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Hacienda Luisita vs PARC

Case Digest GR 171101 July 5 2011 Nov 22 2011

In 1988, RA 6657 or the CARP law was passed. It is a program aimed at redistributing public and private agricultural
lands to farmers and farmworkers who are landless. One of the lands covered by this law is the Hacienda Luisita, a
6,443-hectare mixed agricultural-industrial-residential expanse straddling several municipalities of Tarlac. Hacienda
Luisita was bought in 1958 from the Spanish owners by the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), which is
owned and/or controlled by Jose Cojuanco Sr., Group. Back in 1980, the Martial Law administration filed an
expropriation suit against TADECO to surrender the Hacienda to the then Ministry of Agrarian Reform (now DAR) so
that the land can be distributed to the farmers at cost. The RTC rendered judgment ordering TADECO to surrender
Hacienda Luisita to the MAR.
In 1988, the OSG moved to dismiss the governments case against TADECO. The CA dismissed it, but the dismissal
was subject to the condition that TADECO shall obtain the approval of FWB (farm worker beneficiaries) to the SDP
(Stock Distribution Plan) and to ensure its implementation.
Sec 31 of the CARP Law allows either land transfer or stock transfer as two alternative modes in distributing land
ownership to the FWBs. Since the stock distribution scheme is the preferred option of TADECO, it organized a spin-off
corporation, the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI), as vehicle to facilitate stock acquisition by the farmers.
After conducting a follow-up referendum and revision of terms of the Stock Distribution Option Agreement (SDOA)
proposed by TADECO, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), led by then DAR Secretary Miriam
Santiago, approved the SDP of TADECO/HLI through Resolution 89-12-2 dated Nov 21, 1989.
From 1989 to 2005, the HLI claimed to have extended those benefits to the farmworkers. Such claim was subsequently
contested by two groups representing the interests of the farmers the HLI Supervisory Group and the AMBALA. In
2003, each of them wrote letter petitions before the DAR asking for the renegotiation of terms and/or revocation of the
SDOA. They claimed that they havent actually received those benefits in full, that HLI violated the terms, and that
their lives havent really improved contrary to the promise and rationale of the SDOA.
The DAR created a Special Task Force to attend to the issues and to review the terms of the SDOA and the Resolution
89-12-2. Adopting the report and the recommendations of the Task Force, the DAR Sec recommended to the PARC (1)
the revocation of Resolution 89-12-2 and (2) the acquisition of Hacienda Luisita through compulsory acquisition
scheme. Consequently, the PARC revoked the SDP of TADECO/HLI and subjected those lands covered by the SDP to
the mandated land acquisition scheme under the CARP law. These acts of the PARC was assailed by HLI via Rule 65.
On the other hand, FARM, an intervenor, asks for the invalidation of Sec. 31 of RA 6657, insofar as it affords the
corporation, as a mode of CARP compliance, to resort to stock transfer in lieu of outright agricultural land transfer. For
FARM, this modality of distribution is an anomaly to be annulled for being inconsistent with the basic concept of
agrarian reform ingrained in Sec. 4, Art. XIII of the Constitution.
Administrative Law
Issue 1: W/N PARC has the authority to revoke the Stock Distribution Plan or SDP
Yes. Under Sec. 31 of RA 6657, as implemented by DAO 10, the authority to approve the plan for stock distribution of
the corporate landowner belongs to PARC. It may be that RA 6657 or other executive issuances on agrarian reform do
not explicitly vest the PARC with the power to revoke/recall an approved SDP, but such power or authority is deemed
possessed by PARC under the principle of necessary implication, a basic postulate that what is implied in a statute is
as much a part of it as that which is expressed.
Following this doctrine, the conferment of express power to approve a plan for stock distribution of the agricultural
land of corporate owners necessarily includes the power to revoke or recall the approval of the plan.
Constitutional Law
Issue 2: W/N the Court may exercise its power of judicial review over the constitutionality of Sec 31 of RA 6657
No. First, the intervenor FARM failed to challenged the constitutionality of RA 6657, Sec 31 at the earliest possible
opportunity. It should have been raised as early as Nov 21, 1989, when PARC approved the SDP of HLI or at least
within a reasonable time thereafter.
Second, the constitutionality of RA 6657 is not the very lis mota of this case. Before the SC, the lis mota of the
petitions filed by the HLI is whether or not the PARC acted with grave abuse of discretion in revoking the SDP of HLI.
With regards to the original positions of the groups representing the interests of the farmers, their very lis mota is the
non-compliance of the HLI with the SDP so that the the SDP may be revoked. Such issues can be resolved without
delving into the constitutionality of RA 6657.
Hence, the essential requirements in passing upon the constitutionality of acts of the executive or legislative
departments have not been met in this case.
Statutory Construction
Issue 3: W/N Sec 31 of RA 6657 is consistent with the Constitutions concept of agrarian reform
Yes. The wording of the Art XIII, Sec 4 of the Constitution is unequivocal: the farmers and regular farmworkers have a

right to own directly or collectively the lands they till.

The basic law allows two (2) modes of land distribution: direct and indirect ownership. Direct transfer to individual
farmers is the most commonly used method by DAR and widely accepted. Indirect transfer through collective
ownership of the agricultural land is the alternative to direct ownership of agricultural land by individual farmers. Sec.
4 EXPRESSLY authorizes collective ownership by farmers. No language can be found in the 1987 Constitution that
disqualifies or prohibits corporations or cooperatives of farmers from being the legal entity through which collective
ownership can be exercised.
The word collective is defined as indicating a number of persons or things considered as constituting one group or
aggregate, while collectively is defined as in a collective sense or manner; in a mass or body. By using the word
collectively, the Constitution allows for indirect ownership of land and not just outright agricultural land transfer. This
is in recognition of the fact that land reform may become successful even if it is done through the medium of juridical
entities composed of farmers.
The stock distribution option devised under Sec. 31 of RA 6657 hews with the agrarian reform policy, as instrument of
social justice under Sec. 4 of Article XIII of the Constitution. Albeit land ownership for the landless appears to be the
dominant theme of that policy, the Court emphasized that Sec. 4, Article XIII of the Constitution, as couched, does not
constrict Congress to passing an agrarian reform law planted on direct land transfer to and ownership by farmers and
no other, or else the enactment suffers from the vice of unconstitutionality. If the intention were otherwise, the framers
of the Constitution would have worded said section in a manner mandatory in character.
* The SC, through a resolution dated Nov 21 2011 of the motion for reconsideration filed by HLI, affirmed the
revocation of HLIs SDP and the placing of Hacienda Luisita under the compulsory land distribution scheme of the
CARP law. It was also held that the date of taking was Nov 21 1989, when the PARC, by Resolution 89-12-2, approved
the SDP of HLI. ##

Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) v. Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), et al.,
G.R. No. 171101, November 22, 2011


On July 5, 2011, the Supreme Court en banc voted unanimously (11-0) to DISMISS/DENY the petition filed by HLI
and AFFIRM with MODIFICATIONS the resolutions of the PARC revoking HLIs Stock Distribution Plan (SDP) and
placing the subject lands in Hacienda Luisita under compulsory coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform
Program (CARP) of the government.
The Court however did not order outright land distribution. Voting 6-5, the Court noted that there are operative facts
that occurred in the interim and which the Court cannot validly ignore. Thus, the Court declared that the revocation of
the SDP must, by application of the operative fact principle, give way to the right of the original 6,296 qualified
farmworkers-beneficiaries (FWBs) to choose whether they want to remain as HLI stockholders or [choose actual land
distribution]. It thus ordered the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to immediately schedule meetings with the
said 6,296 FWBs and explain to them the effects, consequences and legal or practical implications of their choice, after
which the FWBs will be asked to manifest, in secret voting, their choices in the ballot, signing their signatures or
placing their thumbmarks, as the case may be, over their printed names.
The parties thereafter filed their respective motions for reconsideration of the Court decision.


(1) Is the operative fact doctrine available in this case?

(2) Is Sec. 31 of RA 6657 unconstitutional?
(3) Cant the Court order that DARs compulsory acquisition of Hacienda Lusita cover the full 6,443 hectares
allegedly covered by RA 6657 and previously held by Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco), and not just the
4,915.75 hectares covered by HLIs SDP?
(4) Is the date of the taking (for purposes of determining the just compensation payable to HLI) November 21, 1989,
when PARC approved HLIs SDP?
(5) Has the 10-year period prohibition on the transfer of awarded lands under RA 6657 lapsed on May 10, 1999 (since
Hacienda Luisita were placed under CARP coverage through the SDOA scheme on May 11, 1989), and thus the
qualified FWBs should now be allowed to sell their land interests in Hacienda Luisita to third parties, whether they
have fully paid for the lands or not?
(6) THE CRUCIAL ISSUE: Should the ruling in the July 5, 2011 Decision that the qualified FWBs be given an
option to remain as stockholders of HLI be reconsidered?
[The Court PARTIALLY GRANTED the motions for reconsideration of respondents PARC, et al. with respect
to the option granted to the original farmworkers-beneficiaries (FWBs) of Hacienda Luisita to remain with petitioner
HLI, which option the Court thereby RECALLED and SET ASIDE. It reconsidered its earlier decision that the
qualified FWBs should be given an option to remain as stockholders of HLI, and UNANIMOUSLY directed immediate
land distribution to the qualified FWBs.]

YES, the operative fact doctrine is applicable in this case.

[The Court maintained its stance that the operative fact doctrine is applicable in this case since, contrary to the
suggestion of the minority, the doctrine is not limited only to invalid or unconstitutional laws but also applies to
decisions made by the President or the administrative agencies that have the force and effect of laws. Prior to the
nullification or recall of said decisions, they may have produced acts and consequences that must be respected. It is on
this score that the operative fact doctrine should be applied to acts and consequences that resulted from the
implementation of the PARC Resolution approving the SDP of HLI. The majority stressed that the application of the
operative fact doctrine by the Court in its July 5, 2011 decision was in fact favorable to the FWBs because not only
were they allowed to retain the benefits and homelots they received under the stock distribution scheme, they were also
given the option to choose for themselves whether they want to remain as stockholders of HLI or not.]

NO, Sec. 31 of RA 6657 NOT unconstitutional.

[The Court maintained that the Court is NOT compelled to rule on the constitutionality of Sec. 31 of RA 6657,
reiterating that it was not raised at the earliest opportunity and that the resolution thereof is not the lis mota of the
case. Moreover, the issue has been rendered moot and academic since SDO is no longer one of the modes of
acquisition under RA 9700. The majority clarified that in its July 5, 2011 decision, it made no ruling in favor of the
constitutionality of Sec. 31 of RA 6657, but found nonetheless that there was no apparent grave violation of the
Constitution that may justify the resolution of the issue of constitutionality.]
3. NO, the Court CANNOT order that DARs compulsory acquisition of Hacienda Lusita cover the full 6,443
hectares and not just the 4,915.75 hectares covered by HLIs SDP.
[Since what is put in issue before the Court is the propriety of the revocation of the SDP, which only involves 4,915.75

has. of agricultural land and not 6,443 has., then the Court is constrained to rule only as regards the 4,915.75 has. of
agricultural land. Nonetheless, this should not prevent the DAR, under its mandate under the agrarian reform law, from
subsequently subjecting to agrarian reform other agricultural lands originally held by Tadeco that were allegedly not
transferred to HLI but were supposedly covered by RA 6657.
However since the area to be awarded to each FWB in the July 5, 2011 Decision appears too restrictive considering
that there are roads, irrigation canals, and other portions of the land that are considered commonly-owned by
farmworkers, and these may necessarily result in the decrease of the area size that may be awarded per FWB the
Court reconsiders its Decision and resolves to give the DAR leeway in adjusting the area that may be awarded per
FWB in case the number of actual qualified FWBs decreases. In order to ensure the proper distribution of the
agricultural lands of Hacienda Luisita per qualified FWB, and considering that matters involving strictly the
administrative implementation and enforcement of agrarian reform laws are within the jurisdiction of the DAR, it is the
latter which shall determine the area with which each qualified FWB will be awarded.
On the other hand, the majority likewise reiterated its holding that the 500-hectare portion of Hacienda Luisita that
have been validly converted to industrial use and have been acquired by intervenors Rizal Commercial Banking
Corporation (RCBC) and Luisita Industrial Park Corporation (LIPCO), as well as the separate 80.51-hectare SCTEX
lot acquired by the government, should be excluded from the coverage of the assailed PARC resolution. The Court
however ordered that the unused balance of the proceeds of the sale of the 500-hectare converted land and of the 80.51hectare land used for the SCTEX be distributed to the FWBs.]

YES, the date of taking is November 21, 1989, when PARC approved HLIs SDP.

[For the purpose of determining just compensation, the date of taking is November 21, 1989 (the date when PARC
approved HLIs SDP) since this is the time that the FWBs were considered to own and possess the agricultural lands in
Hacienda Luisita. To be precise, these lands became subject of the agrarian reform coverage through the stock
distribution scheme only upon the approval of the SDP, that is, on November 21, 1989. Such approval is akin to a
notice of coverage ordinarily issued under compulsory acquisition. On the contention of the minority (Justice Sereno)
that the date of the notice of coverage [after PARCs revocation of the SDP], that is, January 2, 2006, is determinative
of the just compensation that HLI is entitled to receive, the Court majority noted that none of the cases cited to justify
this position involved the stock distribution scheme. Thus, said cases do not squarely apply to the instant case. The
foregoing notwithstanding, it bears stressing that the DAR's land valuation is only preliminary and is not, by any
means, final and conclusive upon the landowner. The landowner can file an original action with the RTC acting as a
special agrarian court to determine just compensation. The court has the right to review with finality the determination
in the exercise of what is admittedly a judicial function.]
5. NO, the 10-year period prohibition on the transfer of awarded lands under RA 6657 has NOT lapsed on
May 10, 1999; thus, the qualified FWBs should NOT yet be allowed to sell their land interests in Hacienda
Luisita to third parties.
[Under RA 6657 and DAO 1, the awarded lands may only be transferred or conveyed after 10 years from
the issuance and registration of the emancipation patent (EP) or certificate of land ownership award (CLOA).
Considering that the EPs or CLOAs have not yet been issued to the qualified FWBs in the instant case, the 10-year
prohibitive period has not even started. Significantly, the reckoning point is the issuance of the EP or CLOA, and not
the placing of the agricultural lands under CARP coverage. Moreover, should the FWBs be immediately allowed the
option to sell or convey their interest in the subject lands, then all efforts at agrarian reform would be rendered
nugatory, since, at the end of the day, these lands will just be transferred to persons not entitled to land distribution
under CARP.]
6. YES, the ruling in the July 5, 2011 Decision that the qualified FWBs be given an option to remain as
stockholders of HLI should be reconsidered.
[The Court reconsidered its earlier decision that the qualified FWBs should be given an option to remain as
stockholders of HLI, inasmuch as these qualified FWBs will never gain control [over the subject lands] given the
present proportion of shareholdings in HLI. The Court noted that the share of the FWBs in the HLI capital stock is
[just] 33.296%. Thus, even if all the holders of this 33.296% unanimously vote to remain as HLI stockholders, which is
unlikely, control will never be in the hands of the FWBs. Control means the majority of [sic] 50% plus at least one
share of the common shares and other voting shares. Applying the formula to the HLI stockholdings, the number of
shares that will constitute the majority is 295,112,101 shares (590,554,220 total HLI capital shares divided by 2 plus
one [1] HLI share). The 118,391,976.85 shares subject to the SDP approved by PARC substantially fall short of the
295,112,101 shares needed by the FWBs to acquire control over HLI.]

[G.R. No. 149679. May 30, 2003]


Ownership should not be confused with a certificate of title. Registering land under the Torrens System does not create
or vest title, because registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership. A certificate of title is merely an evidence of
ownership or title over the particular property described therein.
The Case
Before us is a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to set aside the February 16, 2001
Decision and the August 6, 2001 Resolution of the Court of Appeals [ (CA) in CA-GR CV No. 59564. The dispositive
part of the Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is hereby DISMISSED, and the assailed [D]ecision of the
Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City is hereby AFFIRMED.
The assailed Resolution denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.
The Facts
The factual antecedents of the case are summarized by the CA as follows:
In their Complaint, [respondents] claim that they are the owners of the various parcels of real property that form part of
Lot No. 666, (plan II-5121 Amd.2) situated in Mandaue City, Cebu, which lot allegedly belonged originally to Claudio
Ermac. Upon the latters death, the said Lot No. 666 was inherited and partitioned by his children, namely, Esteban,
Pedro and Balbina. Siblings Pedro and Balbina requested their brother Esteban to have their title over the property
registered. Esteban, however, was unable to do so, and the task of registration fell to his son, Clemente. Clemente
applied for registration of the title, but did so in his own name, and did not include his fathers brother and sister, nor his
cousins. Despite having registered the lot in his name, Clemente did not disturb or claim ownership over those portions
occupied by his uncle, aunt and cousins even up to the time of his death. Among the occupants of Lot No. 666 are the
[respondents] in this case. [Respondents]-heirs of Vicente Ermac claim ownership over the portions of Lot No. 666
now occupied by them by right of succession as direct descendants of the original owner, Claudio Ermac.
[Respondents] Luisa Del Castillo and Estaneslao Dionson allegedly derived their title by purchase from the children of
Claudio Ermac. [Respondent] Vicente Dionson, on the other hand, bought his land from the heirs of Pedro Ermac,
while [Respondents] Emigdio Bustillo and Liza Parajele derived their ownership from the Heirs of Balbina ErmacDabon. [respondents] ownership and possession had been peaceful and undisturbed, until recently when the
[petitioners]-heirs of Clemente Ermac filed an action for ejectment against them. The filing of the said ejectment
caused a cloud of doubt upon the [respondents] ownership over their respective parcels of land, prompting them to file
this action for quieting of title.
[Petitioners], on the other hand, denied the material allegations of the [respondents], and claimed that the [respondents]
have no cause of action against them. It is essentially claimed that it was Clemente Ermac and not his grandfather
Claudio Ermac who is the original claimant of dominion over Lot No. 666. During his lifetime, Clemente Ermac was in
actual, peaceful, adverse and continuous possession in the concept of an owner of the entire Lot No. 666. With the help
of his children, he cultivated the said lot, and planted corn, peanuts, cassava and fruit products. Clemente also effected
the registration of the subject lot in his name. Upon Clementes death, [petitioners] inherited Lot No. 666, and they
constructed their residential houses thereon. [Petitioners] claim that [respondents] recent occupation of some portions of Lot
No. 666 was only tolerated by Clemente Ermac and the [petitioners]. [Petitioners] in fact had never surrendered ownership or
possession of the property to the [respondents]. [Petitioners] also set up the defense of prescription and laches.

After trial, the lower [court] rendered its [D]ecision, finding that the original owner of the lot in question was Claudio
Ermac, and therefore, the property was inherited upon his death by his children Esteban, Balbina and Pedro. All the
heirs of Claudio Ermac, therefore, should share in the ownership over Lot No. 666, by right of succession. The ruling
[was] supported by the admissions of Irene[a] Seno, witness for the [petitioners] and daughter of Clemente Ermac,
establishing facts which show that [petitioners] and their predecessor Clemente did not own the entire property, but that
the other heirs of Claudio Ermac are entitled to two-thirds (2/3) of the lot. Since the entire lot is now registered in the
name of Clemente Ermac, the shares belonging to the other heirs of Claudio Ermac, some of which have already been
purchased by some of the [respondents], are being held in trust by the [petitioners] in favor of their actual occupants. [if
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
The CA held that the factual finding of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) [ should not be disturbed on appeal. The latter
found that Lot No. 666 was originally owned by Claudio Ermac and, after his death, was inherited by his children -Esteban, Balbina and Pedro. It ruled that respondents were able to prove consistently and corroboratively that they -- as
well as their predecessors-in-interests -- had been in open, continuous and undisturbed possession and occupation
thereof in the concept of owners.
According to the appellate court, [t]he fact that [petitioners] have in their possession certificates of title which
apparently bear out that it [was] Clemente Ermac alone who claimed the entire property described therein [has] no
discrediting effect upon plaintiffs claim, it appearing that such titles were acquired in derogation of the existing valid
and adverse interests of the plaintiffs whose title by succession were effectively disregarded
Hence, this Petition.

The Issues
In their Memorandum, petitioners raise the following issues for our consideration:
I. The validity of the Writ of Preliminary Injunction dated February 5, 1996 issued by the Regional Trial Court, Branch
28, directing the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 2, to cease and desist from conducting further proceedings in
Civil Case No. 2401[;]
II. Whether or not O.C.T. No. RO-752 issued in the names of [Spouses] Clemente Ermac [and] Anunciacion Suyco is
indefeasible and incontrovertible under the Torrens System[;]
III. Whether or not the alleged tax declarations and tax receipts are sufficient to defeat the title over the property in the
names of petitioners predecessors-in-interest [Spouses] Clemente Ermac and Anunciacion Suyco[;]
[IV]. Whether or not laches ha[s] set in on the claims by the respondents on portions of Lot No. 666[.] [if
The Courts Ruling
The Petition is unmeritorious.
First Issue:
Preliminary Injunction
Petitioners assail the validity of the Writ of Preliminary Injunction issued by the RTC to restrain the ejectment
proceedings they had filed earlier.
This question is not only late, but also moot. If petitioners truly believed that the issuance of the Writ was tainted with
grave abuse of discretion, they should have challenged it by a special civil action for certiorari within the reglementary
period. Any ruling by the Court at this point would be moot and academic, as the resolution of the issue would not
involve the merits of the case, which this appeal -- as it is now -- touches upon.
Second Issue:
Indefeasibility and Incontrovertibility of Title
Petitioners posit that pursuant to Section 32 of PD 1529 (the Property Registration Decree), the certificate of title
issued in favor of their predecessor-in-interest, Clemente Ermac, became incontrovertible after the lapse of one year
from its issuance. Hence, it can no longer be challenged.
We clarify. While it is true that Section 32 of PD 1529 provides that the decree of registration becomes incontrovertible
after a year, it does not altogether deprive an aggrieved party of a remedy in law. The acceptability of the Torrens
System would be impaired, if it is utilized to perpetuate fraud against the real owners.
Furthermore, ownership is not the same as a certificate of title. Registering a piece of land under the Torrens System
does not create or vest title, because registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership. A certificate of title is merely an
evidence of ownership or title over the particular property described therein. Its issuance in favor of a particular person
does not foreclose the possibility that the real property may be co-owned with persons not named in the certificate, or
that it may be held in trust for another person by the registered owner.
Third Issue:
Ownership of the Disputed Lot
Petitioners claim that the CA erred in relying on the hearsay and unsubstantiated testimony of respondents, as well as
on tax declarations and realty tax receipts, in order to support its ruling that the land was owned by Claudio Ermac.
We are not persuaded. The credence given to the testimony of the witnesses for respondents is a factual issue already
passed upon and resolved by the trial and the appellate courts. It is a hornbook doctrine that only questions of law are
entertained in appeals by certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. The trial courts findings of fact, which the CA
affirmed, are generally conclusive and binding upon this Court.

Moreover, while tax declarations and realty tax receipts do not conclusively prove ownership, they may constitute
strong evidence of ownership when accompanied by possession for a period sufficient for prescription. [if Considering
that respondents have been in possession of the property for a long period of time, there is legal basis for their use of
tax declarations and realty tax receipts as additional evidence to support their claim of ownership.
Fourth Issue:
Prescription and Laches
Petitioners assert that the ownership claimed by respondents is barred by prescription and laches, because it took the
latter 57 years to bring the present action. We disagree.
When a party uses fraud or concealment to obtain a certificate of title to property, a constructive trust is created in favor
of the defrauded party. Since Claudio Ermac has already been established in the present case as the original owner of
the land, the registration in the name of Clemente Ermac meant that the latter held the land in trust for all the heirs of
the former. Since respondents were in actual possession of the property, the action to enforce the trust, and recover the
property, and thereby quiet title thereto, does not prescribe.
Because laches is an equitable doctrine, its application is controlled by equitable considerations It cannot be used to
defeat justice or to perpetuate fraud and injustice. ] Its application should not prevent the rightful owners of a property
to recover what has been fraudulently registered in the name of another.
WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby DENIED and the assailed Decision AFFIRMED. Costs against


On appeal is the Decision[1] dated November 28, 2001 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 58304 which
reversed the October 6, 1997 Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Agoo, La Union, Branch 31 in Civil Case
Nos. A-424 and A-953 involving recovery of possession and quieting of title, respectively.
The instant case involves a seven (7)-hectare [2] portion of a fourteen (14)-hectare [3] parcel of land located in Pugo, La
Union and includes the Ambangonan barrio site. The controversy is between the heirs of the registered owner
(petitioners herein) and the occupants of the subject land (respondents) w(ho claim that they have been in possession of
the subject land since time immemprialthrougli their ancestors and predecessors-in-interest.
The records reveal that one (1) Fernando Nantes caused the surveying of the fourteen (14)-hectare parcel of land in
connection with his application for the issuance of a free patent over the said land. He was issued Free Patent No. 6381
on November 1, 1918 and Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 470 on November 11, 1918 [4] covering the whole
fourteen (14)-hectare piece of land. In 1930, Fernando Nantes sold the lot to Rosendo Farales who in turn sold it in
1931 to Apolinario Fama, father of petitioners. OCT No. 470 was replaced by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No.
257 in the name of Apolinario Fama.
In 1947, claiming that TCT No. 257 was lost, Maria Fama Florentin, Apolinario Fama's daughter and one (1) of the
petitioners herein, petitioned for the reconstitution thereof. [5] In 1948, TCT No. RT-223 (257) was issued in the name
of Apolinario Fama covering the entire fourteen (14)-hectare land. In the same year, Apolinario Fama passed away.
Then, sometime in 1950, Maria Fama Florentin filed before the Court of First Instance (CFI, now RTC) of La Union a
case against one (1) Lazaro Galera, predecessor of one (1) of the respondents, to recover an 11,000-square meter
portion of the fourteen (14)-hectare piece of land. Galera, however, claimed ownership of the land he was occupying,
insisting that it was donated to him by his father in 1916 and that he and his father have been possessing it openly and
continuously for more than sixty (60) years. He also contended that Fernando Nantes obtained title to the fourteen (14)hectare property through fraud.
In a Decision[6] dated November 27, 1956, the CFI did not entertain Galera's claim of ownership and ruled that it was
not proven during trial that Fernando Nantes employed fraud in securing his title. Even assuming that Galera and his
predecessors-in-interest owned the land, they permitted the issuance of the free patent and the certificate of title
without filing any protest or suing for its recovery.
Galera appealed the CFI decision to the Supreme Court, but the same was dismissed on June 30, 1962. The High Court
held that the lower court's decision had already attained finality; thus, the issues litigated could not anymore be
In 1972, petitioners sent demand letters to respondents to vacate, but their demand to vacate remained unheeded. Thus,
in 1974, they filed a complaint for recovery of possession with damages against respondents before the CFI of Agoo,
La Union. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. A-424.
Meanwhile, petitioners had caused the cancellation of TCT No. RT-223 (257) by virtue of an Extrajudicial Settlement,
and TCT No. T-13642[9] was issued in their names.
In their amended complaint,[10] petitioners alleged that sometime in 1937, respondents, without their consent, by means
of force, intimidation, threat, strategy and stealth, entered the subject property, constructed their houses thereon and
made beneficial use of the land by tilling it and then gathering and appropriating its fruits.
Respondents, for their part, countered that they are the real owners of the subject property. They claimed that they and
their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, notorious, public and exclusive possession of the subject
land for more than a century and since the creation of Ambangonan as a barrio. They also denied petitioners'
allegations that demands were made upon them to vacate the property. They claimed that petitioners acquired TCT No.
RT-223 (257) in bad faith because petitioners were fully aware that respondents were the owners and were in actual
possession of the subject land. Respondents likewise alleged that the transfer to Apolinario Fama was void because it
was made within the five (5)-year prohibitory period.
On August 12, 1984, the Sangguniang Bayan of Pugo, La Union, upon motion of one (1) of its members, respondent
Melecio Garas, submitted to the RTC Resolution No. 47-84 [11] requesting that Civil Case No. A-474 be resolved in
favor of respondents. Annexed to the resolution is a Petition [12] signed by respondents requesting that the title in the
name of petitioners be nullified and another survey be made to segregate from the original survey the Ambangonan
barrio site and the rice paddies that their forefathers have made, both of which were covered by petitioners' title.
On September 12, 1984, respondents together with the Pugo School Corporation, Barangay Ambangonan, and the Municipal
Government of Pugo filed with the RTC of Agoo, La Union a complaint [13] for quieting of title, partition and damages with
prayer for preliminary injunction against petitioners. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. A-953. They alleged that
since time immemorial Ambangonan has been occupied by cultural minorities among which were respondents' ancestors and
predecessors and that at present, it is now under the open, continuous, notorious, public and exclusive possession of

They further claimed that Fernando Nantes and one (1) Cesaria Rivera resided only on the western portion of Ambangonan
but fraudulently secured Free Patent No. 6381 covering not only the property they were possessing, but also the eastern
portion owned and possessed by respondents' predecessors-in-interest. Respondents contended that their predecessors-ininterest were able to convince Nantes and Rivera to execute deeds of quitclaim covering the eastern portion and the same
was duly annotated on OCT No. 470. Nantes therefore sold his one-half (1/2) portion to Rosendo Farales, and TCT No. 154
was issued. However, because there was no partition yet, the whole fourteen (14)-hectare property was registered in the
names of Nantes and Farales under said title. Later, it was sold to Apolinario Fama. TCT No. 154 was cancelled and TCT
No. 257 was issued to Apolinario Fama but still covering the whole fourteen (14)-hectare property.

In petitioners' answer,[14] they claim among others that they and their predecessors-in-interest validly acquired by
purchase the subject property and that respondents have no rights over the subject property as their predecessors-ininterest never owned any part thereof. Respondents' action is likewise barred by laches, prescription and estoppel.
By Order[15] dated November 12, 1984, Civil Case No. A-424 and Civil Case No. A-953 were consolidated.
During trial, testifying for and on behalf of petitioners was Maria Fama Florentin. She testified that she knows the
respondents because they entered their fourteen (14)-hectare land in Pugo, La Union without her father's consent in
1937 and thereafter made some improvements on the subject land: a rice plantation, rice mills, fruit trees and houses.
She, however, admitted that there were already houses in the area even prior to 1937 and that she was uncertain
whether her father had filed a case against respondents.
On respondents' part, testimonies of the possessors/occupants of the subject land were presented. They were in unity in
saying that they and their predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the subject land for more than a century
and have introduced improvements thereon, planted trees and tilled the land. They also presented vintage tax
declarations, old receipts for payment of realty taxes due on the land, and road tax certificates all in their names and
that of their predecessors-in-interest.
On October 6, 1997, the RTC of Agoo, La Union, Branch 31, rendered a Decision[16] in favor of petitioners. The fallo reads:

WHEREFORE, this Court renders judgment in favor of the registered owners, Fama's heirs, and against Garas, et al.
ordering the defendants in Civil Case No. A-424 and those in present possession or occupation of any portion of the
property described in TCT No. RT-223 (257), issued by the Register of Deeds of La Union (now TCT No. T-13642),
without the consent of the Heirs of Apolinario Fama or any deed emanating from the Famas entitling possession or
ownership, like a deed of saie or lease etc. to vacate the same, but with the right to dismantle or disassemble those
structures they built within the said property. Government infrastructure projects or units and the community chapel
presently existing thereon are excluded from this Order to vacate.
Civil Case No. A-953 is hereby DISMISSED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.[17] (Underscoring in the original.)
The RTC gave preference to petitioners' title over the subject property and rejected respondents' claim of acquisitive
prescription. It held that it was respondents who were guilty of laches and not petitioners. From the time the free patent was
issued until the subject land was eventually placed under the Torrens system, respondents never made an adverse claim. If
ever respondents or their ancestors had rights over the subject land, they slept on them, according to the court.

As to the government infrastructures, school buildings and chapel on the subject land, the RTC held that the petitioners
probably did not object to their construction because their presence and existence would appreciate the value of the
land. It ruled that it would be the height of injustice if the government would be punished and thus the portions
occupied by said structures were ordered excluded from petitioners' ownership.
On appeal, the trial court's decision was reversed by the CA as follows:
WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE insofar as Civil Case No. A-424 is
concerned, and a new one entered dismissing the complaint for recovery of possession and directing the appellees to
recognize the rightful possession of the following appellants over their occupied portions of the subject property:
1. Melecio Garas
2. Lorenzo Bay-an
3. Pablo Estrada
4. Juan Nantes

Orchard --- 1,080 sq.m. Res. Lot --- 200 sq.m, Total land area ---1.280 sq.m.
Unirrig. --- 4,212 sq.m. Res. Lot -- 276 sq.m. Total land area --- 4,488 sq.m.
Orchard --- 174 sq.m. Res. Lot ---100 sq.m. Total land area --- 274 sq.m.
Res. Lot --- 400 sq.m. Orchard ---560 sq.m. Total land area --- 960 sq.m.

On the other,hand, let these cases be REMANDED to the court of origin for further presentation of evidence insofar as
the following appellants/occupants are concerned;

Lucas Abag
Pedro Aspiras
Urbana Bay-an
Bernard Daoa (Dao-oa)
Roberto Dulay

Patricio Estoesta
Bernardo Estrada
Novato de Guzman
Jose Lang-as (Lang-es)
Sinfroso Lang-as (Lang-es)

Catalina Lentino
Felimon Masleg (Maslig; Maslog)

Florentina Morales
Rodolfo Morales
Pedro Mapalo

Ceferino Oribello
Gregorio Piano
Avelino Pio
Felomina Torio


21 The following parties who have submitted no proof of occupancy may be allowed to prove their possession by
themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest:

Marcelino Abang
Tranquilino Abang
Pedro Aoas
Julio Bay-an
Juan Estoesta
Jimmy Evangelista


Artemio Galera
Amalia Lang-as
Diosdado Mazo
Elpidio Molina
Panfilo Molina

Pantaleon Morales
Pablito Rivera
Maximo Torio
Laviana Agojo
Adriano Bentres
Bintor Lang-es

Domingo Lang-es
Dianang Mapalo
Ebeng Nantes
Victoriano Nantes
Arsenio Torio
Tony Torio

27 The heirs of the following deceased parties may likewise be allowed to present further evidence on their
alleged claim of ownership over certain portions of the subject property:

Marcelo Bay-an
Ambrocio Bastinga
Faustino Balangtad

Felix Daoa
Pedro Baing (Baeng)

Andres Mamatec
Basilio Mapalo
Eufemiano Sapioc

Mercedes Yag-ao (Yog-an)

Juan Baday
Fernando Bay-an



14 The areas respectively occupied by the following may be determined:

Roberto Mendoz
Sps. Jose Parocha & Faustina Bay-an
Miguel Mapalo
Marcos Bactadan


The following appellants need to present evidence on their payment of taxes on the portions occupied by them,
or such other proofs of occupancy as they may produce:
Marcelino Lumaguey
Tranquilino Abang

The spouses Pantaleon Morales and Florentina Nantes may be allowed to prove their payment of laxes on the
1,200-square-meter portion occupied by them.


10 Finally, the following who are not parties to these cases should not be allowed to present evidence, it appearing
that they are likewise barred by laches:
Fernando Amgao
Flaviana Gatchalian
Eusebio Hiyag
Alfredo Agujos
Ventura Lang-as (Lang-es)
Faustino Bactadan
Rogelio Estoque
Alvaro Palabay

10 SO ORDERED.[18]

12 The CA ruled that respondents were able to prove by overwhelming evidence that they and their predecessorsin-interest have been in actual and adverse possession of the land even prior to the alleged possession and
issuance of the title in favor of petitioners' predecessor-in-interest in 1918.

14 The CA also noted that petitioners failed to assert their right over the land and that they allowed more than four
(4) decades to elapse before instituting an action for recovery of possession in 1974. They are therefore guilty
of laches which bars them from recovering the possession of the subject land.

16 Aggrieved with the above ruling, petitioners filed the present petition arguing that the CA erred in:



19 Petitioners argue that they are not guilty of laches as the elements of laches are wanting in the instant case. As
borne out from the testimonies of respondents themselves, petitioners' predecessor-in-interest, Apolinario
Fama, asserted his ownership over the subject property. He occupied it for more than thirty (30) years and later
his heirs instituted a civil case against Lorenzo Galera in 1950. Petitioners also argue that they have
continuously interrupted respondents' possession and thus, the respondents cannot claim that they were
unaware of Fama's ownership over the subject land.

21 Petitioners further point out that even if the respondents entered the subject property prior to 1931, it should be
emphasized that a free patent was already issued in 1918. Hence, no length of possession can ripen to
ownership in favor of the respondents.

23 Lastly, petitioners argue that the old tax declarations shown by respondents do not prove their ownership of the
subject property. Said tax declarations, though old, do not 'indicate if they refer to the property in question or
if they pertain to property covered by petitioners' title.

25 Respondents for their part, counter that petitioners' filing of a civil case against Lorenzo Galera in 1950 did not
interrupt their continuous possession. Petitioners are still guilty of laches, having waited more than four (4)
decades before instituting an action against them, and though a Torrens title is indefeasible, a registered owner
may lose his right to recover possession by reason of laches.

27 The issue in the main is: Will respondents' possession over the subject land prevail over petitioners' title?

29 We rule in the negative.


31 The Philippines first came under the Torrens System of Registration in 1902 by virtue of Act No. 496 or the
Land Registration Act, the governing law at the time the subject land was first titled. The very purpose of the
system of land registration under the Torrens system was to create an indefeasible title in the holder of the
certificate. It was intended to free the land from all claims and liens of whatever character, which existed
against the land prior to the issuance of the certificate of title, except those which are noted upon the certificate
of title and certain other liens specially mentioned in the law, such as taxes, etc. [20] Once a title is registered, the
owner may rest secure, without the necessity of waiting in the portals of the court, or sitting in the 'mirador de
sit casa' to avoid the possibility of losing his land.[21]

33 It is not disputed that the subject land came under the Torrens System of Registration and a free patent and
later a certificate of title were issued in favor of petitioners as early as 1918. Respondents allege that the
subject land was erroneously included in the title. Thus, from the time the decree of registration was entered,
respondents1 predecessors-in-interest had one (1) year to assail it as provided in Section 38 of Act No. 496, to

35 Sec. 38. If the court after hearing finds that the applicant has.title as stated in his application, and proper for

registration, a decree of confirmation and registration shall be entered. Every decree of registration shall bind the
land, and quiet title thereto, subject only to the exceptions stated in the following section. It shall be conclusive upon
and against all persons, including the Insular Government and all the branches thereof, whether mentioned by name
in the application, notice, or citation, or included in the general description "To all whom it may concern." Such decree
shall not be opened by reason of the absence, infancy, or other disability of any person affected thereby, nor by any
proceeding in any court for reversing judgments or decrees; subject, however, to the right of any person deprived
of land or of any estate or interest therein by decree of registration obtained by fraud to file in the Court of Land
Registration a petition for review within one year after entry of the decree, provided no innocent purchaser for
value has acquired an interest. If there is any such purchaser, the decree of registration shall not be opened, but shall
remain in full force and effect forever, subject only to the right of appeal hereinbefore provided. But any person aggrieved
by such decree in any case may pursue his remedy by action for damages against the applicant or any other person for
fraud in procuring the decree. Whenever the phrase "innocent purchaser for value" of an equivalent phrase occurs in this
Act, it shall be deemed to include an innocent lessee, mortgagee, or other encumbrancer for value.

37 Assuming respondents' allegation was true, it appears that their predecessors-in-interest opted not to avail of
this remedy and instead sought the execution of a deed of quitclaim in their favor. And granting that indeed they
were able to secure a deed of quitclaim, respondents could have complied with the procedure in Sections 57 and 58

of the same law:


39 Sec. 57. An owner desiring to convey in fee his registered land or any portion thereof shall execute a deed of

conveyance, which the grantor or grantee may present to the register of deeds in the province where the land
lies. The grantor's duplicate certificate shall be produced and presented at the same time. The register of
deeds shall thereupon, in accordance with the rules and instructions of the court, make out in the registration
book a new certificate of title to the grantee, and shall prepare and deliver to him an owner's duplicate
certificate. The register of deeds shall note upon the original and duplicate certificates the date of transfer, the
volume and page of the registration book where the new certificate is registered, and a reference by number to the last
prior certificate. The grantor's duplicate certificate shall be surrendered, and the word "canceled" stamped upon it. The
original certificate shall also be stamped "canceled." The deed of conveyance shall be filed and indorsed with the number
and place of registration of the certificate of title of the land conveyed.

41 SEC. 58, When a deed in fee is for a part only of the land described in a certificate of title, (he register of deeds shall
also enter a new certificate and issue an owner's duplicate to the grantor for the part of the land not included in the
deed. In every case of Transfer the new certificate or certificates shall include all the land described in the original
and surrendered certificates: Provided, however, That no new certificate to a grantee of a part only of the land shall
be invalid by reason of the failure of the register of deeds to enter a new certificate to the grantor for the remaining
unconveyed portion: And provided further, That in case the land described in a certificate of title is divided into lots,
designated by numbers or letters, with measurements of all the bounds, and a plan of said land has been filed with
the clerk and verified pursuant to section forty-four of this Act, and a certified copy thereof is recorded in the
registration book with the original certificate, when the original owner makes a deed of transfer in fee of one or
more of such lots, the register of deeds may, instead of canceling such certificate and entering a new certificate to
the grantor for the part of the land not included in the deed of transfer, enter on the original certificate and on the
owner's duplicate certificate a memorandum of such deed of transfer, with a reference to the lot or lots thereby
conveyed as designated on such plan, and that the certificate is canceled as to such lot or lots; and every certificate
with such memorandum shall be effectual for the purpose of showing the grantor's title to the remainder of the land
not conveyed as if the old certificate had been canceled and a new certificate of such land had been entered; and
such process may be repeated so long as there is convenient space upon the original certificate and the owner's
duplicate certificate for making such memorandum of sale of lots. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

43 However, due to reasons known only to them, respondents' predecessors-in-interest once again chose not to
avail of said remedy and allegedly had their claim over the subject land annotated. Sadly though, respondents
could not present, a copy of the alleged deed of quitclaim or of Nantes' annotated title. As said allegation of
reconveyance by Nantes remains unsubstantiated, we cannot support respondents' cause.

45 The Court also cannot countenance respondents' averment that they and their predecessors-in-interest were not
aware that the land has been titled and that it was only in 1974, when petitioners filed a complaint against
them, that they became aware of such fact.

47 The title, once registered, is notice to the world. All persons must take notice. No one can plead ignorance of the

registration.22 Moreover, actual notice to every person affected or may be affected by the titling is not necessary. It
is well settled that the registration of land under the Torrens system is a proceeding in rem and not in personam.
Such a proceeding in rem, dealing with a tangible res, may be instituted and carried to judgment without personal
service upon the claimants within the state or notice by mail to those outside of it. Jurisdiction is acquired by virtue
of the power of the court over the res. Such a proceeding would be impossible were this not so, for it would hardly do to
make a distinction between constitutional rights of claimants who were known and those who were not known to the
plaintiff, when the proceeding is to bar all.[23]

49 Suffice it to state that the subject land had undergone not only one (1) but three (3) registrations: first, the
registration of Free Patent No. 6381 resulting in the issuance of OCT No. 470; second, the registration of TCT
No. 257 in the name of Apolinario Fama; and third, the registration of TCT No. RT-223 (257) as a result of
reconstitution. With the act of registration serving as notice to the world, respondents and their predecessorsin-interest have been notified1 three (3) times and thus had three (3) opportunities to assert their ownership
over the subject land. For three (3) times they failed. They were just content with declaring the same for tax
purposes probably believing that said tax declarations will give them enough security and protection over their
alleged ownership of the subject property.

51 It is also worthy of note that apart from the actual registration itself which serves as notice to the whole world,
our land registration laws have installed safeguards to ensure that sufficient notice is given to those who may
be affected prior to effecting the registration or reconstitution of a title.

53 Act No. 496 or the Land Registration Act which governed the registration of Free Patent No. 6381 into OCT No. 470

55 SEC. 31. If, in the opinion of the examiner, the applicant has a good title, as alleged, and proper for registration, or if
the applicant, after an adverse opinion of the examiner, elects to proceed further, the clerk of the court shall,
immediately upon the filing of the examiner's opinion or the applicant's election, as the case may be, cause notice of
the filing of the application to be published once in two newspapers, one of which newspapers shall be printed
in the English language and one in Spanish, of general circulation in the province or city where any portion of
the land lies, or if there be no Spanish or English newspaper of general circulation in the province or city
where any portion of the land lies, then it shall be a sufficient compliance with this section if the notice of the
filing of the application be published in a daily English newspaper and a daily Spanish newspaper of the city
of Manila having a general circulation. The notice shall be issued by order of the court, attested by the clerk, and
shall be in form substantially as follows:

59 Province (or city) of _____________



63 To (here insert the names of all persons appearing to have an interest and the adjoining owners so far as known), and to
all whom it may concern:
65 Whereas an application has been presented to said court by (name or names, and addresses in full) to register and confirm
his (or their) title in the following-described lands (insert description), you are hereby cited to appear at the Court of Land
Registration, to be held at ________________, in said Province (or city) of ______________ , on the _______ day of
___________, A.D. nineteen hundred and _____________, at _______ o'clock in the forenoon, to show cause, if any you
have, why the prayer of said application shall not be granted. And unless you appear at such court, at the time and place
aforesaid, your default will be recorded and the said application will be taken as confessed, and you will be forever barred
from contesting said application or any decree entered thereon.
67 Witness: _____________, judge of said court, this__________ day of _____, in the year nineteen hundred and
69 Attest:
71 Clerk of Said Court.






73 Sec. 32. The return of said notice shall not be less than twenty nor more than sixty days from date of issue.
The court shall also, within seven days alter publication of said notice in the newspapers, as hereinbefore
provided, cause a copy of the publication in Spanish to be mailed by (he clerk to every person named therein
whose address is known. The court shall also cause a duly-attested copy of the notice to be posted, in the
Spanish language, in a conspicuous place on each parcel of land included in the application , and also in a
conspicuous place upon the chief municipal building of the pueblo in which the land or a portion thereof is
[situated], by the governor or sheriff of the province or city, as the case may be, or by his deputy, fourteen days at
least before the return day thereof, and his return shall be conclusive proof of such service. If the applicant requests
to have the line of a public way determined, the court shall order a notice to be given by the clerk by mailing a
registered letter to the president of the municipal council, or to the Municipal Board, as the case may be, of the
municipality or city in which the land lies. If the land borders on a river, navigable stream, or shore, or on an arm of
the sea where a river or harbor line has been established, or on a lake, or if it otherwise appears from the application
or the proceedings that the Insular Government may have a claim adverse to that of the applicant, notice shah be
given in the same manner to the Attorney-General. The court may also cause other or further notice of the
application to be given in such manner and to such persons as it may deem proper. The court shall, so far as
it deems it possible, require proof of actual notice to all adjoining owners and to all persons who appear to
have interest in or claim to the land included in the application. Notice to such persons by mail shall be by
registered letter if practicable. The certificate of the clerk that he has served the notice as directed by the
court, by publishing or mailing, shall be filed in the case before (he return day, and shall be conclusive proof
of such service.

TORRENS CERTIFICATES OF TITLE LOST OR DESTROYED," on the other hand, governed the reconstitution of
Apolinario Fama's TCT No. 257 into TCT No. RT-223 (257). Section 13 of said law provides for effecting notice to
interested parties, to wit:

77 SEC. 13. The court shall cause a notice of the petition, filed under the preceding section, to be published at the

expense of the petitioner, twice in successive issues of the Official Gazette, and to be posted on the main
entrance of the provincial building and of the municipal building of the municipality or city in which the land
is situated, at least thirty days prior to the date of hearing. The court shall likewise cause a copy of the notice to
be sent, by registered mail or otherwise, at the expense of the petitioner, (o every person named therein whose
address is known, at least thirty days prior to the date of hearing. Said notice shall state, among other things,
the number of the lost or destroyed certificate of title, if known, the name of the registered owner, the names of-the
occupants or persons in possession of the property, the owners of the adjoining properties and all other interested
parties, the location, area and boundaries of the property, and the date on which all persons having any interest therein
must appear and file their claim or objections to the petition. The petitioner shall, at the hearing, submit proof of the
publication, posting and service of the notice as directed by the court.

79 As correctly ruled by the RTC, if there was anyone guilty of laches in the instant case, it was respondents and
not petitioners. It was in 1918 that the patent was issued and respondents only resorted to legal means to assert
their ownership over the subject land in 1974 when petitioners filed a complaint against them and later in 1984
when they decided to file a complaint for quieting of title. They had to wait almost six (6) decades.

81 Respondents may have attempted to present evidence of their longtime possession over the subject property
through testimonies and documentary evidence such as vintage tax declarations, tax receipts and proof of
improvements. Their case is even supported by the local government in the area no less. However, we are in a
society where the rule of law prevails. Laws were created to put order in a society. It applies to every one (1) and
no member is given the choice as to whether he wants to be bound by it or not. In the instant case, laws were
enacted installing mechanisms to quiet title to land and to forever stop any question as to its legality. If properly
availed of, it could afford protection to any landowner. In spite of this, respondents and their predecessors-ininterest, assuming they indeed are the true owners, opted not to avail of this protection and now they have to suffer
the dire consequences.

83 WHEREFORE, the November 23, 2001 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 58304 is SET ASIDE.
The October 6, 1997 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Agoo, La Union, Branch 31 in Civil Case Nos. A-424 and A953 is REINSTATED and UPHELD.
No costs.