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G.R. No. 157485, March 26, 2014


Before the MCTC, respondent heirs presented evidence that they inherited
a bigger parcel of land from their mother, Maxima Sin, who died in the year
REPUBLIC OF THE 1945 in New Washington, Capiz (now Aklan). Maxima Sin acquired said
PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. HEIRS OF MAXIMA bigger parcel of land by virtue of a Deed of Sale (Exhibit B), and then
developed the same by planting coconut trees, banana plants, mango
LACHICA SIN, NAMELY: SALVACION L. SIN, trees and nipa palms and usufructing the produce of said land until her
Respondents. death in 1945.

In the year 1988, a portion of said land respondents inherited from Maxima
DECISION Sin was occupied by ANCF and converted into a fishpond for educational
purpose. Respondent heirs of Maxima Sin asserted that they were
LEONARDODE CASTRO, J.: previously in possession of the disputed land in the concept of an owner.
The disputed area was a swampy land until it was converted into a
fishpond by the ANCF. To prove possession, respondents presented
This is a Petition for Review assailing the Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals several tax declarations, the earliest of which was in the year 1945.
in CAG.R. SP No. 65244 dated February 24, 2003, which upheld the
Decisions of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Kalibo, Aklan in Civil Case On June 19, 2000, the MCTC rendered its Decision in favor of
No. 6130 and the First Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of New respondents, the dispositive portion of which reads:
Washington and Batan, Aklan in Civil Case No. 1181, segregating from the
Aklan National College of Fisheries (ANCF) reservation the portion of land WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered declaring plaintiffs [respondent heirs
being claimed by respondents. herein] the owner and possessor of the land in question in this case and
for the defendants to cause the segregation of the same from the Civil
Petitioner in this case is the Republic of the Philippines, represented by Reservation of the Aklan National College of Fisheries, granted under
ANCF and Dr. Elenita R. Andrade, in her capacity as Superintendent of Proclamation No. 2074 dated March 31, 1981.
ANCF. Respondents claim that they are the lawful heirs of the late Maxima
Lachica Sin who was the owner of a parcel of land situated at Barangay It is further ordered, that defendants jointly and severally pay the plaintiffs
Tambac, New Washington, Aklan, and more particularly described as actual damages for the unearned yearly income from nipa plants uprooted
follows: by the defendants [on] the land in question when the same has been
converted by the defendants into a fishpond, in the amount of Php3,500.00
A parcel of cocal, nipal and swampy land, located at Barangay Tambac, yearly beginning the year 1988 until plaintiffs are fully restored to the
New Washington, Aklan, containing an approximate area of possession of the land in question.
FIFTY[]EIGHT THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED SIX (58,606) square meters,
more or less, as per survey by Geodetic Engineer Reynaldo L. Lopez. It is finally ordered, that defendants jointly and severally pay the plaintiffs
Bounded on the North by Dumlog Creek; on the East by Adriano the sum of Php10,000.00 for attorneys fees and costs of this suit. 3
Melocoton; on the South by Mabilo Creek; and on the West by Amado According to the MCTC, the sketch made by the Court Commissioner in
Cayetano and declared for taxation purposes in the name of Maxima L. his report (Exh. LL) shows that the disputed property is an alienable and
Sin (deceased) under Tax Declaration No. 10701 (1985) with an assessed disposable land of the public domain. Furthermore, the land covered by
value of Php1,320.00.2 Civil Reservation under Proclamation No. 2074 was classified as
On August 26, 1991, respondent heirs instituted in the RTC of Kalibo, timberland only on December 22, 1960 (Exh. 4D). The MCTC observed
Aklan a complaint against Lucio Arquisola, in his capacity as that the phrase Block II Alien or Disp. LC 2415 was printed on the Map of
Superintendent of ANCF (hereinafter ANCF Superintendent), for recovery the Civil Reservation for ANCF established under Proclamation No. 2074
of possession, quieting of title, and declaration of ownership with (Exh. 6), indicating that the disputed land is an alienable and disposable
damages. Respondent heirs claim that a 41,231square meterportion of land of the public domain.
the property they inherited had been usurped by ANCF, creating a cloud of
doubt with respect to their ownership over the parcel of land they wish to The MCTC likewise cited a decision of this Court in the 1976 case
remove from the ANCF reservation. of Republic v. Court of Appeals4where it was pronounced that:
Lands covered by reservation are not subject to entry, and no lawful
The ANCF Superintendent countered that the parcel of land being claimed settlement on them can be acquired. The claims of persons who have
by respondents was the subject of Proclamation No. 2074 of then settled on, occupied, and improved a parcel of public land which is later
President Ferdinand E. Marcos allocating 24.0551 hectares of land within included in a reservation are considered worthy of protection and are
the area, which included said portion of private respondents alleged usually respected, but where the President, as authorized by law, issues a
property, as civil reservation for educational purposes of ANCF. The ANCF proclamation reserving certain lands, and warning all persons to depart
Superintendent furthermore averred that the subject parcel of land is therefrom, this terminates any rights previously acquired in such lands by a
timberland and therefore not susceptible of private ownership. person who has settled thereon in order to obtain a preferential right of
purchase. And patents for lands which have been previously granted,
Subsequently, the complaint was amended to include ANCF as a party reserved from sale, or appropriated are void. (Underscoring from the
defendant and Lucio Arquisola, who retired from the service during the MCTC, citations omitted.)
pendency of the case, was substituted by Ricardo Andres, then the
designated OfficerinCharge of ANCF. Noting that there was no warning in Proclamation No. 2074 requiring all
persons to depart from the reservation, the MCTC concluded that the
The RTC remanded the case to the MCTC of New Washington and Batan, reservation was subject to private rights if there are any.
Aklan, in view of the enactment of Republic Act No. 7659 which expanded
the jurisdiction of firstlevel courts. The case was docketed as Civil Case The MCTC thus ruled that the claim of respondent heirs over the disputed
No. 1181 (4390). land by virtue of their and their predecessors open, continuous, exclusive
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and notorious possession amounts to an imperfect title, which should be AND THE MUNICIPAL CIRCUIT TRIAL COURTS RELEASING THE
respected and protected. SUBJECT LAND BEING CLAIMED BY RESPONDENTS FROM THE
MASS OF PUBLIC DOMAIN AND AWARDING DAMAGES TO THEM. 8
Petitioner, through the Solicitor General, appealed to the RTC of Kalibo, The central dispute in the case at bar is the interpretation of the first
Aklan, where the case was docketed as Civil Case No. 6130. paragraph of Proclamation No. 2074:

On May 2, 2001, the RTC rendered its Decision affirming the MCTC Upon recommendation of the Director of Forest Development, approved by
judgment with modification: the Minister of Natural Resources and by virtue of the powers vested in me
by law, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, do
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed decision is modified hereby set aside as Civil Reservation for Aklan National College of
absolving Appellant Ricardo Andres from the payment of damages and Fisheries, subject to private rights, if any there be, parcels of land,
attorneys fees. All other details of the appealed decision are affirmed in containing an aggregate area of 24.0551 hectares, situated in the
toto.5 Municipality of New Washington, Province of Aklan, Philippines,
designated Parcels I and II on the attached BFD Map CR203, x x x [.]9
The RTC stressed that Proclamation No. 2074 recognizes vested rights The MCTC, the RTC and the Court of Appeals unanimously held that
acquired by private individuals prior to its issuance on March 31, 1981. respondents retain private rights to the disputed property, thus preventing
the application of the above proclamation thereon. The private
The RTC added that the findings of facts of the MCTC may not be right referred to is an alleged imperfect title, which respondents
disturbed on appeal unless the court below has overlooked some facts of supposedly acquired by possession of the subject property, through their
substance that may alter the results of its findings. The RTC, however, predecessorsininterest, for 30 years before it was declared as a
absolved the Superintendent of the ANCF from liability as there was no timberland on December 22, 1960.
showing on record that he acted with malice or in bad faith in the
implementation of Proclamation No. 2074.6
At the outset, it must be noted that respondents have not filed an
Petitioner Republic, represented by the ANCF and Dr. Elenita R. Andrade, application for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under the Public Land
in her capacity as the new Superintendent of the ANCF, elevated the case Act or the Property Registration Decree. Nevertheless, the courts a
to the Court of Appeals through a Petition for Review. The petition was quo apparently treated respondents complaint for recovery of possession,
docketed as CAG.R. SP No. 65244. quieting of title and declaration of ownership as such an application and
proceeded to determine if respondents complied with the requirements
On February 24, 2003, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision therefor.
dismissing the petition for lack of merit. In addition to the findings of the
MCTC and the RTC, the Court of Appeals held: The requirements for judicial confirmation of imperfect title are found in
Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act, as amended by Presidential Decree
Moreover, petitioner had not shown by competent evidence that the No. 1073, as follows:
subject land was likewise declared a timberland before its formal
classification as such in 1960. Considering that lands adjoining to that of Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying
the private respondents, which are also within the reservation area, have lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest
been issued original certificates of title, the same affirms the conclusion therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply
that the area of the subject land was agricultural, and therefore disposable, to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for
before its declaration as a timberland in 1960. confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor,
under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
rtualLawlibrary
chanRoblesvi

It should be noted that Maxima Lachica Sin acquired, through purchase


and sale, the subject property from its previous owners spouses Sotera x x x x
Melocoton and Victor Garcia on January 15, 1932, or 28 years before the
said landholding was declared a timberland on December 22, 1960. (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest
Tacking, therefore, the possession of the previous owners and that of have been in the open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession
Maxima Lachica Sin over the disputed property, it does not tax ones and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain,
imagination to conclude that the subject property had been privately under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, since June 12, 1945,
possessed for more than 30 years before it was declared a timberland. or earlier, immediately preceding the filing of the application for
This being the case, the said possession has ripened into an ownership confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These
against the State, albeit an imperfect one. Nonetheless, it is our shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions
considered opinion that this should come under the meaning of private essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title
rights under Proclamation No. 2074 which are deemed segregated from under the provisions of this chapter.
the mass of civil reservation granted to petitioner.7 (Citation omitted.) An equivalent provision is found in Section 14(1) of the Property
Hence, this Petition for Review, anchored on the following grounds: Registration Decree, which provides:
I SECTION 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the
proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title to land,
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED ON A QUESTION OF LAW whether personally or through their duly authorized representatives: chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

IN UPHOLDING RESPONDENTS CLAIM TO SUPPOSED PRIVATE


RIGHTS OVER SUBJECT LAND DESPITE THE DENR CERTIFICATION (1) those who by themselves or through their predecessorsininterest
THAT IT IS CLASSIFIED AS TIMBERLAND. have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under
II a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.
This Court has thus held that there are two requisites for judicial
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED ON A QUESTION OF LAW confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title under CA No. 141, namely: (1)
IN AFFIRMING THE DECISIONS OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of
3

the subject land by himself or through his predecessorsininterest under hectares of reserved forest land (protection purposes) and six hundred
a bona fide claim of ownership since time immemorial or from June 12, twentyeight and 96/100 (628.96) hectares of agricultural land (alienable
1945; and (2) the classification of the land as alienable and disposable and disposable). Petitionerclaimants and other landowners in Boracay
land of the public domain.10 filed with this Court an original petition for prohibition, mandamus and
nullification of Proclamation No. 1064, alleging that it infringed on their
With respect to the second requisite, the courts a quo held that the prior vested right over portions of Boracay which they allege to have
disputed property was alienable and disposable before 1960, citing possessed since time immemorial. This petition was consolidated with the
petitioners failure to show competent evidence that the subject land was petition for review concerning Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular 3
declared a timberland before its formal classification as such on said 82.
year.11 Petitioner emphatically objects, alleging that under the Regalian
Doctrine, all lands of the public domain belong to the State and that lands This Court, discussing the Regalian Doctrine visvis the right of the
not appearing to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to claimants to lands they claim to have possessed since time immemorial,
belong to the State. held:

After a thorough review of the records, we agree with petitioner. As this A positive act declaring land as alienable and disposable is
Court held in the fairly recent case of Valiao v. Republic12: 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
Under the Regalian doctrine, which is embodied in our Constitution, all government, such as an official proclamation, declassifying inalienable
lands of the public domain belong to the State, which is the source of any public land into disposable land for agricultural or other purposes. In fact,
asserted right to any ownership of land. All lands not appearing to be Section 8 of CA No. 141 limits alienable or disposable lands only to those
clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to the State. lands which have been officially delimited and classified.
Accordingly, public lands not shown to have been reclassified or released
as alienable agricultural land or alienated to a private person by the State The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of
remain part of the inalienable public domain. Unless public land is shown the lands of the public domain is on the person applying for registration (or
to have been reclassified as alienable or disposable to a private person by claiming ownership), who must prove that the land subject of the
the State, it remains part of the inalienable public domain. Property of the application is alienable or disposable. To overcome this presumption,
public domain is beyond the commerce of man and not susceptible of incontrovertible evidence must be established that the land subject of the
private appropriation and acquisitive prescription. Occupation thereof in application (or claim) is alienable or disposable. There must still be a
the concept of owner no matter how long cannot ripen into ownership and positive act declaring land of the public domain as alienable and
be registered as a title. The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption disposable. To prove that the land subject of an application for registration
of State ownership of the lands of the public domain is on the person is alienable, the applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of
applying for registration (or claiming ownership), who must prove that the the government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order;
land subject of the application is alienable or disposable. To overcome this an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands
presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be established that the land investigators; and a legislative act or a statute. The applicant may also
subject of the application (or claim) is alienable or disposable. secure a certification from the government that the land claimed to have
been possessed for the required number of years is alienable and
There must be a positive act declaring land of the public domain as disposable.
alienable and disposable. To prove that the land subject of an application
for registration is alienable, the applicant must establish the existence of a In the case at bar, no such proclamation, executive order, administrative
positive act of the government, such as a presidential proclamation or an action, report, statute, or certification was presented to the Court. The
executive order; an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of records are bereft of evidence showing that, prior to 2006, the portions of
Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute. The applicant may Boracay occupied by private claimants were subject of a government
also secure a certification from the government that the land claimed to proclamation that the land is alienable and disposable. Absent such well
have been possessed for the required number of years is alienable and nigh incontrovertible evidence, the Court cannot accept the submission
disposable. (Citations omitted.) that lands occupied by private claimants were already open to disposition
before 2006. Matters of land classification or reclassification cannot be
This Court reached the same conclusion in Secretary of the Department of assumed. They call for proof.14 (Emphases in the original; citations
Environment and Natural Resources v. Yap,13 which presents a similar omitted.)
issue with respect to another area of the same province of Aklan. On
November 10, 1978, President Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1801 Accordingly, in the case at bar, the failure of petitioner Republic to show
declaring Boracay Island, among other islands, caves and peninsulas of competent evidence that the subject land was declared a timberland
the Philippines, as tourist zones and marine reserves under the before its formal classification as such in 1960 does not lead to the
administration of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA). On September 3, presumption that said land was alienable and disposable prior to said date.
1982, PTA Circular 382 was issued to implement Proclamation No. 1801. On the contrary, the presumption is that unclassified lands are inalienable
The respondentsclaimants in said case filed a petition for declaratory public lands. Such was the conclusion of this Court in Heirs of the Late
relief with the RTC of Kalibo, Aklan, claiming that Proclamation No. 1801 Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols v. Republic,15 wherein
and PTA Circular 382 precluded them from filing an application for judicial we held:
confirmation of imperfect title or survey of land for titling purposes. The
respondents claim that through their predecessorsininterest, they have While it is true that the land classification map does not categorically
been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and state that the islands are public forests, the fact that they were
occupation of their lands in Boracay since June 12, 1945 or earlier since unclassified lands leads to the same result. In the absence of the
time immemorial. classification as mineral or timber land, the land remains unclassified land
until released and rendered open to disposition. x x x. (Emphasis supplied,
On May 22, 2006, during the pendency of the petition for review of the citation deleted.)
above case with this Court, President Gloria MacapagalArroyo issued
Proclamation No. 1064 classifying Boracay Island into four hundred (400)
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The requirements for judicial confirmation of imperfect title in Section 48(b) Cebu.[4] In its application, Tri-Plus alleged that it is the owner in fee
of the Public Land Act, as amended, and the equivalent provision in simple of the subject parcels of land, including the improvements
Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree was furthermore thereon, having acquired the same through purchase; and that it is
painstakingly debated upon by the members of this Court in Heirs of Mario in actual, continuous, public, notorious, exclusive and peaceful
Malabanan v. Republic.16 In Malabanan, the members of this Court were in
disagreement as to whether lands declared alienable or disposable after
possession of the subject properties in the concept of an owner for
June 12, 1945 may be subject to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. more than 30 years, including that of its predecessors-in-interest.
[5]
There was, however, no disagreement that there must be a declaration to The case was docketed as LRC Case No. N-21.[6]
that effect.
On September 4, 1997, the trial court received an Opposition to the
In the case at bar, it is therefore the respondents which have the burden to Application for Registration filed by the Republic of the Philippines
identify a positive act of the government, such as an official through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on the grounds
proclamation, declassifying inalienable public land into disposable land for that neither the applicant nor its predecessors-in-interest have
agricultural or other purposes. Since respondents failed to do so, the been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
alleged possession by them and by their predecessorsininterest is
inconsequential and could never ripen into ownership. Accordingly,
occupation of the land in question since June 12, 1945 or prior
respondents cannot be considered to have private rights within the purview thereto; that the muniments of title submitted by the applicant
of Proclamation No. 2074 as to prevent the application of said which consists, among others, of tax declarations and receipts of
proclamation to the subject property. We are thus constrained to reverse tax payments, do not constitute competent and sufficient evidence
the rulings of the courts a quo and grant the prayer of petitioner Republic of a bona fide acquisition of the land applied for or of its open,
to dismiss Civil Case No. 1181 (4390) for lack of merit. continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation
thereof in the concept of owner since June 12, 1945 or prior
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Petition for Review thereto; that the claim of ownership in fee simple on the basis of a
is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. SP No. Spanish title or grant may no longer be availed of by the applicant
65244 dated February 24, 2003, which upheld the Decisions of the
Regional Trial Court of Kalibo, Aklan in Civil Case No. 6130 and the First
because it failed to file an appropriate application for registration in
Municipal Circuit Trial Court of New Washington and Batan, Aklan in Civil accordance with the provisions of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No.
Case No. 1181 (4390), segregating from the Aklan National College of 892; and that the subject parcels of land are portions of the public
Fisheries reservation the portion of land being claimed by respondents domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines and are not
is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Civil Case No. 1181 (4390) of the First subject to private appropriation.[7]
Municipal Circuit Trial Court of New Washington and Batan, Aklan is
hereby DISMISSED. SO ORDERED. On September 19, 1997, Tri-Plus presented documentary evidence
to prove compliance with the jurisdictional requirements of the law.
On even date, a Manifestation and Motion was filed by the heirs of
Toribio Pepito praying that they be given a period of 10 days within
which to file their written opposition. [8] However, the oppositors
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, failed to file their written opposition on time. The trial court then
- versus - commissioned its clerk of court to receive evidence from the
TRI-PLUS CORPORATION, applicant and directed the former to submit a report thereon.
Accordingly, a Commissioners Report was submitted on the
Respondent. Promulgated: proceedings taken.[9]
September 26, 2006
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x In its Judgment dated February 26, 1998, the MTC made the
following finding and conclusion:

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.: The totality of the evidence, both


documentary and testimonial, of the applicant
clearly shows that it and its predecessors-in-
Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 interest had been in actual, public, exclusive
of the Rules of Court assailing the Decision [1] dated September 14, and continuous possession in concept of owner
2001 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 60671, which of the parcels of land above-mentioned for no
affirmed the judgment of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of less than thirty (30) years prior to the filing of
Consolacion, Metro Cebu in LRC Case No. N-21 granting herein the instant petition for registration of its
respondents application for registration of title to Lots Nos. 1061 imperfect title. This being so, the applicant is
and 1062 of the Cadastral Survey of Consolacion, Cebu. entitled that its title be confirmed under the
provisions of the Torrens System of
The facts of the case are as follows: Registration.[10]
On April 30, 1997 Tri-Plus Corporation [2], through its president,
Euclid C. Po, filed with the MTC of Consolacion, Metro Cebu,[3] an Accordingly, it disposed of the case as follows:
Application for Registration of Title over two parcels of land
designated as Lots 1061 and 1062 of the cadastral survey of WHEREFORE, in view of the
Consolacion, Cebu, containing an area of 3,939 and 4,796 square foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered
meters, respectively, and located at Barangay Tayud, Consolacion,
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declaring the applicant TRI-PLUS LAND On September 14, 2001, the CA rendered the presently
CORPORATION the exclusive and absolute assailed Decision finding no reversible error in the appealed
owner of Lot 1061 of the Cadastral Survey of judgment, thereby, affirming the same.[14]
Consolacion, Cebu, as shown on plan Ap-07-
002362 (Exhibit J) and described in its Hence, herein petition based on the following assignments of
corresponding technical description (Exhibit K), errors:
and Lot 1062 of the Cadastral Survey of I
Consolacion, Cebu, as shown on plan Ap-07-
002366 (Exhibit O) and described in its THE COURT OF APPEALS
corresponding technical description (Exhibit P). COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR
IN NOT FINDING THAT THE TRIAL
Once this decision becomes final, let COURT DID NOT ACQUIRE
an Order for the issuance of the decree of JURISDICTION TO HEAR AND
registration for Lots 1061 and 1062, DECIDE THE CASE, BECAUSE THE
Consolacion Cadastre, be issued in the name IDENTITY OF THE LAND REMAINS
of TRI-PLUS LAND CORPORATION. UNCERTAIN.

SO ORDERED.[11] II
The OSG appealed the trial courts judgment with the CA. [12]
THE COURT OF APPEALS
Subsequently, the Land Registration Authority (LRA), COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR
through its Director on Registration, submitted a Report IN NOT FINDING THAT
dated August 6, 1998 to the MTC, pertinent portions of which read RESPONDENT FAILED TO
as follows: DISCHARGE THE BURDEN OF
PROVING THAT THE PROPERTY IS
1. Two (2) parcels of land described ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE.
as Lots 1062 and 1061, Cad. 545-D,
Consolacion Cadastre on Plan Ap-07-002366 III
and Ap-07-002362, both situated in the
Barangay of THE COURT OF APPEALS
Tayud, Municipality of Consolacion, Province of COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR
Cebu, are being applied for original registration IN NOT FINDING THAT
of title; RESPONDENT IS DISQUALIFIED
2. After examining the afore-said plan FROM ACQUIRING LANDS OF THE
discrepancy was noted in the bearings and PUBLIC DOMAIN.[15]
distances of line 3-4 and 4-5 of Lot 1061, Ap-
07-002362, being S.57 deg. 19W 8.02m. and As to the first assigned error, petitioner contends that the CA erred
S.52 deg. 10W 18.24, which do not conform in relying on the original survey plan approved by the Lands
with the bearings and distances (N. 52 deg. Management Services of the Department of Environment and
01E., 18.00m) and (N. 52 deg. 47E., 17.71m.) Natural Resources (DENR) when it ruled that the applicant was
along lines 12-13 and 11-12, respectively of able to duly establish the identity of Lot 1061. This reliance,
plan Rs-07-01-000358, lot 1508, Consolacion petitioner argues, is mistaken considering that the Report of the
Cad. 545-D, decreed in LRA (NALTDRA) Director on Registration of the LRA pointed to a discrepancy in the
Record No. N-60851. bearings and distances of the boundaries which separate Lot 1061
from an adjoining land, Lot 1058. This discrepancy, petitioners
3. That the above discrepancy was submit, casts doubt on the identity of the land subject of the
brought to the attention of the Regional application for registration. Petitioner then concludes that if there is
Technical Director, DENR, Land Management uncertainty in the metes and bounds of the property sought to be
Services, Region VII, Mandaue City, for titled, the trial court cannot acquire jurisdiction over the subject
verification and correction in a letter dated 7 matter of the case. Hence, the proceedings before the trial court,
July 1998. including its decision granting the application for registration, are
void.
4. This Authority is not in a position to
verify whether or not the parcels of land subject As to the second assignment of error, petitioner argues that the CA
of registration are already covered by land erred in holding that the applicant was able to prove that the
patent.[13] subject properties are alienable and disposable lands of the public
domain. Petitioner contends that a mere notation appearing in the
survey plans of the disputed properties showing that the subject
lands had been classified as alienable and disposable on June 25,
6

1963 is not sufficient to establish the nature and character of these that it will be overlapped by a subsequent
lands. Petitioner asserts that there should be a positive act on the registration of any adjoining land. The failure to
part of the government, such as a certification from the DENR, to comply with this requirement is fatal to petitioners
prove that the said lands are indeed alienable and disposable. application for registration.[17]
Petitioner further contends that even if the subject properties were
classified as alienable and disposable on June 25, 1963, the law,
nonetheless, requires that such classification should have been However, in Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals [18] and
made on June 12, 1945 or earlier. in the more recent cases of Spouses Recto v. Republic of the
Philippines[19] and Republic of the Philippines v. Hubilla [20], the
Anent the last assigned error, petitioner contends that since the Court ruled that while the best evidence to identify a piece of land
applicant failed to discharge the burden of proving that the subject for registration purposes is the original tracing cloth plan from the
properties are alienable and disposable, there is no basis for the Bureau of Lands (now the Lands Management Services of the
CA to rule that these properties are private lands. DENR), blueprint copies and other evidence could also provide
sufficient identification. In the present case, respondent submitted
In its Comment, respondent contends that it was able to prove the in evidence a blueprint copy of the Advance Plan of Lot 1061 [21] and
identity of Lot 1061 with certainty. While it admits the discrepancy a Technical Description[22] thereof, both of which had been duly
in the bearings and distances which form the boundary between certified and approved by the Lands Management Services of the
Lot 1061 and the adjoining Lot 1058, respondent contends that DENR. The Court finds these pieces of evidence as substantial
such discrepancy is merely technical in nature because Lots 1058 compliance with the legal requirements for the proper identification
and 1061 remain the same and that there is neither an increase of Lot 1061. The discrepancy in the common boundary that
nor decrease in the area of the subject lot sought to be titled; and separates Lot 1061 from Lot 1058, as contained in the LRA Report
that what was required by the LRA in its Report was for the does not cast doubt on the identity of the subject lot. As the CA
applicant to correct and adjust the bearings and distances of Lot correctly held, the discrepancy is not substantial because it does
1061 in order to conform to the boundaries of Lot 1058. not unduly increase or affect the total area of the subject lot and at
the same time prejudice the adjoining lot owner. It is only when the
Respondent also argues that the notations appearing in the survey discrepancy results to an unexplained increase in the total area of
plans of the subject properties serve as sufficient proof that these the land sought to be registered that its identity is made doubtful.
lands are alienable and disposable. Respondent asserts that the Besides, only a portion of the many boundaries of Lot 1061 has
survey plans were duly approved by the DENR, Lands been found to bear a discrepancy in relation to the boundary of one
Management Services whose official acts are presumed to be in adjoining lot and the LRA Report simply recommends that the
accordance with law. Lands Management Services of the DENR verify the reported
discrepancy and make the necessary corrections, if needed, in
Lastly, respondent argues that its predecessor-in-interests order to avoid duplication in the issuance of titles covering the
continuous, actual, adverse and peaceful possession of the subject same parcels of land.
properties in the concept of an owner for a period of more than 30
years, coupled with the fact that they declared these lands in their Petitioners argument that, on the basis of the LRA
name, gives a strong presumption in respondents favor that the Report, the MTC should have dismissed respondents application
subject properties no longer form part of the public domain. for registration for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, is
Parties filed their respective Memoranda.[16] without merit. The MTC could not have possibly done this because
said Report was submitted to the trial court more than five months
The Court finds the petition meritorious. after the latter rendered its Decision. A copy of the LRA Report
At the outset, however, the Court does not agree with attached to the present petition shows that it is dated August 6,
petitioners contention in its first assigned error that respondent 1998 while the MTC decision was rendered much earlier
failed to properly identify Lot 1061 which is one of the lots sought to on February 26, 1998. In fact, the Office of the Solicitor General
be titled. (OSG) perfected its appeal by filing a notice of appeal of the MTC
Decision on April 2, 1998, which is also prior to the submission of
Insofar as the identity of the land subject of an the LRA report. Hence, by the time the LRA report was submitted
application for original registration is concerned, this Court has laid to the MTC, the latter has already lost jurisdiction over the case,
down the rule, as follows: not on the ground cited by petitioner but because the appeal to the
CA was already perfected, vesting jurisdiction upon the appellate
The submission in evidence of the court.
original tracing cloth plan, duly approved by the
Bureau of Lands, in cases for application of In any case, while the subject lands were properly identified, the
original registration of land is a mandatory Court finds that respondent failed to comply with the other legal
requirement. The reason for this rule is to requirements for its application for registration to be granted.
establish the true identity of the land to ensure
that it does not overlap a parcel of land or a Applicants for confirmation of imperfect title must prove
portion thereof already covered by a previous the following: (a) that the land forms part of the alienable and
land registration, and to forestall the possibility disposable agricultural lands of the public domain; and (b) that they
7

have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious he started owning the subject lot when he was 17 years old and
possession and occupation of the same under a bona fide claim of had been in possession of the same since then. [33] Hence, by
ownership either since time immemorial or since June 12, 1945. [23] simple arithmetic, the testimony of Frias proves that he came to
possess Lot 1062 only in 1947. While he testified that Lot 1062
In the present case, the Court finds merit in petitioners was previously owned by his father and that he inherited the
contention that respondent failed to prove the first requirement that property from his parents, no evidence was presented to show that
the properties sought to be titled forms part of the alienable and the latter indeed previously owned the said property and that they
disposable agricultural lands of the public domain. had been in possession of the same on or before June 12, 1945.

Section 6 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, Moreover, other pieces of evidence presented by respondent to
provides that the classification and reclassification of public lands prove the period of its possession and that of its predecessors-in-
into alienable or disposable, mineral or forest land is the interest show that the subject properties were declared for taxation
prerogative of the Executive Department. Under the Regalian purposes beginning only in 1961.[34] This date may be considered
doctrine, which is embodied in our Constitution, all lands of the as relatively recent considering that respondents predecessors-in-
public domain belong to the State, which is the source of any interest claim to have been in possession of the subject properties
asserted right to any ownership of land. [24] All lands not appearing as early as 1947. While belated declaration of a property for
to be clearly within private ownership are presumed to belong to taxation purposes does not necessarily negate the fact of
the State.[25] Accordingly, public lands not shown to have been possession, tax declarations or realty tax payments of property are,
reclassified or released as alienable agricultural land or alienated nevertheless, good indicia of possession in the concept of an
to a private person by the State remain part of the inalienable owner, for no one in his right mind would be paying taxes for a
public domain.[26] property that is not in his actual, or at least, constructive
possession.[35] In the present case, respondent failed to explain
It must be stressed that incontrovertible evidence must why, despite the claim of its predecessors-in interest that they
be presented to establish that the land subject of the application is possessed the subject properties in the concept of an owner as
alienable or disposable.[27] early as 1947, it was only in 1961 that they started to declare the
same for purposes of taxation.
In the present case, the only evidence to prove the
character of the subject lands as required by law is the notation From the foregoing, it is clear that respondent and its
appearing in the Advance Plan stating in effect that the said predecessors-in-interest failed to prove that they had been in open,
properties are alienable and disposable. However, this is hardly the continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the subject
kind of proof required by law. To prove that the land subject of an properties under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12,
application for registration is alienable, an applicant must establish 1945 or earlier, as required by law.
the existence of a positive act of the government such as a
presidential proclamation or an executive order, an administrative Well-entrenched is the rule that the burden of proof in
action, investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators, and land registration cases rests on the applicant who must show clear,
a legislative act or statute.[28] The applicant may also secure a positive and convincing evidence that his alleged possession and
certification from the Government that the lands applied for are occupation were of the nature and duration required by law. [36] In
alienable and disposable.[29] In the case at bar, while the Advance the present case, the Court finds that respondent failed to prove,
Plan bearing the notation was certified by the Lands Management by clear and convincing evidence, the legal requirements that the
Services of the DENR, the certification refers only to the technical lands sought to be titled are alienable and disposable and that its
correctness of the survey plotted in the said plan and has nothing predecessors-in-interest were already in possession of the subject
to do whatsoever with the nature and character of the property lots since 1945 or earlier.
surveyed. Respondents failed to submit a certification from the
proper government agency to prove that the lands subject for As to the last assigned error, respondent having failed to
registration are indeed alienable and disposable. prove that the subject properties are alienable and disposable
public lands, the Court agrees with petitioner that there would be
As to the second requirement, testimonial evidence were no basis in concluding that these lands have already become
presented to prove that respondents predecessors-in-interest had private. The presumption remains that said properties remain part
been in possession of the subject lots in the concept of an owner of the inalienable public domain and, therefore, could not become
for the period required by law. The first witness was Thelma Pilapil the subject of confirmation of imperfect title.
who claims to be the daughter of Constancia Frias from whom
respondent bought Lot 1061. Pilapil testified that her family has Finally, while it is an acknowledged policy of the State to
been in possession of Lot 1061 since her birth.[30] When her promote the distribution of alienable public lands as a spur to
testimony was offered on October 7, 1997, she was 40 years old. economic growth and in line with the ideal of social justice, the law
[31]
Deducting 40 years from 1997, it means that her family started imposes stringent safeguards upon the grant of such resources lest
possession of Lot 1061 only in 1957. The second witness who was they fall into the wrong hands to the prejudice of the national
presented was Tomas Frias from whom respondent patrimony.[37] The Court must not, therefore, relax the stringent
bought Lot 1062. Frias testified that he was 67 years old at the time safeguards relative to the registration of imperfect titles.
that his testimony was taken on October 7, 1997.[32] He claims that
8

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The On June 16, 1999, Candy Maker, Inc., as applicant, filed
Decision of the Court of Appeals dated September 14, 2001 in CA- an application with the MTC of Taytay, Rizal, for the
G.R. CV No. 60671 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Respondent registration of its alleged title over Lot No. 3138-A and Lot
Tri-Plus Corporations application for registration and issuance of
title to Lots 1061 and 1062, Consolacion Cad-545-D, in LRC Case No. 3138-B under Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1529.
No. N-21 filed with the Municipal Trial Court of Consolacion, Metro
Cebu, is DISMISSED. SO ORDERED. Acting thereon, the MTC issued an Order 7 on June 18,
G.R. No. 163766 June 22, 2006 1999 directing the applicant to cause the publication of the
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, notice of initial hearing and for the Deputy Sheriff to post
vs. the same. The Administrator of the Land Registration
CANDY MAKER, INC., as represented by its Authority (LRA) and the Directors of the Land
President, ONG YEE SEE,* Respondent Management Bureau (LMB) and Forest Management
Bureau (FMB) were also instructed to submit their
DECISION respective reports on the status of the parcels of land
before the initial hearing scheduled on October 29, 1999.
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
The Community Environment and Natural Resources
Officer (CENRO) of Antipolo City filed on August 18, 1999
At bar is a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules
his Report8 declaring that "[t]he land falls within the
of Court seeking to set aside the May 21, 2004
Alienable and Disposable Zone, under Land Classification
Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No.
Project No. 5-A, per L.C. Map No. 639 certified released
73287, which affirmed in toto the October 12, 2001
on March 11, 1927" and that the property is the subject of
Decision2 of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Taytay,
CENRO Case No. 520(97) entitled Perpetua San Jose v.
Rizal in Land Registration Case No. 99-0031 declaring
Almario Cruz. On the other hand, the LRA, in its
respondent the owner of the parcels of land designated as
September 21, 1999 Report,9 recommended the exclusion
Lots 3138-A and 3138-B in Plan CSD. 04-018302, Cainta-
of Lot No. 3138-B on the ground that it is a legal easement
Taytay Cadastre.
and intended for public use, hence, inalienable and
indisposable.
Sometime in 1998, Candy Maker, Inc. decided to
purchase Lot No. 3138 Cad. 688 of the Cainta-Taytay
On September 30, 1999, the Laguna Lake Development
Cadastre, a parcel of land located below the reglementary
Authority (LLDA) approved Resolution No. 113, Series of
lake elevation of 12.50 meters, about 900 meters away
1993, providing that untitled shoreland areas may be
from the Laguna de Bay, and bounded on the southwest
leased subject to conditions enumerated therein.
by the Manggahan Floodway, and on the southeast by a
legal easement.
The applicant filed its Amended Application 10 on December
15, 1999 for the confirmation of its alleged title on Lot No.
On April 1, 1998, Geodetic Engineer Potenciano H.
3138, alleging therein that:
Fernandez, prepared and signed a Subdivision Plan of the
property for Apolonio Cruz. The property was subdivided
into two lots: Lot No. 3138-A with an area of 10,971 1. x x x the applicant is the President of CANDYMAKER[,]
square meters, and Lot No. 3138-B with an area of 239 INC. and registered owner of a parcel of land located at
square meters.3 The technical description of Lot No. 3138 Panghulo Brgy. San Juan, Taytay, Rizal with an area of
was also prepared by Fernandez, and was approved by TEN THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED SEVENTY ONE
the Regional Technical Director of the Bureau of Lands on (10,971) square meters and as fully described and
April 14, 1998.4 bounded under Lot 3138-A plan CSD-04-018302[,] copy of
which and the corresponding technical descriptions are
hereto attached to form parts hereof;
On April 29, 1999, Antonio, Eladia, and Felisa, all
surnamed Cruz, executed a Deed of Absolute Sale in
favor of Candy Maker, Inc.5 The buyer declared Lot No. xxxx
3138 for taxation purposes in 1999 under Tax Declaration
Nos. 004-18929, 004-18930 and 004-18931.6 8. That for Lot 3138-A the applicant hereby prays for the
benefit granted under the Land Registration Act and/or
under the benefits provided for by P.D. No. 1529, as
9

applicant and their predecessors-in-interest have been in realty taxes on the property, 24 and he (Cruz) continued
open, public, continuous, and peaceful occupation and paying the taxes after his fathers death. 25 Cruz insisted
possession of the said land since time immemorial in [the] that he was the rightful claimant and owner of the property.
concept of true owners and [adverse] to the whole world; x
x x11 Sometime in the 1980s, Apolonio Cruz executed an
extrajudicial deed of partition in which the property was
On March 27, 2000, the MTC issued an Order12 admitting adjudicated to Antonio Cruz and his sisters, Felisa and
the Amended Application and resetting the initial hearing Eladia, to the exclusion of their five (5) other siblings who
to June 23, 2000. However, upon the requests of the LRA were given other properties as their shares. 26 He did not
for the timely publication of the Notice of Initial Hearing in know why his ancestors failed to have the property titled
the Official Gazette,13 the court moved the hearing date to under the Torrens system of registration. 27 He left the
September 22, 2000,14 then on January 26, 2001 15 and Philippines and stayed in Saudi Arabia from 1973 to
until finally, to June 15, 2001.16 1983.28 Aside from this, he hired the services of an
"upahan" to cultivate the property.29 The property is about
On July 20, 2001, the Republic of the Philippines, the 3 kilometers from the Laguna de Bay, and is usually
LLDA filed its Opposition17 to the Amended Application in flooded when it rains.30
which it alleged that the lot subject of the application for
registration may not be alienated and disposed since it is Fernando Co Siy testified that the applicant acquired Lot
considered part of the Laguna Lake bed, a public land No. 3138 from siblings Antonio, Eladia and Felisa, 31 who
within its jurisdiction pursuant to Republic Act (R.A.) No. had possessed it since 1945;32 that after paying the real
4850, as amended. According to the LLDA, the projection estate taxes due thereon, 33 it caused the survey of the
of Lot No. 3138-A, Cad-688-D Csd-04-018302 in its lot;34 that possession thereof has been peaceful 35 and
topographic map based on the Memorandum 18 of Engineer none of the former owners claims any right against
Christopher Pedrezuela of the Engineering and it;36neither the applicant nor its predecessors-in-interest
Construction Division of the LLDA indicated that it is received information from any government agency that the
"located below the reglementary lake elevation of 12.50 lot is a public land;37 the subject lot is 3 kms. away from
meters referred to datum 10.00 meters below mean lower Laguna de Bay,38 above its elevation and that of the
water" and under Section 41(11) of R.A. No. 4850, the nearby road;39 the property is habitable40 and was utilized
property is a public land which forms part of the bed of the as a riceland at the time it was sold by the former
Laguna Lake. This Memorandum was appended to the owners;41 and that he was aware that a legal easement is
application. affecting the lot and is willing to annotate it in the land
title.42
At the hearing conducted on August 31, 2001, the
applicant marked in evidence the complementary copies On cross-examination by the LLDA counsel, Siy admitted
of the Official Gazette and the Peoples Tonight as Exhibits that his knowledge as to the distance of the lot with
"E-1" and "F-1," respectively.19 respect to the Laguna de Bay came from "somebody
residing in Taytay" and also from an adjacent owner of the
Except as to the LLDA and the Office of the Solicitor lot;43 that the lot is submerged in water since there is no
General (OSG), which was represented by the duly land fill yet;44 and that no improvements had been
deputized provincial prosecutor, 20 the court, upon motion introduced to the property.45
of the applicant, issued an Order of general default.21
The LLDA moved for a joint ocular inspection of the
The applicant presented as witnesses its Treasurer, parcels of land in order to determine its exact
Fernando Co Siy, and Antonio Cruz, one of the vendees. elevation.46 On September 14, 2001, a Survey Team of the
Engineering and Construction Division of the LLDA,
Cruz testified that his grandparents owned the composed of Ramon D. Magalonga, Virgilio M. Polanco,
property,22 and after their demise, his parents, the spouses and Renato Q. Medenilla, conducted an actual ground
Apolonio Cruz and Aquilina Atanacio Cruz, inherited the survey of the property. The team used a total station and
lot;23 he and his father had cultivated the property since digital survey instrument to measure the elevation of the
1937, planting palay during the rainy season and ground in reference to the elevation of the lake water. A
vegetables during the dry season; his father paid the representative of the applicant witnessed the survey. The
team found that the lot is below the prescribed elevation of
10

12.50 m. and thus part of the bed of the lake; as such, it proof of ownership, it concluded that the subject lots
could not be titled to the applicant. The team also reported rightfully belong to the State under the Regalian doctrine.53
that the property is adjacent to the highway from the
Manggahan Floodway to Angono, Rizal. The LLDA moved The applicant averred in its Appellees Brief 54 that it had
that the application be withdrawn, appending thereto a marked in evidence the actual copy of the O.G. where the
copy of the Survey Report.47 notice of initial hearing was published; in fact, the MTC
Decision stated that the copy of the O.G. containing the
The LLDA did not offer any testimonial and documentary notice was referred to as Exhibit "E-1." Moreover, Sec. 14,
evidence and agreed to submit the case for decision par. 1 of P.D. 1529 is inapplicable since it speaks of
based on its Opposition. possession and occupation of alienable and disposable
lands of the public domain. Instead, par. 4 of the same
On October 12, 2001, the MTC rendered a Decision section55 should govern because the subject parcels of
granting the application for registration over the lots. The land are lands of private ownership, having being acquired
dispositive portion of the decision reads: through purchase from its predecessors-in-interest, who,
in turn, inherited the same from their parents. It pointed
WHEREFORE, premises considered[,] the court hereby out that there were no adverse claims of interest or right
rendered judgment confirming title of the applicants over by other private persons and even government agencies
the real property denominated as Lot 3138-A Csd-04- like the Province of Rizal. Lastly, while tax declarations
018302 of Cad-688-D Cainta-Taytay Cadastre; Lot 3138-B and tax receipts do not constitute evidence of ownership,
Csd-04-018302 of Cad 688-D Cainta-Taytay Cadastre. 48 they are nonetheless prima facie evidence of possession.

On appeal to the CA, the petitioner contended that the On May 21, 2004, the appellate court rendered judgment
MTC did not acquire jurisdiction over the application for which dismissed the appeal and affirmed in toto the
registration since the actual copies of the Official Gazette Decision of the MTC,56 holding that the copy of the O.G.,
(O.G.) where the notice of hearing was published were not where the notice was published, was marked as Exhibit
adduced in evidence; the applicant likewise failed to "E-1" during the initial hearing. On the issue of ownership
establish exclusive ownership over the subject property in over the subject lots, the CA upheld the applicants claim
the manner prescribed by law. The petitioner argued that the parcels of land were alienable and not part of the
further that the requirements of Section 23, par. 1 of P.D. public domain, and that it had adduced preponderant
No. 1529, 49 as amended, are mandatory and evidence to prove that its predecessors had been tilling
jurisdictional, and that failure to observe such the land since 1937, during which palay and vegetables
requirements has a fatal effect on the whole proceedings. were planted. In fact, before the lots were purchased, the
Citing Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals 50 and applicant verified their ownership with the assessors
Register of Deeds of Malabon v. RTC, Malabon, MM, Br. office, and thereafter caused the property to be surveyed;
170,51 the Republic averred that a mere certificate of after the lots were acquired in 1999 and a survey was
publication is inadequate proof of the jurisdictional fact of caused by the applicant, no adverse claims were filed by
publication because the actual copies of the O.G. must be third persons. Further, the CA ruled that tax declarations
presented at the initial hearing of the case. Moreover, or tax receipts are good indicia of possession in the
witnesses were not presented to prove specific acts to concept of the owner, which constitute at least positive
show that the applicant and his predecessors-in-interest and strong indication that the taxpayer concerned has
have been in exclusive, open, continuous, and adverse made a claim either to the title or to the possession of the
possession of the subject lots in the concept of the owner property.
since June 12, 1945 or earlier, in accordance with Sec. 14,
par. 1 of P.D. No. 1529.52 It noted that the testimonies of The Republic, now petitioner, filed the instant Petition for
the applicants witnesses are more of conclusions of law Review on the following issues:
rather than factual evidence of ownership. Other than the
general statement that they planted rice and vegetables A.
on the subject lots, their possession could properly be
characterized as mere casual cultivation since they failed WHETHER THE LAND IN QUESTION MAYBE THE
to account for its exclusive utilization since 1945 or earlier. SUBJECT OF REGISTRATION.
After stressing that tax declarations are not conclusive
11

The case of Bernardo v. Tiamson is irrelevant because the


factual issues are different from those of this case.

On April 28, 2005, respondent filed a Manifestation 62 with


B. this Court, appending thereto the report63 conducted by the
survey team of the LLDA Engineering and Construction
WHETHER THE COURT A QUO ACQUIRED Division on April 12, 2005. It stated that the 10,971 sq m
JURISDICTION OVER THE RES CONSIDERING ITS property subject of the case is below the 12.5 elevation,
INALIENABLE CHARACTER. and that the profile distance of the property from the actual
lake waters is about 900 m. to 1 km.
C.
The issues in this case are the following: (1) whether the
WHETHER THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN MTC had jurisdiction over the amended application; (2)
AFFIRMING THE TRIAL COURTS FINDING THAT whether the property subject of the amended application is
RESPONDENT COMPLIED WITH THE LEGAL alienable and disposable property of the State, and, if so,
REQUIREMENTS ON POSSESSION AS MANDATED BY (3) whether respondent adduced the requisite quantum of
SECTION 14 OF P.D. NO. 1529.57 evidence to prove its ownership over the property under
Section 14 of P.D. 1529.
Petitioner asserts that the Engineers Survey Report 58 and
the Laguna de Bay Shoreland Survey 59 both show that Lot The petition is meritorious.
No. 3138-A is located below the reglementary lake
elevation, hence, forms part of the Laguna Lake bed. It On the first issue, we find and so rule that the MTC
insists that the property belongs to the public domain as acquired jurisdiction over respondents application for
classified under Article 502 of the Civil Code.60 Citing the registration since a copy of the O.G. containing the notice
ruling of this Court in Bernardo v. Tiamson, 61 petitioner of hearing was marked and adduced in evidence as
avers that the subject lot is incapable of private Exhibit "E-1." The representative of the OSG was present
appropriation since it is a public land owned by the State during the hearing and interposed his objection thereto.
under the Regalian doctrine. On this premise, petitioner
avers that the MTC did not acquire jurisdiction over the On the second and third issues, we find and so rule that
subject matter, and as a consequence, its decision is null the property subject of this application was alienable and
and void. disposable public agricultural land until July 18, 1966.
However, respondent failed to prove that it possesses
Petitioner maintains that respondent failed to present registerable title over the property.
incontrovertible evidence to warrant the registration of the
property in its name as owner. The testimonies of the two Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended
witnesses only proved that the possession of the land may by R.A. No. 1942, reads:
be characterized as mere casual cultivation; they failed to
prove that its predecessors occupied the land openly, Section 48. The following described citizens of the
continuously, exclusively, notoriously and adversely in the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or
concept of owner since June 12, 1945 or earlier. claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but
whose titles have not been perfected or completed, nay
On the other hand, respondent argues that the Engineers apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where
Survey Report and the Laguna de Bay Shoreland Survey the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the
have no probative value because they were neither issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land
offered nor admitted in evidence by the MTC. It points out Registration Act, to wit:
that petitioner failed to invoke these reports in the
appellate court. (b) Those who by themselves or through their
predecessors in-interest have been in open, continuous,
It was only when the petition was filed with this Court that exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of
the respondent learned of its existence. Petitioners agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide
reliance on the reports/survey is merely an afterthought. claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years
12

immediately preceding the filing of the application for by the State, it remains part of the inalienable public
confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force domain. Property of the public domain is beyond the
majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have commerce of man and not susceptible of private
performed all the conditions essential to a Government appropriation and acquisitive prescription. Occupation
grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the thereof in the concept of owner no matter how long cannot
provisions of this chapter. ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. 66 The
statute of limitations with regard to public agricultural lands
This provision was further amended by P.D. No. 1073 by does not operate against the State unless the occupant
substituting the phrase "for at least thirty years" with "since proves possession and occupation of the same after a
June 12, 1945;" thus: claim of ownership for the required number of years to
constitute a grant from the State.67
Sec. 4. The provisions of Section 48(b) and Section 48(c),
Chapter VIII, of the Public Land Act are hereby amended No public land can be acquired by private persons without
in the sense that these provisions shall apply only to any grant from the government, whether express or
alienable and disposable lands of the public domain which implied. It is indispensable that there be a showing of a
have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious title from the State.68 The rationale for the period "since
possession, and occupation by the applicant himself or time immemorial or since June 12, 1945" lies in the
through his predecessor-in-interest, under a bona fide presumption that the land applied for pertains to the State,
claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945. and that the occupants or possessor claim an interest
thereon only by virtue of their imperfect title as continuous,
Section 14(1) of P.D. No. 1529, otherwise known as the open and notorious possession.
Property Registration Decree, provides:
A possessor of real property may acquire ownership
SEC. 14. Who may apply. The following persons may thereof through acquisitive prescription. In Alba Vda. de
file in the proper Court of First Instance [now Regional Raz v. Court of Appeals,69 the Court declared that:
Trial Court] an application for registration of title to land,
whether personally or through their duly authorized x x x [W]hile Art. 1134 of the Civil Code provides that
representatives: (o)wnership and other real rights over immovable property
are acquired by ordinary prescription through possession
(1) Those who by themselves or through their of ten years, this provision of law must be read in
predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, conjunction with Art. 1117 of the same Code. This article
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of states that x x x (o)rdinary acquisitive prescription of
alienable and disposable lands of the public domain under things requires possession in good faith and with just title
a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or for the time fixed by law. Hence, a prescriptive title to real
earlier (emphasis supplied). estate is not acquired by mere possession thereof under
claim of ownership for a period of ten years unless such
Applicants for confirmation of imperfect title must, possession was acquired con justo titulo y buena fe (with
therefore, prove the following: (a) that the land forms part color of title and good faith). The good faith of the
of the disposable and alienable agricultural lands of the possessor consists in the reasonable belief that the
public domain; and (b) that they have been in open, person from whom he received the thing was the owner
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and thereof, and could transmit his ownership. For purposes of
occupation of the same under a bona fide claim of prescription, there is just title when the adverse claimant
ownership either since time immemorial or since June 12, came into possession of the property through one of the
1945.64 recognized modes of acquisition of ownership or other real
rights but the grantor was not the owner or could not
Under the Regalian doctrine, all lands not otherwise transmit any right.70
appearing to be clearly within private ownership are
presumed to belong to the State. The presumption is that To prove that the land subject of an application for
lands of whatever classification belong to the registration is alienable, an applicant must conclusively
State.65Unless public land is shown to have been establish the existence of a positive act of the government
reclassified as alienable or disposable to a private person such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order,
or administrative action, investigation reports of the
13

Bureau of Lands investigator or a legislative act or The rapid expansion of Metropolitan Manila, the suburbs
statute.71 Until then, the rules on confirmation of imperfect and the lakeshore town of Laguna de Bay, combined with
title do not apply. A certification of the Community current and prospective uses of the lake for municipal-
Environment and Natural Resources Officer in the industrial water supply, irrigation, fisheries, and the like,
Department of Environment and Natural Resources stating created deep concern on the part of the Government and
that the land subject of an application is found to be within the general public over the environmental impact of such
the alienable and disposable site per a land classification development, on the water quality and ecology of the lake
project map is sufficient evidence to show the real and its related river systems. The inflow of polluted water
character of the land subject of the application.72 from the Pasig River, industrial, domestic and agricultural
wastes from developed areas around the lake and the
The applicant is burdened to offer proof of specific acts of increasing urbanization have induced the deterioration of
ownership to substantiate the claim over the land. 73Actual the lake, and that water quality studies have shown that
possession consists in the manifestation of acts of the lake will deteriorate further if steps are not taken to
dominion over it of such a nature as a party would actually check the same. The floods in the Metropolitan Manila
exercise over his own property.74 A mere casual cultivation area and the lakeshore towns are also influenced by the
of portions of the land by the claimant does not constitute hydraulic system of the Laguna de Bay, and any scheme
sufficient basis for a claim of ownership; such possession of controlling the floods will necessarily involve the lake
is not exclusive and notorious as to give rise to a and its river systems.
presumptive grant from the State.75
This prompted then President Ferdinand E. Marcos to
In this case, the evidence on record shows that the issue on October 17, 1978 P.D. 813 amending Rep. Act
property is alienable agricultural land. Romeo Cadano of No. 4850. Under Section 6 of the law, the LLDA is
the Community Environment and Natural Resources empowered to issue such rules and regulations as may be
Office, Antipolo Rizal, certified that the property "falls necessary to effectively carry out the policies and
within the Alienable and Disposable zone, under Land programs therein provided including the policies and
Classification Project No. 5-A, per L.C. Map No. 639 projects of the LLDA, subject to the approval of the
certified released on March 11, 1927." 76 However, under National Economic Development Authority.
R.A. No. 4850 which was approved on July 18, 1966,
lands located at and below the maximum lake level of In 1996, the Board of Directors of LLDA approved
elevation of the Laguna de Bay are public lands which Resolution No. 113, series of 1996 relating to the
form part of the bed of said lake. Such lands denominated Environmental Uses Fee Systems and Approval of the
as lakeshore areas are linear strips of open space Work and Financial Plan for its operationalization in the
designed to separate incompatible element or uses, or to Laguna de Bay Basin. Section 5 of the Resolution
control pollution/nuisance, and for identifying and defining provides that the LLDA as a matter of policy is to maintain
development areas or zone. Such areas of the lake with all shoreland areas lying below elevation 12.50 meters as
an approximate total area of 14,000 hectares form a strip buffer zone in consonance with the LLDA policies, plans
of the lakebed along its shores alternately submerged or programs for the improvement of the water quality and
exposed by the annual rising and lowering of the lake pollution and conservation of the water resources of the
water. They have environmental ecological significance Laguna de Bay.
and actual potential economic benefits.
As gleaned from the Survey Report of Magalonga,
Under Section 1 of the law, the national policy of the State Polanco and Medenilla of the LLDA based on the ocular
is to promote and accelerate the development and inspection dated September 14, 2001 as well as the
balanced growth of the Laguna Lake area and the Memorandum of Engineer Christopher Pedrezuela, the
surrounding provinces, cities and towns within the context property is located below the reglementary level of 12.50
of the national and regional plans and policies for social m.; hence, part of the bed of the Laguna de Bay, and, as
and economic development and to carry out the such, is public land. Although the Report and
development of the Laguna Lake region with due regard Memorandum were not offered as evidence in the MTC,
and adequate provisions for environmental management the respondent admitted in its Manifestation in this Court
and control, preservation of the quality of human life and that the property is situated below the 12.50 elevation
ecological systems, and the prevention of undue based on the survey of Magalonga, Polanco and
ecological disturbances, deterioration and pollution. Medenilla, the same survey team who conducted an
14

ocular inspection of the property on April 12, 2005, which strengthens ones bona fide claim of acquisition of
thus confirmed the September 14, 2001 survey report. ownership.81
This is a judicial admission in the course of judicial
proceedings which is binding on it.77 Fourth. When he testified on October 5, 2001,
Antonio Cruz declared that he was "74 years
Under R.A. No. 4850 and the issuances of LLDA, old."82 He must have been born in 1927, and was
registerable rights acquired by occupants before the thus merely 10 years old in 1937. It is incredible
effectivity of the law are recognized. However, the that, at that age, he was already cultivating the
respondent failed to adduce proof that its predecessors-in- property with his father. Moreover, no evidence
interest had acquired registerable title over the property was presented to prove how many cavans of
before July 18, 1966: palay were planted on the property, as well as the
extent of such cultivation, in order to support the
First. Cruz failed to prove how his parents claim of possession with a bona fide claim of
acquired ownership of the property, and even ownership.
failed to mention the names of his grandparents.
He likewise failed to present his fathers death Fifth. Cruz testified that he hired a worker
certificate to support his claim that the latter died "upahan" to help him cultivate the property. He,
in 1980. There is likewise no evidence when his however, failed to state the name of the worker or
mother died. to even present him as witness for the
respondent.
Second. Cruz also failed to adduce in evidence
the extrajudicial partition allegedly executed by IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is
his parents in 1980 where the property was GRANTED. The decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-
supposedly deeded to him and his sisters, Felisa G.R. CV No. 73278 is SET ASIDE. The Municipal Trial
and Eladia, to the exclusion of their five siblings. Court of Taytay, Rizal is DIRECTED to dismiss the
application for registration of respondent Candymaker, Inc.
Third. Cruz claimed that he and his parents in Land Registration Case No. 99-0031. No costs.
cultivated the property and planted palay and
vegetables, and that they had been paying the SO ORDERED.
realty taxes over the property before his parents
died. However, no tax declarations under the
names of the spouses Apolonio Cruz and/or
Eladia Cruz and his siblings were presented, or
realty tax receipts evidencing payment of such
taxes. Indeed, while tax receipts and tax payment
receipts themselves do not convincingly prove
title to the land,78 these are good indicia of
possession in the concept of an owner, for no one
in his right mind would pay taxes for a property
that is not in his actual or, at least, constructive
possession.79 While tax receipts and declarations
are not incontrovertible evidence of ownership,
they constitute, at the least, proof that the holder
has a claim of title over the property, particularly
when accompanied by proof of actual possession
of property.80 The voluntary declaration of a piece
of property for taxation purposes not only
manifests ones sincere and honest desire to
obtain title to the property, but also announces an
adverse claim against the State and all other
interested parties with an intention to contribute
needed revenues to the government. Such an act
15

final judgment in a cadastral case prosecuted between the same


parties and involving the same parcel of land.
PACIFICO M. VALIAO, for himself and in behalf of On July 3, 1989, the RTC denied private oppositors' Motion to
his co-heirs LODOVICO, RICARDO, BIENVENIDO, Dismiss. Trial thereafter ensued.
all Surnamed VALIAO and NEMESIO M. GRANDEA,
Petitioners, In support of their application for registration, petitioners alleged
that they acquired the subject property in 1947, upon the death of
their uncle Basilio Millarez (Basilio), who purchased the land from a
- versus- certain Fermin Payogao, pursuant to a Deed of Sale [5] dated May
19, 1916 entirely handwritten in Spanish language. Basilio
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, MACARIO possessed the land in question from May 19, 1916 until his death
ZAFRA, and MANUEL YUSAY, in 1947. Basilio's possession was open, continuous, peaceful,
Respondents, adverse, notorious, uninterrupted and in the concept of an owner.
Upon Basilio's death, the applicants as co-heirs possessed the said
land until 1966, when oppositor Zafra unlawfully and violently
x---------------------------------x dispossessed them of their property, which compelled them to file
DECISION complaints of Grave Coercion and Qualified Theft against Zafra. In
support of their claim of possession over the subject property,
PERALTA, J.: petitioners submitted in evidence Tax Declaration No. 9562 [6] dated
Before this Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 September 29, 1976 under the names of the heirs of Basilio
of the Rules of Court seeking to set aside the Decision [1] and Millarez.
Resolution[2] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. The RTC, in its Decision dated December 15, 1995, granted
54811, which reversed the Decision [3] of the Regional Trial Court petitioners' application for registration of the subject property, the
(RTC) of Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, Branch 61, in Land dispositive portion of which states:
Registration Case No. 03, granting petitioners' application for
registration of title over a parcel of land located in Ilog, Negros WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, this
Occidental. Court hereby orders and decrees registration
The factual milieu of this case is as follows: of Lot No. 2372 subject of the present
proceedings and the registration of title
On August 11, 1987, petitioners[4] Pacifico, Lodovico, Ricardo, thereto, in favor of the applicants, who are
Bienvenido, all surnamed Valiao, and Nemesio Grandea filed with declared the true and lawful owners of said
the RTC of Kabankalan, Negros Occidental an application for Lot No. 2372, except applicant Lodovico
registration of a parcel of land with an area of 504,535 square Valiao, who sold his right to Macario Zafra.
meters, more or less, situated in Barrio Galicia, Municipality of Ilog,
Negros Occidental. Upon the finality of this decision, let the
corresponding decree of registration and
On June 20, 1988, private oppositors Macario Zafra and Manuel Certificate of Title be issued in the name of
Yusay filed their Motion to Dismiss the application on the following the applicants, Heirs of Basilio Millarez,
grounds: (1) the land applied for has not been declared alienable namely: Pacifico Valiao, Ricardo Valiao,
and disposable; (2) res judicata has set in to bar the application for Bienvenido Valiao and Nemesio Grandea,
registration; and (3) the application has no factual or legal basis. subject to the rights of private oppositors,
Macario Zafra and Manuel Yusay over said lot
On August 24, 1988, the Republic of the Philippines (Republic), whose fishpond permits are declared VALID
through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the and will expire on December 31, 2003.
application for registration on the following grounds, among others:
that neither the applicants nor their predecessors-in-interest had No costs.
been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and
occupation of the land in question since June 12, 1945 or prior SO ORDERED.[7]
thereto; that the muniment/s of title and/or the tax declaration/s and
tax payments/receipts of applicants, if any, attached to or alleged in Aggrieved by the Decision, the private oppositors and the
the application, do/es not constitute competent and sufficient Republic, through Assistant Prosecutor Josue A. Gatin, filed an
evidence of a bona fide acquisition of the land applied for or of their appeal with the CA, which reversed the trial court's findings in its
open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and Decision dated June 23, 2005. The CA ruled that the classification
occupation in the concept of owner, since June 12, 1945 or prior of lands of the public domain is an exclusive prerogative of the
thereto; that the parcel of land applied for is a portion of public executive department of the government and in the absence of
domain belonging to the Republic, which is not subject to private such classification, the lands remain as unclassified until it is
appropriation; and that the present action is barred by a previous released therefrom and rendered open to disposition. Further, there
exists a prior cadastral case involving the same parties herein and
16

the same Lot No. 2372, which ruled that Lot No. 2372 belongs to constitute res judicata in a subsequent application for registration
the Republic. The CA held that such judgment constitutes res of a parcel of land.
judicata that bars a subsequent action for land registration. It also
ruled that the subject property is part of the inalienable land of the In its Comment, the OSG submits that the issues to be resolved in
public domain and petitioners failed to prove that they and their the present petition, i.e., whether Lot No. 2372 is alienable and
predecessors-in-interest had been in open, continuous, exclusive disposable land of the public domain and whether petitioners have
and notorious possession of the land in question since June 12, the right to have the said property registered in their name through
1945 or earlier. The dispositive portion of the decision reads: prescription of time are questions of fact, which were already
passed upon by the CA and no longer reviewable by the Court,
WHEREFORE, premises considered, since findings of fact of the CA, when supported by sufficient
the instant appeal is GRANTED. Accordingly, evidence, are conclusive and binding on the parties. The OSG
We REVERSE the Decision dated December further claims that petitioners failed to prove that the subject lot is
15, 1995 of the Regional Trial Court, DENY the part of the alienable and disposable portion of the public domain
application for registration of title filed by and that petitioners' application for land registration is already
petitioners-appellees, DECLARE as moot and barred by a prior decision in a cadastral case. Lastly, the OSG
academic any and all claims of private asserts that petitioners did not present sufficient evidence to prove
oppositors-appellants over Lot No. 2372, and that their possession over the subject lot applied for had been
DECLARE the subject parcel of land to be open, peaceful, exclusive, continuous and adverse.
inalienable and indisposable land belonging to
the public domain. Anent the propriety of filing a petition for review under Rule 45 of
the Rules of Court, the principle is well-established that this Court
SO ORDERED.[8] is not a trier of facts and that only questions of law may be raised.
The resolution of factual issues is the function of the lower courts
Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied by whose findings on these matters are received with respect and are,
the CA in a Resolution dated November 17, 2005. Hence, the as a rule, binding on this Court. This rule, however, is subject to
present petition with the following issues: certain exceptions. One of these is when the findings of the
appellate court are contrary to those of the trial court. [10] Due to the
I divergence of the findings of the CA and the RTC, the Court will
WHETHER OR NOT LOT NO. 2372 OF THE ILOG now re-examine the facts and evidence adduced before the lower
CADASTRE IS ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE LAND courts.
OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.
Section 14 (1) of Presidential Decree No. (PD) 1529, otherwise
II known as the Property Registration Decree provides:
WHETHER OR NOT THE CLAIM OF PRESCRIPTION
BY THE APPLICANT WILL LIE ON LOT NO. 2372. SEC. 14. Who may apply. - The following
persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an
III application for registration of title to land, whether
WHETHER OR NOT THE DECISION OF THE COURT personally or through their duly-authorized
OF APPEALS IN CAD. CASE NO. 23, ENTITLED representatives:
LODOVICO VALIAO, ET, AL., VS. MACARIO ZAFRA,
ET, AL., AC G.R. NO. CV-68873, CONSTITUTES RES (1) Those who by themselves or through their
JUDICATA AS FAR AS THIS APPLICATION FOR predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
REGISTRATION IS CONCERNED. continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of alienable and
IV disposable lands of the public domain under
WHETHER OR NOT THE ALLEGED POSSESSION OF a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12,
THE APPLICANTS THROUGH THEIR 1945, or earlier.
PREDECESSORS-IN-INTEREST IS SUFFICIENT TO
SUSTAIN THEIR CLAIM FOR PRESCRIPTION.[9] From the foregoing, petitioners need to prove that: (1) the land
forms part of the alienable and disposable land of the public
Petitioners claim that Lot No. 2372 is an alienable and disposable domain; and (2) they, by themselves or through their predecessors-
portion of the public domain. The possession of applicants' in-interest, have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and
predecessors-in interest since 1916 until 1966 had been open, notorious possession and occupation of the subject land under
continuous and uninterrupted; thus, converting the said land into a a bona fide claim of ownership from June 12, 1945 or earlier.
[11]
private land. The subject lot had already become private in These the petitioners must prove by no less than clear, positive
character in view of the length of time the applicants and their and convincing evidence.[12]
predecessors-in-interest had possessed the subject lot, which
entitles them to the confirmation of their title. Petitioners further Under the Regalian doctrine, which is embodied in our
claim that prior dismissal in a cadastral proceeding does not Constitution, all lands of the public domain belong to the State,
17

which is the source of any asserted right to any ownership of even the same applicant from subsequently seeking a judicial
land. All lands not appearing to be clearly within private ownership confirmation of his title to the same land, provided he thereafter
are presumed to belong to the State. Accordingly, public lands not complies with the provisions of Section 48 [22] of Commonwealth Act
shown to have been reclassified or released as alienable No. 141, as amended, and as long as said public lands remain
agricultural land or alienated to a private person by the State alienable and disposable. In the case at bar, not only did the
remain part of the inalienable public domain. [13] Unless public land petitioners fail to prove that the subject land is part of the alienable
is shown to have been reclassified as alienable or disposable to a and disposable portion of the public domain, they failed to
private person by the State, it remains part of the inalienable public demonstrate that they by themselves or through their
domain. Property of the public domain is beyond the commerce of predecessors-in-interest have possessed and occupied the subject
man and not susceptible of private appropriation and acquisitive land since June 12, 1945 or earlier as mandated by the law.
prescription. Occupation thereof in the concept of owner no matter
how long cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. It is settled that the applicant must present proof of specific acts
[14]
The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State of ownership to substantiate the claim and cannot
ownership of the lands of the public domain is on the person just offer general statements which are mereconclusions of law
applying for registration (or claiming ownership), who must prove than factual evidence of possession.[23] Actual possession consists
that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable. in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such a nature as
To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be a party would actually exercise over his own property.[24]
established that the land subject of the application (or claim)
is alienable or disposable.[15] The testimonies of Nemesio and Pacifico as to their own and their
predecessors-in-interest's possession and ownership over the
There must be a positive act declaring land of the public domain as subject lot fail to convince Us.Petitioners claim that Basilio was in
alienable and disposable. To prove that the land subject of an possession of the land way back in 1916. Yet no tax declaration
application for registration is alienable, the applicant must establish covering the subject property, during the period Basilio allegedly
the existence of a positive act of the government, such as a occupied the subject property, i.e., 1916 to 1947, was presented in
presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative evidence. Other than the bare allegations of Nemesio and Pacifico
action; investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and that Basilio allegedly introduced improvements on the subject
a legislative act or a statute. The applicant may also secure a property, there is nothing in the records which would substantiate
certification from the government that the land claimed to have petitioners' claim that Basilio was in possession of Lot No. 2372
been possessed for the required number of years is alienable and since June 12, 1945 or earlier, the period of possession required by
disposable.[16] law. Hence, petitioners' assertion that Basilio possessed the
property in question from 1916 to 1947 is, at best, conjectural and
No such evidence was offered by the petitioners to show that self-serving.
the land in question has been classified as alienable and
disposable land of the public domain. In the absence of As regards petitioners' possession of the land in question from
incontrovertible evidence to prove that the subject property is 1947 to 1966, petitioners could only support the same with a tax
already classified as alienable and disposable, we must consider declaration dated September 29, 1976.At best, petitioners can only
the same as still inalienable public domain.[17] Verily, the rules on prove possession since said date. What is required is open,
the confirmation of imperfect title do not apply unless and until the exclusive, continuous and notorious possession by petitioners and
land subject thereof is released in an official proclamation to that their predecessors-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of
effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of ownership, since June 12, 1945 or earlier.[25] Petitioners failed to
the public domain. explain why, despite their claim that their predecessors-in-interest
have possessed the subject properties in the concept of an owner
With respect to the existence of a prior cadastral case, it even before June 12, 1945, it was only in 1976 that they started to
appears that on July 11, 1966, the petitioners filed in Cadastral declare the same for purposes of taxation.
Case No. 23 of the then CFI of Negros Occidental a petition to Moreover, tax declarations and receipts are not conclusive
reopen the proceedings relative to three lots, one of which is Lot evidence of ownership or of the right to possess land when not
No. 2372. The lower court, in its Order[18] dated October 20, 1980, supported by any other evidence. The disputed property may have
held that Lot No. 2372 belongs to the Republic. It found that after been declared for taxation purposes in the names of the applicants
the subject lot was declared public land, it was found to be inside for registration, or of their predecessors-in-interest, but it does not
the communal forest. On appeal, the CA, in its Decision [19] dated necessarily prove ownership. They are merely indicia of a claim
August 7, 1984, found no reversible error and affirmed the decision of ownership.[26]
of the cadastral court. Thereafter, a petition elevating the case to
this Court was dismissed for lack of merit. [20] In the present case, Evidently, since the petitioners failed to prove that (1) the subject
the CA, in its Decision dated June 23, 2005, ruled that such property was classified as part of the disposable and alienable land
judgment constitutes res judicata that will bar a subsequent action of the public domain; and (2) they and their predecessors-in-
for land registration on the same land. interest had been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession and occupation thereof under a bona fide claim of
In Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals,[21] the Court held that a ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier, their application for
judicial declaration that a parcel of land is public, does not preclude
18

confirmation and registration of the subject property under PD 1529 x x x x"


should be denied.
(b) Lot 1109-B, Swo-00-001456
WHEREFORE, the Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G.R. CV No. 54811, which reversed the Decision of the "A PARCEL OF LAND (Lot 1109-B, of plan Swo-00-001456, being
Regional Trial Court of Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, Branch 61, a conversion of Lot 1109, MCadm 590-D, Taguig Cadastral
in Land Registration Case No. 03, is AFFIRMED. The application Mapping, L.R.C. Record No.), situated in Sta. Ana, Mun. of Taguig,
for registration of title filed by the petitioners Pacifico Valiao, Metro Manila, Island of Luzon.
Lodovico Valiao, Ricardo Valiao, Bienvenido Valiao, and Nemesio
Grandea, over Lot No. 2372, with a total area of 504,535 square
meters, more or less, situated in Barrio Galicia, Municipality of Ilog, x x x x"
Negros Occidental, is DENIED. SO ORDERED.
3. That said two (2) parcels of land at the last assessment for
taxation were assessed at Sixty Thousand Eight Hundred Twenty
Pesos (P60,820.00), Philippine currency, under Tax Declaration
No. D-013-01563 in the name of the Applicant;
G.R. No. 171136 October 23, 2013
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, 4. That to the best of the knowledge and belief of Applicant, there is
no mortgage, encumbrance or transaction affecting said two (2)
vs. parcels of land, nor is there any other person having any interest
LYDIA CAPCO DE TENSUAN, represented by therein, legal or equitable, or in adverse possession thereof;
CLAUDIA C. ARUELO, Respondent.
DECISION 5. That Applicant has acquired said parcels of land by inheritance
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.: from her deceased father, Felix Capco, by virtue of a "[Kasulatan]
ng Paghahati-hati at Pag-aayos ng Kabuhayan
Before Us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of
the Rules of Court seeking the reversal and setting aside of the " dated September 14, 1971, and Applicant specifically alleges that
Decision1 dated January 13 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA- she and her deceased father, as well as the latters predecessors-
G.R. CV No. 84125, which affirmed the Decision 2 dated October in-interest, have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
18, 2004 of the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Taguig City, possession and occupation of the said lands under a bonafide
Branch 74 in LRC Case No. 172 LRA Rec. No. N-701 08). The claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, and many years earlier, as
MeTC confirmed the title of herein respondent, Lydia Capco de in fact since time immemorial, as provided under Section 14(1) of
Tensuan Tensuan), to the parcel of agricultural land, designated as Presidential Decree No. 1529;
Lot 1109-A, located at Ibayo, Sta. Ana, Taguig City, with an area of
4,006 square meters subject property), and ordered the registration 6. That said parcels of land are and have been, since the
of said property in her name. inheritance thereof, occupied by Applicant herself;

The following facts are culled from the records: xxxx

On August 11, 1998, Tensuan, represented by her sister, Claudia WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed that after due notice,
C. Aruelo (Aruelo), filed with the MeTC an Application for publication and hearing, the paraphernal parcels of land
Registration3 of Lot Nos. 1109-A and 1109-B, docketed as LRC hereinabove described be brought under the operation of
Case No. 172. In her Application for Registration, Tensuan alleged Presidential Decree No. 1529 and the same confirmed in the name
that: of Applicant.4 (Emphasis ours.)

2. That Applicant is the absolute owner and possessor of those two On August 20, 1998, Tensuan filed an Urgent Ex Parte Motion to
(2) paraphernal parcels of land situated at Sta. Ana, Taguig, Metro Withdraw Lot 1109-B from the Application for Registration and to
Manila, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, bounded and Amend the Application.5 According to Tensuan, she was
described as Lot 1109-A and 1109-B in Conversion Subdivision withdrawing her Application for Registration of Lot 1109-B because
Plan Swo-00-001456 as follows: a review of Plan Swo-00-001456 had revealed that said lot, with an
area of 338 square meters, was a legal easement. The MeTC, in its
(a) Lot 1109-A, Swo-00-001456 Order6 dated September 30, 1998, granted Tensuans motion.

"A PARCEL OF LAND (Lot 1109-A of the Plan Swo-00- The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG),
001456, being a conversion of Lot 1109, MCadm 590-D, filed an Opposition to Tensuans Application for Registration on
Taguig, [Cadastral] Mapping, L.R.C. Record No.), December 28, 1998. The Republic argued that (1) neither Tensuan
situated in Brgy. Sta. Ana, Mun. of Taguig, Metro Manila, nor her predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
Island of Luzon. exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of the subject
19

property since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto; (2) the muniment/s of oppositor, a general default against the whole world, except the
title and/or tax declaration/s and tax payment receipt/s attached to government, was declared.10
the application do/es not constitute competent and sufficient
evidence of a bona fide acquisition of the subject property or of To prove possession, Tensuan presented two witnesses, namely,
Tensuans open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession her sister Aruelo and Remigio Marasigan (Marasigan).
and occupation of the subject property in the concept of owner
since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto; (3) the claim of ownership in Aruelo, who was then 68 years old, testified that Tensuan and her
fee simple on the basis of Spanish title or grant can no longer be predecessors-in-interest have been in possession of the subject
availed of by Tensuan who failed to file an appropriate application property even before the Second World War. The subject property
for registration within the period of six months from February 16, was originally owned by Candida de Borja, who passed on the
1976, as required by Presidential Decree No. 892; and (4) the same to her only child, Socorro Reyes, and the latters husband,
subject property forms part of the public domain not subject of Felix Capco (spouses Capco). The subject property became part of
private appropriation.7 the spouses Capcos conjugal property. Aruelo and Tensuan are
among the spouses Capcos children. During the settlement of
The Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) also filed its own Felix Capcos estate, the subject property was adjudicated to
Opposition8 dated February 12, 1999 to Tensuans Application for Tensuan, as evidenced by the Kasulatan ng Paghahati at Pag-
Registration, averring as follows: aayos ng Kabuhayan11 dated September 14, 1971.12

2. That projection of the subject lot in our topographic Marasigan claimed that he had been cultivating the subject
map based on the technical descriptions appearing in the property for the last 15 years, and he personally knew Tensuan to
Notice of the Initial Hearing indicated that the lot subject be the owner of said property. 13 Marasigans father was the
of this application for registration is located below the caretaker of the subject property for the Capcos for more than 50
reglementary lake elevation of 12.50 meters referred to years, and Marasigan used to help his father till the same.
datum 10.00 meters below mean lower water. Site is, Marasigan merely inherited the job as caretaker of the subject
therefore, part of the bed of Laguna Lake considered as property from his father.
public land and is within the jurisdiction of Laguna Lake
Development Authority pursuant to its mandate under Among the evidence Tensuan presented during the trial were: (1)
R.A. 4850, as amended. x x x; the Kasulatan ng Paghahati-hati at Pagaayos ng Kabuhayan dated
September 14, 1971;14 (2) Tax declarations, the earliest of which
3. That Section 41 of Republic Act No. 4850, states that, was for the year 1948, in the name of Candida de Borja, Tensuans
"whenever Laguna Lake or Lake is used in this Act, the grandmother;15 (3) Real property tax payment receipts issued to
same shall refer to Laguna de Bay which is that area Tensuan for 1998;16 (3) Blueprint copy of Plan Swo-00-001456
covered by the lake water when it is at the average surveyed for Lydia Capco de Tensuan; 17 (4) Technical description of
annual maximum lake level of elevation of 12.50 meters, the subject property, duly prepared by a licensed Geodetic
as referred to a datum 10.0 meters below mean lower Engineer and approved by the Department of Environment and
low water (MLLW). Lands located at and below such Natural Resources (DENR);18 and (5) Certification dated July 29,
elevation are public lands which form part of the bed of 1999 from the Community Environment and Natural Resources
said lake (Section 14, R.A. 4850, as amended, x x x); Office of the DENR (CENRO-DENR) which states that "said land
falls within alienable and disposable land under Project No. 27-B
4. That on the strength of the oppositors finding and L.C. Map No. 2623 under Forestry Administrative Order No. 4-1141
applying the above-quoted provision of law, herein dated January 3, 1968."19
applicants application for registration of the subject land
has no leg to stand on, both in fact and in law; Engineer Ramon Magalona (Magalona) took the witness stand for
oppositor LLDA. He averred that based on the topographic map
5. That unless the Honorable Court renders judgment to and technical description of the subject property, the said property
declare the land as part of the Laguna Lake or that of the is located below the prescribed lake elevation of 12.5 meters.
public domain, the applicant will continue to unlawfully Hence, the subject property forms part of the Laguna Lake bed
posses, occupy and claim the land as their own to the and, as such, is public land. During cross-examination, Magalona
damage and prejudice of the Government in general and admitted that the topographic map he was using as basis was
the Laguna Lake Development Authority in particular; made in the year 1967; that there had been changes in the contour
of the lake; and that his findings would have been different if the
6. That moreover, the land sought to be registered topographic map was made at present time. He likewise
remains inalienable and indisposable in the absence of acknowledged that the subject property is an agricultural lot. When
declaration by the Director of Lands as required by law. 9 Magalona conducted an ocular inspection of the subject property,
said property and other properties in the area were submerged in
water as the lake level was high following the recent heavy rains. 20
During the initial hearing on February 18, 1999, Tensuan marked in
evidence the exhibits proving her compliance with the jurisdictional
requirements for LRC Case No. 172. There being no private
20

On May 26, 2000, an Investigation Report was prepared, under REGISTRATION OF [TENSUAN] DESPITE HER
oath, by Cristeta R. Garcia (Garcia), DENR Land Investigator, FAILURE TO PROVE OPEN, ADVERSE,
stating, among other things, that the subject property was covered CONTINUOUS, EXCLUSIVE AND NOTORIOUS
by a duly approved survey plan; that the subject property is within POSSESSION IN THE CONCEPT OF AN OWNER OF
the alienable and disposable zone classified under Project No. 27- THE SUBJECT LAND FOR THIRTY YEARS.
B, L.C. Map No. 2623; that the subject property is not reserved for
military or naval purposes; that the subject property was not II
covered by a previously issued patent; that the subject property
was declared for the first time in 1948 under Tax Declaration No. THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED ON A
230 in the name of Candida de Borja; 21 that the subject property is QUESTION OF LAW WHEN IT AFFIRMED THE TRIAL
now covered by Tax Declaration No. D-013-01408 in the name of COURTS GRANT OF THE APPLICATION FOR LAND
Lydia Capco de Tensuan; that the subject property is agricultural in REGISTRATION OF [TENSUAN] BECAUSE THE
nature; and that the subject property is free from adverse claims SUBJECT LAND BEING PART OF THE LAGUNA LAKE
and conflicts. Yet, Garcia noted in the same report that the "the BED IS NOT ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE.25
applicant is not x x x in the actual occupation and possession of the
land" and "LLDA rep. by Atty. Joaquin G. Mendoza possesses the
legal right to file opposition against the application x x x." 22 The The Republic contends that Tensuan failed to present
Investigation Report was submitted as evidence by the Republic. incontrovertible evidence to warrant the registration of the property
in the latters name as owner. Aruelos testimony that her father
possessed the land even before the Second World War and
In its Decision dated October 18, 2004, the MeTC granted Marasigans claim that he and his father have been tilling the land
Tensuans Application for Registration, decreeing as follows: for a total of more than 65 years are doubtful considering that the
subject property is located below the reglementary lake elevation
WHEREFORE, from the evidences adduced and testimonies and is, thus, part of the Laguna Lake bed. Also, the CENRO
presented by the parties, the Court is of the considered view that Certification is not sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption
herein applicant has proven by preponderance of evidence the that the subject property still forms part of the public domain, and is
allegations in the application, hence, this Court hereby confirms the not alienable and disposable. On the other hand, Tensuan asserts
title of applicant LYDIA CAPCO DE TENSUAN married to that the Petition should be dismissed outright for raising questions
RODOLFO TENSUAN, of legal age, Filipino and a resident of No. of fact. The findings of the MeTC and the Court of Appeals that the
43 Rizal Street, Poblacion, Muntinlupa City to the parcel of subject property is alienable and disposable, and that Tensuan and
agricultural land (Lot 1109-A, Mcadm 590-D, Taguig Cadastral her predecessors-in-interest had been in open, adverse,
Mapping) located at Ibayo-Sta. Ana, Taguig, Metro Manila continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession of the same for
containing an area of Four Thousand Six (4,006) square meters; the period required by law, are supported by preponderance of
and order the registration thereof in her name. evidence.

After the finality of this decision and upon payment of the We find the instant Petition meritorious.
corresponding taxes due on said land subject matter of this
application, let an order for issuance of decree be issued. 23 The Republic asserts that the assigned errors in its Petition are on
questions of law, but in reality, these questions delve into the
The Republic appealed to the Court of Appeals, insisting that the sufficiency of evidence relied upon by the MeTC and the Court of
MeTC should not have granted Tensuans Application for Appeals in granting Tensuans Application for Registration of the
Registration considering that the subject property is part of the subject property. It is basic that where it is the sufficiency of
Laguna Lake bed, hence, is not alienable and disposable. The evidence that is being questioned, it is a question of fact. 26
appeal was docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 84125.
In petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of
In the herein assailed Decision of January 13, 2006, the Court of Court, this Court is limited to reviewing only errors of law, not of
Appeals affirmed the MeTC Decision, thus: fact, unless the factual findings complained of are devoid of
support by the evidence on record, or the assailed judgment is
WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed based on a misapprehension of facts.27 In Reyes v.
Decision dated October 18, 2004 is AFFIRMED. 24 Montemayor,28 we did not hesitate to apply the exception rather
than the general rule, setting aside the findings of fact of the trial
Hence, the Republic filed the present Petition with the following and appellate courts and looking into the evidence on record
assignment of errors: ourselves, in order to arrive at the proper and just resolution of the
case, to wit:
I
Rule 45 of the Rules of Court provides that only questions of law
shall be raised in a Petition for Review before this Court. This rule,
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED ON A
however, admits of certain exceptions, namely, (1) when the
QUESTION OF LAW WHEN IT AFFIRMED THE TRIAL
findings are grounded entirely on speculations, surmises, or
COURTS GRANT OF THE APPLICATION FOR LAND
21

conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-
absurd or impossible; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion; interest have been in the open, continuous, exclusive, and
(4) when the judgment is based on a misappreciation of facts; (5) notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable
when the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) when, in making its lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition
findings, the same are contrary to the admissions of both appellant or ownership, since June 12, 1945, except when prevented by war
and appellee; (7) when the findings are contrary to those of the trial or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have
court; (8) when the findings are conclusions without citation of performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and
specific evidence on which they are based; (9) when the facts set shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this
forth in the petition as well as in the petitioners main and reply chapter.
briefs are not disputed by the respondent; and (10) when the
findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence The requisites for the filing of an application for registration of title
and contradicted by the evidence on record. under Section 14(1) of the Property Registration Decree are: (1)
that the property in question is alienable and disposable land of the
While as a general rule appellate courts do not usually disturb the public domain; and (2) that the applicants by themselves or through
lower courts findings of fact, unless said findings are not supported their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous,
by or are totally devoid of or inconsistent with the evidence on exclusive and notorious possession and occupation; and that such
record, such finding must of necessity be modified to conform with possession is under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12,
the evidence if the reviewing tribunal were to arrive at the proper 1945 or earlier.29 In Heirs of Mario Malabanan v. Republic, 30 we
and just resolution of the controversy. Thus, although the findings affirmed our earlier ruling in Republic v. Naguit, 31 that Section 14(1)
of fact of the Court of Appeals are generally conclusive on this of the Property Registration Decree merely requires the property
Court, which is not a trier of facts, if said factual findings do not sought to be registered as already alienable and disposable at the
conform to the evidence on record, this Court will not hesitate to time the application for registration of title is filed.
review and reverse the factual findings of the lower courts. In the
instant case, the Court finds sufficient basis to deviate from the rule We proceed to determine first whether it has been satisfactorily
since the extant evidence and prevailing law support a finding proven herein that the subject property was already alienable and
different from the conclusion of the Court of Appeals and the RTC. disposable land of the public domain at the time Tensuan filed her
(Citations omitted.) Application for Registration on August 11, 1998.

Tensuan anchors her right to registration of title on Section 14(1) of Under the Regalian doctrine, all lands of the public domain belong
Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property to the State, and that the State is the source of any asserted right
Registration Decree, which reads: to ownership of land and charged with the conservation of such
patrimony. The same doctrine also states that all lands not
SEC. 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are
proper Court of First Instance an application for registration of title presumed to belong to the State. Consequently, the burden of proof
to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized to overcome the presumption of ownership of lands of the public
representatives: domain is on the person applying for registration. Unless public
land is shown to have been reclassified and alienated by the State
(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in- to a private person, it remains part of the inalienable public
interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious domain.32
possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of
the public domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June As to what constitutes alienable and disposable land of the public
12, 1945, or earlier. domain, we turn to our pronouncements in Secretary of the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources v. Yap33:
The aforequoted provision authorizes the registration of title
acquired in accordance with Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act The 1935 Constitution classified lands of the public domain into
No. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land Act, as amended by agricultural, forest or timber. Meanwhile, the 1973 Constitution
Presidential Decree No. 1073, which provides: provided the following divisions: agricultural, industrial or
commercial, residential, resettlement, mineral, timber or forest and
SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, grazing lands, and such other classes as may be provided by law,
occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such giving the government great leeway for classification. Then the
lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been 1987 Constitution reverted to the 1935 Constitution classification
perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of with one addition: national parks. Of these, only agricultural lands
the province where the land is located for confirmation of their may be alienated. x x x
claims and the issuance of a certificate of title thereafter, under the
Land Registration Act, to wit: xxxx

xxxx A positive act declaring land as alienable and disposable is


required. In keeping with the presumption of State ownership, the
22

Court has time and again emphasized that there must be a positive Public documents are defined under Section 19, Rule 132 of the
act of the government, such as an official proclamation, Revised Rules on Evidence as follows:
declassifying inalienable public land into disposable land for
agricultural or other purposes. In fact, Section 8 of CA No. 141 (a) The written official acts, or records of the official acts
limits alienable or disposable lands only to those lands which have of the sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals,
been "officially delimited and classified." and public officers, whether of the Philippines, or of a
foreign country;
The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State
ownership of the lands of the public domain is on the person (b) Documents acknowledged before a notary public
applying for registration (or claiming ownership), who must prove except last wills and testaments; and
that the land subject of the application is alienable or disposable.
To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be (c) Public records, kept in the Philippines, of private
established that the land subject of the application (or claim) is documents required by law to be entered therein.
alienable or disposable. 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, Applying Section 24 of Rule 132, the record of public documents
the applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the referred to in Section 19(a), when admissible for any purpose, may
government such as a presidential proclamation or an executive be evidenced by an official publication thereof or by a copy attested
order; an administrative action; investigation reports of Bureau of by the officer having legal custody of the record, or by his deputy x
Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute. The applicant x x.
may also secure a certification from the government that the land
claimed to have been possessed for the required number of years The CENRO is not the official repository or legal custodian of the
is alienable and disposable. (Citations and emphasis omitted.) issuances of the DENR Secretary declaring public lands as
alienable and disposable. The CENRO should have attached an
As proof that the subject property is alienable and disposable, official publication of the DENR Secretarys issuance declaring the
Tensuan presented a Certification dated July 29, 1999 issued by land alienable and disposable.
the CENRO-DENR which verified that "said land falls within
alienable and disposable land under Project No. 27-B L.C. Map No. Section 23, Rule 132 of the Revised Rules on Evidence provides:
2623 under Forestry Administrative Order No. 4-1141 dated "Sec. 23.
January 3, 1968." However, we have declared unequivocally that a
CENRO Certification, by itself, is insufficient proof that a parcel of Public documents as evidence. Documents consisting of entries
land is alienable and disposable. As we held in Republic v. T.A.N. in public records made in the performance of a duty by a public
Properties, Inc.34: officer are prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein. All other
public documents are evidence, even against a third person, of the
It is not enough for the PENRO or CENRO to certify that a land is fact which gave rise to their execution and of the date of the latter."
alienable and disposable.
The CENRO and Regional Technical Director, FMS-DENR,
The applicant for land registration must prove that the DENR certifications do not fall within the class of public documents
Secretary had approved the land classification and released the contemplated in the first sentence of Section 23 of Rule 132. The
land of the public domain as alienable and disposable, and that the certifications do not reflect "entries in public records made in the
land subject of the application for registration falls within the performance of a duty by a public officer," such as entries made by
approved area per verification through survey by the PENRO or the Civil Registrar in the books of registries, or by a ship captain in
CENRO. In addition, the applicant for land registration must the ships logbook. The certifications are not the certified copies or
present a copy of the original classification approved by the DENR authenticated reproductions of original official records in the legal
Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of the custody of a government office. The certifications are not even
official records. These facts must be established to prove that the records of public documents. The certifications are conclusions
land is alienable and disposable. Respondent failed to do so unsupported by adequate proof, and thus have no probative value.
because the certifications presented by respondent do not, by Certainly, the certifications cannot be considered prima facie
themselves, prove that the land is alienable and disposable. evidence of the facts stated therein.

Only Torres, respondents Operations Manager, identified the The CENRO and Regional Technical Director, FMS-DENR,
certifications submitted by respondent. The government officials certifications do not prove that Lot 10705-B falls within the
who issued the certifications were not presented before the trial alienable and disposable land as proclaimed by the DENR
court to testify on their contents. The trial court should not have Secretary.
accepted the contents of the certifications as proof of the facts
stated therein. Even if the certifications are presumed duly issued Such government certifications do not, by their mere issuance,
and admissible in evidence, they have no probative value in prove the facts stated therein.1wphi1 Such government
establishing that the land is alienable and disposable. certifications may fall under the class of documents contemplated
23

in the second sentence of Section 23 of Rule 132. As such, the


certifications are prima facie evidence of their due execution and
date of issuance but they do not constitute prima facie evidence of
the facts stated therein.

The Court has also ruled that a document or writing admitted as


part of the testimony of a witness does not constitute proof of the
facts stated therein. Here, Torres, a private individual and
respondents representative, identified the certifications but the
government officials who issued the certifications did not testify on G.R. No. 188494 November 26, 2014
the contents of the certifications. As such, the certifications cannot REMMAN ENTERPRISES, INC., Petitioner,
be given probative value. The contents of the certifications are vs.
hearsay because Torres was incompetent to testify on the veracity REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
of the contents of the certifications. Torres did not prepare the
certifications, he was not an officer of CENRO or FMS-DENR, and DECISION
he did not conduct any verification survey whether the land falls
within the area classified by the DENR Secretary as alienable and REYES, J.:
disposable. (Emphases ours, citations omitted.)
This resolves the petition for review on certiorari 1 filed by Remman
While we may have been lenient in some cases 35 and accepted Enterprises, Inc. (petitioner) under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court to
substantial compliance with the evidentiary requirements set forth assail the Decision2 dated May 23, 2008 and Resolution 3 dated
in T.A.N. Properties, we cannot do the same for Tensuan in the June 22, 2009 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No.
case at bar. We cannot afford to be lenient in cases where the 74418. The CA reversed the Decision4 dated November 27, 2001
Land Registration Authority (LRA) or the DENR oppose the of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City, Branch 155, in LR
application for registration on the ground that the land subject Case No. N-11379, which granted the petitioner's application for
thereof is inalienable. In the present case, the DENR recognized land registration of three (3) parcels of land situated in Taguig,
the right of the LLDA to oppose Tensuans Application for Metro Manila (subject properties).
Registration; and the LLDA, in its Opposition, precisely argued that
the subject property is part of the Laguna Lake bed and, therefore, The petitioner, through its authorized representative Ronnie P.
inalienable public land. We do not even have to evaluate the Inocencio (Inocencio), filed with the RTC on June 4, 1998 an
evidence presented by the LLDA given the Regalian Doctrine. application for registration of the subject properties situated in
Since Tensuan failed to present satisfactory proof that the subject Barangay Napindan, Taguig, Metro Manila, with an area of 27,477
property is alienable and disposable, the burden of evidence did square meters, 23,179 sq m and 45,636 sq m, more particularly
not even shift to the LLDA to prove that the subject property is part described as follows:
of the Laguna Lake bed.
SWO-00-001771, being a conversion of Lot 3079, Mcadm-590-D,
Given the lack of evidence that the subject property is alienable containing an area of Twenty[-]Seven Thousand Four Hundred
and disposable, it becomes unnecessary for us to determine the Seventy[-] Seven (27,477) square meters, more or less; SWO-00-
other issue in this case, i.e., whether Tensuan has been in open, 001768, being a conversion of Lot 3071, Mcadm-590-D, containing
continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation; an area of Twenty[-] Three Thousand One Hundred Seventy[-]Nine
and that such possession is under a bona fide claim of ownership (23,179) square meters, more or less; and SWO-00-001773, being
since June 12, 1945 or earlier. Regardless of the character and a conversion of Lot 3082, Mcadm-590-D, containing an area of
length of her possession of the subject property, Tensuan cannot Forty[-]Five Thousand Six Hundred Thirty[-]Six (45,636) square
acquire registerable title to inalienable public land. meters, more or less, all brought under the operation of the
Property Registration Decree (PD 1529) or Commonwealth Act
WHEREFORE, the instant Petition is GRANTED. The Decision 141, as amended x x x.5
dated January 13, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No.
84125 and Decision dated October 18, 2004 of the Metropolitan The State, through the Office of the Solicitor General, interposed its
Trial Court of Taguig City, Branch 74 in LRC Case No. 172 LRA opposition to the application.1avvphi1 During the initial hearing of
Rec. No. N-70 1 08) are SET ASIDE. The Application for the case on May 4, 1999, the petitioner presented and marked
Registration of Lydia Capco de Tensuan is DENIED. documentary evidence6 to prove its compliance with jurisdictional
requirements.7
SO ORDERED.
On October 25, 1999, the petitioner was allowed to present its
evidence before the Branch Clerk of Court of the RTC. Inocencio,
the petitioners sales manager, testified that the subject properties
were purchased on August 28, 1989 by the petitioner from sellers
Magdalena Samonte, Jaime Aldana and Virgilio Navarro. The
24

properties were declared for taxation purposes on August 9, already declared alienable and disposable.14 The CA further cited a
1989.After the sale, the petitioner occupied the properties and failure to establish that the petitioner and its predecessors-in-
planted thereon crops like rice, corn and vegetables.8 interest possessed the subject parcels of land under a bona fide
claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or earlier. 15
Witness Cenon Serquia (Serquia) supported the application for
registration by claiming that he had been the caretaker of the Hence, this petition for review on certiorari filed by the petitioner to
subject properties since 1957, long before the lots were purchased assail the CAs dismissal of its application for land registration. The
by the petitioner. Serquia alleged that no person other than the petitioner argues that the identity of the subject properties was
applicant and its predecessors-in-interest had claimed ownership sufficiently established through the submission of the original
or rights over the subject properties.9 tracing cloth plans, survey plans and technical descriptions. The
alienable and disposable character of the properties was also duly
On November 27, 2001, the RTC rendered its Decision 10 granting established via a certification issued by the Community
the petitioners application. The decretal portion of its decision Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the
reads: Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Further, it claims that it and its predecessors-in-interest possessed
the parcels of land in the nature and within the length of time
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court finds the
required by law.
Applicant, Remman Enterprises, Inc., represented in this matter by
its representative, Ronnie P. Inocencio, the absolute owner in fee
simple of three (3) parcels of land, all located at Barangay The petition is dismissible.
Napindan, Taguig, Metro Manila, more particularly described as
follows: On the matter of proof of the subject propertys identity,
jurisprudence provides that the presentation of the original tracing
1.) SWO-00-001771, being a conversion of Lot 3079, cloth plan may be dispensed with, subject however to certain
Mcadm-590-D; conditions. Contrary to the petitioners claim, the original clothing
plans that cover the subject properties do not form part of the case
records. The Court has nonetheless held in Republic v. Espinosa: 16
2.) SWO-00-001768, being a conversion of Lot 3071,
Mcadm-590-D; and
As ruled in Republic v. Guinto-Aldana, the identity of the land, its
boundaries and location can be established by other competent
3.) SWO-00-001773, being a conversion of Lot 3082,
evidence apart from the original tracing cloth such as a duly
Mcadm-590-D
executed blueprint of the survey plan and technical description:
together with their corresponding technical descriptions.
"Yet if the reason for requiring an applicant to adduce in evidence
the original tracing cloth plan is merely to provide a convenient and
Once the foregoing Decision has become final, let the necessary means to afford certainty as to the exact identity of the
corresponding decree of registration issue. SO ORDERED.11 property applied for registration and to ensure that the same does
not overlap with the boundaries of the adjoining lots, there stands
Dissatisfied, the State appealed to the CA by alleging substantive to be no reason why a registration application must be denied for
and procedural defects in the petitioners application. It argued that failure to present the original tracing cloth plan, especially where it
the identity of the subject properties was not sufficiently is accompanied by piecesof evidencesuch as a duly executed
established. The State further claimed that the character and length blueprint of the survey plan and a duly executed technical
of possession required by law in land registration cases were not description of the propertywhich may likewise substantially and
satisfied by the petitioner. with as much certainty prove the limits and extent of the property
sought to be registered."17 (Citations omitted)
Finding merit in the appeal, the CA reversed the RTC decision. The
dispositive portion of the CA Decision dated May 23, 2008 reads: Notwithstanding the foregoing, the CAs dismissal of the petitioners
application for original registration was proper considering the
WHEREFORE, the DECISION DATED NOVEMBER 27, 2001is latters failure to sufficiently establish that the subject properties
REVERSEDand SET ASIDE and this case is DISMISSED. were already declared alienable and disposable by the
government. Its reliance on a Report, 18 issued by the CENRO,
SO ORDERED.12 DENR National Capital Region, West Sector, was misplaced. The
Court ruled in Republic v. Medida:19
The CA explained that the survey plans and technical descriptions
submitted by the petitioner failed to establish the true identity of the In Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,this Court explained that a
subject properties. The application should have been accompanied Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) or
by the original tracing cloth plan duly approved by the Director of CENRO certification, by itself, fails toprove the alienable and
Lands.13 The petitioner should have also submitted a certification disposable character of a parcel of land. We ruled:
from the proper government office stating that the properties were
25

[I]t is not enough for the PENRO or CENRO to certify that a land is
alienable and disposable. The applicant for land registration must
prove that the DENR Secretary had approved the land
classification and released the land of the public domain as
alienable and disposable, and that the land subject of the
application for registration falls within the approved area per
verification through survey by the PENRO or CENRO. In addition,
the applicant for land registration must present a copy of the
original classification approved by the DENR Secretary and
certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of the official
records.These facts must be established to prove that the land is
alienable and disposable. Respondents failed to do so because the
certifications presented by respondent do not, by themselves,
prove that the land is alienable and disposable. x x x.

xxxx

The present rule on the matter then requires that an application for
original registration be accompanied by: (1) CENRO or PENRO
Certification; and (2) a copy of the original classification approved
by the DENR Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal
custodian of the official records. x x x.20 (Citations omitted and
emphasis in the original)

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, who must provethat the properties subject
of the application are alienable and disposable. 21 Even the
notations on the survey plans submitted by the petitioner cannot be
admitted asevidence of the subject properties alienability and
disposability. Such notations do not constitute incontrovertible
evidence to overcome the presumption that the subject properties
remain part of the inalienable public domain.22

Given the foregoing, the dismissal of the petitioner's application for


registration was proper. Under pertinent laws and jurisprudence,
the petitioner had to sufficiently establish that: first, the subject
properties form part of the disposable and alienable lands of the
public domain; second, the applicant and his predecessors-in-
interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious
possession anq occupation of the same; and third, the possession
is under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945 or
earlier.23

Without sufficient proof that the subject properties had been


declared alienable and disposable, the Court finqs no reason to
look further into the petitioner's claim that the CA erred in' finding
that it failed to satisfy the nature and length of possession that
could qualify for land registration. WHEREFORE, the petition if
DENIED. The Decision dated May 23, 2008 and Resolution dated
Jun~ 22, 2009 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 74418
are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.