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[G.R. No. 126316. June 25, 2004] applicant/petitioner ANGEL T. YU, Filipino, of legal age, married
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. COURT OF and a resident of Estancia, Iloilo, over a parcel of land (Lot 524,
APPEALS, HON. JOSE D. AZARRAGA AND ANGEL T. Cad. 633-D, Estancia Cadastre, AP-063019-005139) situated in the
YU, respondents. Poblacion Zone 1, Municipality of Estancia, Province of Iloilo,
Island of Panay, identified in the Plan, Exhibit E and technically
DECISION described in Exhibit F.

CALLEJO, SR., J.: As soon as this Decision becomes final, let an order for the
issuance of the permanent decree and the corresponding
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the Decision [1] of certificate of title be issued in accordance with law. [9]
the Court of Appeals dismissing the petition for annulment of
judgment filed before it by the petitioner. No motion for reconsideration was filed by the City
The antecedent facts are as follows: Prosecutor on behalf of the Solicitor General. Hence, the said
decision became final and executory on June 14, 1995, and entry
On June 22, 1994, respondent Angel T. Yu filed a of judgment was duly made on July 7, 1995. An order was
petition[2] for registration of a parcel of land, designated as Lot 524, consequently issued by the RTC directing the issuance of the
Cad. 633-D, Estancia Cadastre, Ap-063019-005139, with an area corresponding decree of registration and certificate of title to
of 1,194 square meters, more or less, situated at the Poblacion, respondent Angel T. Yu.[10]
Zone 1, Municipality of Estancia, Province of Iloilo. The case was
docketed as LRC Case No.1000, LRA Rec. No. N-64463 and On May 29, 1995,[11] the OSG received a copy of the
raffled to the Regional Trial Court, Sixth Judicial Region, Iloilo City, supplementary report and findings of Land Management Officer
Branch 37.[3] The petition was later amended to include the Myra B. Rosal dated April 12, 1995 (Rosal Report), which was
adjoining lots and the corresponding owners name. submitted to the trial court in compliance with the courts Order
dated March 6, 1995. The report was worded, thus:
Initial hearing was scheduled on February 9, 1995 at 8:30
a.m. For the purpose, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) The Honorable Judge
entered its appearance on January 18, 1995 and at the same time JOSE AZARRAGA
deputized the City Prosecutor of Iloilo City to appear for and in Regional Trial Court
behalf of the Solicitor General under the latters supervision and Sixth Judicial Region
control. Except for the opposition filed by the Solicitor General, no Branch 37, Iloilo City
one else appeared to oppose the application/petition. The case
was then set for reception of applicants evidence on February 16, April 12, 1995
1995[4] which was again set to another day.[5]
On February 22, 1995, the RTC received a letter from the
N-1000 LOT NO. 524, CAD,
Land Registration Authority (LRA) requesting the court to require
the Land Management Bureau, Manila and the Community
Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) at Barotac
Viejo, Iloilo to report on the status of the subject land considering
that a discrepancy was noted after plotting the land. [6] ___________________________________

Thus, on March 6, 1995, the RTC issued an Order to the In compliance with the Order of March 6, 1995, received by this
effect.[7] Office on March 15, 1995, attached for your ready reference is the
On March 31, 1995, the RTC received a certification from the amended report in three (3) pages of Land Management Officer III
Land Management Bureau, Department of Environment and Fabio O. Catalan, Jr., of this Office, which was sent to Office of the
Natural Resources (DENR), Manila stating that according to the Regional Technical Director, Land Management Bureau, DENR
verification of our records, this Office (formerly Bureau of Lands) Masonic Temple, Iloilo City, in a cover memorandum dated
has no record of any kind of public land application/land patent September 24, 1994, duly endorsed by the CENR Officer of
covering the parcel of land situated in Estancia, Iloilo, identified as CENRO, Sara, Iloilo, Edgardo J. Himatay.
Lot No. 524, Cad. 633-D, Ap-063019-005139, [8]
This supplementary report of the undersigned is prepared with the
Based on this certification and after reception of evidence, request that the additional findings be made on record when the
the RTC rendered judgment on May 3, 1995, the decretal portion of undersigned repaired on the premises of the land on April 7, 1995,
which reads: in the morning to conduct an ocular inspection. The following facts
were ascertained and found;
WHEREFORE, ratifying the Order of general default previously
entered in this case, and after considering the evidence adduced 1. [That] the Cadastral lot in question and subject
and finding that petitioner Angel T. Yu had sufficient title proper for of a Land Registration Case at bar, is Lot
the registration in his name of the land subject of the application, 524, Cad 633-D, Estancia Cadastre,
JUDGMENT is hereby rendered confirming the title of the
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containing an area of 1,194 square On June 22, 1995, the OSG received a letter from Regional
meters, approved on October 21, 1980, Executive Director Jose P. Catus of the DENR, stating that an
located at Zone 1, Poblacion Estancia, investigation was conducted on the instant case, and it was found
Iloilo. Again, Engr. Rogelio Santome, that there were grounds for opposition to the respondents land
adopting the cadastral survey of the then application. Land Investigator Fabio O. Catalan, Jr., who conducted
Bureau of Lands, prepared an Advance an ocular inspection of the subject land, found the same to be a
Plan and subsequently approved as Ap- reclaimed foreshore area. Attached therein was the Amended
063019-005139 on May 25, 1994. Report of Land Investigator Catalan, Jr.(Catalan Report); [13] the
1977 Foreshore Lease Application of Angel T. Yu; [14] the November
2. That Lot No. 524, Cad-633-D is covered by a 16, 1983 Visitation and Examination Report of Land Investigator
Foreshore Lease Application (FLA No. Antonio L. Luis over Lot No. 524;[15] and a blueprint plan of Lot 524
(VI-I)78) applied for by Angel Tilos Yu on (formerly Lot 2) of the Estancia Cadastre.[16]
July 1, 1977, with the then Bureau of
Lands, MNR, Ministry of Natural After discovering the actual status of Lot 524, the Republic
Resources, NRD (VI-7) Barotac Viejo, filed a petition for the annulment of judgment with a prayer for a
duly ratified by Land Investigator Antonio writ of preliminary injunction with the Court of Appeals on July 20,
L. Luis. An amount of P775.00 each had 1995.[17]
been paid in the year 1982 and the year
1983, (please see certification hereto On February 5, 1996, respondent Angel T. Yu filed a motion
attached) dated February 6, 1995, of with the CA, praying that he be allowed to submit to the Land
CENR Officer Edgardo J. Himatay. Registration Authority the corrected technical description and the
republication in the Official Gazette of the corrected technical
3. That Lot No. 524, Cad-633-D is declared public description of Plan Ap-063019, Lot 524, Cad. 633-D dated January
land and is Alienable and Disposable per 15, 1996.[18] The OSG filed its objection thereto.[19]
L.C. Map 1020, Project 44 dated July 26,
1933. On September 10, 1996, the Court of Appeals dismissed the
petition for annulment of judgment. It also ruled that since the RTC
4. That the improvements found on the land are decision had already become final and executory, the technical
as follows: description could no longer be modified to include the increased
area as prayed for by the private respondent. The CA held as
a) A commercial complex built of strong follows:
materials (concrete steel and
galvanized iron with 18-20 feet
structure in depth, as foundation Lot 524 is not a foreshore land..
of the building, occupying
around 600 square meters of The CENRO report is proof that Lot 524, Cad-633-D, is an
the whole area of Lot 524. The agricultural land. Out of the total area of 1,194 square meters,
building itself houses around 850 square meters is dry land. That an area of 334 sq.
14 commercial concrete stalls of meters which used to be covered and uncovered by water during
14 x 5 meters which is offered high tide is now a reclaimed area, since way back 1977.
for rent as boutiques and dry (underlining supplied)
goods stalls.
WHEREFORE, the petition for annulment of judgment is hereby
b) On the second floor now undergoing DISMISSED. The motion of private respondent dated January 15,
are bowling lanes (6 alleys) for 1996 is DENIED.[20]
recreational purposes which will
soon open to the public in 3
months time. Finding no relief from the CA, the Republic filed the instant
petition, raising the issue that:
5. That Lot No. 524, Cad-633-D is not an
agricultural land. That out of the total area THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DENYING THE
of 1,194 square meters, only around 850 REPUBLICS PETITION FOR ANNULMENT OF JUDGMENT ON
square meters is dry land and that an THE MERE SUPPOSITION THAT LOT 524 IS NOT FORESHORE
area of 334 sq. meters which used to be LAND, BUT AGRICULTURAL LAND.[21]
covered and uncovered by water during
high tide is now a reclaimed area, since We find merit in the petition.
way back 1977 when applicant Angel
Tilos Yu applied for a Foreshore Lease At the outset, there is a need to take a closer look at the true
Application with [the] then Bureau of nature of the land in question.
The petitioner asserts that Lot 524 is foreshore land.
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Foreshore land is that strip of land that lies between the high certification from the Land Management Bureau that the office has
and low water marks and is alternatively wet and dry according to no record of any kind of public land application/land patent
the flow of tide. It is that part of the land adjacent to the sea, which covering the parcel of land[27] and thereby approved the registration
is alternately covered and left dry by the ordinary flow of tides. [22] It of the land in favor of respondent. The records reveal that the
is part of the alienable land of the public domain and may be Rosal Report, through a 1st Indorsement dated April 24, 1995, was
disposed of only by lease and not otherwise.[23] Foreshore land received by the RTC only on May 5, 1995,[28] after the court had
remains part of the public domain and is outside the commerce of already rendered its decision on May 3, 1995. No motion for
man. It is not capable of private appropriation.[24] reconsideration was filed to controvert the said decision based on
the report. The OSGs receipt of the Rosal and Catalan Reports on
It is for this reason that the petitioner persists in its action to the status of the land were also belated through no fault of theirs.
revert the subject land to the State. Thus, even if the decision of
the RTC has become final and executory, we find that the Finally, we can not uphold the respondent courts finding
respondent court abused its discretion in dismissing the petition for regarding the character of the land. The Rosal Report clearly states
annulment of judgment filed before it which is impressed with that the subject land is not an agricultural land.Despite such
public interest. There are valid and meritorious grounds to justify declaration, the respondent court continued to rule that the subject
such action. The State has to protect its interests and can not be land is agricultural on the basis that out of the total area of 1,194
bound by, or estopped from, the mistakes or negligent acts of its square meters, 850 square meters is dry land and that 334 square
officials or agents, much more, non-suited as a result thereof. As meters is now a reclaimed area.[29]
held in Republic vs. Alagad:[25]
Clearly, there is a need to determine once and for all whether
the subject land is really foreshore land and/or whether the
[T]he state as a persona in law is the judicial entity, which is the respondent has registerable title thereto. The classification of
source of any asserted right to ownership in land under the basic public lands is a function of the executive branch of government,
doctrine embodied in the 1935 Constitution as well as the present specifically, the director of lands (now the director of the Land
charter. It is charged moreover with the conservation of such Management Bureau).[30] This Court is not a trier of facts. Thus, for
patrimony. There is need therefore of the most rigorous scrutiny a proper and conclusive classification of the land involved, the
before private claims to portions thereof are judicially accorded instant case has to be remanded to the trial court for that
recognition, especially so where the matter is sought to be raked determination.[31]
up anew after almost fifty years. Such primordial consideration, not
the apparent carelessness, much less the acquiescence of public WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decisions of
officials, is the controlling norm the Court of Appeals and the Regional Trial Court
are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The case is REMANDED to the
The Catalan Report, which states that the subject land is Regional Trial Court, Iloilo City, Branch 37 for further proceedings.
foreshore land, was received by the OSG only on June 22, 1995,
long after the RTC rendered its judgment on May 3, 1995. Angel T.
Yu had, in fact, filed a foreshore lease application in 1977 and paid
the corresponding fees thereon. There is, therefore, doubt to the
respondents claim that he had been in actual, open, notorious,
continuous possession , in the concept of an owner.
Moreover, the Rosal Report dated April 12, 1995 was
received by the OSG only on May 29, 1995. Although the report
states that Lot No. 524, Cad-633-D is declared public land and is
alienable and disposable per L.C. Map 1020, Project 44 dated July
26, 1933, the same report buttresses the contention that the
subject land is foreshore land and covered by a foreshore lease
application filed by Angel T. Yu. Finding the reports to be revealing
and significant as to the real status of the land being foreshore, the
petitioner lost no time in filing the petition for annulment of
judgment with the Court of Appeals.
We can not fault the trial court for not having considered in its
decision the Rosal Report dated April 12, 1995 which was
apparently submitted to it. On March 15, 1995, the trial court issued
an order where it considered the case submitted for decision upon
the submission to this court by the Land Management Bureau,
Manila and CENRO, Barotac Viejo, Iloilo of the report as directed in
the Order of this Court dated March 6, 1995, and after the Land
Management Sector, Region 6, Iloilo City had duly verified the
discrepancy of plan Ap-063019-005139 of the subject land applied
for.[26] In compliance with the order, the trial court received a
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SAAD AGRO-INDUSTRIES, INC., G.R. No. 152570 petitioners purchase of the property was also declared legal and
Petitioner, valid. The trial court also denied the complaint-in-intervention filed
by Urgello.
- versus
. On appeal, the Court of Appeals in its Decision[8] reversed and set
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, aside the trial courts judgment. It held that timber or forest lands, to
Respondent. which the subject lot belongs, are not subject to private ownership,
x----------------------------x unless these are first classified as agricultural lands. Thus, absent
any declassification of the subject lot from forest to alienable and
disposable land for agricultural purposes,[9] the officers erred in
DECISION approving Orcullos free patent application and in issuing the
OCT; hence, title to the lot must be cancelled. [10] Consequently, the
TINGA, J.: Court of Appeals invalidated the sale of the lot to
petitioner. However, it declared that Urgellos Fishpond Lease
The instant petition for review assails the Decision and Resolution Agreement may continue until its expiration because lease does
of the Court of Appeals dated 18 July 2001 and 18 March 2002 in not pass title to the lessee; but thereafter, the lease should not be
CA-G.R. CV No. 64097, reversing and setting aside the Decision of renewed. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals decreed:
the Regional Trial Court of Cebu, Branch 11, Cebu City in Civil WHEREFORE, the decision
Case No. CEB-17173. appealed from is hereby REVERSED and SET
ASIDE and another one issued declaring Free
The antecedents follow. Patent No. 473408 and the corresponding OCT
[No.] 0-6667 as NULL and VOID ab initio.
On 18 October 1967, Socorro Orcullo (Orcullo) filed her
application for Free Patent for Lot No. 1434 of Cad-315-D, a parcel SAAD Agro-Industries, Inc. is directed to
of land with an area of 12.8477 hectares located in Barangay surrender the owners duplicate copy of OCT
Abugon, Sibonga, Cebu. Thereafter, on 14 February 1971, [No.] 0-6667 to the Register of Deeds of Cebu
the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources issued Free City.
Patent No. 473408 for Lot No. 1434, while the Registry of Deeds
for the Province of Cebu issued Original Certificate of Title (OCT) The Register of Deeds of Cebu City is hereby
No. 0-6667 over the said lot.[1]Subsequently, the subject lot was ordered to cancel OCT [No.] 0-6667 and all
sold[2] to SAAD Agro- Industries, Inc. (petitioner) by one of Orcullos other transfer certificates of title that may have
heirs. been subsequently issued.
Sometime in 1995, the Republic of the Philippines, through the Lot No. 1434, CAD 315[-]D located at
Solicitor General, filed a complaint[3] for annulment of title and Barangay Abugon, Sibonga, Cebu, subject
reversion of the lot covered by Free Patent No. 473408 and OCT matter of this case, is hereby REVERTED as
No. 0-6667 and reversion of Lot No. 1434 of Cad-315-D to the part of [the] public domain and to be classified
mass of the public domain, on the ground that the issuance of the as timberland.[11]
said free patent and title for Lot No. 1434 was irregular and
erroneous, following the discovery that the lot is allegedly part of Petitioners motion for reconsideration, claiming
the timberland and forest reserve of Sibonga, Cebu. The discovery insufficiency of evidence and failure to consider pertinent
was made after Pedro Urgello filed a letter- laws, proved futile as it was dismissed for lack of
complaint with the Regional Executive merit. The Court of Appeals categorically stated that
there was a preponderance of evidence showing that the
Director of the Forest Management Sector, Department of subject lot is within the timberland area.[12]
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region VII, Cebu
City, about the alleged illegal cutting of mangrove trees and Petitioner now claims that the Court of Appeals erred in relying on
construction of dikes within the area covered by Urgellos Fishpond the DENR officers testimony. It claims that the testimony was a
Lease Agreement.[4] On 14 July 1995, Urgello filed a complaint-in- mere opinion to the effect that if there was no classification yet of
intervention against the heirs of Orcullo, adopting the allegations an area, such area should be considered as a public forest. Such
of respondent.[5] However, the heirs failed to file their answer to the opinion was premised on the officers construction of a provision of
complaint and were thus declared in default.[6] Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 705, otherwise known as the
Revised Forestry Code,[13] the pertinent portion of which reads:
In its Decision[7] dated 15 May 1999, the trial court dismissed the
complaint, finding that respondent failed to show that the subject lot Those still to be classified under the present
is part of the timberland or forest reserve or that it has been system shall continue to remain as part of the
classified as such before the issuance of the free patent and the public forest.[14]
original title. According to the trial court, the issuance of the free
patent and title was regular and in order, and must be accorded full
faith. Considering the validity of the free patent and the OCT,
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Petitioner points out that P.D. No. 705 took effect on 19 grant by the government, its cancellation is a matter between the
May 1975, or long after the issuance of the free patent and title in grantor and the grantee.[22]
question. Thus, the provision stating that all public lands should be
considered It has been held that a complaint for reversion involves a
serious controversy, involving a question of fraud and
as part of the public forests until a land classification team has misrepresentation committed against the government and it is
declassified them is applicable only after the effectivity of P.D. No. aimed at the return of the disputed portion of the public domain. It
705 and cannot be made retroactive to cover and prejudice vested seeks to cancel the original certificate of registration, and nullify the
rights acquired prior to the effectivity of said law, petitioner original certificate of title, including the transfer certificate of title of
concludes.[15] It adds that if the subject lot was encompassed by the the successors-in-interest because the same were all procured
term public forest, the same should have been designated as a through fraud and misrepresentation. [23]Thus, the State, as the
Timberland Block, not as Cadastral Lot No. 1434, CAF-315-D, party alleging the fraud and misrepresentation that attended the
Sibonga Cadastre which was the designation made by the application of the free patent, bears that burden of proof. Fraud and
Republic prior to 1972.[16] misrepresentation, as grounds for cancellation of patent and
annulment of title, should never be presumed but must be proved
Petitioner also questions the Court of Appeals reliance on by clear and convincing evidence, mere preponderance of
the land classification map (L.C. Map) presented evidence not even being adequate.[24]
by respondent. The trial court had previously declared L.C. Map
No. 2961 as inadmissible, finding that the plaintiff has not duly It is but judicious to require the Government, in an action for
proved the authenticity and contents. According to petitioner, the reversion, to show the details attending the issuance of title over
L.C. Map presented in court is neither a certified true copy nor one the alleged inalienable land and explain why such issuance has
attested to be a true copy by any DENR official having legal deprived the State of the claimed property.
custody of the original thereof, and thus should not have been
made the basis of the cancellation of the free patent and title. [17] In the instant case, the Solicitor General claimed that
Free Patent No. 473408 and Original Certificate of Title No. 0-6667
Petitioner further contends that the projection survey conducted by were erroneously and irregularly obtained as the Bureau of Lands
the DENR to determine if the subject lot falls within the forest area (now Lands Management Bureau) did not acquire jurisdiction over
is not clear, precise and conclusive, since the foresters who the land subject thereof, nor has it the power and authority to
conducted the survey used a magnetic box compass, an unreliable dispose of the same through [a] free patent grant, hence, said
and inaccurate instrument, whose results are easily affected by patent and title are null and void ab initio.[25] It was incumbent upon
high tension wires and stones with iron minerals. [18] respondent to prove that the free patent and original title were truly
erroneously and irregularly obtained. Unfortunately,
Finally, petitioner claims that respondent failed to overcome respondent failed to do so.
the presumption of regularity of the issuance of the free patent and
title in favor of Socorro Orcullo. The Court finds that the findings of the trial court rather than those
In sum, petitioner asserts that respondent failed to show of the appellate court are more in accord with the law and
that the subject lot is inside the timberland block, thereby casting jurisprudence.
doubt on the accuracy of the survey conducted by the Bureau of
Forestry and the opinions of DENR officers. Since respondent is In concluding that the subject parcel of land falls within the
the original plaintiff in the reversion case, the burden is on it timberland or forest reserve, the Court of Appeals relied on the
to provethat the subject lot is part of the timberland block, petitioner testimony of Isabelo R. Montejo that as it had remained
adds. unclassified until 1980 and consequently became
an unclassified forest zone, it was incapable of private
There is merit in the petition. appropriation. The pertinent portions of Montejos testimony read:

Under the Regalian doctrine or jura regalia, all lands of Q: And in that particular [R]evised Forestry
the public domain belong to the State, and the State is the source Code, there is that statement that
of any asserted right to ownership in land and charged with the unless classified by a land
conservation of such patrimony.[19] Under this doctrine, lands not classification team, an area can
otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are never be released.
presumed to belong to the State.[20] In instances where a parcel of A: Yes sir.
land considered to be inalienable land of the public domain is found
under private ownership, the Government is allowed by law to file xxx
an action for
Q: Prior to 1980, there was no classification
reversion,[21] which is an action where the ultimate relief sought is to was [sic] ever of the lands of the
revert the land to the government under the Regalian doctrine. public domain in the town
Considering that the land subject of the action originated from a of Sibonga?
A: Yes, sir.
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considered unclassified and forming part of the public forest as

Q: In other words, nobody knew in the whole provided in P.D. No. 705.
DNR before and now DENR what
areas were timberland and what Respondents main basis for asserting that the subject lot is part of
areas are not timberland in the town the timberland or forest reserve is a purported L.C. Map No. 2961.
of Sibonga prior to 1980? However, at the hearing on 6 June 1997, the trial court denied
A: Yes, sir, that is why the law states that if admission of the map for the purpose of showing that the subject
there is no classification should be lot falls within a timberland reserve after respondent had failed to
[sic] considered as the public forest in submit either a certified true copy or an official publication thereof.
order to protect the resources.[26] [29]
The Court observes that the document adverted to is a mere
photocopy of the purported original, and not the blue print as
Obviously, respondents counsel and witness were insisted by respondent.[30] A mere photocopy does not qualify as
referring to P.D. No. 705 particularly Section 13 thereof which competent evidence of the existence of the L.C. Map. Under the
reads: best evidence rule, the original document must be produced,
CLASSIFICATION AND SURVEY 1. When the original has been lost or destroyed, or
cannot be produced in court, without bad faith on
SEC. 13. System of Land Classification.The Department the part of the offeror;
Head shall study, devise, determine and prescribe the
criteria, guidelines and methods for the proper and 2. When the original is in the custody or under the
accurate classification and survey of all lands of the control of the party against whom the evidence is
public domain into agricultural, industrial or commercial, offered, and the latter fails to produce it after
residential, settlement, mineral, timber or forest, and reasonable notice;
grazing lands, and into such other classes as now or
may hereafter be provided by law, rules and regulations. 3. When the original consists of numerous accounts or
other documents which cannot be examined in
In the meantime, the Department Head shall simplify court without great loss of time and the fact sought
through inter-bureau action the present system of to be established from them is only the general
determining which of the unclassified lands of the public result of the whole; and
domain are needed for forest purposes and declare them
as permanent forest to form part of the forest 4. When the original is a public record in the custody of a
reserves. He shall declare those classified and public officer or is recorded in a public office.[31]
determined not to be needed for forest purposes as
alienable and disposable lands, the administrative In this case, respondent claims that the presentation of the original
jurisdiction and management of which shall be L.C. Map is unnecessary since it is in the custody of a public officer
transferred to the Bureau of Lands: Provided, That or is recorded in the public office. [32] Evidence, indeed, is
mangrove and other swamps not needed for shore admissible when the original of a document is in the custody of a
protection and suitable for fishpond purposes shall be public officer or is recorded in a public office. However, to prove its
released to, and be placed under the administrative contents, there is a need to present a certified copy issued by the
jurisdiction and management of, the Bureau of Fisheries public officer in custody thereof.[33] In addition, while the L.C. Map
and Aquatic Resources. Those still to be classified may be considered a public document and prima facie evidence of
under the Present system shall continue to remain the facts stated therein,[34] the map, to be admissible for any
as part of the public forest. (Emphasis supplied.) purpose, must be evidenced by an official publication thereof or by
a copy attested by the officer having legal custody of the record. [35]
Reliance on this provision is highly misplaced. P.D. No. 705 was The rules of admissibility must be applied uniformly. The
promulgated only on 19 May 1975, or four (4) years after the free same rule holds true when the Government is one of the
patent and title were awarded to Orcullo. Thus, it finds no parties. The Government, when it comes to court to litigate with
application in the instant case. Prior forestry laws, including P.D. one of its citizens, must submit to the rules of procedure and its
No. 389,[27] which was revised by P.D. No. 705, does not contain a rights and privileges at every stage of the proceedings are
similar provision. Article 4 of the Civil Code provides that laws shall substantially in every respect the same as those of its citizens; it
have no retroactive effect unless the contrary is provided. The cannot have a superior advantage. This is so because when a
Court does not infer any intention on the part of then President sovereignty submits itself to the jurisdiction of the court and
Marcos to ordain the retroactive application of Sec. 13 of P.D. No. participates therein, its claims and rights are justiciable by every
705. Thus, even assuming for the nonce that subject parcel was other principle and rule applicable to the claims and rights of the
unclassified at the time Orcullo applied for a free patent thereto, the private parties under similar circumstances. [36] Failure to abide by
fact remains that when the free patent and title were issued the rules on admissibility renders the L.C. Map submitted by
thereon in 1971, respondent in essence segregated said parcel respondent inadmissible as proof to show that the subject lot is part
from the mass of public domain. Thus, it can no longer be of the forest reserve.
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Obviously, private interests have intervened before classification

Some officers from the CENRO office in was made pursuant to P.D. No. 705. Not only has Orcullo by
Argao, Cebu testified that they personally saw the subject lot and herself and through her predecessors-in-interest cultivated and
that it falls within the timberland or forest reserve. Ultimately, possessed the subject lot since 1930, a free patent was also
however, the basis of their declaration is the L.C. Map which awarded to her and a title issued in her name as early as 1971. In
respondent failed to present in accordance with the rules on fact, it appears that the issuance of the free patent and certificate
admissibility. Two foresters in fact testified that the subject lot was a of
mangrove area.[37] The foresters who conducted the survey may title was regular and in order. Orcullo complied with the requisites
have been competent and their techniques reliable; nevertheless, for the acquisition of free patent provided under Commonwealth
the observation that mangroves grow in the subject lot is not Act No. 141 (Public Land Act), as certified by the Director of Lands
conclusive as to the nature of the land at present or at the time the and approved by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
free patent and title were issued. Assuming that the area is Resources.[42]
covered by mangroves when they surveyed it, there is no proof that
it was not planted with trees and crops at the time Orcullo applied Besides, the records do not show that respondent has considered
for free patent. Respondent was also unable to establish that the the lot in question as forest reserve prior to the issuance of Free
subject lot has very deep and muddy soil or are mudflats, such that Patent No. 473408 and OCT No. 0-6667. To declare the land now
it is unsuitable for fruit and non-fruit bearing trees. [38] Yet these are as forest land on the authority of L.C. Map No. 2961 approved only
factual matters which the Court does not generally delve into. As it in 1980, and opinions based on the said map, would unduly
is, a mere declaration from the said officers, without any other deprive petitioner of their registered property.
supporting evidence, is not sufficient to establish that the area in The Regalian doctrine is well-enshrined not only in the present
question is part of the forest reserve. Constitution, but also in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions. The
Court has always recognized and upheld the Regalian doctrine as
Even assuming that the L.C. Map submitted by the basic foundation of the State's property regime. Nevertheless,
respondent is admissible in evidence, still the land in question can in applying this doctrine, we must not lose sight of the fact that in
hardly be considered part of the timberland or forest reserve. L.C. every claim or right by the Government against one of its citizens,
Map No. 2961, which purports to be the correct map of the areas the paramount considerations of fairness and due process must be
demarcated as permanent forest pursuant of the provisions of P.D. observed. Respondent in this case failed to show that the subject
No. 705 as amended[39] was made only in 1980. Thus, the lot is part of timberland or forest reserve it adverted to. In the face
delineation of the areas was made nine (9) years after Orcullo was of the uncontroverted status of Free Patent No. 473408 and OCT
awarded the free patent over the subject lot. No. 0-6667 as valid and regular issuances, respondents insistence
on the classification of the lot as part of the forest reserve must be
In Republic v. Court of Appeals,[40] the Court, finding that rejected.
the disputed land was classified as timberland 25 years after
private individuals had commenced their continuous possession WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the
and cultivation thereof in good faith, declared that they have the Court of Appeals dated 16 July 2001 and the Resolution dated 18
better right. The Court held: March 2002 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the
Regional Trial Court dated 15 May 1999 dismissing the complaint
It is not disputed that the aforesaid for reversion and the complaint-in-intervention is REINSTATED.
Land Classification Project No. 3, classifying
the 22-hectare area as timberland, was SO ORDERED.
certified by the Director of Lands only
on December 22, 1924, whereas the
possession thereof by private respondents and
their predecessor-in-interest commenced as
early as 1909. While the Government has the
right to classify portions of public land, the
primary right of a private individual who
possessed and cultivated the land in good
faith much prior to such classification must
be recognized and should not be prejudiced
by after-events which could not have been
anticipated. Thus, We have held that the
Government, in the first instance may, by
reservation, decide for itself what portions
of public land shall be considered forestry
land, unless private interests have
intervened before such reservation is made.
(Emphasis supplied.)
Page 8 of 9

the Constitution and pray that the petition for prohibition and
mandamus be dismissed.
The motions for intervention of the aforesaid groups and
organizations were granted.
Oral arguments were heard on April 13, 1999. Thereafter, the
parties and intervenors filed their respective memoranda in which
ISAGANI CRUZ and CESAR EUROPA, petitioners, they reiterate the arguments adduced in their earlier pleadings and
RESOURCES, respondents.
Petitioners assail the constitutionality of the following
provisions of the IPRA and its Implementing Rules on the ground
RESOLUTION that they amount to an unlawful deprivation of the States ownership
PER CURIAM: over lands of the public domain as well as minerals and other
natural resources therein, in violation of the regalian doctrine
embodied in Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution:
Petitioners Isagani Cruz and Cesar Europa brought this suit
for prohibition and mandamus as citizens and taxpayers, assailing (1) Section 3(a) which defines the extent and coverage
the constitutionality of certain provisions of Republic Act No. 8371 of ancestral domains, and Section 3(b) which, in
(R.A. 8371), otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights turn, defines ancestral lands;
Act of 1997 (IPRA), and its Implementing Rules and Regulations
(Implementing Rules). (2) Section 5, in relation to section 3(a), which provides
that ancestral domains including inalienable public
In its resolution of September 29, 1998, the Court required lands, bodies of water, mineral and other resources
respondents to comment.[1] In compliance, respondents found within ancestral domains are private but
Chairperson and Commissioners of the National Commission on community property of the indigenous peoples;
Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the government agency created under
the IPRA to implement its provisions, filed on October 13, 1998 (3) Section 6 in relation to section 3(a) and 3(b) which
their Comment to the Petition, in which they defend the defines the composition of ancestral domains and
constitutionality of the IPRA and pray that the petition be dismissed ancestral lands;
for lack of merit. (4) Section 7 which recognizes and enumerates the
On October 19, 1998, respondents Secretary of the rights of the indigenous peoples over the ancestral
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and domains;
Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) (5) Section 8 which recognizes and enumerates the
filed through the Solicitor General a consolidated Comment. The rights of the indigenous peoples over the ancestral
Solicitor General is of the view that the IPRA is partly lands;
unconstitutional on the ground that it grants ownership over natural
resources to indigenous peoples and prays that the petition be (6) Section 57 which provides for priority rights of the
granted in part. indigenous peoples in the harvesting, extraction,
development or exploration of minerals and other
On November 10, 1998, a group of intervenors, composed of natural resources within the areas claimed to be
Sen. Juan Flavier, one of the authors of the IPRA, Mr. Ponciano their ancestral domains, and the right to enter into
Bennagen, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, and agreements with nonindigenous peoples for the
the leaders and members of 112 groups of indigenous peoples development and utilization of natural resources
(Flavier, et. al), filed their Motion for Leave to Intervene. They join therein for a period not exceeding 25 years,
the NCIP in defending the constitutionality of IPRA and praying for renewable for not more than 25 years; and
the dismissal of the petition.
(7) Section 58 which gives the indigenous peoples the
On March 22, 1999, the Commission on Human Rights responsibility to maintain, develop, protect and
(CHR) likewise filed a Motion to Intervene and/or to Appear as conserve the ancestral domains and portions
Amicus Curiae. The CHR asserts that IPRA is an expression of the thereof which are found to be necessary for critical
principle of parens patriae and that the State has the responsibility watersheds, mangroves, wildlife sanctuaries,
to protect and guarantee the rights of those who are at a serious wilderness, protected areas, forest cover or
disadvantage like indigenous peoples. For this reason it prays that reforestation.[2]
the petition be dismissed.
Petitioners also content that, by providing for an all-
On March 23, 1999, another group, composed of the encompassing definition of ancestral domains and ancestral lands
Ikalahan Indigenous People and the Haribon Foundation for the which might even include private lands found within said areas,
Conservation of Natural Resources, Inc. (Haribon, et al.), filed a Sections 3(a) and 3(b) violate the rights of private landowners. [3]
motion to Intervene with attached Comment-in-Intervention. They
agree with the NCIP and Flavier, et al. that IPRA is consistent with
Page 9 of 9

In addition, petitioners question the provisions of the IPRA implementing Department of Environment and
defining the powers and jurisdiction of the NCIP and making Natural Resources Circular No. 2, series of 1998;
customary law applicable to the settlement of disputes involving
ancestral domains and ancestral lands on the ground that these (4) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the
provisions violate the due process clause of the Constitution. [4] Secretary of Budget and Management to cease
and desist from disbursing public funds for the
These provisions are: implementation of the assailed provisions of R.A.
8371; and
(1) sections 51 to 53 and 59 which detail the process of
delineation and recognition of ancestral domains (5) The issuance of a writ of mandamus commanding
and which vest on the NCIP the sole authority to the Secretary of Environment and Natural
delineate ancestral domains and ancestral lands; Resources to comply with his duty of carrying out
the States constitutional mandate to control and
(2) Section 52[i] which provides that upon certification supervise the exploration, development, utilization
by the NCIP that a particular area is an ancestral and conservation of Philippine natural resources.[7]
domain and upon notification to the following
officials, namely, the Secretary of Environment and After due deliberation on the petition, the members of the
Natural Resources, Secretary of Interior and Local Court voted as follows:
Governments, Secretary of Justice and
Commissioner of the National Development Seven (7) voted to dismiss the petition. Justice Kapunan filed
Corporation, the jurisdiction of said officials over an opinion, which the Chief Justice and Justices Bellosillo,
said area terminates; Quisumbing, and Santiago join, sustaining the validity of the
challenged provisions of R.A. 8371. Justice Puno also filed a
(3) Section 63 which provides the customary law, separate opinion sustaining all challenged provisions of the law
traditions and practices of indigenous peoples shall with the exception of Section 1, Part II, Rule III of NCIP
be applied first with respect to property rights, Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, the Rules and
claims of ownership, hereditary succession and Regulations Implementing the IPRA, and Section 57 of the IPRA
settlement of land disputes, and that any doubt or which he contends should be interpreted as dealing with the large-
ambiguity in the interpretation thereof shall be scale exploitation of natural resources and should be read in
resolved in favor of the indigenous peoples; conjunction with Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. On
the other hand, Justice Mendoza voted to dismiss the petition
(4) Section 65 which states that customary laws and solely on the ground that it does not raise a justiciable controversy
practices shall be used to resolve disputes and petitioners do not have standing to question the
involving indigenous peoples; and constitutionality of R.A. 8371.
(5) Section 66 which vests on the NCIP the jurisdiction Seven (7) other members of the Court voted to grant the
over all claims and disputes involving rights of the petition. Justice Panganiban filed a separate opinion expressing
indigenous peoples.[5] the view that Sections 3 (a)(b), 5, 6, 7 (a)(b), 8, and related
Finally, petitioners assail the validity of Rule VII, Part II, provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. He reserves judgment
Section 1 of the NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, on the constitutionality of Sections 58, 59, 65, and 66 of the law,
which provides that the administrative relationship of the NCIP to which he believes must await the filing of specific cases by those
the Office of the President is characterized as a lateral but whose rights may have been violated by the IPRA. Justice Vitug
autonomous relationship for purposes of policy and program also filed a separate opinion expressing the view that Sections
coordination. They contend that said Rule infringes upon the 3(a), 7, and 57 of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. Justices Melo,
Presidents power of control over executive departments under Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and De Leon join in the separate
Section 17, Article VII of the Constitution.[6] opinions of Justices Panganiban and Vitug.

Petitioners pray for the following: As the votes were equally divided (7 to 7) and the necessary
majority was not obtained, the case was redeliberated
(1) A declaration that Sections 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 52[I], 57, upon. However, after redeliberation, the voting remained the
58, 59, 63, 65 and 66 and other related provisions same. Accordingly, pursuant to Rule 56, Section 7 of the Rules of
of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional and invalid; Civil Procedure, the petition is DISMISSED.
(2) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Attached hereto and made integral parts thereof are the
Chairperson and Commissioners of the NCIP to separate opinions of Justices Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, and
cease and desist from implementing the assailed Panganiban.
provisions of R.A. 8371 and its Implementing

(3) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the

Secretary of the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources to cease and desist from