a right of way to and from Barangay Casile. By way of
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counterclaim, however, petitioner sought the ejectment of private


respondents.
In October 1986 to August 1987, petitioner filed with the Municipal Trial
Court, Cabuyao, Laguna separate complaints for forcible entry against
respondents.5
After the filing of the ejectment cases, respondents petitioned the
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for the compulsory acquisition of the
SRRDC property under the CARP.
On August 11, 1989, the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer (MARO) of
Cabuyao, Laguna issued a notice of coverage to petitioner and invited its
officials or representatives to a conference on August 18, 1989.6 During the
meeting, the following were present: representatives of petitioner, the Land
Bank of the Philippines, PARCCOM, PARO of Laguna, MARO of Laguna, the
BARC Chairman of Barangay Casile and some potential farmer beneficiaries,
who are residents of Barangay Casile, Cabuyao, Laguna. It was the
consensus and recommendation of the assembly that the landholding of
SRRDC be placed under compulsory acquisition.
On August 17, 1989, petitioner filed with the Municipal Agrarian Reform
Office (MARO), Cabuyao, Laguna a "Protest and Objection" to the compulsory
acquisition of the property on the ground that the area was not appropriate
for agricultural purposes. The area was rugged in terrain with slopes of 18%
and above and that the occupants of the land were squatters, who were not
entitled to any land as beneficiaries.7
On August 29, 1989, the farmer beneficiaries together with the BARC
chairman answered the protest and objection stating that the slope of the
land is not 18% but only 5-10% and that the land is suitable and
economically viable for agricultural purposes, as evidenced by the
Certification of the Department of Agriculture, municipality of Cabuyao,
Laguna.8
On September 8, 1989, MARO Belen dela Torre made a summary
investigation report and forwarded the Compulsory Acquisition Folder
Indorsement (CAFI) to the Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (hereafter,
PARO).9

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On September 21, 1989, PARO Durante Ubeda forwarded his endorsement of


the compulsory acquisition to the Secretary of Agrarian Reform.
On November 23, 1989, Acting Director Eduardo C. Visperas of the Bureau of
Land Acquisition and Development, DAR forwarded two (2) Compulsory
Acquisition Claim Folders covering the landholding of SRRDC, covered by TCT
Nos. T-81949 and T-84891 to the President, Land Bank of the Philippines for
further review and evaluation.10
On December 12, 1989, Secretary of Agrarian Reform Miriam Defensor
Santiago sent two (2) notices of acquisition11 to petitioner, stating that
petitioner's landholdings covered by TCT Nos. 81949 and 84891, containing
an area of 188.2858 and 58.5800 hectares, valued at P4,417,735.65 and
P1,220,229.93, respectively, had been placed under the Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Program.
On February 6, 1990, petitioner SRRDC in two letters12 separately addressed
to Secretary Florencio B. Abad and the Director, Bureau of Land Acquisition
and Distribution, sent its formal protest, protesting not only the amount of
compensation offered by DAR for the property but also the two (2) notices of
acquisition.
On March 17, 1990, Secretary Abad referred the case to the DARAB for
summary proceedings to determine just compensation under R. A. No. 6657,
Section 16.
On March 23, 1990, the LBP returned the two (2) claim folders previously
referred for review and evaluation to the Director of BLAD mentioning its
inability to value the SRRDC landholding due to some deficiencies.
On March 28, 1990, Executive Director Emmanuel S. Galvez wrote Land Bank
President Deogracias Vistan to forward the two (2) claim folders involving the
property of SRRDC to the DARAB for it to conduct summary proceedings to
determine the just compensation for the land.
On April 6, 1990, petitioner sent a letter to the Land Bank of the Philippines
stating that its property under the aforesaid land titles were exempt from
CARP coverage because they had been classified as watershed area and
were the subject of a pending petition for land conversion.

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On May 10, 1990, Director Narciso Villapando of BLAD turned over the two
(2) claim folders (CACF's) to the Executive Director of the DAR Adjudication
Board for proper administrative valuation. Acting on the CACF's, on
September 10, 1990, the Board promulgated a resolution asking the office of
the Secretary of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to first resolve two (2) issues before
it proceeds with the summary land valuation proceedings.13
The issues that need to be threshed out were as follows: (1) whether the
subject parcels of land fall within the coverage of the Compulsory Acquisition
Program of the CARP; and (2) whether the petition for land conversion of the
parcels of land may be granted.
On December 7, 1990, the Office of the Secretary, DAR, through the
Undersecretary for Operations (Assistant Secretary for Luzon Operations) and
the Regional Director of Region IV, submitted a report answering the two
issues raised. According to them, firstly, by virtue of the issuance of the
notice of coverage on August 11, 1989, and notice of acquisition on
December 12, 1989, the property is covered under compulsory acquisition.
Secondly, Administrative Order No. 1, Series of 1990, Section IV D also
supports the DAR position on the coverage of the said property. During the
consideration of the case by the Board, there was no pending petition for
land conversion specifically concerning the parcels of land in question.
On February 19, 1991, the Board sent a notice of hearing to all the parties
interested, setting the hearing for the administrative valuation of the subject
parcels of land on March 6, 1991. However, on February 22, 1991, Atty. Ma.
Elena P. Hernandez-Cueva, counsel for SRRDC, wrote the Board requesting
for its assistance in the reconstruction of the records of the case because the
records could not be found as her co-counsel, Atty. Ricardo Blancaflor, who
originally handled the case for SRRDC and had possession of all the records
of the case was on indefinite leave and could not be contacted. The Board
granted counsel's request and moved the hearing to April 4, 1991.
On March 18, 1991, SRRDC submitted a petition to the Board for the latter to
resolve SRRDC's petition for exemption from CARP coverage before any
administrative valuation of their landholding could be had by the Board.
On April 4, 1991, the initial DARAB hearing of the case was held and
subsequently, different dates of hearing were set without objection from
counsel of SRRDC. During the April 15, 1991 hearing, the subdivision plan of
subject property at Casile, Cabuyao, Laguna was submitted and marked as
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Exhibit "5" for SRRDC. At the hearing on April 23, 1991, the Land Bank asked
for a period of one month to value the land in dispute.
At the hearing on April 23, 1991, certification from Deputy Zoning
Administrator Generoso B. Opina was presented. The certification issued on
September 8, 1989, stated that the parcels of land subject of the case were
classified as "industrial Park" per Sanguniang Bayan Resolution No. 45-89
dated March 29, 1989.14
To avert any opportunity that the DARAB might distribute the lands to the
farmer beneficiaries, on April 30, 1991, petitioner filed a petition 15 with
DARAB to disqualify private respondents as beneficiaries. However, DARAB
refused to address the issue of beneficiaries.
In the meantime, on January 20, 1992, the Regional Trial Court, Laguna,
Branch 24, rendered a decision,16finding that private respondents illegally
entered the SRRDC property, and ordered them evicted.
On July 11, 1991, DAR Secretary Benjamin T. Leong issued a memorandum
directing the Land Bank of the Philippines to open a trust account in favor of
SRRDC, for P5,637,965.55, as valuation for the SRRDC property.
On December 19, 1991, DARAB promulgated a decision, the decretal portion
of which reads:
"WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing premises, the Board hereby
orders:
"1. The dismissal for lack of merit of the protest against the
compulsory coverage of the landholdings of Sta. Rosa Realty
Development Corporation (Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. 81949 and
84891 with an area of 254.766 hectares) in Barangay Casile,
Municipality of Cabuyao, Province of Laguna under the Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Program is hereby affirmed;
"2. The Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to pay Sta. Rosa Realty
Development Corporation the amount of Seven Million Eight Hundred
Forty-One Thousand, Nine Hundred Ninety Seven Pesos and Sixty-Four
centavos (P7,841,997.64) for its landholdings covered by the two (2)
Transfer Certificates of Title mentioned above. Should there be a
rejection of the payment tendered, to open, if none has yet been
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made, a trust account for said amount in the name of Sta. Rosa Realty
Development Corporation;
"3. The Register of Deeds of the Province of Laguna to cancel with
dispatch Transfer certificate of Title Nos. 84891 and 81949 and new
one be issued in the name of the Republic of the Philippines, free from
liens and encumbrances;
"4 The Department of Environment and Natural Resources either
through its Provincial Office in Laguna or the Regional Office, Region IV,
to conduct a final segregation survey on the lands covered by Transfer
certificate of Title Nos. 84891 and 81949 so the same can be
transferred by the Register of Deeds to the name of the Republic of the
Philippines;
"5. The Regional Office of the Department of Agrarian Reform through
its Municipal and Provincial Agrarian Reform Office to take immediate
possession on the said landholding after Title shall have been
transferred to the name of the Republic of the Philippines, and
distribute the same to the immediate issuance of Emancipation Patents
to the farmer-beneficiaries as determined by the Municipal Agrarian
Reform Office of Cabuyao, Laguna."17
On January 20, 1992, the Regional Trial Court, Laguna, Branch 24, rendered a
decision in Civil Case No. B-233318 ruling that respondents were builders in
bad faith.
On February 6, 1992, petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for
review of the DARAB decision.19 On November 5, 1993, the Court of Appeals
promulgated a decision affirming the decision of DARAB. The decretal portion
of the Court of Appeals decision reads:
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the DARAB decision dated
September 19, 1991 is AFFIRMED, without prejudice to petitioner Sta.
Rosa Realty Development Corporation ventilating its case with the
Special Agrarian Court on the issue of just compensation."20Hence, this
petition.21
On December 15, 1993, the Court issued a Resolution which reads:

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"G. R. Nos. 112526 (Sta. Rosa Realty Development Corporation vs.


Court of Appeals, et. al.) Considering the compliance, dated
December 13, 1993, filed by counsel for petitioner, with the resolution
of December 8, 1993 which required petitioner to post a cash bond or
surety bond in the amount of P1,500,000.00 Pesos before issuing a
temporary restraining order prayed for, manifesting that it has posted
a CASH BOND in the same amount with the Cashier of the Court as
evidenced by the attached official receipt no. 315519, the Court
resolved to ISSUE the Temporary Retraining Order prayed for.
"The Court therefore, resolved to restrain: (a) the Department of
Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board from enforcing its decision dated
December 19, 1991 in DARAB Case No. JC-R-IV-LAG-0001, which was
affirmed by the Court of Appeals in a Decision dated November 5,
1993, and which ordered, among others, the Regional Office of the
Department of Agrarian Reform through its Municipal and Provincial
Reform Office to take immediate possession of the landholding in
dispute after title shall have been transferred to the name of the
Republic of the Philippines and to distribute the same through the
immediate issuance of Emancipation Patents to the farmerbeneficiaries as determined by the Municipal Agrarian Officer of
Cabuyao, Laguna, (b) The Department of Agrarian Reform and/or the
Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, and all persons
acting for and in their behalf and under their authority from entering
the properties involved in this case and from introducing permanent
infrastructures thereon; and (c) the private respondents from further
clearing the said properties of their green cover by the cutting or
burning of trees and other vegetation, effective today until further
orders from this Court."22
The main issue raised is whether the property in question is covered by CARP
despite the fact that the entire property formed part of a watershed area
prior to the enactment of R. A. No. 6657.
Under Republic Act No. 6657, there are two modes of acquisition of private
land: compulsory and voluntary. In the case at bar, the Department of
Agrarian Reform sought the compulsory acquisition of subject property under
R. A. No. 6657, Section 16, to wit:

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"Sec. 16. Procedure for Acquisition of Private Lands. For purposes of


acquisition of private lands, the following procedures shall be followed:
a.) After having identified the land, the landowners and the
beneficiaries, the DAR shall send its notice to acquire the land to
the owners thereof, by personal delivery or registered mail, and
post the same in a conspicuous place in the municipal building
and barangay hall of the place where the property is located.
Said notice shall contain the offer of the DAR to pay
corresponding value in accordance with the valuation set forth in
Sections 17, 18, and other pertinent provisions hereof.
b.) Within thirty (30) days from the date of the receipt of written
notice by personal delivery or registered mail, the landowner, his
administrator or representative shall inform the DAR of his
acceptance or rejection of the offer.
c.) If the landowner accepts the offer of the DAR, the LBP shall
pay the landowner the purchase price of the land within thirty
(30) days after he executes and delivers a deed of transfer in
favor of the government and other muniments of title.
d.) In case of rejection or failure to reply, the DAR shall conduct
summary administrative proceedings to determine the
compensation for the land requiring the landowner, the LBP and
other interested parties to submit fifteen (15) days from receipt
of the notice. After the expiration of the above period, the matter
is deemed submitted for decision. The DAR shall decide the case
within thirty (30) days after it is submitted for decision.
e.) Upon receipt by the landowner of the corresponding payment,
or, in case of rejection or no response from the landowner, upon
the deposit with an accessible bank designated by the DAR of
the compensation in cash or in LBP bonds in accordance with this
act, the DAR shall make immediate possession of the land and
shall request the proper Register of Deeds to issue Transfer
Certificate of Titles (TCT) in the name of the Republic of the
Philippines. The DAR shall thereafter proceed with the
redistribution of the land to the qualified beneficiaries.

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f.) Any party who disagrees with the decision may bring the
matter to the court23 of proper jurisdiction for final determination
of just compensation.
In compulsory acquisition of private lands, the landholding, the landowners
and farmer beneficiaries must first be identified. After identification, the DAR
shall send a notice of acquisition to the landowner, by personal delivery or
registered mail, and post it in a conspicuous place in the municipal building
and barangay hall of the place where the property is located.
Within thirty (30) days from receipt of the notice of acquisition, the
landowner, his administrator or representative shall inform the DAR of his
acceptance or rejection of the offer.
If the landowner accepts, he executes and delivers a deed of transfer in favor
of the government and surrenders the certificate of title. Within thirty (30)
days from the execution of the deed of transfer, the Land Bank of the
Philippines (LBP) pays the owner the purchase price. If the landowner
accepts, he executes and delivers a deed of transfer in favor of the
government and surrenders the certificate of title. Within thirty days from the
execution of the deed of transfer, the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) pays
the owner the purchase price. If the landowner rejects the DAR's offer or fails
to make a reply, the DAR conducts summary administrative proceedings to
determine just compensation for the land. The landowner, the LBP
representative and other interested parties may submit evidence on just
compensation within fifteen days from notice. Within thirty days from
submission, the DAR shall decide the case and inform the owner of its
decision and the amount of just compensation.
Upon receipt by the owner of the corresponding payment, or, in case of
rejection or lack of response from the latter, the DAR shall deposit the
compensation in cash or in LBP bonds with an accessible bank. The DAR shall
immediately take possession of the land and cause the issuance of a transfer
certificate of title in the name of the Republic of the Philippines. The land
shall then be redistributed to the farmer beneficiaries. Any party may
question the decision of the DAR in the special agrarian courts (provisionally
the Supreme Court designated branches of the regional trial court as special
agrarian courts) for final determination of just compensation.
The DAR has made compulsory acquisition the priority mode of land
acquisition to hasten the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian
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Reform Program (CARP). Under Sec. 16 of the CARL, the first step in
compulsory acquisition is the identification of the land, the landowners and
the farmer beneficiaries. However, the law is silent on how the identification
process shall be made. To fill this gap, on July 26, 1989, the DAR issued
Administrative Order No. 12, series of 1989, which set the operating
procedure in the identification of such lands. The procedure is as follows:
A. The Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer (MARO), with the assistance
of the pertinent Barangay Agrarian Reform Committee (BARC), shall:
1. Update the masterlist of all agricultural lands covered under the
CARP in his area of responsibility; the masterlist should include such
information as required under the attached CARP masterlist form which
shall include the name of the landowner, landholding area, TCT/OCT
number, and tax declaration number.
2. Prepare the Compulsory Acquisition Case Folder (CACF) for each title
(OCT/TCT) or landholding covered under Phase I and II of the CARP
except those for which the landowners have already filed applications
to avail of other modes of land acquisition. A case folder shall contain
the following duly accomplished forms:
a) CARP CA Form 1MARO investigation report
b) CARP CA Form No 2 Summary investigation report findings
and evaluation
c) CARP CA Form 3Applicant's Information sheet
d) CARP CA Form 4 Beneficiaries undertaking
e) CARP CA Form 5 Transmittal report to the PARO
The MARO/BARC shall certify that all information contained in the
above-mentioned forms have been examined and verified by him and
that the same are true and correct.
3. Send notice of coverage and a letter of invitation to a
conference/meeting to the landowner covered by the Compulsory Case
Acquisition Folder. Invitations to the said conference meeting shall also
be sent to the prospective farmer-beneficiaries, the BARC
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representatives, the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) representative,


and the other interested parties to discuss the inputs to the valuation
of the property.
He shall discuss the MARO/BARC investigation report and solicit the
views, objection, agreements or suggestions of the participants
thereon. The landowner shall also ask to indicate his retention area.
The minutes of the meeting shall be signed by all participants in the
conference and shall form an integral part of the CACF.
4. Submit all completed case folders to the Provincial Agrarian Reform
Officer (PARO).
B. The PARO shall:
1. Ensure the individual case folders are forwarded to him by his
MAROs.
2. Immediately upon receipt of a case folder, compute the valuation of
the land in accordance with A.O. No. 6, series of 1988. The valuation
worksheet and the related CACF valuation forms shall be duly certified
correct by the PARO and all the personnel who participated in the
accomplishment of these forms.
3. In all cases, the PARO may validate the report of the MARO through
ocular inspection and verification of the property. This ocular inspection
and verification shall be mandatory when the computed value exceeds
P500,000 per estate.
4. Upon determination of the valuation, forward the case folder,
together with the duly accomplished valuation forms and his
recommendations, to the Central Office.
The LBP representative and the MARO concerned shall be furnished a
copy each of his report.
C. DAR Central Office, specifically through the Bureau of Land
Acquisition and Distribution (BLAD), shall:
1. Within three days from receipt of the case folder from the PARO,
review, evaluate and determine the final land valuation of the property
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covered by the case folder. A summary review and evaluation report


shall be prepared and duly certified by the BLAD Director and the
personnel directly participating in the review and final valuation.
2. Prepare, for the signature of the Secretary or her duly authorized
representative, a notice of acquisition (CARP Form 8) for the subject
property. Serve the notice to the landowner personally or through
registered mail within three days from its approval. The notice shall
include among others, the area subject of compulsory acquisition, and
the amount of just compensation offered by DAR.
3. Should the landowner accept the DAR's offered value, the BLAD shall
prepare and submit to the Secretary for approval the order of
acquisition. However, in case of rejection or non-reply, the DAR
Adjudication Board (DARAB) shall conduct a summary administrative
hearing to determine just compensation, in accordance with the
procedures provided under Administrative Order No. 13, series of 1989.
Immediately upon receipt of the DARAB's decision on just
compensation, the BLAD shall prepare and submit to the Secretary for
approval the required order of acquisition.
4. Upon the landowner's receipt of payment, in case of acceptance, or
upon deposit of payment in the designated bank, in case of rejection or
non-response, the Secretary shall immediately direct the pertinent
Register of Deeds to issue the corresponding Transfer Certificate of
Title (TCT) in the name of the Republic of the Philippines. Once the
property is transferred, the DAR, through the PARO, shall take
possession of the land for redistribution to qualified beneficiaries."
Administrative Order No. 12, Series of 1989 requires that the Municipal
Agrarian Reform Officer (MARO) keep an updated master list of all
agricultural lands under the CARP in his area of responsibility containing all
the required information. The MARO prepares a Compulsory Acquisition Case
Folder (CACF) for each title covered by CARP. The MARO then sends the
landowner a "Notice of Coverage" and a "letter of invitation" to a
"conference/ meeting" over the land covered by the CACF. He also sends
invitations to the prospective farmer-beneficiaries, the representatives of the
Barangay Agrarian Reform Committee (BARC), the Land Bank of the
Philippines (LBP) and other interested parties to discuss the inputs to the
valuation of the property and solicit views, suggestions, objections or
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agreements of the parties. At the meeting, the landowner is asked to indicate


his retention area.
The MARO shall make a report of the case to the Provincial Agrarian Reform
Officer (PARO) who shall complete the valuation of the land. Ocular
inspection and verification of the property by the PARO shall be mandatory
when the computed value of the estate exceeds P500,000.00. Upon
determination of the valuation, the PARO shall forward all papers together
with his recommendation to the Central Office of the DAR. The DAR Central
Office, specifically, the Bureau of Land Acquisition and Distribution (BLAD)
shall prepare, on the signature of the Secretary or his duly authorized
representative, a notice of acquisition of the subject property. From this
point, the provisions of R. A. No. 6657, Section 16 shall apply.
For a valid implementation of the CARP Program, two notices are required:
(1) the notice of coverage and letter of invitation to a preliminary conference
sent to the landowner, the representative of the BARC, LBP, farmer
beneficiaries and other interested parties pursuant to DAR A. O. No. 12,
series of 1989; and (2) the notice of acquisition sent to the landowner under
Section 16 of the CARL.
The importance of the first notice, that is, the notice of coverage and the
letter of invitation to a conference, and its actual conduct cannot be
understated. They are steps designed to comply with the requirements of
administrative due process. The implementation of the CARL is an exercise of
the State's police power and the power of eminent domain. To the extent
that the CARL prescribes retention limits to the landowners, there is an
exercise of police power for the regulation of private property in accordance
with the Constitution. But where, to carry out such regulation, the owners are
deprived of lands they own in excess of the maximum area allowed, there is
also a taking under the power of eminent domain. The taking contemplated
is not mere limitation of the use of the land. What is required is the surrender
of the title to and physical possession of the excess and all beneficial rights
accruing to the owner in favor of the farmer beneficiary.
In the case at bar, DAR has executed the taking of the property in question.
However, payment of just compensation was not in accordance with the
procedural requirement. The law required payment in cash or LBP bonds, not
by trust account as was done by DAR.

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In Association of Small Landowners in the Philippines v. Secretary of Agrarian


Reform, we held that "The CARP Law, for its part, conditions the transfer of
possession and ownership of the land to the government on receipt of the
landowner of the corresponding payment or the deposit by the DAR of the
compensation in cash or LBP bonds with an accessible bank. Until then, title
also remains with the landowner. No outright change of ownership is
contemplated either."24
Consequently, petitioner questioned before the Court of Appeals DARAB's
decision ordering the compulsory acquisition of petitioner's property. 25 Here,
petitioner pressed the question of whether the property was a watershed,
not covered by CARP.
Article 67 of the Water Code of the Philippines (P. D. No. 1067) provides:
"Art. 67. Any watershed or any area of land adjacent to any surface
water or overlying any ground water may be declared by the
Department of Natural resources as a protected area. Rules and
Regulations may be promulgated by such Department to prohibit or
control such activities by the owners or occupants thereof within the
protected area which may damage or cause the deterioration of the
surface water or ground water or interfere with the investigation, use,
control, protection, management or administration of such waters."
Watersheds may be defined as "an area drained by a river and its tributaries
and enclosed by a boundary or divide which separates it from adjacent
watersheds." Watersheds generally are outside the commerce of man, so
why was the Casile property titled in the name of SRRDC? The answer is
simple. At the time of the titling, the Department of Agriculture and Natural
Resources had not declared the property as watershed area. The parcels of
land in Barangay Casile were declared as "PARK" by a Zoning Ordinance
adopted by the municipality of Cabuyao in 1979, as certified by the Housing
and Land Use Regulatory Board. On January 5, 1994, the Sangguniang Bayan
of Cabuyao, Laguna issued a Resolution26 voiding the zoning classification of
the land at Barangay Casile as Park and declaring that the land is now
classified as agricultural land.
The authority of the municipality of Cabuyao, Laguna to issue zoning
classification is an exercise of its police power, not the power of eminent
domain. "A zoning ordinance is defined as a local city or municipal legislation
which logically arranges, prescribes, defines and apportions a given political
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subdivision into specific land uses as present and future projection of


needs."27
In Natalia Realty, Inc. v. Department of Agrarian Reform28 we held that lands
classified as non-agricultural prior to the effectivity of the CARL may not be
compulsorily acquired for distribution to farmer beneficiaries.
However, more than the classification of the subject land as PARK is the fact
that subsequent studies and survey showed that the parcels of land in
question form a vital part of a watershed area.29
Now, petitioner has offered to prove that the land in dispute is a "watershed
or part of the protected area for watershed purposes." Ecological balances
and environmental disasters in our day and age seem to be interconnected.
Property developers and tillers of the land must be aware of this deadly
combination. In the case at bar, DAR included the disputed parcels of land for
compulsory acquisition simply because the land was allegedly devoted to
agriculture and was titled to SRRDC, hence, private and alienable land that
may be subject to CARP.
However, the scenario has changed, after an in-depth study, survey and
reassessment. We cannot ignore the fact that the disputed parcels of land
form a vital part of an area that need to be protected for watershed
purposes. In a report of the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau
(ERDB), a research arm of the DENR, regarding the environmental
assessment of the Casile and Kabanga-an river watersheds, they concluded
that:
"The Casile barangay covered by CLOA in question is situated in the
heartland of both watersheds. Considering the barangays proximity to
the Matangtubig waterworks, the activities of the farmers which are in
conflict with proper soil and water conservation practices jeopardize
and endanger the vital waterworks. Degradation of the land would
have double edge detrimental effects. On the Casile side this would
mean direct siltation of the Mangumit river which drains to the water
impounding reservoir below. On the Kabanga-an side, this would mean
destruction of forest covers which acts as recharged areas of the
Matang Tubig springs. Considering that the people have little if no
direct interest in the protection of the Matang Tubig structures they
couldn't care less even if it would be destroyed.
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The Casile and Kabanga-an watersheds can be considered a most vital


life support system to thousands of inhabitants directly and indirectly
affected by it. From these watersheds come the natural God-given
precious resource water. x x x x x
Clearing and tilling of the lands are totally inconsistent with sound
watershed management. More so, the introduction of earth disturbing
activities like road building and erection of permanent infrastructures.
Unless the pernicious agricultural activities of the Casile farmers are
immediately stopped, it would not be long before these watersheds
would cease to be of value. The impact of watershed degredation
threatens the livelihood of thousands of people dependent upon it.
Toward this, we hope that an acceptable comprehensive watershed
development policy and program be immediately formulated and
implemented before the irreversible damage finally happens.
Hence, the following are recommended:
7.2 The Casile farmers should be relocated and given financial
assistance.
7.3 Declaration of the two watersheds as critical and in need of
immediate rehabilitation.
7.4 A comprehensive and detailed watershed management plan
and program be formulated and implemented by the Canlubang
Estate in coordination with pertinent government agencies."30
The ERDB report was prepared by a composite team headed by Dr. Emilio
Rosario, the ERDB Director, who holds a doctorate degree in water resources
from U.P. Los Banos in 1987; Dr. Medel Limsuan, who obtained his doctorate
degree in watershed management from Colorado University (US) in 1989;
and Dr. Antonio M. Dano, who obtained his doctorate degree in Soil and
Water management Conservation from U.P. Los Banos in 1993.
Also, DENR Secretary Angel Alcala submitted a Memorandum for the
President dated September 7, 1993 (Subject: PFVR HWI Ref.: 933103
Presidential Instructions on the Protection of Watersheds of the Canlubang
Estates at Barrio Casile, Cabuyao, Laguna) which reads:

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"It is the opinion of this office that the area in question must be
maintained for watershed purposes for ecological and environmental
considerations, among others. Although the 88 families who are the
proposed CARP beneficiaries will be affected, it is important that a
larger view of the situation be taken as one should also consider the
adverse effect on thousands of residents downstream if the watershed
will not be protected and maintained for watershed purposes.
"The foregoing considered, it is recommended that if possible, an
alternate area be allocated for the affected farmers, and that the
Canlubang Estates be mandated to protect and maintain the area in
question as a permanent watershed reserved."31
The definition does not exactly depict the complexities of a watershed. The
most important product of a watershed is water which is one of the most
important human necessity. The protection of watersheds ensures an
adequate supply of water for future generations and the control of
flashfloods that not only damage property but cause loss of lives. Protection
of watersheds is an "intergenerational responsibility" that needs to be
answered now.
Another factor that needs to be mentioned is the fact that during the DARAB
hearing, petitioner presented proof that the Casile property has slopes of
18% and over, which exempted the land from the coverage of CARL. R. A. No.
6657, Section 10, provides:
"Section 10. Exemptions and Exclusions. Lands actually, directly and
exclusively used and found to be necessary for parks, wildlife, forest
reserves, reforestration, fish sanctuaries and breeding grounds,
watersheds and mangroves, national defense, school sites and
campuses including experimental farm stations operated by public or
private schools for educational purposes, seeds and seedlings research
and pilot production centers, church sites and convents appurtenent
thereto, communal burial grounds and cemeteries, penal colonies and
penal farms actually worked by the inmates, government and private
research and quarantine centers, and all lands with eighteen percent
(18%) slope and over, except those already developed shall be exempt
from coverage of this Act."

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Hence, during the hearing at DARAB, there was proof showing that the
disputed parcels of land may be excluded from the compulsory acquisition
coverage of CARP because of its very high slopes.
To resolve the issue as to the true nature of the parcels of land involved in
the case at bar, the Court directs the DARAB to conduct a re-evaluation of
the issue.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the Court SETS ASIDE the decision of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G. R. SP No. 27234.
In lieu thereof, the Court REMANDS the case to the DARAB for re-evaluation
and determination of the nature of the parcels of land involved to resolve the
issue of its coverage by the Comprehensive Land Reform Program.
In the meantime, the effects of the CLOAs issued by the DAR to supposed
farmer beneficiaries shall continue to be stayed by the temporary restraining
order issued on December 15, 1993, which shall remain in effect until final
decision on the case.
No costs.SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. 156951

September 22, 2006

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,


vs.
SOUTHSIDE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC. and the REGISTER OF
DEEDS OF PASIG, RIZAL,respondents.
x-------------------------------------------x
BASES CONVERSION DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, intervenor
x-------------------------------------------x

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DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENSE, represented by HON.


SECRETARY ANGELO T. REYES, and the ARMED FORCES OF THE
PHILIPPINES, represented by CHIEF OF STAFF, AFP, GENERAL
NARCISO L. ABAYA, intervenors
x-------------------------------------------x
G.R. No. 173408

September 22, 2006

RENE A.V. SAGUISAG, MGEN. MARCIANO ILAGAN (Ret.), MGEN.


PONCIANO MILLENA (Ret.), BGEN. JUANITO MALTO (Ret.), BGEN.
RAYMUNDO JARQUE (Ret.) and COL. DOMINADOR P. AMADOR
(Ret.),petitioners,
vs.
L/T. GEN. HERMOGENES C. ESPERON, JR., respondent.
x-------------------------------------------x
DECISION
GARCIA, J.:
Before the Court are these two petitions having, as common denominator,
the issue of ownership of a large tract of land.
In the first, a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court and
docketed as G.R. No. 156951, the petitioner Republic of the Philippines
seeks to nullify and set aside the Decision1 dated January 28, 2003 of the
Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 59454, affirming the dismissal by the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City, Branch 71, of the Republics
complaint for declaration of nullity and cancellation of a land title against the
herein private respondent, the Southside Homeowners Association, Inc.
(SHAI).
In the second, docketed as G.R. No. 173408, petitioners Rene Saguisag and
five (5) retired military officers pray that Lt. Gen. Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr.,
the present Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), be
asked to show cause why he should not be cited for contempt for having
announced time and again that the military officers and their families in the
contempt action would be ousted and evicted from the property subject of

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the main petition even before the issue of ownership thereof is finally
resolved by the Court.
After the private respondent SHAI had filed its Comment2 to the petition in
G.R. No. 156951, the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA),
followed by the Department of National Defense (DND) and the AFP, joined
causes with the petitioner Republic and thus sought leave to intervene. The
Court, per its Resolutions dated September 3, 2003,3 and September 29,
2003,4 respectively, allowed the intervention and admitted the corresponding
petitions-for-intervention.
Per Resolution of the Court dated August 09, 2006, both petitions were
ordered consolidated.
The Republics recourse in G.R. No. 156951 is cast against the following
backdrop:
On July 12, 1957, then President Carlos P. Garcia issued Proclamation No.
4235 establishing a military reservation known as Fort William McKinley
later renamed Fort Andres Bonifacio Military Reservation (FBMR). The
proclamation "withdr[ew] from sale or settlement and reserve[d] for military
purposes, under the administration of the Chief of Staff of the [AFP] the
[certain] parcels of the public domain [indicated in plan Psu-2031]" situated
in the several towns and a city of what was once the Province of Rizal. On its
face, the proclamation covers three (3) large parcels of land, to wit: Parcel
No. 2 (portion), Parcel No. 3 (or 3-A) and Parcel No. 4 (or 4-A). Parcel No. 3
with an area of 15,912,684 square meters and Parcel No. 4 with an area of
7,660,128 square meters are described in the proclamation as situated
inside Fort McKinley, Rizal. Specifically mentioned as excluded from Parcel
No. 4 albeit within its boundaries are the American Battle Monument
Cemetery (606,985 sq. m.), the Traffic Circle (7,093 sq. m.) and the
Diplomatic and Consular area (100,000 sq.m.).
Several presidential proclamations would later issue excluding certain
defined areas from the operation of Proclamation No. 423 and declaring them
open for disposition. These are Proclamation No. 4616 and Proclamation No.
462,7 both series of 1965, excluding portions of the reservation and declaring
them the AFP Officers Village and the AFP EMs Village, respectively, to be
disposed of under Republic Act (R.A.) 2748 and R.A. 7309 in relation to the
Public Land Act (C.A. 141, as amended). Excluded, too, under Proclamation
No. 172 dated October 16, 1987 and to be disposed pursuant to the same
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laws aforementioned, save those used or earmarked for public/quasi-public


purposes, are portions of the reservation known as Lower and Upper Bicutan,
Western Bicutan and the Signal Village, all in Taguig, Metro Manila.
In 1992, Congress enacted the Bases Conversion and Development Act (R.A.
7227, as amended), investing the BCDA the power to own, hold and
administer portions of Metro Manila military camps that may be transferred
to it by the President10 and to dispose, after the lapse of a number of months,
portions of Fort Bonifacio.11
At the core of the instant proceedings for declaration of nullity of title are
parcels of land with a total area of 39.99 hectares, more or less, known as
or are situated in what is referred to as the JUSMAG housing area in Fort
Bonifacio. As may be gathered from the pleadings, military officers, both in
the active and retired services, and their respective families, have been
occupying housing units and facilities originally constructed by the AFP on
the JUSMAG area.
Private respondent SHAI is a non-stock corporation organized mostly by
wives of AFP military officers. Records show that SHAI was able to secure
from the Registry of Deeds of the Province of Rizal a title Transfer
Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 1508412 - in its name to the bulk of, if not the
entire, JUSMAG area. TCT No. 15084 particularly describes the property
covered thereby as follows:
A parcel of land (Lot 3-Y-1, Psd-76057, being a portion of Parcel 3 of
plan Psu-2031) situated in Jusmang (sic) Area, Fort Bonifacio, Province
of Rizal. containing an area of (398,602) SQUARE METERS. xxx.
A parcel of land (Lot 3-Y-2, Psd-76057 as shown on subdivision Plan Psd
76057, being a portion of parcel 3 of plan Psu-2031, LRC Rec. No.)
situated in Jusmang (sic) Area, Fort Bonifacio, Province of Rizal.
containing an area of (1,320) SQUARE METERS xxx.. (Underscoring
added.)
The Rizal Registry issued TCT No. 15084 on October 30, 1991 on the basis of
a notarized Deed of Sale13purportedly executed on the same date by then
Director Abelardo G. Palad, Jr. (Palad, for brevity) of the Lands Management
Bureau (LMB) in favor of SHAI. The total purchase price as written in the
conveying deed wasP11,997,660.00 or P30.00 per square meter.
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It appears that in the process of the investigation conducted by the


Department of Justice on reported land scams at the FBMR, a copy of the
aforesaid October 30, 1991 deed of sale surfaced and eventually referred to
the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for examination. The results of the
examination undertaken by NBI Document Examiner Eliodoro Constantino
are embodied in his Questioned Documents Report (QDR) No. 815-1093. 14 Its
highlights:
QUESTIONED SPECIMENS:
1. Original copy of the Deed of Sale issued in favor of the Navy
Officers Village Association (NOVA) containing the signature of
"ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR." designated as "Q-961" .
2. Original copy of the Deed of Sale issued in favor of SHAI
containing the signature of "ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR." ... designated as
"Q-962.
xxx xxx xxx
PURPOSE OF EXAMINATION:
To determine whether or not the questioned and sample/specimen
signatures "ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR." were written by one and the
same person.
FINDINGS:
Scientific comparative examination and analysis of the specimens,
submitted, under stereoscopic microscope and magnifying lens, with
the aid of photographic enlargement reveals that there exist
fundamental, significant differences in writing characteristics between
the questioned and the standard/sample signatures "ABELARDO G.
PALAD, JR." such as in:
- The questioned signatures show slow, drawn, painstaking laborious
manner in execution of strokes; that of the standard/sample signatures
show free, rapid coordinated and spontaneous strokes in the manner of
execution of letters/elements.
xxx xxx xxx
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Furthermore, the questioned signature "ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR."


marked "Q-961" is a product of TRACING PROCESS by CARBONOUTLINE METHOD.
CONCLUSION:
Based on the above FINDINGS, the questioned and the
standard/sample signatures "ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR." were not
written by one and the same person.
The questioned signature "ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR." marked "Q-961" is
a TRACED FORGERY by carbon process.
REMARKS:
The other questioned Deeds of Sale containing the signatures of
"ABELARDO G. PALAD, JR." are still in the process of examination.15
On October 16, 1993, then President Fidel V. Ramos issued Memorandum
Order No. 17316 directing the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to institute
action towards the cancellation of TCT No. 15084 and the title acquired by
the Navy Officers Village Association (NOVA) over a bigger parcel within the
reservation. A month later, the OSG, in behalf of the petitioner Republic, filed
with the RTC of Pasig City the corresponding nullification and cancellation of
title suit against the private respondent SHAI. In its complaint, docketed
as Civil Case No. 63883 and eventually raffled to Branch 71 of the court, the
Republic alleged that fraud attended SHAIs procurement of TCT No. 15084.
In paragraph No. 5 of the complaint, the Republic alleged that TCT No. 15084
is void owing, inter alia, to the following circumstances: a) the conveying
deed is spurious as the purported signature thereon of Palad is a forgery; b)
there are no records with the LMB of (i) the application to purchase and (ii)
the alleged payment of the purchase price; and c) the property in question is
inalienable, being part of a military reservation established under
Proclamation No. 423.17
In its ANSWER with counterclaim, respondent SHAI denied the material
allegations of the complaint and countered that the impugned title as well as
the October 30, 1991 Deed of Sale are valid documents which the Republic is
estopped to deny.18 SHAI also alleged paying in full the purchase price
indicated in the deed as evidenced byOfficial Receipt No. 6030203-C dated
October 29, 1991.
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On October 19, 1994, the case was heard on pre-trial in the course of which
the Republic, as plaintiff therein, marked (and later offered in evidence) the
Deed of Sale dated October 30, 1991 as its Exhibit "A," and TCT No. 15084
as Exhibit "B." Respondent, then defendant SHAI adopted Exhibits "A" and
"B" as its Exhibits "1" and"2," respectively. As the pre-trial order was
written, it would appear that the parties agreed to limit the issue to the due
execution and genuineness of Exhs. "A" and "B."19
During the trial, the Republic presented as expert witness NBI Document
Examiner Eliodoro Constantino who testified on NBI QDR No. 815-1093 and
asserted that the signature of Palad in Exhibit "A" is a forgery. For his part,
Palad dismissed as forged his signature appearing in the same document and
denied ever signing the same, let alone in front of a notary public holding
office outside of the LMB premises. Pressing the point, Palad stated that he
could not have had signed the conveying deed involving as it did a
reservation area which, apart from its being outside of the LMBs jurisdiction,
is inalienable in the first place. The testimony of other witnesses revolved
around the absence of bureau records respecting SHAIs application to
acquire, payment of the purchase price and Psd-76057, the plan described in
TCT No. 15084. 20
For its part, then defendant SHAI presented an opposing expert witness in
the person of Police Inspector Redencion Caimbon who brought with him PNP
QDR No. 001-96 and testified that Palads signature in Exhibit "A"(same as
Exh. "1") is genuine. Mrs. Virginia Santos, then SHAI president, likewise
testified, saying that applications to purchase were signed and then filed
with the LMB by one Engr. Eugenia Balis,21 followed by the payment in full of
the contract price. Atty. Vicente Garcia, the then Register of Deeds of Rizal,
also testified about his having endorsed to Palad a letter-inquiry he received
from SHAI respecting the authenticity of TCT No. 15084. Palads responseletter dated January 23, 1992 (Exh. "10"), according to Atty. Garcia, is to the
effect that TCT No. 15084 must be genuine as it emanated from the
Registrys office on the basis of the October 30, 1991 Deed of Sale.22
On rebuttal, Palad would deny authorship of Exhibit "10" and an LMB official
would disclaim transmitting the same to Atty. Garcia.
Eventually, in a decision23 dated October 7, 1997, the trial court rendered
judgment dismissing the Republics complaint, to wit:

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WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Complaint dated November


15, 1991 is hereby DISMISSED without pronouncement as to costs.
The counterclaims are also DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.
In not so many words, the trial court considered the parcels covered by the
deed in question as no longer part of the FBMR.
Therefrom, the Republic went on appeal to the CA whereat its appellate
recourse was docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 59454.
In the herein assailed Decision24 dated January 28, 2003, the appellate court
affirmed in toto that of the trial court.
Hence, this petition of the Republic on the threshold abstract submission that
the CA "completely ignored, overlooked and/or grossly misappreciated facts
of substance which, if duly considered, will materially affect the outcome of
this case."
In its COMMENT To Petition, private respondent SHAI parlays the "what-canbe-raised" line. It urges the dismissal of the petition on the ground that the
issues raised therein, particularly those bearing on the authenticity ofExhibit
"A"/"1," are mainly questions of fact, adding that the matter of the
inalienability of the area purportedly sold is outside the issue agreed upon
during the pre-trial stage.
The desired dismissal cannot be granted on the bases of the reasons
proffered above.
While the Court, in a petition for review of CA decisions under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court, usually limits its inquiry only to questions of law, this rule is
far from absolute. Reyes v. Court of Appeals,25 citing Floro v. Llenado,26 for
one, suggests as much. In Floro, we wrote:
xxx There are, however, exceptional circumstances that would compel
the Court to review the finding of facts of the [CA], summarized in
and subsequent cases as follows: 1) when the inference made is
manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; 2) when there is grave
abuse of discretion; 3) when the finding is grounded entirely on
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speculations, surmises or conjectures; 4) when the judgment of the


[CA] are based on misapprehension of facts; 5) when the findings of
facts are conflicting; 6) ; 7) ; 8) ; 9) when the [CA] manifestly
overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties and which
if properly considered would justify a different conclusion; and 10)
when the findings of facts are premised on the absence of evidence
and are contradicted by the evidence on record. (Words in bracket,
added.)
To the mind of the Court, the instant case is within the purview of at least
three of the exceptions listed above, foremost of which is item #9.
Private respondent SHAIs stance about the petitioner Republic being barred
from raising the issue of inalienability since it failed to plead or assert the
same at the pre-trial proceedings is, to a degree, correct. For the general
rule, as articulated in Permanent Concrete Products, Inc. v. Teodoro,27 is that
the determination of issues at a pre-trial conference bars the consideration of
others on appeal. It should be pointed out, however, that the rationale for
such preliminary, albeit mandatory, conference is to isolate as far as possible
the trial out of the realm of surprises and back-handed maneuverings. And
lest it be overlooked, the adverted rule on the procedure to be observed in
pre-trials is, as Bergano v. Court of Appeals28 teaches, citing Gicano v.
Gegato,29 subject to exceptions. And without meaning to diminish the
importance of the same rule, the Court is possessed with inherent power to
suspend its own rules or to except a particular case from its operations
whenever the demands of justice so require.30
Given the foregoing considerations, the rule to be generally observed in pretrial conferences hardly poses an insurmountable obstacle to tackling the
question of inalienability which, under the premises, is an issue more legal
than factual. As it were, the element of surprise is not really present here. For
the issue of inalienability, which is central to the Republics cause of action,
was raised in its basic complaint, passed upon by the CA and, before it, by
the trial court31 and of which at least one witness (Palad) was examined as
follows:
Q: Mr. Witness you stated that the parcel of land in question at the
time of the land alleged sale was part of the [FBMR]. Now as part of
the [FBRM] do you know whether the said parcel of land can be the
subject of disposition?
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A: If it is part of the reservation it cannot be sold and it is already part


of those government lands that has been assigned to other
government agencies that is no longer within my jurisdiction. Meaning
to say I have no more say on that because the proclamation to the
effect was reserving this for particular purpose under the DND
.32 (Words in bracket added.)
At any rate, Palads testimony drew nary an objection from private
respondent SHAI. It even cross-examined said witness.33 The rule obtains that
the introduction of evidence bearing on an issue not otherwise included in
the pre-trial order amounts to implied consent conferring jurisdiction on the
court to try such issue.34
Digressing from the procedural aspects of this case, we now consider the
clashing assertions regarding the JUSMAG area. Was it, during the period
material, alienable or inalienable, as the case may be, and, therefore, can or
cannot be subject of a lawful private conveyance?
Petitioner Republic, as do the intervenors, asserts the inalienable character
of the JUSMAG area, the same having not effectively been separated from
the military reservation and declared as alienable and disposable.
The Republics and the intervenors parallel assertions are correct.
The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Environment
and Natural Resources, may designate by proclamation any tract or tracts of
land of the public domain as reservations for the use of the Republic or any
of its branches, or for quasi-public uses or purposes.35 Such tract or tracts of
land thus reserved shall be non-alienable and shall not be subject to sale or
other disposition until again declared alienable.36 Consistent with the
foregoing postulates, jurisprudence teaches that a military reservation, like
the FBMR, or a part thereof is not open to private appropriation or disposition
and, therefore, not registrable,37 unless it is in the meantime reclassified and
declared as disposable and alienable public land.38 And until a given parcel of
land is released from its classification as part of the military reservation zone
and reclassified by law or by presidential proclamation as disposable and
alienable, its status as part of a military reservation remains,39 even if
incidentally it is devoted for a purpose other than as a military camp or for
defense. So it must be here.

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There can be no quibbling that the JUSMAG area subject of the questioned
October 30, 1991 sale formed part of the FBMR as originally established
under Proclamation No. 423. And while private respondent SHAI would
categorically say that the petitioner Republic had not presented evidence
that "subject land is within military reservation,"40 and even dared to state
that the JUSMAG area is the private property of the government and
therefore removed from the concept of public domain per se,41 its own
evidence themselves belie its posture. We start with its Exhibit "2"
(petitioners Exh. "B"), a copy of TCT No. 15084, which described the area
covered thereby measuring 399,922 square meters as a "portion of Parcel 3
of plan Psu-2031 situated in Jusmang (sic) area Fort Bonifacio."
Complementing its Exhibit "2" is its Exhibit "1" - the deed of sale - which
technically described the property purportedly being conveyed to private
respondent SHAI as follows:
A PARCEL OF LAND (Lot 3-Y-1, Psd-76067, being a portion of Parcel 3 of
plan Psu-2031) situated in Jusmag (sic) area, Fort Bonifacio, Province of
Rizal. Xxx (Emphasis added)
As the Court distinctly notes, the disputed property, as described in private
respondents Exhibits "1" and "2,"formed part of that wide expanse under
Proclamation No. 423 which lists, as earlier stated, three (3) parcels of land
of the public domain as falling within its coverage. These include, inter alia,
the entire 15,912,684-square meter area constituting Parcel No. 3 of Plan
Psu 2031 located inside the now renamed Fort Mckinley which, to a
redundant point, was declared a military reservation.
The Court has, on the issue of inalienability, taken stock of the Compilation
Map of Approved Surveys Plan inside Parcels 1, 2, 3 and 4, of plan Psu
203142 prepared in September 1995 and certified by the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). It indicates in colored ink the
outlines of Parcels 2, 3 and 4 covered by Proclamation No. 423. As there also
shown, the 399,992-square meter area embraced by SHAIs TCT No.
15084, defined in the legend by red-colored stripes, is within the violetcolored borders of Parcel No. 3 and Parcel No. 4 of Proclamation No. 423.
Indubitably, the area covered by SHAIs TCT No. 15084 was and is still part of
the FBMR, more particularly within the 15,912,684- square meter Parcel No.
3 of the reservation. The petitioner Republic, joined by the intervenors BCDA,
DND and AFP in this appellate proceedings, has maintained all along this
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thesis. Towards discharging its burden of proving that the disputed property
is part of the reservation, the petitioner Republic need only to demonstrate
that all of the 15,912,684 square meters of Parcel No. 3 of Plan Psu 2031
have been reserved for military purposes. The evidence, however, of the fact
of reservation is the law or, to be more precise, Proclamation No. 423 itself,
the contents and issuance of which courts can and should take judicial notice
of under Section 1, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court.43
The Republic has, since the filing of its underlying complaint, invoked
Proclamation No. 423. In the process, it has invariably invited attention to the
proclamations specific area coverage to prove the nullity of TCT No. 15084,
inasmuch as the title embraced a reserved area considered inalienable, and
hence, beyond the commerce of man. In this regard, the appellate court
seemed to have glossed over, if not entirely turned a blind eye on, certain
admissions made by the private respondent, the most basic being those
made in its answer to the Republics allegations in paragraph 5 (e) and (g) of
its complaint. To the Republics allegations that the property covered by TCT
No. 15084 was and remains part the FBMR, SHAIs answer thereto reads:
2. It specifically denies the allegations in paragraphs 5 of the
complaint, the truth of the matter being that in the Deed of Sale ,
the Director of Lands Certificate (sic) that he is "authorized under the
law to sell" the subject property and that the "lots were duly awarded
by the [LBM] to the vendee.44 ( Emphasis and word in bracket added.)
In net effect, private respondent SHAI admitted what the petitioner Republic
alleged in par. 5 (e) and (g) of the complaint, the formers denial to such
allegations on the inalienable nature of the property covered by TCT No.
15084 being in the nature of a general denial. Under the rules on pleadings,
a specific, not a general, denial is required; a denial is not specific because it
is so qualified or termed "specific" by the pleader.45 The defendant must
specify each material factual allegation the truth of which he absolutely
denies and, whenever practicable, shall set forth the substance of the
matters upon which he will rely to support his denial.46 Else, the denial will be
regarded as general and will, therefore, be regarded as an admission of a
given material fact/s stated in the complaint.
What private respondent SHAI did under the premises was to enter what,
under the Rules, is tantamount to a general denial of the Republics
averments that what SHAIs TCT No. 15084 covers is part of the military
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reservation. In the process, private respondent SHAI is deemed to admit the


reality of such averment.
To be sure, the petitioner Republic, as plaintiff below, had more than
sufficiently established its claim on the inalienability of the parcels of land
covered by TCT No. 15084. In fine, it had discharged the burden of proof on
the issue of inalienability. Be that as it may, the burden of evidence to
disprove inalienability or, to be precise, that said parcels of land had, for
settlement purposes, effectively been withdrawn from the reservation or
excluded from the coverage of Proclamation No. 423, devolves upon the
private respondent. This is as it should be for the cogency of SHAIs claim
respecting the validity of both the underlying deed of sale (Exh. "A"/"1") and
its TCT No. 15084 (Exh. "B"/"2") rests on the postulate that what it
purportedly bought from the LMB had ceased to be part of the reserved
lands of the public domain. Elsewise put, SHAI must prove that the JUSMAG
area had been withdrawn from the reservation and declared open for
disposition, failing which it has no enforceable right over the area as against
the State.
Private respondent SHAI has definitely not met its burden by reason of lack
of evidence. To be sure, it has not, because it cannot even if it wanted to,
pointed to any presidential act specifically withdrawing the disputed parcels
from the coverage of Proclamation No. 423. Worse still, its own Exhibit
"5,"47 a letter dated March 19, 1991 of then PA Commanding General, M/Gen
Lisandro Abadia, to one Mrs. Gabon, then President of the SHAI, cannot but
be viewed as a partys judicial admission that the disputed land has yet to be
excluded from the military reservation. The Abadia letter, with its feature disserving to private respondent SHAI, reads in part as follows:
Dear Mrs. Gabon:
This is in connection with your move to make a petition to President
Aquino regarding the possible exclusion of Southside Housing Area
from the military reservation and for its eventual allotment to the
military officers presently residing thereat. Allow me to state that I
interpose no objection . I find it helpful to our officers to be
provided a portion of the Fort Bonifacio military reservation .
(Underscoring added.)

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Owing to the foregoing considerations, the Court is hard put to understand


how the CA could still have found for SHAI.. The appellate court, apparently
swayed by what SHAI said in its Brief for the Appellees48 that:
Appellant [petitioner Republic] is probably unaware that , then
President Diosdado Macapagal issued Proclamation 461 when he
excluded from the operation of Proclamation No. 423 an area of
2,455,810 square meters more or less. Likewise on October 16, 1987,
then President Corazon Aquino issued Proclamation No. 172 excluding
five (5) parcels of land from the operation of Proclamation No. 423 also
located at Fort Bonifacio containing an area of 4,436, 478 . So if we
deduct the 6,892,288 [2,455,810 + 4,436,478 = 6,892,288] square
meters covered by Proclamation Nos. 461 and 172 of the areas
reserved for military purposes of 7,053,143 square meters, what is
only left is 160,857 square meters or more or less 16 hectares . 49
justified its holding on the alienability of the disputed land with the following
disquisition:
The foregoing admission aside, appellants [now petitioners] reliance
on Proclamation No. 493 [should be 423] in insisting that the land in
litigation is inalienable because it is part of the [FBMR] is too general to
merit serous consideration. While it is true that, under the said July 12,
1957 Proclamation, then President Carlos P. Garcia reserved the area
now known as Fort Bonifacio for military purposes, appellee [now
respondent] correctly calls our attention to the fact, among other
matters, that numerous exceptions thereto had already been declared
through the years. The excluded areas under Proclamation No. 461,
dated September 29, 1965 and Proclamation No. 172, dated October
16, 1987 alone already total 6,892,338 square meters. (Figures in
bracket added.)
The CAs justifying line does not commend itself for concurrence.
For one, it utilizes SHAIs misleading assertion as a springboard to justify
speculative inferences. Per our count, Proclamation 423 reserved for military
purposes roughly a total area of 25,875,000 square meters, not 7,053,143.
On the other hand, Proclamation Nos. 461 and 172 excluded a combined
area of 6,892,338 square meters. Now then, the jump from an
acknowledgment of the disputed parcels of land having been reserved for
military purposes to a rationalization that they must have been excluded
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from the reservation because 6,892,338 square meters had already been
withdrawn from Proclamation 423 is simply speculative. Needless to stress,
factual speculations do not make for proof.
Corollary to the first reason is the fact that private respondent SHAI - and
quite understandably, the appellate court - had not pointed to any
proclamation, or legislative act for that matter, segregating the property
covered by TCT No. 15084 from the reservation and classifying the same as
alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. To reiterate what we
earlier said, lands of the public domain classified as a military reservation
remains as such until, by presidential fiat or congressional act, the same is
released from such classification and declared open to disposition.50 The
October 30, 1991 Deed of Sale purportedly executed by Palad, assuming for
the nonce its authenticity, could not plausibly be the requisite classifying
medium converting the JUSMAG area into a disposable parcel. And private
respondent SHAIs unyielding stance that would have the Republic in
estoppel to question the transfer to it by the LMB Director of the JUSMAG
area is unavailing. It should have realized that the Republic is not usually
estopped by the mistake or error on the part of its officials or agents. 51
Since the parcels of land in question allegedly sold to the private respondent
are, or at least at the time of the supposed transaction were, still part of the
FBMR, the purported sale is necessarily void ab initio.
The Court can hypothetically concede, as a matter of fact, the withdrawal of
the JUSMAG area from the ambit of Proclamation No. 423 and its
reclassification as alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. Still,
such hypothesis would not carry the day for private respondent SHAI. The
reason therefor is basic: Article XII, Section 352 of the 1987 Constitution
forbids private corporations from acquiring any kind of alienable land of the
public domain, except through lease for a limited period. While Fr. Bernas
had stated the observation that the reason for the ban is not very clear
under existing jurisprudence,53 the fact remains that private corporations,
like SHAI, are prohibited from purchasing or otherwise acquiring alienable
public lands.
Even if on the foregoing score alone, the Court could write finis to this
disposition. An appropriate closure to this case could not be had, however,
without delving to an extent on the issue of the validity of the October 30,

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1991 Deed of Sale which necessarily involves the question of the


authenticity of what appears to be Palads signature thereon.
With the view we take of the case, the interplay of compelling circumstances
and inferences deducible therefrom, would, as a package, cast doubt on the
authenticity of such deed, if not support a conclusion that the deed is
spurious. Consider:
1. Palad categorically declared that his said signature on the deed is a
forgery. The Court perceives no reason why he should lie, albeit
respondent states, without elaboration, that Palads declaration is
aimed at avoiding "criminal prosecution".54 The NBI signature expert
corroborated Palads allegation on forgery.55Respondent SHAIs expert
witness from the PNP, however, disputes the NBIs findings. In net
effect, both experts from the NBI and the PNP cancel each other out.
2. Palad signed the supposed deed of sale in Manila, possibly at the
LMB office at Plaza Cervantes, Binondo. Even if he acted in an official
capacity, Palad nonetheless proceeded on the same day to Pasig City
to appear before the notarizing officer. The deed was then brought to
the Rizal Registry and there stamped "Received" by the entry clerk.
That same afternoon, or at 3:14 p.m. of October 30, 1991 to be
precise, TCT No. 15084 was issued. In other words, the whole
conveyance and registration process was done in less than a day. The
very unusual dispatch is quite surprising. Stranger still is why a bureau
head, while in the exercise of his functions as the bureaus authorized
contracting officer, has to repair to another city just to have a deed
notarized.
3. There is absolutely no record of the requisite public land application
to purchase required under Section 89 of the Public Land Act.56 There is
also no record of the deed of sale and of documents usually
accompanying an application to purchase, inclusive of the investigation
report and the property valuation. The Certification under the seal of
the LMB bearing date November 24, 1994 and issued/signed by Alberto
Recalde, OIC, Records Management Division of the LMB pursuant to
a subpoena issued by the trial court57attest to this fact of absence of
records. Atty. Alice B. Dayrit, then Chief, Land Utilization and
Disposition Division, LMB, testified having personally looked at the
bureau record book, but found no entry pertaining to SHAI.58
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4. In its Answer as defendant a quo, respondent SHAI states that the


"deed of sale specifically meritorious Official Receipt No. 6030203C
dated 29 October 1991, (sic) as evidence of full payment of the
agreed purchase price.." An official receipt (O.R.) is doubtless the
best evidence to prove payment. While it kept referring to O.R. No.
6030203 as its evidence of the required payment,59 it failed to present
and offer the receipt in evidence. A Certification under date September
15, 1993 of the OIC Cash Division, LMB, states that "OR # 6030203 in
the amount of P11,977,000.00 supposedly paid by [SHAI] is not among
the series of [ORs] issued at any time by the National Printing Office to
the Cashier, LMB, Central Office."60 A copy of the OR receipt is not
appended to any of the pleadings filed before the Court. We can thus
validly presume that no such OR exists or, if it does, that its
presentation would be adverse to SHAI.
A contract of sale is void where the price, which appears in the
document as paid has, in fact, never been paid.61
5. The purchase price was, according to the witnesses for SHAI, paid in
full in cash to the cashier of the LMB the corresponding amount
apparently coming in a mix of P500 and P100 denominations. Albeit
plausible, SHAIs witnesses account taxes credulity to the limit.
A final consideration in G.R. No. 156951. This case could not have come to
pass without the participation of a cabal of cheats out to make a dishonest
buck at the expense of the government and most likely the members of
SHAI. No less than its former president (Ms. Virginia Santos) testified that a
"facilitator" did, for a fee, the necessary paper and leg work before the LMB
and the Registry of Deeds that led to the execution of the Deed of Sale and
issuance of the certificate of title in question.62 Ms. Santos identified Eugenia
Balis, a geodetic engineer, as the "facilitator"63 who "facilitated all these
presentation" of documents,64 and most of the time, "directly transacted"
with the LMB and the Register of Deeds leading to acquisition of title.65 Engr.
Balis was, in the course of Ms. Santos testimony, directly mentioned by
name for at least fifteen (15) times. Not surprisingly, Engr. Balis did not
appear in court, despite SHAIs stated intention to present her as witness.66
The extent of the misappropriation of the Fort Bonifacio land involved in this
and the NOVA area litigations is, as described in the Report of the Fact
Finding Commission,67 "so epic in scale as to make the overpricing of land
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complained of in the two hundred AFP [Retirement and Separation Benefits


System] RSBS cases (P703 million) seem like petty shoplifting in
comparison."68 The members of private respondent SHAI may very well have
paid for what they might have been led to believe as the purchase price of
the JUSMAG housing area. The sad reality, however, is that the over P11
Million they paid, if that be the case, for a piece of real estate contextually
outside the commerce of man apparently fell into the wrong hands and did
not enter the government coffers. Else, there must be some memorials of
such payment.
At bottom, this disposition is nothing more than restoring the petitioner
Republic, and eventually the BCDA, to what rightfully belongs to it in law and
in fact. There is nothing unjust to this approach.
With the foregoing disquisitions, the petition for contempt in G.R. No.
173408 need not detain us long. As it were, the question raised by the
petitioners therein respecting the ownership of the JUSMAG area and,
accordingly, of the right of the petitioning retired military officers to remain
in the housing units each may be occupying is now moot and academic.
However, contempt petitioners expressed revulsion over the efforts of the
military establishment, particularly the AFP Chief of Staff, to oust them from
their respective dwellings, if that really be the case, even before G.R. No.
156951 could be resolved, is understandable as it is justified. We thus end
thisponencia with a reminder to all and sundry that might is not always right;
that ours is still a government of laws and not of men, be they in the civilian
or military sector. Accordingly, the Court will not treat lightly any attempt to
trifle, intended or otherwise, with its processes and proceedings. A becoming
respect to the majesty of the law and the prerogatives of the Court is a must
for the orderly administration of justice to triumph.
WHEREFORE, the petition in G.R. No. 156951 is GRANTED and the
appealed CA Decision is REVERSED andSET ASIDE. Accordingly, the Deed
of Sale dated October 30, 1991 (Exh. "A"/"1") purportedly executed in favor
of private respondent SHAI and TCT No. 15084 (Exh. "B"/"2") of the Registry
of Deeds of Rizal issued on the basis of such deed are declared VOID. The
Register of Deeds of Pasig or Taguig, as the case may be, is hereby ordered
to CANCEL TCT No. 15084 in the name of SHAI and the area covered
thereby is DECLARED part of the Fort Bonifacio Military Reservation, unless
the same has, in the interim, been duly excluded by law or proclamation
from such reservation. Private respondent SHAI, its members,
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representatives and/or their assigns shall vacate the subject parcels of land
immediately upon the finality of this decision, subject to the provisions of
Republic Act No. 7227, otherwise known as the Bases Conversion and
Development Act.
Cost against the private respondent SHAI.
Having said our piece in G.R. No. 173408, we need not speak any further
thereon other than to deny as we hereby similarly DENY the same.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 184589

June 13, 2013

DEOGENES O. RODRIGUEZ, Petitioner,


vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS and PHILIPPINE CHINESE CHARITABLE
ASSOCIATION, INC., Respondents.
DECISION
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
This Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court assails the
Decision1 dated May 26, 2008 and Resolution2 dated September 17, 2008 of
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the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 101789 for having been rendered with
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. Said Decision and
Resolution reversed and set aside the Orders dated April 10, 20073 and
November 22, 200t of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 75, San Mateo,
Rizal, in Land Registration (Reg.) Case No. N-5098 (LRC Rec. No. N-27619).
The Facts are as follows.
On January 29, 1965, Purita Landicho (Landicho) filed before the Court of
First Instance (CFI) of Rizal an Application for Registration of a piece of land,
measuring 125 hectares, located in Barrio Patiis, San Mateo, Rizal (subject
property), which was docketed as Land Reg. Case No. N-5098.5 On November
16, 1965, the CFI rendered a Decision6 evaluating the evidence presented by
the parties as follows:
It has been established by the evidence adduced by Landicho that the parcel
of land under consideration was formerly several smaller parcels owned and
possessed by the spouses Felix San Pascual and Juanita Vertudes, Ignacio
Santos and Socorro Santos, Caconto Cayetano and Verneta Bartolome,
Gavino Espiritu and Asuncion Cruz, and Lucio Manuel and Justina Ramos, all
of whom in January 1960, executed instruments of conditional sale of their
respective parcels of land in favor of Landicho, x x x, and on July 20, 1965 all
of them executed jointly a final deed of absolute sale x x x which superseded
the conditional sale. Gavino Espiritu, one of the vendors, fifty-five years old,
farmer, resident of Barrio Geronimo, Montalban, Rizal, testified that he and
his co-vendors have been in possession of the parcel of land since 1930 and
that the possession of Landicho, together with her predecessors in interest,
has been open, peaceful, continuous and adverse against the whole world in
the concept of an owner. It has also been established that the parcel of land
is within the Alienable or Disposable Block-I of I.C. Project No. 26 of San
Mateo, Rizal, x x x; that the parcel of land is classified as "montaoso" with
an assessed value of P12,560.00 under Tax Dec. No. 7081, x x x, taxes due
to which for the current year had been paid, x x x; and that the same is not
mortgaged or affected by any encumbrance.
The oppositor did not present testimonial evidence but presented the report
of investigation of Land Investigator Pedro R. Feliciano dated August 23,
1965, x x x which stated substantially that during the investigation and
ocular inspection it has been ascertained that no public land application is
involved and that no reservation is affected thereby, and therefore, he
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believed that the opposition already filed can be withdrawn; x x x, 1st


Indorsement dated August 24, 1965 of the District Land Officer, District No.
7, Bureau of Lands, to the Director of Lands, recommending that, in view of
said report of investigation, the opposition be withdrawn; and x x x, office
memorandum of the Chief, Records Division, Bureau of Land, addressed to
the Chief, Legal Division, dated September 23, 1965, to the effect that
according to the records, plan Psu-201023 is not covered by any kind of
public land application or patent.
It is therefore clear from the evidence on record that the applicant is entitled
to the benefits provided by Section 48, of C.A. No. 141, as amended.7
In the end, the CFI decreed:
WHEREFORE, the Court hereby confirms the title of the applicant, Purita
Landicho, of legal age, married to Teodorico Landicho, Filipino, resident of 74A South 19th St., Quezon City, to the parcel of land under consideration and
orders the registration thereof in her name and personal circumstances
aforementioned.
The opposition of the Director of Lands is hereby dismissed.
Once this decision becomes final and executory, let the order for the
issuance of the decree issue.8
Upon finality of its Decision dated November 16, 1965, the CFI issued an
Order9 on December 22, 1965 directing the Commissioner of the Land
Registration Commission (LRC) "to comply with Section 21 of Act No.
2347"10 on the issuance of a decree and original certificate of title (OCT).
Eventually, on July 11, 1966, Jose D. Santos (Santos), Register of Deeds
(ROD) for the Province of Rizal, issued Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No.
16768111 in Landichos name covering the subject property. Notably, ROD
Santos issued to Landicho a TCT rather than an OCT for the subject property;
and although TCT No. 167681 stated that it was issued pursuant to Decree
No. 1480, no other detail regarding the decree and the original registration of
the subject property was filled out.
The subject property was thereafter sold several times, and as the old TCTs
of the vendors were cancelled, new TCTs were accordingly issued to the
buyers. The sale of the subject property could be traced from Landicho to
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Blue Chips Projects, Inc. (BCPI), which acquired TCT No. 344936 in its own
name on November 10, 1971; then to Winmar Poultry Farm, Inc. (WPFI), TCT
No. 425582, November 5, 1973; and finally, to herein respondent Philippine
Chinese Charitable Association, Inc. (PCCAI), TCT No. 482970, July 15, 1975.12
Meanwhile, A. Doronila Resources Dev., Inc. (ADRDI)13 instituted Civil Case
No. 12044, entitled A. Doronila Resources Dev., Inc. v. Court of Appeals,
which was still pending before the RTC, Branch 167, of Pasig City as of 2008.
ADRDI asserted ownership over the subject property, which was a portion of
a bigger tract of land measuring around 513 hectares, covered by TCT No.
42999, dated February 20, 1956, in the name of said corporation. This bigger
tract of land was originally registered in the name of Meerkamp Co. under
OCT No. 301, pursuant to Decree No. 1480, GLRO Record No. 2429, issued on
November 22, 1906. ADRDI caused the annotation of a notice of lis pendens
(as regards Civil Case No. 12044) on TCT No. 344936 of BCPI. Subsequently,
based on the ruling of this Court in A. Doronila Resources Dev., Inc. v. Court
of Appeals,14 ADRDI was also able to have its notice of adverse claim over
the subject property annotated on TCT Nos. 344936 and 425582 of BCPI and
WPFI, respectively. ADRDI subsequently transferred the subject property to
Amado Araneta (Araneta) to whom TCT No. 70589 was issued on March 25,
1983.
On November 14, 1996, Landicho executed a Deed of Absolute Sales (sic)
over the subject property in favor of herein petitioner Deogenes O. Rodriguez
(Rodriguez). Two years later, on June 1, 1998, Landicho died.
Seven years hence, or on May 18, 2005, Rodriguez filed an Omnibus Motion
before the RTC, Branch 75, of San Mateo, Rizal, in Land Reg. Case No. N5098. Rodriguez alleged therein that the Decision dated November 16, 1965
and Order dated December 22, 1965 of the CFI in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098
which confirmed Landichos title over the subject property has not been
executed. Rodriguez specifically stated that no decree of registration had
been issued by the LRC Commissioner (now the Administrator of the Land
Registration Authority [LRA]) and that no OCT had been ever issued by the
ROD in Landichos name. As Landichossuccessor-in-interest to the subject
property, Rodriguez prayed that:
a. Upon the filing of the instant motion, the Clerk of Court of the
Regional Trial Court of Pasig City be commanded to transmit to the

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Honorable Court the complete records and expediente of LRC No. x x x


N-5098 (LRC Rec. No. N-27619);
b. After hearing, the Honorable Court give due course to the instant
motions and issue an Order as follows:
i. Directing the Administrator of the Land Registration [Authority]
to issue the Decree of Registration, in accordance with the tenor
of the Decision dated November 16, 1965 x x x and the Order
dated December 22, 1965 x x x, in the name of the petitioner
[Rodriguez];
ii. Thereafter, ordering the Register of Deeds for Marikina City,
through the Administrator of the Land Registration
Administration as having direct supervisory authority there-over,
to issue the
Original Certificate of Title containing the Technical Description as duly
confirmed in the said Decision and Order x x x in the name of the herein
petitioner [Rodriguez].
PETITIONER further prays for such other measures of relief as may be
deemed just and equitable in the premises.15
In the course of the proceedings concerning the aforementioned Omnibus
Motion, Rodriguez himself submitted as his Exhibit "GG" TCT No. 482970 of
PCCAI but alleged that said certificate of title was fictitious. Thus, the RTC
issued on November 3, 2006 a subpoena commanding PCCAI to appear at
the hearing of Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 set on November 8, 2006 at 9:00
a.m.; to bring its TCT No. 482970 and Tax Declaration No. SM-02-0229; and
to testify in connection therewith.
On November 17, 2006, PCCAI filed before the RTC a Verified Motion for
Leave to Intervene in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098. PCCAI justified its
intervention by arguing that it was an indispensable party in the case, having
substantial legal interest therein as the registered owner of the subject
property under TCT No. 482970. PCCAI likewise pointed out that Rodriguez
himself submitted a copy of TCT No. 482970, only alleging that said
certificate was fictitious. PCCAI averred that Rodriguez maliciously failed to
allege in his Omnibus Motion that TCT No. 482970 remains valid and
subsisting, there being no direct action or final court decree for its
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cancellation. Rodriguezs Omnibus Motion constituted a collateral attack on


the title of PCCAI, which is not sanctioned by law and jurisprudence.
Consequently, PCCAI asked the RTC to allow its intervention in Land Reg.
Case No. N-5098 so it could protect its vested rights and interests over the
subject property; to note and admit its Answer-in-Intervention; and to deny
Rodriguezs Omnibus Motion for utter lack of merit.
The RTC favorably acted on Rodriguezs Omnibus Motion in an Order dated
April 10, 2007, reasoning as follows:
Initially, the issue of jurisdiction arose particularly as to whether this Court
may take cognizance of the instant case previously assigned to the CFI Pasig
and, subsequently, rule upon the Omnibus Motion of [Rodriguez] despite the
lapse of more than forty (40) years after the finality of the Decision of
November 16, 1965.
Clearly, this Court has jurisdiction because, as earlier stated, the proceedings
in this Court is merely a continuation of the land registration proceedings
commenced in the CFI Pasig. More importantly, with the creation of this
Court under the provisions of the Judiciary Reorganization Law, all cases
involving properties within its territorial jurisdiction, specifically in San Mateo,
Rizal, were transferred to this Court (Sec. 44, Batas Pambansa Blg. 129).
Consequently, there is no legal impediment for this Court to reiterate the
Decision dated November 16, 1965 and the Order dated December 22, 1966
because the Rules on execution of Judgment pertaining to civil cases are not
applicable to this kind of proceedings. A final and executory judgment in a
land registration case, being merely declaratory in nature, does not
prescribe. (Sta. Ana vs. Menla, 1 SCRA 1294; Heirs of Cristobal Marcos vs. de
Banuvar, 25 SCRA 316; vda. De Barroga vs. Albano, 157 SCRA 131; Cacho v.
Court of Appeals, 269 SCRA 159)
Secondly, a more important issue was put to forewhether this Court may
issue a writ of execution directing the Land Registration Authority (LRA) to
issue a decree of registration over the subject property and the Register of
Deeds of the Province of Rizal to issue an original certificate of title in the
name of [Rodriguez].
Consistency dictates and being a mere continuation of the CFI Pasig
proceedings, this Court can only reiterate the directives in the Order dated
December 22, 196[5]. It cannot, however, issue, as prayed for, a writ of
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execution directing the issuance of a decree of registration and an original


certificate of title in the name of [Rodriguez].
Finally, during the proceedings in this case, this Court was made aware of the
existence of claimants to the subject property. However, this Court cannot, at
this time and in this proceedings, rule on the legality or illegality of these
claims of ownership. It is best that these claims be ventilated in appropriate
proceedings specifically sought to for this purpose.16 (Underscoring deleted.)
The RTC decreed thus:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Order dated December 22, 1966 of
the Court of First Instance of Pasig, Branch 6, is hereby REITERATED. The
Land Registration Authority is directed to issue a decree of registration while
the Register of Deeds of the Province of Rizal is likewise directed to issue an
original certificate of title of the subject property, both in favor and in the
name of applicant Purita Landicho, of legal age, married to Teodorico
Landicho, Filipino and a resident of 74-A South 19th St., Quezon City, after
compliance with issuance requirements and procedures.17
PCCAI filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the aforequoted Order of the RTC.
The RTC resolved both the Motion for Leave to Intervene with the attached
Answer-in-Intervention and Motion for Reconsideration of PCCAI in another
Order dated November 22, 2007. The trial court held:
This Court after receiving evidence that a Decision was rendered in favor of
the applicants spouses Landicho as owner in fee simple of the subject
parcels of land, and that no title was issued pursuant to the said Decision
which has become final and executory even after an Order to that effect was
issued, merely reiterated the said Order for the implementation of the
Decision dated November 16, 1966, signed by the Hon. Andres Reyes as
Judge. In other words, Intervention would not be allowed after the Decision
has become final and executory. The issue in the instant Petition is the
issuance of a decree of registration and nothing more is being tried.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Motion For Leave To Intervene and
the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the PCCAI are both DENIED.18
The LRA, upon receipt of a copy of the RTC Order dated April 10, 2007, filed a
Manifestation dated February 4, 2008 informing the trial court that it cannot
comply with said Order since there were already two existing titles covering
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the subject property, i.e., TCT No. 70589 of Araneta (traced back to OCT No.
301 of Meerkamp Co.) and TCT No. 482970 of PCCAI (traced back to
Landichos TCT No. 167681); and to issue a decree of registration and OCT in
Landichos name would only further aggravate the problem of double titling.
The LRA also explained that the ROD issued a TCT, rather than an OCT, to
Landicho for the subject property in 1966, following the Order dated July 7,
1966 of then LRC Commissioner Antonio H. Noblejas (Noblejas), who took
cognizance of the fact that the subject property, as part of a bigger parcel of
land, was already registered under OCT No. 301 in the name of Meerkamp
Co., pursuant to Decree No. 1480 under GLRO Record No. 2429 issued in
1906. LRC Commissioner Noblejas additionally stated in his Order that:
The new transfer certificate of title to be issued by virtue hereof is deemed
to have been derived from Transfer Certificate of Title No. N-1. (Under Decree
No. 1480 dated November 22, 1906) which should be deemed cancelled with
respect to the said property and that the issuance of the same has been
effected without the presentation of the owners duplicate of subsisting
certificate of title.19 (Emphasis deleted.)
At around the same time, PCCAI filed a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition
before the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 101789, assailing
the Orders dated April 10, 2007 and November 22, 2007 of the RTC for
having been issued without or in excess of jurisdiction and/or with grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. PCCAI
acknowledged that it is the ministerial duty of the RTC to issue a writ of
execution for a final and executory decision/order; however, PCCAI argued
that when subsequent facts and circumstances transpired which renders the
execution of the final and executory decision/order unjust or inequitable,
then the trial court should refrain from issuing a writ of execution. PCCAI
likewise asserted that the RTC, as a land registration court, did not have the
jurisdiction to resolve conflicting claims of ownership over the subject
property. PCCAI lastly maintained that it was an indispensable party in Land
Reg. Case No. N-5098 and that it should have been allowed by the RTC to
intervene during the hearing of Rodriguezs Omnibus Motion for the
execution of the Decision dated November 16, 1965 and Order dated
December 22, 1965 of the CFI.
The Court of Appeals, in a Decision dated May 26, 2008, found merit in the
Petition of PCCAI. The appellate court gave great weight and credence to the
Manifestation dated February 8, 2008 of the LRA reporting the double titling
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and conflicting claims over the subject property. The Court of Appeals held
that:
The Land Registration Authority, being the repository of land registration
documents and the administrative agency with the necessary expertise
concerning land registration matters, We cannot but agree with the abovequoted Manifestation. Moreover, from the above facts admitted by the
parties and the LRA, it cannot be denied that there are conflicting claims on
the ownership of the property which cannot be passed upon by the lower
court as a land registration court for lack of jurisdiction.20
The Court of Appeals additionally opined that the intervention of PCCAI in
Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 was proper given the circumstances:
Anent the issue of intervention, in the case of Information Technology of the
Philippines vs. Comelec, G.R. 159139, August 22, 2006, the following
doctrine was enunciated, to wit:
"The basic doctrinal rule is that final judgments may no longer be modified,
except only to correct clerical errors or mistakes, or when the judgment is
void, or if supervening events or circumstances that transpire after the
finality of the decision render its execution unjust and inequitable. In the
interest of substantial justice, this Court has allowed exceptions to this rule.
A person who has a legal interest in the matter in litigation, or in the success
of either of the parties, or an interest against both, or is so situated as to be
adversely affected by a distribution or other disposition of property in the
custody of the court or of an officer thereof, may, with leave of court, be
allowed to intervene in the action."
We are not unmindful that [PCCAI] filed its Intervention when the decision of
the case was already final and executory and during the execution stage of
the case. However, the supervening event which is the issuance of a decree
of registration which was already implemented and enforced upon the order
of the Administrator of the LRC way back in July 11, 1966 when the LRC
issued TCT No. 167861 in the name of Purita Landicho instead of an OCT
makes the said intervention proper and well-taken.
From the foregoing, it appears absurd and senseless that an OCT be issued in
favor of Mr. Rodriguez. Furthermore, it is in the paramount interest of justice
that the assailed orders be not implemented, [PCCAI] being an indispensable
party in the execution and/or implementation of the said orders. The nonElsa M. Canete|279 | P a g e
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execution of the said orders will prevent further disarray, confusion and
complexity on the issue of who is or who should be the real owner of the
subject land which is a matter that can be threshed out in a proper case for
quieting of title between adverse claimants.21
Based on the foregoing, the appellate court adjudged:
All told, the assailed orders were issued with grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or in excess of jurisdiction.
WHEREFORE, the assailed orders are REVERSED AND SET ASIDE.
Accordingly, [Rodriguez, RTC Presiding Judge Josephine ZarateFernandez, the
LRA Administrator, and Marikina City ROD] are enjoined to cease and desist
from implementing the said orders pending the outcome of a proper case
before an appropriate court where the issue of ownership of the subject land
can be put to rest.22
Rodriguez moved for reconsideration of the foregoing Decision but was
denied by the Court of Appeals in a Resolution dated September 17, 2008.
Aggrieved, Rodriguez sought recourse from this Court through the present
Petition, arguing that:
I
THE [COURT OF APPEALS] HAD ACTED WITHOUT JURISDICTION WHEN IT
RENDERED AN OPEN-ENDED JUDGMENT.
A
THE [COURT OF APPEALS] HAD ABDICATED ITS JURISDICTION TO
RESOLVE DISPUTES ON THE MERE MANIFESTATION OF THE LRA THAT
THERE WERE ISSUES OF OWNERSHIP WHICH HAVE FIRST TO BE
RESOLVED.
B
THE [COURT OF APPEALS] HAS RESOLVED AN ISSUE WHICH WAS
IRRELEVANT AND IMMATERIAL OR HAD OTHERWISE BEEN RESOLVED.
II
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THE [COURT OF APPEALS] HAD COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION


TANTAMOUNT TO LACK OF JURISDICTION IN RULING THAT THE [PCCAI] HAD
LEGAL STANDING TO PREVENT OR SUSPEND THE OPERATION OF THE LAND
REGISTRATION LAWS BY WAY OF THE ISSUANCE OF THE ORDER DIRECTING
THE LAND REGISTRATION ADMINISTRATOR TO COMPLY WITH THE ORDER
DATED DECEMBER 16, 1965.
A
THE [PCCAI] HAD NO RIGHT TO INTERVENE IN LRC NO. N-5098.
B.
THE [PCCAI] CANNOT CLAIM BUYER IN GOOD FAITH STATUS AS ITS
TITLE WAS DEFECTIVE ON ITS FACE.
III
[RODRIGUEZ] IS ENTITLED TO THE CORRECTIVE AND PREROGATIVE WRIT OF
CERTIORARI TO INSURE THAT THE LAND REGISTRATION LAWS ARE PROPERLY
AND FULLY IMPLEMENTED.23
The instant Petition has no merit.
At the outset, the Court finds unmeritorious Rodriguezs claim that the Court
of Appeals rendered an open-ended judgment. In the dispositive portion of its
Decision dated May 26, 2008, the Court of Appeals clearly and categorically
"REVERSED AND SET ASIDE" the Orders dated April 10, 2007 and November
22, 2007 of the RTC in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098. The cease and desist
order of the appellate court in the second line of the same dispositive portion
is therefore a superfluity. Obviously, by reversing and setting aside the
foregoing Orders, there is nothing more to implement. The phrase "pending
the outcome of a proper case before an appropriate court where the issue of
ownership of the subject land can be put to rest,"24 does not mean that the
very same Orders which were reversed and set aside by the Court of Appeals
could later on be revived or reinstated; rather it means that the remedies
sought by Rodriguez can be litigated and granted in an appropriate
proceeding by a court with proper jurisdiction.
To clarify matters, it must be stressed that the issue brought before the Court
of Appeals did not involve the question of the ownership. The appellate court
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only concerned itself with the proper execution of the November 16, 1965
Decision in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 but, due to the intricacy of the
matter, was compelled to take notice of the controversy between Rodriguez
and PCCAI, both of whom trace back their titles to Landicho. In view of these
conflicting claims, Rodriguez now avers that because ROD Santos issued TCT
No. 167681 for the subject property in Landichos name, the November 16,
1965 Decision in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 was not validly implemented
since no OCT was issued.25 Corollary to this, Rodriguez posits that PCCAI is
not a buyer in good faith of the subject property and that the latters TCT No.
482970 is spurious. PCCAI, on the other hand, insists that the issuance of
TCT No. 167681 to Landicho, from which its own TCT No. 482970 may be
traced back, was a valid execution of the said CFI decision.
The LRA, in its Manifestation dated February 4, 2008 filed before the RTC,
explained that a TCT was issued to Landicho because the subject property,
as part of a bigger parcel of land, was already covered by Decree No. 1480
and OCT No. 301 dated November 22, 1906 in the name of Meerkamp Co. In
other words, Landichos TCT No. 167681 is a derivative of Decree No. 1480
and OCT No. 301 of Meerkamp Co. which were cancelled to the extent of the
subject property.
Complicating the matter further is the pendency of Civil Case No. 12044 in
the RTC, Branch 167, Pasig City. Not only is PCCAI questioning the right of
Rodriguez to the issuance of an OCT pursuant to the November 16, 1965
Decision and December 22, 1965 Order of the CFI in Land Reg. Case No. N5098, it is also defending the validity of TCT No. 482970 (which is a
derivative of TCT No. 167681 issued to Landicho) against Araneta who holds
TCT No. 70589 (which is a derivative of Meerkamp Co.s OCT No. 301). In
view of the foregoing, issuing an OCT covering the subject property to
Rodriguez would give rise to a third certificate of title over the same
property. Such act would only cause more confusion and complication, rather
than the preservation, of the Torrens system of registration.
The real purpose of the Torrens system is to quiet title to land and to stop
forever any question as to its legality. Once a title is registered, the owner
may rest secure, without the necessity of waiting in the portals of the court,
or sitting on the "mirador su casa," to avoid the possibility of losing his land.
A Torrens title is generally a conclusive evidence of the ownership of the land
referred to therein. A strong presumption exists that Torrens titles are
regularly issued and that they are valid.26 In this case, PCCAI is the registered
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owner of the subject property under TCT No. 482970, which could be traced
back to TCT No. 16781 issued to Landicho. As between PCCAI and Rodriguez,
the former is better entitled to the protection of the Torrens system. PCCAI
can rely on its TCT No. 482970 until the same has been annulled and/or
cancelled.
Section 48 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property
Registration Decree, explicitly provides that "a certificate of title shall not be
subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled
except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law."
In Decaleng v. Bishop of the Missionary District of the Philippine Islands of
Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America,27 the Court
declared that a Torrens title cannot be attacked collaterally, and the issue on
its validity can be raised only in an action expressly instituted for that
purpose. A collateral attack is made when, in another action to obtain a
different relief, the certificate of title is assailed as an incident in said action.
Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 was an application for registration of the subject
property instituted by Landicho before the CFI, which was granted by the CFI
in its Decision dated November 16, 1965. Rodriguez, asserting that he was
Landichos lawful successor-in-interest, filed an Omnibus
Motion before the RTC in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 seeking the issuance of
a decree of registration and an OCT in his name for the subject property
pursuant to the said CFI judgment. Rodriguez acknowledged the existence of
TCT No. 482970 of PCCAI for the same property, but he simply brushed aside
said certificate of title for allegedly being spurious. Still, Rodriguez did not
pray that TCT No. 482970 be declared void and/or cancelled; and even if he
did, the RTC had no jurisdiction to grant such relief in a land registration
case. Rodriguezs Omnibus Motion in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098, under the
circumstances, is a collateral attack on said certificate, which is proscribed
under Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree.
If Rodriguez wants to have a decree of registration and OCT issued in his (or
even in Landichos name) for the subject property, he should have directly
challenged the validity of the extant TCT No. 482970 of PCCAI for the very
same property in an action specifically instituted for such purpose (i.e.,
petition for annulment and/or cancellation of title, petition for quieting of
title) and pray the said certificate of title be annulled or canceled. The proper
court in an appropriate action can try the factual and legal issues involving
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the alleged fatal defects in Landichos TCT No. 167681 and/or its derivative
TCTs, including TCT No. 482970 of PCCAI; the legal effects of Landichos sale
of the subject property to BCPI (the predecessor-in-interest of PCCAI) in 1971
and also to Rodriguez in 1996; and the good faith or bad faith of PCCAI, as
well as Rodriguez, in purchasing the subject property. The resolution of these
issues will ultimately be determinative of who between Rodriguez and PCCAI
is the rightful owner of the subject property.
Clearly, the Court of Appeals cannot be faulted for according weight and
credence to the Manifestation dated February 4, 2008 of the LRA.
The LRA exists for the sole purpose of implementing and protecting the
Torrens system of land titling and registration.28 In particular, it is tasked with
the following functions:
(1) Issue decrees of registration pursuant to final judgments of the
courts in land registration proceedings and cause the issuance by the
Registrars of Land Titles and Deeds of the corresponding certificates of
title;
(2) Be the central repository of records relative to original registration
of lands titled under the Torrens system, including subdivision and
consolidation plans of titled lands; and
(3) Extend assistance to courts in ordinary and cadastral land
registration proceedings and to the other agencies of the government
in the implementation of the land reform program.29
The duty of LRA officials to issue decrees of registration is ministerial in the
sense that they act under the orders of the court and the decree must be in
conformity with the decision of the court and with the data found in the
record. They have no discretion in the matter. However, if they are in doubt
upon any point in relation to the preparation and issuance of the decree,
these officials ought to seek clarification from the court. They act, in this
respect, as officials of the court and not as administrative officials, and their
act is the act of the court. They are specifically called upon to "extend
assistance to courts in ordinary and cadastral land registration
proceedings."30
In Ramos v. Rodriguez,31 the LRA filed a motion for reconsideration of the
decision and order of the land registration court respectively granting
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registration of a parcel of land and directing the issuance of a decree of


registration for the same. According to the LRA, there was already an existing
certificate of title for the property. The land registration court granted the
motion for reconsideration of the LRA and set aside its earlier decision and
order. On appeal, the Court declared that the land registration court did not
commit grave abuse of discretion in reversing itself because it was merely
following the recommendation of the LRA, which was then acting as an agent
of the court.
In another case, Spouses Laburada v. Land Registration Authority,32 the Court
refused to issue a writ of mandamus compelling the LRA to issue a decree of
registration as ordered by a land registration court. The Court took into
account the LRA report that the parcels of land were already registered and
held:
That the LRA hesitates in issuing a decree of registration is understandable.
Rather than a sign of negligence or nonfeasance in the performance of its
duty, the LRAs reaction is reasonable, even imperative. Considering the
probable duplication of titles over the same parcel of land, such issuance
may contravene the policy and the purpose, and thereby destroy the
integrity, of the Torrens system of registration.33
The LRA, in this case, filed the Manifestation dated February 4, 2008 to
inform the RTC that the subject property is already covered by two TCTs, both
"uncancelled and extant[;]" and for this reason, the LRA cannot comply with
the RTC Order dated April 10, 2007, directing the issuance of a decree of
registration and an OCT for the same property in Landichos name, as it
would "further aggravate the already existing problem of double titling." In
filing said Manifestation, the LRA was only faithfully pursuing its mandate to
protect the Torrens system and performing its function of extending
assistance to the RTC as regards Land Reg. Case No. N-5098. Contrary to
Rodriguezs assertion, the Court of Appeals did not abdicate its jurisdiction
when it granted the Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition of PCCAI largely
based on the Manifestation of the LRA, since the LRA filed such a
Manifestation as an officer of the court.
Finally, intervention is governed by Rule 19 of the Rules of Court, pertinent
provisions of which read:
SECTION 1. Who may intervene. A person who has a legal interest in the
matter in litigation, or in the success of either of the parties, or an interest
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against both, or is so situated as to be adversely affected by a distribution or


other disposition of property in the custody of the court or of an officer
thereof may, with leave of court, be allowed to intervene in the action. The
court shall consider whether or not the intervention will unduly delay or
prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the original parties, and whether or
not the intervenors rights may be fully protected in a separate proceeding.
SECTION 2. Time to intervene. The motion to intervene may be filed at any
time before rendition of judgment by the trial court. A copy of the pleadingin-intervention shall be attached to the motion and served on the original
parties.
The subject property is presently covered by TCT No. 482970 in the name of
PCCAI.1wphi1 As the registered owner, PCCAI clearly has a legal interest in
the subject property. The issuance of another certificate of title to Rodriguez
will adversely affect PCCAI, constituting a cloud on its TCT No. 482970.
Although Rule 19 is explicit on the period when a motion to intervene may be
filed, the Court allowed exceptions in several cases, viz:
This rule, however, is not inflexible. Interventions have been allowed even
beyond the period prescribed in the Rule, when demanded by the higher
interest of justice. Interventions have also been granted to afford
indispensable parties, who have not been impleaded, the right to be heard
even after a decision has been rendered by the trial court, when the petition
for review of the judgment has already been submitted for decision before
the Supreme Court, and even where the assailed order has already become
final and executory. In Lim v. Pacquing, the motion for intervention filed by
the Republic of the Philippines was allowed by this Court to avoid grave
injustice and injury and to settle once and for all the substantive issues
raised by the parties.
In fine, the allowance or disallowance of a motion for intervention rests on
the sound discretion of the court after consideration of the appropriate
circumstances. We stress again that Rule 19 of the Rules of Court is a rule of
procedure whose object is to make the powers of the court fully and
completely available for justice. Its purpose is not to hinder or delay, but to
facilitate and promote the administration of justice.34 (Citations omitted.)
The particular circumstances of this case similarly justify the relaxation of the
rules of procedure on intervention. First, the interests of both PCCAI and
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Rodriguez in the subject property arose only after the CFI Decision dated
November 16, 1965 in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 became final and
executory. PCCAI bought the subject property from WPFI on November 13,
1973 and was issued TCT No. 482970 for the same on July 15, 1975; while
Rodriguez bought the subject property from Landicho on November 14,
1996. Second, as previously discussed herein, both PCCAI and Rodriguez
trace their titles back to Landicho. Hence, the intervention of PCCAI could not
unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of Landicho, the
original party in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098. Third, the latest proceedings in
Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 involved Rodriguezs Omnibus Motion, filed
before the RTC on May 18, 2005, in which he prayed for the execution of the
November 16, 1965 Decision of the CFI. PCCAI moved to intervene in the
case only to oppose Rodriguezs Omnibus Motion on the ground that the
subject property is already registered in its name under TCT No. 482970,
which originated from Landichos TCT No. 167681. And fourth, after learning
of Rodriguezs Omnibus Motion in Land Reg. Case No. N-5098 via the
November 3, 2006 subpoena issued by the RTC, PCCAI was reasonably
expected to oppose the same. Such action was the most opportune and
expedient remedy available to PCCAI to prevent the RTC from ordering the
issuance of a decree of registration and OCT in Rodriguezs name. For this
reason, the RTC should have allowed the intervention of PCCAI.
ACCORDINGLY, the instant Petition is DISMISSED. The Decision dated May 26,
2008 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 101789, reversing and setting
aside the Orders dated April 10, 2007 and November 22, 2007 of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 75 of San Mateo, Rizal in Land Reg. Case No. N5098, is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION deleting the second sentence of
the dispositive portion for being a superfluity.
Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

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Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. 81163 September 26, 1988
EDUARDO S. BARANDA and ALFONSO HITALIA, petitioners,
vs.
HONORABLE JUDGE TITO GUSTILO, ACTING REGISTER OF DEEDS
AVITO SACLAUSO, HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, and ATTY.
HECTOR P. TEODOSIO, respondents.
Eduardo S. Baranda for petitioners.
Rico & Associates for private respondents.

GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:


Eduardo S. Baranda and Alfonso Hitalia were the petitioners in G.R. No.
64432 and the private respondents in G.R. No. 62042. The subject matter of
these two (2) cases and the instant case is the same a parcel of land
designated as Lot No. 4517 of the Cadastral Survey of Sta. Barbara, Iloilo
covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 6406.
The present petition arose from the same facts and events which triggered
the filing of the earlier petitions. These facts and events are cited in our
resolution dated December 29, 1983 in G.R. No. 64432, as follows:
. . . This case has its origins in a petition for reconstitution of title
filed with the Court of First Instance of Iloilo involving a parcel of
land known as Lot No. 4517 of the Sta. Barbara Cadastre covered
by Original Certificate of Title No. 6406 in the name of Romana
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Hitalia. Eventually, Original Certificate of Title No. 6406 was


cancelled and Transfer Certificate of Title No. 106098 was issued
in the names of Alfonso Hitalia and Eduardo S. Baranda The
Court issued a writ of possession which Gregorio Perez, Maria P.
Gotera and Susana Silao refused to honor on the ground that
they also have TCT No. 25772 over the same Lot No. 4517. The
Court, after considering the private respondents' opposition and
finding TCT No. 25772 fraudulently acquired, ordered that the
writ of possession be carried out. A motion for reconsideration
having been denied, a writ of demolition was issued on March 29,
1982. Perez and Gotera filed a petition for certiorari and
prohibition with the Court of Appeals. On August 6, 1982, the
Court of Appeals denied the petition. Perez and Gotera filed the
petition for review on certiorari denominated as G.R. No. 62042
before the Supreme Court. As earlier stated the petition was
denied in a resolution dated January 7,1983. The motion for
reconsideration was denied in another resolution dated March
25, 1983, which also stated that the denial is final. This decision
in G.R. No. 62042, in accordance with the entry of judgment,
became final on March 25, 1983. The petitioners in the instant
case G.R. No. 64432--contend that the writs of possession and
demolition issued in the respondent court should now be
implemented; that Civil Case No. 00827 before the Intermediate
Appellate Court was filed only to delay the implementation of the
writ; that counsel for the respondent should be held in contempt
of court for engaging in a concerted but futile effort to delay the
execution of the writs of possession and demolition and that
petitioners are entitled to damages because of prejudice caused
by the filing of this petition before the Intermediate Appellate
Court. On September 26, 1983, this Court issued a Temporary
Restraining Order ' to maintain the status quo, both in the
Intermediate Appellate Court and in the Regional Trial Court of
Iloilo. Considering that (l)there is merit in the instant petition for
indeed the issues discussed in G.R. No. 64432 as raised in Civil
Case No. 00827 before the respondent court have already been
passed upon in G.R. No. 62042; and (2) the Temporary
Restraining Order issued by the Intermediate Appellate Court
was only intended not to render the petition moot and academic
pending the Court's consideration of the issues, the Court
RESOLVED to DIRECT the respondent Intermediate Appellate
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Court not to take cognizance of issues already resolved by this


Court and accordingly DISMISS the petition in Civil Case No.
00827. Immediate implementation of the writs of possession and
demolition is likewise ordered. (pp. 107-108, Rollo G.R. No.
64432)
On May 9, 1984, the Court issued a resolution denying with finality a motion
for reconsideration of the December 29, 1983 resolution in G.R. No. 64432.
On this same date, another resolution was issued, this time in G.R. No.
62042, referring to the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo the ex-parte motion of the
private respondents (Baranda and Hitalia) for execution of the judgment in
the resolutions dated January 7, 1983 and March 9, 1983. In the meantime,
the then Intermediate Appellate Court issued a resolution dated February 10,
1984, dismissing Civil Case No. 00827 which covered the same subject
matter as the Resolutions above cited pursuant to our Resolution dated
December 29, 1983. The resolution dated December 29, 1983 in G.R. No.
64432 became final on May 20, 1984.
Upon motions of the petitioners, the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo, Branch 23
presided by Judge Tito G. Gustilo issued the following order:
Submitted are the following motions filed by movants Eduardo S.
Baranda and Alfonso Hitalia through counsel dated August 28,
1984:
(a) Reiterating Motion for Execution of Judgment of Resolutions
dated January 7, 1983 and March 9, 1983 Promulgated by
Honorable Supreme Court (First Division) in G.R. No. 62042;
(b) Motion for Execution of Judgment of Resolution dated
December 29, 1983 Promulgated by Honorable Supreme Court
(First Division) in G.R. No. 64432;
(c) The Duties of the Register of Deeds are purely ministerial
under Act 496, therefore she must register all orders, judgment,
resolutions of this Court and that of Honorable Supreme Court.
Finding the said motions meritorious and there being no
opposition thereto, the same is hereby GRANTED.

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WHEREFORE, Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-25772 is hereby


declared null and void and Transfer Certificate of Title No. T106098 is hereby declared valid and subsisting title concerning
the ownership of Eduardo S. Baranda and Alfonso Hitalia, all of
Sta. Barbara Cadastre.
The Acting Register of Deeds of Iloilo is further ordered to
register the Subdivision Agreement of Eduardo S. Baranda and
Alfonso Hitalia as prayed for." (p. 466, Rollo--G.R. No. 64432)
The above order was set aside on October 8, 1984 upon a motion for
reconsideration and manifestation filed by the Acting Registrar of Deeds of
Iloilo, Atty. Helen P. Sornito, on the ground that there was a pending case
before this Court, an Action for Mandamus, Prohibition, Injunction under G.R.
No. 67661 filed by Atty. Eduardo Baranda, against the former which remained
unresolved.
In view of this development, the petitioners filed in G.R. No. 62042 and G.R.
No. 64432 ex-parte motions for issuance of an order directing the Regional
Trial Court and Acting Register of Deeds to execute and implement the
judgments of this Court. They prayed that an order be issued:
1. Ordering both the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo Branch XXIII,
under Hon. Judge Tito G. Gustilo and the acting Register of Deeds
Helen P. Sornito to register the Order dated September 5, 1984 of
the lower court;
2. To cancel No.T-25772. Likewise to cancel No.T-106098 and
once cancelled to issue new certificates of title to each of
Eduardo S. Baranda and Alfonso Hitalia;
Plus other relief and remedies equitable under the premises. (p.
473, 64432 Rollo)
Acting on these motions, we issued on September 17,1986 a Resolution in
G.R. No. 62042 and G.R. No. 64432 granting the motions as prayed for.
Acting on another motion of the same nature filed by the petitioners, we
issued another Resolution dated October 8, 1986 referring the same to the
Court Administrator for implementation by the judge below.

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In compliance with our resolutions, the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo, Branch
23 presided by Judge Tito G. Gustilo issued two (2) orders dated November
6,1986 and January 6,1987 respectively, to wit:
ORDER
This is an Ex-parte Motion and Manifestation submitted by the
movants through counsel on October 20, 1986; the Manifestation
of Atty. Helen Sornito, Register of Deeds of the City of Iloilo, and
formerly acting register of deeds for the Province of Iloilo dated
October 23, 1986 and the Manifestation of Atty. Avito S.
Saclauso, Acting Register of Deeds, Province of Iloilo dated
November 5, 1986.
Considering that the motion of movants Atty. Eduardo S. Baranda
and Alfonso Hitalia dated August 12, 1986 seeking the full
implementation of the writ of possession was granted by the
Honorable Supreme Court, Second Division per its Resolution
dated September 17,1986, the present motion is hereby
GRANTED.
WHEREFORE, the Acting Register of Deeds, Province of Iloilo, is
hereby ordered to register the Order of this Court dated
September 5, 1984 as prayed for.
xxx xxx xxx
ORDER
This is a Manifestation and Urgent Petition for the Surrender of
Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-25772 submitted by the
petitioners Atty. Eduardo S. Baranda and Alfonso Hitalia on
December 2, 1986, in compliance with the order of this Court
dated November 25, 1 986, a Motion for Extension of Time to File
Opposition filed by Maria Provido Gotera through counsel on
December 4, 1986 which was granted by the Court pursuant to
its order dated December 15, 1986. Considering that no
Opposition was filed within the thirty (30) days period granted by
the Court finding the petition tenable, the same is hereby
GRANTED.

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WHEREFORE, Maria Provido Gotera is hereby ordered to


surrender Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-25772 to this Court
within ten (10) days from the date of this order, after which
period, Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-25772 is hereby
declared annulled and the Register of Deeds of Iloilo is ordered to
issue a new Certificate of Title in lieu thereof in the name of
petitioners Atty. Eduardo S. Baranda and Alfonso Hitalia, which
certificate shall contain a memorandum of the annulment of the
outstanding duplicate. (pp. 286-287, Rollo 64432)
On February 9, 1987, Atty. Hector Teodosio, the counsel of Gregorio Perez,
private respondent in G.R. No. 64432 and petitioner in G.R. No. 62042, filed a
motion for explanation in relation to the resolution dated September 17,
1986 and manifestation asking for clarification on the following points:
a. As to the prayer of Atty. Eduardo Baranda for the cancellation
of TCT T-25772, should the same be referred to the Court of
Appeals (as mentioned in the Resolution of November 27, 1985)
or is it already deemed granted by implication (by virtue of the
Resolution dated September 17, 1986)?
b. Does the Resolution dated September 17, 1986 include not
only the implementation of the writ of possession but also the
cancellation of TCT T-25772 and the subdivision of Lot 4517? (p.
536, Rollo 4432)
Acting on this motion and the other motions filed by the parties, we issued a
resolution dated May 25, 1987 noting all these motions and stating therein:
xxx xxx xxx
Since entry of judgment in G.R. No. 62042 was made on January
7, 1983 and in G.R. No. 64432 on May 30, 1984, and all that
remains is the implementation of our resolutions, this COURT
RESOLVED to refer the matters concerning the execution of the
decisions to the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City for appropriate
action and to apply disciplinary sanctions upon whoever
attempts to trifle with the implementation of the resolutions of
this Court. No further motions in these cases will be entertained
by this Court. (p. 615, Rollo-64432)
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In the meantime, in compliance with the Regional Trial Court's orders dated
November 6, 1986 and January 6, 1987, Acting Register of Deeds
AvitoSaclauso annotated the order declaring Transfer Certificate of Title No.
T-25772 as null and void, cancelled the same and issued new certificates of
titles numbers T-111560, T-111561 and T-111562 in the name of petitioners
Eduardo S. Baranda and Alfonso Hitalia in lieu of Transfer Certificate of TItle
No. T-106098.
However, a notice of lis pendens "on account of or by reason of a separate
case (Civil Case No. 15871) still pending in the Court of Appeals" was carried
out and annotated in the new certificates of titles issued to the petitioners.
This was upheld by the trial court after setting aside its earlier order dated
February 12, 1987 ordering the cancellation of lis pendens.
This prompted the petitioners to file another motion in G.R, No. 62042 and
G.R. No. 64432 to order the trial court to reinstate its order dated February
12, 1987 directing the Acting Register of Deeds to cancel the notice of lis
pendens in the new certificates of titles.
In a resolution dated August 17, 1987, we resolved to refer the said motion
to the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City, Branch 23 for appropriate action.
Since respondent Judge Tito Gustilo of the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo,
Branch 23 denied the petitioners' motion to reinstate the February 12, 1987
order in another order dated September 17, 1987, the petitioners filed this
petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus with preliminary injunction
to compel the respondent judge to reinstate his order dated February l2,
1987 directing the Acting Register of Deeds to cancel the notice of lis
pendens annotated in the new certificates of titles issued in the name of the
petitioners.
The records show that after the Acting Register of Deeds annotated a notice
of is pendens on the new certificates of titles issued in the name of the
petitioners, the petitioners filed in the reconstitution case an urgent ex-parte
motion to immediately cancel notice of lis pendens annotated thereon.
In his order dated February 12, 1987, respondent Judge Gustilo granted the
motion and directed the Acting Register of Deeds of Iloilo to cancel the lis
pendens found on Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. T-106098; T-111560; T111561 and T-111562.
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Respondent Acting Register of Deeds Avito Saclauso filed a motion for


reconsideration of the February 12, 1987 order stating therein:
That the undersigned hereby asks for a reconsideration of the
said order based on the second paragraph of Section 77 of P.D.
1529, to wit:
"At any time after final judgment in favor of the
defendant or other disposition of the action such as
to terminate finally all rights of the plaintiff in and to
the land and/or buildings involved, in any case in
which a memorandum or notice of Lis Pendens has
been registered as provided in the preceding section,
the notice of Lis Pendens shall be deemed cancelled
upon the registration of a certificate of the clerk of
court in which the action or proceeding was pending
stating the manner of disposal thereof."
That the lis pendens under Entry No. 427183 was annotated on
T-106098, T-111560, T-111561 and T-111562 by virtue of a case
docketed as Civil Case No. 15871, now pending with the
Intermediate Court of Appeals, entitled, "Calixta Provido, Ricardo
Provido, Sr., Maria Provido and Perfecto Provido, Plaintiffs, versus
Eduardo Baranda and Alfonso Hitalia, Respondents."
That under the above-quoted provisions of P.D. 152, the
cancellation of subject Notice of Lis Pendens can only be made or
deemed cancelled upon the registration of the certificate of the
Clerk of Court in which the action or proceeding was pending,
stating the manner of disposal thereof.
Considering that Civil Case No. 1587, upon which the Notice of
Lis Pendens was based is still pending with the Intermediate
Court of Appeals, only the Intermediate Court of Appeals and not
this Honorable Court in a mere cadastral proceedings can order
the cancellation of the Notice of Lis Pendens. (pp. 68-69, Rollo)
Adopting these arguments and on the ground that some if not all of the
plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 15871 were not privies to the case affected by the
Supreme Court resolutions, respondent Judge Tito Gustilo set aside his
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February 12, 1987 order and granted the Acting Register of Deeds' motion
for reconsideration.
The issue hinges on whether or not the pendency of the appeal in Civil Case
No. 15871 with the Court of Appeals prevents the court from cancelling the
notice of lis pendens in the certificates of titles of the petitioners which were
earlier declared valid and subsisting by this Court in G.R. No. 62042 and G.R.
No. 64432. A corollary issue is on the nature of the duty of a Register of
Deeds to annotate or annul a notice of lis pendens in a torrens certificate of
title.
Civil Case No. 15871 was a complaint to seek recovery of Lot No. 4517 of
Sta. Barbara Cadastre Iloilo, (the same subject matter of G.R. No 62042 and
G.R. No. 64432) from petitioners Baranda and Hitalia filed by Calixta Provido,
Ricardo Provido, Maxima Provido and Perfecta Provido before the Regional
Trial Court of Iloilo, Branch 23. At the instance of Atty. Hector P. Teodosio, the
Provides' counsel, a notice of is pendens was annotated on petitioners'
Certificate of Title No. T-106098 covering Lot No. 4517, Sta. Barbara
Cadastre.
Acting on a motion to dismiss filed by the petitioners, the court issued an
order dated October 24, 1984 dismissing Civil Case No. 15871.
The order was then appealed to the Court of Appeals. This appeal is the
reason why respondent Judge Gustilo recalled the February 12, 1987 order
directing the Acting Register of Deeds to cancel the notice of lis pendens
annotated on the certificates of titles of the petitioners.
This petition is impressed with merit.
Maria Provido Gotera was one of the petitioners in G.R. No. 62042. Although
Calixta Provido, Ricardo Provido, Maxima Provido and Perfecta Provido, the
plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 15871 were not impleaded as parties, it is very
clear in the petition that Maria Provido was acting on behalf of the Providos
who allegedly are her co-owners in Lot No. 4517, Sta. Barbara Cadastre as
shown by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-25772 issued in her name and the
names of the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 15871, among others. (Annex "E"
G.R. No. 62042, p. 51, Rollo) In fact, one of the issues raised by petitioners
Maria Provido Gotera and Gregoria Perez in G.R. No. 62042 was as follows:
xxx xxx xxx
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2. Whether or not, in the same reconstitution proceedings,


respondent Judge Midpantao L. Adil had the authority to declare
as null and void the transfer certificate of title in the name of
petitioner Maria Provido Gotera and her other co-owners. (p. 3,
Rollo; Emphasis supplied)
It thus appears that the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 15871 were privies to G.R.
No. 62042 contrary to the trial court's findings that they were not.
G.R. No. 62042 affirmed the order of the then Court of First Instance of Iloilo
in the reconstitution proceedings declaring TCT No. 25772 in the name of
Providos over Lot No. 4517, Sta. Barbara Cadastre null and void for being
fraudulently obtained and declaring TCT No. 106098 over the same parcel
Lot No. 4517, Sta. Barbara Cadastre in the name of petitioners Eduardo
Baranda and Alfonso Hitalia valid and subsisting.
The decision in G.R. No. 62042 became final and executory on March
25,1983 long before Civil Case No. 15871 was filed.
Under these circumstances, it is crystal clear that the Providos, private
respondents herein, in filing Civil Case No. 15871 were trying to delay the full
implementation of the final decisions in G.R. No. 62042 as well as G.R. No.
64432 wherein this Court ordered immediate implementation of the writs of
possession and demolition in the reconstitution proceedings involving Lot No.
4517, Sta. Barbara Cadastre.
The purpose of a notice of lis pendens is defined in the following manner:
Lis pendens has been conceived to protect the real rights of the
party causing the registration thereof With the lis pendens duly
recorded, he could rest secure that he would not lose the
property or any part of it. For, notice of lis pendens serves as a
warning to a prospective purchaser or incumbrancer that the
particular property is in litigation; and that he should keep his
hands off the same, unless of course he intends to gamble on the
results of the litigation. (Section 24, Rule 14, RuIes of Court;
Jamora v. Duran, et al., 69 Phil. 3, 11; I Martin, Rules of Court, p.
415, footnote 3, citing cases.) (Natanov. Esteban, 18 SCRA 481,
485-486)

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The private respondents are not entitled to this protection. The facts
obtaining in this case necessitate the application of the rule enunciated in
the cases of Victoriano v. Rovila (55 Phil. 1000), Municipal Council of
Paranaque v. Court of First Instance of Rizal (70 Phil., 363) and Sarmiento v.
Ortiz (10 SCRA 158), to the effect that:
We have once held that while ordinarily a notice of pendency
which has been filed in a proper case, cannot be cancelled while
the action is pending and undetermined, the proper court has the
discretionary power to cancel it under peculiar circumstances, as
for instance, where the evidence so far presented by the plaintiff
does not bear out the main allegations of his complaint, and
where the continuances of the trial, for which the plaintiff is
responsible, are unnecessarily delaying the determination of the
case to the prejudice of the defendant. (Victoriano v.
Rovira, supra; The Municipal Council of Paranaque v. Court of
First Instance of Rizal, supra)
The facts of this case in relation to the earlier cases brought all the way to
the Supreme Court illustrate how the private respondents tried to block but
unsuccessfuly the already final decisions in G.R. No. 62042 and G.R. No.
64432.
Parenthetically, respondent Judge Tito Gustilo abused his discretion in
sustaining the respondent Acting Register of Deeds' stand that, the notice
of lis pendens in the certificates of titles of the petitioners over Lot No. 4571,
Barbara Cadastre cannot be cancelled on the ground of pendency of Civil
Case No. 15871 with the Court of Appeals. In upholding the position of the
Acting Register of Deeds based on Section 77 of Presidential Decree No.
1529, he conveniently forgot the first paragraph thereof which provides:
Cancellation of lis pendens. Before final judgment, a notice
of lis pendens may be cancelled upon Order of the Court after
proper showing that the notice is for the purpose of molesting
the adverse party, or that it is not necessary to protect the rights
of the party who caused it to be registered. It may also be
cancelled by the Register of Deeds upon verified petition of the
party who caused the registration thereof.
This Court cannot understand how respondent Judge Gustilo could have been
misled by the respondent Acting Register of Deeds on this matter when in
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fact he was the same Judge who issued the order dismissing Civil Case No.
15871 prompting the private respondents to appeal said order dated October
10, 1984 to the Court of Appeals. The records of the main case are still with
the court below but based on the order, it can be safely assumed that the
various pleadings filed by the parties subsequent to the motion to dismiss
filed by the petitioners (the defendants therein) touched on the issue of the
validity of TCT No. 25772 in the name of the Providos over Lot Number 4571,
Sta. Barbara Cadastre in the light of the final decisions in G.R. No. 62042 and
G.R. No. 64432.
The next question to be determined is on the nature of the duty of the
Register of Deeds to annotate and/or cancel the notice of lis pendens in a
torrens certificate of title.
Section 10, Presidential Decree No. 1529 states that "It shall be the duty of
the Register of Deeds to immediately register an instrument presented for
registration dealing with real or personal property which complies with all the
requisites for registration. ... . If the instrument is not registrable, he shall
forthwith deny registration thereof and inform the presentor of such denial in
writing, stating the ground or reasons therefore, and advising him of his right
to appeal by consulta in accordance with Section 117 of this Decree."
Section 117 provides that "When the Register of Deeds is in doubt with
regard to the proper step to be taken or memoranda to be made in
pursuance of any deed, mortgage or other instrument presented to him for
registration or where any party in interest does not agree with the action
taken by the Register of Deeds with reference to any such instrument, the
question shall be submitted to the Commission of Land Registration by the
Register of Deeds, or by the party in interest thru the Register of Deeds. ... ."
The elementary rule in statutory construction is that when the words and
phrases of the statute are clear and unequivocal, their meaning must be
determined from the language employed and the statute must be taken to
mean exactly what it says. (Aparri v. Court of Appeals, 127 SCRA 231; Insular
Bank of Asia and America Employees' Union [IBAAEU] v. Inciong, 132 SCRA
663) The statute concerning the function of the Register of Deeds to register
instruments in a torrens certificate of title is clear and leaves no room for
construction. According to Webster's Third International Dictionary of the
English Language the word shall means "ought to, must, ...obligation used
to express a command or exhortation, used in laws, regulations or directives
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to express what is mandatory." Hence, the function of a Register of Deeds


with reference to the registration of deeds encumbrances, instruments and
the like is ministerial in nature. The respondent Acting Register of Deeds did
not have any legal standing to file a motion for reconsideration of the
respondent Judge's Order directing him to cancel the notice oflis
pendens annotated in the certificates of titles of the petitioners over the
subject parcel of land. In case of doubt as to the proper step to be taken in
pursuance of any deed ... or other instrument presented to him, he should
have asked the opinion of the Commissioner of Land Registration now, the
Administrator of the National Land Title and Deeds Registration
Administration in accordance with Section 117 of Presidential Decree No.
1529.
In the ultimate analysis, however, the responsibility for the delays in the full
implementation of this Court's already final resolutions in G.R. No. 62042 and
G.R. No. 64432 which includes the cancellation of the notice of lis
pendensannotated in the certificates of titles of the petitioners over Lot No.
4517 of the Sta. Barbara Cadastre falls on the respondent Judge. He should
never have allowed himself to become part of dilatory tactics, giving as
excuse the wrong impression that Civil Case No. 15871 filed by the private
respondents involves another set of parties claiming Lot No. 4517 under their
own Torrens Certificate of Title.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The February 12, 1987 order
of the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo, Branch 23 is REINSTATED. All subsequent
orders issued by the trial court which annulled the February 12, 1987 order
are SET ASIDE. Costs against the private respondents.
SO ORDERED.

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Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. L-18725

March 31, 1965

JOSE MA. LEDESMA, petitioner-appellee,


vs.
FELIX VILLASEOR, movant-appellant.
Sicangco, Estino, Sison and Associates for petitioner-appellee.
Gabriel Benedicto for movant-appellant.
MAKALINTAL, J.:
Felix Villaseor, in his capacity as special administrator of the estate of his
deceased father, Eusebio Villaseor, filed a petition in the Court of First
Instance of Negros Occidental (Civil Case No. 5662) to enjoin the Register of
Deeds of the same province from registering a deed of sale by which the
deceased conveyed to Jose Ma. Ledesma two lots registered in his name, to
wit, Lots Nos. 2532-C and 2533-B of the Cadastral Survey of Bago, Negros
Occidental. The reason given for seeking injunctive relief was that the deed
of sale was fictitious and that the signature of the vendor was forged. The
court issued a writ of preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo. The
vendee, Ledesma, who had not been impleaded as a party-defendant,
intervened in the case. On October 3, 1960 the court lifted the writ of
preliminary injunction and dismissed the petition.
Two days later, on October 5, Ledesma filed his own petition in the cadastral
record of said lots, asking that the Register of Deeds be ordered to register
the aforementioned deed of sale. The ground alleged in the petition was that
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Civil Case No. 5662 had been dismissed and the preliminary injunction issued
therein had been dissolved. On the same day the court, without notice either
to the Register of Deeds or to appellant, and solely on the basis of the
allegations in the petition, issued the corresponding order for registration. In
compliance therewith the Register of Deeds cancelled the two certificates of
title in the name of the deceased Eusebio Villaseor and issued new ones in
Ledesma's name. On October 8, 1960, again upon Ledema's petition, the
court ordered the cancellation of the certificates thus issued and the
issuance of still new ones, also in his name.
Villaseor moved for reconsideration of the two orders and then perfected
this appeal upon their denial.
Appellant claims that the lower court erred in issuing the orders appealed
from because: (1) appellee failed to give notice to appellant or to furnish him
copy of the petition; (2) appellee should have filed the same in Civil Case No.
5662 and not in the cadastral proceeding; (3) the court had no power to
order the Register of Deeds to register the deed of sale in question when the
same was being contested as fictitious nor to order the issuance of titles in
the name of the supposed buyer; and (4) if, as appellee points out, the
Register of Deeds had improperly refused to register the deed of sale, the
proper remedy should have been a suit for mandamus.1wph1.t
We are of the opinion that the lower court did commit the error attributed to
it. To be sure, when the writ of preliminary injunction in Civil Case No. 5662
was dissolved in the same order which dismissed appellant's petition the
obstacle to the registration of the deed of sale was removed. The effect of
the dissolution was immediate and would not be stayed even if an appeal
had been perfected from the order of dismissal (Watson v. Enriquez, 1 Phil.
480; Sitia Taco v. Ventura, 1 Phil. 497). But that is only as far as the Register
of Deeds was concerned, his duty under the circumstances if the
document was on its face registrable being administrative and ministerial.
The lifting of the injunction, however, or even the dismissal of the petition,
was no authority for the court in the cadastral proceeding to issue the orders
complained of without notice to the Register of Deeds or to appellant,
considering that the dismissal of Civil Case No. 3662 was not yet final. The
court knew of the pendency of that case and of the fact that the relief sought
therein by appellant was precisely to prevent registration. Irrespective of the
propriety or impropriety of the remedy pursued, that is, whether or
not mandamus should have been resorted to, the least that the court a
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quo should have done was to afford appellant proper notice and hearing, so
that he could reiterate his objections to the registration and present evidence
to substantiate them and/or call the court's attention to the fact that the
question had not yet been definitely settled in the civil action since the order
dismissing it was not yet final.
It is one thing for the Register of Deeds, in the exercise of his ministerial
duties under the law, to register an instrument which in his opinion is
registrable, and quite another thing for the court itself to order the
registration. The former does not contemplate notice to and hearing of
interested parties such as are required in a judicial proceeding nor carry with
it the solemnity and legal consequences of a court judgment. The court a
quo, in anticipating the action of the Register of Deeds, unnecessarily took
the matter out of his hands and at the same time preempted the question of
registration still pending in the civil action filed by appellant.
The orders appealed from are hereby set aside, with costs against appellee.

FACTS:

1.

Felix Villaseor is the special administrator of his deceased fathers


estate.

2.

He filed a petition with the RTC of Negros Occidental to prohibit the


Register of Deeds of the same province to register a Deed of Sale made
by his father in favor of Jose Ledesma.

3.

This was because said Deed of Sale was allegedly fictitious and the
fathers signature was forged. The court then issued a writ of preliminary
injunction.
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4.

Thereafter, the RTC eventually dismissed the petition and lifted the writ
on the ground that Ledesma had not been impleaded as a partydefendant and he only intervened in the case.

5.

2 days later, Ledesma filed his own petition asking that the Register of
Deeds be ordered to register the aforementioned Deed of Sale on the
ground that the earlier case was already dismissed and the writ was
dissolved.

6.

On the same day, the court granted the petition without notice to the
Register of Deeds and to Villaseor and issued the order for registration.

7.

The Register of Deeds hence cancelled the certificates of title and


issued new ones in Ledesmas name.

8.

Villaseor moved for reconsideration but was denied. Hence, present


action.

ISSUE: Was the RTC correct in issuing the order for registration?

RULING: No.

1.

The court had no authority to issue the orders after just 2 days after
lifting the injunction and dismissing the civil case without notice to the
Register of Deeds or appellant considering that it was not yet final.

2.

The least that the court could have done was to afford appellant proper
notice and hearing as it knew of the pendency of that case and that the
relief sought therein was precisely to prevent registration.

3.

For the Register of Deeds, his duty under the circumstances was
administrative and ministerial. It does not contemplate notice and

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hearing of interested parties such as are required in a judicial proceeding


nor carry with it the solemnity and legal consequences of a court
judgment.
4.

It can register a document when it is on its face registrable.

5.

Orders appealed from were set aside.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. L-22486

March 20, 1968

TEODORO ALMIROL, petitioner-appellant,


vs.
THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF AGUSAN, respondent-appellee.
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Tranquilino O. Calo, Jr. for petitioner-appellant.


Office of the Solicitor General for respondent-appellee.
CASTRO, J.:
On June 28, 1961 Teodoro Almirol purchased from Arcenio Abalo a
parcel of land situated in the municipality of Esperanza, province of Agusan,
and covered by original certificate of title P-1237 in the name of "Arcenio
Abalo, married to Nicolasa M. Abalo." Sometime in May, 1962 Almirol went to
the office of the Register of Deeds of Agusan in Butuan City to register the
deed of sale and to secure in his name a transfer certificate of title.
Registration was refused by the Register of Deeds upon the following
grounds, inter alia, stated in his letter of May 21, 1962:
1. That Original Certificate of Title No. P-1237 is registered in the name
of Arcenio Abalo, married to Nicolasa M. Abalo, and by legal
presumption, is considered conjugal property;
2. That in the sale of a conjugal property acquired after the effectivity
of the New Civil Code it is necessary that both spouses sign the
document; but
3. Since, as in this case, the wife has already died when the sale was
made, the surviving husband can not dispose of the whole property
without violating the existing law (LRC Consulta No. 46 dated June 10,
1958).
To effect the registration of the aforesaid deed of absolute Sale,
it is necessary that the property be first liquidated and transferred in
the name of the surviving spouse and the heirs of the deceased wife
by means of extrajudicial settlement or partition and that the consent
of such other heir or heirs must be procured by means of another
document ratifying this sale executed by their father.
In view of such refusal, Almirol went to the Court of First Instance of
Agusan on a petition for mandamus (sp. civ. case 151), to compel the
Register of Deeds to register the deed of sale and to issue to him the
corresponding transfer certificate of title, and to recover P5,000 in moral
damages and P1,000 attorney's fees and expenses of litigation. It is Almirol's
assertion that it is but a ministerial duty of the respondent to perform the

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acts required of him, and that he (Almirol) has no other plain, speedy and
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.
In his answer with counterclaim for P10,000 damages, the respondent
reiterated the grounds stated in his letter of May 21, 1962, averred that the
petitioner has "other legal, plain, speedy and adequate remedy at law by
appealing the decision of the respondent to the Honorable Commissioner of
Land Registration," and prayed for dismissal of the petition.
In its resolution of October 16, 1963 the lower court, declaring that
"mandamus does not lie . . . because the adequate remedy is that provided
by Section 4 of Rep. Act 1151", dismissed the petition, with costs against the
petitioner.
Hence the present appeal by Almirol.
The only question of law tendered for resolution is
whether mandamus will lie to compel the respondent to register the deed of
sale in question.
Although the reasons relied upon by the respondent evince a sincere
desire on his part to maintain inviolate the law on succession and
transmission of rights over real properties, these do not constitute legal
grounds for his refusal to register the deed. Whether a document is valid or
not, is not for the register of deeds to determine; this function belongs
properly to a court of competent jurisdiction.1
Whether the document is invalid, frivolous or intended to harass,
is not the duty of a Register of Deeds to decide, but a court of
competent jurisdiction. (Gabriel vs. Register of Deeds of Rizal, et al., L17956, Sept. 30, 1953).
. . . the supposed invalidity of the contracts of lease is no valid
objection to their registration, because invalidity is no proof of their
non-existence or a valid excuse for denying their registration. The law
on registration does not require that only valid instruments shall be
registered. How can parties affected thereby be supposed to know
their invalidity before they become aware, actually or constructively, of
their existence or of their provisions? If the purpose of registration is
merely to give notice, then questions regarding the effect or invalidity
of instruments are expected to be decided after, not before,
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registration. It must follow as a necessary consequence that


registration must first be allowed, and validity or effect litigated
afterwards. (Gurbax Singh Pablo & Co. vs. Reyes and Tantoco, 92 Phil.
182-183).
Indeed, a register of deeds is entirely precluded by section 4 of
Republic Act 1151 from exercising his personal judgment and discretion
when confronted with the problem of whether to register a deed or
instrument on the ground that it is invalid. For under the said section, when
he is in doubt as to the proper step to be taken with respect to any deed or
other instrument presented to him for registration, all that he is supposed to
do is to submit and certify the question to the Commissioner of Land
Registration who shall, after notice and hearing, enter an order prescribing
the step to be taken on the doubtful question. Section 4 of R.A. 1151 reads
as follows:
Reference of doubtful matters to Commissioner of Land
Registration. When the Register of Deeds is in doubt with regard to
the proper step to be taken or memorandum to be made in pursuance
of any deed, mortgage, or other instrument presented to him for
registration, or where any party in interest does not agree with the
Register of Deeds with reference to any such matter, the question shall
be submitted to the Commissioner of Land Registration either upon the
certification of the Register of Deeds, stating the question upon which
he is in doubt, or upon the suggestion in writing by the party in
interest; and thereupon the Commissioner, after consideration of the
matter shown by the records certified to him, and in case of registered
lands, after notice to the parties and hearing, shall enter an order
prescribing the step to be taken or memorandum to be made. His
decision in such cases shall be conclusive and binding upon all
Registers of Deeds: Provided, further, That when a party in interest
disagrees with the ruling or resolution of the Commissioner and the
issue involves a question of law, said decision may be appealed to the
Supreme Court within thirty days from and after receipt of the notice
thereof.
The foregoing notwithstanding, the court a quo correctly dismissed the
petition for mandamus. Section 4 abovequoted provides that "where any
party in interest does not agree with the Register of Deeds . . . the
question shall be submitted to the Commissioner of Land Registration," who
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thereafter shall "enter an order prescribing the step to be taken or


memorandum to be made," which shall be "conclusive and binding upon all
Registers of Deeds." This administrative remedy must be resorted to by the
petitioner before he can have recourse to the courts.
ACCORDINGLY, the Resolution of the lower court of October 16, 1969,
is affirmed, at petitioner's cost.1wph1.t
FACTS:

1.

Teodoro Almirol bought a parcel of land in Esperanza, Agusan from


Arsenio Abalo.

2.

Almirol then went to the Register of Deeds (ROD) of Agusan to have


the Deed of Sale registered and to secure a transfer certificate in his
name. However, the ROD refused.

3.

It was based on the ground that the said property was conjugal and it
is necessary that both spouses sign the document. However, since the
wife was dead when the sale was made, the husband cannot dispose the
whole property without first liquidating and transferring it in his name and
the heirs by means of extrajudicial settlement. The consent of the heirs
must also be procured.

4.

Aggrieved, Almirol went to the RTC of Agusan to have the ROD be


compelled to register the Deed of Sale and issue the transfer certificate of
title.

5.

However, the RTC dismissed the petition saying that the adequate
remedy is the one provided for under Sec. 4 of RA 1151 that is to submit
and certify the question to the Commissioner of Land Registration. Hence,
petition.
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ISSUE: Was the RTC correct?

RULING: Yes. But the ROD should have registered it still.

1.

Whether a document is valid or not, is not for the ROD to determine;


this function belongs properly to a court of competent jurisdiction.

2.

However, where any party in interest does not agree with the ROD, the
question shall be submitted to the Commissioner of Land Registration
(Sec. 4, RA 1151).

3.

The lower courts resolution was affirmed.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. L-3970

October 29, 1952

GURBAX SINGH PABLA & CO., GURBAX SINGH PABLA, BELA SINGH
PABLA, OJAGAR SINGH, DHARAM SINGH, TALOK SINGH and CIPRIANO
TAN ENG KIAT, petitioners-appellees,
vs.
HERMOGENES REYES and TEODORA TANTOCO, respondents-appellants.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
Jose N. Buendia for appellants.
Eliseo Caunca for appellees.
LABRADOR, J.:
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This is an appeal prosecuted by the respondents-appellants against an order


of the Court of First Instance of Manila dated November 29, 1949, compelling
them to surrender owner's duplicates of Transfer Certificates of Title Nos.
8071 and 8072, so that the contract of lease entered into between
petitioners-appellees and the owner of the land covered by said certificates
of title be annotated thereon. John Tan Chin Eng is the owner of the land
covered by the above-mentioned certificates of title, and on July 23, 1948, he
entered into a contract (Exhibit A) with the petitioner-appellees, under the
terms of which petitioners-appellees were to construct thereon a three-story
building of concrete and of strong materials valued at from P80,000 to
P90,000. The contract also provided that the building shall become the
exclusive property of the owner of the land, but that the petitioner-appellees
were to occupy, hold, or possess it as lessees for a period of three years and
six months from its completion, without paying any rentals therefor, the sum
spent in the construction being considered as the rentals; that after the
above period of three years and six months petitioners-appellees were to
continue occupying the said building for another two years at a monthly
rental of P2,000. This contract of lease was filed and registered in the office
of the Register of Deeds of Manila on August 10, 1948, under Primary Entry
No. 3352, Volume 15. At the time that the contract was entered into there
was an existing mortgage over the land in favor of Jose Calvo and Carlos
Calvo for the sum of P110,000. This mortgage in favor of the Calvos was
cancelled, and a new mortgage was executed by the owner in favor of
respondents-appellants herein, Honorable Hermogenes Reyes and his spouse
Teodora Tantoco, dated March 8, 1949, which was registered on the same
date in the office of the Register of Deeds of Manila under Primary Entry No.
5014. On May 14, 1949, the original contract of lease, Exhibit A, was
amended by Exh. C, by virtue of which the period under which the lessees
were to hold any occupy the property without rentals was extended to seven
years and four months, and the rental for the additional two years thereafter
reduced to P1,148. This amended contract of lease, Exhibit C, was also
registered in the office of the Register of Deeds of Manila under Primary
Entry No. 5014, Volume 16, on May 20, 1949.
On May 25, 1949, counsel for petitioners-appellees wrote respondentsappellants requesting them to allow him to take the certificates of title to the
office of the Register of Deeds of Manila for the annotation of the contracts of
lease entered into by the owner with them (Exhibit D), and on May 27, 1949,
the son of respondents-appellants acknowledged receipt of the said letter
but informed counsel for the petitioner-appellees that the request could not
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be granted without the written consent of the owner of the certificates of


title (Exhibit E). On June 16, 1949, respondents-appellants' son wrote the
owner of the land (Exhibit M) demanding the payment of the overdue
interest on the mortgage with the following statement:
. . . For this reason, I wish to request that you come over to my office
before 12:00 noon to pay the said interest before we can deliver your
Transfer Certificate of Title to Atty. Manuel P. Calanog who will take
charge of registering the lease contract between Mr. Singh Pabla and
your goodself.
On June 3, 1949, the petitioners-appellees filed a motion in the Court of First
Instance of Manila praying that an order issue to the owner for the delivery of
the owner's duplicates of transfer certificates of title Nos. 8071 and 8072 to
the petitioners in order that the Register of Deeds of Manila may be able to
make the annotation thereon of the contract of lease, Exhibit A, and its
amendment, Exhibit C. Against this petition Hermogenes Reyes and Teodora
Tantoco filed an opposition, alleging that they had no knowledge whatsoever
of the contract of lease, Exhibit A, or of its amendments, Exhibit C, and that
the execution of the amendment, Exhibit C, violated the express provision of
the mortgage, to the effect that the owner could not sell, assign, or
encumber the mortgaged premises without the written consent of the
mortgages. It is to be noted that with respect to the original contract of
lease, Exhibit A, no allegation is made in the opposition of the respondentsappellants that they were not aware of the existence of the contract, Exhibit
A, their only allegation being that the only annotation on the certificates of
title at the time they entered into the contract of mortgage was the
mortgage in favor of Jose Calvo and Carlos Calvo. It is also to be noted that
respondents-appellants do not deny an express allegation of paragraph 13 of
the amended petition to the effect that notice was given to the public by a
big sign board placed on the premises while the building was under
construction that petitioners-appellees are the owners of the building. The
amended petition further states, without denial on the part of the
respondents-appellants, that as early as October 9, 1948, the Register of
Deeds of Manila had demanded in writing from the owner of the land the
submission of his duplicate certificates of title Nos. 8071 and 8072 in order
that the lease executed by him in favor of the petitioners-appellees may be
given due course. At the hearing of the motion no oral evidence was
submitted; only documentary evidence was presented.

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Thereafter the Court of First Instance of Manila issued the order already
mentioned above, directing respondents to surrender the certificates of title
to the Register of Deeds of Manila in order that petitioners-appellees'
contract of lease may be noted thereon. It expressly found that respondentsappellants had knowledge of the lease contract, Exhibit A, but that
respondents' deed of mortgage of March 8, 1949, has priority over
petitioner's amended contract of lease, Exhibit C. As regards the (supposed)
prohibition contained in the contract of mortgage, the court held that the
prohibition gives a right of foreclosure; in other words, that in spite of the
prohibition the amended contract of lease, Exhibit C, may not be considered
as null and void.
In this court on appeal claim is made on behalf of the respondents-appellants
that the court a quo erred in holding that respondents-appellants had
knowledge of the contract of lease, Exhibit A; that it erred in holding that
Tirso T. Reyes is the attorney-in-fact of the respondents-appellants; that it
erred in ordering the registration of the contract of lease, Exhibit A; and that
it erred in not holding that the registration of the contracts, Exhibits A and C,
will prejudice the rights and interest of respondents-appellants.
It should be noted that all that the petitioners demand or pray for is the
surrender of the titles to the Register of Deeds so that their contracts of
lease, Exhibits A and C, may be noted thereon. The only issue, therefore, is
whether petitioners have a right to have said deeds registered. It is not
denied that the contracts have been executed by the registered owner of the
land, or that they have been lawfully executed, or that they have all the
qualities of registerable documents. Indeed, the owner is agreeable to the
registration. The objections interposed by respondents, who are mortgagees
merely, that they had no knowledge of the contract of lease, or that their
mortgage has priority, or that they will be prejudiced, are beside the issue.
The purpose of registering an instrument is to give notice thereof to all
persons (section 51, Act No. 496); it is not intended by the proceedings for
registration to seek to destroy or otherwise affect already registered rights
over the land, subsisting or existing at the time of the registration. The rights
of these parties, who have registered their rights, are not put in issue when
an instrument is subsequently presented for registration; nor are its effects
on other instruments previously registered put in issue by the procedure of
registration. Thus, the objections raised by respondents-appellants that they
had no knowledge of the contract of lease, Exhibit A, before the property was
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mortgaged to them, or that the same violates their contract of mortgage


with the owner of the land these are not passed upon by the order for the
registration of petitioners-appellees' contract of lease. The objections, as well
as the relative rights of all parties who have registered their deeds, shall be
decided in the proper suit or proceeding when the opportune occasion arises;
but they are not now in issue, nor may they be adjudicated upon, simply
because petitioners-appellees have applied for the registration of their
contract of lease.
The impropriety and inconvenience of proceeding to determine completely
and in advance all the possible consequences of a document, upon all parties
affected thereby, in the proceeding for its registration becomes apparent
when, as in this case, important and complicated questions of fact and of law
were presented by the respondents-appellants about their alleged lack of
knowledge of the contracts of lease and the invalidity thereof. The court a
quo passed upon vital issues of fact upon the motion and the opposition
thereto, and upon the documents, letters, and receipts presented, without
any other evidence than the above. Yet the question of knowledge is mainly
a question of fact and requires inquiry into many and complicated
circumstances, which can not be satisfactorily shown except by testimony.
On the other hand, the supposed invalidity of the contracts of lease is no
valid objection to their registration, because invalidity is no proof of their
non-existence or a valid excuse for denying their registration. The law on
registration does not require that only valid instruments shall be registered.
How can parties affected thereby be supposed to know their invalidity before
they become aware, actually or constructively, of their existence or of their
provisions? If the purpose of registration is merely to give notice, then
questions regarding the effect or invalidity of instruments are expected to be
decided after, not before, registration. It must follow as a necessary
consequence that registration must first be allowed, and validity or effect
litigated afterwards.
The foregoing, however, must not be understood as an absolute and
invariable rule of procedure, for parties may, by mutual consent, submit
issues for determination at the time of the proceeding to register a
document. But the court should only proceed therewith (determination of the
issues) upon giving all the parties concerned sufficient opportunity to present
their respective sides and the evidence in support thereof, and that if this

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can not be done, the determination of the issues should be reserved in a


subsequent proceeding and the registration of the document ordered.
In accordance with the above opinion, we find that the issues raised by
respondents-appellants, namely, that the contracts of lease, Exhibits A and
C, are invalid because they violate the contracts of mortgage executed in
favor of the owner of the land, that Tirso T. Reyes is not the attorney-in-fact
of the respondents-appellants, and that the respondents-appellants had no
knowledge of the execution of the contract of lease, Exhibits A and C
these issues were not properly investigated because respondents-appellants
did not have the opportunity to present evidence thereon and did not even
present copy of their mortgage at the hearing, and the trial court decided the
questions without full and complete investigation. The ruling of the trial court
on the above issues should, therefore, be set aside and their determination
reserved in a proper proceeding.
Wherefore, the opposition to the motion for the surrender of the certificates
of title to the Register of Deeds of Manila is overruled, and the order
appealed from, in so far as it orders the surrender of the certificates of title
for the registration of the contracts of lease, is hereby affirmed, but the other
rulings are reversed, and the other issues raised by respondents-appellants
reserved for determination in a proper proceeding. With costs against the
respondents-appellants.
Paras, C. J., Bengzon, Padilla, Montemayor and Jugo, JJ., concur.

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Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. L-67742 October 29, 1987
MELITON GALLARDO and TERESA VILLANUEVA, petitioners,
vs.
HONORABLE INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, MARTA VILLANUEVA
VDA. DE AGANA, VISITACION AGANA KIPPING, PEDRO V. AGANA,
MARCELO V. AGANA, JR., TERESITA AGANA SANTOS and JESUS V.
AGANA, respondents.

PARAS, J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari seeking to set aside or reverse the
decision * of the Intermediate Appellate Court (now Court of Appeals)
promulgated on May 22, 1984 in AC-G.R. CV No. 69946 entitled Meliton
Gallardo and Teresa Villanueva v. Marta Villanueva vda. de Agana, et al.
(Rollo, p. 37) affirming the decision ** of the Court of First Instance of Laguna
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8th Judicial District, Branch II, Sta. Cruz, Laguna (now Regional Trial Court,
Sta. Cruz, Laguna) dated January 20, 1982, which dismissed the complaint
for Quieting of Title in Civil Case No. SC-1492 and declared the plaintiff's
(petitioner's herein) Re-constituted Transfer Certificate of Title RT-6293 (No.
23350) as null and void (Record on Appeal, pp. 215-216).
The dispositive portion of the questioned decision reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, the appealed judgment is in full accord with the
evidence and the law and is hereby therefore affirmed in all its
part. Costs against plaintiff -appellants
SO ORDERED.
The subject matter of this controversy involves a parcel of land situated in
Cavinti, Laguna consisting of 81,300 square meters, more or less, initially
covered by an original Certificate of Title No. 2262, issued on April 2, 1924
owned and registered in the name of the late Pedro Villanueva (former
Justice of the Peace of the Municipal Court, Cavinti, Laguna), pursuant to
Decree No. 150562 issued in L.R.C. Cadastral Record No. 136, Cad. Case No.
1 (Record on Appeal; Answer, p. 28).
Petitioners were nephew and niece of the late Pedro Villanueva and first
cousin of the private respondent Marta Villanueva vda. de Agana, the latter
being the daughter of Pedro Villanueva.
On August 10, 1937, petitioner claimed that the aforestated land was sold to
them in a private document, an unnotarized deed of sale written in Tagalog
(Annex "B" of the complaint) that was allegedly signed by the late Pedro
Villanueva conveying and transfering the property in question in favor of the
petitioners (Record on Appeal, Exhibit "B", pp. 9-10) which deed is
reproduced as follows.
Ako, Pedro Villanueva, 66 taong gulang, balo at nananahanan sa
municipio ng Cavinti, lalawigang Laguna at Kapuluang Pilipinas,
alang-alang sa halagang LIMANG DAANG PISO (P500.00) salaping
filipino, na sa akin ibinayad ng mag-asawa ni Meliton Gallardo at
Teresa Villanueva, tagarito rin sa nasabing municipio, lalawigang
at kapulwan sa hinaharap ng kasulatan ay sinasaysay ko na
aking inilillwat at pinagbili ng biling patuluyan sa nasabing magasawa Meliton Gallardo at Teresa Villanueva, sampo na sa kanilay
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mangagmamana at hahalili, ang aking isang palagay na lupa na


nabubuo sa limang luang na tubigan, punlang kalahating kabang
palay at saka dalatan o katihan na may isang kabang palay na
hasik, tumatayo sa nayon ng Kanlurang Talaongan, sakop nitong
municipio ng Cavinti at napapaloob sa mga hangganang
sumusunod:
HILAGAAN, Braulio Villanueva at Modesto Ribera
SILANGAN, Braulio Villanueva.
TIMUGAN, Braulio Villanueva, Ilog Kaliraya at Jacinto Toque
KANLURAN, Jacinto Toque.
Ang pagaaring ito ay tunay kong pananarili sapagkat aking nabili
sa magkakapatid na Aniano Gallardo, Zacarias Gallardo at
Perfecto Gallardo at natatala sa Registro ng Amillarmiento dito sa
Cavinti sa ilalim ng Blg. 22888, at walang ano mang
ipinagkakautang ni pinanagutan kaya at magagamit na nitong
aking pinagbilhan ang kanilang matuwid na maipamana at
mailiwa sa iba. Gayon ding sinasaysay ko na akoy umaakong
mananagutan dito sa aking pinagbilhan, tungkol sa pagaaring ito
na ang katibay ay aking ipagsasanggalang laban sa kanino mang
maghahabol.
Dapat tantoin, gayon man, na ang pagaaring ito ay registrado na
sa Registro de la Propiedad nitong lalawigang Laguna, subalit at
sa isang kamalian ng pagkakasukat tungkol sa lawak at laki, ay
hindi pa natutubos ang kanyang titulo, kaya at kung maisaayos
na ang nasabing titulo ay saka na ipatatala sa pangalan nitong
aking pinagbilhan upang lalong malagay sa katahimikan itong
aking pinagbilhan.
At sa katunayan ay nilagdaan ko ang kasulatang ito dito sa
municipio ng Cavinti, Laguna, ngayong ika sampung araw ng
Agosto taong isanglibo siyam na daan at tatlompu at pito (1937).
(LGD) PEDRO VILLANUEVA
Nagfirma sa hinaharap ni
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(LGD) BALTAZAR VILLANUEVA


JUAN VILLANUEVA
Subsequently, the Original Certificate of Title was cancelled on the basis of
the private document of sale (Exhibit "B") and a new certificate of title was
issued in the name of the petitioners covered by Transfer Certificate of Title
No. RT- 6293 (No. 23350) on January 4, 1944, particularly describing the land
as follows:
A parcel of land (Lot No. 401 of the Cadastral Survey of Cavinti)
with the improvements thereon, situated in the municipality of
Cavinti, Bounded on the N and NE., by Lot No. 403; on the SE by
Lot No. 393 and the Caliraya River; and on the SW by Lot No.
515. Area Eighty One Thousand and Three Hundred (81,300)
Square Meters, more or less. (Record on Appeal, Annex "A," pp. 7
and 9).
During the Second World War, the records as well as the Office of the
Register of Deeds of Laguna, where the original of their new transfer
certificate of title was kept, were completely burned. Accordingly, by virtue
of an Affidavit of Reconstitution dated December 2, 1958 (Record on Appeal,
Annex "DD," pp. 41-42) and upon presentation of the Owner's Duplicate
Certificate of Title, the title was administratively reconstituted and the
Register of Deeds of Laguna issued Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-6293
(No. 23350) in the name of the petitioners (Record on Appeal, Annex "B", pp.
7).
On November 17, 1976, defendant Marta Villanueva together with Pedro
Villanueva, Jr., and Restituto R. Villanueva executed and filed an Affidavit of
Adverse Claim with the Office of the Register of Deeds of Laguna (Record on
Appeal, Annex "C", pp. 10-13). However, on December 6, 1976 a joint
affidavit was filed by Pedro G. Villanueva, Jr. and Restituto Villanueva
withdrawing their adverse claim on the said parcel of land, with the Office of
the Register of Deeds of Laguna (Record on Appeal, Annex " D, " pp. 13-14).
When petitioners learned of this Affidavit of Adverse Claim, attempt was
made to settle said controversy amicably. Several demands made by herein
petitioners upon private respondents Marta Vda. de Agana to withdraw her
adverse claim, failed.
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On December 9, 1976, said private respondent executed a Deed of


Conveyance and Release of Claim (Record on Appeal and Annex "AA", p. 35)
wherein the parties agreed, among other things, to the following:
That in consideration of the said transfer and conveyance over a
1,000 square meter portion mentioned in the next preceding
paragraph, the VENDEE (Marta V. Agana) does hereby withdraw
the adverse claim mentioned above; (Rollo, p. 119).
However, when private respondent Marta Villanueva vda. de Agana refused
to sign an Affidavit of Quit-claim (Exhibit "9; " Record on appeal, p. 195),
petitioners instituted court suit against the private respondent and her
husband, Dr. Marcelo S. Agana, Sr. by filing a complaint for Quieting of Title
and Damages with the Court of First Instance of Laguna on February 3, 1977,
demanding that their title over the questioned land be fortified by a
declaration of ownership in their favor and avoiding the af/recited Deed of
Conveyance and Release of Claim (Record on Appeal, pp. 1-7). Accordingly,
private respondents in their answer countered that the Deed of Sale in
Tagalog and petitioners' title over the land be declared void ab initio, among
other demands (Record on Appeal, pp. 16-35).
On January 20, 1982, the Court of First Instance of Laguna rendered its
decision declaring the deed of sale of August 10, 1937, as well as the
reconstituted transfer certificate of title of petitioners, void ab initio Record
on Appeal, pp. 208-216).
The dispositive portion of said decision (Record on Appeal, pp. 215-216)
reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the
defendants and against the plaintiffs, as follows:
a. declaring as null and void the private document
dated August 10, 1937 written in Tagalog (Exhibit B);
b. declaring as null and void plaintiffs' reconstituted
Transfer Certificate of Title RT-6293 (No. 23350)
(Exhibit F) and ordering the Register of Deeds of
Laguna to issue a new reconstituted or to reinstate
Original Certificate of Title No. 2262 issued on April 2,

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1924 in the name of Pedro Villanueva within thirty


(30) days from the finality of this decision;
c. declaring the heirs of Pedro Villanueva as the
owners of the property in litigation and ordering the
plaintiffs and her agents and those acting for in their
behalf to vacate the land in question and surrender
the possession of the same to the heirs of the late
Pedro Villanueva thru Marta V. Agana;
d. declaring all buildings; plantings and
improvements introduced by the plaintiffs forfeited in
favor of' the defendants:
e. ordering plaintiffs, jointly and severally, to pay the
defendants the sum of P10,000.00 as moral and
exemplary damages;
f. ordering plaintiffs, jointly and severally, to pay
defendants the sum of P5,000.00 as and for
attorney's fees: and
g. ordering plaintiffs, jointly and severally, to pay
defendants the sum of P5,000.00 as litigation
expenses; and costs of suit.
SO ORDERED.
Thus, petitioners filed notice of appeal on February 10, 1982, followed by an
appeal made to the Intermediate Appellate Court. However, the Intermediate
Appellate Court, on May 22, 1984, affirmed in toto the decision of the trial
court.
Hence, this petition.
On August 30, 1984, the Court in its Resolution without giving due course to
the petition required the respondents to comment on the said petition (Rollo,
p. 50). However, the counsel for private respondents failed to file comment
on the petition for review on certiorari within the period which expired on
September 17, 1984. Thus, in the Resolution of January 7, 1985 the Court,

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required counsel for petitioners to show cause why disciplinary action should
not be taken against him (Rollo, p. 51).
On February 23, 1985 respondents filed their comment (Rollo, p. 57).
Considering respondents' comment as answer the petition was given due
course and the parties were required to submit their respective memoranda
(Rollo, p. 104).
Private respondents and petitioners filed their respective memoranda on May
18, 1985 (Rollo, p. 117) and on June 7, 1985 (Rollo, p. 143) respectively. On
July 1, 1985, the Court resolved to consider the case submitted for
deliberation (Rollo, p. 168).
Petitioners, however filed a Supplemental Memorandum, with leave of court
on May 18, 1987 (Rollo, p. 169) which was noted by the court in its resolution
dated June 19, 1987 (Rollo, p. 188).
In its petition petitioners raised the following assignment of errors, to wit:
I
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT EXHIBIT B DOES NOT TRANSFER
OWNERSHIP, THE SAME BEING NULL AND VOID.
II
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS ARE
NOT GUILTY OF LACHES.
III
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT PLAINTIFF- APPELLANTS CANNOT
ACQUIRE OWNERSHIP OF SUBJECT LAND BY PRESCRIPTION UPON THE
PRINCIPLE THAT NO TITLE TO REGISTERED LAND IN DEROGATION OF THAT
OF THE REGISTERED OWNER SHALL BE ACQUIRED BY PRESCRIPTION.
IV
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT STATUTE OF LIMITATION
HAS SET INTO THIS CASE; AND,
V
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THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DECLARING TRANSFER CERTIFlCATE OF TITLE


NO. RT-6293 AS NULL AND VOID.
The pivotal issue in this case is whether or not there was a valid
reconstitution of Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-6293 (No. 23350) issued
in the names of petitioners.
It is admitted that the land in question is formerly covered by Original
Certificate of Title No. 2262, issued in the name of Pedro Villanueva and that
the cancellation of said OCT No. 2262 and the issuance of the reconstituted
Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-6293 (No. 23350) are based either on the
Affidavit for Reconstitution of Teresa Villanueva and not of Pedro Villanueva,
or the unnotarized deed of sale of August 10, 1937 (Annex "B" for plaintiffs),
held void by the lower court and by the Court of Appeals. As a consequence
TCT No. RT-6293 (No. 23350) was likewise held void ab initio. (Record on
Appeal, p. 20).
As to the validity of the Affidavit for Reconstitution, affiant Teresa Villanueva
testified on December 19, 1980, that she did not know anything about the
reconstitution of their title as it was their children who took charge of the
same and that she never participated in the said reconstitution. In fact she
never appeared before the Notary Public and this testimony was
corroborated by the testimony of Eleuterio Rebenque, entry clerk in the
Office of the Register of Deeds who never made any categorical affirmation
that said Teresa Villanueva appeared at said office. (Rollo, p. 43).
Consequently, the crux of the matter now centers on whether or not the
unnotarized deed of sale purportedly executed on August 10, 1937 by the
primitive owner Pedro Villanueva, in favor of petitioners, can be considered
as a valid instrument for effecting the alienation by way of sale of a parcel of
land registerd under the Torrens System. Corollary thereto, it becomes
necessary to examine other matters surrounding the execution of the alleged
document of sale (Exhibit B).
Petitioners claim that the sale although not in a public document, is
nevertheless valid and binding citing this Court's rulings in the cases
of Cauto v. Cortes, 8 Phil. 459, 460; Guerrero v. Miguel, 10 Phil. 52, 53;
Bucton v. Gabar 55 SCRA 499 wherein this Court ruled that even a verbal
contract of sale of real estate produces legal effects between the parties.
The contention is unmeritorious.
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As the respondent court aptly stated in its decision:


True, as argued by appellants, a private conveyance of registered
property is valid as between the parties. However, the only right
the vendee of registered property in a private document is to
compel through court processes the vendor to execute a deed of
conveyance sufficient in law for purposes of registration.
Plaintiffs-appellants' reliance on Article 1356 of the Civil Code is
unfortunate. The general rule enunciated in said Art. 1356 is that
contracts are obligatory, in whatever form they may have been
entered, provided all the essential requisites for their validity are
present. The next sentence provides the exception, requiring a
contract to be in some form when the law so requires for validity
or enforceability. Said law is Section 127 of Act 496 which
requires, among other things, that the conveyance be executed
"before the judge of a court of record or clerk of a court of record
or a notary public or a justice of the peace, who shall certify such
acknowledgment substantially in form next hereinafter stated."
Such law was violated in this case. The action of the Register of
Deeds of Laguna in allowing the registration of the private deed
of sale was unauthorized and did not lend a bit of validity to the
defective private document of sale.
With reference to the special law, Section 127 of the Land Registration Act,
Act 496 (now Sec. 112 of P.D. No. 1529) provides:
Sec. 127. Deeds of Conveyance, ... affecting lands, whether
registered under this act or unregistered shall be sufficient in law
when made substantially in accordance with the following forms,
and shall be as effective to convey, encumber, ... or bind the
lands as though made in accordance with the more prolix forms
heretofore in use: Provided, That every such instrument shall be
signed by the person or persons executing the same, in the
presence of two witnesses, who shall sign the instrument as
witnesses to the execution thereof, and shall be acknowledged to
be his or their free act and deed by the person or persons
executing the same, before the judge of a court of record or
clerk of a court of record, or a notary public, or a justice of the
peace, who shall certify to such acknowledgement
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substantially in the form next hereinafter stated. (Emphasis


supplied).
It is therefore evident that Exhibit " E " in the case at bar is definitely not
registerable under the Land Registration Act.
Likewise noteworthy is the case of Pornellosa and Angels v. Land Tenure
Administration and Guzman, 110 Phil. 986, where the Court ruled:
The deed of sale (Exhibit A), allegedly executed by Vicente San
Jose in favor of Pornellosa is a mere private document and does
not conclusively establish their right to the parcel of land. WhiIe
it is valid and binding upon the parties with respect to the sale of
the house erected thereon, yet it is not sufficient to convey title
or any right to the residential lot in litigation. Acts and contracts
which have for their object the creation, transmission,
modification or extinguishment of real rights over immovable
property must appear in a public document.
Upon consideration of the facts and circumstances surrounding the execution
of the assailed document, the trial court found that said private document
(Exhibit "B") was null and void and that it was signed by somebody else not
Pedro Villanueva. Such findings of fact besides being based on the records,
were sustained by the Court of Appeals.
The contention that ownership over registered property may be acquired by
prescription or adverse possession is absolutely without merit. No title to
registered land in derogation of that of the registered owner shall be
acquired by prescription or adverse possession. Prescription is unavailing not
only against the registered owner but also against his hereditary successors
(Umbay vs. Alecha, 135 SCRA 427 [1985]). The right to recover possession of
registered land is imprescriptible because possession is a mere consequence
of ownership (Umbay vs. Alecha,supra, citing Atun v. Nuuz 97 Phil. 762;
Manlapas and Tolentino v. Llorente, 48 Phil. 298, 308: J.M. Tuazon & Co., Inc.
v. Aguirre, 117 Phil. 110, 113-114) where land has been registered under the
Torrens System (Alarcon v. Bidin, 120 SCRA 390; Umbay v. Alecha, supra)
because the efficacy and integrity of the Torrens System must be protected
(Director of Lands v. CA, 120 SCRA 370). As prescription is rightly regarded
as a statute of repose whose objective is to suppress fraudulent and stale
claims from springing up at great distances of time and suprising the parties
or their representatives when the facts have become obscure from the lapse
Elsa M. Canete|325 | P a g e
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of time or the defective memory or death or removal of witnesses ( Senoan


v. Sorongon, 136 SCRA 407 [1985]).
In the matter of laches, the Court aptly stated in the case of Marcelo Sotto v.
Pilar Teves, et al., 86 SCRA 155 [1978] that "in determining whether a delay
in seeking to enforce a right constitutes laches, the existence of a
confidential relationship between the parties is an important circumstance
for consideration. A delay under such circumstance is not as strictly regarded
as where the parties are strangers to each other. The doctrine of laches is
not strictly applied between near relatives, and the fact that the parties are
connected by ties of blood or marriage tends to excuse an otherwise
unreasonable delay."
In the case of Esso Standard Eastern, Inc. v. Alfonso Lim, 123 SCRA 464, 480
[1983]), the Court ruled that laches cannot be asserted by a mere possessor
without claim of title, legal or equitable because for laches to exist, there
should be a showing of delay in asserting the complainant's right. The
complainant should have knowledge or notice of the defendant's conduct
and an opportunity to institute a suit. Delay is not counted from the date the
lot was sold to the buyer but from the time of entry of the defendant or from
the time the complainant came to know of the occupancy for that is the only
time it could possibly have demanded that he get out of the premises or
could have instituted a suit. In the case at bar, it will be noted that what
transpired was an administrative reconstitution, essentially ex-parte and
without notice, thereby lending credence to the claim that private
respondent Marta Agana was unaware of such reconstitution and possession
until she discovered the same in the Office of the Register of Deeds in 1976.
As such it cannot be claimed that she slept on her right as from that time on,
it is undeniable that she filed her adverse claim on the said lot.
After a careful perusal of the case, there appears to be no cogent reason to
disturb the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals which affirmed the
findings of the trial court.
PREMISES CONSIDERED, the petition is DENIED and the assailed decision of
the Intermediate Appellate Court is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
FACTS:
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1.

This case is about an 81,300 sq. m. lot in Laguna owned by the late
Pedro Villanueva. Such land was claimed to be sold to Meliton Gallardo
and Teresa Villanueva through a private document, an unnotarized Deed
of Sale in Tagalog.

2.

Based on that Deed of Sale, the original certificate of title was


cancelled and a new one was issued under the name of petitioners.

3.

The main issue was that the private respondents countered the Deed
of Sale and wanted the titles be declared void ab initio. The RTC of
Laguna ruled in their favor.

4.

Appeal to the CA was made (then IAC) which affirmed the trial court.
Hence, present action.

ISSUE: Was there a valid reconstitution of transfer certificate of title? Was


the sale valid?

RULING: No.

1.

As a general rule, Art. 1356 of the Civil Code provides that contracts
are obligatory, in whatever form they may had been entered, provided all
the essential requisites are present.

2.

But there is an exception: requiring a contract to be in some form when


the law so requires for its validity or enforceability.

3.

Sec. 127 of Act 496 the conveyance be executed before the judge of
a court of record or a clerk of a court of record or a notary public or a
justice of the peace, who shall certify such acknowledgement
substantially in form next hereinafter stated.

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4.

Also, the document was signed by somebody else and not by Pedro
Villanueva.

5.

The right to recover possession of registered land is imprescriptible


because possession is a mere consequence of ownership where the land
has been registered under the Torrens system because its efficacy and
integrity must be protected.

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Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. L-40145 July 29, 1992
SEVERO SALES, ESPERANZA SALES BERMUDEZ, petitioners,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and LEONILO GONZALES, respondents.

ROMERO, J.:
In this petition for review on certiorari, petitioners seek to annul and set
aside the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming that of the then Court of
First Instance of Tarlac, Branch III which upheld the validity of the deed of
sale of a parcel of land executed by petitioner Severo Sales in favor of
respondent Leonilo Gonzales.
Severo Sales owned an unregistered parcel of land in Bugallon, Pangasinan.
Covered by Tax Declaration No. 5861, the property had an area of 5,733
square meters more or less. 1 On July 4, 1955, Sales mortgaged said
property, together with two other parcels of land, to Faustina P. Agpoon and
Jose Agpoon to secure the payment of a loan in the amount of P2,240.00
payable on or about July 4, 1956. 2 On October 30, 1957, Tax Declaration No.
5861 was canceled and in lieu hereof, Tax Declaration No. 13647 was issued
to Sales but the area of the property was stated therein as 5,229 square
meters more or less. 3
More than a year later, or on December 24, 1958, Sales, with the consent of
his wife, Margarita Ferrer, donated nine hundred (900) square meters of the
same property in favor of their daughter, petitioner Esperanza Sales
Bermudez. 4 The duly notarized deed of donation was presented to the
Assessor's Office on the day of its execution. Hence, Tax Declaration No.
13647 was replaced by two tax declarations: Tax Declaration No. 13875 5 in
the name of Esperanza Sales Bermudez for the 900-square-meter lot
donated to her and Tax Declaration No. 13874 6 in the name of Sales
covering the remaining portion or 4,339 square meters.
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As a consequence of a case filed by Faustina P. Agpoon against Sales in the


Court of First Instance of Pangasinan, sometime in January 1959, the
mortgaged property of Sales was set for foreclosure. To prevent such
foreclosure, Sales requested his friend, Ernesto Gonzales, to pay his total
indebtedness of P2,700 to the Agpoon spouses. 7 Ernesto Gonzales acceded
to the request and asked Sales and his wife to sign a document transferring
the mortgage to him. According to the Sales spouses, they were not given a
copy of said document. 8 Around a month later, Sales had the land covered
by Tax Declaration No. 5861 surveyed by a private surveyor. 9
On February 3, 1959, a document entitled "Deed of Sale" between Severo
Sales and Leonilo Gonzales was registered with the Register of Deeds of
Pangasinan. 10
In October 1968, Sales received a photostat copy of the deed of sale
appearing to have been signed by him and his wife on January 29, 1959
before ex-officio Notary Public Arturo Malazo in San Manuel, Tarlac. The
document stated that the Sales spouses had sold the land described under
Tax Declaration No. 5861 in consideration of the amount of P4,000 to Leonilo
Gonzales, son of Ernesto Gonzales.
In the Intestate Estate Proceedings of Ernesto Gonzales, (SP 42692) in the
then Court of First Instance of Manila, the land in question was claimed by
respondent Leonilo Gonzales. Subsequently, upon submission of the Deed of
Sale between Severo Sales and Leonilo Gonzales, the questioned land was
excluded therefrom. 11 Said parcel of land was declared by Leonilo Gonzales
under Tax Declaration No. 12483. 12
On November 7, 1968, Leonilo Gonzales filed an action for illegal detainer
against Sales before the Municipal Court of Bugallon. 13 Before the case could
be tried, Sales and his daughter, Esperanza Sales Bermudez filed in the Court
of First Instance of Tarlac, Branch III a complaint for annulment of the deed of
sale between Sales and Gonzales on the ground of fraud. Consequently, the
municipal court suspended the illegal detainer proceedings before it pending
the outcome of the annulment case.
On October 27, 1969, the Court of First Instance 14 rendered a decision
finding that the allegation of fraud was not supported by convincing
evidence. Its dispositive portion reads:

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WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the


defendant, and against the plaintiffs by:
1. Ordering the dismissal of the complaint;
2. Declaring that the defendant is the lawful owner of the land
described in Exhibits "2" and "2-A" (same as Exh. "H") and is,
therefore, entitled to the possession thereof;
3. Ordering the plaintiffs, jointly and severally, to pay the
defendant the sum of P2,000.00 by way of attorney's fees; and
4. Ordering the plaintiffs, jointly and severally, to pay the costs.
SO ORDERED.
The lower court noted that while plaintiffs counsel claimed that Sales and his
wife were illiterates, their signatures on each page of the two-page deed of
sale revealed "striking features" of intelligence. The court added:
Defendant's defense hinges on the fact that the Deed of Sale is
valid, it having been properly executed and notarized, and is
therefore a public document, and carries weigh as provided for in
Section 31, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court. Defendant likewise
proved that the money paid by his father, Ernesto Gonzales was
his. Arturo V. Malazo, the Notary Public ex-officio and Justice of
the Peace, before whom the Deed of Sale was executed, testified
personally in Court and confirmed the genuineness and validity
of the Deed of sale, together with the signatures appearing
therein, particularly those of the vendors Severo Sales and
Margarita Ferrer, and the witnesses thereto. The bare and naked
assertions of the plaintiff Severo Sales and his wife, could not
offset the presumption of regularity as to the execution of the
Deed of Sale, especially so, that the ratifying officer was, and still
is, a municipal judge. The contention of plaintiff Severo Sales
that he was made to sign the document hurriedly by the
deceased Ernesto Gonzales does not deserve credence,
considering that he has affixed (sic) or signed the said Deed of
Sale no less than three (3) times, together with his wife and the
other witnesses. Considering the interest of the plaintiff Severo

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Sales and his wife in this case, it could not overthrow the
testimony of the Notary Public ex-oficio Arturo V. Malazo. 15
Their motion for reconsideration having been denied. Sales and his daughter
elevated the case to the Court of Appeals contending that the lower court
erred in upholding the validity of the deed of sale and in not considering the
unschooled Sales as an illiterate executor thereof. On December 19, 1974,
the Court of Appeals 16 affirmed the decision of the lower court but added
that the petitioners shall pay, jointly and severally, the amount of P1,000 as
attorney's fees. Hence, the instant petition.
Petitioners primarily invoke Art. 1332 of the Civil Code which provides that
when one of the parties to a contract is unable to read, "or if the contract is
in a language not understood by him, and mistake or fraud is alleged, the
person enforcing the contract must show that the terms thereof have been
fully, explained to the former." Petitioners contend that respondent Gonzales
failed to prove that the contents of the deed of sale were ever explained to
Sales, an illiterate. They also argue that granting that the deed of sale was
valid, the courts below failed to take into consideration the fact that the deed
of donation was executed ahead of the deed of sale and must not, therefore,
be disregarded considering that with reference to unregistered lands, an
earlier instrument prevails over a later one.
With regard to the issue of whether or not there was compliance with the
provision of Art. 1332 of the Civil Code, before said article may be invoked, it
must be convincingly established that the disadvantaged party is unable to
read or that the contract involved in written in a language not understood by
him. 17 It is the party invoking the benefits of Art. 1332 or Sales, who has the
burden of proving that he really is unable to read or that English, the
language in which the deed of sale was written, is incomprehensible to him.
Only after sufficient proof of such facts may the burden or proving that the
terms of the contract had been explained to the disadvantaged party be
shifted to the party enforcing the contract, who, in this instance, is Leonilo
Gonzales.
The records of this case, however, show that although Sales did not go to
school and knew only how to sign his name, 18 he and his wife had previously
entered into contracts written in English: first, when Sales mortgaged his
property to Faustina P. Agpoon and second, when he donated a portion of the
property involved to his daughter, petitioner Esperanza Sales
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Bermudez. 19 The court below also noted the fact that the signatures of the
Sales spouses in the deed of sale showed the "striking features of the
signatures of intelligent" individuals. Coupled with this is the fact that in
court, the Sales spouses themselves admitted that the signatures on the
deed of sale "looked like" their signatures. 20
But more revealing is the fact that the deed of sale itself, specifically the
notarial acknowledgment thereof, contains a statement that its executors
were known to the notary public to be the persons who executed the
instrument; that they were "informed by me (notary public) of the contents
thereof" and that they acknowledged to the notary public that the instrument
was freely and voluntarily executed. 21 When he testified at the hearing,
notary public Arturo Malazo stated, "I know Mr. Severo Sales and he
appeared before me when I notarized that document." Later, he added that
"the document speaks for itself and the witnesses were there and those were
the persons present" (sic). 22Thus, the stark denial of the petitioners,
specially Sales, that he executed the deed of sale pales in the face of
Malazo's testimony because the testimony of the notary public enjoys
greater credence than that of an ordinary witness. 23
The extrinsic validity of the deed of sale is not affected by the fact that while
the property subject thereof is located in Bugallon, Pangasinan where the
vendors also resided, the document was executed in San Miguel, Tarlac.
What is important under the Notarial Law is that the notary public concerned
has authority to acknowledge the document executed within his territorial
jurisdiction. 24 A notarial acknowledgment attaches full faith and credit to the
document concerned. 25 It also vests upon the document the presumption of
regularity unless it is impugned by strong, complete and conclusive
proof. 26 Such kind of proof has not been presented by the petitioners.
While it seems improbable that Severo Sales sold the property described in
Tax Declaration 5861 when in fact this had been subsequently cancelled
already by Tax Declaration 13875 in the name of Esperanza Sales Bermudez
and by Tax Declaration No. 13874 in Severo Sales' name, one can hardly
ascribe bad faith to respondent, for unlike a title registered under the Torrens
System, a tax declaration does not constitute constructive notice to the
whole world. The issue of good faith or bad faith of a buyer is relevant only
where the subject of the sale is a registered land but not where the property
is an unregistered land. 27

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On the issue of whether or not the earlier deed of donation should "prevail"
over the deed of sale or be "recognized", petitioner invokes Nisce
v. Milo 28 and Estate of Mota v. Concepcion 29 which purportedly ruled that
"with reference to unregistered lands, an earlier instrument, be it a sale or
mortgage, prevails over a later one, and the registration of any one of them
is immaterial." 30
The deed of donation explicitly provides that the land involved "has not been
registered neither under Act 496 nor under the Spanish Mortgage Law. The
parties hereto have agreed to register this document under Act
3344." 31Such agreement had to be expressly stipulated in the deed of
donation 32 because under Act 3344, the Register of Deeds is not authorized
to effect any registration unless the parties have expressly agreed to register
their transaction thereunder. A perusal of the records shows, however, that
the deed of donation was not registered at all. Besides, at the hearing,
petitioners failed to show any evidence proving registration. Petitioners'
counsel even failed to secure a certification from the Register of Deeds of
Pangasinan of its due registration as directed by the trial judge.
Hence, while the deed of donation is valid between the donor and the donee
thereby effectively transmitting the rights to said property from Sales to his
daughter, such deed, however, did not bind Leonilo Gonzales, a third party to
the donation. This is because non-registration of a deed of donation under
Sec. 1 of Act No. 3344 does not bind other parties ignorant of a previous
transaction, notwithstanding the provision therein which petitioners invoke
that "any registration made under this section shall be understood to be
without prejudice to a third party with a better right" Petitioner Esperanza
Sales Bermudez may not be a considered a third party 33 being the daughter
of the vendor himself and the "better right" possessed by a third party refers
to other titles which a party might have acquired independently of the
unregistered deed such as title by prescription. 34
We take note of the fact that while the Deed of Donation was not registered,
the Deed of Sale was registered as evidenced by the notation made by
Cipriano Abenojar, Register of Deeds of Lingayen, Pangasinan 35 and the
official receipt issued by the Registry of Deeds. 36
Finally, we cannot be convinced that it is useless to register deeds or
instruments affecting unregistered lands because the books of registration
provided under Section 194 of the Revised Administrative Code as Amended
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by Act 3344 continue to remain in force even to this day. In fact, under
Section 3 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, instruments dealing with
unregistered lands can still be registered. 37
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby AFFIRMED. Costs
against the petitioners.
SO ORDERED.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
G.R. No. 173423

March 5, 2014

SPS. ANTONIO FORTUNA and ERLINDA FORTUNA, ,


vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, .
---------------------------------------------------------1

G.R. No. 167707


October 8, 2008
THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND
NATURAL RESOURCES, THE REGIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DENRREGION VI, REGIONAL TECHNICAL DIRECTOR FOR LANDS, LANDS
MANAGEMENT BUREAU, REGION VI PROVINCIAL ENVIRONMENT AND
NATURAL RESOURCES OFFICER OF KALIBO, AKLAN, REGISTER OF
DEEDS, DIRECTOR OF LAND REGISTRATION AUTHORITY, DEPARTMENT
OF TOURISM SECRETARY, DIRECTOR OF PHILIPPINE TOURISM
AUTHORITY, ,
vs.
MAYOR JOSE S. YAP, LIBERTAD TALAPIAN, MILA Y. SUMNDAD, and
ANICETO YAP, in their behalf and in behalf of all those similarly
situated, . -------------12

G.R. No. L-13687

November 29, 1963

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, -,


vs.
SEGUNDO SIOSON and PASCUALA BAUTISTA, -.
------------------------------------32

G.R. No. 146754

March 21, 2012


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SPOUSES JESSE CACHOPERO and BEMA CACHOPERO, ,


vs.
RACHEL CELESTIAL, .
-------------------------------------------------------------------------35

G.R. No. L-43105 August 31, 1984


REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (Director of Lands), ,
vs.
THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS (SECOND DIVISION) AND SANTOS DEL
RIO, .
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------46

G.R. No. 194336

March 11, 2013

PILAR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, ,


vs.
RAMON DUMADAG, EMMA BACABAC, RONALDO NAVARRO, JIMMY
PAGDALIAN, PAY DELOS SANTOS, ARMANDO TRILLOS, FELICISIMO
TRILLOS, ARCANGEL FLORES, EDDIE MARTIN, PRESILLA LAYOG,
CONRADO CAGUYONG, GINA GONZALES, ARLENE PEDROSA, JOCELYN
ABELINO, ROQUE VILLARAZA, ROLANDO VILLARAZA, CAMILO
GENOVE, NILDA ROAYANA, SUSAN ROAYANA, JUANCHO PANGANIBAN,
BONG DE GUZMAN, ARNOLD ENVERSO, DONNA DELA RAZA, EMELYN
Elsa M. Canete|337 | P a g e
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HAGNAYA, FREDDIE DE LEON, RONILLO DE LEON, MARIO MARTINEZ,


and PRECY LOPEZ, . --------------------51
.

G. R. No. 107764

October 4, 2002

EDNA COLLADO, BERNARDINA TAWAS, JORETO C. TORRES,


et al, ,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, thru the
Director of Lands, ,
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------57

[G.R. No. L-27873. November 29, 1983.]


HEIRS OF JOSE AMUNATEGUI, , v. DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, .
----------------83

G.R. No. 101083 July 30, 1993


JUAN ANTONIO, ANNA ROSARIO and JOSE ALFONSO, all surnamed
OPOSA, minors, et al., ,
vs.
THE HONORABLE FULGENCIO S. FACTORAN, JR., in his capacity as
the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources, and THE HONORABLE ERIBERTO U. ROSARIO, Presiding
Judge of the RTC, Makati, Branch 66, .
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------89

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G.R. No. L-43938 April 15, 1988


REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (DIRECTOR OF FOREST
DEVELOPMENT), ,
vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS (THIRD DIVISION) and JOSE Y. DE LA
ROSA, . -108

G.R. No. 103882 November 25, 1998


REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, ,
vs.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS AND REPUBLIC REAL ESTATE
CORPORATION, , CULTURAL CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES, .
-----------------119

G.R. No. 133250


July 9, 2002
FRANCISCO I. CHAVEZ, ,
vs.
PUBLIC ESTATES AUTHORITY and AMARI COASTAL BAY
DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, .
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------144

G.R. No. L-32266 February 27, 1989


THE DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY,
vs.
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RUPERTO A. VILLAREAL, .
-----------------------------------------------------------------198

G.R. No. 112526

October 12, 2001

STA. ROSA REALTY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, ,


vs.
COURT OF APPEALS, JUAN B. AMANTE, FRANCISCO L. ANDAL, LUCIA
ANDAL, ANDREA P. AYENDE, LETICIA P. BALAT, FILOMENA B. BATINO,
. -------------207

G.R. No. 156951

September 22, 2006

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, ,


vs.
SOUTHSIDE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC. and the REGISTER OF
DEEDS OF PASIG, RIZAL, .
-----------------------------------------------------------------222

G.R. No. 184589

June 13, 2013

DEOGENES O. RODRIGUEZ, ,
vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS and PHILIPPINE CHINESE CHARITABLE
ASSOCIATION, INC., .
----------------------------------------------------------------------237

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G.R. No. 81163 September 26, 1988


EDUARDO S. BARANDA and ALFONSO HITALIA, ,
vs.
HONORABLE JUDGE TITO GUSTILO, ACTING REGISTER OF DEEDS
AVITO SACLAUSO, HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, and ATTY.
HECTOR P. TEODOSIO, .
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------251

G.R. No. L-18725

March 31, 1965

JOSE MA. LEDESMA, -,


vs.
FELIX VILLASEOR, -.
----------------------------------------------------------------------262

G.R. No. L-22486

March 20, 1968

TEODORO ALMIROL, -,
vs.
THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF AGUSAN, -.
---------------------------------------------266

G.R. No. L-3970

October 29, 1952


Elsa M. Canete|341 | P a g e
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GURBAX SINGH PABLA & CO., GURBAX SINGH PABLA, BELA SINGH
PABLA, OJAGAR SINGH, DHARAM SINGH, TALOK SINGH and CIPRIANO
TAN ENG KIAT, -,
vs.
HERMOGENES REYES and TEODORA TANTOCO, -.
---------------------------------270

G.R. No. L-67742 October 29, 1987


MELITON GALLARDO and TERESA VILLANUEVA, ,
vs.
HONORABLE INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, MARTA VILLANUEVA
VDA. DE AGANA, VISITACION AGANA KIPPING, PEDRO V. AGANA,
MARCELO V. AGANA, JR., TERESITA AGANA SANTOS and JESUS V.
AGANA, . ---------------275

G.R. No. L-40145 July 29, 1992


SEVERO SALES, ESPERANZA SALES BERMUDEZ, ,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and LEONILO GONZALES, .
------------------------------------286

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LAND TITLES AND DEEDS


Cases
-

_______________________________________________

Ms. Elsa M. Canete

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